São Tomé and Príncipe is an island country located off the coast of Central Africa. São Tomé and Príncipe stand for “Saint Thomas” and “Prince” respectively. These islands have also been given the nickname Chocolate Islands. This week we are looking at a beautiful and bright note from São Tomé and Príncipe, the 10 Dobras p71a 2018. This note features Portuguese text, butterflies, coat of arms, a portrait of Rei Amador, a cocoa pod, a map of Sao Tome, and Prinia molleri perched on a branch.

São Tomé is a city located on São Tomé and Príncipe, and was founded in 1493 by Álvaro Caminha. The city is one of the oldest colonial cities in Africa. The Portuguese wanted a place hospitable to growing sugarcane, and with the climate in São Tomé they were able to grow sugarcane in abundance. However, the uninhabited island needed workers, and the Portuguese met this need by bringing over settlers which included many convicts, Jewish children who were separated from their parents, and African slaves. For a time, São Tomé was the world’s largest producer of sugar, but after a brief time Brazil replaced São Tomé in sugar production.

After the loss of its cash crop, São Tomé went into an economic decline which was heightened by slaves escaping and raiding plantations. During this time, Rei Amador helped to lead a slave rebellion. On 9 July 1595, Rei Amador, and his people, the Angolars, allied with other enslaved Africans, battled against the Portuguese. There are many different versions of what took place, but Rei Amador and the Angolars took control of the island from 1595 until 4 January 1596 when Rei Amador was captured and imprisoned. He would later be executed, but is still fondly remembered by the nation as a hero.

With the need to boost the economy, São Tomé became a depot for the Portuguese slave trade to Brazil. On the island, the slaves would be transferred to larger ships to make the journey across the Atlantic Ocean, and the islanders would produce food for these voyages. This only came to an end when Brazil gained its independence in 1822, and with the suppression of slavery in Portuguese territories. It was around this same time that coffee and cocoa were introduced. During the 1890’s, São Tomé became one of the largest producers of cocoa. Portuguese brought in contract workers to the plantations or roças; however, they were little different from slaves. The roças did offer schools and hospitals for their workers, but they were mainly just to impress those who traveled to the island.

With World War I brought the decline of cocoa production, a fall in the economy, and a lack of workers. There were attempts to force local free people to work on the plantations and that led to the Batepá Massacre in 1953. This event was used later when São Tomé and Príncipe pushed for their independence from Portuguese rule. On 12 July 1975, São Tomé and Príncipe gained their independence, and many Portuguese colonists returned to Portugal. In the aftermath, many of the roças fell into ruin and cocoa production slipped away. Nevertheless, in recent years, São Tomé and Príncipe’s cocoa industry has been gaining more investors and momentum again.

When I looked at the note São Tomé and Príncipe 10 Dobras p71a 2018, the first thing I noticed was the bright colors, but I quickly learned there is a deep history shown on this note too. I love the celebration of a hero who wanted to see slavery abolished, and who doesn’t love chocolate? I hope you enjoyed learning more about this small country and about the images used on this note. You can take a closer look at this note, or add this note to your collection by heading to the website.

Country: Sao Tome (Saint Thomas & Prince)
Denomination: 10 Dobras
Pick #: 71a
Year: 2018 (2016)
Grade: UNC
Other Info: Polymer Note
Coloration: Red
Depictions: Butterfly; Crest; Bank building in background; Prinia Mollen Bird (Sao Tome Prinia Bird) perched on a branch; Map of Sao Tome
Note Size: 5 1/4″ x 2 1/2″
Continent: Africa
Watermark: Rei Amador