El Salvador: Wikis


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Republic of El Salvador
República de El Salvador  (Spanish)
Flag Coat of arms
Motto"Dios, Unión, Libertad"  (Spanish)
"God, Union, Freedom"
AnthemHimno Nacional de El Salvador
(and largest city)
San Salvador
13°40′N 89°10′W / 13.667°N 89.167°W / 13.667; -89.167
Official language(s) Spanish
Ethnic groups  90% Mestizo, 9% White (Spanish, Italian, French, Swiss, English, Irish, others), 1% Amerindian (Pipil, Lenca)
Demonym Salvadorian[1]
Government Presidential republic
 -  President Mauricio Funes
 -  from Spain September 15, 1821 
 -  from the First Mexican Empire 1823 
 -  from the Central American Federation 1842 
 -  Total 21,040 km2 
8,124 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 1.4
 -  July 2009 estimate 7,185,218 (99th)
 -  2007 census 5,744,113[2] 
 -  Density 341.5/km2 (47th)
884.4/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $43.748 billion[3] 
 -  Per capita $7,564[3] 
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $22.115 billion[3] 
 -  Per capita $3,823[3] 
Gini (2002) 52.4 (high
HDI (2007) 0.747[4] (medium) (106th)
Currency U.S. dollar 2 (USD)
Time zone (UTC-6)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .sv
Calling code +5031
1 Telephone companies (market share): Tigo (45%), Claro (25%), Movistar (24%), Digicel (5.5%), Red (0.5%).
2 The United States dollar is the currency in use. Financial information can be expressed in U.S. Dollars and in Salvadoran colón, but it is out of circulation. http://www.bcr.gob.sv/ingles/integracion/ley.html

El Salvador (Spanish: República de El Salvador, literally meaning "Republic of the Savior"; original name in Nahuatl was Cōzcatlān) is the smallest and also the most densely populated country in Central America. It borders the Pacific Ocean between Guatemala and Honduras. It lies on the Gulf of Fonseca, as do Honduras and Nicaragua further south.

It has a population of approximately 7.2 million people as of 2009[5]. The capital city of San Salvador is, by some distance, the largest city of the republic. In 2001 El Salvador dropped its own currency, the colón, and adopted the U.S. dollar instead. [6]




Spanish rule

In the early sixteenth century, the Spanish conquistadors ventured into ports to extend their dominion to the area. They called the land "Provincia De Nuestro Señor Jesus Cristo, El Salvador Del Mundo)" ("Province Of Our Lord Jesus Christ, The Savior" Of The World"), which was subsequently abbreviated to "El Salvador".

Pedro de Alvarado sent an expedition into the region from Guatemala in 1524, but the Pipil drove them out in 1526. In 1528 he sent a second expedition, which succeeded, and the Spanish founded their first capital city in El Salvador at a place known today as Ciudad Vieja, the first site of the Villa de San Salvador, 10 km. south of Suchitoto. This capital was occupied from 1528 until 1545 when it was abandoned, and the capital city moved to where modern San Salvador is today.

Towards the end of 1810, a combination of internal and external factors allowed the Central American elites an attempt to gain independence from the Spanish crown. The internal factors were mainly the interest the elites had in controlling the territories they owned without involvement from Spanish authorities. The external factors were the success of the French and American revolutions in the eighteenth century and the weakening of the military power of the Spanish crown because of its wars against Napoleonic France.

The independence movement was consolidated on November 5, 1811, when the Salvadoran priest, Jose Matias Delgado, sounded the bells of the Iglesia La Merced in San Salvador, making a call for the insurrection. After many years of internal fights, the Acta de Independencia (Act of Independence) of Central America was signed in Guatemala on September 15, 1821. When these provinces were joined with Mexico in early 1822, El Salvador resisted, insisting on autonomy for the Central American countries. After minor battles the resistances were recognized in forming a new country.


In 1823, the United Provinces of Central America was formed by the five Central American states under General Manuel José Arce. When this federation was dissolved in 1839, El Salvador became an independent republic. El Salvador's early history as an independent state was marked by frequent revolutions.

From 1872 to 1898, El Salvador was a prime mover in attempts to reestablish an isthmian federation. The governments of El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua formed the Greater Republic of Central America via the Pact of Amapala in 1895. Guatemala and Costa Rica considered joining the Greater Republic (which was rechristened the United States of Central America when its constitution went into effect in 1898), but neither country did so. This union, which had planned to establish its capital city at Amapala on the Golfo de Fonseca, did not survive a coup in El Salvador in 1898.

The enormous profits that coffee yielded as a monoculture export served as an impetus for the process whereby land became concentrated in the hands of an oligarchy of few families.[7][citation needed] A succession of presidents from the ranks of the Salvadoran oligarchy, nominally both conservative and liberal, throughout the last half of the nineteenth century generally agreed on the promotion of coffee as the predominant cash crop, on the development of infrastructure (railroads and port facilities) primarily in support of the coffee trade, on the elimination of communal landholdings to facilitate further coffee production, on the passage of anti-vagrancy laws to ensure that displaced campesinos and other rural residents provided sufficient labor for the coffee fincas (plantations), and on the suppression of rural discontent. In 1912, the national guard was created as a rural police force.

The coffee industry grew inexorably in El Salvador and provided the bulk of the government's financial support through import duties on goods imported with the foreign currencies that coffee sales earned.[citation needed]

20th century

Monumento El Salvador del Mundo (Monument to the Savior of the World)

The economy was based on coffee-growing after the mid-19th century and, as the world market for indigo withered away, prospered or suffered as the world coffee price fluctuated. El Salvador president Tomas Regalado came to power by force in 1898 and his regime lasted until 1903. He reinitiated designating presidential successors. Up until 1913 El Salvador had been politically stable, but there was popular discontent as well, president Araujo was killed and there are many hypothesis for his murder.

Then he was followed by the Melendez-Quinonez dynasty that lasted since 1913 to 1927. Pio Romero Bosque, ex-Minister of the Government succeeded president Jorge Melendez and in 1930 he announced free elections in which Ing. Arturo Araujo came to power in March 1, 1931. His government only lasted 9 months. His Labor Party lacked of political and government experience and many Labor party members used government offices inefficiently.

In that year, Farabundo Marti came back from exile that was ordered by Romero Bosque, sending him to California and spending time in San Pedro Immigration Office. He was visited by some local leftists. President Romero Bosque sent him away before the upcoming 1930 presidential elections for his communist activities. President Araujo faced popular discontent as people expected economic reforms and land. Demonstrations started since the first week of his government in front of the National Palace. His Minister of War was General Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez and his National Police Director Mr. Rochac who was the president brother in law.

A coup d'état was organized by junior officers and the first strike started in the First Regiment of Infantry across from the National Palace in downtown San Salvador and only the First Regiment of Calvary and the National Police was loyal to the president and defended him (the National Police had been paid its payroll), but later that night on December 1931, after hours of military fight and outnumbered surrendered to the military revolution.

The Directorate composed by officers had behind a shadowy figure, who is told by Thomas Anderson in his book Matanza, his name was Rodolfo Duke, a rich man and also General Martinez. The causes of the revolt are mainly supposed to be for the army discontent against president Araujo for not paying the army for some months. Araujo left the National Palace and later tried to organize to defeat the revolt, but was unable.

The U.S. Minister in El Salvador met with the Directorate and later recognized the government with Vice President Martinez who agreed to have later presidential elections. (Martinez resigned in 1934 six months before the presidential elections to be able to run for the presidency and then as the only candidate won the election ruling from 1935 to 1939 and then 1939-1943 and finally started his 4th term in 1944 but resigned in May after the General strike. Martinez said he was going to respect the Constitution which said he couldn't be reelected, but he didn't).

From December 1931, the year of the coup in which Gen. Maximiliano Hernández Martínez came to power, there was brutal suppression of rural resistance. The most notable event was the February 1932 Salvadoran peasant uprising, commonly referred to as La Matanza (the massacre), organized by Farabundo Martí and with leaders like Abel Cuenca, and other academic people like Alfonso Luna and Mario Zapata. Only Abel Cuenca survived, the other communists were killed by the government.

In Western El Salvador hundred of peasants had revolt and caused also barbarism, but this was crushed by the Army, that not only killed the revolutionaries peasants, but also innocent people. The number of the massacre is estimated in 300,000. The barbarism of the revolutionaries peasants was such that even there was an order from Farabundo Marti saying to kill the wealthy landowners at once and only let the children live.

This ad was received by the military officers and very severe actions were done against the rebels. High officers like Jose Calderon lead the expeditions to the towns of Nahuizalco, Juayua, Apaneca and Izalco. Feliciano Ama, an Indian leader, was hanged and this event was shown on Post Office stamps of the time. Since then from 1932-1979 military officers held the Main Office, with some presidents using more repression than others. El Salvador problems included unfair minimun wages, repression against student and general demonstrations, and election fraud.

The PDC and the PCN parties

In 1960, two political parties were born and are still active in the politics the Christian Democratic Party (PDC) and the National Conciliation Party (PCN). Both shared alike ideals, but one represented the Middle Class and the latter the Army.

