Cuban-American U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio learned about his Yucatecan lineage on a recent episode of the PBS program, “Finding Your Roots.”
The Florida politician’s mother is “pure Native American,” descended from a set of indigenous people who migrated from the Yucatan Peninsula around 4,000 B.C., said the show’s host, Henry Louis Gates Jr.
“Who knew I was going back home?” said Rubio, after recalling his past visits to the Mayan ruins and archaeological sites including Chichén Itzá.
“Talk about ancestral roots in Cuba … your family on your mother’s side has been there a long, long time,” Gates said.
“Finding Your Roots” has featured actors like Lupita Nyong’o, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Ben Affleck, singer-songwriters such as Carly Simon, Carole King and John Legend, and politicians, including Georgia Rep. John Lewis, and Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Despite his maternal ancestry, Rubio’s Native American genetic makeup is only 4.6 percent. The largest percentage was 92.4 percent European, with minute traces of Sub-Sahara African and North African, with 1.2 percent “unmatched.”
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who announced a presidential run on the Democratic ticket for the 2020 race, has been feeling the heat for overstating her Native American identity on a 1986 Texas state bar registration card.
Rubio also learned he wasn’t the first lawyer in the family as he long held.
Instead, according to Gates and his researchers’ work, Rubio’s third great-grandfather, José de Reina y Tosta, earned his law degree from Spain’s University of Granada in 1786, and became a public prosecutor in Seville, Orlando Weekly reported.
“I thought I was [the first lawyer]. The first in two centuries,” Rubio said, laughing, with Gates.
Rubio’s parents left Cuba for the United States in 1956.
On Twitter, Rubio, a South Miami Senior High School grad who was born in Miami in 1971, called his Native American heritage “an amazing discovery.”
When Warren used a DNA test to determine her ancestry, she felt some backlash from Native American groups.
“A DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship. Current DNA tests do not even distinguish whether a person’s ancestors were indigenous to North or South America,” Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said in a statement. “It makes a mockery out of DNA tests and its legitimate uses while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens, whose ancestors are well documented and whose heritage is proven.”