Some four years after the volcano erupted melting everything down its path in Cape Verde’s Cha das Caldeira's valley -- the surface of the small, rebuilt shelters are warm to the touch. “We constructed too quickly on lava that had not yet cooled down,” says hotel owner Marisa Lopes, in her early 30s. “For the first months, the floors in the rooms were so hot that you couldn’t walk on them with bare feet.”
Maria is one of those entrepreneurs stuck up in a perpetual tug of war with the Pico do Fogo volcano standing over Cha das Caldeiras, whose population numbers 500. The name actually means Peak of Fire in Portuguese.
The volcano gives birth to the bulk of the crater community’s gross domestic product, fetching some 5,000 tourists every year who need hotel beds, food and tour guides and about 30 earn their livings as guides in this remote part of West Africa.
On the other side, the dangerous giant ejects once a generation like six times in the last 200 years, disrupting everything in its path; crops, homes, roads. Until on November 2014 Maria watched helplessly as the Pico -- almost 2,900 meters (9,500 feet) high -- erupted after 19-year slumber, destroying everything around. As obvious, the lava engulfed her brand new tourist hostel, eponymously named as Casa Marisa. And yet, three months later, she built a new one, again in the flow zone of the crater.
“The volcano took a house from me, but it gave me another. Without it, there would be no tourism,” she told AFP, undeterred.
Despite the threats posed and government efforts to dissuade them, the inhabitants of Cha das Caldeiras keep going back to the danger place.
After the last eruption took place, the military evacuated those in the path of the crater and the state provided food aid for six months afterward. But it was the people who alone went to the extent of reconstructing roads and gather the materials for rebuilding homes and hotels. Yet again, time and again.
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