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El Salvador is the smallest of the republics on the Central American isthmus. Its coastline borders the Pacific Ocean in the south, Guatemala in the west and Honduras on both its northern and eastern sides. It is roughly the size of Wales and is the most densely populated country in the region. Like the other Central American states, it first became part of the Federal Republic of Central America after it independence in 1821and then slowly changed its status until it became a sovereign state.

It is comprised of lowlands along the Pacific coast and two parallel mountain ranges in the north, with a central plateau between them. After independence just a few families controlled all the land and most were devoted to the cultivation of coffee. Around ninety-nine per cent of the people are mestizos; only one per cent can claim pure blood European descent. Over the years small enclaves of Europeans have settled there, most notably East European refugees after the Second World War. Part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, it has been racked by volcanic eruptions and earthquakes for as long as anyone can remember.

Despite the threat of its volcanos, El Salvador has a diversity of animals and plants. Over 500 bird species, hundreds of butterflies and a fantastic variety of orchids. Out of the eight different species of sea turtles, six come to nest on Salvadoran beaches.

The capital is San Salvador. The population is over six million. Climate: tropical. Language: Spanish. The government is the presidential system and the currency changed from the Colon to the US$ in 2001. The main export is still coffee. Phone code 503


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