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Cape Verde, Let's GoCreole Rappers and Citizenship in Portugal$

Derek Pardue

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780252039676

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252039676.001.0001

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Creole’s Historical Presences

Creole’s Historical Presences

(p.27) Chapter 1 Creole’s Historical Presences
Cape Verde, Let's Go

Derek Pardue

University of Illinois Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter provides historical depth to the claim of a Creole citizenship by analyzing the spatial presence of Africanity inside Lisbon as well as Portugal's special relationship with Cape Verde. It first discusses Creole's historical presences in Portugal before turning to state representations of Africanity and space. It then considers Creole citizenship in Cape Verde, along with Lisbon spatiality and colonial management of space, language, and education. It also examines Kriolu as a language and identity and as a unique formation in Portuguese colonialism. Finally, it assesses the link between racialization and labor practices in the context of citizenship. It argues that Creole has been a significant presence in the formation of “Portuguese” identity, created by encounters and displacements that occurred between Portugal and West and Central Western Africa.

Keywords:   racialization, Africanity, Lisbon, Portugal, Cape Verde, Creole, Creole citizenship, spatiality, Kriolu, Portuguese identity

O sangue e as almas, as vozes e as histórias, a música e as saudades, o amor e os versos,—são Portugal e África fundidos, afeiçoados pelo mesmo destêrro nostálgico, consolado e dorido,—resignado, sem revolta, nas ilhas que são cárceres, conventos e mirantes perdidas ao meio da vastidão do mar.

The blood and soul, the voices and histories, the music and longing, the love and verses—[all of this] roots Portugal and Africa, blessed by the same nostalgic exile, consoled and pained,—resigned, without revolt, on the islands that are prisons, convents and lookouts lost in the middle of the vast sea.

—Augusto Casimiro

This passage from the Portuguese chronicler Augusto Casimiro exemplifies the typical story of blood and soul constitutive of the ideal Portuguese collective self. Moreover, Casimiro depicts what Eric Morier-Genoud and Michel Cahen call the “social space of migration [within the] imagined entity of the empire. And this is particularly true in the Portuguese case, with a historically deep integration of Africa into the national imagining” (2012:19).

Portuguese collective memory, particularly as it relates to Luso-Africa, often begins with the Moorish occupation of Iberia, which lasted for several centuries until the late thirteenth century when King Alonso recaptured Lisbon and the southern region called Algarve, a nominal Arabic holdover. The idea of Portugal as a geopolitical entity was born. The Moorish period was a time of what in the Brazilian context would later be termed mestiçagem, or racial mixing.

For its part, Cape Verde emerged as a place name and social construct in the late fifteenth century. It was a place created from Luso-Afro trade and encounter (p.28) and then left to creolize for a time with other populations, especially after Portugal’s formal abolition of the slave trade and Brazil’s independence in 1822. Along with Belgium, England, France, and Italy, Portugal redirected its efforts toward Africa in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For Casimiro, a popular writer of his time, Portugal’s identity is essentially lodged in African encounters mediated by the ur-metaphor of the island, a nod to the pain of voyage and the beacon of discovery. Cape Verde is the archetype of the encounter, the primary figure of Portugal’s national construction.

The notion that Portugal is a product of long, sustained intercultural encounters with Africa is not simply something that happened supposedly out there in the mysterious world of colonialism and early capitalism. The blood and soul of a Luso-Creole were not relegated to territories outside of Europe, whose inhabitants would only return to the metropole in a post–World War II milieu of migration as a result of reorganized capital, labor, and political regimes. Indeed, Africanity has been an intermittent but formative part of, particularly, Lisbon’s history for over a millennium, whether it be the “negros” in the era of regional governor Al-Judami,1 the so-called black moors (mouros pretos) during early slavery periods of the late fifteenth century, the roving bards and fishermen of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries depicted in museum exhibits, the elite Luso-African college students, and future revolutionary leaders of the 1950s or the poor, working-class badiu (vagabond; from the Cape Verdean island of Santiago) Kriolu rappers of today.

This chapter provides historical depth to the claim of a Creole citizenship by delineating the spatial presence of Africanity inside Lisbon and detailing the special relationship Portugal had with Cape Verde. As implied above in Casimiro’s text, the Luso-African experience is an intimate “exile,” one that produces nostalgia via contact linked directly to the organization of labor and the language of encounter. For late nineteenth-century political leaders, such as Antonio Ennes, labor was one of the defining characteristics of the civilizing mission of the Portuguese in Africa. For example, in his 1891 “Mozambique—Report Presented to the Government,” Ennes utilizes scientific racism to justify policies of taxation and forced labor campaigns by the Portuguese colonial administration. In Ennes’s view, nostalgia and pain are the unavoidable human elements of colonialism and part of the price to forge a strong, modern Portugal ([1893] 1971). However, some of the “voices and histories” of Casimiro’s Portugal are in Kriolu, and they interpret the toils of labor, island hardships, and Atlantic travel as ultimately an idiom of emplacement, a discourse that links encounters abroad with social relations inside Portugal. More of Kriolu linguistics as it relates to Lisbon place making, rap rhetoric, and flow is discussed in chapter 3.

(p.29) Historical Presences

Historical presences are manifested in symbolic and material forms. For example, figure 4 shows a poster from the exhibit Os Africanos em Portugal (Africans in Portugal) held in 2011 at the Torre de Belém (Belém Tower). Belém, a neighborhood on the Tagus River bank, is between major landmarks, such as the Commerce Plaza and Rossio, and the picturesque city of Cascais, the setting for so many World War II historical fiction novels. The poster displays several examples of residential street signs in the Lisbon area, the racialized or African names thereby representing the incorporation of Portuguese colonialism (and, occasionally, African liberation) into everyday Lisbon geography. For example, the poster presents the well-known street Rua do Poço dos Negros, which joins Travessa do Judeu, literally the intersection of Well of Blacks Street and Jew Crossing. The names represent a time of return in the early eighteenth century, a return of Moors, Africans, and Jews attempting to reestablish residency and legitimacy in Europe after the Inquisition and massive expulsion during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Following the massive earthquake of 1755, a combination of progressive politics and modern urbanization under Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, the first Marquess of Pombal (Marquês de Pombal), resulted in an “enlightened” disengagement from the slave trade, thereby diminishing the visible presence of Africans in the metropole and in the process scattering current African residents into fragmented communities (Henriques 2009, 2012). An encore of such race-space politics more than two centuries later with the urbanization campaigns to “integrate” immigrant communities relocated them away from improvised or autoconstructed residences and into social neighborhoods, as chapter 4 describes. Currently, Kriolu rappers and other Cape Verdean youth are attempting to reinsert themselves in the city, giving new meanings to Lisbon race and space through language, music, and grassroots politics. Such action constitutes a type of social agency that helps define the concept of emplacement, a response to the legacy of displacement referenced above.

The history of Africanity in Lisbon is a dynamic process of historiography, culture, and law. The ebbs and flows of Portuguese (and by extension European) interest in Africans inside the metropole coupled with ambiguous terms of classification during colonialism due to shifting state policies of citizenship and formal inclusion have produced many contradictions and complicate the notion of a straightforward account of African presences inside Portugal (Henriques 2009, 2012). Portugal is a fascinating example of racialization and migration because its contradictions are a formative part of national development. Fascism and Lusotropicalism seem to go hand in hand. Scientific racism shares ideological space with Lusotropicalism. Popular press during the first half of the twentieth century (p.30)

Creole’s Historical Presences

Figure 4. Lisbon street signs. Poster from the exhibit Os Africanos em Portugal.

Photo by author, 2011.

depicts Africans as happy children, foolish dandies, and terrorizing cannibals. In more recent periods, Portuguese xenophobia and robust multiculturalist policies have operated in a parallel fashion.

The dialectics of African desire and disgust were certainly just as influential in Portugal as in more well-documented areas, such as Latin America (see Skidmore 1992; Graham 1990). Isabel Castro Henriques describes the contradiction involving race and citizenship in this manner: “If Portuguese laws recognized Africans as free and theoretically Portuguese, the secular consolidation of the African image as being naturally a slave made it difficult to consider a change in the African’s status” (2012:79). Further back in history are the remarkable antislavery laws Marquês de Pombal issued. On September 19, 1761, the so-called Leis Pombalinas (Pombaline reforms) outlawed officially the importation of slaves into Portugal. Pombal’s reasoning appears futuristic as it reminds one of the urban sociologists of the 1920s in their explanations of the “problems” of the “negro” and other immigrants in the city as a result of conditions and the environment. Pombal remarks,

This extraordinary number of black slaves, who are sorely missed abroad in my overseas territories as part of an earthly, rural culture. They come here and occupy (p.31) the role of the servant boy struggling for housing. They fall into idleness and tend towards vice, to which they have natural proclivities. (1761)

The logic that construes social problems as activated by environment is a rationale based on space. For Pombal, Walter Reckless ([1933] 1969) or, for that matter, contemporary urban planners in Lisbon, the ills of the city made manifest are a problem of human geography. LBC, an activist Kriolu rapper from the Cape Verdean autoconstructed neighborhood Cova da Moura, provides a contemporary example: “The police last Saturday night [summer of 2013] came up to one black guy at the bottom of the hill near Damaia [an adjacent neighborhood] and said, ‘You can’t be here. Just you being here, I can hit you.’ And he did. This kid obviously didn’t know what every youngster here in Cova da Moura grows up knowing—the places where the police can just beat on you and the places where you’re supposed to be” (LBC, personal communication, 2013).

The question latent in the accounts of LBC, Henriques, Pombal, and Ennes can be summarized as: what are the social, cultural, and political forces that afford space to some and not to others? What I refer to as “Kriolu presence” addresses this issue of social geography and the processes of dis/emplacement. In figure 4, poço (well) refers to what was a large cemetery that once contained the corpses of a substantive African population dating back to the early days of Portuguese expansion and colonialism. Is this street sign a preview of what would become “the growth of a particular black metropolitan aesthetic that gives distinct shape and direction to questions of post-colonial culture and identity” (Chambers 1994:68), what Homi Bhabha theorizes as a “third space” resulting from hybridity and the encounter (1990)? Or is it what Mary Louise Pratt describes, “while the imperial metropolis tends to understand itself as determining the periphery . ...it habitually blinds itself to the ways in which the periphery determines the metropolis—beginning, perhaps, with the latter’s obsessive need to present and re-present its peripheries and its other continually to itself” (1992:6)? Do common place names and Creole chatter produce civil society, or are these signs just a simple case of patriarchal control, a hegemony located in landmarks and ephemeral talk?

