El Salvador

By G. Joseph Romero
Map-El_Salvador.jpgBasic Facts and Landscape
El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America. The current population is about 7 million people in an area of just over 8 thousand square miles. It is located Southwest of Honduras and Southeast of Guatemala on the Pacific coastline. The Landscape itself features two volcanic mountain ranges, a central plateau, a narrow coastline and tropical weather.

History and Ethnic Relations
The Spanish first arrived in the area that is now modern day El Salvador in 1524. The Spanish encountered the native people of the Pipil Indian Kingdom of Cuzcatlan. Spains first attempts to conquer were thwarted and they were forced to retreat. In 1528 the Spanish were finally able to conquer the Pipil. 1821 marks the independance of the central american provinces from Spain, which banded to together to form the United Provinces of Central America. By 1838, the federation broke apart and El Salvador became it's own independant republic. By 1930 the Pipil descendants were nearly extinct but the language and culture still remains in use in very small populations around the country.

Language and Dialect
Spanish is the primary language in El Salvador spoken by 90% of the population, the other 10% still speaks a form of Nahautl (reminiscent to the original language of the Pipil people). The dialect of Spanish spoken in El Salvador is a typical tierras-bajas (Lowland) Spanish style. Utilizing distinctive lowland features such as seseo and yeismo, the dialect an also easily be distinguished by the use of aspiration and the overall elision/weaking of consonants. Voseo is used instead of tuteo and is arguably the most noticable trait distinguishing this dialect as lowland due to its heavy usage. Salvadorian slang is called "Caliche" and is often referred to as the "Real Salvadorian Spanish." Some of the words are influenced by the old Nahautl language, examples include:
Little kid. (derrogotory- equivalent to "brat" or "punk" in English)
Young boy or girl
Cool / Interesting
Crooked or Bent / Not trustworthy
Dirty / Disgusting

The National Flag
The National flag consists of three stripes and a central coat of arms. The layout of the flag is remeniscent to that of both Honduras and Nicaragua. The two blue stripes on the top and bottom represent the Pacific Ocean and the Carribbean Sea, while The white stripe symbolizes peace. The central coat of arms in encircled by the words "REPUBLICA DE EL SALVADOR EN LA AMERICA CENTRAL" which translates to Republic of El Salvador in Central America. The laurel surrounding the triangle, banner, and five flags is separated into 14 parts representing the provinces. The banner directly below the triangle reads "Dios, Union, Libertad" which translates to "God, Union, Liberty" which is the Salvadorian motto. A Phrygian cap, mounted on a staff in front of the sun, represents liberty and displays the 1821 year of independence. The five mountains rising out of the sea which represent the original five countries in the Central American Union.

Peope and Culture
Salvadorians are often referred to as "Mestizos", a term used to decribe people of Spanish and Indigienous descent. The vast majority of the Salvadorian population are very devout Roman Catholics, there is also much a smaller but notable growing Protestant movement. Catholics in the area are very dedicated and perform rituals such as devoting 9 nights of prayer to deceased individuals for the purpose of cleansing their souls and thus guiding their path to heaven.

Men are seen as the primary breadwinners, while women are expected to stay at home and look after the family.Although this belief system is deeply rooted, more and more women are gaining high importance/profile positions in society. The gap between the rich and poor is extreme. About half the poulation lives below the poverty line and does not have access to clean water. The top 20% hold 66% of the wealth in the country.

The Civil War wich lasted from 1980 to 1992 ravaged the land and destroyed both univeristies in the country. Emphasis on higher education has seemed to be put on hold since the loss of the facilities during the war but music, art, and literature still play an essential role in Salvadorians lives. Examples of music include Salsa, Cumbia, and Ranchera.

The September 15th Independance day is celebrated anually along with Christmas, New Years, and Easter. The most popular sport in the country is Futbol (soccer), hands down. El Salvador is home to the largest futbol stadium in central america called the Monumental Estadio Cuscatlan which can house up to 46,000 spectators.

Salvadorians are known to be extremely sociable and hospitable. When invited as a guest to visit or have dinner it is customary to arrive around 30 minutes late. When dining, much social interacted is expected and it is considered polite to leave a small amount of food on your plate.


RinconcitoSalvadoreno005.jpgThe main staples of the Salvadorian diet include corn, beans, and rice. Traditional dishes include Pupusas (see food section on Costa Rica), Tamales, Platanos, and Empanadas. Pupusas (pictured on right) are essentially thick corn tortillas/platbread stuffed with any variety of cheese, vegetable, or meats usually served with a sauerkraut-like cabbage salad called Cortido (also pictured on right). Tamales are like homeade hot pockets made with a dough-like corn called masa and stuffed with cheese, veggies, meats- not unlike the pupusa. Platanos are fried bananas usually served with refried beans. Empanadas are desert items made of plantain and stuffed with a sweet cream and lightly sprinkled with sugar. Traditional drinks include Horchata and Tamarindo. Horchata is a rice, sesame, and cinnamon based drink while Tamarindo is made from soaking the Tamarind plant.

If you are further interested in Central American countries, El Salvador shares many similarities in culture, food, and language to Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Mexico. Most of which are already linked to in the various sections on this page. If you want to learn more about Spanish itself, click on Language.


My own immediate family and experiences

Britannica Encyclopedias - El Salvador