What has become more evident through this process is how much my identity was/is formed by my cultural upbringing and family.
I explored the topic of my ethnicity and identity in this post through a partnership with HISTORY for their upcoming reimagined miniseries, ROOTS. They gave me the opportunity to really find out exactly “what I am” and to further dive into my identity. I took the 23andMe DNA test and below are my overall results…
The actual results are far more detailed and specific but this is the general composition of my DNA. For me, the most surprising part of these results is the almost equal split of the African & European ancestry. I assumed it would be a much higher African percentage based on what I look like.
So in a sense, anyone who has ever assumed I was half black and half white was actually genetically accurate. I’m technically bi-racial, which is an odd revelation. It’s not like I’m going to start identifying as such, but now I know why every time I met someone who was bi-racial I thought they were Dominican. Ha! I guess it’s all in your perception and your perception is base on your individual experiences.
Another surprise for me was that the European portion wasn’t just from Spain. I assumed that since the Spanish conquered Dominican Republic, my ancestors must all be from there. But while Iberian (people from Spain & Portugal) was indeed the highest percentage represented, there was also DNA for Italian, British and Irish ancestry. It makes me realize that it’s not all cut and dry and while the Spanish conquered Dominican Republic for themselves, there were clearly other European settlers on the island. It’s also interesting to note that my African ancestry is almost entirely from West Africa; the part of Africa closest to Dominican Republic, which makes so much sense. Finally, my third highest percentage comes from Native Americans, which would represent the native Taino people of Dominican Republic.
There were definitely some surprises in my results, but overall they are completely logical. What has become more evident through this process is how much my identity was/is formed by my cultural upbringing and family. I was brought up Dominican, so I am Dominican. While I acknowledge my genetic makeup and ancestry and find it all quite fascinating, I do not feel any more or less Latina than before the process. What I do feel is a greater understanding of how complex Latinos are and more educated on our history. This is why we are diverse and why I want people to open their eyes to our diversity, especially Latinos from the Caribbean. We can be white, tan, brown, black and everything in between, we have blue, green and brown eyes, straight, wavy, kinky and curly hair. We do not all look like Jennifer Lopez or Ricky Martin, we look like me, we look like everyone because our ancestors have a little bit of everything mixed in. I am ONE person with DNA from FIVE out of SEVEN continents on our planet…think about that for a second?! Because I just did and it’s blowing my mind. If that’s not diversity, I don’t know what is!
All and all, this has been an eye-opening experience and a dialogue I’ve been really happy to have with you. I think it’s important to know where you come from and have a sense of how deep your roots go. I have a stronger sense of my identity now and my African and European ancestors. I would love to hear your thoughts on it all, so please leave a comment below and thanks for listening!
Thank you to HISTORY and 23andMe for partnering on this post. @RootsSeries is premiering this Monday, May 30th at 9pm ET on @History. To learn more, follow ROOTS on Twitter (#ROOTS) and Facebook, and click here to find out more.