Goa Through the Eyes of a Portuguese Woman



A little history lesson before we commence. India has been the playground of the feisty European colonialists for centuries now. Most pockets were returned to the Republic of India in the 20th century. It is pertinent to note that the French have kept the soft power alive and strong in their former enclave of Pondicherry. In stark contrast, Portugal hasn’t quite managed to pull this off with Goa.

India Map

An Indian national of Goan origin, I have met numerous European travelers who spend months on end traveling through a continent of sorts called India. When I say Europeans, the French and Germans top the list followed by the rest: Spanish, Scandinavians, Italians, Polish, etc. The Portuguese backpackers have been conspicuous by their absence which led me to wonder why unlike their European counterparts, they were not attracted to karma, yoga, mantra, tantra and sari.

Also unlike Pondicherry, which is turning into a veritable hot bed for French nationals (both retired and fresh graduates) reeling from the economic crisis, Goa hasn’t managed to attract Portuguese citizens to benefit from the inexpensive Indian life.  Meanwhile, you have enterprising French nationals setting up bilingual websites (English and French) designed to attract French expats to Pondicherry. And then I met, a young Portuguese traveler in Pondy who had actually visited Goa. She spoke about how Goa was represented in school texts while growing up in Lisbon, whilst also acknowledging that the Portuguese presence is almost nil in Goa. You can find more of her travel stories on her blog 



                                                                                             Who I am?


With the name of Catarina Piedade, I was born in Lisbon, Portugal, where I lived all my life and worked 17 years as a civil engineer. Last year, after some short holidays in Asia and South America, I felt a growing a desire to spend more time traveling in order to have more contact with people of other cultures. So, six months ago, I decided to make a pause in my work and start my journey! Presently I’m in Nepal, after five months in India.


Lisbon Night

Streets of Lisbon

What I heard about Goa while growing up through friends, family, school, history books

Even today, in schools, the history books don’t tell much about Goa; it is mentioned like they mention the other colonies. Although Goa and Damão and Diu were under Portuguese domination for many centuries, they were small and very far from Portugal. We learn that they were an important source of spices and a port in the commercial route to the Orient.
What I learned about Goa, especially in journals and magazines is more related with the process of decolonization, which is closely connected with the fascist government that ruled Portugal during 50 years.

               Indians in Lisbon

The Goans became Portuguese nationals because they were born under the Portuguese domination, but they were originally of Goan origin. Anyway when I grew up, I met some Goans in Lisbon who had grandparents and older relatives in Goa who they never saw, and never even considered the possibility to make such a long journey to visit them. Also by their face and the color of the skin is hard to imagine that they have Indian roots. The language connection was lost a long time ago; the only thing that remains is the food with all the spices and the famous samosas (we call it chamuças) that are a famous snack.



My impressions of Goa as I grew older

When I grew up, Goa was famous for the rave parties and trance music, which completely changed the scenery, becoming, in my imagination, a place of hippies. Most of the people that I met who visited or even lived in India were from other Europeans countries, and weren’t really concerned about the culture or traditions.

Hippie Carnival, Goa

Hippie in Goa

Why Portuguese nationals do not visit Goa unlike other nationalities who visit

It’s true, I did not meet many Portuguese who traveled to Goa: it’s expensive. Also India scares many Portuguese who prefer higher standard holiday in resorts and spas. Actually even during the last years of the Portuguese domination, Portuguese families did not emigrate to Goa frequently. In sharp contrast, many Portuguese people left Portugal to work in the other Portuguese colonies of Angola and Brasil.
Anyway, the few Portuguese that travel to India today always include Goa in the map… there’s a certain curiosity to see what left from the Portuguese presence.

Goan Community Today in Lisbon

Nowadays, I think we can’t talk about a Goan community. What still remains and which connects several people is Mozambique where many Goans of my generation were born. Their parents left Goa after the Indian Independence.
Most of the Goans I meet today in Lisbon are involved in commercial activity. Beyond restaurants serving Goan food, they have shops of clothes, food and furniture. The young ones are completely assimilated in the Portuguese society; Goa is just a far place where they one day would like to visit and where they know that they have some relatives.

