1. El Salvador: The Holy Savior
El Salvador, literally meaning “The Savior”, holds the distinction of being the only country in the world named after Jesus Christ. It’s an homage left by the Conquistador Pedro de Alvarado who christened the new province “San Salvador”, the “Holy Savior”. The territory, inclusive of the province of San Miguel, was later designated as “Provincia De Nuestro Señor Jesus Cristo, El Salvador Del Mundo”, translating to the ‘Province of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World’. In the post-Federal Republic era, this name was shortened to the Republic of El Salvador, or simply Salvador, and eventually accepted as El Salvador.
2. The Soccer War: A Bloody Match of Nations
The intensity of soccer rivalry escalated into a full-fledged conflict in 1969 between Honduras and El Salvador. After El Salvador’s triumph over Honduras for a World Cup spot, the football match sparked a four-day war, infamously known as the Soccer War. This confrontation resulted in a tragic loss of more than 2,000 lives, leaving a somber imprint on the pages of sports history.
3. Colonel José Arturo Castellanos Contreras: Savior in the Shadows
El Salvador’s narrative of heroism is exemplified by Colonel José Arturo Castellanos Contreras, a military officer turned diplomat. As El Salvador’s Consul General for Geneva during the horrific era of World War II, he orchestrated a remarkable rescue operation. Contreras issued falsified Salvadoran nationality papers to about 40,000 Jews and Central Europeans, saving them from the clutches of Nazi persecution.
4. Land of Volcanoes: Nature’s Mighty Spectacle
Living up to its moniker as the Land of Volcanoes, El Salvador sits on a hotbed of seismic and volcanic activity. The repercussions of a super-volcano eruption in the 500s are believed to have impeded the progress of the Mayan empire for three decades due to an 18-month-long atmospheric ash veil causing cold and drought. This theory challenges the earlier assumptions about deforestation being the sole reason for the Mayan civilization’s decline. A landmark in the region, fondly termed the “Lighthouse of the Pacific”, was an active volcano that spewed its fury continuously from 1770 to 1958. Today, the capital city of San Salvador sits precariously atop a magma build-up six kilometers beneath the Ilopango caldera, indicating potential future eruptions, as per research by the University of Bristol.