Venezuelans fleeing to Chicago join its fastest-growing immigrant community

CHICAGO -- The Venezuelan community is believed to be the fastest growing immigrant community in Chicago. Estimates show more than 3,000 are calling Chicago home. New restaurants and businesses have popped up catering to the growing community.

The large exodus by Venezuelans started a little over a decade ago. In the last year, it has skyrocketed with U.S. asylum applications filed by Venezuelans going up 168 percent nationwide. Chaos in the streets of Venezuela and lack of food have prompted many to escape.

Restaurants like Venezuelan Bowl on Lincoln and Bien Me Sabe on Montrose have introduced many Chicagoans to the culture through food, like Arepas, similar to corn cakes prepared with different fillings.
Northeastern Professor Ana Gil Garcia has been keeping track of the growing population. She says, “when I came to Chicago 21 years ago, we were only 60 to 70 Venezuelans. We are still a small community but I think it’s the fastest growing immigrant community in the city right now.”

The Mayor’s Office of New Americans has seen the increase in numbers as well. They also estimate that about 3,000 Venezuelans are in Chicago right now. Many of them have been able to stay through political asylum or work visas. The Mayor’s Office has held several events to help them transition.