Los Llanos de Moxos – Gateway to the Amazon Basin
Trinidad is a small yet important city, since it serves as the commercial and administrative center for the remote lands of eastern Bolivia. It is only 236 meters above sea level and approximately 40,000 people call this their home. Since it is only 14 degrees south of the equator, heavy tropical humidity weighs down upon the city, with an average temperature anywhere between 20 and 30°C along with 90% relative humidity. Most of the rain falls during the austral summer although winter also has a good share of precipitation.
With little difference in seasons, the temperatures are relatively uniform year round. However, to break up the monotony, from June through September occasional cold winds called surazos, coming directly from the South Pole, can cause the temperature to suddenly plunge 10 degrees below normal.
The city of Trinidad lies in the Moxos (Mojos) Plains known as Los Llanos de Moxos, an ancient lake bed stretching eastward from the foothills of the Andean eastern cordillera. In 1556, Spanish captains Tristan de Tejada and Juan de Salinas established settlements in this area. In 1686 Jesuits led by Father Cipriano Barrace founded a mission at the present site of the city, naming it “La Santísima Trinidad” for the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. During the annual celebration of the feast, residents wear elaborate feather headdresses and masks and partake in traditional dancing, accompanied by live music.
The city was originally established on the banks of the Mamoré River, some 14 kilometers from its present location. In 1797, floods from the swelled river forced the inhabitants to move inward, to the San Juan brook which now divides the city in two.
The Jesuits set up a society there similar to the one they would establish in the Llanos de Chiquitos and the Guarayos Hills during the century that followed (see the Jesuit Missions section in our Santa Cruz page).
Trinidad, capital of the Beni Department
The Department of Beni covers approximately 200,000 square kilometers with a sparse population density of only 1 person per square kilometer. Nature has continued to dominate this region, preserving the exuberant Amazon Basin.
Historically, numerous indigenous tribes, still in existence today, have always inhabited the Beni. However, the Jesuit missionaries in the seventeenth century paved the way for subsequent cattlemen and farmers who give the region its principle contemporary economic activity.
Other resources include, years ago, the intensive exploitation of rubber (and the gruesome tales of debt slavery that accompanied this type of economy). Rubber is still collected today, but to a lesser extent, along with Brazil nuts, quina, and a variety of valuable hardwoods.To discover the Beni is to enter into a new, magical world shaped by water, dense and profuse vegetation, and innumerable wild animal species. Of all the tropical areas of Bolivia, the Beni, in its solitude, best represents the mythical Amazon that we’ve dreamed about.
Our tours in the Beni respect the environment and have been established to go with nature’s flow, so that you will enjoy a unique ecological experience, including intimate contact with the river, the humid tropical jungle and the native inhabitants. Here is a paradise for bird watchers, entomologists, fishing enthusiasts, photographers. Those who travel with a camera should bring plenty of extra batteries.
In this rich set of ecosystems, exotic and fascinating nature also hides the cultural treasures of magic and millenary civilizations (see collapsible panel below).
Trinidad is easily accessible from La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. Regular airlines offer daily flights to&from the main cities in Bolivia.
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Los Llanos de Moxos in the Bolivian Amazon
A story of people and rivers in the Amazon
The Amazon Basin is not homogenous in its appearance, nor in its resources. In view of its enormous land surface extension and diversity of ecosystems, it is one of the most important biological reserves on earth.
The Bolivian Amazon lies in the heart of South America, in a natural corridor located in the western region of the continent, bounded by the Andean Mountain range. It is the habitat of diversified flora and is the mandatory path of many animal species and endemics. It is also the birthplace of one of the most ancient cultures on the continent.
With an average altitude lower than 250 m.a.s.l. the Llanos de Moxos is a flat region within the Bolivian Amazon, occupying much of the natural flatlands formed by the Mamoré River basin. The mean annual temperatures here are above 25ºC, and rainfalls up to 2,000 mm.
