Samples Asia The Culture and Food of East Timor

The Culture and Food of East Timor

956 words 4 page(s)

The country of East Timor has been plagued by war and terrorism for decades, yet what stands out is the resilience of the people and its culture. There are a variety of cultural influences reflected in East Timor, in which include Portuguese, Roman Catholic, and Malay (Culture in East Timor, 2012.) The legend of the origins of the island is that a huge crocodile was changed into the island of Timor, hence the nickname “Crocodile Island.” The culture of East Timor is similar to that of Indonesia although in East Timor, the influence of the Catholic Church is much stronger with its population being primarily Roman Catholic.

Although the illiteracy rate in East Timor is tremendous, nevertheless there is a continuing tradition of poetry and other arts. In regards to the architecture, many Portuguese style buildings are still standing although there are still traditional “totem” houses that remain. The business activities of the people of East Timor frequently involve craftsmanship, in addition to weaving the traditional scarves that are worn so proudly by the people. In East Timor, the history is reflected through music, exemplifying the Portuguese and Indonesian control; the most pervasive form of native folk music is a traditional dance that is performed by women in order to welcome their men home after wars. Small drums are used, and at times enemy heads are carried in processions throughout villages. In more modern times, music from East Timor has been closely linked with the movement for independence, which occurred in 2000.

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The uniqueness of the culture of East Timor involves nearly 16 different ethnic groups and includes 32 different dialects. The culture of the indigenous people of East Timor is mostly influenced by their traditional beliefs, which involve animism. However, the culture has also impacted by outside influences due to various trading countries including China, Portugal, and indigenous peoples from other countries. As a result, there has been a great deal of dissension and strife over what should actually be the official language of East Timor. Ultimately, Tetum and Portuguese have remained the official languages. A former president of East Timor, who had been a guerrilla leader, believed that the retention of Portuguese as the central language of the culture was vital. In addition, retaining Portuguese also said the country apart from its domineering neighbors, Indonesia and Australia (Dillydallying over Language, 2002.) The conflict over language was constantly characterized by the argument that Portuguese is the sixth most widely spoken language in the world, and would be an asset to the growing industry of tourism in East Timor.

The food in East Timor is heavily influenced by foods that come from southeast Asia as well as Portugal, so that typical dishes traditionally involve using pork, basil, vegetables, fish, rice, corn, tropical fruit, and root vegetables (Food in East Timor, 2015.) As is common in many other countries, typically food is separated into two distinct categories, i.e. vegetarian as well as nonvegetarian. Because in East Timor, agriculture is one of the most vital sectors in the nation, East Timor cooking utilizes rice, for the most part, because it is a homegrown product. Other forms of bases for East Timor cooking include sweet potatoes, corn, and taro. Most every dish has a vegetable component as a base, and generally also includes local products such as spinach, cabbage, onions, and peace. In the country, it is very typical for families to keep livestock in order to cultivate them as an essential ingredient to their cooking. Often, East Timor dishes combine pork, poultry, and goat meat. In addition to meet, there is a tremendous emphasis on fish as part of the diet in East Timor; fish is generally fried, and shrimp is considered a national delicacy (Food in East Timor, 2015.)

A typical edition East Timor is Batar Da’an  , which uses a mixture of pumpkin, corn, and beans. The consistency of this dish is somewhat grainy and makes a delicious side dish to a main meal of fish or meat. In addition, Tapai is a slightly alcoholic drink that is made with fermented rice, a very common beverage to accompany food. East Timor has a rice-based diet, as it is homegrown and economical. All of the years of strife and conflict in the region have made East Timor somewhat of a food desert, with the United Nations focusing on it as one of the regions that needs to be targeted for nutritional help.

When Indonesia withdrew from East Timor in 1999, there was tremendous destruction that involved the collapse of state-sponsored health services (McWilliam, 2008.) The new government of East Timor gradually introduced social services including health services across the nation, but local aspects of customary healing remains prevalent in the country despite the introduction of traditional healthcare provision. It is believed that the most successful cultural use of health services is the one that combines both practices, i.e., the resilience of traditional healing practices with innovative biomedical services.

Timor-Leste is considered one of the poorest nations in Asia, with nearly half the population living on less than $.55 per day; the population of the nation is considered chronically food insecure, so that even though the gastronomic elements of the culture are wonderful when they are available, they are far too scarce for the majority of people to enjoy. In addition, the region has been plagued by war, terrorism, and natural disasters which have had a tremendous impact on the cultural life of the citizens of East Timor. This unique culture has been under assault for decades, although its people continue to demonstrate resilience through their faith in Catholicism, their pride in their nation’s history and culture, and their growing tourism industry that, despite all of the strife, continues to be a mainstay of the nation.

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