This small country, located between Honduras and Guatemala, has the highest population density of any Central American country. Before the Spanish conquest at the beginning of the 16th century, the territory was inhabited by the Pipil Indians. But now only a few Salvadorans still speak the indigenous language as most were massacred in ‘la Matanza’; the military action of General Maximilio Hernandez Martinez’s which quashed the peasant uprising of 1932. The country has also suffered devastating natural disasters like Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and several earthquakes which killed more than a thousand people and destroyed most of the territory.
Two important wars also massively damaged the country: the El Salvador Civil War, a conflict that took place between 1980 and 1992 in which 75,000 people were killed and which caused extensive damage. The conflict began because of the international fall of coffee prices, the constant electoral fraud, and the murder of San Salvador’s archbishop Oscar Amulfo Romero in 1980. The other conflict is popularly known as The Football War, a term adopted by the famous polish reporter Ryszard Kapuściński. This war between Honduras and El Salvador took place in 1969 and lasted for only four days, thus it is also known as ‘The 100 Hours War’. The conflict started due to agrarian reforms which forced Salvadorans living in Honduras into exile. El Salvador is currently blighted by pervasive social problems, including organised crime and drug trafficking, and it has one of the highest murder rates in the world.
El Salvador has a thriving arts scene from which artists of international influence have emerged, for example the painter Fernando Llort, who was the founder of the artisan and pictorial movement of La Palma in El Salvador and also founder of the artisan Cooperative movement ‘La Semilla de Diós’ (God’s seed). A fine example of elegantly polished literature, Claudia Lars, the pen name for Margarita del Carmen Brannon Vega, has a extensive output of poetry, under the following titles: Stars in the Pond, Romances from North and South and About the Angel and the Man, amongst others. Salvador Salazar Arrué is considered one of the best story tellers in El Salvador, and his house currently hosts ‘the writer’s house’, a project for the formation of young writers.