First colonized in the mid-1400s by the Portuguese, Cabo Verde would quickly become the center of the largest human diaspora in history.
Beginning relatively small scaled, the town, Ribeira Grande, received a Royal Charter in 1466 giving permission to own and trade enslaved captives from Africa. Over the next 100 years, Ribeira Grande would increase in importance through its dominant trade in gold and slaves to the extent of being subject to frequent raids by pirates and other nations, including Sir Francis Drake in 1585, making it necessary to build the strongest fort of its day, Forte de Sao Felipe, in 1590.
With the building of the fort, Ribeira Grande stood center stage in the industry of human trafficking, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the majority of Cabo Verdians were involved in the slave trade in one way or another, from direct purchasing and selling to outfitting ships sailing east or north.
With an intense mixing of cultures, Cabo Verde became the first colony to establish a creole language and culture that still exists today.
Due to its strategic location between Europe, Africa, and the Americas, Cabo Verde was an essential stop for early explorers traveling West including Christopher Columbus on his third voyage to the Americas and James Cook. As an international port of call, Cabo Verde also became an experimental ground for new fruits and vegetables heading from and into Europe and the Americas.
Ribeira Grande began to decline beginning with an attack by the French in 1712. A new capital was founded to the west, Praia, and lured the elite class away from Ribeira Grande, now called Cidade Velha, or old town.