2.1. Térra Stimada (Beloved Homeland)
The República de Cabo Verde declared its independence from Portugal on 5 July 1975. The Cabo Verde Islands nation consists of 10 islands that are approximately 370 miles off the coast of West Africa Costa
). Before the Portuguese and other European countries began colonizing the islands, a colonization that lasted for more than three centuries, West African cultures had already begun to migrate there. Beginning in the 15th century, the Portuguese and other European countries forcefully transported enslaved Africans to the islands to work the bidding of the colonizers (Costa  2011
The central position of the Cabo Verde Islands, with its ideal winds and currents, made the islands suitable for the middle passage trade routes, and from the beginning of the 17th century the Cabo Verde Islands ports were used to accommodate the transatlantic slave trade. This Middle Passage triangle phenomenon traded enslaved Africans and other tangible goods, such as salt and handwoven cloth, from Africa throughout the African Diaspora and European countries (Old Dartmouth Historical Society-New Bedford Whaling Museum 2015
). The islands began to represent a mixture of racial ethnicities, mainly consisting of Portuguese and West African cultures. Kriolu, the language of Cabo Verde, is a combination of Portuguese and African speech components (Almeida and Nyhan 1976
Today, the Cabo Verde Islands nation is acknowledged as one of the 54 African countries of the African continent and is often called “little Africa,” as it is a gateway for commerce to Africa and other transatlantic continents (Lopes 2019
; Old Dartmouth Historical Society-New Bedford Whaling Museum 2015
). The Cabo Verde Islands are divided into two island groups: the Barlavento (windward), including the islands within the islands, of Santo Antão (Sintanton), São Vicente (Sonsente), Santa Luzia, São Nicolau (San Ninklau), Sal (Dja de Sal) and Boa Vista (Bubista), and the Sotavento (leeward) islands, which consist of the islands of Maio, Santiago, Fogo, and Brava (Costa  2011
Cabo Verdeans began coming to America through forced slave migration around the 17th century and in later years were solicited by the U.S. to migrate to America as cheap laborers to work in agricultural fields, such as the cranberry bogs located in the New England region of the United States. In addition, Cabo Verdean whalers, known as Yankee Baleeiros (Portuguese for whalers), were among the first to arrive via the port of New Bedford, Massachusetts. More than 70% of all Cabo Verdean immigrants to the U.S. between 1800–1921 came through the New Bedford Port of Entry rather than Ellis Island (Old Dartmouth Historical Society-New Bedford Whaling Museum 2015
). It is estimated today that there are about three million Cabo Verdean descendants, including recent immigrants from Azores and Brazil, which have similar colonized cultures, living in the United States. The overall Cabo Verde population in the Cabo Verde Islands is much less, with about half of this population living in the capital, Praia, on the Island of Santiago.
2.2. Chasing the Dream
I am a descendant of an African American father, two generations from U.S. slavery, which for my ancestors began with enslavement on U.S. Southern plantations, and a Cabo Verdean first-generation mother. I was born of both of these cultures of African descent, and both are mixed with the blood of European colonizers. I ethnically identify as a bi/mixed-cultural cis-gendered African and Cabo Verdean American woman, with dual Christian orientations. I was baptized Catholic and I attended Catholic Church and schools. This was the religion of my mother and of many Cabo Verdean Americans and Cabo Verde-born individuals. Additionally, I was also raised in the African Methodist and Baptist churches, which were heavily involved in the 60’s Civil Rights Movement seeking equitable justice for African American people. My father was protestant and a civil rights activist, and I experienced a rich indoctrination of my Black cultural heritage and obligations to those who sacrificed before us. I was born and grew up in a majority Black community in Roxbury, Massachusetts, and spent summers on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where I experienced Cabo Verdean American culture. I have had the opportunity to have this blended culture, which nurtured my interest in knowing as much as I can about both. As the Sankofa African symbol tells us to go back and get what you forgot, in this exploration I am striving to do just that for myself, my family, and others who have the same interest.
