Culture and history info
There are many languages spoken on the island of Flores, all of them belonging to the Austronesian family. In the centre of the island in the districts of Ngada, Nagekeo, and Ende there is what is variously called the Central Flores Dialect Chain or the Central Flores Linkage. Within this area there are slight linguistic differences in almost every village. At least six separate languages are identifiable. These are from west to east: Ngadha, Nage, Keo, Ende, Lio and Palu'e, which is spoken on the island with the same name of the north coast of Flores. Locals would probably also add So'a and Bajawa to this list, which anthropologists have labeled dialects of Ngadha.
The peoples of Flores are almost entirely Roman Catholic Christians, whereas most other Indonesians are Muslim. As a consequence, Flores may be regarded as surrounded by a religious border. The prominence of Catholicism on the island results from its colonisation by Portugal. In other parts of Indonesia with significant Christian populations, such as the Maluku Islands and Sulawesi, the geographical divide is less rigid and Muslims and Christians sometimes live side by side. Flores thereby also has less religious violence that has sporadically occurred in other parts of Indonesia. There are several churches on the island.
Portuguese traders and missionaries came to Flores in the 16th century, mainly to Larantuka and Sikka. Their influence is still discernible in Sikka's language, culture and religion. The first Portuguese visit took place in 1511, through the expedition of António de Abreu and his vice-captain Francisco Serrão, en route through the Sunda islands.
The Dominican order was extremely important in this island, as well as in the neighbouring islands of Timor and Solor. When in 1613 the Dutch attacked the Fortress of Solor, the population of this fort, led by the Dominicans, moved to the harbor town of Larantuka, on the eastern coast of Flores. This population was mixed, of Portuguese and local islanders descent and Larantuqueiros, Topasses or, as Dutch knew them, the 'Black Portuguese' (Zwarte Portuguezen).
The Larantuqueiros or Topasses became the dominant sandalwood trading people of the region for the next 200 years. This group used Portuguese as the language for worship, Malay as the language of trade and a mixed dialect as mother tongue. This was observed by William Dampier, an English privateer visiting the Island in 1699:
These (the Topasses) have no Forts, but depend on their Alliance with the Natives: And indeed they are already so mixt, that it is hard to distinguish whether they are Portuguese or Indians. Their Language is Portuguese; and the religion they have, is Romish. They seem in Words to acknowledge the King of Portugal for their Sovereign; yet they will not accept any Officers sent by him. They speak indifferently the Malayan and their own native Languages, as well as Portuguese.
In 1846, Dutch and Portuguese initiated negotiations towards delimiting the territories but these negotiations led nowhere. In 1851 Lima Lopes, the new governor of Timor, Solor and Flores, agreed to sell eastern Flores and the nearby islands to the Dutch in return for a payment of 200,000 Florins in order to support his impoverished administration. Lima Lopes did so without the consent of Lisbon and was dismissed in disgrace, but his agreement was not rescinded and in 1854 Portugal ceded all its historical claims on Flores. After this, Flores became part of the territory of Dutch East Indies.
During World War II a Japanese invasion force landed at Reo on 14 May 1942 and occupied Flores.
After the war Flores became part of independent Indonesia.
On 12 December 1992, an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale occurred, killing 2,500 people in and around Maumere, including islands off the North coast.