Interpreting the tourist experience
What conclusion can we draw about Macau's history from the mysterious and not-so-mysterious appearance of calçadas in the historic center? One interpretation, influenced by other tourist experiences at cities like Las Vegas, is to doubt the "historicity" of the place.
Consider the above two photos, one from St. Augustine Square and the other from Le Boulevard at Paris, a Las Vegas hotel. They share a very similar atmosphere of quaint simplicity and inviting old-world charm. The latter is clearly a representation of an idealized Paris, while the former comes with governmental assurance of "traditionally Portuguese" architecture. But is that pavement and plaza any more authentic than Vegas recreations of "historic" spaces?
One conclusion is to argue that Macau has, in a way, lived up to its reputation as Asia's Las Vegas. By embarking on construction projects to create a historic atmosphere in spaces where calçadas may not have been contemporary features, Macau re-creates a sense of pastness. Regardless of when the calçadas were first popularized, enough time has passed since the 1800s that modern-day tourists will feel an old, European environment when walking on cobblestone streets. The calçadas thus appeal to tourists who seek to experience Macau's historical legacy as a Portuguese colony. Macau may not necessarily be claiming political affinities with Portugal, but it is certainly constructing its history - or a re-imagined version of it - into the ground.
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