The Culture Of El Salvador

Participants in the Independence Day Parade in San Salvador, El Salvador.  Editorial credit: ConceptMatch /
Participants in the Independence Day Parade in San Salvador, El Salvador. Editorial credit: ConceptMatch /

El Salvador is Central America’s smallest nation by size. It is also the most densely populated nation in the region. Salvadoran culture is characterized by a mix of Native American and Latin American cultures. The Maya, Lenca, Pipil, and Cacaopera people have all contributed to the country's culture.

Ethnicity, Language, and Religion in El Salvador

El Salvador is home to a population of 6,187,271 individuals. Mestizo people comprise 86.3% of the total population. White, Amerindian, and black peoples account for 12.7%, 0.2%, and 0.1% of the country’s population respectively. Spanish is El Salvador’s official and most spoken language. The Roman Catholic Church has the highest following in the nation. 50% of the country’s population adhere to this faith. Protestant Christianity is the next biggest religion with 36% of the population professing this faith. 12% of the population do not adhere to any religion.

Cuisine of El Salvador

The cuisine of El Salvador is influenced by Amerindian and Spanish cuisines. Corn features predominantly in most Salvadoran dishes. A variety of meats like pork, beef, chicken, etc., are eaten. Salvadorans also consume a variety of seafood like clams, shrimp, octopus, snails, squid, etc. Some of the notable dishes of this cuisine are pupusa (a stuffed tortilla made of rice or corn flour and stuffed with cheese, pork, or other fillings), refried beans, Pollo encebollado (chicken and onion dish), yuca frita (deep-fried cassava root serves with a variety of pickles), etc.

Soft drinks called cokas are popular among teenagers. Coffee is consumed by Salvadorans of all ages. Kolachampan (soda with sugar cane flavor), ensalada (pineapple juice with chopped fruits), tamarindo juice, coconut water, etc., are other beverages preferred by these people. Beer is the most common alcoholic beverage in the country. Tic Tack, a distillate of sugar cane is regarded as El Salvador’s national liquor.

Literature and the Arts in El Salvador

Written literature developed in El Salvador during the Spanish colonial rule. Prior to that, most literature was in the oral form. Thus, the country has a rich heritage of folk tales and legends. As formal education in Spanish became accessible during colonial rule, literature written by Salvadorans in Spanish began to appear. Initially, most of this work was of religious nature. Non-secular Salvadoran written literature emerged in the later years of colonial rule in the form of historical accounts, short stories, novels, etc. Today, Salvadoran literature is a large body of work that is quite rich in content.

Salvadoran folk art typically depicts images of animals as well as village life, and cultural celebrations. The folk paintings use bright colors and are visually appealing. Street art is a popular form of expression of thoughts and emotions. Homes and other buildings often have bright paintings on their exterior walls. El Salvador is also famous for numerous handicrafts. Pottery of Ilobasco, processed textiles of San Sebastian, woven religious imagery of Concepción de Atacó, red and black pottery of Guatajiagua are some of El Salvador’s indigenous crafts.

Hammocks are also produced and exported in large numbers in El Salvador. It is often dubbed "The Valley of the Hammocks”. The country has a “hammock culture" where almost every home in all social classes have a hammock hung in the porches, outdoor courtyards, or living rooms. Salvadorans love to use the hammock for afternoon naps and for resting after a busy day at work.

Performance Arts in El Salvador

El Salvador has a rich musical heritage that ranges from folk music to contemporary music. Salvadoran music exhibits Mayan, Lenca, Spanish, Pipil, and Cacaopera influences. Some of the most popular styles of music in El Salvador are Native Mesoamerican indigenous music, Salvadoran hip hop, and Salvadoran Cumbia. Marimba, a type of traditional folk music introduced by African slaves, has a significant presence in the country. Salvadoran rock and hip hop/rap are popular among the youth. The former arrived in the country before the breakout of the civil war. The latter, however, has a more recent history and arrived after the civil war. Xylophones, guitars, pianos, flutes, drums, glass harmonica, scrapers, gours, etc., are some of the instruments used to play popular music in El Salvador.

Sports in El Salvador

Association soccer is the most popular sport in El Salvador. Basketball, baseball, swimming, and tennis are some of the other popular games played in the country. Estadio Cuscatlán in El Salvador’s capital San Salvador is Central America’s largest stadium. It has a capacity of more than 45,000 spectators. Many soccer clubs exist in the country and compete against each other for the top position. The ten best soccer clubs of the country play in the Primera División. Soccer is the most watched spectator sport in El Salvador.

Life in the Society of El Salvador

Although the traditional El Salvadoran society has been patriarchal in nature, a significant number of Salvadoran women are now part of the country’s workforce. Since the civil war, women have come to the forefront by directly participating as combatants or working in supporting roles as cooks, nurses, etc. Many also earned leadership positions in politics and the military. Despite the significant achievements of the country’s women during the war, many were also left in great economic stress post-war. Families headed by single women increased as many men died or abandoned their families. These families live in extreme poverty. Today, however, the Salvadoran women are fighting all odds to get their rights recognized and achieve true equality in society.

Marriages in El Salvador are generally based on the decision of the couple. Informal cohabitation of partners without a church or civil marriage is also quite common. Children are often born out of such informal relationships. Many couples marry later in their life, often after having children. Formal marriages require the couple to reach adulthood but the laws are relaxed in case the female partner is pregnant or has children. Divorces are not very uncommon.

Households in El Salvador are usually nuclear in nature consisting of a couple and their children. Single-women led households are also common. In traditional families, a man is the nominal head of the family. Women, whether working outside the home or not, are generally responsible for household management and child rearing. Working men hardly participate in such activities.

Children are adored in society. Often grandparents are requested to take care of the children, especially when the mothers are working outside the home. Education is considered important but the poorer sections of society often have low literacy levels.

Respect for the older persons and those belonging to a higher status is considered an important part of the etiquette in El Salvador. Women in the country are expected to be respectful towards men. Children are taught to respect their elders. Greetings are also regarded to be an important way to shower respect. A person must be addressed properly. Failure to greet someone is considered offensive.


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