Pascualita has stood in the window display of La Popular for almost ninety years.

In the window display of the La Popular bridal shop in Chihuahua, Mexico, sits a world-famous mannequin known as Pascualita. She models the store’s wedding gowns, but her fame is rooted in something far more sinister.

Pascualita was first displayed in 1930 and she immediately took hold of the public’s imagination due to her incredibly realistic details. Her hands in particular, with their hyper-realistic wrinkles and veins, helped to fuel the rumour that there was more to the mannequin than meets the eye.

The owner of La Popular, Pascuala Esparza, also happened to lose a daughter in 1930. In a cruel twist of fate, her daughter was bitten by a black widow spider on her wedding day and died soon after. This led many to note that the mannequin bore a striking resemblence to the daughter, and the people of Chihuahua began to speculate that it wasn’t a mannequin at all, but the preserved body of Pascuala’s daughter—hence the mannequin’s nickname: Pascualita.

So how much truth is there in this legend? Well, the employees of the store have supposedly reported a deep unease when dealing with Pascualita and, unlike the store’s other mannequins, the curtain is drawn when Pascualita’s outfit is changed, a sign to some that the staff are trying to protect Pascualita’s dignity.

But, of course, there’s an easy way for the store to put this mystery to rest once and for all. A simple X-ray or medical examination would tell us one way or another.

La Popular, however, profits greatly from the large attention it receives due to the legend of Pascualita and it’s in their interests to keep the mystery alive. Do they draw the curtains to protect Pascualita’s dignity, or are they simply playing into the legend for their own financial reasons?

Sadly, the latter is almost certainly true.

Preserving a human body is not a simple task. When discussing Pascualita, conversation often falls to former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, whose body has been preserved and displayed since 1924, a whole six years longer than Pascualita.

Lenin’s body takes a great amount of care. Frequent bleach baths are required to keep the body from discolouring, and a dedicated team work around the year spending millions of dollars to keep preserving his remains, which must still be kept in a carefully-controlled container to keep temperature and humidity conditions perfect.

Despite the great work put into the preservation, there are still frequent problems, and many of Lenin’s body parts have had to be replaced over the years.

So, how could a small business owner without millions in her pocket successfully preserve a body in even better condition that Lenin’s, and keep it in the window of a shop, exposed to the changing air, without its condition degrading over the almost ninety years that have passed?

Well, the simple answer is: They can’t. Pascualita is nothing more than an urban legend being capitalized on by La Popular.

As for the original story of Pascuala Esparza and her spider-bitten daughter? I’ve searched for evidence that the story of Pascualita’s wedding day actually happened, but I’ve been unable to find any proof that this too is anything but an urban legend.

Indeed, like most urban legends, there are even several variations of the tale, such as the popular idea that Pascuala disapproved of her daughter’s wedding, leading a distraught Pascualita to throw herself off of a nearby cliff. Of course, if this version of the legend is true, then the preservation is all the more impressive!

I’ve been unable to find any evidence that Pascuala Esparza existed in the first place, and there’s surprisingly little information available online about La Popular outside of the legend of Pascualita. If anyone knows any further details about the store, or about Pascuala, or if you’ve been to La Popular and seen Pascualita for yourself, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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