Prof. Nelson Gomes*, of the University of Brasília (Brazil) visited Goa in February. In an interview to LSG he gives his impressions about Goa, about his short lecture at the Seminary of Rachol and proposes ways to incentive the relationship between Goa and Brazil. He also gives an opinion about the ongoing globalization and doesn’t forget to refer to the excellent Goan cuisine.
(Translation of the original interview in portuguese)
LSG – Prof Nelson Gomes, you visited Goa last February. Considering the context of Portuguese as a language what was your impression?
Prof Nelson Gomes: Any Brazilian is delighted to hear Portuguese being spoken in the very south of Asia. This language establishes close ties among the Goans, the Portuguese and the Brazilians. Such ties include many aspects of the local culture. I was actually at home in Goa, because there was my language. Even if it isn’t everybody’s communication code, Goan Portuguese has excellent quality because it is clear and correct. I just remembered the sentence by Fernando Pessoa: “My fatherland is the Portuguese language.” The physical distance between people who share a linguistic code becomes irrelevant….
LSG – …indeed the Brazilians and some Goans speak the same language, but today do Brazilians have the slightest idea about where Goa lies on the map?
Prof Nelson Gomes – Educated Brazilians surely know something about Goa, even if not much. In the sophisticated academic atmosphere people are acquainted with basic facts about Goan reality. When I came back home I heard questions posed by colleagues, friends and students about language in Goa and about other aspects of local life. This suggests some knowledge and some interest as well. Furthermore I know several Brazilians who have visited Goa. But honestly speaking the general public in Brazil knows little or nothing at all about Goa. I am afraid that our school-system is rather poor.
LSG – When you were in Go ayou visited the Catholic Seminary of Rachol, where you saw the famous library and gave a lecture on logic to seminarians. What has impressed you most in this visit?
Prof Nelson Gomes – Personally I appreciated Father Ferrão’s hospitality very much and his informative conversation. My lecture was a unique experience of contact with likable and interested young seminarians. Historically Rachol is a most remarkable monument, a jewel of the 17th century. Everything there is very impressive: the main entrance with the weapons of King Dom Sebastião, the magnificent church full of artistic and architectonic details, and the library, whose collection of books and documents certainly contains precious items. When I left that house I thought of forms of effective international collaboration aiming to bring benefits to that institution, whose rôle in Goan history has being so outstanding.
LSG – In the context of our language, south-south co-operation should improve the ties between Brazil and India. As you know Goa how would you describe the non-commercial aspects to be emphasized in order to deepen the Brazilian-Goan collaboration?
Prof Nelson Gomes – Two possibilities just cross my mind. If I am well informed, the Brazilian Foreign Office has a service of support to Portuguese as a foreign language. I guess that a considerable interest would exist, in order to encourage any sort of cultural collaboration related to the presence of the Portuguese language in Goa. As a matter of fact Brazil and India do have connections of collaboration in different areas, because they are both BRIC members. Besides Concani and English, Portuguese is a language of Goa and as such it is an Indian resource. Secondly I would like to mention the work by historians about our common past which has not even started, at least in considerable dimensions. These two possibilities are not the only ones. It is worthwhile to follow them but there are more available.
LSG – Let’s consider the present tendency to “globalisation” and its worldwide processes of economic, social, cultural and political integration. Don’t you think that the Portuguese people were the true forerunners of this very idea as early as in the 15th century?
Prof Nelson Gomes – Absolutely. The Portuguese were forerunners of this globalisation in three important but different senses of the word. Because of their naval technology they discovered new routes at sea and reached many people and cultures, some of them unknown until that time. In their newly discovered countries they were capable of defining and dominating crucial routes where richness circulated. Secondly because of their missionary zeal they established cultural contacts far beyond trade relations. Many Goan people adopted Catholicism but it adjusted to the reality of the Malabar Coast as well. This is very visible in the internal decoration of the Rachol church and in the Basilica of Bom Jesus, both full of dark-haired angels and of representations of cashew fruits. Finally the Portuguese discoveries encouraged the acceptation of the risk entailed by financial investments. In the first half of the 15th century one escudo invested in the India trade would yield a profit of fifty. Today we see globalisation in these terms: technology, trips, cultural integration and business. But all of this was already present in the Portuguese voyages of discovery, especially in the case of Goa. In order to do historical justice the rôle of Jesuits has to be recognised, because they were an international order par excellence.
LSG – Let’s go into mundane subjects. How did you like Goan food? Is there any relation to Brazilian dishes or spices?
Prof Nelson Gomes – The Portuguese were globalisers and they produced food interchange too. If I am not wrong, sarapatel is originally Goan. It was brought toBrazil where it was included into the tradition of Bahia. I have heard that piri-piri is originally African being sent later to Goa. I was a student in Munich when I first tried a Goan dish, thanks to friends who prepared a gorgeous caril specially for me. After that delicious experience I wanted more and more. Recent days I spent in Goa were for me a culinary triumph, as I like the intensive use of coconuts and piri-piri very much. Appetizers and desserts were very good. Everything was full of fragrance and colour. Goan cuisine has its own personality, which makes it different from other cooking traditions within the Indian subcontinent.
* Prof. Nelson Gomes has been Professor of Philosophy (specially Logics) at the University of Brasília (Brazil), since 1976. He graduated in Philosophy at the Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo, Brazil (Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, often abbreviated as PUC-SP) and did a postgraduate in Philosophy at the Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil (University of São Paulo, short USP). He got his Ph.D. at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany, commonly known as the University of Munich or LMU). He did several postdoctoral work at the Universities of Munich (Germany), Oxford (Great Britain), Salzburg (Austria), The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel) and at the London School of Economics (England). Since 1993 he has been Titular Professor at the Department of Philosophy, of Universidade de Brasília, Brazil, which he helped to found. He researches in Logics, Analytical Philosophy and Metaethic.