Friday, December 7, 2018
Goa: SOULS, SPICES and SEX
SoulS, SpiceS and Sex
The Struggle for European Ascendancy in
1510 – 1961
First published in 2018 by Cinnamon Teal Publishing
This book has been compiled by Tensing Rodrigues from the author’s manuscripts and has been edited by Fr. Savio Rodrigues s.j.
I don’t pretend to be an academic but that does not mean that I do not admire and appreciate works by academics, especially historical non-fiction novels. I have lived the life of a researcher, although in the least fraction of things and so I can minutely appreciate the labour of love of those who spend, sometimes their whole lives, locked in libraries, the basements, the storage dungeons … those dark, dank and unforgiving places … dedicated only to seeking the truth, finding the long, long lost missing pieces to literary puzzles.
Souls, Spices and Sex by Professor Lourdino Rodrigues (compiled by his son Tensing Rodrigues) is to me a very interesting books on Goan-Portuguese. Thousands will disagree and I respect that. Writing by academics can often mean a drudgery of facts, facts, and more facts, figures, dates, and endless streams of what seems minutiae to ordinary folks. Sometimes you have to sift the chaff from the wheat to see the grains of nourishment for the hungry mind. This is such a book, just a little. However, I suspect there is a plethora of books on the subjects touched with such dedication by Professor Rodrigues but it is essential that every Goan, especially those in the diaspora and who are not versed in the histories of Mother Goa, should embrace this treasure with open hearts and minds.
“This book is about Alfonso de Albuquerque’s grand dream of creating in Asia a community of people who would be loyal to the Portuguese crown not just politically but emotionally as well.
“Albuquerque had conceived a three-pronged attack on Goan Identity conversion to Christianity, annihilation of the native language and the mixing of the blood.
“Once these three roots of identity – religion language and race – were severed, Albuquerque expected Goans to be a lost people, naturally gravitating towards a Portuguese identity”
I have always been intrigued by the anthropology of the Goan. How much of mixing of bloods took place, what races were involved, why are some Goans fair skinned and others, like myself, well and truly tanned, and yet others truly as black as the night. Why do most of us have brown eyes, while others have light coloured eyes (cat’s eyes) and there are a few who have the northern European hue of blue in their eyes. Why?
A friend wrote: My head was spinning by the time I finished going through this interesting and well-researched presentation. It so happens that I had one of Prof. Lourdino's articles about "Miscegenation" in Goa (written some 60 years back) but I have yet to find it in my cluttered collection. Tensing has done a commendable job in assembling his late father's material about inter-marriages and the "mestiços" in Goa.
Re-visiting a book in Portuguese, by a journalist/historian, I find that when Albuquerque invaded Goa in 1510, 2,000 Musolman (Muslim) soldiers perished and some 3,000 drowned in trying to cross the river Mandovi to escape. It was common knowledge that Albuquerque's army had fire-power that the rulers did not. Amongst other things, he granted freedom to the "religious" children of the killed soldiers and prohibited "Sati" (the practice of widows throwing themselves on their husband's funeral pyre), promoted mixed marriages so that Portuguese blood could mix "generously" with "local elements". These moves enhanced the church's evangelical purpose too. In less than two years about 400 families were "constituted" in this manner. As an incentive, the newly-weds received land, a house, a horse and money from the new State. It is noted that the "selected "women in these mixed marriages d produce mestiços as they were "white" women of Turkish and Aryan descent. A group "totally different" from any in the peninsula was created. Also, we must not forget that in Goa itself, the strict Hindu caste system (continued by the converts) "insulated" the upper classes against exogamy (marrying outsiders).
While all this knowledge is valuable from a historical perspective, without in any way minimizing its importance, to me, personally, it is essentially not of any great significance simply because only about 1% of the population fell in the category of mestiços. In a sense, it would be like the tail wagging the dog, to give it undue attention.
Permit me to digress on to a really significant piece of work by Prof. Lourdino. He was a very modest man, with simple tastes and no ostentation. At his desk or in his home he followed a minimalist agenda. I was at his place in Santa Cruz in the 1980s and, by co-incidence; he was being interviewed by an All-Goa radio team. I was impressed by his eloquence and effort-less responses about the nuances of our native tongue, Konkani. Little did I know that he was an authority on the subject and that he was quite at-home in Portuguese, English and Marathi. He gave me an autographed copy of his book "Mahabharot" (Adi Porv). He had taken considerable pains to retrieve priceless information from the archives of the Braga Library in Portugal about Konkani. He even found that Konkani had a vocabulary that was richer than that of Portuguese or Marathi in the 16th century. He was simply an amazing man.
