Macau, China – Portuguese in China (and the World)? The Lusophonia Festival in Macau – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

Macau, China – Portuguese in China (and the World)? The Lusophonia Festival in Macau – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

Carmen Miranda

[A Brazilian mannequin dressed similarly to national icon Carmen Miranda]


[The brightly lit entryway to Lusophonia]

Macau, one of China’s key special administrative centers that is nestled close to the country’s southeastern Guangdong Province, is most famous (or infamous) for its behemoth gambling industry. Yet beside the glitzy façade of being China’s answer to Las Vegas, Macau has a deeply complex yet fascinating history. It had actually been under Portuguese colonial rule for hundreds of years, and the influence is still heavily visible on the city’s make-up. Bilingual Chinese (Cantonese) and Portuguese language signs dot the city streets. Plus, with Macau’s narrow cobblestone streets and countless cafes serving olive tapanades and wine and cheese platters, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that you were not in Lisbon.


[Statues and carvings at the Mozambique booth]


[My friends Abi, Tony, and I at Lusophonia]

Macau further displays its Portuguese heritage with Lusophonia, an annual celebration of all things Portuguese and/or Portuguese-influenced. The event features a series of activities, such as music and dance shows and tug-of-war competitions, to create a festive yet relaxed atmosphere. My friends and I first toured an early 20th century Macanese house museum, which showcased the combination of Cantonese and Portuguese cultural influences in small, mundane details. For example, the house featured several displays of saints and religious figures arranged and decorated on small tables in several rooms of the house. While this is not an unheard of practice in Catholicism, the way that some of them were arranged in the Macanese house, along with the side decorations (i.e. fruits, candles, etc.), seemed reminiscent of the numerous Cantonese and Chinese traditional ancestral shrines that I had previously encountered. After checking out the museum and musing on what it showed about the history of Macau, we headed to the biggest draw of the event: the food and craft vendors. They represented a spectrum of goodies from Portuguese-speaking nations all over the world. Like most people, I easily recognized the Brazilian stand, but was really surprised to see the geographic range of countries represented. The booths included everything from Mozambique (a country situated on the east coast of Africa), Sao Tome and Principe (an island off the west coast of Africa), and Timor-Leste (a Maritime Southeast Asian nation that only gained sovereignty from Indonesia in 2002). We circled around and took in the sights, smells, and tastes, munching on Macanese egg tarts and Brazilian chocolate truffles while we admired Mozambican wood statues and Timorese batiks…and making one too many pilgrimages to the free sangria being offered at the Portugal stand. After thoroughly checking everything out, we made our way back to Zhuhai and Mainland China, having felt sufficiently satisfied to learn a bit more about Macau and its identity.


[A more traditionally Cantonese/ Chinese home shrine]


[A more traditionally Portuguese Catholic home shrine]


[The exterior of the Taipa-Houses Museum]


[Interior of the Taipa Houses-Museum, a turn-of-the-century Portuguese-Macanese home]

Looking back at the event, I harbor a bit of mixed feelings. At first I thought it was a fun and frothy way to honor Portuguese culture. Afterwards, I realized that Lusophonia could be seen as a celebration of colonialism. Despite the potentially negative implications, the plain reality is that many of these countries have been historically influenced by Portugal (by both force and free will), and that interaction is heavily visible in their cultures and practices today. Thus, I think the event wanted to emphasize the countries’ contemporary identities and introduce people to places they may have never known much about otherwise—thus serving as a springboard to learn more about all the facets of these nations as a whole. All in all, the event not only served as a light history and socio-cultural lesson, but also was probably a better way to get acquainted with Macau than losing all of our money at the slots machines. And for that, we extend a hearty “Obrigado (Thank you)”! to the Lusophonia experience!




[The iconic Ruins of St. Paul in Macau]


[A more traditionally Cantonese/ Chinese home shrine]

Marin Ekstrom serves as senior editor for The North Star Reports

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at)

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy ( is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five semesters we have published 200 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors ( This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. We are sponsored by St. Scholastica’s Department of History and Politics and by the scholarly Middle Ground Journal: World History and Global Studies (

For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at)


Filed under Marin Ekstrom, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

48 responses to “Macau, China – Portuguese in China (and the World)? The Lusophonia Festival in Macau – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

  1. McKenzie Ketcher

    A main connection that I saw from this article that relates to class is that the biggest and largest draw was based around food. Food universally is known to help draw people from all over the world together, and thats what the main goal of food was/did for this celebration. I like to see what I learn in class and see it applied to the real world. It is also amazing how many things can be “disguised” to serve another purpose. Such as this celebration was a way to help people learn about many different cultures in a more fun, exciting, and appealing way.

