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ZipUSA: 02860
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By Karen E. LangePhotographs by Jacqueline Mia Foster

Torn between the promise of prosperity and bittersweet memories of home, Cape Verdeans find ways to keep their past present in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Get a taste of what awaits you in print from this compelling excerpt.

A few blocks from the river of traffic on I-95 that cuts Pawtucket in two, from the fast-food restaurants, gas stations, and motel that light otherwise dark streets, lies a snug bright club called Cantinho, where Cape Verdeans retreat from the rush and regrets of their adopted home. On a Saturday night, well-dressed men and women, their skin ranging from dark chocolate to coffee flooded with cream, drink amber-colored grogue. The room buzzes in Kriolu, a blend of Portuguese and West African languages that slaves arriving from the 15th to the 19th centuries created in Cape Verde, 10 islands some 400 miles (600 kilometers) off the coast of Senegal. On the walls hang pictures of a white sand beach, a packet boat that carried Cape Verdeans fleeing drought and poverty to New England early in the 20th century, and Amílcar Cabral, the revolutionary who fought for the country's independence from Portugal in 1975.
One of Cantinho's owners, Jack Galvão, left the Cape Verdean island of Brava in 1979 at 17, part of an exodus triggered by fear that the islands' economy would be driven to collapse by a post-independence swerve to the left. He arrived in Rhode Island with three years of high school English, took a factory job, and worked his way through college. Now a successful accountant and real estate agent, he still yearns for the land of his birth. "In Cape Verde you don't buy yourself a drink," says Galvão, "your friend buys you a drink." As if on cue, he asks the bartender to pour some grogue for a man across the room.
A guitarist begins to play, backed by a bass and a keyboard, and the club fills with the music of the islands and their far-flung diaspora—languid, dreamy songs called morna and faster counterparts called koladera. Soon one of Galvão's friends, João Alfredo, takes the microphone.
Walking out between the tables, he fixes his gaze on a seated woman, then gestures with an upraised palm to another. "We don't have anything in the world bigger than love," he croons. "Love is bigger than the sea and sky."
The crowd applauds and joins in: "Tell me, my love, which way is the sky? The sky is in your breasts and in your black eyes."
A simple love song, perhaps, but it's part of a larger, more complicated romance: the bittersweet nostalgia of self-imposed exile. Sodadi, Cape Verdeans call it—longing. Or triste alegria—sad happiness. Economic necessity may have driven them from their home and keeps them from moving back, but their hearts remain in the islands. "It's wanting to stay but having to go," Galvão says. "It's sad because you're leaving, but happy because you're going to opportunity."

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Get into the rhythm of Cape Verdean music, courtesy of Amigos para Sempre.

Nominate your own wonderful, weird, or wacky choices for this magazine series.

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In More to Explore the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.

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A strong sense of community holds Cape Verdeans in Pawtucket together, and the people in our article follow in the footsteps of Cape Verdean immigrants who began coming to New England in the late 18th century as crews aboard whaling ships. These immigrants helped establish New England as a safe harbor where a built-in community of Cape Verdeans would provide support and friendship.

Researching the Pawtucket zip article with its descriptions of Cape Verdean cuisine made me hungry, so here is a recipe for the soup mentioned on page 113 as part of a first Communion celebration. For more recipes, please visit

KANJA  (thick chicken rice soup)
This thick soup is usually offered at special family events and on New Year's Eve.

2 medium onions, chopped
1/2 whole chicken, cut up
3-4 chicken bouillon cubes
1 cup short-grain white rice (may substitute long-grain rice)
Sauté onions in oil. Next, add chicken pieces, bouillon cubes, and a sufficient amount of water to cook rice. After bringing to a boil, add rice and stir occasionally. Simmer approximately 30-35 minutes, until desired consistency.  
—Michelle R. Harris
Did You Know?

Related Links
Cape Verde USA
Interested in finding out more about Cape Verde? This Cape Verdean Embassy site highlights the importance of the United States to the islands by connecting both countries with red, white, and blue lines on a world map found on the site's opening page.
Cape Verdean News
This diverse site from New Bedford, Massachusetts, will help you keep up with news from the Cape Verdean-American community.
Cape Verde Homepage
For information and activities concerning the worldwide Cape Verdean diaspora, check out this site, hosted by the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. You can find an abridged list of Kriolu words and a history of the language.
Connecting Cape Verdeans
Discover the cultural and social life of Cape Verdeans, and listen to Cape Verdean music online at this site.
City of Pawtucket
Take a look at what the rest of the city has to offer.


Carreira, Antonio; translated from the Portuguese and edited by Christopher Fyfe. The People of the Cape Verde Islands: Exploitation and Emigration. C. Hurst & Company, London, and Archon Books, Hamden, Connecticut, 1982.


NGS Resources
Leacock, Elspeth. The Northeast. National Geographic Books, 2002.
Swerdlow, Joel L. "Changing America." National Geographic (September 2001), 42-61.
Parfit, Michael. "Human Migration." National Geographic (October 1998), 6-35.
Scheller, William G. "Early Weavings." National Geographic Traveler (November/December 1994), 120.
Mazzatenta, O. Louis. "New England's 'Little Portugal.' " National Geographic (January 1975), 90-109.


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