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In being denied literacy under Portuguese colonialism and its aftermath and in caring for their own literacy and selves, African slave women and their land-born descendants, Cape Verdean women, became the protectors of many African-centered Cape Verdean cultural literacies (CVCL). Like Linda Tillman who specializes in culturally appropriate methodologies of research, I define cultural literacies as the various ways of “thinking, believing, and knowing that include shared experiences, consciousness, skills, values, forms of expression, social institutions, and behaviors” that tie individuals to different and specific discourse communities (4). I use CVCL to refer to literacies used by a large majority of Cape Verdeans with the understanding that Cape Verdeans also belong to social groups with other sets of literacies that are just as valid as CVCL (Gee vii-ix; Street 77). Koladeras may be understood as women who improvise, string together, and sing complicated, impromptu tales about their lives and those in their community, especially during feasts for saints. I argue that koladeras, because they are present in feasts for saints throughout the Cape Verdean diaspora, are transgenerational, transmigatory literacy educators of CVCL. In the pages that follow, I provide a brief historical account of Cape Verde as it pertains to the formation of CVCL, and I discuss—through the opening narrative, an account shared by Nha Titina (a koladera), and my own experiences—how koladeras are literacy educators responsible for the survival of CVCL throughout the Cape Verdean diaspora despite institutional attempts of erasure.


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