Casas Indianas

A perspective on heritage, architectural flows and human stories.


One of the key motivations that pushed Galicians towards migration towards South America, during the mid-19th century till the early decades of the 20th century, was their pursuit of economic prosperity. Once this was achieved, they ventured back to their land of origin and created a new accommodation that  represented the fusion of cultures and allowed Galicians to showcase their newfound financial wealth. This gave rise to the creation of large, peculiar, and colorful houses that  represented the cultural heritage of this  period in history. It is clear that immigration became a transformative process of Galician reality, not only economically but also socially and culturally. 

Therefore, two stages of emigration from this area of ​​Spain are recognized: the period that spanned from 1910-1960, in which the destination was primarily Latin America, and a later period that was characterized by emigration to Europe. Galician immigration accounted for 37.7% of total Spanish social immigration.

Immigration is undoubtedly one of the most relevant and current events in our history. However in the case of Galicia, there are many sectors of society that diminish its significance. It is important to note that Galician immigrants were unable to break their sentimental attachment towards their nation, which is why large amounts of money flowed back to Galicia for many decades. Brazil is one of the countries that received the most migrants from the late 19th century and the first decade of the 20th  century. For this reason, the Galician immigration process in Brazil was mainly established in three areas of the country: São Paulo (Santos), a city fully occupied by inhabitants of Tomiño, specifically Goián; another state of Pará: and the most important Galician group was established in Salvador de Bahía. It’s curious to  note that 96% of the Spanish residents in these cities are Galician and more anecdotally, that 90% come from the province of Pontevedra. Furthermore, according to reports of the Spanish consulate of Salvador de Bahía, 28% of the Galicians resident in this city came from Ponte Caldelas, 22% from Fornelos de Montes, 20% from Lama, and following in number and importance the municipalities of Pazos de Borbén, Ponteareas, and Mondariz.

On the other hand, in order to understand the architecture built by Galician immigrants who came from Brazil, it is important to have knowledge and understanding of the location of their destination country, specifically Salvador de Bahía. Founded in the 16th century by Portuguese settlers and built on a high plane and close proximity to the sea, it was the capital until 1763 and was one of the largest and most important cities in Latin America. Today, it is the third largest city in Brazil. The initial urban layout of Salvador de Bahía followed the same dynamics as the Spanish cities in Latin America, with a grid that evolved over time into an axial layout with squares that repeated along the main street. The idealized plans for the city were sent from Portugal to be analyzed or adapted to the city.

There is no simple way to determine a systematic account of what those Galicians saw in Salvador de Bahía in approximately sixty years, spanning the last two decades of the 19th century and the first forty years of the 20th century. However, many specialists have been able to construct a set of images that provide insight into the rich and cultured society at the time, influenced by European styles such as “modernism” and “eclecticism”. 

The visual aesthetic indicates that the buildings, in most cases, underwent a “profoundly eclectic” transformation, which is a natural response given the socio-cultural conditions of the time. The eclectic form incorporates nature into its imagery. This architecture was observed and absorbed by the immigrants during their long stay in Salvador de Bahía. The architecture was a mixture of styles, reflecting both the Portuguese heritage and the styles imported by the cultured society of Bahía. 

The neighborhoods were built with slave labor and, once consolidated, took on the appearance of Portuguese cities, which is a recurring feature in all the historic areas of Brazilian cities, with narrow cobblestone streets flanked by buildings that are formally and typologically Portuguese.


Casas Indianas have very prominent visual traces and specific architectural elements thanks to their unique history. Here are some key characteristics of the houses:

Colourful Facades

The first thing you realize about Casas Indianas is how extravagant and colorful these houses are. This is contributed by the exchange of architecture through immigration of people from Europe to Southern and Central America. During the repatriation of Galicians, these elements were once again assimilated and infused into local culture and aesthetics. A prominent example is a construction typology featuring repetitive exterior carpentry, which is typical of Portuguese architecture.

Other notable characteristics include the use of wide glazed galleries and facades covered in a variety of colored tiles, with ceramic or forged iron elements present in each frame and each column.

Symmetry and proportionality

Although we occasionally come across some exceptions, similar to those that were implemented in Lousa, Portugal, the most notable characteristic of this architectural style is  houses with a rectangular or square floor plan, a double roof, or four fired clay roofs.

Traditionally, the floor plan is rectangular with a central corridor,  which serves as the center-piece around which  the living sections are structured, and of course, a bathroom.

Decorative Elements

Many of the decorative elements found in Galicia can be traced back to their Latin American origins, these include:

  • Exquisite wood carvings in the “Galerías”, 
  • Gazebos,
  • “Beirados” from the roof, as if braided, which look more like fine lace.

Other elements that are also clearly modernist are:

  • Decorative and reflective features in doorways, 
  • Windows, balconies and grills, 
  • Motifs of a vegetal character: flowers, leaves and branches, faces of frames. 

The most captivating elements of the interior areas are;

  • Furniture
  • Interior carpentry

The most important characteristics of the garden other than palm trees, which are frequently located near the entrance:

  • Flower pots, completing the outside look alongside with other nature theme,
  • Benches or pergolas, which become common aesthetic components inside jointly

Casa Clotilde Fernandez

Indiana house with a rectangular floor plan, with two heights and use under cover, built in 1895. Although the promoters never emigrated to America, its style evokes the Indian taste, which at the end of the s. XIX achieved fame and prestige among bourgeois society.

Casa Casiano Perez

Indian house built in 1920 with an eclectic building in which the decorative elements typical of Modernism prevail. Made up of crystals in which the carpentry design is excellent. The space that advances on the main body indicates the access to the house.

Casa Valentín Albán

Indian house built in 1926, in which it is worth mentioning the break in the main façade, in which a prism appears. In this glazed volume on both levels, the norm is supported by carpentry and is emphasized with vertical and horizontal strips of tiles.


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About Us

From left to right: Ignacio Márquez (SP), Dorothea Kritikou (GR), Gabriel Abela (MT), Arianna Rodriguez (EC), Anis Sakkaf (BE), Fredrik Wouda (SE), Pelin Bozbek (TR), Teresa Táboas (SP), Noro

Casas Indianas was created by this group of passionate individuals from 7 different countries during a European Union project for developing technology impact in the rural area of Galicia. This site showcases the beauty and significance of these unique structures called Casas Indianas, this web is a tribute to the legacy of the emigrants who returned to their homeland and invested their wealth in building these stunning buildings. serves as a source of information and collaboration for anyone interested in cultural heritage and architecture.

The Author


Teresa Táboas 2004

Teresa Táboas Veleiro (born 1961 in Mexico City, Mexico) is an architect, professor and Galician politician

The aim of this book is to examine the impact of Brazilian culture on Galician architecture through visual representation.

Galicians’ admiration of this particular architecture is a clear indication that they were unfamiliar both with their neighboring country and its architecture.  

Those who immigrated there recorded the collection of architectural styles and elements that later transferred to their house in Galicia without being aware of the amazing integration of architectural styles or the coming and departing of construction methods from the neighboring country. 

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