Mario Lopez discovers ‘eye-opening’ family history: ‘It’s awful to hear’

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Mario Lopez was left "speechless" while learning about one of his ancestors in a Season Eight episode of "Finding Your Roots."

The TV host and actor sat down with the PBS show's host, Henry Louis Gates Jr., to trace his family tree in the episode. The conversation was filled with a mix of joyful and disheartening moments.

While talking about Lopez's paternal grandmother, Alejandra, Gates revealed that one of her ancestors, Balthazar, was a slave owner and involved in "many ugly businesses."

In 1546, the host explained, Spanish explorers stumbled upon silver ore in the mountains surrounding the Mexican city of Zacatecas. Naturally, people flooded the region in hopes of striking it rich, and a military force was formed to subdue the indigenous people who had lived there for centuries. Balthazar, Lopez's 11th great grandfather, was a part of that force.

Lopez's ancestor was also one of the largest slave owners in Zacatecas, with 20-40 indigenous slaves and 10-15 African American slaves. When asked how this news made him feel, the "Saved by the Bell" star was almost at a loss for words.

“I’m kind of speechless. Obviously I had no idea, but oh my God,” he said. "Imagine being born during that time."

Balthazar ran silver mines and owned a few mills and a silver ore refining plant. Along with three other men, he was thought to be one of the founders of Zacatecas and when the settlement was recognized as an official state, it got a coat of arms. Balthazar was featured in the design alongside those other men.

Upon seeing the coat of arms and hearing this discovery, Lopez got pensive and shared his reaction.

“It’s hard to kind of process all of it, and there’s no justifying it other than that it is what it was during that time. It’s just awful to hear,” he said.

Lopez described it as an "awful era in history," and said, "I’m just blessed to be born when I was.”

During the episode, Lopez also learned more about his paternal grandfather, Luciano, whom he credited with teaching him a strong work ethic.

Luciano, who was born in Mexico, entered California in 1952 seeking work. Without a visa in hand, he was soon discovered after only a month and sent back to his country. Five years later, he wanted to return to America, but it was difficult since the country had grown increasingly hostile towards Mexican immigrants.

Lopez called the news "eye opening" and said he had no idea his grandfather persevered through so much.

“My grandfather was a tough guy, but I regret not being aware of this and talking with him about it when he was alive," he said.

Luciano eventually made his way to California again on foot and the rest is history. Lopez was thrilled to hear that he succeeded in his goal of reaching America.

“It makes you kind of proud,” he said.

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