Opposition leader José Napoleón Duarte from (PDC) was the Mayor of San Salvador from 1964–1970, winning 3 elections during Jose Adalberto Rivera regime. (This president allowed free elections for Mayors and the National Assembly) Mr. Duarte later ran for president but was defeated in the 1972 presidential elections with UNO (National Oppossition Union), the official PCN was declared winner with ex-Minister of Interior Col. Arturo Armando Molina. Duarte, at some officers request, supported a revolt for the election fraud, but was captured, tortured and later exiled. Duarte came back to the country in 1979 to enter politics after working in Venezuela projects as engineer.

The October 1979 Coup d'état

In October 1979, a coup d'état brought Revolutionary Government Junta of El Salvador to power. It nationalized many private companies and took over much privately owned land. The purpose of this new junta was to stop the revolutionary movement already underway because of Duarte's stolen election. Nevertheless, the oligarchy opposed agrarian reform and a junta formed with young liberal elements from the Army such as Gral. Majano and Gral. Gutierrez as well as progressives such as Ungo and Alvarez.

Due to the pressure of the staunch oligarchy and the inability to control the Army in repressing its own people because they were fighting for their right to unionize, agrarian reform, better wages, health, freedom of expression, this Junta was dissolved. In the meantime the guerrilla movement was spreading in all sectors of the Salvadoran society. Middle and High School students were organized in MERS ( Movimiento Estudiantil Revolutionario de Secundaria, Revolutionary Movement of Secondary Students); college students were involved with AGEUS (Asociacion de Estudiantes Universitarios Salvadorenos; Association of Salvadoran College Students); workers were organized in BPR (Bloque Popular Revolucionario, Popular Revolutionary Block).

The U.S. supported and financed the creation of a second Junta to change the political environment and stop the spread of a leftist insurrection. Napoleon Duarte was recalled from his exile in Venezuela to head this new Junta. However, a revolution was already underway and his new role as head of the Junta was seen as opportunistic by the general population. He was unable to influence the outcome of the insurrectional movement and this resulted in the Salvadoran Civil War (1980–1992).

Civil War (1980 to 1992)

The Salvadoran Civil War was predominantly fought between the government of El Salvador and a coalition of four leftist groups and one communist group known as the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). This coalition got organized in 1980 after Fidel Castro of Cuba requested that there be a common front. Castro had a lot of influence in the region and provided weapons through Nicaraguan territory (then in the hands of President Ortega).

Subversive activity started with "El Grupo" (a group that later would be called E.R.P.) and also the FPL that initiated activities after Cayetano Carpio (its leader) broke in ideology from now extinct El Salvador's Communist Party (PCES). In 1970, the FPL guerrilla force was small and didn't have military training. Later the FPL was one of the largest organizations inside of the FMLN coalition.

In the beginning of the conflict, the PCES didn't believe in taking power by force, but through elections. The ERP split off, creating the RN (National Resistance) after ERP leaders killed the leftist poet Roque Dalton, whom they believed had spied for the American CIA. Approximately 75,000 people were killed in the war.[8] The Salvadoran Civil war was fought in the context of the global Cold War, with Cuba and the USSR backing the Marxist-Leninist rebels and the United States backing the right wing military Salvadoran government.

On January 16, 1992 the government of El Salvador represented by president Alfredo Cristiani and the guerrilla represented by the commanders of the five guerrilla groups such as Shafick Handal, Joaquin Villalobos, Salvador Sanchez Ceren, Francisco Jovel and Eduardo Sancho signed the Peace Agreements ending a 12 year civil war in the Chapultepec Castle in Mexico. The international community was present and there was wide admiration because after the signature of the president he stood up and shook hands to all the now ex-guerrilla commanders. The Peace Agreements included reduction of the Army, the dissolution of the National Police, Treasury Police and National Guard. The dissolution of the Civilian Defense, a paramilitary group. The organization of a new Civil Police and the end of impunity with which the government would leave recommendation to a Commission of the Truth.

End of the 20th century

From 1989 until 2004, Salvadorans favored Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party, voting ARENA presidents in every election (Alfredo Cristiani, Armando Calderón Sol, Francisco Flores Pérez, Antonio Saca).

Economic reforms since the early 1990s have brought major benefits in terms of improved social conditions, diversification of its export sector, and access to international financial markets at investment grade level, while crime remains a major problem for the investment climate.[9]

21st century

The unsuccessful attempts of the left-wing party to win presidential elections led to its selection of a journalist rather than a former guerrilla leader as a candidate. On March 15, 2009, Mauricio Funes, a television figure, became the first president from the FMLN party. He was inaugurated on June 1, 2009. One focus of the Funes government has been revealing the alleged corruption from the past government[10].


The political framework of El Salvador is a presidential representative democratic republic with a multiform multi-party system. The President of El Salvador, currently Mauricio Funes, is both head of state and head of government. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Legislative Assembly. The country also has an independent Judiciary and Supreme Court.

Departments and municipalities

El Salvador is divided into 14 departments (departamentos), which, in turn, are subdivided into 262 municipalities (municipios).

Department names and abbreviations for the 14 Salvadoran Departments:

  1. AH Ahuachapán
  2. CA Cabañas
  3. CH Chalatenango
  4. CU Cuscatlán
  5. LI La Libertad
  6. PA La Paz
  7. UN La Unión

8. MO Morazán
9. SM San Miguel
10. SS San Salvador
11. SV San Vicente
12. SA Santa Ana
13. SO Sonsonate
14. US Usulután

Departments of El Salvador


Shaded relief map of El Salvador
The scenic Jiboa Valley and San Vicente volcano
Beach at Playa Los Cóbanos.

El Salvador is located in Central America. It has a total area of 8,123 square miles (21,040 km²) (about the size of New Jersey). It is the smallest country in continental America and is affectionately called the "Tom Thumb of the Americas" ("Pulgarcito de America"). It has 123.6 square miles (320 km²) of water within its borders.

Several small rivers flow through El Salvador into the Pacific Ocean, including the Goascorán, Jiboa, Torola, Paz and the Río Grande de San Miguel. Only the largest river, the Lempa River, flowing from Guatemala and Honduras across El Salvador to the ocean, is navigatable for commercial traffic.

Volcanic craters enclose lakes, the most important of which are Lake Ilopango (70 km²/27 sq mi) and Lake Coatepeque (26 km²/10 sq mi). Lake Güija is El Salvador's largest natural lake (44 km²/17 sq mi). Several artificial lakes were created by the damming of the Lempa, the largest of which is Embalse Cerrón Grande (135 km²).

El Salvador shares borders with Guatemala and Honduras. It is the only Central American country that does not have a Caribbean coastline. The highest point in the country is Cerro El Pital at 8,957 feet (2,730 m), which shares a border with Honduras.

Survey marker at the summit of Cerro El Pital


El Salvador has a tropical climate with pronounced wet and dry seasons. Temperatures vary primarily with elevation and show little seasonal change. The Pacific lowlands are uniformly hot; the central plateau and mountain areas are more moderate. The rainy season extends from May to October. Almost all the annual rainfall occurs during this time, and yearly totals, particularly on southern-facing mountain slopes, can be as high as 217 centimeters (85 in).

Protected areas and the central plateau receive less, although still significant, amounts. Rainfall during this season generally comes from low pressure over the Pacific and usually falls in heavy afternoon thunderstorms. Hurricanes occasionally form in the Pacific with the notable exception of Hurricane Mitch.

From November through April, the northeast trade winds control weather patterns. During these months, air flowing from the Caribbean has lost most of the precipitation while passing over the mountains in Honduras. By the time this air reaches El Salvador, it is dry, hot, and hazy.

Natural disasters

A landslide caused by one of the 2001 El Salvador earthquakes

El Salvador lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire, and is thus subject to significant tectonic activity, including frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity. Recent examples include the earthquake on January 13, 2001, that measured 7.7 on the Richter scale and caused a landslide that killed more than eight hundred people;[11] and another earthquake only a month after the first one, February 13, 2001, killing 255 people and damaging about 20% of the nation's housing. Luckily, many families were able to find safety from the landslides caused by the earthquake.

The San Salvador area has been hit by earthquakes in 1576, 1659, 1798, 1839, 1854, 1873, 1880, 1917, 1919, 1965, 1986, 2001 and 2005.[12] The 5.7 Mw-earthquake of 1986 resulted in 1,500 deaths, 10,000 injuries, and 100,000 people left homeless.[13][14]

El Salvador's most recent destructive volcanic eruption took place on October 1, 2005, when the Santa Ana Volcano spewed up a cloud of ash, hot mud and rocks, which fell on nearby villages and caused two deaths.[11][15] The most severe volcanic eruption in this area occurred in the 5th century A.D. when the Ilopango erupted with a VEI strength of 6, producing widespread pyroclastic flows and devastating Mayan cities.[16]

El Salvador's position on the Pacific Ocean also makes it subject to severe weather conditions, including heavy rainstorms and severe droughts, both of which may be made more extreme by the El Niño and La Niña effects. In the summer of 2001, a severe drought destroyed 80% of the country's crops, causing famine in the countryside.[17][18] On October 4, 2005, severe rains resulted in dangerous flooding and landslides, which caused a minimum of fifty deaths.[11] El Salvador's location in Central America also makes it vulnerable to hurricanes coming off the Caribbean, however this risk is much less than for other Central American countries.

