Martyrs Day in São Tomé and Príncipe in 2022

Martyrs Day in São Tomé and Príncipe in 2022
Monument to the memory of the martyrs of February 3, 1953, erected in 2015 on the beach of Fernão Dias, in the north of the island of São Tomé. Image by Ji-Elle

  How long until Martyrs Day?
Martyrs Day
  Dates of Martyrs Day in São Tomé and Príncipe
2023 São Tomé and Príncipe Fri, Feb 3 National Holiday
2022 São Tomé and Príncipe Thu, Feb 3 National Holiday
2021 São Tomé and Príncipe Wed, Feb 3 National Holiday
2020 São Tomé and Príncipe Mon, Feb 3 National Holiday
2019 São Tomé and Príncipe Sun, Feb 3 National Holiday
  Summary

Commemorates the Batepá massacre that took place on February 3rd 1953 in São Tomé when hundreds of native creoles were massacred by the colonial administration and Portuguese landowners.

  Local name
Dia dos Mártires

When is Martyr's Day?

Martyr's Day is a public holiday on the island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe observed on February 3rd each year.

Known as Dia de Mártires da Liberdade in Portuguese, this holiday commemorates the Batepá massacre that took place on this day in 1953

History of Martyr's Day

The story of São Tomé and Príncipe is a little different to the usual colonial tale played out on the African mainland. When the Portuguese arrived in the 15th century, the islands were uninhabited. To work on the islands' sugar plantations this meant the arrival of African slaves and degredados ("undesirables" sent from Portugal), who became the native creoles, known as forros.

By the early 20th century São Tomé was one of the world's largest cocoa producers. This was labour-intensive work that meant the Portuguese had to bring in contracted workers from their other overseas territories as the forros refused to do the work.

The working conditions of the contracted labour was seen as barely better than slavery. In response, a boycott by European chocolate producers led to some reforms but created a serious labour shortage. The government tried to address the issue by getting the forros to do some of the work done by contracted labour.

Many forros refused to do the work and began protests. In response, the governor blamed the unrest on communists and ordered the military to round up such individuals and for civilians to protect themselves. This quickly turned into a bloodbath, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of forros. No communist conspiracy was ever proven.

Although the massacre is named after the starting point in the village of Batepá, the violence was more widespread.

The massacre was said to be the crucible for the nationalist movement that would result in independence from Portugal in 1975.

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