|Cesária Évora International Airport baptized|
t’s official: São Vicente’s airport is now Cesária Évora International Airport. The plaque featuring the barefoot diva’s name at the island’s main port of entry will be unveiled this Thursday, March 8 – a special moment for Cape Verdeans and, especially, for the people of São Vicente, who are proud of the locally born and raised singer whose voice put Cape Verde’s name on the world map.
The sign with the name “Cesária Évora International Airport” will be placed between the arrival and departure terminals at the airport, shining the same light Cesária always gave off when on stage and which seduced listeners around the world. The ceremony in which the airport is to be baptized will be presided over by Prime Minister José Maria Neves this afternoon, Thursday, March 8, International Women’s Day. The choice of the date was also made with the barefoot diva in mind. “Cize was a woman of the world. That was how everyone saw Cesária: a woman who, through music and art, crossed geographic, cultural and even linguistic borders, transforming her song into a planetary hymn. We are paying homage to all the women of the world,” explains Mário Paixão, the CEO of Airport and Air Security company ASA.
Artists, political personalities from all over the archipelago and everyday citizens will attend the ceremony, which will also feature the presence of Paixão and São Vicente mayor Augusto Neves.
Cesária, the soul of Cape Verde
The decision to give Cesária Évora’s name to São Pedro Airport resulted from a grass-roots initiative. Immediately following the diva’s death, voices from São Vicente, other islands and the émigré community began “demanding” an honor that would do justice to her legacy. The demand was met by the Cape Verdean government, and ASA embraced the idea. “It’s the way the government and population of Cape Verde found to pay homage to an individual who was a great artist, one of the best-known voices of Cape Verde and the world, and our country’s most prominent ambassador. When the Prime Minister contacted me, I immediately expressed our total agreement with the idea, and I told him we’d do all in our power to ensure that the renaming of the airport would honor Cesária Évora’s memory,” says Mário Paixão. In the view of ASA’s head administrator, the name does honor to a personality who embodies the essence of what it means to be Cape Verdean. “A Cape Verde of simplicity, fraternity, welcoming, solidarity, work and persistence – Cesária Évora was all of this. All of us as Cape Verdeans see ourselves reflected in the image of this woman who did not bend, did not break, and sang to ease her suffering. Cesária is the pure soul of Cape Verde, which neither bends nor breaks. Cize represents this Cape Verdeanness.”
Passenger traffic expected to increase
Giving Cesária Évora’s name to São Vicente’s international airport will increase air traffic, and, subsequently, the number of passengers making their way to the island, believes ASA. Indeed, forecasts for 2012 are promising – including the news that ASA is negotiating a license for a French airline to carry out direct flights to São Vicente.
According to Mário Paixão, the impact Cesária Évora’s name will have on the island in terms of flights and tourism in the near future is not yet tangible. He is certain, however, that after focusing on international flights, the flow of passengers landing at and departing from the airport will increase significantly.
Statistics show an upward curve since the opening of the airport to international flights in 2009, and international aircraft traffic rose 110% between 2010 and 2011 – last year, the airport saw 271 international flights, as opposed to 129 in 2010.
The number of passengers using the airport has risen as well. According to the airport’s annual report, 13,176 passengers passed through the airport in 2010, a figure that jumped to 23,231 in 2011. Thus far, Cesária Évora International Airport has been receiving flights operated by TACV Cabo Verde Airlines and Portuguese company TAP to and from Lisbon (Portugal), Amsterdam (the Netherlands), Paris (France) and Boston (United States).
Statue welcomes visitors
Cesária Évora will welcome all of those disembarking on the island of São Vicente Thursday with microphone in hand. The three-meter-high statue made by Domingos Luísa will be the main feature of the square being built in front of the passenger terminal. The statue will eternalize Cize as the “trademark” of Mindelo, the city where she was born and where she took her first steps toward international fame. The size of the statue is intended to transmit the barefoot diva’s artistic grandeur.
In the view of Mário Paixão, Cesária Évora’s image at the entryway to São Vicente will add value to the island. “No one better than her to welcome those visiting São Vicente. Everyone will have the positive vision that she had on the stage of life and realize that Cape Verde acknowledges the value of its sons and daughters. This is a major responsibility we have in our hands. And we’re going to make this airport provide quality services in order to be worthy of Cesária’s name,” he stresses.
The statue will be located at the center of the square that is nearly completed at the airport entrance. The square will have benches and green space, where tourists and locals will be able to enjoy the sun and clean air Cape Verde has to offer. The investment – square and statue together – totals some 11,500,000 escudos.
A major concert will take place immediately following the official ceremony. The show is to be produced by Djô da Silva, the singer’s manager and great friend.
The two-hour concert will feature Tito Paris, Nancy Vieira, Constantino Cardoso and Arlbertino Évora, who will perform the mornas and coladeiras Cize made popular throughout the world.
Organizers expect thousands of people to attend the ceremony, and ASA will make buses available at various points throughout the island to transport residents to and from São Pedro, where the airport is located.
When all is done, the barefoot diva’s soul will linger on at Cesária Évora International Airport, providing eternal accompaniment to departures and homecomings…