The Ladino Moors: The Jews of Cape Verde, the Guinea Rivers and Gulf of Biafra

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The Moor's Head
The Moor's Head

The Decline of the Moors

The Moors of the Iberian pennisula suffered great and incalculable losses when their centuries old rule was brought to a violent end in Spain in 1492 following the loss of the Caliphate of Granada.

Beginning from that same 1492 in Spain and 1497 in Portugal, the exile of the original dark sons was inauguarated. The conquering European armies were filled with a strange blood lust and an incurable pathological jealousy of the Moors. It was their simple wish to dispossess the Moorish owners of the land, confisicate all their properties and enslave their bodies.

It was easy and simple for them because the fight for Iberia had been drawn across racial lines, so-called “white” Asiatic-Europeans versus so-called black n brown Africans and Afro-Arabians. 

New World Order

The Moors occupied the land mass where Lisbon is currently situated and in their time they called it Alishbuna. They had ruled for 400 years since 700 AD only losing their grip on power in 1147 AD. From that date until 1249 when christian crusaders conquered Algarve, the Moors lost land and authority before the hordes of inner Europe.

Following the complete conquest of Portugal in 1249 (with the capture of Algarve), the crusaders gradually tighten the noose around the Moor’s neck, literally speaking.  Discrimination got worse.  Odinary folks were constantly harrassed.  Moors were under unrelenting suspicion of disloyalty, insurrection, and rebellion.

They were imposed on with excessive taxes.  Their cultural rights were abrigded, language was restricted, political and business space became increasing non-accessible.

Finally, with the conquest of Granada in 1492 by the Spanish branch of the crusaders, all hell was let loose on the hapless Moors living then in Spain and in Portugal.

The crusaders decided that the fact of being a Moor was criminal enough in itself and so Moors were required to symbolically renounce their heritage and culture.  They were required to adopt a new identity as christians called “conversos.”  Sometimes these new christians were called “marranoes” a racist term which connoted a “pig” or something unclean.

Conversos were like second class christians of Portugal.  Those who would not convert and accept their official second class status as de-culturated animals were then forcibly expelled either as prisoners, slaves or refugees. 

The notorious instuitition known as the inquisition, a system of spies, secret police, tortures, confessions and swift executions was established.  It was responsible for the death of millions of Moors all over Europe but especially in the Iberian pennisula.  It lasted for hundreds of years torturing, maiming and killing all real and suspected enemies of the new European royalty.  Its bloodlust, sadism and cruelty are now live in infamy.  Those Moors it did not kill or maim, it sold as slaves.

It so happened that in 1496-7 Portugese Kings Joao II and Manuel I horded hundreds of thousands of Jews sent them into exile on the West African coasts of Guinea and Biafra, and on the Islands of Cape Verde and Sao Tome, into a live of perpetual slavery. These peculiar branch of the Iberian moorish Hebrews were called the Ladinos.

Ladino means latinized negros. It was a racist term used for the black Jews of Iberia who were soon deported to African Islands and coastal settlements and used as the first slaves in the sugar plantations. See, Abu Alfa MUHAMMAD SHAREEF bin Farid, “A Continuity of the 19th Century Jihaad Movements of Western Sudan,” Sankore: Institute of Islamic-African Studies,”

According to Richard Lobban, in his article “Jews in Cape Verde and on the Guinea Coast” Paper presented at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, 11 February 1996:

“..Portugese or Iberian Jews sometimes use this term to note this social group which consitituted a portion of early migrants to the Cape Verde Islands. Some reference use this term for the people and language of 16th and 17th century Sephardic Jews from Iberian Pennisula. The term Ladino could also refer to baptized African slaves. In either case, the reference was often racist, and derogatory and implied a lying, wandering, sneaky, and thieving group which was particularly untrustworthy.”..

Exiled Moors, the Jews of Biafra:

The Portugese had followed the pursuit of their defeated Moorish foes right across the straits of Gibraltar.  The objective was to defeat the Moors in all of their land and seize it as Iberia had been seized.

Following the path of the Moorish network, the Protugese had soon falled on Cape Verde off the coast of West Africa which they seized in the middle 15th century.

