GUANAJUATO, Mexico – Throughout Mexico in the fall, you will see various calaveras, skeletons and bones. They are cultural symbols of the country’s iconic holiday, Dia de Muertos or Day of the Dead.
But nowhere do you see the dead portrayed more distinctly than at the Museum of the Mummies in Guanajuato.
The history of the museum dates to the early 1830s when a Cholera outbreak spread across the region and led to the deaths of many people.
The bodies of those who died from the disease were interred and placed in above-ground crypts to avoid further spread of the disease.
But around 1870, families were forced to pay a local burial tax. If they couldn’t pay, the bodies of their loved ones were removed from the crypts and stored in a building. (The tax was abolished in 1958.)
Due to Guanajuanto’s dry and hot climate, many of the bodies that were removed from crypts had naturally mummified.
The tombs of the mummies began to attract tourists and in 1969, the building where the mummies had been stored was turned into a museum called El Museo de las Momias.
The museum is now one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions with dozens of mummies on display.
While some visitors have found the mummy displays to be offensive, people in Guanajuato believe it is a part of the Mexican culture of not fearing death and say it’s a vital piece of the city’s history.
Below are images from the museum taken during KSAT’s visit to Guanajuato in February.
(Note: Some viewers may find these images to be disturbing.)
Find more Day of the Dead stories on KSAT.com:
- KSAT to host illuminating virtual Day of the Dead River Walk parade Friday evening
- Ways to celebrate Day of the Dead virtually in San Antonio this year
- The colorful history of Alebrijes and connection to Day of the Dead
- Altars honor San Antonio Latino service members who died in military service
- Story behind the man who brought the Calavera to life in San Antonio
- Symbolism behind Calavera in Day of the Dead traditions
- How two traditions merged to create Day of the Dead
- Ancient origins of Day of the Dead
- Meaning behind marigold flowers on Day of the Dead
- Story behind Mexican artist who inspired ‘La Calavera Catrina’
- Visit KSAT.com’s Day of the Dead section to learn more about holiday