We turned to the south, and from Mexico travelled to El Salvador.
Our Central American brothers will be our guides in this, the “Little Thumb” of America.
We flew from Mexico City and changed some money into US dollars.
It’s important, in El Salvador they use dollars, so it’s better to take them than Mexican pesos.
Mexico saw us off with an impressive view of our volcanoes, lztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl.
El Salvador is waiting for us!
We’ve arrived in El Salvador. I hope it treats us well. You have the future of Mexico in your hands!
Upon entering the country, we had to pay for a tourist visa, which costs 10 dollars.
Because of the country’s size, everything in El Salvador is close.
My Salvadoran friends took me from the airport to the Pacific coast in just 1 hour,
to spend the day at El Tunco beach, in the La Libertad region.
We just arrived in El Tunco. El Tunco is one of the most famous beaches in El Salvador.
It’s known around the world for its sunniness.
It’s the middle of Holy Week, and there are a lot of people around.
Wait til you see what happens at night! You need to prepare yourself!
I need to prepare myself!
It’s a beach with pebbles, it’s really different to Mexican beaches, but really nice.
There are loads of foreigners who come to surf here.
And we’re about to find out why it’s called El Tunco.
Why is it called El Tunco, Ricardo?
Because if you look on this side, the rock over there looks like the snout, the mouth and the feet of a pig,
and here pigs are called “tuncos”, so that’s why they call it El Tunco beach, because the “tunco” is over there.
You learn something new every day!
Unique for its black sand and big rock formations,
this beach is only 30 minutes from San Salvador.
It’s world famous because it’s ideal for surfing.
International championships even take place here.
After sunset, we enjoyed the town’s nightlife.
We had an incredible time here, but now we’re gonna say goodbye to this beach and explore El Salvador.
The next day, thanks to my Salvadoran friends, we explored the capital, San Salvador.
It’s a shame that because of earthquakes we’ve had,
there isn’t much of the city’s original architecture left.
I think that everything is so close. One minute you’re here, the next you’re in the mountains or at the beach,
and you can come back the same day.
That’s the Metropolitan Cathedral. That’s the center of San Salvador, the historic center.
That’s where there are historic buildings like the Palacio Nacional, as well as the first bank we had,
the National Library, and that’s the point which the road grid branches out from, point zero, so to speak.
The historic center of San Salvador goes back to the 16th Century, during the Spanish colony.
The original buildings have almost all been destroyed by earthquakes over the years,
and the buildings that are left are relatively recent.
We’re in the center of San Salvador. Many people will think that it’s the most dangerous place.
We came here in the light of day and again at night and everything was fine and totally relaxed.
We walked around, spoke to people,
and went inside the Cathedral, where the only Salvadoran saint lies.
I think this country’s biggest treasure is the Salvadoran people.
Visit El Salvador!
The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Divine Saviour of the World
is the main church of the Catholic archdiocese of San Salvador.
And the cathedral says a lot about the history of the place as a Catholic country
and also it’s contemporary history, like in the war.
I was surprised that the cathedral didn’t have a colonial style.
That’s because it’s not the original building.
The previous structures were destroyed by an earthquake and a fire.
The construction of the current cathedral started in the 1950s.
The cathedral is also part of a difficult period of Salvadoran history, the Civil War.
During that time, it was here that the archbishop Oscar Romero gave
the majority of his sermons in defence of human rights
and showed his solidarity with the victims of political violence.
Romero was assassinated by a sniper while holding mass.
His remains are in a mausoleum underneath the church’s altar.
During his visits to El Salvador, Pope John Paul II kneeled at the former archbishop’s grave and cried.
In 2018, Romero was canonized by Pope Francis,
making him the first saint born in Central America.
The Civil War lasted 12 years, and was a conflict between the armed forces
and the insurgent Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation.
Mexico acted as a mediator between the two parties, and was kay in pacifying El Salvador,
with the peace treaties being signed in the Castle of Chapultepec in Mexico City in 1992.
The end of the Civil War gave people hope that the country would be pacified
and start down a new route towards the consolidation of democracy in the country.
El Salvador says hi to Mexico and Mexico says hi to El Salvador!
Where are we going today, Ricardo?
To the Santa Ana volcano.
That’s right. We got up super early, at like 6AM
to start our ascent of the Santa Ana volcano.
