following is a transcript of the paper given by Frederic
A (Jim) Silva at the Macau Encontro, 3 December 2004.
said “East is East, and West is West and never the
twain shall meet” had obviously never met a Macanese.
In the Macanese there has been the perfect blending of
East and West.
then is a Macanese ?
short answer is that a Macanese is someone from Macau
or else a descendant of someone from Macau. Another accepted
definition is that a Macanese is a Eurasian of Portuguese
and Asian blood. Portuguese and, say Chinese, Goan, Malay
or Japanese ancestry – perhaps more than one of
do we look like ?
My wife tells me that my particular brand of good looks
can come from anywhere East of Suez.
the way to the last Encontro I travelled with a group
of delegates to Macau via Seoul, Korea. We met up with
a group of Casa de Macau members from Vancouver to make
our joint way flying across the Pacific. We had a great
re-union on board. On this same flight were a group of
American service wives returning to their husbands in
Korea. They were intrigued with our chatter and looks
and finally asked – “Excuse me - but who are
you ? We replied “Guess”. They consulted and
pondered and finally decided – “You are a
group of Hawaiians.”
our Macanese looks defy description. Some of us look absolutely
European and some look 100% oriental, with most of us
somewhere in between. Because of our tangled roots we
are a cocktail mix. Even within the same family there
are darker skinned children amidst lighter skinned brothers
and sisters. Our European, Goan and Chinese background
adds to the mix.
time there has been more interesting intermarrying with
other non Portuguese Europeans, especially in Hong Kong.
In Hong Kong we had large Macanese clans bearing the names
of Hyndman, Osmund, Brown, Gardner, Yvanovich, Demee and
Shanghai there was a Macanese family with the name Lubeck.
From Goa two family names came to Hong Kong and are the
Alvarez and Figuereido clans. They are all said to be
descendants of young Goan men who settled in Macau many
years ago and intermarried with Macanese women.
have Spanish blood too with Macanese families bearing
names like Gutierrez, Alarcoun and Alonco. Then there
is that large Castro clan. The story is that three Spanish
brothers settled in Hong Kong and Shanghai and intermarried
with Macanese women producing numerous offspring.
this goes to show that the racial component for this mix
was established earlier and this mixing of mixtures continued
on and on.
is a further complication which is peculiar to Macau only,
and not seen in Hong Kong or Shanghai. This has to do
with the racially pure Chinese adopting the Catholic faith
and then taking a Christian first name on baptism –
as in say – Carlos Chan. He can then even adopt
a Portuguese last name as well – perhaps the last
name of his godfather and become say, Carlos Pereira.
This was a common practice in other Portuguese colonial
territories of Goa, Africa and Ceylon.
changing his birth name, of say, Chan Kwok Hung to Carlos
Pereira on baptism would indicate that the person readily
accepted the language, religion and culture of Portugal
and may at the same time have some social and economic
advantages on reaching adulthood – both by employment
opportunities and quicker social integration. These converts
would seamlessly intergrate and intermarry with others
of similar background or within the larger Macanese Eurasian
community. Thus the mix continues.
one considers that this and other mixes have continued
for over 400 years one can appreciate the diversity.
did the Macanese live?
lived in Macau, Hong Kong and Shanghai – but we
always considered Macau as our roots. After 1841 when
the British took over Hong Kong in the wake of the Opium
war against China – the Macanese immediately followed.
They sought jobs with the British Government, trading
houses and Banks. Employment was never plentiful in Macau
and Macanese youth only aspired to clerical white collar
jobs. Educated Macanese youths speaking some English and
Chinese were among the pioneers of Hong Kong and readily
found employment in the newly established business houses
they moved further North to Shanghai as it opened up to
trade and settlement. The flow from Macau never stopped.
As recently as the 1960s there were vacancies for Portuguese
bank clerks at the HSBC. These vacancies could then not
be readily filled with Hong Kong Macanese youth. They
were then leaving to migrate to the USA, Canada and Australia.
Bank officials had then to recruit Portuguese youth directly
from Macau. More and more Macau Macanese men and women
continued the pattern of leaving home for working Hong
and how did we live?
Macau life was lived around the various parishes. Macanese
lived in the Christian city along the rim of the outer
harbor, leaving the Chinese along the Porto Interior.
The Macanese then were a somewhat insular and socially
stratified group – depending on economic circumstances
and family connections.
genealogist Dr. Forjaz was commissioned by the Fundacao
Oriente to draw up a genealogy of Macanese everywhere.
