The Kristang: A people holding on to their identity through...


The Kristang: A people holding on to their identity through church and language

The historical passage of Melaka, and of Malaysia, through the powerplays of European adventurism, exploration, maritime trade and colonisation, has not weakened the resolve of the people in the Portuguese Settlement, writes ISMAIL LAGARDIEN.

THERE’S a curious etymological explanation of the name “Singapore” – more correctly, of medieval “Singapura” – which translates into Portuguese as falsa demora. In English, falsa demora refers to (something like) “arriving at a place, and subsequently realising it is not the place you were looking for”.

This etymology (its English translation, that is) raised a chuckle when I arrived, not for the first time, in Melaka (also known as Malacca) on the west coast of peninsular Malaysia. I arrived, more specifically, in the Portuguese Settlement in Melaka and realised it was not the place I was looking for, but a better one.

It was the birthplace and home of the Kristang, a micro-minority  (they are among the 0.7% of Malaysia’s “others” in a country dominated by three main ethnic groups) ( but a proud people held together by the Catholic faith, their own language, and acknowledgment of their descent from Portuguese merchants and mariners who made a home in Melaka 500 years ago. ..

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