This place is called the “Ilamatepec” Protected Natural Area, and “Ilamatepec” means “Old Woman’s Hill”.
That’s the name that it was given in the olden times, I mean in the time of the Nahuas, the Aztecs.
People can’t go on their own. They have to go accompanied by a guide and policemen.
That’s because a few years ago it was quite dangerous. There used to be thieves around here.
So it’s better for everyone to go as part of a group.
And is it safe now?
Now, yeah. It’s totally safe, now.
It’s important to stick to the marked path because
there’s an extremely poisonous species of snake here.
Welcome to Los Volcanes National Park.
We’re starting the hike. It’s 11AM.
We started at an altitude of 1,800m and we’re gonna go up to an altitude of 2,381m.
So far it’s been easy, so we’re gonna make it!
… The mammals that we have here, the flora and fauna… It’s a really nice area because of the landscapes.
Tell me, what’s that volcano called?
And it’s one of the most important in the country, right?
It used to be called the Lighthouse of the Pacific.
Because when it was active, with lava, the boats that were sailing in the Pacific Ocean
used it as a guide to know when they were arriving in El Salvador.
It’s a really nice hike, very relaxing, one that anyone can do.
We’re almost there!
I’m starting to smell sulfur. That means we’re really close to the crater.
This is the highest volcano in El Salvador.
Are we almost there?
We’ve hiked around 3km so far.
How are you doing?
At 2381m above sea level, the Ilamatepec or Santa Ana volcano is the highest in El Salvador.
The volcano is part of the “Los Volcanes” complex,
a geological system of 3 Salvadoran volcanoes
called Izalco, Cerro Verde and Ilamatepec.
Because of its natural riches, this cloud forest ecosystem became
the Apaneca-Ilamatepec Biosphere Nature Reserve as recognized by UNESCO.
The crater measures 3km in circumference and 300m in depth, and has a lake in the middle.
That’s a really big crater.
And it’s very active. It emits a lot of gases.
The bright green color is beautiful.
The volcano erupted in 2005, letting out volcanic ash and rock. That’s the last time it erupted.
There used to be a little village here that had to be evacuated. The people never came back.
The houses, the church and everything else is all still there.
This is all volcanic rock.
After coming back down, we visited Lake Coatepeque.
It used to be a volcano, and its name means “The Hill of Snakes”.
Lake Coatepeque is famous because it changes color,
and that’s because there’s a toxin in the algae, which sometimes turns the water a turquoise color.
The lake was formed thousands of years ago when a volcano called Caldera erupted catastrophically.
In fact, the crater is submerged at the bottom of the lake.
The crater is connected to the volcano we climbed, Ilamatepec, and to Cerro Verde
and Izalco. It’s a chain of volcanoes that are all connected.
The next day, we visited the Route of Flowers.
There’s a number of different Nahua villages on the route.
It’s called the Route of Flowers because at a certain time of year, all the flowers along the road blossom,
and it’s a route up into the hills.
Something distinctive about Concepción de Ataco is that they’ve tried to keep the cobbled streets,
and the colonial architecture. Also, you can see all of the landscapes painted as murals.
It’s a lively town, it’s part of the Route of Flowers tourist route.
It’s one of the liveliest, most colorful villages in El Salvador.
This is one of the most famous murals in Concepción de Ataco, right?
And you can see that part of the details are these carpets. What are these carpets?
These are the carpets that they make for Holy Week on the route that all of the processions take
so the people who carry the idols walk on them.
It’s a symbol of royalty, of paying tribute to someone important.
It was really surprising to see these busy towns bend over backwards to prepare the route
that believers would take on their processions.
People make different carpets, each with a unique design. They’re offerings that people make to remember
Jesus’s death. It’s a way of paying homage to his death.
They make them from different materials. Some are made of salt,
others from flowers, and others, like the one we saw, made from dyed coffee beans.
So they’re all different designs and everyone just tries to show their devotion to their faith.
Where are we now?
Juayuba, it’s one… it’s part of…
Juayúa, Juayúa, not Juayuba.
It’s one of the villages on the Route of Flowers.
What are the villages?
Salcoatitán, Nahuizalco, Juayúa, Concepción de Ataco….
People make these carpets to show their respects to the statues
because while the procession walks, it walks on them.
And look what they have here! What’s that?
