Sunday, February 23, 2014


Ok, I’m back. Well, I would’ve been right on schedule had I known my doctor was going to cancel my surgery in lieu of getting my thyroid back to normal.  Sheesh, this is getting to be too much drama for me. I think what I need is some food from El Salvador.

El Salvador is the smallest country in the Central American isthmus on the Pacific Ocean side. In fact, it’s the only country in Central America that doesn’t touch the Atlantic (just like how Belize is the only one that doesn’t touch the Pacific).  It’s surrounded by Guatemala and Honduras.  El Salvador is plagued with frequent and disastrous earthquakes, along with having over twenty volcanoes, some of which are still active – such wonderful gifts from being on the Ring of Fire. It also has over 300 rivers, the most important of which is the Rio Lempa. They have a definite rainy and dry season, even though they call their rainy season winter, which is actually from May to October.  (I wish it just rained during winter here.)  Hurricanes are also a threat to the country, as well as other extreme weather like El Niño, La Niña and droughts. El Salvador is also a country with a rich biodiversity because of its tropical climate. They’re known for being home to several species of sea turtles.

The capital city is San Salvador.  It’s not only the largest city with about 2.4 million people in the metro area, but it’s also vital as the government, culture, educational, and economic center. It’s been the host of several international and pan-American sports competitions.  In almost every sense, San Salvador is a modern city and tourist attraction with museums, parks, shopping, excellent restaurants, and cultural arts.

The original inhabitants were the Pipil people, who spoke Nahuatl. It’s also believed that the Mayans may have also been in the area as well, since El Salvador lies on the edge of their civilization.  El Salvador wasn’t able to escape the same smallpox epidemic that his other areas of the Caribbean, Central, and South America when the Spaniards made their entrance.  The Spanish practically lost their minds over the gold found in Mexico and Guatemala, but when they got to the Pipil lands, they were sorely dismayed at the lack of gold. However, the area had great soil from the volcanic lands. So, they kept it anyway. There were many battles fought between the Pipils and the Spanish, ones in which the Pipil didn’t fare so well. Finally, Salvadorans banded together and declared their independence from Spain.  Soon after that, they joined Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua to create the Federal Republic of Central America. It only lasted 20 years until it dissolved, and El Salvador became it’s own independent country until it joined the Greater Republic of Central America, along with Honduras and Nicaragua. It dissolved after two years, and El Salvador once again became it’s own independent country. The country turned its focus on coffee production as its main means of economic growth.  The 20th century brought along a string of political uprisings and coup d’états.  There have been many economic reforms in the 1990s and other social reforms aimed at bettering the state of the union.  Crime remains a prevalent problem throughout the country. 

The economy in this country has had its ups and downs.  In fact, like Ecuador, El Salvador adapted the US Dollar as its currency to stabilize their economy.  Natural disasters have always had a negative impact on their economy as they struggle to rebuild.  El Salvador has often been considered a mono-export country, meaning one that pretty much relies on one product.  It used to be indigo but later switched to coffee. Inflation is fairly steady although still one of the lowest in the region.  And even at that, it still has the third largest economy in Central America.  They are seeing growth, and like other Central American and Caribbean countries, ecotourism is one contribution.  Remittances from abroad – when people move to another country for employment and send part of the money home – are another contribution, as well as free-trade agreements.

Look at the size of those baskets -- this has GOT to be back-breaking work.
The vast majority of Salvadorans identify themselves as Christians – Roman Catholics as the primary denomination, followed by Protestantism.  The next most common belief is non-belief: this includes people who are atheist, agnostic, or people who believe in some sort of god but doesn’t have a religion.  There are other religions represented in El Salvador but with much smaller followings.

Spanish is the most widely-spoken language in El Salvador.  Other indigenous languages that are spoken by a small population are Q’eqchi’ (a language spoken by indigenous people from Guetemalan and Belizian who were living in El Salvador), Nawat, and Maya, although these speakers also speak Spanish as well.  Common foreign languages that are learned in school are French, Dutch, German, and English.  And since WWII, there are also small Japanese and Taiwanese communities as well. 

There are a few famous people of Salvadoran descent.  Christy Turlington, model for Calvin Klein, Maybelline, and Versace is half-Salvadoran.  Writer and artist Consuelo de Saint Exupéry is from El Salvador; she married French writer Antoine de Saint Exupéry, author of one of my favorite books, The Little Prince.  And unfortunately, the street gang MS-13 that is based in Los Angeles, San Francisco and many other cities across the US, Canada, Mexico, and Central America is made up of ex-pat Salvadorans. But on the other hand, it’s one of the few countries that is experiencing reforestation of its tropical rain forests.  It does host one UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a place called Joya de Ceren.  The entire site was covered in ashes after a volcanic explosion and has been called the “Pompeii of the Americas.”  It makes you wonder perhaps how many other things that have been buries under volcanic ash that we haven’t discovered yet.

Up next: holidays and celebrations

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