San Salvador (English: Holy Savior) is the capital city of the Republic of El Salvador, and the capital of the San Salvador department. It is the country's most populated municipality as well as its most important political, cultural, educational and financial center. As a gamma global city, San Salvador is also an important financial center within Central America and in the world economy. The city is home to the Concejo de Minisitro 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 Spaniards called the area "El Valle de Las Hamacas" (English: The Valley of Hammocks), a translation of the name given it by the native Pipil people in allusion to the need for beds that would sway with the earth's movements during an earthquake. With a population of 567,698 (2,442,017 in the metro area), it is the fifth most populated city in Central America, and its metropolitan area is the second most populated. 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. Castilian is spoken by the entire population, and a high percentage speaks English.
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. The Olympic Committee of El Salvador has expressed interest in bidding for the 2019 Pan American Games; if successful, it will be the first time the Pan American Games have been hosted in Central America. El Salvador has placed a bid for the 2015 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.  San Salvador has also been the host city of the 18th Ibero-American Summit, held October 29–31, 2008—this is the most important sociopolitical event in the Spanish and Portuguese sphere. The Central American Integration System (SICA) has its headquarters in San Salvador. In 1991, the institutional framework of SICA included Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. Belize joined in 2000 as a full member, while the Dominican Republic became an associated state in 2004. The Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE) also has its headquarters in San Salvador.
Before the Spanish conquest, the Pipil people established their capital, Cuzcatlán, near the current location of San Salvador. Not much is known about Cuzcatlán, 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 Historico, 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. Quijano is widely regarded as the first mayor to truly care for the welfare of the city, consequently he was reelected in 2012. The Chapultepec Peace Accords were signed on January 16, 1992, ending 22 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.
The cities in El Salvador, by constitutional provision (Article 203), are economically and administratively autonomous. San Salvador is governed by a council consisting of a mayor (elected by direct vote every three years, with an option to be re-elected), a trustee and two or more aldermen whose number varies in proportion to the population of the municipality. Mayor Quijano, a member of the Nationalist Republican Alliance party, is accompanied by a trustee, twelve aldermen, four substitute aldermen, and a secretary. The functions and powers of this government are framed within the rules of the Municipal Code.
San Salvador's government is composed of various departments, including the departments of festivals, parks, cemeteries, and finance. To safeguard the interests of the municipality, there is a board of metropolitan agents. Each of the six city districts also has a government department. The mayor is a member of the Council of Mayors of the Metropolitan Area of San Salvador (COAMSS), composed of fourteen local councils that make up the area known as Greater San Salvador.
Satellite image of Great San Salvador City. East (right) of the city lies Lake Ilopango, and to the west (left) rises the San Salvador volcano. The beaches of the Central American Pacific coast (bottom) lie just south of the city.
City mayors since 1964
- José Napoleón Duarte (1964–1970)
- Carlos Antonio Herrera Rebollo (1970–1974)
- José Antonio Morales Ehrlich (1974–1976)
- Alejandro Duarte (1982–1985)
- José Antonio Morales Ehrlich (1985–1988)
- Armando Calderón Sol (1988–1994)
- Mario Valiente (1994–1997)
- Héctor Silva Arguello (1997–2003)
- Carlos Rivas Zamora (2003–2006)
- Violeta Menjívar(2006–2009)
- Norman Quijano (2009–2012)
- Norman Quijano (2012–2015) Reelected Mayor
Sub-division and projects
The San Salvador Municipality is divided into Districts. Currently the city has six Districts as listed below:
- District One - Historic Downtown, Colonia Layco, Colonia La Rabida. (Population: 118,325)
- District Two - Colonia Centro America, Colonia Miralvalle, Colonia Flor Blanca, Colonia Miramonte. (Population: 110,475)
- District Three - Colonia Escalon, Colonia San Benito, Colonia La Mascota, Colonia Maquilishuat. (Population: 51,325)
- District Four - Colonia San Francisco, Colonia La Cima (I-IV), Colonia La Floresta. (Populaton: 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 meters above sea level (2,162 feet), but ranges from a highest point of 1,186 m (3,891 ft) 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 meters (6,328 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 km² (28 sq mi). The caldera is seismically active, but has not erupted since 1880.
San Salvador has a tropical wet and dry climate under the Köppen climate classification, and enjoys warm weather all year round, with daily mean temperatures of 27°C (80°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 24.5°C (76°F). The hottest months of the year are April and May, during the transition from the dry season (October–April), to the rainy season (May–September). In April and May temperatures may reach 32°C (90°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 has a relatively benign climate; the temperature range is constant through the year, and it gets more than adequate rain. Occasional cold fronts can drop temperatures to a range of 10°C (50°F)–15°C (59°F). The passage of cold fronts is facilitated by the volcanic range west of the city: air cools as it moves over the high altitudes of this region, then descends to the San Salvador Valley. Hail storms and snow occur rarely, while tornadoes have never been recorded. Hurricanes pass over the city only occasionally.
|Climate data for San Salvador|
|Average high °C (°F)||30.1 |
|Daily mean °C (°F)||22.2 |
|Average low °C (°F)||15.9 |
|Precipitation mm (inches)||5.0 |
|Source: World Meteorological Organization|
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 foot hills at a height of 1,893 m (6,211 ft) above sea level.
- San Salvador shares Cerro El Picacho, 1931 m (6,331 ft) above sea level, with the neighboring municipality of Mejicanos.
- The portion of the Cordillera del Balsamo (Balsam Mountain Range) that sits in the Municipality has an average elevation of 1030 m above sea level. The Cordillera del Balsamo is named after the Myroxylon balsamum tree, one of two species of Central American and South American trees in the Fabaceae family (Leguminosae). The tree, often called Quina or Balsamo, is well known in the western world as the source of Peru balsam 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 m above sea level (3,782 ft). 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
The river nearest San Salvador is the Acelhuate, which is 2.2 km (1.4 miles) 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, or Castilian (as most people call it), 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. 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, Turks, Jews (mostly Sephardic), and Christian Palestinians, who immigrated to escape persecution from the Muslim community of the West Bank. San Salvador has a population of 567,698 inhabitants, accounting for about 9.45% of the country's population, while the metropolitan area has 2,442,017 inhabitants, or 40.6% of the country's total population. The San Salvador metropolitan area is the second most populated metro area in Central America, surpassed only by the Guatemala City metropolitan area which has over 4 million inhabitants.
|Religious background San Salvador|
The population of San Salvador is predominantly Roman Catholic, with a significant minority of Protestants. There is more diversity of religion than in most Latin American countries. Although the Protestant population is mostly Evangelical, there are also Baptist, Pentecostal, and Seventh-Day Adventist churches. One of the largest Protestant churches in the city is the Centro Internacional de Alabanza (International Center of Praise), another is the Tabernaculo Biblico Bautista, Amigos de Israel (Bible Baptist Tabernacle, Friends of Israel). Much of the Protestant population of the country is especially sympathetic to Israel, as indicated by the fact that a city street, Avenida Jerusalén (Jerusalem Avenue), was named after the capital of Israel. There is also a considerable population of members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Mormon community in El Salvador recently built its first temple in El Salvador, a structure of impressive engineering and architecture. There are also smaller Latter Day Saints chapels in Districts 1 and 3.
