El Salvador, formally the Republic of El Salvador (Spanish: Repblica de El Salvador, meaning “Republic of the Savior”), is Central America’s smallest and most populous nation. San Salvador is El Salvador’s capital and biggest city. As of 2015, the nation was home to about 6.38 million people, the majority of whom are Mestizos of European and Indigenous American ancestry.
For millennia, El Salvador was inhabited by a variety of Mesoamerican peoples, most notably the Cuzcatlecs, as well as the Lenca and Maya. The Spanish Empire acquired the area in the early 16th century, integrating it into the Viceroyalty of New Spain, which was headquartered in Mexico City. In 1821, as part of the First Mexican Empire, the nation gained independence from Spain, only to secede again in 1823 as part of the Federal Republic of Central America. El Salvador became independent in 1841, after the collapse of the republic, until establishing a brief union with Honduras and Nicaragua known as the Greater Republic of Central America, which lasted from 1895 to 1898.
El Salvador experienced chronic political and economic instability from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, marked by coups, revolts, and a series of authoritarian regimes. Persistent socioeconomic disparity and political discontent culminated in the Salvadoran Civil War (1979–1992), which pitted the military-led government against a coalition of leftist guerrilla organizations. The dispute was resolved via a negotiated solution that created a multiparty constitutional republic that still exists today.
El Salvador’s economy has traditionally been dominated by agriculture, starting with the indigo plant (ail in Spanish), which was the most significant crop during the colonial era, and then by coffee, which accounted for 90 percent of export profits by the early twentieth century. El Salvador has subsequently decreased its reliance on coffee and begun diversifying its economy via the establishment of trade and financial connections and the expansion of the industrial sector. The colón, El Salvador’s national currency from 1892, was replaced in 2001 by the US dollar.
As of 2010, El Salvador was ranked 12th in Latin America and fourth in Central America on the Human Development Index (after Panama, Costa Rica, and Belize), owing in part to the country’s continuing fast industrialisation. The nation, however, continues to face high rates of poverty, inequality, and violence.