PORTUGUESE GUINEA, a Portuguese colony in West Africa, extending along the Guinea coast from Cape Roxo in 12 19' N. to the Cogon estuary in 10 50' N. Inland it reaches to 13 40' W., being enclosed landward by French territory, the Casamance district of Senegal to the N., and French Guinea E. and S. (For map, see FRENCH WEST AFRICA.) The colony has an area of about 14,000 sq. m., and a population variously estimated at from 200,000 to 800,000. It consists largely of a low-lying deltaic region, together with an adjacent archipelago of small islands called the Bissagos.
The coast-line is deeply indented by estuaries into which flow numerous rivers whose sources are in the elevated region on the eastern border of the colony. The largest estuary, the Geba, receives the river of the same name, the Mancoa, a northern affluent, and the Rio Grande or Comba; the last a large stream rising in the highlands of Futa Jallon. North of the Geba estuary is the Rio Cacheo, while.in the south is the Rio Cassini, in reality an arm of the sea. These rivers and estuaries are connected with one another and with many smaller rivers by a network of lagoons ; and the Bissagos Islands, which lie off the Geba estuary, formed at one time part of the mainland. The Bissagos, protected seaward by dangerous breakers, consist of over thirty islands, besides many small reefs. The largest island, Orango, is the most southerly of the group and some 30 m. from the coast. Bulama and Bissao, islands of more importance, lie close to the mainland. The larger rivers can be ascended by vessels of considerable size for distances of 40 to 150 m., but navigation is rendered difficult by strong currents and the shifting nature of the channels as well as by hidden rocks and the great difference between high and low water. The climate is unhealthy, with a mean temperature of about 78 F. The rainfall is heavy, thunderstorms being frequent in the wet season, which lasts from May to October.
Flora and Fauna. Large forest regions extend behind the mangrove-lined lagoons. Their characteristic trees are the oil and date palms, the baobab, the shea-butter tree, ebony, mahogany and calabash trees, and the acacia. Rubber vines are fairly abundant. Besides the forests, densest along the river valleys, there are extensive tracts of grassland and park-like country. Fruit trees include the papaw, with fruit the size of ostrich eggs, the guava, custard apple, mango, the banana, the orange and the citron. The tobacco, indigo and cotton plants grow wild, and the coffee plant is also found. Ground-nuts and kola nuts are cultivated, and rice and millet are the chief crops grown.
The elephant is found in the district between the Geba and Grande rivers, and hippopotamus are numerous. Other animals include the panther, wild boar, various antelopes, baboons, chimpanzees and large snakes. Crocodiles and sharks abound in the rivers. Birds include the pelican, heron, marabout, the trumpet bird and innumerable yellow parrots. Partridges and woodcock are also found. The hills of the termites are a notable feature in many parts of the country.
Inhabitants. The people of the interior are mostly Mandingo (q.v .) and Fula (g.f.). The coast regions and the islands are inhabited by negro tribes which live side by side without mixing, each preserving their own customs, dress, language and type. They exhibit great attachment to the soil and are profoundly religious, being noted specially for their respect for family life and ancestral worship. Neither Christianity nor Mahommedanism has made much headway among them. Going from south to north the chief tribes are the Nalu, who dwell by the Cassini and are keen traders and lovers of peace; the Biafare or Biaffade, who occupy the region between the sea and the Rio Grande and jealously guard their country from strangers; the Bulam (Mankaie), living in the island of Bulama, and much given to adorning their bodies by long cuts formed into patterns; the Balanta, a piratical folk inhabiting the banks of the Geba; the Papel of the island of Bissao, formerly cannibals, an industrious agricultural tribe which furnishes the majority of the educated Africans employed by the Portuguese; the Manjak or Mandiago, and a branch of the Felup peoples, these last living near the Rio Cacheo in savage isolation and much given to waylaying and pillaging strangers. The Manjak inhabit the country between the Mancoa and the Cacheo, and the neighbouring islands. They are a hospitable and clever people, very adaptable, do not object to leaving their tribal lands, and are said to keep their word. Excellent seamen, good artisans and sharp traders, they maintain a sort of feudal system. Their houses are surrounded by walls, which are pierced with loopholes and provided with towers at the angles. The rooms are built round a courtyard. They examine the entrails of fowl to foretell good or evil events. The burial customs are elaborate. The body is smoked and, the skin having been removed, it is sewn up in a number of pagns (native cloths) and placed in a coffin fastened by gilded nails. Bright tissues are wrapped round the coffin, on which are hung little bells of copper and small brass mirrors. The seaward islands of the Bissagos are inhabited by an independent and warlike tribe of fishers and pirates called Bidiogos. Their women wear a short skirt made of palm leaves.
The natives who adopt Portuguese names and who form the bulk of the townsmen in the European settlements are called Gurmettes. They furnish the levies with which the authorities occasionally make war on the native tribes. The chief centres of trade are Bissao, on the island of the same name, which is surrounded by old fortifications; Cacheo, on the Rio Cacheo, also fortified; and Bulama (Boulam) on Bulama Island, the seat of the government. The European population consists of a few Portuguese officials, soldiers, traders and convicts, and a few traders of other nationalities.
History. Bulama Island was discovered by Portuguese navigators in 1446, but was not formally claimed by Portugal until 1752, about which. time she founded a station at Bissao, while in 1669 a post had been established on the Rio Grande. In 1870 a claim made by Great Britain to Bulama and a part of the mainland was disallowed by the arbitrator appointed ( President Grant of the U.S.A.). The inland limits of the Portuguese Sphere were fixed by a convention concluded with France in 1886, and the frontier was delimited during 1900-1903. Though so long settled in the district the only part of the Guinea coast west of the Gabun left in her possession Portugal has done little towards its development. With a fertile and well-watered soil, exceedingly rich in natural products, there is not much commerce, and such trade as exists, chiefly in nonPortuguese hands, is hampered by excessive customs duties and vexatious regulations. In 1905 the external trade of the colony was not more than 160,000 and was less than it had been twenty years previously. Ground-nuts, rubber, wax and ivory are the principal exports. Revenue and expenditure are about 50,000 a year. Portuguese authority does not in fact extend much beyond the few stations maintained, nor has the local government won the confidence of the natives. In 1908 Bissao and some European settlements on the mainland were besieged by the Papel and other tribes and troops had to be sent from Portugal before order could be restored. If however agriculture and commerce suffer, the ethnologist and zoologist find in this easily accessible little enclave a rich field for investigation, the almost nominal sovereignty of Portugal having left the country, practically uninfluenced by European culture, in much the same condition that it was in the 16th and i?th centuries.
See J. E. Giraud, " La Guinee portugaise " in Bull. soc. geog. Marseille (1905), vol. xxix. ; A. L. de Fonseca, " Guin6 " in Bull, soc. geog. Lisboa (1905), vol. xxiii. ; R. Wagner, " Portugiesisch Guinea: Land und Leute," in Deutsche Rundschau. (1905), vol. xxvii. ; E. de Vasconcelles, As Colonias Portugueses (Lisbon, 1896- 1897); and J. Machat, Les Rivieres du sud (Paris, 1906), in which are cited many papers dealing with Portuguese Guinea.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)