Who is a Eurasian?
As the name suggests, we are descendants of a marital union between a European and an Asian. We are considered living testimony and descendants of the Europeans who came to this part of the world between the 16th and 18th Century. These were during the colonial eras of the Portuguese, Dutch and the British. Yet we do have an Asian element to our heritage. For some it would be on the maternal side generations ago, for others it would be the fact that we were born on Asian soil. Nonetheless, we are recognized as one of the domiciled communities of Singapore.
Some useful definitions of a Eurasian include:
- “a person born of union between a European and an Asian” and the subsequent off-springs of that first ‘mixed-blood” (Braga-Blake)
- “In Singapore, a Eurasian is someone who is neither Chinese, Malay or Indian” (Anonymous)
- An Asian, with European ancestry and heritage (Barry P.Pereira)
Eurasians are one of Singapore’s earliest residents. Our origins are linked to various ports in the region, where Europeans had settled in, including Malacca, Goa, Ceylon, Bencoolen, Macao and Penang. Some of the earliest recorded Eurasians in Singapore, some as early as 1820s, came with Raffles from Beencolen, or from Penang or Malacca. These early Eurasian family names include Ferrao (1820), Dias (1821), D’Almeida (1825), Leicester (1826-27), Woodford (1836), McIntyre (1939), Sequeira (1837), Oliveiro (1844), Gomes (1949), De Rozario (1849) and Clarke (1850s) to name a few.
The term “Eurasian” was perhaps first used officially in the Straits Settlements records in 1849, in the population census encompassed several smaller ethnic groups. Prior to this, the population census included groups that came from various regions – Native Christians (which included the Luso-Malays, Serani or Kristiang communities from Peninsula Malaya), Indo-Britons (which included the Anglo-Indians, Luso-Indians, Ceylon Burghers, Dutch Burghers and Portuguese Mechanics), Armenians and Jews.
Eurasians are rich heirs to a hybrid of traditions and customs from both the East and West. Most are of the Christian faith, with religious celebrations being an integral part of our lifestyle. Having passed several generations, with interesting family trees, we are mostly Asians yet with shades of European ancestry, heritage and upbringing, hence the term, “Eurasian”. Some may recognizably look more Asian, but our foremost link to our European ancestry is our family surnames.