These mummies were discovered when a new local law took effect. The original cemetery was becoming filled and needed more space. The local officials placed a tax on the relatives of people in the cemetery and wanting to be buried there. This was something that might be called a grave tax. A person could pay a one-time tax of 170 pesos (a large sum in the late 1800s), or pay a yearly tax of 20 pesos. (This was less expensive for the short term, but greater over a long time.) If the tax was not paid for 3 successive years, then the remains of that person’s relatives would be exhumed and placed on display in the museum. The law was changed in 1958, therefore, no new mummies have been removed from the cemetery. However, those that had been removed remained on display in the museum. They are still there until this day.
There are more than 100 specimens that can be viewed. It is unknown if more exist, since only those whose relatives could not pay the local tax were exhumed. So, there may be more mummies about which no one knows. The mummies, themselves, are quite diversified. Some are clothed, others not. Some are old, others young. One tiny baby is labeled as the smallest mummy in the world. Many of these people died with a grimace on their faces, as if they died in agony. It is believed that many of these people died during a cholera epidemic. In some cases, a person with that disease may be in a state of stupor, leading others to assume that they are dead. Then, they are buried alive. When they recover, they find themselves in the ground, unable to remove the soil that is over them. At that point, they quickly starve to death.
Since no scientists have studied the mummies, no one knows for certain how the people became mummified. It is believed that the combination of the dry mountainous air and the minerals in the soil caused this mummification.
Again, this is one of the most unique experiences that I have had, and I am certain that those of you who take the time will agree that it is another of the mysteries of Guanajuato.
Results 1-5of 5 Reviews
The Villages, Florida
January 31, 2006
From journal Week in Guanajuato, Mexico
Rothesay, New Brunswick
October 12, 2005
From journal Mexico
London, United Kingdom
August 20, 2005
They tend to be displayed with arms crossed over their chests, and most have clothes missing or damaged, so you can easily identify patches of preserved pubic hair! Others are completely naked, save a pair of socks. One poor soul was literally strung up so you could get an upright, full-frontal view.
All in all, I would not say it’s worth the trip or the entrance fee, especially given the lack of air-conditioning inside which makes it stifling at times. But for those with a fascination for the morbid (my only reason for going), it may be worth a trip!
From journal Guanajuato and the Dawn Chorus
by Coach Bear
July 21, 2005
From journal Guanajuato: City of History, or Myth?
November 17, 2002
Somehow it was discovered that bodies in a local cemetery were remarkably well preserved--a tourist attraction was born. If families were not able to pay the rent on a cemetery plot, their loved ones were dug up and put on display.
The museum consists of rows and rows of mummified folks displayed in glass cases. Most still have their socks on. It's not a place for the squeamish.
Adjacent to the museum is the Salon del Culto a la Muerte--a schlocky little addition to the museum where you can see fetus mummies, chastity belts and holograms of spiders, all while being serenaded by screams and spooky sounds on the PA system.
Outside the museum all manner of mummy and skeleton paraphernalia is for sale. The mummy-shaped candy is a big seller.
From journal Guanajuato