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Dominican Republic

Baseball, Évian, and a town called Sosúa: the Hugh Baver Story

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Hugh Baver (left) delivers the first base from 2013 World Baseball Classic, the DR’s first-ever win in-person to Jesus Alou (right), former major-league player for the Oakland A’s at the Red Sox Academy (Academia Medias Rojas) in El Toro, just south of Santo Domingo. Also present, Red Sox great and Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez (center)

One man’s single-handed campaign to recognize a critical event in history, the hotel, and town where it all happened, and make it all about the present.

 

Sosúa is a pretty dynamic, highly unique town as towns in the Dominican Republic go. 

With its thriving tourist and expatriate scene, most Dominicans will tell you Sosúa is not a typical Dominican town in any sense. And that includes its origin story, which has its basis in the events of World War II and the Evian Conference.

Most people are unaware of this small footnote in World War II history, but for at least a thousand people, it will never be forgotten.

By 1938, Adolph Hitler had begun his persecution of the Jews. From 6–15 July 1938, at Évian-les-Bains, France, he offered thirty-two countries a chance to relocate them and find a place for them in their societies. 

But during the nine-day meeting, delegate after delegate rose to express sympathy for the refugees along with excuses as to why they couldn’t take any.

All but one country refused to take any refugees. Dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo agreed to take 100,000 Jewish refugees into the tiny island nation of the Dominican Republic. 

 Trujillo’s generosity probably stemmed mainly from his eagerness to have the Western nations overlook his brutal massacre of between 15,000 – 25,000 Haitians in 1937. He also wished to “whiten” the people of his country, believing that the young European men would marry Dominican women and produce light-skinned offspring.

 They were to settle in the abandoned banana fields of a town called Sosúa. In return for farming and clearing the dense jungle land area, every new Jewish settler was to receive 80 acres of land, ten cows, a mule, and a horse upon arrival.

 Ultimately, less than one-thousand Jewish refugees were able to make it to the refuge of Sosúa. 

 Today, fewer than 25 Jewish families remain in Sosua. Their dairy business supplies most of the butter and cheese consumed in the Dominican Republic. Next to the town’s synagogue is a museum. The final caption on its exhibit reads: “Sosua, a community born of pain and nurtured in love must, in the final analysis, represent the ultimate triumph of life.”

 

Sosua Synagogue and Museo Judio de Sosua

 

By the end of 2015, “the ultimate triumph of life” had been entirely and willfully forgotten. When Hugh Baver visited Evian on a business trip that year, he had to explain to the manager of Hotel Royal that the Evian Conference had indeed, happened there. The manager had no idea that it had.

Baver, a former pitcher for the Oakland A’s, had asked the staff to speak to the manager about the historical significance of the hotel, but they were reluctant. Baver showed the staff proof of his identity on their computers using Google search results for his name and photographs from the 1938 conference. The staff recognized the architecture in the photos as their hotel and brought the manager to speak with Baver. 

 Through slow, patient work with the hotel management over the next two years, Baver was able to make last year‘s 80th-anniversary commemorative event happen. It was the reward of a significant effort, mostly because the hotel did not want to have their name associated with a failed event/Conference. But Baver was able to convince them that the failed framework of the conference and the results were not the faults of the hotel. The additional fact that it ultimately resulted in a thousand saved lives was very positive and significant. 

Baver’s founding of the Evian Conference memorial commemoration had its roots in his learning about the history of Sosua in 2013. His path to Sosua began with the eBay purchase of the first base from the World Baseball Classic of 2013, which was the first-ever win by the Dominican Republic. 

 The first base arrived at Baver’s door on the day of the Boston Marathon bombing, which was instrumental in his decision to donate it to the Red Sox and the Dominican Republic as a historical artifact. 

Baver went to the Dominican Republic and delivered the first base in-person to Jesus Alou, former major-league player for the Oakland A’s during their world championships of 1972 through 74. Alou is also the current director of the Red Sox Academy in El Toro, just south of Santo Domingo.

 

Hugh Baver (left) delivers the first base from 2013 World Baseball Classic, the DR’s first-ever win in-person to Jesus Alou (right), former major-league player for the Oakland A’s at the Red Sox Academy (Academia Medias Rojas) in El Toro, just south of Santo Domingo. Also present, Red Sox great and Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez (center)

 

Aware of Baver’s Jewish background, Alou suggested that Baver might be interested in visiting Sosua as it was settled by Jewish refugees during WWII.

Baver was intrigued and followed-up on Alou’s suggestion. The timing of his visit happened to coincide with a special synagogue visit by the Dominican Israeli ambassador. During that same week, there was a seaside holocaust commemoration service, which was the first time that an Israeli and German ambassador joined together to attend a Holocaust memorial event. 

Under these circumstances, Baver met Sosua mayor Ilana Neumann and some of the other dignitaries and got to know the town, and even more of its history close-up, and in-person. 

