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History of El Salvador

History of El Salvador

History of El Salvador or any history may be written by the victors, but with all the news coverage these days about conflict in El Salvador and other countries, it’s easy to forget how recent this part of Central America’s history really is. The country has a turbulent past and hasn’t yet found stability since independence from Spain. Fortunately, visitors can still find pockets of tranquility in its colonial cities and villages. Here, you’ll find a mix of modernity and old-world charm.

El Salvador has many attractions for visitors including its cocktail bars and historical sites such as Masaya Volcano National Park which was created when lava poured out for over three decades until it finally cooled off in 1994 at the height of Guatemala’s civil war. There are also magnificent pre-Colombian ruins of pyramids, temples and ceremonial centers, many of which are still being excavated. The majestic Quetzaltepeque Archaeological Site is one of the most important Mayan civilization centers in Central America.

El Salvador has a rich culinary heritage that blends indigenous traditions with Spanish cuisine. A number of dishes, such as chicken in cream sauce with vegetables, are prepared the same way they were four centuries ago. One popular dish is tamales made from corn dough filled with meat or cheese and wrapped in leaves for cooking. Another is sopa de res (beef soup), which dates back to the 16th century when it was served to emperors and kings visiting the country. El Salvador’s beef is considered best in Central America with its variety of cattle breeds.

On a hot day, the perfect entertainment might include a castaƱada or a colorful street parade which often includes clowns, music and dancers. Local bands play in busy bars where you can hear live Latin rock from El Salvador and elsewhere.

In general, El Salvador has a good economy with job opportunities for everyone from doctors to waiters, especially in tourist areas such as San Miguel. The unemployment rate is 3.9 percent for both men and women at 2011 rates per the International Labor Organization (ILO). The El Salvadorian GDP growth rate per the International Monetary Fund was 2 percent per annum at 2012 rates.

El Salvador has enjoyed relative stability since its civil war ended in 1992. Poverty levels are high, but political stability has allowed the country to grow economically in recent years.

The language in El Salvador is Spanish. The official language is Spanish, and it is spoken by approximately 95 percent of the population. However, indigenous dialects are still spoken in rural areas, particularly San Miguel and Santa Ana. Languages spoken by other ethnic groups include Pochutec (Mayan) and Garifuna (Afro-Caribbean). The government works hard to promote the use of Spanish in all official functions including education, health care and business. The money used in El Salvador is the Cordoba, named for Christopher Columbus.

El Salvador has an interesting set of holidays this year, including Independence Day on September 15 which commemorates the anniversary of the signing of the emancipation decree in 1811. On October 12 is The Discovery of America, which was first celebrated 10 years after Columbus’s landing in the Americas. This historic holiday has become a national holiday that celebrates cultural identity and features music and dance. Another big day is June 10, which marks Heroes’ Day (Dia de los Heroes) and honors those who died fighting for freedom against Spanish rule over 400 years ago. Every Sunday, El Salvador celebrates its patron saint, Our Lady of Aparecida (La Santisima Virgen de Aparecida), with special events in churches throughout the country.

The national flag is readily identified by its five horizontal stripes representing the colors blue, white, red, yellow and green. The blue is indented with a white ring to symbolize the Pacific Ocean. The coat of arms features a chained crown above triple pineapples with golden tassels on either side of the crown at the top right corner. The tassels display symbols that celebrate El Salvador’s indigenous heritage including an alligator for San Miguel and limpias (flowers) that signify Santa Ana. At the bottom right of the coat of arms is a banner that is inscribed with the words “Order and Liberty” which were used during colonial times after independence from Spain.

El Salvador has three principal cities: San Salvador is the largest city and its capital, Santa Ana is also important and so too is La Union. San Miguel, located in western El Salvador, has been called the most beautiful city in Central America because of its central role in developing El Salvador’s economy and reputation as a center of industry and commerce with a pleasant climate year-round. It was founded by Spaniards in 1525 on an expansive plain that also served as a breeding ground for cattle. In addition to its natural beauty, this colonial city is filled with historic sites whose magnificent architecture still stands despite the quakes and tremors it has endured.

The patron saint of El Salvador, La Negrita, was originally a statue that sits in the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in San Miguel with a cross in her right hand and a rosary in her left. She is dressed in a gold crown and robe and is considered the mother of all Salvadorans. The Virgin’s feast day usually falls on December 12 but it’s celebrated on September 8 because she appeared to one Antonia Lopez, mother of Jose Simeon Lopez, on the 8th day of the month about 200 years ago.

The El Salvador flag that is used on official occasions is red, white and blue with the coat of arms in the upper left corner. The current flag took its roots from the flag of independent San Salvador that was first used after independence from Spain in 1821. The colors represent the different groups that have contributed to El Salvador’s prosperity over the years. The flag was changed after a new constitution was signed in January 1831 so this year marks 300 years since it took effect.