  2. Elisabeth Bergstedt

    It sounds like you had a great experience with your time in Macau. What’s interesting is that every country seems to have their own, “Lusophonia” or big celebration, and how lucky for you to experience theirs! I particularly like your description of the food and craft vendors.The fact that they celebrated many cultures and countries is both fun and respectful, and what a treat for a visitor like yourself to get a taste of the other culture’s foods! Keep up the great work!

  3. Matt Breeze

    Thank you so much for writing this! I particularly enjoy your section on colonialism. That although colonialism was often brutal and violent, the influences of hundreds of years of contact and control by another civilization change culture. We can and should remember the suffering caused by colonialism, but we can also appreciate the cultural practices that are here today because of it. The blending of beliefs among cultures vastly different is fascinating and I appreciate you bringing this to light in this article.

  4. Nancy Thao

    Thank you for the beautiful pictures. It is truly fascinating to see how the Portugese, Chinese, and other cultures come together. I am not familiar with the Portugese culture, but thanks to the descriptions, I can have a better imagination of it. Something I found really amazing from your pictures are the architectural designs of the buildings. From their interior design to the exterior, the buildings differs from one another structurally and in designs/details. It definitely shows how big of an impact colonialism played in this place.

  5. Molly Enich

    It sounds like such a fun festival to attend! I would love to attend a celebration that addresses multiple cultures such as at Lusophonia. A festival like this is a fun and interesting way to teach others about different heritages. I also like how you dressed colonialism in this piece. As you stated, colonialism is negative, but it must not be overlooked because that is what formed the country to it’s present-day status. Thanks for the great insight!

  6. Sofia Pineda

    As I was reading your article all I could think about was colonialism, so I appreciate you mentioning it at the end. Having such a different culture being honored in China made me think about the many time we celebrated Columbus day back home. We were celebrating the man that had colonized us, just as this city might be celebrating the nation that colonized them. I wonder how people from this city feel about this – maybe for them it is a more positive experience than that of Spain in Latin America.

  7. Emily Ciernia

    Thank you for writing this! I thought it was really interesting to read how Portuguese, Chinese, and other cultures come together and are celebrated. It sounds like Lusophonia is quite the celebration. One thing that this reminds me of is the importance of food in cultural viewpoint. Food is something that brings people together and is a way for people to understand the culture. I also enjoyed looking at your pictures! It is interesting to see how people from other cultures come together and celebrate.

  8. Food is so universally important to our lives and cultures, so whenever you described or mentioned it within this article I grew pretty curious about it looked and tasted like and what cultural significance it bore (if any). I am glad to hear that overall you enjoyed your time at Lusophonia and that you were still able to look back on it and analyze it more closely. It seems as though it would be a conflicting celebration for the people of Macau. I wonder, much like Sofia, if the people feel somewhat positive towards this celebration or if it produces more negative feelings.

  9. Holly Kampa

    Marin, thank you for sharing about your experiences! It sounds like the festival was a lot of fun! I tried to think of something that we do similar here in the US and all I could think of was the state fair, fairs in general, and little town festivals with parades. I think it would be really cool if we did something like the festival you attended, but since we one large country it’s somewhat hard to do. I think it’s interesting to experience other cultures and it was neat that you could experience multiple at one time. Thanks again for sharing!

  10. Jacob Carson

    I think that it is cool that areas of large countries that were once colonized by another retain cultural aspects of their former rulers. I understand that colonization was not a pretty practice, but the fact is that it happened and we cannot change history. But rather beautifully sometimes a mixture of the cultures as you described occurs, and that mixture in my mind is something that should be celebrated. It reminds us of our history the good and the bad, and in the reminder it allows us to not make the same mistakes that we once have.

  11. Donovan Blatz

    Thank you for sharing your story. It is always interesting to travel to places that have been colonized for many years and only recently received independence. I find it fascinating to see how traditions blend together and create new ones. But my favorite part would have to be how food changes when there is a mix of cultures. It allows for new dishes and new flavors to be combined in cool ways.

