english, ensayo, reflexión, relato

Everywhere, nowhere

So I finally did it. I got my DNA tested to see where it comes from. The origin of what I thought was my species Homo sapiens, stems in Africa, that was millenniums ago and since them sub-species or «races» as they are commonly known, spread across the globe and  dominated the planet in what in the evolutionary timescale seems like a blink of an eye.

I was not sure what to expect. I am mexican, but the «Mexican Race» does not exist genetically speaking. 500 years ago, my ancestors where actually many different ethnicities: aztecs, mayans, most likely totonacas (Established in what today is Veracruz and where my mom’s family is from). And they were slaved and raped by the Spanish during the conquest and colonial period.

So I was sure that I would at least, get these 2 regions on my results, as well as Italian, since my grandmother was born to Italian parents who migrated to Mexico from the venetto region many years ago. Granma challenged her parents by marring a handsome dark non-italian, but that is another story.

So, you can imagine my surprise at what  the results showed:


My first thought was: I am from everywhere and nowhere, I am a citizen of the World, almost the entire World. I have roots on ALL THE CONTINENTS. Of course jokes came rapidly to my mind, such as: «If I’m 7% Scandinavian, I can dress up like Lagertha and is not cultural appropriation, Right?» or «So my eyes have always seemed a little slanted cuz I’m 9% Asian».


Reference Populations

The Genographic Project also has this concept called «Reference Populations» which is basically an average of the genetics markers usually carried in populations around the Globe. They calculate it as a mixture of recent (past six generations) and ancient patterns established over thousands of years. I was honestly sad to discover my genetic markers are not similar at all to the ones modern Mexicans have. Starting with the «native american» genetic markers, in Mexico people usually have up to 70% and I only have 18% (I shared this concerns with a fellow Canadian co-worker and now he send me emails as «18% as my new nickname»).

According to the reference population’s genetic markers, I mostly matched with Puerto Rico, even though we only match with 3 markers, but to be honest I reviewed all reference populations and they have between 3 and 5 markers mixed, none SEVEN like myself:

reference pop

So, were ALL my ancestors such travelers and such romantics, that they kept interacting and mixing with other races along their travels?

So many questions popped on my mind, so many doubts. Suddenly I wished I could go further on my Family Tree, since I only have up to my great-grandparents and nothing beyond that.

I also thought that if more people get their DNA tested and most likely find out they are too, a wide mixture of different regions of the world, maybe, just maybe there would not be that much racism.


Maternal Line and Genetics makers

The study also calculate your Genius matches through the analysis of a bit of DNA known as mitochondrial DNA (And also the Y one if you happen to be a male). Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) exists in everyone alive and it’s inherited strictly maternally. So, it seems I am somewhat related to characters such as Nicolas Copernicus, Queen Victoria and Napoleon, among others.

Each of us carries DNA that is a combination of genes passed from both our mother and father, giving us traits that range from eye color and height to athleticism and disease susceptibility.  The DNA is passed on unchanged, unless a mutation—a random, naturally occurring, usually harmless change—occurs. The mutation, known as a marker, acts as a beacon; it can be mapped through generations because it will be passed down for thousands of years.

When geneticists identify such a marker, they try to figure out when it first occurred, and in which geographic region of the world. Each marker is essentially the beginning of a new lineage on the family tree of the human race. Tracking the lineages provides a picture of how small tribes of modern humans in Africa tens of thousands of years ago diversified and spread to populate the world.

By looking at the markers each one of us carry, we can trace our lineage, ancestor by ancestor, to reveal the path they traveled as they moved out of Africa. So in my particular case, it happened like this:


Turns out my halogroup is found in only 0.1% of the people from surveyed so far and its called H1A3A. Halogroup is your brach on the very wide human family tree. All people alive today belong to distinct halogroups based on the sequence genetic markers carried in their cells. People belonging to the same halogroup can trace their descent to a common ancestor and even a specific place where the ancestor may have lived. So, for H1A3A, the next map shows the frequency in indigenous populations all over the world, so it seems it is most common in Scandinavia and Russia, particularly in the Finns and Saami (Lapp) people:



Neanderthal me

What I was most glad to prove was that I’m 1% NEANDERTHAL. This percentage is calculated using a sophisticated analytical method that looks at parts of your DNA that you share with these hominid populations, as well as your complete regional ancestral components.

I know it might seems like no big deal, but you see, I’m a history junkie, and specifically from this particular time of our history: Where Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis shared Eurasia, which is by far the one I’m most passionate about. And now, I found out that so many years ago, 2 very different species of human beings interbreeded and their offspring lately resulted in me: Lucía del Pilar Bolívar Sánchez 99% sapiens 1% neanderthal. I can’t help but wonder How much of that ancestor makes me «ME»?

The science around this calculation is new, for ages it was believed that interbreeding through the species had indeed happened, but that the children of these mixes was sterile (The same way the one from a horse and a donkey are). I’ve read (obviously) a lot about this since I was very little, like Neanderthal by John Darton, Dance of the Tiger by Björn Kurten, Circles of Stones by Joan Dar Lambert and of course the Earth Child series by Jean Auel (I still haven´t forgiven her for what she did to Jondalar but that is another story as well). And it most of these books, the sterile offspring of interbreeding was a cornerstone of the narrative. But now, now we realize we have been wrong all along, and that though neanderthals and denisovians (Lived in Oceania) were different species, they were close enough genetically speaking to result in fertile offspring.

For ages, scientists had suggested that modern humans out-competed or outright killed the Neanderthals and Denisovians. But the new genetic evidence provides support for another theory: Perhaps our ancestors made love, not war, with their European cousins, and the Neanderthal lineage disappeared because it was absorbed into the much larger human population.

Even though Neanderthals and Denisovans are both extinct, modern humanity may owe them a debt of gratitude. A 2011 study by Stanford University researchers concluded that many of us carry ancient variants of immune system genes involved in destroying pathogens that arose after we left Africa.

So, Even if we are not completely sapiens how can some people considers themselves «pure»?  I just hope that this knowledge reaches mankind  one day  and opens their eyes.

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