The city of Guanajuato in central Mexico has a remarkable attraction: a mummy museum featuring over one hundred mummies that were formed naturally in the local cemetery. The Museo de las Momias de Guanajuato is one of the creepiest sights in Mexico, and not recommended for visitors who are faint of heart or squeamish.
History of the Guanajuato Mummies
Many years ago, there was a law in Guanajuato which required family members of the deceased interred at the cemetery to pay an annual fee for the space occupied by their loved one. If the fee was not paid for five years in a row, the body would be exhumed so that the crypt could be re-used.
In 1865, cemetery workers in the Santa Paula cemetery exhumed the remains of Dr. Remigio Leroy, a medical doctor, and to their amazement, they found that his body had not decayed and instead had dried up and become a mummy. Over time, more bodies were found in this state, and they were placed in the cemetery's ossuary building. As word spread, people began to visit the mummies, at first clandestinely. As the mummies gained popularity, a museum was set up near the cemetery for the mummies to be exhibited to the general public.
About the Mummies
The Guanajuato mummies were exhumed between 1865 and 1989. The mummies here formed naturally. It is likely a combination of factors which led to the mummification, including the altitude and the area's arid climate, the wooden coffins which may have absorbed moisture, and sealed cement crypts which protected the bodies from organisms that would have led to their decay.
Guanajuato Mummy Museum Collection
The museum has a collection of over a hundred mummies. The mummies displayed in the museum were residents of Guanajuato who lived roughly from 1850 to 1950. One of the surprising things about the collection is the variety of ages of the mummies: you'll see the "smallest mummy in the world" (a fetus), several mummies of children, and men and women of all ages. Some of the mummies' clothing remains while a few have only their socks; it becomes quite obvious that synthetic fibers endure while natural fibers disintegrate more rapidly.
Guanajuato City is the capital of the state of the same name. It has approximately 80 thousand inhabitants and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was a silver mining town and played an important role during Mexico's war of Independence. Guanajuato has beautiful examples of baroque and neoclassical architecture.