The Santa Ana Volcano in El Salvador is currently dormant, but while it was still erupting it was very dangerous. Lago de Coatepeque (one of El Salvador's lakes) was caused by a massive eruption.


According to the IMF and CIA World Factbook, El Salvador has the third largest economy in the region (behind Costa Rica and Panama) when comparing nominal Gross Domestic Product and purchasing power GDP.[19] El Salvador's GDP per capita stands at US$6,200, however, this "developing country" is still among the 10 poorest countries in Latin America.[20]

Most of El Salvador's economy has been hampered by natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes, but El Salvador currently has a steadily growing economy.

GDP in purchasing power parity (PPP) in 2008 was estimated at $43.94 billion USD. The service sector is the largest component of GDP at 64.1%, followed by the industrial sector at 24.7% (2008 est.). Agriculture represents only 11.2% of GDP (2008 est.).

The GDP has been growing since 1996 at an annual rate that averages 3.2% real growth. The government has recently committed to free market initiatives, and the 2007 GDP's real growth rate was 4.7%.[21]

In December 1999, net international reserves equaled US$1.8 billion or roughly five months of imports. Having this hard currency buffer to work with, the Salvadoran government undertook a monetary integration plan beginning January 1, 2001 by which the U.S. dollar became legal tender alongside the Salvadoran colón and all formal accounting was done in U.S. dollars. This way, the government has formally limited its possibility of implementing open market monetary policies to influence short term variables in the economy. As of September 2007, net international reserves stood at $2.42 billion.[22]

In 2004, the colón stopped circulating and is now never used in the country for any type of transaction.[23]

A challenge in El Salvador has been developing new growth sectors for a more diversified economy. As many other former colonies, for many years El Salvador was considered a mono-export economy (an economy that depended heavily on one type of export). During colonial times, the Spanish decided that El Salvador would produce and export indigo, but after the invention of synthetic dyes in the 19th century, Salvadoran authorities and the newly created modern state turned to coffee as the main export.

For many decades, coffee was one of the few sources of foreign currency in the Salvadoran economy.[citation needed] The Salvadoran Civil War in the 1980s and the fall of international coffee prices in the 1990s pressured the Salvadoran government to diversify the economy.[citation needed]

There are 15 free trade zones in El Salvador. The largest beneficiary has been the maquila industry, which provides 88,700 jobs directly, and consists primarily of supplying labor for the cutting and assembling of clothes for export to the United States.[citation needed]

El Salvador signed the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) — negotiated by the five countries of Central America and the Dominican Republic — with the United States in 2004. CAFTA requires that the Salvadoran government adopt policies that foster free trade. El Salvador has signed free trade agreements with Mexico, Chile, the Dominican Republic, and Panama and increased its trade with those countries. El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua also are negotiating a free trade agreement with Canada. In October 2007, these four countries and Costa Rica began free trade agreement negotiations with the European Union. Negotiations started in 2006 for a free trade agreement with Colombia.

El Salvador has one of the lowest tax burdens in the American continent (around 11% of GDP).[citation needed] The government has focused on improving the collection of its current revenues with a focus on indirect taxes. A 10% value-added tax (IVA in Spanish), implemented in September 1992, was raised to 13% in July 1995. The VAT is the biggest source of revenue, accounting for about 52.3% of total tax revenues in 2004.[citation needed]

Inflation has been steady and among the lowest in the region. Since 1997 inflation has averaged 3%, with recent years increasing to nearly 5%. From 2000 to 2006 total exports have grown 19% from $2.94 billion to $3.51 billion. During this same period total imports have risen 54% from $4.95 billion to $7.63 billion. This has resulted in a 102% increase in the trade deficit from $2.01 billion to $4.12 billion.[24]

Remittances from Salvadorans living and working in the United States, sent to family in El Salvador, are a major source of foreign income and offset the substantial trade deficit of $4.12 billion. Remittances have increased steadily in the last decade and reached an all-time high of $3.32 billion in 2006 (an increase of 17% over the previous year).[25] approximately 16.2% of gross domestic product(GDP).

Remittances have had positive and negative effects on El Salvador. In 2005 the number of people living in extreme poverty in El Salvador was 20%,[26] according to a United Nations Development Program report, without remittances the number of Salvadorans living in extreme poverty would rise to 37%. While Salvadoran education levels have gone up, wage expectations have risen faster than either skills or productivity. For example, some Salvadorans are no longer willing to take jobs that pay them less than what they receive monthly from family members abroad. This has led to an influx of Hondurans and Nicaraguans who are willing to work for the prevailing wage. Also, the local propensity for consumption over investment has increased. Money from remittances have also increased prices for certain commodities such as real estate. Many Salvadorans abroad earning much higher wages can afford higher prices for houses in El Salvador than local Salvadorans and thus push up the prices that all Salvadorans must pay.[27]


El Salvador has lacked authoritative demographic data for many years because between 1992 and 2007, a national census had not been undertaken. Prior to the 2009 census, patterns in population growth led many officials (including within the Salvadoran government) to estimate the country's population size at between 7.1 and 7.2 million people.[28] However, on May 12, 2008, El Salvador's Ministry of Economy finally released statistics gathered in the census of the previous May. These data present a surprisingly low figure for the total population - 7,185,218. Challenges to the 2009 census on a number of grounds are forthcoming.[29][30][31]

Ninety percent of Salvadorans are mestizo (mixed Native American and Spanish origin). Nine percent report their race as being white; this population is mostly of Spanish descent, including some of French, German, Swiss, and Italian descent. El Salvador is 1% indigenous, mostly Pipil, Lenca and Kakawira (Cacaopera). Very few Native Americans have retained their native customs, traditions, or languages, especially in the wake of the deliberate 1932 massacres in which the Salvadoran military murdered somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 peasants.

El Salvador is the only Central American country that has no visible African population because of its lack of an Atlantic coastline and subsequent access to the slave trade as occurred along the east coast of the continent. In addition, General Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez instituted race laws in 1930 that actually prohibited blacks from entering the country at all and it was not until the 1980s that this law was removed.[32][33]

Among the few immigrant groups that reached El Salvador, Palestinian Christians stand out.[34] Though few in number, their descendants have attained great economic and political power in the country, as evidenced by the now ex-president Antonio Saca — whose opponent in the 2004 election, Schafik Handal, was likewise of Palestinian descent — and the flourishing commercial, industrial, and construction firms owned by them.

The capital city of San Salvador has about 2.1 million people; an estimated 42% of El Salvador's population live in rural areas. Urbanization expanded at a phenomenal rate in El Salvador since the 1960s, driving millions to the cities and creating growth problems for cities around the country.

In the first half of 2007 La Policía Nacional Civil of El Salvador statistics showed lower numbers in homicide and extortions as well as robbery and theft of vehicles. In 2007 homicides in El Salvador had reduced 22%, extortions reduced 7%, and robbery and theft of vehicles had gone down 18%, all in comparison with the same period in 2006.[35]. However in 2009, there has been an increase in homicides and extorsions of about 30 % more than in 2008 according to some statistics [36]

As of 2004, there were approximately 3.2 million Salvadorans living outside El Salvador, with the U.S. traditionally being the destination of choice for Salvadorans looking for greater economic opportunity. Salvadorans also live in nearby Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.[37] The majority of expatriates emigrated during the civil war of the 1980s for political reasons and later because of adverse economic and social conditions. Other countries with notable Salvadoran communities include Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom (including the Cayman Islands), Sweden, Brazil, Italy,Colombia, and Australia. There is also a large community of Nicaraguans, 100,000 according to some figures,[38] many of them are seasonal immigrants.


Spanish is the official language and is spoken by virtually all inhabitants (some indigenous people still speak their native tongues, but all speak Spanish). English is also spoken by some throughout the republic. Many Salvadorans have studied or lived in English-speaking countries (primarily the U.S., but also Canada and Australia), including many young Salvadorans deported from the United States, many of whom had grown up speaking only English. Furthermore, today all public schools teach English as a required course in both primary and secondary school.

The local Spanish vernacular is called Caliche. Nahuat is the indigeous language that has survived, though it is only used by small communities of elderly Salvadorans in western El Salvador. Salvadoreans also use voseo, like in Uruguay and Argentina; referring to the second person as "vos" instead of "tú."


According to a survey in 2008, 52.6% of El Salvador's residents are Catholic, and 27.9% are Protestant.[39] Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Seventh-day Adventist churches are all growing, as are Pentecostals and Mormons


For the period 2005-2010 El Salvador has the third lowest birth rate in Central America, 22.8 per 1,000.[40] However, it has the highest death rate in Central America during the same period, 5.9 per 1,000. According to the most recent United Nations survey, life expectancy for men was 68 years and 74 years for women. Healthy life expectancy was 57 for males and 62 for females in 2003.[41] There are about 148 physicians per 100,000 people.[42]


Ballet folklore in El Salvador, displaying traditional dress.

