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July 2000 Issue
The Geographical Review
July 2000, Vol. 90 (3), pp. 335-358
THE ODYSSEY OF JAPANESE COLONISTS IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
OSCAR H. HORST and KATSUHIRO ASAGIRI
Keywords:colonization, Dominican Republic, Japanese emigrants,
In an agreement formalized with the Japanese government in 1956, Generalissimo Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina of the Dominican Republic extended an offer of refuge for Japanese immigrants seeking to improve their fortunes in the late 1950s by taking up residence in Trujillo's vaunted "Paradise of the Caribbean." The provision of sites ultimately unfavorable for colonization, lack of infrastructure, failure of the Japanese government to address the complaints of the colonists, and political instability within the Dominican Republic led to the abandonment of five of the eight colonies. By 1962 only 276 of the 1,319 original colonists remained; the rest had either returned to Japan or sought refuge in South America. Although the fortunes of these Japanese families fell far short of their expectations, Trujillo could hardly have envisioned the contributions to Dominican society to be made by their descendants. The experiences of this relatively small number of migrants reflect the difficulties encountered when racial and geopolitical concerns take precedence over judicious plans for colonization.