If you had no idea that a country named El Salvador exists, don’t worry – you’re definitely not alone. Although this Central American country gained its independence more than a hundred years ago, plenty of people around the world have little to no knowledge of it. Like many other small nations, it receives a lot less attention than it deserves. Below, you’ll find a list of nine interesting facts about El Salvador that are worth knowing.
El Salvador Facts
1. El Salvador means “The Savior”
The Spaniards were the first among the Europeans to set foot on what is now the territory of El Salvador. Following the Spanish conquest in the early 16th century, the lengthy name that conquistador Pedro de Alvarado came up with for this newly-conquered land was “Provincia De Nuestro Señor Jesus Cristo, El Salvador Del Mundo.” If you translate that in English, it reads “Province of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World.” Unsurprisingly, it eventually came to be abbreviated to “El Salvador,” meaning “The Savior.” The official name of the country today is the Republic of El Salvador.
2. It is Central America’s smallest yet most densely-populated country
Among the seven countries that make up Central America, El Salvador has the smallest territory. Its total area is 8,124 square miles. It’s due its minuteness that the country is often affectionately referred to as Pulgarcito de America, or the Tom Thumb of the Americas.
As of 2020, it is home to around 6.48 million people. That means, on average, around 800 people are living in each square mile of the country. That’s the highest population density in Central America, a fun fact about El Salvador. Its population is 18 times greater than that of Belize, a slightly bigger country in the isthmus. More than 73 percent of the Salvadoran population reside in urban areas, with the capital San Salvador alone accommodating over 2.1 million people.
3. The country is nicknamed “The Land of Volcanoes”
El Salvador is home to more than 20 volcanoes, which is a lot for a country of its size. Of them, two volcanoes – San Miguel and Izalco – have been active in recent years. The country has a long history of catastrophic earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, with its capital itself being destroyed twice already, in 1756 and 1854. As a result, El Salvador has come to be known as “The Land of Volcanoes.”
4. El Salvador is the only Central American country that lacks a coastline on the Caribbean Sea
Out of the seven countries in Central America, El Salvador is the only one that doesn’t have a territory connected to the Caribbean Sea. However, what it does have is a coastline of roughly 190 miles on the Pacific Ocean. On a side note, all countries in the isthmus, except Belize, have a coastline on the ocean.
5. It has the lowest percentage of black population in Central America
People of African descent are a minority in Central America, representing below 10 percent of the population in every country except Belize and Panama. In El Salvador, however, they make up no more than 0.13 percent of the Mestizo-majority population, a fun El Salvador fact. Members of the Afro-Salvadoran community are descendants of the 10,000 African slaves who were brought to the country from mid-16th century to early 17th century.
Unlike its neighbors, El Salvador barely has any English Antillean or Garifuna populations of the Caribbean. This is due to the fact that for around five decades, from the 1930s to the 1980s, the country had strict laws in place banning blacks and some other races from entering its territory. Hence, it is the only Central American country that lacks what you would call a “Caribbeanized culture.”
6. The country has made a name as a world-class surfing destination
An interesting fact about El Salvador is that tourists with surfing boards are not a rare sight in Salvadoran airports. This is because the country has become a sought-after destination for surfing enthusiasts from across the globe. It is home to a number of world-famous surf spots, including Las Flores, Sunzal, and El Zonte. Thanks to these spots, El Salvador has managed to host a number of international surfing competitions in the recent past.
7. The largest pretzel in the world was made in El Salvador
If you were to guess where the largest pretzel in the world was made, you’d probably say somewhere in Germany or another European country. In reality, however, it was made in the Salvadoran capital in 2015 by Industrias La Constancia with its brand Pilsener. According to Guinness World Records, this humongous piece of baked pastry weighed 1,728 pounds, with its length and width measuring 8.93 meters and 4.06 meters respectively, a fun El Salvador fact.
The country is also where the largest pupusa in the world was made. But that’s hardly a surprising fact, given that the thick flatbread is the national dish here.
8. It has a higher murder rate than any other country in the world
The days of the 12-plus-year-long Salvadorian Civil War, which took the lives of around 80,000 people, are long over. Yet, people are still getting killed in El Salvador like nowhere else in the world. As an epicenter of a gang crisis, the country shamefully boasts the highest murder rate on the face of the planet.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the number of victims of intentional homicide in the country was 61.80 per 100,000 citizens in 2017. Unsurprisingly, some other Central American and Caribbean countries like Jamaica, Honduras, and Belize also have notably high murder rates.
9. A Salvadoran host will expect you to arrive a little later than invited
If you end up being invited to a Salvadoran household, the last thing you should probably do is show up on time. You should try to be at least 30 to 45 minutes late. Because that’s exactly what the host would be expecting from you. Hence, punctuality is a big no-no in this case.
Also, don’t try to leave right away when you are done eating, unless you have no problems with being considered rude. The host would expect you to stay for an hour or so after the meal, and socialize with people around you.
I hope that this article on El Salvador facts was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!