Guatemala Emigration and Immigration

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Online Sources[edit | edit source]

Passports[edit | edit source]

Finding the Town of Origin in Guatemala[edit | edit source]

If you are using emigration/immigration records to find the name of your ancestors' town in Guatemala, see Guatemala Finding Town of Origin for additional research strategies.

Guatemala Emigration and Immigration[edit | edit source]

"Emigration" means moving out of a country. "Immigration" means moving into a country.
Emigration and immigration sources list the names of people leaving (emigrating) or arriving (immigrating) in the country. These sources may be passenger lists, permissions to emigrate, or records of passports issued. The information in these records may include the emigrants’ names, ages, occupations, destinations, and places of origin or birthplaces. Sometimes they also show family groups.===Immigration to Guatemala===

Spanish Guatemalans[edit | edit source]

  • The arrival of the Spaniards in Guatemala began in 1524 with the conquest of the Guatemalan Highlands and neighboring Pacific plain under the command of Pedro de Alvarado. After the conquest and the colonial era, more people came to the country not as conquerors, but to do business or daily activities.
  • Historians estimate that only a few thousand Spaniards settled in Guatemala before independence. As a result of Guatemala having few naturally-rich resources, like gold and silver, the Spanish conquest focused their efforts on forced labor of the indigenous population.[1]

German Guatemalans[edit | edit source]

  • Guatemala had a massive immigration of Germans in the nineteenth century. Guatemala currently has a strong community of Germans who make up the majority of European immigrants in the country, and it is also the most numerous German community in all Central American countries.
  • In the 1940s, 8,000 German immigrants lived in Guatemala.
  • The first German colonists arrived in the mid-19th century, and soon German settlers acquired land and operated coffee plantations in Alta Verapaz and Quetzaltenango. Cobán became an important center for German settlers. Other German operations cultivated tea, cocoa, and vanilla. While most Germans went to Cobán, others went to San Juan Chamelco and Xelaju (Quetzaltenango). Cobán later came to be monopolized by German trade in wholesale stores.
  • In Guatemala, according to the embassy, there are more than 5,000 Germans living permanently in Guatemala, as well as several thousand more of German descent.[2]

Other Immigrants[edit | edit source]

  • There are thousands of Arab Guatemalans descending from Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and other Arab countries who reside in Guatemala City. Some belong to Christian Churches while others to Islamic Mosques.
  • There are also approximately 9,000 Jews residing in Guatemala. They are immigrants from Germany and Eastern Europe that arrived in the 19th century. Many immigrated during World War II. Most live in Guatemala City, Quezaltenango and San Marcos. Today, the Jewish community in Guatemala is made up of Orthodox Jews, Sephardi, Eastern European and German Jews.
  • Asian Guatemalans are primarily of Korean descent and Chinese descent, whose ancestors were farm workers and railroad laborers in the early 20th century.[3]

French Guatemalans[edit | edit source]

  • Guatemalans of French descent make up the third largest European-descended group in Guatemala', after the German Guatemalans and Spanish Guatemalans.
  • The history of the French in Guatemala is divided into three periods of migratory waves:
  • Late 18th century: After the French Revolution, capitalists and entrepreneurs came to create coffee plantations in several countries of America; in Guatemala, the first of these were situated in the department of San Marcos in the southern highlands.
  • Independence era: French veterans of the Napoleonic Wars and the Spanish American wars of independence offered their services during the independence wars. Initial diplomatic contact between France and Central America began in 1827; full diplomatic relations were established in 1830. This led to the arrival of French merchants, professionals, and tradesmen. Many of them married local women, which led to an increase in the number of Guatemalan people of French descent. Later some French politicians moved to Guatemala City during the wars between liberals and conservatives. When the Federal Republic of Central America was divided, some French migrated to Costa Rica and Nicaragua although the majority remained in Guatemala.
  • Twentieth century: It is estimated that by 1900 there were approximately 1600 French immigrants in Guatemala. The presidency of General José María Reina Barrios, who was educated in Paris, began a revival of diplomatic relations between France and Central America. In 1920, after the triumph of the Unionist movement, several Guatemalan families of French origin came together to found a branch the Alliance Francaise in Guatemala City.[4]

Emigration from Guatemala[edit | edit source]

A significant number of Guatemalans live outside of their country. The majority of the Guatemalan diaspora is located in the United States of America, with estimates ranging from 480,665 to 1,489,426. Emigration to the United States of America has led to the growth of Guatemalan communities in California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Texas, Rhode Island and elsewhere since the 1970s.

Below are estimates of the number of Guatemalans living abroad for certain countries:

Country 2019
United States 1,070,743
Mexico 44,178
Belize 25,086
Canada 18,398
El Salvador 9,005
Spain 7,678
Honduras 4,681
France 3,296
Chile 2,699
Italy 2,299
Total 1,205,644

Guatemalan Emigration to the United States[edit | edit source]

  • Up until the 1960s, Guatemalan migration to the US was negligible.
  • The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Office of Immigration Statistics notes the first trickles of migration in the 1940s and 50s, but migration truly began to increase through the 1970s and 80s.
  • By the 1990s, more than 100,000 migrants were coming into the US by means of green cards each decade and then that number slightly dipped in the early 2000s.
  • More recent data is harder to gauge, as majority of Guatemalan migration is predicted to be unauthorized.
  • The US Census data in 2000 marked 372,487 Guatemalans in the US and by 2010, the number had reached over 1 million, showing a 183% increase in Guatemalans in the US over the decade. This shows that even though legal migration may have slowed, migration as a whole from the country is on the rise.
  • Guatemalans have primarily settled in California, Florida and Texas. As of 2015, 29% of Guatemalans in the US lived in California while 8% respectively lived in Florida and Texas.
  • Within California, Guatemalans are concentrated in Los Angeles (20%). Within these cities, ethnic enclaves and already-present communities help receive new migrants, connecting them with jobs and easing the transition, thus decreasing the linguistic and cultural costs of migration.[6]

Guatemalan Emigration to Mexico[edit | edit source]

  • There has been a Guatemalan presence in Mexico since at least 1895, when the National Census counted 14,004 individuals, however this dropped to 5,820 in 1900.
  • Due to the devastating Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996), many Guatemalans were allowed into Mexico as refugees. Some stayed only temporarily, but others settled down in the country.
  • Recently, many Guatemalans have been immigrating to Mexico rather than the United States. Most settle around Guatemala-Mexico border states to keep in touch with family, but many move to Mexico City where a large community already exists, and some settle around Baja California and US-Mexico border states because of Guatemalan American communities existing in American border cities, some with relatives in the United States. [7]

Records of Guatemalan Emigrants in Their Destination Nations[edit | edit source]

Dark thin font green pin Version 4.png One option is to look for records about the ancestor in the country of destination, the country they immigrated into. See links to immigration records for major destination countries below.

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

There are additional sources listed in the FamilySearch Catalog:

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Spanish immigration to Guatemala", in Wikipedia,, accessed 6 June 2021.
  2. "German Guatemalans", in Wikipedia,, accessed 6 June 2021.
  3. "Demographics of Guatemala", in Wikipedia,, accessed 6 June 2021.
  4. "French Guatemalan", in Wikipedia,, accessed 6 June 2021.
  5. [1] Guatemala-Emigration 2019. Datosmacro
  6. "Guatemalan Immigration to the United States", in Wikipedia,, accessed 6 June 2021.
  7. "Guatemalan Mexicans", in Wikipedia,, accessed 6 June 2021.