The Macanese Network
In 2003 one of the first websites dedicated to the Macanese Diaspora was launched in California by a former Hong Kong resident named Horatio Fernando Ozorio. Mr. Ozorio spent the next five years, in his words, “… devoted to the continuity of the Macanese diaspora …” by making his website (A Diaspora Macaense na America) “… a vehicle by which the culture and tradition of the Macanese people can be passed along to … our younger generation.” With the support of several others in the California community, Ozorio worked diligently for five years, sometimes writing pointed editorials about Macanese issues, until finally closing the site due to failing health.
I note Horatio Ozorio’s efforts with belated admiration, not only for the fact that he began the project at the age of 73. Ozorio’s real contribution was the observation that many communities around the world can now communicate to preserve Macanese traditions for new generations. Although his efforts cannot be called “academic research”, Ozorio’s emphasis on nostalgic memories and cultural preservation filled a large void in the collective consciousness because factual information about Macau was scarce. Ozorio’s work also led to the appearance of many other Macanese web and social media sites, including my own in 2012.
During this period, often called “Web 2.0”, social media were used to learn more about users and their various interests. This new phase also led to the ability to encourage dialogue between people in distant locations, irrespective of language and borders. As we shall see later, the use of social media has become a major tool of presidential campaigns in the United States, and will be critical to future contacts with the Macanese Diaspora.
In my own case, I used social media to extend the reach of two on-line surveys that I conducted in 2012 and 2013 with the assistance of Casa de Macau associations in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Australia, and Portugal. Through these surveys, I was able to estimate the size of the Macanese population, and verify that many are interested in the future of Macau. A summary of some results is included below.
Who are in the Macanese Network?
Before 2012 there was much speculation, without empirical evidence, about the size and composition of the Macanese community, especially outside Macau and Hong Kong. There was even less information on how Macanese identify themselves culturally, their interests in reconnecting to Macau, or what on-line tools they use. These points are especially important among younger Macanese who are familiar with the internet and its many user platforms. The combined results of the 2012 and 2013 surveys produced the first statistical estimate of 1.5 million Macanese world-wide. The surveys also provided the first signs that working professionals are willing to assist in Macau’s economic expansion.
The responses came from the members of eleven (11) Casa de Macau organizations around the world, and three (3) independent Macanese associations in Canada and the United States. All Casa de Macau organizations are supported by the Conselho das Comunidades Macaenses (CCM) based in Macau. Links to the on-line survey were sent out by e-mail from the associations or added in their newsletters. While the data presented below are not definitive, they provide new information about Macanese origins, perceptions of cultural identities, and interest in Macau’s future. Here are some highlights:
Average Ages: Birthplaces:
59 % were working age (19-64) 36% were from Hong Kong
39% were retired (> 65) 20% were from Macau, 14% were from Shanghai
Ancestral Roots Cultural Self-Identity:
48.7% Macau, 74.4% Macanese or Portuguese-Macanese
28.2% Hong Kong, 13.1% Eurasian
14.5% Shanghai, 9.5% Portuguese
These results suggest strong ties through self-identification and ancestral background. They also indicate a cultural link to Macau that has survived for several generations.
Another important aspect of the Macanese population concerns the size of families. 77% reported an average of 28 living family members. More than 53% reported an average of 33 relatives, while a smaller percentage (7.5%) stated they had more than 75 living relatives. These tallies actually seemed low when first tabulated. In my own family, for example, I counted at least 100 living relatives scattered over four continents. Many people I interviewed since the surveys also indicated that they have a larger number of relatives in their own families.
The difficulty in estimating population size, I realized later, has much to do with how Luso-Asians were counted in the past. For example, the latest genealogical research on the Macanese is based on more than 50,000 family names from archives in Portugal, Goa, Malaysia, and Macau, some dating from the 11th century. But not all Macanese relatives may have been recorded in the original archives.
Some Macanese women, for example, who took the surnames of their non-Macanese husbands, and even men whose relatives changed their names, often were not included in early censuses. This is a flaw in some archival holdings, not in the work of the genealogists who interpreted the data. The continual migration of people and the lack of records may account for some errors. On the other hand, assumptions about who “belongs” in the community were sometimes based on the concept of “pureza de sangre” (purity of blood), a long discredited attitude originating from anti-Semitic policies after the Crusades. As a result, some people without supporting documents, and those not accepted into the community because of mixed-race or undocumented birth, were simply not counted. The reappearance of these attitudes on some websites in 2016 is especially ironic for many Macanese, whose origins can be traced to New Christian Jews from Portugal and Spain.
