This is an installment in Suzette Andujar’s column “As I Was Saying”
“What are you?”
Throughout my life I have been asked that question.
When I was a little girl, I never understood what it meant. What am I? I know I was born on Earth but do they think I’m from another planet? (“Naboo” anyone?)
It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realized that those people just wanted to know what ethnicity I am. I’ve gotten a variety of guesses: Indian, African, African/Caucasian and Dominican.
I’m actually Puerto Rican.
Two years ago a cashier asked what I was and before I told him he guessed Indian. He didn’t just guess; he told me that I was, in fact, Indian. No lie. He looked right at me, pointed and said, “You are Indian. You have to be.”
I was flattered because Indian women are gorgeous (uh, hello Aishwarya Rai!), but I had to say, to his disbelief, that I was an arroz-con-pollo eating, salsa-dancing, chupacabra-denying Puerto Rican.
And it got me wondering. How Puerto Rican am I? I mean DNA/historically-wise. It’s no secret that Puerto Rico was a melting pot of races. What made me up?
I became obsessed with television shows like “Who Do You Think You Are” and my favorite, “Finding Your Roots.” It was amazing that celebrities got to go into historic records, see ancestors and learn their stories. In one episode of my favorite show, a rapper named Nas wanted to learn more about his ancestors. He expected to hear a lot about Africa but when they tested his DNA he was told that he came from Vikings! His reaction was funny, “Nah, fa real?!” I signed up for ancestry.com that night.
It was a free two-week trial and I dove into my mother’s family. She was born and raised in Puerto Rico so there were many records I could look through. I got all the way back to the 1700s and my family was still deeply rooted in the territory. It was around that era where I discovered that I came from the Taino (Arawak); the indigenous people of Puerto Rico. How amazing!
The records became harder to find and my two weeks were almost up, but I found one record. It was for a boat ticket that read “Arrivals from Spain.” This was my “nah, fa real?!” moment. I couldn’t get access to the world records because that wasn’t part of the free trial and I wasn’t going to pay for it (uh, college student!), but I’m dying to find out who the ticket was for. Ancestry.com also offers the DNA test and I’m saving up for it. It would be cool to know because the next time a person asks me, “What are you?” I can reply, “Well apart from being from Naboo, I’m actually 10 percent this and 20 percent that…”
So what are you? Would you ever be interested in finding out? Try it sometime. You may have your own “Nah, fa real?!” moment.