Recently, I got a DNA analysis done for myself and my mother to get a genetic view of the family history. I couldn’t do my father’s DNA because he still lives in Cuba, and is thus unavailable. This is my attempt at digesting what the raw percentages and data could mean. It is only my guess–I am not a geneticist–though I have spent years cultivating my historical knowledge of potential ancestry. It’s been brought to bear in unexpected ways.
For starters, I will not be sharing the specific percentages or information as it is available to me online. I did that on Facebook and that’s enough exposure from me. You’ll hear broad details sufficient for this analysis.
Secondly, a little background about myself: I was born in Cuba and so has every generation that we can remember, except one. My maternal gradfather’s grandfather is remembered to have come to Cuba in the Spanish colonial army with his brother. They came from Catalonia and had deep roots in the area. My two grandmothers on either side were fair and green-eyed, which in Cuba was known as being gallega/o–that is, from the province of Galicia. My paternal grandfather had “Moorish” features. With this knowledge, I assumed that my heritage was strongly Iberian with branches weaving in French/Italian and Roman even further back, Celtiberian or Proto-Celt before their migration to the British Isles, and North African or Berber from the Islamic conquest. That is to say, I was Spanish as pretty much every “white Latin” person is Spanish.
Third, why it matters. I live in colonial lands stolen from indigenous people through an ongoing genocide over the last 500-plus years. I am pagan and a witch, which would have gotten me damned and burned in the Inquisition. In many ways, I stand against my ancestors in social justice, ecological, and spiritual matters. This can create turmoil or a unique opportunity for present and ancestral healing. As I’ve become increasingly aware of this–and you can read my progress through this blog, from the beginning–knowing my heritage precisely has become even more relevant than before. What is the story of my people that could help me see them in a different/better light?
Turns out, general expectations for my heritage were proven accurate. More than anything else, I am Iberian. Not just Spanish, but also an almost equal amount Portuguese, which suggests my family was involved in the few times the two Crowns merged in history. That is inevitable, especially for landed gentry and professional knights/warriors. As the Empire expanded, the people of means went in different directions. Not necessarily the rich, but more specifically those who weren’t serfs and could engage in these opportunities.
Beyond this, there was a noticeable dollop of French and Italian, which is, again, to be expected in the history of Spain. Not only was the Spanish Empire involved with the French at many times in history, but they also played a key role in the history of the Holy Roman Empire, which ruled over the northern Italian city-states that would one day become Italy.
For good measure, there was a few percentages of African, mostly from the slave coast that Spain partook in. It would be unrealistic not to have this represented, given that Cuba became was the center of the Caribbean slave trade and continues to have a large and prosperous black population. In fact, in the recent history of revolutions pre-Castro, non-white ethnic identities were celebrated and propelled to power through revolutionary heroes and dictators alike.
What surprised me was the greater amount of Native American heritage. Three times more than the African and even more than the French or Italian genes. Of course, considering the history of Cuba, this becomes perplexing at least somewhat. I can understand the 2% Andean heritage, but how do we count 7% North/Central/Caribbean ancestry? The Spanish destroyed the native populations of Cuba and the other isles. Though research is ongoing, only really the Taino people of Hispanola and Puerto Rico survived well enough to make an impact in the mitochondrial DNA. Even then, the genocide is dating to the very beginning of the colonial period, which would demand a great deal of native ancestors to survive in order to add up to 7% today. As far as I can tell, there wasn’t any significant mixing between the islands and the North American mainland–except for the 200 or so refugees that fled Florida into Cuba, many of whom died off due to disease in Habana shortly after arrival. Even then, they are 80 years before significant traces of their DNA could amount to much in myself.
I mentioned I also ran the tests for my mother, and that revealed a little bit of strangeness too.
For starters, I lost a great deal of genetic heritage that I got from her, most notably the Turkey/Caucasus Mnts. and the North African Berbers. To put that into perspective, on top of the obvious DNA markers I should have inherited from my father’s side, I had about 4% more from my mother. I got none of it, period. With how much I love and appreciate the art, culture, and history of Al-Andalus, this felt like a blow to me.
Knowing my mother’s DNA ancestry, I could now see I doubled the French, Italian, and Native American – North/Central/Caribbean through my father’s side. I lost a bit from that Andean ancestor, however, which means it comes only through her side. I am also slightly less (2%) Iberian than her.
Over all, it seems that the combination of my mother and father’s genes strengthened specific heritages and reduced smaller/trace genetic elements from others. This is perhaps most commonly seen in the combination of recessive genes from heterozygous carriers. Made for a purpose, if you will, which stacks up when I compare myself with my half-brother and cousins: all of which are darker of skin and eye color than me. That is, they represent the “main look” of my family on both sides.
What does this means for me spiritually?
It focuses my search for ancestral spiritual origins. I’ve drawn strongly from the Galician sides of my family trees to manifest who I am today. In fact, a great deal of what I have managed to preserve of country and hereditary magic comes from one of those two Galician branches.
While intriguing, as far as timing and historical coincidence, I am certainly not using the little bit of native DNA as an excuse for anything. Nor should anyone! I just want to know where I stand in the world, and to whom I owe a debt of blood and tradition.