Monday, July 30, 2007

JEWS OF CAPE VERDE

Welcome to the Jews of Cape Verde blog! I would like to share with you a fascinating and little-known story about the Jewish heritage of Cape Verde. The Republic of Cape Verde is an archipelago of ten islands off the coast of Senegal, West Africa. As a result of over 500 years of Portuguese colonial rule, Cape Verde is predominantly Catholic. However, beginning with the period of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition through the late 19th century, Cape Verde received Jews fleeing religious persecution or seeking greater economic stability.

I am in the process of creating a not-for-profit organization called "The Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project," which will honor and document the presence of the second wave of Jewish immigration. These Jews came primarily from Morocco and Gibraltar in the late 1800's for largely economic reasons. (Jews have lived relatively peacefully and harmoniously with their Muslim brethren in Morocco for more than 2000 years!) We know from the Portuguese and Hebrew etchings on the tombstones in the small Jewish cemeteries which dot several islands that the majority hailed from the Moroccan cities of Tangier, Rabat and Mogador (now Essaouira) bearing distinctive Sephardic names such as Auday, Anahory, Benoliel, Benros, Benchimol, Benathar, Brigham, Cohen, Levy, Maman, Pinto, Seruya and Wahnon.

These families landed primarily on the islands of Santo Antao, Sao Vicente, Boa Vista and Sao Tiago and engaged in international commerce, shipping, administration, and other trades. The Jews lived, worked and prospered in Cape Verde. However, because their numbers were few relative to the larger non-Jewish community, widespread intermarriage with the predominantly Catholic population diluted their affiliation with Jewish customs and rituals. As a result, there are virtually no practicing Jews in Cape Verde today. Nonetheless, the descendants of these families speak with pride of their Jewish roots and want to revive and chronicle the memory of their ancestors. The first democratically elected prime minister of Cape Verde, Carlos Alberto Wahnon de Carvalho Veiga, is of Jewish descent! The Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project has these major objectives:
  • Rehabilitation and re-dedication of the small Jewish cemeteries that dot the archipelago.
  • Publication of a book about the Jews of Cape Verde based on archival research and oral testimonies of descendants and friends.
  • Promotion of Jewish Heritage tourism in Cape Verde.
I look forward to your feedback and help. I would love to hear from those who are of Cape Verdean Jewish descent. Even though I have established relationships with many of the major families and have garnered much information, I am seeking more testimonies.

7 comments:

Marc said...

I find your project very interesting. You should put more information in order to attract more readers et find some support. Other suggestion, are there other people who set up in Cape Verde from other faiths like Christians or Muslims? Good luck

Marc Anthony

Carol Castiel said...

In response to Marc Anthony, I would like to say that I will be adding more information in due time. Regarding other faiths, Cape Verde is very Catholic because of the Portuguese. As in other parts of West Africa, there are some Lebanese immigrants, most of whom are Christian. Neighboring Senegal is primarily Muslim, but there are no visible Muslim influences in Cape Verde. Interestingly, most of the Jews who traveled to Cape Verde came from Muslim Morocco. They went in sufficient numbers as to leave burial grounds and other vestiges of their presence like a town called Sinagoga and Sephardic familiy names and legacies. The Jews were few in number but left a disproportional influence which is why I want to document their presence.

Jack said...

Excellent information and I am looking forward to future postings.

Jack

Marisa said...

Carol,

Having followed your work and enthusiasm for a long time, I am very happy you are bringing awareness to the world about the Jews of Cape Verde.

Maybe Brazilian Jews of Portuguese descent ought to know of this endeavor.

Good luck!

Otelindo said...

the jews who came from marroco to capeverde in 1800 were indeed portuguese people, they were portuguese people who have been chased from portugal in 1500-1600 by the 'inquisition'

Carol Castiel said...

In response to Otelindo--one year later--it is very likely that the Moroccan Jews were of Portuguese or Spanish descent. They were expelled at the time of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions and Muslim Morocco provided a safe haven in the 1500's. Deteriorating economic conditions in Morocco and opportunities in Cape Verde propelled them to set sail for those islands (then a Portuguese colony) in the 1800's---after Inquisition had been abolished.

COHEN202 said...

DEAR CAROL.
I ADMIRE YOUR INTEREST IN THE JEWISH HISTORY WITCH I FOUND SOMETIME TOO COMPLEX. (NOT YOU)
I AM ALWAYS INTERSTED IN JEWS LEAVING IN REMOTE PART OF THE WORLD; ESPECIALY IN ASIAN ISLANDS; FORTUNETLY NOW THE INTERNET; PROVIDE US WITH PRETTY MUCH ACCURATE INFORMATION THAT ENRICH OUR KNOWLEDGE AND BACKROUND,
MOST OF US AS HUMAN ARE ALWAYS INTRIGUED BY OUR ORIGINE.
THANK YOU FOR INFORMING US AND THE WORLD ABOUT ONE MORE AREA IN CAPE VERDE
GOOD LUCK TO YOU
MARC COHEN