August 30 – Popular Constitution Day in East Timor

Posted on August 30, 2016

Why is an island that is about the size of Maryland divided into two nations?

History. Religion. Language.

The Southeastern Asian island of Timor was settled by both Dutch and Portuguese colonizers. The two European nations squabbled over control of the island until a treaty signed in 1859 divided the island into Dutch Timor and Portuguese Timor.

Of course, the Asian descendants of the peoples who lived on the island long before Europeans arrived wanted to be independent. After World War II, the Dutch portion of the island and thousands of other nearby islands gained independence as Indonesia. It wasn't until 1975 that residents of Portuguese Timor declared their independence from Portugal.

Just nine days after this declaration, East Timor was invaded and occupied by Indonesia! After years of violence, the United Nations finally stepped in and helped hammer out a peace agreement. Indonesia gave up its claim for the other half of the island, and East Timor (also known as Timor-Leste) became the first new nation of the 21st Century!

(By the way, in case you were wondering about the religious differences, Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, and East Timor is predominantly Catholic.)

Check out East Timor:

Mt. Ramelau (aka Tatamailau) is the highest mountain on the island.

Dili is the capital and largest city in East Timor.

The smaller islands that are part of East Timor include Atauro Island...

...and Jaco Island.

There is a little divot, called an exclave, on the Indonesian half of Timor that belongs to East Timor. This portion, pictured in red below, includes the city of Pante Makasar.

Here are some more photos of East Timor. Loads of beautiful beaches, interesting and complex culture...

For more on East Timor, check out this earlier post.

Also on this date:

Oceanographer Sylvia Earle's birthday

National Toasted Marshmallow Day

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