The historic island settlement of Cidade Velha
Located on the Cape Verde island of Santiago, Cidade Velha was founded in 1462 after Genoese explorer António da Noli discovered Santiago two years earlier. The port quickly became a strategic site of Portuguese colonization into Africa and South America, subsequently growing into a central trade waypoint and platform for the trafficking of slaves. Many famous navigators ported in Cidade Velha on their respective voyages, including de Gama, Columbus, and Magellan.
What Cidade Velha offers the modern traveler
Cidade Velha has a number of sites that can’t help but interest lovers of history and culture. The oldest colonial church in the world can be found there, built in 1495; the famous marble pillory was erected in the early 1500s and still stands at the heart of the city; Fort Real de São Filipe, finished in 1593, was built to repel French and English pirate attacks on Cidade Velha; and numerous other ruins and traditional houses can be found there.
UNESCO recognition and Creole society
Cidade Velha became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009 due to its central role in the development of international maritime trade as well as its importance to historic intercultural encounters. These encounters are, sadly, largely due to Cidade Velha’s use as a slave trafficking site, and this fact contributed much to the city’s status as the world’s first developed Creole society.