Central America Travel Blog

News, Views and Information on Central America

Spam comments….

Posted on | February 22, 2013 | No Comments

Whilst writing this blog I have managed to attract a number of ‘curious’ comments to say the least, THOUSANDS in fact!

Mostly from India but now quite a few coming in from China!

What is incredibly funny is that most contain links to quite spurious websites and slightly dodgy viagra and other drug websites!

Whilst looking through some of the comments and the post that they are being added to it struck me that not ONE person had clicked on any of the advertising links…????

It seems a little unfair that there is an expectation to accept a comment full of links for, well, for what? To promote some spammy website that no one has any real interest in! If I wanted or NEEDED viagra I would go to the doctor!

So, if you have a comment to make on any of my posts, unless they are GENUINE comments please… DON’T BOTHER!

Missing El Salvador in this horrid European weather! Even in Portugal, the weather is NOT to my liking! Cold, rainy and really NOT the glorious climate of El Salvador!

Make a Difference in El Salvador – Libras de Amor

Posted on | March 19, 2012 | No Comments

Libras de Amor

A commenter recently pointed out my misconception of starvation in El Salvador.

Although, in my post I was broadly suggesting that the local inhabitants who I have seen and witnessed do not appear to be hungry or unhappy, the fact that this is true across the country is wrong.

There is a fantastic program ‘Libras de Amor’ operating with a view to reducing and eliminating malnutrition in El Salvador http://librasdeamor.org/

The program began in 2005 in San Julian, Sonsonate and has gone from strength to strength and is now supporting many communities within El Salvador where individuals were living, and in some cases still are living, on less than US$ 0.50 per day.

Libras de Amor is a very worthwhile organisation to support and for as little as $3 per month you can support the organisation and help Salvadorans who are starving in the beautiful country. To make a donation click HERE

As has been stated by many within the Facebook Expats El Salvador community, change can be made through supporting local communities I would urge everyone to follow the link and sigh up to donate at least the $3 per month.

Warm Water Surfing in El Salvador!

Posted on | March 8, 2012 | No Comments

'Part Time Aging Surfer' at Playa Sunzal, El Salvador

' Part Time Aging Surfer' at Playa Sunzal, El Salvador

Surfing is not for everyone but it does account for a substantial and important part of tourism in El Salvador and how can you resist the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean?

As a ‘part-time’ aging surfer, more familiar with the cold Atlantic beach breaks of Cornwall, England, than the warm Pacific point breaks of La Libertad, El Salvador, I can say that the surfing is very different here!

Firstly, there is no requirement for a wet suit! Yes, I have surfed in the UK without a wet suit, generally July and August are just about bearable when the sea temperature reaches just over 12 degrees. Owning a caravan in Watergate Bay, Newquay for my weekend escapes to the beach meant that I took every advantage of the surfing no matter what the weather! My 10′ 1″ long board meant that I got maximum water time even when the waves were no more than knee high! I have surfed at Fistral Beach, Newquay, in January when there has been snow laying on the beach… Mad? Yes almost certainly!

I have noticed that the beach breaks here in El Salvador as very different and not ideal for surfing. The waves appear to rise and then crash violently as they break. At Watergate Bay, my favoured surf spot in Cornwall, the waves softly rise from the ocean and maintain a nice swell allowing for very good surfing before breaking very close to the beach. Here, well the wave suddenly appears and then starts to break, and with some force!

So, off to some of the more gentle point breaks that La Libertad has to offer. The obvious one, for someone of my standard is El Sunzal, a long rideable wave that is not too taxing on my old bones! Of course this time of year is considered ‘Off Season’ for surfing and no self respecting ‘dude surfer’ would be seen dead on the waves that I am enjoying, but, for me at least, thats what I am doing, enjoying the surf!

With El Salvador having what the experts consider some of the Top 10 breaks in the world it is no wonder that surf tourism is booming here. There are plenty of cheap accommodation options along the whole coast although nightlife is fairly limited. El Tunco offers any surfer a great base to be located with board hire, clean, cheap accommodation and at least some night life during the week. Weekends in El Tunco can be crowded and noisy, far too noisy in my antiquated opinion!

