By Flo Jonic
Providence, R.I. – It's been 35 years since Cape Verde won its independence from Portugal following a protracted guerilla war. Yesterday, Rhode Islanders of Cape Verdean heritage celebrated with traditional music, food and nostalgia for a homeland some like Elsa Tavares have only visited.
"I feel like culture is something we can't lose," Tavares says. "The United States is a huge melting pot. The whole world is immigrating everywhere around the world and we don't want to lose our culture."
Cape Verdeans have been coming to the United States since the whaling days of the early 19th century, according to festival organizer Joao Goncalves.
"We were the crazy ones," Goncalves says. "The only way to get across here was to be a crew member of a whaling ship. So, many years ago, Cape Verdeans started migrating and started settling in the New Bedford area."
Today, southern New England boasts the nation's largest concentration of Cape Verdeans with estimates as high as 300,000.