The questions asked in this chapter likewise complement those of Morier-Genoud and Cahen when they reflect historically on the relationship between migration and “autonomous social spaces” in the Portuguese empire (2012:1–30). Do the African occupations in Lisbon of residence and profession, education and expressive culture, take on a life of their own? Do their legacies, evident in Kriolu-speaking youth and robust immigrant neighborhoods, constitute recognized publics with influence on collective notions of the city of Lisbon and ideas of Portuguese citizenship?

(p.32) State Representations of Africanity and Space

State-sponsored cultural production in Lisbon has generally portrayed Africanity in Portugal as an exceptional offer by an understanding colonial regime. For example, in 2011 the Torre de Belém, a four-story tower monument that actually sits in the Tagus River, was the site of an attractive retrospective exhibit on Luso-African history inside Lisbon. Since 2006 the Portuguese state and the public postal service (CTT) have commissioned a group of scholars and publicists to produce coffee-table books. A Herança Africana em Portugal—séculos XVXX (The African inheritance in Portugal) presents a heavy tome of thick, glossy paper and is dedicated to the role of the Luso encounter abroad in the making of “Portuguese” culture back “home” in the metropole. The poster session in the tower was essentially a series of cropped and enlarged text highlights and prominent images from the book, which is specifically about the African presence in Lisbon (Henriques 2009).

To see the exhibit, I descended into what resembles a dungeon. Beyond the expected depiction of African religious, culinary, aesthetic, and other ethnic practices that became visible in Portugal and, specifically, Lisbon, the exhibit underscored the importance of place. The visual narrative began with Lagos, in the southern region of the Algarve and the first European port of the slave trade, dating back to 1444. The long centuries of trade structured by a racist market logic of value came through in the documents of African bodies, institutions, and place names.

The exhibit designers transformed what might have appeared as an inauspicious start to any sort of national Africanity narrative into a story of pioneering urban policies regarding residential patterns and linguistic geography. Beginning in 1593 with a royal license, Africans built the Mocambo, a series of what would now be considered neighborhoods, located on a stretch of land adjacent to the city center to the west along the Tagus (Henriques 2009). The better translation of mocambo, following the conventional connotation of the Umbundo term, perhaps is village. Brazilianists will recognize the Kimbundo cognate of quilombo, a word that reveals many layers of race, space, self-liberation, and contemporary identity politics in Brazil (see, for example, Silberling 2003; French 2009; Kenny 2013). The authors of the exhibit concluded by reassuring the public that by the seventeenth century, the population of the Mocambo had become significantly mixed with slaves, freemen, Portuguese, and women participants of religious orders.

The Mocambo is, thus, upheld as a Creole space with folks dedicated to the commerce of the sea, a market organized around the encounter. The implication is that a sense of “black” space existed inside the metropole early in modern immigration history and that interethnic and interracial Creole mixture has always (p.33) been the Portuguese way. Africanity in Lisbon was not limited to street names, as suggested by figure 4.

Such historical material of race and space echoes in contemporary Portugal, as residents continue to reflect on identity. One can interpret the following 2007 headline from the Lisbon newspaper Ípsilon as an attempt to incorporate “outside” influences as self-identification. “Lisbon wants to be black again?” sets the tone for the 2007 review of the third annual Africa Festival, a multiday event featuring world beat musical artists. For this year, journalists invited a number of academics and cultural promoters to discuss race and multiculturalism. What is “black culture”? Is it the same as Africanity? Antonio Contador, a Portuguese sociologist, who has published widely on urban youth culture and rap music in Lisbon, asserts that “Africanity has faded” from a set of cultural expressions that constitute contemporary negritude and added, “Lisbon has been cosmopolitan and black for a long time. It is legitimacy that is slow in coming” (Contador quoted in Ípsilon 2007:15). Contador’s scholarship contributes to a larger corpus of work that argues that contemporary forms of so-called black culture are more than simply “African” expressions. They are more not because the cultural forms consist of other discrete “elements” from other cultural groups but because “blackness” has been cosmopolitan and part of globalized flows for centuries and has become part of “essential” cultural expressions that represent Europe, the Americas, and so on. One implication of Contador’s statements in the Ípsilon interview is that the Portuguese have been comfortable with Africanity as a relative ad hoc distinction to national culture but are reticent in accepting the idea that blackness has been formative in what is considered Portuguese and what the Portuguese and foreigners might recognize as Portugal.

The World of Cape Verde

Africanity-as-Creole begins with Cape Verde. Although most of the action of this book takes place in Portugal, Creole citizenship hinges on the particularities of Cape Verde and Cape Verdeans. Hardly “lost” forever out in the sea, Creole encounters with Cape Verdeans were important to not only enterprising merchants, such as whalers, but also literary figures and public intellectuals, such as Herman Melville. Famous for his novel Moby-Dick, Melville was keen to insert social comments related to the milieu of whaling in harbor towns, such as New Bedford, Massachusetts. What Melville leaves implicit in descriptions of Dagoo and the narrator Ishmael’s reflections on his other “swarthy” companions before and during the epic sea adventure is made explicit in “The ’Gees,” an article published in 1856, five years after Moby-Dick.

(p.34) In this ironic essay, Melville exposes the scientific racism of ethnology through a wry description of this curious people labeled the ’Gees, “an abbreviation, by seamen, of Portugee, the corrupt form of Portuguese. As the name is a curtailment, so the race is a residuum.” Melville, assuming the airs of his contemporary scientists, goes on to explain that “in his best estate the ’Gee is rather small (he admits it) but, with some exceptions, hardy; capable of enduring extreme hard work, hard fare, or hard usage, as the case may be. In fact, upon a scientific view, there would seem a natural adaptability in the ’Gee to hard times generally.”2 Melville seems to enjoy himself as he focuses on the scientific discourse of the day: “His complexion is hybrid; his hair ditto; his mouth disproportionally large, as compared with his stomach; his neck short; but his head round, compact, and betokening a solid understanding. Like the negro, the ’Gee has a peculiar savor, but a different one—a sort of wild, marine, gamey savor, as in the sea-bird called haglet. Like venison, his flesh is firm but lean” ([1856] 2013). Ultimately, the ’Gee, or the Cape Verdean migrant whaler, Melville argues in his facetious jab, has potential for civilization. The ’Gee is the ideal Creole citizen, an insightful laborer, malleable in culture and place. The ’Gee is both remarkable and unnoticed, the perfect diasporic subject.

Two qualities of the ’Gee which, with his docility, may be justly regarded as furnishing a hopeful basis for his intellectual training, is his excellent memory, and still more excellent credulity. The above account may, perhaps, among the ethnologists, raise some curiosity to see a ’Gee. But to see a ’Gee there is no need to go all the way to Fogo [Cape Verdean island with strongest diasporic connection to the New England region], no more than to see a Chinaman to go all the way to China. ’Gees are occasionally to be encountered in our seaports, but more particularly in Nantucket and New Bedford. But these ’Gees are not the ’Gees of Fogo. That is, they are no longer green ’Gees. They are sophisticated ’Gees, and hence liable to be taken for naturalized citizens badly sunburnt. ([1856] 2013)

Melville’s cynical imitation of Darwinian ethnology reveals the racism of the time, but it also, in the case of Cape Verde, demonstrates the documented fascination outsiders have had with this archipelago.

Melville’s turn of phrase describing the ’Gees as “naturalized citizens badly sunburnt” captures the Creole dynamic of Cape Verdeans. In the words of one Portuguese colonial officer, the “Cape Verdean showed his African origin only on the skin, when the pigmentation accidentally denounced him” (M. Oliveira 1955:24). Creole citizenship is a racialized process of political belonging shaped by the conditions of labor. To become “naturalized” involves material conditions of labor and histories of migration.

(p.35) Naturalization also, as Melville implies in his faux ethnological account, emerges through performance, that is, the language and expressive culture in encounters with the other. For the Portuguese, such articulation and recognition come through in mythologies of “discovery.” The acclaimed British historian Basil Davidson in his poetic and reflective book on Cape Verdean independence opens the text with a quote from Nobel Prize Portuguese author José Saramago: “As for the Old Discoverers, I think my name should be added to theirs, and with better reason if modesty allows. For they discovered a handful of deserted islands. But in those islands I have discovered a world” (quoted in Davidson 1989:epigraph). What is this “world” of Cape Verde? What could there possibly be in this small scattering of islands located approximately 350 miles off the coast of Dakar, Senegal?

Cape Verde’s value and essence can only be understood in terms of the encounter. It has existed as a meeting place, a weigh station for a variety of regional trades, Euro-Afro encounters, and transatlantic campaigns. The role of Cape Verdeans went beyond trade and included a significant number of early Euro-African historians (Mark 2002). Jose da Silva Horta argues similarly that what passed often as “Portuguese” accounts of the Guinean coast were in fact “Luso-African” (2000).

While there are hypotheses that precolonial culture and society existed on the islands,3 most scholars and Cape Verdeans purport that Cape Verde and Kriolu resulted from early Portuguese colonialism and creolization, a systematic process of mixture and displacement (Rodrigues 2011; Challinor 2008). Interpreting documents from the Catholic Church and trade reports, Brazilian scholar José Ramos Tinhorão explains that the early slave trade by the Portuguese went back as far as the fourteenth century with trading spaces on Rua Nova in Lisbon. With regard to Cape Verde, Ramos discusses the historical documentation around what many Portuguese children learn in school, the year 1444 and the first four officially documented slaves to be brought from sub-Saharan Africa, namely, Senegal and Cape Verde, to Portugal under the direction of Dinis Dias (Tinhorão 1988:47). This Creole formation afforded Cape Verde a distinct place in the imago mundi of the Portuguese.

