Trinidad: the City that's Going Green

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The city of Trinidad (its full name being La Santísima Trinidad) is the capital city of the Department of Beni in northern Bolivia. It was founded by a Jesuit priest called Cipriano Barace near the Mamoré river in 1686. Not until 1769 was the town moved to its current location, 9 miles away due to flooding. It is located in the province of Cercado, one of Beni’s 8 provinces.

Trinidad, located in the Bolivian tropics, is hot and humid most of the year. This region of the country is heavily forested and many large rivers (all tributaries of the Amazon river) run through Beni. Like most cities in Bolivia, it is built around a central plaza with a large Catholic Cathedral as its centerpiece. Trinidad was originally a small Jesuit town but is now a large city with over 100,000 inhabitants. Its mission-style church was demolished and rebuilt in 1923. Despite these changes, many of the original religious relics, paintings and statues are still housed in the Cathedral, which faces the Main Plaza.

Chope Piesta, Trinidad Bolivia

Trinidad is known as the city of motorcycles, this being the preferred mode of transportation. Throughout the day and evening the roar of motorcycles is everywhere. At night cycling around the central plaza is a pastime. The plaza (Plaza Mariscal José Ballivián) is where townsfolk congregate at night and on weekends. Numerous stores and restaurants, internet cafés, banks and local government buildings surround it. It has a beautiful fountain featuring the “inia” (pink river dolphins) that tourists the world over come to see as well as statues of some of the local indigenous tribes. It also has a cool gazebo where many come to rest for a few moments and shade themselves from the hot sun.

Half a block from the main plaza, all along Avenida 6 de Agosto are several inns and hotels, internet cafés, restaurants and ice cream shops, stores and travel agencies. Tourist infrastructure in Trinidad is typically very basic with the exception of one or two 3-4 star hotels.

The city recently adopted a new slogan: Trinidad Verde (Green Trinidad) as the Prefecture of Beni attempts to improve tourist attractions and attract this important economic activity to the area while educating both the local population and tourists about the importance of preserving natural habitats and wildlife.

Trinidad is surrounded by rivers, lakes and lagoons. There are many interesting river tours and beautiful restaurants and resorts around the city’s main lagoons. Trinidad is also one of the first five Jesuit mission towns established and these are now part of the Misiones tour includes visits to San Javier, Loreto, San Pedro and San Ignacio de Moxos as well. Trinidad and San Ignacio de Moxos both take part in the International Baroque Music Festival every two years in Bolivia.

Loma Suárez, home of the wealthy Suárez family during the rubber boom in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is now a Naval School that can also be visited. It is located atop a hill (loma), one of 20,000 artificial hills handmade thousands of years ago by the Moxos culture. It is located on the shores of the Ibare River. Puerto Ballivian and Puerto Almacen are two other important ports along the Ibare River. Here you can watch barges loaded bananas and other produce arrive and embark and swim with pink river dolphins.

Laguna Suárez is the lagoon most visited by tourists. It is one of the lagoons used by the pre-historic Moxos culture for the production of fish and for crop irrigation. Currently it is used by both locals and tourists for water sports. There are several restaurants and bathing areas, and at only 5-10 minutes from the city center, is a prime location for resting and relaxing and viewing local flora and fauna. The Club Nautico (Nautical Club) is located near this lagoon and is open until late in the evening. Chuchini Ecological and Archeological tourist center is a gorgeous reserve. You can go by car or take a river tour and dock there in the evening. Here you can glide down the river at nighttime in search of alligators, trek through the jungle, or visit an archeological museum that houses hundreds of thousands-year old specimens of the Moxos culture.

Trinidad boasts two singular museums. The Museo Itícola (Fish Fauna Museum) is the third largest of its kind in South America and houses over 400 specimens of fish species found in the region’s lakes and lagoons. It is located on the UAB University campus and is truly interesting. Here you can see tiny fish, piranhas, and a preserved pink river dolphin (full sized floating in formaldehyde). The Kenneth Lee Ethno-Archeological Museum is also a great place to visit. Here you can see exhibits of pottery, utensils and tools, textiles and other implements used by the Moxos culture, which was so prolific (thought to number about 8 million at one point) that remnants of this culture can frequently be found underfoot easily while trekking rivershores or hiking in the forests. Here you can also see impressive aerial photography of the thousands of square miles of dikes and channels the Moxos aquaculture built by hand thousands of years ago.

Local open-air markets are also interesting places to visit in this city. The main “mercado” is located just a few blocks South of the main plaza between Joaquín de Sierra and Pedro de la Rocha streets.

You can also visit the Casa de la Cultura (culture house) for more information about local tourist attractions, the culture, or the history and traditions of this region. It was constructed in 1985.

The Cabildo Indigenal, located near the city cemetery on the corners of José Bopi and Libertad Streets, is an indigenous government organization for the local populations of and near Trinidad. It has a small church and across the street you can visit the Artisan Center (Centro Artesanal) where the indigenous peoples produce various objects such as wood carvings, woven textiles, baskets, pottery, feather headdresses, and other typical handcrafts using traditional techniques.

The Parque Pantanal (Wetlands Park) is really interesting. It houses wildlife native to this region such as tapirs and emus and has a snake building where you can see a huge ananconda. It also has playgrounds for children and picnic huts, each with a grill. It is located across the street from the Madre Trinitaria monument. Arroyo San Juan (a major stream connected to the Ibare River) cuts through the city. During the rubber boom it was a major commercial port where large boats and ships could dock.

The city’s Municipal Government Tourism Office is located on Felix Pinto Street between Nicolás Street and 18 de Noviembre Street. The phone number is 462-1322.

Several airlines (SAVE, Amaszonas, Aerocon and TAM) serve Trinidad as do numerous buslines. Trinidad has one airport (Aeropuerto Jorge Henrich Arauz) located on Laureano Villar García Avenue Northwest of downtown. The city also has a very unorganized bus terminal (located at Ave. Beni and Ave. Rómulo Mendoza) where dozens of buses arrive and leave each day. The buses themselves, however, are usually large and modern.

There are also dozens of moto-taxis (motorcycle taxis) that are inexpensive but don’t guarantee safety (and don’t provide helmets) and there are radio-taxi companies (taxis you call by phone) which are actually cars. To visit nearby towns you usually have to take the smaller regional vans and buses that leave from different points of the city.

Locally you can visit many smaller towns that surround Trinidad. Here you’ll hear people speaking both Spanish and Sirionó. Other indigenous groups that inhabited the region were the Moxeños, Yuracarés, Sireneires, Chamas, Tacanas, Chimanes, Movimas, Sinabos, Moré, Sansimonianos, Pausernas, Baures, Paunacas, Canichanas, Jobas, Chácobos, Acanas, Cayubabas and Itonomas.

Be sure to visit some of the nearby missions towns as well. These include San Ignacio de Moxos, Loreto, San Javier, Santa Ana, Baures, San Joaquín, San Ramón, Magdalena, and San Pedro.

Trinidad has a small plaza that is located 2 blocks from the main plaza where you can see a large stone map of the department of Beni. It is tilted forward and appears to be standing on its own. However, if you walk to the back of it, you’ll see statues of several people holding it up. The slogan under the map says “Beni’s progress will always depend on it’s own people’s efforts”. Benianos are very independent. Although this area of Bolivia has for centuries been practically forgotten by the central government, it continues to progress due to its citizen’s enterprising spirit.

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