El Salvador is a tiny Central American country with a huge regional presence, mainly because of its dense population and bustling, friendly personality. It also has many fascinating historical, cultural, and geographical treasures.
Even at first glance on a map, El Salvador reveals something unique about itself as a Central American country. It is the only one that does not have a coastline on its east side. But more about that later.
Republica de El Salvador spreads over 8,000 square miles It is the most densely populated country in Central America, at 796 people per square mile, according to Worldometer.
Check out my photo essay on Puerto De La Libertad, El Salvador. In the meantime, here are several more fantastic conversation starters and facts about El Salvador and its capital city, San Salvador, to chew on.
El Salvador’s geographical and historical “biography” provides curious minds with interesting fodder. Let’s examine the general facts about the “Pulgarcito de America.”
Quick side fact: The nickname “Pulgarcito de America” is an endearing self-reference for El Salvador, literally translating as “little thumb of America.”
1. El Salvador Is In The Ring of Fire
El Salvador city in a very ominous-sounding world region known as the Ring of Fire. The region is known for its above-average activity regarding volcanoes and earthquakes.
2. El Salvador Is Called the Land of the Volcanoes
It sounds like something out of a fantasy book cover, but El Salvador is called the land of volcanoes. This is because it has more than 100 volcanoes that have been mapped, and 20 of those are active.
Santa Ana is the highest volcano in El Salvador at 7800 feet (2381m) above sea level. The locals call it Mother Mountain.
3. There is Snow in the Mountains
Although El Salvador is in the tropics, you might be surprised to hear that there is snow on top of Cerro El Pital. It is the highest mountain in the country, so perhaps that’s not surprising as you first imagine. Still, it’s weird to think there was snow in a country known for its volcanoes and equatorial climate.
4. It’s a Small Country With Lots of People
As mentioned, El Salvador is a very small country but also the most densely populated in Central America. There are 6.5 million people in El Salvador, while the country is barely the size of Massachusetts.
5. Spanish Is the Official Language
The official language of El Salvador is Spanish. but there are lots of people who still speak a local dialect called Nahuatl. This is the language spoken by many of the region’s indigenous people, including the Aztecs.
The influence of the native language has made the Spanish spoken in El Salvador somewhat unique. That is to say that several words used in El Salvador are not used in other Spanish-speaking countries.
6. El Salvador Was Once Part of a Central American Republic
Between 1823 and 1841, there was a federal Republic of Central American countries. El Salvador was one of these five countries, and that history is still reflected on the country’s national shield. The other countries are the Federal Republic of Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.
The union also included parts of Belize and Chiapas (a state in Mexico). A number of conflicts between various ideological factions eventually led to the dissolution of the union. El Salvador was the last territory to declare independence in 1841.
7. There Was a Bloody Civil War in 1980
Sadly, there was a Civil War in El Salvador in 1980. It lasted 12 years and saw nearly 75,000 people killed. Not surprisingly, the Civil War weighs heavily on the history and memory of the people of El Salvador.
On a positive note, El Salvador is one of the few countries in the world with an ecological upswing. Contrary to most other countries in the developing world, the tropical rainforests have started growing back.
In part, this is because of reforestation projects initiated by the government. Perhaps the rest of the world can look to El Salvador for leadership. It is, after all, one of the few countries in the world experiencing actual reforestation.
The most important crop and economic harvest in El Salvador is coffee. El Salvadorian coffee is known across the world and is in high demand. If you need to try a particular kind, Pacas and Pacamara are world-renowned.
As previously mentioned, El Salvador is a very small country. Despite this, it produces more coffee than most other countries. It was, at one point, the fourth-largest coffee producer in the world.
There is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in El Salvador. It was so declared because of its important historic value. The Mayan site of Joya de Cerén in the Zapotitan Valley is a fascinating relic of an ancient lifestyle. But that’s not all.
At one point, it was completely covered in Ashes due to a volcanic eruption from the Laguna Caldera volcano. This occurred around 600 AD. As a result, it is often lovingly referred to as the Pompeii of the Americas.
In an interesting ironic pre-fact, the reason the land there had been settled was due to its fertility, which was caused by a previous volcanic eruption. The remnants of Joya Ceren were rediscovered in 1976 when a bulldozer exposed a clay-built structure during the construction of grain-storage silos.
The excavations of Joya de Cerén were resumed in 1989 and have continued since then.
If a particular figure is regarded as a true hero of the El Salvadorian story, it might be José Matías Delgado. Delgado was a priest who became an instrumental figure in leading the people of El Salvador to independence.
