El Salvador or the Savior as the name can be translated is a very unexpectedly unique country. El Salvador is a country of many great geographical sites, a strange history, a blackened economic state, and an incredible agricultural base. The country has undergone many changes throughout its history. It was developed, owned, and operated by many different people and forms of government. This ?land of volcanoes? or ?the Savior? has been needed saving of its own for quite some time.
2.0 Geography The nickname for this environmentally hazardous country, ?land of volcanoes? serves El Salvador properly. El Salvador is the smallest of all Central American countries having a land area of only 21,041 sq. km (ecst.csuchico.edu). The country is also the only in Central America not to occupy more than one sea border, being only found on the Pacific Ocean. El Salvador is contained not only by the Pacific Ocean, but also by the two neighbor countries of Honduras and Guatemala. El Salvador is known more for it?s two mountain ranges both running east to west. The northern most range known as Sierra Madre that draws the border between El Salvador and Honduras. The southern range is a formation of many continuous volcanoes both active and silent. These volcanoes supply El Salvador with its rich soil making it possible for the great exportation of coffee.
Climate change in El Salvador occurs more due to elevation variations than by seasonal change. During a calendar year Salvadorians can expect only a four-degree Celsius change due to seasons. The greater change in temperature occurs due to the different elevations. The two mountain ranges help very the climate and land usage of the country. El Salvador consists of a narrow coastal plain, two steep mountain ranges and a central plateau, which is at 600m above sea level. This plateau is only 25% of the landmass in El Salvador; however, it contains the majority of the countries population. Due to over exploitation the country has become semi-barren, and less of the land is of use.
El Salvador is a very geographical diverse country. It possesses the same geographical features of the U.S., but all in the same land area as Rhode Island. The country has become very over populated and has begun to exhaust its resources.
3.0 Pre-Columbian Cultures
Before Spain sent men to explore and claim the countries of Central America native people occupied the land. These people where known as the Pipil. However, it is believed, due to archeological assessments that even before the Pipil natives of Central America known as the Mayas and Olmec occupied the land. The Mayas and Olmecs were believed to occupy the land until the 11th Century when the Pipil appeared following the collapse of the Mayan empire.
The Pipil people were of a very strong and fierce origin. They were very good farmers and lived mostly on Maize. The Pipil had many small urban centers and a very integrated linked society. The Pipil people lived in their land for over 500 years. After that time Spain was introduced to their country and soon their freedom was lost.
Spain had come to Central America seeking wealth, and any landmass that could have that quality they would conquer and claim for the crown. Pedro de Alvarado a conquistador and Lieutenant under Hernan Cortes entered El Salvador in 1524 to conquer the land. However, due to the fierceness of the Pipil people Spain had to return in 1525 and again in 1528 to finally lay claim to the country.
Spain found little wealth in the substance of gold and other valuable metals in El Salvador; however, they learned how great a benefit the rich soil of the volcanic country could be to agriculture. Spain soon after their conquest enslaved the Pipil people and forced them into an encomienda system of farming. The encomienda system soon lost favor with the crown and was replaced with repartiemento. Spain developed the country with this system and produced a great deal of wealth during the 17th century in agriculture.
Agriculture is the foundation that El Salvador has been built upon throughout its entire history. Whether it was the Pipil people utilizing the rich soil or Spain controlling the land much wealth was obtained in the country.
The Pipil people lived as farmers and hunters in the country before any intruders appeared. They sustained their lives on crops such as maize, bananas, and other tropical foods. They traded these crops among one another and were able to be self-sufficient for many years. After the entrance of Spain to the country the natives were forced to work as slaves for the betterment of others. Spain introduced products such as coffee, cotton, and indigo to El Salvador. They found that the rich soil could produce coffee greater than any other country they had conquered prior to El Salvador. During the 17th century agriculture boomed in El Salvador, gluttony filled Spain with the wealth from coffee and thus began the downfall of the Salvadorian economy.
El Salvador produced many types of crops throughout its history such as henequen and cotton, but the country always centered itself on coffee production. Today, El Salvador produces far more coffee than any other crop in the country. Amid the 20th century, 95% of the countries income came from the exportation of coffee. This income was distributed over only 14 families (roughly 2% of population) whose influence has been seen over the countries history (Class Handout). In this way El Salvador takes on many similar traits of other Central American countries.
Spain occupied the country for nearly 300 years throughout which they enslaved and persecuted the native people of El Salvador. Land control was only a dream in the eyes of the former owners. The influence of the Roman Catholic Church soon brought hopes of a revolution to the Indian people of El Salvador. In 1811 Father Jose Matias Delgado, a catholic priest led a revolt against Spain; however, with the great power of the crown against them it did not prove successful.
