|Regions with significant populations|
|Portuguese · Cantonese · Macanese|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Portuguese diaspora · Cantonese people · Hong Kong people · Macau people · Tanka people · Sinhalese people · Japanese people · Malay people · Indian diaspora|
|Literal meaning||Native-born Portuguese people|
|Alternative Chinese name|
|Literal meaning||Native-born Macau people|
|Second alternative Chinese name|
|Literal meaning||Wheat-border men|
The Macanese people (Portuguese: Macaense) are an East Asian ethnic group that originated in Macau in the 16th century, consisting of people of predominantly mixed Cantonese and Portuguese as well as Malay, Japanese, English, Dutch, Sinhalese, and Indian ancestry.
The term "澳門人" (meaning Macanese) and "土生葡人" (meaning native-born Portuguese people) in Chinese (Cantonese), the lingua franca of Macau, refers to the Macau people and the Macanese people, respectively. Although there were attempts by the Portuguese Macau government in the mid-1990s to redefine the Portuguese and English term "Macanese" as Macau Permanent Resident (anyone born in Macau regardless of ethnicity, language, religion or nationality), in accordance with the Chinese (Cantonese) usage, this did not succeed. Consequently, the Portuguese and English term "Macanese" refers neither to the indigenous people of Macau (Tanka people) nor to the demonym of Macau, but to a distinctive minority culture making up approximately 1.2% of Macau's population.
Modern Macanese culture can be best described as a Sino-Latin culture. Historically, many ethnic Macanese spoke Patuá, which is a Portuguese-based creole and now nearly extinct. Many are fluent in both Portuguese and Cantonese. The Macanese have preserved a distinctive Macanese cuisine.
Macau was founded circa 1557 by Portuguese merchants with permission of the Chinese Canton governor and later the emperor. Since its beginning, Macau has not been conquered and until the attacks of the Dutch in 1604, it didn't have a military garrison. Portuguese culture dominates the Macanese, but Chinese cultural patterns are also significant. The community acted as the interface between Portuguese merchant settlers or ruling colonial government – Portuguese from Portugal who knew little about the Chinese – and the Chinese majority (90% of population) who knew equally little about the Portuguese. Some were Portuguese men stationed in Macau as part of their military service. Many stayed in Macau after the expiration of their military service, marrying Macanese women.
Rarely did Chinese women marry Portuguese; initially, mostly Goans, Ceylonese/Sinhalese (from Sri Lanka), Indochina, Malay (from Malacca), and Japanese women were the wives of the Portuguese men in Macau. Slave women of Indian, Indonesian, Malay, and Japanese origin were used as partners by Portuguese men. Japanese girls would be purchased in Japan by Portuguese men. Macau received an influx of African slaves, Japanese slaves as well as Christian Korean slaves who were bought by the Portuguese from the Japanese after they were taken prisoner during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–98) in the era of Hideyoshi. From 1555 onwards, Macau received slave women of Timorese origin as well as women of African origin, and from Malacca and India. Macau was permitted by Pombal to receive an influx of Timorese women. Many Chinese became Macanese simply by converting to Catholicism, and had no ancestry from the Portuguese, having assimilated into the Macanese people since they were rejected by non-Christian Chinese. The majority of marriages between Portuguese and natives was between Portuguese men and women of Tanka origin, who were considered the lowest class of people in China and had relations with Portuguese settlers and sailors, or low-class Chinese women. Western men like the Portuguese were refused by high class Chinese women, who did not marry foreigners. Literature in Macau was written about love affairs and marriage between the Tanka women and Portuguese men, like "A-Chan, A Tancareira", by Henrique de Senna Fernandes. More of the stories of Christianized Chinese who adopted Portuguese customs will be narrated on the 3rd paragraph. When the native Chinese women did not marry Portuguese men at first, the Chinese women who married Portuguese men were from the Portuguese territories of Malacca and Indonesia (including Timor) and also from Thailand, where descendants of Chinese settlers already lived long before Portuguese settlers arrived. Furthermore, in the midst of the Manila Galleon trade, a small number of Latinos settled in the ports of Macau in China and Ternate in Indonesia which were secondary connecting trade nodes to the primary trade-route between Manila, Philippines and Acapulco, Mexico; they intermarried with the Portuguese settlers and various Asian settlers; the first Latin American Asians were mostly Mexicans and to a lesser extent, Colombians and Peruvians who made their way to Asia (Mainly the Philippines) in the 16th century, the Latin-Americans who were sent to the Philippines and Macau from the Spanish colonies in America were often made up of Mulattoes, Mestizos and Indios (Amerindians). Following the Shimabara Rebellion in 1638, about 400 Japanese Christians were officially deported to Macau or to the Spanish Philippines, and thousands more were pressured into voluntary exile; those Japanese Catholic refugees, many are fluent in Portuguese, even intermarried with Portuguese settlers & already existing Macanese settlers.
