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Exploring the history and experiences of mixed heritage persons and inter-racial relationships across the world

Goa, India

Map Of India Showing GoaIt is said that the first Mestizos in Goa where the offspring of the previously Moslem women who were converted to Christianity after the Portuguese conquest of Goa in 1510. These women were the family members of the 6,000 or so Muslim defenders of the city that were slaughtered in the battle led by Portuguese admiral Afonso de Albuquerque by request of a local chieftain, Thimayya, who wished to control the city. Thimayya was appointed ‘Aguazil’, a sort of mayor, an administrator and representative of the local people after the city’s capture.

Goa was not the first Portuguese settlement in India. Vasco da Gama on his voyage of discovery first landed at Calicut, South of Goa, in 1498 but the Portuguese were unable to establish a strong presence there with the Dutch then the British vying for trade within the Indian city. By 1663, the power of the Portuguese in Calicut had dwindled and they shifted their interests to thriving Goa.

Today, it is very difficult to determine what percentage of Goa’s 1.3 million strong population is actually of Mestizo descent because since the 1951 Census and prior to India’s annexation of Goa, India does not recognize any racial groups and words like Anglo-Indians are descriptions rather than ethnic terms. This is India’s way of harmonising a very disparate population.

Goa: Shanta Durga templeReligious affiliation data is available and over 30% of the Goan population is Catholics and the vast majority are Hindus. Most of the Catholics have Portuguese family names such as Silva, Sousa, Pereira D'Souza, D'Mello and Fernandes and it would be easy to assume that there is some European ancestry in such families but that is not the case. Many converts to Catholicism changed their second names to Portuguese surnames on baptism though at least one caste retained their Hindu surnames and some families, probably rich and powerful, maintained some link to their former names.

People of Goa are known as Goan, in Portuguese, Goês (male) or Goesa (female), as opposed to Goanese, which is considered derogatory in some circles. The natives here are Konkani people who traditionally inhabit the states of Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka and some parts of Kerala. Originally Hindus, they later were converted to Islam or later Catholicism under the Portuguese.

Admiral Afonso de Albuquerque is credited with encouraging a policy of miscegenation throughout the Portuguese Asian Empire which has resulted in many mixed communities in the region. The Hindu caste system and the Islamic marriage code may have made it a little more difficult in Goa but it is estimated that 1 in 3 Europeans in India during this period had local wives. The offspring in Portuguese Asia, Mestizos, were looked down upon by the local population belonging neither to caste or Islam but were favourably viewed by the Portuguese rulers.

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