Vilcabamba is a small town in the mountains of southern Ecuador that has recently been attracting many tourists, much to the displeasure of local residents.
The locals say that the town used to be isolated from the rest of the world. The population lived in peace, as the only travelers coming through would be passing by on their way to Peru.
Native residents enjoyed living off the land by growing coffee, cocoa, corn, sugarcane and fruit throughout the year. They also appreciated the town’s beautiful Yambala River.
However, the town’s economy has largely shifted from agriculture to tourism. The trend started in 1973, after a National Geographic article promoted the once undisturbed town.
The town became known for its longevity, as many of its citizens were known to reach impressively old ages. However, further research determined that the life expectancy in the town was less than that of the United States. Nevertheless, the association between old ages and the town stuck.
Many tourists flock to the town, allegedly to learn the secrets of achieving old age.
The locals are not happy about it, saying that their once peaceful landscape has been disturbed.
Some foreigners have even decided to settle in Vilcabamba permanently. This has led to a real estate boom in the area, with several upscale houses being built. It’s a far cry from the small huts and shacks that were once the norm in the town.
Meanwhile, experts say that the transformation is unlikely to slow down any time soon. As more people are seeking ways to escape a fast-paced consumerist lifestyle, towns like Vilcabamba will continue to experience change.
As of now, foreigners represent more than 25% of the population of the town, which is struggling to maintain its traditional small Ecuadorian town charm. Many locals have sold their land to foreigners for prices greatly exceeding local market values in order to start better lives for themselves and their families.
It is a major change for the natives who used to swim in the Yambala River and pick ripe fruits off of trees. With foreigners continuing to move in, it is likely that the once quiet town will never be the same.