At first glance, Portugal and India might seem like two very different countries, and if you have planned a holiday with Saga Travel to Portugal, you might be baffled as to what, exactly, Goa has to do with it. However, peel back surface layers to expose their history, and the two countries are closer than you might ever have supposed. Goa, Daman and Diu were formerly colonised by the Portuguese, and as such, were known as Portuguese India for almost 450 years. Although Portugal lost control of the territory in 1961, the Portuguese influence remains, in the architecture, the Goan Catholocism and the cuisine. Likewise, as a former trading partner of the Portuguese-Indian trading route, the Indian influence in Portugal can be detected, even today, in some surprising guises…
The mouth-watering piri piri spices we now associate with Portuguese cuisine were actually picked up from India by the first Portuguese explorers, along with black pepper, cinnamon, vanilla and saffron. The Portuguese also lefttheirgastronomic footprints in the idyllic Goan sand; perhaps one of the most iconic Indian dishes, vindaloo, was a result of the Portuguese pairing of garlic and vinegar. Similar legacies have been bequeathed on many countries explored by the Portuguese, including Japan, Hawaii and even Australia.
The ornamental style of Portuguese colonial buildings revolutionised the modest Goan architectural style, adding bright colours, balustrades and cosmetic flourishes to West Indian domiciles. Centuries of Portuguese colonial occupation also firmly entrenched Roman Catholicism in some areas of the country, and today, the majestic Se Cathedral still stands 350 years after its consecration, in Vasco da Gama. The cathedral has five bells, a golden interior and a number of grandiose statues that testify to its excellent preservation.
From the name of its largest city, Vasco da Gama, to the Indo-Portuguese mansions that crumble unfettered in its older neighbourhoods, traces of the Portuguese can be found everywhere in Goa. From poetry, painting, music and dance, Portugal and Goa are intrinsically linked across 450 years of occupation, and lines have begun to blur. It has been commented that even the Goan sense of humour, language and outlook display Portuguese nuance, differing from other areas of India significantly.
Perhaps the most exciting legacy left linking between Portugal and Goa is that of their people, and the Goan cultural diaspora living in Portugal. This originated in the citizenship rights granted to Goans under colonial rule, as a Vice Kingdom of Portugal. Migration to Portugal was first stimulated by a search for education. Today, pockets of Goan culture, music, handicrafts and dance can be detected in cities like Lisbon.
Now stronger than ever, the Goan and Portuguese cultural connection remains irretrievably entangled. The beauty of this for travellers is that a visit to either country will reveal some traces of the other, whether in attitude, cuisine or residents.
Julia Alvarez is a travel writer that grew up in Spain. She has spent most of her life living in the Med and most of her career writing about it.