The Catholic Church plays an important role in the Salvadoran culture. Archbishop Oscar Romero is a national hero for his role in speaking out against human rights violations that were occurring in the lead up to the Salvadoran Civil War. Significant foreign personalities in El Salvador were the Jesuit priests and professors Ignacio Ellacuria, Ignacio Martín-Baró, and Segundo Montes, who were murdered in 1989 by the Salvadoran Army during the heat of the civil war.

Painting, ceramics and textile goods are the main manual artistic expressions. Writers Francisco Gavidia (1863–1955), Salarrué (Salvador Salazar Arrué) (1899–1975), Claudia Lars, Alfredo Espino, Pedro Geoffroy Rivas, Manlio Argueta, José Roberto Cea, and poet Roque Dalton are among the most important writers to stem from El Salvador. Notable 20th century personages include the late filmmaker Baltasar Polio, artist Fernando Llort, and caricaturist Toño Salazar.

Amongst the more renowned representatives of the graphic arts are the painters Augusto Crespin, Noe Canjura, Carlos Cañas, Julia Díaz,Mauricio Mejia, Maria Elena Palomo de Mejia, Camilo Minero, Ricardo Carbonell, Roberto Huezo, Miguel Angel Cerna, (the painter and writer better known as MACLo), Esael Araujo, and many others. For more information on promiment citizens of El Salvador check the List of Salvadorans.

Date English name Local name
January 16 Peace Accords Day Día de los Acuerdos de Paz Celebrates the peace accords signing between the government and the guerrilla in 1992 that finished the 12-year civil war. Mostly political events.
March/April Holy Week/Easter Semana Santa Celebrated with Carnival-like events in different cities by the large Catholic population.
May 1 Labor Day Día del trabajo International Labour Day
May 3 The Day of the Cross Día de la Cruz A celebration with pre-colonial origins that is linked to the advent of the rainy season. People decorate a cross in their yards with fruit and garlands then go house to house to kneel in front of the altar and make the sign of the cross.
May 10 Mothers' Day Día de las Madres
August 1–7 August Festivals* Fiestas de agosto Week-long festival in celebration of El Salvador del Mundo, patron saint of San Salvador.
September 15 Independence Day Día de la Independencia Celebrates independence from Spain, achieved in 1821.
October 1 Day of the children "Día del niño" Celebration dedicated to the Children of the country it is celebrated across the country.
October 12 Day of the race Día de la raza Celebration in dedication to the Christopher Columbus's arrival to America.
November 2 Day of the Dead Día de los Santos Difuntos A day on which most people visit the tombs of deceased loved ones. (November 1 may be commemorated as well.)
November 21 Queen of the Peace Day Dia de la Reina de la Paz Day of the Queen of Peace, the patron saint. Also celebrated, the San Miguel Carnival, (carnaval de San Miguel) a known feast in El Salvador, celebrated in San Miguel City, similar to Mardi Gras of New Orleans,where you can enjoy about 45 music bands on the street.
December 12 Festival Day of the Virgin Guadalupe Día del Festival de la Virgen Guadalupe
December 24 Christmas Day Noche Buena In many communities, December 24 (Christmas Eve) is the major day of celebration, often to the point that it is considered the actual day of Navidad — with December 25 serving as a day of rest.

* Almost only celebrated in San Salvador


The only airport serving international flights in the country is Comalapa International Airport. This airport is located about 50 km (30 mi) southeast of San Salvador.[43] The airport is commonly known as Comalapa International or El Salvador International.

El Salvador's tourism industry has grown dynamically over recent years as the Salvadoran government focuses on developing this sector. Last year tourism accounted for 4.6% of GDP; only 10 years ago, it accounted for 0.4%. In this same year tourism grew 4.5% worldwide. Comparatively, El Salvador saw an increase of 8.97%, from 1.15 million to 1.27 million tourists. This has led to revenue from tourism growing 35.9% from $634 million to $862 million. As a reference point, in 1996 tourism revenue was $44.2 million. Also, there has been an even greater increase in the number of excursionists (visits that do not include an overnight stay). 222,000 excursionists visited El Salvador in 2006, a 24% increase over the previous year.[44]

Most North American and European tourists are seeking out El Salvador's beaches and nightlife. Besides these two choices, El Salvador's tourism landscape is slightly different than those of other Central American countries. Because of its geographical size and urbanization, there aren't many nature-themed tourist destination such as ecotours or archaeological monuments. Surfing, however, is a natural tourist sector that is gaining popularity in recent years as more surfers visit many beaches in the coast of La Libertad and the east side of the country, finding surfing spots that are not yet overcrowded. Also, the use of the United States dollar as Salvadoran currency and direct flights of 4–6 hours from most cities in the United States are important things to note for first-time travelers from the United States. Urbanization and Americanization of Salvadoran culture has also led to something else that first time tourists might be surprised to see: the abundance of American-style malls, stores, and restaurants in the three main urban areas, especially greater San Salvador.

Currently, tourists to El Salvador can be classified into four groups: Central Americans; North Americans; Salvadorans living abroad, primarily in the United States; and Europeans and South Americans. The first three represent the vast majority of tourists. Recently, El Salvador is attempting to broaden its tourist base and looking to the last group. Early indicators show that the government's efforts are working. When comparing January-March 2007 to the same period in 2006 (most recent data available), overall tourism has grown 10%, while from North America 38%, Europe 31%, and South America 36%.[45] In the fall, Livingston Airlines will initiate the only direct flight between Europe (departing from Milan) and El Salvador. The Decameron Salinitas, a recently inaugurated resort, has contributed to the growth of tourists from South America (because of name recognition of the resort chain) and is looking to do the same with Europeans.

Mural in Perquin, former "guerrilla capital" and now a tourist destination.

Tourists continue to be drawn by El Salvador's turbulent past.[46] Some of the latest tourist attractions in the former war-torn El Salvador are gun fragments, pictures, combat plans, and mountain hideouts. Since 1992, residents in economically depressed areas are trying to profit from these remains. The mountain town of Perquin was considered the "guerrilla capital." Today it is home to the "Museum of the Revolution," featuring cannons, uniforms, pieces of Soviet weaponry, and other weapons of war once used by the FMLN's (Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front) headquarters.

According to El Salvador newspaper El Diario De Hoy the top 10 attractions are the beaches, La Libertad, Ruta Las Flores, Suchitoto, Playa Las Flores in San Miguel, La Palma, Santa Ana where you find the country's tallest volcano, Nahuizalco, Apaneca, Juayua, San Ignacio.[47]


Salvadorian woman at a food stall.

El Salvador's most notable dish is the pupusa. Pupusas are a thick hand-made corn tortilla (made using masa de maíz or masa de arroz, a maize or rice flour dough used in Latin American cuisine) stuffed with one or more of the following: cheese (usually a soft Salvadoran cheese, a popular example is Quesillo con loroco,or mozarella), chicharrón, and refried beans. Loroco is a vine flower bud native to Central America. There are also vegetarian options, beans, or a combo of cheese and beans. Some adventurous restaurants even offer pupusas stuffed with shrimp or spinach.

Pupusa comes from the pipil-nahuatl word, pupushahua. The pupusa's exact origins are debated, although its presence in El Salvador is known to predate the arrival of Spaniards.[48]

Two other typical Salvadoran dishes are yuca frita and panes rellenos. Yuca frita, which is deep fried cassava root served with curtido (a pickled cabbage, onion and carrot topping) and pork rinds with pescaditas (fried baby sardines). The Yuca is sometimes served boiled instead of fried. Panes con Pavo (turkey sandwiches) are warm turkey submarines. The turkey is marinated and then roasted with Pipil spices and handpulled. This sandwich is traditionally served with turkey, tomato, and watercress along with cucumber, onion, lettuce, mayonnaise, and mustard.

One of the most noticeable breakfast plate that El Salvador has is fried plantain, usually accompanied with beans, cream, and cheese. It is one of El Salvador's great dishes in breakfasts.This plate is really common in Salvadorian restaurants and homes extending also to the United States.

A drink that Salvadorians love is chuco, usually made out of purple corn. Chuco is made by soaking purple corn in water, then blending it and cooking the corn over a medium fire. The thickened drink is called chuco. Toasted pumpkin seeds and boiled beans are added to the drink.

Another drink that Salvadorians love is called Horchata. Horchata is most commonly made of the Morro seed, ground into a powder, that is later added to milk or water, and sugar. Horchata is drunk year round and can be drunk anytime of day. It mostly is accompanied by a plate of pupusas or fried yucca.



The public education system in El Salvador is severely lacking in resources. Class sizes in public schools can reach 50 children, so Salvadorans who can afford the cost often choose to send their children to private schools. Lower-income families are forced to rely on the public education system.