Language, Education, and History

Language and colonial education reinforce this cultural imagination. Portuguese officials and scholars were quite conscious of the link between language and culture within the colonial paradigm. Angolan writer and critic Mário António Fernandes de Oliveira chronicles the Portuguese efforts in the “diffusion of the Portuguese language as an instrument of cultural and political integration as well as a bridge between the various parcels of the national territory.” He claims that even the (p.36) languages that were not nominally Portuguese spoken in the overseas territories were “politically Portuguese languages” (1970:20, 21).

Cape Verdeans established a relatively privileged position in local and translocal hierarchies. Manuel Brito-Semedo argues that a small cadre of local elite on Cape Verde benefited from the institutions of education on the archipelago during the early period of “Ladinization,” defined as Christian and Luso conversion. By 1650 Pedro Semedo Cardoso, a local Creole, was appointed governor. Brito-Semedo cites letters from Padre Sebastião Gomes, who reported that five of the nineteen people of political power were native “crioulos” (1995:107).

The privileged position of Cape Verde in the colonial geographies of education created a precedent of metropolitan concern, at least in some official circles. While, on the whole, it is true that Lisbon frequently abandoned its obligations to take care of its African colonies, and this was acutely felt in Cape Verde during the fierce droughts of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a cadre of state-sponsored scholars insisted on the maintenance of investment in education on the archipelago.

In a 1938 entry to the activities report of the Lisbon Geographical Society, an anonymous author laments over the Cape Verde governor’s decision to close the preparatory high school Liceu São Vicente in Mindelo on São Vicente island. The author rehearses a common theory of culture and intelligence the Portuguese used in their reckoning of Cape Verdeans. First, “the Cape Verdean people, in their tenacious struggle with nature, have assimilated civilization to a point that approximates that of the Metropole.” Secondly, the “geographic position of the archipelago places its people in permanent and accessible contact with all the civilization of the new and old worlds. ... Despite all of this, they never forget patriotically their homeland, however distant and welcoming the host territory may be” (“Actividade” 1938:143). The first claim is reminiscent of nineteenth-century theories of environmental determinism and aligns Cape Verde culturally with Europe in contrast to the prevalent conclusions that explain Latin American and African difference as indicative of laziness due to their relatively easy conditions for survival. The second claim espouses the idea that intercultural contact is a natural value of the Cape Verdean islands and functions as a predictor of intelligence (see also Ezequiel 1944). Contact pulls up culture.

The archival power of lettered Cape Verdean men supports the argument that the “world of Cape Verde” was significant in the Portuguese imagination of not only otherness “out there” but also the imagination of themselves. Born in 1555 of a woman described as “parda” (mixed race of black and white) on the Cape Verdean island of Santiago, André Álvares d’Almada represented an intermediary group of Luso-Africans, referred to locally as “Portuguese.” Almada consistently refers to “we” when discussing the “Portuguese” and to the Jalofos, a group occasionally (p.37) proposed as the most direct precursors to the identity label of “Cape Verdeans,” as “nearest to us” ([1594] 1984:4). His text is a narrative filled with lengthy descriptions of the various peoples occupying the region of the Guinea rivers in West Africa, ranging from Senegal and Cape Verde to Saint Ann. He aptly describes the rise and fall of local rulers, local laws, physical characteristics of people, and geographical locations of territories.

Periodically, Almada mentions the travels of rulers who visited Lisbon: “The Jalofo king called Bomaim Gelim, who came to Portugal in the time of King Manuel of Glorious Memory, must have been a relative of this king. Bomaim Gelim came to offer his obedience to King Manuel and to beg him to order that a fortress to be built in a kingdom and a trading post established, so that he might have the help of our men against those who had usurped the kingdom of his ancestors.” Almada also remarks on the fluidity of languages, “These Jalofos speak their own language and they also understand that of the Fulas, since there is a caste of Black Fulas living among the Jalofos, called Tacurores. ... Some of the Jalofos understand the language of the Moors, because the Moors regularly bring horses to sell to the Jalofos, and many of them are always to be found at the court of the king of the land” ([1594] 1984:5, 10).

As historian P. E. H. Hair affirms in his annotations to Almada’s book, Almada’s treatise on the area of the Guinean rivers became a constant reference in publications on the region well into the nineteenth century and was recognized by the Spanish crown in Madrid, despite the Estatuto de Ordem (protocol statutes) against persons “of color [de cor]” (Almada [1594] 1984:5). That these statutes were not implemented in Cape Verde lends credence to the notion that Creole Cape Verdeans like Almada were seen simply as not “colored” (P. Cardoso 1913).

Pretuguês, or Black Portuguese

The intersections of race, education, language, and culture took on other manifestations as Portugal utilized Cape Verde and the Guinean coast as ideological trophies in Portugal’s version of civilization. As expected, myths of Portuguese civilization depend on selective historiography, and Jacques Raimundo, a Portuguese scholar of education writing in the early years of the Salazar regime, identifies language instruction as an “adept instrument” (hábil instrumento) of Portugal’s “soft conquest” (conquista suave). In his short dissection of what he calls “pretuguês,” a neologism mixing preto (black) with Português (Portuguese), Raimundo makes a case of Portugal’s “vocabulary patrimony” and with it a cultural accompaniment to the civilizing process involved in African colonialism (1933; see also Duffy 1961b). In this respect, “black manners” of speaking Portuguese were thoughtful imitations of culture.

(p.38) Raimundo is one of several Portuguese intellectuals who recalled the theatrical plays of Gil Vicente, the canonical sixteenth-century dramaturge. Vicente scripted pretuguês, also called lingual de guiné (language of Guinea; see Clements 2009:45–46), as well as occasionally bozal/boçal (literally, “of a slave from West Africa”; frequently evoked in contemporary Portuguese vernacular to mean menial, stupid, or a simpleton as both an adjective and noun) language (Lipski 1994), through minor characters in his plays. He was later celebrated as providing remarkable insight into the linguistic and cultural imitations of the colonial subject residing in the metropole (J. Raimundo 1933:14–19). By contrast, the famous poet Bocage, active in the late eighteenth century, publicly denounced Portuguese Creoles and mestiços (mixed-race people) as on the side of “Blacks” and, thus, inferior in speech and being (Henriques 2012). In a few select sonnets from his prolific literary production, Bocage was explicit in describing visiting “Brazilian” (code for mulatto, or mestizo) dignitaries as “revolting,” “pardo de feições” (a cursed half-breed).

In his poem “Os cães domésticos e o cão montanhês” (domestic dogs and the mountain dog), Bocage uses the medium of a fable to convey his notions of race and social stratification. Toward the end of the poem, the domestic dogs are accused of a crime and are queried as to their justification; they respond, “O nosso jus é a força; O teu delito é a cor” (Our justification is force; your crime is your color). Bocage then concludes by explicitly drawing attention to his own racial discrimination: “De homens pretos, e homens brancos/Cuido que fala este autor” (With respect to black and white men, I take care in what I say) (Bocage [1799] 2007:23–24).

Examples of pretuguês in the dramatic texts of Gil Vicente and Bocage are part of what Iain Chambers terms the “accents of Empire” (1994:68) or what linguist J. Clancy Clements terms the “naturalistic acquisition” of immigrant populations (2009:124). More specifically, the colonial encounter inside Lisbon made its presence as a series of complex imitations, thereby creating an imagination of the Other. Periodically, pretuguês and other imperial accents represented racist theories aligned with Bocage and subaltern twists of meaning for political change, thus moving the idea of “black manners of speech” far away from any sort of supposed Portuguese cordiality.

Such difference frequently surfaced in labor relations resulting from urban migration. For example, in the 1940s and 1950s, pretuguês as a term of ridicule was documented among temporary contract workers in the streets of Maputo, Mozambique, and Luanda, Angola (Hamilton 1991), and an increasingly visible group of uneducated, poor Luso-African migrant men in Lisbon. In a Calibanesque moment, the founder of Cape Verdean and Guinea-Bissau nationalism, Amílcar Cabral, famously stated that “language is the best inheritance that we received from the Portuguese” (1974:30). The milieu of independence and decolonization (p.39) helps contextualize this declaration as an attempt to break down ethnic-linguistic barriers among Luso-Africans in order to achieve a proposed common goal, just as Shakespeare’s Caliban recruited Stephano and Trinculo with the hopes of creating a coherent opposition to the master Prospero.

More recently, Cape Verdean linguists and pedagogues have emboldened Cabral’s phrase to take control of what Portuguese means in contemporary Cape Verde. In a collection of interviews with Cape Verdeans living in Lisbon about their views and sentiments regarding their “home,” an advocate for Kriolu reflects, “We [must] revisit the fact of coexistence between Portuguese and Crioulo in Cape Verde. ... Considering this evidence that the Cape Verdean language has supplanted that which was dominant until Independence, to banish Portuguese from the archipelago would correspond to a cultural mutilation. That was the most precious inheritance of Portugal” (Viriato de Barros quoted in G. Raimundo 2008:630; see also B. Ramos 1985). Cape Verdean linguist Manuel Veiga is more direct as he recognizes the ambivalent nature of Portuguese as an opportunity actually to claim coauthorship: “The best instrument with which we can share the world of Cape Verde with the Portuguese is precisely the language of Camões, the ‘pátria’ [fatherland] of Fernando Pessoa, of which, today, we can claim the title of co-ownership” (1982:31).

Current Kriolu rappers, such as Chullage, have taken the idea of controlling linguistic “inheritance” by mimicking what the marginalized character Caliban in The Tempest refers to as “cursing.” The oft-cited line in Shakespeare’s play has Caliban retort to Prospero, “You taught me language; and my profit on’t/Is, I know how to curse” (act 1, scene 2, lines 517–18). Kriolu rappers’ profit is explicitly the medium with which they can talk back to experienced racial prejudice in Portugal. Implicitly, perhaps, they join the spirit of Veiga and other linguists cited above in asserting that the language Kriolu with all of its social history and cultural performance is a coproducer in the discourse attributed to “Portuguese.” In “Pretugal,” Chullage raps,

  • Koraçon lá e korpo ká em pretugal
  • Mentalmente enkkkarcerados ká em pretugal
  • Sem pão, mas kom veneno e armas p’ra morrermos em pretugal
  • Segregados p’ra n sermos ninguém em pretugal.
  • [Heart there and body here in Pretugal
  • Mentally incarcerated here in Pretugal
  • No food but with poison and arms for us to die in Pretugal
  • Segregated so that we are nobodies in Pretugal.]

