Through the Ancestry DNA test, I learned new insights about my genetic background. The test mostly confirmed what I already knew, but a few things I surprised me. The DNA test confirmed my family’s story of being descendants of indigenous tribes in Mexico. Hence, the DNA test said I was 42% Native American. Through the Genetic Communities feature on the website, I was able to pinpoint the geographic location to Mexicans in Western and Central Mexico. According to Ancestry, the Genetic Communities estimate where my ancestors may have lived hundreds of years ago.
One of the most surprising discoveries I made on this feature, was that it located one of my potential genetic communities to two regions in Asia: Armenians and Syrian-Lebanese. These two genetic communities geographically encompass Iraq, Turkey, Syria and a few other countries. This was shocking to me but also coincided with my DNA test, which estimated I was nine percent Middle Eastern. The test also estimated I was 43 percent European.
Because I had limited information about my ancestors, the Ancestry website could only provide a few results. The only document I could find was my great-grandmother’s birth registration from Nayarit, Mexico. My mother tells me that the El Registro Civil in Tizapan—the official registry office for marriage, divorce and birth records—once burned down. On my father’s side, research was even more difficult. My grandfather passed away when my father was still young, and my grandmother passed away before I was born. Thus, most stories and information was never documented but rather passed on orally over generations.
Perhaps one of the biggest lessons I learned, is the understanding of the fear and apprehension immigrants may have while living in a different country. My mother, who is a U.S citizen and has now lived here longer than she has in her home country of Mexico, is still extremely weary and suspect when I ask about the past. I realized that she doesn’t mind if I learn about our family’s history and her immigrant story. But she does fear other’s knowing it. Even though she is now a legal citizen, she—and probably many other immigrants—still live in fear of their freedom being taken away. That was not anything I had considered before, but I noticed it as she began to question what was the purpose of the research I was doing, and who this information was being passed on to.
Previously, I’ve mentioned the duel-identity that develops in being Mexican-American, or in being born in America but having ethnic ties to elsewhere. However, I was unaware of the similar duel-identity challenges my parents faced as well. My parents have now both lived here longer than they have lived in Mexico. When I asked my mother where she feels most comfortable, either here or in Mexico, her response was interesting. She explained that in the U.S she still sometimes feels resentment for the way others look at immigrants or how they undermine people just because they have an accent or look different. Thus, there are times where she feels unwelcomed or different here. She also expressed how that because it has been so long since she’s lived in Mexico, she would find it difficult to fit in there too. She is accustomed to the way of life in America and going back would be a difficult. Hence, she also feels this sense of duel-identity in the U.S.
Although we may have different geographical origins and ethnic backgrounds, I have learned that as a class, and as human beings, we are connected through our fears of being misunderstood and our hopes of achieving success. Much like my parents’ migration to a different country in the hopes of achieving greater success, as a class we are all in college in order to achieve our goals and to succeed in what we are passionate about. Through class discussions on identity and race, it became apparent that collectively we fear being misunderstand and overlooked. I believe this is the same fear and frustration my parents, as immigrants, felt and still feel to some extent.
As a journalist, I hope these insights further inspire me to seek stories of those who feel overlooked, underrepresented and marginalized within a diverse community. The research I have conducted has only further cemented my understanding of the diverse backgrounds we all come from and the vast number of stories there are to tell. The new insights I gathered in talking to my mother also reminded of the importance of talking to others in order to get a better understanding of their feelings and actions. As a journalist, I hope this will push me to seek the stories of those I know nothing about and of those who I think I know about because there is still so much to learn despite whatever preconceived notions I have a person or group. Finding new information about myself only goes to show how much information we have to learn about each other.
From this experience, I hope the news media can learn a few lessons. First, in the context of our classroom, if an individual were to look at all of us they would see a diverse group of people and would assume we all had different stories to tell. Although this assumption is correct, we all have a unique set of experiences and backgrounds, I hope outsiders looking in could also see the similarities that lie within us all. In learning about us individually, I would hope someone would be able to find that we may have overall similar hopes and fears despite our different physical appearances. Thus, I hope the news media learn the importance of empathy and the duty the media has to seek individual and diverse stories that will only further bind us all through understanding one another whether through our similarities or our differences.