Thursday, May 29, 2008

Forgotten Lands: Tours de Sur & Gokura

(What do you mean, "Forgotten Lands?")


This just in: In an intrepid contribution to the study of the Forgotten Lands, L&TM5K regular Cartophiliac has announced his intention to remedy the sad unavailability of internet cartography for some of these all-too-often overlooked countries. Working with state-of-the-art satellite imagery and the most recent available government documents, he has completed maps for the Asian Pacific nation of Kim'chin do and posted them on his own blog, Cartophilia.

I will naturally keep L&TM5K readers abreast of developments in this exciting new branch of Forgotten Land Studies.


Tours de Sur
Tours de Sur
Population: 642,000 (2000 estimate)

Economy: An export base of plantation agriculture drives Tours de Sur’s economy, with cotton and soybeans the leading products. Light industries are well developed, with shoes being an especially important export to other South American countries. Tours de Sur enjoys a free trade zone status with Brazil, and there is support in both countries for the idea of a common currency.

When Pope Alexander VI so arbitrarily divided the newly discovered Americas between Spain and Portugal, he shaped the destiny of an entire continent. What is less well-known about the Treaty of Tordesillas, however, is that it called upon a third European power, France, to govern a buffer zone between the lands of the two Iberian crowns. The word “Tordesillas,” in fact, is but a Spanish rendering of the name of the proposed French colony, Tours de Sur.

The long, narrow buffer colony envisioned by the Pope was obviously unworkable, and it is no surprise that it never materialized in the form that was originally intended. An erstwhile capital city was established in the Paraná Valley in the 1620s, but its governors never controlled much more than the area within 50 kilometers of the town – the same area that constitutes the territory of Tours de Sur today.

What Tours de Sur lacks in size or geopolitical significance, it makes up for in bucolic charm. Tidy plantation landscapes unfold in geometric splendor across some of the best agricultural land in all of South America. In the plazas of the capital city and its outlying villages, workers gather in the warm semitropical evenings to dance to the local argutoi band and drink górta, a sweet. Here, as everywhere on the continent, soccer is an almost spiritual force in daily life. At any time of night or day, one might hear from a nearby field a spirited discussion of the finer points of play being conducted in the local dialect, a linguistically promiscuous blend of Spanish, French, Portuguese, and an extinct local indigenous tongue.

Flag: Never a focus of attention in Bourbon France, Tours de Sur was essentially forgotten in the French Revolution and has pursued a de facto path of political independence ever since. Perhaps a lack of any feeling of attachment to France allowed the pragmatic Suriens, as they call themselves, to continue using the flags they already had after the loss of other ties to their putative mother country. In any event, the national banner is identical to the French tricolor of red, white, and blue.

Islamic Republic of Gokura
Capital: Gokura
Population: 542,486 (2000 census)

Economy: Shipping, finance, and light industry dominate an internationally oriented economy. Agricultural production is exclusively for local production. Gokura prints no money of its own; the local merchants and cashiers are willing and uncannily able to accept, calculate a rate for, and make change in virtually any significant world currency.

If the impossibly rugged and remote island of New Guinea is to a certain extent a world of its own, then this prosperous little country occupying the lower valley of the Five Bats River is the least typical part of that world. Where Papua New Guinea is one of the least technologically developed countries on Earth, Gokura is a gleaming oasis of modernity. Where Papua New Guinea is loosely governed by a weak central government, in Gokura the state is deeply involved in the lives of its citizens. Papua New Guinea is overwhelmingly Christian and largely off the beaten track; Gokura is Muslim and, at nearly the eastern tip of the island, sits on a natural bottleneck for oceangoing traffic.

Gokura, converted by traders in missionaries in the 13th Century, represents the easternmost spread of traditional Islam. Held by the Portuguese during the colonial era, it was incorporated into Japan’s military empire in the 1930s, gaining independence after liberation by Australian troops during the Second World War. Though much smaller and of a lower profile than other Asian city-states, it has developed a similar prosperity over the last half-century through success in shipping, manufacturing, financial services, and technology. A rare high-profile moment was a 1998 cover story on “Asia’s Other Tiger” in the business magazine The Economist.

Gokura is a self-avowed Islamic state. Non-observance is tacitly tolerated, but public practice of faiths other than Islam is strictly prohibited. The city and its surrounding farms convey an impression of immaculate order, tidiness, and cleanliness. The government ascribes the extremely low crime rate to a faith-based public education system and strict enforcement of traditional Islamic law.

Flag: Intersecting green diagonals, trimmed with gold on official banners (but not on the less expensive flags seen on many schools and public buildings), against a black background. No official account of the flag’s design is known, but the green is assumed to have been chosen to represent Islam.


Chance said...

I know you're a musician of some talent, having heard a few of your songs; what about composing some anthems? Let's get real up in this piece!

Michael5000 said...

@chance: It's mighty kind of you to call them "talents."

Chance said...

I like your songs.

I'll even write the lyrics if you'll record it and post it as an mp3.

Anonymous said...

The people of Tour de Sur are slacking by not creating their own flag. But I kind of wish the Gokurans
(go Korans!) had adopted the French flag too.

fingerstothebone said...

I almost forgot about the Five Bats River, where the 5 mythical Bat Kings reside behind each of the 5 small waterfalls along the river. The myths date back to pre-Islamic days and are now more or less forgotten.