The Mummies of Guanajuato: The Sad Story of Mexico’s Cholera Epidemic
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Perhaps everyone has seen at least once in their lives some horror movie in which the living dead attack people. These sinister dead stir the human imagination. But in reality, mummies pose no danger and have incredible scientific value. In our review is one of the most incredible archaeological finds of our time – the mummies of Guanajuato .
The Guanajuato mummies are a collection of naturally mummified bodies buried during a cholera outbreak in Guanajuato, Mexico in 1833. These mummies were discovered in the city’s cemetery, after which Guanajuato became a major tourist attraction in Mexico. Admittedly, the attraction is quite creepy.
Scientists believe the bodies were exhumed between 1865 and 1958. At the time, a new tax was imposed that required relatives of the deceased to pay a tax on a place in a cemetery, or else the body was exhumed. Ninety percent of the remains were eventually exhumed because there were few people willing to pay such a tax. Of these, only two percent of the bodies were mummified naturally. The mummified bodies, which were stored in a special building in the cemetery, became available to tourists in the 1900s.
Cemetery workers began letting visitors in for a few pesos to enter the building where the bones and mummies were kept. The place was later turned into a museum called El Museo De Las Momias (“The Museum of Mummies”). A law prohibiting forced exhumations was passed in 1958, but the original mummies are still on display in this museum today.
The mummies of the Mexican city of Guanajuato are the result of the weather and soil conditions under which mummification occurs. Bodies of dead people who were not picked up for burial by relatives often became public exhibits. During epidemics, bodies were buried immediately after death to prevent the spread of disease. Scientists believe that some people were buried while they were still alive, which is why their faces show expressions of horror. But there is another opinion: the facial expressions are the result of postmortem processes.
It is known, however, that a certain Ignacia Aguilar was indeed buried alive. The woman suffered from a strange disease that caused her heart to stop several times. During one of the attacks, her heart seemed to stop for more than twenty-four hours. Thinking Ignatia was dead, her relatives buried her. When exhumed, her body was found lying face down, with the woman biting her hand and baked blood in her mouth.
The museum, which has at least 111 mummies on display, is located directly above the site where the mummies were first discovered. This museum also houses the world’s smallest mummy, the fetus of a pregnant woman who was a victim of cholera. Some of the mummies are displayed in the preserved clothes in which they were buried. The mummies of Guanajuato are a prominent part of Mexican popular culture, highlighting the national holiday El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in the best way possible.
No less interesting is the mystery of the mummy of the surgeon Pirogov . Scientists are still unable to unravel the recipe by which Pirogov’s body was mummified, and people come to church to worship it as holy relics and ask for help.
The Mummy Museum in Guanajuato
In this post I will describe a very unusual and even shocking museum, the Mummy Museum in the Mexican city of Guanajuato (Museo de las Momias de Guanajuato). But I want to warn at once – it is better not to look here for people with especially sensitive psyche and delicate moral organization, conserve your nervous system.
In fact, there’s nothing so super scary in this museum, it displays a collection of 111 mummies of men, women and children exhumed in Guanajuato between 1865 and 1989.
How did it all begin and why did this museum with mummies appear here in Guanajuato? It turns out that the history of the origin of this museum is very prosaic. In the middle of the 19th century, the local authorities imposed a tax on the dead. Well, and poor relatives who were not able to pay for their dead, had simply to remove the bodies from the graves. That is when it was discovered to great surprise that many of the bodies are perfectly preserved, that is, have turned naturally into mummies.
And all thanks to the unique composition of the soil and the specific climate of Guanajuato, which contributed to this natural process of mummification of the dead. This is actually where it all began, first the mummies were kept in a special room in the cemetery, and gradually the visitors were charged to visit this place, and in 1969 opened a museum, displaying the mummies in showcases for public viewing.
That’s how one of the creepiest museums in the world appeared here. And today the museum is considered one of the main and most visited attractions in Guanajuato. It’s a fact that it is the most visited, but you had to wait in line for a while.
The exhibition begins with a large corridor of mummies.
Let’s look first at the most interesting and famous pieces of the collection.
Here is a female mummy named China.
This Asian woman is the oldest specimen in the museum, lying in a coffin with a creepy grimace and a cushion under her head.
The lady with the shirt and the scythe is 70 years old.
And you can’t tell from the looks of her, she’s well-preserved.
The man in the overcoat is very much alive.
And this mummy must have been very well-fed when she was alive.
Many mummies wear well-preserved pants, socks, boots.
Here is the mummy of the drowned man in the middle, in the company of other mummies who did not die of their own accord.
Some of them have such scary grins, it’s just creepy!
And this is one of the masterpieces of the collection, the mummy of a late-term pregnant woman and her unborn child. It is said to be the smallest mummy in the world. Mario couldn’t help himself and chuckled as he joined them and made the same grin, which caused a storm of excitement among the museum visitors.
Some of the characters here are nestled in a coffin, some showing off their well-preserved toilets.
Everything is very unusual, everything is surprising. And it’s not scary at all, to tell you the truth. Mexicans come here even with small children, because they have a different attitude toward death. For them, it’s not a tragedy at all, it’s the beginning of a bright path. That’s why they have the cult of the dead, it’s a natural part of their life. And such a museum for them is not terrible at all, but rather the opposite.
It is interesting that the most famous mummies are equipped with tablets, where the description comes directly from the first person, that is from the mummies themselves.
The children’s room makes the most eerie and unpleasant impression.
Some children are dressed in costumes of angels, in order to get to heaven as soon as possible.
In general, it was very interesting to visit such a museum, coming out of it better understand the mentality and culture of Mexicans.
The museum is located in a barn-like unassuming building, quite far from the center in the Explanada del Panteon.
Therefore it is better to get here by cab. The picture around the museum is brightened only by the surrounding mountain scenery of the Sierra Madre.
The museum is open daily from 09 to 18.00. A ticket for foreigners costs 55 pesos, for the right to take pictures inside the museum take another 20 pesos. In general, very cheap for such a unique exhibition. The only thing is it is difficult to take pictures there – there is not much light, the glare from the glass.
Well, that’s all, I hope that no one was not afraid of the Mexican mummies. In its own way, this is a unique museum, so I think you should know about these sights too.