Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Guanajuato...Land of the Living Dead!

Guanajuato, a pleasant 1-1/2 hour bus ride from San Miguel is another beautiful Spanish Colonial city situated in the high desert mountains of central Mexico. The rugged mountains that surround the city produced vast quantities of silver and other minerals under Spanish rule, but today the area is known for producing a broad array of goods including ceramics, textiles, agriculture, and other hand-made goods that are exported around the world. Guanajuato is not only the state capitol, it is home to the University of Guanajuato and boasts a vibrant student population. With all it has going for it, it is ironic that it is perhaps best know for being the home of the Museo De Las Mumias, or Museum of the Mummies!

We arrived around 10 am and exited the bus stop with no idea of where we were, or how to get where we were going. A quick GPS search for El Centro, or the town square showed that it was over 7 km away and a 1-1/2 hour walk! We quickly decided a taxi was our best bet, but Guanajuato is another place where most of the taxi drivers speak little or no English. After a brief exchange with the first driver we saw, I felt a bit more confident than Kate that we were actually headed in the right direction, and about 15 minutes later we were deposited in front of the large Mercado in the center of town. Perfecto! The market here is a bustling indoor affair, and is housed in a large domed building in the center of town. We spent a little time wandering the booths and taking in the sights and smells before heading to the museum.

Guanajuato is nestled on the steep hillsides of the dramatic valley in which it is located. From the town square, everything is up, and I mean up. Most of the side streets are narrow alleys, and many of the homes can only be reached by ascending long flights of stairs. It reminded me a bit of the Arizona mining town of Bisbee, but on steroids. We followed the signs to the Museo de Las Mumias, which not surprisingly led us up and up through the city and after several stops to catch our breath, near the top of the steep hills we finally reached the museum. First unearthed in 1865, the mummification process is a result of the composition of the soil and low humidity of the dry desert air. Many of the mummies were victims of a cholera epidemic around 1833, and were disinterred when relatives of the deceased were unable to pay a tax that would allow them to remain buried. Cemetery workers in charge of the dis-internment started to charge visitors a few pesos to few the bodies, and over time the museum was formed. Today it houses over a hundred corpses in various states of decay.

Some of the mummies are said to have been buried alive, and while the grotesque facial expressions may just be the result of the natural postmortem process, it's a good story and adds some spice to the gruesome nature of the display. As bizarre as it is, it is hard to take your eyes off it, and the mummies of young children are particularly unnerving. Many of the mummies still have the remains of the clothing and jewelry they were buried in, and some still have quite a bit of hair. But indeed, it is the tortured facial expressions on many of the mummies that really make for a night of sweet dreams after your visit!

Leaving the friendly mummies behind us, we made our way back into town to find a bite to eat and enjoy some more of the sights in this lovely town. We had an amazing time at the Diego Rivera Museum which far exceeded our expectations. While many consider Guanajuato to be the most beautiful  and romantic city in Mexico, we still feel that San Miguel holds that honor, but the city is wonderful indeed. With its narrow winding cobblestone streets and alleys, brightly colored buildings, and dramatic setting, it is another gem in the high desert of Mexico.

1 comment:

  1. The mummy museum would make a great place for a hollowe'en party. We really liked Guanajuato as well.