Yet another friend opined: Albuquerque truly merits his name as the "The Great Albuquerque" for his naval conquests. The US Navy trying to hold on to the Indian Ocean, will be envious on how he commanded the seas from Aden to Malacca just with sailing ships and leadership.
We should not indict Albuquerque for the entire goings on in Goa. He was Governor only from 1509-1515 (died on the seas returning to Portugal). He had many detractors, some claiming to the King that Goa was not worth the cost of occupation, and that Albuquerque retained it to enhance his own reputation (Vasco da Gama & his Successors - author K.G. Jayne - picked up a copy for 10 shillings from a used bookshop in Richmond UK, used to live there).
Until then, Portugal had imagined that they could function as a floating power without the need for a naval base. This was found to be impracticable. Ships had to be hauled on to sheltered land to scrape off the barnacles off their hulls, repairs leaks, masts, sails and timbers for the precarious voyage back to Europe. So, when Timoja, the local Hindu warlord battling the Muslims, came up with an offer to help Albuquerque to seize Old Goa, a sheltered port 12 miles inland, it made sense. We (Goans) were collateral damage, not part of the grand scheme.
One must also remember that until 1542 when St Francis Xavier came to Goa no serious effort was expended in making us Christaos. The Portuguese confined themselves to Old Goa, seldom venturing to nearby Salcete of Bardez. (Viz: the US today huddled in Bagram base in Afghanistan) They even doubted that we (as Hindus) were possessed of souls.
It seems that only after the Council of Trent, Holy Mother the Church (aka the Holy Roman Empire), in response to the Protestant Reformation, and in a bid to recover spiritual (and political ) power, asked the Portuguese to get a move on and establish a Catholic foothold in the East. The Jesuits and other religious orders were quick to jump on the bandwagon, so to speak, and boost the statistics of heathens baptized, and, as a by-product, fatten their coffers!
We (Goans) seem to be the results of this adventure, more from inadvertence rather than design.
In the prologue, Professor Rodrigues explains one of the key elements of the book, the fate of the mesticos: In the following pages I have endeavoured to outline the history of the mestiços or half-castes of Goa from the earliest times, that is, since the arrival of the Portuguese to the East in the XVI century, to the present date. It is a fact that through the four and half centuries of the Portuguese rule in India there took place mixed unions between the white men and Indian women, both legitimate and illegitimate, and therefore their progeny can be named rightfully as mestiços; but for a period of about two hundred years, when Portugal was overcrowded with female population, her kings dispatched to Portuguese India regular annual batches of white damsels, under the name of King’s Orphan Girls, to marry with the Portuguese men in the East, and the offspring of such pure blood Portuguese were authentic European descendants. Though theoretically these two categories are clearly distinct, in reality, after a lapse of some time, no distinction was possible, more so because the marriages of the pure Portuguese men and women in India were in very small number, compared with overwhelmingly numerous mixed marriages of Portuguese men and Indian women, and this fact led the two groups in later generations to intermarry freely and thus form the same white colony, so that mestiços and decedents are to be taken as synonymous expressions.
“It is a fact, that through the four and half centuries of Portuguese rule in India, the miscegenation of white men and Indian women, both by legitimate and illegitimate unions, gave place to a progeny, that can be rightfully named as Mestiços.
It is a fact, that through the four and half centuries of Portuguese rule in India, the miscegenation of white men and Indian women, both by legitimate and illegitimate unions, gave place to a progeny, that can be rightfully named as Mestiços.
But for a period of about two hundred years, when Portugal was overcrowded with a population of females, her kings dispatched to Portuguese India, regular annual batches of white girls, under the name of the “King’s Orphan Girls” (Orfãs d’El Rei), in order to marry the Portuguese men in the East. The offspring of such pure Portuguese blood were the European descendants. Theoretically these two categories are very clearly distinct.
For a period of about two centuries, the Portuguese fleets left for India carrying every year between 2,000 and 4,000 persons, out of whom about one twentieth might have been women.1 So taking the annual emigration as 2,000, the total number for 200 years would be 4,00,000 souls, the twentieth part of which, i.e. the feminine emigration, would be 20,000; it means that the sexwise emigration was: 380,000 men, and 20,000 women; so it means also that only 20,000 men could be absorbed by marriage with Portugal born women, and assuming that another 10,000 men would have married to India born Portuguese women, it can be inferred that only 30,000 males out of 380,000 would have consorted with white females. It finally leads to the conclusion that 350,000 white men should have entered into union with native women. That the number of Portuguese women in relation to their men in India was low beyond compare is agreed by all as it was obvious.
