Colonized +Factory Mentality or Lack of Leadership

RESUMO: Este artigo explica um papel parcial que a migração desempenhou na vida dos cabo-verdianos em Massachusetts, EUA. Apresenta três conclusões principais: (a) a influência de uma sociedade capitalista nas decisões individuais de procurar empregos em vez de estudar, (b) a falta de liderança e coesão da comunidade, e (c) a crença dos cabo-verdianos de que a identidade é situacional e excelente capacidade de troca de código.


The archipelago of Cape Verde is a group of islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, West of Senegal, West Africa. It was discovered and colonized by the Portuguese in the 15th century and became a trading center for African slaves and later an important stop for whaling and transatlantic shipping. Systematic droughts caused significant hardship and provoked many Cape Verdeans to migrate across the Atlantic – particularly to Massachusetts, United States of America.

The theoretical framework for this paper is Ogbu’s (2003) theory of adaptation to minority status. He described voluntary minorities as those who chose to come to their newly adopted environment. I wonder how applicable his typology might be pertaining to the Cape Verdean immigrants. Indeed, I am arguing that it might not be applicable to the Cape Verdean immigrants who came to Massachusetts because of economic hardship or to reunite with family members. Therefore, I find it to be very relevant and pertinent to address the issue of being Cape-Verdean in Massachusetts.

To me, Cape Verdean immigrants are both voluntary and involuntary minorities. Ogbu (2003) described voluntary minorities as those who chose to come to their newly adopted countries and involuntary minorities as those who were brought to a different country against their choice. He asserted that these two groups are different because the voluntary minorities come to a new environment with their identities and involuntary minorities, such as African Americans, form their new identities after coming to the new world. Ogbu reinforced the idea that, traditionally, the behavior of involuntary minorities is often in opposition to the dominant group. On the other hand, he stated that voluntary minorities are non-oppositional. Non oppositional does not mean that they comply with the laws and regulations of the land. As a matter of fact, many Cape-Verdeans fail to embrace some important values of the land.

Many Cape Verdean immigrants believe in their “Capeverdianity.” However, oftentimes negotiate their identity. They believe in Cape Verde as a home and the United States as a home away and a land of opportunity. Cape Verdeans believe in retaining traditions and customs, such as language, food, music, and other issues relevant to Cape Verdeans, as well as having the ability to assimilate. For many Cape Verdean immigrants, being Cape-Verdeans in Massachusetts is situational. Many have embraced and accepted the American way of doing business. Yet, others because of their status and socialization arebeing marginalized. Some become American citizens and embrace the educational opportunities, but others believe that there is no need to do so. It is a zero sum game and outstanding ability to code switch.

In general Cape Verdeans do not blame the American way, which is in harmony with John Ogbu’s theory of voluntary minority. As a matter of fact, they believe that this is a free country with opportunities for all, despite the fact that many of them are not taking advantage of many of the opportunities available to everybody. The failure to take advantage of opportunities is generally a result of their living in the least affluent communities, embracing values they see around them, and adapting to those realities -that are not necessarily the best ones.

Consciousness is being globalized at a very fast pace and people in different parts of the world are confronted with similar issues and ideals in life. In fact, regarding Cape Verdean people, migration is not only necessary but also part of their cultural identity, a condition which raises the question regarding their understanding about the issue of a global economy (Ahmadi, 2003).

Cape Verdeans of Massachusetts are philanthropic people. They normally financially support family members back in Cape Verde. Some believe that the U.S. freedom and economic prosperity have been one of the driving forces holding them back. For example, one interviewee explained what happened to him. He said, “When I first came here, my plan was to go to school. Because I had my family, I realized that my initial plan had to wait. I needed to work and make money to support my family. After exactly 20 years, I realized I needed to go back to school to acquire new skills and re-qualify myself for the new job market. It is apparent that some Cape-Verdeans are misguided in terms of the American value system. Freedom and economic strength are pivotal for individual growth-and Cape Verdean leaders need to lead to educate those who do not understand this phenomenon.

It is frightening to become aware that some Cape Verdeans believe that there is no need to learn English, to be legal, or to get an education in order to make more money in the United States than they were used to making back home. Many are pleased with the opportunities for immediate monetary gains this country offers. But, others are aware of the long-term, negative intellectual effects this “factory” mentality may cause. Very few Cape Verdean are doing something to correct the situation. There is a need for an urgent leadership.

Despite all of their understanding, assumptions, and perceptions, many Cape Verdean have expressed the importance of acquiring U.S. citizenship, especially because of the post 9/11 immigration laws that were enacted to make it much easier to deport non-citizens. Evidently this is the first major step which needs to be supported with subsequent initiatives. Cape Verdeans understand and want an education, but because of their “materialistic attitude” and lack of information, many of them are staying behind and not achieving socially, economically, and educationally. Acquiring material goods and short-term gain is frequently more important than a solid educational opportunity.

Conclusion Considering the importance of migration to each Cape Verdean and to Cape Verde itself, the government of Cape Verde needs to…

  • Institutionalize policies that deal with promoting and understanding the situation regarding departures from Cape Verde in search of new opportunities abroad;
  • Explain to prospective migrants the possible reality they may encounter when they migrate;
  • There is a need for a comprehensive awareness campaign for both those seeking to leave and those who are staying behind. It is fundamentally important to educate those left behind so they can ease their pressure on those abroad;
  • The Cape Verdean government and community leaders need to promote NON political community forums and address crucial concerns people have in various areas of their daily lives;
  • There is a need for new and visionary leadership to lead Cape Verdean immigrants to a better understanding of the American reality and to take advantage of both formal and informal educational opportunities available in the United States;
  • Immigrants need to be advised about the value of education and that retaining the best of their culture, such as work ethics, etc is not enough.
  • If provided with adequate information, prospective migrants deserve the right to assess whether they want to depart or stay home despite the economic limitations and hardships in Cape Verde.


Ahmadi, N. (2003). Globalization of consciousness and new challenges for international social work. International Journal of Social Welfare, 12(1), 14-23.

Ogbu, J. (2003). Black American students in an affluent suburb: A study of academic disengagement. New York: Routledge.

Ogbu, J. (2004). Collective identity and the burden of “acting White” in Black history, community, and education. The Urban Review, 36, 1-35.

Pires-Hester, L. (1994) A study of Cape Verdean-American ethnic development: The emergence of bilateral diaspora ethnicity and its impact in a southeastern New England locality (Doctoral dissertation, Columbia University, 1994). Retrieved February 23, 2008, from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database. (Publication No. AAT 9516161).

By: Prof. Dr. Julio C de Carvalho