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The New York Times, July 29, 1858:

SAN SALVADOR.

Refusal of an Exequatur to the American Cousul--
Arrival of our Minister to Guatemala--The Volcano of Conchagua--
A View from the Summit--Fears of the Filibusters--
Cost of Labor and Living--Resources of San Salvador


From Our Own Correspondent.
La Union, Wednesday, June 30, 1858.
    The Government of the United States has sent a Consul to this place. He has been here some two months, but as yet they have not granted him his exequatur, and from present appearances they will refuse it to him, on the ground that the Government of Nicaragua complain of his acts while residing there during the Walker War.
    This has been an unfortunate place for American Consuls, as, of the three sent here at different times, two have died, and one returned home, unable to get an exequatur. It is to be hoped that the fate of the present official will be happier than his predecessors; besides, our Government actually need a representative here, as this port is the most important one on the Central American coast, and the most frequented by American vessels. The English, French, and several other European Governments, have Consuls here.

    The steamer Columbus arrived here from Panama on the 25th inst., having on board Mr. Clark, our Minister to Guatemala. While in this place, he took the evidence of parties residing here touching the seizure of an American vessel, and the murder of the Captain, by the crew of a Guatemalan vessel-of-war, during the Fall of 1856...

    In my previous letter I spoke of the Volcano of Conchagua, at the foot of which is situated the town of La Union. This volcano rises nearly 5,000 above the waters of the Gulf of Fonseca. The slope is cone-like, although not that perfect cone as is the beautiful Island of Tigre. On the highest peak of Conchagua, and distinctly visible to the naked eye from the streets of La Union, the authorities of the port have erected a telegraph station, from which, by means of signal flags, vessels entering the Gulf of Fonseca are known in the city for hours before they enter the harbor. The sentinel at the flagstaff can, with his glass, descry vessels when they leave the harbor of Realejo, about sixty miles distant.
    I recall some time ago, when on board the steamer Columbus, as we were leaving the harbor of Realejo, I saw through the Captain's glass the blue outlines of a mountain, and asked him the name of it. He took the glass, and after looking at it a moment, said: "That is Conchagua. They now know in La Union that the steamer Columbus is approaching," and so it was.
    I have often observed, on going to the wharf in the morning, an unusual activity among the workmen in hauling out launches, receiving cargoes, &c. On inquiry I have invariably been answered as follows: Such and such a vessel, consigned to such a house, is beating up the Gulf, and will be here at such an hour, and we are prepared to commence receiving and delivering freight the moment she comes to anchor.

    I had heard so much of the magnificent view to be obtained from the summit of Conchagua that I determined to make the ascent. So, about a fortnight ago, accompanied by two others, merchants of this place, one a native of the country,--still neither had ever ascended the mountain,--we climbed to the top of the volcano. I will describe to you our tour, which, although pursued under difficulties, amply repaid us for our labor.
    The little Indian village of Conchagua, containing some five hundred inhabitants, is situated about one-third the distance up the mountain, and about five miles from La Union.
    We had arranged to take breakfast at that village, and after procuring a guide there, to make the ascent in time to reach the summit easily by noon, we left La Union about sunrise, mounted on sure-footed animals; the air was cool, and our road lay through a narrow gorge in the mountain, in which the rays of the sun, even at noon-day, could scarcely penetrate. We were continuously ascending and descending deep ravines, until we arrived, after a ride of nearly two hours, at Conchagua.
    This village struck us as different from anything we had ever before seen. A broad plaza, with its church more than a century old, as shown from an inscription over the principal entrance; its town-hall, its Cobildo, and other buildings adjacent, and the thatched cottages of the inhabitants perched among the rocks and along the sides of the numerous mountain streams that rushed through the ravine, give it a certain wild and peculiar appearance, unlike any other place I have seen in all Central America.

