Immigration to Colombia

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The largest concentration of foreign immigrants in Colombia is in Barranquilla, which was the main entrance port into Colombia, it also received the name "Puerta de Oro de Colombia" (Colombia's golden gate)

Immigration to Colombia during the early 19th and late 20th Century was relatively low when compared to other Latin American countries,[1] due to economic, social, and security issues linked to the La Violencia and the Colombian armed conflict. Colombia inherited from the Spanish Empire harsh rules against immigration, first in the Viceroyalty of New Granada and later in the Colombian Republic. The Constituent Assembly of Colombia and the subsequent reforms to the national constitution were much more open to the immigrants and the economic aperture. However naturalization of foreigners, with the exception of those children of Colombians born abroad, is still difficult to acquire due to paperwork and bureaucracy. Immigration in Colombia is managed by the "Migración Colombia" agency.

Colombia is experiencing large waves of immigration from other Latin American countries, Europe, East Asia, and North America over the past 5 years due to drastic improvements in quality of life, security, and economic opportunities. Colombia is also experiencing a large wave of illegal immigrants from South Asia.


Colonial period

European immigration in Colombia began in 1510 with the colonization of San Sebastián de Urabá. In 1526, settlers founded Santa Marta, the oldest Spanish city still in existence in Colombia. Many Spaniards began their explorations searching for gold, while others Spaniards established themselves as leaders of the native social organizations, teaching natives the Christian faith and the ways of their civilization. Catholic priests would provide education for Native Americans that otherwise was unavailable. Within 100 years after the first Spanish settlement, nearly 95 percent of all Native Americans in Colombia had died.[citation needed] The majority of the deaths of Native Americans were the cause of diseases such as measles and smallpox, which were spread by European settlers.[citation needed] Many Native Americans were also killed by armed conflicts with European settlers.

White European (Spanish and French colonist) settlement focused mainly in the Andean highlands and Lebanese for the Caribbean coast, but little European settlement took place in the Choco region of the Pacific coast and the Amazonian plains. Out of all Spanish nationalities, the Castilians and the Basques were the most represented. Over time, white Europeans intermarried often with indigenous peoples (i.e. the Chibchas), and to produce a mixed-race population which are the majority of people in Colombia today.[citation needed]

Immigration from Europe

Colombia was one of early focus of Basque immigration.[citation needed] Between 1540 and 1559, 8.9 percent of the residents of Colombia were of Basque origin. It has been suggested that the present day incidence of business entrepreneurship in the region of Antioquia is attributable to the Basque immigration and Basque character traits.[2] Few Colombians of distant Basque descent are aware of their Basque ethnic heritage.[2] In Bogotá, there is a small colony of thirty to forty families who emigrated as a consequence of the Spanish Civil War or because of different opportunities.[2] Basque priests were the ones that introduced handball into Colombia.[3] Basque immigrants in Colombia were devoted to teaching and public administration.[3] In the first years of the Andean multinational company, Basque sailors navigated as captains and pilots on the majority of the ships until the country was able to train its own crews.[3] In December 1941 the United States government estimated that there were 10,000 Germans living in Colombia.[4] There were some Nazi agitators in Colombia, such as Barranquilla businessman Emil Prufurt.[4] Colombia invited Germans who were on the U.S. blacklist to leave. However, most German inhabitants arrived in the late 19th century as farmers and professionals. One such entrepreneur was Leo Siegfried Kopp, the founder of the brewery Bavaria.[4] SCADTA, a Colombian-German air transport corporation which was established by German expatriates in 1919, was the first commercial airline in the western hemisphere.[5]

Immigration from the Middle East

The first and largest wave of immigration from the Middle East began around 1880, and remained during the first two decades of the 20th century. They were mainly Lebanese Lebanon), Jordan and Palestine, fleeing the then colonized Ottoman Turkey territories.[6] Syrians, Palestinians, and Lebanese continued since then to settle in Colombia.[7] Due to poor existing information it's impossible to know the exact number of Lebanese and Syrians that immigrated to Colombia. A figure of 40,000-50,000 from 1880 to 1930 may be reliable.[7] Whatever the figure, Syrians and Lebanese are perhaps the biggest immigrant group next to the Spanish since independence.[7] Those who left their homeland in the Middle East to settle in Colombia left for different reasons such as religious, economic, and political reasons.[7] Some left to experience the adventure of migration. After Barranquilla and Cartagena, Bogotá stuck next to Cali, among cities with the largest number of Arabic-speaking representatives in Colombia in 1945.[7] The Arabs that went to Maicao were mostly Sunni Muslim with some Druze and Shiites, as well as Orthodox and Maronite Christians.[6] The mosque of Maicao is the second largest mosque in Latin America.[6] Middle Easterns are generally called Turco or Turkish.[6] although they are primarily Christian Arab immigrants from what was then the Ottoman Empire.[citation needed]


Spanish immigration

German immigration

Italian immigration

Basque immigration

Polish immigration

Romanian immigration

Greek immigration

Swiss immigration

French immigration

Montenegrin immigration

Hungarian immigration

Czech immigration

Serbian immigration

Scandinavian Colombian

Croatian immigration

Russian immigration


Chinese immigration

Japanese immigration

Indian immigration

Korean immigration


Lebanese immigration

Syrian immigration


Americans in Colombia

About 3,000 North Americans arrived in Barranquilla during the late 19th century. By 1958, American immigrants comprised 10% of all immigrants living in Colombia. There are now 30,000–40,000 United States citizens living in Colombia, many of whom are Colombian emigrants to the United States who chose to return to Colombia.[citation needed] The barrios El prado, Paraiso and some others were created by Americans, also schools and universities were built by American architects such as the Universidad del Norte, the American School and many more.

