Many Americans are used to describing their heritage in terms of fractions — half this, a quarter that, an eighth of the other.
But if you asked actress and producer Eva Longoria about her identity, she’d say “Texican,” to describe her Mexican-American family from Corpus Christi, Texas.
When she took a DNA test for the PBS program Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates Jr., the results showed her a much more complex story.
Good-Bye Spain, hello wild west
was able to help trace the Longoria family back to 16th-century Spain, when a dispute over land inspired Lorenzo Longoria to travel to the New World.
Over 150 years later, in 1767, the king of Spain gave Pedro Longoria 4,000 acres of land in what is now Texas, just north of the Mexican border.
After the Mexican-American War in 1848, her ancestors endured more conflicts over land with Anglo-American ranchers. Such an argument resulted in the stabbing death of her great-great-grandfather Ponciano Longoria in 1913.
Was Dad right all along?
Despite generations of history on this continent, Longoria said her father always calls her family Spanish.
“When I go to Spain, I feel a connection, but I feel more at home in Mexico — maybe just because it’s closer and it’s what I know,” the Desperate Housewives alumna told Gates in an interview excerpted from his Faces of America book in The Huffington Post.
“In my family, I am the one who claims Mexico ancestry the strongest. Every time they ask, ‘Where are you from?’ my dad says, ‘Spain.’
‘Dad, we’re from Corpus Christi.’ We’re not from Spain; we’re from Texas.
He would always talk about our ancestors, and I never really understood that when I was younger.”
Surprising DNA test results
The DNA test revealed that both Longorias were correct. According to Eva’s genetic markers, she is:
- 70 percent European
- 27 percent Native American
- 3 percent African
Regarding her DNA results, Longoria told Gates:
“I thought the percentages would be flipped. I mean, the Spanish conquistadors were the minority when they conquered and eventually overtook the society of Aztecs and Mayans. I guess I thought I would be a little more native, because, like I said, I feel closer to Mexico. But this makes sense.”
Another surprise revealed on that Faces of America episode: Because the Native Americans descended from people who migrated from Asia about 16,000 years ago, Longoria found that she is actually distantly related to Chinese-American cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
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