El Salvador

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see El SalvadorEl Salvador
, officially Republic of El Salvador, republic (2015 est. pop. 6,312,000), 8,260 sq mi (21,393 sq km), Central America. The country is bounded on the south by the Pacific Ocean, on the west by Guatemala, and on the north and east by Honduras.
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El Salvador

(ĕl sälväthōr`), officially Republic of El Salvador, republic (2015 est. pop. 6,312,000), 8,260 sq mi (21,393 sq km), Central America. The country is bounded on the south by the Pacific Ocean, on the west by Guatemala, and on the north and east by Honduras. The capital and largest city is San SalvadorSan Salvador
, city (1993 pop. 402,448), central El Salvador, capital and largest city of the country. It is the center of El Salvador's trade and communications. Beer, tobacco products, clothing, textiles, and soap are produced there.
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Land and People

Two volcanic ranges, running roughly west to east, segment the country, but in between are broad, fertile valleys, such as that of the Lempa, the principal river. There are several fairly large lakes. El Salvador is the smallest Latin American republic and the most densely populated; overpopulation is a critical problem. The vast majority of the population is of mixed indigenous and European descent. Spanish is the official language. Roman Catholicism the dominant religion, but there is a growing minority who belong to evangelical Protestant churches.


El Salvador's economy has traditionally been agricultural, but services and industry now employ a greater percentage of the workforce and account for a much higher percentage of the gross domestic product. El Salvador's economy was adversely affected by its 12-year civil war. Beginning in the early 1990s, however, attempts were made to revive the country's economic life, and the economy had recovered by the beginning of 2001, when El Salvador adopted the U.S. dollar as its official currency.

About half of the land is used for either crops or pasturage. Corn is the chief subsistence crop, and rice, beans, oilseeds, and sorghum are also grown; coffee and sugar are the major cash crops. Food and beverage processing is important and petroleum, chemicals, fertilizer, textiles, furniture, and light metals are among El Salvador's leading manufactures. The Inter-American Highway crosses El Salvador and forms the heart of an excellent transportation system that links San Salvador with the ports of La UniónUnión, La,
town (1990 pop. 15,144), Murcia prov., SE Spain. It is a center for the rich lead, silver, iron, manganese, and zinc mines of the vicinity, which have been worked since Carthaginian times.
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, AcajutlaAcajutla
, town (1993 17,233), SW El Salvador, on the Pacific Ocean. It is a coffee and fishing port, a railroad terminus, and a resort. Sugar is an important export.
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, and La Libertad and the inland cities of San MiguelSan Miguel
, city (1993 pop. 118,214), E El Salvador, at the foot of San Miguel, an active volcano (6,996 ft/2,132 m, also known as Chaparrastique). It has textile, rope, and dairy-products industries. The region produces cotton, henequen, and vegetable oil.
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 and Santa AnaSanta Ana
, city (1993 pop. 129,873), W El Salvador. It is the second largest city in the country and the commercial and processing center for a sugarcane, coffee, and cattle region. There are textile and food-products industries.
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Offshore assembly products, coffee, sugar, shrimp, textiles, and chemicals are El Salvador's main exports. The leading imports are raw materials, consumer and capital goods, fuel, food, petroleum, and electricity. The United States is by far the largest trading partner.


El Salvador is governed under the constitution of 1983. The president, who is both head of state and head of government, is popularly elected for a five-year term and may not succeed himself. The members of the 84-seat unicameral Legislative Assembly are elected for three-year terms. The principal parties are the National Republican Alliance (ARENA), the Christian Democratic party (PDC), and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). The country is divided administratively into 14 departments.


Before the arrival of the Spaniards, El Salvador was inhabited by the Pipils, descendants of the Aztecs and the Toltecs of Mexico, who had arrived in the 12th cent. In 1524 Pedro de AlvaradoAlvarado, Pedro de
, 1486–1541, Spanish conquistador. He went to Hispaniola (1510), sailed in the expedition (1518) of Juan de Grijalva, and was the chief lieutenant of Hernán Cortés in the conquest of Mexico.
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 landed and began a series of campaigns that resulted in Spanish control. With independence from Spain in 1821, it became briefly a part of the Mexican Empire of Augustín de IturbideIturbide, Agustín de
, 1783–1824, Mexican revolutionist, emperor of Mexico (1822–23). An officer in the royalist army, he was sympathetic to independence but took no part in the separatist movement led by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, and in fact helped to
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, and after the empire collapsed (1823) El Salvador joined the Central American FederationCentral American Federation
or Central American Union,
political confederation (1825–38) of the republics of Central America—Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Salvador.
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. El Salvador protested the dominance of Guatemala and under Francisco MorazánMorazán, Francisco
, 1799–1842, Central American statesman, b. Tegucigalpa, Honduras. He led the revolutionary army that overthrew (1829) the regime of Manuel José Arce and was proclaimed president of the Central American Federation in 1830.
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 succeeded in having the federal capital transferred (1831) to San Salvador. After the dissolution of the federation (1839), the republic was plagued by frequent interference from the dictators of neighboring countries, notably Rafael CarreraCarrera, Rafael
, 1814–65, president of Guatemala, a caudillo. He led the revolution against the anticlerical liberal government of Guatemala, and his ultimate success in 1840 helped to destroy the Central American Federation.
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 and Justo Rufino BarriosBarrios, Justo Rufino
, c.1835–1885, president of Guatemala (1873–85). He took part in the successful revolution of 1871 and was elected to office. He imposed reforms on the country: the religious orders were suppressed and Roman Catholic schools and universities
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 of Guatemala and José Santos ZelayaZelaya, José Santos
, 1853–1919, president of Nicaragua (1894–1909). Although a leader of the Liberal party, he kept power by playing the Liberal and Conservative parties against each other and established an unswerving dictatorship.
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 of Nicaragua.

