|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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- Natalie Gulbis (born 1983), LPGA golfer
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- Union of Latvian Baptists in America