  12. Rachel Reicher

    Thank you for sharing your experiences! It amazes me that we can go across the world to a place where we think has no similarities to our country. Catholicism is something that I tend to forget that we share with the entire world. I feel as if it is a comforting aspect to travelling to new places. I have been to Mexico before, and although it is only a neighboring Texas, it is a whole new world there. From different animals to a different style of living. When I visited I was able to connect with the similarity of my religion. I was able to attend a mass–although it was not in English. Sharing a religion with different parts of the world to me is comforting ad at the same time a chance to learn how they practice it.

  13. Jodi Moran

    What I found to interesting about this story were the various signs in multiple languages that lined the streets. This offers the city diversity and adds character to the area. As with the shrines and Catholicism, there is something comforting in noticing similarities that two vastly different areas share, although it can be easy to forget that. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  14. Connor

    Do you have any idea what the relationship of Macau or its inhabitants is like with other places in China? Are there other Chinese people who share the sentiment that Lusophonia is celebrating colonialism? In my opinion, considering the colonialism has been done and, while bad, isn’t something that can be changed, there’s some value to appreciating the cultural intersection it can bring. In general, I believe there’s value to sharing to cultures.

  15. Thomas Landgren

    Thank you for sharing your experience! I feel like it is important to remember colonialism, not just the horrible suffering that it brought to some countries but for also blending cultures into a sort of hybrid that we see today. This article helps show people that there are many sides to colonialism that have survived. I think that it was awesome that you could experience many different cultures without physically traveling there. Great Article!

  16. Jena O'Byrne

    What a fun event. The different culture, and languages must of made this experience a very full one. It is neat that despite our differences, we have so much in similar with varying cultures around the world. Like the example of religion in your story. It is also neat that there are so many variations in foods to experience, and how the traditions were able to be jointly done. The impact colonization has on an area is interesting, seems Macau was greatly impacted by it. Thank you for sharing.

  17. I love Macau! Such an interesting city with so much history and it is a city that is just packed with culture. My experience there was a day of complete overs stimulation. The diversity within the city is unreal, and it is unforgettable with the two cultures that mix on the small peninsula. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Roman Schnobrich

    Your article introduced a nearly universal thought/idea to my mind– regardless of whether or not a society wants to be impacts by its colonized past, to an extent, it will be. In that sense, I was reminded how we are all shaped by our pasts and how difficult it is to consciously decide who/what to be, both as an individual and as a society. I’m glad you were able to look at your time there from multiple viewpoints, because that obviously added value to the experience. Do you find yourself wanting to visit Las Vegas now, to compare the two?

  19. Jessica Richart

    Thank you for sharing this experience! Macau sounds like a very interesting city with a lot of culture to offer. I love how so many towns and cities have their own celebrations and festivals. I think events like this really bring the town together and you can see a huge sense of community. Learning about other cultures can really shape our lives and I am glad that you got this opportunity. One thing we have been bringing up over and over this year in class has been food. Food is an important part of culture and also interesting to learn about. Taste testing is also a fun way to learn culture! Thank you again!

  20. Sarah Burton

    Thank you for sharing your experience! I hope that I am able to visit Macau sometime in my life. How crazy it is that there are two different cultures intermixed like that! It sounds like you had a really great time at the event. The amount of history that Macau has is crazy. What an amazing event to be able to experience!

  21. Andrea Ramler

    It seems as though you had a lot of fun! Its interesting to hear the different culture compared to ours but also the language itself. Its awesome to hear that so many different people came together in celebration in the streets. I bet the diversity was awesome to actually be apart of. I think it’s important for us to realize that there are many similarities between different countries. As a frequent traveler I sometimes forget this but when you relate to someone in some way it gives a sense of comfort, something you are use to. Thanks for sharing!

  22. Meghan Lozinski

    As I was reading it I also thought about how this seems to be celebrating colonialism. Even though colonialism was a negative practice, the lasting impacts have affected cultures such as this region leaving behind languages and other cultural identifiers. The mix of cultures would definitely make for an interesting City with a diverse population.

  23. Mike Zupfer

    Thanks for sharing. It seems to me that the United States and its developing generations do not hold independence day as high as it should be anymore. It is interesting that Macau has recently had its independence because it leaves a fresh vibe in all generations of the country and will have an everlasting impact on them throughout their lives. I am glad you had a wonderful time experiencing not one, but two, cultures in the same festival.

