SAN JOSE DE MAIPO, Chile - The snowcapped Andes have long attracted globetrotters, but the mayor of this picturesque Chilean mountain district insists that visitors are coming from even farther away - other galaxies and solar systems.
Villagers have reported so many UFO sightings during the past two decades that Mayor Miguel Marquez will designate the region an official UFO tourism zone tomorrow.
He plans to build two observation centers, erect signs where sightings have occurred, and offer workshops on topics such as how best to photograph aliens.
He believes the nearby mountains contain a "natural energy" that attracts visitors, even those from another world.
"This zone is the UFO capital of Chile," Marquez said in an interview. "Many people have made sightings, including me personally.
"I'm not going to say I've seen aliens," he added carefully. "But I've seen objects."
Chile's Corporation for the Investigation of UFOs, a group of believers based in Santiago, approached the mayor with the UFO tourism concept several months ago.
Because tourists were already visiting the Maipo River region near the capital to relax, the group's leaders suggested, why not encourage them to scan the skies for alien beings?
The idea is to have "foreigners come and see this zone for themselves and speak about UFOs," said Eric Martinez, a Santiago salesman who leads investigations for the UFO group in his spare time.
He is looking into a report that a Chilean woman was abducted by aliens - or "unidentified biological entities," as Martinez prefers to call them.
Chilean newspapers, radio shows and television programs report UFO sightings regularly and lavishly. One explanation for the frequency of sightings is that Chile's southern location places the nation under the center of the Milky Way. This draws astronomers from throughout the world to Chilean observatories and gives the country a certain cosmic consciousness.