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People, Languages & Religions in El Salvador


El Salvador is composed predominantly of mixed European/Native American ancestry and Whites. 85% of Salvadorians are mixed (mixed Native American and European origin) a major hybrid mix. The Salvadorians of mixed ancestry, can varied differently from European and Native American background ancestry. 12% of Salvadorians are white; this population is mostly of Spanish, French, German, Swiss, English, Irish, Italian, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Netherlands and Central European descent. The majority of Central European immigrants arrived during World War II as refugees Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania, Serbia, and Switzerland scattered all over El Salvador. Russians came in during the Salvadorian civil war during the cold war, to help the communist guerrillas take over the country, As well did Americans, Australians, and Canadians when they helped the military government fight against the communist. El Salvador is 1% indigenous, mostly Mayan, Pipil, Lenca and Kakawira (Cacaopera). The low numbers of indigenous people may be explained by mass murder during the 1932 Salvadoran peasant uprising (or La Matanza) which saw up to 30,000 peasants killed in a short period of time.

Other ethnic groups include Arabs, Europeans, Jews, North Americans, Central Americans, South American, Caribbean and a small group of Asians.

El Salvador is the only Central American country that has no visible African population because of its lack of an Atlantic coastline and attendant access to the slave trade which occurred along the east coast of the continent. In addition, General Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez instituted race laws in 1930 that prohibited four ethnic groups blacks, Gypsies, Asians, and Arabs, from entering the country and that certain people Lebanese, Syrian, Palestine and Turkish, were not allowed to enter El Salvador unless they were of European ancestry and it was not until the 1980s that this law was removed.

Among the immigrant groups that have been reaching El Salvador, Palestinian Christians stand out. Though few in number, their descendants have attained great economic and political power in the country, as evidenced by ex-president Antonio Saca – whose opponent in the 2004 election, Schafik Handal, was likewise of Palestinian descent – and the flourishing commercial, industrial and construction firms owned by this ethnic group.


Central American Spanish (Español Centroamericano) is the official language and is spoken by virtually all inhabitants. Some indigenous people still speak their native tongues, but all speak Spanish; for example, Q'eqchi' is spoken as the result of recent migrations of Guatemalan and Belizean indigenous people looking for a better life opportunities in El Salvador. There have also been recent large migrations of Hondurans and Nicaraguans. English is also spoken by many throughout the republic. German, Dutch and French are taught as a secondary language only in private schools . English has been taught by the British in El Salvador for several decades, at least 50 years. Historically, Salvadorans have had the choice of attending French schools, Salvadoran schools or British schools. There has been an American school in the country for a few decades. Japanese is also spoken. There has been a small Japanese community in El Salvador since World War II.

The local Spanish vernacular is called caliche. Salvadorans use voseo, which is also used in Uruguay and Argentina. This refers to the use of "vos" as the second person pronoun, instead of "tú". However caliche is considered informal and some people choose not to use it. Nahuat is the indigenous language that has survived, though it is only used by small communities of some elderly Salvadorans in western El Salvador.


The constitution of 1962 guarantees religious freedom and exempts churches from property taxes. The constitution specifically recognises the Roman Catholic Church, granting it legal status; however, it also provides that other churches may register for such status according to the law. About 56.7% of the population identify themselves as Roman Catholic; San Salvador is an archbishopric. Church officials and clergy have been active in the movement for human rights and social justice in El Salvador and have consequently been the targets of right-wing death squads and government security forces.

About 17.8% of the population are members of various Protestant churches, with four of the largest denominations being Episcopalian, Baptists, Reform churches and Lutherans. There are also many active Protestant missions throughout the country. Approximately 2.3% of the populace are associated with other churches and religious groups, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), Seventh-Day Adventists, Jews, Muslims and Amerindian tribal religionists, among others. As many as 23.2% of inhabitants have no religious affiliation whatsoever.





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