Iris C F Gomes
The story of the Goan diaspora began long ago when natives left their land in search of better prospects, journeying to British India in the 18th and early 19th century under Portuguese rule. In the latter part of the 19th century and the early 20th century Goans migrated to East African British colonies and Portugal. The 1960s onwards saw Goans moving to the Gulf countries and emmigrating to countries in Europe, North America, Australalasia and elsewhere.
It would not be incorrect to say that if one travelled to most parts of the world, not discovering a Goan community there would be highly unlikely. There is something about the Goan spirit that creates an indelible bond; one that will not be diminished by time or distance. It is to our credit that Goans are inherently able to integrate with the country they adopt and still maintain their distinct heritage.
The necessity to continue to be linked with their homeland led these diasporic Goans to institute what is known as World Goa Day. 20th August was especially selected as the official date to celebrate the addition of Konkani, the mother tongue of Goans, in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution by the Indian Parliament on the same date in 1992. For practical reasons, however, different places chose a day somewhere around this date to commence World Goa Day celebrations.
Rene Barreto, who resides in the UK, is the founder of World Goa Day, while Tony Colaco from Australia is the overall coordinator, and Pakistan based Debbie Santamaria is the general secretary.
Now in its sixteenth year the event has extended to so many countries, some of which include Goa, Canada, the US, the UK, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Germany, Pakistan, Australia, Portugal, the Middle East and Spain. The number is on the increase as more and more Goans located outside their beloved Goa seek to bond with other Goans, revel in their exceptional cultural heritage and pass on the baton to the younger generation to sustain this fervent desire to preserve their Goan identity.
This year the theme for World Goa Day is Goa a land united by beautiful villages. The day has a vast itinerary of events to choose from to celebrate Goa’s culture: presentations of traditional Goan cooking, tiatrs, groups regaling the audience with mando and dulpods, watching Konkani movies, focusing on Goan talent in the arts, etc. The participants range from lone individuals and families to various Goan groups, associations and businesses in the regions that celebrate World Goa Day.
Tony Colaco, who as a coordinator sees to the promotion of World Goa Day the world over and selects the theme for celebration, believes that it is the land of Goa that plays an implicit role in keeping Goans across the globe united. Goans born and bred abroad admire the fact that the younger generation of Goans migrating to Western Countries have knowledge of Konkani. He says, ‘I think it is shame that our youngsters born and bred and living in Goa are not making speaking in Konkani their first priority to communicate. All other Indian states youngsters are proud of their mother tongue.’
The younger generation of non-resident Goans seems to be quite enthusiastic about their connection with Goa, although they have been born and brought up in another country. President of the Californian Goans, Joseph Lourenço, says, ‘I think young Goans are very much interested. Some are exposed to Goan culture at home and some are not. At our last World Goa Day picnic, one of the kids who was born in the US mentioned that this is the first time he witnessed so many Goans speaking and singing in Konkani , playing traditional Goan games and serving Goan food . He said what other events lacked was Goan food and Goan music .We try our best to have Goan food at all our events. I do understand why some Goan events don't make dishes like sorpotel and other Goan dishes as they are hard to prepare. We are blessed to have so many of our members willing to do that. I honestly believe that Goan food and music are essential to our culture and unique. If the younger generations are exposed to them it will help us get them more interested.'
Debbie Santamaria, also president of Goinkars Own Academy (GOA), talks about celebrations held for the members of the group and their guests. They have been celebrating World Goa Day for the past 14 years in Karachi, Pakistan, and the usual venue is a farmhouse where programmes are held through the day. Debbie says, ‘Our events are well attended and enjoyed by our Christian community. This year we have planned a food festival. We will be selling out stalls as well. This event will be open to all. We Goans of Pakistan freely celebrate all our cultural activities. Our event this year is being held on our church premises and we expect people from all walks of life to attend this celebration. Oneness speaks... Together we make a difference.’
There are exclusive groups and a page created to promote World Goa day on Facebook. If you are a Goan and wish to connect with them these are the links you can follow: