São Vicente (Portuguese for “Saint Vincent”) is one of the Varlavento Islands, the northern group within the Cape Verde archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, off the west African coast. It is located between the islands of Santo Antao and Santa Luzia.
The island is roughly rectangular in shape with an area of 226.7 square kilometres (87.5 square miles). From east to west it measures 24.3 kilometres (15.1 miles) and from north to south 16.3 kilometres (10.1 miles).:25 The island, of volcanic origin, is fairly flat. 92.6% of the island population lives in the urban area of Mindelo, a caldera that is breached by the ocean.
São Vicente was discovered by the Portuguese discoverer Diogo Afonso on 22 January 1462 (Saint Vincent’s Day). Due to its lack of water, the island was initially used only as a cattle pasture. When the Municipality of Santo Antao was established in 1732, the island of São Vicente was part of it. At that time, it did not have permanent inhabitants. In 1793 the area of Porto Grande Bay was settled. It was only in 1838, when a coal depot was established at Porto Grande Bay to supply ships on Atlantic routes, that the population started to grow rapidly. From the beginning of the 20th century the port of Mindelo lost its importance for transatlantic navigation. Causes for this were the shift from coal to oil as fuel for ships, the rise of competing ports like Dakar and the Canary Islands and the lack of investment in port infrastructure.