The Cape Verde archipelago was uninhabited when the Portuguese discovered it in 1456. African slaves were brought to the islands to work on Portuguese plantations. As a result, Cape Verdeans are mulattoes (mestiços in Portuguese), who have mixed African and European origins.
European ancestors also include Spanish and Italian seamen who were granted land by the Portuguese Empire, followed by Portuguese settlers, exiles, and Portuguese Jews who were victims of the Inquisition.
Many foreigners from other parts of the world settled in Cape Verde as their permanent country. Most of them were Dutch, French, British (English), Arab and Jewish (from Lebanon and Morocco), Chinese (especially from Macau), India, Indonesia, South America, American and Brazilian (including people of Portuguese and African descent). All of these have been absorbed into the mestiço population.
The high degree of genetic and ethnic mixture of individuals is a result of centuries of migration. It is not unusual to encounter persons with dark skin and blond hair and blue eyes, and persons with light skin and black hair.
Survival in a country with few natural resources has historically induced Cape Verdeans to emigrate. In fact, of the more than 1 million people of Cape Verdean ancestry in the world, only a little more than one-third actually live on the islands. Some 500,000 people of Cape Verdean ancestry live in the United States, mainly in New England. Many people of Cape Verdean ancestry also live in Portugal, Netherlands, France, Italy, Mexico, Uruguay, Argentina, and Senegal.
Cape Verdean populations also settled Spain, Germany, Canada, and other CPLP countries (Angola, Brazil and Guinea-Bissau). Since after independence from Portugal in 1975, a number of Cape Verdean students continued to be admitted every year at Portuguese high schools, polytechnical institutes and universities, through bilateral agreements between the Portuguese Government and the Cape Verdean Government.
Although the official language is Portuguese, most Cape Verdeans speak Cape Verdean Creole (Crioulo in Portuguese, Kriolu or Kriol in Cape Verdean Creole) as their first language. There is a rich repertoire of literature and songs in Creole. In religion, the majority follow Roman Catholic Christianity. There are also some Protestants, Bahá'ís and Muslims.