Difference Between Pondicherry and Goa

Goa has welcomed international travelers since the 1960s, mostly British expats, Israelis and Russians.

Nowadays there is no close connection between Portugal and Goa. There is nothing to attract the Portuguese to Goa except the beaches. Even the inexpensive life is smashed by the expensive plain tickets.-

In Pondy we can really feel the French presence in the everyday life.


French House in Pondy
French House in Pondy
French Church
French Church
Le Promenade
Le Promenade

In Goa, the Portuguese didn’t left any cultural or social institution, like school, libraries, cultural centers, anything that keeps the link; or if they did, they have such a discrete presence that I didn’t notice in the short time I spent there. I didn’t see any businesses like shops, restaurant or cafés with the Portuguese style, like we saw the French doing in Pondicherry.

The language is only spoken by a few old people, and there is no particular effort to teach or pass it to the new generations in Goa. Soon all will be lost.
What remains the religion… but it follows its own path.

When I see churches in Goa and also Indian Catholics who were converted, what thoughts run in my mind?

The religion is part of the culture, specially during the beginning of the 14th century, when the Catholic Church supported the movement that we call Descobertas which contained the new maritime routes and also new countries. This is however not a politically correct term to use because many of these territories were already inhabited and had a strong culture. The Portuguese just put them on the map, and didn’t “discover” them.
At that time it was normal that on arriving to a country, the Portuguese, (like all the other colonizers) would want to impose what they thought was the true religion to the “barbarian” culture they found. Even after all these centuries, the Catholic Church is part of the identity and the culture of Goa, and must be respected and seen with all the historic context of those times.
Also it is important to remember that almost all religions were spread by imposition of a king, an ethical domination, by politics or war. I think that the implementation of the Catholic religion in Goa is a natural result of the Portuguese presence, as was the language and the gastronomy.
We impose but we also assimilate… it´s the history of the countries.

Panaji Church, Goa - India.

Immaculate Conception Church in Panjim (Goa)


I have traveled across India. Did I find that Goa has a different vibe compared to the rest of India?

Of course, Goa has a different feeling… chill, calm… But all the states in India are different. Goa is more organized and apparently there is less poverty, and I don’t feel much the demographic pressure that is a characteristic of the most of the Indian states I visit.

Agonda Beach Dusk
Agonda Beach Dusk


Maybe it was a combination of the relaxed Goan lifestyle mixed with the climate and the wonderful beaches, that attracted the Westerners during the 60’s. But I don’t think that this feeling was a result of the Portuguese presence. Maybe the free consumption of alcohol is part of our legacy.
Anyway, my perception of Goa was not so deep as for example Pondicherry or other cities where I stayed for several weeks in this last visit to India.

—– Thanks Catarina for this recount.

Nicola Desouzaa

A freelance writer by profession, photography is my 2nd language but I feel it giving way to moving pictures. I love my dog and my grandmother above all things. My inspirations: Asia Argento (director, writer, actor, poet, photographer, DJ, singer, model) and Charlie Chaplin.

11 responses to “Goa Through the Eyes of a Portuguese Woman

  1. The soul of Goa is Portuguese. Goans are re-connecting with their Portuguese colonial past. There is this feeling of a Portuguese renaissance in Goa, so much so that the Portuguese language is being taught with great enthusiasm in the schools. Portuguese music, cultures, customs, language are presently embraced with a fervor like never before. Goans feel like they are part of CPLP (Community of Portuguese Speaking Nations) – 11 countries/territories in all, spread out all across the globe. Portuguese is spoken officially in 5 continents by 280 million people, and many all over the world are learning Portuguese as a second language like never before. India is a member of the CPLP Portuguese Olympic Games. India has shown a great interest in becoming an associate member of the CPLP.

