What Is El Salvador Known for in 2024? What Makes El Salvador a Global Attraction Today

By Eddie Galdamez  | Updated on Jan 12th, 2024
2024 Salvadoran ElectionsDowntown San Salvador. Image by Ministerio de Cultura.

Worldwide, El Salvador is known for the tasty Pupusas, the excellent surf spots, President Nayib Bukele, the volcanoes, the warm beaches, Bitcoin, and safety. Regrettably, El Salvador is also famous worldwide for the controversial State of Exception, gangs, and violence.

With a land of 21,041km², El Salvador is the smallest country in the American continent that is not an island. To get an idea of its size, El Salvador is about the same size as the state of New Jersey in the United States (22,591km²) and about the same size as the country of Israel (20,770km²).

However, despite having little land, El Salvador is the most densely populated country in Central America. The 2024 Salvadoran population is 6,330,947, an average of 300.89 people per square kilometer.

El Salvador Beaches
La Libertad beach, El Salvador.

The Tasty Pupusas

Pupusa, the national dish of El Salvador, is one thing people worldwide know about El Salvador. This tasty dish is so popular that it has its holiday; “National Pupusa Day” which is celebrated in El Salvador and many cities worldwide with large Hispanic populations on the second Sunday in November.

This traditional Salvadoran food will get more popular in 2022 as Amazon Prime created a miniseries called “Las Pupusas.” You can view the trailer here!

SEE ALSO: Savoring Salvadoran Pupusas! The Tasty Dish from El Salvador You Must Try!

The Las Pupusas Amazon miniseries seeks to make the typical Salvadoran dish visible to the world; the episodes will be broadcast on the Amazon streaming platform.

Salvadoran pupusas have gained worldwide popularity, transcending borders with their irresistible combination of thick, handmade corn tortillas stuffed with delicious fillings.

This Salvadoran creation has captivated taste buds globally, showcasing El Salvador’s culinary excellence and cultural richness.

Olocuilta Pupusas
Pupusas in Olocuilta. Image by JrmosRamos.

The Excellent Surfing

El Salvador has always had great surf spots; however, due to the country’s civil war of the 1980s and the following levels of violence, it never got the deserved attention until 2019.

In 2019, the Bukele administration created the Surf City El Salvador project; its goal was to showcase the Salvadoran surf spots to the world.

Since 2019, the Salvadoran surf spots have been home to many world-noteworthy surfing tournaments, such as the last qualifier for the Tokyo Olympics. In 2023, the Salvadoran beaches hosted five world-renowned surf tournaments.

El Salvador has gained worldwide acclaim for its exceptional surfing at top-notch surf spots. The fantastic surfing has become a well-known feature of El Salvador, attracting enthusiasts from around the globe.

SEE ALSO: Best Surf Spots in El Salvador: Exploring the Ultimate Surf Spots You Can’t Miss!

What is El Salvador Known for
Playa El Tunco El Salvador. Image by @ComunicacionSV

President Nayib Bukele

Nayib Bukele has elevated El Salvador’s global visibility. The Salvadoran president is known worldwide for his charismatic and unconventional governing style, often sporting a backward hat and defying traditional political norms.

His leadership and uncompromising approach have resonated with many, making him a unique and influential figure in El Salvador’s and Latin America’s political landscape.

Nayib Bukele has become well-known worldwide for many reasons; one of the most controversial is making El Salvador the first country to adopt Bitcoin as a legal tender.

Besides Bitcoin, the Salvadoran mandatary has gained notoriety for his authoritarian tendencies, removing judges and implementing drastic measures against gangs that many say have resulted in human rights violations.

What is impressive is that, even with international organizations criticizing him, President Bukele has maintained a high approval rate internally; the president’s approval has not fallen below 75% during his entire presidential term.

President Nayib Bukele
Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele.

The Land of Volcanoes

El Salvador is known as the land of volcanoes. The country lies in the Pacific Ring of Fire and has 170 volcanoes in its 21,041 km² territory. Many of these stratovolcanoes are top tourist attractions; they are visited by thousands of local and foreign tourists.

Volcanoes such as Izalco, Santa Ana, and San Salvador are known worldwide. In 2023, we can add the Conchagua volcano to the list; it is the future site of El Salvador’s Bitcoin city.

SEE ALSO: Exploring Volcanoes in El Salvador: A Journey Through the Land of Volcanoes

Izalco Volcano
Izalco Volcano El Salvador. Image by SivarCultura.

The Beaches

El Salvador’s warm beaches along its Pacific coast are a paradise for sunseekers and water sports enthusiasts. With consistent waves and golden sands, destinations like La Costa del Sol, El Cuco, and El Zonte offer an ideal blend of relaxation and adventure.

