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Asian Latin American

Asian Latin American
Jorge Cham
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 Brazil 2,200,000[1][2]
 Peru 1,500,000[3][4][5][6]
 Venezuela 500,000
 Mexico 350,000
 Colombia 200,000[7]
 Argentina 195,000
 Panama 140,000

Romance Languages:
Spanish · Portuguese · French
Asian Languages:

Chinese · Tamil · Japanese · Korean · Punjabi · Tagalog · Hindustani · Vietnamese
Buddhism · Christianity · Hinduism · Islam · Shintoism · Sikhism · Taoism

Asian Latin Americans are Latin Americans of East Asian, Southeast Asian or South Asian descent. Asian Latin Americans have a centuries-long history in the region, starting with Filipinos in the 16th century. The peak of Asian immigration occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries, however. There are currently more than four million Asian Latin Americans, nearly 1% of Latin America's population. Chinese and Japanese are the group's largest ancestries; other major ones include Filipinos, Koreans, and Indians. Brazil is home to the largest population of Asian Latin Americans, at some 2.2 million.[1][8] The highest ratio of any country in the region is 5%,[9] in Peru. There has been notable emigration from these communities in recent decades, so that there are now hundreds of thousands of people of Asian Latin American origin in both Japan and the United States.


  • History 1
  • Geographic distribution 2
  • Emigrant communities 3
    • Canada 3.1
    • Japan 3.2
    • United States 3.3
  • Composition 4
  • Notable persons 5
  • See also 6
    • Ethnic groups 6.1
    • Asian Latin American enclaves 6.2
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


The first Asian Latin Americans were Filipinos who made their way to Latin America (primarily Mexico and secondarily Colombia, Panama and Peru) in the 16th century, as sailors, crews, prisoners, slaves, adventurers and soldiers during the Spanish colonial period of the Philippines. For two and a half centuries (between 1565 and 1815) many Filipinos sailed on the Manila-Acapulco Galleons, assisting in the Spanish Empire's monopoly in trade. Some of these sailors never returned to the Philippines, and many of their descendants can be found in small communities around Baja California, Sonora, Mexico City, Peru and others, thus making Filipinos the oldest Asian ethnic group in Latin-America.

In the 19th century, thousands of Indian labourers of Tamil descent from the Indian French colonial settlements of Madras, Pondichéry, Chandernagor and Karikal were brought to French Guiana, Guadeloupe & Martinique to work in plantations.

Most Chinese-Latin Americans descended from the Coolie slave trade, and most are found in the Caribbean, especially in Cuba, and Peru. They are also closely related to Afro-Asian people in Latin America.

Most Asians, however, arrived in the 19th and 20th century as contract workers or economic migrants. Today, the overwhelming majority of Asian Latin Americans are of Chinese, Japanese, or Korean descent. Japanese migration mostly came to a halt after World War II (with the exception of Japanese settlement in the Dominican Republic), while Korean migration mostly came to an end by the 1980s (though it still continues in Guatemala) and Chinese migration remains ongoing in a number of countries.

Settlement of war refugees has been extremely minor: a few dozen ex-North Korean soldiers went to Argentina and Chile after the Korean War,[10][11] and some Hmong went to French Guiana after the Vietnam War.[12]

Geographic distribution

Four and a half million Latin Americans (almost 1% of the total population of Latin America) are of Asian descent. The number may be millions higher, even more so if all who have partial ancestry are included. For example, Asian Peruvians are estimated at 5%[9] of the population there, but one source places the number of all Peruvians with at least some Chinese ancestry at 5 million, which equates to 20% of the country's total population.[13]

Most who are of Japanese descent reside in Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Mexico, Bolivia, and Paraguay while significant populations of Chinese ancestry are found in Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Cuba, Guyana, Dominican Republic, Panama, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Costa Rica (where they make up about 1% of the total population). Nicaragua is home to 12,000 ethnic Chinese; the majority reside in Managua and on the Caribbean coast. Smaller communities of Chinese, numbering just in the hundreds or thousands, are also found in Ecuador and various other Latin American countries. The largest Korean communities are in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Guatemala, Paraguay, Colombia, Ecuador and Chile. There are around 12,918 living in Guatemala. There is also a Hmong community in Argentina. The French Overseas Departments of French Guiana, Guadeloupe & Martinique have large populations of people of Tamil Indian descent. Colombia, Chile, Panama and Venezuela also have small Asian Indian communities.

Japanese Peruvians have a considerable economic position in Peru.[14] Many past and present Peruvian Cabinet members are ethnic Asians, but most particularly Japanese Peruvians have made up large portions of Peru's cabinet members and former president Alberto Fujimori is of Japanese ancestry who is currently the only Asian Latin American to have ever served as the head of any Latin American nation. Brazil is home to the largest Japanese community outside of Japan, numbering about 1.7 million with ancestry alone. Brazil is also home to 10 thousand Indians, 5 thousand Vietnamese people, 4.5 thousand Afghans, 2.9 thousand Indonesians and 1 thousand Filipinos.

