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El Salvador

smallest country, rural country, mainstay, urban areas, largest city

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El Salvador, republic on the Pacific Coast of Central America. The smallest country in the region, El Salvador is second only to Guatemala in population, and is the most densely populated republic on the mainland of the Americas. Although traditionally a rural country, it experienced extensive migration to urban areas in the 20th century, and nearly one-third of its population lives within the metropolitan area of San Salvador, the capital and largest city. The country was named El Salvador, which is Spanish for “the savior,” in honor of Jesus Christ.

A volcanic mountain chain dominates the country’s landscape and provides ideal conditions for coffee cultivation, which has been the mainstay of the Salvadoran economy for more than a century. The coffee-based economy helped to create a society divided between a small, wealthy ruling class and a large, impoverished laboring class. Throughout the 1980s the nation was torn by civil war, but in the 1990s it began to recover from the social, political, and economic damage caused by a decade of violent struggle.


For younger readers

Foley, Erin. El Salvador. Marshall Cavendish, 1995. For readers in grades 6 to 10.

Morrison, Marion. El Salvador. Scholastic, , 2001. For readers in grades 5 to 9.

Sanders, Renfield. El Salvador. Chelsea House, 1997. For readers in grades 4 to 7.

El Salvador

Cheney, Glenn Alan. El Salvador: Country in Crisis. Franklin Watts, 1990. Overview of El Salvador's civil war; for middle school to high school readers.

Paige, Jeffery M. Coffee and Power: Revolution and the Rise of Democracy in Central America. Harvard University Press, 1997. The coffee elites and political influence in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and El Salvador.

Stanley, William Deane. The Protection Racket State: Elite Politics, Military Extortion, and Civil War in El Salvador. Temple University Press, 1996. Includes a contextual history of El Salvador and its shift to state-endorsed violence during the civil war.

Towell, Larry. El Salvador. Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, 1997. A photojournalist's pictorial study of El Salvador's civil war.


Woodward, Ralph Lee, Jr., A.B., M.A., Ph.D. Professor of History, Tulane University. Author of Central America, A Nation Divided and other books.

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

Article key phrases:

smallest country, rural country, mainstay, urban areas, largest city, savior, civil war, capital, El Salvador, Guatemala, landscape, society, century, nation, region, country, Americas, mainland

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