Mexico’s “ape woman” was buried 150 years after she died in Moscow, Russia. The woman, Julia Pastrana, was put on display after her death, because of a rare genetic disorder that covered her face in thick hair.
The “ape woman” was put to rest in her home state of Sinaloa on Tuesday in a ceremony to end a time when human bodies were used a collectibles and museum specimens.
Julia Pastrana sported a hairy face and body, as well as a jutting jaw and other deformities, reports The San Francisco Chronicle. Because of these, she became known as the “ape woman.”
She left her home state of Sinaloa in 1954 and was taken around the United States by Theodore Lent, a showman. She sang and danced for audiences and became a sensation. She also toured in Europe and Russia.
Pastrana married Lent and the couple had a son together in 1860. But she contracted a fever related to complications from childbirth. She and her son died in Moscow. From there, her remains ended up at the University of Oslo in Norway, notes Yahoo! News.
Government and private requests finally prompted the university to return her body to Mexico. Saul Rubio Ayala, mayor of the ape woman’s hometown of Sinaloa de Levya, stated at her burial:
“Julia Pastrana has come home. Julia has been reborn among us. Let us never see another woman be turned into an object of commerce.”
Pastrana’s return to Mexico is part of a larger movement to repatriate remains held by museums and academic institutions. Hundreds of thousands of remains have been sent home from cultural institutions in the United States, Europe, and Australia since the movement began in the 1980s.
Tiffany Jenkins, author of Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections: the crisis of cultural authority, stated of Julia Pastrana’s burial and other repatriations, “They’ve been symbolic, in a way, of making an apology.”
[Image by Anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]