Most of the local surfers are pretty friendly and chilled out and there isn’t too much ‘competing’ to catch waves. Surfing in Costa Rica is far more ‘competitive’ and the local surfers can be quite ‘possessive’ about ‘their wave’! Certainly from my own experiences the surfing is far more consistent in El Salvador when compared to even the best breaks in Costa Rica. Unlike Costa Rica, access to alternative breaks when one break is not performing is much easier in El Salvador as the breaks are much closer and the road networks here are much better than Costa Rica.

If you have never surfed there are plenty of surf instructors to be found all along the coast. Some are great at building confidence in the waves with your board and are mindful that it is not always a natural thing, others, unfortunately, are less sympathetic to your flailing around in the waves with a lump of fiberglass and expect too much of their student. Ask around and you will find a surf instructor to meet your needs!

Surfing in El Salvador can be split into two distinct regions…. La Libertad or West Coast Surfing El Salvador and The Wild East or East Coast Surfing El Salvador.

Surfing on the west coast, La Libertad region, you will find a beautiful, mountainous coastline stretching for around 30 miles, almost 50kms, of incredible beach breaks and point breaks throughout!

With NINE of the best point breaks in the whole of Central America, a mear 30 minutes from San Salvador and the airport you can be surfing in no time after arriving in El Salvador!

Surfing on the East Coast, The Wild East, you will find yourself in a far different area to the West Coast. The East Coast has far fewer surfers than the West Coast of El Salvador, far less crowded waves, but you do need to be a proficient intermediate of better to handle these powerful breaks, some requiring a long paddle or even a boat to get you out there! Also please consider that, as there are fewer tourists there are fewer shops, fewer restaurants and fewer hotels! Ideal for those experienced surfers looking to get away from the crowds!

West Coast Surfing El Salvador
Here are the main surf breaks in El Salvador along the West Coast from La Libertad to Mizata, just about the last break on the La Libertad/West Coast.

Surfing Punta Roca , Surfing Conchalio , Surfing La Paz , Surfing La Bocana , Surfing La Bocanita , Surfing El Sunzal , Surfing El Sunzalito , Surfing El Zonte , Surfing El Cocal , Surfing K59 , Surfing K61 , Surfing Mizata

Each break has a uniqueness, a unique flavour all of it’s own and, if one break isn’t performing then you are only minutes away from the next!

East Coast Surfing El Salvador

Here are the main surf breaks in El Salvador along the East Coast from Las Flores to El Toro, just about the last break on the East Coast of El Salvador

Surfing Punta Manga , Surfing El Toro , Surfing La Vaca , Surfing Las Flores

As you can see, there is so much surfing in El Salvador to choose from! You are sure to find YOUR favorite break and return year after year!

A Perception of El Salvador Follow Up

Posted on | March 8, 2012 | 1 Comment

It seems that my article “A different perception of El Salvador” has stirred up quite an amount of discussion throughout the expat community in San Salvador.

If it was felt that I was in any way being disrespectful to those who have suffered violence, extortion or other such atrocity then I apologise. This was never my intention.

Perhaps I should clarify that the article is written in relation to tourism in El Salvador. However, it is also based on my first hand experiences of El Salvador, now and the previous six visits to this amazing little country.

Searching through various lists of “Dangerous Countries for Tourists” There is no mention of El Salvador. However, Brazil and Mexico, amongst others, ALWAYS appear!

Is it about perception or is it about the way the country, the population, the government portrays itself?

Belize, for example, appears in the usual list of Top 10 Murder Countries yet you do not see this being broadcast throughout the national newspapers all the time! You do not hear expats in Belize ‘confirming’ that Belize as a ‘dangerous country’!

Perhaps living in El Salvador presents ‘challenges’ that most tourists would never or at least rarely encounter?

Following my recent post relating to the, in my opinion, wrong, perception of El Salvador being an unsafe, dangerous country I received a message from a member of El Salvador Expat Community on Facebook saying that It was justified that El Salvador should be regarded as dangerous. Going so far as to say that “violence engulfs El Salvador”.