  2. I think you spent too little a time in Goa to really appreciate the culture and maybe on your next visit you should spend more time going into the villages and doing more research into the Culture and the Goan Community at large. Contrary to your assumption that there is no Vibrant community in Goa, I was there last year and one must only visit the churches and feel the difference between the culture of Goa and the rest of India. Goans especially of the Christian Faith have migrated far and wide and wherever they have gone, they continue with the traditions of old like celebrations of Feasts, cultural activities like Dances and grand ceremonies at Baptisms confirmations and communions. I was in Australia last year, and was gratified to note that the culture was maintained. Even here in Canada, there is a vibrant Goan community carrying on the traditions like Thiatr, feasts and other activities. It is true however that many of the younger generation do not speak the Portuguese language, this is because India was colonized by the British and the English language is now more expedient. I would like to point out to you that Portuguese Law is still used in Goa for property and succession issues. Another anomaly I find is that you state that Goans migrated to Angola and Mozambique after India’s Independence, This is not true, Goans migrated to East Africa and the Portuguese colonies long before India’s independence in fact, there are records of Goan immigration to Portugal, British East Africa and the Portuguese territories dating back to the 1800’s due to mainly the Portuguese total inadequacy of spurring economic prosperity hence the necessity to migrate for betterment. I would also state that Goa depended largely on the remittances from the diaspora for its economic survival.

    1. Good reply Mr.Manuel…….I want add one thing that still goan peoples are using at list two words in Portuguese for eg. Comes , koddel,jonnel,lapis,komejao etc……my aunty is good Portuguese language.
      I love Portugal……..

  3. The history of Goans was compromised by the Portuguese occupation. It inhibited the advancement of Goa education and commerce in favour of enriching Portugal’s ruling classess . That is why when the British East India compoany came to India, they created not just incentives but excellent private schools based on Cambridge standards. It produced at least three generations of well educated Goans that could easily find good jobs in other parts of India, the Middle East and the West. My grandfather, my father and I are evidence of this. I am 73. This explains why there was little incentive in preserving anything worthwhile that was Portugese; well before they left in 1961. You need to be reminded that St. Francis Xavier petitioned the Vatican to introduce the Inquisition for forced conversions of Goans to Catholicicsm, It did not take place uintil after his lifetime. There is very little for Portugal to be proud of as well, except taking pride as concquerors and looters of the natural and human resources of others. Goans are now trying to rediscover their roots. Much older than that of their colonisers, The truth is often a bitter pill to swallow.

  4. Goa is different from other parts of India because it was colonized for a longer time than other parts of India by various Europeans. No one in India is proud of their British past. The essence of Goa are the Roman Catholic Churches well preserved and well looked after. The Catholics of Goa are very proud of their Portuguese connection. But, things are changing fast after the General Indian election of 2014. My ancestors came from an island called Diwar near Old Goa. But, they migrated to Mangalore because of some laws introduced by the Church and the state. I keep going back to my roots in Goa as I have a small cottage there. I speak Konkani and I love port wine. And, also, I am the envy of my friends because they think booze is cheaper in Goa and the beaches are cleaner. But, I have other thoughts. But, yes, you cannot take the Goa out of me. It’s in my DNA and it will remain there as long as I live. On my visit to Europe, I stayed the longest in Spain and Portugal. I really felt most at home in Portugal. I loved the cobbled streets, the laid back life style, the food and the wine, the blue tiles, the churches, museums and the rivers. There were so many scenic similarities between Goa and Portugal. The people were very friendly and I loved it. I have since bought a few audio CD and am learning Portuguese. Ola.

  5. To Caterina Piedade: You have been lucky to travel to beautiful GOA as demonstrated in your blog. I am a Goan of Catholic “elite” status as people say and with Portugese ancestors in my bloodline. Some of my paternal relatives live in Faro,Portugal. I am disappointed to hear that Portugese schools through the successive governments have not taught children more about the days of their empire. It would have given you a clearer understanding of Goa under Portugese rule.
    I think you are quite young and have seen Goa recently. Goa during Portugese rule and just after liberation was very Portugese. It was cleaner, polite and had an elegance. The churches were whitewashed and all the buildings were painted in a mellow yellow colour like Lisbon. There were no blue painted buildings and the church didn’t have neon signs. There were only a few cars and the air was the freshest air I have ever breathed. Also everyone was Goan either a Catholic or a Hindu. There were just a few outsiders as Goans called them. That is people from other states or hippies from the West. Goan life centred around your house and people went to have a picnic at the beach once in a month. There was no tourism as such. The Tata family then built the fort Aguada hotel and tourism took of. Also Lisbon and its seven hills was the pattern for Panjim which has the seven hills from Fontainhas. My mother, father and uncles told me they had to learn English and Portuguese in school as it was compulsory during Portugese rule. It was illegal to speak Konkani but alas the Goan people did so in their own privacy. They didn’t want to lose their identity. You are right that under Salazar things were very strict. India has taken over Goa completely and is making it a Hindu hub or a mini Mumbai now so any chance of seeing an old Goa has gone.

