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São Tomé and Príncipe: Santomean people

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Santomean people | São Tomé and Príncipe | Africa

[Visited: September-October 2014]

We have been looking forward to visiting São Tomé and Príncipe for a few years already - it seems like an exotic destination, almost completely unknown (before going, friends looked with a puzzled stare, and guessed it was located in the Caribbean, or Pacific), and we have no real imagine to match. Our minds are empty, and that is the best way to travel - we are ready to be surprised. On our flight to São Tomé, we try to spot the Santomean people; besides the looks of the countryside and the sea, we are curious about its inhabitants. Soon enough, we are welcomed by them, already at the airport. Big smiles, and curious faces: with a lack of mass-tourism, we feel they are wondering about us as much as the other way around.

Picture of Santomean people (São Tomé and Príncipe): Women in the streets of São Tomé

In our contact with the Santomeans, we find that they are genuine and authentic. Sometimes, a little serious at first, or perhaps just shy, but once contact is established, they love to talk and show us their smiles. Walking the streets, they often greet you with a Bom Dia, or Bondja if they speak creole - they are so close it is difficult to even hear the difference. Often, they take time to stop and chat, asking us the usual questions - where are you from? - and wish us a good day. Hardly ever are we harassed; we get friendly welcomes, and friendlier goodbyes. Yes, kids, follow us sometimes, but with the best intentions, and trying to practice their language with a foreigner, and showing something of their land.

Picture of Santomean people (São Tomé and Príncipe): Self-made wooden toy and boy in northern Príncipe

Walking the streets of São Tomé town, I stop and take a picture of an old building from the colonial times. Two women look at me, not understanding, laugh, and say - Why don't you take a picture of us? And they are right: they are much more beautiful than the old, faded walls of a building. A bunch of half-drunk women at the market, with bottles in their hands, insist I take a picture of them. Inhabitants of small villages are even less used to foreigners, but also in the big town of the country, we experience a warm welcome, and hardly anyone trying to take advantage of us. Moreover, we visit in election time, and see parties on pick-up trucks, people dancing, enthusiastically waving their flags. Meanwhile, kids are playing with self-made toys. The overall feeling we get after visiting both islands, is that the Santomeans love life, welcome their guests - we can only hope they will stay just the way they are.

Picture of Santomean people (São Tomé and Príncipe): Young woman flashing election flags in the north of Príncipe
Picture of Santomean people (São Tomé and Príncipe): Girl with serious stare at Roça Monteforte plantation
Picture of Santomean people (São Tomé and Príncipe): Young curious girl on Príncipe island
Picture of Santomean people (São Tomé and Príncipe): Young woman with fancy hair in Porto Alegre
Picture of Santomean people (São Tomé and Príncipe): Women at the market of São Tomé
Picture of Santomean people (São Tomé and Príncipe): Playing kids at the runway of Príncipe
Picture of Santomean people (São Tomé and Príncipe): Camera-conscious girl at a cocoa plantation in western São Tomé
Picture of Santomean people (São Tomé and Príncipe): Posing for a picture at Roça Izé
Picture of Santomean people (São Tomé and Príncipe): At the market of São Tomé
Picture of Santomean people (São Tomé and Príncipe): At a cocoa plantation from colonial times in Roça Monteforte in western São Tomé
Picture of Santomean people (São Tomé and Príncipe): Kids looking into the camera in a small fishing village near Sundy in northern Príncipe
Picture of Santomean people (São Tomé and Príncipe): Proud man posing for a picture in Porto Alegre
Picture of Santomean people (São Tomé and Príncipe): Kid watching his friends play in Porto Alegre

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