The primacy of coffee cultivation in the economy began in the second half of the 19th cent. Intense cultivation led to the predominance of landed proprietors, and the economy became vulnerable to fluctuations in the world market price for coffee. In 1931, Maximiliano Hernández MartínezHernández Martínez, Maximiliano
, 1882–1966, president of El Salvador (1931–44). An admirer of fascist theories, he seized power during a palace revolt, then was elected president in 1935.
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, capitalizing on discontent caused by the collapse of coffee prices, led a coup. His dictatorship lasted until 1944, after which there was chronic political unrest.

Under the authoritarian rule of Major Oscar Osorio (1950–56) and Lt. Col. José María LemusLemus, José María
, 1911–93, president of El Salvador (1956–60). An army lieutenant colonel, he served as minister of interior (1949–55).
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 (1956–60) considerable economic progress was made. Lemus was overthrown by a coup, and after a confused period a junta composed of leaders of the National Conciliation party came to power in June, 1961. The junta's candidate, Lt. Col. Julio Adalberto RiveraRivera, Julio Adalberto
, 1921–73, president of El Salvador (1962–67). An army lieutenant colonel, he headed the junta that overthrew the leftist government in Jan., 1961.
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, was elected president in 1962. He was succeeded in 1967 by Col. Fidel Sánchez HernándezSánchez Hernández, Fidel
, 1917–2003, president of El Salvador (1967–72). An army general, he served as minister of interior under President Julio Rivera. As president, he named a largely civilian cabinet and continued Rivera's progressive programs.
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Relations with Honduras deteriorated in the late 1960s. There was a border clash in 1967, and a four-day war broke out in July, 1969. The Salvadoran forces that had invaded Honduras were withdrawn, but not until 1992 was an agreement that largely settled the border controversy with Honduras signed. The last disputed border area was finally marked in 2006.

In the 1970s El Salvador's overpopulation, economic problems, and inequitable social system led to social and political unrest; by the end of the decade, murder and other terrorism by leftist guerrillas and especially by right-wing "death squads" had become common. In 1979, Gen. Carlos Humberto Romero, the last in a series of presidents whose elections were denounced by many as fraudulent, was overthrown by a military junta. Murders and other terrorism continued, and the unrest erupted into a full-scale civil war between the government and guerrillas of the leading opposition group, the FMLN.

In 1980, José Napoleón DuarteDuarte, José Napoleón
, 1925–90, president of El Salvador (1980–82, 1984–89). A Christian Democrat, he was mayor of San Salvador (1964–70). In 1972, Duarte was elected president, but was exiled by the army.
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, a Christian Democrat, assumed the presidency under the junta and called for presidential elections, which he won in 1984. Despite his reputation as a reformer, he did not appear able to rein in the army and control the death squads. These excesses continued after the election in 1989 of President Alfredo Cristiani, leader of the right-wing ARENA party.

In 1991, however, the Cristiani government, with help from the United Nations, negotiated with the FMLN, and in Jan., 1992, a peace treaty with the rebels was signed, ending the bloody 12-year civil war that killed over 70,000 people. The FMLN demobilized and participated in the postwar 1994 elections, which resulted in the presidency of Armando Calderón SolCalderón Sol, Armando,
1948–2017, Salvadoran political leader, , b. San Salvador, J.D. Univ. of El Salvador, 1977. A member of the right-wing National Republican Alliance, he held several positions in the party (1981–84) and served in the Salvadoran
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, the ARENA candidate. The army was apparently reined in, and terrorism and violence, by both left and right, virtually disappeared, but a 1993 amnesty law prevented prosecution for human-rights violations committed before 1992. A major program was put in place to transfer land (80% of which was concentrated in the hands of the wealthy) to former combatants. However, progress in implementing reforms and rebuilding the economy was slow, and was further hindered by a major hurricane in 1998. Also in the mid-1990s gangs and gang violence began to become a significant problem.

The ARENA party remained in power with the election of Francisco Guillermo Flores Pérez to the presidency in 1999. In Mar., 2000, however, the FMLN won the greatest number of seats in the National Assembly, although not enough to control the legislature. Two earthquakes struck central El Salvador a month apart early in 2001, killing about a thousand people and leaving many homeless. In Mar., 2003, the FMLN again won the largest bloc of assembly seats, but failed to win a majority. The presidential elections a year later resulted in an ARENA victory; Elías Antonio "Tony" SacaSaca González, Elías Antonio
, 1965–, Salvadoran political leader, president of El Salvador (2004–9), b. Usulután. "Tony" Saca worked as a sports commentator and in advertising sales for radio and television, and purchased his first radio station
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 received 57% of the vote. An earthquake in Jan., 2005, killed nearly 700 people. An increase in gang-related violence in 2005 led to army patrols on the country's streets.