Some questions raised were… Do you walk the streets of San Salvador after dark? Well, yes I have and I expect I will again. Would you let your kids walk to school? Well, I don’t have kids here in El Salvador BUT I do know an expat couple who DO let their kids walk to and from school. Do I have a security guard at my house? Yes I do. He is unarmed and not employed by me. Given the choice I wouldn’t bother with a guard, and I would respectfully suggest that I would be far more ‘effective’ than he would ever be.

I am NOT denying the fact that there is violence here in El Salvador, but I am trying to introduce some balance, some kind of perspective to stop the thoughtless generalisation that the WHOLE of El Salvador is unsafe. That is simply NOT true in my personal opinion!

To try and bring some balance to this argument, as a Brit, I can name several areas of London where I would choose not to walk around during DAYLIGHT. Britain’s second city, Birmingham, would not be my choice of city to make my home. My original, sleepy, rather middle/upper class home village has areas that are best avoided at night. Let’s move around the British Isles…. Wales… Cardiff, Swansea two places that are beautiful yet have areas that are just not considered safe. Scotland…. Glasgow, Edinburgh have large areas of the cities here it is just not good to walk during the day! Having witnessed first hand the violent religious clashes that still take place today I can tell you that Glasgow is far more a frightening place than San Salvador, day or night!

The examples above do not make Britain a ‘dangerous country’ to live in or to visit for that matter. It simply means that you avoid those areas, areas which would NOT be shown to tourists for example.

Please, I am not playing down the dangers within El Salvador, however, I do not consider that I am being “irresponsible” or “delusional” when I say that you cannot paint the whole of El Salvador as dangerous! Reading a newspaper yesterday in a local restaurant there was a very graphical representation of the number of daily murders that had taken place over the course of a month, I am sure that many people saw it. From memory it showed up to 22 murders in one day with the lowest being around 8 murders in one day. Statistics that cannot be denied or ignored BUT were any of these murders involving tourists? Recent daily murder figures for Guatemala range between 17 and 25 per day.

Having been to El Salvador in the past as a guest of MITUR and taken to areas of the country that the ‘average tourist’ would see I would say that El Salvador is a ‘safe’ country to visit as a tourist. Having had the honor to meet and listen to an address by President Mauricio Funes regarding the ‘challenges’ faced by El Salvador, I would suggest that one of the greatest challenges faced by El Salvador is to shake off this international perception of being a “dangerous country” and bring to the fore the marvelous beauty, the warm, friendly people, the peaceful people that this country has in abundance.

To tar the whole country with the same brush is wrong. To say that the country is engulfed by violence is just misinformed and simply not true and only goes to add fuel to the ‘international condemnation’ of El Salvador as an ‘unsafe country to visit’.

I was once attacked with a carving knife at 9:30am whilst at traffic lights, driving to work in Birmingham, England. Should that incident stop tourists going to visit nearby ‘Shakespeare’s’ Stratford Upon Avon? I was once attacked in Ascot by a group of youths carrying motorbike chains…. Should that stop tourists going to near by Windsor Castle?

There needs to be a more balanced, more informed, perception of El Salvador. A perception that is not looked at through rose tinted glasses but one that is honest and true and does not look at every Salvadoran as a gang member, murderer, mugger, thief and does not look at El Salvador as a country under siege or engulfed in violence.

El Salvador is remarkable, a treasure waiting to be discovered, to be re-discovered, with a people who are warm, friendly, hard working and accommodating.

It’s time for El Salvador to shake off this ‘dark cloak’ and let the tourism world see what an amazing country this really is!

Discovering Paradise – Playa Playitas, La Union, El Salvador

Posted on | March 7, 2012 | No Comments

Playa Playitas and Conchagua Volcano

Playa Playitas and Conchagua Volcano

On one of my many outings in El Salvador I was fortunate to stumble on a little fishing cove in the east of the country called Playa Playitas, La Union.

This was my first excursion to the east of the country and I wanted to see what this ‘forgotten’ part of El Salvador had to offer. Dramatic scenery, volcanoes, beautiful coastline, friendly inhabitants and very few tourists are the first things that strike you when you venture east! Those who have visited other parts of El Salvador will have noticed the guards at properties, shops, banks, restaurants with their official uniform and regulation shot gun. Where are those security guards in the east of El Salvador? Driving through Usulután, a very busy, energetic market town I found that there were no such uniformed guards. I think I may have glimpsed a guard in one of the banks passing by but could not say for sure!