During the late-nineteenth century, and increasingly during Salazar's fascist Estado Novo regime, the upbringing of most Macanese fell along the lines of the continental Portuguese – attending Portuguese schools, participating in mandatory military service (some fought in Africa) and practising the Catholic faith. As recently as the 1980s, most Macanese had not received formal Chinese schooling and, hence, could speak but not read or write Chinese. Spoken Cantonese was largely familiar, and some spoke the language with a regional accent (鄉下話) – acquired largely from their mothers or amahs.
Since Portuguese settlement in Macau – dating from 1557 – included a strong Catholic presence, a number of Chinese converted to Catholicism. A large number of Macanese can trace their roots to these New Christians. Many of these Chinese were assimilated into the Macanese community, dropping their Chinese surnames and adopting Portuguese surnames. In the collective Macanese folk memory, there is a little ditty about the parish of St. Lazarus Parish, called 進教圍, where these Chinese converts lived: 進教圍, 割辮仔, 唔係姓念珠 (Rosário) 就係姓玫瑰 (Rosa). Hence, it is surmised that many Macanese with surnames of Rosario or Rosa probably were of Chinese ancestry. Because of this, there are many Eurasians carrying Portuguese surnames Rosario, Rosa, and others that are not Portuguese-blooded may be mistaken by others as Portuguese-blooded, and Eurasians of Portuguese blood carrying Portuguese surnames trace their Portuguese blood on their maternal side. A visit to the St Michael the Archangel Cemetery (Cemitério São Miguel Arcanjo), the main Catholic cemetery near the St. Lazarus Parish, would reveal gravestones with a whole spectrum of Chinese and Portuguese heritage: Chinese with Portuguese baptised names with or without Portuguese surnames, Portuguese married with Chinese Catholics, and so on.
The mid-twentieth century, with the outbreak of the Second World War in the Pacific and the retreat of the Republic of China to Taiwan, saw the Macanese population surge through the re-integration of two disparate Macanese communities: the Hong Kong Macanese and the Shanghai Macanese. With the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong in 1941, the Macanese population, escaping the occupation, made its way to Macau as refugees. These Macanese, including many skilled workers and civil servants, were fluent in English and Portuguese and brought valuable commercial and technical skills to the colony. Another distinct group within the Macanese community is the 上海葡僑; the descendants of Portuguese settlers from Shanghai that acted as middlemen between other foreigners and the Chinese in the "Paris of the Orient". They emigrated from Shanghai to Macau in 1949 with the coming of the communist forces. Many spoke little Portuguese and were several generations removed from Portugal, speaking primarily English and Shanghainese, and/or Mandarin. The Shanghai Macanese carved a niche by teaching English in Macau. Only the children and grandchildren of Shanghainese settlers who were born and raised in Macau have the ability to speak Portuguese.
A number of Macanese also emigrated during the Carnation Revolution and Macau's handover to the People's Republic of China, respectively. Most potential emigrants looked to Brazil, Portugal's African territories, and Australia.
Beginning with the post-1974 independence of other Portuguese colonies and hastened by Macau's return to China, the Macanese community began to lose its Portuguese heritage. Many Portuguese, Eurasians and Chinese who were loyal to the Portuguese left after its return to China. Of those that remained, many children – including those of pure Chinese descent – switched from Portuguese- to English-medium high school education, particularly as many of parents recognised the diminishing value of Portuguese schooling. Many Macanese people of mixed ancestry since Portuguese time never speak Portuguese and speak only Cantonese as their first language; if other Macanese people of mixed ancestry speak Portuguese, they speak it as a second language, affected by a Cantonese accent. At the same time, Macanese of pure Portuguese descent are also learning Cantonese and Mandarin to be able to communicate to non-Portuguese-speaking Chinese. Today, most Macanese – if they are still young enough – would go back to study to read and write Chinese. Many see a niche role for fluent speakers of Portuguese, Cantonese and Mandarin. Code-switching between Portuguese, Cantonese, and Mandarin among native speakers is common. In the 1980s, Macanese or Portuguese women began to marry men who identified themselves as Chinese.
