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San Salvador
National capital
San Salvador Capital City
Panoramica del Centro Histórico de San Salvador.jpg
Monumento del Salvador Del Mundo (Patrono de San Salvador.) 2.jpg
Citi san salvador.jpg
Iglesia El Calvario fachada.jpg
El Carmen SantaTecla.jpg
Don Rúa.jpg
FGR Antiguo.JPG
Palacio Nacional (S.S. El salvador.).JPG
Salon Azul.jpg
Iglesia El Rosario, frente a Plaza Libertad.jpg
Clockwise, from top: Plaza Morazán, Plaza Libertad, Plaza Salvador del Mundo, Centro Financiero Gigante, Torre Futura World Trade Center San Salvador, Monumento al Divino Salvador del Mundo, Torre Cuscatlan, Iglesia El Calvario, Iglesia El Carmen, Basilica Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, Iglesia Don Rua, Torre FGR, Salon Azul, National Palace, Plaza Gerardo Barrios and Iglesia El Rosario
Flag of San Salvador
Coat of arms of San Salvador
Coat of arms
Nuestra Capital – 2011 Ibero-American Capital of Culture
San Salvador Municipality in the Country
San Salvador Municipality in the Country
San Salvador is located in El Salvador
San Salvador
San Salvador
Location in El Salvador
San Salvador is located in Central America
San Salvador
San Salvador
Location in Central America
Country El Salvador
Department San Salvador Department
Metro San Salvador Metropolitan Area
Founded 1525
Founded by Pedro de Alvarado
Named for Divine Savior placed on the Monument
 • Type Democratic Republic
 • National capital 72.25 km2 (27.90 sq mi)
 • Metro
651.31 km2 (251.47 sq mi)
658 m (2,159 ft)
 • National capital 2,406,709
 • Estimate 
 • Rank 1st, El Salvador
 • Density 72.25/km2 (187.1/sq mi)
 • Metro
 • Metro density 651.31/km2 (1,686.9/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Sansalvadoran
Time zone UTC−6 (Central Standard Time)
CP 1101
Area code(s) + 503
HDI (2009) 0.829 – very high
HDI (2009) 0.829 very high

San Salvador ("Holy Savior") is the capital and the most populous city of El Salvador and its eponymous department. It is the country's political, cultural, educational and financial center. The Metropolitan Area of San Salvador which comprises the capital itself and 13 of its municipalities has a population of 2,404,097.

As a "beta" global city, San Salvador is also an important financial hub of Central America. The city is home to the Concejo de Ministros de El Salvador (Council of Ministries of El Salvador), La Asamblea Legislativa (The Legislative Assembly of El Salvador), the Corte Suprema de Justicia (The Supreme Court), and other governmental institutions, as well as the official residence of the president of the Republic. San Salvador is located in the Salvadoran highlands, surrounded by volcanoes and prone to earthquakes. The city is also home to the Catholic Archdiocese, as well as many Protestant branches of Christianity, including Evangelicals, Latter-day Saints, Baptists, and Pentecostals. San Salvador has the second largest Jewish community in Central America and a small Muslim community.

San Salvador has been the host city for various regional and international sporting, political, and social events. It hosted the Central American and Caribbean Games in 1935 and 2002, and the Central American Games in 1977 and 1994, as well as the Miss Universe 1975 pageant. San Salvador was also the host city of the 18th Ibero-American Summit, held October 29–31, 2008, the most important sociopolitical event in the Spanish and Portuguese sphere. The Central American Integration System (SICA) has its headquarters in San Salvador. The Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE) also has its headquarters in San Salvador.


San Salvador. Johnson's new chart of national emblems, 1868
San Salvador 1868 Flag
Plaza Libertad
Liberty Plaza during the early 1950s
Plaza Morazán
Historic Downtown early 1970s

Before the Spanish conquest, the Pipil people established their capital, Cuzcatlan, near the current location of San Salvador. Not much is known about Cuzcatlan, as it was abandoned by its inhabitants in an effort to avoid Spanish rule. Under the orders of conquistador Pedro de Alvarado, his associates Gonzalo de Alvarado and Diego de Holguín occupied the empty settlement and began to develop it. Diego de Holguín became the first mayor of San Salvador after the town was founded on April 1, 1525. The town changed location twice, in 1528 and 1545. Originally established in what is now the archaeological site of Ciudad Vieja, north of the present-day city, it was moved to the Valle de Las Hamacas, so named for the intense seismic activity that characterizes it. The new site was chosen because it had more space and more fertile land, thanks to the Acelhuate River. The population of the city remained relatively small until the early 20th century.

