Journey to Cape Verde
An Unknown History
When I first saw “Your results are ready” in my email inbox, my heart felt an openness, an excitement that was unfamiliar. It was about 4:40am in October 2018, and I told myself to wait before opening. Then I signed on and read that my highest percentage of ancestry came from Cabo Verde. Of my 34% African Ancestry, 25% of my DNA steemmed from the islands directly off the West African Coast.
“What was Cabo Verde?” I asked myself. I looked it up on Google, smiled and said out loud, “We’re from Cape Verde!!!” I constructed a text to a long time “Sister Friend” who wore her Cape Verdean Ancestry with a loud pride that I always secretly admired, and felt an affinity.
Since it was 5am I wrote the text and I decided to wait for a decent hour before sending. I laid in bed and checked the “University of Google” about everything I could find regarding this island that I’d only experienced through the stories of two women I’d known for years.
Approximately 7am came and I couldn’t hold back anymore, I sent the text to my friend and she immediately responded, “I’ve been up! Call me!” We chatted and she told me, “I told your brother years ago that you all were Cape Verdean but your mother said no.” We talked for hours it seemed, but after an hour we ended the conversation with her calling me “Cousin.” I laughed. “Cousin!” A term I grew up with regularly as we had a large family, but not within this particular context.
After a few months of me telling myself and others I would research relatives, I finally opened my results and began looking at people. I looked at a particular picture of a beautiful Elder who my heart said to contact first because she lived in the same city as I. I looked at her birthdate and thought, “It’s possible she’s still here,” as she was in her 90’s according to her profile. I emailed her and another “DNA relative.” I wanted to go down the whole list but I had to get back to work.
After an hour I checked my email and I received a response from the Elder’s Granddaughter, that her Grandmother had passed. But she gave me her number. My heart opened more. I waited a couple hours then called. Our conversation answered so many questions that have led to even more questions, my own deep thirst to know more.
As I ate dinner with my son I kept saying, “Honey I’m just so excited!” as I repeatedly looked at my phone to see what other good news my newly discovered relative would bring.
Now I asked myself, where is our direct Cape Verdean Lineage? Was it from my Maternal Grandmother’s lineage, she is the one I feel most close from that side. Or is it my Maternal Grandfather, the one we never knew. Who was this mysterious man people said may have been Puerto Rican. With each passing moment, my heart opened a bit more. With so many of the relatives I grew up with passing, I felt a strong sense of new growth, more family out there. It could be people I’ve known and loved for years.
I just discovered a Cape Verdean group and saw that a long time friend of mine asked a question about research. We lost touch recently, only sending an occasional email. I messaged her and informed her that I also have Cape Verdean Ancestry. She responded with an excitement that I could feel in her message, “Call me!” I love this, “call me,” that I’ve gotten from my newfound family.
This is the year of “The of the Return*.”The 400th anniversary of when our Ancestors were enslaved and brought to Turtle Island, aka the United States. I’m not sure if that’s how my Cape Verdean Ancestors came here or not. I pray I can discover as much about this previously lost, and happily newly found connection.
As I lay in bed, typing on my phone at 6am I am moved to tears. I reflect on all those years that felt like I never fit in, have been replaced with a sense of belonging to Cape Verde.
*The Year of the Return” is where the Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo officially welcomed the descendants of formerly enslaved African people back to Africa.