He arrived in Macau and informed an establishment matron
of what he was trying to do. He was told “Why bother
– in Macau only six families are worth tracing –
others do not matter”.
Macau some 80% of the Macanese worked for the Government
– the Police, fire brigade, treasury, public works,
hospitals, post office etc. There were only a few family
commercial firms such as Rodrigues and H. Nolasco &
Co. There were the utilities - the
electric company and waterworks. There were only one foreign
bank – the BNU. Employment opportunities were thus
very limited and migrating to Hong Kong was the only other
option. Macanese never considered working with their hands
at trades such as cooks, bakers, carpenters and electricians
and only white collar desk jobs were sought.
steady flow of Macanese from Macau to Hong Kong never
stopped. Initially all lived in a self imposed ghetto
know as “Mata Moro” in the mid levels of Hong
Kong island. This was an area around a Moslem Mosque on
Mosque Junction, Mosque St. Caine, Rd., Shelly St. It
was a convenient area. Arrivals came from Macau by steamboat
and moved right into this area.
were reasonable. The working men could get to their central
business offices easily. School children could get to
St. Joseph’s College and the Canossian school for
their education and families considered the nearby Roman
Catholic Cathedral their parish. It was a comfortable
cosy area. Everyone knew everyone else and also their
business. My mother was born in this district. She tells
of a lady with a large family being always hard up as
her husband was a habitual drunk who could not hold on
to a job. To augment family income she had a small business
making and selling a delicious curry to other Macanese
households in the area. Her husband considered this demeaning
and a slur on himself. To ruin her business he would –
when drunk – run around the streets of Mata Moro
and shout – “Nunca Bom comprar Caril de Bina
– usar tudo galinha morto suh”.
Macanese of Mata Moro considered themselves a cut above
another group of Macanese living along the city’s
waterfront in the lower rent area of Wanchai. These were
Macanese of more modest means and were referred to as
“Wanchairada” or “Cachivachi de Wanchai”.
women in Wanchai often intermarried with Englishmen of
a lower economic order – say low ranking soldiers
or security guards. Mata Moro Macanese referred to these
unions as “Casar con Ingles Sujo”.
later – say the 1910s and 1920s there was a movement
away from Mata Moro to cross the harbour to Kowloon’s
Tsim Sha Tsui. It was a quiet peaceful area and a homeowners
purchase scheme there met with some success. Macanese
now lived on the little avenues to the East of Nathan
Road with two storied houses and little gardens. Granville
Road, Austin Avenue, Humphrey’s Avenue, Cameron
Road were all Macanese areas. Later Macanese moved further
inland to form small communities in Ho Mun Tin and the
Tung Cheong Bldgs. Again there was a tendency to live
around Catholic Church parishes and schools – Rosary
Church and St. Theresa’s Church.
did Macanese work?
as many as 60% were bank clerks with the rest working
for big British “Hongs” (Trading conglomerates)
such as Jardines, Dodwells, Shewan Tomes, Gibb Livingstone,
Gilmans etc. Employment opportunities were limited to
the mid-level range as higher executive positions were
reserved for the expatriate British. Some Macanese were
a little better off working for American firms –
Banks and the Oil companies. There were few Macanese businesses
– some were Botelho Bros. (tung oil exporters,)
Cruz, Basto & Co. (rice and general merchants) and
Colonial Trading Co. Best off were the few Macanese who
were doctors and lawyers – most of whom did quite
existed at the time a somewhat secretive and small British
organisation called the “Employer’s Federation”.
This was a union of large employing firms that agreed
among themselves on how to regulate and limit employment
opportunities and salaries of local employees. Females
were not much in the work force until the 1930s when young
Macanese ladies entered the work force too with shorthand
Shanghai life and working conditions were much like HongKong.
If anything it was less restricted by British colonial
stuffiness. Shanghai was more international in outlook
as other national business – French, American, Japanese
and Chinese were more prominent.
Macanese lived I the International Settlement and the
French Town. They had their own Lusitano Club and had
a somewhat broader general outlook.
has been said about our Macanese Patua...