As in most of the country, Roman Catholicism still plays a prominent role in the celebration of holidays, including Las Fiestas Agostinas (The August Festivals) in honor of Jesus Christ, the patron "saint" of El Salvador, referred to as El Salvador del Mundo (The Savior of the World). These events are becoming less prominent with a sharp decline in the Roman Catholic population during the past decade. San Salvador is also home to about 3,500 Jews; the Jewish community is still robust, but less so since the 1980s, as a large number of them left with the start of the Salvadoran Civil War. Many Jews had migrated to El Salvador during World War II due to the work of José Castellanos Contreras, the Salvadoran diplomatic Consul General in Geneva, Switzerland, who helped a Jewish-Hungarian businessman named Gyorgy Mandl (he later adopted the name George Mantello) save up to 40,000 Jews in Central Europe from the Nazi persecution by giving them Salvadoran nationality papers. The city has a small Christian Arabic community of immigrants from Palestine, and an even smaller Muslim population, but Islam is not well accepted publicly in the country. The country's strong Christian roots and popular sympathy for Israel tend to restrict the practice of Islam. The city also has Korean Evangelical Churches that hold services in the Korean language for a growing Korean 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 an important museum, the 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. The Contracultura website at http://www.contracultura.com.sv/ has information about the cultural movement in El Salvador.
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 Gutierrez, 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.
San Salvador is not only the capital of El Salvador, but also the premier city in the country. The metropolitan area accounts for only 3% of the national territory, yet 70% of public and private investment is made there. 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, and provide work forces for industry in neighboring municipalities.
San Salvador, as well as the rest of the country, has used the U.S. dollar as its currency of exchange since 2001. This has been a boon to the Salvadoran economy, as it encourages foreign investors to launch new companies in El Salvador, saving them the inconvenience of conversion to other currencies. San Salvador's economy is based more on the service sector and retailing, than on industry or manufacturing.
As the nation's capital, San Salvador supports many commercial activities, including food and beverage production, the pharmaceutical and chemical industries, the sale of automobiles, handicrafts, and construction materials, and appliance repair. Grupo TACA, a multinational consortium which includes the national airlines of El Salvador, Costa Rica, and other Central American countries, has its headquarters in San Salvador. Other companies with headquarters in San Salvador include the Unicomer Group, Almacenes Simán, Grupo Roble, Grupo Real, Excel Automotríz, and Grupo Q. Many international companies like Dell, Microsoft, Continental airlines, Hewlett-Packard, etc., have their regional headquarters in San Salvador. Banks in the cty include Banco Agrícola, Citibank, HSBC, Scotiabank, BAC-Credomatic, Banco Promérica, Banco Pro-Credit and the Mexican Banco Azteca. Important insurance companies include Asesuisa, SISA, Mapfre-La Centroamericana and Scotia Seguros. Major department stores in San Salvador include Almacenes Simán, and Sears, Walmart, La Despensa de Don Juan, Super Selectos, and PriceSmart.
The city's financial businesses are not located in the historic center, but are spread throughout the other districts in the city, particularly in District 2 and District 3.
- World Trade Center
The World Trade Center San Salvador is located in District 3 (Colonia Escalon) at Avenida Norte and Calle del Mirador. The World Trade Center offers some of the best office locations in the country: it is interconnected to two hotels (one of which is the Crowne Plaza Hotel), a convention center and a commercial center containing retail shops and restaurants. As of October, 2012, the center consists of two towers of 8 levels each, with a total of 13,000 m² of office space. Since their completion, the first two towers have maintained a 100 percent occupancy rate with multinational companies, embassies, and firms such as Banco Multisectorial de Inversiones (BMI), Ericsson, Continental Airlines, Microsoft, Inter-American Development Bank, and Banco Promérica maintaining offices there.
- Centro Financiero Gigante
Centro Financiero Gigante is a complex of office buildings consisting of five towers, the highest of which is 77 meters (253 ft) tall and has 19 floors. Centro Financiero Gigante is a phased project which began with the construction of the two towers. After several years the number of buildings has increased, and it has become one of the most significant business complexes in San Salvador. The tallest tower is occupied by the Telefónica phone company, the next tallest tower is used by RED Business Communication Systems. The complex also includes the Banco Azteca center, Stream Global Services representing Dell in Central America, The Israeli Embassy of San Salvador, Tigo, call centers, and other small offices and banks. The project started in 1997 with Phase I, the construction of the two tallest towers. In Phase II a 7 story-high tower for the old Dell company in Central America was built, and in Phase III a 12 story-high tower for Tigo and a 10-story-high tower for Telemovil. The final phase was remodeling of the Telemovil building to convert it into the Banco Azteca Center.
- Alameda Manuel Enrique Araujo and Zona Rosa
Along Alameda Manuel Enrique Araujo there are many businesses, banks, and financial centers, government institutions and museums. These include AFP Confia, the Superior Council of Public Health, the HSBC Central Office, AFP Crecer, the Ministry of Public Works, the Centro Internacional de Feria y Convenciones (International Center of Fairs and Conventions), the Presidential Palace, the Museo Nacional de Antropología David J. Guzman (National Museum of Anthropology), the Banco Promerica Financial Center, the Ministry of Tourism, the Channel 2 & 4 Studio Center, the Channel 6 Studio Center, and the Centro de Compañía de Alumbrado Eléctrico de San Salvador (CAESS-Centro) or Central Electric Lighting Company of San Salvador.
