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Day 215 – La Valenciana Mine Mummy (Guanajuato)

May 13, 2011

Location: Guanajuato, Mexico

Date: Friday, May 13, 2011

Yeah. I know. I said it before. But I swear I’m going to summarize Guanajuato soon. For now let’s focus a few specifics like La Valenciana Church (Templo de San Cayetano de La Valenciana), the nearby Boca mine (Boca Mina San Ramon), and Guanajuato’s mummies.

First, let’s go to church. La Valenciana Church is located up a hill above the city of Guanajuato. It’s a few kilometers outside of town and might seem like it’s walkable. Take it from me (a moron), but just catch a bus. The road is all uphill and there’s no roadside shade. There’s also no sidewalk. Only fools (see: me) would opt to hoof it.

The church itself is supposed to be an exemplary example of Baroque architecture (read: over the top ornamentation). Completed in 1788 by a silver baron, it’s never quite been finished. The church façade is missing the requisite second tower and a second clock. If someone hadn’t told me, I wouldn’t have noticed.

As a Filipino I found it interesting that the wood pulpit pinned on the wall above the congregation was imported from the Philippines. Supposedly it uses no screws or nails. Appropriately, since the pulpit is Filipino it’s dark brown.

The adjacent Boca mine (Boca Mina San Ramon) is a bit disappointing. You hock over your money for a ticket into a restored mine building and the promise of descending into the mine itself. The old buildings are interesting for what they are, but going into the mine is really just climbing down some stairs and feeling the air get stuffy. If I wanted to do that I’d just walk down a flight of steps in an underground parking lot with a plastic bag over my head. My advice: skip it.

At the edge of Guanajuato proper is a mummy museum. However morbid this is, it’s fascinating. The mummies (i.e. dead bodies) on display were not intentionally preserved. The bodies mummified in their tombs because of the dry heat. Bodies are not interned permanently, so when the cemetery ran out of space and had to disinter the residents, the cemetery sent out notices (presumably) so that survivors could claim their dead relatives. Not everyone did.

The dried bodies that were left unclaimed became research projects for scientists interested in natural mummification, studying dead people, and historical autopsies. (Note: this is mildly speculative because I snuck into a Spanish language tour group as it was finishing its walk through the museum. There are scientists that are studying the bodies though.)

If you think the museum is a bit grisly now, you’ll probably gag when you see an old black and white picture of the place. Seems before the museum got all formal, tourists would just pay the keepers of the bodies to walk through the hall in which they were stored. No glass. No “Do Not Touch” signs. Just you and a lifetime’s worth of up close horror movie memories.

Guanajuato: It’s got everything.

GALLERY: No bonus pictures. All used up.

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