Monday, June 16, 2008

Forgotten Lands: Ste. Julia & Tin Te To

(Confused about the "Forgotten Lands?" Click here.)

Ste. Julia
Population: 600,000 (1989 estimate; considered unreliable)

Economy: Some plantation agriculture (sugar, mangos) and likely much more growing and processing of illegal drugs. Subsistence farming predominates in the interior. Heavily dependent on international aid.

It is only seventy miles from the bustling, dynamic center of Miami to downtown Elizabethville, yet in many ways the two cities could not be more different. It has been twenty years since Time magazine described this small Atlantic island nation “the nightmare neighbor America wants to forget.” In the intervening years, America has indeed seemed to have forgotten Ste. Julia, which has if anything slipped even further from media attention.

It has, certainly, been many years since Ste. Julia’s capital was a port of call for American tourists, and it is striking that not a single scheduled flight links the city with nearby Miami. But this is no wonder. Elizabethville’s twisting avenues of rusting shacks are patrolled by the rival militias of local druglords, making a stroll through the neighborhoods too dangerous for anyone but the most street-wise locals. Nor does the sun-blasted landscape offer anything resembling natural beauty or vacation fun. Even the one building in SteJulia of any architectural distinction, the decaying national palace, is tightly cordoned off by the army. “They protect it well,” a bystander remarked to the author, “because it is the only territory they really control at all.”

Until the 1930s, Ste. Julia fared no worse than most poor island countries. However, its thin soil (not volcanic, as in the Caribbean, but more akin to Florida’s flat plateau) proved unable to support the demands made of it from that time on. As a result, ever poorer earth has been asked to support an ever-greater population. Only the bare remnants of a formerly dominant commercial agriculture remain. The flat land has been badly deforested, leaving a scrubby, gullied, weedy landscape that provides little shade and supports little life. Since the 1970s, drug trafficking has defined life on the island, and citizens live in terror of the constant blood feuds among the competing criminal organizations. It is cold comfort to consider that, without the business in drugs, there might well be no way at all for Ste. Julia to feed itself.

Flag: A tall, serpent-like “Dragon of Ste. Julia,” the traditional symbol of the island, faces to the right on a trapezoidal field of white. Blue triangles to right and left, bordered by a thin stripe of gold, likely represent the surrounding Atlantic Ocean.

Tin Te To
Capital: Ashan’kur
Population: 285,000 (1998 estimate)

Economy: A modest internal economy is dominated by housing and infrastructure construction, much of it financed through the international community. Highly specialized craft items, including ceremonial knives and swords, jewelry, tapestries, glassware, and exotic cultivated plants bring in a surprising volume of foreign exchange. Tin Te To’s exquisitely engraved postage stamps are highly sought after by collectors, providing a handsome supplement to the national treasury.

How long, O Gods, O how long, wondered the great Tinitese poet To Ko, will my people wander, without a home? This age-old longing of the Tinitese people finally found an answer in 1998, as the United Nations Committee on Homeland Restoration quietly established the new country of Tin Te To from land ceded by China, Russia, and Mongolia.

The choice of this region was more political – allowing the three countries affected to share the burden of resolving “The Tinitese Question” – than tied to any specific historical territory of the Tin Te. An ancient, somewhat fragmented historical record places this “nation of craftsmen,” at various times, far enough to the west to submit to vassalage under the Holy Roman Empire, and far enough east to have built a trading fleet that is thought to have at one point plied the seas between Japan to as far south as modern Indonesia.

We know that some or all of the resident Tin Te were expelled from South Asia by the Moghuls, and there is some archeological evidence that the ancestors of the Tin Te may have traded with, or existed autonomously among, or perhaps been slaves to, the Scythians and Pharoanic Egypt. Theories that theTin Te were a “lost offshoot” of the Inca who had entered Eurasia through reverse migration across the Bering Strait, popular in the 1970s, have been rejected by most scholars as lacking credible evidence.

Flag: Tin Te To’s banner, which was unfurled for the first time in a special ceremony on the morning of January 1, 2000, is perhaps unique among flags in its generous use of gray. It is otherwise a conventional horizontal tricolor, with a center stripe of bright royal blue. The symbolism, if any, has not been publicly disclosed by the Tinitese government.


Two more Forgotten lands, Gokura and Nova Hibernia, have been reposted -- and mapped! -- on Cartophilia.

Also on Cartophilia recently was a cool piece on maps that graft Manhattan into other cities. As soon as I saw them, I knew I would have to throw my own hat in the ring....


Anonymous said...

There is a Borges story about a secret society that invents a world, Tlön. The name of the short story is "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius." The myth of its existence is perpetuated through apocryphal encyclopedia entries and artifacts spread around the world; I imagine Borges would have liked the idea of blog entries about made-up countries if blogs had existed in the 1940s.

Anonymous said...

I hope there's never a quiz on these lands, 'cause they're forgotten.