The French diaspora comprises French people and their descendants living outside France. Countries with significant numbers of people with French ancestry include Canada and the United States, whose territories were partly colonized by France between the 17th and 19th centuries, as well as Argentina and Uruguay. Although less important than in other European countries, immigration from France to the New World was numerous from the start of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century. As of 2013, French authorities estimate that between 2 and 3.5 million French nationals are living abroad but the diaspora includes over 30 million people.
During the period of French rule, there were almost no official controls on settlement by French nationals into the colonies. The European community of Dakar was ruled by the French, but also including whites from outside France. French men in the colonial administration looked down on the rest of the European population. Aside from the administrators, the French population in Senegal during the period between the world wars contained rich merchant families from Bordeaux as well as smaller traders and their employees, as well as a large transient population of missionaries and travellers. The French required no identity cards or passports to travel in Senegal, making it easy to assume false identities and creating significant difficulties in policing them. Administrators expressed frustration with the influx of criminals and other "undesirables" from metropolitan France, which ran counter to what they saw as the French "civilising mission" to present "morally upright" role models for Africans to emulate. During the Independence of Senegal, there were estimated to be 40,000 French people in the country, three-fourths in Dakar alone in 1960. Though Dakar in particular featured a far higher proportion of non-indigenous population than many surrounding African countries in which racial conflict had become apparent, inter-ethnic relations there were characterised by an "apparent absence of any colour problem". It had been expected that most French would soon return to France after independence, but a decade later, there were still 29,000 living in the country, involved with French aid and capital investment; their presence reflected the continued dependence of France's African colonies on the métropole. Some Senegalese people of French descent had illnesses of meningoencephalitis, staphylococcal infection of the skin, and the like, worsened by their failure or inability to seek medical attention. There are still some of the French who remained in Senegal.
The first French settlers arrived in Mauritius (then Isle de France) in 1722, after the previous attempts of settlement by the Dutch had failed, and the island had once again become abandoned. They lived and prospered on the island, ruling it until the British invasion of 1810. The French by now strongly identified with the island, and the terms of capitulation allowed the settlers to live on as a distinct francophone ethnic group for the next 158 years under British rule before Mauritius attained independence.
Not all Franco-Mauritians have pure French lineage, many also have British or other European ancestors that came to Mauritius and were absorbed in the Franco-Mauritian community or the gens de couleur (Coloureds). There are an estimated 15,000–20,000 Franco-Mauritians; French lineage is also found within the gens de couleur community with many having predominantly French ancestors—a further 30,000 people with considerable French bloodline. Within the Afro-Creole community, a large number of people have some French ancestors from slavery.
According to estimates, there are more than 8 million people with French ancestry living in Latin America, three quarters of them in Argentina. Following the independence of Latin American countries in the first decades of the 19th century, a great wave of French immigration towards the region appeared, mainly directed to the River Plate basin. It lasted until the 1960s, when the economic situation in Latin America deteriorated and military dictatorships came into power. During this period of time, Argentina and Uruguay received more than 300,000 French immigrants, appearing as the second destination for French immigration worldwide after the United States.
From the beginning of the 19th century, to the middle of the 20th century, Argentina received the second largest group of French immigrants after the United States. According to official figures 239,000 Frenchmen immigrated to Argentina from 1857 to 1946 but the numbers are higher as immigration started in the 1820s (they formed the largest group of immigrants to the country until 1854) and lasted until the end of the 1960s. Unlike the United States where the immigration from France was more diverse, half of French immigrants to Argentina were from the Southwestern part of the country. It is now estimated that more than 6 million Argentines have some degree of French ancestry (17% of the total population).
The French came to Chile in the 18th century, arriving at Concepción as merchants, and in the mid-19th century, to cultivate vines in the haciendas of the Central Valley, the homebase of Chilean wine. The Araucanía Region also has an important number of people of French ancestry, as the area hosted settlers arrived by the second half of the 19th century, as farmers and shopkeepers. With akin Latin culture, the French immigrants quickly assimilated into mainstream Chilean society.
Most of French immigrants settled in the country between 1875 and 1895. Between October 1882 and December 1897, 8,413 Frenchmen settled in Chile. At the end of the 19th century, they were almost 30,000.
Today, it is estimated that there are 520,000 to 800,000 Chileans of French descent. President Michelle Bachelet is of French origin, as was former dictator Augusto Pinochet. Several prominent politicians, businessmen and professionals in the country have French ancestry.
