Video: The Mummies of Guanajuato

Useful vocabulary for this episode:

  • Las Momias de Guanajuato = The Mummies of Guanajuato
  • ¡Comencemos! = Let's get started!
  • Momias = Mummies
  • Museo = Museum
  • Panteón = Cemetery
  • Panteón Santa Paula = St. Paula Cemetery
  • Atrás = Behind
  • La Momia Más Pequeña del Mundo = The Smallest Mummy in the World
  • Ahogado = Drowned
  • ¡Tienes que conocerlo! = You have to check it out!

Guanajuato is a central Mexican city rich in history and culture and is home to The Mummies of Guanajuato, a shocking local attraction that we won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

One of the main reasons why people visit Guanajuato is to see the Museo de las Momias. Everyone we talked to said “you can’t say you’ve been to Guanajuato if you didn’t see the mummies”, so on our first day in the city we did just that.

How to get there:

We took the bus that says “Momias” from downtown Guanajuato, but you could also take a taxi or an Uber that will take you right to the museum. If you take the bus just make sure you let the driver know that you’re going to the museo. They can let you know when to get off.

Once you get off the bus you’ll have to cross the street and start walking uphill until you see a sign painted on the wall that says “Momias”. Just to the left you’ll find the entrance to the Panteón Santa Paula. This is where the mummies were found. To the right you’ll see the entrance to the museum.

History of the Mummies:

In 1870, a local tax was implemented in the cemetery Santa Paula requiring a fee to keep bodies buried there. The bodies for which the tax was not paid were exhumed and kept in a nearby building in case a family member or friend of the deceased came and either paid the tax or claimed the body. 

Cemetery workers noticed that some of the exhumed bodies were mummified. Later it was discovered that the weather in Guanajuato, coupled with the fact that the crypts were seal air-tight were the main factors that lead to the natural mummification of the bodies. Rumors of the mummies started to spread and people began breaking into the building where the mummies were kept to see them. Soon after that, cemetery workers started charging a few pesos to the curious people who wanted to take a look at the mummies.

The Guanajuato Mummy Museum:

In 1969, the Guanajuato Mummy Museum opened its doors. Located right atrás the cemetery where the mummies were first discovered. This museum exhibits the bodies of 111 mummified men, women and babies.

One of the first mummies you will see in this museum belonged to Dr. Remigio Leroy, a French doctor who lived and died in the city of Guanajuato. Not having any relatives in Mexico, no one paid the tax for him and his body was the first one to be exhumed from the cemetery.

Here you’ll also find the body of Juan Jaramillo. His body is the best preserved in the entire collection, having no tears in his skin, and his teeth are completely in tact.

One of the rooms holds what the museum considers the most important of the mummies in the exhibit: La Momia Más Pequeña del Mundo. A fetus just a few months old who was either stillborn or died at birth.

In another room you’ll find three mummies that are separated from the rest. These three are unique in the museum in that they died from unnatural causes: One from a stab wound, one ahogado, and another one who is believed to have been buried alive.

Final thoughts:

Going to the museum, we had an idea of what we were about to see but we never imagined it would be so shocking. We were absolutely at a loss for words and it took us a while to take in what we had just seen. Jim actually told me later that he was so shocked from seeing so many mummies that he was seeing mummy faces on people walking down the streets.

We had so many unanswered questions after visiting the museum, and found ourselves having trouble describing exactly how we felt. For example, how could the government put a law in place that would eventually disinter an immigrant doctor who cared for local patients in Guanajuato? Why didn’t anyone come to claim the other bodies? Did over a hundred people who ended up in the museum really die alone without anyone to make sure they could rest in peace?

We may never have the answers to those questions, but we know we were not the only ones who left the museum intrigued and maybe even fascinated by the mummies. Lots of films and books have been produced over the years with the Guanajuato mummies as inspiration.

If you are into weird tourist attractions, creepy museums or just history in general you have to visit the Guanajuato Mummy Museum. We will certainly never forget our visit. ¡Tienes que conocerlo!

Have you ever seen mummies in real life? Have you been to Guanajuato? Let us know in the comments! We love to hear from you.

May Larios

May Larios García is a Mexican English and Spanish teacher who grew up in a small town in the state of Colima, Mexico. She graduated from the School of Foreign Languages in Colima in 2010. She has been teaching English and Spanish as a Foreign and Second Language since the age of 18. She has worked with students of all ages and hopes to be able to keep helping others learn around the world.

    May enjoys visiting new places, meeting new people, and she can't wait to show you all the awesome places where Spanish is spoken. When she is not working, you can find her in the kitchen creating vegan recipes, sharing laughs with her friends, or at the closest tiangüis or mercado looking for the freshest produce.