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The Erudite Journalist

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

It was October-November of 1999 when a group of librarians from Rachol Seminary, Central Library and Historical Archive of Goa from Panjim, under Senhora Ines Isabel Simoes de Abreu dos Santos Correia of Torre de Tombo Portugal took part in a course of preservation and conservation of the historical documents existing at Rachol Seminary as well as the Menezes Bragança House at Chandor. For 15 days the group was given the task of cleaning, cataloguing and preparing descriptions of the documents assigned to each member. I was one of the group members, representing Rachol.

At Chandor I was given the personal library of Luis de Menezes Bragança to clean and catalogue. While going over the material, I came across the following description of the well-known journalist Leopoldo Cipriano da Gama from Cotula in Saligao. So as to preserve Menezes Brangança’s words as they were, I reproduce here the piece he wrote in Portuguese following Leopoldo’s death in Penha de França, Bardez, on 28 April 1929:

“Jornalista, na lidima acepçao da palavra. Rapidez de elaboraçao mental, arranque de lutador, solido e variada cultura e maneira incisiva de dizer. Conhecia como poucos as literatures classicas. Da literatura francesa e da inglesa, sabia o que havia de mais representativo e culminante. Os seus artigos denunciavam, a cada passo, a sua educaçao humanista. E a historia! Como ele a sabia evocar, nas suas luminosas e sugestivas cronicas internacionais, em adequado parralelo, nao na indigesta mole de factos, mas no seu alcance profundo, nas suas largas repercursoes. Na polemica, era um lutador audaz e de temer. Era o argument que convence, o sarcasmo que arrasa, a gargalhada que desnorteia. O contendor, as vezes, ficava na lica a escorrer em sangue.”

Leopoldo Cipriano da Gama is the son of Luis Antonio da Gama of Cotula, Saligao, and Carlota Joaquina Gonçalves of Penha de França. He was born in Assagao. At a very young age he dedicated himself to journalism, writing to various newspapers and journals. Subsequently he collaborated with journals such as Goa Panch, A Patria, O Futuro and Boletim Indiano. From 1887 to 1894 he edited A Convicçao and later Gazeta da India from 1893 to 1894. He was also Editor of A Evoluçao in 1895 and of A Patria too. In Bombay Leopoldo was the founder editor of the weeklies Horas Vagas (1890-91) and Colonia Goana (1891-92).

I have related earlier the amusing story of how Leopoldo once evaded arrest by hiding beneath his mother’s skirt. Portuguese government officials were incensed by a column Leopoldo had written, titled “A Call to Arms”, exhorting the readers to revolt against the oppressive Portuguese rule. While Leopoldo succeeded in escaping detection by the police — who searched high and low for him all over the house, expect of course under Dona Carlota’s skirt – he was forced to flee Goa, walking all the way to Bombay where he then spent most of his remaining days before finally returning to Penha de França in Goa after many years.

Leopoldo da Gama was the most complete Goan journalist of his time and his writings reflected high-quality thinking and accurate facts that never betrayed truth. He feared nobody and his arguments convinced everyone. He is the author of Perfil Biografico do Sr. Jose de Sa Coutinho (A Biographical Profile of Mr. Jose de Sa Coutinho); Luis Xavier Correa da Graca (Biographical Notes); Sombras e Luzes (Shadows and Lights); O Socialismo (Socialism). All these writings made him rather famous. May his tribe prosper in the village of Saligao and wherever else in the world they have chosen to settle down.

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