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Central America, El Salvador

El Salvador, republic on the Pacific Coast of Central America. The smallest country in the region, El Salvador is second only to Guatemala in population, and is the most densely populated republic on the mainland of the Americas. Although traditionally a rural country, it experienced extensive migration to urban areas in the 20th century, and nearly one-third of its population lives within the metropolitan area of San Salvador, the capital and largest city. The country was named El Salvador, which is Spanish for “the savior,” in honor of Jesus Christ.

A volcanic mountain chain dominates the country's landscape and provides ideal conditions for coffee cultivation, which has been the mainstay of the Salvadoran economy for more than a century. The coffee-based economy helped to create a society divided between a small, wealthy ruling class and a large, impoverished laboring class. Throughout the 1980s the nation was torn by civil war, and in the 1990s it began to recover from the social, political, and economic damage caused by a decade of violent struggle.

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