See also: Telecommunications in El Salvador
A relatively large proportion of residents have telephones, televisions, and access to the internet, and several communications companies have their headquarters in San Salvador. The largest are Tigo, Claro-Telecom, Movistar-Telefónica, and Digicel. All of these companies provide 3G networks, cable TV, and internet services. El Salvador's television stations are based primarily in San Salvador. Stations include the following:
- YSTV Channel 2, also known as Teledos; a Telecorporación Salvadoreña (TCS)station
- YSU4 Channel 4, also known as Canal Cuatro; a TCS station
- YSWA Channel 6, also known as Canal Seis; a TCS station
- YSWE Channel 8, a broadcasting service known as Ágape TV
- YSWD-TV Channel 10, an educational television station
- TV Doce Channel 12, Telesistema a broadcasting service
- Channel 15, an MTV Networks Latin America station
- CF 17, a church-owned independent religious television station
- Canal 19 (Channel 19), broadcasting Nickelodeon Latin America
- Canal 21 (Channel 21), broadcasting Telemundo
- Musica a Colores Channel 23, an independent station broadcasting music videos
- Fundación Canal 25 (Channel 25), broadcasting Trinity Broadcasting Network
- Canal 27 (Channel 27), an independent religious television station
- UTEC Channel 33
- VTV Channel 35; station owned by Telecorporación Salvadoreña
- Canal Católico channel 57, a religious television station operated by the Roman Catholic Church
- CJC Channel 65
- TCI Channel 67
Services and Retail Shopping
San Salvador's economy is based mostly on the service sector, where the focus is on people interacting with people and serving the customer rather than transforming physical goods. San Salvador has many restaurants, and at any given time of the day most restaurants are open, with people eating. Even on an average Saturday when one might expect the rush hour in a restaurant to be from 11:00 am until 1:00 pm, the restaurants in San Salvador are full as late as 3:00 pm.
The city also has many shopping malls, including Metrocentro, the largest shopping mall in Central America, as well as retail stores such as Wal-Mart, Office Max, and a Pricesmart warehouse club. The tallest shopping mall in the region, Centro Comercial Galerias, was built around and over an old mansion, La Casona, dating from the late 1950s, which was home to a family of Palestinian origin, the Guirolas. It is the only mall in the world with such an attraction. The house has been perfectly preserved and is used as a space for shops, cafes, and small restaurants. Galerías has three underground parking levels, three stories of shops and food courts, one story that serves as the administrative offices of Grupo Siman, which owns the complex, and a retail store. The uppermost two floors of the mall are used as a cinema, giving the structure a total of 9 stories including the parking levels.
San Salvador has hundreds of locally owned restaurants, but is also home to several international restaurant chains. Pizza Hut is popular here, but is based on a different concept than in the United States. In El Salvador a Pizza Hut franchise offers more options—serving salads, pastas, and desserts in addition to pizza, similarly to the Olive Garden chain in the U.S. Many other fast food chains operate in San Salvador, including Pollo Campero and most of the other chains popular in the U.S. The city also has "splurge" restaurants unique in Central America, as well as fine dining restaurants featuring Mexican, Spanish, South American and other international cuisines.
San Salvador has small industrial zones scattered throughout the municipality, although most of them are concentrated in the eastern section near the border with Soyapango. Much of the industry is related to food processing, beverage manufacturing, and sugar refining. Construction materials ranging from ceramic tiles to concrete blocks and concrete are produced in large quantities; plastics extrusion, including the production of piping, is also an important industry.
Industrias La Constancia, El Salvador's largest brewer and bottler of purified water, dominates the Salvadoran export market of beers and bottled water. The company became part of the second largest brewer in the world, SABMiller, in 2005. Its flagship brand is Pilsener, a pilsner style lager beer which has been the recipient of many awards nationally and internationally; it is the national beer of El Salvador. In 2011, La Constancia centralized its operations and opened its new headquarters in San Salvador, where it moved in 1928 from the Santa Ana Department. The company produces the Agua Cristal brand of bottled water, the best selling in El Salvador and in the Central American region. The Coca Cola company uses the La Constancia installations to manufacture its beverage brands sold in El Salvador and the rest of Central America.
Unilever, a British–Dutch multinational consumer goods company, has a plant in San Salvador. Its products include foods, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products. It is the world's third-largest consumer goods company as of 2011, and owns over 400 brands. Unilever manufactures all its products sold in Central America in San Salvador.
Landmarks and buildings
In contrast to many other cities, the financial center of San Salvador is not located downtown, but at the periphery, towards the northwestern sections of the city. Downtown or "Old" San Salvador possesses many historical buildings, including the National Palace, the National Theater, the Plaza Libertad, and the Cathedral. Due to continuous seismic activity, downtown San Salvador currently has no major high rise buildings. However, modern building technology is allowing the construction of taller earthquake-resistant buildings. The rest of the city has undergone a major change of skyline following the year 2008, with many projects completed or underway.
District 1 is the historical center of the capital city. The original buildings of the Spanish colonial era have been mostly destroyed by natural disasters. Notable surviving buildings were erected in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This district has long been the country's political, economic and religious center. The earthquake of 1986 severely damaged the area, and due to rising unemployment it has been occupied by a large quantity of street vendors and other informal traders. The tallest buildings in District 1 are those in the Governmental Center, the tallest is 14 stories and 65 m in height. However, the tallest structure overall is not a building, but rather the cathedral's bell tower, which is approximately 80 m in height.
District 2 is mostly residential, and its northern section has a slower pace, with few traffic jams. The district has a long history. During the 1980s, construction in this area was originally intended to be the focal point for the modernization of San Salvador, but due to the outbreak of civil war, many of these projects were cancelled. The planned new Government Center was to have a 40 story office complex. This and other proposed facilities, including medical facilities, were never built. Although the projected growth in the area never reached its predicted potential, some other projects were completed during this period. Grupo Roble opened the Metrocentro Project, still the largest mall in Central America. This project has a mall, hotel, and small business plaza with the company headquarters tower, known today as Torre Roble, which stands 14 stories (56 m) high. Long after the civil war was over, the Centro Financiero Gigante Project along the Plaza Las Americas was started, consisting of four phases: one with the two main towers and three phases with a smaller tower. Many business and banking headquarters have opened around thePlaza Las Americas, such as those of Banco Agricola, AFP Confia, Torre Montecristo and the Centro Finaciero Gigante, where Tigo, Telefónica, RED, Banco Azteca and the Israeli Embassy have offices.
District 3 is undergoing a building boom, with many highrises recently completed, and many more under construction. District 3 is the district with the greatest economic activity. The Torre Futura World trade center is the tallest building in San Salvador and second tallest building in the country at 99 m and 19 stories. The Alisios 115 Apartment Tower, 96 m and 26 stories high, is located in the Zona Rosa, a key location in the city. Next to this building two additional towers, 24 stories and 92 m high, will be built. Campestre 105 Towers I, II, and III stand on the top of the Masferrer Roundabout Plaza, the tallest tower with 24 stories and 79.5 m in height followed by its sister towers with respective floor counts of 21 and 13. Next to the Campestre 105 stands the Terra Alta Apartment Tower, 26 stories and 90 m high. The Hilton Hotel is another standout building of the city's skyline. Next to the Zona Rosa lies the San Benito area, with the main apartment tower complexes. Agrisal has announced plans to build a complex which includes a 25 story high corporate tower connected to a hotel tower and a shopping complex. District 3 includes the International Center of Conventions and Fairs, the National Museum of Anthropology, and almost all the foreign embassies. District 3 is the safest district, and the district with the most tourism activity. This district has many monuments, most notably the statue of Jesus Christ, El Salvador del Mundo, at the Plaza Las Americas. There are also many government buildings, including the Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry of Tourism, as well as the headquarters of corporations in the financial services sector, such as HSBC and AFP Crecer. Shopping centers in this district include Plaza Basilea, Plaza Zona Rosa, El Paseo, and Galerias as well as many stores of international chains based in North America and Europe.
