Julia Pastrana was a performer from Sinaloa, Mexico who suffered from hypertrichosis terminalis, a genetic condition characterized by excessive hair growth. Pastrana had pronounced facial features, such as a prominent nose and ears. She was purchased and brought to perform in the United States. Later in her life, while on a performing tour in Moscow, Russia, Pastrana gave birth to a son bearing similar physical characteristics to herself. Three days later, Pastrana's son died, and she followed shortly thereafter, dying five days after from postpartum complications.
Following the death of Julia Pastrana and her son, Pastrana's husband Theodore Lent had their bodies embalmed and exhibited in a glass cabinet. Professor Sukolov of Moscow University carried our the mummification, where the exact process is unknown.
Pastrana was a marvel of the scientific world; she was studied extensively during her life by various doctors and scientists. Several different explanations for Pastrana's condition were suggested, where the comparative anatomist Samuel Kneeland Jr. noted she was simply a human of Indian descent.
Perhaps the most notable scientific figure to comment on Julia Pastrana was the evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin. He commented on her facial resemblance to a gorilla as well as her irregular double set of teeth.
While Pastrana's condition is relatively well-known in the modern realm of science, it was largely misunderstood in the 19th century. The condition,hypertrichosis terminalis, had noticeable effects on Pastrana's morphology, which remain visible in her preserved body.
The mummified bodies of Pastrana and her son were absent from the public eye for a number of years. They re-emerged and were displayed in Norway during the beginning of the 20th century. Pastrana's body has since been relocated to Sinaloa, and was buried in a cemetery in Sinaloa de Levya in February 2013.
Wilson, C. (2013, February 11). An Artist Finds a Dignified Ending for an Ugly Story. Retrieved October 21, 2017, from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/12/arts/design/julia-pastrana-who-died-in-1860-to-be-buried-in-mexico.html