I (TP) was out having some beers with World Bank staff here a couple of days ago and the subject of Indonesian Americans came up. This is interesting because there really aren’t very many, and they really do not have a very high profile in Western society. I made a list of who I thought were the three most famous Indos (people of mixed European and Indonesian ancestry) in the world, and a good half of the table didn’t believe that any of them were part Indonesian.
It is interesting that this is the case. In Indonesia, bi-racial Indonesians have a very high profile. On the locally-produced sinetrons, which are like telenovelas but with stories that focus primarily on teenagers, I would estimate that 80-90% of all actors have two or three European grandparents. Many news anchors, musicians, and artists have some European ancestry. And it’s probably impossible to tell just how many Indonesians have a great-great-great-grandfather or two who was Dutch or (less likely) Portuguese.
But at any rate, outside of Indonesia their profile is not particularly high. So here is my list of the three most famous Indos in the West.
1. The first is probably not familiar to most Americans, as he’s a European soccer player. But Giovanni van Bronckhorst, a well-respected defender on the Dutch national team, is part Indonesian, his mother having come from the Moluccas. He also has a truly awesome name.
2. The second is Eddie van Halen. He and brother Alex have an Indonesian grandmother, and this is particularly apparent in this picture.
3. The third is Mark-Paul Gosselaar. That’s right, Zack Morris is half Indonesian.
This list of "most famous" is subject to change. Barack Obama’s half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng is part Indonesian. So are Michelle Branch and Reverend Ike, as are a disturbingly high number of American porn stars.
Josh July 9, 2008
“Disturbingly” is too normative for my taste.