Mexican ‘ape woman’ put on display in Victorian Europe buried in homeland after 150 years

Hey all! As you know, many indigenous people throught the west were taken from their homes and paraded around Victorian Europe. In the 1850’s and 1860’s, the “Ape Woman” or “Bearded Lady” was known by many people as a circus freak made to dance and sing for Victorian society’s entertainment. And just recently, her body was returned to Mexico. Since it relates to this course, I thought I’d go ahead and post the story here.

The “Ape Woman” had a name, and her name was Julia Pasterna. Born in Sinaloa De Leyva, Mexico, in 1834, she suffered from a rare disease called Congenital Generalized Hypertrichosis Terminalis which caused her to have hair on her face and ape-like features. She was returned to her home just this week and finally laid to rest in her home town after spending more than 150 years in Europe, even after her death, being passed around as a spectacle.

Mexico’s ambassador had an interesting response: “You know I have mixed feelings. 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.”

I really think this brings into question the voyeuristic nature of the Victorian period, as we’ve seen in many of our characters in The Moonstone. Also the interaction of the “core” with the peripheral characters. Limping Lucy and Rosanna, for example—two “deformed” characters who are catalysts to the larger plot.

Full story here:

And here’s the YouTube video:

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