The mestizo culture dominates the country, shaped by the influences of indigenous North Americans and Spaniards from Europe. Intermarriage between the indigenous Mesoamerican population of Cuzcatlan and European settlers created a new mixed population. The Catholic Church plays an important role in Salvadoran culture. Archbishop Óscar Romero is a national hero for his role in resisting the human rights abuses that took place in the run-up to the Salvadoran civil war. Important foreign figures in El Salvador include Jesuit priests and professors Ignacio Ellacuria, Ignacio Martín-Baró and Segundo Montes, who were assassinated by the Salvadoran army in 1989 at the height of the civil war.
Painting, ceramics and textiles are the most important manual artistic media. The writers Francisco Gavidia (1863-1955), Salarrué (Salvador Salazar Arrué) (1899-1975), Claudia Lars, Alfredo Espino, Pedro Geoffroy Rivas, Manlio Argueta, José Roberto Cea and the poet Roque Dalton are among the most important writers of El Salvador. Notable personalities of the 20th century are the filmmaker Baltasar Polio, the director Patricia Chica, the artist Fernando Llort and the cartoonist Toño Salazar.
Among the most famous representatives of the graphic arts are the painters Augusto Crespin, Noe Canjura, Carlos Cañas, Julia Díaz, Mauricio Mejia, Maria Elena Palomo de Mejia, Camilo Minero, Ricardo Carbonell, Roberto Huezo, Miguel Angel Cerna (painter and writer, better known as MACLo), Esael Araujo, and many others. For more information on prominent citizens of El Salvador, see the list of Salvadorans.
One of the most famous dishes in El Salvador is the pupusa. Pupusas are handmade corn tortillas (made from masa de maíz or masa de arroz, a corn or rice-based dough used in Latin American cuisine) filled with one or more of the following ingredients: Cheese (usually a Salvadoran soft cheese like quesillo, similar to mozzarella), chicharrón or refried beans. Sometimes the filling is queso con loroco (cheese combined with loroco, a vine flower bud native to Central America).
Pupusas revueltas are pupusas filled with beans, cheese and pork. There are also vegetarian options. Some adventurous restaurants even offer pupusas stuffed with prawns or spinach. The name pupusa comes from the Pipil-Nahuatl word pupushahua. The exact origins of pupusa are disputed, but it is known to have existed in El Salvador before the arrival of the Spanish.
Two other typical Salvadoran dishes are yuca frita and panes con pollo. Fried yuca is a fried cassava root served with curtido (a filling of pickled cabbage, onions and carrots) and panes con pollo with pescaditas (small fried sardines). Yuca is sometimes served boiled instead of fried. Pan con pollo/pavo (chicken/turkey sandwiches) are hot turkey or chicken sandwiches. The bird is marinated, then fried with pipil spices and cut by hand. This sandwich is traditionally served with tomato and watercress as well as cucumber, onion, lettuce, mayonnaise and mustard.
One of the typical breakfasts in El Salvador is fried plantains, usually served with cream. It is common in Salvadoran restaurants and households, including those of immigrants to the United States.
Alguashte, a spice made from dried and ground pepitas, is often used in Salvadoran sweet and savoury dishes.
“Maria Luisa” is a dessert that is widely eaten in El Salvador. It is a layered cake dipped in orange marmalade and sprinkled with icing sugar.
A popular drink enjoyed by Salvadorans is horchata, a drink that originated in the Valencian community in Spain. Horchata is usually made from powdered morro seeds, which are mixed with milk or water and sugar. Horchata is drunk all year round and can be consumed at any time of the day. It is usually accompanied by a plate of pupusas or fried yuca. Horchata from El Salvador has a very distinct taste and should not be confused with Mexican horchata, which is made with rice. Coffee is also a common morning drink.
Other popular drinks in El Salvador are ensalada, a drink made from sliced fruit swimming in fruit juice, and kolachampan, a sugarcane-flavoured soft drink.
One of the most popular desserts is the pastel de tres leches (three-milk cake), which is made with three types of milk: Evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream.
Salvadoran music is a mixture of indigenous pipil and Spanish influences. The music includes religious songs (mainly to celebrate Christmas and other holidays, including the days of the saints). Satirical and rural lyrical themes are common. Cuban, Colombian and Mexican music has infiltrated the country, including salsa and cumbia. El Salvador’s popular music uses marimba, tehpe’ch, flutes, drums, scrapers and calabashes, as well as guitars and other instruments imported more recently. The best known folk dance of El Salvador is the Xuc, which originated in Cojutepeque, Cuscatlan. The musical repertoire also includes danza, pasillo, marcha and canciones.
Football is the most popular sport in El Salvador. The national football team of El Salvador qualified for the FIFA World Cup in 1970 and 1982. Qualification for the 1970 tournament was marred by the football war against Honduras, whose team had defeated El Salvador.
The national football team plays in the Estadio Cuscatlán in San Salvador. It was inaugurated in 1976 and has 53,400 seats, making it the largest stadium in Central America and the Caribbean.