Numbers of people by nationality in Colombia based on 2015 official figures

Place Country 2015
1  Venezuela 819,034 - 1,200,000 (2018 estimate)[8]
2  United States 18,841
3  Ecuador 14,232
4  Spain 6,629
5  Peru 5,044
6  Argentina 3,199
7  Mexico 2,854
8  Italy 2,808
9  Germany 2,361
10  Brazil 2,337
11  Panama 1,656
12  France 1,652
13  China 1,632
14  Chile 1,622
15  Cuba 1,459
16  Rest of the world 17,844
Source: DANE (2005 and cancilleria 2018)[9]

Number of people with permanent Colombian residence by nationality

Note: only people that have lived in Colombia for at least 5 years can acquire permanent residence.

Place Country 2013
1  Venezuela 5.338
2  United States 3.693
3  Spain 2.370
4  Mexico 1.711
5  China 1.428
6  Argentina 1.117
7  Peru 1.056
8  Germany 1.006
9  Brazil 915
10  Ecuador 885
11  France 884
12  India 858
13  Portugal 800
14  Italy 747
15  Cuba 695
16  Nicaragua 651
17  Rest of the world 6.338
Source: OAS (2013)[10]

Number of people living in Colombia by Nationality 2017

North America

Country 2017
 United States 20.140
 Canada 1.051
Total 21.191
Source: MacroDatos (2017)[11]

Central America

Country 2017
 Mexico 3.050
 Guatemala 490
 El Salvador 409
 Honduras 376
 Nicaragua 611
 Costa Rica 1.128
 Panama 2.208
 Cuba 1.954
 Haiti 122
 Dominican Republic 410
 Jamaica 63
 Trinidad and Tobago 39
Total 10,860
Source: MacroDatos (2017)[12]

South America

Country 2017
 Venezuela 48.829
 Ecuador 15.212
 Peru 5.391
 Brazil 2.496
 Bolivia 874
 Paraguay 231
 Uruguay 464
 Argentina 3.419
 Chile 2.162
 Guyana 20
Total 79,098
Source: MacroDatos (2017)[13]


Country 2017
 Portugal 121
 Spain 7,086
 France 2,203
 Belgium 464
 Netherlands 376
 Luxembourg 23
 United Kingdom 1,322
 Ireland 139
 Germany 2,523
  Switzerland 725
 Austria 222
 Italy 3,001
 Czech Republic 41
 Hungary 149
 Slovenia 30
 Croatia 60
 Albania 52
 Greece 124
 Bulgaria 90
 Romania 236
 Ukraine 241
 Poland 272
 Russia 719
 Lithuania 48
 Latvia 20
 Estonia 22
 Finland 50
 Sweden 194
 Norway 87
 Andorra 49
Total 20,689
Source: MacroDatos (2017)[14]


Country 2017
 Turkey 50
 Syria 145
 Lebanon 1.253
 Jordan 190
 Israel 500
 Iraq 23
 Saudi Arabia 74
 United Arab Emirates 42
 Iran 125
 Afghanistan 122
 Pakistan 43
 India 153
 China 2,176
 North Korea 213
 South Korea 292
 Japan 771
 Philippines 102
 Indonesia 88
Total 6,172
Source: MacroDatos (2017)[15]


Country 2017
 Egypt 149
 Algeria 26
 Morocco 74
 Nigeria 49
 Angola 56
 South Africa 56
Total 410
Source: MacroDatos (2017)[16]


Country 2017
 Australia 234
 Vanuatu 221
 New Zealand 54
Total 509
Source: MacroDatos (2017)[17]

Total 138,920

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World by William A. Douglass, Jon Bilbao, P.167
  3. ^ a b c Possible paradises: Basque emigration to Latin America by José Manuel Azcona Pastor, P.203
  4. ^ a b c Latin America during World War II by Thomas M. Leonard, John F. Bratzel, P.117
  5. ^ Watson, Jim. "SCADTA Joins the Fight". Retrieved 16 April 2018. 
  6. ^ a b c d (in Spanish) La comunidad musulmana de Maicao (Colombia)
  7. ^ a b c d e (in Spanish) Luis Angel Arango Library: Los sirio-libaneses en Colombia Archived 2006-10-25 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ "Almost 1 million people moved from Venezuela to Colombia in just two years, study shows". Retrieved 13 June 2018. 
  9. ^ Vidal, Roberto (2013). "Chapter III: Public Policies on Migration in Colombia" (PDF). In Chiarello, Leonir Mario. Public Policies on Migration and Civil Society in Latin America: The Cases of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico (PDF) (1st ed.). New York: Scalabrini International Migration Network. pp. 263–410. ISBN 978-0-9841581-5-7. Retrieved 26 December 2017. 
  10. ^
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  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
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External links


Further reading

  • Massey, Douglas S., Arango, Joaquín, Graeme, Hugo, Kouaouci, Ali, Pellegrino, Adela and Taylor, J. Edward (2005), Worlds in Motion: Understanding International Migration at the End of the Millennium, New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-928276-5.
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