“I never genuinely understood what it meant to be Peruvian as a child, ” says Connie Chavez.
Chavez is a self-taught videographer who works at Latina magazine in New York. Growing up in New York, she didn’t really have an opportunity to be around other Peruvian people. Her friends dismissed her background, assuming it was the same as any other Latino culture.
“Nobody understood what Peru was, ” she tells. “It induced me genuinely feel bad.”
Now that she’s older, Chavez has had the opportunity to learn about the rich, unique culture that she is a part of. “I’m Peruvian, and I’m proud, ” she tells. Her parents taught her about the history and cultural activities of their Incan ancestors, and thats what resulted her to eventually embrace her heritage. “Because of that knowledge, I feel powerful, ” she says.
Learning about her background boosted Chavez’s confidence in who she is and it built her wishes to get others involved. Watch her tale below :
It wasn’t just as a kid that Chavez faced misunderstandings and mischaracterizations of her culture.
During the 2016 election season, Chavez observed herself on the receiving end of xenophobic and racist commentaries.
“It was last August, and I was feeling truly low because I was hearing a lot of xenophobic things, racialized statements towards me , ” tells Chavez.
She found herself wondering what she could do to start a more productive dialogue around race and cultural activities . Inspired by activist Carmen Perez and her aim of starting “courageous conversations, ” Chavez wanted to start some courageous conversations of her own.
“It is really hard to talk about race. It’s really difficult, ” she says. “People feel uneasy, but that feeling is what makes progress.”
Chavez decided to take an AncestryDNA test as a starting point for these conversations.
As she puts it: “Are you 100% everything? No, you’re not, and there’s no such thing as a superior race because, basically, we all have DNA from the entire world.”
Chavez’s test revealed that she’s 59% Native American, 27% European, 2% African, and 3% West Asian.
“After assuring my Pedigree outcomes, I got to admit, I felt really powerful, ” she says. “I genuinely felt like a global citizen. It only affirmed what I always believed in, and it really gave me the confidence to reclaim certain parts of myself.”
Chavez wanted to share the empowerment she felt with others, so she persuaded her coworkers at Latina to take AncesteryDNA exams too.
Chavez worked with AncestryDNA to procure tests for her coworkers, and then the women got together at work to discuss their results. They broadcast the conversation in a Facebook Live video.
Many of Chavez’s coworkers felt empowered by their results too.
“I would definitely say I feel a lot more confident in who I am, knowing where I come from, ” tells Barbara Gonzalez, a former personnel writer at Latina.
It’s not always an easy process; sometimes find the results can be emotional and even scary. Chavez tells, “It is a deep profound, sentimental issue for some people, and I understand it. This is a big thing.”
But, she tells, it’s worth it. “It’s a beautiful thing to be determined who you are.”
Chavez’s project demonstrates how learning about your pedigree isn’t just about the past it can also help shape the future.
With the help of her coworkers, Chavez employed her AncestryDNA outcomes to trigger important conversations about race and culture. And she’s inspiring others to do the same.
After the Facebook Live broadcast, she says she received numerous emails from people thanking her.
“When I started assuring the responses and the happiness behind every reply, ” tells Chavez, “I felt compelled to only continues its run that I’m doing.”
“I never actually thought of myself as a innovator for anything, but truly, starting such projects really made me feel like I had a purpose here.”