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El Salvador

People

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The Spanish subjugated the native population of El Salvador in the 16th century. Few Spanish women came to the country, however, so many Spanish men took Native American women as their mates. Today nearly 90 percent of the population is mestizo, of mixed European and Native American descent. People of purely Native American descent represent about 5 to 10 percent of the population, while people of European descent represent only about 1 percent.

El Salvadorís population, 5.2 million according to the 1992 census, was estimated at 7,066,403 in 2008. It grew rapidly during the 20th century, at times increasing more than 3 percent a year. According to a 2008 estimate, El Salvador is the most densely populated country on the mainland of the Americas, with 341 persons per sq km (883 per sq mi). This compares with only 12 inhabitants per sq km (31 per sq mi) in 1821 and 38 per sq km (98 per sq mi) in 1900.

Population growth in 2008 has slowed to 1.7 percent. This is due to a declining birth rate, attributed to the use of birth control, and to the large number of people leaving the country to escape both the civil war and widespread poverty. More than 1 million Salvadorans live abroad, and an estimated 6 of every 1,000 people left the country in 1995.

Still, the nationís birth rate remains far greater than the death rate (26 births and only 6 deaths for every 1,000 people). El Salvador has a young population, with 38 percent under age 15 and only 5 percent over age 65. Current life expectancy at birth for Salvadorans averages 72 years (69 for males and 76 for females), but 22 of every 1,000 infants born die in their first year. In life expectancy and infant mortality, El Salvador ranks in the middle of Central American nations, but still far behind Costa Rica and Panama, which have the best conditions in the region.

Steady migration from the countryside has raised the urban population to 60 percent of the total in this traditionally rural country. By far the greatest concentration of people is around the capital city of San Salvador. Although the city itself has only 510,367 residents (2006), the metropolitan area has about 1.4 million, nearly one-quarter of the Salvadoran population. Other important Salvadoran cities include Santa Ana (population 274,830), center of a rich agricultural region; San Miguel (population 282,367), a trade center at the foot of the San Miguel volcano; and Mejicanos (population 209,708), a suburb of San Salvador.

Language

The official language of El Salvador is Spanish, although a few Native Americans continue to speak indigenous languages (Lenca, Pipil, or Kekchi). Salvadorans in business, government, and academic positions often know English.

 
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