The mighty Mamoré River – its name means “mother of all waters” in Moxeño language – is the greatest waterways of the Bolivian Amazon and sees a good deal of traffic. Canoes, barges and double-decker river boats ply its silt-laden waters, carrying supplies to the isolated communities along the river bank, collecting cargoes of timber or bananas, and carrying cattle downstream to markets in Brazil. For the villagers, isolated in the midst of this immense wilderness, the arrival of a boat can be the main event of the day, and if yours stops to load or unload cargo it's likely to be besieged by locals selling bananas or fish, or simply seeking the latest news and gossip from upriver.
Three large bio-geographic regions of the Amazon Basin converge in this area, while the millenary ruins of the magic-mythic Empire of Enín, as well as the diversity of native populations, give the region a vast cultural importance.
At the confluence of three different ecoregions
The territory of the Llanos de Moxos is an immense hydrographic basin in which all the waters that come down from the Andes converge, giving place to a multitude of rivers, streams and lagoons. Temporary or permanent floods characterize the area, creating very special living conditions, particularly in the basin of the Mamoré River, the main tributary of the Amazon in the Bolivian territory.
However in spite of the exuberant scenery and space distribution of the heterogenous vegetation, the lowlands in the Beni region present fragile natural conditions, very susceptible to ecological unbalance.
The Amazonic hylea is a complex mosaic of ecosystems that interact between each other and that has been divided into various life regions according to the differences of arboreal flora and other biogeographic criteria. Los Llanos de Moxos encompass three of these ecoregions —the riverside forest, the savannas in Moxos, the savannas of palm trees— intermixed with swamps and islands of evergreen humid forest.
More about local plants and wildlife
Ancient Peoples of the Llanos de Moxos
For more than 30 years, archaeologists have clashed over whether the vast Bolivian river basin called the Moxos plains or Llanos de Moxos, also known as the Beni savanna, could provide the resources for indigenous cultures to grow beyond small, autonomous villages.
Now a small but growing number of researchers believe that the region was once home to cultures fully as sophisticated as the better known, though radically different, cultures of the Aztecs, Incas, and Mayas. Although the ancient Mojeños abandoned their earthworks between 1400 and 1700 C.E., researchers say, they permanently transformed regional ecosystems—a notion related to water management with dramatic implications for conservation.
Click on the collapsible panel below for more information.
The magic of millenary civilizations
Peoples of the Llanos de Moxos Today
Today most part of the population in the area lives and works in a few cattle ranches and native agricultural communities.
When the first Jesuit mission was founded, at the end of the 17th century, the missionaries brought in the first heads of cattle, thus originating cattle breeding in the Beni region – the basis of the present economy throughout the Eastern plains of Bolivia.
Even though our area of operations does not include large extensions of savannas, we may be able to visit a cattle ranch. The particular life style of the cattle ranches is another facet of the Llanos de Moxos, through the current settlements under development and the absence of State assistance in these regions.
Native agricultural communities
The settlements as well as the communities are semi-nomadic. Most of them belong to the Mojo, Movima, Yuracaré and Muijiono cultures. Their subsistence depends on small scale agriculture, through the cultivation of rice, yucca, corn, sugar cane, citric fruit and garden produce.
The forest is also an important resource at the family level through fishing, complemented by hunting and recollection of eggs, honey, etc. Depending on the season of the year, over 80 species of plants are used for their fruit, fibers, wood or for medical purposes and for production of handicrafts.
The life style of the native populations must not lead to the assumption that they are lacking in knowledge. Quite on the contrary, the indigenous people have a deep understanding of their environment and are careful consumers of the products provided to them by Nature.
However, at the present time, their life has become more difficult, because much of their knowledge inherited by tradition from their ancestors regarding the management of the soils, has been lost.
Conversation with a Mojeño...
Trinidad is located in the north central part of Bolivia.
Through our intimate, small-group tours and private expeditions in this area you will be able to visit sites most tourists, even seasoned travelers, never find.
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