The drive toward La Union is through mostly rural, agricultural land, I guess the bread basket of the country with maize, sugar cane and extensive cashew groves.

My goal was to reach La Union and to get views across the Gulf of Fonseca and the awaiting islands of this calm Gulf, very different to the crashing surf waves of La Libertad.

Boats moored at Punta Chiquirin, La Union, El Salvador

Boats moored at Punta Chiquirin, La Union, El Salvador

Driving past Conchagua volcano and heading directly to Punta El Chiquirín, the easternmost point of El Salvador (not including the border with Honduras), was the obvious choice to get a sea level view of the islands in the gulf. A beautiful black sand bay awaited my arrival with an unfortunately limited view of the gulf. The beach at Punta El Chiquirín is accessed through a few ramshackle houses and the beach stretches round in a near perfect arc with a wide expanse of sand. Conchagua volcano is never too far from view where ever you are in this area!

A few photos and then off to Playa Playitas. No idea what awaited but it certainly has an interesting name!

A 4km drive along an unpaved road leads to the tiny fishing village of Playa Playitas. Nestled at the foot of Conchagua volcano in an idyllic, picture perfect cove. It was Saturday and there were perhaps a dozen loca ‘tourists’, probably from La Union, enjoying the calm warm waters of this cove. A walk along the beach and a look at the beachside, almost makeshift ‘restaurants’ with small colourful fishing boats lined up in front, and a cold beer was called for. We decided to walk back along the beach to ‘El Delfin’ a slightly more ‘permanent restaurant at the eastern side of the beach. A little jump over the stream that flows through the village and out to the gulf and an open seating area affording views across the cove and the sea and of course a cold Pilsner was waiting!

Watching the launching of the small fishing boats, some no more than two man dug out canoes, heading off to the fishing grounds. Just along from the restaurant sits a tiny cottage on the very point of the cove with the most perfect view of Conchagüita, the near by volcanic island. A realtors dream, Location, Location, Location! We met the owner of the little cottage, a young guy, in his late 20′s, he had been born in the cottage and was raising his young family there now.

A walk back down to the beach and a cool off in the warm waters of the cove where swimming was easy and relaxed due to the lack of waves! A quick game of football with a few locals is always a good way to make new friends! Then back to the restaurant for something to eat. A rather large bowl of milky soup and sitting in the bowl a large, whole crab and langoustine. Shockingly I cannot remember the exact name of this monumental dish but I can tell you that it was the freshest crab and langoustine I have eaten here, and the cheapest!

Time was passing by rather too quickly so asked the restaurant owner if there were any rooms, hostel in the village. Nothing! Well, looks like we will have to venture to La Union for the overnight stay…

The restaurant came back and offered a couple of hammocks to overnight in the restaurant. The restaurant has no doors, no windows… In fact no walls…. It is right on the beach! A little look over the cove and the decision was made to accept the very kind offer. When asking for a price the owner said that it was his honour to have guests staying and would accept no money!

The car was duly moved to the ‘side entrance’ of the restaurant and hammocks were hung offering the most amazing view across the cove.

Midnight walks across the bay, gazing at the million stars in the non light polluted sky, the gentle waves lapping at the shoreline… Was this really paradise?

Morning cam too quickly and a pre dawn walk on the beach with the fishermen silently launching their boats, yes silently, they maneuver their boats to the waters edge on two logs, I couldn’t help but think that three logs would have made life easier, and then paddle their little brightly painted fishing boat out into the middle of the cove before starting their engines.

Sunrise at Playa Playitas, La Union, El Salvador

Sunrise at Playa Playitas, La Union, El Salvador

The small beachside cafe’s open early and a strong coffee was gratefully received. 25 cents for a large mug of strong, sweet coffee seemed like a very good deal to me!

It was decided to leave this little piece of paradise early and explore some of the places that had been passed on the way including Puerto El Triunfo and Jiquilisco. More on those places later.

So, if you have never been to the east of El Salvador, you should! It is a beautiful, tranquil side of the country that should NOT be missed!

And if you want to take time to relax, chill out and enjoy not only warm waters, beautiful cove and islands but also a little ‘hidden’ fishing community then get to Playa Playitas!