—(Rapensar 2004)

(p.40) In both cases, Caliban and Chullage, the “profit” is construed from the perspective of the matrix of master/slave, colonizer/colonized, or citizen/migrant relationships. In all cases, the relationship involves race, labor, language, culture, and social action. While this song posits the Kriolu immigrant and Portugal in radical terms of opposition, other raps from Chullage suggest coauthorship in the construction of Creole Lisbon. Chullage, in particular, among Kriolu rappers, tends to rap in a mixture of Portuguese and Kriolu, which in and of itself suggests coproduction in Veiga’s sense. Through a creative use of k, indexing both the badiu variant of Cape Verdean Kriolu from the island of Santiago and the U.S. style of k diacritics, Chullage combines the microstructure of language to the macrostructure of narrative made explicit in the lyrics outlining racism, spatial segregation, and Cape Verdean/general migrant dis/emplacement. Chapter 3 revisits the issue of Kriolu language politics in more detail.

Drawing from my fieldwork among Kriolu rappers in Lisbon and the Cape Verdean capital, Praia, I feel an anxiety to let the voices of Chullage, LBC, and others fill the page. Their use of Kriolu as productive critique is an end point, a constructive expression of Creole citizenship. Their Kriolu diacritics emerge from a postcolonial position, and we cannot fully understand the significance of their words, their actions, and their motivation of migration and emplacement without spending a bit more time thinking about the colonial, particularly, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, relationship between Cape Verde and Portugal.

Individual figures, such as Almada, and institutions, such as lycées (high schools), were positive symbols of Cape Verde in the Portuguese worldview. Even during the tensest periods of decolonization in the late 1960s and early 1970s, many Portuguese continued to see Cape Verde as welcoming. In his self-published travel log, the Portuguese journalist Vasco Callixto, a specialist in automobiles and aeronautics, reflects on the importance of Cape Verde as a friendly landing pad during the first transatlantic flights departing from Portugal and Spain in the early 1920s. In between references and advertising logos of Pirelli tires and Land Rover jeeps, Callixto repeatedly alludes to the “Lusitânia,” the name of the 1922 hydroplane that traveled from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro, and “the Portuguese soil of Cape Verde that hosted the heroes of the air so warmly” during that first crossing of the South Atlantic (1974:53). One can hear Callixto’s celebratory voice as he sets foot in Nova Sintra, the main town on the island Brava and exclaims, “A breath of fresh air, the biggest avenue in Cape Verde and [full of] American products!” (1974:105). Since the glory days of the whaling industry in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the islands of Fogo and Brava have been oriented to the United States and, particularly, the New England coastal cities of Boston, New Bedford, Brockton, and Providence.

(p.41) I digress briefly to tell a bit more of the Callixto story because it demonstrates some of the ubiquitous ironies of Portuguese–Cape Verdean history and the intersecting histories of urban space and self-other representations. Besides being a conduit for the advertising of Pirelli tires and other travel-based merchandising, Callixto fancied himself an accomplished photographer, and upon his return from Cape Verde back to Portugal, he organized an exhibit of his work in Sintra in 1973. The location is significant in that Sintra was the playground of the Portuguese nobility and the magnificent site of their countryside palaces away from the “crowded” confines of Lisbon. Moreover, by the time of Callixto’s exhibition, the region between Lisbon and Sintra, approximately twenty-seven kilometers, or about seventeen miles, had started to become the peripheral bedroom communities of immigrants, including substantial pockets of Cape Verdeans (explored in more ethnographic detail in chapter 4). Finally, Callixto was born in Amadora, a place that during his youth was associated with past nobility and remarkable architecture linking Lisbon to the regal hillside community of Sintra. Since the 1980s Amadora has become the municipality with the largest Cape Verdean community in Portugal.

Cape Verde and Kriolu Identification

Following historians of the Black Atlantic, we know that Portugal preceded all other European countries by at least a century in exchange and conflict with West and Central Western Africa (Sweet 2003). Due to its strategic geographic position for both Iberian and West African traders, militias, refugees, and other migrants, Cape Verde was a central point of creolization and a key intermediary point in the formation of what is now referred to as the “Black Atlantic” (Heywood and Thornton 2007). Based on slave-trade records, we know, for example, that during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when Portugal sought to expand trade routes, most slave ships stopped in Cape Verde before making their way to the New World.4 Historian Matthias Perl has demonstrated that, more generally, Portuguese Creole was early on a language used by non-Portuguese, such as the Dutch and English (1982:7). It became a recognized trade language to do business in West Africa, and Portuguese Creole was disseminated to various parts of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Kriolu contracted after the seventeenth century, but it was once a transcontinental primary language of trade and power. In the words of Perl, “the Creole Portuguese languages, or variants of a uniform Creole language still in existence today, are remainders of a communicative medium that functioned on a global scale during the 16th and 17th centuries” (1982:12).5

Kriolu as a language and identity originated with displacement in the fifteenth century of lançados (literally, “thrown out”) in Guinea-Bissau and the parallel process (p.42) in Cape Verde of ladinização, the process of being baptized and other European, Christian rituals that increased the African slave’s value. The intensification of contact resulted in a pragmatic linguistics of labor segregation and economic exchange (Holm et al. 2006). The term lançado refers to one of the results of the Inquisition in Iberia, that is, a cleansing or “throwing out” (from the Portuguese verb lançar) of Jews and Muslims (Forrest 2003; Lobban 1995). In addition, expulsion also took place voluntarily in subsequent generations, as mixed-race men, the offspring of white Portuguese tradesmen and black slave women, left Cape Verde and relocated in Guinea (Bull 1989). Subsequently, they became an integral part of the petty bourgeoisie in coastal economies. While occasionally at odds with the Portuguese, these lançados actually linked the Portuguese via Cape Verde, their archipelago colony, with a sizable territory of West Africa (Batalha 2004a:22–23). Ladinização marked the process by which slaves in Cape Verde were inculcated into Catholicism, the Portuguese language, and basic, manual-labor skills (Carreira 1972; Brito-Semedo 1995).

In a discursive shift from labor to phenotype, Creole/crioulo/kriolu in the early seventeenth century quickly became a term of racialization.6 As Márcia Rego remarks, becoming ladinizado and separating from Kriolu translated into a pragmatic rise in value for the slave (2008:147). Yet, a number of slaves, in fact, used their knowledge of variants of Cape Verdean and (African) continental Creoles along with Portuguese as symbolic capital in exchange for their own manumission. For example, Philip J. Havik discusses the foundational role of local tangomãos (renegades) and grumetes (hired African seamen) as remunerated rowers, sailors, and interpreters in the articulation and capitalization of Creole (2007:46–52). In sum, Kriolu carried connotations of local breeding, labor management, and emergent racial discourses of colonial populations. Kriolu was also a tool for passing and mobility.

By the end of the nineteenth century, Portuguese colonial officials and scholars as well as Cape Verdean local elite became more confident that Kriolu’s value as a language and a kind of person was best thought of as a transitional phase on the way to speaking and being Portuguese. In the words of Casimiro, the poet and chronicler from this chapter’s introduction, Kriolu was an “intermediary language” of assimilation within what he described as the “colonial character” of the Lusophone world. On the one hand, the “Creole dialect” represented the “disfiguration and laziness” inherent in the “encounter between those of the Kingdom and the African. ... [On the other hand], some words gain a profound meaning and others better preserve, in either sweet or rude ways, the taste of the word” (1940:25).

Casimiro based his ideas on the work of nineteenth-century philologists, such as F. Adolfo Coelho. He remarks that Kriolu lamentably indicated blackness but not necessarily an impenetrable alterity: “They [the Cape Verdeans] substituted a (p.43) moorish mixture of African terms and antiquated Portuguese pronounced with a reckless abandon with guttural stops. This was called lingua creola, without grammar or fixed rules. It spread from island to island.” Coelho observes that the locals perform all facets of daily life in this idiom: “The locals don’t speak another language: [they] pray in crioulo; the parochial pedagogues teach the Christian doctrine in crioulo. ... Those who have traveled abroad understand Portuguese, but do not speak it.” He went on: “The whites reinforce this, as they learn crioulo, use it in domestic relationships, and rear their children in crioulo almost to the exclusion of pure Portuguese” (1882:451–52).

This latter perspective from the Portuguese settler position is echoed in novels, such as José Eduardo Agualusa’s historical fiction Creole. Set in the 1870s, the book is essentially a collection of letters from Fradique Mendes to a number of important people in his life, including his godmother and confidant, his Congolese/Angolan love interest, and a leading Portuguese literary and political figure. It is to the last, Eça de Queirós, that Mendes directs a fascinating rebuke. Queirós had called upon Mendes to send a report on “the current situation of Portugal in Africa,” to which Mendes replied: “I cannot. ... I’m afraid, my friend, that it’s not in Portugal’s interest that the world should know the situation in our colonies at this moment. ... They [the Portuguese] delve into the bush lands (‘God is great,’ they say, ‘but the bush is greater’), and just as they change their trousers and shirts for animal hides, they abandon the Portuguese language, or use it in tatters mixed up with the resonant languages of Africa” (Agualusa 2002:121,122).

