Sunday, February 28, 2016

Goans emigrating to Portugal

Thanks to a quirk of Portuguese nationality law, a number of Goan Indians are eligible for Portuguese citizenship, and, as a consequence, of all the benefits of being a citizen of the European Union. Many use this a path to the UK (No one, it seems, wants to actually migrate to Portugal), and is, apparently, one factor in the discontent involving "Brexit." This weekend's Business Standard has an interesting feature story on the phenomenon of Goan Indians seeking Portuguese passports.
Sources within the consulate say 50 to 60 passports are issued each day. In 2015, an average of 2,000 people are said to have surrendered their Indian passports. Real numbers could be higher since non-resident Goans also give up passports at Indian missions abroad. Around 40,000 Goans are known to have registered births in Lisbon, although unofficial estimates put that figure between 300,000 and 400,000. 
The subject became controversial after it was revealed that several politicians, police officers, and bureaucrats hold Portuguese passports. Two legislators, Glen Ticlo and Caetano Silva, were found to be Portuguese citizens. The singer Remo Fernandes was reported to have changed nationalities as well. RTI activists in Goa are pushing for cases of dual citizenship to be pursued against them. Charges of unpatriotic behaviour are flying thick and fast.
Most of these Goans are Catholic -- thanks to Church records, it tends to be  much easier for Catholics to document the ancestry requirements for establishing a claim to Portuguese nationality, than others.

I would think that Portugal is the only country to keep a Consulate in Goa. This piece is an interview with the current Portuguese Consul General, Mr. Baceira. (I didn't know that the Portuguese Prime Minister is of Goan descent!)
Old links of family and kinship between Goa and Portugal apart, migration over the decades has seen the rise of an influential Portuguese elite of Goan ancestry. Antonio Costa, Portugal's Socialist prime minister and former mayor of Lisbon, is of Goan origin; so are some of the country's leading judges, politicians and artists - Prime Minister Costa's father Orlando was a distinguished poet and writer.

Though the Portuguese colonizers in India were, arguably, a lot more brutal than the British, the missionaries that accompanied them brought a new vigor to the spread of the Catholic faith, so that Goan Catholics, with their 500 year old Indian Catholic culture, are an important and, indispensable, part of the Church in India.

Of course, the most famous Goan Catholic is neither of Goan origin, nor Portuguese, but a Basque Spaniard, whose tireless efforts were the seed of the Catholic faith in Goa, and who continues to exercise spiritual influence, and attract devotees, sometimes up to half a million, of all religions. I am sure Goencho Sahib will continue to intercede for his spiritual children, even if they leave the shores of Goa to seek a better life for themselves and their children, in the West.

Postcard from Portuguese India showing the facade of the Basilica of Bom Jesu
India Post stamp honoring St. Francis Xavier

[I always want to remind Indian priests, who fret that the Church in India isn't "Indian" enough, and who concoct all kinds of artificial ways of "inculuration" that seem to downplay or deny essential parts of traditional Christianity, of this history. One cannot just claim that 500 years of Goan Catholicism is irrelevant, or un-Indian. To do that, one would need some other standard of "Indiannness," and it baffles me that Indian Catholic theologians would put forward Brahmanical Hinduism as the proper criterion of "Indianness." This would be more appropriate coming from the Sangh Parivar than Catholic theologians!]

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