The town of Larantuka, capital of the District of East Flores, lies on the very eastern edge of this long island of Flores in the East Nusatenggara province. Although now quite a sleepy town, in its heydays Larantuka was a hive of activities when in the 16th century, Portuguese traders came here to load their vessels with precious sandalwood. Not much is left today of this lucrative aromatic wood except for one or two trees still found in the forest.
The first Portuguese ship is said to have arrived here in 1556 at the nearby Solor island near Larantuka. But soon the Portuguese were defeated by the Dutch, and so they retreated to Larantuka. The predominantly Catholic Portuguese intermarried with the local population, and gradually Portuguese culture, traditions and faith, were adopted by the local elite.
The King of Larantuka at the time, Ola Ado Bala the 11th, changed his name to Don Fransisco Ola Ado Bala Diaz Viera Deo Godinho, or better known as Don Fransisco Ola Ado Bala DVG. And as the king changed his name, everyone followed suit. The 13 tribes living in Larantuka then also changed name, the Lamaholot people became the Fernandez tribe, the De Rosari, Da Costa, Da Santo, Gonzales, Ribeiru, Skera and the De Ornay.
Larantuka , in the Lamaholot language meaning the Meeting point, became the meeting place for people of the surrounding Adonara, Lembata and Solor islanders as well as the people from Flores mainland. The town also merged Lamaholot, Portuguese and Malay traditions brought by merchants.
In the 19th century the Portuguese sold its ruling rights in Flores to the Dutch. Consequently, the booming sandalwood trade declined and now the local inhabitants mostly live on subsistence agriculture.
Today, Larantuka’s landmark is its Cathedral called Reinha Rosari. The cathedral together with the two chapels known as Capela Tuam Ana (Chapel of Jesus Christ) and Capela Tuan Ma (Mother Mary Chapel) are the center of the yearly Easter processions, when the statues of Jesus and Mary, originally brought here by the Portuguese are carried from the chapels to the cathedral
Larantuka comes alive once a year during Holy Week when thousands of pilgrims throng the town to follow the unique Semana Santa ceremonie. The town then literally bursts at the seams. Detailed information about this event can be found at: THE LARANTUKA “SEMANA SANTA” UNIQUE HOLY WEEK CELEBRATIONS
This area is also famous for its ikat-weaving. Besides its meticulous and arduous process, the locally named kwatek kinge cloth is unique among the Flores fine ikat cloths in that it has sewn-in small seashells into the design. This cloth is produced in the remote village of Lewokluo some 26 km. from Larantuka, and is chiefly used in ceremonial functions. Unfortunately there are very few women left today who still own the knowledge and the skill to manufacture these beautiful intricate materials.
(Sources: Kompas and Explore the Extraordinary Flores)