The Republic of Cape Verde is an archipelago of ten islands about 300 miles off the coast of West Africa. As a result of over 500 years of Portuguese colonial rule, Cape Verde is a predominantly Catholic country. Evidence shows, however, that from the period of the Spanish and Portuguese inquisition through the late 19th century, Cape Verde hosted Jews either fleeing religious persecution or searching for greater economic stability. A group of descendants in Cape Verde has created an association called Amigo de Cabo Verde e Israel (AMICAEL) to press for restoration of the cemeteries and create a permanent archive documenting the presence of their forebears. The overall project, called The Jews of Cape Verde: Preservation of Memory aims to investigate the presence and honor the memory of the numerous Sephardic Jewish families who traveled to Cape Verde from the Moroccan cities of Tangier, Rabat, and Essaouira. Theses families engaged in international commerce, shipping, administration and other trades and prospered in Cape Verde. Over time, many intermarried with the predominantly Catholic population diluting 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 throughout the world maintain a keen interest in Cape Verde and their Jewish heritage. The current Prime Minister of Cape Verde, Carlos Alberto Wahnon de Carvalho Veiga, is of Moroccan Jewish descent.
Donations are currently needed for the physical restoration of four cemeteries and preparation of the photographic exhibit. Other initiatives include compiling oral and archival materials and the organization of a colloquium on the Jewish presence in Cape Verde.
For further information contact Carol Castiel, Project Director, 1245 4th Street, S.W., Suite E202, Washington, D.C. 20024.
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