Linda Chavez

Yet Guiomar married the son of a candle maker in an era when it was rare to marry outside one's class. It's likely the family arranged the wedding to protect Guiomar from suspicion by the Inquisition because her husband Francisco Armijo came from an Old Catholic family.

In 1597, Francisco and Guiomar sailed for what is now Mexico, where the family lived until 1701 before coming to New Mexico. There over generations, the family intermarried with the Chavez family, whose progenitor had come on Juan de Onate's expedition in 1598. I've subsequently learned that my Chavez family members were likely conversos too.

I wasn't surprised to learn that 75 percent of my DNA was European, nor that I have some Indian heritage -- about 5 percent. What was surprising is that 20 percent of my DNA shows Semitic markers, even after my family's 400 years in New Mexico.

My grandmother's custom of turning her statue to the wall was probably handed down from her Jewish ancestors, who abhorred idol worship, but the reasons were eventually forgotten.

As part of the show, I travelled to Sevilla to view archival records and film the church where my converso ancestors were baptized and the plaza where other conversos were burned at the stake.

The experience not only gave me a sense of my roots, but made me appreciate what it means to be an American -- a country founded on the principle of religious freedom.

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .

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