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Source: Jesuit Documents

Jesuit Documents (1585-1617)


The Jesuit mission to western Guinea was in essence a two-man mission to Sierra Leone. The first of these - Father Baltasar Barreira - reached the Cape Vere Islands in 1604. He was joined in 1607 by the younger, inexperienced and more emotional Father Manuel Alvares. Barreira left in 1608 for the Cape Verde Islands, where he died in 1612. Attempts to extend the mission, or to reinforce it after Alvares' death in 1617 were unsuccesful. The mission was wound up in 1642.

Most of the 48 documents relate to Sierra Leone, but several relate to the Cape Verde Islands. Parts of the latter are collecte here.

[3] 22 July 1604


Santiago, 22 July 1604


Now I shall recount what else I have found out about this island. It is 18 leagues long and 9 wide. Viewed from a distance as we approached, it seemed to have nothing but mountain ranges and bare hills, but they say that when it rains it will appear to us like a pano de armar throughout. Inland it has varous streams and most pleasant valleys. Apart from what the local people state, I deduced this from the valley we see from the present locality, through which flows the stream we drink from, and which seems to me as green as the most attractive in Portugal. They nevertheless affirm that other valleys which lie inland have the advantage over this one. The trees and plants which make these valleys pleasant comprise, as well as sugar-cane, coconut and date-palms, trellic-vines, quince trees, fig trees, senna bushes, pomegranate trees, orange trees, lemon trees and all the other citrus fruit trees, together with other (exotic) trees belonging to these parts and to the Indies of Castile; for everything they care to plant and sow yields very richly, enen wheat and other earth-crops and garden-vegetables. The fruits I have seen, such as melone, grapes, figs, quinces, oranges etc., are like very good ones in Europe.

The inhabitants have their estates inland, with farms which are extremely fresh in appearance and much healthier than this city. They raise large herds of cows and goats; a heifer costs a cruzado and a cow two, and at the butchers five arratels (of meat) cost a vintem, the meat being tasty and more tender than mutton. There are many domestic hens which are as large as the largets in Portugal; in the market these cost three vintems and if they are pullets, one vintem. The wild fowl are innumerable; many are killed and sold for two vintems each, even though they are larger than the domestic ones. I will not go into details about other things since time will not allow me; (but) I shall do so, God willing. (in letters carried) on other ships, with (the benefit of having gained) more experience than I have now.