My quest began with pledging to my mother that I would trace our family roots in the Cabo Verde Islands. I can remember my mother saying, “Karen, you go to all of these different countries working with so many different cultures; how come you haven’t tried to explore more of our culture and trace our family roots back to Cabo Verde?” She wanted our family to seek descendant citizenship because she felt that she and her siblings had paid a heavy price because of their culture and that her descendants deserve to be embraced by their original homeland.
My mother was first generation Cabo Verdean American and went through many hardships due to the U.S. systems that did not respect the Cabo Verdean culture. For example, she and her siblings were placed into foster care due to my grandmother being institutionalized in a sanitarium and my grandfather’s challenges with caring for eight children. There was much debate among my mother and her siblings about why my grandmother was permanently hospitalized. Some said she was suffering from postpartum depression after eight childbirths, the last one occurring in the sanitarium. Others said she was simply afflicted with mental illness. They talked about my grandfather’s alcoholism and abuse and in the same breath talked about his dedicated work ethic as a Cabo Verdean man and his courage to immigrate to the United States. Over the years, I have heard from many Cabo Verdean Americans that alcoholism was often an outlet for those within our communities living in oppressive conditions, yet I did not hear enough of what they specifically had to endure as immigrants to the United States. Despite the prideful common perspective of the Cabo Verdean dedicated work ethic, my youngest aunt, and the only living sibling, still resents her father for not being there for his family and desires to someday write a book titled, Ward of the State.
As wards of the state, my mother and her siblings were all separated. My mother was 10 years old and was brought with her youngest sister to Boston, Massachusetts. They were forced to end their connection with their culture, as well as to refrain from speaking the Cabo Verdean Kriolu language. Additionally, they were separated from their older siblings, who remained in areas of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where the Cabo Verdean culture was more prevalent. Stories from my aunts and uncles and other family members provided me with insights into what happens to the children when the state is racist and does not care for the wellbeing of its children of color. Additionally, there was the shame of family abuse and depression, as I would discover later. Many of my cousins could relate to this family history as well. However, as a young woman, my mother had only one thing in mind: to reconnect with her lost family.
With steadfast determination, my mother spent a number of years locating all of her siblings, as well as her mother and father, and I as a young girl was to reap her efforts. Each summer, I visited my aunts and uncles in Cape Cod, and they and other family members would visit us in Boston. We also found other members of our Cabo Verdean family, my mother’s first cousins in Boston, and saw them often. I began to know my Cabo Verdean American heritage quite well, yet I was hesitant to fulfill the request of my mother to seek dual citizenship because being of mixed cultures had not always been easy for me. For instance, colorism was always an issue in both of my cultures. I was too light-skinned to be Black and had too many “wool-like” curls to be Cabo Verdean. I remember incidents that occurred as a young teenager as I spent my usual summers on Cape Cod. While swimming with some other teens from the Cape, I was called the “N” word2
because my hair texture had changed from being straightened by a hot iron comb to its naturally curly state after going into the water and I was told to go back to the ghetto in Boston.
Whereas these experiences with teens from the Cabo Verdean culture may have been alienating, I was strongly groomed to explore both of my cultural identities. I joined in civil rights’ actions with my father in the 60s, attending protest marches, sit-ins and so forth from the age of seven. During this same time period, as I was beginning to spend summers with my Cabo Verdean relatives in Cape Cod, working in the cranberry bogs and attending Cabo Verdean dances and family celebrations, so I became enculturated into Cabo Verdean American culture. During those years, I found I had to frequently code switch from one cultural norm of communicating to the other. For instance, when I was in the company of Cabo Verdeans, I used Cabo Verdean colloquialisms. When I was in the company of African Americans, I spoke AAL (African American language). Although I had some reprieve from having to code switch when attending a Catholic school that some bicultural Cabo Verdean American and African American students also attended, I was not totally free to be the blend I am until I moved, after my father’s death, to a housing development, a third of which was populated with Cabo Verdean (often blended) families. There we were, the Delgados, Thimas/Gonsalves, Amados, Nichols, Yancys, and us, the Cardoza kids, to name a few. We were pretty large families, and all around the same age. Colorism was apparent there as well. Being Cabo Verdean mixed, we were often told by our families that we were better than others because of our lighter skin and straighter hair texture. From the Black point of view, we Cabo Verdeans were considered a lost people of African descent who were often referred to as Geechee, which was meant to be an ethnic slur stemming from Cabo Verdeans often describing themselves as Porta-gees (a mixed, but Portuguese-based ethnicity). This was actually a U.S. Southern term for the Gullah African culture, but on the east coast, Geechee meant Kriole. However, colorism was always trumped by all of us being in a low-income housing development and that we had only us to depend upon in many situations. Therefore, we all lived as one and so many of us stay in contact today through social media and beyond.
