Centromeres of most organisms are embedded within constitutive heterochromatin, the condensed regions of chromosomes that account for a large fraction of complex genomes. The functional significance of this centromere-heterochromatin relationship, if any, is unknown. One possibility is that heterochromatin provides a suitable environment for assembly of centromere components, such as special centromeric nucleosomes that contain distinctive histone H3-like proteins. We describe a Drosophila H3-like protein, Cid (for centromere identifier) that localizes exclusively to fly centromeres. When the cid upstream region drives expression of H3 and H2B histone-green fluorescent protein fusion genes in Drosophila cells, euchromatin-specific deposition results. Remarkably, when the cid upstream region drives expression of yeast, worm, and human centromeric histone-green fluorescent protein fusion proteins, localization is preferentially within Drosophila pericentric heterochromatin. Heterochromatin-specific localization also was seen for yeast and worm centromeric proteins constitutively expressed in human cells. Preferential localization to heterochromatin in heterologous systems is unexpected if centromere-specific or site-specific factors determine H3-like protein localization to centromeres. Rather, the heterochromatic state itself may help localize centromeric components.