Santiago (Portuguese for “Saint James”), or Santiagu in Cape Verdean Creole, is the largest island of Cape Verde, home to half the nation’s population. At the time of Darwin's voyage it was called St. Jago.
Santiago is located between the islands of Maio (40 km west) and Fogo (50 km east). It was the first of the islands to be settled, the town of Cidade Velha being founded as Riberia Grande in 1462. It is also home to the nation's capital city of Praia and to one of the islands’ four international airports, Praia International Airport, 3 km from the capital.
Santiago is the largest island of Cape Verde. The island was discovered by António da Noli in around 1460. Transcontinental slavery made Cidade Velha the second richest city in the Portuguese realm. Later, Portugal faced competition by the English, Dutch, French and Spanish who gradually took over the slave trade. In 1712, the capital no longer served Cidade Velha which was attacked by pirates and was moved to the Praia plateau. The island population were disadvantaged by the Portuguese colonial system and supported Amílcar Cabral and the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde and the independence of 1975. Santiago several times hosted conferences on Creole culture.
Due to the Cape Verde islands' proximity to the Sahara, most of the Cape Verde islands are dry, but on islands with high mountains and farther away from the coast, the humidity is much higher, giving a rain forest habitat, very degraded by the strong human presence.
The island population has doubled since the independence of Cape Verde in 1975.