10 Fun Facts about El Salvador: A Small Country Rich in Culture

Rosario Traducciones continues its tour of Latin America in another edition of #ElEspañolEnElMundo. The sixth destination is the most densely populated country in Central America. 
Do you need to communicate with a Latin American audience? Are you exporting or selling your products or services to Spanish-speaking countries?  Rosario Traducciones y Servicios SA invites you to join us on a virtual linguistic tour through the different countries of Latin America, as we explore their diversity and cultural richness. In this edition, we turn our attention to El Salvador, one of the countries with the highest population density in the region. 

1) The oldest capital city in Central America

San Salvador is one of the first Spanish-founded cities in historic Central America, the region that during the Hispanic conquest of America was part of the Kingdom or General Captaincy of Guatemala. The city was founded in 1524 by the conqueror Pedro de Alvarado. It is also the oldest and most long-standing capital in the region, since its transfer in 1545 to the Valle de las Hamacas, where it stands to this day, despite the earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions endured for centuries.

2) The first presidential candidacy of a woman in Latin America

Prudencia Ayala was a Salvadoran woman who, in 1930, despite no academic training but aware of her rights, challenged the socio-political system at the time by running as a candidate for the presidency of the republic, thus becoming the first woman in El Salvador and Latin America to pursue the highest public office.

3) “Righteous-among-nations” colonel

José Arturo Castellanos, a colonel from El Salvador, served as a diplomat in Geneva, Switzerland, during World War II. He saved 40,000 Jews from extermination by the Nazis, by providing them with Salvadoran identity documents. He was posthumously recognized for his efforts in July 2010 and given the “Righteous Among Nations” honor, granted to non-Jews by Yad Vashem, an institution that honors the memory of martyrs and heroes of the Holocaust. 

4) The most famous soccer goal in history

The documentary Uno. The story of a goal narrates what led up to the only time El Salvador’s national soccer team managed to score a goal in a World Cup game.
The early 1980s marked the beginning of what would become a 12-year-long civil war that took the lives of more than 100,000 people. In those days, El Salvador's soccer team was the one national topic which both the left and the right parties could agree on. The national soccer team pulled off a stunning 1-0 upset against Mexico and qualified to compete in the 1982 Soccer World Cup in Spain. Unfortunately, the team's Cinderella story turned into a nightmare. A corrupt national soccer federation robbed players of their pay and equipment. The team's opening match against Hungary resulted in a 10-1 loss, the worst defeat in World Cup history. 

5) Cradle of the "American Pompeii"

Joya de Cerén in El Salvador is recognized as one of the most important archeological sites in Mesoamerica; it showcases the way ordinary people lived in those days. Their houses consisted of three separate structures: the bedrooms, the kitchen and the cellar. This agricultural town was abandoned in the year 250 following the eruption of a volcano. It was inhabited again in the year 400. In 1993, UNESCO declared Joya de Cerén a World Heritage Site; excavations are currently underway. 

6) Home of a great lake  

Suchitlán Lake is the largest body of fresh water in El Salvador. It is a reservoir when the Presa del Cerrón Grande dam was built in 1973. it covers 52 square miles, and its main attraction is a ferry which can transport up to four vehicles and up to 100 people.

7) A great destination for surf lovers

El Tunco is the best known beach in El Salvador, famous for its great waves and surf breaks. It is located in Libertad area and it hosts many surfing competitions from small ones to professional championships. If you’re considering taking up surfing, the best time of year to visit is from September to early March, when the waves are not very large. For professional surfers, the best time is from April through August, when the waves can reach almost 20 feet high. 

8) Pupusa, a traditional dish

A stopover in Olocuilta to sample pupusas is an absolute must for tourists. This is the most traditional dish in El Salvador. Pupusa is made of corn or rice flour flatbread stuffed with chicken, cheese, fried beans or loroco (a vine flower bud native to Central America). Pupusas have been linked to the Pipil tribes who inhabited the territory now known as El Salvador and some say the name comes from the word pupusawa in the Pipil language, although there has been research that suggests that the word did not exist in that language.

9) Day of the Cross Celebration

El Salvador, like in many other countries, celebrates the day of the Cross, a festivity whose origin is tied to pre-Hispanic times. According ACI Press (Catholic Information Agency), this local tradition was later adapted by the Spanish and gave it a Christian meaning. Celebrated every May 3, it marks the beginning of the sow and rain season in El Salvador as a custom followed by the indigenous people who have lived in the current territory of El Salvador for millennia. It is an offering for the new crops. 

10) A volcano with an interesting history

The history of the Izalco volcano is quite unique and interesting. Up until 1770, the site where the volcano rises today was just a dark hole in the ground, with rising sulfurous and black smoke.
Gradually, the hole began to expand, emerging from the ground, creating a tall cone almost 2300-feet high, crowned by a crater 820 feet in diameter. Since then, it has been an icon of Central American geography. This volcano is mostly active, displaying magnificent spectacles of lava and incandescent rocks. Because of the red sparkles that can be seen from the high seas by ships, it is also known as the 'Pacific Lighthouse.'
In the 1950s, a group of businessmen decided to build a luxury hotel on the slopes of Cerro Verde, facing the majestic volcano. By the time the hotel was almost finished, Izalco stopped erupting. The hotel works were halted and the building was totally abandoned. 
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