There is some dispute around the exact meaning of "Macanese". An essay by Marreiros offers a broad spectrum of "Macanese types", ranging from Chinese Christian converts who live among the Portuguese to the descendants of old-established families of Portuguese lineage; all groups are integrated into this historically legitimated group. As a general rule, it is not a point of reference, however for ethnic Chinese living and raised in Macau; they often identify themselves as Chinese or Chinese from Macau; "Macanese" is applied to those people who have been acculturated through Western education and religion and are recognized by the Macanese community as being Macanese.
Traditionally, the basis for Macanese ethnic affiliation has been the use of the Portuguese language at home or some alliances with Portuguese cultural patterns and not solely determined along hereditary lines. Pina-Cabral and Lourenço suggest that this goal is reached "namely through the Portuguese-language school-system". Often, due to the close proximity to the Portuguese, the Macanese closely identify themselves with Portuguese nationals as opposed to Chinese in the bi-cultural and bi-racial equation. In practice, however, being Macanese is left up to how individuals categorize themselves.
In the mid-1990s, there had been attempts by the Macau government to redefine the Macanese to be everyone born in Macau regardless of ethnicity, language or nationality. Since the re-integration of Macau with the People's Republic of China in late 1999, the traditional definitions are in a state of re-formulation. Given the shifting political climate of Macau, some Macanese are coming to recognize and identify closer with a Chinese heritage.
This ambiguity might be reduced by the further adjective crioulo.
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To be a Macanese is fundamentally to be from Macao with Portuguese ancestors, but not necessarily to be of Sino-Portuguese descent. The local community was born from Portuguese men. ... but in the beginning the woman was Goanese, Siamese, Indo-Chinese, Malay – they came to Macao in our boats. Sporadically it was a Chinese woman.
macao Japanese women.
When we established ourselves here, the Chinese ostracized us. The Portuguese had their wives, then, that came from abroad, but they could have no contact with the Chinese women, except the fishing folk, the tanka women and the female slaves. Only the lowest class of Chinese contacted with the Portuguese in the first centuries. But later the strength of Christianization, of the priests, started to convince the Chinese to become Catholic. ... But, when they started to be Catholics, they adopted Portuguese baptismal names and were ostracized by the Chinese Buddhists. So they joined the Portuguese community and their sons started having Portuguese education without a single drop of Portuguese blood.
I was personally told of people that, to this day, continue to hide the fact that their mothers had been lower-class Chinese women - often even tanka (fishing folk) women who had relations with Portuguese sailors and soldiers.
In fact, in those days, the matrimonial context of production was usually constituted by Chinese women of low socio-economic status who were married to or concubies of Portuguese or Macanese men. Very rarely did Chinese women of higher status agree to marry a Westerner. As Deolinda argues in one of her short stories,"8 should they have wanted to do so out of romantic infatuation, they would not be allowed to
Henrique de Senna Fernandes, another Macanese author, wrote a short story about a tanka girl who has an affair with a Portuguese sailor. In the end, the man returns to his native country and takes their little girl with him, leaving the mother abandoned and broken-hearted. As her sailorman picks up the child, A-Chan's words are: 'Cuidadinho ... cuidadinho' ('Careful ... careful'). She resigns herself to her fate, much as she may never have recovered from the blow (1978).
Her slave-like submissiveness is her only attraction to him. A-Chan thus becomes his slave/mistress, an outlet for suppressed sexual urges. The story is an archetypical tragedy of miscegenation. Just as the Tanka community despises A-Chan's cohabitation with a foreign barbarian, Manuel's colleagues mock his 'bad taste' ('gosto degenerado') (Senna Fernandes, 1978: 15) in having a tryst with a boat girl.
As such, the Tanka girl is nonchalantly reified and dehumanized as a thing ( coisa). Manuel reduces human relations to mere consumption not even of her physical beauty (which has been denied in the description of A-Chan), but her 'Orientalness' of being slave-like and submissive.
We can trace this fleeting and shallow relationship in Henrique de Senna Fernandes' short story, A-Chan, A Tancareira, (Ah Chan, the Tanka Girl) (1978). Senna Fernandes (1923-), a Macanese, had written a series of novels set against the context of Macau and some of which were made into films.