I add my bit? If you were in downtown Lisbon today and
said to a native “Azinha tomar Mezinha” –
he would surely not understand you. Yet these two words
“Azinha” and “Mezinha” are genuine
Portuguese words. The only trouble is that they are three
hundred years old and no longer used in modern Portugal
– they can only be found in Macau’s patua
now. Some words of this archaic Portuguese can still be
found – much as if one were to speak Elizabethan
linguistic streams also come into our patua. For instance
there are words we use from the Malay of Malacca –
Choler; Chipi; Chubi; Chuchu; Gungdoong; Booyao; Sayao;
Balichao. English and Chinese words also have a tendency
to creep in. It is a colourful language with no discernable
grammar and no plurals. It is a great tongue for satire
and slang-for making fun of others and ourselves.
you spoke the patua and came to this Encontro and met
an old friend – this is what you must not say:-
“Ay Jose – nunca olhar voce vente for a anos.
Cusa ja sosede ? Ja fica assim velho. Onde ja vai tudo
cabello? Onde ja vai tudo dente? Cara pindurado; Andar
vagar vagar-cote-cote. Costa-bonco-bonco. Qui ramede”.
bit of patua. A lady wanted to learn some Portuguese.
She said that in English one replies “Don’t
mention it” or “you are welcome” when
someone says “Thank You”. In America a reply
to a “Thank You” can sometimes be “You
Bet”. In Portuguese how does one reply to “Obrigado”
? The answer was that is someone said “Obrigado”
the proper reply would be “Ay Numseeza meh”.
there have been persons who have studied and passed on
our patua. The late Dr. Graciete Batalha took a scholarly
approach and methodically recorded pronunciation and etymology
for so many words. The late Ade Fereira – a great
humorist – took a lighter approach with verses and
plays. He was a great asset to preserve some of the old
speech. Today’s Miguel Senna Fernandes also makes
a study of the patua as he fills the gaps of his predecessors.
We own them our thanks.
there such a thing as a Macanese accent when speaking English?
Yes and No. When Macau people speak English they have
their own Portuguese accent. When Shanghai Macanese speak
there is hardly any discernable accent. Bu when HongKong
Macanese speak they can come up with a whining, sing song
accent which is so typical. When I first heard a recording
of my own voice I could not believe it was really me.
That accent was there.
saying this with a HongKong Macanese accent:-
a) “Wear boyscout hat want to be Cowboy-say”
b) In one short sentence use 3 languages: - “Eat
Ramata the Soong Yuh”.
c) “All the American in the Bank say I speak with
names said with the proper Macanese accent can immediately
identify a person. Say “Julio Lima”, “Gussy
Lus”, “Carlos Soares”, “Ange Vas”.
and how did this accent come about ?
I say St. Mary’s School of Kowloon. My theory is
that the accent came to be when shiploads of Italian nuns
fresh off the boat from Italy arrived in HongKong to teach
English to Macanese girls. This could lead to weird results.
me now say something about our food. Food is an integral
part of our Macanese culture. Fortunately we have inherited
this Far Eastern concept of eating “Rice and Soong”
like the Chinese, Japanese, Indians and Malays.
eat our white rice and accompany it with a delicious array
of dishes which have evolved from all over – Portugal,
China, Goa, Malacca. We adapt, blend, and modify dishes
from other parts and make it our own. For instance the
Portuguese Cozido has been added to with some trotters,
dried pork rind (pele), Chinese sausage and balichao to
become our own tacho.
the risk of making mouths water I list:-
Diabo, chourico vinho alho, chourico sutate, porco balicahao
tarmarinho, Ade capidella, Capella, Chau chau chilli,
Miso Cristao, Harmonica, and to quote the illustrious
bard “Nobody don’t like Minchy”.
have fabulous desserts. Many derived from Malacca Nhonya
food. Glutinous rice, glutinous rice flour, eggs and coconut
and brown palm sugar. Alua, bajee, moochy, ladoo, bebinca
leite. All rich and hearty and guaranteed to cure any
cholesterol deficiencies we may have had.
for some Macau history...
been established in 1557 there are nearly 450 years behind
this settlement. Little has been written on early origins
because there never was a treaty or anything in writing
to record events. There are actually two versions on beginnings.
The Portuguese version was that they were invited to settle
and trade in Macau out of gratitude for the fact that
they cleared the whole area of pirates. The Chinese version
was that Chinese merchants and Portuguese traders bribed
the Canton mandarins to allow for a settlement. No approval
was ever given by the Emperor in Peking. A Chinese custom
post was to be established on Praia Grande and an annual
rental payment to the Chinese was required. This certainly
did not indicate any change of sovereignty.
truth probably lay somewhere between the two versions.
