Macanese population fears loss of identity
December 18, 1999
From Hong Kong Bureau Chief Mike Chinoy
MACAU (CNN) -- The tiny portion of Macau's population known as Macanese -- the descendants of intermarriage between Portuguese and Chinese -- fear they will lose their cultural identity now that nearly 500 years of Portuguese influence in Macau is ending.
"We are very few to begin with and, in future, there's going to be very few Portuguese people to intermarry. So perhaps we are a dying race," singer Nina Lichtenstein said.
There are scarcely 4,000 Macanese among Macau's approximately 400,000 residents -- and they're living in an enclave about to shed its colonial roots. Most Macau residents are ethnic Chinese.
In some ways the uncertainty of the Macanese is a reflection of Portugal's fragile legacy in the region.
Macau -- apart from the colonial architecture and slightly Mediterranean flavor -- has become a Chinese city. The Portuguese civil service and administration are about to leave, and the remaining Macanese are struggling to keep their culture alive.
Lawyer Miguel Senna Fernandes established a performing arts troupe to preserve the Sino-Portuguese patois, or creole language, of the early Macanese.
"What is going to happen? What is the real space in the future for the Macanese community?" he asked. He notes that the local the cemetery has graves of his ancestors dating back to the 1700s.
Another Macanese family, the Pedrucos, also has deep roots in Macau. Four sisters have even won the Miss Macau beauty pageant.
"When you are descended from the Portuguese people, now, in the middle of your life, it turns out to be a place where it's going to be given back to China, of course we will feel a little bit sad," Henrique Pedruco, the father, said.
But Geraldina Pedruco, one of the four sisters, believes her son has a future in Macau. The enclave has long been the middleman between East and West, just as the Macanese have been the middlemen between Portuguese and Chinese.
"We have Chinese and Portuguese culture mixed together. And there's no confrontation," she said.
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