Museo Momias

19 Jan

CAUTION: What follows in an article on the Mummy Museum in Guanajuato. The images are of the disinterred dead. Please stop viewing here if you find this subject matter disturbing or you are prohibited from viewing by social or spiritual beliefs. We apologize in advance if anyone is offended by this article.

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El Museo De Las Momias (“The Mummies’ Museum”) is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Mexico. That is our justification for running this subject matter in “Medflies.” The museum contains a number of naturally mummified bodies interred during a cholera outbreak in Guanajuato in 1833. The bodies are thought to have been disinterred until 1958.

During that time, a local tax was imposed requiring relatives to pay a fee to keep their relatives interred. If the families were unable to pay the tax, the bodies were disinterred. Ninety percent of the remains were disinterred because their relatives did not pay the tax. A law prohibiting disinterment was passed in 1958, but the museum continues to exhibit the original mummies.

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American author Ray Bradberry visited the catacombs and wrote the short story about his experience. He later wrote this about his museum visit “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 1979, German filmmaker Werner Herzog used footage of the mummies in the title sequence of his film “Nosferatu the Vampyre” in order to establish a macabre mood for his opening sequence.

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We visited the museum on a weekday but there were still lines of Mexican tourists waiting to enter. The caverns of the museum are dark, dank and stuffy and the entire space is dimly lit with spotlights on the mummies. Many of the visitors brought their children. I can only imagine the nightmares that resulted.

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Many of the mummies are clothed or the remains of clothing are visible on the bodies. In some cases it looks like items were added after the fact.

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The heads of some of the mummies appear to have chin straps and this is, indeed, the case. Cloths were tightly wrapped under the chin up on top of the head to keep the mouth from opening in what appeared to be a postmortem scream.

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Some families, in an attempt to capture an image of a child lost too soon, would have a photo taken of the deceased child with the mother. These portraits are at the heart of what, to me, was so hard about visiting the Mummy Museum. It is not a tourist attraction but a window into a culture at a certain time and place in history.

4 Responses to “Museo Momias”

  1. Nancy lehrhaupt January 20, 2015 at 3:40 am #

    Creepy.

    • Jill January 20, 2015 at 9:10 am #

      Yes. That too.

  2. Ursula January 19, 2015 at 7:20 pm #

    Maybe the reason we are so horrified by this that our culture does try to protect us from the reality of death by our attempts to hide that reality from us. We put makeup on our corpses and dress them in nice clothes. That photo just breaks our hearts.

    • Jill January 19, 2015 at 7:59 pm #

      Es muy triste.

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