Goa, Migration And More: A Story Of Many Journeys

#1 May 22nd, 2005, 17:11
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By Ruth DeSouza

We often think of migration as moving between two places, my story is
one of
many journeys that spans the generations.

I was born in what was then Tanganyika and is now Tanzania, into a
Catholic family originating from Goa, India. As a child, I was
exposed to multiple heritages and languages; Maragoli, Swahili,
Konkani and English. My family's migration history began with my
great-grandfather leaving Goa to work in Burma and both sets of
grandparents subsequently migrated to Tanganyika. My parents own
double migration took them first to Kenya in 1967 and then to New
Zealand in 1975.

Leaving African was a result of the unease caused by the expulsion of
'Asians' -- meaning people from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India -- from
neighbouring Uganda in 1972. East Africa in the early 1970s saw
crime targeted against Indian people, who were the shop owners and
people and our daily lives were being increasingly affected by the
of 'Kenyanisation', which privileged Kenyans over all others.

I recall going to sleep frightened and being told to pray for safety.
parents wanted to live away from fear, be able to take advantage of
educational opportunities and above all build "a better life" for their

In 1975, they decided to emigrate and after some failed attempts to get
the United States we made arrangements to move to New Zealand. Our
knew little about this country; one promotional film and a friend who
in Wellington. In order to afford the cost of the airfare, we had to
virtually all our possessions, others were given away, even my parents
wedding presents were left behind.

To understand my family history of migration, it is important to put it
context. Goa is located in the middle of an abundant coastal strip on
south west Coast of India which has an area of 3,701 square kilometres
and a
primarily agrarian economy with, more recently, a tourism and service

The name 'Goa' comes from 'Gomant' of the Mahabharata and apparently
was reclaimed by Lord Parshuram from the mighty sea by shooting an
into it." (Mahajan, 1978, p.22). This sounds remarkably like the Mori
mythology of the discovery of the North island Maui. Goa was renowned
as a
port as far back as the third century BC, when Buddhism was spreading
through India. It was a Portuguese colony from 1510 until 1961, at
time Goa was liberated by the Indian army. On May 31, 1987 Goa became
25th state in the Republic of India (Newman, 1999).

The arrival of the Portuguese led to Goans becoming a migrating
society. The
Portuguese came to Goa "to seek Christians and spices" (Albuquerque,
p.25) and Catholicism became entrenched in Goa due to the intense
proselytising campaign using "bribery, threat and torture" by the
(Robinson, 2000, p.2421).

Goa's inquisition began in 1560 and ended in 1812 (Robinson, 2000).
Inquisitions were used by the Portuguese to prevent defection back to
faiths and had far reaching implications. In the laws and prohibitions
the inquisition in 1736, over 42 Hindu practices were prohibited
1999). They were implemented through the eradication of indigenous
practices such as ceremonies, fasts, the use of the sacred basil or
plant, flowers and leaves for ceremony or ornament and the exchange of
and areca nuts for occasions such as marriage (Robinson, 2000). Methods
as repressive laws, demolition of temples and mosques, destruction of
books, fines and the forcible conversion of orphans were used
(Mascarenhas-Keyes, 1979).


There were other far reaching changes that took place during the
by the Portuguese, these included the prohibition of traditional
instruments and singing of celebratory verses, which were replaced by
Western music (Robinson, 2000). People were renamed when they converted
not permitted to use their original Hindu names. Alcohol was introduced
dietary habits changed dramatically so that foods that were once taboo,
as pork and beef, became part of the Goan diet (Mascarenhas-Keyes,
Architecture changed with the Baroque style that was in vogue in
becoming popular. Thus, many customs were suppressed and Goans became
'Westernised' to some degree as a Catholic elite who came to see
as a "cultivated branch of a global Portuguese civilisation"
2000, p.2649).

During Portuguese rule, the ancient language of Konkani was suppressed
rendered unprivileged by the enforcement of Portuguese (Newman, 1999).
result this linguistic displacement was that Goans did not develop a
literature in Konkani nor could the language unite the population as
scripts (including Roman, Devanagari and Kannada) were used to write it
(Newman, 1999). Konkani became the lingua de criados (language of the
servants) (Routledge, 2000) as Hindu and Catholic elites turned to
and Portuguese respectively. Ironically Konkani is now the 'cement'
binds all Goans across caste, religion and class and is affectionately
termed 'Konkani Mai' (Newman, 1999). In 1987 Konkani was made an
language of Goa.

The Portuguese colonisation of Goa was a catalyst that led many
Goans to become a mobile population. Socio-economic factors such as
the taxation of land to raise funds for Portuguese expeditions, the
appropriation of land from villagers leading to outsider control and
the removal of people from their original source of livelihood were
powerful forces in the decision to migrate. Yet Newman (1999) claims
that what drove Goans to emigrate was that they valued a
consumerist, bourgeois-capitalist society in Goa and sought more
money, despite the relatively high incomes available at home.
Historically, there has been a strong Goan ethos of moving up,
caused by the small size of Goa and the inability to divide up
communal land (Mascarenhas-Keyes, 1994).

