In 1948, civil war in Columbia caused many to pack up and relocate to the United States. The conservative party, which favored a central government, and the liberal party, which favored a weakened central government with more regional governments, led to many years of civil unrest and war. Between 1948 and 1960, 200,000 to about 300,000 Columbians perished. This time period was known as “La Violencia," during which military coup after military coup fought to terminate the leaders of the opposing party.
At this point, the economy was weak and a National Front was started among the two parties. Columbians were forced to do anything they could to make money and rebuild their economy. They turned to el narcotrafico, drug trafficking. Although citizens were gaining economic stability, politicians fought to end such illegal acts. Another streak of wars was triggered, this time it was the guerillas and drug traffickers versus the Colombian armed forces.
In 1989, through the war on drugs, the United States supplied the Columbian government with funds and equipment to help anti-war operations. (12) The U.S. offered 1.6 billion dollars in aid to the Columbian government, with hopes that this money would give them the necessary means to defeat the guerilla-controlled, coca-growing regions of Southern Columbia. (13)
Columbians began relocating to the United States in order to escape this violence. Immigration to the U.S. continued as economic chaos and guerrilla drug trafficking persisted in Columbia. (12) Jesus Ramos explains the situation in Colombia that caused him to immigrate to the U.S.: “People leave their country for economic problems which have their origin in violence." (14)
Many Columbians came to Miami to escape the illegal drugs and violence present in Columbia. However, it was common for drug traffickers to also immigrate to Miami since it is the closest port, and therefore the largest transmission point for drug trafficking. This is illustrated by the popular 1990s television show Miami Vice, which was based on two counter-narcotics agents fighting drug traffickers. (15) According to a census taken in 2000, Columbians represent 5% of the 11% of South Americans who help make up the 1,000,000 Latinos in Miami . (16) However, the census only accounts for those Columbians who are legal U.S. citizens. In February 2000, the Miami Herald stated that they discovered approximately 50,000 undocumented immigrants in the area just trying to live in peace. (13)