“Independencia Total” by Alda Neves da Graça do Espírito Santo

500 Fcfa_BEAO
1000 Fcfa_BEAO

I recently read the national anthem of São Tomé and Príncipe, and thought of how much it represents the aspirations of the entire African continent, especially for French speaking countries which are still under that awful nazi currency system called FCFA through which France has been siphoning over 500 billion dollars every year for free! What do I mean by free? Well, because the FCFA (France’s Colonial Tax on Africa) is a currency of servitude and is a colonial tax paid by African countries to France (Africa is funding Europe!). 14 african countries (15 if you count also the Comoros whose currency is not called the same, but is nonetheless pegged to France) are obliged by France, through a colonial pact, to put 50% (it used to be 85%, then 65%, …) of their foreign reserves into France’s central bank under the French minister of Finance control. As we speak today in 2019, Senegal and about 13 other African countries still have to pay colonial debt to France. African leaders who refuse are killed or victim of a coup. To learn more, also read The 11 Components of the French Colonial Tax in Africa.

Sao Tome Flag
Flag of Sao Tome and Principe

The national anthem of São Tomé and Príncipe, rightfully titled Independência total (Total Independence), was written by Alda Neves da Graça do Espírito Santo, the celebrated Sao Tomean poet and writer who was a minister on several occasions and also the president of the national Assembly. Her poem for the national anthem was adopted in 1975. As you read it, wherever you see Sao Tome and Principe, replace by Africa, African continent and claim the total independence: “Warriors in the war without weapons, Live flame in the soul of the people, Congregating the sons of [Africa], Around the immortal Fatherland, Total independence, total and complete.” Enjoy!

Chorus:

Independência total,

Glorioso canto do povo,

Independência total,

Hino sagrado de combate.

 

Dinamismo

Na luta nacional,

Juramento eterno

No país soberano de São Tomé e Príncipe.

Guerrilheiro da guerra sem armas na mão,

Chama viva na alma do povo,

Congregando os filhos das ilhas

Em redor da Pátria Imortal.

Independência total, total e completa,

Construindo, no progresso e na paz,

A nação mais ditosa da Terra,

Com os braços heroicos do povo.

 

Chorus

Trabalhando, lutando, presente em vencendo,

Caminhamos a passos gigantes

Na cruzada dos povos africanos,

Hasteando a bandeira nacional.

Voz do povo, presente, presente em conjunto,

Vibra rijo no coro da esperança

Ser herói no hora do perigo,

Ser herói no ressurgir do País.

Chorus

Dinamismo

Na luta nacional,

Juramento eterno

No pais soberano de São Tomé e Príncipe.

Chorus:

Total independence,

Glorious song of the people,

Total independence,

Sacred hymn of combat.

 

Dynamism

In the national struggle,

Eternal oath

To the sovereign country of São Tomé and Príncipe.

Warriors in the war without weapons,

Live flame in the soul of the people,

Congregating the sons of the islands

Around the Immortal Fatherland.

Total independence, total and complete,

Building, in progress and peace,

The happiest nation on earth,

With the heroic arms of the people.

 

Chorus

Working, struggling, struggling and conquering,

We go ahead with giant steps

In the crusade of the African peoples,

Raising the national flag.

Voice of the people, present, present and united,

Strong beat in the heart of hope

To be a hero in the hour of peril,

A hero of the Nation’s resurgence.

Chorus

Dynamism

In the national struggle,

Eternal oath

To the sovereign country of São Tomé and Príncipe.

Why the name: São Tomé and Príncipe?

Sao Tome Flag

I used to love the sound of it: São Tomé e Príncipe… and always wondered: why have two names for one country? why the joined names? why not just name it São Tomé? Just like Trinidad and Tobago, São Tomé and Príncipe is in fact two islands, and just like T&T, the largest one is the first one in the combo name: São Tomé. However, unlike Trinidad and Tobago whose capital is Port of Spain, São Tomé and Príncipe’s capital is named … you guessed it: São Tomé!

São Tomé and Príncipe
São Tomé and Príncipe
São Tomé and Príncipe map
São Tomé and Príncipe map

The islands of São Tomé and Príncipe are situated in central Africa, in the equatorial Atlantic ocean and Gulf of Guinea about 300 and 250 kilometres, respectively, off the northwest coast of Gabon; it is Africa’s second smallest country after Seychelles. Both islands are part of the Cameroon volcanic mountain line, which also includes the islands of Annobón to the southwest, Bioko to the northeast (both part of Equatorial Guinea), and Mount Cameroon in Cameroon. Its tallest mountain is with Pico de São Tomé at 2,024 m.

São Tomé 1645
São Tomé 1645

So why the combo name and what does it mean? São Tomé was founded by Álvaro Caminha in 1493, who received the land as a grant from the Portuguese crown to grow sugar. The island was uninhabited before the arrival of the Portuguese sometime around 1470. (I always doubt these accounts which state an island as uninhabited; after all didn’t Christopher Columbus discover America even though it was already inhabited?).  Príncipe was settled in 1500 under a similar arrangement. São Tomé was right on the equator and wet enough to grow sugar in wild abundance. Its proximity to the African Kingdom of Kongo provided an eventual source of slave laborers to work the sugar plantations. The dates of discovery, by explorers João de Santarém and Pêro Escobar, are sometimes given as 21 December (St Thomas’s Day) 1471 for São Tomé, and 17 January (St Anthony’s Day) 1472 for Príncipe. Thus São Tomé stands for Saint Thomas. Príncipe was initially named Santo Antão (“Saint Anthony”), changing its name in 1502 to Ilha do Príncipe (“Prince’s Island”), in reference to the Prince of Portugal to whom duties on the island’s sugar crop were paid. Thus Principe stands for Prince. Hence São Tomé e Príncipe really stands for Saint Thomas and Prince.

Principe in 1727
Principe in 1727

Attracting European settlers to the islands proved difficult, and most of the earliest inhabitants were “undesirables” (like in so many colonies) sent from Portugal, mostly Jews. In time these settlers found the volcanic soil of the region suitable for agriculture, especially the growing of sugar, and brought slaves from the neighboring Kingdom of Kongo to work those plantations.

Sao Tome and Principe today
Sao Tome and Principe today

São Tomé is centered on a sixteenth-century cathedral. Another early building is Fort São Sebastião, built in 1575 and now the São Tomé National Museum. In 1599, the city as well as the islands were taken by the Dutch for two days and again in 1641 for a year. It was the capital of the Portuguese colony of São Tomé and Príncipe and, since São Tomé and Príncipe‘s independence on 12 July 1975, capital of the sovereign nation.

The country’s economy is centered around cash crops: sugar, cocoa, and coffee. Tourism is also another big economic driver for the country.