Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mexican 'ape woman' buried after 150 years

I know that people will think I am reporting this story out of some sort of sick humor, but I'm not.  Read on:

"An indigenous Mexican woman put on display in Victorian-era Europe because of a rare genetic condition that covered her face in thick hair was buried in her home state on Tuesday in a ceremony that ends one of the best-known episodes from an era when human bodies were treated as collectible specimens.
With her hairy face and body, jutting jaw and other deformities, Julia Pastrana became known as the "ape woman" after she left the Pacific coast state of Sinaloa in 1854, when she was 20, and was taken around the United States by showman Theodore Lent, according to a Norwegian commission that studied her case.
She sang and danced for paying audiences, becoming a sensation who also toured Europe and Russia"

Here is a picture of Juia Pastrana:
Now, why am I interested in her?  It's because I remember very clearly the first time I ever saw this photo.  It was in the late 1960's, and it appeared on the front page of an issue of the Thunderbolt, the newspaper of the National States Rights party, where it was represented as a photo of a crossbreed between a black person and a gorilla, proving that blacks were not really human beings, but apes.

Years later, looking through a book on the history of carnivals, I came across the picture again, this time of course correctly describing what it was.  As you can imagine, I was quite surprised, but at least I was set straight (not that I ever believed that it was really a black person-ape hybrid.  Please give me that much credit.)  But how many ignorant, gullible, hate filled people swallowed this story, fully convinced that it proved that blacks and whites were not the same species?

Whoever wrote this story must have know that it was a lie, but it accomplished its purpose- spreading racist hatred- so I am sure that like right wingers everywhere, they didn't give a damn that they were engaging in one of the lowest forms of human behavior possible.  Well, that's the legacy that we still bear, so that a miniscule percentage of rich people in the South could claim to own other human beings.  And no, sad to say, we have not paid off their debt, a hundred and fifty years later, and their descendants are working as hard as ever to see that the debt hangs around our necks forever.

As the lady said, "What a world."

1 comment:

Poll P. said...

Yeah, I read every word of this poor woman's story. Her baby was born with the same medical condition, I think. I had no idea she was being help up as an example of 'inter-breeding'. I could show you a picture of Limbaugh or Beck, and plausibly make the case for their being crosses between a rodent and a pig.