Who are the Diaspora in America?
By Horatio F. Ozorio - October 23, 2003
Moments before the s.s. “President Wilson” backed away from her berth in Kowloon, Hong Kong, en route to America in December of 1958, she sounded her mighty horn – a long basso profundo warning blast. A passenger on board recalls, “A chill traveled down my spine when I heard that. My stomach suddenly churned. ‘What on earth am I doing here. Let me off!’” he thought to himself. He could hardly be blamed. He, a Macanese, was about to embark with his wife and two children on a journey across a few thousand miles of Pacific Ocean to America, with a few hundred dollars in his pocket, in search of a new life. An awesome venture he was told when recounting his story in later years to his newfound American friends.
And so it was over the Fifties and Sixties for a couple of thousand Filhos de Macau who lived out in the Far East sandwiched between the local populace and their expatriate masters, being neither fish nor fowl. He and they had had enough of life under a system that relegated them to second class citizenship. They had heard from other Filhos, who had pioneered the way before them, that America was in fact a land of milk and honey. They would find in America economic opportunity, jobs at fair wages, decent housing at reasonable rents, the right to vote, and much much more, the pioneers said.
Indeed they did. Today these Filhos and Filhas are proud Macanese-Americans, law-abiding citizens contributing their share to the gross national product, and comfortable in the knowledge that they, their children, and their children’s children after them will always be assured of democracy and freedom. They could ask for no more.
Their love for and gratitude to their host country notwithstanding, Filhos de Macau in America today have not forgotten where they came from. This website is dedicated to helping them stay in touch with their roots and to perpetuate the memories of their terra natal.
By Frederic “Jim” Silva - October 23, 2003
In the European colonial societies of yesterday, from whence we all sprang, be it British Hong Kong or British-dominated Shanghai, or even Portuguese Macau, we never had some of those psychological handicaps that other Eurasians seem to have had.
To put it colloquially, the “hang-ups” that others suffered from were, by and large, absent in our make up. We seemed to have known who we were and for generations were secure enough to willingly take our place within the prevailing societal and economic system. Fortunately or not, we were locked into a system and strata that seemed acceptable enough for the majority of us then.
We were comfortable with a lot that placed us on an economic level much lower than that of the European colonials, but also at the same time we were economically better off than the majority Chinese. There was never much in the way of dissent or rebellion against a system that was overtly racist, not to say inherently unfair and unjust. It was unjust because regardless of education, experience or ability, the high executive positions were exclusively reserved for Europeans. Hong Kong’s biggest employer, the government services, in their varied departments initiated this racist hierarchy, and it was automatically followed by the big British hongs (trading houses) and banks. Needless to say, these higher executive positions brought along with them much higher pay scales, generous overseas leave and excellent living quarters.
Yet, despite this there was an unquestioning willingness to work within a system that seemed to have been natural and eternal. Perhaps this acceptance lay in the fact that we were the successors of our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers who had originally chosen to leave their Macau homes and opt for a better livelihood available in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Knowingly or not, we owed our strength and assurance to our culture and our community. There were enough of us in numbers to live within our own world. We could socialize and intermarry without ever going beyond the community. Most of us, and our fathers and grandfathers before us appeared happy enough to conform and not feel those psychological hang-ups that other Eurasians may have felt in living the colonial life.
Because of our large community we always had our clubs, our names, our religion, our food, our patois and our Macau roots on which to anchor ourselves. We belonged, and we were secure in the knowledge that we did.
In contrast, the strain of being an English Eurasian in a British colonial society can take its toll. Many felt suspended between the two worlds, European and Chinese, and found it hard to fully belong to either. The British practiced discrimination and a subtle racism in both personal contacts and employment opportunities.
Perhaps a contributing reason for uncertainty among those other Eurasians was that they were smaller in number and, moreover, never considered or presented themselves as a cohesive and united group. There were the older established and monied families that intermarried among themselves. Many were well entrenched in professions or businesses. They formed a somewhat closed club that found little in common with the impecunious first generation offspring of English servicemen and their Asian wives. There certainly were hang-ups here: two worlds standing apart and divided by a snobbish English caste and racial system made unfair by employment opportunities.
By contrast, filhos de Macau were secure. We had our place, we knew our place, we accepted our place. Unfair or unjust as things may have been, we had no hang-ups. We had our own world and our community.
I am not writing of today, but rather reminiscing of a time and place where the good old days for some were the bad old days for others. All our filhos de Macau then lived in the midst of this colonial system.
It is part of our heritage.
[The foregoing is an article culled with his permission from Jim Silva’s book “Things I Remember.”- Ed..]