    1. You are so right India has taken over Goa completely and is making it a Hindu hub.Not much Goan culture or music during festive season a lot of Hindi music to cater to other state of India.

  6. Why the pessimism?

    Portuguese cultural and language renaissance is taking place right now like never before. The Portuguese language is in a stronger position in Goa today than when it was under Portuguese rule – weird but true.

    Finally Goa is going more in the direction of Pondicherry. If is succeeds, the Portuguese language and culture will have never been better positioned and secure.

    The young generation is especially enamoured with all things Portuguese. They love Ronaldo and Portuguese/Brazilian soccer. They are loyal and eccentric fans. There is truly a love affair going on between Portuguese culture and language and the young generation Grans. That’s how real change occurs! The future loos bright for Luso Goa.

  7. You can read our recently published book “Insights into Colonial Goa” by Philomena Lawrence and Gilbert Lawrence
    Published by Amazon and Kindle as paperback and e-book.
    I am now working on the topic of Luso-Indian Diaspora; and am desirous of communicating with someone from Portugal about the Luso-Indian Diaspora in Portugal.
    My e-mail address: gilbert2114@yahoo.com

  8. As the Luso world relationships of the CPLP nations continue to tighten, cooperate and develop and progress, you can be certain that former Portuguese possessions, stronghold and territories that lost some of the former ‘closeness & cooperative’ dynamism of yesteryear, will happily and anxiously find their way back into the CPLP fold, and enjoy a renewed relationship with its estranged Luso brothers and sisters once again, and the new relationships will be stronger and more enriching than ever before – it’s inevitable!

    Yes, the Portuguese colonizers made mistakes, but compared to the ones made by the others such as: the English, Spanish, Dutch, Germans, etc. Even today, Portuguese tourists love to sing the praises of the warm, welcoming, friendly, humble, helpful Portuguese people and the beautiful, blessed country of Portugal – a little paradise on earth! That is why so many people the world over, particularly the Europeans, and then the Latin Americans and Africans are flocking to Portugal in droves to start new lives. They cite the very friendly, hospitable, educated, polite Portuguese people, and Portugal’s almost non-existent crime rate, good standard of living, great system of health, welfare, education, and boom in cutting-edge science and technology industries (to say nothing of their 2nd to none hospitality industry, excellent climate, world class beaches, abundant World Heritage Sites) etc., as the top reasons for wanting to live and raise their families there, comforted by Portugal being one of the safest countries in which to live and prosper.

    Add to that a world class cuisine, exotic uniquely Portuguese national fado music that the world is having a love affair with. A super rich history, breathtaking architecture, legendary writers, scientists, inventors, explorers, and a beautiful, exotic, sensual language which is the 6th most natively spoken language in the world today, spoken natively by more people than: German, French, Japanese, Italian, Russian, etc, by 280 million people, on 5 continents. And Portuguese is highly mutually intelligible with Spanish in which 89% of grammar, vocabulary and structure is shared by both languages. Talk about an advantageous language to know! Additionally, Portuguese is the most spoken language in the Southern Hemisphere, most spoken language in South America at 51%, and the 3rd most spoken European language. Talk about a very impressive language profile! And even the Chinese, Japanese, Indians and Americans/Canadians are learning it by the thousands and thousands worldwide including Europe, Africa and Spanish speaking America! Portuguese has become an international world language of great economic importance as it has a strong presence worldwide! It is also being studied in schools worldwide, and in some cases obligatorily. When Portugal had a monopoly of the global Spice Trade 500 years ago, the saying in Europe was “you cannot do business anywhere in the world without a Portuguese partner”. Furthermore, in those days, Portuguese the “lingua France ” of the business world! It looks as though all things Portuguese is once again leading to another Portuguese “Golden Age!”

