Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Kristang, people with partial Portuguese ancestry: a small community;

The Kristang are a creole Eurasian ethnic group of people of mixed Portuguese and Malaccan descent based in Malaysia and Singapore. Many people of this ethnicity also have Chinese, Indian and other Asian heritage due to intermarriage, which was common among the Kristang. 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.[1] 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 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. Portuguese married mostly women of Malay ethnicity, but also those of Chinese or Indian descent. Today 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, who also colonized southeast Asia at one time.

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).

The Kristang community still has surprising cultural and linguistic continuities with today's Portugal, especially with the Minho region, from where many early settlers emigrated. The Kristang continue to hold some church services in Portuguese, and Malaysians often refer to the community as "Portuguese". As the Kristang language is not taught in schools, it is nearing extinction, with the exception of within the Portuguese Settlement in Ujong Pasir Malacca.

The Kristang in Malaysia do not have the status of bumiputra, which applies to indigenous ethnic groups, although they can apply to be members of a trust scheme known as Amanah Saham Bumiputra. This is a privilege shared by Malaysians of Thai decent. The government sponsored this program to help the Malays increase their participation in the national economy. The Kristang community in Singapore is part of a larger umbrella group, known generically as the Eurasian community. Some members have emigrated to Perth, Western Australia over the past three decades.

The Portuguese Settlement is a thriving Kristang community in Malacca, established in 1933 with the goal of gathering the dispersed Kristang community and preserving their culture. A simple village of poor fishermen for many decades, it has recently become a major tourist attraction. This has helped to improve the income of the Kristang population.

(source: wikipedia)

No comments:

Post a Comment