Tag Archives: Santo Antão

General Viriato Gomes da Fonseca: Inventor, Politician, Musician, Scholar and Military leader

General Viriato Gomes da Fonseca 1863-1942
General Viriato Gomes da Fonseca 1863-1942

When we think of Cabo Verdean military leaders or commanders we seem to not get passed Amilcar Cabral, Pedro Pires, Aristides Perreira and some of the other leaders of the Independence movement. But there were a handful of pre-indepence era military men and one of them was General Viriato Gomes da Fonseca.

General Viriato Gomes da Fonseca baptismal record
General Viriato Gomes da Fonseca’s baptismal record, second entry on the left hand side.

General Viriato Gomes da Fonseca was born on December 13, 1863, a native of Curral do Coculi in the Parish of Santo Crucifixo, on the Island of Santo Antão to Manoel Gomes da Fonseca and Julia Juanna Fortes. At the age of seven Viriato Gomes da Fonseca move from Santo Antão to the capital of the Portuguese Empire.  In 1897, After completing his studies at the War College the young lieutenant Viriato returns to Cape Verde with the fixed aim to help in the development of the islands. Viriato was blessed with extraordinary speaking skills and communication skills, he was also very charismatic.

In 1907, he was appointed commander of a battery in an expeditionary mission to Guinea. he fought, at the time, in what was called  the ‘pacification wars’ against the indigenous peoples in the struggle against the Portuguese presence in that territory.

After returning to Lisbon, Viriato was promoted to Major. Back in Cape Verde, Major Viriato Gomes da Fonseca was given the position  of Director of Public Works and Head of Surveying.

Connecting the water supply to the village of Ponta do Sol, the study of the Levadas [an irrigation channel or aqueduct]  and  a topographical survey of the Concelho do Paul, are the most essential works completed by Viriato Gomes da Fonseca on the island of Santo Antão. He also surveyed Montado Real on the Island of Fogo and also had plans for the port on the island of Brava.

Viriato Gomes da Fonseca was also Military Commander of São Vicente, Director of the Municipality of the island of Santo Antão, December 1910 to November 1912 and during the same period, he served also as President of the Municipal Commission of that island.

By 1919, the people of the islands recognized his expertise in the works carried out by Viriato Gomes da Fonseca and they were aware of his great patriotism and love for the homeland, the people entrusted him with the task of representing the Province of Cabo Verde in Parliament. this is how he entered politics and became what today we would call a congressman for the Partido Republicano Português (PRP), from 1919 to 1922 and for the Partido Republicano Constituinte, from  1922 to 1925.

At 63, he was promoted to general and provided services at the Institute Geagráfico and Cadastral, with several studies of his own on the registration of land ownership published by the institute and the Military Magazine. General Viriato Gomes da Fonseca was the only black man who attained the Portuguese army rank of general and probably of any other European army.

General Viriato Gomes da Fonseca was offered the position of Governor General of Angola, but the general turned down the position. He preferred waiting for the position of Governor General of Cabo Verde but that position never came to fruition.

From his marriage to Cesaria da Conceição Machado Fonseca, born in Lisbon, were born ten children: Viriato, Manuel Augusto, John, Julia, Emma, Celisa, Peter, Lucete and Alberto.

General Viriato da Fonseca and his wife Cesária da Conceição da Fonseca
General Viriato da Fonseca and his wife Cesária da Conceição da Fonseca

General Viriato Gomes da Fonseca  died on February 26, 1942, at his residence,  at the Villa Cesaria in Paco de Arcos, Portugal.

Some awards and commendations won by General Viriato Gomes da Fonseca are:

Comendador da Ordem de Nossa Senhora de Vila Viçosa; Medalha Militar de Prata da Rainha D. Amélia; Medalha dos Serviços Distintos no Ultramar; Comendador da Ordem Militar de São Vicente de Aviz; Medalha de Ouro da Classe de Comportamento Exemplar; Cavaleiro da Ordem Militar de Santiago de Espada e Grã Cruz da Ordem Militar de São Bento de Aviz.




Faria, Luis António, Suzana Abreu, and Américo C. Araújo. Cabo Verde Terra de Morabeza: Uma Viagem Atraves de Sua Historia e Cultura. Valrico: LAF Enterprises, 2012.

Family Search – “República de Cabo Verde, Registros Paroquiais, 1787-1957,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1961-45229-15-83?cc=2246703&wc=SFVV-PT5:1396419303,1396421001,1396429323 : accessed 19 February 2015), Santo Antão > Santo Crucifixo > Batismos 1856-1864 > image 114 of 123; Arquivo Nacional de Cabo Verde, Praia, Ilha de Santiago [Cape Verde National Archives, Praia, Ilha de Santiago].

Esquina do Tempo: Magazine Cultural Online – http://brito-semedo.blogs.sapo.cv/158836.html


The Chemist: Roberto Duarte Silva

Roberto Duarte Silva 1837-1889

Roberto D. Silva 1837-1889

On the 56th day of 1837, which was Saturday February 25th,  a son was born to Francisco José Duarte and Mathilde da Rosa Silva and they named him Roberto Duarte Silva. By the age of fourteen Roberto started working as an apprentice at an apothecary, a few years after he migrates to the capital of Portugal where he begins working at Azevedo and Son’s Pharmacy [Farmácia Azevedo e Filhos] while attending the School of Pharmacy [Escola de Farmácia].

Roberto Duarte Silva later moves from Lisbon to the Portuguese Colony of Macau and later to the English Colony of Hong Kong in China, where he opened his own Pharmacy. I was unable to find any other information pertaining to the pharmacies that were opened by Roberto Duarte Silva in Hong Kong and Macau. By 1863, he was living in Paris, France, where he worked in several different Pharmacies and received his bachelors’ degree in Organic Chemistry. By 1867, while working in the laboratory of one of his professors and renowned French chemist Charles-Adolphe Wurtz, Roberto Duarte Silva published his first of many works. Roberto Duarte Silva also taught at École des Mines de Paris, Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures, and École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrial de la Ville de Paris and one of his many pupils was the acclaimed french chemist Paul Charles Lepierre.

Roberto Duarte Silva’s face graces one of the bank notes

Roberto Duarte Silva later became the President of the Chemistry Society of Paris, also received the Jecker prize from the French Academy of Science and he would also be honored with the Legion of Honor [highest honor bestowed by the French Govt.] by the French Government for his many contributions to Science. He was also Commander of the Order of São Tiago of Portugal [Comendador da Ordem de São Tiago de Portugal].

sepultura_roberto_duarte_silva Tomb of Roberto Duarte Silva

While at his house located on Rue Thenard in Paris, France the renowned Cabo Verdean Chemist Roberto Duarte Silva passed away. The date was February 9th, 1889 a few days before his fifty-third birthday. Roberto Duarte Silva is buried at Petit Parnasse cemetery in Paris, France.



Faria, Luis António, Suzana Abreu, and Américo C. Araújo. Cabo Verde Terra de Morabeza: Uma Viagem Atraves de Sua Historia e Cultura. Valrico: LAF Enterprises, 2012.

A Semana http://asemana.publ.cv/spip.php?article73551&ak=1


Esquina do Tempo: Magazine Cultural Online – http://brito-semedo.blogs.sapo.cv/58374.html