These top-rated pristine beaches are another reason people know of El Salvador. El Salvador has perfect beaches for all visitors.

SEE ALSO: 14 Best Beaches in El Salvador. Discovering El Salvador’s Best Beaches!

Bitcoin: a Salvadoran Legal Currency

Since 2021, when the Salvadoran legislature made Bitcoin a legal tender at the request of President Nayib Bukele, it seems that Bitcoin and El Salvador go hand in hand.

Nowadays, articles that mention Bitcoin and El Salvador in different languages are common occurrences; here are some examples in English, Spanish, and Japanese. Since Bitcoin is volatile and controversial, it will continue to put El Salvador’s name in front of a worldwide audience.

Bitcoin will continue to be linked to El Salvador even further if the Salvadoran Government has its controversial Bitcoin Bonds or begins the construction of Bitcoin City.

Bitcoin City
Bitcoin City. Image by @nayibbukele.

El Salvador’s Controversial State of Exception

El Salvador’s controversial State of Exception has put El Salvador into the international spotlight. The security measure began in late March 2022; it granted the government extraordinary powers to fight criminal gangs.

This security measure has helped El Salvador reach levels of security not seen in over 40 years. The country known as the Murder Capital of the World in 2015 has, in 2023, achieved one of the lowest homicide rates in the Americas.

Nevertheless, the State of Exception has ignited debates about civil liberties, with concerns over potential abuse of authority and a need for a balance between public security measures and individual human rights.

During the State of Exception, over 75,000 people have been arrested under gang-related criminal suspicions.

Today, El Salvador has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world; nevertheless, over 85% of Salvadorans approve of the security measure.

Gangs in El Salvador

Gangs are another reason El Salvador is known worldwide. Salvadoran Criminal gangs have caused violence within the population that has led to extensive migration.

The Salvadoran gang phenomenon increased drastically from 2001; it peaked in violence around 2015 and 2016. During these times, El Salvador was known internationally as the murder capital of the world.

The daily homicide rate in El Salvador in 2015 was 18.2, or 103 Homicides per 100,000 Inhabitants.

Although the two more extensive gangs in El Salvador (MS13 & Barrio18) originated in the United States, they made El Salvador their home base. Over the last 30 years, El Salvador has been in the news constantly due to gangs.

Violence in El Salvador

The violence perpetuated by Salvadoran gangs since 2001 forced many Salvadorans to leave their homes to protect themselves and their families. These high levels of violence were known worldwide.

Before 2020, El Salvador was constantly in the top 25 most dangerous countries in the world. Look at the following table and compare the homicides in El Salvador since 2010.

El Salvador Homicide Rate
Year Total Homicides Daily Homicide Rate Homicides per 100,000 Inhabitants
2023 154 0.42 2.4
2022 496 1.36 7.8
2021 1147 3.14 18.1
2020 1341 3.67 21.2
2019 2398 6.57 35.8
2018 3346 9.17 50.4
2017 3962 10.85 60.2
2016 5280 14.47 81.0
2015 6656 18.24 103.0
2014 3921 10.74 61.3
2013 2513 6.88 40.6
2012 2594 7.11 42.1
2011 4371 11.98 71.2
2010 3987 10.92 65.2

Even though the homicide rate in El Salvador in 2023 is low and gang activity has declined, many people worldwide still perceive the Central American nation as a dangerous and violent place full of gang members.

Safety in El Salvador in 2024

It is paradoxical that, in 2024, El Salvador is globally recognized both for its violence and its safety. Allow me to elaborate on the reasons behind this seemingly contradictory reality.

Between 2001 and 2019, El Salvador consistently made global headlines due to elevated violence levels. However, entering 2024, a notable transformation has occurred. Today, El Salvador has achieved the status of one of the safest nations in Latin America.

Although entering 2024, the country is one of the safest in Latin America, and people worldwide notice the change. People worldwide associate El Salvador with violence.

Minimum Wage in El Salvador
San Salvador National Cathedral. Image by Alcaldía de San Salvador.

What is El Salvador known for worldwide in 2024?

El Salvador is renowned worldwide for many things, such as its tasty Pupusas, its stunning Pacific coast beaches, the excellent surf spots, Bitcoin, and President Nayib Bukele, to name a few.

Since 2019, El Salvador has been trying to change how it is perceived by those outside its territory. To that effect, the government is using tourism, especially surfing, as a tool to achieve its goal.

The current administration uses the Surf City El Salvador project as a tool to display the fantastic Salvadoran coastline and demonstrate that El Salvador is now more than what it used to be. El Salvador is a different country now than in 2019!