There were few Latin Americans in London prior to the 1970s when many arrived as refugees escaping oppressive regimes, or as migrant workers. These people mostly took low paid jobs in the hotel and catering industries.
Colombians opened salsa clubs, initially for other Latin Americans, and by the 1990s the salsa craze was spreading London wide.
The majority of Latin Americans now lives in Lambeth. Outlets in the Elephant and Castle shopping centre serve the community while Clapham Common provides a venue for football matches between local teams.
Apart from a few political exiles such as Simón Bolivar in the 19th century, few people from Central and South America visited London.
Considerable numbers only began to arrive in the 1970s as refugees and migrant workers. General Pinochet seized power in Chile, while in Argentina a military government took control and ‘disappeared’ thousands of dissidents.
Uruguay was also under a dictatorship. Exiles from these countries established campaigns in London to publicise the plight of their homelands.
The 1971 Immigration Act granted work permits to people from countries that had not been part of the British Empire. This allowed for larger scale migration of Latin Americans to fill gaps in the London labour market.
Colombians and Bolivians came to work in hotels and catering or as domestics and au pairs. Paid only low wages, these workers often sent money home to support their families.
The Latin American House was set up in Kilburn in 1986 to offer services, advice and a cultural outlet for the community which had grown up in London.
Colombians in London opened salsa clubs for their compatriots from the 1980s. Salsa is a Latin American blend of African rhythms and European melodies which took London by storm in the 1990s.
This prompted the opening of centrally located venues like Bar Cuba and Bar Rumba. Latin American restaurants have introduced tacos, tortillas and burritos onto London menus.
The largest concentration of Latin American Londoners lives in the boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark.
During the early 1990s, a number of Latin Americans purchased inexpensive premises in the Elephant and Castle shopping centre. They turned these into grocery stores, hairdressers and travel agencies, and the centre became a venue for socialising.
Clapham Common is another meeting place. On Sunday afternoons Latin Americans gather there to play and watch football games.
Since 1999 Burgess Park has hosted the Carnaval del Pueblo, an annual summer celebration of Latin American culture and music.
Canning House in Belgravia was founded in 1943 to promote understanding between Britain, Spain, Portugal and Latin America and is home to the Hispanic and Luso Brazilian Council. It hosts Hispanic cultural events and offers language classes and access to a library.
The census says just over 44,000 Latin Americans reside in London, but it is estimated that the true figure is around twice as many. The accidental police shooting of Jean-Charles de Menezes in 2005 focused attention on the Brazilian community.