Legislative elections in Mar., 2006, gave a plurality of the seats to ARENA, but it failed to win a majority and the FMLN was a close second. The government mounted a crackdown against criminal gangs in Aug., 2006, but gang violence remained a continuing and serious problem of the 21st cent., one that the government has proved unable to control. In Oct., 2006, the government said it had uncovered an assassination plot against the president that was linked to the anti-gang campaign.

Crime and deteriorating economic conditions contributed to the election of Mauricio FunesFunes, Mauricio
(Carlos Mauricio Funes Cartagena), 1959–, Salvadoran journalist and politician, president of El Salvador (2009–14). A television reporter, he became known for his news reporting and analysis on El Salvador's long civil war and for his insightful
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, a journalist and moderate leftist who was the FMLN candidate, as president in Mar., 2009; the FMLN also won a plurality of seats in the National Assembly in January. Funes became the first leftist candidate to be elected to the office. The assembly elections in Mar., 2012, resulted in losses for the FMLN, and ARENA edged ahead to become the largest party in the legislature; no party won a majority. In 2012 a truce between the nation's most powerful street gangs ended, leading to an escalation in violence.

Salvador Sánchez CerénSánchez Cerén, Salvador
, 1944–, Salvadoran rebel and political leader. After attending Alberto Masferrer Salvadoran Univ. (grad. 1963), he became a teacher and was active in the teachers union ANDES 21 de Junio.
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, Funes's vice president and a former FMLN rebel, narrowly won the presidency in Mar., 2014. ARENA again won a plurality in the assembly elections in Mar., 2015. In 2015 fighting among the gangs and between them and the security forces brought violence to levels last seen during the civil war, and the power and influence of the gangs began to rival that of the government. Subsequent years brought decreases in the country's murder rate, but it still remained high. In July, 2016, the country's supreme court ruled that 1993 amnesty law was unconstitutional. In the Mar., 2018, assembly elections, ARENA again secured a plurality of the seats, but in Feb., 2019, Nayib BukeleBukele Ortez, Nayib Armando,
1981–, Salvadoran businessman and politician. Of Palestinian descent, he followed his father into business at an early age. Originally a member of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), he began his political career in
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, the Grand Alliance for National Unity candidate, won the presidency, easily defeating the ARENA and FMLN candidates. In 2020 Bukele had difficult relations with the legislature and at times the Supreme Court over military and police funding, war crimes, and emergency measures to control the spread of COVID 19.


See T. P. Anderson, Matanza: El Salvador's Communist Revolt of 1932 (1971); D. Browning, El Salvador: Landscape and Society (1971); A. White, El Salvador (1973); P. L. Russell, El Salvador in Crisis (1984); J. Dunkerley, The Long War: Dictatorship and Revolution in El Salvador (1985); R. A. Haggerty, ed., El Salvador, a Country Study (1990).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

El Salvador


(Republic of El Salvador, República de El Salvador), a state in Central America, bounded on the south by the Pacific Ocean, on the north and east by Honduras, and on the west by Guatemala. Area, 21,400 sq km. Population, 3.98 million (1974). The capital is San Salvador, and the country is divided into 14 departments.

Constitution and government. El Salvador is a republic whose existing constitution came into force in 1962. The head of state and of the government is the president, popularly elected for a five-year term. He appoints the members of the government. The highest legislative authority is the unicameral Legislative Assembly, composed of 52 delegates popularly elected for two-year terms according to a proportional system of representation. All citizens who have attained the age of 18 may vote.

The judicial system includes the Supreme Court, elected by the Legislative Assembly for three years, courts of the first instance, and justices of the peace.

Natural features. Much of El Salvador is occupied by a volcanic highland (600–700 m) with chains of volcanoes, extinct in the north and active in the south. The largest volcanoes are Santa Ana (2,381 m), the highest peak in the country, San Vicente (2,181 m), San Miguel (2,129 m), and Izalco (1,885 m). Strong earthquakes are frequent. In the extreme north, beyond the broad and long tectonic basin through which the Lempa River flows, the edge of the crystalline Honduras Plateau rises to 1,859 m. In the south, along the flat Pacific coast, stretches a strip of alluvial lowlands from 10 km to 30 km wide. In the west the lowlands are crossed in places by lava streams, and east of the mouth of the Lempa they are cut by lagoons.

El Salvador has a tropical trade-wind climate. The average monthly temperature is 22°–24°C in San Salvador and 2°–3°C higher in the lowlands. The annual precipitation averages 1,500–1,800 mm, increasing in the north to 2,500 mm and decreasing in the tectonic basin to 600–700 mm. There are many short, turbulent rivers that become shallow during the dry season, as well as volcanic lakes. Mountain cinnamon-red lateritic soils predominate; on volcanic rocks they are fertile. The natural vegetation, chiefly tropical forests and shrubs that shed their leaves in the dry season, has largely been cut down. Oak and pine forests have survived only in the high mountains. Wildlife includes tapirs, armadillos, New World monkeys, vampire bats, and other representatives of the Neotropical zoogeographic region, as well as such North American animals as gophers, shrews, voles, and opossums. There are many birds, reptiles, and insects.


Population. The majority of Salvadorans are mestizos, persons of mixed Spanish and Indian descent; the remainder are whites and Indians. The official language is Spanish, and Catholicism is the official religion. The Gregorian calendar is used.