Salvadoran Envelope of Deliciousness!

Posted on | March 7, 2012 | No Comments

Pupusas Revueltas, El Salvador

Pupusas Revueltas, El Salvador

Ever since my first visit to El Salvador I fell in love with Pupusas!

Can you ever eat too many Pupusas? A resounding NO is my answer at least!

Those little Salvadoran envelopes of deliciousness filled with red beans, chicken, pork or cheese or perhaps ALL in the famous ‘pupusas revueltas‘!

For those unfamiliar with pupusas they are hand made corn tortillas stuffed with a selection of or all of the above ingredients. The cheese used is generally a soft Salvadoran cheese that is similar to mozzarella and make for a piping hot filling inside the tortilla.

Traditional Pupusas Over a Wood Fire, El Salvador

Traditional Pupusas Over a Wood Fire, El Salvador

Pupusas are readily available at many roadside pupuseria where you can watch your pupusas being prepared, stuffed with your chosen filling and cooked right before your eyes. There does appear to be a hierarchy within the pupusarias where there will be a ‘senior’ pupusa creator stuffing and forming the corn ball before it is handed over to a slightly ‘junior’ pupusa creator to form the flattened, rounded tortilla before being placed onto the solid iron griddle for cooking over an open log fire.

Watching the turning of the pupusa with often nothing more than just fingers is quite something to see. Perhaps the ladies have developed asbestos fingers and do not require any implements to pick up and turn the pupusas as they are cooking?

Once cooked they are served with Curtido, a salad of pickled, slightly fermented chopped cabage, onion and carrots, sometimes with a jalapeños and a spicy watery tomato sauce.

Pupusería Las Chinamas, El Salvador

Pupusería Las Chinamas, El Salvador

Eating a pupusa appears to be an art in itself. Either laying a little salad on top of the pupusa a little of the spicy tomato sauce and taking a bit or, as I often see the Salvadorans do, pull open the tortilla and add the salad and tomato sauce inside the pupusa. This does take some skill to avoid burning your fingers but is a great way of cooling them down if you cannot wait to eat them!

A Different Perception of El Salvador?

Posted on | March 6, 2012 | 8 Comments

Flag of El Salvador

Flag of El Salvador

Introduction: How does one write about El Salvador without mentioning the ‘challenges’ that this tiny country faces? That is a challenge in itself! El Salvador deserves MORE than the world media depicts of this amazing country that is overlooked by many visitors to Central America. Overlooked? Perhaps a better word would be “avoided”! How does one write about El Salvador in a positive way without first trying to wade through the statistics, the perceptions, the undeniable facts? For me it seems impossible. However, I hope that this very brief look at my personal perception of El Salvador does not dwell on the negatives and opens the door to more positive posts in the very near future!

El Salvador was my ‘chosen’ destination for an extended trip to Central America. Chosen not by me but by circumstance!

Following a trip to Panama and Belize I decided to look for an opportunity to spend some time in the region and, when an opportunity arose to spend a few months in El Salvador, of course I jumped at the chance.

Rather than bore you with the details of how I ended up here I want to, for now at least, tell you of what I have found in El Salvador.

This is not my first visit to this amazing little country, I have been here on 5 previous occasions, according to my passport immigration stamps anyway! With friends and family somewhat bemused by my decision to head over to El Salvador for a few months I arrived at Comalapa International airport, via Miami, on the 1st December on the Spirit Airlines ‘silly o’clock’ flight!

So, El Salvador, whats it all about?

Aside from being the smallest country in Central America AND the most densely populated, outside of the main cities, El Salvador does not feel overcrowded! Get out into the countryside or onto the beaches, during the week at least, and you will find very few people. The beaches often empty or a few local fishermen and some surfers. At the weekend the beaches become more crowded as Salvadorans escape San Salvador for the ocean but even then you will find the beaches uncrowded and the ocean warm!