Education in El Salvador is free through high school. After nine years of basic education (elementary - middle school) students have the option of a two year high school or a three year high school. A two year high school prepares the student to transfer to a university. A three year high school allows the student graduate with a vocational career and enter the workforce or transfer to a university as well to further their education in that field. The national literacy rate is 80.1%[citation needed]

They Post-Secondary education varies widely in price. The cheapest university in El Salvador is the University of El Salvador.[citation needed] The UES is partially funded by the state yet maintains administrative and educational autonomy.[citation needed] It is the only public university in the country.[citation needed]

El Salvador has several private universities:

Local Foundations and NGOs are fostering further education development.

International rankings

Organization Survey Ranking
Institute for Economics and Peace[1] Global Peace Index[52] 94 out of 144
United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index 106 out of 182
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 84 out of 180
World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 77 out of 133

See also


  1. ^ Garner, Bryan A. (2003). "Denizen Labels". Garner’s Modern American Usage. Oxford University Press. pp. g. 235. ISBN 0-19-516191-2. "Salvadoran" 
  2. ^ Gob.sv (Spanish)
  3. ^ a b c d "El Salvador". International Monetary Fund. http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2009/02/weodata/weorept.aspx?sy=2006&ey=2009&scsm=1&ssd=1&sort=country&ds=.&br=1&c=253&s=NGDPD%2CNGDPDPC%2CPPPGDP%2CPPPPC%2CLP&grp=0&a=&pr1.x=62&pr1.y=4. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  4. ^ "Human Development Report 2009. Human development index trends: Table G". The United Nations. http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2009_EN_Complete.pdf. Retrieved 2009-10-05. 
  5. ^ https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/es.html
  6. ^ UNDP.org
  7. ^ Politics in Central America, Thomas P. Anderson
  8. ^ Central Intelligence Agency (2009). "El Salvador". The World Factbook. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/es.html. Retrieved January 27, 2010. 
  9. ^ "El Salvador Country Brief". World Bank. 2008. http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/LACEXT/ELSALVADOREXTN/0,,menuPK:295253~pagePK:141132~piPK:141107~theSitePK:295244,00.html. 
  10. ^ "Funes saca a luz corrupción en gobiernos de ARENA" (in Spanish). Diario CoLatino. 2009. http://www.diariocolatino.com/es/20090612/nacionales/67865/. 
  11. ^ a b c El Salvador landslide
  12. ^ Lomnitz, Cinna; S (1 April 1966). "The San Salvador earthquake of May 3, 1965". Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America 56 (2): 561–575. http://bssa.geoscienceworld.org/cgi/content/abstract/56/2/561. 
  13. ^ Harlow, David H. (1993). "The San Salvador earthquake of 10 October 1986 and its historical context". Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America 83 (4): 1143–1154. 
  14. ^ Bommer, Julian; Ledbetter, Stephen (1987). "The San Salvador earthquake of 10th October 1986". Disasters 11 (2): 83–95. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7717.1987.tb00620.x. 
  15. ^ Erupción en Santa Ana | La Prensa Gráfica
  16. ^ Dull, Robert A.; Southon; Sheets (2001). "Volcanism, Ecology and Culture: A Reassessment of the Volcan Ilopango Tbj eruption in the Southern Maya Realm". Latin American Antiquity 12 (1): 25–44. doi:10.2307/971755. 
  17. ^ Photo Essay: El Salvador, the Makings of a Gangland
  18. ^ Fiu.edu
  19. ^ List of countries by GDP (nominal)
  20. ^ "Rank Order - GDP - per capita (PPP)". U.S. Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2004rank.html. Retrieved 2007-11-17. 
  21. ^ "Gross Domestic Product, annual rates, main economic sectors". Banco Central de Reserva de El Salvador. http://www.bcr.gob.sv/ingles/estadisticas/sr_produccion.html. Retrieved 2007-11-17. 
  22. ^ "Saldos a fin de año o mes" (in Spanish). Banco Central de Reserva de El Salvador. http://www.bcr.gob.sv/estadisticas/Sector_externo/sectorexterno_reservasint_anual.html. Retrieved 2007-11-17. 
  23. ^ Country Specific Information, U.S. State Department, 2007.
  24. ^ "Trade Balance, Annual and Monthly Accumulated". Banco Central de Reserva de El Salvador. http://www.bcr.gob.sv/ingles/estadisticas/se_balanzacom.html. Retrieved 2007-11-17. 
  25. ^ "Family Remittances". Banco Central de Reserva de El Salvador. http://www.bcr.gob.sv/ingles/estadisticas/se_remesas.html. Retrieved 2007-11-17. 
  26. ^ "Objetivos de Desarrollo del Milenio" (in Spanish). http://www.redsolidaria.gob.sv/content/view/677/46/1/1/. Retrieved 2007-05-23. 
  27. ^ Washington Post
  28. ^ Population figures
  29. ^ "PCN desconfía del censo poblacional". La Prensa Grafica. http://www.laprensagrafica.com/nacion/1075588.asp. Retrieved 2008-07-28. 
  30. ^ "Censo y padron no coinciden". http://www.laprensagrafica.com/nacion/1056295.asp. 
  31. ^ PDDH de El Salvador. "Censo de población y vivienda invisibiliza la existencia de los pueblos indígenas de El Salvador". http://www.pddh.gob.sv/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=148. 
  32. ^ Elena Salamanca (October 23, 2005). "NO a “los otros”" (in Spanish). La Prensa Gráfica. http://www.laprensagrafica.com/dominical/318769.asp. Retrieved 2007-12-29. 
  33. ^ Montgomery, Tommie Sue (1995). Revolution in El Salvador: from civil strife to civil peace. Boulder, Colo: Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-0071-1. 
  34. ^ Marín-Guzmán, Roberto (2000). A Century of Palestinian Immigration into Central America: A study of their economic and cultural contributions. San Jose, CR: Universidad de Costa Rica. 
  35. ^ "Disminuye delincuencia según la PNC" (in Spanish). http://www.elsalvador.com/mwedh/nota/nota_completa.asp?idCat=2913&idArt=1562092. Retrieved 2007-11-06. 
  36. ^ Elsalvador.com
  37. ^ "Comunidad Salvadorena: Republica de Nicaragua" (PDF). Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de El Salvador. http://www.rree.gob.sv/sitio/img.nsf/vista/informes/$file/nicaragua.pdf. Retrieved 2008-01-06. 
  38. ^ Thedialogue.org
  39. ^ International Religious Freedom Report 2009
  40. ^ List of countries by birth rate
  41. ^ Who.int
  42. ^ Undp.org
  43. ^ CEPA - Aeropuerto Internacional de El Salvador
  44. ^ Elsalvadorturismo.gob.sv (Spanish)
  45. ^ Elsalvadorturismo.gob.sv (Spanish)
  46. ^ App.com
  47. ^ elsalvador.com
  48. ^ Elsalvador.com
  49. ^ UFG.edu.sv (Spanish)
  50. ^ UDB.edu.sv (Spanish)
  51. ^ UNAB.edu.sv (Spanish)
  52. ^ "Vision of Humanity". Vision of Humanity. http://www.visionofhumanity.org/gpi/home.php. Retrieved 2010-02-04. 

Further reading

  • "Background Notes", Background Notes: El Salvador, January 2008. Accessed March 6, 2008.
  • Bonner, Raymond. Weakness and Deceit: U.S. Policy and El Salvador. New York: Times Books, 1984.
  • CIA World Factbook, "El Salvador", February 28, 2008. Accessed March 6, 2008.
  • Danner, Mark. The Massacre at El Mozote: A Parable of the Cold War. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.
  • "Country Specific Information", U.S. State Department, October 3, 2007. Accessed March 6, 2008.
  • Vilas, Carlos. Between Earthquakes and Volcanoes: Market, State, and the Revolution America. New York: Monthly Review Press. 1995.
  • Foley, Erin. 'Cultures of the world, El Salvador. 1995

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Quick Facts
Capital San Salvador
Government Republic
Currency US dollar (USD)
Area total: 21,040 km2
water: 320 km2
land: 20,720 km2
Population 6,704,932 (July 2005 est.)
Language Spanish, Nawat (among some Amerindians)
Religion Roman Catholic 83%
note: there is extensive activity by Protestant groups throughout the country; by the end of 1992, there were an estimated 1 million Protestant evangelicals in El Salvador
Electricity 120-240V/60Hz (USA plug)
Calling Code +503
Internet TLD .sv
Time Zone UTC-6

El Salvador [1] is a country in Central America and, geographically, is part of continental North America. It is bordered on the southwest by the Pacific Ocean, and lies between Guatemala and Honduras.

Office high-rise buildings in San Salvador
Office high-rise buildings in San Salvador


El Salvador covers an area of about 21,040 square kilometers (the smallest country in Central America), although it is the most densely populated. El Salvador is home to more than 6,500,000 people. It is divided into 14 sections called Departments. It has 25 volcanoes, 14 lakes, and four large cities. The capital is San Salvador. Its origin comes from the ancient civilization of the Pipils, who called the region Cuzcatlán (Land of precious things).


The civilization of El Salvador dates from the pre-Columbian time, around 1500 B.C., according to evidence provided by the ancient structures of Tazumal in Chalchuapa.

