Prime Minister Jose Maria Neves would be the highest ranking Cape Verdean official to visit Norwichas part of a tour that includes stops in Providence, Boston and Brockton, Mass., where large Cape Verdean populations live.

Norwich, which boasts one of the three largest Cape Verdean communities in Connecticut with an estimated population of between 1,500 people and 1,800 people, will host the Cape Verdean prime minister Sept. 23.

Prime Minister Jose Maria Neves would be the highest ranking Cape Verdean official to visit the city as part of a tour that includes stops in Providence, Boston and Brockton, Mass., where large Cape Verdean populations live.

“It’s huge,” Belmiro “Junie” Rodrigues, president of the Norwich Cape Verdean Santiago Society, said of what Neves’ visit means to the Cape Verdean community, which includes large populations in Bridgeport and Waterbury.

In Cape Verde’s democracy, the prime minister is the head of the government, while the president, elected by the people, is the head of the state.

Rodrigues said Neves and his delegation of 15 various dignitaries will promote unity among Cape Verdeans in the United States.

More Cape Verdeans live outside Cape Verde than inside the nation, a group of volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean and west of Senegal in Africa.
Cape Verdeans began arriving in New England with the whaling industry. Many made their way to Norwich in the early 1900s to pursue mill jobs and other work. Poor economic conditions have prompted a steady migration of Cape Verdeans to various countries in recent years.

Rodrigues, a third-generation Cape Verdean, said Cape Verdeans often keep in contact with relatives in Cape Verde and stay up-to-date on news from the islands.

“Our culture is unique in that over the generations we kept close ties with our culture,” he said.

Jonathan Justiniano, 17, is co-chairman of the Cape Verdean Student Group at Norwich Free Academy, the site of the official ceremony to welcome Neves.
The group, which had 35 members last year — many of them immigrants — will welcome the prime minister with the singing of the Cape Verdean national anthem and possibly a dance.

 “Not a lot of people have their prime minister come to the small city of Norwich,” Justiniano said.

Reach Adam Bowles of The Norwich (Conn.) Bulletin at  abowles@norwichbulletin.com

 

What's Next

The following is the tentative schedule for Cape Verde Prime Minister Jose Maria Neves’s visit to Norwich Sept. 23:
- 11:45 a.m.: Visit St. Anthony’s Chapel, a Cape Verdean historic site on Central Avenue, for about 15 minutes.
- 12:15 p.m.: Private lunch at The Spa at Norwich Inn with Norwich officials.
n 1:15 p.m.: Welcome ceremony at Norwich Free Academy; open to the public.

At a glance: Cape  Verde Geography:
- Area: 4,033 sq. km. (1,557 sq. mi.), slightly larger than Rhode Island.
- Cities: Praia (capital, population 106,052). 
- Terrain: Rugged volcanic islands.
- Climate: Dry, temperate.
People:
- Population (2005): 507,000.
- Annual growth rate (2001): 2.9 percent.
- Ethnic groups: Creole (mixed African and Portuguese), African, European.
- Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant.
- Languages: Portuguese (official); Crioulo (national).
- Education: Literacy (2004) — 76 percent.
- Health: Infant mortality rate (2001) — 37 per 1,000. Life expectancy (2004) — 70 years.
Government:
- Type: Republic.
- Independence: July 5, 1975.
- Constitution: 1982; revised 1992, 1995, and 1999.
- Branches: Executive: president (head of state), prime minister (head of government), Council of Ministers. Legislative: National Assembly. Judicial: Supreme Court, lower courts.
- Suffrage: Universal for those older than 18.
Economy:
- Gross Domestic Product (2004): $983 million.
- GDP per capita (2004): $2,091.
- Annual real GDP growth rate (2005): 6.6 percent.
- Inflation (2005): 0.4 percent.
- Natural resources: Salt, pozzolana, limestone.
- Agriculture: Products: bananas, corn, beans, sugarcane, coffee, fruits, vegetables, livestock products.
- Industry: Types: fish and fish products, clothing, shoes, beverages, salt, construction, building materials, ship repair, furniture, metal products, tourism.
- Trade (2004): Exports: $55 million: fuel, clothing, shoes and shoe parts, fish and crustaceans. Imports: $350.7 million: consumer goods, intermediary goods, capital goods, petroleum. Major trading partners, exports: Portugal 60.2  percent, U.S. 17.5 percent. Major trading partners, imports: Portugal 40.7  percent, U.S. 12 percent, Netherlands 8.1 percent, Spain 5.1 percent, Italy 4.1 percent.
On the Web:
- For more information, go to the U.S. Department of State’s Web site, www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2835.htm

Source: U.S. Department of State, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2835.htm