In the small villages you will find a local population who are friendly and helpful. You will find a warmth of a nation that is still struggling to shake off the atrocities of a bloody civil war that ripped the nation apart. That was over TWENTY YEARS ago! The number of people I have spoken to who believe that there is still strife in El Salvador is amazing. The number of people who have suggested sleeping with an AK-47 under my pillow for ‘personal protection’ is amazing! Ok, the AK-47 is a slight exaggeration but there is a ‘safety’ issue amongst friends who know only the ‘media’ image of El Salvador

My own personal experience of El Salvador is NOT of the apparent danger, of the apparent crime, of the apparent gangs that ‘blight’ this country. It is of a people who work hard, live in poverty but are not starving, are striving to earn money, NOT steal it! Yes I have met foreigners who have experienced some of the worst that El Salvador has to offer but they are still here, they have not fled the country!

What is it that creates this ‘danger’ that is on every governmental website warning of travel in El Salvador? What is it that expats and even Salvadorans speak of not traveling at night, even driving, of not using local buses, of avoiding certain beaches, finding a hotel before sunset, to overnight and stay inside until dawn?

As a European I can tell you many stories of theft, violence, robbery in London, Madrid, Paris, Milan. I can tell you many ‘No Go’ areas of most major cities in the UK. I can give first hand accounts of the threat of violence in even small, rural villages!

No, of course, let’s not get too ‘romantic’ about El Salvador. Yes there are problems here, there is theft, violence, gangs… But they are NOT lurking on every street corner waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting tourist!

I have been in San Salvador at night, in a bar across the road from my hotel and been ‘escorted’ back to my hotel, for my “own safety”, by a friendly Salvadoran who felt that I shouldn’t be in the bar. The same bar that I had been in the previous three nights without any feeling of danger. I have walked in downtown San Salvador at night, very close to the National Theatre, without any apparent danger.

Having traveled extensively in the world including Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America I cannot report that El Salvador is any more dangerous than any other country I have visited! As far as Central America is concerned I have experienced more problems in Costa Rica than I have in El Salvador, I have chosen NOT to to venture out at night in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, I have cut short a visit to Panama City due to not feeling ‘comfortable’ with my surroundings. Last year in La Antigua Guatemala was the first time I have been offered “Shoe shine? Drugs?”.

Is El Salvador getting a bum deal on the safety aspect? I have to say, in my opinion, yes it is!

Statistics seem to count for everything, murder rates being the main statistic offered by many travel ‘authorities’. I read recently that there were at least 13 Americans murdered in El Salvador since 2010 but no details of these murders. Where any of these innocent tourists simply visiting the El Salvador on vacation? The US government website depicts the whole of El Salvador as virtually a complete ‘No Go’ area! http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1109.html

El Salvador no longer has the highest murder rate in the world. That dubious title has been taken by Honduras since 2010. Looking at the Top 10 list of countries of ‘Highest Murder Rates’ we find  Jamaica, Belize, St Kitts and Nevis, Guatemala, Zambia… Checking through the travel.state.gov website for these countries there does not appear to be the same ‘countrywide’ warning as for El Salvador. However, the website does report a rate of 42 murders per week in Guatemala City alone!

I can only speak from own personal experiences here in El Salvador and I am sorry for anyone who has had to deal with the darker side of the country but for me El Salvador is a beautiful country with beautiful people and deserves more positive press than it currently receives.

I would consider myself an experienced traveler and do take certain precautions when traveling ANYWHERE…. I only carry what I can afford to lose! Limited cash, a photocopy of my passport, maybe 1 credit/debit card, no wallet, a hidden $20 bill for emergency and thats about it. This same strategy applies to the Europe as well as Central America!

It is a shame that it is not possible to write an article about El Salvador without ending up touching on the ‘issues’… This needs to stop! There needs to be a far more positive spin on what El Salvador is and what El Salvador can offer the visitor!

I will try and give that positive spin on El Salvador and of some of the places I have visited, of my experiences and people I have met in the last three months!

Joya de Cerén Archaeological Site, El Salvador

Posted on | March 5, 2012 | No Comments

Joya de Cerén Archaeological Site, El Salvador

Joya de Cerén Archaeological Site, El Salvador

Joya de Cerén, often referred to as the “Pompeii of the Americas”, is a pre-Columbian Maya farming village remarkably preserved under layers of volcanic ash following the eruption of the Loma Caldera around the year 590 AD.

Joya de Cerén is located in the department of La Libertad, El Salvador approximately 30 minutes from the capital, San Salvador.

