Of Mexican heritage and fiercely proud of it, Eva Longoria Parker always thought her ancestral makeup was mostly Mexican-Indian with a smattering of European blood. But she discovered that the opposite is true, among other surprising revelations, when she agreed to participate in the four-part PBS series Faces of America, which debuts Feb.10.
As one of 12 celebrities of various backgrounds who agreed to have their DNA tested for the series, hosted by historian, author and Harvard scholar Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., Longoria Parker was "a little shaken" to learn that she’s actually 70% European, 27% Asian/indigenous, and 3% African. "Most people don’t realize Mexico has a large slave population," Gates told her, offering a possible explanation for the African percentage.
Gates was able to trace her lineage back to her ninth great-grandfather, who arrived in the New World in 1603, and revealed that her family owned 5000 acres of land in a place called Grulla, initially in New Spain, which became Mexico and then Texas.
But the most surprising revelation came after a computer compared the DNA results of Gates’ dozen guests. Longoria Parker is related to cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who is of Chinese heritage. Ma is 100% Asian, but when you consider that 27% of Longoria Parker's makeup is also, that common ancestor begins to make sense.
"We are a nation of immigrants," reminds Gates, hoping that stories like Longoria Parker's "will help change our sense of the history of the United States. It wasn't an Anglo-WASP history. It was much more complex than that."
Longoria Parker is grateful for the genealogical information. “I want to know where I’m from,” she tells Gates, “because It helps me navigate where I’m going.”