Photos of El Salvador



El Salvador achieved independence from Spain in 1821 and from the Central American Federation in 1839. A 12-year civil war, which cost about 75,000 lives, was brought to a close in 1992 when the government and leftist rebels signed a treaty that provided for military and political reforms. El Salvador is beset by one of the world's highest homicide rates and pervasive criminal gangs.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.



Central America, bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Guatemala and Honduras

Geographic coordinates

13 50 N, 88 55 W

Map references

Central America and the Caribbean


total: 21,041 sq km

land: 20,721 sq km

water: 320 sq km

country comparison to the world: 153

Area - comparative

about the same size as New Jersey

Land boundaries

total: 590 km

border countries (2): Guatemala 199 km, Honduras 391 km


307 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 24 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm


tropical; rainy season (May to October); dry season (November to April); tropical on coast; temperate in uplands


mostly mountains with narrow coastal belt and central plateau


mean elevation: 442 m

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m

highest point: Cerro El Pital 2,730 m

Natural resources

hydropower, geothermal power, petroleum, arable land

Land use

agricultural land: 74.7% (2018 est.)

arable land: 33.1% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 10.9% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 30.7% (2018 est.)

forest: 13.6% (2018 est.)

other: 11.7% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

452 sq km (2012)

Population distribution

athough it is the smallest country in land area in Central America, El Salvador has a population that is 18 times larger than Belize; at least 20% of the population lives abroad; high population density country-wide, with particular concentration around the capital of San Salvador

Natural hazards

known as the Land of Volcanoes; frequent and sometimes destructive earthquakes and volcanic activity; extremely susceptible to hurricanes

volcanism: significant volcanic activity; San Salvador (1,893 m), which last erupted in 1917, has the potential to cause major harm to the country's capital, which lies just below the volcano's slopes; San Miguel (2,130 m), which last erupted in 2002, is one of the most active volcanoes in the country; other historically active volcanoes include Conchaguita, Ilopango, Izalco, and Santa Ana

Geography - note

smallest Central American country and only one without a coastline on the Caribbean Sea

People and Society


noun: Salvadoran(s)

adjective: Salvadoran

Ethnic groups

Mestizo 86.3%, White 12.7%, Amerindian 0.2% (includes Lenca, Kakawira, Nahua-Pipil), Black 0.1%, other 0.6% (2007 est.)


Spanish (official), Nawat (among some Amerindians)


Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 36%, other 2%, none 12% (2014 est.)

Demographic profile

El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America. It is well into its demographic transition, experiencing slower population growth, a decline in its number of youths, and the gradual aging of its population. The increased use of family planning has substantially lowered El Salvador's fertility rate, from approximately 6 children per woman in the 1970s to replacement level today. A 2008 national family planning survey showed that female sterilization remained the most common contraception method in El Salvador - its sterilization rate is among the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean - but that the use of injectable contraceptives is growing. Fertility differences between rich and poor and urban and rural women are narrowing.

Salvadorans fled during the 1979 to 1992 civil war mainly to the United States but also to Canada and to neighboring Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Emigration to the United States increased again in the 1990s and 2000s as a result of deteriorating economic conditions, natural disasters (Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and earthquakes in 2001), and family reunification. At least 20% of El Salvador's population lives abroad. The remittances they send home account for close to 20% of GDP, are the second largest source of external income after exports, and have helped reduce poverty.

Age structure

0-14 years: 25.83% (male 857,003/female 817,336)

15-24 years: 18.82% (male 619,368/female 600,501)

25-54 years: 40.51% (male 1,221,545/female 1,404,163)

55-64 years: 7.23% (male 198,029/female 270,461)

65 years and over: 7.6% (male 214,717/female 277,979) (2020 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 54.4

youth dependency ratio: 41.1

elderly dependency ratio: 13.4

potential support ratio: 7.5 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 27.7 years

male: 26.2 years

female: 29.3 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 145

Birth rate

18.22 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 82

Death rate

5.91 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 164

Net migration rate

-5.57 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 207

Population distribution

athough it is the smallest country in land area in Central America, El Salvador has a population that is 18 times larger than Belize; at least 20% of the population lives abroad; high population density country-wide, with particular concentration around the capital of San Salvador


urban population: 73.4% of total population (2020)

rate of urbanization: 1.57% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)

Major urban areas - population

1.107 million SAN SALVADOR (capital) (2021)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.03 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.87 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.73 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.77 male(s)/female

total population: 0.92 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth

20.8 years (2008 est.)

note: median age at first birth among women 25-29

Maternal mortality rate

46 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 95

Infant mortality rate

total: 12.38 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 14.03 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 10.64 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 118

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 75.11 years

male: 71.6 years

female: 78.79 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 125

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 100% of population

rural: 92.2% of population

total: 97.4% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population

rural: 7.8% of population

total: 2.6% of population (2015 est.)

