Julia Pastrana: Deformed Freak or Half-Ape?

Allan Callahan

julia pastrana 2

Long-time readers of various racialist publications may recall the case of Julia Pastrana, whose photo has appeared from time to time, along with brief accounts of her life. She was said to be half-ape and half-human, born when some 19th century Mexican scientists decided to see if ape and human could mate. Using sperm from a negro, so the story goes, they impregnated a female ape, and the result was a horrible looking offspring whose ape-like characteristics outweighed her human ones. Cared for by the Catholic Church, she has been dead now for over one hundred and twenty five years.

Strange as this case may seem, it could be far from unique. Professor Charles Carroll has quoted many authorities who state that sexual couplings of negroes and apes have been fruitful, and the October 1964 issue of Battle Cry magazine carried an article by Dr. Winton Frayle in which he claimed that African negresses have bred successfully with apes.

Details of these matings would be of some interest to the public, but it appears that the case of Julia Pastrana was the only one that ever made any splash. However, even here, the information is sketchy. The three photos I have seen of her are all the same, and are copies of one in possession of the Anthropological Institute of London. Of course, information on matings between apes and humans would be distasteful to many people, especially to egalitarians, if it should be proven that only couplings between apes and blacks are likely to produce offspring.

Having long been curious about Julia Pastrana, I was pleased to finally come upon a book which devoted a chapter to her. The title is Very Special People, by Frederick Drimmer, first published in 1973 by Bantam Books.

The first thing I turned to was the part devoted to her, and I was not surprised to see that Drimmer avoided any details of her birth. He did, however, tell quite a bit about her life as an adult.

Julia Pastrana was born in 1832, and grew to a height of only four and a half feet. Most of her face was covered with a thick growth of black hair, and her arms were also very hairy. Her ears were large, the nose wide, and the chin prognathous. Her lips were large, the teeth irregular, the whole appearance decidedly apelike. Taken in tow by a showman named Lent, she left Mexico and traveled around the world with him, making him a wealthy man. She was taught to sing Mexican songs, and to dance.

Author Drimmer mentions that “strange stories were told about Julia,” and that those who viewed her “often whispered to each other that she could not be completely human.” Lent, ever the sagacious showman, saw to it that the public did not see very much of her off the stage, assuming that too much exposure would erode her novelty value and cut down on the gate receipts.

Julia was curious about the world, loved to read, and could speak three languages. Francis T. Buckland, the Englishman who wrote Curiosities of Natural History, saw her when she was being exhibited on Regent Street, London, in 1857, and spoke with her. He described her features as “simply hideous,” but admired her figure, and did not believe she was half-ape. Instead, he felt that she was “simply a deformed Mexican Indian woman.”

Julia was pulling in a lot of money, and rumors began to circulate that other showmen were trying to win her away from Lent; so, probably to keep his hold on her, he proposed marriage, which she really accepted.

In time, Julia was expecting, and was on tour in Moscow when she felt the first birth pangs. She hoped for a normal child, who would resemble his father, and was said to be hardly able to wait to get her first look at the baby, which turned out to be a boy. But when the great moment came and the midwife held him out to her, she saw, instead, a carbon-copy of herself, insofar as looks and skin color were concerned, and he was also covered with hair. The baby died within thirty-six hours.

Soon afterward Julia herself died, some thought of shock, or a broken heart. This was in 1860, when she was twenty-eight years old.

Author Drimmer said that “Nature played Julia Pastrana false,” but maybe it was not false at all. If she was, as Buckland believed, “simply a deformed Mexican Indian woman,” then the odds in favor of her giving birth to a normal child were good. On the other hand, if she was indeed half-ape and half-negro, then her offspring would most certainly exhibit strong ape-like characteristics. This is because the most primitive genes are dominant. Thus ape genes are dominant over negro genes, and negro genes are dominant over white genes. There is no way that the baby could have resembled Lent, the father who, I assume, was a white man, although his race was not given.

I am not in a position, personally, to make any positive pronouncements on the genetic makeup of Julia Pastrana; I can only point out what the evidence – especially the birth of her baby – seems to suggest.

Draw your own conclusions.

SOURCE: Liberty Bell, March 1986

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