San Salvador (literally meaning “holy savior”) is the 4th most populous city of El Salvador and its capital. The Metropolitan Area of San Salvador, which is comprised of the capital itself and 13 other municipalities, is home to a population of over 2 million people. The city of San Salvador in 2019 has an estimated population of around 282,000.
The ethnic and racial demographics of the city of San Salvador break down as follows:
- Mestizo: 86% (persons of combined European and Indigenous American descent)
- White or Creole: 12% (European descent)
- 2% other
Virtually every citizen of San Salvador speaks Spanish. English is more widely spoken today than it has been in the past, due mainly to the import of entertainment and culture from the United States, and a large number of Salvadoran emigrants having moved to the United States and since returned.
Before the arrival of the Spanish, the native Pipil people a capital called Cuzcatlan, not too far from present-day San Salvador. Little is known about Cuzcatlan, as it was abandoned to prevent Spanish rule. The Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado ordered Cuzcatlan occupied and the abandoned city was further developed for Spanish use.
The town of San Salvador was founded in April of 1525, before it moved location twice, once in 1528 and again in 1545. The new site for San Salvador was picked for its fertile land along the Acelhuate River and larger amount of space. The population of the San Salvador remained low until early into the 20th century.
Until 2005, the population of San Salvador had been growing steadily. Between 2005 and 2007, however, San Salvador saw a huge decrease in population, going from 507,000 in 2005 to 316,000, dropping to almost 300,000 by the end of the decade.
While decline didn’t continue quite so extremely, it did nonetheless continue. 2013 saw the population fall from around 316,000 to just over 290,000, continuing over the year to fall to just below 282,000 in 2014. By 2016 this had fallen to 248,000, and in 2018 238,000. Until the sharp decline in 2005, San Salvador was well above El Salvador’s other cities, population wise. The second most populous city in El Salvador was Soyapango, with fewer than 295,000, compared to San Salvador’s nearly 508,000.
Come 2007, every major city of El Salvador had seen a sharp decline, but not nearly as severely as San Salvador. While still the most populous city as of 2007, where the 10 years that followed saw further decrease San Salvador’s population, the other cities saw growth, leaving San Salvador in 2017 the fourth most populous city in the country, behind Soyapango, Santa Ana and San Miguel, respectively.
This decline has been caused by widespread poverty and crime. Today, about 20% of El Salvador's population lives outside of the country.