Malacca Portuguese Settlement

Malacca Portuguese Settlement

The close knit community of Portuguese descendants continue to celebrate the simple pleasures of life through song and dance

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The much celebrated Portuguese Settlement of Malacca lies to the south east side of the city centre, in what used to be Malacca's outskirts. It occupies approximately 28 acres along the coast of Ujong Pasir fronting the Straits of Malacca. Although the settlement began as a village outside the city, it is now flanked on three sides by other residential areas, forming a suburban region that sprawls to the east edge of Malacca.

The settlement's 120 odd families are spread along its streets bearing Portuguese names like Dalbuquerque, Taxeira, Daranjo, Squera, and Eredia. The heart of the settlement is the village square just by the seaside. Recent development by the authorities has modernised the square, with a seafront promenade and a jetty that extends out into the straits. The settlement's quaint community centre, which doubles as a museum, lies just to the side of the square, adjoining the open air food court that faces the sea. Various stalls offering a wide variety of Portuguese dishes, like Curry Debil and Sambal Capitang, are located at the food court. A simple shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary stands at the very centre of the square, a quiet yet eloquent symbol of the community's devout traditions and its famous celebrations. The Portuguese festivals that are celebrated by the community, including Fiesta San Pedro and Fiesta San Juang, have become major tourist attractions that are heavily touted by local tourism authorities.

While there has been considerable hype built around the settlement as a tourist attraction and even comparisons with Lisbon Square in Portugal, it is not a commercialised site and has managed to retain some measure of its authenticity. Being first and foremost a community of families, most activities that go on in the settlement are day-to-do routine, perhaps surprising visitors expecting the glitzy greetings and guided tours that are so common in this day and age.

The best way to experience the settlement would be to spend some time mingling with some of its inhabitants, through simple conversation and friendly banter. During certain weekends, the square comes alive with song and dance as the village troupes put on a show for the entire community. These performances of dance and music, including the famous Branyo songs, have been carefully preserved and passed on through the generations. An evening of merrymaking with these friendly people, accompanied by great tasting Portuguese cuisine serves to remind all of us of how delightful a simple life can be.

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