The conflicted intimacy between Cape Verde and Portugal mediated by Kriolu was also apparent in institutions and policies of colonial education. As mentioned above, the Portuguese administration consistently ignored the famines and general chaos caused by droughts on the archipelago. However, official periodicals, such as the bulletin of the Sociedade de Geografia de Lisboa (Geographical Society of Lisbon) (SGL), frequently gave education an undivided attention. For example, on the dawn of the First Republic in Portugal in 1910, SGL writers called for reinvestment specifically in Cape Verde, the archipelago “in crisis,” so that “colonial education” could “develop more effectively and in a more civilized fashion” (“Subsidio” 1910:312; see also Keese 2012). Such concern in the metropole about Cape Verdean education had precedent. More than a century prior to the SGL publications, in April 8, 1794, under the auspices of the Fazenda Nacional (federal bank), the Portuguese monarch invited young male Cape Verdeans to study in Lisbon, especially in endeavors of science, art, and other vocational (ofícios) studies (Brito-Semedo 1995:109).

Writing on the relationship between colonial education and cultural identity on the archipelago, Manuel Ferreira describes the role of liceus (school, from the French lycées) during the early twentieth century in Mindelo as a site that influenced (p.44) the cultural ambiguity of future Cape Verdean literati. Mindelo, a town that by the early twentieth century had become a cultural center of Cape Verde and a harbor of elite islanders, was the center of the literary nationalist movement of the Claridosos (a group of literary elite from Cape Verde, who produced an influential periodical during the 1930s and 1940s called Claridade). Cape Verdean historian Victor Barros argues that “the publication of crioulo [in Claridoso literature] does not constitute a preemptory identification mark of contestation and a necessary rupture from the metropole but rather a demonstration of the adaptation within the encounter” (2009:169). The liceu pedagogy was oriented toward Europe and, unsurprisingly, affected the prose and political discourse of its prized students.

Cape Verdean negritude was slow in coming due to the history of cultural education on the archipelago. Ferreira cites the Angolan nationalist and longtime editor of the famous negritude publication Présence Africaine, Mário Coelho Pinto de Andrade: “From Cape Verde, whose literature has distinguished itself for some time, it might be necessary and useful to revisit the process of its social formation and situate blacks and by extension Black African culture as a Creole becoming” (Andrade 1951 quoted in Ferreira 1967:299). Andrade had bracketed Cape Verde from his anthologies of African literatures in the early 1950s, following a Lusotropicalist perspective on Cape Verde. By the end of the decade, he had reconsidered his position. For Ferreira, Andrade’s change in classification was due, in part, to the politicization of Cape Verde by Cabral, a colleague of Andrade in the famous Casa dos Estudantes do Império, a student house for elite Luso-Africans in Lisbon, and the founding of the PAIGCV (African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde) in 1956. This signaled a (re)africanization of Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, and, in conjunction with similar movement in southern Africa, Lusophone Africa. In Portugal, the Lusotropicalist view of Cape Verde remained steadfast. For example, the critic and São Tomean poet Francisco José Tenreiro, writing in the 1960s, describes Cape Verdean writers as those who had “drunk from the drama of their surroundings . ...directly from the spectacle of a land where the very trees are thirsty, lacking a poetry with well-articulated regional characteristics, the result of African acculturation on the archipelago” (1963).

The Portuguese claimed Cape Verdean Creole as a generally positive result of their special brand of colonialism and developed the paradigm of “Kriolu as a social fact” in various ways throughout the twentieth century. For the most part, this approach benefitted Cape Verdeans and their life chances in the empire (Keese 2012). For example, Mesquitela Lima, born in Cape Verde on the island of São Vicente, spent a good deal of his professional life in Angola as an administrator and columnist. In one particular essay, he discusses the “admirable” capacity of Cape Verdeans to approximate what the Portuguese do as a “culture,” namely, the (p.45) Cape Verdeans are a “phenomenon of social coexistence. ... These special anthropological characteristics [constitute] the Creole man of Cape Verde” (1959:3, 4).

As political economist Ronald Chilcote summarizes, “according to the official view, [Cape Verdeans were] a culture different from and superior to the rest of Africa. As a result, Cape Verdeans were considered ‘civilized’ and Portuguese citizens. Speaking a Creole Portuguese and proud of an indigenous literature, they had access to education. Mulatto Cape Verdeans served as administrators in the lower echelons of the African colonial service” (1968:373). Moreover, Portuguese essayist Osorio de Oliveira famously declared: “The Cape Verdean is without a doubt the greatest and most unique treasure of Cape Verde” (1936:4). The editors of SGL’s official bulletin, likewise, praised Cape Verdeans for their natural proclivity toward education and patriotism (“Actividade” 1938). Ethnologist Silva Neves added “anthropological” heft to claims of distinct Cape Verdean intelligence, sociability, and culture: “The men, in general, present irregular attributes but without the ugliness [fealdade] of the inhabitants of another archipelago, Andaman. They remind one more of the indians in the state of California” (quoted in Leite 1937:203).

From Kriolu as Colonial Intimacy to Kriolu as “Nigga”

When one spends any considerable time in the peripheral residential plots of contemporary Lisbon, the smooth uplifting story of Cape Verdean Creole falls apart.

  • Step into the world of a nigger, figure
  • to stay a little while so pack your bag up bigger
  • First of all just let me introduce you seduce you
  • into a frame of mind that’s easy to get used to
  • Nigger hasn’t always meant a man with melanin
  • It used to be a piece of wood that sat on the cotton gin.

The Coup, 1993

Now, as Portuguese Africa enters the most critical decade of its history, Lisbon’s goal is to reconcile the two opposing characteristics of Portuguese practice in Africa—the simultaneous acceptance and exploitation of the Africans. The reconciliation is to be accomplished by the assimilation of the Africans into a Portuguese world. What in essence the Government proposes to do is to convince the Africans that it is better to be Portuguese than to be independent.

—(Duffy 1961a)

As implied by the lyrics to “I Ain’t the Nigga” of the Oakland-based U.S. rapper-activist Boots, writer of the song and member of U.S. rap group The Coup, and the Africanist historian James Duffy, we should pay more attention to the intersectionality (p.46) of race and class in the understanding of terms that seem singular, such as “nigga” as solely “black” or colonial exploitation as purely about labor.

Following a tip from a Facebook group called Plataforma Gueto (Ghetto Platform), I decided to attend an event called Marcus Garvey University (MGU), a virtual institution of education named after the charismatic Jamaican leader for empowerment and an early spokesperson for black nationalism. MGU was created by a group of young activists living in various peripheral neighborhoods of Lisbon. I set out hoping to reconnect with a few friends/consultants in a place I know relatively well, Kova M. Undoubtedly, the most well-known if not often infamous autoconstructed, immigrant neighborhood in Lisbon, Alto da Cova da Moura, or “Kova M,” is home to thousands of residents of Cape Verdean descent. Chapter 4 details this Kriolu space in more historical and spatial detail, but suffice it to say here, it was a perfect spot for the virtual Marcus Garvey University to take place.

On the way up the steep hillside on one of the entry roads in Kova M, I overheard several Cape Verdean young men complaining about their own unemployment. They remarked on the ridiculous tone of voice from government officials, coming from the television that was secured to an upper corner of a local bar room. The news program announced as one of its main stories of the day that unemployment during June 2013 had not increased and had kept steady at 17.8 percent. “Where is that?” one man provocatively asked. Answering his own question in Kriolu, he bellowed, “Here it must be close to half.” This brief diatribe against the mainstream news media would serve well as an introduction to this particular evening’s public discussion.

I entered the stuffy meeting room belonging to the Moinho de Juventude cultural association, a neighborhood organization of Kova M and a central meeting place for various kinds of local events. People were seated in a circle, watching the documentary film The Story of Marcus Garvey. Rui, a dogmatic and charismatic speaker, periodically paused the YouTube video to summarize and interpret the documentary film. He occasionally linked the migration story of Garvey and his early challenges to the situation of black immigrants in contemporary Portugal.

The issue is race and labor. In Garvey’s time there were lynchings, his parents were slaves, and there was supreme black poverty in Jamaica. It was about your appearance and where you were at. If you stop and think about it, not that much has changed over here in Portugal in 2013. We are black, poor, and our value in this capitalist system is directly related to the jobs we don’t have and the decaying neighborhoods. While there are no lynchings, there is a system of police brutality that seems to justify violence against us just because we are standing (p.47) around in a certain neighborhood. What is it about race, labor, and space? This is the system; this is the law. This is not the case of a few corrupt policemen.

Bracketing the fact that, of course, Marcus Garvey was very much invested in capitalism, following his idol Booker T. Washington, and, thus, had no interest in overthrowing capital markets, including the constant instability of employment and speculative whims of property, the prospective links among race, labor, and space are worth pursuing. Given the history offered thus far, why would Luso-Africans, and especially Cape Verdeans, doubt that their brands of Creole had not assuaged the Manichean system in which Garvey circulated? Was not Creole-as-mixture an answer already established in the Luso world?

Cape Verdean rapper Chullage addresses the links among migration, race, and labor poetically a cappella in a song released on his 2012 album Rapressão. Posited in what on first glance appears to be the conditional future tense, “what if” (será que), the song’s title is best translated as a sharp criticism of present realities, more in the line of “is it really [like this]?” Chullage himself would make a strong appearance later in the Marcus Garvey University series of meetings in Kova M when the topic turned to the relationship among race, prisons, and capitalism. For now, a lyrical (translated) passage.

  • Skinheads [are] in all cadres, is it really the case that
  • This country only accepts an immigrant if he’s a soccer star.
  • ............
  • Is it really that brothers don’t see that
  • We have to stop bickering and go out in the streets in protest
  • Because it is there that we will end racism, capitalism
  • And all other forms of exploitation.
  • ............
  • Really? . ...What if.7

The linguistic formulation of será que (Is it really like that?) implies a history. “It” has been a certain way. The “it” of Chullage’s lyrics refers to a reality of marginalization. Although he provides examples of violent and prejudicial outcomes, the underlying fabric of this reality has to do with a demographic change that combines class, race, and gender. According to Jorge Macaísta Malheiros (1998), the early 1990s witnessed a rejuvenated construction industry with high numbers of African men recruits and a spike in domestic service with a significant tendency toward the hiring of African and Afro-Brazilian women. Both trends were based increasingly on temporary, informal work contracts accompanied by a complex network of interethnic social relations (Malheiros 1998:179–82). With a growing (p.48) presence of uneducated Luso-Africans (especially Cape Verdeans) in service or manual-labor positions instead of the university-trained engineers, economists, and lawyers (men), the connotation of Kriolu began to change from the “quasi-Portuguese” to a black “nigga.”

