The Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach the islands of Indonesia. Their quest to dominate the source of the lucrative spice trade in the early 16th century, and their simultaneous Roman Catholic missionary efforts, saw the establishment of trading posts and forts, and a strong Portuguese cultural element that remains substantial in Indonesia.
The nutmeg plant is native to Indonesia's Banda Islands. Once one of the world's most valuable commodities, it drew the first European colonial powers to Indonesia.
Europeans were making technological advances in the early sixteenth century; new found Portuguese expertise in navigation, ship building and weaponry allowed them to make daring expeditions of exploration and expansion. Starting with the first exploratory expeditions sent from newly conquered Malacca in 1512, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in Indonesia, and sought to dominate the sources of valuable spices and to extend their Roman Catholicmissionary efforts. Initial Portuguese attempts to establish a coalition and peace treaty in 1522 with the West Javan Sunda Kingdom, failed due hostilities amongst indigenous kingdoms on Java. The Portuguese turned east to Maluku, which comprised a varied collection of principalities and kingdoms that were occasionally at war with each other but maintained significant inter-island and international trade. Through both military conquest and alliance with local rulers, they established trading posts, forts, and missions in eastern Indonesia including the islands of Ternate, Ambon, and Solor. The height of Portuguese missionary activities, however, came at the latter half of the sixteenth century, after the pace of their military conquest in the archipelago had stopped and their east Asian interest was shifting to Japan, Macau and China; and sugar in Brazil and the Atlantic slave trade in turn further distracted their Indonesian efforts. In addition, the first European people that arrived in Northern Sulawesi was the Portuguese.
Francisco Xavier supported and visited the Portuguese mission at Tolo on Halmahera. This was the first Catholic mission in the Moluccas. The mission began in 1534 when some chiefs from Morotai came to Ternate asking to be baptised. Simão Vaz, the vicar of Ternate, went to Tolo to found the mission. The mission was the source of conflict between the Spanish, the Portuguese and Ternate. Simão Vaz was later murdered at Sao.
The Portuguese presence in Indonesia was reduced to Solor, Flores and Timor (see Portuguese Timor) in modern day Nusa Tenggara, following defeat in 1575 at Ternate at the hands of indigenous Ternateans, Dutch conquests in Ambon, north Maluku and Banda, and a general failure for sustained control of trade in the region. In comparison with the original Portuguese ambition to dominate Asian trade, their influences on Indonesian culture are small: the romantic keroncong guitar ballads; a large number of Indonesian words which reflect Portuguese’s role as the 'lingua franca' of the archipelago alongside Malay; and many family names in eastern Indonesia such as da Costa, Dias, de Fretes, Gonsalves, etc. The most significant impacts of the Portuguese arrival were the disruption and disorganisation of the trade network mostly as a result of their conquest of Malacca, and the first significant plantings of Christianity in Indonesia. There have continued to be Christian communities in eastern Indonesia through to contemporary times, which has contributed to a sense of shared interest with Europeans, particularly among the Ambonese.
^Ricklefs, M.C (1993). A History of Modern Indonesia Since c.1300, second edition. London: MacMillan. pp. 22–24. ISBN0-333-57689-6.
^Sumber-sumber asli sejarah Jakarta, Jilid I: Dokumen-dokumen sejarah Jakarta sampai dengan akhir abad ke-16. Cipta Loka Caraka. 1999.;Zahorka, Herwig (2007). The Sunda Kingdoms of West Java, From Tarumanagara to Pakuan Pajajaran with Royal Center of Bogor, Over 1000 Years of Propsperity and Glory. Yayasan Cipta Loka Caraka.
^Vaz, Simon. Halmahera dan Raja Ampat sebagai kesatuan majemuk: studi-studi terhadap. p. 279.
^Francis Xavier; His Life, His Times: Indonesia and India, 1545-1549. Xaviers mission. p. 179.
^Miller, George (ed.) (1996). To The Spice Islands and Beyond: Travels in Eastern Indonesia. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. xv. ISBN967-65-3099-9.