There were a lot of foreigners visiting. And I couldn't help but wonder if in this day and age there is such a thing as a western female without tattoos and body piercings? There sure weren't any at Guanajuato's mummy museum yesterday. My spirit was recovered though, when the cashier gave us a substantial discount on our entries for being Guanajuato residents.
We got into a lobby of sorts with some promotional vignette about Guanajuato and the mummies. Then on to the first exhibition with a handful of corpses. The guide told us about how the oldest mummy of the museum had been in exhibition for about 150 years. He showed us the mummified french doctor and mentioned that the three first mummies encountered were in fact foreigners. Two frenchmen and an unidentified asian. There were big corpses, small corpses, female corpses male corpses, thin corpses, fat corpses, clad corpses and naked corpses. One exhibition featured corpses of deceased children complete with a photo of the deceased child in the arms of the live parent. There was the mummy who was stabbed to death, complete with the killing stab wound in the belly. There was the world's smallest mummy, a prematurely born foetus brought out through a c-section which ended up killing both child and mother. Then there was the drowned mummy. And there was the mummy who was buried alive after being wrongly diagnosed as in a state of rigor mortis. When they opened her casket, they found that the deceased had turned around and the inside was full of scratch marks. She had tried to escape. This was in the exhibition room called "tragic deaths".
Contrary to an urban myth, the mummification process does not happen because of the minerals in the ground of the graveyards of the old mining town interfering in the petrification process. Mummification only happens to the corpses that are buried in above ground cemetery compartments. These are all made of concrete, completely sealed and pretty much waterproof. Furthermore they are kept dry because of the constant sunshine and as the wooden coffin in which the body lies absorbs any humidity that may still exist in the body beyond this point. The only way the surroundings may have played a minor part would be in the Guanajuato inhabitants drinking the mineral- and salt rich water of the area which left them dehydrating in the after life. The mummies are given no maintenance and used to be offered to the public eye without any protection what so ever. Nowadays, however, they are kept in glass cabinets. Out of good taste I suppose.
Becoming a mummy on display could be considered a punishment of sorts. Most mummies on exhibition ended up so because their family members failed to pay the graveyard fee. That french doctor has been paying off his debt to the Guanajuato government for some 100+ years now. Poor fella.