IMG_0504Above: San Diego, 2015 by Wendy.

The family had planned to visit Spain this July, because grandson Jacob wanted to see the place he was born.  Although his parents lived in Chipiona, Spain, technically, Jacob was born in Germany, a premie who required special care. However, he thinks of his birthplace as Spain.

When she went into labor prematurely Jacob’s mother was taken by medevac helicopter across the Alps and Jacob was delivered at the Landstuhl military medical facility.   My son went along for the helicopter ride, but he was too preoccupied with his wife and soon to be born son to be amazed with the view.

The family doesn’t talk about the experience very much, and Jacob continues to insist he was born in Spain.  Jacob has Spanish great-grandparents on his mom’s side and thanks to living in very Spanish California and his maternal cousins he is enamored with all things Spanish.

I’ve done my best to inform him that he was born a few kilometers from the places where several of my ancestors were born, and that he has plenty of English and German antecedents on both sides of his family.  However, we believe what we believe.

I think about this a lot because the mixing of cultures and ethnicities is such an ancient phenomena, and yet many people insist they are this or that, when they can’t possibly be. Exciting new research in the fields of genetics, linguistics and archeology is turning up all kinds of new information.

In the West, there is no “pure” anything.  We are all mongrels.  And the West includes Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

Asia has a similar mixture owing to years of struggle and strife between and among various ethnic groups, to say nothing of ancient migrations. And the West and the rest have interacted for millennia. Nothing new under the sun, the saying goes.

This week I completed Barry Cunliff’s Britain Begins which covers 12,000 years of history from the end of the last ice age to the Norman invasion in 1066, a truly comprehensive work. Cunliff ends his book with the comment…the British are a mongrel race.  He says the invasion of migrants at the end of the twentieth century (and continuing this week) is the largest invasion in a thousand years. Before 1066, there were many invasions by many groups of people.

Mostly the invaders were males so the Y chromosomes are much more mixed than the mtDNA female chromosomes. However, the mtDNA chromosomes suggest two ancient groups, one originating in Iberia and western France and the other in Central Europe (Germany and the Benelux areas) were the first groups to enter Britain after the last ice age. This must make them the native people…right?

Problem is, the people who migrated later were also from those areas as well as North Africa and the Middle East (particularly under the Romans) and the later Viking raids brought many more migrants from central Europe.  Cunliff gives the example of the grave marker found at Bath England of a thirty year old woman from Palmyra (Syria). Her husband, a Roman soldier from Spain placed the marker on her remains.

Cunliff ends his book with 1066, however, from other reading I know that the explorations of the Europeans in the thirteenth through the sixteenth centuries as well as the Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries (as well as other revolutions) did much to stir up the world’s masses.

So if you think you are a pure anything, get over it.  You probably aren’t, and neither is anyone else.  I know I am not and therefore neither are any of my progeny.

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