  24. I so enjoyed your article. Thank you for touching on the legacy of colonialism. It sounds like you had a great experience in Macau. The culture there sounds fascinating and rich!

  25. Martti Maunula

    Very interesting and unexpected take at the end of the article about Portuguese influences on all these different nations. I wouldn’t have guessed that myself, and at first it seemed like a very diverse gathering of nations. The connection that they have all at one point been under the influence of Portuguese rules makes you take a moment to think about how things were, but this also seems like they are moving forward. By bringing all these nations together you can learn more about them, and see how far they have come if you are aware of the knowledge that at one point they weren’t entirely free.

  26. Gina Palmi

    In class we talk a lot about food, and I enjoyed your explanation of the food you experienced. I also enjoyed your one too many visits to the free sangria (I would’ve been right there with you). Food is so universal and so unique. Everyone needs to eat and it’s really interesting to see what other places enjoy.

  27. Sara Desrocher

    Thanks for sharing! I love that you incorporated multiple pictures into your story. I feel that giving visual examples really amplifies the experience for others. Hearing about stories of travel are very entertaining but seeing the places in the stories make much more of an impact.

  28. Nick Campbell

    Very interesting article. I always find it interesting reading about the influence which colonial control has on certain nations, including this city. The fusion of two cultures, Chinese and Portuguese, is very interesting. The pictures were wonderful as well!

  29. Sandy Davidson-Hunt

    I think this is very cool how certain parts of such a large country still have some remaining traditions from the culture before they were colonized so long ago. From my experience, it’s always very interesting to come across a culture you would not expect when travelling to a foreign location. In your case, I’m sure the blend of Chinese and Portuguese culture was absolutely fascinating. Although it cannot be overstated how brutal colonization was, those events have provided us with opportunities to celebrate and to remember all those that were lost in the original events.

  30. Kyle Dosan

    Wow, sounds like a truly great experience, thanks for sharing. This festivity sounds so intriguing because it is a culmination of more than just one culture. Another interesting part of your experience is all of the different foods that you were able to try. The pictures that you had were great to look at as well. Thanks again!

  31. Thank you for writing this really interesting piece about Lusophonia and Portuguese colonialism in China. It was insightful to learn how a different culture was being honored in China. The violence and suffering that came with colonialism should of course be remembered, but you discussed the cultural changes and practices that occurred as a result of it. It would be interesting to hear more about how the locals of Macau feel about the Lusophonia festival.

  32. Catherine McConnell

    How amazing! I never would expect this festival to take place where you were. I am glad this celebration of culture was not dimmed too darkly by the devastation of colonization. I especially enjoy how the languages are mixed in Macau and how the food reflects the mixing of two cultures as well. I wonder if other places that the Portuguese colonized still have the culture present as much as Macau does.

  33. Courtney Banks

    What a neat experience!! I think other cultures are super intriquing. Food is a major part of cultural differences and I love how that brings people together. I really enjoyed all of the pictures you posted and I hope you get to experience more great things like that!

  34. Samantha Wollin

    Sounds like it was a great time! How much different are festivals there from where you live? I recently went to Mexico and I feel like it was a party every day when I was there! Seeing other countries is so interesting and I hope to travel more in the future!

  35. Nichole DeBoom

    This event looks like a blast, and a great way to learn about different cultures. Trying different foods is one of my favorite things to do, it makes you feel like your fitting in a little better. Your pictures are beautiful. It looks as though it is a thrilling time.

  36. What an interesting blend of two different worlds. I tend to think of European colonial influences as most apparent in the Western Hemisphere (aside from outside Europe, that is). While I have not studied it, it seems like many areas in Asia have made an effort to reject former colonial powers. It’s interesting to read about a place where both still are very present and active. I’m curious: what are the other surrounding cities like?

  37. So this place is a melting pot of culture how interesting. Its wonderful that you can actually see the influence in the various pictures you posted. I think this is why America and central Europe are such great places because so many cultures exude their essence and history into the place. My aunt lives a very french Canadian area of Minnesota and you can see the influence in the architecture and even here French spoken in the streets!

