White Colombians

White Colombians

White Colombians are the Colombian descendants of European and Middle Eastern people. According to the 2018 Census 87.58% of Colombians do not identify with any ethnic group, thus being either White or Mestizo, which are not categorized separately.

The Federal Research Division estimated that the 86% of the population that did not consider themselves part of one of the ethnic groups indicated by the 2005 census was divided into 49% Mestizo or of mixed European and Amerindian ancestry, and 37% White, mainly of Spanish lineage, but there is also a large population of Middle East descent; in some sectors of society there is a considerable input of German and Italian ancestry., percentage that also coincides with that reported in another study. However, due to the fluidity of the term race that predominates in Latin America, this percentage may vary depending on the source and the study conducted. In any case, whites constitute the second largest racial group in the country, after Mestizo.

According to the genetic research of the American genetic portal Public Library of Science (PLOS) in 2015 determined that the average Colombian (of all races) has a mixture of European 62.5%, native Amerindian 27.4%, African 9.2% and East Asian 0.9%. (These proportions also vary widely among ethnicities), overall being the second country surveyed with more European blood proportion, only behind Argentina.

Numbers and distribution

The various racial groups exist in differing concentrations throughout the nation, in a pattern that to some extent goes back to colonial origins. Whites tend to live all throughout the country, mainly in the urban centers and the burgeoning highland and coastal cities. The Paisa Region and Bogotá, the country's capital and largest city metropolitan region, have a large percentage of White Colombians.


Colonial period

The presence of Whites in Colombia began in 1510 with the colonization of San Sebastián de Urabá. In 1525, settlers founded Santa Marta, the oldest Spanish city still in existence in Colombia. Many Spaniards came searching for gold, while others established themselves as leaders of the social organizations teaching the Christian faith and the ways of their civilization. Christian priests would provide education to American Indians.

Immigration from Europe

Basque priests introduced handball into Colombia. Besides business, Basque immigrants in Colombia were devoted to teaching and public administration. In the first years of the Andean multinational company, Basque sailors navigated as captains and pilots on the majority of the ships until the country was able to train its own crews. In Bogota, there is a small colony of thirty to forty families who emigrated as a consequence of the Spanish Civil War.

The first German immigrants arrived in the 16th century contracted by the Spanish Crown, and included explorers such as Ambrosio Alfinger and Nicolaus Federman. There was another small wave of German immigrants at the end of the 19th and beginning of 20th century including Leo Siegfried Kopp, the founder of the famous Bavaria Brewery. SCADTA, a Colombian-German air transport corporation which was established by German expatriates in 1919, was the first commercial airline in the western hemisphere.

In December 1941 the United States government estimated that there were at least 4,000 Germans living in Colombia.

A wave of Ashkenazi immigrants came after the rise of Nazism in 1933, followed by as many as 17,000 German Jews. From 1939 until the end of World War II, immigration was put to a halt by anti-immigrant feelings in the country and restrictions on immigration from Germany.

There were some Nazi agitators in Colombia, such as Barranquilla businessman Emil Prufurt, but the majority was apolitical. Colombia asked Germans who were on the U.S. blacklist to leave and allowed German and Jewish refugees in the country illegally to stay.

Immigration from the Middle East

Colombia was one of early focus of Sephardi immigration. Jewish converts to Christianity and some crypto-Jews also sailed with the early explorers. It has been suggested that the present day culture of business entrepreneurship in the region of Antioquia and Valle del Cauca is attributable to Sephardi immigration.

The largest wave of Middle Eastern immigration began around 1880, and remained during the first two decades of the 20th century. They were mainly Maronite Christians from Lebanon, Syria and Ottoman Palestine, fleeing financial hardships and the repression of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. When they were first processed in the ports of Colombia, they were classified as Turks.

During the early part of the 20th century, numerous Jewish immigrants came from Turkey, North Africa and Syria. Shortly after, Jewish immigrants began to arrive from Eastern Europe. Armenians, Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians and some Israelis continue since then to settle in Colombia.

More than 700,000 Colombians have partial Middle Eastern descent. Due to poor existing information it's impossible to know the exact number of people that immigrated to Colombia. A figure of 50,000-100,000 from 1880 to 1930 may be reliable. Whatever the figure, Lebanese are perhaps the biggest immigrant group next to the Spanish since independence. Cartagena, Cali, and Bogota were among the cities with the largest number of Arabic-speaking representatives in Colombia in 1945.

Ethnic breakdown

White Colombians are mainly of Spanish descent, who arrived in the beginning of the 16th century when Colombia was part of the Spanish Empire. During the 19th and 20th centuries, other European and Middle Eastern peoples migrated to Colombia, notably Lebanese as well as Germans, Italians, Lithuanians, French, and British among others.


The most predominant religion is Christianity, particularly Roman Catholicism. Under 1% practice Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. Despite strong numbers of Christian adherents, 35.9% of Colombians reported that they did not practice their faith actively.

See also

  • Race and ethnicity in Colombia
  • Afro-Colombians
  • Mestizo Colombians
  • Lebanese Colombians
  • History of the Jews in Colombia
  • Spanish Colombian
  • Italian Colombian
  • Immigration to Colombia


Works cited

  • Bushnell, David and Rex A. Hudson. "Racial distinctions". In Colombia: A Country Study (Rex A. Hudson, ed.). Library of Congress Federal Research Division (2010). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.

White Colombians