Physicians density

1.57 physicians/1,000 population (2016)

Hospital bed density

1.2 beds/1,000 population (2017)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 99.8% of population

rural: 94.7% of population

total: 98.3% of population

unimproved: urban: 0.2% of population

rural: 5.3% of population

total: 1.7% of population (2017 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

<1000 (2019 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: high (2020)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea

vectorborne diseases: dengue fever


definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 88.5%

male: 90.6%

female: 86.7% (2017)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 12 years

male: 12 years

female: 12 years (2018)


Country name

conventional long form: Republic of El Salvador

conventional short form: El Salvador

local long form: Republica de El Salvador

local short form: El Salvador

etymology: name is an abbreviation of the original Spanish conquistador designation for the area "Provincia de Nuestro Senor Jesus Cristo, el Salvador del Mundo" (Province of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the World), which became simply "El Salvador" (The Savior)

Government type

presidential republic


name: San Salvador

geographic coordinates: 13 42 N, 89 12 W

time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: Spanish for "Holy Savior" (referring to Jesus Christ)

Administrative divisions

14 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento); Ahuachapan, Cabanas, Chalatenango, Cuscatlan, La Libertad, La Paz, La Union, Morazan, San Miguel, San Salvador, San Vicente, Santa Ana, Sonsonate, Usulutan


15 September 1821 (from Spain)

National holiday

Independence Day, 15 September (1821)


history: many previous; latest drafted 16 December 1983, enacted 23 December 1983

amendments: proposals require agreement by absolute majority of the Legislative Assembly membership; passage requires at least two-thirds majority vote of the Assembly; constitutional articles on basic principles, and citizen rights and freedoms cannot be amended; amended 2003, 2009, 2014

Legal system

civil law system with minor common law influence; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt


citizenship by birth: yes

citizenship by descent only: yes

dual citizenship recognized: yes

residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Nayib Armando BUKELE Ortez (since 1 June 2019); Vice President Felix Augusto Antonio ULLOA Garay (since 1 June 2019); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government

head of government: President Nayib Armando BUKELE Ortez (since 1 June 2019); Vice President Felix Augusto Antonio ULLOA Garay (since 1 June 2019)

cabinet: Council of Ministers selected by the president

elections/appointments: president and vice president directly elected on the same ballot by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a single 5-year term; election last held on 3 February 2019 (next to be held on February 2024)

election results: Nayib Armando BUKELE Ortez elected president - Nayib Armando BUKELE Ortez (GANA) 53.1%, Carlos CALLEJA Hakker (ARENA) 31.72%, Hugo MARTINEZ (FMLN) 14.41%, other 0.77%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Legislative Assembly or Asamblea Legislativa (84 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies and a single nationwide constituency by proportional representation vote to serve 3-year terms)

elections: last held on 4 March 2018 (next to be held on 28 February 2021)

election results: percent of vote by party - ARENA 42.3%, FMLN 24.4%, GANA 11.5%, PCN 10.8%, PDC 3.2%, CD 0.9%, Independent 0.7%, other 6.2%; seats by party - ARENA 37, FMLN 23, GANA 11, PCN 8, PDC 3, CD 1, independent 1; composition -men 58, women 26, percent of women 31%

Judicial branch

highest courts: Supreme Court or Corte Suprema de Justicia (consists of 16 judges and 16 substitutes judges organized into Constitutional, Civil, Penal, and Administrative Conflict Chambers)

judge selection and term of office: judges elected by the Legislative Assembly on the recommendation of both the National Council of the Judicature, an independent body elected by the Legislative Assembly, and the Bar Association; judges elected for 9-year terms, with renewal of one-third of membership every 3 years; consecutive reelection is allowed

subordinate courts: Appellate Courts; Courts of First Instance; Courts of Peace

Political parties and leaders

Christian Democratic Party or PDC [Rodolfo Antonio PARKER Soto]
Democratic Change (Cambio Democratico) or CD [Douglas AVILES] (formerly United Democratic Center or CDU)
Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front or FMLN [Medardo GONZALEZ]
Great Alliance for National Unity or GANA [Jose Andres ROVIRA Caneles]
National Coalition Party or PCN [Manuel RODRIGUEZ]
Nationalist Republican Alliance or ARENA [Mauricio INTERIANO]
Nuevas Ideas [Federico Gerardo ANLIKER]

