El Salvador
By Andy Pelos


El Salvador is located in Central America, bordering the Pacific Ocean between Guatemala and Honduras and touching the Gulf of Fonseca, as do Honduras and Nicaragua further south. With a population of approximately 7.2 million people in an area of 8123 square miles, El Salvador (Republic of The Savior) is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. An overwhelming amount of El Salvadorians speak Spanish, and their culture is similar to that of other Latin American countries.


The colón was the currency of El Salvador from 1892 to 2001, when El Salvador adopted the U.S. Dollar. With a GDP of $22.3 billion, a GDP growth rate of -3.5% per year, and a yearly per capata of $3,547,El Salvador's economy has seen better days. Industry makes up 20% of the Salvadorian GDP, mainly textiles, medicine, food and drink processing, and chemical processing factories and plants. El Salvador's main exports include textiles and apparel, ethyl alcohol, coffee, sugar, medicines, iron and steel products, tuna, light manufacturing, and paper products. 7.2% of of Salvadorians are unemployed.


The government of El Salvador is a presidential representative democratic republic. The executive official (president) is elected through a process similar to that of the United States, but to be elected a candidate must hold an absolute majority of votes. Mauricio Funes, 51, is the current president of El Salvador, and was elected in 2009. Funes won the election with a slim 51.3% of the votes. Since his election, Mr Funes has had to deal with healing communities harmed by hurricane Ida as well as growing crime rates in El Salvador. Some blame him for not having a proper plan to deal with crime, and since he has taken office, homicide rates have increased.

Population Makeup

85% of Salvadorians are mixed (mixed Native American and European origin) a major hybrid mix. The Salvadorians of mixed ancestry vary in their European (primarily Spanish, French, and German) and Native American ancestry. 12% of Salvadorians are white. There is a significant population of Palestinian Christian and Chinese immigrants in El Salvador as well, as well as a small community of Jews and Muslims. The languages most commonly spoken in El Salvador are Spanish, English, Nahuat, and Pipil (languages of some of the indigenous people of El Salvador. The most typical Salvadorian is male, with 1.04 males per female resident.


While El Salvador has an international identity for being primarily Roman Catholic, only 48% of the total population is Roman Catholic. Protestant groups are rapidly growing, with 28.2% of the population in the Protestant church. Other groups include smaller Christian communities, such as Mormon, as well as small communities of Jews and Muslims.

Pop Culture

In El Salvador, the voseo form of Spanish is dominant in both speech and publications. El Salvador is one out of two Central American nations that uses voseo Spanish as its written and spoken form. The same Spanish form is also seen in Argentina, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Paraguay, and coastal Colombia. The music of El Salvador has a mixture of Mayan, Pipil and Spanish influences. This music includes religious songs used to celebrate Christmas and other holidays, especially feast days of the saints. Satirical and rural lyrical themes are common. Popular styles in modern El Salvador include salsa, cumbia, hip hop and reggaeton. Popular music in El Salvador uses marimba tehpe'ch, flutes, drums, scrapers and gourds, as well more recently imported guitars and other instruments. Cuban, Colombian and Mexican music has infiltrated the country, especially salsa and cumbia. The most popular sport in El Salvador, as in many Latin American nations, is football (soccer) although volleyball and basketball are also played. In El Salvador, there are different types of costumes, of which the majority are used in religious or other festivals, although in some of the older towns they are still worn regularly. In female clothing it is common to see elements like a scapular, a shawl, a cotton headscarf with different colored adornments.


Father José Mathías

A national hero of El Salvador, Father José Matías Delgado raised the first call for independence for El Salvador. He was trained as a priest and doctor, and with his nephew he helped spark the Salvadoran independence movement. He is said to have rung the bells of the Church of La Merced, as a public cry for liberty on November 5, 1811.


El Salvador is known for the creation of the Pupusa, dish made of thick, hand-made corn tortilla (made using masa de maíz, a maize flour dough used in Latin American cuisine) that is filled with cheese and sometimes with a variety of meats. Pupusa has been made for over 2,000 years in El Salvador, and means of making them have been discovered in archaeological sites.

