|93,498 (2008 American Community Survey)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|California, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota|
|American English, Latvian|
|Mostly Lutheranism with Roman Catholic minority|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Lithuanian Americans, Latvians|
The first significant wave of Latvian settlers who immigrated to the United States came in 1888 to Boston. By the end of the century, many of those Latvian immigrants had moved on to settle primarily in other East Coast and Midwest cities, such as New York City, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Chicago, as well as coastal cities on the West Coast, such as Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Although most Latvians settled in cities, in most of these (with the exception of the Roxbury district of Boston) they lived dispersed and did not form ethnic neighborhoods.
Some immigrants also established themselves in rural areas, but they were few and usually did not form long-lasting communities. The first Lutheran church built by Latvians in the United States was erected in 1906 in Lincoln County, Wisconsin, where an agricultural colony had been established in 1897.
A new wave of Latvian immigration began around 1906, after the failure of the 1905 Russian Revolution. Many of these immigrants were political leaders and rank-and-file revolutionaries who could be killed by Russian soldiers if they were discovered, so they emigrated to survive and continue the revolutionary movement in other countries. Most of the Latvian revolutionaries were more politically radical than the earlier immigrants to the United States, which increased social friction within a number of communities.
In 1917, many Latvian revolutionaries returned to their homeland to work for the creation of a Bolshevik government. In 1918, when Latvia declared its independence, some nationalists also returned.
After the First World War, the promise of economic improvements in the newly independent nation, immigration quotas established in 1924 by the United States, and the Great Depression all contributed to reduced emigration from Latvia to the US. From 1920 to 1939, only 4,669 Latvians arrived in the United States.
Toward the end of World War II, tens of thousands Latvians fled their country to Western Europe to escape advancing Soviet troops. Most were held in Displaced Persons camps. About half were eventually repatriated to Latvia, but the rest resettled to Germany, England, Australia, Canada, the United States, and other countries. From 1939 to 1951, 40,000 Latvians immigrated to the United States with the help of the U.S. government and various social service and religious organizations. Although many of these refugees had been professionals in their country, in the United States they often had to take jobs as farmhands, custodians, or builders until they could learn English and find better paying jobs.
Most Latvians settled in cities because of economic opportunities, such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago. They did not settle in ethnic neighborhoods and relied on social events and the press for a sense of community. Within a few years, Latvian organizations created schools, credit unions, choirs, dance groups, theater troupes, publishers and book sellers, churches, veterans' groups, and political organizations to help continue their culture and language.
From 1980 to 1990, 1,006 Latvians arrived in the United States.
Latvia reestablished its independence in 1991; however, few of the later immigrants or descendants of earlier generations have returned. They have made new lives in the United States.
According to the 2000 census, a total of 87,564 people of Latvian descent lived in the United States. The larger populations are located in the states of California, New York, Illinois, Florida, and Massachusetts. Many Latvian Americans (about 9,000) have dual citizenship, which the country made available to emigrants after becoming independent of the Soviet Union. Since the late 20th century, more Latvian Americans have traveled to Latvia. Others provide financial support and give material to various organizations. Some Latvian Americans have settled there and been elected to the Saeima, or Parliament, in Latvia.
The states with the largest Latvian-American populations are:
|New York (state)||9,937|
Latvian-born population in the US since 2010:
Languages and religions
Most Latvian Americans speak English, while Latvian (also known as Lettish) is basically the language spoken by American Latvians of the first generation due to intermarriage. As for religion, although most Latvians Americans are Lutherans, there are also Catholic communities, represented by the American Latvian Catholic Association, as well as American Latvian Baptists and American Latvian Jewish communities..
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- Sven Birkerts (born 1951), essayist and literary critic
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- Buddy Ebsen (1908–2003), actor and dancer; known for his role as Jed Clampett in the popular television series The Beverly Hillbillies
- Andrievs Ezergailis (born 1930), historian of the Holocaust
- Paul Grasmanis (Pols Grasmanis, born 1974), former NFL American football player
- Dave Grusin (born 1934), jazz musician; known for his musical score in the movies such as Tootsie and Heaven Can Wait
- Natalie Gulbis (born 1983), LPGA golfer
- Moriss Halle (1923-2018), linguist
- Philippe Halsman (Filips Halsmans, 1906–1979), photographer
- Juris Hartmanis (born 1928), computer scientist, Turing Award winner (1993)
- Rashida Jones (born 1976), actress
- Mike Knuble (Maiks Knuble, born 1972), NHL ice hockey player
- Mārtiņš Krūmiņš (1900–1992), Impressionist painter
- Ed Leedskalnin (Edvards Liedskalniņš, 1887–1951), amateur sculpto;, builder of Coral Castle in Florida; claimed to have discovered the ancient magnetic levitation secrets used to construct the Egyptian pyramids
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- Cynthia Lynn (Zinta Valda Zimilis, born 1936), actress
- Leo Mihelsons (1887–1978), artist
- J. George Mikelsons (born 1938), airline executive
- Nils Muižnieks (born 1964), human rights activist and political scientist
- Peters Munters, musician with the bands Over it and Runner Runner
- Fred Norris (Fred Leo Nukis, born 1955), Howard Stern show personality
- Lucia Peka (Lūcija Pēka, 1912–1991), artist, painter of "Flowers", "Riga", and "The Well"
- Brita Petersons (Brita Pētersone, born 1979), model
- Gundaris Pone (1932–1994), composer and conductor
- Eugene Revitch (1909–1996), psychiatrist
- Lolita Ritmanis (born 1962), orchestrator, composer
- Laila Robins (Laila Robiņa, born 1959), stage, film and television actress
- Henry Rollins (born 1961), musician, performance artist
- Mark Rothko (Markus Rotkovičs, 1903–1970), painter
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- Harold Snepsts (Haralds Šnepsts, born 1954), NHL ice hockey player
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- Peter Tillers (Pēteris Tillers, 1943–2015), legal scholar
- Juris Upatnieks (born 1936), physicist; co-inventor of three-dimensional holography; created the first working hologram in 1962
- Makss Veinreihs (1893–1969), linguist
- DeAndre Yedlin (born 1993), soccer player for the Seattle Sounders and the United States National Soccer team
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- American Latvian Association
- American Latvian Youth Association
- Daugavas Vanagi ASV
- Dienvidkalifornijas Latviešu Informācijas Biļetens
- Embassy of Latvia to the United States of America
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- Latvian Center "Gaŗezers"
- Latvian Cultural Association TILTS
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- Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
- Latvians Online
- Latvian Relief Fund of America
- Latvieši Amerikā
- Pasaules Brīvo Latviešu Apvienība
- The Philadelphia Society of Free Letts
- Union of Latvian Baptists in America