People think of “Lequios” as the name of a weekly newspaper published by a subsidiary of the daily Ryukyu Shimpo, but the origins of this word run much deeper. It comes from 16th century Portuguese sailors, who referred to the Ryukyu islands as “Lequio” or “Lequea” and the people of the islands as “Lequios.”
Once Vasco da Gama sailed around the southern tip of Africa and crossed the Indian Ocean to reach Calcutta in India in 1498, the rough seas of the Age of Sail washed over Asia. As the era unfolded, the Portuguese learned about powerful traders farther north in trade centers like Malacca in Southeast Asia. They learned that the people were light-skinned, proud, and did not buy women or slaves. They also eschewed crooked business practices and would never betray their own. The Malaccans respected them. They didn’t settle in Malacca but rather, when the seasonal winds changed, promptly returned home to their native land. They were high-caliber people. And the Portuguese called them the Lequios.