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July 10, 2003

Blood, sweat, and duende

There has been some recent question about my ethnicity, with godless saying that I am of Iberian Spanish descent, and razib saying that I am Irish American. In fact, they are both right, but just so I don't get pigeonholed I'll be thorough about the crazy quilt that is my genetic heritage. On a board full of high caste South Asians, Jews and Malaysian Chinese, I may be bested only by David in gene pool diversity.

My mother is (ethnically at least) an archetypal Georgia cracker: Heavily Welsh and English with a little Cherokee thrown in for kicks. My paternal grandfather was 100% Irish, a computer nerd before his time. My paternal grandmother was from New Orleans, and her background was a patchwork of German, French, and European Spanish. The Spanish part came from a Galician ship's carpenter who settled in Cuba and had sons who left the country for better prospects (we actually found some distant relations in a Mexican Gulf Coast City). But anyway, New Orleans was the only big city on the Gulf in those days, and that's where this enterprising fellow went and begat a son who sired my beloved grandma. As far as I know these Cubans were 100% white. They certainly looked it, as they were all blue and grey eyed with blond to reddish hair. So I am English, Welsh, Native American, French, German, Spanish and Irish. Probably a few other things as well, but that's about as much as we know. Luckily I don't care about ethnic twaddle because I could get mortally offended on behalf of ANY of these folks!

Posted by duende at 01:05 PM

100% white Cubans? Doubtful.

Posted by: Grey at July 13, 2003 01:14 PM

if duende's cuban ancestors came to the carribean recently (as in 19th century) it would be possible to be 100% "european" with no african or arawak blood. on the other hand, someone with white ancestors who lived in cuba for 300 years probably does have some element of mixture....

Posted by: razib at July 13, 2003 01:38 PM

Cubans aren't Mestizo, and the native inhabitants were pretty much completely exterminated. Cuba is composed of two major races - African blacks and European whites (Spanish + Italian), with the rest being mulatto. How much mulatto, I'm not sure. My somewhat dated desk encyclopedia says 70% white, 20% mulatto, 10% black. A similar figure is found here:

White 66.0%; Mixed 21.9%; Black 12.0%

A very different one, almost reversing the first two figures, is found elsewhere:

mulatto 51%, white 37%, black 11%, Chinese 1%

it would be possible to be 100% "european" with no african or arawak blood.

Sure, but you could say the same thing about America, where most whites average a little bit of mixture. Cuban whites are just as white as Americans, I'd bet. OTOH the way those figures are fluctuating might suggest that the one-drop rule there is the opposite of the American version, so that mixed folk would be more likely to re-absorb into the white segment instead of the black one.

Posted by: Jason Malloy at July 13, 2003 03:48 PM

Well, my side of the family was only in Cuba for 1 generation, 2 at the most. My grandmother's maiden name isn't Fernandez or Lopez. It's an uncommon name and most people who have it are related. My grandmother wrote several books under her maiden name, and one time she got a call from a guy in Miami who'd seen one of her books and it turned out they were distant cousins. He was white and he got out. When we went to Cuba we got the phonebook and found a few mulatto cousins, presumably the bastard half-siblings of the Miami contingent. BTW, in Cuba everyone thought I was Argentine.

Posted by: duende at July 13, 2003 06:12 PM


A few points from an Iberic white guy from Barcelona, Catalonia, the Spanish Scotland:

1. Indeed, IT IS possible to be white and Cuban. There are many white Cubans, usually among the (formerly) ruling classes, as happens all over Latin America. Of course, 100% pure whitness is hard to find, but in your particular case, being a Galician descendant, I bet there's not a single black ascendant in your Cuban branch.

2. Galicians are NOT the "Hispano type". Galicia is a country on the North-West Atlantic shores of the Peninsula where the wheather is rainy and the landscape looks the same that Ireland, for you to understand: the ocean, green fields, cows, big rocks, megalitic monuments, and all that Celt stuff, far, far, far away from the Mediterranean fiesta topic. The name of the country says it all: GALICIA, with the GAL root, like GALIA, GALATIA, or WALES, GAEILGE, etc.

It is: Galicia is a Celt-root country and, although the Celt language was lost when Romans invaded the place, Celt-type people is usual: tall, big chested, blond/red-haired, blue/green/grey-eyed, etc. Many look like true Irish, so you get the double ration of Irish-like genes.

