Over Easter weekend, the family I live with let me come along on a trip to Guanajuato. I don’t think anyone else in the family was interested, but I wanted to see the mummies and they humored me. Nice folks!
But before you think Egyptian mummies, these folks were not prepared for becoming mummies. There’s no linen wrapped bodies or pyramids. Most weren’t even embalmed. These folks, or the people who prepared their bodies, certainly didn’t expect the bodies to be put on display. No, these corpses are only about 150 years old (or less) and come from a nearby cemetery. They weren’t buried in the ground (with one exception), but entombed and simply dried out. The air is quite dry here, the soil alkaline and the tombs isolated the bodies from the elements and many organisms,. Unfortunately, their tombs had been rented, not purchased, so when the families couldn’t pay, or couldn’t be found, they were put here, in Museo de las Momias de Guanajuato.
By US standards, this is pretty gruesome, but Mexicans have a different, more familiar and accepting view of death. Somehow, I feel slightly guilty about my visit, though. Can you say voyeur?
According to Wikipedia: “The first mummy was put on display in 1865. It was the body of Dr. Remigio Leroy. The museum, containing at least 108 corpses, is located above the spot where the mummies were first discovered. Numerous mummies can be seen throughout the exhibition, of varying sizes. The museum is known to have the smallest mummy in the world, a fetus from a pregnant woman who fell victim to cholera. Some of the mummies can be seen wearing parts of the clothing in which they were buried.”
More from Wikipedia: “The mummies are a notable part of Mexican popular culture, echoing the national holiday “The Day of the Dead” (El Dia de los Muertos). A B movie titled Santo vs. The Mummies of Guanajuato (1970) pitted the well-known Mexican professional wrestler Santo and several others against reanimated mummies.”
“Author Ray Bradbury visited the catacombs of Guanajuato with his friend Grant Beach and wrote the short story “The Next in Line” about his experience. In the introduction to The Stories of Ray Bradbury he wrote the following about this story: ‘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.‘”
“To conjure a morbid and eerie atmospheric opening sequence to his film Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), German director Werner Herzog used footage he had taken of several of the mummies.”