  38. Kyle Hellmann

    Could you ever see some American Cities doing something the Lusophonia celebration or know of any examples? We do “celebrate” Columbus Day, but it has gotten a lot of negative feed back in the last couple of years and I have never been to a festival or celebration for it. It’s great to see how they celebration their past in such a vibrant way. Thanks for the pictures and the great report!

  39. I can’t get over how much the mixture of Chinese influences and other cultures reminds me of Firefly. But aside from that, mixed feelings indeed…. I wonder how the natives of Macau feel about Lusophonia? But on the other hand, celebrations of culture, especially such interesting mixes like this, might be something the world needs more of. They’re certainly one of the most interesting kind of festival I can think of, and I hope to attend many in my lifetime. Great article!

  40. It sounds like you had a fun time in Macau. I enjoyed seeing your pictures and reading your article about the different kind of culture there. I think it’s great and I love how food can connect people from all over the world together. The festival seemed fun, too, because it’s a blend of cultures rather than just one.

  41. Carley Nadeau

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful story of your time in Macau. Food seems to be a very important experience from your trip, and is a great way to learn about culture when going abroad. I didn’t know that Macau had such a Portuguese influence, so it was interesting to learn that through the food you wrote about. Lusophonia also sounds amazing as well and thanks for going into detail about that.

  42. Thank you for sharing this article. What an interesting festival to have been able to attend. Like most people who commented I want to address the colonialism aspect that you spoke of. I do agree that to some extent that the festival was initiated by and celebrates a piece of colonialism. I also believe however the sharing of culture (as long as it does not over shadow or exterminate the other, although it often has) is a one of the very few upsides of of colonialism. I would also expect that people of Macau would not have the festival if it only had a negative connotation for them.
    I also enjoyed you pictures!

  43. This left me wondering what the connection between this part of China and Portugal is? Did Portugal land on part of China, or did China, as a large imperial nation themselves, simply choose to honor another cultures around the world? Portugal does seem like an odd choice, but an interesting one at that assuming that it contrasts highly with China’s own traditions and values. I am also curious to know if the festival was visited mostly by tourists from around the world, or from interested people in China wondering about the Portuguese culture? All in all it is a new and different way to teach and immerse people in cultures different than there own. I wonder if it is supposed to be something similar to our China Town in NYC? Thank you!

  44. Sarah Plankers

    I think that for many people, colonialism is a tough subject to talk about and even fully grasp. In this specific example in China, Portugal has obviously left quite a large footprint of it’s culture and practice. Personally, I question the detailed history of the events that have lead up todays practices and customs in Macau, China. When the Portugese first stepped foot on the land what sort of conflicts arose or were certain peaceful agreements upheld? I wonder if this “Portugal in China” has been formed due to the specific people in that areas true liking of Portugals culture and therefore have chosen to embrace it within their own homeland.

  45. Cassandra Mahlberg

    After being exposed to so much knowledge of China’s influence around the world, it never even occurred to me to think of colonial powers in China. One might think that after overcoming colonial rule, such a powerful country would want to overthrow all of the unwelcomed nation’s practices and traditions. It is fascinating that they are celebrating the Portuguese influence with such a large festival, but it makes sense when you recognize that the colonial influence significantly shifted the identities of the people there. I wonder how a country that faced colonialism finds it appropriate to insert itself in the affairs of countries all around the world and even impose its power on a country with its own unique culture and language (Taiwan). Is this type of globalization sustainable in regards to cultural impact? Or are we risking significant loss by absorbing each other’s cultures over time (through infrastructure, language, celebrations, etc)? This was a very cool article to read and think about while thinking about China’s growing hand in world affairs, thank you.

  46. Hannes Stenström

    Thank you for this interesting travel account from Macau! I find both Macau and Hong Kong to be interesting because of their status as places where western capitalism and colonialism meets Chinese traditions and culture. I can imagine that you had a huge range of options regarding what foods to sample!
    I understand why thoughts about colonialism and its dirty history popped into your mind. After all, both Macau and Hong Kong were exploited as colonies by European powers, a practice that I believe few can consider righteous. However, while I understand that showcasing the culture of the former colonizers might seem as cruel reminder of a painful history, I still hope that these kinds of traditions that highlights the best in each culture and promotes coexistence can be embraced anyway. After all, we cannot eradicate what has happened in the past, but hopefully we can learn to forgive, move on and live side by side in peace.

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