Duende is an Andalusian thing, one thousand kilometers South away from Galicia and many light-years far in terms of culture:

Galicia has it's own language, which is the constituent dialect of Portuguese, not Spanish, although political reasons (Galicia has been a part of Castille for a thousand years) conceil this fact (however, the truth is revealed just by asking any linguist). It also has it's own different from "typical Spanish" culture, which is basicly a mixture of Andalusian and Latin American traits to the eyes of foreigners - so far away from reality. For instance, the most popular traditional musical instrument is "gaita", it is, bagpipe, and typical dance is munheira, not flamenco. So no duende, dude, because duende is a flamenco thing, the Andalusia spirit, not the Galician one.

And Galicians are the mean, but hardworking type, not the let's-do-fiesta-all-night-long type. Climate DOES shape people.

Oh, the reason I'm sure you have no negro ancestor in your Cuban-Galician branch is that Galician emigrants used to flee once they were married or, at least, they never (I mean NEVER) outmarried (other races, I'm talking about the first generation), specially negro people, as they are very very very (some more very's needed, but I think you'll get it) conservative people, specially those emigrating.

Another parallelism with Irish people is that they grow potatoes and they had to emigrate because in the XIX th century they got to a point of total starvation and had flee to the Americas.

Spanish Galicians are about two milion people. Galicians abroad are tought to sum up about 10 milion.

And one more thing - this is about me.

I'm from Barcelona, as I said, so I'm Catalan, from Catalonia, another country annexed to Spain in 1714 (just when Scotland was annexed to England). We also have our own language, which is closer to French or Italian than to Spanish, our own culture, which is DEFINITIVELY different from "typical Spanish" (flamenco is like an alien thing to us), history and institutions (my country exists since year 989 as a country itself and was stablished two centuries ago by Emperor Charles Magne). So we get very angry when we are reduced to the Spanish flamenco topic view, as a Scotch or a Welsh would if they were told "Oh, I love your Big Ben, your Queen and your fish and potatoes. Where's your beefeater hat?".

By the way, maybe you already knew Fidel Castro is Galician ascendant, too (that's why he's not like Lopez, Fernandez, etc, which are Spanish names).


Posted by: Che DeBarna at July 15, 2003 04:41 AM

GC.: "There are quite a few white Cubans, particularly among the ruling caste. Same holds true in Mexico. "

Cuba got thousands of inmigrants from Spain through the first half of the XX th century. So there were whites in all classes. Most newcomers were from Andalusia, Galicia, Catalonia and the Canary Islands.Also, Cuba belonged to Spain until 1898, so there was a permanent influx of metropolitan civil servants and businessmen ... and brides for the upper class!
Most of lower middle class, middle class and uppper class Cubans ended up in Florida. Those are the most obvious european Cubans.

Che DEBarna; "Galicia is a Celt-root country and, although the Celt language was lost when Romans invaded the place, Celt-type people is usual: tall, big chested, blond/red-haired, blue/green/grey-eyed, etc. Many look like true Irish, so you get the double ration of Irish-like genes."

I am of Galician descent myself and I would like to put the above observations in perspective.
Galicia is part of Northern Spain, and not much different from Asturias or Santander (Cantabria). Galicia Was NOT ever celtic in any significant way: Celtic Spain was located much more to the East and Center of the Peninsula (modern-day Castille, Rioja, Aragon). Apianus ( Rômaiká Ibęrikę´, II) states that the Celtiberians were those Celts who settled in Iberia. There is scant evidence for celtic settlement in Galicia, other than the name and a few toponyms. However Galicia was certainly inhabited by Indo-Europeans, long before the Celts reached Spain.
It is unknown who these early Indo-Europeans were, but they were probably close kin to the second wave of Indo-Europeans ( "Altereuropáisch", Hans Krahe), around The first Millenium B.C.
As to the physical type of Galicians, it is a mixture of "alpine" and "mediterranean", similar to the rest of Spaniards, with perhaps a greater affinity to the "alpine" element. Blue eyes are common, though not as common as in Gerona, in Catalonia. Average height is below average: Galicans and Asturians tend to be shorter than central and North-Eastern Spaniards.
Galicians are totally romanic in culture and language.

" my country exists since year 989 as a country itself and was stablished two centuries ago by Emperor Charles Magne "

As for Catalonia, it was never an independent kingdom: It was part of the Kindom of Aragon, which merged with Castille to form modern Spain in 1479 after the marriage of Isabella (Queen of Castille) and Ferdinand (King of Aragon).