A Mayan pyramid at the San Andres Archeological Site
A Mayan pyramid at the San Andres Archeological Site

The Spanish Admiral Andrés Niño lead an expedition to Central America and disembarked on the Island Meanguera, located in the Gulf of Fonseca, on May 31st, 1522. This was the first Salvadoran territory visited by the Spaniards. In June, 1524, Spanish Captain Pedro de Alvarado began a predatory war against the native tribes of Cuzcatlán. During 17 days of bloody battles many natives and Spaniards died. Pedro de Alvarado was defeated and, with an injury to his left hip, abandoned the fight and fled to Guatemala, appointing his brother, Gonzalo de Alvarado, to continue with the conquest of Cuzcatlán. Later, his cousin Diego de Alvarado established the Villa of San Salvador in April 1525. King Carlos I of Spain granted San Salvador the title of City in the year 1546. During the following years, El Salvador developed under Spanish rule.

Area around the main square of the town of Suchitoto, with its church built by the Spaniards in the 1700's
Area around the main square of the town of Suchitoto, with its church built by the Spaniards in the 1700's

Towards the end of 1810, a feeling of a need for freedom arose among the people of Central America and the moment to break the chains of slavery arrived at dawn on November 5th, 1811, when the Salvadoran priest, Jose Matías Delgado, sounded the bells of the Iglesia La Merced in San Salvador, making a call for insurrection. After many internal fights, the Acta de Independencia (Act of Independence) of Central America was signed in Guatemala on September 15th, 1821.

In December of 1931, the corrupt and incompetent regime of the Labour Party, headed by Manuel Araujo, was overthrown and General Maximiliano Hernández Martínez assumed the presidency. The fraudulent elections of January 1932 were the detonating factor of the social outbreak. Several voting sites were suspended in populations in which the Communist Party had a strong presence. A new insurrection began. After two frustrated assaults on the Cuartel de Caballería (Cavalry Quarters) were conducted by the rebel forces, the government ordered martial law. Strict censorship of the press was implemented. In the following days thousands of farmers and workers, carrying machetes and some few "Mauser" rifles attacked police stations, municipal offices, telegraph stations, warehouses, and wealthy landowners' properties. This insurrection was crushed. On January 31st, Manuel Antonio Castañeda sentenced Farabundo Martí to death. He was shot and killed on February 1st, 1932.

Over the next decades, many coups d'états followed, including the one that overthrew General Maximiliano Hernández Martínez.

Relations with Honduras deteriorated in the late 1960s. There was a border clash in 1967, and a four-day so-called Football war (Soccer War), as it was named by the international mass media, broke out in July 1969. The war ended with a cease-fire prompted by pressure from the United States and the Organization of American States. The Salvadoran forces that had invaded Honduras were withdrawn. They were just a few kilometers outside Honduras' capital.

A movement of organized leftist guerrillas sprang up in 1974 and 1975, amid increasing political violence. In 1980, three of the leftist organizations united to coordinate a fight against the government. This movement was called FMLN (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional. English: Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front). In March of the same year Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, was assassinated while he was celebrating mass. It is widely believed that the order for his execution came from Major Roberto D'Abuisson, the founder and leader of ARENA, a right-wing party. D'Abuisson is best known for his suspected involvement in death squad murders. He died of cancer in 1992. On January 16th, 1992, the government of El Salvador and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), signed Los Acuerdos de Paz (Peace Accords) in Chapultepec, Mexico, putting an end to one of the most painful chapters in the history of El Salvador. The 12 years of armed conflict claimed the lives of over 75,000 people and caused the exodus of hundreds of thousands more who fled to the United States, Canada, and other countries in order to escape the violence.

Today, El Salvador is stable and with a growing economy, leaving behind its painful history.


Tropical; rainy season (May to October); dry season (November to April); tropical on the coast; temperate in the uplands.

Date English Name Local Name Remarks
March/April Easter Semana Santa Celebrated with carnival-like events in different cities by the large Catholic population
May 1 Labor Day Día del Trabajo International Labour Day
May 10 Mother's Day Día de la Madre .
August 1–7 August Carnival Fiestas Agostinas Week long festival in celebration of El Salvador del Mundo, patron saint of El Salvador.
September 15 Independence Day Día de independencia Celebrates independence from Spain, achieved in 1821AD
October 12 Columbus Day Día de la Raza This day commemorates the arrival of Europeans in the Americas
November 2 Day of the Dead Día de los Difuntos A day on which people usually visit the graves of deceased loved ones.
November (final week) San Miguel's Carnival Carnaval de San Miguel Week long carnival in San Miguel
December 25 Christmas Day Navidad Salvadorans stay up on December 24th until 12AM to welcome Christmas with a huge "arsenal" of firecrackers
December 31 New Year's Año nuevo Salvadorans stay up on December 31st until 12AM to welcome the New Year the same way as Christmas (You can hear the deafening sound of the firecrackers on both days all over the country).

Get in


Immigration requires that visitors entering El Salvador have their passport and one of the following documents: visa or tourist card. Visas are issued by the Consulate of El Salvador accredited in the countries where these type of diplomatic missions exist; and the tourist card is generally issued for 90 days and can be purchased for US$10 at the port of entry. Passports of certain countries might need to obtain a visa before entering El Salvador. Visa for U.S. citizens is free. Some countries pay a fee for the issuance of the visa.

By plane

Visitors traveling by plane arrive at El Salvador International Airport in Comalapa, located forty-five minutes outside of the capital's city limits. The airport code is SAL.

TACA Airlines is the national airline of El Salvador. TACA acquired the national airlines of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala so it also serves those countries. TACA flies a fleet of new A319s, A320s, and A321s throughout North, Central, and South America. However, Taca regularly has the highest ticket prices and savvy buyers would do well to compare options using an online service such as kayak.com.

Comalapa International Airport
Comalapa International Airport
Inside Comalapa Airport
Inside Comalapa Airport

A US$32 departure tax must be paid upon departure. Depending on the airline, the full amount or part of the tax may already be included in the price of your ticket and the amount you must pay will vary from US$0 - US$32.

By car

The Pan-American highway travels through El Salvador and is a safe route for entering the country.

By bus

Numerous buses also traverse the highways of the country. Domestic bus services are typically very cheap (not more than two or three dollars for even the longest rides) and difficult to understand. The buses themselves are often very well painted and adorned with all kinds of posters and trinkets, ranging from the religious to the pop-culture. Longer bus rides may include a stop in some town where plenty of mujeres, and sometimes their children, too, will board hawking mangos, nuts, water, and even sometimes fried chicken in a box. There is no central agency that coordinates bus routes and schedules, so it is best to just ask the cobrador where the bus is going and when. Most are very friendly and helpful, but do watch out for scams on the buses.

  • Note!

Anyone riding the buses (visitor or local) must take caution in riding the buses and microbuses that are seen around the country. The buses are often crammed and it is very easy to be robbed. The buses are cheap and are a great way to get around, but remember that as a visitor you are at a higher risk of being robbed. If you must ride a bus take extra care of yourself and your belongings.

The following bus companies offer luxury (and safer) bus travel between El Salvador and other Central American destinations:

  • Tica Bus [2]: 2 terminals in San Salvador. Covers all Central American countries including Tapachula, Mexico. First Class option available on longer routes which include onboard meals and drinks.
  • Pullmantur [3] : connects Guatemala - San Salvador - Tegucigalpa. Luxury Double Decker Coach Travel with First Class option available. Includes onboard meals and drinks.
  1. Arsotur (arsotur@yahoo.com tel - (00 502) 5705 6393) Direct shuttle service from Antigua, Guatemala to El Roble Hostal, Playa San Diego and other beaches of El Salvador.

Get around

If driving, rental car agencies include Alamo and Hertz. Buses and taxis also provide good ways of getting around. Distances between sights make walking an unpopular option, as does the street layout in the city; San Salvador is not a square city, but has long avenues that are straight and streets that aren't. That said, in some areas walking is a great option, such as in Zona Rosa.

El Salvador now has a well developed GPS navigation system called QFind [4] that can help you move around either in urban or rural areas. This is a fully functional system with thousands of points of interest and turn by turn routing to your destination.

Another option for luxury transportation is Linea Ejecutiva [5], they bring private transfer. If you want, you can contact the Bureau of Conventions of El Salvador to visit the country.


The official language in El Salvador is Spanish. And some people in Izalco and other towns with a population of Indians speak Nahuat, the Pipil language. This is rarely seen because of the cultural impact to be called "indio". Most nahuat is spoken within a family household and not in public.


The countryside of El Salvador is breathtaking, with volcanoes and mountains offering "green" adventurers exactly what they are looking for. Many of environmentally-oriented community-based organizations promote eco-tourism, and there are a number of beautiful and secluded beaches and forests scattered throughout the country.

A well-maintained and practically deserted national park is found in the west at Bosque El Imposible. Additionally, there is Montecristo Cloud Forest, and a quaint fishing village with incredible local hospitality and remote coconut islands in La Isla de Méndez. Isla de Olomega in the department of San Miguel is an excellent eco-tourism destination, as are the beautiful Isla El Cajete in Sonsonate, Isla San Sebastian, Conchagua, Conchaguita, Isla Conejo, Isla Teopan, and Isla Meanguera.