Meanwhile in Spain, Napoleon led an invasion into the country reverting attention away from Central America and allowing El Salvador to eventually gain a limited amount of independence in 1821. Even though independence was given to the Salvadorian during this time, people land control still remained in the hands of few. This led to an Indian rebellion in 1833 brought about by a mestizo, Anastasio Aquino. Eventually in 1841, El Salvador found its independence by the introduction of the Central American Federation. This was an alliance against Spain of neighboring Central American countries seeking their independence. Thus began the history of El Salvador, which led to many civil wars, conflicts, and disputes among other countries and itself.
7.0 Economics in El Salvador
El Salvador has seen many changes throughout its history, both politically and economically. El Salvador has followed the majority of Central American countries by making itself a dependent on one or two exportable goods. The country has also faced many conflicts in politics and environmental hazards. El Salvador?s economy has inevitably been destined for the worse by the countries governing order.
Before the invasion of the conquistadors into the country the Pipil lived a pleasant and peaceful life of trade. The Pipil obtained many small urban centers in which trade among them proved successful. They did not have a monetary unit but rather bartered for what they desired. They lived a self-sufficient life only producing their needs. The Pipil people may have evolved and become a worthy heritage in the world if they had not been conquered by the conquistadors of Spain.
7.02 Early (1820-1920)
Soon El Salvador and the rich soil of the land were under Spanish control. Spain found great profit in the enrichment of the land. Coffee, indigo, and cotton yielded greater than they had seen prior to conquest. Spain felt that this was equal to the gold and other values found in the countries surrounding El Salvador. During the 17th century the agriculture of El Salvador was of great wealth, and Spain indulged upon it. The Spaniards developed many haciendas to expand their crops this involved many Indian people to subdue to the work needed. The first evidence of primate cities developed during this time. This would sooner lead to an unexpected need for imported goods and a profound lack of self-efficiency.
7.03 Mid (1920-1980)
During and after El Salvador?s independence the country found itself depending console upon the growth of the coffee crop. 95% of the countries exports depended upon coffee, but still only 2% of the population controlled the wealth (Lonely Planet). The Salvadorians exhausted themselves upon focusing on this item and developed no other means of exportation. Amid the first and second world wars Central America was abandoned by the rest of the world and forced to find a way to survive among themselves. This brought upon industrialization to the forgotten world, and El Salvador attempted to follow the plan. The country produced only the essential items for survival, and chose rather to fight civilly for control of the country.
El Salvador faced many disputes during this time, and many forms of leadership. Democracies, civil wars, peasant uprisings, and Military Coups were among the problems that the country faced. It was only during the later years of the countries history that true leadership was developed, and a greater economic scheme was gained.
Primate cities have know become a large part of Salvadorian economy. These few and large cities have been growing without any means of renewal. The country finds itself now separated by wealth and poverty. The fourteen families mentioned before were still controlling the majority of the coffee production and with no found wealth in industrialization El Salvador was growing in debt.
The national debt of El Salvador has only grown over the countries history. This is from the foreign aid supplied to the country to help with recovery of natural disasters, and in the form of military aid. Due to El Salvador?s placement in the world it has been faced by many environmental hazards. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and landslides due to extreme rainfall give threat to this debt. Also in 1998 El Salvador fell victim to hurricane Mitch. Mitch destroyed not only many of the profitable livestock and agricultural farms of Central America, but also devastated many lives of the people living in its path. El Salvador lost 95% of its banana crop and one third of the countries beef cattle industry (Class Handout). This crushed the already terrible state of the Salvadorian economy and only added to the increasing national debt.
Some current facts in the economic stability of El Salvador can be seen in the following. The currency of the country is known as the collone. Eleven collones is roughly equivalent to one U.S. dollar. The exportation of goods to the U.S. each year equals $732 million. Where as the importation of goods from the U.S. each year equals $1.789 billion dollars. The GDP of El Salvador is $5.9 billion U.S. each year. This is only $1,003 U.S. per capita. The growth rate of the GDP is currently at 5.0%, and has been continuously increasing. However, even with the GDP on an upswing for El Salvador the debt to the U.S. has also increased to $2.1 billion U.S (cia.gov). These numbers show that with El Salvador?s population, and the amount of GDP to the country that few people have great wealth and even more are in poverty.
