Latino Studies Venezuelan Americans
Irina Troconis, Ilan Stavans
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 June 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0081


The term “Venezuelan Americans” refers to US citizens who trace their heritage, or part of their heritage, to Venezuela. Traditionally a “receiving country,” welcoming immigrants from all over the world, Venezuela has slowly become a “sending country,” with the United States being the preferred destination of many of its emigrants. The significant wave of migration toward the United States started during the 1980s, when Venezuelans experienced economic crisis and political discontent as a result of the decline of the oil prices. The wave of migration steadily increased during the 1990s, when the country witnessed two coups, a presidential impeachment, another major financial crisis, and the election of Hugo Chávez. Chávez’s regime brought along important changes to the traditional party system and led to an environment of economic and institutional crisis, personal insecurity, and political violence that forced many Venezuelans to look for a better life in countries such as the United States, Canada, and Spain. By 2000, Venezuelans ranked second as the fastest-growing Latino population subgroup in the United States, increasing to more than twice its size by 2010, which shows that, under Chávez’s regime, the migration wave suffered an unusual increase. In 2011, a record number of 6,853 Venezuelans obtained the American citizenship. Nevertheless, Venezuela is one of the countries with the lowest rate of naturalization, because many of its emigrants see their stay in the United States as provisional. The US Census Briefs from 1990, 2000, and 2010 consistently characterize the Venezuelan immigrant population as typically young and well educated, with training in skilled jobs and a high average annual income. They are located mainly in the South and more specifically in Florida. Only recently has this population received attention from sociological studies and academic articles; most research on the topic of migration and ethnicity in the United States has traditionally focused on Mexican and Cuban immigrants, who constitute the majority of the Latino population. Moreover, studies from the 1970s and 1980s and some from the 1990s group Venezuelans under the category of “South Americans,” limiting access to information specifically related to this population. Although there are now more articles and chapters that focus exclusively on Venezuelan Americans, the information available about this group is scarce and dispersed. This article’s purpose is to construct a bibliography that brings together the most-important sources available on the topic. The hope is that this article will help current research on Venezuelan Americans and will encourage more research to be done in areas where important information is lacking.

General Overviews and Related Articles

In their study of the Hispanic population of the United States, the authors of a number of encyclopedias and edited collections have dedicated a chapter to Venezuelan immigrants. Bean and Tienda 1987 offers a profile of the Hispanic population from 1960 to 1980. Although great emphasis is put on the study of Mexican immigrants, it includes relevant information regarding the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the Venezuelan immigrant population, as well as data on the process of immigration and different aspects of their lifestyle. This source is important because it is one of the few that explicitly talk about the Venezuelan population in the United States during this time. Cordova and Pinderhughes 1999 uses the 1990 US Census to discuss in general terms the migration patterns, demographic characteristics, integration, and adaptation of Venezuelans and other South Americans. In these works, the information regarding Venezuelan immigrants is relevant but peripheral. More recent works, however, talk exclusively about the Venezuelan immigrant population. Such is the case with Marrow 2005, Sanchez 2011, Brown and Patten 2013, and Kte’pi 2013. These four works offer a profile of the Venezuelan population in the United States, including age, gender, education, employment, demographic distribution, traditions, etc. Helen Marrow’s work is based mostly on the information obtained from the 2000 US Census, while Magaly Sanchez’s article uses primarily the “American Community Survey” of 2007, and Anna Brown and Eileen Patten use the tabulations from the “American Community Survey” of 2011. Kte’pi 2013 provides a succinct history of the Venezuelan migration waves and information regarding religion, music, and traditions of the Venezuelan American community. Dixon and Gelatt 2006 notes the changes that the South American population in the United States has gone through from 1990 to 2000 in regard to different demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. Venezuelans are mentioned several times in this report and are compared to the populations of other countries. This report is useful if one wants to see the ways in which Venezuelan Americans differ from other Hispanic populations, and it also gives important information regarding migration patterns, population growth, etc. Finally, Subero 2012, written by a journalist, is currently the only book written exclusively on the topic of Venezuelans in the United States, and it includes interviews of Venezuelans living both legally and illegally in the United States and Canada, along with important data obtained from the 2010 US Census and other official statistics. This work is a useful introductory text to the topic, and it gives the reader access to the real-life experiences of Venezuelan Americans, which the other works do not show.

  • Bean, Frank D., and Marta Tienda. The Hispanic Population of the United States. Population of the United States in the 1980s. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1987.

    An overview of the Hispanic population in the United States from 1960 to 1980. It includes demographic and socioeconomic profiles, migration patterns, geographical distribution, etc. Venezuelans are included among the populations studied and are compared to other Hispanic groups.

  • Brown, Anna, and Eileen Patten. Statistical Profile: Hispanics of Venezuelan Origin in the United States, 2011. Washington, DC: Pew Research Hispanic Center, 2013.

    A statistical profile that compares the demographic, income, and economic characteristics of the Venezuelan population with the characteristics of all Hispanics and the US population overall. It is based on tabulations from the 2011 American Community Survey by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center.

  • Cordova, Carlos B., and Raquel Pinderhughes. “Central and South Americans.” In A Nation of Peoples: A Sourcebook on America’s Multicultural Heritage. Edited by Elliott Robert Barkan, 96–118. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1999.

    An overview of South American immigration since the 1800s. It mentions the impact of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 on the migration of working-class and middle-class South American families. It discusses and compares in general terms the migration patterns, demographic characteristics, integration, and adaptation of Venezuelans and other South Americans.

  • Dixon, David, and Julia Gelatt. “Detailed Characteristics of the South American Born in the United States.” Migration Information Source (1 May 2006).

    A report that examines the foreign-born from South America. It draws primarily on data from the 2000 US Census and includes and compares social, economic, and housing profiles of different South American countries, including Venezuela.

  • Kte’pi, Bill. “Venezuelan Americans.” In Multicultural America: A Multimedia Encyclopedia. Edited by Carlos E. Cortés, 2134. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2013.

    A succinct history of the Venezuelan migration wave, along with information regarding education, religion, music, and traditions of the Venezuelan American community and a list of prominent Venezuelan Americans.

  • Marrow, Helen B. “Venezuelan Americans.” In Encyclopedia Latina: History, Culture, and Society in the United States. Vol. 4, Radio–Zorro. Edited by Ilan Stavans, 254–255. Danbury, CT: Grolier, 2005.

    Brief overview of the causes behind the migration of Venezuelans to the United States. It includes data from the 2000 US Census regarding the demographic distribution, education, and professional occupation of Venezuelan Americans.

  • Sanchez, Magaly. “Venezuelan Immigrants.” In Multicultural America: An Encyclopedia of the Newest Americans. Vol. 4. Edited by Ronald H. Bayor, 2191–2228. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2011.

    This chapter explores the possible explanations at the root of the current flux of migration of Venezuelans to the United States. It gives a profile of the Venezuelan immigrant population and includes a table that shows a chronology of Venezuelan migration. Finally, it explores how Venezuelans are negotiating their identity and integrating into American society.

  • Subero, Carlos. La alegría triste de emigrar: Venezolanos que se fueron a Norteamérica. Caracas, Venezuela: Editoriales Varias, 2012.

    A journalistic work that focuses on the Venezuelans living in the United States and Canada. It combines information drawn from the 2010 US Census and other similar sources, with twenty-five testimonies of emigrants. A good introductory text, currently available only in Spanish.

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