Cape Verde was a half-way restocking station for the ancient Phoenicians and their medieval Moorish successors on their voyages across the ocean towards the continent in the west which later came to be known as the Americas and the Carribeans.

Having seized these groups of Islands, the Portugese continued their raids on the Moorish lands off the Gulf of Guinea and Biafra.  Many coastal communites were sacked and burnt.  Strategic locations on the coast such as the Elmina castle area in Cape coast, Porto Novo area in Dahomey, were occupied and declared to be under the realm of the King of Portugal.  Islands such as Lagos, Escarvos, Fernado Po, and Sao Tome were colonized that early in time.

States and Kingdoms of coast of Guinea and Biafra were harrassed by the marauding Portugese crusaders cum slave raiders.  Their acts of depredations were vigorously challenged by many Kings and Queens of those coastal states.  One of the more famous incidents involved the war between Protugese crusaders and Queen Nzinga over the former’s incessant  slave-raiding activites.

The Portugese crown had soon declared a monopoly of trade over the rich Moorish territories newly aquired off the coast of Guinea and Biafra. The Crown viewed the unwanted Moorish Jews and Muslims as cheap and easy labour to develop these newly acquired territories. It was a master stroke, getting rid of the black-a-moors and getting rich while doing it.

Between 1450 and 1500, Portugese record detail the deportation and enslavement of more than 500,000 Moorish Jews to the Islands off the the Gulf of Guinea and Biafra. Many of these were children who had been stolen and separated from their parents.

According to an article in the New York Times, September 24, 2004 by Edward Rothstein:

“The Inquisition played a more central role in the later Jewish journeys… Jews entering Portugal after being expelled from Spain in 1492 were heavily taxed. If Jews could not pay, their sons ages 2 – 10 were enslaved and sent to Sao Tome, a Portugese outpost…and worked in sugar fields…” Sao Tome was one of the more infamous slave Islands of the Atlantic that grew fabulously rich off the sugar trade.

The Moorish Jews of Guinea and Biafra

By the middle of the fifteenth century the Portuguese had deepened their penetration of West Africa. Having nothing of value to provide the coastal Moors of Guinea and Biafra in exchange for what they desired, they resorted to selling firearms, and kidnapping, slave trading and plantation production.

On the island of São Tome in the Gulf of Guinea as well as at Elmina in Ghana where the Portuguese first settled during it’s colonization of Africa, the Portuguese had, for all intents and purposes, “gone native”.

They discarded their European fashions and clad themselves in native garb, and favored the African women and lived with many of them in concubinage.

In that peculiar colonial-plantation production slave society that was created, the several categories of persons are notable.

There were the capitaos, Portugese agents of the Crown who supervised the extraction of wealth and resources from this newly conquered land of the Moors on the coast of West Africa. They were the ruling elites of those societies.

They were the degrados, or the lancados Portugese. Lancados literally means “outcasts” or “throw-aways.” They were cast off of the Portuguese society, ex-convicts, debtors, murderers and thieves. These were allowed to trade as long as they stayed within the applicable restrictions imposed by the Portugese Crown including restriction on the sale of firearms, iron bars, navigational equipment, cloth currency known as Panos, and slaves which were the King’s monopoly.

Then there were the Iberian Jewish Moors – the Ladinos who had been disposessed of all they had and exiled or enslaved on the Islands of West Africa. Many of the Jews had fled the persecutions of the Portugese inquisition which ranged between 1496 and 1510, then had ramped up in 1536. Many came looking for their children who had been stolen by the authorities and enslaved along the coast of West Africa.

Muslim Moors who spoke Arabic were widespread in the area especially in Upper Guinea area. They were known as “Targomas” (a word that means “interpreters”).

The word “Lanados” connotes “Africanized” Portugeses Moorish Jews. Those had abondoned the Portugese outposts and had gone completely native. They lived together with the African communities of the interior, as Africans, intermarrying and interworshiping with them; having very little recollection of their Portugese connections. The synthesis that occurred between the lanados and the local Africans of the coast created the nuclues of the Creole culture, a vibrant cultural expression which defines modern West Africa, especially the coastal states.

