About El Salvador

El Salvador is the smallest country in terms of area in Central America yet has the highest population density. Its population of over seven million citizens has a large percentage living abroad - mainly in the United States. Economic opportunities are extremely limited within the country. In fact, the amount of foreign remittances from citizens living elsewhere exceeds the entire budget of the federal government. El Salvador also has the highest debt of any Central America country; approximately ten billion dollars, 14% of its population lives in extreme poverty.


The country was "founded" by the Spanish in 1524 who came from Mexico looking for gold. When precious metals were not found, the area was turned into a giant Spanish plantation leading to the mass deforestation of the land. Indigo and coffee were the main crops.

Gaining independence from Spain in 1821, El Salvador entered into a period of concentrated wealth by oligarchs who thrived through coffee exports. The discrepancies in income between the rich and poor grew even larger.

The first large scale uprising among the peasants began in the 1930's. It was ruthlessly suppressed by the government, and referred to as La Mantanza (the massacre). A succession of military dictatorships supported by the United States followed, leading to a full scale civil war in 1980. After 12 years of fighting, peace accords were finally signed.


In the spring of 2009, the first liberal president of the FMLN party representing all the people was finally elected. Changes are being made as Mauricio Funes implements reforms to alleviate poverty and raise living standards. Optimism prevails as El Salvador finally enters into a new era.

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