The streets of Mindelo in the island of Sao Vicente in the North of Cape Verde come alive for the first weeks of March every year for Carnival. Sao Vicente is one of 10 islands in Cape Verde, best known as the home of the legendary musician, Cesaria Evora.
The country’s second largest island in terms of population has gone from being a mostly uninhabited island until the mid to late 19th century to becoming a cultural powerhouse attracting thousands of visitors to the country each year.
Officially, carnival in Mindelo, Sao Vicente lasts a week, but locals will tell you Carnival fever begins as early as the end of the previous year. While Sao Vicente’s population is 80,000 people, the league which organized this year’s carnival (LIGOCSV) gave an unconfirmed estimate of as many as 50,000 additional visitors to the island for the carnival. This includes visitors from all the other nine islands in Cape Verde in addition to international visitors and press. The estimate is based on the fact that as early as end of December 2018, most hotels and other accommodation were fully booked. All flights to Sao Vicente were full.
This is the second year the Carnival in Sao Vicente has been organized by the league. It is all part of an ambitious plan to professionalize the carnival bring in more revenue for the country.
The organizers estimate that between 25% to 50% of the island is directly involved in planning different aspects of the carnival. The six official carnival groups have a total of 4,000-5,000 members, but there were parades for several unofficial groups including all the schools in the island, teachers and professors in addition to several other interest groups. The sheer scale of the Sao Vicente carnival was extremely impressive. A conservative estimate of the direct jobs created during the carnival is 2,000 people.
One of the highlights from the Sao Vicente Carnival is a sighting of The Mandingas. While they are a common sight throughout the festival, the day fully dedicated to them is the final day of Carnival known as The Mandinga Funeral/Carnival Funeral. Greased completely in oil and tar, doning sisal skirts and carrying spears, they are a sight to behold as they are followed by thousands of people on the Sunday after Carnival until they take two black coffins into the ocean – signaling the end of the carnival.
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