SOUTH AMERICAN SHANGRI-LA

(Investigator 17, 1991 March)
 

From 1973 until 1978 a South American "Shangri-La", where it was common to live to 100, made news regularly. (See for example, National Geographic of January 1973)

The Advertiser (South Australia) reported in 1973:
LONDON, Today (AAP-Reuter): A British doctor has discovered a beautiful Shangri-La valley where rum-drinking peasants tilled the soil when well over 100 years old.
 
Dr. David Davies, a London University lecturer, said that in the mountain valley of ViIcabamba in the Ecuadorian Province of Loka, "a life span of 100 is regarded as unexceptional."

He said, in an article in the magazine New Scientist, that the valley's oldest inhabitants were 142-year-old Jose David and 123, year-old Miguel Carpio. Nine of the 900 inhabitants were centenarians and almost 30 were more than 85.
 
Dr. Davies said the tranquillity of the mountain valley, 1,500 feet above sea level, "is regarded by the Ecuadorian and foreign doctors who have visited it as the cause of these great ages."

The peasants…drank two to four cups of rum and smoked anything from 40 to 60 cigarettes a day, he wrote...

Dr. Davies, a lecturer in zoology and an expert in gerontology, said the evidence of the peoples' longevity was easily proved by baptismal records which the peasants – all Roman Catholics – kept.

"The evidence of age drawn from these certificates is difficult to doubt. Of the persistent higher, age records through the world, those for the citi­zens of Vilcabamba seem by far the best authenti­cated so far," he wrote.
.. (February 12)
Shangri-La originally referred to a Himalayan valley in Tibet where people lived fabulous life spans in conditions akin to paradise. The place was mythical and didn't exist. 

Vilcabamba, the South American Shangri-La, was investigated by Mazess and Forman (1979). 

The Vilcabamba villagers had simply fooled reporters by pointing to baptismal entries of their parents and even grandparents as their own. 

The lucrative tourist industry of the area now began to decline.
Reference:

Mazess, R.B, & Forman, S.H. Longevity in Vilcabamba, Ecuador, Journal of Gerontology, 34(1):94-98.

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http://users.adam.com.au/bstett/

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