You either love or really hate the idea of visiting a museum filled with mummies, and since you’re reading this, I’m assuming we are on the same level of appreciation of things grotesque and macabre. Thanks, friend. You weirdo.

During a trip to Mexico, we spent several days in Guanajuato, a town with Spanish colonial architecture and the most delicious street food, gorditas. (How have I not written a post on gorditas? More on that soon.) But for now, something that just might make you lose your appetite . . .

Guanajuato Mummies Sedimentality

Museo de las Momias Guanajuato Mexico Travel SedimentalityMuseo de las Momias Guanajuato Mexico Travel Sedimentality
Mummy Museum Guanajuato Mexico Sedimentality

Guanajuato’s Mummy Museum displays naturally mummified remains (many from the victims of a cholera outbreak in 1833). The bodies were disinterred between 1865 and 1958, during which time families had to pay a tax in order to keep their relatives interred. Should the families be unable to pay the tax, the bodies were unearthed: just 2 percent of these remains were mummified naturally. (If you’re wondering, a law was passed in 1958 forbidding the disinterment of bodies, so this is thankfully no longer a practice.)

Stored away for years, the bodies began attracting tourists, and cemetery workers began charging a nominal fee for weirdos like me to see these incredibly well-preserved bodies. Later, El Museo de Las Momias was officially formed. It houses over 100 mummies, including the smallest mummy in the world (the fetus from a pregnant woman). It also includes the (gasp) remains of a woman who was buried alive: when disinterred, she was found on her stomach, biting her arm, which had been bloodied. What’s up with people being buried alive in South America? I’m still haunted by a story I was told of a girl who woke up in a mausoleum in Recoleta Cemetery . . .)

Recoleta Cemetery Sedimentality

In addition to being an attraction for people who watch a little too much Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, the museum has been featured in several movies: in the 1970 movie Santo vs. The Mummies of Guanajuato, Mexican professional wrestler Santo and several friends fight the mummies-come-to-life, and in the late 70s, Werner Herzog shot scenes of the mummies for the opening sequence of his film Nosferatu the Vampyre.  The mummies also inspired a short story by Ray Bradbury, who penned “The Next in Line” after his visit. In the introduction to his book, The Stories of Ray Bradbury, he writes:

The experience so wounded and terrified me, I could hardly wait to flee Mexico. I had nightmares about dying and having to remain in the halls of the dead with those propped and wired bodies. In order to purge my terror, instantly, I wrote ‘The Next in Line.’ One of the few times that an experience yielded results almost on the spot.

Interesting note: although this article is a bit dated (2007), interesting research has been done over the last decade on the mummies. Read more about it with this University of Texas article.

Poblenou Cemetery