Between 1963 and 1972 the population increased at an average rate of 3.7 percent a year. The gainfully employed population totaled 1.2 million in 1970, of whom 55 percent were employed in agriculture, 19 percent in industry, and 15 percent in the service sector. Peasants, mostly tenant farmers, and agricultural workers make up the bulk of the economically active population. Many Salvadorans emigrate to neighboring countries in search of work. In 1972 the average population density was 186 per sq km, and in 1971 urban dwellers accounted for about 40 percent of the total population. The largest cities are San Salvador (550,000 inhabitants in 1975, including suburbs), Santa Ana, San Miguel, Zacatecoluca, Nueva San Salvador, and Ahuachapán.

Historical survey.THE PRE-COLONIAL PERIOD. Prior to the seventh century El Salvador was settled by the Maya Indians. By the 16th century the western and central parts of the country were inhabited by Pipil Indians of the Nahuatl group. In the east lived the Lenca Indians, a distant branch of the Maya-Quiche family. The main occupation of the Indians was agriculture (the Pipil used irrigation), and the chief crops were corn, beans, cacao, and tobacco. Hunting and fishing were also important. The area of present-day El Salvador and its main city were called Cuscatlán. The ruins of Cuscatlán, Cojutepeque, and other cities attest to the high level of civilization attained by the Indians. The entire population was divided into castes. The Indians had a hieroglyphic writing system that has not yet been deciphered.

SPANISH DOMINATION (EARLY 16TH TO THE EARLY 19TH CENTURY). In the 1520’s Cuscatlán was conquered by the Spanish, who named the country El Salvador. There were many Indian rebellions, the largest one occurring in 1537. The Spanish colonialists seized the best land, which they distributed among themselves along with the Indians living on the land. Debt slavery, the encomienda system, and other forms of feudal exploitation became firmly entrenched. From the late 16th century, the colonialists also used the labor of Negro slaves imported from Africa. Agriculture, chiefly the production of indigo and cacao, became the mainstay of the country’s economy. Cities began to develop, notably San Salvador (founded in 1525), San Miguel (1530), and Chalatenango (1536). Between 1560 and 1821, El Salvador was part of the audiencia (captaincygeneral) of Guatemala. By the early 19th century, a substantial portion of the Indians and Negroes had mixed with the Spanish. The colonial oppression of Spain provoked discontent among various strata of the population. However, the first efforts of the patriots to secure independence, the uprisings of 1811 and 1814, were suppressed.

INDEPENDENCE (TO THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY). During the War of Independence of the Spanish-American Colonies (1810–26), the captaincygeneral of Guatemala proclaimed its independence on Sept. 15, 1821. The population of El Salvador enthusiastically supported the action. Soon, however, the country was occupied by Mexican troops and included in the Mexican empire headed by Iturbide. After the breakup of the empire, El Salvador became part of a federation, the United Provinces of Central America. In 1833 an uprising broke out among the Indians, who refused to pay their debts to white planters and traders. The revolt was brutally suppressed by government troops.

After the federation disintegrated, El Salvador became an independent republic in 1841. Its first years were marked by a continual power struggle between the liberal and conservative parties. The frequent coups d’etat and the wars with neighboring countries devastated the country. Presidents J. Barrios (1859–63), S. González (1871–76), and R. Zaldívar (1876–85) succeeded in carrying out liberal reforms conducive to the development of capitalism. An influx of foreign capital promoted the building of railroads and the spread of coffee plantations. Within a short time coffee became the main export and the mainstay of the economy. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, a proletariat gradually evolved, consisting for the most part of hired laborers on the coffee and indigo plantations. The “coffee barons” became the ruling oligarchy, controlling the country’s economic and political life.

THE 20TH CENTURY. Under the influence of the Great October Revolution in Russia, trade unions were organized in El Salvador in the 1920’s, and the Communist Party was founded in 1930. (The first workers’ associations had been formed on the eve of World War I.) The world economic crisis of 1929–33, which undermined El Salvador’s economy and the living standard of the masses, exacerbated the class struggle. To avert a revolutionary flare-up, the ruling circles staged a military coup in December 1931, placing in power a “strong man,” General M. Hernández Martínez, who established a dictatorial regime. An uprising of some 40,000 farm laborers and peasants, demanding land, broke out in January 1932. Led by Communists, the insurgents captured a number of towns and settlements, and for three days, until government troops suppressed the uprising, red flags waved over the towns.

In December 1941, El Salvador declared war on Germany, Italy, and Japan. During World War II, the USA became the main market for El Salvador’s exports and the country’s sole supplier of industrial goods and fuel. American air bases were established in El Salvador. The growing dissatisfaction with the Martínez regime took the form of an uprising in the army. Although the revolt was suppressed, the general strike that began soon after toppled the dictatorship in 1944. In 1948 the Government Council took power. It adopted a constitution in 1950 that for the first time granted women the right to vote and proclaimed democratic liberties, many of which just remained on paper. The governments of O. Osorio (1950–56) and J. M. Lemus (1956–60) weakened the workers’ movement and encouraged the flow of foreign capital into the country. A number of agreements providing for financial and technical aid were concluded with the USA.

The economic crisis of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, linked to declining coffee prices, as well as the victory of the revolution in Cuba in 1959, were conducive to the growth of the workers’ movement and the patriotic forces. With the support of the National Front for a Civilian Orientation a military-civilian junta came to power in October 1960 and restored democratic liberties. In January 1961, however, a reactionary military clique staged a coup. Diplomatic relations with Cuba were broken off, and an anti-Communist law on “subversive activity” was adopted. The National Conciliation Party (NCP) was founded with the support of the big bourgeoisie, the military, and the reactionary clergy. The governments of General J. A. Rivera (1962–67) and General F. Sánchez Hernández (1967–72) nullified many of the gains of the toiling people and gave still greater encouragement to foreign monopolies.

