Although Colombian immigrants are relative newcomers to the United States, their numbers began increasing greatly during the last decades of the twentieth century. By 2008, Colombians were the largest South American immigrant group in the United States, accounting for 30 percent of all South Americans in the country and 2.65 percent of all documented immigrants.
Since the mid-twentieth century, tumultuous developments in Colombia have spurred large numbers of Colombians to emigrate to the United States. As in many other Latin American countries, Colombia’s political instability has played a major role in motivating people to leave the country. Colombia has, in fact, lacked political stability since it became independent from the Spanish Empire in 1819. In 1948, a civil war broke out between conservative and liberal factions within the country. Throughout the 1950’s–a period remembered as the Violencia–hundreds of thousands of Colombians were killed or displaced from their homes. The election of President Carlose Lleras Restrepo during the late 1960’s brought some stability to the country. However, political turmoil returned in 1974, with the defeat of the ruling political party. The 1980’s witnessed a dramatic upsurge of Colombia’s political, social, and economic problems, due to the unprecedented factor of
The early twenty-first century has seen much debate over the actual number of Colombians residing in the United States. Colombia’s own census bureau has estimated that 4.1 million Colombians were living abroad in 2005; about one-half of these people were living in the United States. However, data from the U.S. Census Bureau show only 730,510 Colombians living within U.S. borders during that year. The discrepancy between the Colombian and U.S. government figures is almost certainly due to the high levels of undocumented Colombian immigration into the United States.
The large number of Colombian natives living outside their homeland is evidence of a major diaspora. Historically, the numbers of Colombians who immigrated to the United States did not become significant until about 1948, when Colombia’s
Through the end of the 1980’s, Colombians living in the United States were almost exclusively upper-middle- and upper-class professionals. Migration of these individuals resulted in a massive
The emergence of
Escalating violence and political disorder in Colombia have driven increasing numbers of its citizens to seek
Since they first arrived in the United States in substantial numbers, Colombians have strived to establish their own identity among the numerous Hispanic populations and find their place within mainstream America. However, many immigrants endure the effects of
Aysa-Lastra, Maria. Diaspora Philanthropy: The Colombia Experience. Cambridge, Mass.: Philanthropic Initiative and Global Equity Initiative, Harvard University, 2007. Overview of the Colombian diaspora and the remittances of Colombians in the United States to their homeland. This eighteen-page paper is available online in PDF format. Collier, Michael W., et al. The Colombian Diaspora in South Florida: A Report of the Colombian Studies Institute’s Colombian Diaspora Project. Dallas: Latin American Studies Association, 2003. Overview of the effects of the mass exodus from Colombia to South Florida. Available online in PDF format. González, Juan. Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America. New York: Viking Press, 2000. Useful historical overview of the many Hispanic peoples who have immigrated to the United States. Reuners, David M. Other Immigrants: The Global Origins of the American People. New York: New York University Press, 2005. Broad examination of American immigrants that includes a useful chapter on Central and South Americans.
Latin American immigrants
Remittances of earnings