In the heart of Santiago island is the Sucupira Market, right in the middle of the capital’s old centre. The Market paints an anthropological portrait of Cape Verde, with its colourful produce and lively, friendly vibe. The gates to the market on the Avenue Cidade de Lisboa are an entry into a labyrinth of stalls laden with all sorts of things for sale, from fresh fruits, vegetables and raw meat, to local CDs and African fabrics.
The Sucupira Market is located in the area known as “The Plateau”, a section of town in the heart of Santiago’s capital. It’s called The Plateau because it is located quite a few meters above sea-level, and you can feel this in the colour of the light and the cool air that blows through the streets. The pace of life on The Plateau is bustling, but relaxed. We enjoyed chilling out in the café of our hotel, the Santa Maria. It was an excellent spot for people watching.
The Plateau, and by extension the Sucupira Market, has a distinctly Cape Verdean vibe. The music, the people and the food all project the diverse heritage of the islands – part African, part European. The Plateau gave us a good feel of what life in a Cape Verdean city was like. The shops that line The Plateau’s avenues are filled with beautifully handmade Cape Verdean crafts, from ceramics to lace. There was also, unfortunately, the ubiquitous mass produced Chinese plastic crap on sale.
As it was just after Christmas when we visited, we spotted a Nativity scene in one of the squares. I thought it was note-worthy due to the colour of the skin of the fiberglass people in the scene. Jesus and Mary had clearly Arabic features, and all their visitors were of African descent. They were accurately portrayed, I felt.
The Sucupira Market itself is packed with people and produce, and navigating it – much less taking photos within it – can be a challenge. But everyone was very friendly, regardless of whether or not you purchased anything. Unlike a lot of other touristed places, there were very few touts and beggars, and we were only approached once by someone wanting money as we entered the market, with cameras hanging off our shoulders.
Everyone else though, seemed quite happy to have their photo taken. One lady even made her son pose for us and then offered us some Maracuja/ Passionfrut, a fruit very typical of Cape Verde, to try.
If you’d like to go to the market for the vibe, and to shop for fresh produce, the best time to go would be during the morning. Like all markets, it begins early and starts winding down in the afternoon, and all the best stuff is already sold by then.
Praia was only meant to be a stop-over while we waited to catch our ferry on to Brava, but we ended up having really quite a lovely time.