The history of Fontainhas, Goa’s Latin Quarter

Today Fontainhas is renowned as the Latin Quarter of Goa. But it had its own set of problems when it was being developed in the beginning. 

As more and more Portuguese families came to the settlement, the ward of Fontainhas grew rapidly and haphazardly, without any clear town planning in place. A set of houses, built wall to wall without proper sanitary and hygiene, raised grave health concerns. As a result, the then Governor of Goa, Jose Ferreira Pestana was forced to write to the President and Councillors of the Municipal Council to take action. In his letter he writes:

“The Governor informs the municipal authorities that there is urgent need to take all care and make all possible efforts to improve the Bairro das Fontaihas, where a large number of people live crowded in small houses, with little light, poor ventilation and little cleanliness and lot of humidity and heat. This may cause health problems to the inhabitants and, consequently, grave damage to the city. Therefore the municipality is asked to take action to see that the people of the ward as well as others in the city observe the ‘posturas’ that the Municipality has published. Also to remain watchful and have good management of its Taluka regimen”

Further the Governor General instructed the Municipality that the following measures needed to be undertaken:

  • Open windows on the walls for those houses that have none
  • Increase in size others that are small
  • Increase the height of the houses
  • Expose Enclosures made of ‘ollas’ (palm leaves
  • Clear the lanes and by-lanes of shacks, which they are trying to get converted into legal acquisitions using roof tiles and buildings walls of stones
  • Tenants should be asked to maintain the cleanliness  of the properties and drains of their area in order to allow free flow of water into the river

History of Fontainhas, Panjim, Goa

The Governor General also feared that the dirt and unhygienic conditions could cause sickness and epidemic which would spread much faster in a warm climate like that in Goa. 

The neighbourhood of Fontainhas was, as its name suggests, highly reliant on the “little fountain” of the area. The Governor General therefore starkly emphasized the need to improve the hygienic conditions around the fountain, which was the only source of potable drinking water in those days.

Being reminded of the origins of Fontainhas also serves to remind us of the importance of keeping our surroudings clean. My cleaning staff are instructed to not only clean the inside of The Mitaroy Heritage Homestay but also to sweep the front and back lanes that run beside our Heritage Homestay. If all of us do our bit, Fontainhas will be remain clean and hygienic for both its residents and its visitors.