Feb 9, 2013

From Confucius to me

A few days ago I heard a Confucius quote on a TV show. Submerged in my own ignorance, I started wondering whether he really existed or not, if there was any evidence of his historicity. As I wikied him I learned that there is absolutely no doubts that he actually did exist, but that his genealogy is the largest and best documented of any person in the world. His genealogy includes about two million people after 83 generations and spanning more than 2500 years!

I thought, how cool it would be to know my own genealogy back 25 centuries or more: where would this take me? Back to the deep jungles of the Caribbean Andes, or to an ancient Iberian? Maybe somewhere else in the world far and remote, I mean, a lot can happen in 2500 years.

You could say that the first clue of my ancestry could be found in my last names, Cardona and Londoño. The Cardonas were a noble and old family from the times of Charlemagne. In the 8th century Raimundo Folch went to Cataluña to fight the Moors, and he did so well that Charlemagne made him Viscount and great Lord of the city of Girona, in the region of Cardona. The first Cardona in Colombia was José Solís y Folch de Cardona, who was a Spanish colonial administrator and viceroy of New Granada in mid 18th century, or that's what some people say on the internet. The Londoño last name is Basque and apparently it was some kind of small village. The first Londoños to arrive to Colombia during the late 17th century were the brothers Agustín and Juan de Londoño y Trasmiera. I think it's very unlike that I could trace my lineage directly to Raimundo, there are probably millions of Cardonas in Latin America alone. On the other hand, it's a bit more likely that on my mother side they could trace their genealogy to the first Londoño in Colombia; since they come from the same region were the originals settled down, a region called Antioquia. However, when I see myself in the mirror, I understand that very little or nothing can be told from my last names alone. I am a mix of races, part of me is Native American, part of me is from Spain, part of me might be African as well. Who were my Native American relatives? Which tribes in particular did they come from and which language did they speak? How long ago did it happen?

So I decided to look for genetic studies on Colombian populations to see if the level of mixture had been estimated before. I found a recent study in PLOS genetics published in 2008: Geographic Patterns of Genome Admixture in Latin American Mestizos, a paper lead by Colombian professor Andrés Ruiz Linares at University College London. They found that in a region of Colombia (coincidentally close to where my family comes from), people were roughly about 60% European, 30% Native American, and about 10% African. I should not be very different from that, I dare to say. The study also said that the majority of the mixture happened from Spanish men mating with Native American and African women. In another study I read that in the population of people from Antioquia the male Y chromosome is about 94% from Southern Spain, 5% African, and 1% Native American. On the other hand, the mithocondrial DNA, that is inherited only by mothers is in about 90% of the people Native American, identical to the Embera people.

My dad told me once, I'm not sure I remember correctly, that one of his grandmothers was nicknamed “la india”, because she might have been all Native American... if this is true, probably I have a higher percentage of Native American in me. My plan is to later on purchase the National Geographic service to find out my ancestry on both my mother's and father's side.

 This is my dad dressed as a Native American in one of his anthropological expeditions to the jungle

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