Portuguese Eurasian Communities in Southeast Asia 9789814377799

The author presented the information on Portuguese colonialism in the hope that, by understanding the origins of prejudi

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l?o~tugue.se Ru~asian

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The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies was established as an autonomous organization in May 1968. It is a regional research centre for scholars and other specialists concerned with modern Southeast Asia, particularly the multi-faceted problems of stability and security, economic development, and political and social change. The Institute is governed by a twenty-two-member Board of Trustees comprising nominees from the Singapore Government, the National University of Singapore, the various Chambers of Commerce, and professional and civic organizations. A ten-man Executive Committee overseas day-to-day operations; it is chaired by the Director, the Institute's chief academic and administrative officer. The Oral History Programme of the Institute commenced in 1972. Eight years later it was subsumed under the wider rubric of "Local History and Memoirs". This has not only allowed for greater scope and flexibility, but also better reflected the Institute's real interest in the area. As in the case of the Oral History Programme, the emphasis has continued to be on the collection and publication of reminiscences, recollections, and memoirs of those who have participated in the history and development of the region generally, or in a particular event.

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RONALD DAUS Free University of Berlin

Local History and Memoirs



Published by Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Heng Mui Keng Terrace Pasir Panjang Singapore 0511 All rights reserved . No part of this publication may be reproduced , stored in a retrieval system , or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical , photocopying , recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

© 1989 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Cataloguing In Publication Data Daus, Ronald Portuguese Eurasian communities in Southeast Asia . (Local history and memoirs I Institute of Southeast Asian Studies; [no . 7]) 1. Eurasians - Asia , Southeastern. 2. Portuguese - Asia , Southeastern . I. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. II . Title. III . Series . 1989 DS501 I595L no . 7 ISBN 981 -3035-17-X The responsibility for facts and opinions expressed in this publication rests exclusively with the author and his interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views or the policy of the Institute or its supporters. This publication is a translated and edited extract of Ronald Daus' book Die Erfindung des Kolonialismus published in German by Peter Hammer Verlag in 1983.

Cover photo: Insulae Indiae Orienta/is by Henry Hondius, c1632. Reproduced by courtesy of the Southeast Asian Collection, National Library, Singapore. Typeset by Art Communication Workshop Printed and bound by Kin Keong Printing Co. Pte. Ltd.

Contents ---------- ~..@)1'>---



The Craving for Power as the Basis for Colonialism



Malacca: Portuguese from 1511



Tugu: From Being an "Asian" to Becoming a "European"


Larantuka: "Portuguese" Power without Portugal


Singapore: Eurasians in the Heart of a Metropolis





v VI



The Author


I THE CRAVING FOR POWER AS THE BASIS FOR COLONIALISM r ------------c'i@••®h------------


our day and age which appears to witness a great historic transition in the relationship among the different parts of the world , where the classical colonialism of Europe has come to an end, and where independent countries outside of Europe are being subjected to new variations of influence; in our day and age which is full of uncertainties, ever changing circumstances, and evolutionary developments and where there are overt and hidden European enclaves overseas, as well as locally ruled satellites from where Europe, North America, Anglo-Oceania, and South Africa attempt to rule the rest of the world with such complex and interwoven methods that it becomes an extremely delicate task to establish who is really getting the biggest share of the cake; in this day and age of flexible power politics where alliances keep shifting continuously; in this era when the most severe rhetorics are uttered of the past, of anticolonialism, anti-imperialism, anti-neo-colonialism , anti-peace-corps interventionism -there is a strand of continuity which seems to stay above water: the traces of the Portuguese who gave initial impetus to the global strategies of colonialism almost five hundred years ago. These still remain alive in Asia today, not only in the colony of Macau or in the towns of Goa, Damao, and Diu which were under Portuguese rule until recently, but also in the regions of Southeast Asia which have not been under Portuguese administration for centuries . There are the remains of forts, trading houses, and churches, decayed or converted for alternative uses, which can be found all over the Indonesian islands, just like Roman edifices in the outer regions of the Roman Empire . In fact the inhabitants of the Ambons have become so used to calling all old walls "Portuguese" that they even refer to Dutch houses N


Portuguese Eurasian Communities in Southeast Asia

which are more than one hundred years old by that name . Generally speaking, all items - from musical instruments to cooking utensils - which were originally not Moluccan but which have been used in this region for a long time date back to the legendary Portuguese Era. 1 People have survived , too . In Malacca , which was finally lost to the Dutch in 1641, there is a group of locals who 340 years later still call themselves Portuguese. There are four islands in Indonesia with Portuguese minorities : Flores, Adonara, Solor, and Timor. In Java , which had never been under Portuguese rule , there is a village near Jakarta called Tugu which is inhabited by Portuguese. Even in Singapore, the most modern metropolis in Southeast Asia, all locals know fellow citizens of Portuguese origin . The fact that the Portuguese ruled Asia in several places at the same time has given rise to these small, timeless geographical fragments, the remnants of colonialism. We are talking of not more than 100,000 people in a region of 200 million . All the more astonishing is the fact that these few people who have been separated from their homeland for centuries have managed to keep their self-esteem . These people provide a living proof of the mainsprings of European expansion . In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Portuguese were a highly motivated group of people who had established numerous patterns of behaviour to build and consolidate their rule in outer Europe . In the course of their colonial history and through practical experience, the Portuguese categorized this great variety of behavioural patterns according to their individual successes, separating them into particularly effective and less effective methods. The fact that the Portuguese in Malacca , Flores, Tugu , and Singapore proudly maintain a mentality and a life-style which make them outsiders in their own countries, proves that the characteristics which they like to call their own were powerful tools of colonialism . What exactly was the power which for centuries made them resist assimilation into their environment? There is only one common link among the Portuguese of Southeast Asia today . They could be living in completely different environments, that is in small villages, in suburbs, or in the centre of a metropolis; they may be farmers or doctors ; they may be isolated in a remote corner of the world or part of a worldwide communications network. What they all have is an overwhelming desire to secure a certain social dominance . Politically and socially they demand a privileged status. The influence they exercise in their present environ-

