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Goan migration abroad, by Frederick Noronha

GOA Migration

From: Frederick Noronha (
Date: Wed, 03 Mar 1999 23:24:29 0500


Londonbased Stella MascarenhasKeyes was born in Kenya, and like
many Goan expatriates, came back to discover her roots. Over the
years, she’s undertaken much research on migration out of Goa.
Her work would allow her to claim the position of being among the
foremost researchers on Goan outmigration.
During a recent visit to her home region, she spoke to FREDERICK
NORONHA, explaining the significance her past work and her future
plans. Excerpts:

Q: You’ve done considerable research on Goan migration. Where all
has this taken you, and where are you headed?

Since 1977, I’ve been looking at the Goan community in different
landscapes. For instance, I initially started off looking at
Goans in London. That was quite a minimal, sociological study.

Then, moving on, I came to Goa to study international migration
from Goa. I worked in one particular village for an inter
generational study over why people from Goa went overseas over
the last century.

I stayed in the village as a participant. In the course of that,
I found something else. A majority of those who went out overseas
were Catholics, though some Hindus did go to elsewhere in India.
At the same time, a large number of inmigrants from other parts
of Goa were coming into the areas vacated (by outmigrants) to
undertake the jobs. So there was a transformation going on.

Q: You did work on the position of women in Goa too…

Yes. Subsequently, I wrote a couple of papers analysing the
position of women and how their identity had changed over time.
Then, I was involved in writing up the PhD, drawing on the almost
20 months study done in Goa. Both anthropological and historical
sources. Some work in the archives in Lisbon and interviewing
some families, besides some minimal work in Australia and Canada.

After the PhD, I was involved in other jobs and had four
children. But in 1992, I came to Goa for about six weeks, and was
particularly concerned to see what was the impacts of the Gulf
War on Goan migration, and on those who had returned.

Q: What next, then?

Now, I’ve just received a scholarship from the Gulbenkian
Foundation, to bring all these studies together into one book.

What I’m going to do is… looking at linkages between Goa and
the different locales in which Goans are spread. Both
historically and at the moment. And links between communities in
different areas.

Also, the issue of the Goan identity. What does it mean in a
community that is dispersed in space, but still has a memory of
its ancestry.

Q: There are no figures or statistics about Goan migrants
worldwide. What would be your guess?

A: Yes. It’s very difficult to say. The problem is that Goans are
not a category in any official statistics (abroad). Apart from
East Africa until the end of colonial rule. I’d not like to
hazard a guess.

In London, when I did the study over two decades ago, I know
there were something like 10,000. It may have increased since. Or

Q: How old would you rate Goan emigration to be?

Large scale migration abroad  there’s always been periodic and
sporadic migration  has really been over the last 100 years. In
terms of scale, both in terms of numbers and remittances and
socioeconomic impact (this has had a big impact). One of the
things that is not evident elsewhere is the role of women in
migration, as in Goa….

Q: You’ve written on how Goan mothers had sacrificed to ensure
their children had a good education….

I think the role of women , in general, in studies about
migration, have been underplayed. But in Goan migration, they’ve
played a significant role.

There’s always been a small independent migration of women, i.e.
as individual earners. But, increasingly, you find women went to
places like Africa, as associational migrations. They went with
their husbands. Some did get jobs. But on the whole their job was
to reproduce the next generation of migrants. Not just
biologically, but culturally.

It was anticipated that their children would join migratory
strands. This required a change in motherhood patterns. That
required a reinterpretation of motherhood, from being mainly a
nurturing person, concerned with childwelfare she also had to
see to the intellectual, educational development of children.

So, there was a greater emphasis on education. On language, as a
method of upward mobility. Ensuring as much as possible, the use
of a Western language in the home  English or Portuguese. The
use of certain foodstuffs or tonics to ensure the development of
brain, rather than brawn.

Once Goan women were in settler communities, they’ve actually
taken up independent employment. Before marriage, or after, as
far as was compatible with bringing up children. The vehicle for
that has been education. But also the availability of clerical
and secretary jobs all over the British colonial empire.
Subsequently, Goan migrant women in the West have gone into
higher education in large numbers.

Q: Increasingly, overseas Goans seem to be moving into highly
skilled professions? Isn’t that a new trend?

There was always an incipient trend towards the
professionalisation of the Goan community. (What made a
difference) I think it’s the availability of education.

Many migrants go overseas and invest in land. In the Goan case,
there’s less investment in land. But there’s more of the
investment of remittances into the education of children.
This helped emigrants, over generations, take to professional
jobs in greater numbers.

Q: Do you perceive any trends in changing migration?

Goans will (continue to) want to migrate. Partly, because
children being educated, they feel they don’t have the same
economic opportunities for professional development. More so when
compared to the West.

One trend I see is among the youth of Goa who show a greater
interest in Goa itself. They’re concerned about inappropriate
tourism, or environmental hazards. It might just be the
enthusiasm of a few spirited individuals, which could die off. Or
it might become much stronger, and an incipient trend towards a
greater renaissance among the younger generation of Goans.

Q: What sparked off such a huge migration in Goa’s case?

A number of factors. Socioeconomic factors were deteriorating
for Goans in the (late) Portuguese period. Most Goans suffered
from things like land taxation, raising of funds for the
expeditions of the Portuguese elsewhere (both religious and
military), the appropriation of land from the village
communities, allowing outsider control of village land, changes
in the usufruct rights of lands. This all removed people from
their earlier source of livelihood.

Q: Also the widening gap between education and jobs available in

Of course. As people migrated and invested in education, the gap
between expectations and reality was aggravated. Goans don’t
migrate only for economic reasons. Their perception over economic
conditions have changed, and there are different ideas about what
is an adequate lifestyle, an appropriate salary, or suitable job

It’s is relative depravation, not that you can’t feed yourself
and survive. Expatriates might also put on a particular show when
they’re back, which might not corelate with their reality abroad.