French immigration to Mexico

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French Mexican
José Ignacio Gregorio Comonfort.jpg
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Total population

9,015 French nationals residing in Mexico (2012)[1]

est. 1,500,000-2,000,000 Mexicans of French descent
Regions with significant populations
Mexico City, Morelos, Veracruz, Jalisco, Sinaloa, Puebla, Guanajuato
Mexican Spanish. Minority speaks French language.
Predominantly Roman Catholicism
Related ethnic groups
French diaspora

A French Mexican (French: Franco-Mexicain, Spanish: franco-mexicano or Spanish: galo-mexicano) is a Mexican citizen of full or partial French ancestry. Mexicans of French descent make up the second largest European descended group in Mexico, after Spanish Mexicans.

Migration history[edit]

French immigration to Mexico started after Mexico became an independent country in 1821, as foreign immigration was prohibited by Spanish authorities under the colonial regime. The first wave of French immigration to Mexico occurred in the 1830s, following the country's recognition by France, with the foundation of a French colony on the Coatzacoalcos River, in the state of Veracruz. In total, 668 settlers were brought from France to populate the colony.[2] Most of them went back to France as the project of colonization failed, but some permanently settled in Mexico. In 1833, another colony was founded in the state of Veracruz as well, under the name of Jicaltepec. A second wave of French immigration came to Mexico at the end of the 1840s, during the California Gold Rush (at the time gold was discovered, California was still part of the Mexican territory). As a consequence, in 1849 French represented the second foreign community in Mexico after Spaniards.[3] Between 1850 and 1914, Mexico received 11,000 French immigrants.[4]

A French-Mexican antiquarian in Mexico City

According to the 2010 Census, French people form the second largest European emigrant community in Mexico after Spaniards,[5] and eleventh overall immigrant community.[5] There are around 9,500 French nationals[6] registered in Mexico and about 6,000 to 7,000 Frenchmen unregistered. Two thirds of them are Mexicans of French ancestry holding double nationality. Many Mexicans of French descent live in cities and states such as Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí, Aguascalientes, Veracruz, Guanajuato, Guadalajara, Puebla, Queretaro and Mexico City.

Second Mexican Empire[edit]

Most French Mexicans descend from immigrants and soldiers that settled in Mexico during the Second Mexican Empire, headed by Maximilian I of Mexico and masterminded by Emperor Napoleon III of France in the 1860s to create a Latin empire in the New World (indeed responsible for coining the term or Amérique latine, or 'Latin America'). Emperor Maximilian's consort, Carlota of Mexico, a Belgian princess, was a granddaughter of Louis-Philippe of France.

The "Barcelonnettes"[edit]

The largest wave of immigration from France to Mexico came from the city of Barcelonnette, in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. Between 1850 and 1950, 5,000 to 6,000 inhabitants[7] of the Ubaye Valley immigrated to Mexico. Many established textile businesses between Mexico and France. While 90% stayed in Mexico, some returned to Barcelonette, and from 1880 to 1930, built grand mansions called Maisons Mexicaines and left a mark upon the city. Today, there are 60,000 descendants of the "Barcelonnettes".[8]

French settlement in Veracruz[edit]

French home in Paso de Telaya, San Rafael, Veracruz.

In 1833, 98 persons[9] coming from Haute-Saône, Haute-Marne, Côte-d'Or and Yonne settled in a colony called Jicaltepec, in the state of Veracruz. In 1874, the community resettled on the other bank of the river, in San Rafael. From 1880 to 1900 the population of the colony grew from 800 to 1,000 inhabitants. There are now around 10,000 French Mexicans in the state of Veracruz.

Involvement in World War II[edit]

Jean René Champion, a Mexican of French ancestry, was the first Free French Forces (Forces Françaises Libres) officer to enter Paris on the day when the city was liberated from the Nazis on August 26, 1944.

The Art Nouveau Palacio de Hierro in Orizaba, Veracruz was designed by Gustave Eiffel.[10]

French contributions to Mexican society[edit]

The French introduced cultural traits adopted by the Mexican culture and may have helped coin the term “Mariachi”, though it is not certain. The word “Mariachi” may have originated during French Napoleonic rule in the 1860s since French settler families used the music during weddings(marriage). Clark attributes this to "phonetic coincidence" (Clark, 1996). An important culinary contribution was the bolillo, which is now widely used for the torta.[11] The French also heavily influenced Mexico's pan dulce.

Notable Franco-Mexicano individuals[edit]

Clothing worn by 19th century French migrants.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "International Migration Database". OECD. Retrieved 14 June 2015. Country of origin: France, Variable: Stock of foreign population by nationality 
  2. ^ La tentation mexicaine en France au XIXème siècle. Les colons - 668 au total. 
  3. ^ "Le moment mexicain dans l'histoire française de l'aventure" (PDF). La conséquence de cette émigration fut que, en 1849, les Français représentaient la deuxième nationalité étrangère au Mexique, derrière les Espagnols. 
  4. ^ México Francia. (p. 91) Para México, esta fuente indica que entre 1850 y 1914 llegaron más de 11 mil personas. 
  5. ^ a b "Conociendo...nos todos" (PDF). INEGI. Retrieved January 5, 2015. 
  6. ^ "La communauté française du Mexique". une communauté française relativement importante -la quatrième communauté étrangère du pays après les Américains, les Libanais et les Espagnols- comportant environ 9 500 immatriculés (9 321 en 1997) auxquels s'ajoutent 6 000 à 7 000 non-immatriculés. 
  7. ^ "Les Barcelonnettes au Mexique". Ainsi entre 1850 et 1950, 6000 à 7000 habitants de l'Ubaye ont quitté leur pays pour le Mexique. 
  8. ^ "Les Barcelonnettes au Mexique". On estime à 60 000 les descendants des Barcelonnettes, dispersés sur tout le territoire mexicain. 
  9. ^ La colonisation française de Jicaltepec, Veracruz
  10. ^ Noble, John (2010). Mexico. Lonely Planet. p. 627. ISBN 1742203582. Retrieved 27 March 2015. 
  11. ^

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