The Mummies of Guanajuato, Mexico

Stephanie Spavento February 24, 2014

Some of the locals in the town of Guanajuato, Mexico believe that becoming mummified after you die is a punishment from god for sins committed during life. It takes just one look at the tattered clothes, shrunken eyes, and sunken cheeks of Guanajuato’s mummies to understand why. Much more gruesome than the classic Egyptian mummy, these Mexican mummies weren’t mummified on purpose to prepare for an afterlife, and probably wouldn’t have been discovered at all if it weren’t for an obscure and old law. From 1865-1958, relatives of the deceased buried in the town’s cemetery had to pay a “grave tax.” If the payments lapsed, the dead were exhumed and evicted from their resting places; but, the gravediggers weren’t finding the expected pile of bones, but rather completely mummified bodies. Dr. Remigio Leroy found the first mummy in 1865, the first year the “grave tax” was put in place. The cemetery kept the mummified bodies in an underground vault in case the debt was paid and the body needed to be reburied. Today, the vault has become el Museo de las Momias de Guanajuato; and, rather than being stored and forgotten, the mummies are cased in glass, in a building high on a hill overlooking the town below. Opened in 1894, the Mummy Museum houses about 120 mummies exhumed as recently as 1958. It is believed that the dry soil and cold mountain air created the perfect condition for corpses to quickly mummify, in some cases shrinking the tissues so fast, limbs and faces are contorted into horrifying positions. The museum is home to the smallest mummy in the world: an infant, believed to have been delivered by an unsuccessful Caesarian section and buried with its mother. There is also a mummy of a woman with scratches on her forehead and raised hands with broken nails who is thought to have been buried alive. Seen by many outsiders as a grisly and ghastly collection, most people who live in Guanajuato like the Mummy Museum. In addition to creating some revenue for the town, the mummies also serve to some as a reminder of mortality and the precious gift of life.

Momia Guanajuato

Momia Guanajuato