The small farming community of Joya de Cerén was inhabited as early as 900 BC and is located on the southeast extremity of the Maya cultural area. Cerén had been previously evacuated in around 250 AD following the eruption of Ilopango Volcano and had been repopulated until the final eruption of Loma Caldera which buried the village in 14 layers of volcanic ash.

This eruption of Loma Caldera in around 590 AD covered the whole village in volcanic ash. Although devastating to the village it would appear that there were no fatalities, in the village at least, as no bodies have been found during excavations.

Joya de Cerén was rediscovered in 1976 by Payson Sheets, a professor at the University of Colorado. Since the discovery of Joya de Cerén excavations have continued and approximately 70 buildings have been unearthed.

The greatest discoveries at Joya de Cerén have been the utensils, furniture, ceramics, part cooked meals that were abandoned in the inhabitants haste to escape the volcanic eruption.

The eruption of Loma Caldera resulted in a very low temperature, wet and rapid fall of ash which resulted in the almost perfect preservation of plants and other materials that would normally be destroyed by a volcanic eruption of this magnitude. Joya de Cerén became the first New World archaeological site to prove the cultivation of Manioc (Yuca) as a food source. It was shown that much of the Yuca had been planted just a few hours before the eruption that buried the village.

Joya de Cerén was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 and excavations continue today.

Joya de Cerén is a very interesting archaeological site to visit, if somewhat eery, when you walk around the excavations and realise that this village has been preserved for centuries in amazing condition, including the food that was either about to be eaten or, in some cases, half eaten food just before the complete and total evacuation by its inhabitants, never to return.

Tazumal Mayan Archaeological Site, El Salvador

Posted on | March 5, 2012 | No Comments

Tazumal Maya Archaeological Site, Chalchuapa, El Salvador

Tazumal Maya Archaeological Site, Chalchuapa, El Salvador

Tazumal, the pre-columbian Mayan site located in Chalchuapa, Santa Ana, El Salvador dates from around 1200BC. The ruins at Tazumal are considered the most important and best preserved Mayan site in El Salvador.

Tazumal when translated from K’iche’ means “the place where the victims were burned”. K’iche’ being one of the Mayan languages that is still in use today, spoken by around a million people across the region and becoming a popular language to be taught in schools. It can also be heard on some radio stations, particularly in Guatemala.

Tazumal falls centrally in the archaeological zone of Chalchuapa that covers around 10 km² and includes other notable archaeological sites including Casa Blanca, Trapiche, Las Victorias and Pampe. The sites in the archaeological zone of Chalchuapa show that there is an influence from Copán in Honduras. There are also some characteristics within the sites that are related to Teotihuacan and Tula in Mexico.

Within Tazumal there are a series of Mayan ruins including ceremonial architecture dated to around 100 – 200 AD. Tazumal has a complex and intricate drainage system that channels water around the archaeological Mayan site. Excavations at Tazumal have discovered tombs, minor pyramids, palaces and a great many ritual artifacts including pottery and obsidian knives and tools.

The main pyramid at Tazumal was constructed around 900 AD and evidence shows that Tazumal enjoyed a long and uninterrupted occupation from around 100 AD to 1200 AD. The most development of the site occurred during the Classic period, 250 AD to 900 AD, when the Toltec style pyramid was built along with a large Mayan ball court.

It is believed that the Tazumal site was abandoned around 1200 AD with no evidence to show why this magnificent site was simply left to return to nature!

Through the discovery of artifacts found at Tazumal it has been possible to show that there was an ancient trade between Tazumal and Mayan sites in Mexico and Panama.

Tazumal is a great Mayan archaeological site to visit. The overall size of Tazumal makes it easy to get a flavour of Mayan sites and an understanding of how Mayan cities grew and become great centers of power in the region.

Associated Post – Joya de Cerén Archaeological Site


Posted on | March 2, 2012 | No Comments

Tazumal Pyramid, Chalchuapa, El Salvador

There are many Archaeological sites in El Salvador. These are part of the “Ruta Maya”. Civilisations such as Maya, Pipil and Lenca settled on this land where there are still remains of their ceremonial centers.