Alliance française located in Barrio Amón, San José
The 19th-century French emigrants and their descendants, as well as France relevant international role had a lasting influence in Costa Rican society in the cultural, artistic and political fields. For instance, Costa Rican flag design was inspired by the French flag. This strong common ground of values also set the base for 20th- and 21st-century relations between both countries supported institutionally through several organizations such as the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, as well as through the French population in Costa Rica, currently the largest French community in Central America with 2235 habitants.
The first French immigrants were politicians such as Nicolas Raoul and Isidore Saget, Henri Terralonge and officers Aluard, Courbal, Duplessis, Gibourdel and Goudot. Later, when the Central American Federation was divided in 7 countries, Some of them settled to Costa Rica, others to Nicaragua, although the majority still remained in Guatemala. The relationships start to 1827, politicians, scientists, painters, builders, singers and some families emigrated to Guatemala. Later in a Conservative government, annihilated nearly all the relations between France and Guatemala, and most of French immigrants went to Costa Rica, but these relationships were again return to the late of the nineteenth century.
In Mexico, a sizeable population can trace its ancestry to France, which was the second largest European contributor, after Spain. The bulk of French immigrants arrived in Mexico during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
From 1814 to 1955, inhabitants of Barcelonnette and the surrounding Ubaye Valley emigrated to Mexico by the dozens. Many established textile businesses between Mexico and France. Around the start of the 20th century, there were 5,000 French from the Barcelonnette region registered with the French Consulate in Mexico. While 90% stayed in Mexico, some returned, 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 French "Barcelonnettes".
Many Mexicans of French descent live in cities such as Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí, Puebla, Guadalajara, and the capital, Mexico D.F., where French surnames such as Derbez, Pierres, Betancourt, Alaniz, Blanc, Jurado (Jure), Colo (Coleau), Marín (Marin), Caire, Dumas, Tresmontrels, and Moussier can be found.
Nowadays, about 300,000 Uruguayans have French ancestry, i.e. almost 9% of the total population of the country, while they made up a third of it at the end of the 19th century, as a result of a significant immigration from France (quantitywise and percentagewise) between the 1840s and the 1890s. This is now the third largest European ancestry among Uruguayans, after Spanish (60% of them) and Italian (40%). Although declining by the turn of the 20th century, French immigration left a strong cultural and ideological mark in Uruguay, and the country, long considered the most Francophile in Latin America, has been an observing member of the Francophonie since 2012.
During the first half of the 19th century, Uruguay was the main destination for French immigrants in South America and received about 20,000 French inmigrants, second only to the United States in the New World, the latter country receiving 195,971 French immigrants between 1820 and 1855. 80% of these immigrants came from the Basque Country, Béarn and Bigorre and mainly settled in Uruguay prior to the Great Siege of Montevideo: at least 13,922 and as much as 17,536 of them arrived between 1833 and 1842, representing from 36.5% to 41.5% of all immigrants these years. French immigrants, and notably Basques, had a great demographic impact on the population of the country at that time, since Uruguay only had 74,000 inhabitants in 1830 and 200,000 in 1842. According to various estimates, there were between 14,000, 18,000 or 25,000 Frenchmen living in the country in the early 1840s, representing a significant part of the total population (7 to 12.5%), especially in the capital where they made up a third of the inhabitants.
Immigration to Uruguay recovered in 1848 and 1,684 French Basques settled in the country from 1848 to 1850, still the exclusive destination for French immigration in the River Plate basin as the French blockade of Buenos Aires lasted until 1850, and around 1,415 between 1850 and 1855, when Argentina had finally overcome Uruguay as the main destination for French immigrants in South America. Until 1853, French Basques formed the most numerous group among all immigrants in Uruguay, and French immigration as a whole remained predominant until 1862, when it definitely became surpassed in numbers by Spaniards and Italians. As a consequence, French immigrants and their Uruguayan-born children made up more than a third of Uruguay's population by 1860, representing a 78,000-strong community in a country still sparsely populated (including future PresidentsJuan Campisteguy and Juan Idiarte Borda, both born to French Basque parents).
Although less important in proportion than before, immigration from France remained significant in the second half of the 19th century, particularly during the Paraguayan War (1864-1870) and until the 1890s. 2,718 French immigrants were recorded in 1866 and 1867 (10.2%), then 18,299 between 1878 and 1906 (5.7%). Additionally, 2,798 Frenchmen applied for work at the Commissariat-General of Immigration upon arrival in Montevideo from 1868 to 1877, although only a minority of immigrants received these years were going through this procedure (about one-fifth between 1878 and 1890, as a comparison) and actual figures were largely higher. In 1908, the French community (French immigrants and their children) had dropped to 40,000, i.e. 4 % of the total population, as the country had attracted massive waves of immigration from Italy and Spain, and had its population multiplied by almost five over half a century. The proportion of Uruguayan people with French ancestry was obviously higher because these figures did not include grandchildren and further descendants of earlier French immigrants.
