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Sosua, Dominican Republic

"My friend, my friend!" the men called as we passed. They started as the sun rose, drifting out of their kiosks. "You are hungry, yes? Here is a menu!"

"Pretty necklace for the lady?"

"See this painting! You like? Good price for you!"

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The beach of Sosua stretches for a full mile, and all along the white dunes runs a wall of vendors' stalls. The hawkers approached with open arms; they embraced me around the shoulders and smiled like close relatives.

Hard to believe that Sosua was once a Jewish kibbutz built by Jewish emigrants in the 1940s. For nearly a decade, Jewish exiles escaped to the Dominican Republic – the only country in the world to openly accept Holocaust refugees. They built wooden houses, farmed the land, congregated at an ersatz synagogue and spoke German and Yiddish.

A half-century later, the rainforest has reclaimed the meadows and fields. The wooden buildings are gone, and we couldn't even find the temple (where a few stragglers reportedly still worship on the Sabbath).

The only lasting monument is El Museo Judio de Sosua, a small but moving museum that lies on a quiet avenue and is open at odd hours. Far from the hawkers forcing their wares, the Museo offers a quiet exhibit of WWII-era documents and photographs. As we moved around the museum, it was more and more apparent how much the town has changed: What was once a real community has become a depository for tourists and European expats.

As we left the Museo, we saw the baseball field across the street. Kids pitched and slammed homers. They ran and called excitedly. All of them were skinny and wore secondhand clothes.

Sixty years ago, people escaped to Sosua. But every kid on this field hoped to escape from it. Strange, the tide of history.

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Our friends joked that they were going to dig a tunnel to our house

"My friend, my friend!" the men called as we passed. They started as the sun rose, drifting out of their kiosks. "You are hungry, yes? Here is a menu!"

"Pretty necklace for the lady?"

"See this painting! You like? Good price for you!"

Sponsored
Sponsored

The beach of Sosua stretches for a full mile, and all along the white dunes runs a wall of vendors' stalls. The hawkers approached with open arms; they embraced me around the shoulders and smiled like close relatives.

Hard to believe that Sosua was once a Jewish kibbutz built by Jewish emigrants in the 1940s. For nearly a decade, Jewish exiles escaped to the Dominican Republic – the only country in the world to openly accept Holocaust refugees. They built wooden houses, farmed the land, congregated at an ersatz synagogue and spoke German and Yiddish.

A half-century later, the rainforest has reclaimed the meadows and fields. The wooden buildings are gone, and we couldn't even find the temple (where a few stragglers reportedly still worship on the Sabbath).

The only lasting monument is El Museo Judio de Sosua, a small but moving museum that lies on a quiet avenue and is open at odd hours. Far from the hawkers forcing their wares, the Museo offers a quiet exhibit of WWII-era documents and photographs. As we moved around the museum, it was more and more apparent how much the town has changed: What was once a real community has become a depository for tourists and European expats.

As we left the Museo, we saw the baseball field across the street. Kids pitched and slammed homers. They ran and called excitedly. All of them were skinny and wore secondhand clothes.

Sixty years ago, people escaped to Sosua. But every kid on this field hoped to escape from it. Strange, the tide of history.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
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How Covid tore San Diego friends and neighbors apart

Our friends joked that they were going to dig a tunnel to our house
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Dirty words don't translate all that well from English to Spanish

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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