AMONG THE GREATEST GOANS…
By Valmiki Faleiro
(with inputs from Joaquim Correia-Afonso, Benaulim and Francisco Monteiro, Lisbon)
Today, 10 June, is the 150th birth anniversary of Roque Correia-Afonso. In the gallery of
great Goans who defended, and pursued, Goan interests in public life, down history, his
memory immediately springs to mind. Such was the multi-faceted persona – advocate,
journalist, politician and statesman – that it’s difficult to decide where to begin and end.
Let’s go chronologically.
Roque Correia was a legendary advocate from the ‘garden’ village of Benaulim. He
attracted law students even from faraway Macau. Agostinho Afonso of Divar was a pupil.
By his Coelho wife from Margao’s Holy Spirit church square, Roque had two daughters.
Adelia married a Mesquita from Consua-Cortalim. Propercia married Agostinho, and the
family name changed from Correia to Correia-Afonso. To this marital union was born
Joao Joaquim Roque Correia-Afonso (RCA), 10-June-1859. He inherited not just the
name and legal mind, but, from his grandpa’s laps, love for humanity and for Goa.
At age 16, together with fellow students, RCA launched a periodical, ‘Estreia Literária.’
Then joined Margao advocate, Joao Manuel Pacheco for an apprenticeship in law – and,
like his own father, ended becoming his senior’s son-in-law.
At 20, RCA set up legal practice and emerged a brilliant advocate, with powerful oratory.
He had a way with words, both spoken and written. He wrote copiously for Goan papers
of the time. The ‘O Heraldo’ had been slapped with a State suit. It had published (1903)
extracts of a sermon by Fr. Sarmento Ozorio, an outspoken critic of Goa’s colonial rule.
The editor, Dr. Antonio Maria da Cunha, sat in the courtroom, awaiting justice. When the
Public Prosecutor concluded final arguments, it was RCA’s turn to defend the editor.
“I have nothing to say,” RCA submitted, and sat down. The courtroom was stunned. The
Prosecutor wore a wide grin. The judge was bewildered. After a long pause, he asked
RCA, “have you nothing to say in defence of the accused?”
RCA repeated his five words, but implored the judge to look at the accused, who was
soundly asleep. “Cunha’s conscience is so clean that he can peacefully sleep on a day
when he could be sent to jail for years.” Cunha was acquitted. Records and proceedings
of the case were published as a book, ‘A Opiniao da Justica e a Justica da Opiniao.’
Though an acclaimed advocate, this “champion of lost causes,” who all his adult life
fought oppressive officialdom, leveraged his intellect, legal skills, powerful oratory and a
mighty pen for the dignity and political rights of Goans.
Early on, the brilliant orator joined the ‘Partido Indiano.’ In the bloodletting Parliament
polls of Sept. 21, 1890, he boldly issued his famous ‘Minuta de Agravo’ and proclaimed,
“Never again an ‘official’ candidate!” He served in the Provincial Congresses and on the
Governor’s Council – the good of Goa uppermost in his mind. At one session, a proposal
for promoting ‘tavernas’ was under discussion. He firmly believed alcohol was root of
serious social and health problems.
End of his eloquent anti-taverna tirade, he looked at the Governor in the eye and said,
“Your Excellency, Goa is a ‘taverna’ and (pointing his finger at the Governor…) you are
its (the taverna’s) keeper!” The proposal was quickly dropped. Provincial Congresses
were convened at his instance. He presided over the 3rd, where his outstanding
leadership qualities shone bright as ever.
Appointed Mayor of Salcete by Governor-General Dr. Couceiro da Costa, he envisoned
several projects in industry, public transport and education. Most proposals, alas, stayed
on paper as RCA, yet again, fell out of gubernotarial grace. Margao was then under a
plague. At personal risk, he ventured forth to provide solace. Upon his demise, a grateful
town not only placed his portrait in the civic hall, but named after him one of its main
thoroughfares, leading to his native Benaulim.
>From enactment of enlightened laws to revival of ‘ganvkaris,’ from better agricultural
practices (he had a particular fondness for coconut cultivation, which he dubbed the
“major wealth of Goa”) to championing higher education for women, his contribution to
Goa was perhaps the greatest by any Goan in that era.
A devout Catholic, he stoutly opposed the caste system, gladly joined a confraternity of
‘lower’ castes, and willed he be burried in an unmarked grave. Death occured on March
RCA and Claudina Pacheco had a dozen, his “twelve apostles,” one-third “copper” (four
sons), two-third “silver” (eight daughters), “gold” were his daughters-in-law, all well-
placed in life, and 52 grandchildren, who together built the Correia-Afonsos into an
institution – not just in Goa, but around the world.
RCA left a library of his own books/writings, and others have written more about him.
The greatest tribute we Goans could pay his memory is to strive for prosperity of Goa
and for integrity in our moral values. (ENDS.)
The above article appeared in the June 10, 2009 edition of the Herald, Goa