Greece, officially the Hellenic Republic, is a hilly peninsula in southeastern Europe between the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. Greece shares a northern border with Bulgaria and Macedonia covering 51,000 square miles (132,100 square kilometers). Approximately 2,000 islands surround it. Greece is made up of Central Pindus, Thessaly, the Salonika Plain, Macedonia/Thrace, the Peloponnese, the Southeastern Uplands, the Ionian Islands, the Aegean Islands, and Crete.
Ten million people reside in Greece, with the largest populations located in Athens, Thessaloniki (Salonika), Patras, Volos, and Larissa. The linguistically and racially homogeneous nation speaks both Greek and Turkish. Approximately 1.5% of the population is Muslim, 1.5% is Roman Catholic, 1.5% is Greek Catholic, and 1.5% is Jewish.
The Greeks referred to themselves as Hellenes and Greece as Hellas. The Romans referred to these people as Graeci, from which “Greek” derives. Why Did Greek People Come To America? is a topic we will explore more in the Greeks USA.
Early Start Along the Wine-dark Waters
While mass Greek immigration to the United States began in the twentieth century, the history of Greek immigrants in the United States began in 1528 with the landing of Don Teodoro Griego in Florida. Juan de Fuca found the US-Canada channel in 1592 while searching for a northern passage between the Pacific and the Atlantic.
With the promise of land, Greek laborers landed in New Smyrna Beach, Florida in 1768. In 1777, the old colony disintegrated, but many of the colonists relocated to adjacent Saint Augustine and established a prosperous settlement there. New Orleans was the first city in the United States to create a solid Greek community, and by 1866 it possessed the country’s first Greek consulate.
The Great Movement from Europe began in the 1880s when inexpensive manual labor was in need in the United States and favorable immigration laws promoted such migration. During this period, the Greeks were among the last Europeans to arrive in America.
During the 1880s, the majority of Greek immigrants to America came from Laconia in the Peloponnese. In 1890, it was believed that 15,000 Greeks were living in the United States. In the 1890s, numerous Greeks from Arcadia and the Peloponnese immigrated to the United States.
By the late 1800s, the Corinthian currant had become the most exported Greek commodity, and it was essential to the Greek economy. In the 1890s, however, the international demand for raisins plummeted, resulting in the collapse of the trade in raisins and the bankruptcy of many Greek farmers. This caused a significant rise in Greek immigration to the United States.
During the 1890s, Greeks began moving to major urban regions, notably industrial centers in the Northeast and Midwest. The earliest settlers established themselves in Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. In 1920, Lowell, Massachusetts, had the third-largest Greek population of any city in the United States. Greeks also arrived at Haverhill, Lynn, Boston, Peabody, and Manchester in New England. New York was home to the largest Greek population in the twentieth century. Greeks also settled in the Midwestern cities of Detroit, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Youngstown, and Chicago, as well as western Pennsylvania, particularly Pittsburgh.
Before and Now
Greek immigration to America began in 1768 and continues to the present day, with Greek Americans constituting the 34th largest ethnic group and the largest Greek diaspora in America. Depending on how Greek Americans are defined, estimates of the Greek immigrants in America range from 1.3 to 2 million. Learn how and why your Greek ancestors relocated by visiting our website today. Also, learn What Greek Americans Are Called.