As Goans began migrating, English displaced the dominance of Portuguese
the 1920s as many Goans moved to British India and other British

This migration began as a result of the declining Goan economy, which
Portuguese rule could not provide adequate employment for Goa's
whereas new opportunities and economic development were available in
India (Nazareth, 1981). Goans first worked for the British in 1779 at
time of the French Revolution. The naval fleet of the British Indian
Government was stationed in Goa and found that Christian Goans were
eminently suitable to work for them because of their Western dress,
diet and
customs. When the fleets withdrew from Goa, many Goans went with them.
the eighteenth century Goan began trading with Mozambique, Zanzibar and
Africa. Indian independence in 1945 exacerbated the flow of migrants of
origin who were residing in British India (Mascarenhas-Keyes, 1979).

As English became more significant to Goans, schools began to teach it,
giving more Goans the opportunity to migrate to British India. Many
also gained English language skills in the process of migrating to
territories, due to the greater emphasis on education and on language,
as a
method of upward mobility.

Goan migration to Africa was not surprising. Indians had been
traders and later sojourners as far back as three thousand years.
The Indian diaspora was a 19th and 20th century development related
to the impact of the British indentured labour scheme, which sought
to replace slave labour with cheap and reliable labour for
plantations (Sowell, 1996), or the building of railways, for example
in Uganda (van den Berghe, 1970). This scheme was seen by some as a
new system of slavery (Tinker, 1974) and though formally abolished
in 1916 it continued until 1922 (Brah, 1996). Indian women were the
second largest group transported to colonies after African women and
they were subjected to fieldwork and received comparable punishment
and gross indignities in the same manner. Smith (1999) suggests that
the indentured labour system was as inhumane as the slave trade
through the in-humanity of captivity and forced labour for capitalist

Large scale migrations of Indians to Africa began with the construction
the great railway from Mombasa to Lake Victoria in Uganda in the late
nineteenth century (Sowell, 1996). The British employed Indians because
Africans who owned land would only work for brief periods.

Fifteen thousand of the sixteen thousand 'coolies' who worked on the
railroads were Indians. They were renowned for their work ethic and
competitiveness, but one quarter of them died or returned disabled
1996). Indians (especially Goans) were recruited to run the railways
they were built (as my grandparents were) and Goans came to dominate
colonial civil services (Sowell, 1996).

Goans made up the only significant number of Christian Indians in
East Africa, as it was the Catholic rather than the Hindu Goans that
migrated there. Catholic Goans spoke Konkani, English or Portuguese
and dressed in more Western clothing. They were further set apart
from Hindus and Muslims by virtue of religion and because they ate
pork and beef. For Goans, migration to Africa was intended as a way
of earning some money for retirement in Goa and putting down
permanent roots was not encouraged by colonial authorities (Kuper,

Asians were excluded from certain professions or from living in areas
Europeans preferred to settle, for example the fertile Kenyan highlands
(Kuper, 1979). They operated within a milieu of prejudice, suspicion
disadvantage. Land was unavailable for freehold purchase and education
provision was inadequate resulting in children being sent back to India
my father was). Later on, as communities grew, special schools were
established and women and children joined their men (as was the case
for my
mother's family).


Moving forward to our arrival in New Zealand everything I had ever
known had
changed. The availability of traditional foods, ingredients and so on
limited. The weather was cold and unfriendly, colder than anything we
experienced before. I was dismayed by the lack of wild and colourful

I had also lost my place in the world, moving from a familiar social
to where everything was now unknown. Settling in New Zealand was
financially, socially and emotionally. In Africa there had been a very
strong Goan and Indian symbiotic community that provided cultural
Despite being 'foreign' there was a sub-culture in East Africa that was
supportive and understood by Africans. As Alibhai (1989, p.31) stated
in an
account of her life in Uganda:

The Asians had evolved a very strong network, partly because of the
needs and fears that inevitably arise when groups migrate and partly
because they were non-dominant in countries where they had no
political power and a constant sense of being vulnerable.

In New Zealand we were different again, but less well understood. The
ensuing years have become easier and my ambivalence has decreased
whether I belong to Aotearoa.

The increase in members of the Goan and African communities have
and inspired me and invigorated the communities I am affiliated with.
increased availability of a range of ingredients and cultural resources
also made connections with food and other cultural icons more

I prefer the plus model of identity rather than the minus one. I belong
Goa, plus East Africa plus New Zealand and the places I've lived and
in. Although I experienced changes and loss integral to migration and
learned first hand of the isolation that migrants can face in New
(which has led me as an adult to be involved in supporting them) there
also positive implications.

The loss of traditional economic, social and familial restraints
allowed me
to fulfil my potential in a way that I might never have had, had I
grown up
in Goa or East Africa. Having to scrutinise my identity closely has led
to see the world through many eyes (an important requirement for an
educator) as Edward Said states: "The essential privilege of exile is
have, not just one set of eyes but half a dozen, each of them
to the places you have been." I believe that my migration and travel
experiences give me many ways of seeing the world and that the migrants
come to Aotearoa enrich the country with their lives and experiences.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ruth de Souza is based in Waitakere City,
Zealand and can be contacted via email andy@wairua.co.nz

Reader too welcomes your feedback at feedback@goanet.org Goanet Reader
edited by Frederick Noronha <fred@bytesforall.org>

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