On his first trip to India four years ago, Francisco de Braganza spent two weeks in Goa and Cochin. Last weekend, during his second trip, he explored Daman, Diu, Vasai and Mumbai, along with 12 other Portuguese travellers.
But Braganza is no ordinary tourist, and neither are his choice of destinations. The 62-year-old prince is an eighth-generation descendant of Portugal’s royal Braganza family, which changed the fate of Mumbai forever: When princess Catherine of Braganza married England’s King Charles II in 1662, the seven islands of Bombay were given to the British as dowry. Though Catherine died childless, Francisco de Braganza is a direct descendant of her brother.
“Back then, Mumbai was a small but strategic port. The marriage and dowry were a political move,” said Braganza, whose four-day trip to the city will conclude on Tuesday. “At first sight, I found Mumbai too big, with too many people. With time, one gets more comfortable.”
Braganza’s tour was organised by Joao Alarcao, a Lisbon-based traveller who organises and guides groups of his friends through cultural tours to India, particularly to areas where the Portuguese had settled.
When Braganza was growing up, Goa, Daman, Diu and several African countries were still Portuguese colonies. “British and French colonisers were dominating, but the Portuguese always insisted on mixing with the local populations,” he said.
This is the reason, said Braganza, why there is such a strong Indo-Portuguese culture preserved along India’s western coast. “In Goa, Diu and Vasai, people still speak Portuguese and greeted us so warmly.”
Indo-Portuguese culture has travelled to Portugal too, says Braganza. “The current mayor of Lisbon is a Goan whose family originated in Margao,” he said. As a member of a nominal royal family, Braganza works on several humanitarian and development projects in former colonies in Africa.