One should also visit the colonial towns of Apaneca, Juayua, Panchimalco, and Suchitoto as well as the Mayan sites of San Andrés, Joya de Cerén (The Pompeii of Central America and an UNESCO World Heritage Site), and Tazumal, whose main pyramid rises some 75 feet into the air. The on-site museum showcases artifacts from the Pipil culture (the builders of Tazumal), as well as paintings that illustrate life in pre-Hispanic El Salvador. Souvenir hunters will find some of the best artisans in San Juan el Espino and in La Palma (the artisan capital of El Salvador).

The capital, San Salvador, is a cosmopolitan city with good restaurants highlighting the country’s fresh seafood, as well as plenty of shopping, entertainment and nightlife.


El Salvador is gaining a reputation for having some of the best surfing in the world. Tourists from all over the world are discovering the surfing meccas of La Libertad (near San Salvador), El Sunzal, El Zonte and the wild El Este (the east), transforming El Salvador into the fastest growing surf tourism hot-spot in Central America.


El Salvador's official currency is the US Dollar (since 2001). Carry only $1, $5, $10 or $20 dollar bills. Most stores, supermarkets and department stores won't accept $50 or $100 bills. If you need to exchange to lower denominations, you can go to any bank.

El Salvador has the largest malls in the region (MetroCentro - MetroSur), especially in San Salvador, with many upmarket international stores. Goods can also be purchased from markets, including national and international supermarkets.

San Salvador has a number of large modern shopping malls stocking the latest in international fashion, accessories & cuisine. These are generally found in the city's upscale suburbs such as Escalón, Santa Elena, and their surroundings. These malls include:

  • Multiplaza [6]
  • La Gran Vía [7]
  • Galerías [8]
  • Plaza Merliot [9]

For those shoppers interested in purchasing fairly traded crafts and organically grown produce, a local alternative market is held every other Saturday in the San José park in the San Luis area just west of the National University.

Expect to pay $30-60 for a room in a hotel, $3-5 for a simple meal, $0.25-0.35 to ride a San Salvador city bus, $1/hour to use the Internet, and $0.25 for a bag of sliced mangos. The one drawback to this is that large bills ($50 & $100) are almost unspendable. Get change wherever you can -- gas stations are always a good bet. A good idea is to visit a bank and ask for small bills and nothing larger than a $20. Take note of the prices that street vendors sell their products because at times they will take advantage of people that look or sound foreign by raising their prices dramatically.

Traditional Salvadoran dish, The Pupusa
Traditional Salvadoran dish, The Pupusa

The restaurant scene in El Salvador is influenced by many different cultures. Food options include Italian, Korean, Japanese, French, Chilean, American, Peruvian, Mexican, Spanish, Middle Eastern, German, Chinese, Argentinian and others. You can also easily find American fast food chains such as Burger King, McDonald's, Wendy's, KFC, Subway, Quiznos, Pizza Hut, Little Caesar's, and Domino's, in the largest cities in the country such as San Salvador, Merliot / Santa Tecla, and Santa Ana. Other franchises include Tony Romas', Bennigans and others. Some of the best restaurants are located in Zona Rosa (Paradise, Alo Nuestro, 503).

The typical Salvadoran diet includes lots of rice and beans, seafood (particularly among those who live on the coast), and the most common Salvadoran dish, the famous Pupusa, a round corn tortilla filled with cheese and other elements, usually chicharon (shredded pork meat). It's widely agreed that the best pupusas in the country can be bought in Olocuilta, which you can get to along the highway on the way to the Comalapa airport.

Also Salvadorans eat fried sliced plantains (platanos) usually with beans, sour cream, cheese and sometimes eggs, yuca con chicharron, pastelitos de carne, panes con pavo (turkey sandwiches), hand made tortillas among other very delicious Salvadoran foods.

Many large modern supermarkets are scattered throughout the capital and in large towns, such as La Despensa de Don Juan and Super Selectos, which sell local produce and a large variety of international products. Like anywhere else in the world, these are a cheaper alternative to eating out every night.


Typical Beverages and fruits

Try the most delicious Horchata (made from rice and "morro" seeds) and Cebada (a smooth and sweet pink barley refreshment). If you prefer (at your own risk) drink natural juices, such as: guava, jocote, arrayan, chirimoya, granadilla de "moco" and maran~on. Furthermore, you should try to savour the local fruit, as: jocotes, maran~on japon'es, green mango (with salt, lime, alhuaiste (ground pumpkin seed), manzana pedorra (orig.from Los Planes de Renderos), "nance", "red or yellow almendras" salvadorenias, "hicaco", "paterna" (also try the cooked paterna seed with lime and hot pepper, and don't miss the suave and liquory aroma of

Nightlife for the High Life

The trendiest night spot to visit is called La Zona Rosa. Some of the best hotels are located there, including the Sheraton Presidente as well as one of the most luxurious hotels in Central America, the Hilton Princess.

Although La Zona Rosa doesn't cover a large area (around 1sq mile), it's home to many exclusive, upscale bars and nightclubs (Code), and the best restaurants in town (Paradise, 503, A lo Nuestro). If you want to visit a nightclub without the probable inconvenience of not being let in, you should visit Las Terrazas (Stanza, Envy) at Multiplaza Mall or La Gran Vía (Llenya, El Alebrije), a life style center.

