Body of Julia Pastrana returned to Mexico for burial

A woman branded the ‘ugliest woman in the world’ after a rare disease left her body covered in hair has finally returned to her birthplace in Mexico for a proper burial – 153 years after her death. Julia Pastrana was exploited as part of a traveling exhibition through Europe until she died from complications of childbirth in 1860. Even after her death, her body was exhibited across the world.

It eventually ended up in a storage room at an Oslo research institute, and after learning of the body’s whereabouts, visual artist Laura Anderson Barbata campaigned to have it returned to Mexico. ‘I felt she deserved the right to regain her dignity and her place in history, and in the world’s memory,’ Barbata, who learned Pastrana’s story while working on a play about her life, told the New York Times.

‘I hoped to help change her position as a victim to one where she can be seen in her entirety and complexity.’ Barbata, who lives in New York but hails from Mexico City, eventually won her decade-long battle and on Tuesday, Pastrana’s body will finally be buried in Sinaloa de Leyva.

Pastrana was born in Mexico in 1834 and suffered from congenital terminal hypertrichosis, which left her face and body covered in thick hair. She also suffered from gingival hyperplasia, which made her lips and gums thick. She was not diagnosed with either condition in her lifetime. In 1854, she was bought by a Mexican customs administrator and he began exhibiting her through the U.S. and Canada. While in New York, she married Theodore Lent, who became her manager. Historians believe that while she was in love with Lent, he only married her to control her earnings, the New York Times reported….

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