São Tomé and Príncipe are two small islands in the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of Central Africa. Geologically, the oldest dated rock dates to 31 million years ago. Until the Portuguese landed on the islands around 1470, they were uninhabited. Today, nearly 200,000 people who call themselves Santomean, but where did these people come from?
For centuries, people have been enjoying chocolate, which is made from the dried and fermented cacao seeds, and at one point, two small African islands in the Gulf of Guinea were the cocoa capital of the world. The Portuguese colonies of São Tomé and Príncipe were covered in plantations, known as roças, that produced cocoa and coffee for the world’s largest chocolate makers.
I had arrived the evening before with no concrete plans for the next day. I had one day in the capital of São Tomé and Príncipe before flying to the latter of the two main islands. After flipping through the slim guidebook and finding a suggested self-guided walking tour of the city, I made plans to wander through the colonial streets of the city and hit the highlights as suggested. The calendar had another plan for me. You see, it was St. Thomas’s feast day; and St. Thomas in Portuguese is, you guessed it São Tomé.