He is regarded today as the country’s national hero. At one point, the country’s currency was named after him – the colón.
You don’t talk about El Salvador without talking about its capital, San Salvador. As you’ll see from these interesting facts, the capital plays a big role in making El Salvador particularly special.
From a purely historical perspective, San Salvador already plays an important part in American history. It happens to be the oldest capital in Central America, at least in terms of its colonial history.
The city was founded in 1524 by Pedro de Alvarado, a Spanish conquistador. Alvarado successfully invaded El Salvador, which became a Spanish colony for 300 years. De Alvarado also conquered much of the Mayan people in Guatemala.
Remember the Republic of Central American countries that were mentioned earlier? San Salvador also happened to be the capital of that Union. Between 1834 and 1841, it could be said that San Salvador was indeed the capital of Central America
Keeping with the theme of volcanoes, San Salvador is surrounded by two. The San Salvador Volcano and the San Jacinto Volcano sit adjacent to the capital.
Far from adding an element of danger, these two geological marvels add to the picturesque beauty of the city. The last volcanic eruption around El Salvador happened in 1917.
San Salvador is also a popular destination for Regional and world events. Several editions of original games, like the Central American and Caribbean Games (sort of the regional Olympics of Central America), have been held here. Another significant world-held year was the Ibero-American Summit in 2008.
Separating El Salvador facts from the surrounding region and history is difficult. Here are a few facts about El Salvador that place it in the context of its neighbors and regional history.
The most influential ancient civilization when it comes to El Salvador is the Mayan civilization. As far as historical research shows, the Mayans were the first to inhabit this region.
Over several centuries, much of the Mayan lifestyle, tradition, and technology has left an influence on the people living here. Several Mayan ruins can still be found in the country, and you can still taste some of the Mayan Legacy in the local cuisine.
Visiting El Salvador? Watch your language! Because of the Mayan Legacy; the language in El Salvador today has a few quirks that separate it from other regional Spanish.
If you know Spanish as it is spoken in Mexico, for example, you may be in for a few surprises if you’re traveling in El Salvador. Several words mean something different in El Salvador, specifically.
Be prepared to eat cake, for example, if you order a “quesadilla” at a restaurant. You will be disappointed if you are expecting a hot dish with tortillas.
Salvadorian Spanish is sometimes referred to as Caliche. It’s probably more accurately described as a mix between Spanish and local slang. Much of that slang carries the influence of native languages as well.
El Salvador is truly unique because it’s the only Central American country with no coastline on its eastern border. That means there is no Caribbean side to El Salvador. Instead, the Pacific coastline seems to be more than enough for the legion of surfers and beach lovers who flock to the country each year.
Beyond the facts about El Salvador’s remarkable history, culture, and geography, some interesting truths about the country seem to need a category all to their own. Here are a few thought-provoking things to know about El Salvador.
There are pyramids in El Salvador left behind from the ancient Maya civilization. The most famous pyramids are at Tazumal. It’s estimated that civilization here flourished from around 1200 BC.
More can be found at San Andrés, Joya de Cerén (The UNESCO World Heritage Site), Guika, Cihuatan, and Corinto.
This is one of the more bizarre facts about El Salvador. It’s probably an oversimplification, but a good story to tell nonetheless. In 1969, several political and diplomatic problems existed between El Salvador and Honduras. It came to a head when a football game was played between the two nations as a World Cup qualification game.
Following a controversial result, emotions got the better of both sides, precipitating a war. The Football Warl, also called the HundredHours War, was brief. However, it has gained notoriety partly because it seemed sparked by a football game.
One dark consequence of the war was that it contributed to the spark that ignited the Salvadoran Civil War a few years later.
When you visit El Salvador, you could technically pay with Bitcoin. Although the official currency of El Salvador is the unique United States dollar,. The country also became the first to accept Bitcoin as legal tender by attempting to force all businesses to accept the currency.
Although it is not particularly used in the country, the government made impressive efforts to popularize it. The recent market crash for Bitcoin doesn’t seem to have helped with its adoption.
22. The meaning behind the Stripes of the El Salvador Flag
There is an ironic element of the Salvadoran flag. It has two blue stripes, which are supposed to represent the two oceans surrounding Central America. As we noted before, however, El Salvador only has a coast on one of those oceans. As a matter of interest, the white stripe represents peace.
Did these facts about El Salvador intrigue you? Read more about things to do in El Salvador before visiting. Hopefully, from this article alone, you will find several aspects of this amazing country to explore.
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