Holding a reunion of Goans in the USA was considered a rarity if not an impossibility a couple of years ago. Some of my friends from the oil-rich Middle East compared it like tasting "chorisao" (Goa sausages) and the high-tech drink Feni in pork/booze restricted Saudi Arabia.
For many Goans who came to the US on their own and settled in the suburbs and even in some cities, it took them as long as three years to meet a fellow Goan. Browsing through the telephone directories and calling the Fernandes', D'Souzas, and DeSilvas proved a futile exercise. They were invariably Central and South Americans or settlers from former Portuguese colonies in Africa. But networking techniques, advanced technology and the "almighty" Internet have shattered many myths. This was attested to by about 200 people from North America, the Middle East and even "Mother" Goa who gathered in Maryland State over the last weekend in June for one of the greatest gatherings of Goans near the country's capital - Washington.
Mooted in 1993 by Ernest Remedios, his wife, Ida, his late brother Titus, Colin & Hilda Franco of Rhode Island, the two-day fiesta as expected drew a large crowd from Canada - 47 from Toronto, two from Ottawa and one from Vancouver.
But unlike the two previous meets in Rhode Island in 1993 and the steel town of Pittsburgh in Northern Pennsylvania in l995, the Canadians were outnumbered by the local folks - 82 from Maryland and 16 from Virginia State. The group included 36 from the New York/New Jersey area, seven from Pennsylvania State, five from Rhode Island, three from Delaware and one from Massachusetts. Those from outside North America were John & Juliet Morais from England, Emily & Francis Fernandes from Abu Dhabi, and Gulherne & Marie Machado from Goa.
Most of the guests registered at the Courtyard Marriot Hotel and the Holiday Inn in Gaithersburg and the Ramada Inn at Rockville. As expected, the initial "get to know" was followed by a "dip" in the swimming pool. The first social event was the dinner/dance at the Commissioned Officers Club at Bethesda on Saturday, June 28. A folk dance by a Portuguese dance troupe preceded the Grace Before Meals to the tune of "Edelweiss".
As the 182 plus attendees feasted over a buffet that included Steamship Round of Beef, Chicken Breast with Champagne Boursen Sauce and Whole Fresh Decorated Salmon, others took advantage of renewing acquaintances. This was made easier with the name tags and cities.
The President of the Maryland Goan Association, Francis DeSouza paid a glowing tribute to the Coordinator, Lourdes Fernandes, for a great job done. Lourdes later introduced members of the Organizing Committee and the Contact Persons from the various States and Provinces in the USA and Canada. Music was provided by C&R group which included Conrad Ribeiro, Chris Castellino and his wife Dorothy who belted away English, Konkani, Portuguese and even Swahili numbers to the delight of the attendees.
Emcee Philip D'Souza had the grueling task of drawing the numerous door prizes and coordinating the various spot dance prizes. The Family Day (picnic) the next morning at the Black Hill Regional Park started with a concelebrated Mass of Thanksgiving by the Principal Celebrant, Fr. Carl DeSouza, Concelebrant Fr. Francis Alves and assisted by Malcolm D'Souza.
What followed was entirely at the discretion of the 200 attendees. This included participation in various games or merely cooling off in the shade. As the folks relaxed after a meal by the Indian Bistro restaurant, a radiation oncologist from Stoneboro, Pennsylvania, Gilbert Lawrence gave a pep talk on cancer. He surprised the listeners with a shocking statistic that one in three Asians in the country was suffering from heart problems not because of a faulty diet, but because of the instant success they strive to attain for themselves and their children. A bingo/housey session climaxed the day's events.
While some were preparing to return home, others from Canada took advantage of the July 1 Canada Day holiday to visit Washington including a tour of the White House. Others padded the weekend with holidays to beach resorts in North & South Carolina.
Editor's Note: The 1997 Reunion of Goans, mostly from Tanzania, in Maryland, is described here in an article by Tony Barros and in another article by Nigel Cordeiro,who is 15 years old and who provides the perspective of a teenager. ]
On the last weekend of June, Goans from all over the world came together in our nation's capital to celebrate nothing more than being together. The fun began on Saturday night when we got to the Naval Commissioned Officer's Club that night at about 6 p.m. and were immediately greeted with familiar smiles along with new faces. Thanks to the diligent efforts of Lourdes Fernandes (Maryland), Goans from all over the world were gathered. She was assisted by other committee members: Rolina D'Silva (Canada), Hilda Franco (Rhode Island), Tony Barros (New York) and, of course, Frederica Quiterio (Pennsylvania), who together enabled this event to be host to Goans from all over the Northeast: Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and Delaware. Most impressive was the number of international guests from Abu Dhabi, Goa, England and a large Canadian group from Ottawa, Vancouver and Toronto. The engaging conversation that ensued was enough to captivate us until dinner began at about 7:30. Before we were treated to the vast buffet of Beef, Seafood, Fruit Salad, Salmon, Chicken and other assorted foods, we all stood to sing the Grace before meal, to the unforgettable tune of Edelweiss. The real
party started at 8:30, the live band, C&R Music (named ever popular Conrad Ribeiro) began displaying their vast repertoire. As usual, nobody hesitated to start dancing immediately. We were accompanied by a large selection of songs ranging from the waltz to the twist. Of course, no Goan dance could be complete without people of all ages trying to dance the Macarena. Favorite songs such as the Electric Slide, YMCA and Hands UP brought everyone to the dance floor. Throughout the evening, the Master of Ceremonies, Philip D'Souza, would stop the music and present prizes to whichever couple was standing at a certain spot on the floor. The night ended with everyone in high spirits, looking forward to the picnic we would enjoy the next day. After an exhausting but exciting night most of us went back to the hotel and gathered in the lounge talking and singing songs until the early morning.