“But for a period of about two hundred years, when Portugal was overcrowded with a population of females, her kings dispatched to Portuguese India, regular annual batches of white girls, under the name of the “King’s Orphan Girls” (Orfãs d’El Rei), in order to marry the Portuguese men in the East. The offspring of such pure Portuguese blood were the European descendants. Theoretically these two categories are very clearly distinct.
“For a period of about two centuries, the Portuguese fleets left for India carrying every year between 2,000 and 4,000 persons, out of whom about one twentieth might have been women.1 So taking the annual emigration as 2,000, the total number for 200 years would be 4,00,000 souls, the twentieth part of which, i.e. the feminine emigration, would be 20,000; it means that the sex-wise emigration was: 380,000 men, and 20,000 women; so it means also that only 20,000 men could be absorbed by marriage with Portugal born women, and assuming that another 10,000 men would have married to India born Portuguese women, it can be inferred that only 30,000 males out of 380,000 would have consorted with white females. It finally leads to the conclusion that 350,000 white men should have entered into union with native women. That the number of Portuguese women in relation to their men in India was low beyond compare is agreed by all as it was obvious.”
The mixing of blood began in 1502 when Vasco da Gama anchored in a place called Quiloa off the Eastern coast of Africa. Here a number of “Mohamedan” women took refuge from the cruel husbands. They were brought to India converted and married off to Portuguese sailors at Cannanore and Cochin.
Further mixed unions took place in Cochin, during the rule of Dom Francisco de Almeida, the first Viceroy of Portuguese India, who assumed office on 12th Sept 1505.
“The viceroy was informed that the conversion of many heathen women, to the Christian religion had taken place, by virtue of the relationships his men maintained with them. These women were pretty fair, but desolate, and available at a low price. Mothers often sold the virginity of their young daughters for the pleasure of men. Consequently, laws pertaining to this issue were enacted, prescribing punishments, in order to check these abuses. And as the viceroy was advised, that the purpose of the above conversions was only material welfare and not the love of the Christian faith, he instructed the clergy, that only fair and pretty women should be administered baptism, with a view to changing their aim for conversion. As a result of the viceroy’s instructions, the Portuguese not only bestowed upon the Indian women affection and riches, but this also attracted other women to the new faith, after seeing the prosperity of their Christian companions. Some Muslim women also, despite the vigilance of their husbands, managed to escape from their household and enter into the Christian fold. Although these new converts had not received holy baptism, with a pure intention, Our Lord by his great mercy, has enlightened their true path to salvation, so as to make them perfect Christian ladies, as presently, one can see them practicing good devotion and charity.”
Albuquerque’s racial plan (a Portuguese mixed race) for India looked like it would succeed. By the middle of the 17th Century “the white colony of Portuguese India had attained the figure of about 80,000 persons.” However, it failed.
A Goan scholar Constancio Roque da Costa explains it as follows : “Moreover, for one community to assimilate another, it is necessary that the former be either numerically superior so as to overwhelm the latter community, or be culturally and intellectually superior so as to win the other community by admiration, …. But between Portugal and India, the numerical superiority of the latter was overwhelming, and the intellectual superiority of the former was not remarkable. The plan of Afonso de Albuquerque, therefore was bound to fail, both for lack of a social basis and for errors committed in its execution.”
Professor Rodrigues: … Though the last bastion of the Portuguese Empire in the East has been lost with the loss of Goa, Daman and Diu, for many centuries to come, traces of Portuguese blood and of their language, will be found in many places of the world where the Portuguese had left their racial footprint. The white pigment of their skin is visibly diluted, into that of the local population, while the Portuguese language is corrupted into creole dialects. Goa did preserve its legacy of Portuguese language for many years; however, slowly but surely the Portuguese spoken in many Goan families sounds more like the Honolulu dialect. The then Portuguese overseas minister M.M. Sarmento Rodrigues, remarked that even as late as 1952, during his official visits across the globe he came across Portuguese speaking communities in India, Macau, Timor, Malacca, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Honolulu, San Francisco, Oakland, New York and Boston.
But nowhere the Portuguese colonial expansion originated such a characteristic blend of civilizations as in India. “Two great civilizations, in stark contrast to each other on so many counts, entered here into a fecund contact. In this contact lies essentially the uniqueness of Goa”. But, in the course of time, the blood scattered by the Portuguese in Indian veins will become indistinguishable, and in a few hundred years more, the apparent homogeneity of the Indian race will be restored.
This is just a tiny glimpse of Professor Rodrigues’ superb book. What awaits the reader can be multiplied by the thousands. To bring a lot more clarity in explanation, my friend John Nazareth is working on a companion piece which will focus on his pet village of Moira and what transpired there from the arrival of the Portuguese.
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