0.6% of total U.S. population, 2018
|Regions with significant populations|
|Predominantly in Miami metropolitan area, New York City metropolitan area, Orlando, FL, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Tampa, FL, and New Jersey. Growing populations in Philadelphia, Greater Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Greater Houston.|
|Spanish, American English|
Protestantism, Evangelicalism, Baptist, Judaism
|Related ethnic groups|
|Spaniards, White Colombian, Mestizo, Afro-Colombian, German Colombian, Italian Colombian, Lebanese Colombian, Jewish-Colombian, Demographics of Colombia|
Colombian Americans (Spanish: Colomboestadounidenses), are Americans who trace their ancestry to Colombia. The word may refer to someone born in the U.S. of full or partial Colombian descent or to someone who has emigrated to the U.S. from Colombia. Colombian Americans are the seventh-largest Latin American group and the largest South American Hispanic group in the United States.
The first Colombian immigrants who settled in the United States likely arrived in the 1800s. However, the Colombian presence in the United States would not be known with certainty since the federal census did not specify the country of origin for South Americans until 1960. These immigrants did not maintain any relation with their native countries, just until a few generations after, they identify themselves only as Americans.
The first Colombian community formed after World War I, through the arrival of several hundred professionals (nurses, accountants, laboratory technicians, pharmacists, and bilingual secretaries) that established themselves in New York City; later on, more people were added to the community when Colombian students decided to stay in the US after earning their degrees. Most immigrants settled in Jackson Heights, a middle-class neighborhood in the borough of Queens in New York City, that has good housing, schools and churches. The growth of the Colombian population was slow until 1940, when there was an increase in Colombian immigration to New York.
Post World War II
Most Colombians who arrived after the mid-1960s wanted to stay in the United States temporarily. Therefore, the number of undocumented Colombian immigrants increased: from 250,000 to 350,000 people in the mid 1970s. Despite a succession of immigration laws, the Colombian population in the United States continued to grow. New York remained the most popular destination. Smaller communities formed in Los Angeles, Houston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. and in the 1970s, North Side, Chicago.
Since the 1980s, many Colombians have settled in Miami (especially in its suburbs, such as Doral, Kendall, and Hialeah, and the Weston suburb of Fort Lauderdale). Initially they settled in Little Havana, the largest Cuban neighborhood, many of them engaged in the business of trade between Miami and Latin America. The area also attracted wealthy Colombians, who settled there to get medical care, send their children to school, and escape from social, economic, and political turmoil in Colombia.
By 1987, Colombians were one of the fastest growing Hispanic groups in Miami. By the early 1990s, many Colombians left the metropolitan centers for the suburbs due to crime and the high cost of urban living. This trend was probably started for the first time in the coastal towns of Connecticut and New York. Colombian communities grew significantly in places such as Stamford, Connecticut, Bergenline and Englewood, New Jersey, Jacksonville, Florida (which attracted a growing number of people from Miami), and Skokie, Evanston, Arlington Heights and Park Ridge, Illinois. Despite the migration to other areas, the largest communities remained in New York City, Miami, and their environs.
In 1990 and 1991, 43,891 Colombians were admitted to the United States, more than from any other Latin American country. They were for the first time the most populous group of undocumented immigrants in the US from Latin America, excluding Mexico. Between 1992 and 1997, the intensity of the conflict in Colombia increased, so nearly 75,000 Colombians immigrated to the United States in this period, many of them going to California.
Causes of migration
In Miville's "Colombians in the United States: History, Values, and Challenges," the nature of Colombian migration is described. He writes,"Colombian migration patterns have been distinguished by scholars as three distinct waves involving diverse demographic groups, reasons for migrating, and contextual factors with a mixture of push and pull factors from both the originating and host countries (Madrigal, 2013; Migration Policy Institute, 2015). Immigration to the United States was essentially minor from about 1820 to 1950 when fewer than 7000 Colombians immigrated to the United States. Indeed, the Colombian presence in United States was not recognized officially until 1960, when the U.S. Census began to specify the country of origin for South Americans (Migration Policy Institute, 2015)." Economic problems and violence have led to an emigration of Colombians to the United States, particularly South Florida (especially in the suburbs of Miami, Florida such as Doral, Kendall, and Hialeah, and the Weston suburb of Fort Lauderdale), Central Florida, New Jersey (North Jersey), Queens County in New York City, Philadelphia, the Washington DC metro area, eastern Long Island, and an expanding community in California, Texas and Georgia, mainly in the Los Angeles, Houston and Atlanta areas.
First Wave: After of World War I, many Colombians immigrated to United States in order to complete their education there, studying in the universities of the country. Most of them settled in New York. Many Colombians immigrated to the United States in order to complete their education, studying in universities across the country (Madrigal, 2013; Sassen-Koob, 1989)" After the civil war in 1948 and increased poverty in Colombia many Colombians also emigrated to United States during the 1950s. In the 1960s, the economic crisis prompted the emigration of many Colombians to the United States, obtaining U.S. citizenship Between 1960 and 1977.
