June 6th, 2013 10 Comments

Note: Here’s a short comment from Fredric “Jim” Silva, a noted Macanese writer, on our estimate of the Macanese population (see the Diaspora page on this web site). The article is printed in its entirety without editing, except for a sentence near the end that has been italicized. The italics were placed because of Jim’s point that if we were to count ALL progeny of Macanese, the estimate may be accurate. But, as Jim points out, the definition of who is “Macanese” is still being debated.

This begs the question: How do we identify the Macanese ? I have taken a very broad approach, which may or may not suit all who are traditionally considered Macanese. For the purposes of my research and this web site, “Macanese” is a term of cultural identification. This includes anyone who identifies themselves with the cultural traditions of Macau, either through lineage (family), close associations (such as marriage), or because they choose to be identified as Macanese through language, cultural traditions, or geographic location.

I encourage anyone else who cares to comment on this important topic to send in their thoughts. Now, here are Jim’s comments.


by Jim Silva

This website recently gave the number of Macanese existing today.  This was given as 250,000 persons ! ! ! Incredible.  Mindboggling.  Hardly believable.

I would have thought that 10% of this number would be more to the mark. I think I know how a discrepancy of this magnitude can be arrived at.

Both estimates obviously have to do with defining  “Who is a Macanese” ( since there are no green cards or passports being issued).  Slippery ground here.

In earlier days of Portuguese Macau there had already been controversy on this score. Some contended that to be a Macanese one has to be born in Macau. Others say that to be a Macanese one has to have at least SOME Portuguese blood in his/her ancestry.

Besides place of birth and blood – language skills, culture, religion  and current citizenship should also be considered since there is no document that exists that can pass for a Macanese passport.

This “Slippery Ground” has always been apparent – but especially so today when perhaps 80% of the community have seen it fit to move away from Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macau to re-establish themselves permanently in Canada, Australia, USA, Brazil and Portugal.

By common reckoning the majority of Macanese today are now established away from the Far East. What about the progeny of these Macanese now scattered around the world?  To what degree would they still be considered Macanese?

Be aware that succeeding generations of these migrants and the generations that follow will always have a tendency for marriage outside their community.  At what generational stage does one lose the Macanese identity.

Hard to tell.  If one includes ALL progeny of Macanese – perhaps the figure of 250,000 Macanese could still ring true.  But that would be a hard pill to swallow.

I would help to simplify and clarify the tribe with this qualification.  ALL who love ” Minchi ” and “Tacho” and “Balichao” will be able to call themselvess Macanese, and entitled to fly a banner of Green and Red superimposed with an emblem of a  purple shrimp rampant.


  1. Fernanda Antonia de Pinna Ho says:

    I find myself having to disagree with Mr Silva on his definition of being Macanese.
    Developing a taste for Macanese food does not make one a Filho de Macau. It is evident that Filhos de Macau are now spread out all over the world, but each Filho de Macau one can trace has his/her familial roots back to Macau. Anyone can easily acquire a palate for Macanese food, and who wouldn’t, aye? Everything is so delicious! Unfortunately, however, liking and eating any kind of ethnic food does not change a person’s ethnic background. Being a Filho de Macau is fundamentally different from liking Macanese food.
    Perhaps Mr Silva would agree that there is a clear distinction between being Macanese (by his definition) and being a Filho de Macau – if so, I rest my case.

  2. Eduardo C. Santos says:

    I claim to be Macanese. Immigrated from Hong Kong in ’69. However my children were always taught to be American. In your survey i counted my kids as Macanese. Perhaps as Jim Silva says the numbers are inflated, but then that’s what happens when people move around the world because of governments.

  3. Identity Intact
    Attached below is a poem from an aboriginal poet Deidre Currie of tweed heads about what it is to be an aboriginal, which has always been in some dispute depending from which perspective you come from. However i feel that it is a relevant option for the definition of a Filho or filha de macau,
    “No matter how much you dilute
    Mix, match and try to pollute
    Our identity remains intact
    Something you can’t change, that’s a fact
    Our spirit is not measured by the shade of our skin
    But by something stronger found within
    A place you can not touch or take away
    It will remain shining out till our dying day
    We all connect with it again
    No matter how far we’ve been.”

    in Aboriginal identity it is the cultural identity not the racial composition which makes one an Aboriginal, so as Jim says if one identifies with Minchee and tachoo and diablo etc, with our language (see Jim’s book for nicknames), even if one does not speak it, it is the cultural identity which makes us an FM.

    White society has regarded any form of miscegenation as coloured, our respective phenotypes range the whole gamut from European to South Asian to Malay and Japanese,Chinese but that was never in issue, it was whether we identified with our culture and nossa gente.

    Genetically there were many Eurasian families who had little actual Portuguese blood so to speak, but were accepted as one of us, others who were Chinese or Japanese converts who on baptism accepted their baptismal names and were accepted as one of us.

    Even those of the diaspora generation of an American, Canadian or other birth right but who have been brought up to identify with our culture and our people, are as Jim asserts our people.

  4. “ALL who love ” Minchi ” and “Tacho” and “Balichao”?

    I’d better start cooking in my London kitchen right now!

  5. 手機殼 says:

    I have been examinating out numerous of your stories and it’s clever stuff. I will make sure to bookmark your website.

  6. Reggie Pires says:

    Thank you for your leadership in our Community, Jim. This is from your “Lana chai” friend. I would say that Macanese describes anyone who claims to be a descendants of the brave Portuguese sailors and explorers who set out into the unknown to discover new worlds. We chose the name Macanese because Macau was the most distant out post of Portugal. Of course there are probably those from Timor who may claim to be more distant but Macau was not too long ago considered to be a province of Portugal. Also, there was a time in history that the only place that flew the Portuguese flag was Macau..

  7. Director says:

    Peter Botelho (on UMA-USAs Facebook page) commented:

    ALL who love ” Minchi ” and “Tacho” and “Balichao” will be able to call themselvess Macanese. This definition works for me. By the way, can’t find any of the 3 in Austin, TX.-
    June 6 at 5:02pm.

  8. Sheila ribeiro says:

    Good job once again Jim. Love the passion with which you express yourself.

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