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The feast of Mae de Deus

by Mel D’Souza

The first Sunday in May is when the Goa village of Saligao and its sons and daughters living in other parts of the world celebrate the feast of the Church of Mae de Deus (Mother of God).

Celebrations abroad usually start with Holy Mass followed by a social gathering where Saligaokars partake of good food, dancing and fellowship.

Goans with roots in Saligao are affectionately referred to as ‘foxes’, a moniker that has spawned many dubious explanations as to its origin.  A few of us believe, not without a bit of chauvinism, that it is because Saligao villagers are considered to be generally smarter than other Goans, while most other Goans attribute the nickname to a perception of our being sly and niggardly. Yet others will attribute the nickname to the foxes that roamed the hills bordering the village and came down to the sugarcane fields at night.

The only plausible explanation is the one put forward by Fr Nascimento Marcarenhas whose knowledge of the history of Saligao stems from extensive research he has done on the evangelization of the districts of Salcete and Bardez following the arrival of the Portuguese in 1510.

According to Fr Nascimento, Saligao was originally a farming community that grew only rice and vegetables. But the villagers decided to add a cash crop – sugarcane. Neighbouring villagers were sceptical about the scheme, but when it proved to be a great success, they labelled the crafty Saligao farmers “uxelantle kole” meaning “foxes from the sugarcane plantations”.

In order to preserve this bit of Saligao trivia, and commemorate a significant village celebration, I did an illustration close to twenty years ago entitled DAY OF THE FOX. It’s a whimsical scene of the feast of Mae de Deus celebrated by villagers depicted as foxes in the traditional dress of their adopted countries and highlighted by landmark of those foreign lands.

With this little tribute to the village, I hope that I echo the traditional HAPPY FEAST greeting that is exchanged on the first Sunday in May by Goans all over the world who hail from the village of Saligao.

The Day of the Fox. Sketch by Mel DSouza

The Day of the Fox. Sketch by Mel D'Souza

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