Mitochondrial Helena (c. 18,000 BC) lived in south-western France at the height of the Ice Age. As the ice started melting about 15,000 years ago, her descendants moved north into empty land. They now account for 47% of all Europeans.
In terms of mitochondrial DNA, she is the common ancestor of haplogroup H, one of the main branches of Mitochondrial Eve’s family tree. Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes gave her the name Helena (H for Helena) in his book “The Seven Daughters of Eve” (2001).
Among her descendants are Marie Antoinette, Napoleon, Queen Victoria, Nicholas Copernicus, Saint Luke, Susan Sarandon and maybe half the White people in the world – along with a good number of North Africans and South West Asians as well.
Where does race fit in the construction of modern identity?
By Thomas Chatterton Williams
The first time I lived in France, some twelve years ago to teach English in a depressed and depressing industrial town along the northern border with Belgium, I often went to kebab shops late at night in which I would sometimes be greeted in Arabic. Once the young Algerian behind the counter simply demanded of me, “Parle arabe! Parle arabe!” and all I could do was stare at him blankly. “But why did your parents not teach you to speak Arabic!” he implored me, first in a French I hardly followed and then in an exasperated and broken English.
“Because I’m American,” I finally replied.
“Yes, but even in America,” he pressed on, “why did they not teach you your language?”
“Because I’m not an Arab,” I laughed uncomprehendingly, and for several beats he just looked at me.
“But your origins, what are your origins?”
“Black,” I shrugged, and I can still see the look of supreme disbelief unspool on that man’s face. “But you are not black,” he nearly screamed. “Michael Jordan is black!
Land of the Cosmic Race is a richly-detailed ethnographic account of the powerful role that race and colour play in organizing the lives and thoughts of ordinary Mexicans. It presents a previously untold story of how individuals in contemporary urban Mexico construct their identities, attitudes, and practices in the context of a dominant national belief system. Carefully presented and self-consciously written, this is an excellent book for anyone with an interest in how Mexican racial politics can be seen to operate on the ground, finds Zalfa Feghali.