Second Wave (1965-1989): "The passage of several U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Act’s amendments in 1965 allowed for more Colombians to migrate to the United States (Madrigal, 2013)"
Third Wave (1990-2008): "The 1980s and 1990s brought the rise in cocaine trafficking, along with the influence of the drug cartels and paramilitary groups (Carvajal, 2017; Migration Policy Institute, 2015). From the 1990s, along with the ensuing turmoil over a political assassination in 1989, the number of Colombians admitted to the United States tripled, representing the largest numbers of immigrants from a South American country (Carvajal, 2017; Migration Policy Institute, 2015)" Since the 1980s, many Colombians fled their urban cities to migrate to suburban areas in states like New Jersey and Connecticut, as their socioeconomic status improved. The conflict escalation between terrorists, paramilitaries, and narcos between 1992 and 1997 also boosted the Colombian emigration during this period. As was discussed earlier, about 75,000 Colombians immigrated at that time the United States, concentrating mostly in the state of California.
As of the 2000 Census, 228,400 Colombians were living in the New York metro area and 169,271 Colombians were living in the Miami metropolitan area. The largest Colombian community lives in the South Florida area (Doral, Kendall, Weston, and Hialeah) with a population of 138,768, and Jackson Heights in Queens County, New York city.
In New York City, a large Colombian community thrives and continues to expand in size since the wave of immigration began in the 1970s. Jackson Heights in Queens County was heavily Colombian during the 1980s, but other immigrant groups have settled in the area, notably Ecuadoreans and Mexicans. Many of the displaced Colombians have moved to adjacent areas such as Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona, while wealthier Colombian Immigrants have gone further afield to College Point and Flushing. Queens County still has the largest concentration of Colombian in the United States of any county (roughly 155,000).
U.S. states with largest Colombian populations
|District of Columbia||4,665||0.7|
|USA (2018)||1,228,468 – 2,023,595||0.4 – 0.6|
Metropolitan Areas with largest Colombian populations
- New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA-CT MSA – 632,129
- Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL MSA - 608,921
- Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL MSA – 108,401
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA MSA – 65,328
- Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH Metro Area - 54,334
- Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX MSA – 52,421
- Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV MSA – 47,952
- Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL MSA – 44,565
- Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA MSA – 33,957
U.S. communities with high percentages of people of Colombian Ancestry
The top 25 U.S. communities with the highest percentage of people claiming Colombian ancestry are:
- Victory Gardens, New Jersey 35.7%
- Dover, New Jersey 33.5%
- Kendall, Florida 31.5%
- Doral, Florida 29.7%
- Elizabeth, New Jersey 28.6% 
- Country Club, Florida 23.7%
- The Hammocks, Florida 22.5%
- Weston, Florida 21.7%
- Central Falls, Rhode Island 20.4%
- Sunny Isles Beach, Florida 20.3%
- Montauk, New York 19.5%
- North Bay Village, Florida 19.3%
- Key Biscayne, Florida 18.8%
- Englewood, New Jersey 18.5%
- Guttenberg, New Jersey 17.2%
- Morristown, New Jersey 16.9%
- North Bergen, New Jersey 15.9%
- Fontainebleau, Florida 15.8%
- Kendale Lakes, Florida 14.6%
- Virginia Gardens, Florida 12.2%
- Richmond West, Florida 11.6%
- Bay Harbor Islands, Florida 11.5%
- West New York, New Jersey 10.9%
- Hialeah Gardens, Florida 10.8%
- Union City, New Jersey 10.5%
U.S. communities with the most residents born in Colombia
The top 25 U.S. communities with the most residents born in Colombia are:
- Victory Gardens, NJ 23.2%
- Dover, NJ 22.5%
- Kendall, FL 17.3%
- Elizabeth, NJ 16.5%
- Country Club, FL 16.4%
- Kendale Lakes, FL 15.1%
- Doral, FL 14.3%
- Ojus, FL 13.8%
- The Hammocks, FL 12.7%
- Katonah, NY 12.2%
- Weston, FL 12.0%
- Kendall West, FL 11.7%
- Broadview-Pompano Park, FL 11.6%
- Guttenburg, NJ 11.5%
- Fontainebleau, FL 11.1%
- Fort Devens, MA 10.9%
- Greenbriar, FL 10.8%
- South Bound Brook, NJ 10.6%
- Sunny Isles Beach, FL 10.5%
- Lakes-Lindgren Acres, FL 10.5%
- Shinnecock Hills, NY 10.4%
- Meadow Woods, FL 10.3
- North Bay Village, FL 10.1%
- Wabasso, FL 9.9%
- Aventura, FL 9.8%
Ethnically, Colombian Americans are a diverse population including Colombians of Castizo and Mestizo (Amerindian/European), European ancestry (mainly Spanish) ancestry, Afro-Colombians, and Colombians of Indigenous ancestry. In addition, many Colombians of Middle Eastern descent, notably Lebanese Colombians, also compose the Colombian diaspora.
Until 1960, most Colombians emigrating to the United States were white or mestizos. However, between this year and 1977, a period in which more than 116,000 Colombians emigrated to the United States, are becoming more ethnically diverse, representing the ethnic diversity of the population of Colombia. So today, although most Colombian are white and mestizos, there are also numerous Afro Colombians in the Colombian population.
