Lost language: how Macau gambled away its past

Lost language: how Macau gambled away its past

The amount of individuals who speak Patu a mix of Portuguese and Cantonese is lower to simply 50 because the casino-dominated Vegas from the east is constantly on the expand. Would they maintain their native tongue alive?

Nowadays, nobody speaks much Patu. Just the old people speak Patu, declares 102-year-old Aida de Jesus as she sits over the table from her daughter inside Riquexo, the little Macanese restaurant that remarkably, despite her grand age, she runs even today.

Patu is the De Jesus native language, and she or he is among its last surviving custodians. Recognized to individuals who speak it as being Maquista, Patu is really a creole language that coded in Malacca, Portugals primary base in south-east Asia, throughout the first 1 / 2 of the 16th century, making its method to Macau once the Portuguese settled there. It blends Portuguese with Cantonese and Malay, plus traces of other languages from stop-offs around the Portuguese buying and selling route.

Patu designed to eventually be the word what of Macaus indigenous Eurasian community: the Macanese. They first came about from intermarriages between Portuguese colonisers and also the Chinese mostly Portuguese men marrying and beginning families with Chinese women.


  • East meets west: Portuguese cannons at Guia Fortress; street and market scenes in Macau



However, as of the second quarter of the 19th century, the strengthening of public education in Portuguese and the socioeconomic advantages associated with the language led to the stigmatisation of Patu. It was shunned as broken Portuguese and became a language confined mostly to the home.

In 2009, Unesco classified Patu as a critically endangered language. As of the season 2000, there have been believed to become just 50 Patu loudspeakers worldwide.

At school, I had been trained Portuguese and told to not speak Patu, states De Jesus. If I spoke Patu in school they wouldnt understand, and thus we’d to talk Portuguese.

Elisabela Larrea, a component-time PhD student and author of a blog that introduces Patu dialect flashcards to British and Chinese readers, discovered the difficulties her ancestors faced speaking the word what. She’s now a part of a little community in Macau that wishes to assist preserve it as being a medium of Macanese culture.

My mother once explained: Our parents threw in the towel that which was ours for any language that is not now we’re left to seize back what truly represents the west, our spirit. Patu is our language it’s ours, states Larrea. If you spoke in Patu, you had been viewed as uneducated. In order to realise why parents, previously, forbade children to understand their very own Macanese language.


However, as Larrea puts it, the Macanese tend to be more happy with who they really are when compared with years back, when Macanese culture wasn’t locked in high regard. This ocean change has inspired efforts to bring back the word what.

Miguel de Senna Fernandes is really a local lawyer and president from the board from the Macanese Association he’s also among the primary faces from the Patu revival. Presently, he’s director of Macaus Patu-language drama group, Doci Papiaam di Macau, meaning sweet language of Macau. For more than twenty years, they’ve been preserving the word what through original plays performed in Patu by local actors. The groups work, given subtitles in British, Chinese and Portuguese, is becoming probably the most anticipated features within the annual Macau arts festival.


  • Clockwise from top: a bilingual shop sign; Portuguese pastel de nata on sale at Lord Stows Bakery; the ruins of St Pauls Cathedral



When no one really speaks Patu anymore, people ask me: why do we make all this fuss to write a play and engage so many people? says Fernandes. I say its like something that your dad left behind, like a jar or a notebook. You know that it belongs to one of your dearest, though you wont likely use it but you wont throw it away because you feel connected to it. The same is true of Patu. We dont speak it on a daily basis, its not useful anymore, but it links us to our ancestors and to a sense of our unique community.

Since Macau was handed back to China in 1999, that distinct community and different Macanese culture is again fighting to carry on. Macau has grown in to the worlds most effective gambling hub, using its booming casino industryaccounting for approximately 80% of their economy. Although it helps the town financially, this growth has been doing little to mirror Macau or its local culture. Rather, numerous local citizens repeat the preferred strategy is to copy Vegas, casino resort by casino resort, with simply one goal in your mind: fast money.

I think the casinos certainly might have attempted harder to represent something local in Macau something that can make vacationers question and consider and uncover Macau, states Fernandes. Out of nowhere you possess an Eiffel tower in Macau, a Venetian [hotel] in Macau and today they’re creating a small-London. From your perspective, as culturally aware citizens, this really is all rubbish it states practically nothing by what Macau is.

Others, for example Larrea, believe that the job of advertising Macanese culture lies firmly using the community itself. I think however , the Macanese dont emerge enough its our obligation, she states. We cant just say: why isnt the federal government doing more or why arent the casinos doing more to advertise the west? We must get it done ourselves.



  • Chinese workers overlook Macau harbour, circa 1910; a man lays out incense sticks out to dry in the sun in 1957

But one thing that brings consensus is that time is running out to save Patu and indeed the Macanese community overall. With it facing larger cultural forces than ever before, the likelihood of extinction is inevitable, some feel.

I think the Macanese community will die out, she says. Ninety-five percent of Macaus population is now Chinese. Even my husband is Chinese. So, if I have kids, I will try to pass on Macanese values to them, but I doubt that my grandchildren will even hear Patu. I think, three or four generations from now, the language will no longer be used.

Its not just Macaus local population that is majority Chinese. Of the citys 30.95 million tourists in 2016, around 28 million came from the Chinese mainland.

Find out more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/10/macau-city-losing-language-china-portuguese-macanese

Leave a Reply