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Constructing Morabeza along the island shores in the Atlantic

By Stephanie Évora,

PhD Candidate, Graduate School of Global Studies, Doshisha University.

The Land and the Water

Our adventure today will not be based in Japan as my previous issue was, for this time, we will travel farther and farther away to the Atlantic Ocean. We will position ourselves on the sparse clouds that pass by ten small islands kilometres away from the Western African Coast. Ten islands that once upon a time were empty of most life apart from the rich ocean surrounding the lands protected by their sand and rocks. According to the official history of Cabo Verde, the archipelago of ten islands and various islets was discovered by Portuguese and Italian explorers in 1460, and one by one, the islands were explored. The islands are divided into two groups, Northern Windward (Barlavento): Boa Vista, Sal, Santo Antão, São Vicente, São Nicolau, and Santa Luzia; Southern Leeward (Sotavento): Brava, Fogo, Maio, Santiago. The country currently has a resident population of 483,628 people, according to Instituto Nacional de Estatística de Cabo Verde (2021).

Why must we travel so far away for this issue? Previously, I glanced over the similarities between the island hospitality in Cabo Verde and the one I encountered in the Setonaikai in Japan. Today I will explore the construction of island hospitality as Morabeza in Cabo Verde, for it did not appear from anything. Today’s human interactions between islanders and non-islanders in Cabo Verde were born from the country’s geography, history, and all the relationships that merged on its lands for centuries while the islanders struggled for their culture and characteristics. Therefore, one must understand how Morabeza came to be in order to understand its importance to Cabo Verdean islanders and how it could contribute to islands elsewhere.

At Last, the Shore: Cabo Verde, the Island Son and its Morabeza

To navigate the birth of Morabeza and how it was shaped in Cabo Verde, we must start in 1462, two years after the discovery of the islands. It was only in 1462 that the Portuguese Crown began to see the islands’ strategic position for the benefit of their economic trades with the West African Coast and moved to establish a fixed colony on the archipelago. Santiago Island, the first island to be populated, was given to the Portuguese explorer António de Noli through a donor royal decree. Antonio de Noli moved to the island with some family members and locals from the Algarve and Alentejo regions to explore the island’s economic possibilities with the African Coast. Since two Portuguese navigators claimed the country’s discovery, the Crown gave both the Captain-Donee status of the island and divided it into two Captaincies. The south (current Ribeira Grande) was given to António de Noli, and the north (current Praia City and the Capital of the country) was given to Diogo Afonso (Martins 2009, 18). Santiago Island was chosen as the first island to have a fixed colony since it was the first island discovered. It had a significant size to establish two captaincies, the coast provided shelter and a port for the ships and boats, and the island could be used for agriculture since it was moderately fertile.

The island’s first population comprised Portuguese settlers from the 15th and 16th centuries and black Africans from Senegal, Guinea and Sierra Leone (mainly Wolof, Felupes, Papels, and Balanta people). With the development of the Atlantic slave trade and the archipelago’s increased influence during that time, other Europeans began to congregate on the islands as merchants. Soon the archipelago had Spanish (Canarians and Castellans), Italians, Frenchmen, Dutch, and English (Barros 1939). Decades later, the islands’ inhabitants varied from the enslaved Africans brought from the Western Coast, those who worked for the Portuguese Crown in different positions (royal officials, “almoxarifes”, magistrates, foremen) and merchants who explored the economic trade between goods and enslaved people from the West Coast to Europe and the Americas and the merchant route that used the island’s port as a ‘pit stop’ between the continent (Martins 2009).

The archipelago’s conditions made it difficult for the settlement of Europeans who were not used to the harsh climate. Long periods of drought, the difficulty in developing a significant agricultural basis and the lack of natural resources did not favor the development of a significant population. According to Gabriel Mariano, since the beginning of the archipelago’s settlement, the islands’ population “were left on their own” to deal with the numerous problems experienced on the archipelago and find solutions from within. The country’s physical isolation from others; the impossibility of attracting new settlers; the harsh climate conditions, and the neglect of the islands by the Portuguese Crown made “harmony” among the settlers, enslaved people, and mestizos essential for survival. The realities of the islands did not allow for many privileges or cultural superiority (Peixeira 2003).

