Despite the fact that Timor-Leste is a small country, with an area of 15.000 km2 and a population of 924.000, its ethnic and cultural richness is easily stated by the presence of several social groups, religious beliefs and spoken languages.
Traditional celebrations. Photo: Alda Pereira
There are more than 20 main languages in the country. Although Tétum is only spoken on a daily basis by a quarter of its population, it is, along with Portuguese, the official language of Timor-Leste. Tétum Terik – used in the past to facilitate communication in trading relations – evolved to the present Tétum Praça, by means of assimilation of Portuguese and Malay words.
|Fisherman in Suai. Photo: Dan Groshong.|
Fisherman in Suai. Photo: Dan Groshong.
The presence of the Portuguese from the 16th century onwards was determinant for the development of the Catholic faith spread by the missionaries that travelled to the island. Today, about 91,4 percent of the population is Catholic, followed by the Protestants, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus. Animist rituals and traditions coexist peacefully with the different faiths, contributing to the Timorese people rich cultural palette.
Most of the population works in agriculture, mainly directed at inner consumption. Coffee crops are a potential export for the country, along with the energy resources from the Timor Sea and the emerging tourism sector.