Thus, as early as the later 15th century and through the 16th to the 17th centuries, a Jewish coastal presence was deeply established on the coast of West Africa. (See above). Jean Boulegue reports that in 1517, King Manuel I made reference to a group of deported Jews (lanadoes) on the coast of Senegambia.

In the early 1600s, lanados had established trade stations along the entire Senegambia coast encompassing such areas as Goree, Joal, Ziguinchor in Casamance, Cacheu, Bissau, Bolama.

Ladinos were living as migrants and trading in the kingdom of Benin (in today’s Nigeria), they were in Lagos, Forcados and Fernanda Po, as well. Benin oral traditions still recall the visit of Pierto de Nino a Moorish Jewish sailor who took Chritopher Columbus on his first trip to the Americas. Other Moorish Jews had made their way into the Ondo region where they still live today as the Beni Emphraim.

In 1622 the Cape Verdan Governor, Dom Francisco reported to the Portugese king that the coast of Guinea (..and Biafra) “was full of Jews who were masters of the local regions and were quite independent of the Crown (Portugal).”


The coastal areas of West Africa have this dominant culture which is known as creole culture. Creole culture is best exemplified in the beautiful musical expression of hi-life music a brand of music which combines jazz, with afro-latin fusion to create a pulsuating and vibrant intoxicating musical beat.

Creole culture is also obvious in the foods eaten across West Africa notable of which is the famous Spanish rice (Jollof rice) which is prepared and eated Iberian style right across the entire region. Jollof rice is very popular in Nigeria. It is viewed as indigenous Nigerian cusine but its ingredients and style of cooking is exactly the same as obtains in Spain.

Creole culture is the hypnotic rythymic drawl of sweet West African creole patios either in English (the Nigerian pidgin English) or the French. It is a combination of various European and African languages which created new dialects or sub-language groups that are still spoken and understood by virtually all the descendants of the Africans and the Moorish Jews that live in the cities of modern Africa.

The traditional African coastal city architectural style which combines the old Iberian Moorish pattern of building and 15th African motifs and notions are products of the creole culture. This architectural style is called the “Brazilian style” in memory of the Black Moorish builders of some of those early homes. Many came directly from Portugal and later moved to Brazil, many returned from Brazil to the coasts of West Africa.


The “Jewish danger” as it was described in Portugal was considered so seriously that the dreaded inquisition made a landfall in Africa, in Cape Verde in 1672. This establishment of this notorious instuition was followed as usual by excesses and outrages committed in the name of religious chauvinism.

Jewish property was wantonly siezed from them. They were jailed and repressed for the lest suspected misdemeanour. They were enslave for any imagined infraction and sent to one penal slave Island or the other, anywhere from Africa to the South American Brazil.

In light of this renewal of persecution, many Moorish Jews who were already “natives” by all imaginable standards, melted away into the deeper recesses of the interior where they knew the Portugese would not dare come.


This article has argued that the Moorish Jews who took refuge in West africa went “native” due to the similarity of culture and the sameness of the physical structure. There were no racial hang-ups. It has been shown how many lanados and ladinos simply took wives from local communities and became one with them.

Combined with the later pressures and depredations of the Portugese inquisition which sought to uproot the Jewish competition, as well as pressures from the upstream Muslim communities to convert, the influence of the Moorish Jews may not be as pronounced as it once was on the coast of West Africa. But it yet remains, easily discernable to any modern day inquirer.

In Cabo Verde, the presence of Moorish Jews can still be traced in their earliest settlments in Sao Tiago which they fled to as degraded and dis-enfranchised refugees returning home to the bosom of the the continent of Africa.

Jewish historical presence remains on Santo Antao, traceable in the name of a little village of that domain, Sinagogs. There is a dated Jewish cemetary at the town of Ponta da Sol.Other Jewish cemetaries can be found in Brava (Cova da Judeu), Boa Vista (in Praia and Cidade Velha) in Sinagoga, Fogo, and other places.

Many Moorish Jewish families can still be traced by their surnames in Boa Vista, Cabo Verde such as Auday, Benros, Ben David, DaGama, Seruya, Salomao Ben Oliel. According to Ricahrd Lobban, supra, “the family names of Cohn (priest) and Wahnon are prominent in Santo Antao.”

