Praia, the capital city of the island country of Cabo Verde, is at once a city teeming with an immense passion for people and connectivity while also being a prime example of modest nationalism. Whether walking through the city center or jogging past one of the many workout stations along the coast, it is clear to me that while the country may lack many of the natural resources that gave rise to economically powerful nations, these islands make up for this by the mere strength of their community. I observe this every day, working with the youth of various centers that are dedicated to uplifting their islands’ future. There is an offering made by each individual, to the best of their ability, to connect by meal or conversation despite any hindrance that may come about. However, this makes me wonder if a narrative of past of economic hardship and the harsh realities of slavery led this island country to such a place of offering or if there is something else, unidentifiable, that leads them?
As part of a reflection on my time here, I was encouraged to watch Chimamanda Adiche’s “The Single Narrative,” a broadcasted conversation about Adiche’s musings of perception and the narratives that form those perceptions. As deftly shown by Adiche, storytelling is multivariate in its use, excelling as both art and tool. Storytelling is one of the many ways we are taught to navigate the world as well as how to survive practically while also enriching the lives we lead with the lives of others. The voices behind such narratives have tremendous power, capable of shaping a simple and possibly misleading reality to those unfamiliar of that reality. In the context of Cabo Verde, I have only experienced the story of the country from perspectives of either foreigners or those with the resources that allow them to be heard the loudest, namely those of more endowed social classes. I wonder how the storytelling would differ to the dishwasher or the domestic assistant. The island is one of a temperate nature: everything, from the weather to the people, seems to be breezy, possibly a reflection of their idea of “morabeza”. I wonder if this makes the opposite possibility even more an extreme. Does the tranquility of the community translate to more extreme diversions from that tranquility when adverse things occur?
The thoughts I also have from my seat in the Ecobus wrestle with how the visual story of the city might be told. Structurally, you are more likely to find a worn, degraded home than an intact polished one. The upkeep, the investment of resources and effort into making the city attractive, seems to pale in comparison to the country’s investment in its people, much to the dismay of the ignorant tourist. Once again, I am reminded what is truly of value here. Moreover, I am still left wondering what narrative would they, and not anyone else, claim led them here.