El Salvador i/ɛl ˈsælvədɔr/ (Spanish: República de El Salvador, literally ‘Republic of The Savior’) is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. The country’s capital city and largest city is San Salvador; Santa Ana and San Miguel are also important cultural and commercial centers in the country and in all of Central America. El Salvador borders the Pacific Ocean on the west, and the countries of Guatemala to the north and Honduras to the east. Its eastern-most region lies on the coast of the Gulf of Fonseca, opposite Nicaragua. As of 2009, El Salvador had a population of approximately 5,744,113 people, composed predominantly of Mestizos.
The colón was the official currency of El Salvador from 1892 to 2001, when it adopted the U.S. Dollar. In 2010 El Salvador ranked in the top 10 among Latin American countries in terms of the Human Development Index and in the top 3 in Central America (behind Costa Rica and Panama); because of this, the country is undergoing rapid industrialization.
El Salvador was explored and settled by the Spanish in the 16th century and remained a territory of Spain until 1821, when it joined Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua in a union named the Federal Republic of Central America. When this union dissolved in 1841, El Salvador maintained its own government until it joined Honduras and Nicaragua in 1896 to form the Greater Republic of Central America, which later dissolved in 1898. El Salvador’s origins of human civilization date back to the Pipil people of Cuzcatlán, which means The Place of Precious Diamonds and Jewels. The people of El Salvador are variably referred to as Salvadoran or Salvadorian, while the term Cuzcatleco is commonly used to identify someone of Salvadoran heritage.