Latin American migration to the United Kingdom

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British people of Latin American descent
Total population
Est. number of Latin Americans in the United Kingdom
Regions with significant populations
London, Liverpool, Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh and Milton Keynes
Spanish · Portuguese · British English · American English
Predominantly Roman Catholic; smaller numbers of Protestants
Related ethnic groups
Spanish Britons · Portuguese Britons · Hispanics

Latin American migration to the United Kingdom dates back to the early 19th century. However, up until the 1970s, when political and civil unrest became rife in many Latin American countries, the United Kingdom's Latin American community was not particularly large.[2] Latin Americans in the UK are now a rapidly growing group consisting of immigrants from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and Venezuela. Large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers moved to the UK during the late 20th century, however, since the turn of the millennium, Latin Americans have been migrating to the UK for a wide range of reasons and at present the community consists of people from all walks of life.[3] The UK is also home to British-born people of Latin American ancestry, as well as some Hispanic and Latino Americans. In recent years, Britain has also become one of the favourite European destinations for some of the roughly 1.4 million Latin Americans who have acquired Spanish citizenship, seeking to escape their adopted country's prolonged economic crisis.[4]

History and settlement[edit]

Early presence of political figures[edit]

Revolutionary Francisco de Miranda established his successful campaign for Latin American independence in London

Latin Americans have inhabited what is now the United Kingdom for centuries, albeit in much smaller numbers than there are currently.[2] The earliest migrants date back to the late 18th century/ early 19th century, these were politicians and writers who were living largely in London in hope of raising funds for weapons to help free Latin America from Spanish and Portuguese rule.[2] The reason for London being a prime choice for such individuals to temporarily reside in is that Britain was quite happy to support them and see the Spanish Empire weaken as the British Empire continued to grow across the world.[2] Simón Bolívar who played a key role in the Spanish–American War of independence visited London for six months in 1810 as leader of a diplomatic mission.[2] Bolívar's forerunner Venezuelan-born Francisco de Miranda spent fourteen years of his life as a political exile in the British capital, originally a member of the Spanish Navy he made a decision to help free Latin America after witnessing the American War of Independence.[2] de Miranda was a close ally of British Prime Minister William Pitt, and after several meetings between the two Pitt pledged money from the British government to help Latin America in their war of independence.[2] Within a matter of years many Latin American countries gained independence and many Latin American political figures remained in London in a bid to search for loans to aid the development of their respective new nations.[2] It wasn't only political figures who took advantage of London's welcoming and safe environment, many Latin American writers who would most likely have been executed or imprisoned for their work in their native lands, published their work in the UK, good examples of this being the Brazilian Hippolyto da Costa and the Colombian Juan Garcia del Rio.[2]

Exiles and refugees after 1970[edit]

The first significant and large wave of migration from Latin America to the United Kingdom occurred in the 1970s; the Immigration Act 1971 was just one factor that acted as a catalyst for this phenomenon.[5] Prior to 1971, there were strict rules in place that only allowed residents of current or former British overseas territories and colonies to be granted work permits etc. in the mainland UK.[5] This change in legislation made it much easier for Latin Americans and other such groups to gain a right to live and work in the UK.[5] From this point onwards, the Latin American community in the UK began to grow with the arrival of migrant workers and refugees escaping oppressive political regimes.[5] Some 2,500 exiles from Chile were the first large group of Latin American migrants to the UK when they settled in London in the early 1970s; they consisted of businessmen, professors, and students who had fled their home country due to the ongoing political instability.[6] Exiles included right wingers fleeing the rule of Salvador Allende and later leftists fleeing the Pinochet regime.[5][6] Chile wasn't the only source of Latin American refugees in the 1970s and late 20th century in general, many individuals from the likes of Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador also requested the right for asylum in the UK. Argentina's military government (National Reorganization Process) which remained in power between 1976 and 1983 was another major push factor which contributed to large-scale Latin American refugee migration to the UK.[5] Colombians are the largest Hispanic Latin American group in the UK and they have been arriving in the thousands since the 1970s;[7] most moved between 1986 and 1997 after they were forced from their homes due to guerrilla and paramilitary violence in Colombia.[7] Through most of the 20th century, Britain was in fact the most favoured European destination for Colombian migrants and refugees, even ahead of Spain.[8] Bolivians are a fairly small Latin American refugee group in the UK; during Bolivia's spell of political instability in the late 20th century many instead chose to make a new life for themselves in the United States or other South American nations.[9] Despite this, the UK still to this day remains the second most popular destination for Bolivian migrants to Europe regardless of status.[9] Cubans, although relatively small in number, have been migrating to the UK since the early 1960s, fleeing the Communist takeover of Cuba. Most migration happened during the Freedom Flights which started in 1965 when some Cubans chose the UK as an alternative to the United States.

