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The Multicultural Family Tree of Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars next to one of his grandfathers. This apple didn’t fall far from his family tree. (credit for photo on right: PR Photos)

Which of the following describes the heritage of Peter Gene Hernandez, better known as Bruno Mars?

  • Ukrainian
  • American
  • Filipino
  • Hispanic
  • Jewish
  • Hawaiian
  • Puerto Rican
  • European
  • Hungarian
  • Asian
  • Spanish

The correct answer is all of the above. And though I haven’t been able to prove it through the paper trail, he may well have some Taíno and African roots through his Puerto Rican ancestry.

As a genealogist who’s been delving into the past for most of my life and playing with DNA for almost two decades, I’ve climbed the branches of several thousand family trees, and the more branches I explore, the more apparent the growing “melangification” of America becomes.

Folks like myself who are 100-percenters or half-and-halves with roots in only one or two places are rapidly becoming quaint, and families like Bruno’s are slightly ahead of the curve. If you were to come back 100 years from now, I suspect most families would look like the cast of Hamilton. But for now, let’s linger on Bruno’s for a bit. Here are a few things you probably didn’t know about his roots:

  • He’s typically described as being Hawaiian-born to a father of Puerto Rican heritage and a mother from the Philippines. This is all true. His parents are Boricua and Filipina. But his ancestral pool also happens to be one-quarter Jewish hailing from Hungary and Ukraine.
  • In the U.S., Hawaii, New York, California, Nevada, Puerto Rico and Texas all hold a piece of his family’s past.
  • Bruno’s Ukrainian immigrant ancestor, a one-time Hebrew teacher, entered America not through Ellis Island, but through the port of Galveston, Texas as part of the Galveston Movement. His future bride, however, was of Ellis Island stock.
  • This same ancestor was once banned from ever becoming a citizen, but after modifying his name (please see the Ellis Island chapter of Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing if you still believe that old myth about names being changed by immigration officials) and waiting about 20 years, he was finally naturalized.
  • As seen in this photo, continental blending in Bruno’s family began a long time ago. This shows a pair of his great-great-grandparents — the father born in Spain and the mother in the Philippines — with two of their daughters around the 1890s. About a decade after her husband passed away, Bruno’s great-great-grandmother remarried to a Chinese gentleman 19 years her junior, introducing yet another country into the family mix.
Spanish birth record of a great-great-grandfather of Bruno Mars
  • When it comes to Spain, it’s Segovia — I’m talking to you, Nava de la Asunción and Fuentepelayo! — that gets the bragging rights.

Whenever Bruno Mars races around the globe on tour, there are likely unsuspecting cousins in his audiences in Madrid, New York, Manila, Kiev, San Juan, and Budapest. I look forward to the day when we all realize there’s nothing especially remarkable about that.

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