We just had to visit the world-famous Museo de las Momias de Guanajuato (Guanajuato Mummies Museum). We’ve always liked to explore life and death…eerie as it may seem to some.Here at the Musee de Mommies and the adjacent cemetery we glimpse how the people of Guanajuato celebrate and normalize death. It is rooted in the Mexican culture to honor their ancestors during the festival of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).
Warning: This post contains photos of mummies.
Bumping up the cobblestone road in the taxi we head into the hills of Guanajuato to an unspectacular building that is home to this large collection of Mummies. The museum itself actually came about by accident, when many deaths occurred as a result of a cholera outbreak. However around that time, a strange local tax existed in the state which the family members of the dead had to pay. Failing to pay the tax meant that dead bodies were dug up from their grave and the burial place was reused. Most of the bodies were dug up as the locals failed to pay taxes. Out of them, few bodies got mummified through the natural process.
On 9th June, 1865, while exhuming the dead bodies in the Santa Paula Pantheon Cemetery, grave diggers found the mummified body of a French doctor, Dr. Remigio Leroy. The body had not decayed but had mummified. Since the doctor did not have any relatives in the city, no one claimed his body. Hence, his mummy became the first and the oldest mummy of this museum.
Over a period of time, more mummified bodies were found and eventually became part of the museum. People started flocking to these mummies out of curiosity. And finally it gave the idea to set up a museum for these mummies near the cemetery.
Today Museo de las Momias de Guanajuato (Guanajuato Mummies Museum) in Mexico houses over a hundred mummies exhumed between 1865 and 1989. All of them have been conserved through a natural dehydration process and are in their natural state as they were buried, unlike the mummies of Egypt which were wrapped up and embalmed. Mummies in this museum never underwent any process of embalmment. All the mummies are kept in glass casing under controlled temperatures.
The collection, though fascinating, is at times scary. At the start of the museum is the fully clothed mummy of Dr. Remigio Leroy, then is a row behind glass of about a dozen mummies which is kinda creepy. Next thing, we were staring at the so-called ‘China Girl’ mummy with its original clothing. She’s really just like a porcelain doll and the only mummy in the museum that has it’s original coffin.
There is also a series of baby mummies or ‘Little Angels’ in the museum. One of the infant mummies has a small broom and sandals in its legs. Since Mexicans believed in the power of resurrection, it is assumed that these babies were dressed up traditionally at the time of their death.
Then you enter the hall with a group of 10 mummies, all placed together behind the glass, some even still have shoes and socks on.
Moving on we see the smallest human mummy of the world, in the form of a fetus, approximately 8 inches in size. This is one of the main attractions of the museum. Displayed in the center of the hall, are the mummies of a mother and her six month old fetus. When the mummy of the mother was discovered, she had with her the mummified corpse of a fetus, her son. Seeing her condition then, it was concluded that she had died due to the lack of necessary nutrients to support her pregnancy.
This museum has a somewhat mysterious atmosphere, I went on to be fascinated by 3 more mummies who had died accidentally. One had been drowned, one stabbed and other buried alive, each displaying how they died.
Take the bus from the city which is marked as ‘Las Momias’ and the bus will drop you very near to the museum. Bus service is extremely cheap in Guanajuato and costs around 50pesos. Another option is to take a taxi to the museum, most operate at a flat rate of around 40 Pesos anywhere in the city, but make sure to agree on price first.
Admission Fees – 55 MXN Pesos for Adults, 36 MXN for Children 6 -12 years
Camera Usage Fees – 20 MXN
Open from 9am – 6pm
And when you’re all done at the museum head off for a wander around the cemetery where beautiful tributes and flowers abound.
And one more time – I’ll never tire of this beautiful view of Guanajuato…