Cape Verdean festival: Where colors, food, and love come together

Aug 10, 2019

Blue flags fluttered in the wind, multi-hued skirts flashed in the crowd, the aroma of grilled food filled the air, and the sound of guitars accompanied the 17th Annual Cape Verdean Festival, which brought thousands to Onset on Saturday. 

People gathered at and around the Lillian Gregerman Band Shell and, though many in attendance were from Wareham and the surrounding area, a large group of people made the trek from out of town to celebrate the small nation made up of 10 islands and eight islets off the coast of western Africa. 

“We come here every single year, ever since Onset started to hold this Festival,” said Maria Tavares of New Jersey, who came to the event with her two daughters. “My parents immigrated from Sal and I never miss a chance to tell my kids about our culture.”

Tiny Lopes, a Wareham native and one of the festival’s founders, said the meaning of the festival lies in reconnecting with loved ones and “remembering back to your roots.” He comes back every summer from California, where he now lives. Though he is over 3,000 miles away, the event is near and dear to him and his family. 

“It’s about sharing what we have,” said Lopes. “It’s a cultural and educational experience. We want to share our culture with Cape Verdeans and non-Cape Verdeans. We want to share our history, traditions, tell people about who we are.”

Lopes’s grandparents immigrated from Fogo at the turn of the century and settled in Wareham. He believes that through supporting the festival, he shows respect for his ancestors who gave him a “strong foundation and future for their children in the United States.”

The festival featured over 80 vendors, 15 of which sold traditional Cape Verdean food.

Corn and beans are staples of Cape Verdean cuisine, with cachupa being the most famous national dish. As Genie Lomba, the president of Cabo Verdeans United, described, this slow-cooked, hearty stew made with beans, corn, vegetables, and fish or meat is “something you never taste the same twice but it means home to all Cape Verdeans.”

“It is simple yet absolutely delicious. Everybody who tries it loves it,” said Lomba. “Food is an integral part of our culture, along with the music. It is our identity. Each island has its own certain food traditions, but cachupa is what binds them all together.”

Musical artists also serenaded the crowd with a mix of traditional Cape Verdean music and inspired tunes. 

Lopes said that besides entertaining the crowd, the festival also gives back to the community. Each year, the Onset Cape Verdean Festival Association gives away eight scholarships to Wareham High School seniors as well as Bridgewater State University students. They donate to several area causes involving children as well.

“A gift is not a gift until you give it away,” said Lopes. “We are trying to educate the younger ones so that they could pick up this tradition when we leave.”