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Trip Planner South America  /  Bolivia  /  Beni Department

Beni Department

Bodies of Water · National Parks · Dolphin & Whale Watching
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. Its capital is Trinidad.PopulationWith a population of 420,000, Beni is the second most sparsely populated of the nine departments of Bolivia, after Pando.Although Beni is rich in natural resources, the poverty level of its inhabitants is high, mainly as a result of centuries of exploitation of native populations by white elites. 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 façade 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 were 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. Today, the Beni region is the seat of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Vicariate of El Beni.
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