El Salvador is Central America’s smallest and most densely populated country. Already struggling to recover from a civil war in the 1980’s, it was badly struck by earthquakes in 2001.
Geography: El Salvador is a narrow coastal belt backed by two mountain ranges. There is a central plateau. The country is located within a seismic zone, and there are more than 20 volcanic peaks.
Climate: Tropical coastal belt is very hot, with seasonal rains. Cooler, temperate climate in highlands.
People and Society: Population is largely mestizo; ethnic tensions are few. The 1981–1991 civil war was fought between the US-backed right-wing government and left-wing FMLN guerrillas, over gross economic disparities, which still exist despite some reform. During the war, 75,000 people died, many of whom were unarmed civilians, and human rights abuses were widespread. The FMLN won the presidency in 2009.
The Economy; Coffee, sugar. Garment industry. Remittances from overseas. Frequent natural disasters damage infrastructure and homes and deepen country’s reliance on aid. Five-year anti-poverty program for north from 2007.
Insight: Independent since 1841, El Salvador is named after Jesus Christ, “the saviour” of Christians
Official Name: Republic of El Salvador
Date of Formation: 1841
Capital: San Salvador
Population: 6.16 million
Total Area: 8124 sq. miles (21,040 sq. km)
Density: 770 people per sq. mile
Religions: Roman Catholic 80%, Evangelical 18%, other 2%
Ethnic Mix: Mestizo 94%, Amerindian 5%, White 1%
Government: Presidential system
Currency: Salvadorean colon = 100 centavos; US dollar = 100 cents