El Salvador is a very densely populated country. The majority of the people in El Salvador live in only 25% of the total land mass known as the central plateau. The total population is over 6.2 million with a growth rate of 2.3% (Cia.gov). This population will be doubled in 30 years. Due to the growth rate percent the country is caught between the second and third categories in the demographic chart, but primarily they still are evolving in the second. With this great a number of people in such a small area poverty is unavoidable.
Urbanization has not been a large issue with El Salvador. Although some of their large primate cities carry a large percent of the population, such as San Salvador the capital that holds 1.5 million people, many people chose to stay in rural areas. The ratio of the urban population to rural population is 3:2. This ratio could be explained due to the need for agricultural revenue, and the need for people to create that revenue. With the extent of the over population of El Salvador many people have been forced to find other means of income and a safer home.
Over population and greed have created poverty in El Salvador and a need for new revenue. This is why much of the income from the country consists of wages paid from the United States to migrant workers fleeing from El Salvador. $1.3 billion U.S. was sent to families of these seasonal migrant workers in El Salvador. This allows those living in El Salvador to find a little hope in their country and a means of better living.
During, much of the time of the civil wars and poverty states of El Salvador many of the countries people began to migrate to Honduras. This appeared to be allowed at first until a wide spread amount of migration occurred. The great amount of people fleeing to Honduras soon became a problem and great tension rose between the two neighboring countries. This accounted for the great soccer riot in 1969 brought upon through allegations that were made about mistreatment of Salvadorian people by the Honduras population.
9.0 U.S. Intervention
The United States has always been concerned with the matters of other countries, particularly by the form of the government. When it became obvious that El Salvador may fall into left wing ideals to help with the poverty level in the country the U.S. reacted. It was during the Carter administration that this occurred and Jimmy?s solution was to fund right-wing guerillas in the country. These guerillas were know as the FMLN (Frente Marti Liberacion Nacional) named after an executed leader who brought reforms to the country and a democracy in the early to mid 20th century. Carter soon withdrew his funding after hearing of misuse of the military power by the FMLN.
The FMLN became mongers and began to hurt innocent people and become closer in comparison to their socialist enemy. With a suspension of the funding the country fell back into turmoil and was once again caught in left-wing ideals. It was during the Reagan administration that the funding returned with close watch. Soon the guerillas were able to gain control, and force what was to be marked the first time in 50 years that a democratically elected president was named. This man was Alfredo Magana, and he brought some control and leadership to this war shaken country (Encyc. Of Latin-American Hist.).
The U.S. has also been involved with El Salvador in other ways. The U.S. is the number one importer of Salvadorian goods mainly coffee. Also due to the great devastation in the country by natural disasters the U.S. has given foreign aid to help rebuild the economy and lives of the people. If El Salvador can maintain this relationship with the U.S. the countries future is bound to look better than it?s past.
The world is a growing economical structure that every country wants to be a part of, and with growing concern about each countries role a hope for globalization can be seen. El Salvador is attempting to do its part in becoming a companion with globalization, during the end of the 20th century the maquiladora system was approached by El Salvador. These small manufacturing companies account for a major part of the countries GDP. These companies are also followed by new trade reforms with other neighboring countries. Trade with U.S. has only improved over the last few years. If El Salvador keeps improving on the relations with its neighboring countries then it may be a substantial part of the world economy.
11.0 Other Facts and Conclusion
In conclusion, here are some other known facts about the country of El Salvador. In January of 2001 El Salvador faced a devastating earthquake. The quake caused 250,000 Salvadorians to become homeless, and also severely eroded the landscape (Lonely Planet.com). Some of the native animals of the country consist of many butterflies, deer, toucans, and monkeys. The adult literacy of the country is at 73% and growing (memory.loc.gov). 86% of the country follows the Roman Catholic religion. The ethnic background of the country is mainly mestizo, which is a mixture of Indian, white, and black (Latin America). Some of the favorite foods consist of casamiento (rice and beans) and pupusas, which is a stuffed wrap.
El Salvador is a very unique country that wishes to find its niche in the world. Through much turmoil and disputes the country has for now maintained a solid government. With the continuation of good soil and less erosion the agricultural state of the country will continue to prosper. However, with increasing population the country suffers a loss in GDP, and will only gain a profitable state with better living, less poverty, and other means of income. El Salvador ?the Savior? a country whose history speaks for itself will need outside aid for some years to come.
Selected Illustrations El Salvador?s Flag The Country of El Salvador Henequin also a Salvadorian Crop Example of El Salvador?s Terran San Salvador the Capital of El Salvador