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  • Katrina Julia

The Surprise of El Salvador: History, Culture, Travel #DontSkipElSalvador

Updated: Sep 18, 2021

When I left Atlanta, GA in 2020, travel to El Salvador didn't enter my mind. The history, violence, and news didn't help. I remember seeing and hearing about El Salvador years ago.

For years, I wondered is "El Salvador Safe"?

As a result of a history of gang violence, homicide rates, and bad press, many travelers have skipped El Salvador for years.

In 2021, I found female travelers like Alyssa with @mylifeasatravelmovie and Kelly Hill enjoying traveling in El Salvador safely.

With a digital marketing project and press trip in Honduras, I found out flying into San Salvador airport in El Salvador would be the closest.

With my travel to 7 Continents, I decided to include El Salvador. During my entire week in El Salvador, I felt safe. I stayed in a jungle house, discovered the beautiful beaches of Playa Tunco, experienced a garden home, and explored San Salvador.

What I learned about El Salvador with EC Tours about its history, people, and resilience is unparalleled.

El Salvador as a country surprised me exponentially. The Surprise of El Salvador has this global traveler saying "Don't Skip El Salvador"! #notsponsoredyet

Don't Skip El Salvador

I am not the only one saying "Don't Skip El Salvador".

San Salvador Walking Tour with EC Tours

In 2018, Edwin Carrillo became one of the Salvadorans leading the charge to overcome bad press generated by gang violence, homicide rates at about 60 per 100,000 people (global average is 5), and bad press.

With the Minister of Tourism in 2018, Jose Napoleon Duarte Duran, Edwin, and El Salvador launched the tourism campaign leveraging the social media hashtag #DontSkipElSalvador.

While El Salvador was called the Murder Capital of the World for years, times may be changing.

El Salvador Leadership

The El Salvadorian President Nayib Bukele, a former ad executive, has not been without controversy. El Salvador's prior Mayor utilizes social media to connect with the public, criticizes past Presidents, successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to turn over Salvadorian laws of consecutive re-election, and has been compared to Trump.

LA Times article stated "El Salvador's millennial president is a man with one vision - Power."

El Salvadorian Presidential laws historically provide for 5-year terms. Although consecutive re-election is not permitted, previously elected presidents may run for a second, non-consecutive term.

According to CNN, El Salvador's highest court in September 2021 has ruled that the country's president can serve two consecutive terms in office, paving the way for current president Nayib Bukele to run for re-election in 2024. The sentiment in the country is of concern of a dictatorship.

Are murder rates dropping in El Salvador?

Since President Bukele entered office, El Statista and other sources have cited homicides in El Salvador falling over 50%. Retuers sited drops in homicide rates are related to officials citing tougher enforcement, informal deals with authorities, and gangs easing up on violence.

No different than any other state or country, I felt entirely safe the entire time in El Salvador during my visit.

Travel to El Salvador

According to the Ministry of Tourism, tourism revenue increased by over 16% in 2019 vs. 2018. Since 2010, tourism has doubled. In 2019, El Salvador received about 2.6 million tourists visited increasing 4% over the prior year.

Although El Salvador may be known around the world for its violence, the country offers much more. I wonder if we published gang rates, violence, and travel advisories for states if we would be as keen to visit other states and countries as well.

You will find a country rich in its history and culture with the land of volcanos, a surfers paradise, and a lucrative international coffee business.

El Salvador: Playa Tunco

History of El Salvador

In 1524, Spanish adventurer Pedro de Alvarado conquers El Salvador giving its name after Jesus Christ, "Holy Savior".

Salvadoran culture is influenced by Native American culture (Lenca people, Cacaopera people, Maya peoples, Pipil people) as well as Latin American culture (Latin America, Hispanic America, Ibero-America). Mestizo culture and the Catholic Church dominates the country.

Pipils called their new home “Cuscatlan” or “Land of the Jewels.” They farmed the land growing beans, pumpkins, chiles, avocados, guavas, papayas, tomatoes, cocoa, cotton, tobacco, indigo, and corn. In 1524 with the Spanish invasion, based on historical accounts, they terrorized and tortured the Pipils.

In 1859-1863, President Gerardo Barrios introduces coffee growing transforming the economy. The resulting profits helped develop much of San Salvador's Historical Center among others.

By the late 1800s, Las Catorce (fourteen families) controlled half the land in El Salvador. They privatized the lands focusing on increasing profits by exporting coffee, cotton, and sugar cane.

In 1932, the government refused to seat elected members of the Communist Party. A protest developed by a majority of the indigenous population to demand better living and working conditions. The government responded by massacring an estimated 30,000 people, or 4% of the population, in one week. This became known as La Matanza, or the Massacre.

200 Years of El Salvador's Independence

The indigenous resist El Salvador becoming a Spanish Colony losing its battle in 1540. El Salvador becomes a Spanish colony.

It would be about 300 years before El Salvador would gain independence from Spain in 1821.

During my time in El Salvador, I actually ended up being in San Salvador September 14-16, 2021.

200 years celebrating independence: September 15, 2021.

While on my walking tour, Estafany with EC Tours and I ran into YouTubero Salvidereno.

We ended up being on his videos!

I did a clip to intro the behind the scenes in Spanish!

You can find me doing the short intro at 9:34, and several clips of Estafany with EC Tours and I at 6:54

El Salvador's Civil War

The fully-fledged civil war lasted over 12 years including terrorizing and targeting of civilians by US-trained government death squads including prominent clergy from the Catholic Church, the recruitment of child soldiers and other human rights violations, mostly by the military.

The events that sparked the official Civil War included a right-ing death squad assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, Military forces assassinated Romero, a popular bishop of the poorer people in El Salvador, while he was saying mass in 1980.

The Salvadoran Civil War in El Salvador was fought between the military-led junta government of El Salvador and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) (a coalition or &