District 4 is composed of three main neighborhoods, La Cima (I, II, and III), Colonia Militar, and Colonia San Francisco. The ridgeline in this area contains residential neighborhoods for the upper-middle class and upper classes, where many of the residences are mansions. The RN-5, a major highway in the city, runs through this district. Alongside RN-5 is the Torre Cuscatlán, now renamed Torre Citibank, a tower 79m high with 19 floors and two underground parking levels. For many years it was the tallest building in the city. The Torre Citi has been standing by itself for 30 years. Several construction projects were planned near the building in the 1980s, but were canceled because of the civil war. Later projects were halted in 2009 because of the economic recession. Another major landmark in District 4 is the Cuscatlán Stadium, the second largest stadium in Central America with a capacity of over 35,000 spectators.
District 5 contains mostly middle-class and lower-middle-class homes, and also includes the National Zoo. The district borders San Marcos on the east. Many tourists visit this district for its eateries, particularly its numerous pupuserias, even though it has a relatively high crime rate. District 5 has many viewpoints which look out over San Salvador and other cities beyond, such as San Marcos, Mejicanos, and Ciudad Delgado.
District 6, bordering Soyapango on the east and Ciudad Delgado on the north, is the smallest district in San Salvador. The neighborhood is middle-lower class, and is known to be dangerous. The most outstanding landmark is the San Jacinto Hill; the Old Presidential House was formerly located there.
San Salvador's metropolitan area has Central America's (excluding Panama) tallest high-rise buildings. It has 12 of the 25 highest buildings in the region. Below is a list of the 10 tallest buildings in the San Salvador Municipality:
- 1st – Torre Futura or Torre 3, at the World Trade Center 99 m (325 ft)
- 2nd – Alisios 115 under construction, but has achieved its final height, 92 m (301 ft)
- 3rd – Terra Alta Apartments 90 m (295 ft)
- 4th – 105 Campestre Torre A 80 m (257 ft)
- 5th – Torre Cuscatlán Citi-Bank Tower or Torre Democracia 79 m (259 ft)
- 6th – Centro Financiaro Gigante(CFG) 77 m (253 ft)
- 7th – 105 Campestre Torre B 73.25 m (240 ft)
- 8th – Torre 525 Avenida La Capilla 71 m (233 ft)
- 9th – Ministerio de Gobernacion 65 m (213 ft)
- 10th – Torre 515 Avenida La Capilla 64 m (209 ft)
- 11th – Hilton Princess San Salvador Hotel 55 m (180 ft)
- Within the Metropolitan Area of San Salvador in Antiguo Cuscaltan
- 1st* – El Pedregal, also known as Multiplaza Apartamentos, 110 m (362 ft)
- 10th* – Edificio Avante 67 m (220 ft)
- Europlaza Business Center, approximate heights, Tower 1: 150m (492 ft); Tower 2: 130m (426 ft); Tower 3: 117m (383 ft); Tower 4: 100m (328 ft)
- Las Magnolias 159, two towers, approximately 88m (290 ft) each
- Agrisal Complex two towers, approximately 95 m(310 ft) and 60 m (190 ft)
Early colonial development could not anticipate the extensive growth of the city in the following centuries. Thus, the city contains many narrow streets which create traffic problems, and sidewalks are often overcrowded. As the expansion of San Salvador continues, the need for infrastructure improvements becomes more acute.
During the 1960s, urban expansion was most prevalent in the northern and southern parts of the city, while the 1970s saw growth continue further south, north and west. The housing developments of Colonia Miravalle, Montebello, Satellite, Maquilishuat, San Mateo Lomas de San Francisco, Alta Mira, Loma Linda, La Floresta, and Jardines de la Libertad were built during this period.
The expansion of San Salvador, while occurring in all directions, was primarily in the direction of the volcano of San Salvador. The increased demand for housing was due to an increase in the numbers of middle class workers, members of the military, and professionals.
Around 2000, the city expansion westward slowed. There was an expansion of middle-class neighborhoods such as Merliot, Santa Elena and the Tier, but internal migration and the cessation of armed conflict created a high demand for urban public housing. This gave rise to large urban development projects mostly in the east and north, to the phenomenon of "bedroom communities", and to a disorderly growth pattern.
AMSS (San Salvador Metropolitan Area)
San Salvador, founded in 1525, was the second city in Central America established by the Spanish colonizers. When El Salvador became independent in 1821, San Salvador had a population of 10,000. A large migration of rural residents to the capital increased the population to 25,000 by 1825. When the city was mostly destroyed by an earthquake in 1854, the surviving population left and created a new city, Santa Tecla, which served as the temporary capital from 1854 to 1859, until San Salvador was rebuilt.
The continued development of San Salvador was spurred by the success of the local coffee industry, and it became a very productive commercial city. By 1890 the city had 94,580 Inhabitants. In 1901 it was composed of the urban center (population 80,167), Vista Hermosa (13,123), and Planes de Rendero (1,560), and expanded toward the volcano in the following years. In the 1970s the city population leaped from 430,500 to 700,000. As San Salvador grew, it merged with neighboring cities, forming the Metropolitan Area of San Salvador (AMSS), a conglomerate of 14 municipalities. These were consolidated in 1993, through Legislative Decree No. 732 of the Law on Territorial Development and the Metropolitan Area of San Salvador and Neighboring Municipalities. The act stipulates that the constituent cities form a single urban unit.
Since 1990, due to the rapid growth of San Salvador and neighboring municipalities, the government has established initiatives to plan and guide the development of the metropolis.
The AMSS is the heart of the country's political, financial, economic and cultural life. It accounts for 27% of the population and 70% of public and private investment, in only 3% of the national territory. Together the fourteen municipalities give the AMSS a total population of 2,177,432 inhabitants (2009 census). The Government expects a total population of 2.5 million by the year 2011.
