Notes from Timor Leste: part I
First a Portuguese, then a Dutch/Portuguese colony, Timor Leste was invaded by Indonesia in 1975, an occupation that lasted for 24 years and took the lives of over 100,000 Timorese.
Major world and regional powers did next to nothing to counter Indonesia rule and the Timorese struggle for independence only caught international attention after the Santa Cruz massacre (12th November 1991), when at least 250 people were killed during the memorial procession of Sebastião Gomes, a Timorese independence activist killed by the Indonesian troops two weeks before that (28th October 1991).
The country had its independence recognized and celebrated only in 2002, and its people are now trying a start a new, and brighter, chapter in their history.
One of the most oil-dependent economies in the world, Timor Leste (East Timor) faces now the challenge of diversifying its economy while promoting a sustainable and equitable development. As of August 2014, 28% of Timorese people aged between 15 and 64 years work with subsistence farming or fishing, and the unemployment rate goes up to 41%.
I've been here for just five, six days but the friendliness of the locals and the beauty of the natural scenery has already seduced me. It also makes me happy to see how proud they are of their fight for their country and freedom, and although they all know it's going to be a long process, they are also confident that their country will see better days in the future.
"We are just starting to walk with our own legs, give us some time and you will see", a taxi driver told me.
The potential they have for ecotourism here is huge. Forested mountains, pristine deserted beaches, remote villages in the countryside, two beautiful small islands off its coast (Atauro and Jaco), great spots for scuba diving and snorkeling, and historic hiking trails which years ago were used by the Timorese in their guerrilla fight for independence.
I am in Dili at the moment and tomorrow I will be on a fishing boat on my way to Atauro island, where I hope to have some quiet, relaxing and offline days to say goodbye to my 20's.
Part II of Notes from Timor Leste will be written when I return to Dili, and I will then share here some pictures and stories from my time on the island.
Tchao and "Até logo"!!