Meet Maria Margarida Noronha e Tavora, a 13th generation descendent of Vasco da Gama, who now lives in Raia and runs a restaurant.
The night Spain’s David Villa slotted the ball into the Portugal goal and ended the latter’s World Cup bid, in her rambling Raia house, Maria Margarida Noronha e Tavora turned off her television with a heavy heart. In Goa, where the Portuguese team has a legion of fans, Margarida shares more than just emotional bonds with the country. She traces her ancestry to the discoverer of the sea route to India – Vasco da Gama.
“We knew we were of Portuguese descent, ” says Margarida. “That we had Vasco da Gama as one of our ancestors we came to know much later. Papa used to go to the Viceroy’s Arch where there is a statue of Vasco da Gama and tell us that he was an ancestor, but we never took it seriously, ” she adds. Margarida’s father, the late Augusto de Noronha e Tavora, popularly known as Lube in Goa, was known as a football aficionado, but few knew that he was one of the members of the 13th generation of Vasco da Gama’s descendents.
It was Margarida who, on a trip to Portugal, decided to draw her family tree and confirmed the connection. According to the book Vasco da Gama, Notas historicas e genealogicas (Vasco da Gama, historical notes and genealogy), the 11th generation of one branch of the Portuguese explorer’s family settled in Goa. D Lourenco Carlos Bernardo de Noronha was born in Goa on December 4, 1843. His second son, D Francisco Bernardo de Noronha e Tavora was the father of Augusto and hence the grandfather of Margarida. According to the framed family tree in Margarida’s house, D Lourenco de Noronha, grandfather of Lourenco Carlos, was a governor of Goa.
There are not too many descendants of the Portuguese living in Goa today. Many left days before liberation, and others over a period of time. The Tavora family – mother Imelda with children Maria Margarida, Francisco Bernado, Maria Ana, Carlos Manuel and Luis Filipe – too took a flight to Portugal and landed in Lisbon the day the Indian army liberated Goa. “The Portuguese government was evacuating ladies and children and my mother took us children with her to Portugal. I was 11 then and my youngest brother was about two. But we returned within some four months to Goa, ” recalls Margarida, who now runs the popular restuarant ‘Chef Fernando’s Nostalgia’, which was started by her husband, the late Fernando Costa.
At a time when many Goans are eyeing Portugal as a gateway to Europe, Margarida and her siblings are well-entrenched in India. “We could have gone to Portugal and got Portuguese passports as many are now doing, but we have integrated very well here. The blood in the veins, however, can’t be changed, ” Margarida says.
That’s something the few descendants of the Portuguese still in Goa – who are very much part of contemporary society – feel.