In January 1885, during the presidency of Dr. Rafael Zaldivar, a group of businessmen and the president's family contributed funds for building the Sara Zaldivar Asylum for Indigents and the Elderly. In 1902, the Hospital Rosales was built, named after its benefactor, Dr. Jose Rosales, a banker who gave his fortune to the hospital and to the orphanage. The hospital's construction was begun by president Carlos Ezeta and finished during the presidency of Tomás Regalado. In 1905 president Pedro José Escalón initiated construction of the National Palace, funded by coffee exportation taxes. The Monumento a los Próceres de 1811 (Monument to the Heroes of 1811), located in the Plaza Libertad, and the Teatro Nacional were built in 1911 during Dr. Manuel Enrique Araujo's presidency.

In 1917, an earthquake during an eruption of the nearby San Salvador volcano (also known as Quetzaltepec) damaged the city, but it escaped additional damage because the lava flowed down the back side of the volcano. On December 2, 1931, president Arturo Araujo was ousted by a military coup d'état and replaced by a military directorate. The directorate named vice-president Maximiliano Hernández Martínez as president and Araujo went into exile. The Martínez regime lasted from December 4, 1931 to May 6, 1944.

In 1964, the Christian Democratic Party (PDC) candidate, José Napoleon Duarte, an engineer, was elected mayor; he served from 1964 to 1970. During his term he ordered construction of the Pancho Lara park in the Vista Hermosa neighborhood, renewed the electrical grid, and set up a system of schools for adult education. The 1960s to the 1980s were the golden age of San Salvador in all aspects of security, quality of life, and modernization.

Today the tallest building in the country has 28 floors and is 110 meters high. With the commencement of the Salvadoran Civil War in the 1980s, many modernization projects were halted. Examples of suspended projects include a 40-story government building approximately 160 meters in height, and the Sheraton Hotel Tower, a 26-story building with a rotating restaurant on top.

In 1969, celebrations in the Cuscatlán stadium were held in honor of the returning troops from the Football War with Honduras. The Boulevard de los Héroes (Boulevard of the Heroes) was named after the Salvadoran soldiers who fought there. The 1986 San Salvador earthquake destroyed many government buildings and other important structures, injuring and killing hundreds. Thousands of people were displaced by the disaster and many struggled to find shelter in the ruins.

In 1986, Mayor Morales Ehrlich closed streets in the downtown of the city to create a large pedestrian mall, which has resulted in chronic traffic congestion. Since 2009, Mayor Norman Quijano has worked for the redevelopment of parks and historic buildings in the Rescate del Centro Histórico, which involves the removal of street vendors. This has led to several riots in the area, but he has managed to place the vendors in new markets where they can operate their own stalls. The Chapultepec Peace Accords were signed on January 16, 1992, ending 12 years of civil war. The signing is celebrated as a national holiday with people flooding downtown San Salvador in the Plaza Gerardo Barrios and in La Libertad Park.

Municipal districts

The San Salvador Municipality is naturally delimited by the Acelhuate River on the east, the San Jacinto Hill on the south east, the lower highlands of the Balsam Range on the South, El Picacho Mountain and the Bicentennial Park on the West, and North by the San Antonio River. The municipality is further subdivided into districts governed by the municipal mayor (Nayib Bukele since May 1, 2015) and by a District board. There are seven districts in San Salvador, Districts 1–6 and the Historic Downtown.

The six districts:

  • District One – Historic Downtown, Colonia Layco, Colonia La Rabida, Colonia Manzano. (Population: 118,325)
  • District Two – Colonia Centro América, Colonia Miralvalle, Colonia Flor Blanca, Colonia Miramonte. (Population: 110,475)
  • District Three – Colonia Escalón, Colonia San Benito, Colonia La Mascota, Colonia Maquilishuat. (Population: 51,325)
  • District Four – Colonia San Francisco, Colonia La Cima (I-IV), Colonia La Floresta. (Population: 68,465)
  • District Five – Colonia Monserrat, Colonia Modelo, Centro Urbano Candelaria. (Population: 126,290)
  • District Six – Barrio San Esteban. (Population: 92,908)

