So…I went to a mummy museum. Thanks, Guanajuato.
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’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 . . .)
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.
- Still in the spooky spirit? Check out our trips to Highgate Cemetery in London, Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, and Poble Nou in Barcelona, or read about my not-so-cool claustrophobic freakout in the Paris Catacombs.
- Not in the mood for the macabre, but still love Mexico? Enjoy our slideshow of breathtaking San Miguel de Allende or learn a little more about the delicious michelada or the process of tequila-making.