Closure of the Tarrafal Concentration Camp

26 January 2021
Tarrafal Nunca Mais! Manifestação popular na trasladação dos corpos dos mortos do Tarrafal, fevereiro de 1978. Fundação Mário Soares-Maria Barroso – imagem integrada na exposição Tarrafal, Nunca Mais!, que o Museu do Aljube acolheu em 2019 (https://www.museudoaljube.pt/expo/tarrafal-nunca-mais/)

On January 26, 1954, the Tarrafal Concentration Camp, in Cape Verde, was closed for the first time. Between 1936 and 1954, 375 prisoners passed through there, including republicans, socialists, anarchists, communists, combatants of the Spanish War. 32 lost their lives. Francisco Miguel would be the last prisoner to leave Tarrafal, in this first phase.

Six years later, with the outbreak of the colonial war, Tarrafal would reopen in June 1961, now destined for the nationalists of the former colonies, closing doors only on May 1, 1974. The first prisoners would arrive in February 1962, coming from Angola. Guineans and Cape Verdeans followed, a total of 227 men. 4 would eventually die there. Angolan Justino Pinto de Andrade was one of the last prisoners in Tarrafal.

67 years after the first closure and almost 60 after the reopening, Campo do Tarrafal today houses the Cape Verde Resistance Museum, which reopened, with the promise, by the Cape Verde executive, to make a survey to find out if there are still remains of former prisoners to be transferred. There, too, in the place of the deepest inhumanity and terror, violence and barbarism, there is now a space for Memory and tribute to all who passed and fell in the infamous “Campo da Morte Lenta”.

Image: Aspect of the entrance to the Penal Colony of Tarrafal, on Santiago Island, distinguishing the pavilions under construction. Unknown author Date: 1936/1937. Mário Soares Foundation Archive

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