El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America and is smaller than the state of Massachusetts.
El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America and is smaller than the state of Massachusetts. This mountainous country is bordered by the Pacific Ocean, Guatemala, and Honduras.
Known as the Land of Volcanoes, El Salvador has frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity. It is the only country in Central America that does not have a coastline on the Caribbean Sea.
Map created by National Geographic Maps
PEOPLE & CULTURE
About half of all Salvadorans live in the countryside. They are poor and don’t have electricity or running water in their homes. Most of the wealthy families live in San Salvador in houses and apartments.
The government offers free education to children up to the ninth grade, but many families cannot afford the cost of supplies and transportation.
About three million Salvadorans live in the United States and send money home to El Salvador.
About 90 percent of Salvadorans are mestizo, descendants of Spanish and Indian ancestors. Nine percent claim Spanish descent.
Rice, beans, and tortillas are the main foods in El Salvador. Most people cannot afford meat and do not have enough food to eat every day. Malnutrition is a leading cause of death among the poor rural people.
Soccer is very popular in El Salvador.
The forests of El Salvador have been cut down for firewood, coffee plantations, and for the building of homes. The result is the destruction of wildlife habitats in El Salvador.
Along the coastal plains, there are palm trees and tropical fruit trees, such as mango, coconut, and tamarind. Armadillos, snakes, and iguanas also inhabit the warm, humid coast.
High in the mountains, at the 7,931-foot (2,417-meter) summit of Monte Cristo Mountain, is a cloud forest in the international nature preserve of El Trifinio. The governments of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras are trying to protect this rain forest.
The cloud forest is home to orchids, ferns, spider monkeys, jaguars, anteaters, and many bird species, including green toucans.
GOVERNMENT & ECONOMY
The president and vice president are elected on the same ticket by popular vote for one, five-year term. The current president, Mauricio Funes Cartagena, is both the chief of state and head of government.
El Salvador's democratic government has added manufacturing jobs—but faces the challenges of poverty, crime, and natural disasters.
Coffee, sugar, corn, rice, shrimp, and beef are the main agricultural products in El Salvador.
The Olmecs came to the region in 2000 B.C., followed by the Maya in 1500 B.C. When the Maya civilization ended in 900 A.D., the Toltec Empire took hold in El Salvador. In the 11th century, the Pipil people became the dominant group in El Salvador until the Spanish conquerors landed.
The Spanish took over in 1528 and forced the native people to become servants. El Salvador achieved independence from Spain in 1821 and full independence in 1841.
Economic inequality led to the civil war in 1980. Many Salvadorans, rich and poor, fled to the United States. The 12-year civil war, which cost about 75,000 lives, ended in 1992 when the government and leftist rebels signed a treaty that provided for military and political reforms.