Total Population in all Six Districts: 567,788


The city is located in the Boquerón Volcano Valley, a region of high seismic activity. The city's average elevation is 659 metres (2,162 feet) above sea level, but ranges from a highest point of 1,186 metres (3,891 feet) above sea level to a lowest point of 596 m (1,955 ft) above sea level. The municipality is surrounded by these natural features of the landscape: southward by the Cordillera del Balsamo (Balsam Mountain Range); westward by the Boquerón Volcano and Cerro El Picacho, the highest point in the municipality at 1,929 m (6,329 ft). El Boquerón Volcano was dormant since its last eruption in 1917, but has been active recently. East of the municipality lies the San Jacinto Hill and the caldera of Lake Ilopango, the largest natural body of water in the country with an area of 72 square kilometres (28 square miles). The caldera is seismically active, but has not erupted since 1880.


Lago Ilopango desde Cojutepeque 2011
View of Lake Ilopango and the eastern the San Salvador Valley

San Salvador has a tropical wet and dry climate under the Köppen climate classification, and enjoys very warm to hot weather all year round, with daily mean temperatures of 27 °C or 80.6 °F. Its weather cools from the months of November through February due to seasonal winds of the dry season. During these months one can expect a daily mean of 22.2 °C (72.0 °F). The hottest months of the year are April and May, during the transition from the dry season (November to April), to the rainy season (May to October). In April and May average maximum temperatures reach 32.2 °C (90.0 °F). The highest reading ever recorded was 38.5 °C (101.3 °F), the lowest was 8.2 °C (46.8 °F). The highest dew point was 27 °C (81 °F) and the lowest −10 °C (14 °F). Thunderstorms occur almost daily during the rainy season, mostly in the afternoon and through the night—by morning the sky clears and the days are usually sunny till the afternoon storms.


San Salvador City on the foot of San Salvador volcano.
Boquerón crater
El Boquerón crater, San Salvador

San Salvador has a very hilly terrain; there are few parts of the municipality where the elevation is consistent. The city shares many topographic features with neighboring municipalities in the San Salvador and the La Libertad departments.

  • The most notable topographical feature visible in San Salvador and its metropolitan area is the Boquerón Volcano, which looms over this region in its foothills at a height of 1,893 metres (6,211 feet) above sea level.
  • San Salvador shares Cerro El Picacho, 1,931 metres (6,335 feet) above sea level, with the neighboring municipality of Mejicanos.
Flora found in the volcanic region of El Boquerón
  • The portion of the Cordillera del Bálsamo (Balsam Mountain Range) that sits in the Municipality has an average elevation of 1,030 metres (3,379 feet) above sea level. The Cordillera del Bálsamo is named after the Myroxylon balsamum tree, one of two species of Central American and South American trees in the family Fabaceae (Leguminosae). The tree, often called Quina or Bálsamo, is well known in the western world as the source of Balsam of Peru and Tolu balsam. El Salvador is the main exporter of these resins, which are still extracted manually.
  • El Cerro de San Jacinto (San Jacinto Hill), is located on the eastern border of the municipality and is shared with Soyapango, Santo Tomás and San Marcos. The summit is located at 1,153 metres (3,783 feet) above sea level. The hill was once famous for the San Jacinto Cable Car and Park located at its summit, but the facilities were eventually abandoned. Soil types include regosol, latosol, and andosol, as well as soils derived from andesitic and basaltic rocks.

Bodies of water

Ilopango caldera
Aerial view of Lake Ilopango caldera

The river nearest San Salvador is the Acelhuate, which is 2.2 km (1.4 mi) long. Although not within the municipality, it forms a natural boundary between San Salvador and Soyapango. The Acelhuate served as a water source for San Salvador during the late 1800s and early 1900s, but due to urbanization is now polluted. There are small streams running down from Lake Ilopango, and a few old aqueduct systems, but the municipality itself has no major bodies of water.

  • Lake Ilopango, although not located in the municipality, is the closest large body of water, being only minutes away from the San Salvador historic center. The lake is also the largest natural body of water in the country, with an area of 72 km2 (28 sq mi). The Cerrón Grande reservoir, 78 km (48 mi) north of San Salvador, was formed by damming the Lempa River in the municipalities of Potonico, (Chalatenango) and Jutiapa (Cabañas). The Cerrón Grande Hydroelectric Dam provides a substantial portion of the region's electricity.


