El Salvador

The smallest country in Central America (21,000 square km [8,100 square miles]), El Salvador is land that recovered from the brutal civil war of the 1980s. Since the early 1990s the country has been economically and politically stable relative to its neighbors. Recent "free market" reforms have had a positive impact on the economy.

The president is elected for a single five-year term. The national assembly is elected for three-year terms, and in turn elects the members of the supreme court. About half the population depends on agriculture for a living, and there simply is not enough land in the country to give every family enough to survive by farming.

About 90 percent of the population is mestizo (mixed European and indigenous). Pipil Indians and people of pure European descent represent about 5 percent each. Spanish is the main language in El Salvador.

El Salvador enjoys more than 300 days of sunshine a year, and its climate and weather varies with altitude rather than season. The coastal plain is hot year-round, the mountains always cool. El Salvador has a number of magnificent volcanoes. The rainy season (May-October) brings predictable afternoon showers, but mornings are sunny and bright.

The primary point of entry is the international airport in San Salvador. However, flying within the country is not efficient since the country is so small. Tourists will find buses (primarily old school buses) and rental cars are available, but many roads are often in poor condition; drive on the right. The communications infrastructure is modern, with international direct dialing available.

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