Colombian Americans, based on various studies and a survey, about 90% of the population adheres to Christianity, the majority of which (70.9%) are Roman Catholic, while a significant minority (16.7%) adhere to Protestantism (primarily Evangelicalism). Some 4.7% of the population is atheist or agnostic, while 3.5% claim to believe in God but do not follow a specific religion. In addition to the above statistics, 35.9% of Colombian Americans report that they did not practice their faith actively.
A majority (82%) of Colombian Americans ages 5 and older speak English proficiently. The other 18% who are Colombian Native report speaking English less than very well, compared with 32% of all Hispanics.
In addition, 83% of Colombian ages 5 and older speak Spanish at home.
Music and pastimes
The main pastime of Colombians in the United States is soccer, and most Colombian Americans raised in the United States continue to follow soccer. Another popular pastime, especially among the older generation, is parqués, a Colombian board game which is very similar to Parcheesi.
Food and drink
Colombian food is varied due to the several distinct regions of Colombia. Popular dishes include bandeja paisa, sancocho (chicken or fish soup with plantain), empanadas (meat-filled turnovers), pandebono and pan de queso (types of cheese-bread), and arepas (corncake similar to a tortilla). Colombian food is popular and well known in South Florida and in Queens County. Some of the most common ingredients are: cereals such as rice and maize; tubers such as potato and cassava; assorted legumes; meats, including beef, chicken, pork and goat; fish; and seafood.
Among the most representative appetizers and soups are patacones (fried green plantains), sancocho de gallina (chicken soup with root vegetables) and ajiaco (potato and corn soup). Representative snacks and breads are pandebono, arepas (corn cakes), aborrajados (fried sweet plantains with cheese), torta de choclo, empanadas and almojábanas. Representative main courses are bandeja paisa, lechona tolimense, mamona, tamales and fish dishes (such as arroz de lisa), especially in coastal regions where kibbeh, suero, costeño cheese and carimañolas are also eaten. Representative side dishes are papas chorreadas (potatoes with cheese), remolachas rellenas con huevo duro (beets stuffed with hard-boiled egg) and arroz con coco (coconut rice).
Representative desserts are buñuelos, natillas, Maria Luisa cake, bocadillo made of guayaba (guava jelly), cocadas (coconut balls), casquitos de guayaba (candied guava peels), torta de natas, obleas, flan de arequipe, roscón, milhoja, and the tres leches cake (a sponge cake soaked in milk, covered in whipped cream, then served with condensed milk). Typical sauces (salsas) are hogao (tomato and onion sauce) and Colombian-style ají.
Colombian coffee is the world's most popular coffee and is renowned for its high quality and distinct flavor. Though much of the world's quality coffee beans come from Colombia, there are many Colombians Americans that drink instant coffee rather than brewed. It is popularly consumed as a "tinto", meaning black with sugar or panela on the side, or as café con leche, which is a preparation of half coffee and half heated milk.
Aguardiente is popular alcoholic drink derived from sugarcane and flavored with anise. It is widely consumed at Colombian parties, and ranges in potency from 20% to 40%. Aguardiente is a variation of the Spanish alcoholic drink.
Colombia cuisine also features a variety of tropical fruits such as cape gooseberry, feijoa, arazá, dragon fruit, mangostino, granadilla, papaya, guava, mora (blackberry), lulo, soursop and passionfruit. Colombia is one of the world's largest consumers of fruit juices. These juices have made their way to supermarkets all across the United States.
The annual personal income for Colombian Americans is $25,000, a figure higher than many other Hispanic groups at $21,900, but lower than that of the US population at $30,000.
The rate of Colombian Americans homeownership is (45%) but lower than the 64% rate for the U.S. population as a whole. This takes into account the younger average Colombian American (Colombino) population.
Colombian Americans who live in poverty, 16%, is the same as the rate for the general U.S. population and lower than the rate for Hispanics overall at 25%.
33% of Colombian Americans ages 25 and older—compared with 14% of all U.S. Hispanics and 30% among the entire U.S. population—have obtained at least a bachelor's degree.
42% of U.S.-born Colombian Americans are more likely to have earned a bachelor's degree or higher, as compared to 30% of foreign born Colombians.
- Kiko Alonso - Linebacker for the New Orleans Saints.
- Jorge Acosta - Played in various ASL teams, including a brief stint with the United States national team in the early 1990s.
- Juan Agudelo - Currently plays for New England Revolution in Major League Soccer and for the United States national team.
- Alejandro Bedoya - Currently plays for Philadelphia Union in Major League Soccer and for the United States national team.
- Wilman Conde, Jr. - Played in the MLS for the Chicago Fire in MLS.
- Carlos Llamosa - Played in the MLS and for U.S. at 2002 FIFA World Cup, currently retired
- German Colombian
- Italian Colombian
- Lebanese Colombian
- White Colombian
- Spanish American
- White Hispanic and Latino Americans
- White Latin American
- Black Hispanic
- Afro-Latin American
- Demographics of Colombia
- Colombia–United States relations
- Myriam Bérubé, Colombia: In the Crossfire, Migration Information Source
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