“You really don’t have to come with me if you don’t want to. I’ll completely understand.” I had made friends with Tyler-from-Canada that morning at hostel breakfast and had already dragged him to the Casa Azul (former home of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera) and to the nearby home of Leon Trotsky. I was trying to ensure that he understood that I didn’t need him to walk across Mexico City to look at some dead people with me – but that he was more than welcome to come if he legitimately wanted to.
We walked across town to the Museo de El Carmen, in San Ángel. While the museum is home to a collection of Colonial, religious art including work by Mexican master Cristóbal de Villalpando, the major attraction is the 12 natural mummies stored in the crypt. The Museo de El Carmen was formerly a monastery school and chapel, built between 1615 and 1628. After the school was secularised and abandoned in 1861, the bodies of parishioners were left in the crypt. In 1916, during the Mexican Revolution, it was looted by Zapatistas who were occupying the area. They were the first to lift the heavy cover of the crypt in a long, long time – according to some reports as long as 300 years. Due to soil conditions and a constant flow of air, the bodies had dehydrated and mummified. The mummies were left in place until 1929 when they were rehomed in the wood and velvet cases they can still be seen in today.
Admission is free on Sundays which we didn’t realise until we got there (saved ourselves 52 pesos, fuck yeah!) and you will need to check in large bags and backpacks, but you can take your camera. We flicked a cursory glance at the art upstairs until we found a map of the museum.
“I don’t speak Spanish, but I think cripta is the bit we’re looking for.”
So, if you’re obsessed with your own mortality, or other people’s mortality, or just like looking a dead stuff make sure you head out to the Museo de El Carmen. If you’re looking for other weird stuff to do in Mexico City, maybe head out to the Island of the Dolls on the Xochimilco Canals.
remember you will die
remember you are alive