Thursday 08 Dec 2022

The Goan Diaspora in Portugal - II

In December 1961, with the annexation of Goa by the Indian Union, the first wave of around twenty thousand Goans left for Portugal for different reasons other than economic ones

The Goan Diaspora in Portugal - II

The arrival of Goans in Lisbon in December 1961.

The first Goans to travel to Portugal did so in the seventeenth century. However, this sporadic displacement is discarded as emigration because the origin of journeying was, in the overwhelming majority, the continuation of higher studies.

In those remote times, emigration to Portugal for economic reasons was out of the question, given the distance and high cost of sea voyages.

Almost two centuries later, after the creation of the Medical-Surgical School of Nova Goa, the emigration of specialised staff in the health area (doctors and pharmacists) emerged. Despite the limited number of graduates in Medicine and Pharmacy in Goa, the supply exceeded the demand. The only way out was the Portuguese colonies of Africa, Macau, and Timor, lacking these cadres mainly in the hinterlands of that colonies. On the other hand, in the case of graduates in Medicine, their degree was not recognised in the Metropolis (Mainland Portugal).

Thus, in Portugal, until the mid-twentieth century, there was a small Goan community, primarily senior management, liberal professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, teachers and students of secondary and university education, and army officers.

In December 1961, with the annexation of Goa by the Indian Union, the first wave of around twenty thousand Goans left for Portugal for different reasons other than economic ones. From here, they demanded other Portuguese colonies, mainly Mozambique, where there was already a large colony of Goans. In a much smaller number, some of them migrated to West Germany as workers in the automotive industry.

With the Carnation Revolution in April 1974, the subsequent independence of the Portuguese colonies in Africa, and the political instability in those territories, a significant part of the African Goan community decided to reorganise and restart the adventure of continuing life in Portugal.

In demographic terms, there is no reliable study from Portuguese official sources (Pordata, 2021 Census) on the number of Goans residing in Portugal.

A study carried out in 1992 mentioned 11,000 Goans residing in Portugal, of which around 6,000 were in the Lisbon area (Goa Migration Study, 2008).

The Goan Association in Lisbon (Casa de Goa) accounted for around 20,000 Goans living in Portugal. (TSF 11/01/2017), while at the Embassy of India in Portugal (Visão 4/5/2021), there are 15,000 Goans residing in this territory (the data source is lacking in these references).

The idiosyncrasy of the Goan diaspora

The difficulty in obtaining official statistical data is because all Goans residing in Portugal and having Portuguese citizenship are indistinguishable from other Portuguese citizens.

In this context, assertions on data are mere awareness based on heuristic knowledge. The vast majority of Goans in Portugal reside in the Lisbon area.

Those who came directly from Goa live predominantly in Lisbon city itself, which is comprehensible since they were first to arrive. They are mostly married to Portuguese partners, while those who came from Portuguese African colonies (mainly Mozambique) live in the neighbourhoods of Lisbon and are mostly married to partners from Goa or Goan origin.

The first generation maintains strong cultural, social, and religious ties with Goa, especially those who came directly from Goa.

In professional terms, they work in various sectors: liberal professions (doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, etc) as well as clerks, freight forwarders, bankers, civil servants, etc.

Recently, more and more Goans occupy a prominent place in the political sphere.

For the last seven years, the Portuguese prime minister of Portugal has Goan ancestry. In the previous government, two other ministers were also of Goan descent.

In global terms, in my opinion, the Goan community is well integrated into all spheres of Portuguese society!

As far as the second generation is concerned, most consort with Portuguese spouses.

The ties with the land of the parents are slowly fading away. This finding is evident in the frequency of young people at social or cultural meetings at Casa de Goa. Presence, in numerical terms, rarely exceeds two digits.

The reason for this alienation of the second generation? For full integration into the recipient society? For lack of transmission of values and traditions of the homeland by the parents? Simple inertia?

Regardless of the reasons, sooner than later, the genotype of descendants of our diaspora will be confined to the melanin pigment and the phenotype to the taste for curry and sarapatel!

[The writer is manager of the Revista da Casa de Goa magazine online edition in Portuguese and English language.]

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