|(93,498 (2008 American Community Survey))|
|Regions with significant populations|
|California, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota|
|American English, Latvian|
|Related ethnic groups|
Around 1640, Latvians settled in Delaware and Pennsylvania, together with Scandinavian settlers. Later, in 1849, a number of Latvians were part of the thousands of people who immigrated to California looking for fortune during the Gold Rush.
However, the first significant wave of Latvian settlers that immigrated to the United States came in 1888 to Boston. They were mainly single young men who came to the United States looking for fortunes or fleeing mandatory military service of Imperial Russia. The Latvian immigrants were divided into two groups: the people who dreamed of Latvia's independence from the Soviet Union and those who wanted Latvian workers to cease to be oppressed by Russia. By the end of century, those Latvians immigrants settled primarily in other East Coast and Midwest cities, such as New York City, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Chicago, as well as in some cities on the West Coast, such as Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco. Some immigrants also established themselves in rural areas, although they were few and usually did not form long-lasting communities. Although most Latvians settle in cities, in most of these (with the exception of the Roxbury district of Boston) the Latvians were also few and they not could form ethnic neighborhoods. The first Lutheran church built by Latvians in the United States was erected in Lincoln County, where there was a Lithuanian agricultural colony that disappeared due to climatic and political problems of its members, in Wisconsin in 1906.
A new wave of Latvian immigration began around 1906, after the failure of their 1905 Revolution in Latvia. Many of the immigrants were political leaders and rank-and-file revolutionaries who could be killed by Russian soldiers if they were discovered, so they decided emigrate and to continue the revolutionary movement in other countries. Due to that most of the Latvians revolutionaries who immigrated in the United States were more politically radical than the earlier Latvian immigrants, reattached divisions even among the leftists themselves.
In 1917, many Latvian Revolutionaries went back to Latvia to work in the creation of a Bolshevik government, and in 1918, when Latvia declared its independence, some nationalists also went back.
After this period during which thousands of Latvians immigrated to the United States, in the 1920s and 1930s with the promise of economic improvements in Latvia, due to the immigration quotas of United States established in 1924 that limited the number of Latvians and other immigrants who could settle in this country, and due to the Great Depression in the United States—immigration was generally discouraged, so there was little Latvian immigration. After World War II many Latvian refugees fleeing the Soviet Union, were established in other European countries. However, about half were eventually repatriated to Latvia, being the rest repatriated in Germany, England, Australia, Canada, United States and in other countries. From 1949 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 United States they often had jobs as farmhands, custodians, or builders until they could find better paying jobs.
Most Latvians settled in cities, such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago. As with the Old Latvians, the most of the new Latvians, could not create neighborhoods and had to rely on social events and on the press for a sense of community. Within a few years, Latvian organizations managed to create schools, credit unions, choirs, dance groups, theater troupes, publishers and book sellers, churches, veterans' groups, and political organizations. From 1980 to 1990, 1,006 Latvians arrived in the United States.
Latvia became reestablished as an independent country in 1991, however, few have returned.
According to the 2000 census, a total of 87,564 people of Latvian descent live in the United States. There are larger populations in the states of California, New York, Illinois, Florida and Michigan. Many Latvian Americans (about 9,000) have dual citizenship, which became available to Latvians who emigrated after the reestablishment of independence. Also, many often travel to Latvia and provide financial support and give material to various organizations. Some Latvian Americans have been elected to the Saeima, or Parliament, in Latvia.
The states with the largest Latvian-American populations are:
Most of the Old Latvians, although recognizing the importance of education, did not appear to want or to be able to afford college degrees. Thus, in 1911 only two individuals had obtained American university degrees.
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 small Catholic communities, Represented by the American Latvian Catholic Association. There is also a sizable American-Latvian Jewish community.
Notable Latvian Americans
- Rutanya Alda (Rūta Skrastiņa, 1942), actress (Mommy Dearest, The Deer Hunter)
- Jessie Andrews (1992), pornographic actress, model, and club DJ
- Aris Brimanis (Āris Brīmanis, 1972), ice hockey player
- Gunnar Birkerts (Gunārs Birkerts, 1925), architect (Corning Museum of Glass, Marquette Plaza in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, National Library of Latvia, Riga)
- Sven Birkerts (born 1951), is an American essayist and literary critic
- Chase Budinger (Čeiss Badingers, 1988), NBA basketball player
- Eric Cantor (1963), Republican Representative of Virginia's 7th congressional district from 2001 to 2014, and Majority Leader from 2011 to 2014, until his historic primary defeat by Dave Brat.