Kriolu as articulated by local rappers frequently involves a level of strategic essentialism. For example, not unlike the key word of “nigga” in U.S. rappers’ versions of locality as it relates to the “hood” (Perry 2005; Forman 2002), “badiu,” a polemical term of black laziness recuperated by contemporary Cape Verdean residents in Lisbon, indexes an assumed masculinity. Men are “niggas” and “badiu.” During my fieldwork, I spoke with thirty-four rappers, only six of whom were women. Of course, an anthropological understanding of gender goes beyond demography and includes practice. For example, LBC explained to me why occasionally he uses the English word bitch in his rhymes.

First of all, I got this idea from Tupac [Shakur], who turned people’s heads with his NIGGA acronym [Never ignorant about getting goals accomplished]. So, I put in BITCH [translation from Kriolu: your insensitivity made you corrupt and incorrigible (bu insenbilidadi torna corruptu y horrivel)]. ... The other thing is that “bitch” is meant for other men, not women. I’m criticizing them, not young women.

(personal communication)

LBC’s comments demonstrate the homosocial dimensions of Kriolu rap; it is a discourse overwhelmingly produced by and directed toward men as a series of judgments on masculinity. Moreover, LBC and other Kriolu rappers deploy “bitch” and “nigga” challenges as rhetorical qualifiers of “street” and “thug.” In other words, they imagine and propose public space as implicitly masculine and draw on empowering vocabulary etymologically rooted in English but pragmatically part of a Kriolu project to make cultural claims on territory.

In the literature on Cape Verdean identity in the diaspora, authors have contributed rich ethnographic insight into gendered geographies, especially related to labor. For example, Kesha Fikes (2009) deconstructs various scenes from her fieldwork in the Docapesca, a fish market that catered to restaurant buyers as well as a significant number of Kriolu or Kriol-speaking women who subsequently acted as street vendors outside of major transportation hubs across Lisbon. Fikes shows how these women in their negotiations with mostly white, Portuguese men strategically employed signs of Africanity in jokes and gestures in order to establish relations of intimacy and, thus, facilitate trade. Implicit in these scenes is that the market as a socioeconomic space was inflected by a variable Cape Verdean femininity—a Kriolu space, albeit only temporarily, given that the state closed down the Docapesca in 2003.

(p.49) Another example related to the social geographies involved in Kriolu rap is the practice of djunta mon (joining hands). Originally associated with rural feminine labor in Cape Verde, the public works of djunta mon in Lisbon translate into both collective efforts to improve neighborhood infrastructure or even cultivate crops as well as a rhetorical call to arms for Cape Verdean women to overcome any sort of barrier (Évora 2011; Weeks 2012).

Returning to the documentary film about Garvey’s life, we never reached minute twenty. What Rui and others in the room wanted to talk about was the state of pan-Africanism in the current reality of global capitalism. One young man reflected, “I understand pan-Africanism to be the process of making a black person into an African. It doesn’t matter where you are, in Jamaica, in the U.S., in Portugal. Pan-Africanism is not a ‘go back to Africa’ slogan but a message of unity among black people wherever you are.” We had reached some sort of consensus as every one of the roughly twenty-five young men and women nodded their heads. One woman added, “Like Rui said, where you are is a big deal. It presents different challenges to becoming African. But, yeah, pan-Africanism is about unity, cross-cultural unity of black people.”

Over the next weeks, Ghetto Platform members and a few interested bystanders would discuss party politics, police brutality, and other related topics to race and labor. They invited resident scholars, such as geographer Ruth Gilmore, to sit in and give her perspective on current prison construction in Portugal. On another occasion, Rui Skyped two Cuban activists as part of a group discussion on racism in Cuba with the objective of identifying potential points of comparison and contrast with the situation in Lisbon. A common theme in all of these meetings was the idea that blackness, whether Cape Verdean Kriolu, American, Portuguese, Jamaican, or Cuban, began and continues to be shaped by the chronotope of the ghetto, a catch-all term for postcolonial spaces of precarious residence and labor exploitation. The Ghetto Platform’s underlying belief is that to move forward, one needs to recognize this sociohistorical fact. Pan-Africanism, however defined, is perhaps a goal, as suggested by the group discussion, but it begins with the localized time-space phenomenon of the ghetto.

Racialization and Labor Practices: The Foundation of Citizenship

Kriolu was a unique formation in Portuguese colonialism, and its intricacies and intimacies of social relationships contributed to the overarching ideology of Portuguese “civilization” during early colonial periods of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as well as the period of colonial reinvigoration and reinvestment (p.50) in the African continent during the latter stages of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The question remains: how do presences and intercultural impressions inform national policies of membership, belonging, and rights? In short, the answer in the case of Portugal and Kriolu is that there is more at stake in citizenship than discursive inclusion of Luso-Africans. As demonstrated in Chullage’s rap lyrics about race and immigration as well as the heated discussion outside the neighborhood bar about current unemployment, and race and labor related to the Garvey documentary film, there are many obstacles to any sort of implementation of creolization as a set of policies.

A textual review of the historical connections among race, labor, and citizenship shows that the Portuguese state’s discourse of hybridity and fruitful Luso-African encounters have been often at odds with the racist and xenophobic policies of membership and rights. In the words of Elizabeth Pilar Challinor, the labor history of Portuguese colonialism and postcolonial capitalism has been “a process in which citizen and migrant emerged as distinctive, disconnected, black and white figures” (2008:91). Chapters 2, 3, and 4 describe that Portuguese administrators, mestizo apologists, such as Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre, and conciliatory Cape Verdean elite, including the Claridoso artists and scholars, employed Lusotropicalism in the 1950s and, subsequently, other Luso discourses to explain away such exploitative labor history. By the same token, as implied above in the description of contemporary activism among Luso-African migrants, this history established a paradigm of belonging, to which Kriolu rappers position themselves as they emphasize their language as a mark of difference. Kriolu was once a social fact of effective colonialism and promised assimilation into Portuguese identity and citizenship. For some contemporary migrants, Kriolu is now a medium of critique and territorial claims.

The policies of Portuguese citizenship were contradictory. The confusion centered around the identity categories of indigenous (indigenato) and assimilated (assimilado). On the surface, the words appear to indicate the ascribed status of birth and processes of acculturation. Under this logic, one would expect the rise of Cape Verdeans over the “rooted” Luso-Africans of the continent. In practice, these terms became marks of legal status in what Michel Cahen describes as the “colonial capitalism” of early and mid-twentieth century Portugal. The indigenous were black Africans who were not able or were unwilling to participate in the capitalist economy. Citing the 1926 law, indígenas were “those born of native parents and who by education and habits were not distinct from the common of their race” (in Rosas and Brito 1996:320, Article 3, Estatuto Político, Civil e Criminal dos Indígenas de Angola e Moçambique).

(p.51) Cahen points out that the reality of late nineteenth-century labor demography contradicts the notion that “indigenous” Portuguese were solely locals. For example, many of the indígenas working in São Tomé e Príncipe, another Creole archipelago and former Portuguese colony located off the coast of Gabon, were contract laborers from Angola and Mozambique as well as Cape Verde (Cahen 2012:150). Although in previous eras, the Portuguese forged political-economic alliances with various African states and participated in the slave market, the classification of indígena meant that all black Africans were “natives” unless they could pass out of this supposed stable category. Passing the assimilation tests of the late 1920s and early 1930s included a demonstration of “abandoning indigenous habits and customs” and, consequently, proof of “the ability to speak Portuguese,” later to be qualified under the 1954 Native Statute as “accurately” (Rosas and Brito 1996:381–82).

However, as certain popular cartoons of the 1930s demonstrate, “assimilated” Africans in the metropole were expected still to possess savage ways. For example, a particularly striking comic charge, “The Cannibal’s Lunch,” depicts an African dandy as a potential customer in an upstanding restaurant who mistakes an irate gentleman customer as the waiter and orders a selection of typical Portuguese dishes (e.g., sardines) with a busboy in a stew accompanied by potatoes (Almoço do Antropófago 1934 in Henriques 2011:68).

As Cahen and others, Douglas L. Wheeler and Walter C. Opello Jr. (2010), James Duffy (1961a), and Marilyn Newitt (2004), explain, the definitions of operative terms, such as “practicing a profession” as part of being “assimilated,” were important sites where the Portuguese segregated purported racial populations. This addendum of “profession” proved to be a way to maximize profit from a skilled but “indigenous” black labor force and avert racial tensions between the blacks and petty white workers due to economic competition for wages. Exploitation could continue, and relatively unskilled white workers could enjoy a mixed but hierarchical relationship with local Africans. By 1961 the indigenato became moot as decolonization wars heated up and Salazar’s state issued a blanket law incorporating or “recognizing” local habits and customs from the overseas provinces. Indigenous and assimilated were out as labels, and, in their place, rural emerged as a key word in the 1962 Labor Code. Again, misleading in its meaning, rural coded black and periphery.

The clunky Labor Codes of the 1960s did not represent the reality on the ground. A growing informal economy based in emergent (sub)urban communities demonstrated that Lusotropicalism and assimilation were farces (Castelo 1998). No matter the local African’s linguistic proficiency in Portuguese, cultural competency in Eurocentric practices, such as Catholicism, or, indeed, one’s profession, they were “niggas.”

(p.52) The development of a Creole elite, albeit small at .008 percent in Mozambique and .75 percent in Angola (Cahen 2012:162), distinguished Portuguese Africa from the rest of European-controlled Africa. However, these Creole intermediaries did not serve to “transition” the local economies from one of slavery to one of forced labor; rather, they enabled a kind of “social racism” where categories of place, such as “indigenous,” blocked working Africans from any sort of meaningful inclusion.

