EXCLUSIVE: Edward James Olmos on his Mexican Ancestors: “They Coined the Phrase 'Tierra y Libertad'”

If you know very little about your Mexican ancestry—Edward James Olmos wants to help you change that. The Oscar-nominated actor has teamed up with Ancestry.com to promote Ancestry.com/Mexico—a new website that offers the most important Mexican census of the 20th century. Olmos took time out of his busy schedule (he's currently shooting Showtime's serial killer drama, Dexter), to talk to Latina.com about his new partnership with Ancestry.com, why he thinks Mexicans should check out the site and what he learned about his own Mexican roots by visiting Ancestry.com/Mexico. 

Tell us about your new partnership with Ancestry.com!

i joined up with Ancestry.com to bring awareness to something that they're giving to the community that we've never had before in the history of the Internet and the planet—access to the most complete census made in Mexico and the people who lived there until 1930. It's incredible what Ancestry.com/Mexico has to offer. 

How much does it cost for a person who's Mexican to learn about their ancestry on Ancestry.com/Mexico

It's free! And what it has to offer is an understanding of who we are and where we come from. This is like a wonderful detective story that you go into to find out who you are. Unless you've done it, you really don't understand it. I advise everybody to join us and go on to Ancestry.com/Mexico and for free, find out more about yourself! And the more you find out about where you come from, the stronger your self-esteem, your self-respect, and your self-worth. 

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What was the most interesting thing you learned about your own ancestry by visiting the site?

I found out things that have to do with my family: what they owned, how they were as people. You can learn where your family was born, when they got married, their holdings, and what kind of education they had. Some people are going to be profoundly moved by finding out things about themselves that they had no idea about. What used to take literally years of intense research now takes a matter of minutes and is now at our fingertips. I'm very grateful that I was given the opportunity to bring awareness to this. It empowers me to give this information to Latinos. 

When you were researching your ancestry, did you find out that you had any famous relatives?

Yes, I did. I have a great grandfather who was one of the intellectuals who helped forge the Mexican revolution in 1910 and two brothers—my great uncle and great grandfather—they were revolutionary leaders who coined the phrase "Tierra y Libertad." That was fun!

What do you think about the fact that there are more than 50 million Latinos in the United States according to the most recent census?

I have to tell you: we're more like over 60 million at least! Census are conservative guestimations of the population...But this Mexican Census is the most complete census ever taken in Mexican history and for you to have access to it is amazing!