Santiago, Cape Verde

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Native name: Santiagu
Nickname: Ilha-berço (cradle island)
Locator map of Santiago, Cape Verde.png
Location Atlantic Ocean
Coordinates 15°04′N 23°38′W / 15.067°N 23.633°W / 15.067; -23.633Coordinates: 15°04′N 23°38′W / 15.067°N 23.633°W / 15.067; -23.633
Area 991 km2 (383 sq mi)
Length 75 km (46.6 mi)
Width 35 km (21.7 mi)
Highest elevation 1,394 m (4,573 ft)
Highest point Pico da Antónia
Cape Verde
Concelhos (Municipalities) Praia, Ribeira Grande de Santiago, Santa Catarina, Santa Cruz, São Domingos, São Lourenço dos Órgãos, São Miguel, São Salvador do Mundo, Tarrafal
Largest settlement Praia (pop. 130,271)
Population 272,312[1] (2010)
Pop. density 274.8 /km2 (711.7 /sq mi)

Santiago (Portuguese for “Saint James”), or Santiagu in Cape Verdean Creole, is the largest island of Cape Verde, its most important agricultural centre and home to half the nation’s population.

Santiago is located between the islands of Maio (40 kilometres (25 miles) west) and Fogo (50 kilometres (31 miles) east) and is one of the Sotavento. It was the first of the islands to be settled, the town of Cidade Velha being founded as Ribeira Grande in 1462. It is also home to the nation's capital city of Praia and to one of the islands’ four international airports, Praia International Airport, 3 kilometres (1.9 miles) from the capital (IATA airport code: RAI, Praia).


In the 19th century it was called St. Jago.[2]


The pillory in Cidade Velha.
The Serra Malagueta mountain range in the northern part of the island of Santiago, Cape Verde
Santiago island. The wetter climate of the interior and the eastern coast contrasts with the dryer one in the south/southwest coast

During the Prehistoric era, around 22 to 21 million years ago, the seamount was formed, 4 to 3 million years ago, the island with its crater now known as Pico da Antónia was formed, its length was about 15 kilometres (9.3 miles), about 2 to 3 million years ago, another island with its crater at present day Serra da Malagueta was formed, its seamount was formed around 20 to 19 million years ago, its length was about 10 kilometres (6.2 miles), about 2 to 1 million years ago, the two islands merged into a larger island. In about 73,000 BC, the eastern portion of the island of Fogo collapsed into the ocean and brought a 170-metre-high (560 ft) megatsunami that flooded the western part of the island.[3] During the Ice Age, the island was larger than 1,050 square kilometres (410 square miles) and approximately 80 kilometres (50 miles) wide.

The island was discovered by António da Noli in around 1460 who built a garrison in Cidade Velha which was then known as Ribeira Grande. Transcontinental slavery made Cidade Velha the second richest city in the Portuguese realm. Later, Portugal faced competition by the English, Dutch, French and Spanish who gradually took over the slave trade. The island was captured by Francis Drake, as a result, Fort Real de São Filipe, Cape Verde's first fortress was built and was finished in 1590. In 1712, the capital no longer served Cidade Velha which was attacked by French pirates led by Jacques Cassard as part of the Cassard expedition and was moved to the Praia plateau, Praia was not officially capital status until 1770. The island population were disadvantaged by the Portuguese colonial system and supported Amílcar Cabral and the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde and the independence of 1975. Santiago several times hosted conferences on Creole culture.


Santiago is the largest island of Cape Verde, with an area of 991 square kilometres (383 square miles). The island is mountainous, although slightly flatter in the southeast. The wetter climate of the interior and the eastern coast contrasts with the drier one in the south/southwest coast. Praia, located in the southeast coast, is the largest city on the island, and also the largest city and capital of the country. Other towns on the island include Cidade Velha, 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) west of Praia, Cape Verde's first capital; Assomada, 60 kilometres (37 miles) north and Tarrafal in the northern part of the island 75 kilometres (47 miles) from the capital.

The Cape Verde islands are a very degradated area. Due to their proximity to the Sahara, most of the Cape Verde islands are dry, but on islands with high mountains and farther away from the coast, by orography, the humidity is much higher, giving a rainforest habitat, very degraded by the strong human presence. Northeastern slopes of high mountains often receive a lot of rain and Southwest slopes not. These umbria areas are identified with cool and moisture. Some islands, as Santiago with steep mountains, are covered with vegetation where the dense moisture condense and soak the plants, rocks, soil, logs, moss etc.

Cloud forests developed about mountains, where the dense moisture from the sea or ocean, is precipitated by the action of the relief. Opposing the terrain to a front of warm, moist air mass, it forces to increase the height above sea level of that body wet and warm air mass, which cools and decreases the dew point, causing it to condense part of the moisture that falls as rain or fog, creating a habitat especially cool, saturated with moisture in the air and soil.


As of 1830, Santiago's population was estimated at 24,000.[2] Santiago has always been the most populous island in Cape Verde. The island population has doubled since the independence of Cape Verde in 1975.[citation needed] The 2010 census population of the island was 272,312.


The island has the longest road and street networks in the oountry. The total length of the main roads is 679.63 kilometres (422.30 miles), of which 363.23 kilometres (225.70 miles) are national and 313.40 kilometres (194.74 miles) are regional. The main highway is the one connecting Praia and Tarrafal via Assomada and another via Pedra Badejo and Calheta[4]

Main highways of the island of Santiago

Number Places Length
EN1-ST-01 Praia-Tarrafal 64.28 kilometres (39.94 miles).
EN1-ST-02 Milho Branco-Tarrafal 52.70 kilometres (32.75 miles).
EN1-ST-03 São Lourenço dos Orgãos-Pedra Badejo 10.00 kilometres (6.21 miles).
EN1-ST-04 Boa Entrada-Calheta de São Miguel 13.00 kilometres (8.08 miles).
EN1-ST-05 Praia-Cidade Velha 9.50 kilometres (5.90 miles).
EN1-ST-06 Circular de Praia 14.00 kilometres (8.70 miles).

The main port of the island is Praia (once used as a city name as Porto Praia).


The main industries are agriculture, tourism, fishing and others, and leastly manufacturing. Main agricultural products are corn, sugar cane, banana, coffee and mangoes.


Several media serves the island. The island are home to the country's television and radio station RTC, Record Cabo Verde and RTI. Regional stations includes [ Praia FM] and Radio Praia.


Institutions includes the National Library of Cape Verde, the country's only private university, the Jean Piaget University of Cape Verde and the country's only university, the University of Cape Verde, first opened in 2005.


The island are divided into two zones, the North and the South Zones and has football (soccer), basketball, volleyball, track and field and futsal competitions. Until 2003, the island had one island championships, the Santiago Island Championships. The unified island league would continue into 2009 featuring only a single match featuring the champions of the north and the south.

Santiago possesses the most major sports complexes in the country, they include Estádio da Várzea in Praia, Cumbem in Assomada, Mangue in Tarrafal, one in Pedra Badejo and Estádio da Calheta in Calheta de São Miguel.

Notable residents[edit]


  1. ^ "Instituto Nacional de Estatística". 
  2. ^ a b Roberts, Edmund (1837). Embassy to the Eastern Courts of Cochin-China, Siam, and Muscat. New York: Harper & Brothers. p. 17. 
  3. ^ Island Boulders Reveal Ancient Megatsunami, Nature, Retrieved 2015-10-06
  4. ^ "Estradas Cabo Verde" (in Portuguese). 

External links[edit]