Sao Tome in Principe


October 17, 2021

Sao Tome and Príncipe (Portuguese: São Tomé e Príncipe; IPA: [sɐ̃w̃ tuˈmɛ i ˈpɾĩsɨpɨ]), officially the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Príncipe, is a country off the west coast of Africa, in the Gulf of Guinea. Sao Tome and Principe consists of several islands, of which Sao Tome is by far the largest. Then comes the much smaller Principe and a few uninhabited or barely inhabited islands. More than a third of the 187,356 inhabitants (2012) live in the capital of the same name, Sao Tome. The islands are mountainous and volcanic with lush tropical vegetation. The main economic resource is agriculture, which provides the inhabitants with coconuts, coffee, cocoa and palm oil. The population consists for the most part of mulattoes, individuals with both African and Portuguese ancestry. The inhabitants of Sao Tome and Principe are referred to in Dutch as Santomees, Santomese and Santomezen, except in formal texts, where a description is used instead of the adjective.


Colonial time

The islands of Sao Tome and Principe were uninhabited until the arrival of the Portuguese between 1469 and 1471. The Portuguese explored the islands and decided that this would be a good trading post. They named the largest island after the apostle Thomas. The first settlement on Sao Tome was founded in 1493 by the Portuguese Álvaro Caminha. Around the year 1500 a settlement was also founded on the island of Principe. Attracting people who wanted to populate the islands proved difficult. In the beginning, mainly groups that were not 'wanted' in Portugal, such as Jews, came to the island. For example, at the end of the fifteenth century, two thousand Jewish children were forcibly baptized and shipped to the island, where they were distributed among the settlers. A few years later, only 60 of these children were still alive. The rest had succumbed to tropical diseases. The settlers noticed that the volcanic soil on the islands was extremely suitable for agriculture, which made the cultivation of sugar cane especially popular. Growing sugar was very labour-intensive, and the Portuguese imported slaves from the African mainland. In the mid-16th century, the islands were Africa's largest sugar exporter. Later, the islands faced increasing competition from sugar plantations in Latin America. By the mid-seventeenth century, the islands were a major transit port for ships carrying African slaves to Latin America. In 1641 WIC admiral Cornelis Jol conquered the island of Sao Tome from the Portuguese. Shortly after the conquest, on October 31, 1641, he died of malaria.

Self-government and recolonization

From 1650 the Portuguese slowly withdrew their hands from the archipelago and for more than two centuries the islands had practically self-government. In the early 1800s, two new crops were introduced, namely coffee and cocoa. The volcanic soils were very suitable for these crops, and in the period 1880-1885 this led to a recolonization by the Portuguese. Soon the good agricultural lands were in the hands of large Portuguese plantations. From 1908, Sao Tome and Principe became the largest exporter of cocoa in the world. It is still the most important crop in the country. Although Portugal abolished slavery in 1876, the plantation owners forced Africans into labor, now for very modest wages. This led to tensions on the islands and an uprising that broke out in 1953. Hundreds of Africans were killed. This event is known as the Batepá Massacre and is still commemorated annually on February 3.


In the late 1950s, the call for independence grew and the socialist Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tome and Principe (MLSTP) was founded. After the Carnation

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