Latvians in Florida

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Latvians and Latvian Americans in Florida

The United States is home to nearly 100,000 persons of Latvian decent, perhaps the largest concentration of Latvian immigrants in the world. According to the US Census data, Florida has one of the largest concentrations of Latvian-Americans in the US with 5,384 Floridians reporting Latvian ancestory in the 2000 census.  The table below provides the rank order of the US states with the largest populations of Latvian-Americans:

1. California - 11,000

2. New York - 9,937

3. Illinois - 5,772

4. Florida - 5,384

5. Michigan - 4,730

The true size of the Latvian population in Florida is subject to some debate and interpretation.  Many members of the Latvian-American community of Florida are seasonal residents who live in the state during the winter months, but return to other parts of the US or even Canada where they reside the remainder of the year. This of course means that the true size of the Latvian community of Florida is somewhat difficult to determine depending upon how many members of the community are classified and the actual number may vary from the statistic provided above.

Latvian-American Communities in Florida

While Latvian-Americans are likely to be found in most parts of the state, Latvian-American communities appear to be most concentrated in the St. Petersburg/Tampa area of central-western Florida and in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale urban core of southeast Florida. The Latvian Society of St. Petersburg is at present the most active organized community of Latvian-Americans in the state. Many of its members are seasonal residents who reside in Florida during the winter months, at which time the Latvian Society has a very active schedule of meetings and events. St. Petersburg is also home to an active congregation of the Latvian-Lutheran Church.

According to data from the 2000 Census (the most recent available data), the majority of Florida's Latvian-American community is concentrated in the coastal counties of southeast Florida---which may come as a surprise to those who assumed the St. Petersburg area had the largest population. The majority of the Latvian-American community in southeast Florida are retirees who have relocated from other parts of the US or Canada. The following data profiles the Florida counties with the largest Latvian-American populations in rank order:

1. Palm Beach County, FL - 987

2. Broward County (Fort Lauderdale), FL - 861

3. Pinellas County (St. Petersburg), FL - 726

4. Miami-Dade County, FL - 559

*No other Florida counties were reported as having 100 or more Latvians in the 2000 Census---although smaller numbers of Latvians can be found throughout the state.

For many years Southeast Florida has had both an active Latvian Society and Latvian-Lutheran Church congregation, based in Fort Lauderdale. Faced with a declining membership, the Latvian-American community of SE Florida sold its building in the mid-1990s, but they continue to meet for special functions and religious holidays during winter months. The Latvian-Lutheran congregation of Southeast Florida usually meets monthly in the wintertime. If you are interested in getting in touch with the South Florida Latvia community, please contact Consul Mowell and/or subscribe to the free Consulate email distribution list through which occaisional announcements are sent.

The photo below was taken at a February 2006 meeting of the Latvian-American Society of St. Petersburg, Florida. Address: 1705 9th Avenue North, St. Petersburg, Florida 33713-7136 Phone: (727) 821-9771.

Latvian Immigrants and Recent Arrivals to Florida

Relatively small numbers of recent immigrants from Latvia are found in Florida, primarily concentrated in the larger urban areas of the state. Many of the state's recent immigrants from the Republic of Latvia are members of non-Latvian minority groups such as Russians, Ukrainians or Belarussians. Florida in general (and the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area in particular) is well known for international diversity and the wide range of cultural and national backgrounds claimed by its inhabitants.

Southeast Florida in recent years has been host to a number of athletes from Latvia. The women's basketball team of Florida International University (the public university of Miami) currently has 2 players from Latvia, both of whom were also on the Latvian National Basketball Team. FIU has had other student athletes from Latvia in the past, and Latvians have in fact established a distinguished history on the women's basketball team. Another Latvian athlete was on a full basketball scholarship on the men's basketball team at Broward Community College in nearby Fort Lauderdale. Upon his graduation from BCC in 2006, he received the "Scholar-Athlete Award" and a full basketball scholarship to complete his four-year degree at a private college in another state. In addition to student athletes, the Florida Panthers professional hockey team based in the Fort Lauderdale area had, Janis Sprukts of Riga (of the Latvian national hockey team), as a key player.

Janis Sprukts of the Latvian National Team and formerly, the Florida Panthers.