Th e Bas is fo r Colo nia lism


ment is due mainly to the fact that they are Portuguese and they continuously endeavour to show others that they , the Portuguese , deserve a privileged status. Arising from their exposure to typical European behaviour , these descendants of long expelled colonial rulers have learned that the European was born to rule . If at all possible , he rules alone . If he is subordinate to a foreign master , he occupies a privileged position away from the normal hierarchy . If his power is further reduced , he is the proud representative of those in power both at his own level and to those below him . A European never falls to the bottom rungs of the social ladder in countries outside Europe ; if that happens he disappears , leaves, commits suicide , is murdered - or is ignored completely. The Europeans sensed , particularly in Asia, that their colonial rule was possible only if they strongly emphasized their dominant status and by clearly propagating that they were the natural rulers . They used their prestige to cover up their weaknesses . Asserting their position of power was one of the most striking characteristics of European rulers in Asia . The Europeans penetrated the traditional social systems of their outer European colonies . They adopted the foreign rites of bragging and subordinating people with ease . When the Portuguese arrived in Goa , they expected to be carried around in the Indian sedan chairs of the locals in power, irrespective of the social class to which they belonged . During official occasions , high ranking Dutch officials in Java were seen under large golden parasols, the traditional sign of regal legitimacy and the desire to rule . In 1911 , the English moved the capital of their colonial empire from Calcutta to Delhi chiefly because Delhi had been the only political centre of major importance in India between 1200 and 1700. By doing so , the British symbolized that they were the natural heirs of great Indian imperialism and legendary national grandeur. Even those European countries that did not have their own colonies in Asia learned during the nineteenth century that as Europeans they had the right to take advantage of their dominance overseas. In 1744 for example , the U.S . warship Constitution appeared threateningly before the coast of Brunei, which was then an independent sultanate on the north coast of Borneo, and forced a special trade agreement even though no trade existed between the United States and Brunei. The agreement was never enforced. The Italians showed European omnipotence at the same time and in the same region in an even more absurd fashion . They arrived onboard the Prin-


Portuguese Eurasian Communities in Southeast Asia

cipessa Clotilde , a world cruise liner, to look for a suitable territory to establish a penal colony near Brunei in the midst of a densely populated Malay area. They planned to send their revolutionaries, murderers, and thieves to Gaya Bay opposite the island of Labuan . It was commonly understood that the entire world was at the disposal of the Europeans. In 1873, the Italians then went on to declare in all earnestness that they were after all going to abandon their plan of sending criminals to Asia on account of the great distance which would have made deportation too costly .2 The Europeans displayed their dominance at the highest levels of government . This is a well known fact and is documented in many history books on colonialism. There is also plenty of evidence of the attitudes displayed by individual Europeans in the colonies. There are characteristic episodes and narratives of real life situations revealing how people gambled with their status as Europeans both at official and private levels and how they usually won. However, the modern day Portuguese of Southeast Asia do not fall into either of these categories . They occupy a mediocre position which has hitherto not been given much attention . Nevertheless, studying this group of people proves to be most interesting. Groups have been formed comprising many people , though not enough to be surveyed, who through their colonial and cultural backgrounds have developed a collective self-esteem which they have cleverly adapted from the past to suit local conditions. It was inevitable that these communities should find their own identity and become selfcontained groups . They have proven to be enduring outside their original sphere of power and influence. The existence of entire regions and many generations has been based on their firm position within the framework of Europe and countries beyond it. These Portuguese groups had to try and live with their real or implied local Portuguese history in an Asian environment without having experienced their own Portuguese colonialism. They learned from various colonial masters, who took turns ruling their territories . They also experienced the process of decolonization and the formation of new countries. They are living examples of the adaptability of the ruling systems which were set up by the first colonialists. They are splinter groups which remain significant even though they are on their own. These de facto Asians , who even today treat their European visitors as their equals, symbolize through their daily existence Europe's continuing resistance to

The Basis for Colonialism


giving up the territories they once conquered. They portray themselves with centuries of patina and at the same time they are full of confidence for the future. One or two of these independent Portuguese communities in Southeast Asia may vanish; yet others see a chance to become even stronger than they are today. The following case studies show how the idea of a dominant Europe could well become a reality outside Europe.

Notes 1. Paramita Abdurachman , R.Z. Leirissa, and C.P.F. Luhulima, eds., Bunga Rampai Sejarah Maluku, vol. 1, pp. 78f. 2. Maxwell Hall , Labuan Story, pp . 218f.


Portuguese from 1511 ------------