Thursday, December 31, 2009

To The Bitter End

We took the contingent of visiting academics to Guanajuato yesterday, where we ventured for the first time into the city's biggest attraction - the Mummy Museum, thus saving everyone involved a trip to Detroit. The mummies themselves are about as awesome as we expected, but the museum sucks ass. It's way too small for the crowds it attracts, badly laid out, and if they made it any harder to find they'd have tourists dying of exhaustion and starvation on their way there...which would of course provide a free supply of mummies in perpetuity, so maybe that's by design.

One thing we hadn't quite understood about the mummies was their provenance. The Detroit exhibit uses the same vague, passive language as the Guanajuato site:

It was in 1865 that cemetery workers in the Santa Paula Pantheon exhumed the remains of Dr. Remigio Leroy, and were astonished to find that his body had not decayed, but had instead mummified. Over time, more than 100 of these natural mummies would be discovered during exhumation from their crypts.

What they don't say - but which the museum, to its credit, is quite candid about - is why these bodies were exhumed. It wasn't just some strange accidental circumstance; rather, the corpses were being dug up because their descendants could no longer afford to pay for the upkeep of their graves, so the cemetery (it's not clear to us if it was private, public, or Church-run) would toss them out to make room for customers with better credit. And now, a century and a half after receiving what they hoped would be a decent burial, the government of Guanajuato charges people like us 50 pesos apiece to gawk at their twisted, naked remains. We're not sure what happened to the bodies that weren't well-preserved enough to merit inclusion in the museum, but we're guessing it makes a terrific argument for cremation.

And so on that note, all of us here at Burro Hall look forward to burying 2009 once and for all at the stroke on midnight tonight...but don't be surprised if someone digs up its dessicated, worm-eaten corpse 100 years from now and puts it on display in a government-sponsored freak show so its naked genitals can be laughed at by schoolkids. Because that's just the way life works out sometimes.

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!


Anonymous said...

Your visiting dignitary found the whole thing "really creepy".
I guess only the wealthy really get to "rest in peace"


Lesley said...

Oh god, don't get me started about the mummy museum. I went a few years ago and was like, "This is IT?" Don't get me wrong, I loved the creepiness of the place. And the bodies wearing clothes, the baby with one eyeball (or was it two?), etc. But they didn't explain anything about how these bodies became mummified in the first place. What is it about the soil in Guanajuato that causes this phenomenon? How is it that the skin survives, and the organs don't? Can we get a freakin' science chart or graphic up in here? Agree with you too that there could've been more info about why the bodies were exhumed in the first place. Anyway: rant over.

Anonymous said...

do they still sell the "mummified baby" key chains outside? i forgot to buy one last time i was there, and really wanted to get one.