The province of Yungay is located at 2,548 m.a.s.l. (8,358 ft.), 55 km north of Huaraz. It is located at the foot of Huascaran which, at 6,768 m.a.s.l. (22,200 ft.), is the highest tropical mountain in the world. This city's name comes from the Quechua word yunga, which means "warm place". It is a land with a rich historical past that makes the locals unwilling to leave their birthplace.
These peoples watched their culture, one of the oldest in Peru, flourish and then disappear. Since their initial appearance at the Guitarrero Cave in 12,000 B.C., they have been forced to reemerge from nothingness on several occassions. American Thomas F. Lynch (Cornell University, US) discovered ancient cultural vestiges as well as bean and hot pepper samples in what today is called the Guitarrero Cave. These species' wild ancestors are found on the western Andes. For this reason, this location is considered "one of the great testimonials of the origin of agriculture in America" which leads one to believe that the ancient inhabitants of these lands crossed the tranversal Ancash - Huanuco axis giving rise to towns such as Kotosh (Huanuco), Chavin de Huantar (Huari) among others.
During Inca rule and the colony, towns in the Callejon de Hualas were instrumental for social, economical, political and military development. Due to its importance during the beginning of the colony, Yungay was founded on August 4th, 1540 with the name "Dignified, Noble and Heroic Yungay Villa". Due to Friar Domingo de Santo Tomás's initiative, the convent and church located downtown in this same city were inaugurated on the same day. In 1,571, the first settlements in Ancash were established under Viceroy Toledo's orders. Huaraz became responsible for what was called Hanan Huaylas and Yungay was responsible for Hurin Huaylas. The latter was under the supervision of the Viceroy's Commissioner Don Alonso de Santiago de Valverde.
On November 22nd, 1821 general headquarters were established in Huaraz. After sending his delegates to Yungay, Liberator Simon Bolivar, decided to rapidly extend his area of operations to northern Peruvian territory. It is important to point out that Yungaino priest Sebastián Malarin provided financial assistance so General San Martin could continue his emancipation. In order to strengthen the troops, young men from Yungay enlisted in Batallion #5 under the Coronel Campino's command.
Although Yungay's history fills the locals with pride, there are other events they wish had never taken place. One of these occurred on the afternoon of May 31st, 1970. At 3.23 pm, a violent earthquake shook the Huascaran North summit, causing giant masses of ice to fall down the rocky face of this peak, which later crashed into the glacial base, starting a descent at great speed along the glacial moraines. Everything in its path was destroyed, as a frightening mass of mud and stones unavoidably approached Yungay and Ranrahirca. People were terrified by the noise and the inevitable consequences: the death of 20,000 locals. The capital city, counties and neighborhoods such as Hongo, Aira, Armapampa, Shacsha, Nuevo Ranrahirca, Chuquibamba, Caya, Utcush and Tullpa disappeared. There is no historical data in terms of how many times Yungay has been destroyed by mudslides in the Pre-Hispanic era, but there are important vestiges of ancient towns which have been destroyed or buried.
Through the centuries, its people have fought agains natural phenomena and have learned to live with the pain and pride of their past. They adamantly refuse to abandon their homes and continue to rebuilt their cities over those that have been buried. Currently, New Yungay is located 1.5 km north of the previous Yungay. This town's architecture has managed to preserve the Andean elements, but remains open to modernity in its buildings and streets.