As a member of the Organization of Central American States and the Central American Defense Council, El Salvador supported the USA’s efforts to subvert revolutionary Cuba and the liberation movement in the western hemisphere. In the 1960’s new agreements were signed with the USA providing for economic aid, deliveries of military equipment and weapons, and the sending of an American military mission to El Salvador.

In July 1969 the ruling circles of El Salvador began a war with Honduras. The war was caused by economic and social conflicts between the two countries (the oppression and even eviction of Salvadorans who had come to Honduras in search of land), by territorial disputes, and by a conflict of interests among various US monopolies in Central America. The war, which lasted five days and ended after the intervention of the Organization of American States, seriously affected El Salvador’s economy. Tens of thousands of Salvadorans living in Honduras returned to El Salvador, whose economy was weakened by the loss of the Honduran market. Unemployment rose sharply, and social contradictions intensified.

The 1970’s were marked by strikes of workers, office employees, and teachers, by student demonstrations, and by peasant disturbances. In 1971 the democratic parties organized the National Opposition Union. Discontent with the regime spread to many strata of the petite and middle bourgeoisie and to part of the officer corps, as reflected in the uprising of the capital’s garrison in March 1972. The NCP governments headed by A. Armando Molina (1972–77) and by C. Humberto Romero (from 1977) responded to the demands for agrarian and other reforms with reprisals, repeatedly proclaiming a state of siege. Dozens of worker, peasant, and student leaders were imprisoned or deported or “disappeared.” Hundreds of participants in demonstrations were wounded or killed.

Between 1974 and 1976, El Salvador established trade relations with the USSR and other socialist countries.


Political parties, trade unions, and other social organizations. The National Conciliation Party (Partido de Conciliación Nacional), founded in 1961, reflects the interests of the big commercial and industrial bourgeoisie, the military, and part of the clergy. The Salvadoran Popular Party (Partido Popular Salvadoreño), established in 1960, draws its support from the right-wing nationalistic members of the bourgeoisie.

The Christian Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata Cristiano), organized in 1960, is the main opposition party. A multi-class party based on the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, the Christian Democratic Party represents the interests of part of the bourgeoisie, landlords, and petite bourgeoisie. The National Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Nacional Revolucionario) was formed in 1967 out of the remnants of a banned party that had been founded in 1948. It includes the petite bourgeoisie and some workers, peasants, and members of the intelligentsia. The party is calling for democratic social and economic reforms from an anti-imperialist standpoint. The National Democratic Union (Unión Democrática Nacionalista), founded in 1969, unites the petite and middle bourgeoisie and part of the students and intelligentsia. The Christian Democratic Party, the National Revolutionary Movement, and the National Democratic Union have united to form the National Opposition Union.

The United Independent Front (Frente Único Independiente), established in 1971, is a bourgeois group composed of middle-level landowners and tradesmen. The Communist Party of El Salvador (Partido Comunista de El Salvador), founded in 1930, operates underground.

The General Confederation of Unions, established in 1958, includes 41 trade unions with 27,000 members (1974). It belongs to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the Inter-American Regional Labor Organization. The Unitary Federation of Unions, founded in 1965, has 4,000 members (1974) and belongs to the World Federation of Trade Unions. The General Association of University Students is a member of the International Union of Students. The Union of Young Patriots, founded in 1960, was called the Vanguard of Salvadoran Youth until 1969.


Economy. El Salvador is an underdeveloped agricultural country specializing in the production of export crops. Foreign, chiefly US, capital holds key positions in the country’s economy, particularly in industry and the infrastructure. In 1972 the gross domestic product totaled 2.89 billion colones, with agriculture providing 26 percent, industry 19 percent, commerce and services 22 percent, transport and communications about 5 percent, and construction 3 percent.

AGRICULTURE. Two-thirds of the country’s total area is used for agriculture (1971); cultivated land occupies 49 percent of this area, and meadows and pastures cover 51 percent. Large farms of 50 hectares (ha) or more, accounting for 2.5 percent of all farms, occupy 59 percent of the arable land, and small farms of less than 1 ha each, constituting 40 percent of all farms, occupy only 2.3 percent of the arable land. Many peasants are landless. Various forms of land leasing and semifeudal exploitation, such as sharecropping and corvée, are widespread.

Most of the agricultural output for export is produced on large farms. Coffee, the leading export crop, contributes about two-fifths of the value of the country’s agricultural output. In 1974, 140,000 ha were planted to coffee, yielding a harvest of 140,000 tons. El Salvador is Latin America’s third leading exporter of coffee, after Brazil and Colombia. Most of the coffee-growing farms are found in the western part of the country and east of the Lempa River. After World War II cotton, grown along the coast, became an important export crop; 81,000 tons of cotton fiber were produced on 95,000 ha in 1974. Crops grown for domestic use include corn (210,000 ha, 336,000 tons in 1974), sorghum (131,000 ha, 157,000 tons), beans, rice, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables, cacao, tobacco, indigo, and henequen. In 1973–74 the livestock population included 1.2 million cattle and 400,000 hogs. There is some lumbering and gathering of forest products, such as the resin known as Peru balsam.

