It was Children’s Day in Cape Verde. We traveled to a small town built atop a sandy hill. Although much of Cape Verde reflects a poor economy, this section was by far the most impoverished and surprisingly the most inviting. My Professor spoke with some of the locals outside of the van in order to ascertain directions since in this area there are no street signs. Streets are known simply by the names of the families who live on them. I gazed out the window feeling my leg numbing under the weight of Allison’s body. She had had to sit on my lap since we were five students squished into the back of a three-person car seat.
For Children’s Day, and organization held an annual fashion show. With three tables, they created a makeshift runway. The children wore an assortment of dresses and their best dress shirts; much of the clothing was donated from the organization who created Children’s Day.
The girls had vibrant eye shadow that seemed to dull the once brilliant orange on the blossoms of the acacia tree. Their hair was braided in zigzags and twirling geometric patterns. Each child’s eyes shown as they were lifted onto the runway and strut from one corner to the other. Crackling American music rang out in the background as the speakers sang, buzzed, and then fizzled into silence. Despite the unreliable soundtrack, the children smiled exuberantly as the surrounding parents clapped and hollered. An especially proud father clapped his hands around his daughter’s shoulders lifting her into the air.
Older youths sat along the rooftops to observe the festivities framed by a flocking of roosting pigeons behind them. As backdrop to their joyful procession, stood their city…full of rusting and gutted automobiles. Goats lay tethered to a wooden stake in the earth silhouetted against crumbling walls. Thatched roofs caved in under the weight of the tin shading a starving dog heaving it’s final breaths haloed in flies.
But none of this seemed relevant, at this moment the children were all that mattered. For the first round, they walked in bathing suits. Next, in summer dresses. The crescendo was prom inspired. The girls walked to the front of the cat walk and paused…waiting. A boy would climb onto the table and down the runway. He’d tap her on the shoulder and present the girl with a flower. Occasionally, a boy would kiss the girl on the hand. Not to be outdone, one boy held the carnation between his teeth, spun the girl, and then knelt before her as he presented her his flower. The audience whopped and cheered as each presentation became more elaborate.