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About El Salvador: indigenous culture in the Land of Volcanos

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About El Salvador: indigenous culture in the Land of Volcanos

The smallest, most densely populated country in Central America, El Salvador packs in a population of over 6 million. Before Spanish rule, the country was inhabited by several different Mesoamerican Nations. From indigenous tribal living to massive colonalism, El Salvador has seen many shifts in power, culture, and way of life.

Now, the nation is seeing massive industrialization, while still keeping a hold of a more simplistic way of life. Its known as having some of the best surfing spots in Central America along its Pacific Coast. As you travel around its winding roads into the mountains, there are visible coffee farms stacked on the hillsides. It is known internationally for its coffee beans, just as much as it is known for its sweet hiking spots.

Getting lost in the adventure, it is quite possible that you will stumble upon a waterfall or drive up an inactive volcano. The landscape of El Salvador is endless, and it is a place that truly speaks to any type of traveler.

El Salvador

Central America


United States Dollar

Important dates in El Salvador

Jan 1 Monday New Year’s Day
Jan 16 Tuesday Signing of the Peace Accords
Mar 8 Thursday Women’s Day
Mar 20 Tuesday March equinox
Mar 25 Sunday Palm Sunday
Mar 26 Monday National Day of Life, Peace and Justice
Mar 29 Thursday Maundy Thursday
Mar 30 Friday Good Friday
Mar 31 Saturday Holy Saturday
Apr 1 Sunday Easter Day
May 1 Tuesday Labor Day / May Day
May 3 Thursday Cross Day
May 7 Monday Soldiers’ Day
May 10 Thursday Mothers’ Day
Jun 17 Sunday Fathers’ Day
Jun 21 Thursday June Solstice
Jun 22 Friday Teachers’ Day
Aug 4 Saturday Celebrations of San Salvador
Aug 5 Sunday Celebrations of San Salvador
Aug 6 Monday Celebrations of San Salvador
Sep 15 Saturday Independence Day
Sep 23 Sunday September equinox
Oct 1 Monday Children´s Day
Oct 12 Friday Columbus Day
Nov 2 Friday All Saints Day
Dec 21 Friday December Solstice
Dec 24 Monday Christmas Eve
Dec 25 Tuesday Christmas Day
Dec 31 Monday New Year’s Eve

For more information on holidays in coming years, click here.

Interesting facts


El Salvador is known as the Land of Volcanos, as it has frequent earthquakes and eruptions.
  • International surf competitions have taken and continue to take place because of the brilliance of its beaches.
  • Salvadoran women often pat each other on the right forearm or shoulder, rather than shake hands.
  • In El Salvador, guests are always served first.

Good to know

For people traveling from The United States and other countries in the Americas, it is a rather easy process to tour El Salvador. You need a passport and either a Salvadoran visa or a one-entry tourist card to enter El Salvador. You may obtain a tourist card when you arrive at the airport or seaport from immigration officials for a $10 fee. The card is valid for 90 day.

Check out the official government website for you specific native country to further research what you will need to do in order to get a visa for travels to and through El Salvador.

Culture and Etiquette in El Salvador

When stepping into this country, know that you are stepping into what used to be a violent war zone. Just a few decades ago, El Salvador experienced one of its biggest, brutalist wars in the nation’s history. Because of the mistrust that stemmed from this awful experience, be careful while traveling, keep your eyes and ears open, and plan accordingly. Although the history of violence does live, it should not deter eager travelers from enjoying all that the beautiful country has to offer.

While the local Spanish vernacular is called Caliche, Nahua, the indigenous language, is still used by small communities of elderly Salvadorans in western El Salvador. Two completely different cultures have meshed into one beautiful people. Many Spanish who settled the country intermarried with the Natives and thus the main group is made of ‘mestizos’ (mixed European and Native blood). Only 9% are pure European, usually belonging to the wealthiest families; and the remaining 1% are native Indian. The largest Native group is the Pipíl. They continue to believe in the traditional gods.

Here, traditional gender roles still prevail as the men are known to go to work, get paid, while women stay at home, take care of children, and the house duties. From birth, girls and boys are taught that they are different and will grow to have contrasting roles in society. In the last decade, the country has started to see a shift in this belief, as women have taken up jobs as nurses and teachers, but machismo is still deeply rooted.

When greeting someone, it is customary to shake hands. As a man, you wait until a woman extends her hand to give her a greeting; women who are close might hug and kiss on the right cheek. It is customary to bring gifts of flowers, pastries, or spirits when going to someone’s house. It is normal that the gift would be unwrapped or looked at right when received as a sign of appreciation. When eating, ensure that you are using fork and knife, even when consuming fruit.

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