Tune in next week to read the continuing saga of Hugh Baver, how his adoption set him on his path, and his ongoing vision for Sosúa, baseball, and the DR at large.

Renn Loren





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Dominican Republic

Hoteliers reject bill that includes tourism rental properties

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Santo Domingo.- The National Hotels and Restaurants Association (Asonahores) and the Institutionalism and Justice Foundation (Finjus) on Wednesday said they oppose the bill for the Rentals and Real Estate Law that includes those properties that form a commercial premise.

After a meeting with the Senate Justice Commission, Asonahores vice president, Andrés Marranzini, considered that the aspects related to commercial rents would already be regulated in the Commercial Code and the Civil Code, so he considered it necessary that they are beyond the scope of the bill.

“Legislation should focus on housing,” Marranzini said.

Finjus vice president, Servio Tulio Castaños Guzmán said there’s a need for a “restructuring” of the bill to focus its content only on homes and leave out of its regime rentals for industrial or tourist uses.





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Dominican Republic

Trade deal brought unhealthy foods to Dominican Republic, other countries: Buffalo University study

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Re-published on public interest

Buffalo, N.Y. — How do free trade agreements impact diet and health?

A study on a trade deal between the U.S. and smaller, developing countries in Central America and the Caribbean highlights the need for policymakers to consider this question, says Marion Werner, PhD, associate professor of geography in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences and co-director of the Center for Trade, Environment and Development at UB.

Werner led the research, published online this August in the journal Social Science and Medicine. The study analyzes the availability of non-nutritious food in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic in the years after the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) was signed between those countries and the U.S., going into effect in 2006.

The research was a collaboration between Werner and colleagues at UB and the Santo Domingo Institute of Technology (INTEC) in the Dominican Republic.

With regard to the Central American signatories and the Dominican Republic, “Our main finding is that the trade agreement is associated with the importation of much less healthy food,” Werner says. “This includes industrial sweeteners, edible oils high in saturated fats, and processed foods.”

“We’re trying to think about the health effects of trade agreements,” she says. “The U.S. is exporting ever-more processed foods, as well as meat, to the region, while making it harder for farmers there to supply healthy foods for the local market. This situation has an impact on the health of Central Americans, especially low-income folks, as an unhealthy diet can lead to higher rates of obesity and overweight populations.”

Frozen potatoes offer one example of the dynamics at play. As Werner and her co-authors write in the paper, “We take frozen potatoes as a proxy for increasing penetration of processed vegetables in local diets because of the product’s near exclusive use for french fries in the hotel and restaurant sectors, especially fast food chains.”

CAFTA-DR eliminated tariffs on frozen potatoes, and with the agreement in place, the Dominican Republic and Central American signatories saw sharp increases in imports of that food, the study finds. From 2006-16, frozen potato exports to those countries rose by 76%, with U.S. exports growing rapidly, according to the research.

An analysis of food prices in the Dominican Republic also shows that in that country, CAFTA-DR did not bring lower food costs — an oft-hoped for benefit of such agreements.

“Free trade deals are passed with the belief from mainstream economists that people will benefit from lower food prices,” Werner says. “But when we studied the Dominican Republic, there were really striking price changes in the cost of food, which increased at a higher rate than inflation.”

Werner and her co-authors found that the price of healthy foods like fresh fruits increased much faster than the price of unhealthy foods like sodas.

The research suggests that diet and health are important factors to consider when negotiating trade agreements, Werner says. The findings point to the need to explore how policies can address food insecurity in developing nations while also supporting farmers.

“How can you sustain small and medium farms, while also meeting the needs of low-income households to access healthy foods? It’s not responsible to address food insecurity by sacrificing the food-producing capabilities of a country, and causing them to be dependent on cheap imports,” Werner says.

The study’s authors include Werner; Pavel Isa Contreras, PhD, economist and research professor at INTEC; Yeeli Mui, PhD, Bloomberg Professor of American Health in Obesity and the Food System in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who contributed to the project while she was a researcher at UB; and UB geography PhD student Hannah Stokes-Ramos.

UB’s Community of Excellence in Global Health Equity and Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy supported the research.





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Dominican Republic

Environment shutters 234 aggregate mines, seizes 2,256 vehicles

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Santo Domingo.-  Environmental Protection Service (Senpa) director Omar Gitte Mejía on Wed. said 234 aggregate mines and 48 illegal sawmills in different parts of the country were closed in the last 15 months.

He said that from August 29 to November 7, Senpa retained 2,256 vehicles, and levied fines of RD$13.9 million.

The official said the agency closed and incinerated about 3,000 coal furnaces that had been operating across the country, and seized wood, as the result of illegal lumbering.

Mejía said that most of the closed sand mines were operating illegally in the South and East areas of the country.





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