- Vija Celmins (Vija Celmiņš, 1938), painter, in 2009 she won a Fellow Award in the Visual Arts from United States Artists
- Jacob Davis (Jēkabs Jufess, 1831–1908), tailor, inventor of denim
- Buddy Ebsen (1908–2003), actor and dancer, who is perhaps best remembered for his role as Jed Clampett in the popular television series The Beverly Hillbillies
- Andrievs Ezergailis (1930), historian of the Holocaust
- Chase Gilbertson (1998), rockstar, model
- Paul Grasmanis (1974) former NFL American football player
- Dave Grusin (b. 1934) famous jazz musician. Famous for his musical score in the movies such as Tootsie and Heaven Can Wait.
- Natalie Gulbis (1983), LPGA golfer
- Moriss Halle (1923), linguist
- Philippe Halsman (Filips Halsmans, 1906–1979), photographer
- Juris Hartmanis (1928), computer scientist, Turing Award winner (1993)
- Rashida Jones (1976), actress
- Mike Knuble (Maiks Knuble, 1972), NHL ice hockey player
- Mārtiņš Krūmiņš (1900–1992), Latvian-American Impressionist Painter
- DJ Lethal (Leors Dimants, 1972), DJ for rap-rock band Limp Bizkit
- Ed Leedskalnin (Edvards Liedskalniņš, 1887–1951), amateur sculptor, builder of Coral Castle in Florida, claimed to have discovered the ancient magnetic levitation secrets used to construct the Egyptian pyramids.
- Cynthia Lynn (Zinta Valda Zimilis, 1936), actress.
- Peggy Lipton (1946), actress
- Leo Mihelsons (1887–1978) - artist
- Peters Munters - Musician - Over it (band), Runner Runner
- Fred Norris (Alfrēds Leo Nuķis, 1955), Howard Stern show personality
- Lucia Peka (Lūcija Pēka, 1912–1991), artist, painter of "Flowers", "Riga", and "The Well". Part of the Latvian Diaspora.
- Troy Ostler (Troy Ostlērs, 1978), former basketball player for the Latvian national team
- Brita Petersons (Brita Pētersone, 1979), model
- Gundaris Pone (1932–1994), composer and conductor
- Lolita Ritmanis (1962), orchestrator, composer
- Laila Robins (Laila Robiņa, 1959), stage, film and television actress
- Henry Rollins (1961), musician, performance artist
- Benita Rose (1958), concert pianist
- Mark Rothko (Markus Rotkovičs, 1903–1970), painter
- Raimonds Staprans (Raimonds Staprāns, 1926), Latvian/American painter and playwright ("The Freezing", 1979; "Four Days in June", 1989)
- Harold Snepsts (Haralds Šnepsts, 1954), NHL ice hockey player
- Esther Sans Takeuchi (Estere Sāns-Takeuči, 1953), Greatbatch Professor of Advanced Power Sources at University of Buffalo and recipient of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation (Oct. 7, 2009)
- Juris Upatnieks (1936), physicist, the co-inventor of three-dimensional holography, created the first working hologram in 1962
- Makss Veinreihs (1893–1969), linguist
- Markus Zusevics (Markus Zuševics, 1989), NFL American football player
- DeAndre Yedlin (July 9, 1993) Is a soccer player for the Seattle Sounders and the United States National Soccer team
Notes and references
- http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/DTTable?_bm=y&-context=dt&-ds_name=ACS_2008_1YR_G00_&-CONTEXT=dt&-mt_name=ACS_2008_1YR_G2000_B04003&-tree_id=306&-redoLog=false&-currentselections=ACS_2008_1YR_G2000_B04003&-geo_id=01000US&-search_results=ALL&-format=&-_lang=en 2008 American Community Survey
- Latvian Americans. Posted by Andris Straumanis.
- "Latvia's Famous People". Latvia.lv. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
- Noted as one of several Latvian Americans at ;  "the only son (four sisters) to parents of Danish-German and Latvian extraction"
- "Latvian Art in Exile," The Latvian Institute http://www.li.lv (2008), Elizabetes iela 57, Rīga, LV 1050, LATVIA.
- Daughter of Latvian refugees receives top technological award at White House