Note from Shifra, Christmas, 1998
We are now on Ilha Brava, the smallest and western-most island of the Cape Verdes. I don't know how much you know about the Cape Verdes, but they're essentially little pieces of Africa floating on the ocean. Actually, this island and the one next to it (Fogo- it's an active volcano!) are a little more Portuguese than the first ones we visited, but not much. Anyway, the anchorage that we're in now is incredible. There's a small black pebble beach fringed by brightly painted stucco houses which give way almost immediately to steep hillsides. The hills rise into steep jagged peaks all around us, but near the shore it's pretty much your classic paradise (a bit drier than usual though, they're just starting to recover from a 3-year drought).
Apparently there are a lot of Cape Verdeans who live in America, but come back here to Faja de Agua for vacations. We met one of them, Henry Rodriguez, who has been showing us around, he has a pretty sweet piece of property. Up behind his house there are terraced fields of sugar cane which he uses to produce his own Groque/aguardiente/rum/moonshine in his little backyard distillery. He showed us how he makes the rum (110 proof), it's all the old fashioned way too, he uses horses to run the press for the sugar and has basically all the old Okie bootlegger equipment to process the cane syrup. It's really neat. On top of that he has a few fields of white sugar cane for eating, palm trees for coconuts, mango trees, and a few scattered banana trees that look like they're only a few years old. Walking through the shades groves of mangoes with this loud semi wealthy American I could almost forget that the rest of the island- even the rest of the country- lived in a state of pretty god-awful poverty.