Filipino-Mexican-American singer Jasmine Villegas
Asian Latin Americans are Latin Americans of East Asian,Southeast Asian, South Asian descent. Asian Latin Americans have a centuries-long history in the region, starting with Filipinos in the 16th century. The heyday 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 and Koreans. Brazil is home to the largest population of Asian Latin Americans, at some 1.5 million.The highest ratio of any country in the region is 5%, 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.
The first Asian Latin Americans were Filipinos who made their way to Latin America (particularly Mexico) 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, and others. In the 19th century, several thousand Indian labourers of Tamil descent from the Indian French colonial settlements of Madras, Pondichéry, Chandernagor and Karikal where brought to French Guiana, Guadeloupe & Martinique to work in plantations.
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, and some Hmong went to French Guiana (which may or may not be considered part of Latin America depending on the definition) after the Vietnam War.
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% of the population there, but one source places the number of all Peruvians with at least some Chinese ancestry at 4.2 million, which equates to 15% of the country's total population.
Most who are of Japanese descent reside in Brazil, Peru and Argentina, while significant populations of Chinese ancestry are found in Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Panama, Peru, 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 Colombia, Ecuador and various other Latin American countries. The largest Korean communities are in Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, Mexico and Argentina. There are around 10,000 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. Chile, Panama and Venezuela also have small Asian Indian communities.
Japanese Peruvians have a considerable economic position in Peru. Many past and present Peruvian Cabinet members are ethnic Asians and former president Alberto Fujimori is of Japanese ancestry. Brazil is home to the largest Japanese community outside of Japan, numbering about 1.5 million.
- Canada - 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.
- Japan - Japanese Brazilian immigrants to Japan numbered 250,000 in 2004, constituting Japan's second-largest immigrant population. Their experiences bear similarities to those of Japanese Peruvian immigrants, who are often relegated to low income jobs typically occupied by foreigners and, as with other immigrants, are vulnerable to the Yakuza.
- 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. In 2006 the Census Bureau's American Community Survey estimated them at 154,694, while its Population Estimates, which are official, put them at 277,704. Some notable Americans of Asian Hispanic/Latino heritage include Franklin Chang-Diaz, Carlos Galvan, Kelis, and Chino Moreno.