Welcome to Guanajuato! Home to beautiful hills, fabulous festivals and some really creepy stuff…
Without a doubt, Guanajuto’s creepiest museum is also it’s most famous. El Museo de Las Momias is located next to an old city cemetery. Victims of an 1833 cholera outbreak were interred in above ground tombs. When their families could not pay the “tax” in order to keep them interred their remains were exhumed and it was discovered that they had become mummified. You can see these same bodies today in the museum.
El Alhóndiga de Granaditas
A regional historical museum, El Alhóndiga de Granaditas, is more educational than creepy, though it does have a bloody past. Guanajuato was the site of the first major battle in the war for Mexican independence. Knowing that an angry mob was gathering, the Spanish decided to barricade themselves in this formidable building.
The Mexicans were able to break through the Spaniards’ defenses and incredible carnage followed. However, the Spanish were eventually able to repress the rebellion and for ten years the heads of the rebellion leaders were hung on the corners of the building. The hooks from which the heads were hung can still be seen today.
Creepy Pseudo- Museums
Guanajuato also has its share of “pseudo-museums”. Places that are somewhat creepy, but are just as likely to be described as cheesy, corny and hokey. They can be fun to visit as long as you go with appropriate expectations.
Casa de las Leyendas has replicas of various city sites enhanced with “special effects” in order illustrate some local legends. A representation of a silver mine and an explanation of the mummies are included.
Casa de Tia Aura
Midway up the Paseo de la Presa (a street that is worth exploring for its lovely French architecture) is the Casa de Tia Aura – a chance to check out the Mexican version of a haunted house.
Valenciana Torture Museums
Up the hill from downtown Guanajuato, the famous enclave of Valenciana is home to a couple of “torture museums”. When the Spanish came to the New World, they brought with them the “Holy Office” of the Inquisition. The Inquisition tortured people (as if being enslaved to work in the mines wasn’t torture enough?) with aim of purifying their souls and bringing them around to Christianity. I am told that the Inquisition was quite active in Guanajuato though I’ve found it difficult to locate detailed information. Perhaps it’s not spoken of because it is part of the past that no one is proud of. While credible, historical information is hard to find, morbid, theatrical displays are not. These museums sport staff members dressed as monks, spooky lighting and of course, a vast array of torture devices.
The suffering of the Inquisition was real and I’m not really sure that something so serious should be treated in such a light-hearted manner. However, I cannot deny that these museums are entertaining. And legitimately disturbing. After all, whether it was a religious fanatic 500 years ago, or the enterprising businessman who created the museum - someone thought up these implements of torture. I’m glad I don’t have to live in their head.