In Nigeria, in Lagos, Badagry, Warri, one finds names such as Cardoso, Gomez, DAcosta, and Gonsalis as the remenants of the Moorish Jewish families who retained their Portugese or Spanish names up to the present times. They are mistaken called “the Brazilian” returnees by those who do not know any better.

Tribal Jews

Those that returned to the African tribes simple adopted their new identities and commenced a life of relative peace and security. They intermarried and interworshipped with the nations that adopted them.

Yet, some of those Moorish Jews retained enough of their cultural traits, names, books or oral traditions that provide indications of their origins.

For example, it has been reported that “The Bnai Ephraim (“Children of Ephraim”) from Nigeria, live among the Yoruba tribe. Their oral history tells that the Bnai Ephraim people came from Morocco after the Jews were banished from Spain sometime after 1492.”

“They speak a creole language that is a mixture of Moroccan Arabic, Yoruba, and Aramaic. They are known by the Yoruba tribe as the Emo Yo Quaim, or “strange people”. This community has solid proof of its historical origins because unlike other African Israelite communities in Nigeria, they have portions of the Torah which they keep in their sanctuaries.”

Some segments of the Efik ethnicity of Nigeria (related to the Igbos and Ibibios) and the Ishan ethnicity as well do claim descent from some Jewish migration that might have probably occurred in the 15th century.

Other segments of the Igbos of Nigeria have a particularly well documented and increasingly validated claim of descent from some Moorish Jews. Ladino names like Ben-de, Elili, Aro, Edda, Nssuka, Abo, Dey, Oliel, etc are still found in Igbo language bearing the same meaning as in old Ladino. See Iroabuchi@


Jide Uwechia
September 07, 2009

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16 thoughts on “The Ladino Moors: The Jews of Cape Verde, the Guinea Rivers and Gulf of Biafra”

  1. Manuel

    Your cognizance of history is still very elementary so it is best that I deal with your issues instead of the eminent author of the article. The Moors did not conquer Iberia in the course of the Muslim invasions. The Muslims were called Moors because they was already a people who had been living in Spain and southern Italy of Moorish descent for thousands of years. Spain in particular is a Moorish autochtonous territory. If you have ever heard of the Ibero-Maurisians, or the Capsian culture, you will realize that Africans have been living in Spain as the owners of that land ever since man was created.

    The Goths and the Visigoths, are the real immigrants and conquerors. Your type came originally from Turkemensitan and then swamped Europe during the time Roman Empire fell. It was only then, just in 4th century A.D. that the first pale skin Goths appeared in Spain.

    Manuel, go back to the library or the school and check up our references and key terms. Ibero-maurisians, Capsian culture, Nigri-Latinos, European Negritos, Grimaldi man. If you do your home work as I suggested, your understanding of historical events will be much more advanced.

    Until then, Bob Manuel….

    Welcome to Rasta Livewire … We shock and burn with knowledge!


  2. Nice reply Bob Jahdey.

    Sticking to “Jide’s” Story, before going on an Archaeological Rampage of more than
    100 thousand years ago to prove a point. I would say your reaching Jahdey….a bit to far.
    Historical Science unfortunately for you is based largely on Theories.
    As years go buy more and more FACTS prove their convictions to be otherwise.
    Chromagnum Era is not what this TEXT is about.
    So sticking to the Moral of the Story :
    After the Romans where defeated in Iberia by the Visigoths, Lusitanians, Vascones, Celts. No mention of any AFRICANS or MOORS DEFEATING THEM ??
    Why isn’t there ??
    Or any mention of Mauritanians or Negritos, “That Where (Inhabiting) or Owning part of The Land. ” ? Taking part or entering this battle.
    I will welcome the “African or Berber or Morish” name of the land, that was owned or inhabited during the Roman era ?? as YOU SAY, they always been there. Maybe you
    have a BOOK I don’t have, either way inlighten me.

    If you have this Book or Historical data regarding this, let me know and I will LOOK it up.

    My Consensus, is based on a “NON BIAS” opinion on research and Schooling.
    According to History books the word “Moors” wasn’t just aplied to Africans. So you know.

