is a beach in the Dominican Republic
on photos for enlargements
on the Caribbean Island of Hispaniola—in a town settled by
Jews, populated by Dominicans, and teeming with European and North
American tourists—the beach offers more than just a sun tan.
Sosúa Beach is a half-mile stretch of sand on the northern
coast of the island. One of the most popular beaches in the Dominican
Republic (which shares the island with Haiti), Sosúa is blessed
with gentle turquoise swells that roll in from Sosúa Bay.
Palm trees jut out horizontally above the golden sand. Warm sun and
cold cervezas welcome the crowds.
At the back of the beach—poised shoulder-to-shoulder beneath
a seemingly endless canopy of trees—are more than 200 ramshackle
huts. Inside you’ll find Haitian and Dominican paintings for
sale. Tacky T-shirts and beach bags. Snorkeling and scuba diving
excursions. Salsa, merengue, and bachata CDs. A plethora of laid-back
restaurants offer everything from pollo frito (fried chicken) and
jugo de limón (lemon juice) to schnapps and Wiener schnitzel.
Across from the extended row of huts are countless vendors sitting
in plastic chairs. On the plastic tables beside them sit handmade
signs offering manicures, pedicures, or banana boat rides.
Between the gauntlet of huts and vendors runs a sandy, shaded path
where tourists are pleasantly accosted. “Hello my friend,” says
a proprietor as I stumble along the path. “You want painting?” I
shake my head, but the young Dominican in undeterred. He steps in
front of me, blocking my progress. One outstretched hand caresses
my shoulder, the other points toward paintings of Bob Marley and
The beach is a major attraction in Sosúa, a small coastal
village of about 45,000. In the early 1940s, about 600 Jewish immigrants
settled here. They established a dairy, which is still in use today.
Sosúa remained predominantly Jewish until about 1980, when
nearby Puerto Plata International Airport opened its gates and the
world came rushing through. These days Sosúa is a haven of
modest homes, small hotels, and resort condominiums.
Back on the beach, I sit at a plastic table across from Leo’s
Banana Bar & Restaurant. Leo Martinez, the owner, is like many
at Sosúa. Twelve years ago he opened his business to meet
the growing number of tourists. “In winter, we have mostly
Europeans and North Americans,” he says. “But in summer
the Dominicans come from all around the island.”
Leo’s Banana is a flimsy hut with a rusted, corrugated metal
roof. It seems as if the slightest gust of wind might blow away the
structure. But sitting at a plastic table in front of Leo’s,
I feel solid and secure. The staff treats me like family, even though
my Spanish language skills are laughable.
José, my waiter, delivers an ice-cold Presidente beer and
suggests the fried red snapper. “It is caught this morning,” he
says. A waitress whose name I can’t recall, hovers over me,
correcting my Spanish between giggles.
From my plastic chair at Leo’s, I watch a procession of locals
move past the endless row of huts. Two schoolgirls skip along the
path, their blue shirts and khakis skirts flapping in the breeze.
Next comes a trio of teenage boys. They wear mismatched baseball
uniforms and carry only one baseball glove among them. An elderly
Haitian woman balances a plastic basket of flip flops on her head.
A boy on a bicycle wobbles across the sand. A fisherman carries a
12-pound lobster and offers it to anyone willing to part with their
pesos. This is what makes Sosúa Beach so special. Here you
are treated to a Dominican parade.
And then comes the music. Three musicians walk along the path and
stop in front of Leo’s Banana Bar. One guitar. One set of bongos.
A pair of castanets. Suddenly, the men launch into a wicked salsa
rhythm. The beat lures Leo out of the hut and onto the sandy path.
He begins to dance. One outstretched hand leads an imaginary partner,
the other is pressed flat against his own wriggling waist. My red
snapper is delivered but I don’t notice at first, because my
eyes move from Leo to the musicians and then to a nexus of locals
who break into dance—if only for the briefest of moments. They
continue walking along the path, past the paintings, the woodcarvings,
The cerveza is cold, the locals warm, the music oh so inviting. Someone
once said that “life is a beach.” But in Sosúa,
the beach is alive.
Next Stop: Acapulco, Mexico
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