I’ve always found the life and death of Julia Pastrana to be one of the most interesting, albeit profoundly sad (and at times downright horrifying), stories that has ever happened in the annuls of sideshow history. You can read a little about her short and tragic life on The Circus No Spin Zone blog.
Today’s story is one that I have been following since word of the planned burial of Julia and her child were first announced late last year.
MEXICO CITY — The “ugliest woman in the world” was buried in her native northern Mexico on Tuesday, more than 150 years after her death and a tragic life spent exhibited as a freak of nature at circuses around the world.
Born in Mexico in 1834, Julia Pastrana suffered from hypertrichosis and gingival hyperplasia, diseases that gave her copious facial hair and a thick-set jaw. These features led to her being called a “bear woman” or “ape woman.”
During the mid-1850s, Pastrana met Theodore Lent, a U.S. impresario who toured the singing and dancing Pastrana at freak shows across the United States and Europe before marrying her.
In 1860, Pastrana died in Moscow after giving birth to Lent’s son, who inherited his mother’s condition. The son died a few days later, and Lent then toured with the mother and son’s embalmed remains. After changing hands over the ensuing decades, both bodies ended up at the University of Oslo in Norway.
“Imagine the aggression and cruelty of humankind she had to face, and how she overcame it. It’s a very dignified story,” said Mario Lopez, the governor of Sinaloa state who lobbied to have her remains repatriated to her home state for burial.