Sunday, July 20, 2008

Feo Pio

A Virginia neurologist thinks that Pio Pico--the last Mexican governor of California, whose Pico House Hotel still stands near Olvera Street--suffered from acromegaly, complicated by a benign tumor of the pituitary gland. That made cartilage and soft tissue in his face grow large and disproportionate.

In this picture of viejo Pico from an online 1967 San Diego Historical Society Journal, a snowy beard obscures a lot.

The Los Angeles Times headline reads: What made Pio Pico so feo? It's a bit harsh, but yeah. He's no Antonio Banderas. And he don't look a bit like his brother Andres, below.

Dr. Ivan S. Login (the neurologist) says "When you see one person who's got that [acromegaly], you recognize it forever." Well, yes, and I'm sure the doctor knows his stuff. But it's also true that if you're holding a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.

The report will be in a journal called Pituitary. Definitely a niche publication. The picture of Andres, btw, is online courtesy of the San Fernando Valley Historical Association.

Andres and Pio once owned a large part of the land that became the San Fernando Valley, and a graduate student wrote a whole book about Andres' fight to retain it. The book is called Forster Vs. Pico: The Struggle for the Rancho Santa Margarita, by John Kielbasa. Good luck trying to find a copy.

Unless the doctor has dna or exhumed the body, I'm leery of a diagnosis based on a few daguerreotypes and an oil painting. Remember a few years ago when news outlets were reporting that Abraham Lincoln suffered from Marfan's Syndrome? Unlikely, the experts now admit.

OK, ready for a picture of Pio in all his youthful feo-city? This copy came from Picasa. I've seen it many times--but no idea where the original is kept. It's of Pio with his wife and nieces. Since the Times printed a cut-up copy with no attribution, I assume it's public domain.

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