The Beautiful Legend About the Origins of Timur-Leste

In the Indian Ocean there is a beautiful island where the inhabitants of East Timor, a country so named in Portuguese because it was a colony of Portugal from the sixteenth century to the outbreak of the Carnation Revolution in the metropolis in 1974, which contributed to the liberation of the island a year later, after great efforts in the struggle for its independence.

In Tetun, the native language, a mixture of Portuguese and Malay, the name translates as Timor Lorosa'e, and means "country of the rising sun", the same epithet with which Japan is known, apparently by the fact that both archipelagos are located in very close latitudes in the map of the planet, places where the sun is first seen due to the rotation of the Earth.

East Timor is the eastern part of the island of Timor, located about 500 kilometers from Australia, with the Timor Sea in between. The western part belongs to Indonesia, which occupied the whole territory until 2002, unfairly taking advantage of the independence of Portugal by the Timorese in 1975.

The legend about the origin of the island of Timor has much similarity with fantasies and myths of another island: Cuba, because it narrates its past of a traveling crocodile before being a firm territory. The story goes that long ago, in a very distant place, a small crocodile lived in a swamp, dreaming of becoming an imposing animal.

One day he ventured into the open sea, but he was frightened and passed away in the attempt. A child found him on the shore and returned it to the sea. The crocodile then revived, and was so grateful to the little human that offered to support him in his plans to know the world.

As both agreed on their dreams, the crocodile invited the boy to climb on his back and he asked him to follow the sun. The reptile entered the sea this time accompanied by his friend and swam eastward. Together they traveled across the oceans and shared endless adventures.

Thus they grew together until, tired, the crocodile proposed, in honor of the child's generosity, to transform itself into a beautiful island where the child and his family could live and enjoy beautiful landscapes.

As it slowly passed away, the crocodile grew larger and larger, and the ridges of its back became the green mountains of Timor, a sacred land named "foho."

Today, when the Timorese bathe in the sea, they invoke this legendary past with a prayer as a reminder: "Do not eat me crocodile, I am your family."

On the island these animals abound, not only in lakes or marshes, but also in the salt water of the sea. The crocodile is considered to be a sacred animal, and it is just like a national totem.

The adjacent island of Atauro has the most biodiverse waters on the planet and also beautiful views of sunrises and sunsets. This island, which is thirty kilometers away from the Timorese capital, was converted into a prison by the Portuguese and Indonesian occupants due to the isolation that causes the depth of the waters that separate it from the greater island, where diving is practiced today.

In Atauro, the women who fish with harpoon are famous, and they are called Wawata Topu. They also trade with the product of their work, which is so extraordinary but not socially recognized.

The island of Jaco is another portion of Timorese sacred land, of extraordinary beauty, where overnight stays are not allowed.

The traditional culture of East Timor is rich in artistic manifestations. In each of its districts, its own dances flourish with instruments and typical costumes, to celebrate occasions such as Independence Day, weddings or the birthdays of centenarian elders.

The art of the fabric has its maximum exponent in the Tais, which is a traditional fabric created by the women of East Timor. Their unique production technique is transmitted orally and secretly through the generations. They are ideal gifts to exchange at ceremonies. In the Timorese capital there is a market dedicated to its commercialization.

In East Timor, Portuguese is the official language along with Tetun. They also know English and Spanish, which are taught in schools and are spoken. They have about thirty dialects and a large part of the population speak Bahasa or Indonesian, which is a cultural imprint of the past and even a recent stay of that country on the island. As sports they practice soccer and billiards, and like cockfights to enjoy themselves.

One of the leaders of the popular national resistance who fought against the violent occupation of the neighboring nation for more than two decades, José Ramos-Horta, was recognized with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996, a real pride for a small but brave country, like the crocodile of its origins.