By the turn of the 20th century, France was no longer the third source of immigration to Uruguay, as emigration from the Western Pyrenees had shifted towards California and the Western United States, more particularly in the 1900s-1920s, and WW1 severely hit French demographics, limiting emigration abroad. Consequently, only 2,964 French immigrants settled in the country from 1913 to 1921 (3.8%). Besides them, 261 Frenchmen were housed at the immigrants' hostelry in Montevideo from 1908 to 1912, and 22 from 1922 to 1924, here again only representing a tiny portion of actual immigrants numbers (less than 7 % from 1913 to 1921 in comparison). As the proportion of French immigrants within the total population decreased, the rate of marriages outside the community increased and became the norm in the 1900s, leading to a quicker cultural assimilation than for other ethnic groups. Mass immigration from Europe lasted until the 1930s, when Uruguayan economy collapsed due to the Great Depression. By then, the population, that had doubled since 1900 (but had its foreign component divided by almost two), had acquired its present aspect, with a strong Spanish and Italian mark in the ethnic composition, and a significant French influence.
According to incomplete figures cited above (figures from 1843 to 1877 missing – apart for 1866 and 1867 – as well as from 1907 to 1912, and after 1921), Uruguay therefore received at least around 44,000 to 48,000 French immigrants from 1833 to 1924, and more likely 59,000 to 63,000 (including prospective numbers for 1868-1877, 1907-1912 and 1922-1924), representing about 8 to 9% of total immigrants to the country. These figures are consistent with another source estimating the net immigration from France between 1861 and 1925 at around 18,050. As stated above, the majority of these immigrants came from the Pyrenean region, notably the Basque Country, Béarn and Bigorre. Smaller groups hailed from neighboring Gascon départements, as well as from Provence and the Paris region. For many of them, Uruguay was not a final destination, since a substantial part later emigrated to Argentina or traveled back to France, such as Uruguayan-born French poets Comte de Lautréamont, Jules Laforgue and Jules Supervielle. A majority of them however permanently settled in Uruguay, where they left a lasting influence and established strong cultural and economical ties between both countries, creating for instance the first French chamber of commerce abroad and the oldest Lycée français in the Americas.
According to official censuses, nearly 20 million people in Northern America have French ancestry. A third of them live in the French-speaking province of Quebec, where they form a majority of the population, and where most of French Americans and French Canadians can trace their roots back to, through various waves of emigration since the 17th century. French presence in Northern America dates back to the 16th century, when France established a colonial empire that eventually became absorbed within the United States and Canada. Nowadays, both countries host the second and seventh largest communities of French expatriates abroad, with a notable concentration in Quebec where they form the largest foreign group.
Canada has the second largest community of people outside of France who have identified as being of French descent, close behind the United States. 8.5 million Canadians claim French heritage. The French-speaking province of Quebec has the highest concentration of people with French ancestry in the world: 90% of Quebecers have French roots. They are also found in large numbers in the province of New Brunswick where a third of the population can trace their roots back to France and in Ontario which is home to the second largest community of French Canadians in the country.
French immigration to Canada dates back to the 16th century, with the foundation of Charlesbourg-Royal in 1541. Tadoussac, the oldest surviving French settlement in the Americas, was established in 1599. From 1627 to 1663, the French population in Canada rose from 100 to 2,500 inhabitants. Within this period, it is estimated that around 1,250 French people immigrated to Canada, most of them coming from the provinces of Normandy, Aunis, Perche, Île-de-France, Poitou, Maine and Saintonge. Between 1665 and 1673, 900 Filles du Roy, half of them coming from Île-de-France, were sent to Canada to marry farmers and soldiers. In 1760, the colony had a population of 60,000 inhabitants. It is estimated that from 1633 to 1760, an average of 56 Frenchmen emigrated to Canada each year. Between 1608, date of the foundation of Quebec, and 1756, only 10,000 French people emigrated to Canada, most of modern-day French Canadians can trace their roots back to them.