List of municipalities in the AMSS (Distance from San Salvador District 1 to other city centers):
- San Salvador
- Antiguo Cuscatlán – 8.5 km (5.4 mi) Highest HDI in El Salvador and Central America
- Santa Tecla – 11 km (6.8 mi) southwest
- San Marcos – 5.5 km (3.3 mi) south
- Soyapango – 5 km (3 mi) east
- Ilopango – 10 km (6.2 mi) east
- San Martin – 18 km (11.2 mi) east
- Tonacatepeque – 30 km (25 mi) north east
- Ciudad Delgado – 4.5 km (2.8 mi) north east
- Cuscatancingo – 5 km (3 mi) north
- Mejicanos- 8.5 km (5.4 mi) north
- Apopa – 13.5 km (8.5 mi) north
- Nejapa- 20 km (12.5 mi) north
- Ayutuxtepeque – 7 km (4.5 mi) north
Tourism and sites of interest
The historic downtown of San Salvador includes the area where the capital city of El Salvador has been located since the 16th century. The original buildings of the Spanish colony have been mostly destroyed by natural disasters over the years. The few notable surviving buildings were erected in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Mayor Norman Quijano started several large projects with the goal of restoring the former grandeur of the buildings in the center. One such project is to reroute the public transportation routes so they no longer pass through the historic downtown. Another project is the relocation of illegal street vendors to a designated public market.
The current National Palace building replaced the old National Palace built in 1866–1870, which was destroyed by fire on December 19, 1889. The construction, done between 1905 and 1911, was the work of engineer José Emilio Alcaine, under the direction of the foreman Pascasio González Erazo. To finish the project, legislation was passed that collected one colon for every quintal of coffee exported. The materials used were imported from several European countries including Germany, Italy and Belgium. The Palace's facilities were occupied by government offices until 1974.
The building contains four main rooms and 101 secondary rooms; each of the four main rooms has a distinctive color. The Red Room (Salon Rojo) is used for receptions held by the Salvadoran Foreign Ministry, and the ceremonial presentation of ambassadors' credentials. It has been used for ceremonial purposes since the administration of General Maximiliano Hernández Martínez. The Yellow Room (Salon Amarillo) is used as an office for the President of the Republic, while the Pink Room (Salon Rosado) housed the Supreme Court and later the Ministry of Defense. The Blue Room (Salon Azul) was the meeting place of the Legislature of El Salvador from 1906, and its classical architecture with Ionian, Corinthian and Roman elements is notable. The room is now called the Salvadoran Parliament in commemoration of its former purpose, and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1974.
The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Holy Savior (Catedral Metropolitana de San Salvador) is the principal church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Salvador and the seat of the Archbishop of San Salvador. The church was twice visited by Pope John Paul II, who said that the cathedral was "intimately allied with the joys and hopes of the Salvadoran people." During his visits in 1983 and 1996, the Pope knelt and prayed before the Tomb of Archbishop Óscar Romero, assassinated in 1980, whose tomb here is a major draw for pilgrims. The Cathedral's site is the location of the old Temple of Santo Domingo (St. Dominic).
Forty four people died on Palm Sunday, March 31, 1980, during the funeral of Archbishop Romero, as a result of a stampede after some gunmen, allegedly members of security forces (although it has never been corroborated), fired on mourners and on Romero's funeral cortege. The gunmen were never identified. The square in front of the Cathedral was the site of celebrations after the signing of the Chapultepec Peace Accords that ended the Salvadoran Civil War in 1992. The Cathedral was finished off with a festive tiled facade by the Salvadoran master Fernando Llort and inaugurated on March 19, 1999.
The Teatro Nacional de El Salvador, or National Theater of El Salvador, is the oldest theater in Central America. It was designed by the French architect Daniel Beylard, with construction starting on November 3, 1911. The building was inaugurated on March 1, 1917. It is of French Renaissance style with modern touches, and was decorated by the Italian architect Lucio Capellaro. Its Grand Hall is considered one of the most beautiful and elegant halls in Central America.
The National Theater is located on the southern side of Francisco Morazán Plaza on Calle Delgado. It was built in the French Renaissance style with details done in the Rococo, Romantic, and Art Nouveau styles, and can seat 650 spectators in the Grand Hall. It has balconies on three levels—the Presidential Balcony, located between the third and second Floor, has a direct view of center stage. The building features an ellipsoidal dome containing a mural by painter Carlos Cañas and a crystal chandelier; other impressive spaces include the Chamber Hall and the Grand Foyer. The theater is open to tourists, and after the Historic Downtown Restoration has been used for plays, shows, operas, song recitals, and modern dance performances. It is the largest and most luxurious theater in Central America, and was declared a National Monument in 1979.
Calle Arce (Maple street) is a major street in San Salvador. Mayor Norman Quijano inaugurated the first phase of its redevelopment near the Plaza de la Salud, which focuses on improvements to the sidewalks between 21st and 19th Avenida Norte. Twelve antique lights, originally from Spain and dating from 1900, will be installed, along with six benches and forty trees.
At the same time, sidewalks will be renovated with ramps to provide access for people with disabilities and seniors. Calle Arce is monitored by 24 members of the Corps Metropolitan Agents (CAM), who specialize in the maintenance and protection of the new public space.
Parks and plazas
Plaza Gerardo Barrios
La Plaza Gerardo Barrios, also known as the Civic Plaza, is located in the heart of the city. The statue that dominates the site, designed by Francisco Durini, is dedicated to President Gerardo Barrios and was unveiled in 1909. It was the work of the sculptors Antonio and Carlos Ezeta, who were brothers. The figure, made of bronze, is placed on a pedestal of granite and depicts battle scenes and the shield of El Salvador.
Plaza Gerardo Barrios is the site of many demonstrations and political rallies. Mass is celebrated there as well, and it is the destination of many parades. The plaza is also the focal point for celebrations accompanying the feast of San Salvador on August 5 and 6. The religious procession called El Descenso ("The Descent"), dedicated to the Divine Savior of the World and representing the resurrection of Jesus and his descent from the tomb, terminates there.
Plaza Libertad is the location of the Monumento de los Héroes (Monument to the Heroes), a commemoration of the centenary of the "First Cry of Independence" in 1811. The monument is crowned by an "angel of freedom" at its pinnacle holding a laurel wreath in both hands. As a consequence of increased commercial activity, the area around the plaza was enhanced with the construction of two ornate buildings, the Portal la Dalia in 1915–1916 and the Portal de Occidente in 1917.
During the administration of President Rafael Zaldivar, the Salvadoran government ordered the erection of a marble statue here to commemorate the fortieth anniversary (March 15, 1882) of the death of Francisco Morazán, former president of the Federal Republic of Central America. The sculpture was created by the artist Francisco Durini of Genoa, Italy. The government declared March 15 as a day of national civic celebration, and Morazan's son attended the inauguration as a representative of the Government of Honduras.