The association between labor and identity is deeper historically than it may appear. Art historian Peter Mark argues that the labels of Portuguese and Luso-African (or noirs lusitanisés, as uttered by the astonished French in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, see Mark 2002:140) were initially linked to the profession of trader. The Creole communities of Cape Verde and various locales within the Senegambia region mixed architectural styles, languages, dress, social etiquette, and religions through encounter and trade. In so doing, they designed identities as cumulative and fluid projects of form and function.

While Mark underscores the social agency of labor and encounter, Shubi L. Ishemo points to the limiting force of Portuguese incursions into Africa. He argues that the lack of infrastructure within Portuguese colonialism may have fostered a fluidity of styles, languages, and so on, but it also produced long-lasting legacies of identity vis-à-vis migrant labor. Ishemo asserts that “the origins of [forced labor] lay in the specific characteristics of the Portuguese capitalist formation and the mode of its penetration and accumulation in the colonies. The consequent social formation that this engendered in each colony explains why, in some post-colonial states [such as Cape Verde], labor migration persists as a structural feature of the economy” (1995:162). It continues to be the case that Cape Verdeans, especially males but females as well, incorporate migration as a rite of passage. Migration is part of becoming an adult.8

In the summer of 2007, I finally became adept at managing cellular-phone texts, a helpful side effect of Lisbon fieldwork. Before the Facebook boom and accompanying social-media apps, there were few virtual venues outside of Myspace to do public networking. Rappers (and everyone else) depended on texts to set up live conversations. During those weeks in June, it had been hard to pin down rapper Gilson, but he finally agreed to a chat between his work at the Casa das Sandes sandwich shop in the tourist-filled Rossio plaza and at an electronics booth in an informal mall in a corridor attached to the relatively new subway station of Parque das Nações (Park of nations), a planned commercial and residential neighborhood catering to the Lisbon nouveau riche. With a bright sun filling up the late afternoon sky, we talked on the steps leading up to the massive apartment building where Gilson resided in the social neighborhood called Chelas. He opened up about his life.

(p.53) Yeah, there are lots of Cape Verdeans here in Chelas, and we often run into each other going to and from work down in the tourist centers of Lisbon. Many of them work out near the airport, too, which is near Parque das Nações. You know, the big Vasco da Gama mall. I see kids from Chelas there wandering around. I came to Lisbon with my big sister when I was five years old. She took care of me, and then my mom came. I got a brother in Rotterdam, a cousin in Boston, and a sister in Paris. My dad goes back and forth between Lisbon and Santiago. I was born in Órgãos on the island of Santiago.

Sometimes I think about going to Rotterdam or Paris for a better wage, but there’s something about Lisbon. I mean, we’re used to Portugal and the Portuguese on some level, and they’re used to us. The Kriolu we speak here is more to my taste. It’s more me. We take the tuga [white Portuguese, colloquialism], and we don’t reject it. We take what we want, add Kriolu, spin it around, and make it rough. On the everyday level, life is easier here in the tuga, and our Kriolu seems more sinister, more prideful. I rap about what all these Chelas kids know. What I am telling you. Making a little [bit of] money, sending some back to family. ... It’s about the Lisbon relax and the cool rip of Kriolu.

Gilson’s story, like many others in the outskirts of Lisbon, is the complementary narrative component to the immigration reports of the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (Immigration and Border Service) (SEF).9 Gilson hardly claims any sort of exceptional status. On the contrary, he sees himself as following a common path among Kriolu youth residing in Lisbon. In accordance with the histories of Portugal–Cape Verde or tuga-Kriolu intimacy, Gilson finds both a comfort and an irritation in Lisbon life. His Kriolu rap reflects the cultural inclusion that gives the Portuguese pride as well as the barbed rhetoric that represents an incompleteness of belonging and clamors for a new model of inclusion.

A Spatial Reading of Kriolu and “Portugal”

The case of Portugal demonstrates a sociopolitical difference between two concepts that are often conflated—nationality and citizenship. Cahen quips about the time of Portuguese colonialism of Africa, “‘race’ was used almost exclusively to designate black people, while the Portuguese people were a nation” (2012:170, italics in original; see also Carvalhais 2007). Such factors as demography, religion, colonialism, and ideology played significant roles in shaping not only the laws of inclusion/exclusion but also the sentiment of “Portuguese.” Until the 1980s, Portuguese history was predominantly one of emigration: pioneering merchants during the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries, tardy capitalists in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and migrant labor forces in post–World War II Europe.

(p.54) Unlike most traditions of “modern citizenship” in Europe, Portugal bracketed conventional social categories of race, religion, and ethnicity as national metrics and, instead, employed a principle of territory, or jus solis, to incorporate its various overseas dominions. This was particularly clear during the decolonization wars throughout Africa during the 1950s and 1960s and into the 1970s. The Salazar-Caetano regime used mouthpieces, such as Permanência (permanence), a magazine of current news in the overseas territories. The key word certainly is “permanence.” The editorial staff of the magazine asks, “What does Portugal signify?” The columnist answers.

What does Portugal signify? A country of Europe, no doubt, but one that goes beyond Europe, and completes itself and personalizes itself through encounters with peoples from other continents. A convergence of ethnicities, expressed in multi-secular human relations that overcome distance and racial oppositions. Therefore, it is true that the Overseas territories are an integral part of the Nation. This has nothing to do with colonialism, in which passionate observers try to include such trivial differences due to their lack of a general philosophy of culture. Why not simply admit that the seas are just as if not more unifying as land continuities?

(Carneiro 1970)10

The principle of territory, even if one considers the seas as conduits of membership as the Permanence editors suggest, is not as solidly grounded in terra firma as it may seem.11 The difference between “Portuguese” (i.e., national identity or membership) and being able to exercise rights (i.e., a more robust sense of Portuguese citizenship) is in large part defined by connotations of space and place.

Portugal did follow a similar path as the majority of emerging nation-states in establishing citizenship hierarchy based on property and education. The “liberal” idea was that contributing persons should be afforded civic rights, where “contributing” means propertied, literate gentlemen (R. Ramos 2004). Consequently, a minuscule elite group of “white” (relatively speaking) men was formed. However, even in its early iterations, Portuguese citizenship construed territory slightly more broadly than most. For example, residents who were not of the nobility or clergy could mobilize the term vizinhança (neighborhood) to gain status and exercise certain “community” rights (Moura-Ramos 1984).12 Under the fascist “New State” regime of Antonio Salazar, the language of “natural citizen” was replaced with so-called natural groups and moral and economic associations, thereby introducing aspects of jus sanguinis into the citizenship equation (Salazar 1939).

The peculiarity of Portugal comes in the state’s use of territory as an orientation. When Portugal turned its attention more directly to its African colonies in the early twentieth century, one’s status became increasingly significant if one was “assimilated,” (p.55) that is, a conceptual move to the metropole, or if one was “indigenous,” a hopeless native and static African other. Although members of both categories were “Portuguese” nationals, the assimilated were given, at least, rhetorical liberties of access to education and increased salaries. Both types of Luso-Africans were expected to “contribute” through labor to the Portuguese state, and in this way, even though the indigenous were considered separate, wholly other Africans, the Portuguese state could justify forced labor in a postslavery era. The obligation to contribute is codified in the vagrancy laws of the late 1870s and again in 1899 (Jerónimo 2012).

More specific to Cape Verde, Deirdre Meintel (1984) points out that the Portuguese were quick to capitalize on even the tragic famines and droughts that ravaged the archipelago during the 1770s, 1830s, and 1860s. By the late nineteenth century, the Portuguese deployed the key word vagrancy to force into submission legally those who were not actively part of labor projects on the islands or on the plantations of São Tomé e Príncipe or Angola. Ishemo estimates that between 1903 and 1970, roughly eighty thousand Cape Verdeans were “forcibly transported to São Tomé” under the vagrancy laws. In sum, Portugal’s efforts to modernize and improve its position within global capitalism were more pervasive demographically and spatially in the daily lives of African workers than during the slavery period.

In the 1970s, with the implosion of the fascist regime inside Portugal and the decolonization wars among the overseas territories in Africa, the concept and accompanying laws of citizenship began to change. The 1981 Law of Nationality codifies a shift from jus solis to jus sanguinis as the Portuguese attempted to reconcile a broadening of the “civic community” along lines of gender and class inside Portugal, given a new influx of African migrants. Over the 1980s, immigrants to Portugal became more diverse with an increase from 102 to 129 different countries of origin of residents. Portugal shared such aspects with Spain, Italy, and Greece, which helped foster the idea of a “Southern Europe” (Pedaliu 2013; Malheiros 2010).

Portugal, thus, became, in part, an ethnic imagination. The 1981 law facilitated citizenship for someone born of Portuguese parents abroad, but for someone born of foreign parents residing in Portugal, citizenship remained allusive. The law directly aided children of retornados, the thousands of white “returnees” who had been living for generations in Africa.13 However, it is the second scenario in which many Cape Verdeans found themselves, between logics and between categories.

  • Who showed you this long path?
  • Who showed you this long path?
  • This way to São Tomé!
  • (p.56) Longing, longing, longing (sodadi)
  • for our land of San Nikolau
  • If you write me, I’ll write you
  • If you forget me, I’ll forget you
  • Until one day upon your return
  • Longing, longing, longing (sodadi)
  • for our land of San Nikolau.

—(Soares 1950s)

Any Cape Verdean and many Portuguese would recognize these lyrics. One of the most famous mornas (a musical genre), “sodadi” (nostalgic blues) conveys the sentiment of separation from family and friends resulting from labor migration. In this case, as explained by the song’s author, Armando Soares, the song refers to the recruitment of Cape Verdean laborers in the 1950s by the Portuguese government to work in the mines of São Tomé e Principe.

Beyond the obvious significance of the song’s lyrics, the context in which I first heard the song is noteworthy. While in Boston during June 2009, in preparation for fieldwork in Lisbon and Praia, I attended a luncheon organized by local Cape Verdean associations in honor of a visit by Aristides Lima, the Cape Verdean Parliament leader. The husband of one of the main-event organizers and I chatted over lunch as a house band played through several mornas and coladeras (another musical genre from Cape Verde), a few originally by the famous diva Cesária Évora. Brito, my lunch companion, suddenly stopped when the band transitioned into “Sodadi,” what turned out to be the final song before Lima’s presentation. Brito was touched and felt it an obligation to explain what this song of migration meant to him.