INDUSTRY. The rated capacity of El Salvador’s electric power plants is 207,000 kW (1971); 912 million kW-hr of electricity were generated in 1973, largely by hydroelectric power plants. Industry is represented chiefly by enterprises that process agricultural raw materials. The main branches of the food industry, concentrated in San Salvador, Santa Ana, Sonsonate, and San Vicente, are sugar refining (190,000 tons of raw sugar in 1973), flour milling, tobacco processing, and the production of instant coffee. The textile factories at Santa Ana, San Salvador, San Vicente, and other cities produce mostly cotton thread and cloth (49 million sq m in 1971) and henequen sacks for coffee. There are also footwear and garment factories and various other light industries. Handicrafts are well developed and include the production of shoes, hats, and pottery. Oil refineries (467,000 tons in 1972) and cement plants (186,000 tons) have been built in Acajutla. About 7 tons of silver were mined in 1972.

TRANSPORTATION. In 1971, El Salvador had 738 km of narrow-gauge railroad track. The main line connects Metapán and San Salvador with the port of La Unión. Of the country’s 10,700 km of motor-vehicle roads, 1,200 km were paved, 4,900 km were unpaved, and 4,600 km were usable only during the dry season. The Pan-American Highway crosses El Salvador. In 1972 the country had 58,800 motor vehicles, including 37,900 automobiles. The main seaports are Acajutla, which handled 72 percent of the country’s foreign trade cargo in 1970, La Unión, which accounted for 23 percent of the foreign trade freight turnover, and La Libertad, a passenger port. The Ilopango Airport is 8 km from San Salvador.

FOREIGN TRADE. In 1972 imports totaled 692.5 million colones and exports 695 million colones. The main exports are coffee (41 percent of the value of exports in 1972), cotton (25 percent), sugar (6 percent), chemical products (6 percent), and shrimp (2 percent). The leading imports are industrial and consumer goods (34 percent of the value of imports in 1972), machinery, equipment, and vehicles (27 percent), chemical products (22 percent), foodstuffs (9 percent), and fuel and lubricants (8 percent). El Salvador’s principal trading partners are the Central American countries (buying 34 percent of El Salvador’s exports and providing 27 percent of its imports in 1972), the USA (16 percent and 28 percent), the Federal Republic of Germany (23 percent and 8 percent), and Japan (14 percent and 11 percent). The monetary unit is the colón; 2.5 colones equal US $ 1 (April 1975).


Armed forces. In 1974 the country’s armed forces consisted of an army of about 4,500 men, an air force of some 1,000 men, and a navy of about 200 men. The commander in chief is the president, and the armed forces are directed by the minister of national defense. The armed forces are recruited on the basis of a universal military service. The draft age is 18, and the term of active military service is one year. Weapons are foreign-made.

Medicine and public health. According to statistics provided by the World Health Organization, the birth rate was 40.7 and the mortality rate 8.6 per 1,000 inhabitants in 1972. The infant mortality rate in 1971 was 52.5 per 1,000 live births. The average life expectancy is 58 years. Infectious diseases predominate and are the main cause of death. Malaria, venereal disease, childhood infections, tuberculosis, and gastrointestinal diseases are prevalent. Also common are disorders associated with malnutrition. There are no sharp differences in regional pathology.

Medical care is provided by state medical institutions and facilities operated by the social security system; only 3 percent of the population is covered by social security. Private medical care is available. In 1972 there were 75 hospitals with 6,400 beds, or 1.7 beds per 1,000 inhabitants. That year there were 952 doctors (one for every 3,600 inhabitants), 372 dentists, and about 4,000 intermediate medical personnel. Doctors are trained by the university medical faculty.

Public health expenditures amounted to 12.4 percent of the state budget in 1970. Z. A. BELOVA

Education and scientific institutions. The first schools were founded by missionaries in the 16th century. Secular general schools were introduced in the 19th century. Today, state, municipal, and private kindergartens are available to children four to six years of age. Six years of primary education is compulsory. However, although urban areas have six-year primary schools, rural schools offer only two to four years of instruction. Five-year secondary schools, consisting of two cycles of three and two years each, are open to those who have completed a six-year primary school. The first cycle provides a general education, and the second cycle is divided into a humanities and a natural-science curriculum. Graduates of a six-year primary school may enroll in four- or five-year vocational schools.

Urban primary school teachers are trained at three-year normal schools, open to those who have completed the first cycle of a secondary school. Rural teachers are trained at four-year normal schools that admit graduates of a six-year primary school. In 1970, 24,200 children were enrolled in 235 preschool institutions. In the 1970–71 school year, some 510,000 pupils were attending 2,787 primary schools, 60,900 students were enrolled in secondary schools, and 27,400 students were being trained in vocational schools.

Higher educational institutions include the University of El Salvador (founded in 1841) and the private Central American University (1965), both in San Salvador, the Central American Technical Institute in Nueva San Salvador, and the National Agricultural School in La Libertad. In the 1971–72 academic year, more than 12,000 students attended higher educational institutions. Also in San Salvador are the National Library (founded in 1870; 95,000 volumes), the National Museum (1883), a zoological park, and a botanical garden.