French first settled in Acadia in 1604. In 1667, when the colony went back to France, 441 inhabitants were registered. In 1713, as France ceded the territory to the British Crown, the population had risen to 2,500 Acadians. In 1755, out of a population of 14,000, 7,000 to 8,000 Acadians were deported. Around 1,800 of them fled to Louisiana where their descendants are known as Cajuns.
At the end of the 19th century, French Canadians started to settle in Northeastern and Eastern Ontario, creating the modern-day Franco-Ontarian communities, and in the Prairies. At the same time, immigration from France was encouraged and the country received over 144,000 French immigrants between 1881 and 1980.
The United States is home to the largest community of people outside of France who have identified as being of French descent. According to the last census of 2010, more than 11.5 million Americans claim French ancestry (French and French Canadian combined), i.e. 4% of the total population. French Americans make up more than 10% of the population in New England, through the emigration from Quebec between 1840 and 1930, and in Louisiana, through the French colonization of the region, the relocalization of deported Acadians and later immigration from Saint-Domingue and from continental France. French is the fourth most spoken language in the United States, after English, Spanish and Chinese with over 2 million speakers.
From 1830 to 1986, 772,000 Frenchmen immigrated to the United States.
Between the 1840s and the 1930s, around 900,000 French Canadians emigrated to the United States, especially in New England. Half of them eventually returned home. Their descendants number 2.1 million people.
^Rapports sociaux de sexe et immigration. Environ 121 000 Basques et Béarnais ont émigré en Amérique entre 1821 et 1920 selon Louis Etcheverry et plus de 108 000 pendant la période allant de 1835 à 1901 selon Henri de Charnisay (page 60).
^(in French)Totalité de ceux se présentant comme « Européens », « Calédoniens » ou « Métis » au recensement de 2009 : il faut y enlever les Métropolitains présents depuis peu sur le Territoire, ainsi que des personnes issues d'autres métissages ou se disant « Calédoniennes » sans se sentir « Caldoches ».
^"Mexique". France Diplomatie: Ministère de l'Europe et des Affaires étrangères (in French). Retrieved 7 November 2018. Le Consulat général évalue à un total de 30 000 personnes la présence française dans le pays.
^"La influencia francesa en la vida social de Chile de la segunda mitad del siglo XIX"(PDF). Archived from the original(PDF) on 6 February 2004. Retrieved 25 March 2010. Los datos que poseía el Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Francia ya en 1863, cuando aúno se abría Agencia General de Colonización del Gobierno de Chile en Europa, con sede en París, daban cuenta de 1.650 ciudadanos franceses residentes. Esta cifra fue aumentando paulatinamente hasta llegar, tal como lo consignaba el Ministerio Plenipotenciario Francés en Chile, a un número cercano a los 30.000 franceses residentes a fines del siglo.
^Comparing Postcolonial Diasporas. (page 202) A large majority – 80 per cent – came from the Western Pyrenees: that is the French Basque country, Béarn (the area south of Pau) and Bigorre (south-east of Lourdes).
^Comparing Postcolonial Diasporas. (page 202) It is estimated that by 1860 more than a third of Uruguay's population or their parents had been born in France, and the figures were higher for Montevideo.
^Intermarriage throughout History. (page 479) Among the French, whose number were fewer, the change was very significant, especially at the end of the period: marriages were highly endogamous in the period of greatest influx and highly exogamous in 1908, when the weight of this group in the population as a whole became very small.
^"Presentación". En los primeros treinta años del siglo XX Uruguay duplicó su población. En 1900 la misma se estimaba en aproximadamente 925.884 personas y en 1930 alcanza y supera la cifra de 1.875.000.
^The FIFA World Cup 1930-2010. In the 1920s, some 200,000 immigrants, or an equivalent of 10 per cent of the whole population of the country, were attracted by the quite idealistic vision of a modern and exceptional model country.
^"El legado de los inmigrantes II"(PDF). (page 17) La inmigración francesa está integrada, en primer lugar, por los vascos de los contrafuertes occidentales de los Pirineos; en segundo lugar vienen los naturales del Bearn y Bigourd (sic), también pirenaicos; en tercer lugar, finalmente, se hallan los emigrantes de otras provincias de Francia, los parisienses y, sobre todo, los gascones y provenzales.
^"Inmigración francesa al Río de la Plata". En Argentina, muchos de los descendientes de franceses que viven en el país, tienen evidencia de que sus antepasados vivieron en un primer momento en el Uruguay. La guerra civil uruguaya acontecida entre 1843 y 1844 originó el éxodo de muchos inmigrantes hacia la Argentina.