In 1498 Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama became the first European to set foot on the shores of Mozambique. By the next century, this region along the southeastern edge of Africa had become a colony of Portugal. For almost 500 years the region remained under Portuguese rule, until years of armed conflict and struggle brought independence in 1975. The warfare did not end, however, as the brutal civil war that followed lasted until the early 1990s. Although peace has come to Mozambique, its people continue to face many challenges, including severe droughts and devastating cyclones. However, the fledgling democracy has made economic progress. Today, the government is working to alleviate poverty and increase the standard of living for the people of Mozambique.