This important residential building was built in the 1920s by coffee farmer Miguel Dueñas. The government confiscated the house in 1922 to cover the owner's debts, and it then remained unoccupied for years. From 1930 to 1933, Mexico leased the house for use by its diplomatic delegation, then from 1935 to 1957 the United States legation rented the house for its ambassadors' residence. Six successive U.S. ambassadors resided there, and occasional guests such as former Presidents Richard Nixon and Lyndon B. Johnson, Senator Robert Kennedy, and movie stars Clark Gable and Tony Curtis stayed there. After 1957 it was the temporary headquarters of an advertising agency, then was vacated again in 1960. In 1973 the Department of Vocational Training Ministry of Labor occupied the structure; in 1986 it was declared a Cultural Asset by an Executive Agreement of May 8, 1985. The Ministry of Labor transferred the property to the authorities of the Ministry of Education, with a directive to explore the possibility of its restoration and rehabilitation. The restoration work began in 2001 under the leadership of Dr. Alfredo Martínez Moreno, former director of the Salvadorean Language Academy and the Royal Spanish Academy.
Zona Rosa is a nightclub neighborhood in District 3 with many hotels, ranging from five star luxury hotels to small guest houses. The zone has dozens of upscale restaurants and fast food restaurants, as well as a small business center. A 25 story high business tower is being constructed, and large apartment projects have changed the physical landscape and cultural life of the area. The area has great development potential as it is easily reached from any part of the city, and is only 45 minutes away from the San Salvador International Airport.
- Hilton Princess – The Hilton Princess San Salvador hotel is located in the business district 45 minutes away from the International Airport. It offers well-appointed accommodations and amenities, including 204 guestrooms and suites and 5,934 square feet (551.3 m2) of flexible space for business or convention functions.
- Sheraton Presidente – The Sheraton has a central location near the city's most upscale stores, bars and restaurants.
- Suites Las Palmas – Hotel Suites Las Palmas is located near the International Center for Fairs and Conventions in the exclusive Colonia San Benito neighborhood of the Zona Rosa, adjacent to many restaurants, bars, and museums.
Two of San Salvador's most important museums are located in Zona Rosa. The Museo Nacional de Antropología Dr. David J. Guzmán (The National Museum of Anthropology) contains a variety of Mayan and Pipil artifacts dating to the Mayan classical period. The Museo de Arte de El Salvador (MARTE) consists of several facilities, including its own theater, which is often used by schools to present lessons on subjects such as the theory of evolution, how dinosaurs disappeared, and the cultural heritage of the Mayan Civilization.
The Museo de Arte MARTE displays an extensive collection of Salvadoran and international art.
The Centro Internacional de Ferias y Convenciones (CIFCO) is a multipurpose convention center in the Colonia San Benito-Zona Rosa (District 3), 5 miles (8.0 km) from the Historic Downtown of San Salvador (District 1), in a residential area with good transportation facilities and easy access to first class hotels. The center is affiliated with the Union of International Fairs (UFI) and the Association of International Fairs of America (AFIDA), and is regarded as the largest and most modern convention center in Central America.
The CIFCO amphitheater is one of the most important performance venues in San Salvador, hosting many concerts and international artists. It has a capacity of 15,000 persons. A renovation lasting from 2003 until 2010 added five pavilions, a three-level underground parking for 3,500 vehicles, and hotels. Goals of CIFCO include:
- Support the international exchange of technological, commercial and industrial ideas
- Plan and organize conventions for exhibitors from the realms of commerce, industry and tourism
- Provide a pleasant environment for guests and visitors
- Promoting the image of El Salvador both nationally and internationally
Restaurants and nightlife
There are many restaurants in the Zona Rosa. Some of the most notable restaurants include 503, Paradise Lobster and Steak Dinner, A Lo Nuestro, La Pampa Argentina, Inka Grill, Sushi-Itto, Dynasty Chinese, Diva, and Tre-Fratelli. The Zona Rosa has the most vibrant nightlife in San Salvador, featuring popular bars, nightclubs, and pubs.
- Metrocentro, on Boulevard Los Heroes, is the largest mall in Central America. It took one year to construct the first phase of mall, which opened in 1970, and by 2008 the mall had grown to 1,000 stores. The mall receives about 1,700,000 shoppers every month, and is owned by Grupo Roble, a Salvadoran construction company which has built other Metrocentro malls in cities across El Salvador, and in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Panama.
- Centro Comercial el Paseo, on Paseo General Escalon, is also owned by Roble. This mall is relatively small compared to Metrocentro, but the stores are more upscale, including a BMW dealership, Super Selectos Super Market, and MAX Electronic Store. Restaurants include La Panetiere (French), Tre Fratelli (Italian), Coffee Cup, Puerco Rico (Puerto Rican), TGI Friday's, and Buffalo Wings.
- Centro Comercial Galerias was built around and over an old mansion, La Casona, dating from the late 1950s, which was home to a family of Palestinian origin, the Guirolas, one of the most powerful families in El Salvador. The house has been perfectly preserved and is used as a space for shops, cafes, and small restaurants. Galerías has three underground parking levels, three stories of shops and food courts, one story that serves as the administrative offices of Grupo Siman, which owns the complex, and a retail store. The uppermost two floors of the mall are used as a cinema, giving the structure a total of 9 stories including the parking levels. The mall includes banking facilities, a fast food court, and European-based stores like Givenchy, Bershka, Pull and Bear, and Zara.
The restaurant scene in San Salvador features the cuisines of many different cultures. Food options include Italian, Korean, Japanese, Thai, French, Chilean, American, Peruvian, Mexican, Spanish, Middle Eastern, German, Chinese, Argentine and others. Options for local cuisine include several pupuserias where one can purchase Salvadoran pupusas.
San Salvador has many museums. The two largest and most popular are Museo Nacional de Antropologia de El Salvador (MUNA) and Museo de Arte de El Salvador. MUNA's mission is to help Salvadorans reflect on their cultural identity through exhibitions, research, publications and educational programs in the fields of archeology and anthropology. The museum's exhibits demonstrate social processes of the various human cultural groups that have inhabited El Salvador. MARTE's mission is to contribute to development of the country's education and culture through the conservation and dissemination of its artistic heritage, and by improving historical knowledge, reaffirming cultural values that shape the Salvadoran identity, and promoting new artistic idioms. MARTE is a private, nonprofit organization, opened on May 22, 2003. Since then the museum has become an essential element of the cultural life of Central America, with its representative view of art from the mid-19th century to contemporary times.
A different sort of museum, but equally popular, is the Tin Marín Museo de los Niños (Tin Marin Children's Museum), located between Gimnasio Nacional José Adolfo Pineda and Parque Cuscatlán. Tin Marín seeks to contribute to children becoming integral and creative citizens through significant learning, cultural stimulation and entertaining experimentation. The museum has more than 25 exhibits, including The Airplane, The Grocery Store, and the Planetarium.