Mestiçagem (the mixing of different races and ethnic groups) took place on a large scale in the archipelago. It occurred in different stages, favored and driven by various reasons. The widespread concubinage in the archipelago gave birth to mestizos born from Portuguese settlers (high-ranking royal officials, some clergymen, and men with less social status) and black women. In time, there were mestizos born from local mestizos. With the increase in the number of mestizos, they soon spread to different socio-economic areas, increasing their influence. By the late 16th century, the mestizo started to claim administrative positions on the islands and began to contribute to the culture and unique identity of the islands. Apart from Santiago Island, the first to be inhabited, the remaining islands were populated, in part, by mestizos and black Africans brought to the islands. The latest islands to be settled, for example, São Vicente in 1795 and Sal in 1893, had mestizos born in Cabo Verde participate in their settlement process (Madeira 2016b, 98).

The emergence of a local cultural elite group connected to literature thus started the first steps toward local culture and resistance to colonial rule. The literary movement on the islands consisted mainly of three phases or generations, with the distinct focus that accompanied the search for a local identity, denied by the colonization process up to that point. The Nativistas, Geração Claridade, and the Nacionalistas literary movement worked incessantly in building discussions on national identity, culture, and belonging. During the second literary movement, Geração Claridade, started in the 1930s, the characterization of the Cabo Verdean people and culture took to classifying the singularity of the Cabo Verdean Morabeza.

The most prominent authors to describe and categorize Morabeza were Baltazar Lopes da Silva (author of the novel Chiquinho) and Gabriel Mariano (poet and essayist). Baltazar Lopes depicted Morabeza as a “spiritual tendency” and a “tendency towards fraternization and to take the arm when giving the finger...explanation of the contact between the enlightened and the illiterate; of the simple barefoot and the individual of first society” (Pina 2010, 3). Indeed, the Cabo Verdeans tend to ‘take an arm when given a finger’ and close any barriers between people, exchanging it for fraternization and friendliness. The word is defined by Mariano as “the capacity of sentimental connection to the problems and situations of others and of affective connection with one’s fellow man (...) ‘something’ that leads to a familiar conviviality with people and even things: that solicits an incorrigible urge for dialogue” (in Madeira 2016).

According to Gabriel Mariano (1958; 1991), the mixing of different races and ethnic groups on the islands that created the island son was fundamental to developing the local culture absorbing and replacing the Portuguese manner. These ranged from the Cabo Verdean Creole language, the informal names (nominha de casa) used instead of the European name, and literary texts written in Portuguese and Creole language describing the island life. The islands’ mestizo integrated blacks and whites geographically and culturally, abolishing ideas of racial purity in society and making unions possible regardless of color, social position, or physical environment. Thus, the first steps were taken towards social behavior based on Cabo Verdean familiarity; Morabeza; a hospitable character of loving, integral, and unreserved hospitality; liberal naivete and a weak notion of money; a necessity to coexist with others, marked by the openness to “the sailing ship that arrives and the letter from afar” (Mariano 1991, 75–77).

Elements of Island Hospitality

As we discover Morabeza as island hospitality, one must wonder if there is a need to attempt to define its essence. I can almost hear some say, ‘Hospitality is Hospitality, and it is everywhere. Why should island hospitality be studied as something different?’ Indeed, Hospitality is imbued in social life and is present in all cultures, accompanying changes in society. However, Morabeza differentiates itself from Hospitality on the human interactions between the host and the guest, how the host-guest views and constructs their relationship and expectations, and the actors involved in the island hospitality. If we divide Morabeza into simpler bite-size elements, we will have a list comprising several elements connected to the island and the island life. Morabeza means the necessity to coexist with others; a universal friendliness; a need to close any barriers between people; a constant curiosity; an open heart; the spirit to help others; to convert strangers into friends; to welcome everyone with warmth and respect; a weak notion of money; simplicity; and lastly, being hospitable without expecting anything in return.

