One of the joys of this global reading project is learning about countries I’ve never had occasion to think about before. With a country like Cape Verde, this meant searching my desktop globe to find out where in the world it is. As it turns out, Cape Verde is a small group of islands located off the western coast of Africa, just across from Senegal and Mauritania. It was formerly a colony of Portugal, so the official language is Portuguese. Trying to find a novel from Cape Verde that’s been translated from Portuguese into English is difficult, so as far as I know, pretty much everyone who has embarked on a project like this one ends up reading The Last Will and Testament of Senhor da Silva Araújo, by Germano Almeida.
This book tells the story of Napumoceno da Silva Araújo, who has just died at a ripe old age and left a 387-page will that must be read aloud by a notary to the assembled witnesses and hopeful beneficiaries. Senhor da Silva Araújo, who is referred to throughout the book as Sr. Napumoceno, has always had a reputation as a successful businessman, straightlaced in both his personal and professional life. His nephew Carlos, assuming that he will inherit Sr. Napumoceno’s entire estate, takes great pains to plan the funeral exactly the way his uncle has requested.
However, the bulk of the estate has been left, not to Carlos, but to Sr. Napumoceno’s daughter, who had been born out-of-wedlock twenty-five years earlier. Her existence was a big surprise to everyone attending the reading of the will, because “who would ever have dreamed that Napumoceno da Silva Araújo would be capable of taking advantage of the days his cleaning woman came to the office to engage in a little hanky-panky, in the corners of the room and on top of the desk…”.
Sr. Napumoceno’s will, as well as several boxes of notebooks in which he has written, provide a wealth of information about the man he really was. We learn of his accidental successes in business, his dabbling in philanthropy and politics, and his social awkwardness. His daughter, Maria da Graça, attempts to find a woman named Adélia, who may have been the great love of Sr. Napumoceno’s life. Maria’s hope is that Adélia “could shed light on just who that man really was who had sired her on an office desk.”
In the end, both Maria and the reader come to know Sr. Napumoceno through his will and his other writings, which strip away almost every layer of the person he believed himself to be.
Food didn’t play a big role in The Last Will and Testament of Senhor da Silva Araújo, and the food that was mentioned wasn’t vegan. So I went to Google and found a dish called cachupa that’s famous in the islands of Cape Verde. Cachupa is a stew made with corn or hominy, beans, potatoes, and other vegetables. It usually contains meat or fish, but I found a vegan recipe on the Global Table Adventure website. Mine turned out to be more of a soup than a stew, which means I probably should have cooked it a little longer, but it was dinnertime and I was hungry. The only seasoning the recipe calls for is paprika, but I thought it needed salt, so I added some to the pot. It was a tasty and satisfying dish, although more suited to winter than summer.
There were no projects listed for Cape Verde on the GlobalGiving website, so I took to Google to see what I could find. What I found was the Turtle Foundation. Apparently, Cape Verde has the third largest population of nesting loggerhead turtles in the world, but they are in danger from poachers and from problems associated with hotel construction to bring more tourism to the islands. Turtle Foundation has sent in monitors and set up patrols to help stop the slaughter of the turtles. They are also collecting data and tagging turtles for further study. More information about Turtle Foundation’s Project Cape Verde is available at https://www.turtle-foundation.org/en/project-cape-verde/.
NEXT STOP: CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC