The 1,900-mile long border separating the United States from Mexico has been an avenue through which millions of Mexican immigrants have transited over the past one hundred years, giving the southwestern U.S. in particular a decidedly Hispanic flavor. In addition, U.S. control over the island-nation of Puerto Rico, seized from the Spanish during the Spanish-American War of 1898, has provided many Puerto Rican nationals an entry into the United States, with heavy concentrations in New York and surrounding environs. Similarly, very large Cuban-American populations, especially in Florida and New Jersey, are a product of waves of immigration resulting from communist control of that island-nation and the vast economic disparity between Cuba and the U.S. These three Hispanic ethnicities, for many years, were the most visible symbol of Hispanic culture in the United States. They are not, however, the sole representation of such cultures. Over the years, especially since the civil wars and other political strife that dominated Central America during the 1980s, immigration from Latin America has been represented also by refugees and migrants from El Salvador and Guatemala, with smaller numbers from Honduras and Nicaragua. These immigrants, represented both by that region’s myriad indigenous tribes, such as the Mayan of Guatemala and southern Mexico, and the more ethnically diverse mixed-race tribes of Nicaragua, El Salvador and elsewhere, have made their own contributions to American culture, especially in the areas of cuisine, sports, art, and dance. The prevalence of professional baseball players in the United States from Latin America and the Caribbean, including the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Cuba, has injected an unprecedented level of ethnic diversity into what was originally a uniquely American endeavor. Cuban-American populations in Florida and New Jersey have influenced those states’ politics, especially with regard to the politically-sensitive issue of U.S.-Cuba relations, which in turn has influence national policy and perspectives. In short, immigration from throughout the Americas has contributed greatly to the diversity of the Hispanic influence in the United States. Economically-motivated immigration from South America, combined with flight from autocratic regimes, has been similarly, if to lesser degrees, influential on Hispanic cultures in the United States. Migrants from perpetually-strife-torn Colombia, for instance, have increased the level of ethnic and cultural diversity in Florida (as did the enormous influx of Haitian immigrants during the late 1980s), and Central American influences are felt throughout Los Angeles County, with Salvadoran communities competing with Guatemalan communities for social influence.
Large influxes of immigrants from Central America and, to a much lesser extent, from South America (where economies are much larger and more technologically advanced) have definitely altered the complexion of Hispanic culture in the United States, which was born of immigrant experiences in the first place.