Mardijker people
The Mardijker were a community in amongst others Batavia (modern Jakarta
Jakarta is the capital and largest city of Indonesia. Officially known as the Special Capital Territory of Jakarta, it is located on the northwest coast of Java, has an area of , and a population of 9,580,000. Jakarta is the country's economic, cultural and political centre...

), made up of descendants of freed slaves. They could be found at all major trading posts in the East Indies
East Indies
East Indies is a term used by Europeans from the 16th century onwards to identify what is now known as Indian subcontinent or South Asia, Southeastern Asia, and the islands of Oceania, including the Malay Archipelago and the Philippines...

. They were mostly Christian
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, of India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

n and some Portuguese
Portuguese people
The Portuguese are a nation and ethnic group native to the country of Portugal, in the west of the Iberian peninsula of south-west Europe. Their language is Portuguese, and Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion....

 ancestry, and spoke a Portuguese patois
Patois is any language that is considered nonstandard, although the term is not formally defined in linguistics. It can refer to pidgins, creoles, dialects, and other forms of native or local speech, but not commonly to jargon or slang, which are vocabulary-based forms of cant...

. The Dutch also referred to them as inlandse Christenen ("indigenous Christians").


The ancestors of the Mardijkers had been slaves of the Spaniards
Spanish people
The Spanish are citizens of the Kingdom of Spain. Within Spain, there are also a number of vigorous nationalisms and regionalisms, reflecting the country's complex history....

 and Portuguese
Portuguese people
The Portuguese are a nation and ethnic group native to the country of Portugal, in the west of the Iberian peninsula of south-west Europe. Their language is Portuguese, and Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion....

 in India, Africa and Malay Peninsula, and were brought to Indonesia by the Dutch
Dutch people
The Dutch people are an ethnic group native to the Netherlands. They share a common culture and speak the Dutch language. Dutch people and their descendants are found in migrant communities worldwide, notably in Suriname, Chile, Brazil, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and the United...

, especially after the 1641 Dutch conquest of Malacca
Dutch Malacca
Dutch Malacca was the longest period of Malacca under foreign control. The Dutch ruled for almost 183 years with intermittent British occupation during the Napoleonic Wars . This era saw relative peace with little serious interruption from the Malay kingdoms due to the understanding earlier on...

. There were also Mardijkers originated from Pampanga
Pampanga is a province of the Philippines located in the Central Luzon region. Its capital is the City of San Fernando, Pampanga. Pampanga is bordered by the provinces of Bataan and Zambales to the west, Tarlac and Nueva Ecija to the north, and Bulacan to the southeast...

, Luzon
Luzon is the largest island in the Philippines. It is located in the northernmost region of the archipelago, and is also the name for one of the three primary island groups in the country centered on the Island of Luzon...

 which called by the Dutch as Papangers
Papanggo is one of seven administrative villages in Tanjung Priok subdistrict, North Jakarta. The borders of Papanggo are :* Warakas administrative village in the north* Sungai Bambu administrative village in the west...


The term Mardijker is a Dutch corruption of the Portuguese version of Sanskrit Maharddhika meaning "rich, prosperous and powerful". In the Malay archipelago, this term had acquired the meaning of a freed slave. The Dutch colonists also used it more generally to describe any freed slaves which were full-blood Asian, i.e. swarten ("black").

The Census of 1699 in Batavia shows the breakdown of the population as:

3,679 Chinese;
2,407 Mardijkers;
1,783 Europeans;
670 Mixed blood;
867 others.

The Mardijkers mostly clung to their Catholic faith and continued to attend Batavia's Portuguese church, although many were eventually baptised by the Dutch Reformed Church
Dutch Reformed Church
The Dutch Reformed Church was a Reformed Christian denomination in the Netherlands. It existed from the 1570s to 2004, the year it merged with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands to form the Protestant Church in the...

. They were legally recognized by the Dutch East India Company
Dutch East India Company
The Dutch East India Company was a chartered company established in 1602, when the States-General of the Netherlands granted it a 21-year monopoly to carry out colonial activities in Asia...

 as a separate ethnic group, and kept themselves apart from the native Javanese (Taylor 1983: 47; Bosma and Raben 2008: 46-47). During the VOC era there was already considerable inter-marriage with the Indos in pre-colonial history
Indos in pre-colonial history
Indo people are a Eurasian people of mixed Indonesian and European descent. Through the 16 and 18th century known by the name Mestiço . To this day they form one of the largest Eurasian communities in the world. The early beginning of this community started with the arrival of Portuguese traders...

, who were often also of Portuguese descent. During the colonial era the Mardijkers eventually assimilated completely into the Indo Eurasian community and were no longer registered as a separate ethnic group.

Between the 18th and 19th centuries, the Mardijkers exchanged their original Portuguese-based creole for a Malay-based one
Malay-based creole languages
The Malay language, through its history has experienced both pidginization and creolization. This occurred mostly through inter-island trading and interaction where people from various ethnic groups, languages and backgrounds met....

, Betawi Malay (Omong Betawi)
Betawi language
The Betawi language is the spoken language of the Betawi people in Jakarta, Indonesia. It is the native language of about 2,700,000 people . It is a Malay-based creole, and closely related to Malay language. Betawi vocabulary have large amount of Hokkien Chinese, Arabic, and Dutch loanwords...

. Nowadays they speak Indonesian
Indonesian language
Indonesian is the official language of Indonesia. Indonesian is a normative form of the Riau Islands dialect of Malay, an Austronesian language which has been used as a lingua franca in the Indonesian archipelago for centuries....

, the Indonesian national language, and use Betawi Malay only in informal contexts. The old creole still survives in old song lyrics, in the genre Keroncong Moresco or Keroncong Tugu.

Common Mardijker family names are De Fretes, Ferrera, De Mello, Gomes, Gonsalvo, Cordero, De Dias, De Costa, Soares, Rodrigo, De Pinto, Perreira and De Silva. Some Mardijker families also took Dutch names such as Willems, Michiels, Bastiaans, Pieters, Jansz, Fransz, Davidts.

When the Indonesians fought for independence from the Dutch they used the slogan Merdeka ("freedom"), which has the same root with Mardijker.

The name 'Mardijkers' is also used for the so-called belanda hitam (Zwarte Hollanders
Zwarte Hollanders
The Zwarte Hollanders was the Javanese name for the African recruits in the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army during the colonial period.Between 1831 and 1872 over three thousand Africans were recruited as soldiers through the Dutch Gold Coast...

 "black Hollanders"), soldiers recruited in Ghana, Africa who served in the colonial army (KNIL) and gained their freedom afterward.
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