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20 Fascinating Facts About El Salvador

20 Fascinating Facts About El Salvador


1. El Salvador is the smallest country by land area in Central America.

2. With 310 people per sq km of land area, El Salvador is the most densely-populated country on the mainland of the Americas. Only the Caribbean island nations of the region are more densely populated.

3. As such, it is El Salvador has a population that is around 18 times larger than Belize.

4. Paleo-Indian people have inhabited El Salvador for as long as 10,000 years. Cave paintings from the period have been discovered in the modern region of Morazán.

5. El Salvador was also inhabited by the Mayans for approximately 750 years from around 100-200 AD to 600-900 AD. The most impressive archaeological site in the country is the Tazumal complex – the only remains of the ancient Mayan city of Chalchuapa.

Tazumal Complex El Salvador

6. El Salvador was under the control of Spain after explorer Pedro de Alvarado conquered the area in 1524. However, there was ongoing indigenous resistance until 1540 when the country officially became a Spanish colony until 1821.

7. El Salvador was given its name – which means ‘the Savior,’ referring to Jesus Christ – by the Spanish.

8. El Salvador was initially incorporated into the Mexican empire. Then in 1823, El Salvador joined the United Provinces of Central America, which also included Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras.

9. El Salvador’s flag descends from the flag used by the United Provinces of Central America which consisted of blue-white-blue stripes along with the national coat of arms in the center. The countries of Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica all use permutations of that design in their modern flags.

10. The coat of arms in the center of the flag of El Salvador also resembles the coat of arms used by the former Central American federation. It contains branches, flags, green mountains, and the national motto “Dios, unión, Libertad” (“God, union, liberty”).

11. In 1840 El Salvador became completely independent after the United Provinces of Central America was dissolved.

12. At least 75,000 civilians died at the hands of government forces during the Salvadoran Civil War from 1980 to 1992.

13. The USA was involved in the conflict, providing funding and military training to Salvadoran ‘death squads’ who were responsible for a number of atrocities. One of the most notable was the El Mozote massacre where over 1,200 men, women, and children were killed.

14. El Salvador’s position on the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ makes it prone to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. As such it is known as the ‘Land of Volcanoes’.

15. Some of the worst earthquakes struck the country in 2001 killing 1,200 people and rendering another one million homeless.

16. El Salvador has over 800 animal species, of which almost half are butterflies. There are over 330 resident bird species and 170 migratory bird species. Additionally, there are a further 200 mammal species approximately.

Butterflies El Salvador

17. El Salvador is a world-class surfing destination and has hosted world surfing events. The country’s most notorious wave is Punta Roca which was featured in the iconic 70s surf movie Big Wednesday.

18. Following Haiti, El Salvador is the second most deforested country in Latin America. Almost 85% of its forests have disappeared since the 1960s.

19. Around 90 animal species in El Salvador are in danger of extinction. These include marine turtles, armadillos, and at least 15 species of hummingbirds.

20. One of the most shocking facts about El Salvador is that it is one of only four countries in the world where abortion is illegal under all circumstances, even if the woman is raped. The law is applied mercilessly at times with instances of women who have had a miscarriage or a stillbirth being charged with murder or attempted murder.

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