The island of Sao Vicente was discovered in 1462. The area of deep water in which the harbour lies was originally the internal area of a crater,
the northern extremities of the crater having diminished, allowing the sea to claim more land.
Nothing much happened on the island until 1795 when there was an attempt to occupy the island but with little success. In the early 1800’s the British established a consulate and depot on the island and it was the British that referred to the island as ‘ cinder heap’. By the mid 1800’s ships from Cardiff brought coal to the island to be used to refuel ships sailing from Europe to South America. At that time it was the fourth largest coaling station in the world. The local economy didn’t benefit greatly from foreign investment and there was no investment in building a new pier which could have helped it compete with Dakar.
A number of events affected how Sao Vicente would develop. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 had a major effect on the port as a refuelling station. A British workforce of Western Union employees had come to live and work on Sao Vicente when a submarine telecommunications cable was laid in 1875. When technology advanced the workforce was withdraw and they returned home. Oil, eventually replaced coal as a fuel, this reduced the labour required and resulted in the workforce being reduced. At this time it was reported that Mindelo was a city of beggars, thieves, hungry people and smugglers.
In the early part of the 1900's there was a rise in opposition amongst many Cape Verdeans to colonial rule and Portugal. This dissent spread to other Portuguese African colonies and Cape Verdeans.
In 1941 as a result of drought and famine many people fled and travelled to other islands in the south such as Sao Tome and Principe. 1941 was also the year in which Cesaria Evora was born.
The singer Cesaria Evora was born in Mindelo in the Lombo area. When her farther died when she was 7yrs of age she went to live with her grandmother. As a young girl Cesaria or Cize to her friends sang at a band stand on Sundays at a local square. After raising two children and attempts to raise money through singing Cesaria stopped giving live performances when independence came in 1975 and didn’t return to sing for nearly 10yrs. Now Cesaria is known as the Bare Foot Diva. In 1993 she began her first international tour.
Today the deep waters in the harbour allow cruise ships to dock. There have been many improvements carried out within the port, developing its pier, several quays and ship yards.
Reforestation has been attempted in some areas, mainly along the road from the airport into Mindelo.
Mindelo is where it all happens. There are many cobbled streets and squares amongst 19th Century European architecture.
The two main carnivals of the Cape Verdean islands take place in Sao Vicente, the Carnival in February and the music Festival in August.