San Salvador is home to over 90 hotels, covering a wide range of sizes and prices, from small hotels located in quiet neighborhoods to grand five-star hotels. In the Zona Rosa, the Hilton Hotel, a five-star hotel built in 1997 by Grupo Agrisal, is 55 meters in height (180 ft) with 15 stories, plus two parking levels, 204 rooms, and eight suites. Zona Rosa also has hotels such as the Suite Las Palmas, Sheraton Presidente, and other small hotels. The Crowne Plaza Hotel connects to the Torre Futura World Trade Center in the Escalon neighborhood in the foothills of Cerro El Picacho and the San Salvador Volcano. The Real InterContinental hotel connects to the Metrocentro mall. In Antiguo Cuscatlán there are many other hotels, including the Holiday Inn, which is connected by a pedestrian bridge to a small shopping plaza, with many restaurants and cafes and the first Starbucks in the country. The Beverly Hills Hotel, a five-star suite hotel, is located in northern Antiguo Cuscatlán next to the Avante Business Center.
Gastronomic festivals, where people sell food and enjoy art and music, are held all over the country. One is held every month in San Salvador at Las Fuentes de Beethoven in the plazas Argentina and Unión Europea.
Estadio Cuscatlán, with a capacity of over 45,000, is the largest soccer venue not only in Central America, but in the Caribbean as well. It was announced on November 16, 2007 that Estadio Cuscatlán would become the first soccer stadium in Central America and the Caribbean to have a large LED screen, on which spectators can view the action. The screen is 40 meters in height and width and was completed in March 2008. The stadium was built in the early 1980s just before the beginning of the civil war, intended to jump-start an era of modernization in San Salvador, but development in the country ground to a halt during the twelve years of war.
Another major stadium is the Estadio Nacional de la Flor Blanca, with a capacity of 32,000. This stadium hosted the Central American and Caribbean Games in 2002, in which El Salvador came in 6th place among 37 countries.
San Salvador is currently the home of three major soccer teams in the Primera División (El Salvador): Alianza F.C., C.D. Atlético Marte and C.D. Universidad de El Salvador. Alianza F.C. plays their home games at Estadio Cuscatlán; Club Deportivo Marte plays home games at Estadio Nacional "Flor Blanca", and C.D. Universidad de El Salvador plays theirs at Estadio Universitario UES. Alianza is well known throughout El Salvador for its loyal supporters and for the exuberant atmosphere created during games. Alianza gained fame in Central America for winning the CONCACAF Championship and for beating the Brazilian team, Santos, when it featured the legendary player Pele. Marte was also once a prominent team, winning 8 national championships and the 1991 CONCACAF Cup Winners Cup. The C.D. Universidad de El Salvador was promoted to the Primera División (El Salvador), on June 6, 2010, when it defeated C.D. Once Municipal from Ahuachapán in an epic final game.
Organized Soccer Crowds in San Salvador City, San Salvador
Surfing is an important sport in El Salvador. With improvements to highway infrastructure, world-class surfing destinations are only 45 minutes away from the city center. The CA-4 (Carretera al Puerto) freeway connects San Salvador to Puerto de la Libertad, where the Punta Roca point break attracts surfers from all over the world. Many regional and international surfing tournaments are held there. A video of a recent surf competition can be watched at http://www.contrapuntotv.net/ QUIK SILVER PRO.
Major tourist attractions
- Catedral Metropolitana – Metropolitan Cathedral
- Teatro Nacional de El Salvador – The National Theatre of El Salvador
- National Palace (El Salvador) – The National Palace
- Monumento al Divino Salvador del Mundo – Monument to the Savior of the World
- Casa Presidencial – The Presidential Mansion
- Monumento a La Libertad – Monument to Liberty
- Estadio Cuscatlán – Soccer stadium
- Monumento a la Constitucion – Constitution monument
- Plaza Alberto Masferrer
- Los Planes De Renderos - Popular attraction with many pupuserias, overlooking San Salvador.
San Salvador has a large number of private high schools, including Protestant and Catholic high schools, as well as secular ones; the city also has numerous private bilingual schools.
El Salvador employs a school classification system administered by the government teaching service (MINED), which scores both private and public schools. A score of A is the highest grade, while a score of C means the school needs improvement.
San Salvador has several higher education institutions, including private universities like Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas and Universidad Tecnológica. The Universidad de El Salvador, well-respected in Central America, is the only public university in the country. Other universities focusing on particular professions include the Escuela de Comunicacion Monica Herrera, Escuela Superior de Economia y Negocios (ESEN), and the Escuela Militar (Military School).
San Salvador is a major regional transportation hub, served by a comprehensive public transport network. Major routes of the national transportation network run through the city.
The country's primary airport is El Salvador International Airport (AIES), which handles all international flights. AIES replaced Ilopango as the country's main airport in 1980.
- AIES: Until 1980, San Salvador was served by Ilopango International Airport, but on January 31, 1980, Ilopango was replaced by the El Salvador International Airport (IATA: SAL, ICAO: MSLP). Ilopango airport is located within the city limits and could not be expanded due to the lack of land and the proximity of the surrounding population, so the new airport was built outside the city in the neighboring department of La Paz. AIES lies on flat terrain, and it is not surrounded by populated areas, so it can be expanded in the future. AIES is located in the municipality of San Luis Talpa, 40 km (25miles) from San Salvador. With 2,076,258 passengers in 2008, it was the third busiest airport by passenger traffic in Central America
- Ilopango International: Ilopango International Airport, is used for military and charter aviation. It recently underwent renovation, and re-opened in 2009. Ilopango is the host of an annual air show.
- Tamarindo Regional: There are plans to build a new airport on the Salvadoran coast of El Tamarindo, La Unión.
San Salvador has excellent transportation connectivity, due to its extensive road network and its street maintenance system. The Inter-American Development Bank has determined that San Salvador has one of the best road systems in Latin America. San Salvador's metropolitan road system handles approximately 400,000 vehicles per day.
The main highway passing thru San Salvador is the CA-1 (Pan-American highway), which at one point becomes Bulevar Arturo Castellanos. The RN-21 (also known as Bulevar Diego de Holguin) is a major east–west road connecting the cities of Santa Tecla and Antiguo Cuscatlán, finally merging in San Salvador with the RN-5 East/West (also known as Bulevar los Próceres), that later turns into the North/South RN-5 heading towards the International Airport. Another major roadway is the RN-4 (Carretera Este Oeste) which runs from San Salvador through Apopa, and subsequently merges with the CA-1 Panamericana.