Most of the country’s scientific institutions are in San Salvador. They include the Meteorological Service (founded in 1953 to replace the National Meteorological and Seismological Observatory, established in 1889), the Hygiene Board (1900), the Nuclear Energy Commission (1961), the Geotechnics Center (1964), the Indian Institute of El Salvador, the General Office of Statistics (1881), the El Salvador Academy, and the El Salvador Academy of History (1925). Scientific work is also done at the institutes of history, philosophy, economics, and tropical studies (1950) affiliated with the University of El Salvador. In Nueva San Salvador is the General Office of Agricultural Research, which operates the El Salvador Coffee Institute (1956).

Press, radio, and television. In 1977, 48 newspapers and periodicals were published in El Salvador, including 12 dailies, with a total circulation of 267,000 copies. The largest dailies issued in San Salvador are El Diario de Hoy (since 1936, circulation 74,000), Diario Latino (since 1890, circulation 36,000), the governmental Diario Oficial (since 1875, circulation 2,300), La Prensa Gráfica (since 1915, circulation 114,500), El Mundo, an evening paper (circulation 42,000), and Tribuna Libre (since 1933, circulation 19,800). La Verdad, the illegal press organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, is published twice a month.

El Salvador has one government radio station and 49 commercial stations. Television broadcasting was instituted in 1956; there are four channels.

Literature. The Maya-Quiche hieroglyphs that have survived have not yet been deciphered. Prior to the 19th century the literature written in Spanish was essentially religious. A national literature developed after the country gained its independence in 1841. Romantic poetry flourished in the mid-19th century. Its leading exponents were M. Alvarez Castro (1795–1856), E. Hoyos (1810–59), known for his collection Apóstrofes, J. J. Cañas (1826–1918), who wrote the national anthem and patriotic verse, and I. Ruiz Araujo (1850–81). Romanticism gave way to modernism, whose outstanding representative was F. Gavidia (1863–1955), a follower of R. Darío. Gavidia interpreted modernism as a trend in which national themes and innovation in poetic technique converge. Democratic ideals are expressed in his Works (1913).

Prose works describing customs and manners appeared in the early 20th century. The best novels and short stories in this vein were written by H. Alvarado (1845–1929), A. Ambrogi (1875–1936), noted for his Book of the Tropics (parts 1–2, 1907–16), A. Rivas Bonilla (born 1891), and F. Herrerra Vela-do, author of the collections Lies and Truth (1923) and Coconut Milk (1926). Also noteworthy are the works of A. Masferrer (1868–1932), who blended art and scholarship in his treatment of national and continental problems in Seven Strings of the Lyre (1926) and Helios (1928). Using the pseudonym T. P. Mechín, J. M. Peralta Lagos (1873–1944) published collections of satirical short stories, the novel Death of a Dove, or the Correspondent’s Mishap (1932), and the play The Candidate (1932). The short stories of S. Salazar Arrué (born 1899, pseudonym Salarmé) are remarkable for their realism.

Formalist and decadent tendencies predominated in poetry in the early 20th century. An important poet of this period was C. Bustamante (1890–1952). The avant-garde movement spread in the 1920’s, led by the poet J. Valdés (1893–1934), noted for his collection Pure Poetry (1929), and V. Rosales y Rosales (born 1894).

After World War II, existentialist ideas were reflected in such works as W. Béneke’s plays Paradise for the Imprudent (1956) and Requiem (1959), the poems of H. Lindo (born 1917), and the plays of W. Chávez Velasco and R. Menéndez. The exploitation of farm laborers was vividly described by M. A. Espino (1902–67) in his novel People and Death (1947). A Communist is portrayed in the novel In the Neón Selva (1956) by R. Velásquez (born 1913). The novel Real Men (1959) by C. A. Castro (born 1926) deals with Indian life, and the novel Red Wave (1960) by F. Machón Vilanova describes the popular uprising of 1932. Social themes dominate the poetry of O. Escobar Velado (1918–61) and R. Dalton García (born 1935), best known for his collections Window Before Your Face (1961), Testimony (1964), and Taverns and Other Places (1968). Social issues are also central to the poetry of M. de la Selva (born 1930), R. Armijo (born 1937), R. Bogrand, and J. R. Cea.


Architecture and art. The ancient Indian cultures west of the Lempa River, in the Cuscatlán region, were linked to the civilizations in southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. The Indians of this region built “stadiums” for ritual ball games and made stone statues of deities and stelae decorated with reliefs. East of the Lempa River, the influence of the Indian cultures of Nicaragua and Costa Rica was reflected in the erection of clay and stone fortifications and the production of grinding stones adorned with animal heads, effigy vessels, and jadeite artifacts.

In the colonial period, the architecture of El Salvador was similar to that of Guatemala. Towns of one-story adobe houses developed according to a regular layout. The country’s low churches had strong lapidary forms, rich carving on the portals, and elaborate pediments on the facades. Modern structures—banks, hotels, and office buildings—have been constructed only since the second half of the 1940’s. Among the leading architects are A. Sol and E. de Sola. Each city is divided into well-planned modern districts and slums, or Indian quarters. In rural areas straw huts predominate.

In the 20th century painting has developed under the influence of European and Mexican art. The first painter to depict the life of the common people was S. Salazar Arrué, better known as Salarmé. J. Mejía Vides helped disseminate the progressive ideas of Mexican painting and graphic art. The paintings of N. Canjura, R. Elas Reyes, and C. A. Cañas reflect a strong interest in contemporary life and the use of 20th-century artistic techniques. Democratic sentiments are characteristic of the realistic wood sculpture of V. Estrada, N. Nochez Avenda-ño, and J. Aguilar Guzmán. Folk art is represented by ceramics (figurines of peasants, utensils) and articles of straw and tortoise shell.


