Jennifer Lopez Family History


Jennifer Lynn Lopez, often known in the shortened form of JLo, was born on July 24th, 1969 to David and Lupe Lopez in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx, New York.  She was the second of their three daughters.

Jennifer has described her upbringing as strict.  She went to a Catholic all girl’s school and attended Mass every Sunday.

But she also used to dance in front of the mirror and put on little shows at home with her two sisters.  She became so obsessed with dancing that at eighteen, against her parent’s wishes. she abandoned her business studies at Baruch College in favor of dance classes at the Phil Black Dance Studio.

Her mother asked her to leave the family home and they stopped speaking to each other for eight months before reconciling.  Jennifer moved to Manhattan, even sleeping in the dance studio’s office for the first few months.

Her first high-profile job as a professional dancer came in 1990 as a Fly Girl jazz-funk dancer on the TV sketch comedy series In Living ColorShe moved into acting four years later.  When she was cast as Selena in the biopic Selena in 1997, she became the first Latina actress to earn $1 million.  Other starring roles followed.  She had “star quality” in front of the camera. 

Jennifer’s singing career started in 1999 and by 2002 she was at the peak of her career in both fields.  Her romantic comedy Maid in Manhattan became the highest grossing film of her career; while her records were reaching high on the Billboard charts.  And she opened her Latina restaurant in Los Angeles and released her first fragrance. 

Jennifer has remained a tabloid fixture since that time.  She can dance, sing and act.  Her sense of style – urban, hip-hopish – has been a big part of her public image.  And the media has followed her numerous failed relationships as they did Elizabeth Taylor before her.

Jennifer’s Ethnicity

While Jennifer deems herself Latina because of her Puerto Rican heritage, that term is not a racial category. It is rather a diverse ethnic and cultural umbrella for someone who hails from a Latin American country or territory – Puerto Rico, Mexico or Cuba for instance – or has ancestors who did.

Puerto Rican is a nationality, but not a race.  Statistically Jennifer might be a mix of native (Tanio), European (mainly Spanish, but people may also have English, French, or other European connections), and African.

We can see how this mix has played out in the history of Puerto Rico’s second city Ponce where Jennifer’s grandparents Jose Julio and Julia were married in 1937.  Starting with its small indigenous population, there had been an influx of outsiders in the first half of the 19th century:

  • first from French creoles fleeing revolution in Haiti
  • then from arrivals from other Spanish colonies that were now independent
  • and also by European settlers encouraged there by the Spanish Government.

At the time of the American invasion of Puerto Rico in 1898, Ponce was the largest town on the island.

Jennifer herself has been described as castiza (white skin but with visible facial Amerindian traits).  She has a naturally pale complexion and may have used bronzer to tan her skin because Hollywood thinks brown skin looks ‘’more Latina.”

She has recorded albums in both Spanish and English.  As a singer and actress, she has been the biggest Latina artist who has crossed over to mainstream America.

Puerto Rican Ancestry

As far as can be determined, it would appear that Jennifer’s paternal line came from Ponce on the south coast.  That was where Jennifer’s father David originated and where her maternal grandfather Jose Julio came from as well.  But neither of these two lines has been traced further back.

By contrast, Jennifer’s maternal line does go further back.  The starting point here appears to have been the mountainous region north of Ponce – first at Ciales 85 kilometers away and then at Jayuya closer in at 40 kilometers away.

This maternal line went as follows:

  • Valentin Rivera (1858-1918) married to Narcisa Rivera (1858-1897)
  • Vicente Rivera (1888-1954) married to Maria Rosado (1885-1961)
  • and Julia Rivera (1913-2007) married to Jose Julio Rodriguez (b. 1910)

Julia lived at her father’s home in Ponce in the 1930 and 1940 censuses.  She had married Jose Julio in 1937 and they had two daughters – Myrza born in 1942 and Guadalupe (Jennifer’s mother) born in 1945.  Had Jose Julio died or left?  The reports suggest that Julia brought up her daughters by herself.

Growing Up in the Bronx

In her early youth Guadalupe (or Lupe as she was known) sold Tupperware and worked in a kindergarten school.  She was young and beautiful and attracted to the bright lights.  But her mother pressed her to marry.  And she did and became a homemaker instead.

In 1966, at the age of twenty-one, she married David Lopez who was working the night shift at the Guardian Insurance Company.  Their married life started out in New York in a small apartment in the Castle Hill area of the Bronx.

They went through several financial ups and downs, but both worked hard to make their life financially stable.  David later got work as a computer technician and they were able to purchase a small two-storey house in their Bronx neighborhood.

Both of them understood the value of education.  Despite being Latino parents, they taught their three daughters – Leslie, Jennifer and Lynda – the importance of being able to speak English properly to survive in an Anglo world.  In fact Lupe was hard against Jennifer’s decision to leave college in order to pursue a career in dance.

All three daughters did well for themselves.  The eldest Leslie married well and remained in the neighborhood teaching music.  Jennifer of course became a star.  And Lynda became well-known in her own right as an Emmy Award  winning journalist and TV producer.

Her daughters’ successes must have been liberating for Lupe.  She discovered the bright lights that she had earlier missed.  She loved the glamor that became Jennifer’s lifestyle.  She also loved gambling and, according to the family story, had once won $2.4 million while playing the slot machines at the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City,

Jennifer Lopez’s (mainly Maternal) Family Tree

  • Valentin Rivera y Rivera from Ciales, Puerto Rico (1858-1918) m. Narcisa Rivera y Rivera (1858-1897)
  • – Vicente Rivera y Rivera (1888-1954)
  • Vicente Rivera y Rivera from Jayuya m. Maria Rosado y Rodriguez (1885-1961) in Ponce, Puerto Rico in 1910
  • – Julia Rivera y Rosado (1913-2007)
  • – plus five other children
  • Julia Rivera y Rosado from Jayuya m. Jose Julio Rodriguez y Febres (b. 1910) in Ponce, Puerto Rico in 1937
  • – Myrza Rodriguez (1942-2008), moved to New York
  • – Guadalupe Rodriguez (b. 1945), moved to New York
  • Guadalupe (Lupe) Rodriguez m. David (Dave) Lopez (b. 1941) from Ponce in New York in 1966, divorced in 1999,  After the divorce David moved to California and married Carla Padilla (b. 1962).
  • – Leslie Lopez (b. 1967), music teacher in the Bronx, m. Robert Scholl
  • – Jennifer Lopez (b. 1969)
  • – Lynda Lopez (b. 1971), journalist and TV producer
  • Jennifer Lopez m. Cuban waiter Ojani Noa in 1997, divorced in 1998; rem. backup dancer Cris Judd in 2002, divorced in 2003; rem. singer Marc Anthony (b. 1968) in 2004, divorced in 2014; engaged with baseball player Alex Rodriguez (b. 1975) from 2019 to 2021; rem. actor Ben Affleck (b. 1972) in 2022
  • – twins Max and Emme Muniz (b. 2008) with Marc


Click here for return to front page

Written by Colin Shelley

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *