El Salvador: A Profile

By: Matthew Parker Full Name: Republic of El Salvador

Population: 6.2 million (UN, 2009)

Capital: San Salvador

Area: 21,041 sq km (8,124 sq miles) About the Size of Massachusetts

Major Language: Spanish

Major Religions: Roman Catholicism and Evangelical Christianity

Life Expectancy: 67 years (men), 76 years (women) (UN)

Monetary Unit: US Dollar & Salvadoran Colon (The Colon is rarely used)

Main Exports: Offshore assembly exports, coffee, sugar, shrimp, textiles, chemicals, electricity

Current Politic: President Mauricio Funes: FMLN (Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front)

El Salvador, “The Savior,” is a small heavily industrialized country; the most densely populated on the mainland of the Americas.  This region was originally settled by the Pipil Indians, descendants of the Aztecs, who immigrated there around 1000 CE.  The once vibrant remains of indigenous culture were nearly erased during a government sponsored massacre in 1932.  Today El Salvador has the lowest population of Indigenous people in Central America, about 1%.   September 15, 1821 marks El Salvador’s independence from Spanish Colonization (1524 CE) and continues to be a dominant symbol of Salvadoran freedom from oppression.  From 1931 to 1979 El Salvador was dominated and deeply influenced by a series of military dictatorships that included a peasant uprising in 1932 which lead up to the explosive 12 year Civil War lasting from 1980-1992.

Two volcanic mountain ranges intersect within El Salvador in contrast to a narrow coastal region and a high plain in the south.  Active volcanoes contribute to repeated floods and earthquakes while the low coast line invites damaging tropical storm and hurricane activity.  Forests predominate into the highest elevations, a result of productive land and soil resources.  The most fertile flat lowlands are reserved for large corporate textile and machine manufacturing warehouses and the higher farmland is dedicated to coffee bean export.  Sugar and Cotton dominate the majority of El Salvador's remaining fertile farm land.  Although able to produce large amounts of agricultural yield, the majority of land in El Salvador belongs to commercial growing corporations that sell for export.  This requires Salvadorans to import food and produce from the U.S. and South America for the general public.

Attempts to develop the economy and participate in the global market has lead El Salvador to sign free-trade agreements with the U.S. and change the national currency from the Salvadoran Colon to the U.S. Dollar (1991).  This economic reform purposed  to develop major cities, and renovate a road system which allows commercial trade vehicles to efficiently pass through the country via the Pan-American Highway.  Salvadorans currently living in the U.S. are among El Salvador’s largest sources of income.  Despite attempts to globalize, El Salvador has faced disastrous hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes in the last 10 years.  These factors have crippled the economy and the people resulting in the need for basic sustainable growth and community organization at a local level.