    Also, If you feel that only ” Africans in History ” are the only culture to Suffer Social Repression, than maybe you need to go back to the library.

    I believe that every man is ” A LIKE” in needs, wants, racism, power and glory. The Moors where just like any other People, they wanted, they took and they fought, persecuted like every Tribe or culture did in those times.
    There is No innocence in ANY RACE on this Planet. Even within one’s own race ther is division. No need for books, you see it with our own eyes. In all History even “Slaves” where Made, Sold and Traded by there own people.
    No Innocence in any man any color.

    I welcome any legitimate proof that ” The Morish Invasions” is just a white man’s tale.
    Also for OUR Understanding of one another. A small tribe in an area, wether they are of a darker gender, like Arabs or Nomads or Moors, does not emply that they are OWNERS or the Dominante Populus in that Land.
    Example :
    Northern Africa does not have a Majority of a Germanic tribe, it has a Minority,
    therefore I don’t say ; ” that we Owned and where always there.”

    – The Minority is not the Majority, or else they would be the Kings and I the pesant –

    Take Care, Jahdey,
    Power to you and your search for Knowledge, because we are not born with it,
    we quench our thurst of it.

    Man of Peace for Peace of Man.

  3. I notice that my Response to Jahdey is not on here ?
    I hope it makes it, I enjoy a Fair Debate.

    I figure I would respond to his last statements and remarks ;

    Bob Jahdey, Lets Start with the’ Goths” – where do you get your Information ?
    at least try to be correct with your statements or else you look like a Fool who’s trying to Portray an arrogant Intelligence, only Sinking deeper into a babbling fool.

    Part I
    – Goths –
    An Eastern Germanic Tribe, Arians, that over time dissected and amalgamated, become Romans, Visigoths, Ostrogoths,
    – who where there PRIOR to the 4th Century YES, why ? because the “Moors” fought against them when CONQUERING Iberia. Visigoths where Goths !? duh ?!

    Part II, regarding your last words ;

    Reminding you that Science and their Prehistoric Archaeological Data is based mainly on Theories not necessarily facts, but I will jump to your convictions, or terms as you say…

    – Ibero-maurisians – Northern Africa and the rest is up in the air (cro-magnom Theory)
    – capsian – “not from Iberia” not even close ? have you heard of the Capsian sea?
    – Nigri-latinos – half breeds from eastern europe, “Not from Iberia”
    – European Negritos – means “small black peoples” from south Asia, “Not from Iberia”
    – Grimaldi – the word is in Italian, as far as i know Italy is not in Iberia

    So what am I suppose to Understand Bob Jahdey ?
    — The one thing I know is that YOU need to look at a Map.

    Besides, I have noticed that anyone embodying a Shade of Brown is considered a “Moor”? on this site.
    I think that is pretty unfair to real Africans, Indians, Arabs and other Cultures who have there own History, rather than having People trying to take claim by false propaganda and Misconceptions.

    Truth Prevails once again
    doesn’t it always ? Jahdey

    Best Regards, GPS a library, there are no Historians on this site.

    The (self proclaimed) King Bob Manuel signing off.

    1. Bob Manuel

      The crucial question is to identify the original homeland of the so-called “germanic Tribes” who were actually described as the Goths, Visigoths, Ostrogoths and Cagots by Roman writers. Those tribes, includng the Alans, Suedes, the Lusitanians, the Lombardis, all were without exception Gothic tribes who were immigrants into Europe. Your original homeland is in central Asia, amongst the pale tribes of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

      Europe was, is and will ver remain a black continent, gothic conquests or not. Because the river will finally return to its course, in the end.

      My point is that before the Goths came into Spain, there was a people that lived there. Those people were the original Muurish people. The Greeks spoke about them, the Romans contended with them, and they were in Europe until the arrival of Muslims from Africa.

      The original Muurish people of North Africa and Europe have been divided up by false names and have been variously described as Berbers, Ibero-Maurisians, Carthaginians, Muslims, Garimaldis, and Nigri-latinos.

      You made a complete ridicule of yourself in attempting to provide flippant answers to serious historical discussions.

