Colombia Emigration and Immigration

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How to Find the Records[edit | edit source]

Online Records[edit | edit source]

Offices and Archives to Contact[edit | edit source]

General Archive of the Nation (Archivo General de la Nación)
Carrera 6 No. 6 - 91 Bogotá DC
Telephone: 57 1 328 2888
Fax: 57 1 337 2019

Finding the Town of Origin in Colombia[edit | edit source]

If you are using emigration/immigration records to find the name of your ancestors' town in Colombia, see Colombia Finding Town of Origin for additional research strategies.

Colombia Emigration and Immigration[edit | edit source]

"Emigration" means moving out of a country. "Immigration" means moving into a country.
Emigration and immigration sources list the names of people leaving (emigrating) or arriving (immigrating) in the country. These sources may be passenger lists, permissions to emigrate, or records of passports issued. The information in these records may include the emigrants’ names, ages, occupations, destinations, and places of origin or birthplaces. Sometimes they also show family groups.

Immigration to Colombia[edit | edit source]

  • Colombia has experienced little foreign influence or immigration.
  • Immigration began to Colombia in 1499 with the Conquistadors. The town of Santa Maria la Antigua del Darién, established in 1510 was one of the first settlements on mainland America. In 1533, Cartegena was founded and soon became the hub for immigration to Colombia.
  • Immigration was tightly controlled by Spain. Immigration laws provided for the admission of persons who did not jeopardize the social order for personal, ethnic, or racial reasons.
  • Most immigrants were Spanish; specifically, Andalusians in the largest numbers, and then Basques (Basques settled largely in the Antioquia region),
  • Those who entered from abroad came as individuals or in small family units.
  • Cartagena was also the main trade center for slavery. Between the 16th and first half of the 19th century, the slave trade flourished.
  • Masters who treated their slaves cruelly were liable for punishment. In Colombia, a slave was able and allowed to testify in court on matters of maltreatment and other legalities, and often did so. In 1821, a free-birth law was enacted, and in 1852 all slaves were emancipated.
  • For the first half of the 19th century immigration to Colombia slowed considerably due to political unrest and warfare. During the later half of the century, however, the country received trickling flows of European migrants from Spain, Germany, Italy, France, and Russia; non-Europeans from Syria, Lebanon, and China; Jews; Romas, and Americans.
  • In 1953, the Institute of Land Settlement and Immigration was set up to direct the colonization of the underdeveloped regions of the country and was given the power to organize immigration for this purpose.
  • After World War II, Colombia encouraged the immigration of skilled technicians."
  • In 1958, procedures were specified for the admission of refugees. Little was done, however, to implement these measures.
  • There are several identifiable ethnic groups of foreign origin in Colombia, all of them small.
  • The Jewish population was small but constant since colonial times, although in the 1980s many of them emigrated because of widespread kidnapping for ransom. Early Jewish settlers were converted Jews, known as Marranos, from Spain.
  • There was a constant trickle of Spanish immigrants, many of them members of the clergy.
  • Residents from the United States were mainly in business or missionary work.
  • Germans, Italians, and Lebanese--usually referred to as Turks (turcos) or Syrians because they came from the Christian Lebanese part of Syria that formerly belonged to Turkey--were active in commerce, particularly in the port cities of Barranquilla, Cartagena, and Buenaventura.
  • Germans, as well as other foreigners, found acceptance in the upper class and frequently married into the white group.
  • Some Lebanese married into the Guajira Indian tribe, but immigrants generally were most closely associated with the white upper class, which was generally receptive to ties with foreigners. Today, 10.6% of the population identify as Afro-Colombians and are of mixed-race descent known as either mulattos (European and African) or zambos (African and Amerindian) or often all three.
  • The first and largest wave of immigration from the Middle East began around 1880, and continued during the first two decades of the twentieth century. They were mainly Maronite Christians from Greater Syria (Syria and Lebanon) and Palestine. Syrians and Lebanese are perhaps the biggest immigrant group next to the Spanish. Recently, immigration from the Middle East to Colombia has increased due to the Arab Spring and civil war in Syria.
  • In the mid-nineteenth century many Italians arrived from southern Italy (especially in the province of Salerno and regions Basilicata and Calabria). Barranquilla was the first center of this mass migration. Before the First World War there was only about 5,000 Italians in Colombia, concentrated on the coast around Barranquilla, Cartagena and Santa Marta, with some hundreds living in Bogota. Currently the Italian community reaches nearly 15,000 people, but it is estimated that more than 50,000 Colombians have some Italian ancestry.
  • Germans began immigrating in the later half of the 19th century, and also in the 20th century. Many arrived in Colombia via Venezuela, where German settlements already existed. They traditionally settled as farmers or professional workers in the states of Boyacá and Santander, but also in Cali, Bogotá, and Barranquilla.
  • Other German groups arrived in Colombia later; after World War I and World War II, (some of them Nazis or on the black list).
  • In the 1920's, Colombia's government sought workers from Japan, due to agricultural labor shortages due to the increase of workers in the railways.
  • 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 between 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.

Emigration from Colombia[edit | edit source]

  • Emigration from Colombia is one of the largest in volume from Latin America. According to the 2005 Colombian census or DANE, about 3,331,107 Colombian citizens currently permanently reside outside of Colombia. Other estimates, however, suggest that the actual number could exceed 4 million, or almost 10 percent of the country's population.
  • During the years 1996-2000 (peaking in 2000) so many Colombians left due to violence and the economy, that it became known as the Colombian diaspora. Many of those who moved were educated middle and upper middle-class Colombians; because of this, the Colombian diaspora can be referred to as a brain drain. However, significant numbers of poor Colombians have also been documented.
  • The most common destination for emigration was the United States.
  • In Europe, Spain has the largest Colombian community on the continent, followed by the Italy and United Kingdom.
  • Many Colombians are also dispersed throughout the rest of Latin America. Mexico, Argentina and Chile received political refugees in the mid-to-late 20th century, and Colombian guest workers in the early 2000s.
Dark thin font green pin Version 4.png One option is to look for records about the ancestor in the country of destination, the country they immigrated into. See links to immigration records for major destination countries below.

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

There are additional sources listed in the FamilySearch Catalog:

References[edit | edit source]