Embalmed corpses are not an unusual tourist attraction. Several popes are on view at the Vatican, and it’s normal that visitors still flock to see Lenin’s preserved body in Moscow’s Red Square. Yet however macabre, these corpses serve something of a historical purpose. But that’s not quite the case of La Pascualita, a Mexican tourist attraction that has long had people wondering whether it’s a mannequin or a corpse being used as one!
Behind an unpretentious shop window of a small wedding dress shop, in Chihuahua, Mexico, there is the dummy of a girl wearing a wedding dress. And so far, nothing strange. And yet, the store “La Popular – La casa de Pascualita” hides a little (and curious) mystery.
The mannequin, which has been on display for almost ninety years, has special characteristics: the color of the skin, the hands furrowed with veins and wrinkles, the nails worn out, have led many to suppose that it is not a dummy but a a perfectly preserved embalmed body.
La Pascualita made its first appearance in the window of this store on March 25, 1930. Its glass eyes with a very sweet look, real hair, and a particular shade of skin color, immediately struck the passers-by, but also the employees of the shop.
After a while, someone noticed the surprising similarity between the mannequin and the daughter of the shop owner, who had recently died. From there, to give birth to an urban legend the step was brief: Pascuala Esparza, the owner of the store, had a beautiful daughter, whose name was lost in the folds of time and story.
The girl, tragically, died right on her wedding day, from the bite of a black widow. Shocked by the loss of her daughter, Pascuala had her body mummified and put it in the window, to allow her, in death, to be the bride who had not been able to become when she was alive.
As often happens, the rumor quickly took hold, and many locals were outraged, even threatening the poor mother, who obviously tried to deny it, asserting that La Pascualita was simply a well-made mannequin. The denials were useless, now everyone wanted to believe in the story of the corpse bride.
Over the years, the story has become increasingly imaginative: according to another local story, La Pascualita is indeed just a mannequin, or at least started out that way. However, a visiting French magician became so entranced by the bridal mannequin that he would visit her window each night and bring her to life, dancing with her and bringing her around town before returning her to the storefront each morning. In addition, customers have claimed that La Pascualita’s eyes follow them as they walk around the store, or that they have turned around to find her suddenly in a different position.
Perhaps the influence of these stories also affects the store’s shop workers. One of them told: “Every time I go near Pascualita my hands break out in a sweat. Her hands are very realistic and she even has varicose veins on her legs. I believe she’s a real person.”
Whatever her true origins, La Pascualita has become a local legend in her own right over the decades. The details of the mannequin’s origins are almost impossible to confirm and even the name “Pascuala Esparza” may have been an invention after the fact.
It does seem improbable that an embalmed corpse could remain completely intact in the Mexican heat over the course of eight decades!
However, the current owner of the store, Mario Gonzalez, probably likes to keep the legend alive. Twice a week he changes the dress to the mannequin, always and only to the shelter of impenetrable curtains, as to preserve her modesty. It is said that only a few trusted employees are allowed to dress and undress La Pascualita.
Mario Gonzalez enjoys the reputation of the corpse bride, who brings many people to the store, and intends to continue to keep the mystery alive: the words “La Casa De Pascualita” are displayed on the shop window. She, enigmatic and indifferent, does not help solve the mystery. Gonzales, on the other hand, when asked for the truth about the famous mannequin in his storefront he simply winked and replied, “Is it true? I really couldn’t say.”
Images from web.