Maio, Cape Verde

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For other uses, see Maio (disambiguation).
Image-Locator map of Maio, Cape Verde.png
Location Atlantic Ocean
Coordinates 15°13′N 23°10′W / 15.217°N 23.167°W / 15.217; -23.167Coordinates: 15°13′N 23°10′W / 15.217°N 23.167°W / 15.217; -23.167
Area 269 km2 (104 sq mi)
Length 31 km (19.3 mi)
Width 25 km (15.5 mi)
Highest elevation 436 m (1,430 ft)
Highest point Monte Penoso
Cape Verde
Concelhos (Municipalities) Maio
Largest settlement Vila do Maio
Additional information
Official website

Maio (in Cape Verdean Creole: Dja r’ Mai) is the easternmost of the Sotavento islands of Cape Verde. Maio is located south of the island of Boa Vista and east of Santiago. The island is known for its sandy beaches and large forest, which is unusual for Cape Verde. Administratively, the island forms one concelho (municipality): Maio.


The island was named Maio (Portuguese for "May") after its first sighting on May 1, 1460. The island was populated years later.

The inconclusive Battle of Maio was fought between British and French frigate squadrons off the island's southern coast on 23 January 1814 in the last stages of the Napoleonic Wars.

In the mid-18th century, salt was mined, the English used Vila do Maio to export its salt from its salt mines of the northwest to England and the Portuguese used Calheta to export its salt from Terras Salgadas to Portugal.

USS Yorktown was making its way to visit the nearby island of Santiago and some other African places, it visited Maio on September 4, instead, it sunk around the island on September 6 making it one of the first American ships and likely its first sloop to sink in Cape Verdean waters and Maio island. The crew stayed for over a month until October 8 when the USS Dale arrived to pick up the crew and they were transferred to the Portsmouth.

Drought and famine like the rest of the country also stricken Maio in the late 19th and the early and mid 20th centuries. Maio in its recent decades saw growth that the population is nearly 10,000 today.


The island covers an area of 269 km². The tallest mountain on the island (436 m) is on the east coast, in a mountain range named Monte Penoso. Terras Salgadas is a plain filled with salt, in the far north. The northernmost point on the island is Ponta Cais. Bays includes Galeão and Santana to the north. The island’s main town is Vila do Maio, also known as Porto Inglês, near which its airport, Maio Airport lies.

Others places are:

  • Barreiro (Len Varela e Banda Riba),
  • Figueira - (Figueira da Horta e Figueira Seca),
  • Ribeira Dom João,
  • Pilão Cão,
  • Alcatraz,
  • Pedro Vaz,
  • Praia Gonçalo,
  • Santo António,
  • Cascabulho (Cascabutch),
  • Morrinho,
  • Calheta (Cadjeta)
  • Morro
City of Maio at sunset


As of 1832, the population was estimated at 2,500.[1]

Population of Maio, Cape Verde (1940—2010)
1940[2] 1950[2] 1960[2] 1970[2] 1980[2] 1990[2] 2000[3] 2010[4]
2237 1924 2680 3466 4098 4969 6754 8303

Most people in Maio are Roman Catholic.


The island prospered around salt collecting in its early days of colonialism, with a little agriculture and grazing.

There are two types of agriculture practiced in Maio, rain fed and irrigated. During the raining season products as corn, beans, pumpkins and melons are being cultivated. Products that farmers cultivate year round are sweet potato, cassava, papaya, fig, coconut and tamarind. Goats, cows, pigs, chickens and donkeys are common on the island. Few people own a horse. Scarcity of water is the biggest problem for the locals.

Fishery is important and abundant available. Tuna, sailfish and different coral fishes such as the coral hind are caught.

The economy is heavily supported by migrants who send money to their family on the island.

Tourism is slowly being developed.


Main article: Maio Island League

Football is by far the most popular sport, but basketball and futsal along with water sports as surfing, diving and swimming are becoming more popular.

Notable people[edit]

  • Maria Helena da Costa Dias, Cape Verdean born Portuguese writer and translator
  • João Tavares Silva, later emigrated to the United States as a young man and became known as John Tavares Silver, the father of the musician and composer Horace Silver


  1. ^ Roberts, Edmund (1837). Embassy to the Eastern Courts of Cochin-China, Siam, and Muscat. New York: Harper & Brothers. p. 17. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Source: Statoids
  3. ^ Source: Instituto Nacional de Estatísticas.
  4. ^ Source: projection to 2010 from the Instituto Nacional de Estatísticas.

External links[edit]