Economic and recent migration[edit]

Demographics and population[edit]

Unlike the United States Census, the United Kingdom Census doesn't include a category for individuals to identify as 'Latin American' and it is therefore fairly difficult to know exactly how many UK citizens or residents are of Latin American ethnic or national origin.[10]

Official statistics on Latin American-born residents[edit]

According to the 2001 UK Census, 62,735 Latin Americans in the United Kingdom were born in their respective nations of origin.[11] There were also a further 1,338 people who stated their birthplace as 'South or Central America' (note that not all South American countries are "Latin").[11] In 2009, the Office for National Statistics estimated that the number of Brazilian-born people in the UK alone had risen to around 60,000 and the number of Colombian-born to around 22,000. Estimates for other Latin American countries were not made because the sample size did not allow for estimation of the size of smaller groups with sufficient degree of accuracy.[12]

Latin American-born people in the United Kingdom in 2001
Country of birth Population (2011 census)[13][14][15] Corresponding article
 Brazil 52,148 Brazilians in the United Kingdom
 Colombia 25,761 Colombians in the United Kingdom
 Argentina 10,550
 Mexico 9,771 Mexicans in the United Kingdom
 Venezuela 9,150
 Ecuador 8,767 Ecuadorians in the United Kingdom
 Peru 7,246 Peruvians in the United Kingdom
 Chile 7,130 Chileans in the United Kingdom
 Bolivia 3,765 Bolivians in the United Kingdom
 Cuba 2,481
 Dominican Republic 1,377
 Uruguay 1,364

Other population estimates[edit]

A number of other estimates of the population of Latin Americans in the UK are available. A detailed analysis was undertaken in May 2011 which estimated the population to be 186,500 in the UK, of which 113,500 were in London. This figure includes irregular and second generation Latin Americans.[1]

Population distribution[edit]

According to a 2005 report by the Institute for Public Policy Research, based on data from the 2001 Census, the ten census tracts with the largest South American-born populations are all in London. Hyde Park had the highest number of South Americans, followed by Vauxhall North, Kensington, Chelsea, Vauxhall South, Regent's Park, Streatham North, Hammersmith, Streatham South, Hackney South,[16] and Newham. Outside of London, the largest South American populations were to be found in Oxford, Cambridge, central Manchester, central Bristol, central Edinburgh and Milton Keynes.[17] More recently, it has been suggested that Liverpool now has the UK's largest Latin American population outside London.[18]

Latin Americans acquiring British citizenship[edit]

The table below shows the number of Latin Americans who acquired citizenship of the United Kingdom between 1997 and 2008; sorted alphabetically.