    We crossed the Plaza and rode to the house of the Alcalde, where we had bespoke a breakfast. And such a breakfast! And such hungry men to eat it too, really made the old Alcalde's dark eyes dance for joy.
    To show you the resources of this country for supplying all the necessities as well as the luxuries of life, all their own production too, I will describe this breakfast. Our table, covered with a snow-white cloth, was placed in front of the Alcalde's house under an orange tree, on the banks of a narrow but noisy stream. Although there was but three in our party, the table was loaded with a supply sufficient for at least ten hungry men. We sat down.
    There were oysters roasted, fried and in the--shell, I was going to say, but they were all taken out of the shell, and floated in a large wooden bowl. We had fresh eggs, (eggs are always fresh here,) fried, boiled and poached; fish, at least three varieties from the Gulf of Fonseca; chickens, broiled and stewed; tenderloin of beef boiled [broiled?], and, in the way of vegetables, we had frijoles, plantains, and some whose name I cannot now recollect; and above all, the king-dish to my taste, a salad of aguacate, which is known through all tropical countries under the name of the alligator pear, vegetable butter, vegetable marrow, &c. The above-named vegetable is cultivated by the Indians of Conchagua, and is esteemed superior to that raised in any other part of the country. Besides all that, in a large basket placed at the foot of the tree were a few of the fruits of the country, such as oranges, sweet lemons, pineapples, zapote, or momey apple, and a few others.
    I will never forget this breakfast; its abundance and variety was astonishing. But what was still more astonishing was the price charged. For all that feast only three reals each, about thirty-six cents American currency, and the Alcalde acted as if he felt himself well paid, too.

    Still, when you calculate the cheapness of the articles of daily consumption here, it does not seem so astounding after all. For instance, the articles of oysters and fish. The Bay of Fonseca appears to be one immense oyster-bed, and fish are so numerous that they are caught with the most simple device. Oysters sell at a half real (six cents) per bushel, and a real will buy enough fish to supply a large family with a sufficiency for one day's consumption. Then beef is only 5 cents per pound, chickens 6 cents each, and vegetables of all kinds, and fruits, so cheap that they may almost be had for the asking.
    ...Here, although the laborer receives but about 20 cents a day, he can, by working three months, earn enough to live in luxury for the balance of the year, and it is to be regretted that too many act upon that principle. It seems an impossibility to hire men to work when they have a few dollars ahead.

    To resume my account of our journey up the mountain:
    We left Conchagua about 9 o'clock, and after much rough riding for a distance of some three miles, we emerged from the woody ravines through which we had been traveling, and came out in an open plain, and before us, stretching up some 2,000 feet, was the summit of Conchagua, with its flag-staff, and flag flying, indicating that a vessel was entering the harbor. Now came the most difficult part of our journey; although the road was tolerably clear of rocks, the ascent was practicable, and so, like ships at sea beating against a head-wind, we turned, and tacked, and beat about until, after two hours' hard labor, we at last reached the flag-staff on the summit of the mountain; but, to our great chagrin, when we arrived there, nothing could be seen--an impenetrable veil rested over the mountain. Presently the flag-staff man came to us, and said that the present obscurity would break away in an hour, when we could have as fine a view as the mountain could afford.
    We dismounted, and fastening our mules to the flag-staff, we removed the saddles, and using them as a pillow, we stretched ourselves on the turf, and for two hours enjoyed such a siesta as is known only to those who have performed a journey as laborious as we had.

    We were awakened by the man of the flag-staff, and our eyes were greeted by a sight that at once drove all sleep away, and brought us to our feet. The sky was clear--no clouds obscured the air. Before us lay the great Gulf of Fonseca, with its islands, the town of Amopola, on Tigre Island, La Union, and the vessels in the harbor, so near to us, apparently, that a stone thrown from where we stood would reach their decks; still, they were miles from us.
    Across the Gulf rose Consuagucina from the shores of Nicaragua--a fellow guardian with Conchagua, to the entrance of the Gulf of Fonseca. Still further in the distance we could see El Viejo and the volcanic chain extending across the great Plain of Leon, to where Momotombo rises out of the Lake of Managua.
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  El Salvador News



    El Salvador achieved independence from Spain in 1821 and from the Central American Federation in 1839.

