December 25, 2016 will mark five hundred and nineteen years since Vasco da Gama sailed his fleet up the east coast of South Africa. It was Christmas Day when they moored, so they called it Natal (Portuguese for Christmas). From there Da Gama continued up the coast to Zanzibar and eventually Mombasa seeking out trading opportunities and accords, and when these did not work out, left the trading posts with a volley of cannon balls intended to inflict as much damage as possible. Shock and Awe of gunboat diplomacy.
He eventually arrived in Calicut, India, scouted the opportunities and returned to Lisbon with glowing tales for the Crown of the fortunes to be had, if only they could overthrow the Muslim ruler, Adil Shah, and immediately establish a Fort there from which to continue to trading posts in Asia and beyond.
In 1510 a heavily armed expedition led by Afonso da Albuquerque, captured Goa (a city state and important trading port on India’s west coast) from its Muslim ruler. The Portuguese proceeded to forcibly ram Catholicism into the local population. Within forty years the Portuguese Inquisition was transferred to Goa. It lasted for almost two hundred years, and resulted in the cultural transformation of Goan society into an Indo-Portuguese hybrid.
Beyond the Cape elaborates further on the form and substance of this social transformation. The Portuguese remained in Goa the next four hundred and sixty one years. There was brief period during the Napoleonic Wars that Britain temporarily occupied Goa, as it feared that Lisbon might not be able to contain the might of French Navy, thus putting British interests at risk with its trade in India. As a result of this intervention, the British discovered the Goan people and they in turn, learnt to speak English, play cricket and drink Scotch Whiskey. Britain started to recruit Goans for the Civil Service of the Raj. The Matata Trilogy is the first hand story of this Goan community that emigrated to British East Africa starting at the end of the 19th Century and stayed on until after Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika and Zanzibar gained Independence from British colonial rule, and their services were no longer required.
Goa only found independence from Portuguese rule in 1961, although its colonial influence is still visible in its art and culture, including its internationally inspired culinary skills. Its Catholic population is much reduced.