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Notes on the Geography of China: Macao: Photo 2

world pictures China: Macao

An hour later we step off the jetboat, clear immigration, and take a taxi for ten slow minutes through dismaying traffic. We get out at the Largo do Senado or Senate Square. Do you have a bad feeling already? Think you might be in a themed shopping center in California? Could be, could be, but what did you expect? Two million visitors arrived in Macao during January, 2012. More than half were from China, a quarter were from Hong Kong, and a puny 14,000 were from the U.S. And Portugal, which occupied this site in the 1500's and stayed until 1997? Fewer than one thousand arrivals.

So much for colonial attachment. Safe bet you won't hear much, if any, Portuguese on the street. The words in the pediment read "Santa Casa Da Misericórdia," but not one in a thousand passersby knows that the "holy house of mercy" was a famous Portuguese charity. We'll force ourselves into an atmospheric mood. How? Let us recall that James Dyer Ball reported in 1904 that visitors could rent one of Macao's 170 sedan chairs for a dollar a day. (Macao: The Holy City; the Gem of the Orient Earth", p. 66).

Even back then, the Portuguese were a tiny minority. The 1897 census reported 4,000 of them, lost in a crowd of 75,000 Chinese. Of course that wasn't so different from the ratio in most colonial cities.

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