The Eye of the Beholder: Julia Pastrana’s Long Journey Home
By Laura Anderson Barbata, Awarded Author and Artist
Making Meaning of a Dark History
In The Eye of the Beholder: Juliana Pastrana’s Long Journey Home, the tragic story of Julia Pastrana is chronicled through essays detailing her life and the lasting impact of the horrors of colonization and human exhibitions.
Pastrana gained notoriety because of her congenital excessive hairiness and exploitation by her husband. Her case was so unique that her and her son were mummified after their deaths and exhibited for another 113 years.
The search for meaning in our lives is compounded by our understanding of history. Making a spectacle of people who are different, objectifying women, and colonization are still issues today. Grant Kester states, “Pastrana serves as a potent reminder of the dangerous memories that lie buried beneath the otherwise triumphant histories of modernity.” Dismantling previously held beliefs allows us to create meaning that stems from truth. Artists and activists were able to to do this by giving Pastrana the treatment she never received in life or in death. She was repatriated, ceremoniously honored, and buried in her native country, Mexico. Through this act of compassion we see Pastrana’s tragedy not just as a senseless violence of a distant past, but with the potential to right our wrongs and move forward into a better future.
The Eye of the Beholder: Julia Pastrana’s Long Journey Home can be found on Amazon
Read an interview by Bess Lovejoy in conversation with author and artist Laura Anderson Barbata about her tireless quest to right a 153 year old wrong.