International organization participation

BCIE, CACM, CD, CELAC, FAO, G-11, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), LAES, LAIA (observer), MIGA, MINURSO, MINUSTAH, NAM (observer), OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, Pacific Alliance (observer), PCA, Petrocaribe, SICA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNIFIL, Union Latina, UNISFA, UNMISS, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Carmen Milena MAYORGA VALERA (since 23 December 2020)

chancery: 1400 16th Street NW, Suite 100, Washington, DC 20036

telephone: [1] (202) 595-7500

FAX: [1] (202) 232-1928

consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Boston, Brentwood (NY), Chicago, Dallas, Doral (FL), Doraville (GA), Houston, Las Vegas (NV), Los Angeles, McAllen (TX), New York, Nogales (AZ), San Francisco, Silver Spring (MD), Tucson (AZ), Washington, DC, Woodbridge (VA)

consulate(s): Elizabeth (NJ), Newark (NJ), Seattle, Woodbridge (VA)

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Ronald D. JOHNSON (since 6 September 2019)

telephone: [503] 2501-2999

embassy: Final Boulevard Santa Elena, Antiguo Cuscatlan, La Libertad, San Salvador

mailing address: Unit 3450, APO AA 34023; 3450 San Salvador Place, Washington, DC 20521-3450

FAX: [503] 2501-2150

Flag description

three equal horizontal bands of cobalt blue (top), white, and cobalt blue with the national coat of arms centered in the white band; the coat of arms features a round emblem encircled by the words REPUBLICA DE EL SALVADOR EN LA AMERICA CENTRAL; the banner is based on the former blue-white-blue flag of the Federal Republic of Central America; the blue bands symbolize the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, while the white band represents the land between the two bodies of water, as well as peace and prosperity

note: similar to the flag of Nicaragua, which has a different coat of arms centered in the white band; also similar to the flag of Honduras, which has five blue stars arranged in an X pattern centered in the white band

National symbol(s)

turquoise-browed motmot (bird); national colors: blue, white

National anthem

name: "Himno Nacional de El Salvador" (National Anthem of El Salvador)

lyrics/music: Juan Jose CANAS/Juan ABERLE

note: officially adopted 1953, in use since 1879; at 4:20 minutes, the anthem of El Salvador is one of the world's longest


Economic overview

The smallest country in Central America geographically, El Salvador has the fourth largest economy in the region. With the global recession, real GDP contracted in 2009 and economic growth has since remained low, averaging less than 2% from 2010 to 2014, but recovered somewhat in 2015-17 with an average annual growth rate of 2.4%. Remittances accounted for approximately 18% of GDP in 2017 and were received by about a third of all households.

In 2006, El Salvador was the first country to ratify the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement, which has bolstered the export of processed foods, sugar, and ethanol, and supported investment in the apparel sector amid increased Asian competition. In September 2015, El Salvador kicked off a five-year $277 million second compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation - a US Government agency aimed at stimulating economic growth and reducing poverty - to improve El Salvador's competitiveness and productivity in international markets.

The Salvadoran Government maintained fiscal discipline during reconstruction and rebuilding following earthquakes in 2001 and hurricanes in 1998 and 2005, but El Salvador's public debt, estimated at 59.3% of GDP in 2017, has been growing over the last several years.

Real GDP growth rate

2.3% (2017 est.)

2.6% (2016 est.)

2.4% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 121

Credit ratings

Fitch rating: B- (2017)

Moody's rating: B3 (2018)

Standard & Poors rating: B- (2018)

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$56.636 billion (2019 est.)

$55.318 billion (2018 est.)

$54.005 billion (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 109

GDP (official exchange rate)

$27.023 billion (2019 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$8,776 (2019 est.)

$8,616 (2018 est.)

$8,454 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 148

Gross national saving

17% of GDP (2019 est.)

15.6% of GDP (2018 est.)

15% of GDP (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 128

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 12% (2017 est.)

industry: 27.7% (2017 est.)

services: 60.3% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 84.5% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 15.8% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 16.9% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 0% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 27.6% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -44.9% (2017 est.)

Ease of Doing Business Index scores

Overall score: 65.3 (2020)

Starting a Business score: 78.6 (2020)

Trading score: 89.8 (2020)

Enforcement score: 51.9 (2020)

Agricultural products

sugar cane, maize, milk, poultry, sorghum, beans, coconuts, eggs, apples, oranges


food processing, beverages, petroleum, chemicals, fertilizer, textiles, furniture, light metals

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 21%

industry: 20%

services: 58% (2011 est.)

Unemployment rate

7% (2017 est.)

6.9% (2016 est.)

note: data are official rates; but underemployment is high

country comparison to the world: 114

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 2.2%

highest 10%: 32.3% (2014 est.)


revenues: 5.886 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 6.517 billion (2017 est.)

Public debt

67.9% of GDP (2017 est.)

66.4% of GDP (2016 est.)

note: El Salvador's total public debt includes non-financial public sector debt, financial public sector debt, and central bank debt

country comparison to the world: 54

Fiscal year

calendar year

Current account balance

-$501 million (2017 est.)

-$500 million (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 122


$4.662 billion (2017 est.)

