Long over­shad­owed by Malacca’s other eth­nic com­mu­ni­ties, the Kris­tang are step­ping up to save their unique cul­ture.

Long over­shad­owed by Malacca’s other eth­nic com­mu­ni­ties, the Kris­tang are step­ping up to save their unique cul­ture.

DestinAsian - - DEPARTMENTS - BY JAMES LOUIE

On the banks of the Malacca River,

as rain­drops fall from a sky turned gun­metal gray by the north­east mon­soon, Martin Th­e­seira flashes a smile as wide and white as his thick mous­tache. The lo­cal guide and ac­tivist is about to show me a side of his home­town few vis­i­tors get to see. I climb into the pas­sen­ger seat of his car, where a sim­ple wooden cross hangs from the rearview mir­ror. Th­e­seira cranks up the vol­ume on the dash­board speak­ers, fill­ing the air with Christ­mas songs in a melodic form of Por­tuguese that bears lit­tle re­sem­blance to the kind spo­ken in Lis­bon. It al­most feels like I’ve been trans­ported to an­other coun­try.

More than 500 years af­ter soldiers led by Afonso de Albuquerque claimed the great Malay port city of Malacca for Por­tu­gal, traces of that global mar­itime em­pire re­main in a tight-knit Eurasian com­mu­nity known as the Kris­tang. They are the descen­dants

Clock­wise from this pic­ture: Melba Nu­nis’s baked stuffed crab; Caine Goonting, a Kris­tang staff mem­ber at The Ma­jes­tic Malacca; the fa­cade of St. Peter’s Church, built in 1710.

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