Posted by: eufrenio at July 16, 2003 02:04 PM

Che DeBarna,
If you're angry about Castilian imperialism, you're barking up the wrong tree. That Spain is phentypically (and culturally) diverse should be apparent to anyone who's compared the dark, chatty Andalusians to the fairer, more stoic Toledanos. BTW, the handsomest man I ever saw was in Toledo. Curly blond hair, blue eyes, lean cowboy physique and a rough, macho quietness. The reason I have "duende" is because I spent a few of my formative years in Andalucia.

Posted by: duende at July 17, 2003 11:57 AM

I would like to respond to Mr. Eufrenio's comments:

(1) "Galicia Was NOT ever Celtic in any significant way". Reaaaally? Wow. That's a first. It is well known, nowadays anyway, that the question of "celticity" as we all know it (and the Irish seem to forget) is of a cultural/civilization kind. It is well known, to EVERYONE, that such absolute findings are archeology-based. I too agree that from an archeological standpoint, Galicia has very few (archeological) findings that we can describe as "Celtic". Nonetheless, let's not forget that from, let's say, a linguistic point of view, there's no denying that the Celts had AT LEAST an influence in Galicia. Many of the toponims (which you say is scant and I say, as per the expert Mr. Millán, close to 55% of all toponims) of Galician towns have very clear and distinctive goidelic roots. Furthermore, many of the traditions STILL followed in modern Galicia have astounding similarities in countries EVERYONE considers "Celtic". And the reason that I say that Galicia is not Celtic (from an archeological point of view) is due to the fact that historians (again, as it is well known to everyone) decided one day to refute the previous belief that the Castrexo Culture was Celtic in nature. Furthermore, and if the Xunta (Galician government) decides to dry the innermost part of the Ria de Arousa, where Viking raids were common oh for about 200 years (Galicia was at one point, and for about 3 years, in the hands of Ulf the Viking) we will find many Viking artifacts. Can we deduct from this that Galicia, or at least the Rias Baixas, was Viking and that its inhabitants were Vikings? Noooooo! In any case, I hate to "burst your bubble", but in the VIII and IV centuries many Britons, escaping from the Anglos and the Saxons, came to Galicia, as well as Brittany. It is well documented. The brotherhood of Bretońa-Brittany is well known, for the umpteenth time, TO EVERYONE. Now, if that's not enough for you, and if you do not believe me that the Celts were indeed ONCE (or more) in Galicia, I'll tell you that the Chieftains were once in Vigo, actually, more than once. In any case, I think you'll get the point.
Based on this, I disagree with you on this subject, although I must say that we also have Mińoto (proto-Mediterranean peoples) as well as Suevi and Visigoth blood running through our veins (let's not forget the Romans too). In conclusion, and as per this subject, the Celts were indeed in Galicia.

(2) "As to the physical type of Galicians, it is a mixture of 'alpine" and "Mediterranean". Reaaaally?! And where did you find that information? Newspaper? Magazine? I hate to say it, but you "theory" loses it when you bring race or physical characteristics into the picture. The thing is that YOU HAVE NO FRIGGIN IDEA WHAT GALICIANS LOOK LIKE. You can ASSUME that ALL of us look like the ones you've seen, but you can't absolutely say that Galician have the physical characteristics that you mention in your comment.

(3) " Blue eyes are common, though not as common as in Gerona, in Catalonia. Average height is below average: Galicians and Asturians tend to be shorter than central and North-Eastern Spaniards." Nooo shit Einstein!!! Really?! !!!Hahaha. Man you make me laugh. How in the world can you say the shit that you do and get away with it? Where do you get all this information from? Do you count the 10 million Galicians that live in other countries or just the ones you know?

(4) "Galicians are totally romantic in culture and language". Huh? Are you from outer space? I would say that MANY of the cultural elements, including language, are of a romantic strata, but I will also tell you that many ARE NOT.


Posted by: Preapan at August 3, 2003 10:34 PM

Umm.....I have been to all parts of Spain and overall everyone was very light-skinned (even in the South), with a few olive-skinned individuals all over the place, not only in the south (like Antonio Banderas). But many were Arabic in feature (like Placido Domingo and the dictator Francisco Franco). Remember that the Moors who invaded Spain were not dak but actually light-skinned Caucasoid North Africans. Hair color was mostly dark brown and black but many had also light brown and red, with a few blondes. Most had eyes that were various shades of brown but many also had green, blue and grey eyes. Very beautiful, more beautiful than the people of England and Germany.

Posted by: Matthew Reinhart at September 15, 2003 03:23 PM