The recent Eurasian Festival drew attention to the cultural resilience of one of Singapore's smallest ethnic groups. Born of the marital union of Europeans and Asians, Eurasians have managed to keep alive distinct traditions and customs, not least in food, over the past 500 years. As they are small in number, their way of life could have been easily dissolved and subsumed by larger influences. In that sense, the community's cultural challenge is a microcosm of what Singapore as a whole faces as it remains open to the world while staying rooted to traditional cultures,such as the use of mother tongues.
In the Eurasian community, the acceptance of diversity and nurturing of roots have been akin to a counterpoint played with different musical instruments. It shares an Asian heritage - once heightened through links with regional centres such as Malacca, Goa in India, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Bencoolen in Sumatra, Macau and Penang - as well as European ties that spring from Britain, Portugal, the Netherlands and elsewhere. Thus, Eurasians have also helped to shape Singapore's multiracial and cosmopolitan identity, drawn from both the East and West without belonging exclusively to either.
Keeping traditions alive is tough enough in a networked world but it can be doubly hard when one weaves different cultural strands. Eurasians have managed the task by ensuring the home is the matrix of their cultural personality. Their outgoing nature has also helped them to connect with others in the larger community, and to reject an enclave mentality. On a macro scale, the latter impulse has led to the growth of identity politics in Europe and Asia which Singapore has to guard against. Ethnicity can be a viscerally divisive force unless it is incorporated into a wider ethic of national belonging and identity. In their own way, Eurasians have shown how this is possible.