Hardly a representative of impoverished manual labor, Brito had done well for himself in New England. He described the long, arduous travels of his parents and the wide dispersal of his relatives across Europe and the Americas and commented, “This song captures Cape Verde. You have to understand this if you want to understand Cape Verde and the expression of Kriolu.” Lima also reflected on the song’s continued resonance in an allusion to “Sodadi” in his opening remarks: “A wonderful morna, a moving song. Thank you for inviting me to speak today . ...and while Cape Verde continues to be diasporic, we in the Parliament and I as leader are committed to providing the education and local infrastructure so that the partnership between the Cape Verdean government and the upstanding Cape Verdean organizations in historically strongholds such as here in Boston can grow in strength and make for a more effective nation and identity. I am honored to be here to tell you about the current debates in the Parliament.”

(p.57) Statistics from Portuguese government agencies, such as the National Statistical Institute (INE) and the SEF, make it clear that while the relative level of formal education and skill of immigrant laborers in Portugal rose during the 1980s and early 1990s, Cape Verdean and African Countries with Portuguese as the Official Language (PALOP) residents overall continue to make up the bulk of lower-paid, manual laborers in the “new” Portugal (Malheiros 1998). In addition, a significant growth industry during the 1980s was domestic services, which attracted a new wave of Luso-African women, many of whom are Cape Verdean.

Beyond the statistics, the “vagrant,” a typical Portuguese euphemism for “nigga,” remained current during the 1980s and 1990s in the face of these demographic changes. The terms vagrant and vagabond (badiu) became culturally meaningful, particularly on the Cape Verdean island of Santiago, as linguistic dialect and identity markers. The term vagabond is but one example of the convergence of migration experience and public policy that shape notions of identity, belonging, and a formalized citizenship.

A Reconsideration of Kriolu Identity

If we take a moment to reflect on this policy history, we begin to appreciate the complexity of Creole as a category of status and creolization as a processual condition of citizenship. What was generally regarded as part of Portugal’s colonial mindset and emerging national sense of self came to symbolize the “dangerous” inclusion of African others. The basis of Creole and Kriolu is labor often mediated by trade and migration. As the story about “Sodadi” at the luncheon for middle-class Cape Verdeans and the invited Cape Verdean politician demonstrates, Creole and migrant labor continue to have a hold on identity.

As Portuguese colonialism became more aggressive (and arguably desperate during the twentieth century), Kriolu increasingly came to represent an exploited, African other, someone who is still not yet a contributing member of Portugal worthy of citizenship rights but certainly able to call him- or herself “Portuguese.” This identity represented a claim to the future, a goal to be achieved someday in terms of culture, language, and morality. At a fundamental level, this contradiction in Portuguese policy and attitude contextualizes the sentiment behind the emotional charges of the youth in twenty-first-century Kova M. To paraphrase one spirited rapper during the Marcus Garvey University gathering, “Blackness is part of Portugal. We come from Creole. Where is the result of all this for me, for us here in this neighborhood? Am I just a nigga?” The consciousness activated by Cape Verdean and Luso-African activists suggests that Kriolu offers something else.

(p.58) The next three chapters delineate the emergence and development of a robust, critical Kriolu identity at a time when Portugal, at the macro level of national policy and law, has become one of the most progressive countries in immigration and citizenship. With Portugal’s entry into the European Union in 1986, its adoption of the Schengen Treaty in 1991, and its reinvigorated participation in European debates on immigration (instead of its traditional role as emigrant labor force for other, more economically powerful European nations), Portugal relaxed its citizenship laws, which had focused on jus sanguinis and being able to speak “good Portuguese.” For example, the current National Citizenship Law, Decreto Lei no. 308-A/75, passed in December 2006, states that an individual who was born in Portugal but of foreign-born parents need only reside inside Portuguese territory for five years and declare a willingness (vontade) to be a Portuguese citizen in order to be a viable candidate for citizenship. This reduction of five years was coupled with more-lenient language requirements in terms of proficiency.14 In addition, the Portuguese state followed other Western European nation-states by including a clause implying that citizenship is a universal right so that Portuguese citizenship would be an option in cases of individuals without any citizenship (apatriados) (chapter 5 discusses more on state policies of citizenship and accompanying discourses of interculturality). The contradictions in the intimate relations between Portugal and Cape Verde are historical in their dynamics but ultimately are made manifest in place (from territory to neighborhood) and language (from “black Portuguese” to Kriolu).

Ami e kriolu. A simple statement, “I am Kriolu,” opens up a complex set of questions and life narratives. How is it that Kriolu, a prototypical Creole classification and, thus, a mark of crossover, could be such a strong identity category? Especially, among early-generation immigrants, what is at stake in Kriolu? This chapter provides historical depth to the idea and practice of citizenship as a condition of rights and identity claims. Portuguese officials racialized citizenship and linked rights to labor and education as they simultaneously propagated Portugal as a unique mixture born out of Euro-African encounters. The next chapter concentrates on the contingencies among an overarching national ideology, Lusotropicalism, and an emerging politics of identity, Kriolu. Once familiar with this relationship, we will hear contemporary Cape Verdean youth and Kriolu rappers more clearly.


(1.) Al-Judami, appointed as governor of Lisbon in the eleventh century, was described as “negro” on his arrival to Badajoz, currently a Portugal-Spain border town (see A. Alves 1991).

(2.) Decades later, photographer Clifford Ashley would invoke the term ’Gee to refer to the members of the “black crew” he discovered on The Sunbeam, one of the last whaling ships to leave the New Bedford, Massachusetts, docks. Ashley stated, “As for butter, the damned ‘’Gee’ eats lard on his bread and thinks that the white man oughter” (1926:19).

(3.) For example, some scholars cite stories of precolonial occupations of Cape Verde as a refuge by the Jalofo tribe (Baptista 2002; Carreira 1972).

(4.) Until 1521, slaves were required to pass through Spain or Portugal to be “taxed and seasoned” before being transported to the Americas (Sweet 2003:15). By the 1830s, however, the Portuguese census takers eliminated racial categories from the census, thus making it difficult to track demographics in such terms. In part, this was due to the official abolition of slave trading in the ports of Lisbon and, most probably, also due to the effervescent ideologies of nation-building, including narratives of tradition, homogeneity, and superiority (Patterson and Kelley 2000).

(5.) Peter Mark in his work on Luso-African architecture cites the observations of the Dutch trader Pieter de Marees in 1602 regarding the ubiquity of Creole spoken throughout the Gambian region and Petite Côte just south of Dakar, Senegal (2002:15–16).

(6.) As mentioned earlier, there are several variants of Kriolu from Cape Verde. This variability is signaled in the very spelling of the language—Crioulo and Kriolu. I have opted for the latter throughout this text with the only exception being a citation of a published document. I spoke more with descendants of the island of Santiago, where the K spelling is preferred; this is also the rule per ALUPEK (Unified Alphabet for the writing of Cape Verdean). There is also a matter of politics and aesthetic taste connected to the K, as chapter 2 describes.

(7.) Skinheads em toda claque, será que,

  • este pais só aceita um emigrante se for um craque.
  • . ... . ... . ...
  • Será que, irmaos nao se apercebem que há que,
  • Deixar que falar e sair para a rua em protesto
  • Porque é lá que, vamos acabar com o racismo, capitalismo
  • E todas as outras formas de saque.
  • . ... . ... . ...
  • Será que.

(8.) From postindependence Africa until the present day, the relationship between migration and labor has accumulated other connotations. While Cape Verdeans continue to be (p.159) labor migrants, a significant percentage of other Luso-Africans and non-PALOP Africans are categorized as “refugee” migrants. According to state statistics, 65 percent of all requests in 2011 for refugee asylum in Portugal were from African citizens (SEF 2012:46–47).

(9.) Moreover, according to World Bank statistics published in 2011, Cape Verdean remittances constitute roughly 10 percent of the archipelago’s gross domestic product (GDP). Despite the global recession since 2008, Cape Verdeans continue to send US$150 million back “home.” As a percentage, this represents a significant decrease since the mid-1990s. The cited reason for this decline is an emergent tourism industry rather than a downturn in diasporic money transfers per se.

(10.) Author’s translation of: “Que significa Portugal? Uma pátria da Europa, mas que, além da Europa, se completou e personalizou no encontro com os povos dos outros continentes. Convergência de etnias, expressa em relações humanas multiseculares que superaram as distâncias e as oposições raciais. Daí advém que o Ultramar português seja parte integante e vital da Nação, nada tendo a ver com o colonialismo em que pretendem incluí-lo alguns observadores apaixonados, por falácia de generalização ilícita. Por que não admitir que os mares sejam tanto ou mais unitivos do que a continuidade terrestre?”

(11.) The Salazar apologists demonstrate what Maeve McCusker and Anthony Soares, in their edited volume on “Island” identification, describe as the connective qualities of the seas: “The very seas that would appear to act as guarantors of separateness have always been conduits, facilitating movement and exchange between peoples and cultures” (2011:xii–xiii).

(12.) The deployment of vizinhança is similar to what Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra describes in seventeenth-century México as a citizenship based on vecinidad and naturaleza, an inclusion based on “merit,” that is, religion, property, marriage, residence, and space, manifested in neighborhood, municipal, and, ultimately, to the “natural” cohesion of what would become “nation” (2007:41).

(13.) Some of the retornados were Cape Verdean with Portuguese citizenship. Law Number 37, decreed on October 3, 1981, because it defined citizenship as based in blood, not soil, stripped most of these Cape Verdeans of their rights as the law also did to the more conventional “immigrant” Cape Verdeans. A minority of retornados escaped this cut based on their formal education and was able to emigrate and resettle not only in Portugal but in greater numbers in other Cape Verdean diasporas in Europe and the United States, where they saw more employment opportunities. See Gois 2008 for more details.

(14.) For more information, see “Prova de Língua Portuguesa para Aquisição de Nacionalidade.”