Alan Baxter is Professor of Linguistics at the Departamento de Letras Vernáculas, at the Universidade Federal da Bahia, Brazil.
The origins of Malacca Creole Portuguese lie in the strategies that the Portuguese adopted to cope with a critical manpower problem in their Asian colonies.
The European Portuguese have always comprised small minorities in their colonies, drawing heavily on local peoples, free and enslaved, in maritime trade and in military endeavors. Missionary activities have encouraged a significant development of local Christian populations of Portuguese cultural and linguistic orientation. However, and more significantly, in relation to social cohesion and control, has been the creation of the Casado class (A European Portuguese man officially married to local women), which produced stable bi- and multi-lingual mestiço populations loyal to Portugal.
In such Asian settings Creole Portuguese arose. The Casados constituted an official group with rights to a range of privileges, according to a policy introduced by Alfonso de Albuquerque, the first governor of Portuguese India. The Portuguese controlled Malacca from 1511 until 1641, when it was conquered by the Dutch. Thirty six years later, the Portuguese still constituted the strongest ethnic group, where a 1678 census listed 1,469 “Portuguese half-castes and blacks”, owning 551 slaves. These groups very likely spoke ‘Portuguese’ and Creole Portuguese. Today’s Malacca Creole Portuguese constitute their descendants.