The history of the United States is filled with stories of ​​immigration. People from all around the world have traveled to the United States seeking freedom and democracy and opportunities for work, education, better quality of life, and more. While the Latino community has been present in the United States ​​since its founding, some are immigrants who have formed our nation’s history. Today, Latinos represent almost 20 percent of the total United States population. 
Latino immigration has greatly contributed to the ​culture of the United States and has shaped areas like food, music, business, sports, ​labor, ​and ​​politics. A variety of motivating factors have contributed to Latino patterns of immigration. 
Fr​​om fleeing war, violence, dictatorship, or national disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes to seeking greater economic prosperity and stability, Latina and Latino immigrants each have unique reasoning and experiences that have driven them to leave their home ​​countries. Exploring the various motivations and journeys of Latino immigration is helpful to better understand how diverse and evolving immigration experiences continue to shape the culture of the United States. 

Work and Opportunity

By 1900, Latino immigration was often driven by the search for work and opportunity. By this time, the United States economy heavily relied on workers from Latin America and the Caribbean. These new arrivals were essential for maintaining the growth of many key industries. For example, Latino immigrants played key roles in maintaining railroads, farming, and mining. 
Latino immigrants also have significant roles in work within the fashion and entertainment ​industries, including: 

Carolina Herrera – Raised in Venezuela, fashion designer Carolina Herrera launched a clothing brand in New York in 1981. Drawing inspiration from her European travels and attendance at fashion shows, Herrera’s brand and entrepreneurial spirit have been a staple in American ​​culture. 
Celia Cruz – Born in Havana, Cuba, the award-winning “Queen of Salsa” ​was an instrumental part in growing the popularity of salsa music in the United ​​States. 

Stories of Latino Immigration

Since its founding, millions of Latina and Latino immigrants have arrived in the United States with diverse motivations to leave their home country and seek new opportunities. Every individual has had unique experiences and a distinct story to tell about their journey. Explore some of these stories of Latino immigrants that demonstrate the strength and resilience of the Latino community in overcoming challenges, from discrimination to cultural barriers. 

​Naúl Ojeda – Award-winning Uruguayan printmaker Naúl Ojeda was forced to leave his country and lived in many places, including France, Chile, and Mexico, before settling in Washington, D.C. in the 1970s. Throughout his life, Ojeda created a variety of works consisting of watercolors, acrylics, sculptures, and woodblock prints.
Juana Gallegos – In 1923, Juana Gallegos left her home country of Mexico and moved to San Antonio, Texas to escape the turmoil caused by the Mexican Revolution. While in the United States, Gallegos met and married fellow immigrant Adolfo Valadez and regularly visited Mexico to ensure their children learned about their cultural heritage. 
1994 Cuban Rafter Crisis – In the 1994 Cuban Rafter Crisis, tens of ​​thousands of Cubans risked their lives and fled to the United States in makeshift rafts made from materials like styrofoam, wood, tar, cloth, and plastic sheeting. This risky travel method was taken to escape dictatorship, political repression and economic hardships. 
​​Clotilde Arias – In 1945, Clotilde Arias was commissioned by the United States Department of State to create the first singable version of the Star-Spangled Banner in Spanish. Arias was a Peruvian immigrant and a true trailblazer as she broke gender barriers. She navigated the male-dominated advertising world in the 1940s, a time when women commonly did not work outside the home. 
​​​Anesta SamuelS. Anesta Samuel grew up in the Panama Canal Zone and witnessed the discrimination and lower wages her father experienced as a Black Caribbean worker. She went on to open her own beauty salon and immigrated to Brooklyn, New York in 1950. Once in the United States, Samuel founded Las Servidoras, a scholarship organization for Panamanian students that was later renamed The Dedicators.