10 November 2018: Today’s visit to the Museo de las Momias (Museum of the Mummies) in Guanajato has to be one of the strangest museum visits I have ever undertaken.
Billed as a major attraction of Guanajato, the museum which is home to numerous mummified corpses, many with gruesome facial expressions and contorted positions, attracts hundreds of visitors every day. I guess this fascination with death shouldn’t come as a surprise in a country somewhat obsessed with death (look no further than the fabulous Day of the Dead celebrations). Many of the exhibits are a little gruesome including the pregnant woman mummy and the separate mummy of her six month old foetus (the museum notes somewhat gleefully that this is the world’s youngest and smallest mummy).
So why are the mummies here? Apparently the first remains were dug up in 1865 when it became necessary to remove bodies from the cemetery to make way for more corpses. However, instead of finding skeletons, the authorities came face to face with mummified corpses: due to the rich mineral content of the soil (this area is renowned for (and has made its wealth from) its vast silver, iron and quartz mines) plus the dry atmosphere, the bodies had not decomposed but had been preserved.
And the exhuming processes continue today with the ongoing pressure on space in the cemetery. Woe betide those families who fail to continue to pay for their slots in the public cemetery as the bodies will be unceremoniously dug up. However not all exhumed bodies end up in the museum on public display: this is reserved only for the best preserved “display quality” mummies with the rest just being cremated.
The town’s general cemetery