Fray Bentos

This article is about the port city in Uruguay. For the tinned meat food brand, see Fray Bentos (food brand). For other uses, see Fray Bentos (disambiguation).
Fray Bentos
Capital city
Fray Bentos
Coordinates: 33°08′0″S 58°18′0″W / 33.13333°S 58.30000°W / -33.13333; -58.30000Coordinates: 33°08′0″S 58°18′0″W / 33.13333°S 58.30000°W / -33.13333; -58.30000
Country  Uruguay
Department Río Negro Department
Founded 1859
Population (2011)
  Total 24,406
  Demonym fraybentino
Time zone UTC–3/–2
Postal code 65000
Dial plan +598 456 (+5 digits)
Climate Cfa

Fray Bentos is the capital city of the Río Negro Department, in south-western Uruguay. Its port on the Uruguay River is one of the nation's most important harbours.[1] The city host the first campus of the Technological University,[2] beside the historically relevant industrial complex Anglo, a World Heritage site. One of the biggest pulp mills in the world is situated close to Fray Bentos and the Libertador General San Martín Bridge, and it was the center of the largest political dispute between Uruguay and Argentina during the 21st century.


The city is close to the border with Argentina and about 160 kilometres (99 mi) due north of Buenos Aires, and 309 kilometres (192 mi) north-west from Montevideo, Uruguay's capital.


The town was originally founded as 'Villa Independencia' by Decree of 16 April 1859. It became capital of the Department of Río Negro on 7 July 1860 by the Act of Ley Nº 1.475 and its status was elevated to "Ciudad" (city) on 16 July 1900 by the Act of Ley Nº 2.656.[3] Its current name, meaning "Friar Benedict", is derived from a reclusive priest.[4]

Historically, Fray Bentos' main industry has been meat processing. An industrial plant owned by the Societe de Fray Bentos Giebert & Cie., the Liebig Extract of Meat Company, was founded there in 1863. It was closed in 1979, after 117 years in operation. A local history museum opened on the site in March 2005.

Fray Bentos was the location of the crash of Austral Flight 2553, in which 74 people were killed (69 passengers and 5 crew) on October 10, 1997.[5][6]


In 2011 Fray Bentos had a population of 24,406.[7][8]

Year Population
1908 7,359
1963 17,094
1975 19,407
1985 19,862
1996 21,959
2004 23,122
2011 24,406

Source: Instituto Nacional de Estadística de Uruguay[3]


A meat packing plant in Fray Bentos

In 1899 a company called "Anglo", which originated from Lemco, began making corned beef there, which was sold as "Fray Bentos Corned Beef" in the UK. Fifty years later, the Fray Bentos company diversified into soups, meatballs and tinned fruit.[9] During the 1990s the focus shifted to pies and puddings and Fray Bentos was taken over by the Campbell Soup Company. However, in 2006, 'Campbells UK' was acquired by Premier Foods.[10]The brand is now owned in the UK by Baxters, which manufactures the product range in Scotland. Additionally, the Campbell Soup Company manufactures and sells Fray Bentos branded steak and kidney pies in Australia.

In 2008, the Brazilian-owned Marfrig Group announced the re-opening of the Liebig factory and the resumption of export of meat products, though at a lower capacity than at the original factory.[11]

Botnia S.A., a subsidiary of Finnish corporation Metsä-Botnia, has built a large cellulose factory in Fray Bentos to produce bleached eucalyptus pulp; production started in November 2007, and the first shipments were made in December 2007 from the overseas port of Nueva Palmira. Investment in the project was about 1 billion USD and the factory directly or indirectly employs about 8,000 people. The project, however, is not without its opponents. On 30 April 2005 about 40,000 Argentines from Entre Ríos, along with environmental groups from both countries, demonstrated at the bridge linking both countries; since then, around ten to fifteen Argentinians have been blocking the international bridge to put pressure on the Uruguayan government to stop production at the factory, claiming it will gravely pollute the Uruguay River.[12] On 20 December 2005 a World Bank study concluded that the factory would not have a negative impact on the environment or tourism in either country. The paper mill started operating in November 2007 (see Pulp mill conflict between Argentina and Uruguay).[13]

Museums and culture

Fray Bentos has an Industrial Revolution Museum in the former meat processing factory of the Liebig Extract of Meat Company where thousands of people worked. When it was shut down, the opportunity was taken to create a unique museum, where the original machinery and social and cultural artefacts of the technological revolution in Fray Bentos could be shown to the world. The museum exhibits, for tourism and educational purposes, the machinery used in the meat and extract of meat process, the buildings, an 1893 Merryweather water pumping machine, a complete canning plant, a plant where the meat was cooked, a laboratory, etc.

It also has a museum for the artist Luis Alberto Solari, who was born in the city.

The Miguel Young Theatre is an important cultural landmark.


Fray Bentos has its own football league, the Liga Departamental de Fútbol de Río Negro, established in 1912, made up of 14 teams. Among the most notable are Fray Bentos Fútbol Club, Club Atlético Anglo and Laureles Fútbol Club.

In fiction

The title character of Borges' short story "Funes el Memorioso" was from Fray Bentos.

Notable people

See also


  1. 1 2 "Statistics of urban localities (1908–2004) (see also "Independencia")" (PDF). INE. 2012. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
  2. "Fray Bentos", Concise Dictionary of World Place-Names. John Everett-Heath. Oxford University Press 2005. Oxford Reference Online, retrieved 21 June 2008
  3. Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 26 May 2011.
  4. "Catástrofe aérea: hubo 73 muertos" [Air disaster: 73 dead]. La Nación (in Spanish). 12 October 1997. Retrieved 7 February 2011.
  5. "Censos 2011 Cuadros Río Negro". INE. 2012. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  6. Anon. "Fray Bentos". Premier Foods our range. Premier Foods. Retrieved 2009-09-28.
  7. Attwood, Karen (2007-01-20). "Premier Foods to close two factories with loss of 450 jobs". London: The Independent. Retrieved January 20, 2007.
  8. BBC. October 28, 2008 "Uruguay serves up slice of history "
  9. "Multitudinaria protesta en Entre Ríos contra la instalación de papeleras (in Spanish)". Clarín. 2005. Retrieved April 20, 2005.
  10. Bloomberg. November 9, 2007 "Metsae-Botnia Gets Permit From Uruguay to Start Pulp Production"
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