Top 7 Mexican Ancestry Surprises All Mexicans Should Know

There's a lot more to being Mexican than you think

Imagine a world bursting with color.

Spanish settlers climb Aztec ruins to reach a cathedral for mass. Cobblestone streets fill with indigenous people from the Americas, including soldiers joining the Spanish cause, Africans, both enslaved and free—some of the first conquistadors—and Asians who have traveled on Spanish galleons, some by choice, others in bondage. It’s the first time these populations have been together in colonial Latin America.

The city is Mexico City, and it’s the 16th and 17th century.

Fast forward to today: researchers around the world now have at their disposal worldwide genetic databases and statistics in order to enrich our understanding of ancestry and mixing populations. Secret stories and hidden histories are emerging like never before. If you identify as Mexican, there’s a lot more to the story than you may think.

Think you know what being Mexican means?

Check out these top 7 Mexican ancestry surprises to see where you fit in—you may be shocked to know your family’s history!

1. Jews Arrive in Mexico around 1519

In 1519, Conversos, often called Marranos or “Crypto-Jews”, a term used to refer to Jews who were converted to Catholicism by force, arrived in Mexico. These Jews were also subjected to the Spanish Inquisition. Other events that brought Jews to Mexico are:

  • The Iberian Union: Spain and Portugal are ruled by the same monarch (1580 – 1640), thus allowing freer movement by Portuguese crypto-Jewish merchants into Spanish America
  • The monopoly of the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico is replaced by religious tolerance, thus allowing Jews to openly immigrate to Mexico
  • The crumbling of the Ottoman Empire: Jews come from Europe until the first half of the 20
  • th century

💡 Did you know? 

Today, most Jews in Mexico are there because of this immigration. They are still divided by diasporic origin.

2. Filipinos arrive in mexico during the spanish colonial period (1492) 

The Philippines and Mexico share a long and rich history from 1565 and 1815. Both Filipinos and Mexicans sailed to and from their countries to assist Spain with their trade routes between Asia and the Americas. This was made possible by the sailors, crews, prisoners, slaves, adventurers, and soldiers aboard the Manila-Acapulco Galleon. 

💡 Did you know? 

Asian migrants heading to Mexico during this time were mostly Filipinos, but other Asian slaves, including those captured from war or from the Portuguese were also present.

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3. The Original Peoples of mexico are the indigenous people of mexico 

Indigenous peoples of Mexico. Native Mexicans. Mexican Native Americans. These groups of people are those part of communities that trace their roots back to populations and communities existing in present-day Mexico before the arrival of Europeans.

Mexico acts a connector for North America to Central and South America, and vice versa. Mexico has been a natural bridge for human migration. These movements, coupled with historical events have shaped the genetic makeup and structure of populations in the Americas. 

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Mexico, being such a pivotal cultural and geographic center, has experienced its own rich intermingling and is a huge piece of the puzzle when it comes to the global dispersion of modern humans.

4. Afro-Mexicans Arrive During New Spain's colonial era, and post-independence

Afro-Mexicans, or Black Mexicans are Mexicans who have heritage from sub-Saharan Africa and identify as such. Afro-Mexicans, as a single population, are comprised of descendants from both free and enslaved African individuals arriving in Mexico during Spain’s colonial era. This also includes migrants after independence from New Spain (which became modern-day Mexico) was declared.

The post-independence migrants include Afro-descended people from the following:

  • English, French, and Spanish-speaking countries of Central America and the Caribbean
  • Descendants of enslaved Africans who escaped the Deep South during slavery in the United States and arriving in Mexico
  • Migrants coming directly from Africa

African history and contributions were unfortunately largely excluded from Mexico’s national consciousness until 1992, when the Mexican government officially recognized African culture as one of the three main influences on Mexican culture, with the other two being Spanish and Indigenous. 

💡 Did you know?

By mid-twentieth century Mexican scholars called and advocated for black visibility, which led to the official recognition of such an integral part of Mexican culture and history.

5. The Spanish arrive in the early 16th century, followed by other europeans

Most of the European immigrants arriving in Mexico during the colonial era were from various regions of Spain, but there were other Europeans showing up as well, including:

  • Italians
  • Flemish
  • Greeks
  • French
  • Irish

Many of these European migrants assimilated into the larger Hispanic society. The Portuguese did not.

Once the Spanish took control of the Aztec empire, it wasn’t long before most of the other indigenous tribes in southern Mexico were subjugated to their rule.

💡 Did you know?

One area in southern Mexico who exhibited effective indigenous resistance was Yucatan, which was inhabited by Maya societies. 

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6. Chinese Immigrants arrive in mexico in the 1870s

When Mexican efforts to attract Europeans to settle in the desert north failed, they turned to the Chinese. The earliest mass Chinese immigration in Mexico started in the 1870’s. Mexicans believed they could bring Chinese who worked in similar climates in their own country, to work in Mexico.

Chinese immigration was advocated for because the Chinese were seen as industrious, submissive to authority, and they would work for cheap. At the time, the Mexican indigenous populations were considered weak and lazy.

The largest number of migrants to Mexico from China arrived in two waves:

  • The first spanned from the 1880s to the 1940s
  • The other arrived in the early 21st century

Between 1880 and 1910, as part of Mexico’s effort to modernize the country by building railroads and developing less populated northern states, they decided to allow Chinese migrant workers into the country. 

💡 Did you know? 

Chinese communities arrived and formed in the north of the country, but by the start of the 20th century, Chinese communities could be found in most parts of Mexico.

7. Arab Immigrants Arrive in mexico in the 19th And early 20th centuries

Arab Mexicans are Mexican citizens who have Arab ethnic lineage, and who identify as Arab. Some of these Arabs are of Lebanese or Palestinian descent. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, approximately 100,000 Arabic speakers settled in Mexico during this time.

Arabic and Spanish collided in Mexico and became a mixture of the two languages, spoken more widely than the original Arabic. This is further emphasized by the high rate of inter-ethnic marriage in the Arab community, which exists outside of religious affiliation. It is not uncommon in the community to have only parent who has Arab ethnicity. Mexico’s Arab community experienced a marked shift away from Arabic. Spanish became the first language, especially those of younger generations.

💡 Did you know? 

Arab influences on cuisine are also noteworthy—the fusion between Arab and Mexican food has influenced Yucatecan cuisine significantly.

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Discover Where Your Ancestors Came From

Ancestry DNA can tell you what regions your ancestors came from and which traits are specific to only you. By comparing DNA samples from all over the world, you can zero in on your family’s past, learning where they migrated from, when they moved locations, along with other migration patterns.

You are here today because your ancestors, my ancestors, all our ancestors—conquered unbeatable odds (literally, drought, famine, and the Ice Age could have wiped humans out), so they could pass their genes on to subsequent generations… to us.

For more information concerning DNA testing and how to select the best form of testing for your needs, click HERE.

There is a treasure trove of information waiting to be uncovered.

[Photo by Evgeniy Alyoshin on Unsplash]