  • Masa harina -- 2 cups
  • Warm water -- 1 cup
  • Filling (see variations) -- 1 cup

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the masa harina and water and knead well. Knead in more water, one tablespoonful at a time if needed, to make a moist, yet firm dough. (It should not crack at the edges when you press down on it.) Cover and set aside to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Roll the dough into a log and cut it into 8 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball.
  3. Press an indentation in each ball with your thumb. Put about 1 tablespoon of desired filling into each indentation and fold the dough over to completely enclose it. Press the ball out with your palms to form a disc, taking care that that the filling doesn't spill out.
  4. Line a tortilla press with plastic and press out each ball to about 5-6 inches wide and about 1/4-inch thick. If you don't have a tortilla press, place the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap or wax paper and roll it out with a rolling pin.
  5. Heat an ungreased skillet over medium-high flame. Cook each pupusa for about 1-2 minutes on each side, until lightly browned and blistered. Remove to a plate and hold warm until all pupusas are done. Serve with curtido and salsa roja.

  • Pupusas de Queso: With a cheese filling. Use grated quesillo, queso fresco, farmer's cheese, mozzarella, Swiss cheese or a combination. Add some minced green chile if you like.
  • Pupusas de Chicharrones: With a filling of fried chopped pork and a little tomato sauce. A reasonable facsimile can be made by pulsing 1 cup of cooked bacon with a little bit of tomato sauce in a food processor.
  • Pupusas de Frijoles Refritos: With a refried bean filling.
  • Pupusas Revueltas: Use a mixture of chicharrones, cheese and refried beans.
  • Pupusas de Queso y Loroco: With a cheese and tropical vine flower filling. Loroco can be found in jars at many Latin markets.
  • Pupusas de Arroz: A variety of pupusa that uses rice flour instead of corn masa.
  • Cooked potatoes or finely minced, sautéed jalapeño peppers are also tasty fillings. Try a mixture of different fillings.
  • The above recipe uses masa harina, a special dried cornmeal flour used in making tortillas, tamales, etc. If you are able to get fresh masa, definitely use it instead. The flavor will be much fresher. Just substitute the masa harina and water with fresh masa. One pound will make about 4-6 pupusas depending on size.

  • The pupusa is so fundamental to the cuisine of El Salvador that the country has even declared November 13th "National Pupusa Day."
  • Pupusas are traditionally made by slapping the dough from palm to palm to flatten it out. I find the tortilla press to be quicker and easier for beginners.

Travel to El Salvador

Despite its painful history of civil war, El Salvador is quickly developing economically and politically into a wonderful Latin American country filled with culture, adventure, and beauty. El Salvador is a wonderful place to visit, with natural and historical wonders like its 24 volcanoes and structures of the Pipils, an ancient civilization in present day El Salvador. Voted one of the top countries to visit in 2010, El Salvador boasts an artful collection of beaches, ancient ruins, and spectacular hiking opportunities. El Boquerón National Park is one of the most popular tourist attractions in El Salvador. Located in the crater of the San Salvador Volcano named El Boquerón, this national park is not only a unique and thrilling slice of mother nature’s garden, but a well-patrolled and safe area to enjoy the jungles of El Salvador. Popular pastimes in El Salvador include water sports and activities such as boating, canoeing, fishing, and surfing, as well as hiking.

2 Day Itinerary
Day I: Arrive in San Salvador (the capital of El Salvador). Make sure to spend time here exploring the renowned museums and rich culture of the city. Stroll by the Mercado Central, an open market where you can find the Salvadoran culture in plenty. Shop for souvenirs without going through the hassle of exchanging your US dollars for a foreign currency. Also stop by the Museo de Arte and Museo Nacional de Antropología Dr. David J. Guzman, two of San Salvador’s amazing museums.
Day II: Head to El Boquerón National Park, paying the minimal $1.00 entrance fee for a chance to explore this natural wonder. Once inside, choose your hiking trail, perhaps the 5km trail to breathtaking vista points or hike into the actual crater of the San Salvador Volcano. Spend as much time as you want absorbing this once in a lifetime experience, then head back to San Salvador to voyage home. We hope to see you again in El Salvador soon!