Emigrant communities


Canada has been a destination for Asian Latin American emigration. The immigrants usually settle in the largest cities, such as Vancouver and Toronto, and integrate into the overall Asian Canadian communities.


Japanese Brazilian immigrants to Japan numbered 250,000 in 2004, constituting Japan's second-largest immigrant population.[15] Their experiences bear similarities to those of Japanese Peruvian immigrants, who are often relegated to low income jobs typically occupied by foreigners.[14]

United States

Most Asian Latin Americans who have migrated to the United States live in the largest cities, often in Asian American or Hispanic and Latino communities in the Greater Los Angeles area, New York metropolitan area, Chicago metropolitan area, San Francisco Bay area, Greater Houston, the San Diego area, Imperial Valley, California, Dallas-Fort Worth, and South Florida (mainly Chinese Cubans). They and their descendants are sometimes known as Asian Hispanics and Asian Latinos.

In the 2000 US Census, 119,829 Hispanic or Latino Americans identified as being of Asian race alone.[16] In 2006 the Census Bureau's American Community Survey estimated them at 154,694,[17] while its Population Estimates, which are official, put them at 277,704.[18] Some notable Americans of Asian Hispanic/Latino heritage include Harry Shum, Jr., Franklin Chang-Diaz, Carlos Galvan, Kelis, Kirk Acevedo and Chino Moreno. In the United States, there are Facebook groups that are devoted to Asian Hispanics in New York,[19] California[20] and Bay Area.[21]


Asian Latin American population (incomplete data)
Country Chinese Indian[22] Japanese Korean[23] Filipino Others References
Argentina 120,000 1,600 35,000 22,024 15,000 2,000
Bolivia 14,000 640
Brazil 251,649 9,200 1,705,685 49,419 1,000 [9][24]
Chile 1,500 4,000 2,249
Colombia 160,000 5,000 1,700[25] 12,000 5,000 17,000 [26][27]
Costa Rica 7,873 16 351 730 [28]
Cuba 112,000 84 [29]
Dominican Republic 50,000 847 518
Ecuador 7,000 100 434 1,418
El Salvador 2,140 55 176 1,272 103
Guatemala 2,000 288 9,921 [30]
Honduras 123 160 406 1,107
Mexico 70,000[31] 2,258[32] 35,000[33] 30,000[34] 200,000[35] 1,300[36]
Nicaragua 10 145 531
Panama 135,000 2,164 456 306
Paraguay 9,484 5,229
Peru 1,300,000 145 160,000[3][4][5] 812 [9][37]
Puerto Rico >2,200 823 10,486 45 9,832
Uruguay ~100 456 152
Venezuela 420,000 680 2,000 325 10,000

Notable persons





Costa Rica


Dominican Republic

  • Jamie Guzman, architect and blogger; Chinese Dominican
  • Elías Wessin y Wessin, politician; Lebanese Dominican
  • Wu Xue, table tennis player; Chinese Dominican


  • Li Jian - midfielder; Chinese Ecuadorian
  • Carlos Moncayo - co founder and CEO of Asiam; Chinese Ecuadorian

French Guiana




  • Edouard Wah - Renowned Haitian painter; Chinese-Haitian


  • Serge Letchimy - President of Martinique Regional Council; Indo-Martiniquais
  • Lord Kossity - Ragga-zouk musician; Indo-Martiniquais




  • Piled Higher and Deeper; Chinese Panamanian
  • Bruce Chen, Major League Baseball pitcher; Chinese Panamanian
  • Juan Tam, writer, historian; Chinese Panamanian


Puerto Rico



  • Alex Cabrera Suzuki, Venezuelan first baseman and right-handed batter who played in Major League Baseball, and Nippon Professional Baseball; Japanese Venezuelan
  • Omar Zamora Akamatsu, channel founder Televen; Japanese Venezuelan
  • Kaori Flores Yonekura, Venezuelan filmmaker; Japanese Venezuelan
  • Naomi Soazo, Venezuelan judoka; Japanese Venezuelan
  • Fred Armisen, American actor, has Venezuelan roots on his mother and Japanese father's side part; Japanese Venezuelan
  • Hiroyuki Takeuchi, Venezuelan chef; Japanese Venezuelan
  • Henry Zakka, Venezuelan actor; Japanese Venezuelan
  • Toru Murata, Professional baseball player; Japanese Venezuelan
  • Federico Chang, Journalist; Chinese Venezuelan
  • Shanny Lam, Venezuelan model; Chinese Venezuelan
  • Kamala Lopez, American actress, director, and political activist (born in New York City but was raised in Venezuela); Indian Venezuelan

See also

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