Sao Tome and Principe is a bucket list destination for its jaw dropping beauty, its low prices, and its great people!
But like all African nations, Sao Tome and Principe was stained by slavery, colonization, and a bloody battle for independence.
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Sao Tome And Principe Facts
▶︎ Sao Tome And Principe Independence Day: July 12, 1975
▶︎ Sao Tome And Principe Currency: Dobra
▶︎ Capital City: Sao Tome City
▶︎ The official language is Portuguese , so it is worth learning a few phrases before you travel. Forro (Also known as Sãotomense) is a Creole fusion of Portuguese, Bantu and Kwa spoken by half the population. Learn a few words of this and you will make friends for life.
The History of Sao Tome and Principe
Sao Tome and Principe was relatively uninhabited until the Portuguese bumped into the region during their age of conquest. Once they established a foothold on the island, slavers began importing Africans to farm sugar and cocoa.
Some of these slaves would remain on the island, but for other slaves Sao Tome And Principe would serve as a stopping point between Africa and the Americas.
For almost 400 years, Portugal controlled the islands as their own slave colony. Slavery was abolished in 1876, but the Portuguese continued to exploit laborers well into the 20th century.
These laborers resisted slavery and exploitation by refusing to work on the large cocoa plantations that covered the island.
The pride of the local Creoles created worker shortages that led the Portuguese to import thousands of new workers from the African mainland and nearby Cape Verde.
This was an expensive solution that – in the eyes of the Portuguese leadership – was less than just using local labor.
A plot was formed among the white land owners…
The Governor of the islands would make life on the plantations better while making life for the Creoles who resisted much worse.
That would force the Creoles of Sao Tome and Principe to accept wage labor and solve the expensive problem of importing workers from elsewhere.
But the Creoles refused to sell themselves or their labor for less than they were worth. Notes even started circulating among the Black population threatening to kill any plantation owner that tried to forcibly conscript them.
Things came to a head on February 3, 1953 when a group of protestors gathered in the village of Batepá.
The Batepá Massacre
Threats made by Black workers to white plantation owners did not sit well with the white supremacist government. An official declaration was made that read:
“The government has been informed that individuals who are hostile towards the present policy, known as communists, are spreading tendentious rumors to the effect that the creoles are to be obliged to contract themselves for the work on the plantations. The government declares that no creole should give credit to these rumors, but should report such individuals to the police.”
By labelling those who were hostile to labor policy as ‘Communists’, the Portuguese effectively declared open season on Black creoles.
White land owners were give the green light to round up creoles and, in the words of the governor ‘Throw [the] shit into the sea to avoid troubles’
Over the next few days the militias and colonial government tortured and killed hundreds of Blacks with brutal impunity.
The authorities subjected prisoners to torture using electricity and scores of prisoners died as a result of torture, beatings, and forced labor. Some were suffocated in their prison cells. Others were burned to death.
In the end, more than 1000 Black men, women, and children lost their lives.
No evidence of a ‘Communist plot’ was ever uncovered, and no one was ever held responsible for any of the deaths.
Every year on February 3, the people of Sao Tome and Principe remember the Batepá Massacre as a public day of observation.
The Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe
The Batepá Massacre taught the Blacks of Sao Tome and Principe that they could not reason with white supremacy, and planted the seeds for liberation.
A Black organization called the Movimento de Libertação de São Tomé e Príncipe/Partido Social Democrata organized in nearby Gabon on the African mainland.
Its one and only objective was the liberation of the islands from colonial rule.
It took 15 years, but they achieved their aims when Portugal handed over sovereignty on July 12, 1975.
The flag of Portugal was lowered, and the red, black, green, and gold flag of the MLSTP was chosen to represent the new nation.
Like the flags of Ethiopia, Ghana, and Togo, the new standard incorporated colors and symbols to express solidarity with the Pan-African movement.
The People Of Sao Tome and Principe
Like most of Africa, the Saotomean people reflect a history of colonization and miscegenation.
The population is small (around 200,000 or less) and young – with over 70 percent under the age of 20.
According to The World Factbook, 66.2 percent of Sao Tome and Principe’s population lives below the line of poverty.
Around 14.4 percent of children are underweight and 6.8 percent are undernourished.
Even with advances in the healthcare system, 50 percent of Sao Tome and Principe’s population lives with HIV/AIDS.
Despite these challenges, there is singing and dancing in the streets. Everyone shakes hands and hugs, there is a lot of energy in the air, and they welcome guests with open arms.
Sãotomeans enjoy good life, fine local produce, beer, and crime is pretty much unheard of.
Why Sao Tome And Principe Is A Top Travel Destination
The jaw-dropping landscape and affordable luxury hotels makes Sao Tome and Principe a premier honeymoon destination.
These beautiful pictures were taken by tourists and have not been photoshopped.
Its easy to see why Sao Tome and Principe is one of the top travel destinations in the world.
The Best Time To Visit Sao Tome And Principe
The best time to visit São Tomé runs from June to September, while in Príncipe it runs from mid-June to mid-September, being the driest months, when it rarely rains.