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  • Hilton Princess San Salvador, Av. Magnolias y Boulevard del Hipódromo, Ph: (503) 2268-4545, Fax: +503-2268 4500, [10]. Located in the center of Zona Rosa, and offering quality comparable to the best Hilton Hotels found elsewhere in the world. Rooms from $109 per night. Wi-Fi in All Rooms
  • Radisson Plaza Hotel, 89 Avenida Norte y 11 Calle Poniente, Colonia Escalón, Ph: (503) 2257-0700, Fax: (503) 2257-0710, [11]. Connected to the World Trade Center.
  • Sheraton Presidente, San Benito (in front of "El Chulón" (Monumento a la Revolución)monument), Avenida la Revolución, Zona Rosa, Ph: (503) 2283-4000, [12]. Close to Teatro Presidente and Museo de Arte de El Salvador (MARTE).
  • Siesta Hotel & Casino, Boulevard Los Próceres, Ph: (503) 2283-0100, Fax: (503) 2283-0125, [13]. 4-Star hotel with casino.
  • Holiday Inn, Urbanización y Boulevard Santa Elena. Located close to the American Embassy, Ph: (503) 2241-4000, Fax: (503) 2241-4070 or (503) 2241-4067. The hotel includes air conditioning, king size beds, double bed rooms, restaurant, bar, and many other amenities. 4-Stars.
  • Comfort Inn Real San Salvador, Tel: +503 2237 7000, Fax: +503 2237 7001, [14]. Strategically located between business centers and residential areas in San Salvador - 5 minutes from the internationally known "Zona Rosa", where you can find a variety of international restaurants, bars, coffee shops, museums, and local monuments. 3 minutes' distance from the exclusive Galerias shopping mall and 5 minutes from Metrocentro, the largest mall in Central America.
  • La casa de Ivonne, Tel: +503 2277-4399. Located at 1 minute from Metro Centro, next to the Intercontinental hotel, this guest house is a good choice for anyone who wants to save on his lodging budget. Conveniently priced at $10,00/night and located in a safe area next to the bus stops to go to any area of the city. Rooms are limited, reservation is necesary. Staff speaks English, French and Spanish.
  • Royal Decameron Salinitas, Salinitas, Sonsonate. Ph: +503- 2209-3100, Fax: (503) 2263-0900, [15]. Located at Playa Salinitas. It's an all-inclusive hotel and resort.
  • Pacific Paradise, Costa del Sol, La Paz. (503)2281-2028; Fax: (503)2281-2107, [16]. Located at Costa del Sol. 45 minutes from San Salvador.
  • Tesoro Beach, Costa del Sol, La Paz. Office ph.: (503)22759393; Hotel ph.: (503)23380314, [17]. Located at Costa del Sol. 45 minutes from San Salvador.
  • Casa de Mar Hotel & Villas, El Sunzal, La Libertad, Ph: (503) 2389-6284, (503) 2389-6281, (503) 2389-6020, (503) 2265-2080 [18]. Offers guests direct beach front access to perfect waves. Each room overlooks the ocean, as do the swimming pool, bar and hilltop restaurant.
  • Hotel Miraflores, Playa Las Flores, El Cuco, San Miguel Ph: (503) 7890-4751 [19]Incredible view over one of the best waves of El Salvador, Las Flores point break. Nice rooms with all the amenities needed, swimming pool, hammocks, board rental, massages, restaurant service, sundeck, boat trips and tours.
  • Hacienda Del Pueblo, La Cangrejera, La Libertad, US Phone: (626) 446-5362, [20]. Hacienda del Pueblo is a surf/ecoresort. It is in beautiful, remote La Cangrejera.
  • Las Flores Surf Club, Located at "Wild East", El Cuco, San Miguel. Ph: USA Offices: (888) 899-8823 [21]. Surfing resort with facilities and equipment that include a private beach access road, beachfront palapas with hammocks, beach shower, boat house with enclosed surfboard storage, restaurant, infinity pool, swim-up bar, massage table and canopy.
  • Las Hojas Resort, Playa Las Hojas, La Paz. Tel (503) 2325-7000, [22]. Located 30 minutes from San Salvador, 10 minutes from Comalapa Intl. Airport. Offers Junior, Matrimonial, and Family suites.
  • Barillas Marina Club, Bahía de Jiquilisco. Phone: (503) 2632-1802 / (503) 2263-3650 / (503) 2263-3620, Fax: (503) 2263-3652, [23]. At one hour thirty minutes of the capital, San Salvador, and at an hour of Comalapa International Airport. Barillas Marina Club is a private club for members only. Non-salvadoran tourists on a boat become automatic members of the club when they arrive.
  • Mizata Resort, Playa Mizata, km 86,5 en Litoral,La Libertad. Phone: (503) 7890-4751 [24] Relax at one of the nicest sandy beaches of El Salvador, one of the hammocks with ocean view. Hotel with all amenities to have a tropical holiday just 50 min from the airport.
  • La Cocotera Resort, All inclusive beachfront eco resort in La Barra de Santiago, El Salvador. Luxury accommodations built following the “green leaf” system utilized by the Certification for Sustainable Tourism. [25] Contact: +(503) 2245-3691
  • Los Almendros de San Lorenzo, Located at the colonial town of Suchitoto, Ph: (503) 2-335 1200, [26]. Historical hotel with suites with air conditioning, gourmet restaurant & bar, tropical gardens & pool.
  • La Posada de Suchitlán, Located at the town of Suchitoto, Tel. (503) 2335-1064, Fax (503) 2335-1277, [27]. Colonial - like hotel made of adobe and wood.
  • Santa Leticia, Mountain Retreat, located close to the towns of Apaneca, Juayúa, Ataco, Nahuizalco and Tacuba. Tel. (503) 2433.0357, (503) 2298.2986, (503)2298.2987. Fax. (503) 2224.5988, (503)2433.0351, [28]. Offers mountain environment, restaurant, archaeological site, swimming pool and mountain biking.
  • Las Cabanas de Apaneca 1 hour from San Salvador. This boutique hotel in Apaneca is situated 1500mts above sea level, offering a cool year round climate, restaurant & a good base for exploring the town. Ph (503) 433-0500 [29]
  • Laguna Verde Guest House Have you ever spent the night at the border of a volcano crater?. The domo shaped house is located at the border of an ancient, deep, secondary crater with vertical walls, the "Cuajusto" extinct crater in Apaneca town (1 hour from San Salvador. From here you can catch some impressive panoramic views and do hikes to the nearby Laguna Verde, Black Forest and other natural beauties. Ph (503) 2262-0879,(503) 7859-2865,(503) 2260-2481. [www.apanecasguesthouse.netfirms. com], mailto:gpssal@intercom.com.sv. Dormitory rooms from $7 to $10 per night.
  • Quality Hotel Real Airport El Salvador, Km 40.5 Carretera al Aeropuerto Internacional El Salvador, +503 2366 0000 (fax: +503 2366 0000), [30]. Quality Hotel Real Aeropuerto El Salvador is located 5 minutes from International Airport Camalapa, offers varied and modern rooms plus a bar, swimming pool, conference room and a restaurant serving American breakfast every morning completely free and offers regional cuisine and international lunch and dinner. Prices range between $70 - $110.  edit
  • El Roble Hostal, Playa San Diego (Bus no. 80 from the port town of La Libertad, or phone for free pick-up), (503) 7252 8498. Backpackers refuge close to the beautiful, deserted beach of Playa San Diego and only 5 minutes from surfing at Punta Roca, 20 mins to Sunzal. The hostel has 2 dorm rooms and 2 private rooms, all with shared facilities. Meals provided or cook your own. Bar on site and tours available to explore the entire country. $7.oo pp dorm style acc. $7 pp dorm style acc..  edit


There are many private schools and universities, including numerous language schools.

Some of the best private schools are:

  • The American School (Escuela Americana). Calle y Colonia La Mascota ,ph:503 2257-8336 [31]
  • The British Academy (Academia Británica Cuscatleca). Infront of CA1 Santa Tecla.Ph:(503) 2241 4400 [32]
  • The Panamerican School (Escuela Panamericana). Colonia Escalón, ph:503 2209-6000 [33]
  • The International School of San Salvador (Colegio Internacional de San Salvador). Calle La Reforma 169 Ph 503 / 2224-1330 [34]
  • The German School (Escuela Alemana). Jardines de Guadalupe , ph: 503 22438120 [35]
  • The French School (Liceo Francés St Exupéry). Infront of CA1 Santa Tecla [36] (Next to the British Academy)
  • Lamatepec (Just for male students). Carretera a Puerto de La Libertad, Ph (503) 2523-9400 [37]
  • La Floresta (Just for female students). Carretera a Puerto de La Libertad, ph:503 2229-5333 [38]


Finding employment in El Salvador is difficult for both Salvadorans and extranjeros (foreigners) alike, although bilingual schools are constantly looking for English speakers, as well as other foreign language teachers. Bilingual schools offer competitive salaries for foreign teachers. For current vacancies see the schools websites (above). Most foreigners find themselves volunteering with one of a number of local community organizations or NGOs. The Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad [39] is often looking to hire bi-lingual project managers and liaisons, and offers both Spanish classes and numerous volunteer and cultural opportunities.

Another organization offering volunteer work in Santa Tecla and on the Islands in the south is Travel to Teach [40].

The recent incursion of the call center business has raised the bar in the need for a bi-lingual workforce.

Stay safe

El Salvador has a bad reputation due to the civil war of the 80s. The Consular sheet from the US State Department indicates that "El Salvador has one of the highest homicide rates in the world". Crime is an issue, most of it is attributed to street gangs, though statistics from official sources do not support that claim. You must use common sense and avoid entering into a zone that does not appear safe, just like you do in any country of the world. Avoid carrying fancy items such as such as jewelry, expensive cameras, and watches if you are walking on the public streets. Females should avoid traveling alone as they may catch the occasional cat-calling and perhaps get felt up on tightly packed buses. As a foreigner the kind of response you might get from the police is "hit or miss." If you have been pick-pocketed or otherwise robbed without harm to your person, a visit to the police station will almost certainly be an exercise in frustration. Police officers have also been known to harass or to be inappropriate to female travelers.

It is a good idea for any person visiting El Salvador to keep only necessary forms of identification, such as a driver's license, when exploring the city or tourist locales. If you must keep your passport on you at all times, a traveler's pouch would allow you to have it safely with you. Police officers routinely ask tourists to present their passports, most can be convinced that a copy of the passport and another form of id is sufficient. Others will insist on accompanying back to your hotel to retrieve your actual document. Most tourists prefer to stay within the safe areas of El Salvador such as La Zona Rosa where there is relatively no crime. In case you are not staying at one of the country's 5 star hotels, remember to ask if the city or town you are visiting has a high level of gang activity.

In 1996 San Salvador was considered the second most dangerous city in the Western Hemisphere, according to statistics. Since the end of the civil war in 1992 El Salvador has not seen a reduction in crime rates. Today San Salvador, and El Salvador in general, experience some of the highest homicide rates in the world, it is also considered an epicenter of the gang crisis, along with Guatemala and Honduras. The homicides reported in 2006 reached up to 3,906, in 2005 3,779 were reported; 57.2 violent deaths per every 100,000 people. Crime rates in general have been steadily growing throughout the years, from 2005-2006 crime rose 7.5%.El Salvador is the most dangerous and violent country in Central America. The government tried controlling the gangs with a tactic called "Super Mano Dura" which means "Super Strong Hand", however it has not been successful and crime rates have continued to rise.

Stay healthy

If you are not accustomed to food sold by street vendors, you might want to stay away from food sold on the streets until you acclimate. If you want to try a pupusa, you should try to find a restaurant to taste this popular dish rather than buying them from street vendors. That said, street food that you see cooked can sometimes be safer than restaurant food that you do not see cooked.

'Agua en bolsa' (water in a plastic bag) is very commonly sold in the streets and corner stores of El Salvador. Visitors should never drink 'agua en bolsa' nor tap water, period. Instead purchase sealed bottled water of a well-known brand. Likewise it's good to avoid food that has been washed with tap water such as lettuce or other vegetables sold on the street. Use common sense!

Pharmacies are easily found all over the country. Be sure to have a first-aid kit if you travel to the countryside and to archaeological sites. Mosquito repellent comes in handy.


Salvadorans are known for their great hospitality. They are among the nicest people in the world. They are friendly, industrious people always willing to help anyone. That is what has earned El Salvador the nickname of "the country with a smile". When speaking with people you don't know, it is customary to address them in a formal manner, using señor, señora and/or usted.


The international country code for El Salvador is 503.

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

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Spanish El Salvador (The Saviour)

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El Salvador

  1. Country in Central America. Official name: Republic of El Salvador.


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El Salvador

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