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Casanare, an intendancy of Colombia located in the eastern plains (Llanos Orientales) and occupying an area of 17,169 square miles, it is bounded on the west by the Cordillera Oriental, on the north by the Casanare River, and on the south and east by the Meta River. Mostly low-lying grassland, it has a tropical climate with alternating wet and dry seasons.

In the sixteenth century Spanish and German conquistadores explored Casanare in a futile search for El Dorado. Later, encomenderos and missionaries competed for control of the Indians. Before their expulsion in 1767, the Jesuits established eleven missions and eight haciendas in Casanare, an empire second in size only to their reductions in Paraguay. By this time, cattle raising—the principal economic activity—had produced a mestizo subculture of llaneros (cowboys).

Casanare was a major theater in the War of Independence. After royalists reconquered the new Granada highlands, Simón Bolívar sent Francisco de Paula Santander to the plains to forge the fiercely patriotic llaneros into a new army. In June 1819, Bolívar led this force in an epic march over the Andes to defeat the Spanish in the battle of Boyacá (7 August 1819).

The ravages of war and systematic neglect precipitated Casanare's decline in the nineteenth century from a modestly self-sufficient region to an isolated, forgotten province. Until recently, subsistence agriculture and ranching predominated, but since 1983 large-scale extraction of petroleum near the capital of Yopal promises a more prosperous future.

See alsoColombia: From the Conquest through Independence; El Dorado.


James J. Parsons, "Europeanization of the Savanna Lands of Northern South America," in Human Ecology in Savanna Environments, edited by David R. Harris (1980), pp. 267-289.

Jane M. Rausch, A Tropical Plains Frontier: The Llanos of Colombia, 1531–1831 (1984).

Héctor Publio Pérez Ángel, La participación de Casanare en la guerra de independencia, 1809–1819 (1987).

Additional Bibliography

Lamus Gélvez, Julio César. Territorios de Arauca y Casanare: La provincia de Casanare en la Nueva Granada, 1832–1857. Bucaramanga, Colombia: Editorial, 2003.

Pearce, Jenny. Más alla de la malla perimetral: El petróleo y el conflicto armado en Casanare, Colombia. Bogotá, D.C.: Cinep, 2005.

                                    Jane M. Rausch

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