If Cameroon is "Africa in miniature," then understanding this California-sized coastal nation takes one closer to capturing the story of this remarkable continent. Serving as a European trade portal, Cameroon boasts a rich, cross-cultural history that has fostered a society with a wide range of lifestyles and belief systems. As early as the fifth century b.c., curious travelers sailed along the coast to watch Cameroon's volcano erupt. But it wasn't until the Portuguese arrived on the coast in 1472 that the country became a launching point for the slave trade. In the 19th and early 20th centuries Germans, and later French and British colonists, occupied and westernized Cameroon. Cameroon gained its independence in 1960. Today it is among the most stable countries of West Africa.