“We have asked the elders that live in Pitumarca,” a town near Vinicunca, “and they said that the mountain was under the snow,” Mr. Machacca said in a recent interview. “Global warming has caused the ice to melt, and a colorful mountain appeared from under it.”
Mr. Machacca, a member of the Q’ero community, said the mountain was an appealing destination for trekkers not only because of its beauty, but also because of the climate.
“They love to go because when you are up there, you can feel the pure air and you forget everything and you connect with the Apus of Ausangate,” he said, referring to legends of mountain spirits watching over the Peruvian Andes.
The big crowds have breathed new life into the economy of the remote region around the mountain, creating jobs for people in the area, many of whom have been alpaca herders.
Roughly 500 villagers have now moved back to their ancestral land, according to The Associated Press, in order to act as guides to tourists across the Andes. They charge $3 per person, bringing in around $400,000 a year.
But there may be a high price to pay for the tourism boom.
“From the ecological point of view, they are killing the goose that lays the golden eggs,” Dina Farfan, a Peruvian biologist, told The A.P.