Santiago meaning Saint James in Portuguese, or spelt Santiagu in the local language, is the largest of all Cape Verde islands. Santiago is the largest agricultural centre of all the Cape Verde islands and is home to half of Cape Verde’s population.
Santiago can be found between the islands of Maio and Fogo and is one of the Sotavento islands. Santiago was the first town of all the islands and the town of Cidade Velha was founded as Riberia Grande in 1462. Santiago is home to the Cape Verde’s capital city of Praia and also has one of the islands two international airports. Santiago’s population has doubled since the independence of Cape Verde in 1975. Along with Santiago other towns on the island are Assomada and Tarrafal. The main source of employment for the people of the island are agriculture, tourism and fishing. The main agricultural products are corn, sugar cane, banana, coffee and mangoes.
Santiago was discovered by António da Noli in around 1460 and built a garrison in Cidade Velha which was known as Ribeira Grande. The Crioulos on the island are the oldest African-European community in colonial history. The local creole language, which is called Crioulo de Santiago, has became a separate language. During the slave trade Cidade Velha was the second richest city in the Portuguese empire. Portugal was unable to defend its colonies as the English, Dutch, French and Spanish took over the slave trade and the island was later raided by pirates. The island population were overlooked by the Portuguese colonial system and Santiago was a strong supporter of Amilcar Cabral and the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde and the independence of 1975. Santiago has often hosted conferences on Creole culture and maintaining it. See history for more information.
Since the independence of Cape Verde, infrastructure has improved especially schools, shipping ports, airports, roads, and much more.