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Mexican 'Ape Woman' buried after 150 years

Published On: Feb 13 2013 10:48:21 AM CST
Updated On: Feb 14 2013 09:56:59 AM CST
Mexican Ape Woman burial

REUTERS/stringer

A Mexican woman, who was known as the "ape woman" because of a rare genetic condition that covered her face in thick hair, was buried in her home state on Tuesday, reports the Associated Press. The ceremony ends one of the best-known episodes from an era when human bodies were treated as collectible specimens.

Julia Pastrana had a hairy face and body, jutting jaw and other deformities when she left the Pacific coast state of Sinaloa in 1854. She was taken around the United States by showman Theodore Lent where she sang and danced for paying audiences, according to a Norwegian commission that studied her case.

She developed a fever related to complications from childbirth, and died along with her baby in 1860 in Moscow. Her remains ended up at the University of Oslo, Norway. After government and private requests to return her body, the university shipped her remains to the state of Sinaloa, where they were finally laid to rest.

"Julia Pastrana has come home," said Saul Rubio Ayala, mayor of her hometown of Sinaloa de Leyva. "Julia has been reborn among us. Let us never see another woman be turned into an object of commerce."

Mexican Ambassador Martha Barcena Coqui formally received Pastrana's coffin at a Feb. 7 ceremony at Oslo University Hospital in the Norwegian capital before the coffin was flown to Mexico.

"You know I have mixed feelings," the ambassador said. "In one way, I think she had a very interesting life and maybe she enjoyed visiting and traveling and seeing all the places, but at the same time I think it must have been very sad to travel to these places not as a normal human being but as a matter of exhibition, as something weird to be talked about."

Hundreds of thousands of remains have left cultural institutions in the U.S., Europe and Australia since the repatriation movement began in the late 1980s.