The remains of Julia Pastrana, who spent much of her life on display because of her unusual appearance before dying in 1860, were finally being sent home to her native Mexico this week after years of being stored at Norway’s institute for forensic medicine (Rettsmedisinskintitutt).
News bureau NTB reported that Pastrana’s remains were being turned over in Oslo to representatives from the Mexican government on Thursday.
Pastrana was born in Mexico in 1834 with a condition called hypertrichosis, which left her body covered with hair, her ears and nose unusually large, her jaw protruding and her teeth irregular. For years, she was advertised as a combination of human and ape, with what even Charles Darwin once called a “gorilla-like appearance.”
She was discovered and purchased from a woman who may have been her mother by a showman known as Lewis B Lent, who taught her to dance and play music and took her on a worldwide tour as the “Bearded and Hairy Lady.” She died in Moscow in 1860 and her body was embalmed in Russia.
It was eventually purchased by a Norwegian circus in 1921 and exhibited in Norway as late as the 1950s. In the 1970s, reported NTB, it was stolen from a warehouse in Oslo’s Grouddalen district.
It was later recovered and landed at the forensic medicine institute. In 1994, the faculty at the University of Oslo recommended Pastrana’s remains be buried and last year a national commission for research on human remains decided that Pastrana should be buried in Mexico.
Mexico’s ambassador in Copenhagen, Martha Barcena Coqui, was due to receive the remains in a chapel at the national hospital in Oslo on Thursday. Coqui will be responsible for transporting the remains to northern Mexico, where Pastrana would finally be laid to rest.