Spanish is the language spoken by virtually all inhabitants. English is spoken more widely than in the past, due mainly to cultural influences from the United States, especially in entertainment, and the large number of Salvadoran emigrants returned from the United States. About 86% of the population is considered to be mestizo, and 12% fall under the category of white, or creole, having mostly Spanish ancestry, and a few of French or German descent. Other smaller ethnic groups in the white population are descendants of Swiss, Italians, Syrians, Jews (mostly Sephardic), and Christian Palestinians.

In 2015, San Salvador was projected to have a population of 257,754 inhabitants, accounting for about 3.99% of the country's population, while the metropolitan area had 1,767,102 inhabitants, comprising 27.4% of the country's total population.


San Salvador is rich in Spanish heritage, and its historical center contains architecture of a kind not found elsewhere in Latin America. The Metropolitan Cathedral was built in the 1950s combining Baroque and eclectic styles of architecture. The National palace, built in 1905, is a mix of Gothic, Neoclassical, and Renaissance Revival architecture. The National Theater is the oldest theater in Central America, being built in 1917 in the French Renaissance Revival style with details in the Rococo, Romantic and Art Nouveau architectural styles. The building contains three levels of seats, including a Presidential box at the center of the second level, and has seating for 650 people. The structure is surmounted by an ellipsoidal dome, the interior of which is adorned with a mural painted by Carlos Cañas and a crystal chandelier.

San Salvador is also home to the museum Museo de Arte de El Salvador (MARTE), whose collection includes artworks dating from the mid-19th century to the contemporary era. The museum has held temporary exhibitions of works by internationally renowned artists like Picasso, Rembrandt, Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró. The Museo Nacional de Antropología (MUNA) or National Museum of Anthropology, founded in 1883 by Dr. David J. Guzmán, has exhibits on human settlements, agriculture, artisans, commerce and trade, religion, arts and communication. The museum aims to foster cultural awareness for Salvadorans through exhibitions, research, publications and educational programs.

In 2011, the Union of Ibero-American Capital Cities or Unión de Ciudades Capitales Iberoamericanas (UCCI), selected San Salvador as a "Latin American capital of culture", recognizing San Salvador's cultural diversity. The city government is restoring the downtown area, with the goal of celebrating the city's past and promoting cultural diversity.

City Symbols

The symbols of the city are the shield, flag, anthem, and staff of office. The first three were created as a result of a contest launched in 1943. The shield (designed by the painter José Mejía Vides) is divided into four quadrants: the two quadrants at the top right and bottom left have blue and white fields symbolizing the national flag; the top left quadrant displays a symbolic emerald necklace; and the lower right contains the bell of the Church of La Merced, representing the birth of El Salvador's independence movement in 1811, when José Matías Delgado rang the bells.

The flag was designed at the request of the city government. The anthem was written by Carlos Bustamante (lyrics) and Ciriaco de Jesús Alas (music).

The municipal staff shows a series of figures and symbols relating to local history. From top to bottom these images are: a native Amerindian, first mayor Diego de Olguín, Carlos V of Spain, the Royal Decree which gave San Salvador its name, Mayor Antonio Gutiérrez, the priest José Matías Delgado, the seal of liberation of 1811, the 1821 independence seal, the shield of the Municipal Freedom Union, the national emblem, and God.

On May 5, 2015, Mayor Nayib Bukele presented the redesigned city shield and flag. The new city coat of arms is silver as a symbol of purity; it has the National Flag in the center, and a ribbon on the bottom with the date 1834, the year San Salvador was declared capital of Central America. On the sides it has two swords: to the left the sword of Francisco Morazán, and to the right, the sword of Gerardo Barrios, representing his past victories. A crown of laurels encircles the coat of arms, which is also surrounded by 6 stars, representing the 6 districts that form the city.


The economy of San Salvador, Antiguo Cuscatlán, and Santa Tecla is a mixed one composed mainly of services, private education, banking, business headquartering, and industrial manufacturing. Other municipalities in the metropolitan area depend either on industry, like Soyapango and Ilopango, on public services, like Mejicanos, or on power generation, as in Nejapa and Apopa. The other municipalities have not developed their own economies, however, they have provided the workforce required for industry in neighboring municipalities.

San Salvador's economy is mostly based on the service and retail sector, rather on industry or manufacturing.

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See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: San Salvador para niños

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