One of the most interesting and unique tourist attractions in South Florida is the famous Coral Castle. Located in Homestead (just south of Miami), the Coral Castle was built over the course of some 28 years by Latvian immigrant Ed Leedskalnin. Broken hearted over a failed engagement in Latvia, Ed came to Florida and soon began to construct what he regarded as a monument to his lost love. How Ed built the Coral Castle remains something of a mystery, as solid blocks of coral weighing many tons were lifted into place and perfectly balanced without the use of modern heavy equipment. In fact Ed did all of the work himself usually at night to help keep his building techniques secret---though he told local residents he had discovered many of the building techniques of the ancient Egyptians. The structure is so unique and its methods of construction so mysterious, it has been featured on many television shows in the United States including "Thats Incredible" and "In Search Of" as well as in publications such as "Reader's Digest". The Coral Castle and its mysterious origins will be the subject of an upcoming documentary presently being produced for Latvian television.

Ed Leedskalnin's famous "Coral Castle", a popular South Florida tourist attraction

Obtaining Latvian Products in Florida

A limited range of Latvian beverages, candies, foods and other items can usually be found in the larger cities of Florida via international food/gift stores. For example, south Florida has a large immigrant community from Europe and Russia and accordingly has many specialty grocery stores carrying food and other items from other countries. Russian stores in particular are often a good source for obtaining at least some Latvian-made items and Russian stores can be found in most major urban areas of Florida. Try looking in the phone book or online for specialty stores in your area. Given the expense of shipping, the cost of grocery items from Latvia, is often not cheap with Aldaris costing between $2-$3 US per bottle, for example. The following is an incomplete list of some stores which have been reported to carry at least some Latvian products (though it is advisable to call the stores prior to making a special trip). Please inform us of other stores carrying Latvian products in Florida that we do not have listed below:

Broward County:
Touch of Europe Delicatessan: 730 W. Hallandale Beach Blvd., Hallandale, FL (954)458-2961
carry: sprats, sometimes a limited range of deli items similar to Latvian foods

Miami-Dade County:
St. Petersburg Gormet Deli: 17080 Collins Ave., Sunny Isles FL 33160, (305)947-9696
carry: always have several varieties of Latvian beers & usually some soft drinks, candies and other items

The Fresh Market: 18299 Biscayne Blvd. (Sunny Isles/Aventura) (305)466-1786
This is an upscale grocery chain that can be found across Florida & in other states, however contrary to what I have been told, most of their stores do NOT carry Latvian products. This particular store in Aventura SOMETIMES has a limited selection of SOME Latvian beers and candies. You may wish to call your closest "Fresh Market" store & ask them to order your favorite Latvian items.

Kalinka: 18090 Collins Avenue, Sunny Isles Beach, FL 33160-1917 (305)705-9333
carry: some Latvian beverages and limited other food items

Russian Food Service: 169 Sunny Isles Blvd, Sunny Isles Beach, FL (305)944-3400
carry: some Latvian beverages and possibly other items?

The Russian Food Store: 683 NE 79th Street, Miami, FL (305)758-2005
carry: ???

Russian Delicatessan: 1207 17th Street, Miami Beach FL (305)532-0667
carry: ???

Palm Beach County:
Russian & International Food Market: 8903 Glades, Boca Raton FL (561)483-6020
carry: ???

Pinnellas County:
International Deli: 1155 Pasadena Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33707 (727)344-4027
carry: ???

Update: Award-winning Latvian Vodka now imported into US by Florida-based Company:
The website of S & L Imports in Miami Beach lists stores carrying Kurland Vodka:

For Latvian Nationals/Citizens

In the event of an emergency and the Consul cannot be reached OR if you require assistance with visa or passport matters, please contact the Embassy of Latvia in Washington:


Phone: (202) 328-2840       Fax: (202) 328-2860   



***PLEASE NOTE that US nationals who need assistance with visa, passport, or customs matters or with certification of international legal documents should contact the Latvian Embassy in Washington.

***IMPORTANT: Latvian nationals in need of assistance with visa or passport matters in order to enter the US must contact the United States Embassy in Riga.   Please note that visas to enter the US are issued exclusively through the US government/embassy, NOT the Latvian government.

To receive information and news updates of interest to Latvians in Florida, click here to subscribe to the Consulate email distribution list.


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