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El Salvador

El Salvador, republic in Central America, bordered by Guatemala to the west, Honduras to the north and east, and the Pacific Ocean to the south.

Land and climate

El Salvador is the only country in Central America with no Caribbean coastline. Two parallel mountain ridges cross the country from east to west enclosing generally fertile plateaus and valleys. The Lempa River (200 mi/322 km), Central America's largest, cuts across western and central El Salvador.


El Salvador has a high population density and a weak economy. Agriculture is the principal means of livelihood, and coffee is the major export. The land also yields food crops such as corn, rice, and beans, but El Salvador must import food to meet its needs. About 15% of the labor force is involved in the processing of food products and the production of a limited range of consumer goods.


El Salvador was colonized by Spain in 1524. After unsuccessful uprisings in 1811 and 1814, independence was won in 1821. The country was briefly part of a Mexican Empire (1821–23), and joined the United Provinces of Central America in 1825. Following the breakup of the federa-tion, El Salvador became an independent republic in 1839. During much of the 19th century the neighboring states of Guatemala and Nicaragua largely dominated the country's leadership. The development of the coffee crop led to the concentration of land ownership and wealth, and social and economic inequality generated deep divisions in society. The failure of land reforms led to armed violence between leftists and rightists throughout the 1970s and 1980s, with the United States backing various right-wing regimes, while Cuba and Nicaragua under the Sandinistas gave some help to the left-wing guerrillas. Between 1980 and 1986 some 56,000 people, most of them noncombatants, died in the bitter civil war, which ended in 1992. Economic recovery still depends on foreign aid.


Additional topics

21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia - Eilat to ERA