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Julia Pastrana (1834 – March 25, 1860) was a Mexican woman born somewhere in the Sierra de Sinaloa, who exhibited hypertrichosis in Europe.
Of indigenous origin, he was born into a tribe of Native Americans known as “Root Digger”, Indians “seekers of roots”, who lived in the western part of Mexico. He had hypertrichosis or “werewolf syndrome,” that is, his face and body were completely covered in black, straight hair, his ears and nose were unusually large and his teeth were irregular, Charles Darwin referred to her in the following terms: :
«Julia Pastrana, a Spanish dancer, was an extraordinarily thin woman, but she had a thick beard and hairy forehead. He was photographed and his skin was put on display. But what concerns us is that it had in both jaws, upper and lower, an irregular double row of teeth. One row placed inside the other, from which Dr. Purland took a sample. Due to the excess of teeth, his mouth was projected and his face had the appearance of a gorilla. “
His jaws were studied by the Royal College of Surgeons in London.
The pamphlets announced her telling her supposed story, these pamphlets said that an Indian woman named Espinosa, separated from her tribe in 1830, everyone thought she had drowned, but years later she was found by some cowboys. Espinosa claimed to have been captured and locked in a cave by a group of hostile Indians, in an area full of bears and mandrills, but this fact was never demonstrated. Espinosa was accompanied by a 2-year-old girl, of whom she claimed not to be his mother, although she showed signs of wanting her a lot. Later this woman married and baptized the girl as Julia Pastrana. Espinosa ended up dying and Julia went to live in a nearby town. He ended up joining the family of the governor of the Mexican Federal State of Sinaloa, Pedro Sánchez. I worked there as a maid for years until in April 1854 he decided to return to his homeland.
On the way to her homeland, she met the American M.Rates, who immediately saw the business and that same year Julia went to the US. His first appearance as a circus phenomenon took place in 1854, at the Gothic Hall in New York. Soon he went to Cleveland with a new manager, not to mention master, Mr. Beach. Dr. S. Brainer, who met her there, called her a “different species.” There he attended great dances and military galas, it is said that the soldiers lined up to dance with her. After traveling to London, at this time his manager was Theodor Lent. Before arriving there, it was announced by the newspapers as “La indescriptible” (“The Nondescript”). The image they gave of her was that of a happy woman, happy with her situation that, they said, she liked, traveling, cooking and sew. In her shows as well as showing her rarity, Julia danced and sang in Spanish and English.
In 1857, after London, Theodor Lent had arranged more shows in Germany, but there he encountered problems since the authorities did not approve of the show. Theodor presented Julia as a stage actress, and in Leipzig Julia carried out a tangle play written especially for her, called “Der curierte Meyer”: it was about a man who fell in love with a lady who always wore a veil when the suitor was not on stage Julia uncovered her face showing it to the audience to make her laugh, finally shows her face to her lover and he loses all interest. The German police put spies in the room because they did not trust what Theodor told them; the work was canceled and the theater closed after only two performances on the basis that it was an immoral and obscene work.
By this time he received many proposals of marriage, but in an interview by a German publication (Gartenlaube) they asked him why he had denied all those proposals, to which he replied that none of the suitors was rich enough. It is said that this idea was originally from Theodor, who wanted to marry a rich man and this was his way of attracting someone. Julia had accumulated a lot of money, and finally Theodor was the one who asked for marriage in 1857.
They got married and continued the tour of Austria. In Vienna Theodor forced him to pass quite thorough physiological examinations and forbade him to go out into the street during the day. In 1859 she became pregnant. In Moscow, during a tour in 1860, Pastrana gave birth to a baby with “characteristics similar to his.” The baby died at 35 hours of birth and Pastrana died of postpartum complications five days later.
Lent did not leave the tour, and contacted Professor Sukolov of Moscow University who finally sold him the bodies of his wife and son. Sukolov decided to mummify both bodies and exhibited them at the Anatomical Institute of Moscow University. As they attracted so many visits, Lent decided to reclaim those mummies. This is how a judicial process started that Lent won, when presenting his marriage certificate with Julia. First he tried to put the mummies into operation in the Russian entertainment world, but they denied him the right, claiming that it had nothing to do with scientific purposes. So in 1862, just two years after Julia died, she decided to return to England where they did not put any restrictions on her show. Soon the fame was deflated and finally rented the mummies to a traveling museum of curiosities.
At that time Lent met a woman with characteristics similar to Pastrana, married her and called her Zenora Pastrana, presenting her to the world as “The Sister of Julia Pastrana”. He again got the mummies that were still rented from the itinerant museum owner and the four of them (Theodor, Zenora, and the bodies of Julia and son) started a trip. Finally, Zenora and Theodor settled in St. Petersburg in 1880; At that time Theodor begins to suffer from a mental illness, which ended up putting him in a sanatorium.
Zenora moved to Munich in 1888 and claimed ownership of the mummies, and in 1889 the three Pastrana were again exhibited at an anthropological exhibition run by J.B. Gassner, who stayed with the mummies and ended up selling them in 1895, to the highest bidder, at a great circus convention in Vienna. Zenora retired and remarried another man.
The mummies disappeared from the public view. They appeared in Norway in 1921 as property of Mr. Lunds, who incorporated them into his “chamber of horrors”. During the German occupation in 1943, it was ordered that the collection be destroyed, but Mr. Lund succeeded in persuading the German authorities that the “Apewoman” (mono woman) would go well for the coffers of the Third Reich. Julia and her son exhibited throughout the German occupied territories.
The mummies were on display until 1970, when there was a protest during a visit from the USA. UU and they withdrew from view to the public. Vandals stormed the storage facilities in August 1976 and mutilated the baby’s mummy. The remains were consumed by mice. Julia’s mummy was stolen in 1979, but stored in the Oslo Forensic Institute after the body was reported to the police, but not identified. He was identified in 1990 and remained in a sealed coffin in the Department of Anatomy of the University of Oslo since 1997.
In 1994, the Norwegian Senate recommended that the remains of this woman be buried, but the Ministry of Science decided to keep it so that scientists could study them in the future. However, to have access to his remains, a special permit had to be obtained, which was only granted to anyone who demonstrated true scientific interests.
In April 2012, the Norwegian university promised to return Julia’s body to Mexico.
On February 7, 2013, his remains were turned over to Mexican authorities. The mortal remains of Sinaloa were deposited in the Historical Cemetery of the State of Sinaloa, in an act of honesty, dignity and respect for human rights. Finally, on February 13 of this same year, Julia Pastrana was buried. [Appointment required]
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