Monday, May 14, 2012

The Story of Greek Migrations To America

With the Olympics approaching we’re finding ourselves reflecting on our Greek Heritage. It’s a well-known fact that America is considered a melting pot. And as Greeks, we're glad to be one big ingredient in the pot!

Greeks began to settle in America at the end of the 19th century. By the outbreak of the First World War there were about 300,000 Greek immigrants in the United States. The main reason for leaving Greece wa unemployment, low wages and high prices. Most Greeks settled in cities where they tended to find menial, unskilled work.

Greek communities were often self-sufficient with their own churches, coffee house, mutual benefit societies and political clubs. Greek Orthodox religious festivals and traditions were strictly observed. By 1910 both New York and Chicago had Greek-language newspapers. Since 1820 over 655,000 people have emigrated to the United States from Greece.

The 1980s can be characterized as the start of a return to historical memory, a review of the path taken by Greeks in America. This was yet another opportunity for Greek-Americans to honor their unique heritage.

Today Greeks are found in every aspect of American culture far beyond restaurateurs. In fact, here are a few Greeks you might be familiar with:

  • Tina Fey (S&L and Thirty Rock)
  • Melina Kanakaredes (CSI NY)
  • Michael Chiklis (The Shield)
  • Yanni (famous musician)
  • Telly Savalis (Kojak)
  • Jennifer Aniston (Friends)
  • Michael Dukakis (80s presidential candidate)
  • Olympia Dukakis (actress)
  • Nia Vardalos (Big Fat Greek Wedding)
  • Billy Zane (Titanic)

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