  9. Interesting but diverse versions of Goa before and after Indian Invasion in Dec 1961 – I was eleven, huddled in a centre hall of our house in Altinho, Rua Pe. Agnelo, Panjim near Palacio do Bispo & Radio de Goa in the capital city of Goa; along with my family of 4 & 3 resident servants/housekeepers, 2 dogs, 3 cats & 2 cockatoos (African parrots) we spent 3 nights & days in the dark hall having
    covered our windows with brown paper in order to avoid being targeted by bombs- the main Radio Station, the only contact with Lisbon was outside the city & was bombed as was the Airport in Dabolim – thus trapping the governador & army from communicating with Lisbon or the world.
    In the 3rd morning, we listened to the BBC News announcing that India had taken over Goa – Invaded not Liberated ! Today the West rushes to help invaded countries but no one cared or dared to stop Indians who destroyed the historical
    monuments of Alfonso D’Albuquerco on Pangim’s Riverside Square near Hotel Mandovi & replaced that of the Goan inventor of Mesmerism in his studies in Paris. By the way, Mesmer a French Researcher & colleague of Abade (Abbe) de Faria, stole the credit of the Science from A.D. Faria and named it after himself as Mesmerism.
    Indian soldiers looted my uncle’s Store of Swiss Watches/German Clocks & my grandfather’s business of Raleigh Bicycles from England; they raped & killed women and robberies were rampant. We lived near the Army officers’ headquarters which were then occupied by these gun slingers, bearded turban wearing Indian soldiers. People were scared, schools closed etc. You call that ‘Liberation’? Children had to switch to English medium schools & Lyceu was re-named Higher Secondary. I was the last batch to be exempt from taking final Exams in Hindi. My uncle closed business, retired early disillusioned with the Invaders who opened our Borders to India’s poor, lepers & beggars.

    Goan working classes owned a home, farm land and were reasonably self-sufficient prior to the rampage from India. Portugal was itself ruled by
    Salazar- a Dictator in a Post WW 2 Liberal Europe, who had impoverished his country let alone sustain a distant colony – over 450 years of history wiped out on a stroke. Many young & middle aged Goans took the offer of moving to Portugal. As reported above, most Catholic Goans particularly from rural areas had been migrating for decades to British & Portuguese Africa, Brazil etc. for business opportunities.

    Catarina misquoted Pasteis for Samusa (a greasy/deep fried Indian Snack). In Pre-Invasion Goa as in Lisbon Cafes, we served Pasteis e Croquettes de Carne e de Camarao, fofos de Bacalhao (salted cod). There is one shop at post-invasion ‘Azad Maidan’ near Mandovi Hotel that used to sell these authentic Snacks – just a little overspiced as owners had returned home from other colonies. I intend to visit after 25 yrs & hope that the shop still exists. My home was long sold & new residents in the area were Indian Gov Minsters etc. Evolution! Poverty & Disorder.

    There is a Cultural difference between Goans from British colonies – now in UK or Canada, specially among the young who read new versions of Goa’s History.
    One Commentator from Canada referred to Thiatr (a Konkani) spelling for Teatro. I left Goa in 1972 for Britain, then 21 years in Canada, 3 years in US & returned to UK where I have lived since. My dear sister aged 29, died in Lisbon in 1974. My husband died at 46 in Toronto, Ca
    I am a Portuguese citizen by Birth, Canadian & British by choice.
    I love History and dislike Invaders. Colonisers/Explorers sailed Eastward & developed the colonies to western standards. India was too large a country with diverse races, religions & culture as pre-british, India was invaded by savages from Middle East & China from the North- Chengiz Khan was a sword wielding savage who beheaded innocent settlers. Akbar who built Taj Mahal was more civilized – etc. Then came the Tamil Nadus in the South.

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