Previous nationality 1997[19] 1998[20] 1999[21] 2000[22] 2001[23] 2002[24] 2003[25] 2004[26] 2005[27] 2006[28] 2007[29] 2008[30] Total
 Argentina 22 38 45 62 45 105 120 115 145 120 125 120 1,062
 Bolivia 11 19 28 23 30 25 35 50 50 70 75 65 481
 Brazil 119 196 178 331 340 330 435 485 565 540 610 605 4,734
 Chile 39 61 79 92 125 110 145 130 110 100 90 90 1,171
 Colombia 185 272 296 381 375 945 1,000 1,290 1,500 1,580 1,845 1,115 10,784
 Costa Rica 3 4 7 12 10 5 10 10 10 15 10 10 106
 Cuba 7 8 15 18 30 60 65 90 115 90 90 80 668
 Dominican Republic 12 13 19 17 30 55 50 65 55 35 20 35 406
 Ecuador 20 33 39 43 55 80 200 325 655 955 745 580 3,730
 El Salvador 6 9 5 13 25 15 15 15 10 10 5 15 143
 Guatemala 6 13 6 4 10 15 10 10 10 5 20 15 124
 Honduras 15 2 9 11 15 5 15 10 10 10 5 10 117
 Mexico 26 52 74 116 100 105 145 160 175 145 135 115 1,348
 Nicaragua 3 9 8 6 0 10 10 0 5 5 5 10 71
 Panama 4 8 4 7 10 10 5 10 20 10 10 25 123
 Paraguay 2 0 1 4 0 0 5 15 5 5 0 5 42
 Peru 65 78 80 117 105 185 175 180 230 130 220 170 1,735
 Uruguay 8 4 4 10 10 10 15 15 10 25 10 10 131
 Venezuela 23 40 46 49 60 65 85 95 120 105 155 120 963
Total 27,939

Culture and community[edit]

Community groups[edit]

Mision Hispana Anglicana[31] - An Anglican mission to Latin and Spanish speaking Christians, which organises regular services and community events in London.




Sport and dance[edit]



A newspaper, Noticias Latin America (NLA), was published in London from 1992 until about 2008, but the newspaper ceased publication, and the company was struck off and dissolved in 2010.[32]

Crónica Latina was probably one of the first Latin American newspapers in London, founded in 1984 by Juan Salgado, first published as Notas de Colombia before adopting the name 'Cronica Latinas' in 1986. The newspaper is no longer in circulation.[33]

Film and television[edit]


Social and political issues[edit]

Assimilation into British culture[edit]

Latin Americans residing in the UK often call themselves the "Invisibles", as a reflection of the lack of representation they have in the communities and the fact that there is no formal ethnic minority status for Latin Americans.[34] Latin Americans tend to be seen as white by the population, even though many of them are considered mestizo in their countries of origin. They often claim that a lack of official recognition as an ethnic minority makes it hard for the community to integrate.[34]

Economics and employment[edit]

85% of the Latin American community are employed, many are often in jobs they are over-qualified for, and very few take state benefits.[35] Some 70% of Latin Americans residing in the UK have some form of education beyond the secondary level, however, they are 10 times more likely to work for less than the minimum wage.[34] Often, emigrants who come to the country as lawyers or other skilled professions end up having to work in low level positions due to lack of opportunities. 40% of Latin American workers have claimed to experience workplace abuse and exploitation and 11% report being paid less than the national minimum wage – a proportion 10 times higher than the average rate for the UK population.[34]

Asylum seekers and refugees[edit]

Many Latin Americans have fled their home countries in search of safety and political asylum in the United Kingdom due to conflicts and civil wars, such as the ongoing Colombian armed conflict that began in 1964.[36][37]