Roads in the capital are called "street" if they run east-west, and "avenue" if they run north-south. Road numbering starts at the downtown intersection of Avenida Espana/Avenida Cuscatlán and Delgado Arce street. Avenues to the west of this intersection have odd-number names, and to the east they have even-number names. Streets have odd-number names if they are to the north of the intersection, and even-number names if to the south.
One particularly heavily traveled road is 49a Avenida Norte, which connects with the RN-5 highway to the airport. An important historical street is Calle Arce, which was closed in order to create a pedestrian-only mall in the historic downtown of San Salvador. Some streets in the city are very narrow with little room for cars to pass, although many streets are wide. Speed limits are 90kph on highways, 60 km/h on main roads, and 40 km/h on secondary streets and avenues.
The San Salvador Metropolitan Area Integrated System of Transportation (SITRAMSS) is a proposed high-volume bus transportation system. The first route of the SITRAMSS will make a round trip from San Martin, through Ilopango, Soyapango, San Salvador, and Antiguo Cuscatlan to Santa Tecla. It is projected that between 40 and 60 busses capable of carrying 160 passengers per trip will start operating in the second half of 2013. The departure interval will be approximately eight to ten minutes. By the time the buses have reached the San Salvador historic downtown they will have already transported 20,000 passengers. SITRAMSS is a public-private partnership involving the current passenger transport operators, who must purchase the busses. To pay for the infrastructure development, a loan of $50 million has been provided by the Inter-American Development Bank (BID). The system will work with a prepaid card system which is expected to reduce the time required for passengers to enter the busses. An estimated 200,000 passengers will be transported daily, or about 5,600,000 every month.
Bus and Taxi
Approximately 200,000 people use the city's public bus system daily. Some of the bus transportation system is operated by the city government, but most of it is operated by the private sector. This mixture of ownership has contributed to safety and traffic problems. In 2013, when the SITRAMS commences operation, it will resolve many of these problems. Bus rides typically cost between $0.20 and $0.25, depending on the route. The city government operates a free bus system for use by handicapped, elderly, and pregnant persons; this is the only such system in Central America.
A taxi system operates throughout the entire city; fares depend on the route, as taxi drivers charge based on the location of the destination, rather than on elapsed time. Taxis in San Salvador are yellow, and the fleet is composed primarily of Toyota Corollas.
Railway service was absent during the 1990s, but beginning on October 1, 2007, the National Railways of El Salvador (FENADESAL) resumed service. Tickets cost $0.10. Trains depart from near the East Bus Station and travel to the town of Apopa. There are plans to start operation of another route, connecting the northern side of San Salvador, Cuscatancingo, to Apopa and from Apopa, to the city of Nejapa.
There is also a historic railroad consisting of railroad cars from the 1960s which were refurbished and put into operation by the ministry of tourism. Once a month, visitors can board the antique train and experience the way San Salvadorians transported themselves in the 1960s.
The city has suffered from many severe earthquakes, the most disastrous of which occurred in 1854. The San Salvador volcano erupted again in 1917, resulting in three major earthquakes that damaged the city so extensively the government was forced to temporarily move the capital to the city of Santa Tecla (known at the time as Nueva San Salvador). The 1986 San Salvador Earthquake struck on October 10, 1986, causing considerable damage to the city and surrounding areas. Between 1,000 and 1,500 people are believed to have been killed, and over 10,000 people were injured. 200,000 people were left homeless after the earthquake and a week of minor aftershocks.  The 2001 El Salvador earthquakes struck El Salvador on January 13 and February 13, 2001, resulting in considerable damage to the city, especially in Las Colinas suburb, where a landslide destroyed homes and killed many people.
During the 1980s, when political conflicts in El Salvador exploded into civil war, many people fled to the capital, since most of the fighting occurred elsewhere (San Salvador itself was not directly affected by the war until the final offensive of 1989).
Hurricanes, tsunamis, and landslides also pose a threat. On November 2009, Hurricane Ida hit the departments of San Salvador, San Vicente and Cuzcatlan. In San Vicente, the municipalities of Verapaz and Guadalupe were totally destroyed by rainfall accompanying the hurricane, and the resultant landslide. The Army and the Red Cross were able to rescue most of the victims, but many thousands of people were left homeless. The government opened public schools to be used as temporary shelters for three months. The Hurricane destroyed some bridges, and some towns lost communications. The people of El Salvador raised money for the homeless and international aid came from countries such as the United States, Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and the European Union.
Tropical Storm Agatha
See also: Tropical Storm Agatha (2010)
Tropical storm Agatha hit the Central American coast on Thursday, May 27, 2010. About 3 feet (0.91 m) of rainfall was recorded over a period of five days in the Metropolitan Area of San Salvador, producing sinkholes, flash floods, and mudslides. Districts particularly hard hit included downtown, El Picacho, and Montebello.
Concerns about public safety in San Salvador increased in the late 1980s due to the civil war. Although it was fought primarily in the countryside, during the latter years of the war, guerrillas started attacking the capital city. San Salvador recovered quickly after the cessation of hostilities, but gang ("mara") violence became a problem.
The 18th Street gang, originating in Los Angeles, California, has proliferated in San Salvador. The Mara Salvatrucha is a rival gang. In 2002 crime rates skyrocketed and the municipal government was unable to combat the rise. Recent efforts by mayor Norman Quijano to restore public safety have been somewhat successful. Security measures in San Salvador's most troubled Districts (5 and 6, which border Soyapango, and are home to many gangs) included safety campaigns and recreational activities to keep youth from joining gangs. The mayor also initiated a security camera program so the police can monitor the most heavily trafficked areas of the city. The project was launched in the historic downtown and will expand throughout the entire city.
San Salvador has been a land of opportunity for many immigrants from the neighboring countries of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, and from South American countries such as Peru and Bolivia. It has a small Korean population and a European minority.
As of 2011 San Salvador had managed to reduce its crime rate, and reduce its murder rate to a level lower than that of Haiti, Venezuela, Mexico, Guatemala, or Honduras. Also according to a UN Development report, San Salvador has a relatively low robbery rate of 90 per 100,000, compared to San José, the capital of Costa Rica, which has 524 robberies per 100,000.
Districts 3 and 4 are the safest in the country, their crime rates are comparable to those of European cities. Districts 1 and 2 have a slightly higher crime rate than 3 or 4, while District 5, bordering San Marcos, and District 6, bordering Soyapango, have the highest crime rates.
Photo gallery of sites in San Salvador
Twin towns and sister cities
San Salvador is twinned with:
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- Municipality of the city of San Salvador
- ‹The template Wikitravel is being considered for merging.› San Salvador travel guide from Wikitravel
- The Tramways of San Salvador, 1876–1929