Gaspar Da India, Gaspara Da Almeida, Gaspar Rodriguez, Gaspar de las Indias, Gaspar Perriera
There are certainly many colorful persons in the murky grey depths of medieval history. One such person is Gaspar. He is a typical example of one who seized every opportunity he got to better his existence. Such an extraordinary varied life is rare for a person of the time and how he handled himself in these difficult situations is exemplary. This then is the story of a Polish Jew who lived in India. Originally I was not too keen on the issue, but as I read a little about his travails, I was quite interested. His life is connected in a way to another colorful character Timoja whom I will introduce some another day. But for now, let us meet the Polish Jew in Malabar who has no face, for no portrait of his could be located, but a huge presence.
Gaspar Gama’s son Baltazar also served Almeida’s court in Cochin as an interpreter and figures for his work in Cannanore and also in the well accounted spying mission to Vijayanagar in 1506. Of his wife, there is no further information, but I assume that a good search can turn up something.
The rise of Portuguese power in India, 1497-1550 – R S Whiteway
Penumbral visions: making polities in early modern South India - Sanjay Subrahmanyam
A journal of the first voyage of Vasco da Gama, 1497-1499 - Alvaro Velho, João de Sá
Travel and ethnology in the Renaissance: South India through European - Joan-Pau Rubiés
The last Jews of India – Nathan Katz
- Quotes from A journal of the first voyage of Vasco da Gama - By Alvaro Velho, João de Sá
- Correa (Lendas da India) usually refers to him as Gaspar da Gama, but also calls him Gaspar de las Indias, or Gaspar d'Almeida. King Manuel, in his letter to the Cardinal Protector, calls him a "Jew, who turned Christian, a merchant and lapidary".
- Sernigi held a conversation with him at Lisbon. He speaks of him as a Sclavonian Jew, born at Alexandria.
- According to the information given by Barros and Goes, the parents of Caspar fled from Posen, in Poland, at the time when King Casimir cruelly persecuted the Jews (about 1456). After a short residence in Palestine they removed to Alexandria, where Gaspar was born
- Vespucci (He accompanied Cabral as interpreter) met him on his homeward voyage at Cape Verde, and in his letter of June 4, 1501, published by Baldelli (II Milione, 1827), he speaks highly of Gaspar's linguistic attainments, and refers to his extensive travels in Asia.
- Lunardo da Cha Masser, who came to Lisbon in 1504 as ambassador of the Signoria, in a letter written about 1506 and first published in the Archivio Storico Italiano (Florence, 1846), says that Gaspar married a Portuguese lady, and was granted a pension of 170 ducats annually, in recognition of the valuable information which he furnished respecting the Oriental trade.
- Moncaide, who came on board Vasco da Gama's vessel at Calecut, is stated by Barros and Goes to have been a native of Tunis, who, in the time of King John II had done business with the Portuguese at Oran, and spoke Castilian. He accompanied Vasco da Gama to Portugal and was baptised. In King Manuel's letter to the Cardinal Protector he is referred to as a " Moor of Tunis". The author of the Roteiro calls him a "Moor of Tunis" whom the Moors of Calecut suspected of being a Christian and emissary of the King of Portugal
- Correa savs that he was a native of Seville, who, having been captured when five years old, turned Moslem, although "in his soul he was still a Christian". He generally refers to this man as "the Castilian", and says that his true name was Alonso Perez.
- If Correa can be trusted, he still had a wife at Cochin in 1506. Sernigi (see p. 136) credits him with a wife and children at Calecut.
- Lipiner his biographer mentions a wife and family in Brazil - Bento Teixeira, who is considered the first Brazilian poet, had been consulted by Lianor da Rosa "if the said niece of his had married the said Gaspar de Almeida formerly, in the tempo dos judeus, if the children of such a marriage would be legitimate.”