Guanajuato Legends: The Mummies
The mummification is thought to be due, though this is not a scientific opinion, to the quality of the air, given the altitude, rather than to the soil, since the same process occurs in tombs and in the ground. In any case it is certain that the phenomenon did not take place after the first corpses were exhumed from the Municipal Cemetery, after a set period of five years, and that mummification must have taken place previously.
The most important fact in regard to this phenomenon is the great loss of life which occurred at the time, so that as a result many of the corpses were buried almost as soon as they were pronounced dead, in order to prevent the spread of the plague. Thus it happened that in some cases they were buried when in reality they had not yet died, so that when they came out of that cataleptic state, in the tomb, they finally died of desperation, anguish and asphyxiation. Thus the expressions of horror and pain that is found on some of the mommies.
This occurred during the epidemic of cholera morbus that swept the area around 1833. The present cemetery (1861), where mummification was verified, was still not in existence. The numbers of the dead were so great that it was necessary to open up new cemeteries on the hillsides of San Cayetano and part of the Cañada de Marfil.
Churches did much to deal with this problem in almost the entire country. Here were those of the Jesuits, San Francisco, San Diego, Belén, San Roque, San Sebastián. This last is one of the oldest. The first mummifications date from 1861, when the Municipal Cemetery was inaugurated, during General Francisco Pacheco's term as governor of the state.
The first mummified corpse to be exhibited, in 1965, corresponds to the French Dr. Remigio Leroy, and it still exists. For many years the mummies have been exhibited to the public in a crypt that is just below the place where this curious phenomenon was discovered. The macabre spectacle is offered in a gallery at the back, with the mummies forming a double line of about 15 metres, behind a large plate of glass.
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