$5.42 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 118

Exports - partners

United States 40%, Guatemala 15%, Honduras 15%, Nicaragua 6% (2019)

Exports - commodities

textiles and apparel, electrical capacitors, plastic lids, raw sugar, toilet paper (2019)


$9.499 billion (2017 est.)

$8.954 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 111

Imports - partners

United States 30%, China 14%, Guatemala 13%, Mexico 8%, Honduras 6% (2019)

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, packaged medicines, clothing, broadcasting equipment, natural gas (2019)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$3.567 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$3.238 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 104

Debt - external

$17.24 billion (2019 est.)

$16.712 billion (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 100

Exchange rates

note: the US dollar is used as a medium of exchange and circulates freely in the economy

1 (2017 est.)


Electricity access

electrification - total population: 97% (2019)

electrification - urban areas: 99% (2019)

electrification - rural areas: 93% (2019)


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 882,498

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 13.73 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 79

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 9,442,667

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 146.91 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 91

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: multiple mobile-cellular operators began rolling out (Long Term Evolution) LTE data services in late-2016; Internet usage grew almost 400% between 2007 and 2015; 6% of phones are fixed-line, while 94% are mobile-cellular; as of March 2019, the regulator launched a public dialog that allowed mobile network operators to improve the reach and quality of service; telecom legislation encourages competition and foreign investment; only 1 DSL market leader retaining a monopoly; govt. increases tax on telecom services to 18% (2020)

domestic: growth in fixed-line services 14 per 100, has slowed in the face of mobile-cellular competition at 147 per 100 (2019)

international: country code - 503; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean); connected to Central American Microwave System (2019)

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

Broadcast media

multiple privately owned national terrestrial TV networks, supplemented by cable TV networks that carry international channels; hundreds of commercial radio broadcast stations and 1 government-owned radio broadcast station; transition to digital transmission to begin in 2018 along with adaptation of the Japanese-Brazilian Digital Standard (ISDB-T)

Internet users

total: 2,153,776

percent of population: 33.82% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 120

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 492,265

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 8 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 86


National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 1 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 13

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 2,545,105 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 10.73 million mt-km (2018)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 5 (2017)

over 3,047 m: 1 (2017)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2017)

914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2017)

under 914 m: 1 (2017)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 63 (2013)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m: 11 (2013)

under 914 m: 51 (2013)


2 (2013)


total: 13 km (2014)

narrow gauge: 12.5 km 0.914-m gauge (2014)

country comparison to the world: 135


total: 9,012 km (2017)

paved: 5,341 km (2017)

unpaved: 3,671 km (2017)

country comparison to the world: 138


(Rio Lempa River is partially navigable by small craft) (2011)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Puerto Cutuco

oil terminal(s): Acajutla offshore terminal

Military and Security

Military and security forces

the Armed Force of El Salvador (La Fuerza Armada de El Salvador, FAES): Army of El Salvador (Ejercito de El Salvador, ES), Navy of El Salvador (Fuerza Naval de El Salvador, FNES), Salvadoran Air Force (Fuerza Aerea Salvadorena, FAS); Ministry of Justice and Public Security: National Civil Police (Policia Nacional Civil, PNC) (2021)

note: supporting the National Police (Ministry of Interior) in countering gang violence and drug trafficking is a primary mission for the FAES

Military expenditures

1.2% of GDP (2019)

1.1% of GDP (2018)

1% of GDP (2017)

1% of GDP (2016)

1% of GDP (2015)

country comparison to the world: 111

Military and security service personnel strengths

the Armed Force of El Salvador (FAES) has approximately 22,000 active troops (17,500 Army; 1,500 Navy; 2,000 Air Force) (2020)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the FAES is dependent on a mix of mostly older imported platforms, largely from the US; since 2010, the FAES has received small amounts of equipment from Chile, Israel, Spain, and the US (2020)

Military deployments

170 Mali (MINUSMA) (Jan 2021)

Military service age and obligation

18 years of age for selective compulsory military service; 16-22 years of age for voluntary male or female service; service obligation is 12 months, with 11 months for officers and NCOs (2012)

Military - note

in recent years, about half of the Army was reportedly deployed on internal security duties in support of the National Civil Police to combat gang violence, organized crime, and narcotics trafficking, as well as assisting with border security (2021)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on the delimitation of "bolsones" (disputed areas) along the El Salvador-Honduras boundary, in 1992, with final agreement by the parties in 2006 after an Organization of American States survey and a further ICJ ruling in 2003; the 1992 ICJ ruling advised a tripartite resolution to a maritime boundary in the Gulf of Fonseca advocating Honduran access to the Pacific; El Salvador continues to claim tiny Conejo Island, not identified in the ICJ decision, off Honduras in the Gulf of Fonseca

Illicit drugs

transshipment point for cocaine; small amounts of marijuana produced for local consumption; significant use of cocaine