I attempted to adjust for the flaw by asking women in the surveys for their maiden names. The results showed that a significant number (29 %) were identified only through Macanese birth names that they reported. If we extrapolate that portion among the estimated 1.5 million Macanese across the globe, there may be an additional 400,000 women and their children whose families were uncounted because their married names were not recognized some time in history.
Cultural and Commercial Interests
A few other results are worth noting. First, Macau’s ancient language (Maquista) is apparently far from extinct, as reported by news agencies since the year 2000. Our survey found that 61.5% of Macanese (542 respondents) can speak or understand the patois. Other cultural ties are indicated by the fact that 68.4% reported a high interest in Macau’s heritage, while 41% want to learn more about business opportunities in China. These results are significant because more than half of all those who responded (59%) are working professionals familiar with the internet. In fact, 88% of them use social media (Facebook or Twitter) and nearly all (98%) use e-mail. As the number of global Smartphone users reaches 2.1 billion in 2016, the importance of connecting over the web, especially for business, is now taken for granted.
Macanese Network of the Future – The Clinton -Trump Example
To fully understand the impact of Macanese use of the internet, and the potential influence on Macau, we will conclude with a review of the numerous Macanese web and social media sites that currently exist. To illustrate the influence that social media, in particular, may be having on public opinion, we will use the example of the 2016 Presidential campaigns in the United States.
Since 2012 most U.S. Democratic and Republican candidates have used social media in their campaigns. The singular use of Twitter by Donald Trump in 2016, however, is far exceeded by Hillary Clinton’s use of Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. The difference is in the high number of “Friends” and “Shared” links generated by the Clinton staff on the three (3) social media sites combined. As they say, the numbers tell the tale.
According to the Statistica website, the average number of contacts on U.S. Facebook accounts is 350 people. So, if 100 people “like” a single article, video, or picture, 350 of their “friends” on Facebook will see it. This results in 35,000 additional views of that one item. The numbers grow exponentially, however, when these items are “shared”, even by a smaller percentage of the 35,000 people who first saw it. This next level of contact is referred to as “secondary” sharing, while the level after that is called “tertiary” sharing.
For example, if only 25% of the first level (35,000 people) share the original article, the result is 3.06 million viewers (35,000/.25 x 350). If 50% of the first 35,000 people share the same article, the result is 6.125 million viewers. The numbers increase to the hundreds of millions by the third level, and billions more with each successive level of sharing. Projecting those numbers to 15 million Clinton supporters in the U.S. on three (3) separate social media platforms, the Democratic nominee has a distinct advantage on social networks at this stage in the race.
The same principle applies to the use of the web and social media by Macanese. Currently there are at least six (6) Facebook sites and fifteen (15) web sites on the internet originating from the United States, Canada, Brazil, Australia, and Portugal. They cover such topics as identity, old Macau, the people of Macau, commercial connections, cultural research, nostalgic memories, Diaspora news, and information on Macanese associations. Nine (9) more organizations do not have web or social media sites, and communicate by e-mail. There are also an unknown number of Malaysian sites for “Kristang” members, who share similar cultural origins.
Unfortunately, three Macanese sites (which I will not identify) restrict access by making them “private”, and one webmaster actually checks genealogical records to approve or reject those who seek entrance. The benefits of keeping web and social media sites “open” to everyone are better understood by the great majority of the Macanese webmasters I have contacted. They came to the same conclusion that I reached for FarEastCurrents.com: the number of people interested in Macau and Macanese business is much larger than many people suspect.
Here is a final example based on a tally of contacts for June 14, 2016. That day there were 2,602 unique social media contacts for an article posted on FarEastCurrents.com. Those contacts resulted in 910,700 views for that single item, based on the average of 350 users attached to each social media account. I do not know how many “secondary” and “tertiary” shares came afterward, but if the same principles of contact (as outlined above) hold true, the potential for reaching millions more in the Diaspora is huge. A coordinated effort among web masters and social media coordinators surely would maximize Macau’s efforts to access the Macanese Network world-wide.
These observations suggest a significant opportunity for all associations inside and outside Macau to collaborate in order to reach young professionals on the web. The traditional reliance on random contact between local businesses and people in the Diaspora cannot be the basis of Macau’s future economic expansion. Clearly, there must be a more systematic approach focused on Macanese professionals who understand the implications for Macau. My hope is that all of Macau’s associations, including the Conselho das Comunidades Macaenses (CCM), the Associacao dos Macaense (ADM), and the International Institute of Macau (IIM), will be more receptive to collaboration than in the past, given the realities of the information age. The message to each of them is: “Welcome to the future”.
Please stay tuned for more next time.