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The Zoo

There was a time when people were exhibited in circuses and shows only because they were different.
| 22 September, 2019 |

It seems impossible, but it’s true. Some of the ancient inhabitants of Patagoniawere once exhibited in an infausta French exhibition. Men and women of Tierra del Fuego would be trapped and locked up to be shown in Europe in 1880 .

After the Conquest of the Desert, many unspeakable events took place. The abduction and transfer of eleven Argentine aborigines and thirteen Chileans to the other side of the world, had the only reason for the exhibition of the inhabitants of Patagonia in Paris.

The Garden of Anthropological Acclimatization, would be, in short, a human zoo. There they were exhibited groups of exotic ethnic groups, in order to satisfy the curiosity of Europeans with respect to populations in remote lands.

This is how Christian Baez and Peter Mason tell them in “Human Zoos” (Pehuén Editorial – Chile, 2006), where they make a very thorough analysis of a series of photographs preserved in the National Library of the French capital. There, the authors accessed the collection of Prince Roland Napoleon Bonaparte, entitled “Representatives of the Peoples of Five continents”.

Located in gigantic cages where the habitat of different parts of the world was recreated, Bushmen, Sudanese and Fuegians, among numerous members of other peoples, were shown as curiosities of universal anthropology.

Your skin, your physiognomy, every action, the shape to dress up. Everything was included in the exhibitions of the Garden of Acclimation Anthropological.

As expected, overcrowding and the mistreatment, caused one day the Fueguinos to stop eating. On a winter tour in Western Europe, most of them became seriously ill. One by one, the Aborigines from the south of the planet began to die. First a woman, then her Son. Six were finally left.

The businessman who devised that infamous exhibition was a zoologist named Carl Hagenbeck. In addition to him, he also became well known Maurice Maitre, who was the one who led the Human Zooto travel the world.

Looks like, when Hagenbeck died. after being bitten by a poisonous snake, then Maitre took care of the business alone.

But to make a fortune with the misfortune of others had its price. After many complaints, Maitre was persecuted by the police in several countries. Accused for have in their “anthropological shows” to illegal aliens, was forced to comply with the law. Identification of the Fuegian Aboriginals as subjects by law, eventually allowed their repatriation.

Of course, returning to Tierra del Fuego didn’t mean survival. The last ones left ended up exposed to

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