Notable individuals[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "No Longer Invisible: The Latin American community in London" (PDF). Trust for London. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 March 2012. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Workers, liberators and exiles: Latin Americans in London since 1800". untoldLondon. Archived from the original on 8 March 2012. Retrieved 3 August 2010.
  3. ^ Sofia Buchuck (7 April 2010). "Crossing borders: Latin American exiles in London". untoldLondon. Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  4. ^ Mateos, Pablo (30 October 2015). Ciudadanía múltiple y migración: Perspectivas latinoamericanas. ISBN 9786079367664.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "The Central and South American Community in London". Museum of London. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
  6. ^ a b Fernández, Francisco Lizcano (2007). Composición Étnica de las Tres Áreas Culturales del Continente Americano al Comienzo del Siglo XXI (PDF). ISBN 9789707570528.
  7. ^ a b "Caught in the crossfire: Colombian asylum seekers and the UK". Refugee Council. Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
  8. ^ "Colombian migration to Europe" (PDF). Centre on Migration, Policy and Society. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
  9. ^ a b "Bolivians in London" (PDF). Runnymede Trust. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
  10. ^ "Census 2001 - Ethnicity and religion in England and Wales". Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  11. ^ a b "Country-of-birth database". Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Archived from the original on 13 November 2010. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  12. ^ "Estimated population resident in the United Kingdom, by foreign country of birth (Table 1.3)". Office for National Statistics. Archived from the original on 22 January 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2010. Figure given is the central estimate. See the source for 95 per cent confidence intervals.
  13. ^ "Table QS213EW: 2011 Census: Country of birth (expanded), regions in England and Wales". Office for National Statistics. 26 March 2013. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  14. ^ "Country of birth (detailed)" (PDF). National Records of Scotland. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  15. ^ "Country of Birth - Full Detail: QS206NI". Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  16. ^ "Born Abroad - South America". BBC News. 7 September 2005. Retrieved 12 April 2008.
  17. ^ Kyambi, Sarah (2005). Beyond Black and White: Mapping New Immigrant Communities. London: Institute for Public Policy Research. Archived from the original on 10 November 2005.
  18. ^ Key, Phil (21 December 2007). "Keep the culture real, keep it Latin". Liverpool Daily Post. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  19. ^ "Persons Granted British Citizenship, United Kingdom, 1997" (PDF). Home Office. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  20. ^ "Persons Granted British Citizenship, United Kingdom, 1998" (PDF). Home Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 July 2007. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  21. ^ "Persons Granted British Citizenship, United Kingdom, 1999" (PDF). Home Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 July 2007. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  22. ^ "Persons Granted British Citizenship, United Kingdom, 2000" (PDF). Home Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 July 2007. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  23. ^ "Persons Granted British Citizenship, United Kingdom, 2001" (PDF). Home Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 July 2007. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  24. ^ "Persons Granted British Citizenship, United Kingdom, 2002" (PDF). Home Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 July 2007. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  25. ^ "Persons Granted British Citizenship, United Kingdom, 2003" (PDF). Home Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 March 2009. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  26. ^ "Persons Granted British Citizenship, United Kingdom, 2004" (PDF). Home Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 March 2009. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  27. ^ "Persons Granted British Citizenship, United Kingdom, 2005" (PDF). Home Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 March 2009. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  28. ^ "Persons Granted British Citizenship, United Kingdom, 2006" (PDF). Home Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 March 2009. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  29. ^ "Persons Granted British Citizenship, United Kingdom, 2007" (PDF). Home Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 November 2009. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  30. ^ "Persons Granted British Citizenship, United Kingdom, 2008" (PDF). Home Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 July 2010. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  31. ^ "Mision Hispana Anglicana". Facebook Group. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  32. ^ [1] [2] NOTICIAS LATIN AMERICA LIMITED (newspaper) dissolved, last accounts cover period ending 31 Aug 2008]
  33. ^ Roman-Velazquez, Patria (1999). The making of Latin London: Salsa music, place and identity. Ashgate.
  34. ^ a b c d Muir, Hugh (4 March 2012). "Hideously diverse Britain: the UK's Latin American community is fighting for recognition". The Guardian. London.
  35. ^ "London's Latin American population rises fourfold". BBC News. 19 May 2011.
  36. ^ Burrell, Ian (21 August 1997). "Crisis as Colombian refugees flood into Britain". The Independent. London. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
  37. ^ Bermúdez Torres, Anastasia (October 2003). "Refugee populations in the UK: Colombians". ICAR Navigation Guide. London: Information Centre about Asylum and Refugees. Retrieved 21 February 2011.

External links[edit]