The Portuguese Period
Portuguese culture dominates the Macanese, but Chinese cultural patterns are also significant. The community acted as the interface between ruling colonial government - Portuguese from Portugal who knew little about Chinese - and the Chinese majority (95% of population) who knew equally little about the Portuguese. Most Macanese had paternal Portuguese heritage until 1974. 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 women from Goa, Siam, Indo China, or Malay, were brides of the Portuguese men in Macau. 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.
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. 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 Red Guard. 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. During World War II, Carnation Revolution, and before and after Macau's return to China, Macanese once again migrated to Portuguese African colonies and Brazil, other Latin American countries, Canada, United States, and Australia. Those who returned to Macau often speak English, Portuguese, Chinese, Macanese, and African languages.
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