It is an aspect of the Dominican Republic’s history that is little known outside the country, but the nation was one of very few countries to openly offer the opportunity of refuge to European Jewish settlers in the midst of the Second World War, as the extent of the ethnic cleansing and genocide that the Axis powers were carrying out became clear to people around the world. A good number of the Jewish refugees from the situation in Europe turned up in Sosúa, which to this day retains a vibrant and influential Jewish community. Although intermarriage and assimilation have led to a lowering in the total numbers of Jewish people living in Sosúa, and in the Dominican Republic in general, the town is still strongly linked in its history to the story of the Jewish refugees.
On their arrival in Sosúa the government provided the dispossessed refugees with land and resources, much of which went into founding a dairy and a cheese factory. Productos Sosúa is still a thriving company today. It is located in El Batey, which was the settlement area for around 500 of the refugees in the early 1940s. There are many descendants of the settlers still living there today, and it is home to a synagogue and a museum. El Batey is one of three sectors into which Sosúa is divided – the others being Sosúa Abajo and Los Charamicos. It is the chief tourist locale in Sosúa, due in no small part to its history and variety.
Sosúa Abajo is located to the west of the town, and takes its name (translated roughly as “Lower Sosúa” from its geographical position, which is in a valley through which a river flows to the sea at Sosúa Bay. Less commercial than El Batey, it is a rural area which is home to many of the workers who commute daily to jobs in the more corporate areas. Los Charamicos is different again. A more urbanised area, characterised by many as a barrio, Los Charamicos is where a visitor to Sosúa might go if they were interested in finding out a bit more about typical local nightlife. Its club and bar scene have been widely complimented, and Sosúa’s large and varied population serves to ensure that it is worth a visit for anyone.
Some would call it karma in action that Sosúa, a town which opened its doors and its arms to the Jewish refugees, has been recently bestowed with a new beach by a purely natural phenomenon known as “beach nourishment”. Where previously there were only cliffs and sheer rock faces, the beach known to some as Playa Alicia and to others as Playa Casa Marina has become a destination for locals and tourists alike, and is an ideal base for anyone who enjoys water sports and snorkelling. Sosúa’s marine population includes many diverse species of fish, making it popular for marine life enthusiasts and in winter it is even home to a large number of whales. Whale watching is as a result another hugely popular tourist activity. And all of the above, as diverse as it makes Sosúa, is the case in a town that has a population of only 64,198.