      If you can honestly think that a certain “black people” from “Asia” which is at least 5,000 miles from Spain, originally occupied Spain, then I am sure you can even more honestly begin to see that the original black people of North Africa who lived just 10 miles away across the straits of Gibraltar would also have been a major part of the Spanish Negrito population.

      You need to take a cue and do some reading. We don’t suffer empty noise makers here. You should come dropping mature well sourced arguments rather than spouting some elementary mis-information.

      If you think that Nigri-latins are “half breeds from Eastern Europe” then you do need more academic help. Try google!

      Then you think that Capsian culture speaks about the Capsian sea…lol! The Capsian culture is the same Hausa culture and Touareg culture and Berber culture of North Africa. They are the founders of Spain.

      My “dear” check here for Capsian culture:

      You see then, Bobji Manuel, that your level is still too low. Too basic to begin seeking attention on Rasta Livewire. This place is for scholars….and wise mature people. Be still, read, research, over-stand before opening your trap door…..


  4. I like your Passion Jahdey, but I see the Bigger Picture;
    # 1 we talk about different Time Zones in History
    # 2 we read from different books

    Germanic Tribes are European. They are indigenous to the land.
    The same way Africans originated in Africa

    There are more records of these tribes being in Europe than Africans in Africa.
    Probably and Mainly because there where no “African Historians” in those times..

    Nations do come and Go and Lands change Hands,
    Cultures and people have mixed and I think that is a Great Thing.

    In the end, people that are Willing to defend there land at whatever cost.
    Are the ones who have the Right to say it’s theirs.

    It’s not pretty, it isn’t always right…But I would defend my Home at whatever cost,
    they would have to drag me and kill me rather than me just letting it go !!

    I barely have a High school education, which means …. ” I ain’t Brain Washed ! ”

    – I Choose My Own books, I don’t have someone Choose them For Me –

    1. Bobji Manuel

      I respect your attempt to find your history. On Rasta Livewire, we help both the so-called whites and the so-called blacks to attain this objective. We provide you the other half of the history that had been hidden from you.

      Take it from me, and the authorities of history, the Germanics are immigrant to Europe. They came in the 5th A.D. They were nomads looking for land to occupy. The Germanics were deadly enemies of the Romans. The Roman citizens included millions of Moorish North Africans, Moorish Middle East, and Nigri/Moorish Latinis of southern Europe. There was no Germanic citizen of Rome until Rome became weakened by barbarian (Germanic) invasions. It was actually the Germanics that ruined Rome.

      I respect your effort. So I will provide you with another link to check on the original hidden history of your people:

      “The Migration Period, also called the Barbarian Invasions or German: … between A.D. 500 and 700, saw Slavic tribes settling in Central and Eastern Europe, …” See

      Thanks again for using Rasta Livewire!


  5. Hi, I’m really new to this Cape Verdeans and São Tomense people are moors, but Im still unsure about this because i always thought we were simply Cape Verdeans or people from Guinea mixed with a bunch of europeans. Nonetheless, my family names that I could have inherited and have inherited are Cabral, Dias, Tavares, Fernandes, Lopes, and Gloria. Im half cape verdean and half sao tomense do I wanted to ask if my name is list in the translation or if I’m part of the Moor community?


  6. Excellent info. I have family from the island of Curacao, located next to Aruba and Bonaire, off the Venezuelan coast of South America. My family there speaks a language called Papiamentu ( Papiamento, depending on which side of the islands you live on), and one day when I was in New York I came across ( unbeknownst to me), a man speaking the language of my father’s side of the family in Curacao… I asked him if he was from Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao; he smiled at me and said no. And I replied to him that my father speaks that language and I understood every single word he said. He smiled and just left so I asked him where specifically was he from. He told me Guinea-Bissau. He explained that Cape Verde, Guinea bissau and other locations in West Africa were colonized by the Portuguese and then the descendants of these countries for part of the Transcontinental slave trade and ended up in Aruba Bonaire and Curacao. This was a moment of clarity for me because my father’s side of the family never spoke to me about their family tree and lineage.

    You article here helped me to recognize a Moorish lineage. My mother also has ties back to Spain through her father’s side of the family.

    I plan to visit these places of my ancestors. Thanks.

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