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Barberena, S. I. Historia de el Salvador, 2nd ed., vols. 1–2. San Salvador, 1966–69.
Dalton, R. El Salvador. Havana, 1963.
Mamontov, S. P. Ispanoiazychnaia literatura stran Latinskoi Ameriki v XX v. Moscow, 1972.
Khudozhestvennaia literatura Latinskoi Ameriki v russkoi pechati, 1765–1959. [Compiled by L. A. Shur.] Moscow, 1960.
Shur, L. A. Khudozhestvennaia literatura Latinskoi Ameriki v russkoi pechati, 1960–1964. Moscow, 1966.
Toruño, J. F. Desarrollo literario de El Salvador. San Salvador [1958].
Salinas, M. Antología del cuento salvadoreño (1880–1955). San Salvador, 1959.
Gallegos Valdes, L. Panorama de la literatura salvadoreña, 2nd ed. San Salvador, 1962.
Junge Kunst aus El Salvador. Vienna, 1958.

El Salvador


a town in Chile, in Chañaral Province. Located in the Andes, at an elevation of more than 2,800 m. Population, about 6,000 (1970). El Salvador is a center for the mining and smelting of copper.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

El Salvador

Official name: Republic of El Salvador

Capital city: San Salvador

Internet country code: .sv

Flag description: Three equal horizontal bands of blue (top), white, and blue with the national coat of arms cen­tered in the white band; the coat of arms features a round emblem encircled by the words Republica de El Salvador en la America Central

National anthem: “Saludemos la patria orgullosos” (first line of chorus), lyrics by Juan José Cañas, music by Juan Aberle

National bird: Torogoz or Talapo

National flower: Izote flower

National tree: Maquilishuat

Geographical description: Central America, bordering the

North Pacific Ocean, between Guatemala and Honduras

Total area: 8,008 sq. mi. (20,742 sq. km.)

Climate: Tropical; rainy season (May to October); dry sea­

son (November to April); tropical on coast; temperate in uplands

Nationality: noun: Salvadoran(s); adjective: Salvadoran

Population: 6,948,073 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Mestizo 90%, European 9%, Amerindian 1%

Languages spoken: Spanish, Nahua

Religions: Roman Catholic about 48%, Protestant 28%, other Christian less than 5%, none 14.6%

Legal Holidays:

Christmas DayDec 25
Dia de la RazaOct 12
Dia de los DifuntosNov 2
Independence DaySep 15
Labor DayMay 1
Maundy Thursday – Holy SaturdayApr 23, 2011; Apr 7, 2012; Mar 30, 2013; Apr 19, 2014; Apr 4, 2015; Mar 26, 2016; Apr 15, 2017; Mar 31, 2018; Apr 20, 2019; Apr 11, 2020; Apr 3, 2021; Apr 16, 2022; Apr 8, 2023
New Year's DayJan 1
New Year's EveDec 31
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.

El Salvador

a republic in Central America, on the Pacific: colonized by the Spanish from 1524; declared independence in 1841, becoming a republic in 1856. It consists of coastal lowlands rising to a central plateau. Coffee constitutes over a third of the total exports. Official language: Spanish. Religion: Roman Catholic majority. Currency: US dollar. Capital: San Salvador. Pop.: 6 614 000 (2004 est.). Area: 21 393 sq. km (8236 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
After presenting his Letter of Credence, Ambassador Dissanayake conveyed the greetings and best wishes from President Maithripala Sirisena to El Salvadorian President President Salvador Sanchez Ceren.
The last time an El Salvadorian club reached the final of the Concacaf Champions Cup - the precursor the Cconcacaf Champions League which started in 2008-09 - w as in 1981 when Atletico Marte finished runners-up.
Nevertheless, the El Salvadorian revival is not a monolithic movement, and it is highly mutable.
Kicking things up a notch at Restaurant Eve, Thrasher thought of his wife's favorite El Salvadorian snack--fresh cucumbers sprinkled with spicy salt and lime--when creating the rim for Maria's Margarita.
Since the outbreak, the fragile El Salvadorian medical infrastructure was overwhelmed each May as patients sought reassurance that family members would not succumb to a potentially deadly infection.
El Salvadorian reformers worked with the media to explain and build support for the changes.
El Salvadorian Vice President Ana Vilma de Escobar will return home from Japan in high spirits as Japan's development expert Sadako Ogata has pleased her with a Japan-led plan to improve primary school mathematics education in El Salvador and seven other Central American nations.
The needs of the El Salvadorian people are so many, and the volunteers have to tread carefully in a culture that is not their own.
Among other things, El Salvadorian officials hope to encourage an even greater level of remittances of dollars to the country from citizens living and working in the United States.
* Morena Lidia Azucena Mayorga of La Prensa Grafica for "The Immigrants," the story of a family of parakeets searching for a place to steep in an El Salvadorian town after their trees were cut down to widen a road.
Chen was greeted at the airport in San Salvador by El Salvadorian President Francisco Flores, who said he looks forward to exchanging views with Chen on ways of strengthening cooperation between Taiwan and Central American countries.
The estimated 224 million yen to be provided to the El Salvadorian government is meant to be used for the purchase of material to build 10,000 temporary homes for the victims, the ministry said.