I spoke a blended AAL and Cabo Verdean vernacular, which only those of the same mixed heritage seemed to understand. Generally, I was always teased about my physical European-looking appearance and strange dialect, depending on which of my cultural groups I was around. Cultural identity struggles followed me for much of my life. Nonetheless, these experiences led me to become fascinated with other cultures. Growing up in Roxbury, a predominately Black and densely populated urban neighborhood (before gentrification), at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum, of Boston, Massachusetts, amidst a variety of religious and ethnic cultures, such as Irish Catholic, Jewish, Black Muslim and the increasing influx of Cabo Verdean Catholics, I was intrigued as I sought out answers to how we could be racially prejudiced toward one another and at the same time be linked by our Bostonian and New England experiences. I enjoyed exploring such intergroup dynamics but not necessarily reliving the challenges of being bicultural in a city that did not recognize the beauty of mixed cultures.
Until fairly recently, I have celebrated my mixed culture with my primary family, but I did not necessarily seek to dig deeper into my Cabo Verdean heritage. I have always been involved with Cabo Verdean American associations, such as the Cabo Verdean House of Boston, where I worked as an after-school educator for newly immigrated Cabo Verdean youth. My various involvements always made me feel I was being true to my Cabo Verdean culture. However, for me, I felt more rejection and shame from this culture than I did from my Black culture, due my awareness of various family abuses, lack of speaking the language and perceptions of Cabo Verdeans’ superior prejudicial attitudes toward African Americans. For these reasons, I hesitated to do as my mother asked. Not until she asked me again when she became terminally ill and later died, did I begin to take her request seriously. Around 2015, I started trying to put the puzzle pieces together to understand where exactly our Cabo Verdean grandparents came from and why. I started talking with cousins, because most of our first-generation parents and relatives had passed away. To make sense of it all, I began to collect documentation, such as my mother’s birth and death certificates and her parents’ U.S. death certificates. The more I became involved with this effort, the more I grew interested in knowing the parts of me from the motherland of Cabo Verde Islands. I also learned that many Cabo Verdean Americans seek dual citizenship in hopes of having the opportunity to give back to Cabo Verde, by bringing their various areas of professional expertise to help build up the economy and sustainability there, to come settle in Cabo Verde to get closer to their original culture, and to learn the motherland’s cultural traditions, as well as help sustain Cabo Verdean culture in the midst of many European and Asian countries buying up the land for purposes not necessarily for the advantage of the nation and its people.
2.3. In “Root” to Cabo Verde by Way of My Grandparents
Both of my maternal grandparents were of Cabo Verdean heritage. My grandmother, Jennie Roderques Cardoza, was first generation Cabo Verdean American and born in Rhodes Island, U.S. in 1901. In 1967, at the age of 66, She died of Parkinson disease, cerebral damage and hyper congestive heart disease (death certificate, received and filed 15 May 1969). On her death certificate, there is a correction of the spelling of her maiden name. Additionally, I have seen my grandmother’s maiden name spelled differently on other documents. I point this out to acknowledge that there were always different spellings of names during that time period. I have yet to locate her birth certificate; therefore, her birth records remain a mystery. The family always said that she was a mixture of Italian, Portuguese and Cabo Verdean, but I have no concrete evidence of that currently. It states on my grandmother’s death certificate that her parents were born in Brava, Cabo Verde Islands. I did have the opportunity to know my grandmother, as I was brought to visit her in the hospital several times before her death. However, she was unable to communicate due to her illnesses.
