Official NameRepublic of El Salvador ("The Saviour").

Official NameRepublic of El Salvador ("The Saviour").

LocationPacific coast of Central America, next to Guatemala and Honduras.

LanguageOfficially Spanish, though there is an academic interest in preserving Nahua - an Indian dialect spoken by the Pipil people.

PopulationAlmost 6 million, of whom the vast majority are mestizo ("mixed") - half Spanish, half Indian.

SIZE20,752 sq km - a very small country indeed; in fact, 9 sq km smaller than Wales.

National DishA meal called pupusa, a "cornmeal mass" stuffed with farmer's cheese, refried beans or chicharrón (fried pork fat). Wash it all down with Tic-tack or Torito - vodka-like spirits made from sugar cane.

Best MonumentThe Metropolitan Cathedral in the capital San Salvador, where assassinated archbishop Oscar Romero is buried. San Salvador isn't renowned for old architecture - earthquakes have taken their toll, but locals say they never liked the old buildings anyway.

Most Famous CitizenNot a nation rich in celebrities, though Romero's death (24 March 1980) at the hands of a right-wing military junta drew sympathy from reformers around the world.

Best Moment In History16 January 1992, when a ceasefire was signed between the government and the FMLN, ending the violent civil war (see below).

Worst Moment In HistoryThe 1980s. Civil war between the right-wing, US-backed government and leftist guerrillas (collectively, the FMLN), led to 75,000 deaths. In December 1981, US-trained troops murdered more than 1,000 people in the El Mazote massacre.

Essential Accessory"Viva El Salvador" T-shirts go down well with locals.

What Not To DoRead the current US travel advice. A bulletin in March included the reassuring words 'Many Salvadorans are armed and shoot-outs are not uncommon. Foreigners, however, may not carry guns.'

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