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Interpreting the Evidence

Report on Centro Colombiano, 1939

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    The Great Depression and WW II (1929 - 1945)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:

    Written Document

  • Regions:

    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Report on Centro Colombiano, 1939 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Report on Centro Colombiano, a New York City organization for Colombian immigrants, conducted by A. M. Mendez, reporter for the New York City Unit of the Federal Writers' Project, January 4, 1939. From Spanish Book—Life Histories (Part 1).
Historical Context
During the Great Depression, people came to New York from many countries for employment.  Those who had the capability to help others from their home country or ethnic group set up organizations to assist those in need. One of these organizations was the Centro Colombiano.  

After World War II, the policies of Colombia attempted to stimulate the immigration of European agriculturalists and skilled workers to the country. Procedures for the admission of refugees were also established. However, these policies remained largely unimplemented, partly because the country was immersed in an undeclared civil war known as La Violencia (1948–1966). Since the 1960s, immigration into Columbia has remained primarily regional, with labor migrants coming overwhelmingly from Venezuela and Ecuador. The 1991 constitution set a favorable basis for immigration, but migration levels remained low due to widespread insecurity.        

In the last decade, large-scale emigration from the country has marked Colombian society, with roughly one of every ten Colombians now living abroad.  Internally, the country has been confronted with a major humanitarian crisis, as forced displacement has reached alarming proportions during the same period.  Political, social, and economic problems, coupled with widespread political insecurity, have fueled both voluntary and forced emigration.     

Many Colombian immigrants to the United States settled in the Jackson Heights area of Queens in New York City. The number of immigrants from Colombia has risen over the years.
Essential Question
How do immigrant populations support themselves within a new society?
Check for Understanding
Identify the main idea of this document and explain how this organization supported immigrants.
Historical Challenges
Research the Colombian community in the United States, particularly the community’s presence in Jackson Heights, Queens. Why did Colombians settle there? What are their contributions to the economy of the area? Take note of the multicultural landscape that Queens has become.
Research the relationship between the United States and Colombia. What role does illegal drug trafficking play? How might this affect Colombians living here?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: Research the number of immigrants from Colombia to the United States for each decade since 1930. Make a bar graph of your findings.
English Language Arts: Create a set of minutes for a meeting of Centro Colombiano.