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Using mainly family members for labor and requiring little startup money, the restaurant business was the first stable economic base for Greeks in America.By 1919, one of every three restaurants in Chicago was operated by a Greek.The country was slow to industrialize through the nineteenth century.As late as 1879, more than 80 percent of its people still lived in rural communities.Significant numbers of Greeks did not begin immigrating to the United States until the 1880’s.However, the first Greek immigrants arrived during the 1820’s, when the Greek war of independence from the Ottoman Empire left Greece with a large foreign debt, and the lack of industrialization forced inhabitants to look elsewhere for employment.Significance: Although Greeks have accounted for a relatively small percentage of the total immigrants to the United States, they have formed strong ethnic communities that have kept alive their language, traditions, and religion.Persons of Greek ancestry account for 0.4 percent of the current population of the United States.

Following the end of its war of independence, Greece faced a number of internal economic challenges.Source: Department of Homeland Security, Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, 2008.Upon arriving in the United States, most Greek immigrants found jobs in various industries.Currants were Greece’s chief export product, and their price declined so much that many Greek farmers went bankrupt and were unable to pay their taxes.This poor economic climate prompted many Greeks to emigrate.In Utah and Colorado, Greeks found work in copper and coal mines. Many were victimized by padrones, labor brokers who recruited immigrants for jobs in exchange for the immigrants’ wages.Around the turn of the twentieth century, Greek immigrants began going into business for themselves.By 1918, nearly 130 Orthodox churches had been founded across the country.Local community organizations called kinotis raised the necessary funds to establish the churches.A major unifying force for the Greek community in America was the church.The first Greek Orthodox Church in the United States, the Holy Trinity of New Orleans, was founded in 1864.


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