May 27, 2014 - Stories

Who I Am

Although his family had always told him they were of Mexican and Puerto Rican ancestry, David Aguilar never thought that truly captured who he was.David Aguilar

“I always felt that I didn’t really fit into that particular category,” said David, a former ballet dancer who now works as an acrobat.

As a 7 year-old David asked his aunt about his heritage and she bluntly told him:

“’You’re Mexican.’”

His response was equally direct:

“No I’m not,” he told her. “I will tell you one day what I am.”

Exploring His Ancestry

Decades later, David used 23andMe to help him piece together his ancestry and find himself in the process. David knew his ancestry was complicated. His mother, who was raised in Hawaii, had Puerto Rican ancestry. His father, raised in Texas, had Mexican ancestry. But neither of them paid much attention to their heritage beyond that and for David, he wanted to know more about where his ancestors came.

He knew very little about his family’s origins, the links to Mexico and Puerto Rico. He’d learned that his family might have had some Dutch and Irish ancestry in that mix, but he didn’t know much more than that.

“They never really kept track of that in those days,” Aguilar said.

A Surprise

His family’s idea of their ancestry didn’t really match what he felt inside.

“It’s almost like someone telling you you’re a girl when you’re actually a boy,” he said.

When he heard about 23andMe, David jumped at the chance to get more detail about his ancestry.

When the results came in, it felt like opening a present, he said.

“I was blown away by it.“

The results vindicated his early misgivings about how his family characterized their ancestry. He learned his heritage was a mix of European, African, Middle Eastern and Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry.

He couldn’t wait to share – he began posting what he learned on his Facebook page right away.

David said this more detailed description of his ancestry, helped put into context so much of what he felt. He’d always been drawn to Europe and Russia in particular, during his time traveling as a dancer. He even lived in Russia for a time, where he was able to quickly master the language.

“I was even told by Russians that I don’t have an accent when I speak Russian,” he said.

Newfound Heritage

He lived in Russia for three years. David attributes his affinity for the culture and language to his Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. He also points to something else, the Star of David tattoos he’d gotten long before his 23andMe test informed him of his Jewish ancestry. Without even knowing, he believes he was drawn to the image because of his ancestry.

David approached his family about his newfound heritage. He remembers the response of one of his aunts:

“‘Oh, congratulations. I’m so glad you found out for yourself.”

But David now has an answer when people asking about his ethnic background.

“I tell them I am 70 percent European, I’m 3 percent black, I’m 3.3 percent Middle Eastern, I am Ashkenazi Jewish….” he said. “When I give them the breakdown they say, ‘Wow, you really know your history,’ and I say, ‘yeah, I do.’”

23andMe provides genetic testing services for informational purposes; your results may or may not help you to search for or identify relatives or family members.

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