The Kristang (otherwise known as "Portuguese-Eurasians" and "Malaqueiros") are a creole ethnic group of people of mixed Portuguese and Malaccan (Malay) descent based in Malaysia and Singapore. People of this ethnicity have strong Dutch heritage, some British as well as Chinese and Indian heritage due to intermarriage, which was common among the Kristang. In addition to this due to the Portuguese Inquisition in the region a lot of the Jews of Malacca assimilated into the Kristang community. The creole group arose in Malacca (Malaysia) between the 16th and 17th centuries, when the city was a port and base of the Portuguese. Some descendants speak a distinctive Kristang language, a creole based on Portuguese. Today the government classifies them as Portuguese Eurasians.
The Kristang language is formally called Malacca-Melayu Portuguese Creole, made up of elements of each. The Malay language, or Bahasa Malaysia, as it is now called in Malaysia, has changed to incorporate many Kristang words. For example, garfu is Kristang for "fork" and almari is Kristang for "cupboard"; the Malay language incorporated these Kristang words whole.
Scholars believe the Kristang community originated in part from liaisons and marriages between Portuguese men (sailors, soldiers, traders, etc.) and local native (Malay) women. The men came to Malacca during the age of Portuguese explorations, and in the early colonial years, Portuguese women did not settle in the colony. Nowadays intermarriage occurs more frequently between Kristang and people of Chinese and Indian ethnicity rather than Malay because of endogamous religious laws. These require non-Muslims intending to marry Malay-Muslims first to convert to Islam. Eurasians are not always willing to alter their religious and cultural identity in this way. In earlier centuries, Portuguese and local Malays were able to marry without such conversions, because such religious laws did not exist.
The name "Kristang" is sometimes incorrectly used for other people of mixed European and Asian descent presently living in Malaysia and Singapore. This includes people of Portuguese descent who were not part of the historical Kristang community, and people with other European ancestry, such as Dutch or British.
The name comes from the Portuguese creole kristang (Christian), derived from the Portuguese cristão. A derogatory term for the Portuguese-Malaccan community was Gragok (slang term for Portuguese geragau or shrimp, referring to the fact that the Portuguese Malaccans were traditionally shrimp fishermen). The community historically called themselves gente Kristang (Christian people).
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