The child of a Portuguese father and a black mother of the Ronga ethnicity, Craveirinha was raised in the language and culture of Portugal. His poems, written in Portuguese, address such issues as racism and the Portuguese colonial domination of Mozambique. He was one of the African pioneers of the Négritude movement.
As a journalist, Craveirinha contributed to numerous Mozambican magazines and newspapers, including O Brado Africano, Notícias, Tribuna, Notícias da Tarde, Voz de Moçambique, Notícias da Beira, Diário de Moçambique, and Voz Africana. He also played football and coached other athletes. He arranged an athletic scholarship in the United States for Maria de Lurdes Mutola, who won a gold medal in track and field at the Olympics in 2000, and his son Stelio also held the national long jump record.
Craveirinha also wrote under the pseudonyms Mário Vieira, José Cravo, Jesuíno Cravo, J. Cravo, J.C., and Abílio Cossa. He was imprisoned in solitary confinement by the fascist Portuguese PIDE régime from 1965 to 1969 for his membership in a cell of FRELIMO, the leading movement for the liberation of Mozambique from Portuguese rule. When FRELIMO seized power in 1974, Craveirinha was freed from prison and appointed vice-director of the national press.