The Virgin of Guadalupe! Do you guys love her, too?
Yeah, we love her too, of course!
The architecture is quite eclectic. It was built thanks to
one of the most influential people in Juayúa, Mercedes Cáceres.
She made a donation that was absolutely huge at that time, so you can imagine
the purchasing power that some people had in this area thanks to coffee,
because this is a coffee producing area.
Her wealth allowed Mercedes to bring materials like mosaics, and German beams
for the construction of the church.
There’s also marble which was brought from Italy.
El Salvador has one of the things that unites all of Latin America, which is the Catholic religion,
which is part of our identity.
We’re one of the top 4 countries in the world with the best coffee.
Why is the coffee in El Salvador so good?
Because of the altitude. We have a tropical altitude of around 1400m above sea level.
For that reason, Salvadoran coffee is really well balanced between bitterness, acidity and sweetness.
Our coffees are really fruity. In this coffee, you’ll notice notes of orange and lemon.
We’re in the town of Nahuizalco, and one of the things that’s unique about this place is the night market.
Because people used to work out in the fields all day,
the markets opened at night, so that people could buy their food and anything else they needed.
Tomatoes, onions, tamarind, avocadoes…
The 3 most religious countries, with the longest processions
are Guatemala, Spain and El Salvador
And the town of Sonsonate has been declared a cultural and religious heritage site in El Salvador.
Here the procession is about 15 hours long. We start at 5PM one day, and then get home
around 8 or 9AM the next morning.
It’s a way of showing our faith. It helps us remember what Jesus suffered
while on the cross, his death and that he gave his life so that he could always be with us.
We commemorate Jesus’ death, and that’s why we’re dressed in black and white.
We use the gloves to carry Jesus in our hoods, a shawl and a tunic.
This fork helps us to carry the idols.
On our last day, we went to the country’s best archeological site.
San Andrés was founded by the Mayans.
We’re at the San Andrés archeological site,
and El Salvador has more history and archeology than we thought.
This is mayan.
We’re in the Zapotitán Valley.
That structure there is the most impressive one on the site.
San Andrés was built around 1400 year ago, in the year 600AD.
After that, the Mayans left this place and the Pipils, the Aztecs, arrived.
The combination of Mayan and Aztec is interesting because all of the place names
and the Náhuatl dialects come from that really important Mesoamerican civilization.
From there center of influence at Tenochtitlán in Mexico, the Aztecs managed to reach areas as far away –
and as close! – as El Salvador and Central America.
We couldn’t leave El Salvador without visiting Suchitoto, the best preserved colonial town in the country.
In Náhuatl, its name means “Bird Flower”. It’s been inhabited since pre-Colombian times.
I think it’s the most beautiful city in all of El Salvador,
and definitely one of the nicest in Central America.
What are you gonna eat?
A parrot pizza.
A parrot pizza?!
That’s what the dish is called but of course that’s not what it is.
When I heard him ordering that from the waiter…!
Grilled meat, chimichurri, rice, corn, vegetables, avocado and cheese.
And are these Salvadoran tortillas, or what?
Yeah, they’re tortillas. They’re a little thicker than Mexican ones and smaller.
Come visit this little but welcoming town,
and specifically the Museum of a Thousand Plates.
The owners of the museum are from here, from Suchitoto, but live in the US.
They say that more than 40 years ago, they started collecting plates.
Some they bought and others were given to them as gifts.
Then when they had this big collection of plates, they didn’t know what to do with them,
and they had this house, so they made a museum.
Alejandro Cotto, a famous writer, said:
“I wish Salvadorans loved their country as much as I love Suchitoto.”
What are you selling?
We finished our trip by trying pupusas, El Salvador’s favorite dish.
How do you eat pupusas?
For a start, put down your knife and fork, because that’s not how you eat them.
It would be a capital sin to eat pupusas with a knife and fork in El Salvador.
This is like a crazy pupusa, with a combination of everything,
and that’s why it’s so big, but normally they’re like this.
You can get corn ones or rice ones.
You put the sauce on.
Is the sauce spicy?
No, it has tomatoes.
They’re really hot.
And you eat them with your hands, never with a knife and fork. Just like you guys eat tacos.
Go on, bite it.
No! You’re the one who’s trying them!
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And, please, we have to be kinder to our Latin American brothers and visit their countries.