Home from home

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 July, 2005, 12:00am

What Macau does not have, the Angolans make up for through resourcefulness. What Macau has, the Angolans take full advantage of.

Armando Mandinho, a professional football player from Angola, has called Macau home for 13 years. He says about the only thing the city lacks is palm oil, widely used in Angolan cuisine. His sister mails some to him from Portugal. This is important because, as Mandinho's Portuguese and Chinese friends know, he cooks Angolan cuisine excellently.

But apart from palm oil, Macau has everything Angolans need to make it their second home, Mandinho said.

'It's not just because they speak Portuguese here,' he explained. 'Whether anyone feels comfortable in a foreign country depends on how welcome they feel.' Mandinho is among an estimated 300 to 400 Angolan nationals who have made Macau their home. The city is home to the largest Angolan community in Asia.

This year, as the West African country celebrates its 30th anniversary of independence from Portugal, Macau will host Asia's largest Angolan parties - featuring disc jockeys, musicians, dancers, films and food from the vast African country. Macau has attracted Portuguese-speakers not only because of its Portuguese street signs and colonial architecture. If that were the case, then the Portuguese-speaking community should dwindle with the spread of Putonghua in the six years since the handover.

A graphic designer from Angola, who recently moved to Macau from London, was impressed with local residents' understanding of the solidarity among Angolans. 'In London, if I say Angola is in South America, people will believe me because they have no idea,' he said.

'Sometimes in Macau, I tell the Chinese I'm from Angola, and they're able to say 'be brave', in Portuguese. This is something those of us who witnessed the war would say to each other.'

Many Angolans came to Macau from Portugal because they could not get used to living there, said Alexandre Correia Da Silva, a Macau-based lawyer born in Angola and educated in Portugal. As president of the Association of Angola in Macau, Mr Da Silva is organising a series of activities to promote Angolan culture.

Some elements of Macau's Portuguese-speaking community have voiced hopes for a louder political voice in local affairs. But Mr Da Silva emphasises that his organisation is purely for cultural purposes.

'Forget about why we left our country, or how we got to where we are. Let's celebrate our culture here,' he said.


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