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February 10, 2009

Wikipedia: Beni Department

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Beni Department
Beni River with Rurrenabaque (on the left) and  San Buenaventura (on the right)
Beni Departament's flag Beni Department's coat of arms
Department Flag Department Coat of Arms

Motto: ¡Ventura, paz y unión! (Venture, peace and union!)

Anthem: Canta victorioso pueblo de leyenda

Santa Cruz
Capital La Santísima Trinidad
Largest city La Santísima Trinidad
Official languages Spanish, Moxeño
Provinces 8
 – total
 – % de Bolivia
Place nº 2
213,564 km²
 – Total (2005)
 – % of Bolivia
 – Density
Place nº 8
1.93 hab./km²
Creation November 18, 1842
Prefect Ernesto Suárez (PODEMOS)
Senators Wálter Guiteras (PODEMOS)

Héctor Vargas (PODEMOS)

Miguel Majluf (MNR)

Deputies 9 out of 130
Calling Code: + (591) 3
ISO 3166-2 BO-B
Abbreviations BE

Beni, sometimes El Beni, is a northeastern department of Bolivia, in the lowlands region of the country. It is the second largest department in the country (after Santa Cruz), covering 213,564 square kilometers (82,458 sq mi), and it was created by supreme decree on November 18, 1842 during the administration of General José Ballivián. With a population of 362,521 (2001 census), Beni is the second most sparsely populated of the nine departments of Bolivia, after Pando. Its weather is tropical and humid, with a prevalence of warm to hot temperatures. Its capital is Trinidad.

Beni borders upon Brazil to the northeast, and the departments of Santa Cruz to the southeast, La Paz to the west, Pando to the northwest, and Cochabamba to the south. Beni’s territory is mainly covered by rainforest (particularly the northern and eastern portions of the department) and pampa (notably the grassland Moxos Plain to the south, closer to the Andean reaches). Some of the country’s main lakes are located in the department of Beni, as well as its most formidable rivers, including the Beni, Itenez, Yacuma, and Mamoré, the latter connecting with the Madeira River, the largest tributary to the Amazon.

Although Beni is rich in natural resources, the poverty level of its inhabitants is high, mainly as a result of the absence of adequate roads linking the department to the rest of country. The main economic activities are agriculture, timber and cattle. In addition, an underground economy linked to illegal narcotics activities flourished in the area during the last decades of the 20th century, with many cocaine laboratories hiding behind the facade of remote cattle ranches.

The Beni region features many large mounds connected by earthen causeways which were built by ancient inhabitants. The first European settlers consisted of Spanish Jesuits sent to convert the native inhabitants, chiefly in the southern half of the department, during the 18th century. The religious origins of many of the Beni’s towns can be attested to by the centrality of the local church in most of the communities, and in the very names of the towns: Trinidad, Santa Ana, San Borja, Reyes, etc.

The importance of cattle ranching is prominent in the regional culture, and cowboys, or “Vaqueros”, still play an important role in Beni society, comprising a large portion of the working class. Other industries significant to the region include logging, small-scale fishing and hunting, farming, and in recent years, eco-tourism.

Though the Beni lies in the southern reaches of the Amazon Basin, an area renown for tropical disease, the population experiences less health problems than in the Andes Region, especially those related to malnutrition.

The inhabitants (Benianos) are mostly descendants of Cruceños (people from Santa Cruz) who streamed north following the course of navigable rivers, and native peoples. The culture is known as lowland Camba (common to Santa Cruz, Beni, and Pando) and not Andean. Benianos are simple, straightforward people whose Spanish is likely inherited from Santa Cruz which in turn inherited it from Asunción del Paraguay, the departure point of its founders, among them Ñuflo de Chávez. It has been remarked that the Camba dialect, as well as the customs of the inhabitants of Bolivia’s tropical lowlands, are almost purely Andalusian.[citation needed]

The Beniano diet consists largely of rice, bananas, beef and fish. Some popular dishes include Majao, Masaco, and others, many featuring cured/salted meats.

Benianos have traditionally been mistrustful, and often somewhat contemptuous, of Andean culture, considering themselves to be lighter and more purely Spanish than the Quechua and Aymara-speaking populations of the highlands. Considerable resentment existed against the central government, which allegedly did very little to build roads or integrate the Beni into the economy and political life of the country. These attitudes persisted despite the fact that Beni benefited greatly by the Agrarian Reform instituted following the 1952 Revolution, with many citizens coming into ownership of significant tracts of land. Most of these turned to cattle ranching. The absence of a reliable road linking the department to the main centers of power in the country (owing to the difficult terrain) continued to contribute to the Benianos’ sense of isolation, as did the a downturn in the cattle industry. This, in turn, translated in an almost automatic support by both the population and departmental authorities for the Santa Cruz-led effort to federalize the country and devolve powers to the departments at the expense of the central government. Considerable social unrest took place in 2007 and 2008, leading some to consider separatism as plausible.

The department is divided into eight provinces.


Provinces of Beni

Provinces of Beni

  • Cercado
  • Iténez
  • José Ballivián
  • Mamoré
  • Marban
  • Moxos
  • Vaca Díez
  • Yacuma

Places of interest

  • Beni Biological Station Biosphere Reserve
  • Pilón Lajas Biosphere Reserve and Communal Lands


  • Gonzalez Moscoso, Rene. 1984. Enciclopedia Boliviana: Diccionario Geográfico Boliviano. Editorial “Los Amigos del Libro”, La Paz. 278pp.

External links

  • Bolivian Music and Web Varieties
  • Departmental Government of Beni
  • Lots of photos of indigenous fiestas, including San Ignacio de Moxos and San Javier

Coordinates: 14°S 65°W / 14°S 65°W / 14; 65

This text comes from Wikipedia. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikipedia.

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