My grandfather was born in Fogo, Cabo Verde Islands. Unable to locate his birth certificate, I used his death certificate to calculate his birth year and place of birth. On his death certificate, his name is registered as Jack Cardoza and that he was born in Fogo, Cabo Verde islands. He died on 26 August 1956 in Fall River, Massachusetts at the age of 58 (death certificate received 26 September 1956). I therefore determined that he was born in 1898. His death certificate also stated that his parents were born in Fogo. The spelling of my grandmother’s name on his death certificate as his spouse is Jennie Rodericks. This same spelling is on my mother’s birth certificate. Again, on her death certificate, her maiden name was spelled Roderques.
I also had an opportunity to meet my grandfather; however, I was only two years old when he died. I remember hearing one of my relatives say that my grandfather came to the United States and took a job in the fishing industry in Gloucester, Massachusetts. However, my eldest uncle told his children that my grandfather came to the United States and worked on agricultural farms as a young man. In my communications with other second-generation Cabo Verdean Americans, many of us have to rely on putting the pieces of our family stories together to actually learn our family histories. However, my grandfather’s death certificate states that he was a caretaker on a private estate close to the time of his death. He died of carcinoma of the neck with extensive regional metastasis. At one point, I thought he came to the United States with his parents, because their names are on my uncle Eugenio’s death certificate, as Charles and Mary (Mendes) Cardoza. There is another important aspect to note. In a leaflet population document, the surname Cardoza is a locational name meaning “of Cardoso” (Forebears 20203
Because their surnames were listed as Cardoza, I deduced they must have come together and that his parents changed their surname upon entering the United States. However, a cousin said that it was more likely he came on his own with his two brothers as cheap laborers. I was able to find a death certificate of one of his brothers, Eugenio Cardoza, but not the other brother, whose name was said to be Louie. I did quite a search for Eugenio’s family, but like my family, the first-generation children have all passed on, and not much is known about him. I was told that they were brothers but had a falling out and stopped talking long before they passed away.
At present, the Cabo Verde Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ position remains that Cardoza is not a Cabo Verdean name, and therefore the consideration of a name change from Cardoso to Cardoza is not valid without solid proof. However, Selectman Raymond Cardoza was the first Cabo Verdean American to serve as an elected official lived in Wareham, Massachusetts, where my mother was born to Jack and Jenny Cardoza. Raymond Cardoza is a noted figure because he held the highest political position that any Cabo Verdean has held in the history of the United States (Costa  2011
2.4. The Journey: Pursuing Dual Citizenship Has Not Been Easy
The Cabo Verde Islands consulate offices in the United States have stated that many Cabo Verdean Americans applying for descendant citizenship are denied because of insufficient evidence, such as birth certificates of their parents or grandparents born in the Cabo Verde Islands. The United States offices are very much aware of how names were changed upon entering the United States and that most often there is no doubt that the applicants are of Cabo Verdean descent. However, with any country, physical evidence must be the determining factor. So, what do we do in these cases where we know our relatives were born in Cabo Verde but do not find the birth certificate or baptismal records? Thus far, my answer is that we keep searching for records and clues to find that information. However, when it appears that all possibilities of finding such documents have been exhausted, should we just give up and accept that our descendancy will not be accepted in the motherland?
My dual citizenship journey officially began in October 2016, when I visited the Cabo Verde Islands for the first time since 1979. During this trip, I visited the House of Citizenship, Building of Records and the local police station in Mindelo, São Vicente, Cabo Verde, where I was staying on vacation. None of these agencies could find any information on my grandfather, and it did not help that I could not communicate much in Kriolu. Therefore, I decided to apply for citizenship from home in the United States; I thought perhaps they could better respond since my grandfather had become a U.S. citizen, or did he?
In 2017, I received the application for descendant citizenship from the Embassy of Cabo Verde in Washington, D.C. The form stated that, “Any Cabo Verdean citizen bearing proof of Cabo Verdean nationality from birth; born outside Cabo Verde, can acquire Cabo Verdean Citizenship from Cabo Verdean parents or grandparents born in Cabo Verde.” I was excited to receive this information, and I began to gather documents of proof. Since I could not find my grandfather’s birth certificate information while in Cabo Verde, I started with my grandfather’s death certificate, my mother’s birth and death certificates, my birth certificate, all of which demonstrated that I was the granddaughter of a Cabo Verdean-born immigrant. I had also found my grand uncle’s death certificate, and on his death certificate it said he was born in Santa Catarina do Fogo, Cabo Verde Islands.
