The Mummies of Guanajuato: A Shocking Lesson in Our Mortality Comes to America

by Brian Vaszily, founder of

Looking death in the face in a figurative sense is challenging enough for most people. It evokes feelings and thoughts that many, especially here in America, are determined to hide from versus embrace and grow from.

So looking death in the face in a literal sense -- especially when they are so obviously aware of their dying and death like the faces of the Guanajuato Mummies -- can be an even more unnerving experience.

But if the viewer takes even a few moments to consider the twist of emotions welling up inside of them -- as expressed in the opposing compulsion to both look and to look away -- they can turn the experience into a powerful and always-necessary reminder of how short and precious life really is... why NOW is the best and only time to pursue your goals and what you really love, not a someday that may never come.

And now that the famous Mummies of Guanajuato will be touring the United States from Mexico -- with the help of the living, of course -- Americans will get a chance to experience those twists of emotions and receive that powerful lesson. Or at the least, satisfy their morbid curiosities...

What are The Mummies of Guanajuato?

The mummies of Guanajuato are the remains of 119 corpses. They were dug up in a central region of Mexico called Guanajuato between 1896 and 1958 as a result of relatives not paying grave taxes for the site of their deceased loved ones.

No one is exactly sure how many mummies were extracted from the crypts, but there are currently 119 on display in the Museo de las Momias – a museum high on a hill overlooking the city of Guanajuato not too far from Mexico City.

Entombed Alive

Even in Mexico, where death is far more accepted, embraced and even celebrated than here in the U.S., it is widely known that the mummies should not be viewed by the faint of heart. As human nature has it, of course, that just makes people want to see them all the more. Unlike Egyptian mummies, many of these mummies are truly shocking and gruesome to behold.

The combination of soil conditions and the dry climate in the central region allowed the bodies to dry out naturally before they could decompose. In fact, quite a few of the mummies still have their nails, teeth and hair.

Several of the Guanajuato mummies are clothed, a few wearing only their socks and/or shoes. They are corpses of those who died at various ages -- old, middle-aged, and others very young. The smallest mummy in the world is among the 119 corpses, a newborn that died during an early form of caesarean section. The mother is among the mummies as well.

Since there was a cholera outbreak in the city of Guanajuato in 1833, some of the bodies were buried immediately to control the spread of disease.

In some cases, the dying were buried alive by accident, hence the reason some of the mummies have horrifying expressions on their face to attest to their death in the tombs.

Coming to America

The city of Guanajuato, which currently owns the mummies, is promoting a for-profit venture to display the mummies in museums and exhibit halls around the world and will profit most from the exhibits.

The mummies have previously never left Mexico but have been sampled at area fairs inside the country since 2005.

The suburban town of Cicero, located just south of Chicago, will be the very first city outside of Mexico to hold a temporary exhibit of the mummies of Guanajuato ... and you can bet since Chicago is my hometime I'll be there.

On exhibit from April 2008 through the Day of the Dead in November at Cicero's new town hall, visitors can see first-hand the features and expressions of at least 22 of the mummies.

Other cities are being negotiated for the mummies' tour after that, but in the meantime -- and again be forewarned that, though in the right frame of mind and heart this can be a benefical experience as I explained to start this piece, what you will see is NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART -- you can check out more info and some pictures of the Mummies of Guanajuato here.

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