Saturday, 13 December 2008

Where do Venezuelans come from?

When I was at school we used to hear the story: Venezuelans are a mixture primarily of Indians, Europeans and Africans. I would hear that at home as well and I could see that also in the variety within my own family. One of the observations I hear from many European friends who visit Venezuela is how varied the population is. Since I am Europe I have become more aware of that. At school I learnt Venezuelan nationality is based on jus soli and there was no big deal about that. More interestingly is that most families are very mixed and I don't mean "Irish" with "Scottish" or "Northwest Africa with West-Africa", I mean mixed big time.

Europe, like other regions, is currently receiving more and more immigrants from outside and even within Europe there are more and more marriages between people from different countries. This brings possibilities but also tensions. Still, it is different from Venezuela, where the kaleidoscope is so old.

There is a lot of racism in Venezuela, no doubt about it. And the issue is being misused increasingly by some politicians and it is downplayed by others. It goes from every group, as often the case. Still, my impression and that of many others is racism in Venezuela is not as bad as in the neighbouring countries and definitely less so than in Europe, Asia, North America, Asia and Africa. It may have to do with the fast clash and fusion of ethnic groups from the very start and general mobility Still, racism is always bad and I think we should not avoid the issue, we should be able to discuss it openly and fight against it in a cool way.

Some time ago I decided to take part in the Genographic Project and find out about my haplogroups, which show the long-term ancestry on either the far paternal or maternal sides. Scientists can find out about this because there is a series of markers that are only passed from father to sons and another set that i s only pass from mother to any child. My genealogy information disappears somewhere in the XIX Century. In my case I had no clue what I was going to get (I mean I imagine my paternal grand-grand-grandfather in 1498 could have been in Europe, Africa or the Americas), as the mixing is so great. I got my results for my paternal side already and it turned out to be J2, probably Spaniards who on their turn descended from Phoenician/Roman/Greek/Jew/Arab people or from others who arrived there earlier, during the Neolithic expansion, but anyway coming from the Fertile Crescent, where J2 appeared sometime after BC9000. And now I am waiting for my maternal side and I am also expecting anything.

While I was waiting for the results on my mom's side I decided to see if I could find more about genetic studies on how Venezuela became to be. There are few things available on the Net. From two abstracts from a genetic congress I managed to do the following graphics.

The studies were carried on a very limited sample, around 86 individuals from different regions of Venezuela. Still, I reckon it very much reflect what scientists and others thought. It represents the genetic background of the average Venezuelan. He has most frequently an European/Old World on the paternal side AND at the same time a Native American background on the maternal side. H e also could have a Sub-Saharan component but that is less frequent. Any of the people who are "café con leche" (coffee colour) may have primarily European ancestors from the paternal side and Indian or African ones from the other...but also many of those who are paler or darker. And it goes for almost anyone but for the groups whose ancestors just arrived one or two generations ago and a few other exceptions.

Statistically speaking, my maternal line could very well turn out to be Indian, but also anything else (well, almost, I don't think there was much Tibetan influx or from Madagascar). That is Venezuela.

There are some studies about specific haplogroups but I leave that to another time.

* I placed "European", but in reality it is more "markers brought by Europeans". A lot of Venezuelans trace a lot of their ancestors from the Canary Islands and that region shows a lot of genetic evidence linking them with Berbers and the same is the case for continental Spain through the Moors. In my case, J2 is a minority haplogroup in Spain, but it comes from the Middle East way before the Spanish Conquista of the Americas.
** I considered which names to use for the main "groups", I decided to stick to the Venezuelan naming, I could have put European-Native-American-Sub-Saharan, but then I am Venezuelan and in Venezuela those names are used by many people whichever main "colour" that person may have on their skins.


  1. Vaya estaba buscando información sobre ese estudio... y encontré la referencia por un comentario que dejaste en el blog de Vicente Ulive-Schnell... Saludos!

  2. Hola, Kiria. ¿A qué te refieres en particular? ¿Genética poblacional en Venezuela o a ese artículo en particular? Hay varios que han salido sobre la población en Venezuela, aunque no es mucho.

    Aquí hay más que escribí sobre eso:

    En el blog de Dionekes hay muchos artículos interesantes sobre genética de poblaciones.

    Luego quiero recopilar más información sobre Venezuela.


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