Before returning back to Cabo Verde in 2017, I had the opportunity to visit one of the world’s largest international genealogy archive centers, the Family Search Center in Utah. I was not able to find information on my grandfather because their systems indicated that there was a report that “record destruction” happened in Fogo from 1895 to 1902. They said that it was probably some type of natural disaster such as an earthquake and/or volcanic eruption. At this time, I emailed the Embassy of Cabo Verde in Washington, D.C. about the disaster that took place in Fogo during that time, and whether it was possible that his records were destroyed; however, I could only find out that answer by visiting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Office in Praia, Santiago, Cabo Verde, which is the headquarters at which Cabo Verdean citizenship is approved. Therefore, I went to the Ministry in Praia, and since I did not have the birth certificate of my grandfather, they suggested that I go to the Center of National Archives in Praia and look through the various record books containing ship manifests, dates of birth and baptismal records.
There are many record books dating back to the 1800s in the Cabo Verdean National Archives. I have now visited the Cabo Verde Islands’ National Archives in search of records on my grandfather five times, spending hours upon hours each time I have visited Praia. The National Archives did write a notarized letter on my behalf to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Office, stating that they believed my grandfather’s original name was Joaquim Cardoso (the Cabo Verdean version of Jack Cardoza) and explained the possibility of his records being destroyed in a natural disaster on the island of Fogo.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs agreed to start my application; not only did I have the death certificates of my grandfather, his brother and my mother, but I also had my mother’s birth certificate and my birth certificate. I had the notarized letter from the National Archives, and three associate witness testaments of Cabo Verdeans, who testified that they knew me and were certain of my Cabo Verdean heritage. There was other paperwork that needed to be notarized and processed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including my official statement of my circumstances, and all documents had to be transcribed into Cabo Verdean language (mainly in Portuguese) to be accepted for the file to be reviewed. Getting to this point took three years and involved over 200 email communications between myself and the Embassy of Cabo Verde in Washington, D.C., the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Praia, the Arquivo Nacional de Cabo Verde (National Archives of Cabo Verde) and other contacts who were instrumental in completing the process. This correspondence occurred from 2016 to 2020.
In June 2019, I visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the sixth time and I was told that I would be able to receive my dual citizenship passport at the Cabo Verdean Consulate’s office in Quincy, Massachusetts, when I returned to the states. Therefore, in July 2019, I went to the Quincy, Office in Massachusetts. Although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ staff worked very hard to get my approval, the final approval rested with their law offices. When I got to the Quincy office, my dual citizenship had not yet been approved. It was then that I began to work with the Quincy office to contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the approval dispatch needed to complete my process. After some time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ legal offices responded to the Quincy office that I had been denied citizenship because the American name and Cabo Verdean name of my grandfather did not match. The notification I received from the Quincy office stated that the decision from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding my file indicated that there were not sufficient documents to show that Joaquim Cardoso is the same person as Jack Cardoza (August 2019).
I had submitted every document that had been requested except for the birth certificate, but it was not enough. The Quincy office understood my dilemma and asked me to write a letter of explanation to the Quincy Consulate General, which I did. In an email to the Quincy Consulate General in September 9, 2019, I wrote in part:
My file is quite full with documents helping to connect my grandfather’s Cabo Verdean name to his U.S. name, such as the letter from the Nacional Archives in Praia. The unfortunate thing is we were not able to locate his birth certificate. However, his death certificate states that he was born in Fogo, CV. My issue was getting the Praia office to understand that the sir name Cardoso was changed to Cardoza once he arrived in the U.S. If your office recognizes there is a pattern for these name changes, it may help the Praia office to understand better and to reconsider their decision.
(Personal communication, 9 September 2019)
The Quincy staff shared my entire letter with the Consulate General. The Consulate General followed with an appeal for my reconsideration and we were quite hopeful this letter would help pave the way for an approval. However, my last inquiry with the Quincy office was encouraging their careful lobbying on my behalf. Nonetheless, they suggested not to pressure the final decision makers so as not to reaffirm the last decision (Personal communication, 15 October 2019).