Commemoration Of The Batepa Massacre
Commemoration of the Batepa Massacre is a public holiday that’s observed on February 3rd each year in Sao Tome and Principe and is sometimes referred to as Martyr’s Day. It honors the victims of the Batepa Massacre who were killed by Portuguese landowners and the colonial administration in 1953.
Hundreds of native creoles, known as forros, were killed under the excuse that there was a communist conspiracy to cause unrest was in place—a conspiracy that was never proven to be true. Although the name of the massacre and the holiday that commemorates it is named after Batepá—the village where the violence started, it was only the starting point and the violence committed against forros was widespread.
The History Of The Commemoration of the Batepa Massacre
When the Portuguese arrived in Sao Tome and Principe in the 15th century, the islands were uninhabited. The Portuguese wanted to create sugar plantations on the islands, so they decided that they needed to import African slaves and “undesirable” people from Portugal to work the sugar plantations. These people would become the native creoles—also known as Forros.
Competition from other sugar-producing colonies began to hurt the islands economically, so new cash crops were introduced to São Tomé and Príncipe and these were coffee and cacao. Cocoa production was labor-intensive so during the early 20th century, and the forros refused to do the work, so contracted workers were brought in by the Portuguese.
The working conditions at the time were horrible, which led to a boycott by European chocolate producers. This would lead to reforms in São Tomé and Príncipe but also lead to a severe labor shortage. To combat the problem, the government attempted to get the forros to do some of the work that was once done by contracted labor.
The forros refused to do the work and began to protest. The governor blamed the unrest on communists and ordered a roundup of all individuals involved. He also ordered landowners in the area to take measures to defend themselves. This lead to the bloodbath that would become known as the Batepá Massacre.
Observing The Commemoration of the Batepa Massacre
This day is commemorated with special memorial services for the victims of this massacre. It’s also a public holiday, so schools and many businesses in the country are closed.