“Na Buska Vida:” In Search of New Life
The first wave of Cape Verdean Americans made a home for themselves in Southeastern Massachusetts, many of them working in cranberry bogs as the port economy dried up. As immigration restrictions kicked in during the 1920s, Cape Verdean immigration halted and would not recover until after the islands’ independence from Portugal. In the meantime, New Bedford Cape Verdeans organized benevolent associations, social clubs based on island origins, and soccer associations. When the newly independent Cape Verde began issuing visas again in 1975, a new wave of Cape Verdeans migrated to Boston and Brockon. Today, the cities of New Bedford, Brockton, and Boston each share roughly equal populations of Cape Verdeans. Constricted by housing segregation, Cape Verdeans in Boston settled in Roxbury and Dorchester, anchored by Nubian Square to the north and Upham’s Corner to the south.
Kriolu, Cape Verde’s national tongue, reflects the unique culture and ancestry of Cape Verdeans: an intersection between Portuguese and West African languages, Kriolu mirrors the cuisine, music, and art of islands. As a result, Cape Verdeans in America have been uniquely liable to feelings of invisibility and intersectionality. Cape Verdeans have fought to define themselves amid America’s racial system, and many recount stories of being confused for Black American or Hispanic. Many Cape Verdeans are forced to either assimilate into ethnic spaces, or attempt to create their own category for themselves. At home, Cape Verdeans identify ethnicity based on subtle facial features rather than purely skin color, a system that conflicts with America’s broad, black-and-white understanding of race. Most importantly, Cape Verdeans use what island they come from as an identifying mark, rather than merely skin tone. Some Cape Verdeans have assimilated into the Black community, while others find closer ties to Portuguese immigrants, and still others continue to fight for “Cape Verdean” to be recognized as a category of its own.