In any case the loose arrangements appealed to both sides
and there were enough subsequent profits arising which
helped to seal things. A permanent city soon grew on this
historical incident in Macau’s past was the Dutch
invasion of 1620. This was during a period when the Spanish
crown rled over Portugal. The Dutch hated the Spaniards
and coveted Macau as a trading post. They wanted a footholdin
China to take over the lucrative China/Japan trade. A
fleet of 17 warships appeared off Macau– two were
from the non-combatant English. The 15 Dutch ships landed
800 men on Cacilhas beach near Porto Cerco and started
to march to the city around Guia. The Portuguese were
at a great disadvantage as a small Portuguese garrison
was away on expedition in China. Only 300 defenders could
be found. Women, slaves, Macanese and metropolitans all
got together to put up a spirited defence. The defence
plan was to retreat and ambush. A Jesuit priest manned
a canon on Monte Fort and luckily made a direct hit on
the Dutch gunpowder carriage – blowing it up. This
demoralised the invaders who now lacked gunpowder and
faced a fierce charge of Portuguese defenders. The disorganised
invaders were thrown back on to the beach where many were
drowned as they fled. It was a great Portuguese victory.
Moreover the battle impressed the onlooking Chinese as
an example of Portuguese valor.
great event in Macau history was the defence of the city
in 1849 when Chinese soldiers threatened the city with
a blockade. Just outside of Macau and beyond Porta Cerco
was a Chinese fort with 500 men who manned the heights
of a hill called Pak Shan Lan (Passaleao). The guns of
the fort threatened the Portuguese garrison at Porta Cerco
and prevented the movement of goods, people and food.
Macau was under threat and siege and would soon be starved
out. A young Macanese Lieutenant – Nicolau Vicente
Mesquita volunteered to attack the fort and lift the siege.
for 36 volunteers he fired his one canon into the heart
of the fort and then mounted a charge against a confused
and demoralised enemy. Fortunately the Chinese canons
on the fort could not be made to fire down the hill at
the attacking 36 soldiers. By evening the fort was captured.
The threatening guns were spiked and a great victory was
the 1930s the Portuguese communities of Macau, HongKong
and Shanghai contributed to the erection of a great bronze
statue of Mesquita in his full uniform. This was placed
on the Leal Senado Square as a symbol of victory and patriotism.
symbol of victory for one side can also be a symbol of
defeat for the others…A follow up on this statue’s
story was the 1966 destruction of this symbol by rampaging
Red Guards who toppled it (a la Sadam Hussein) during
a city rio. The city later replaced the stature with the
1960 Macau entered into a period of long lasting depression.
Three events occurred that caused this. Firstly –
the Portuguese sister colony of Malacca fell to the Dutch.
Malacca was then lost as a trading partner, and moreover,
the seas around that area were henceforth threated by
Dutch ships. Secondly, Portugal regained her independence
from the Spanish crown. Spanish trading connections –
Manila and Acapulco could no longer be used by the Portuguese.
Thirdly and most importantly – Japan expelled all
Portuguese traders and missionaries. The lucrative China
(silk) to Japan (silver) trade ceased. Catholics were
expelled to Macau and the profitable Japan connection
us come back to the present. Where are the Macanese now
? There has been this diaspora to all over the world but
there are still many Macanese in Macau and HongKong.
speaking Macanese have settled back in Portugal and Brazil.
English speaking Macanese have gone on to the USA, Canada
and Australia. Nearly all over the world there are now
are some Macanese.
these Macanese groups continue as a distinct community?
Yes and No. For the short term they will surely survive.
For the longer term it is questionable. Let us examine
how some other small ethnic groups have done around the
world. The Armenians of Singapore are no more. All the
exists is an old Armenian church. The burgers of Ceylon
– a mixture of Dutch and Ceylonese Eurasians have
dissipated as they migrated to Australia. Only the old
Portuguese settlement of Malacca still exists after 500
years as an identifiable group with customs, culture and
religion much intact.
most Macanese there has been this great dispersal and
intermarrying outside the group. Leaders of these dispersed
communities try to encourage a Macanese consciousness
with Clubs and Casas.
have a unique culture and an interesting heritage and
we are now brought together by this Enonctro. We are not
just here to see old friends and to overeat – but
we are here to celebrate our historical background –
thanks to the Macau Government and the people of APIM).