Return of the Dead: The Traveling Guanajuato Mummies Come Home

In a previous post about  the Guanajuato Mummies I said that you can still travel even if you’re dead. Turns out that you can also be kidnapped.

This is a story of international crime and intrigue. A story of life, death, lawsuits, and a tour gone astray.   The victims were dead to begin with.

Dan's photo of one of the smallest Guanajuato mummies.

Mummified infant. Photo by Dan.

In 1958, bodies were exhumed from a Guanajuato cemetery when the families of the deceased failed to pay the grave tax. A number of corpses that had died in an 1833 cholera outbreak were found to be mummified.  They had not been elaborately prepared like the famous mummies of Egypt.  The Guanajuato mummies are “accidental”.  The bodies had simply dried out due to natural circumstances (extremely dry climate and high mineral content in the soil) before they had a chance to decompose.

Today the Guanajuato mummies are a major tourist attraction.  So much so, that someone had the brilliant idea of sending them on tour.  In 2009, the mayor of Guanajuato made a deal with a Mexican business man named Manuel Hernández Berlín, allowing him to “lease” 36 of the mummies for $240,000 per year. Berlín planned to take the mummies on a three year tour (a three year tour…) of the U.S. and then return them to Guanajuato.  But something went wrong.

Dan's photo of one of the Guanajuato Mummies

One of the “accidental” Guanajuato Mummies. Photo by Dan.

The mummies were taken to Detroit. Dallas and Greensboro North Carolina were scheduled, then a triumphant tour of the West.   But things didn’t quite work.  The tour flopped.  It’s not clear if the mummies ever even made it out of Detroit.  No offense to the good people of the Motor City, but dead or alive, this probably isn’t anyone’s dream tour of America.

After four years abroad, the 36 “traveling mummies” are finally home. The city never received any money for the “lease”.  One lawsuit was filed and settled without the details being made public. More may follow.  The traveling mummies returned to a heroes welcome in Guanajuato.  Mr. Berlín is not welcome.

So much for resting in peace.

Published in Mexico, Sightseeing, USA

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Meet the Author

Seasoned traveler, avid reader, over-eater, clumsy but determined hiker and wannabe Spanish-speaker.


  1. memographer

    That’s a great story, Jenny. Thanks for sharing. I am glad that mummies are back home.
    I am also not a big fan of dead, I would not go to the exhibit 🙂 However, Detroit downfall seems like a bad advertising to me.

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