Izalco volcano at Santa Ana

El Salvador, The Land of Volcanoes - in a Nutshell

Author: Sue
Date: 8th January 2017

Getting into El Salvador

En route to El Salvador, at Lima Airport (from Paraguay), someone is bored and devises a game of musical chairs. We are made to change gates twice as all the planes arrive at different locations to those indicated on the board. There are swarms of people crossing paths as they up sticks and trundle their belongings across the terminal in response to whoever is barking orders over the tannoy.

The next twenty four hours are delightful as if to compensate. El Salvador is serene, beautiful and friendly.  (You need to discount the armed guards and security men posted on every corner or sightseeing stop.) Volcano cones tower over fields of spiky sugar cane and the little lagoons are full of egrets, roseate spoonbills and herons scuttling along, their every action reflected back to them.

A Brief History of El Salvador

  • The oldest evidence of humans in El Salvador come from cave paintings dating back to at least 6000 BC. A series of Pre-Columbian civilisations left their mark on El Salvador, most notably the Olmecs and Mayans. The Mayans evacuated El Salvador sometime in the fifth or sixth century, when the Ilopango Volcano erupted, decimating the population.
  • The Pipil people were the first new migrants, post-Ilopango, to arrive in El Salvador, in the eleventh century. They named their land Cuzcatlan and were dominating the region when the Spanish arrived 400 years later. Cuzcatlan is still used as an alternate name for El Salvador. It took four years, for Spanish forces to finally conquer the Pipils, in 1528,
  • El Salvador was initially incorporated it into the Viceroyalty of New Spain, ruled from Mexico City. Then, iin 1609, the area was declared part of the Captaincy General of Guatemala.
  • El Salvador attained independence in 1821, well sort of, The country was forcibly incorporated into the First Mexican Empire. It left that and joined the Federal Republic of Central America two year later. That federation dissolved in 1841, and El Salvador finally became a sovereign state, (although there was a short-lived union with Honduras and Nicaragua called the Greater Republic of Central America, - 1895 to 1898.
  • Since then El Salvador has endured considerable turbulence: coups, revolts, a succession of authoritarian rulers and a civil war.
  • Today, there is a more stable multiparty constitutional republic

Facts and Factoids

  • El Salvador, (The Saviour) is a tiny country - the size of Wales - so you can get to anywhere pretty quickly, traffic permitting.
  • But it’s really densely populated
  • El Salvador is full of volcanoes but there is much disagreement about exactly how many (about 23) or which of these are active (5-22). Count them and see what you think.
  • Try the  national food, the pupusa – a type of stuffed tortilla - very cheap, quick and delicious
  • The people love firecrackers - they're noisy!

Is El Salvador a Poor Country?

The currency here is the USD. The greatest source of income comes from money sent back to the country by Salvadorians working in the USA. The increasing urbanisation (60 percent live in towns and cities) means a lack of resources in rural areas where levels of poverty are high.

Is It Safe to Go to El Salvador?

Last time I travelled to Central America El Salvador, and especially the capital, San Salvador, was deemed to be off limits because of internal conflict and violence. Whilst there is now embryonic tourism, El Salvador still has one of the highest crime rates in Latin America. Violence between gangs is common and while most gang violence occurs away from tourists and visitors, advice says no location is completely safe.

What To See in El Salvador

  • I got round the whole country in two sections - East El Salvador and West El Salvador.
  • The scenery is amazing - especially the volcanoes - and inbetween these are the picturesque colonial towns
  • There's also plenty of surf on the beaches

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