A relationship of interdependence and community connects islanders and all those they encounter. The closing of barriers and mutual aid while on the islands assures the survival of those who duel on the island shores and those who pass through their ports, if only briefly. The island son learned from a young age that sometimes one must look away from home in order to survive. The lack of natural resources and the complications of living in the archipelago made that clear. Islanders’ lives are closely connected with nature, the human spirit, and islandness. Islandness, as the essence of island living, is then the reality that accompanies the islander every day, opening possibilities for new encounters, relationships, and learning, intertwining with Morabeza as island hospitality.

The human interactions weaved through Morabeza as island hospitality are not only extended to tourists or visitors as a commercialized service offered to customers. With the islanders’ weak notion of money and being hospitable without expecting anything in return, the relationship being forged is not one of commercial gain but rooted in instinctive curiosity for human relationships. Morabeza is extended not only to those who pass through the islands but also to all individuals dueling on the island space, making it their home and kingdom. Morabeza separates itself from the Hospitality concept by erasing the distance between individuals to protect the social relationships part of the island life. Island societies do not interact with others through a passive relationship. On the contrary, islanders attempt to include everyone in the island’s daily reality and collective relationships.

To Welcome and Grow

For a long time, welcoming others has been an island characteristic. Islands are part of a constantly changing network that connects people and new shores. Morabeza is essential to islanders not only as a way of life but as a way of countering the fact that the islands’ population can spread far across the sea, making it necessary for those who remain to attempt to fill the empty spaces. Therefore, observing alternative development practices for island networks speared by their communities becomes imperative for the future of small island communities.

After discussing Morabeza, let us end our adventure for now, return from the Atlantic and visit the Setonaikai region in Japan. This adventure started in the Newsletter’s March issue by sharing the island hospitality traits I observed in Naoshima, Teshima, Inujima, Megijima, and Ogijima and attempting to establish their similarities to the island hospitality in Cabo Verde. The objective was to identify their similarities and explore how the attempt at Morabeza in the Setonaikai could benefit the island’s development by taking advantage of their community strengths. Following the exploration of the Morabeza concept and the different relationships it evokes, our next adventure will bring forward specific Morabeza practices identified in the Setonaikai through islanders’ own voices.


Crioulo or Cabo Verdean creole language was developed from the necessity for communication between European traders and the African people who initiated catechesis in the islands, as well as by the ensuing blacks and mulattos learning of rudimentary Portuguese words who joined the different African languages spoken by them. Approximately 90 years after the settlement of the archipelago, crioulo was spoken by foremen and enslaved people and among enslaved people of different ethnicities, becoming the language of commerce and social relations (Peixeira 2003, 68). Today, it is the main language spoken in the country, with variations in dialect between the two island groups.


Barros, Simão. 1939. Origens Da Colonização de Cabo Verde. Cadernos Coloniais No. 56. Lisboa: Edições Cosmos.

Instituto Nacional de Estatística de Cabo Verde. 2021. “Resultados Preliminares Do V Recenseamento Geral Da População e Habitação - RPGH 2021.” 2021.

Madeira, João Paulo. 2016a. “A Morabeza Cabo-Verdiana: Contributos Para a Sua Análise.” Revista de Estudos Cabo-Verdianos Atas IV EI (Special Issue): 51–56.

———. 2016b. “Cape Verde: Dimensions in Nation-Building.” Humania Del Sur 11 (20): 93–105. Verde. Dimensions in Nation-building.pdf.

Mariano, Gabriel. 1958. “A Mestiçagem: Seu Papel Na Formação Da Sociedade Caboverdiana.” In Suplemento Cultural, de Cabo Verde - Boletim de Propaganda e Informação, 11–24. Praia: Imprensa Nacional de Cabo Verde.

———. 1991. Cultura Caboverdiana: Ensaios. Lisboa: Veja Gabinete de Edições.

Martins, Amarilis Barbosa. 2009. “Relações Entre Portugal e Cabo Verde Antes e Depois Da Independência.” Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias.

Peixeira, Luís Manuel de Sousa. 2003. Da Mestiçagem à Caboverdianidade: Registos de Uma Sociocultura. 1a ed. Lisboa: Edições Colibri.

Pina, Leão Jesus de. 2010. “Cordialidade e Democratização: Da Morabeza Às Tendências Actuais Da Cultura Política Cabo-Verdiana.” In 7th Congress of African Studies. Lisbon. e Democratização.pdf.

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