El Salvador, or officially, the Republic of El Salvador, is a lush, fertile Central American country located on the Pacific and bordered by Guatemala and Honduras. It is the smallest Central American country, with a land area of 8,000 square miles (20,720 sq. km). It is densely populated, with over 2 million of its total 6.9 million population living in the capital city of San Salvador.
The earliest known settlers of El Salvador were the Pipil Indians, descendents of the Aztecs — they arrived in the 11th century CE. When the Spaniards arrived in the 1500s, a long conflict for control began between them and the natives. In 1525, the natives were conquered, and Spain began colonization of the area. On 5 November 1811, the fight for independence began anew, but it wasn’t until 15 September 1821 that the Acta de Independencia, or declaration of independence, was issued against Spain.
El Salvador subsequently became part of the United Provinces of Central America, and then later, the Greater Republic of Central America before it dissolved. The 20th century would be marked by wars, violence and political struggle. The coffee trade made a precious few very rich, and would prove to be a point of contention among many. From 1931 through 1979, El Salvador was under military dictatorship.
In 1969, El Salvador and Honduras engaged in what was referred to the “football war,” which lasted four days and started during a football (soccer) match. Border disputes and the expulsion of Salvadorans from Honduras sparked the clash. El Salvador would again be at war by the late 70s, this time against itself. The civil war pitted the governing party, the conservative National Conciliation Party (PCN) and the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). In 1992, the war finally ended with a peace treaty between the government and the guerrilla group, after 12 years and 75,000 dead.
Today, El Salvador is one of the poorest countries in the region, but its economy is growing fast and is becoming stronger, thanks in part to its involvement in the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) in March 2006, and the adoption of the US Dollar as its currency. Currently, it is a democratic republic with a democratically elected president.
El Salvador is the only country in Central America with no coastline in the Caribbean. Although its tourism industry isn’t as strong as some of its neighbors, its Pacific beaches do attract surfers, and San Salvador attracts others for the nightlife. Its weather is primarily tropical, with a rainy season from May to October.