El Salvador Overview
|Rep¨˛blica de El Salvador
|Form of government
||US dollars, Colon
|Telephone area code
The Republic of El Salvador is located in Central
America and, with around 21 041 km² and its large
population, is a small, very densely populated country.
It borders Guatemala in the northwest, Honduras in the
northeast, and the Pacific Ocean in the south.
The coastal cordilleras run along the Pacific coast;
there are about 20 volcanoes, some of which are still
active. The highest mountain in the country is Cerro El
Pital (2,730 m), which is located inland near the border
with Honduras on a plateau from 400 to 1,000 m above sea
level. The plateau is crossed by broad high valleys and
was considered a preferred settlement area due to its
fertile volcanic soils. The longest river in El Salvador
is the R¨Şo Lempa, which rises in Guatemala and flows
into the Pacific after around 140 km. The country's
capital is San Salvador with 1.99 million residents
Due to its geographical location, El Salvador is
particularly prone to earthquakes: three continental
plates meet on the Pacific coast offshore, the friction
of which repeatedly causes earthquakes, such as 1986 and
2001, as 7.0 and 7.6 magnitude quakes on the Richter
scale wreaked havoc in the country and claimed thousands
In El Salvador there is a tropical changing climate
with a pronounced rainy season from May to October. Up
to 2,000 mm are measured annually in the mountains, and
between 1,000 and 1,500 mm in the valleys of the
highlands. Temperatures are evenly high all year round.
In San Salvador, which is 700 m above sea level, average
temperatures of around 23 ˇăC are measured in January and
around 25 ˇăC in July.
Flora and fauna
Much of the tree population in El Salvador was cut
down to use the land for large monocultures or for
settlement. Only about 5% of the country's area is still
covered by forest. Mahogany and balsa trees and cedar
play a role in the timber industry. A remnant of the
original cloud forest (Montecristo) lies in the border
triangle of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala in the
north of the country and has been declared a nature
reserve. The cloud forest begins at an altitude of
approximately 2,100 m and is characterized by giant
ferns, oaks, tall laurel trees, orchids, mushrooms and
There are only a few habitats left in El Salvador for
larger wild mammals. In remote forest areas, anteaters,
monkeys, skunks, ocelots and pumas can still be
observed. The bird world, on the other hand, is rich in
species, including various types of hummingbirds,
parrots and the quetzal (the heraldic animal of
Guatemala). For reasons of species protection, the
Montecristo cloud forest is only accessible to visitors
outside the breeding season.
Around 6.71 million people live in El Salvador, a
good third of them below the poverty line. The
originally indigenous Indians (most of the Pipil people)
now only make up a small percentage of the population.
90% of the country's residents are mestizos, ie
half-breeds between Europeans (mostly Spaniards) and
Indians. Spanish is the national language and is spoken
by the majority of the population, indigenous languages
such as Nahua are only local.
According to COUNTRYAAH, 85% belong to the Roman Catholic faith, the
name El Salvador means "The Redeemer" in Spanish.
Overpopulation is a problem, although the trend is
declining (population growth is 1.4%), because the
country is already the most densely populated in Central
America and has hardly any new living space to offer to
the constantly growing population. A large part of the
rural population, which had been displaced by the
nationwide monocultures on land too small for their own
use, migrated to the more industrially developed cities
such as San Salvador or La Libertad. So far, these have
not been able to adapt the housing situation,
infrastructure and sanitary facilities to the rapidly
growing population. The result is slums on the
Although compulsory school attendance, literacy is
only 80%, which is due in part to the twelve-year civil
El Salvador is a presidential republic with a
constitution of 1983. The head of state and head of
government is the president (since June 2014 Salvador
S¨˘nchez Cer¨¦n). He is elected by the people for five
years (no re-election possible).
The unicameral parliament of the country (Asamblea
Legislativa) has 84 seats, the members are directly
elected by the people for three years. There is a
compulsory choice from the age of 18.
The country is divided into 14 departments.
The economy is only slowly recovering from the
aftermath of the long civil war, and there have been
repeated natural disasters such as Hurrican "Mitch" in
1998 and the January 2001 earthquake that wreaked havoc.
Over a third of the population lives below the poverty
line. The official unemployment rate is 6%, but in
reality around 40% unemployment and underemployment can
be assumed. Foreign exchange from former residents of
the country who now live abroad account for 18% of GDP.
In agriculture, coffee, sugar cane and cotton are
mainly grown in large plantations for export. The export
of shellfish (shrimp) also plays a role. Rice, cereals
and beans are grown for personal use.
The industry produces foods and beverages, tobacco,
chemical products (eg fertilizers) and textiles. Raw
materials, capital and consumer goods are imported.
The United States is by far the top trading partner,
both in terms of exports and imports. Other partners are
Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico and Honduras.
Tourism plays almost no role in El Salvador.
In 2001, the government decided to peg the local
currency (Col¨®n) to the US dollar and introduce it as a
second currency to stimulate the country's stagnant
economy. In the meantime, the US dollar has almost
completely displaced the Colon.