JOYA DE CEREN: Located in the Department of La Libertad, only thirty minutes away from the capital, San Salvador, Joya de Ceren was declared a Heritage Site for Humanity by UNESCO in 1993. There you can see the daily life of the native dwellers that was interrupted by the Loma Caldera Volcano around 600AD.

Joya de Ceren has 18 edifices, 10 of which have been excavated to reveal corridors, benches, doors, steam baths, corn fields and vegetable gardens. At the time of the eruption the inhabitants fled the town leaving their belongings and what they were doing exactly where they dropped them, even meals that had been cooking or being prepared were left as the inhabitants fled the volcanic eruption.

The preservation of the site is thanks to the 14 layers of ash from the volcano that completely covered Joya de Ceren for over 1,400 years until it’s discovery in 1976.

Read More about Joya de Ceren Archaeological Site

SAN ANDRES: The San Andres archaeological ceremonial site is located 32km from the capital, San Salvador and just 3km from Joya de Ceren. San Andres was the regional focal point for government, ceremonies and administration from 600AD to 900AD.

There is also a colonial period indigo ‘factory’ that was buried by the eruption of the Playon Volcano in 1658. A series of important archaeological finds at this San Andres also include a religious scepter made of flint. The San Andres complex spans approximately 35 hectares and is one of El Salvadors largest pre Hispanic centers.

Visits to San Andres are from Tuesday to Sunday between the hours of 9am and 4pm.

SANTA ANA: The countries second most important city, Santa Ana, is located 65 km west of the capital, San Salvador.

There are various places around Santa Ana that bear the mark of inhabitation by pre-historic man. The Santa Ana historical complex includes the cathedral, theatre and Municipal Palace.

The Cathedral in Santa Ana was declared a Cultural Heritage Site in 1995 with it’s Gothic and Byzantine styles, the Cathedral is over 90 meters long.

The Santa Ana Theater is one of the most beautiful theaters in El Salvador and has arguably the best acoustics of any theatre in El Salvador! The Satan Ana Theatre was built in the first decade of the 20th Century and it’s inauguration was in 1910 with an operatic performance by Giussepe Verdi.

Santa Ana has a very healthy and dynamic economy through it’s main product, coffee. There are also a number of modern shopping centres and malls in and around the city and offers the visitor a great infrastructure and tourist services.

CHALCHUAPA: Approximately 79 km from the capital, San Salvador, Chalchuapa is the largest archaeological area in El Salvador. Chalcuapa includes the most important archaeological sites of Tazumal, Casa Blanca, Trapiche, Pampe and Las Victorias.

TAZUMAL: Located 80 km from the capital, San Salvador, Tazumal was first recorded in 1892 and formally registered in 1940. Human settlement of Tazumal began in 1200 BC.

The central pyramid of Tazumal stands over 24 meters high where excavations have discovered various tombs containing artifacts including over 116 pottery vessels, jade jewelry, Iron pyrite mirrors, ball game artifacts and ceramic figures.

Although small, Tazumal is an impressive site to visit and the museum on site gives a great overview of the history of the site and the archaeological excavations that have been carried out.

Open from Tuesday to Sunday between 9am and 4pm the entry fee is only $3 per person. When you have finished your visit to Tazumal why not take a stroll around the small town and pick up some souvenirs or enjoy lunch at one of the roadside restaurants that are just outside of the archaeological site.

If you drive to Tazumal you should be able to park very close to the site and a friendly, helpful local will guide you to a parking place and “watch your car” whilst you are away. Upon returning to your car your helpful local will guide you out of your parking place and help you turn around to exit the rather crowded road. A $2 ‘parking fee’ seemed to put a big smile on our friendly ‘car park attendant’.

Read more about Tazumal Maya Archaeological Site

CASA BLANCA: The first settlements of Casa Blanca date from around 1500 BC. At the Casa Blanca archaeological site remains of the fifteenth century Nahuatl culture have been discovered. There is a museum on site and an indigo dying workshop where you can create your own piece of indigo material. Casa Blanca is a great place to visit and well worth taking the time to visit the indigo workshop.

Casa Blanca is open Tuesday to Sunday between 9am and 4pm

PLEASE NOTE!!! Casa Blanca is currently closed for renovations! It is due to reopen in April/May 2012.

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