Dominicana soy... Wait, I'm also Puerto Rican — pa' que lo sepas! But wait, there's more? Lots more?!
Brown curly hair, full lips, light skin, this girl you see right here is a first-generation Latina, born in Queens, NY to a Dominican mother and Boricua father. Growing up, my culture and pride was heavily instilled in me. I was raised in a part of Queens that was filled with Latinos, so it wasn't until my family and I moved to a less diverse area that people began to try to ask questions, and really figure out "what" I was or where I came from. Most assumed I was either Mexican, black and white, or black mixed with some type of other, which to them explained in their minds why I was light-skinned. But I always answered their question the same way: "No. I'm Dominican and Puerto Rican from x Queens area." Needless to say, they always gave me a confused look and would revert back to, "oh, so you are Mexican? You don't really look it, though." I mean, I just told you I'm not. Also, I was never clear as to what I should look like to them because they had me listed as literally everything possible under the sun. Then they started with the "oh, you're Spanish!" No, not Spanish. "You're Hispanic?" Guess you kind of got it that time?
I remember going home that day, running to my parents asking, "What are we? Why does everyone assume I'm Mexican or everything but what we are?" My parents said it was just ignorance, or that they hadn't seen much diversity throughout their life so they couldn't place me in the box they were used to. Then I told them how the kids would also assume I was probably black and something else. And they said, "Well baby, that's because technically you are all those things. We as Puerto Ricans and Dominicans have African, Spaniard and Taino roots." I remember thinking to myself, okay that's a lot and explains a bit but this is too much and I'm just sticking with what you people have told me all my life I am.
I'll admit, this did spark an intense interest in my Latinidad and finding out more about the make ups of me. Since then, I've had conversations with my grandparents trying to dig deeper into our roots. Unfortunately, it was never super successful. There was a lot I couldn't trace, especially because on my dad's side, my grandmother never really even knew her family. Her parents died when she was only 4-years-old so there wasn't much she could tell me except, "Mija, yo so Boricua."
When my fellow Latina staff members and I decided to look into Ancestry DNA, I couldn't have been more excited. I finally was going to get answers to questions I had pondered for a while. When the results came, I was actually nervous to open the email. What is it going to say? And then, there's they were: 55% European (mostly from Great Britain, Italy/Greece and Iberian Peninsula, in that order), 32% African (mostly from Benin/Togo, Africa North and Cameroon/Congo), 11% Native American and 2% Middle Eastern. Guess the kids at school that year weren't all that off?
I called my mom right away, who proceeded to say, "What?! Seriously? 55% Euro and only 32% African? Honey, you're more black than that!" We laughed. (Mami always taught me to embrace my Afro Latinidad) I had to explain to her that my genetic makeup and hers, and my brothers, and my father's, are obviously all going to be different. That she had to remember I wasn't just pulling DNA from one side, this is coming from both of them.
So what did I get out of this? I wasn't surprised to see that I'm so worldly and have roots all over. But I was surprised that in my European breakdown, the strongest was not Spain but rather Great Britain. And the West Asian percentage was also surprising as I wasn't aware of the strong ties we have to the Middle East. I loved every second of being able to dive deeper into my ancestry and hope my family does theirs so we can find out even more. Does it change how I see myself? No. I will always be that Puerto Rican and Dominican girl from Queens. There's just a whole lot more to adore.