The Guatemalan American population in the USA in 2009 was estimated by the US Census Bureau at 1,081,858 (+/-36,453). Guatemalans are the 2nd largest national subgroup of Central Americans in the USA (after Salvadorans).
Guatemalan-Americans tend to concentrate mainly in Greater Los Angeles, followed by the New York metropolitan area, Baltimore-Washington area, Greater Boston, and San Francisco Bay Area. Also Texas and Pennsylvania have very rapidly growing Guatemalan populations.
As of 2009, the largest Guatemalan communities were in the following metropolitan areas:
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside CSA: 249,000 (4.3% of Hispanics)
- New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island CSA: 85,000 (2.1%)
- Washington DC-Baltimore CSA: 53,000 (7.4%)
- Houston-Baytown-Huntsville CSA: 40,000 (2.0%)
- San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland CSA: 39,000 (3.8%)
The states with the highest number of Guatemalans are as follows:
History of Guatemalans in the USA
Guatemalans have emigrated to the USA since the 1930s and 1940s. Along with other Central Americans such as Costa Ricans, they first arrived by way of Mexico and settled in urban areas like Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Houston, New York City and San Francisco.
The intensification of the Guatemalan Civil War during the 1970s and 1980s led to an influx of tens of thousands of Guatemalan refugees into the United States via Mexico, via both legal and illegal means. Guatemalan refugees became an important political and economic influence on seeking an end to the civil war, which finally came about in 1996. They also organized to change policies of the Mexican government in dealing with Guatemalan immigrants’ legal status, their experience in Mexico, and difficulties of Guatemalans in Mexico immigrating to the US.
During the Guatemalan civil war, there was massive destruction of rural villages and farmlands. In the 1996 peace accords, there was a free exchange of civilian land to favor the rise of corporate agribusinesses with the drop of prices of local agricultural products. This heavily affected farm workers and inhabitants of the countryside and they had to immigrate into the US through Mexican territory. After September 11, 2001, Mexican officials made new laws through an initiative limiting immigration visas and other repressive measures on the southern Mexican border through Plan Sur, a binational treaty with the Guatemalan government.