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Archive for June 3rd, 2017

At the 1938 Evian Conference, a convening of the leaders of 32 nations and numerous private organizations to discuss the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing the rapidly spreading Nazi regime, Dominican dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina was the only world leader who stood out to take the Jews.

However his purpose was political and not based on any humanitarian reasons.

Trujillo had massacred tens of thousands of Haitians over six days in October 1937, an event English speakers call the ‘parsley massacre’, Dominicans call el corte (the cutting) and Haitians remember as kout kout-a (the stabbing). Regardless of name, it was a vicious attempt at the same sort of ethnic cleansing that was happening in Europe, and Trujillo was in serious need of a positive public relations boost.

Trujillo was obsessed with whiteness. He saw the island of Hispaniola as a physical polarisation between light and dark, and his mission was to keep the darkness at bay. Known for powdering his own skin to appear whiter, Trujillo saw the exodus of Jewish people from Eastern Europe in the time between Hitler’s rise to power and the closing of the borders as an opportunity to further his racial agenda. At the conference, Trujillo agreed to accept up to 100,000 Jews into his country, hoping that they would procreate with Dominican women, who would then give birth to lighter-skinned babies.

Despite these dark motives, his offer was an opportunity to survive that couldn’t be passed up. The DR issued approximately 5,000 visas to European Jews between the Evian Conference and 1944, but due to travel issues, political tensions and some uncertainty about relocating to the Caribbean nation, fewer than 1,000 Jews ever made it to the DR. Those that did were given land and livestock, and the opportunity to start rebuilding their lives.

By pooling their expertise and bringing in consultants from Europe, they were able to create high-quality European-style cheeses, butter that was voted the nation’s best, award-winning sausages and salamis that were sold around the country under the name Productos Sosúa (Sosúa Products).

A mixture of beef and pork, the salami made at Ganadera was by no means Kosher, and many of the Jewish families who settled in Sosúa raised pigs. “They didn’t stay Kosher,” Schwarz said of her parents. “After you almost died of hunger, whatever you can find to eat you eat, and you don’t care if it’s Kosher or not.”( This reminds me of the lost son in the parable of the Prodigal Son who was reduced to eat husks given to the swine. A dismal prospect of diaspora-b)

Although Productos Sosúa was sold to Mexican multinational Sigma Alimento in 2004, the Dominican staple’s roots in the small Jewish cooperative and the flavours they popularised can still be tasted in almost any kitchen in the country.

(Ack:bbc news/travel june1,17/Pippa Biddie)

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