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Visit Sosua

History and Culture Sosua

Sosua is a small town in the north of the island of the Dominican Republic on the Puerto Plata coast. Every year it attracts a lot of tourists to its idyllic coastline, tropical, serene bays and countless opportunities for water sports and learning the Spanish language.

Jewish Connection

It is a place with a strong connection with Europe, not just because of the obvious Spanish conquest of the Americas, but because of the large number of Jewish people, fleeing persecution in Nazi Germany, who settled in the area from the 1940s on.

Following the division of Hispaniola into Haiti and the Dominican Republic, most of the then present Jewish community settled on the Spanish side of the island. However, they did so quietly, there was a lack of an evident community and they tended to keep themselves to themselves and didn't actively practice their religion.

Then, during World War Two, the Dominican Republic was one of the few countries who accepted mass Jewish immigration in response to the persecution that they were suffering in Germany under Nazi rule. In 1938, the Evian conference was called by President Roosevelt of the United States of America in response to Nazi actions in Germany and to confront the issue of the large numbers of Jews who were fleeing the country. Despite much formal objection to what was happening by the USA and many European countries, the only country in the end who agreed to open their doors to a substantial number of the Jewish refugees, was the Dominican Republic. Rafael Trujillo In 1940 this agreement was given the official stamp of then dictator, Rafael Trujillo and land was set aside on the north coast of the island in order for settlements to be created. There are many reasons alluded to as to why Trujillo was so open to the Jewish immigration, amongst which are the desire to clear his much tarnished reputation in European eyes, following the massacre by machete of thousands of Haitian people in 1937 which was greeted by a lot of protest in Europe and the United States. Another possibility is that he wanted to encourage an influx of better educated people from Europe who also had a paler skin (Trujillo was known to whiten his skin with talcum powder to appear paler). However, call us cynical, but one would be more inclined to believe that the 500 dollars worth of gold given to Trujillo by Jewish International in New York per Jewish person welcomed into his country's abode probably had a lot more to do with it than anything else.

Modern Settlement

In May of 1940 the first Jewish immigrants arrived in the Dominican Republic and set up home in the land set aside for them in and around what is now Sosua. By 1943 there were around 1000 Jewish settlers in the area and the Dominican Republic Settlement Association was established to help with the settlement and integration process. The journey to reach the Dominican Republic and Sosua was a hard one , with a lot of stops and delays and it became close to impossible when war commenced, thanks to the heavy German presence throughout Europe and numerous German U-Boats in the waters. Sousa Those who did make the journey set up hard-working agricultural based communities. They had little experience in crop growing and life was far from easy with the disease malaria to contend with on top of everything. However, soon the hallmarks of a modern and settled community began to pop up. A health clinic opened that was also available for the Dominican people as well, a synagogue was built, a primary school established and a hotel, cinema and paved roads were developed. Trujillo was, understandably, delighted with this ready-made propaganda machine that he could use to attract tourists to his country.

Many Jews left for Europe and the USA following the end of World War Two, but some remained and progressed from the now unpractical small agricultural communities to larger dairy farms and meat processing factories. The company 'Productos Sosua', established during this time, remains in operation today. Then, in the 1980s tourism began to take off in the region. Sosua is divided more or less into three main zones and the tourists have mostly flocked over the years to the area called El Batey. The other two areas are called Sosua Abajo and Los Charamicos.