    A 12-year civil war, which cost about 75,000 lives, was brought to a close in 1992 when the government and leftist rebels signed a treaty that provided for military and political reforms.
    CIA World Factbook: El Salvador


Area of El Salvador: 21,040 sq km
slightly smaller than Massachusetts

Population of El Salvador: 6,948,073
July 2007 estimate

Languages of El Salvador:
Spanish
Nahua some Amerindians

El Salvador Capital: San Salvador


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    Honduras, its mountains, the opening through which the railroad will pass, the Estmas, whose course we could see for miles through the country,--all was spread out before us like a map.
    With a glass we could see ships at sea many miles from us on the broad Pacific. I hardly think the world affords so beautiful and so extensive a view as may be seen from the top of the volcano of Conchagua.

    Our descent from the mountain was rapid and easy compared to our ascent, and we crossed the Plaza of La Union just as the bell was chiming the oracion, having been but two hours in retracing what it took us five hours to accomplish in the morning.

    Since I last advised you there has been a change in the Government of San Salvador. The former President, Don Santana Castellon, having resigned, has been succeeded to the Presidency by Don Gregorio Barios, formerly Secretary of Foreign Affairs.
    Everything remains quiet throughout Central America, although whenever a steamer arrives some evil-disposed person circulates a rumor of a new fillibuster foray upon Nicaragua, which causes much excitement until they receive satisfactory evidence of the falsity of the report. The fact is, the name of Walker and Fillibustero is a perfect night-mare to these people, and it will take a long while to remove from them the impression that all Americans, in some way, are connected with some fillibustering movement on Central America.
    Our commercial relations with them are constantly increasing, they will soon know us better, and they will perceive that there is no sympathy between the better class of American citizens and the Fillibusteros.

The Federal Reserve Bank's estimated consumer price index shows that $1 in 1858 was equivalent to $23.66 in 2007 dollars.

The New York Times, February 2, 1909, p.8:

Smallest American Republic

Density of Population in Salvador Six Times That of the United States.

    When you look for Salvador on the map be sure not to hide it with your finger tip. It is the pocket edition--the smallest republic on the western hemisphere, with the most people of any for its size; but larger than Connecticut, about equal to New Jersey, and a little larger than all the Hawaiian Islands, and a good deal larger than Porto Rico. The density of population, while less than that of Porto Rico, is six time that of the United States, one and a half times that of Spain, three times that of Guatemala, its neighbor, and eight times that of Nicaragua.

    From Salvador came the first indigo ever used for dyes. The balsam of medicine is exclusively a Salvadorean product. Salvador is the only nation on the North American [continent] which is not a transcontinental cross section, while Colombia is the only one in South America which is.

Nailed to the Mountain Tops.

    Though Salvador has no lowlands on the Atlantic side to balance her lowlands on the Pacific side, and despite her earthquakes and the possession--still another distinction--of the only active volcano in Central America, which is always smoking, rumbling, and flaming--she considers herself securely nailed to the Cordilleran range, as they call the mountain backbone where the continent grows narrow, and not in the slightest danger of slipping off into the sea.

    Acajutia, where I landed, looks like Champerico [in Guatemala] or any one of a dozen other Central American ports. In the distance are the mountains and in the foreground ashore a few white buildings and a line of cocoanut palms.
    You are lowered in a chair into a cargo boat, and lifted out of the cargo boat on to a pier, through whose steel spider legs the surf is forever rolling in from a stretch of Pacific...
    You pay for being hoisted up in the chair, for getting off the pier, for your baggage, and you give your name to the commandante, who, finding to his satisfaction that you have no revolution concealed about your person, allows you to proceed...

Personal Freedom Exceptional.

    ...Salvador has the most stable Government of any republic in Central America, except Costa Rica. If the climate is the same, the atmosphere is totally different from that of Guatemala. One of my fellow passengers by rail from Guatemala City to the coast and thence by steamer, when he came out of one of the hotel rooms at Acajutia, Salvador, was, to my surprise, a priest. In Guatemala it is against the law for the clergy to wear their vestments in public.

    Througout Mexico and Guatemala all the train conductors and engineers had been foreigners, usually American. In Salvador they were natives. This was a sign of competency not to be underestimated...
    In Salvador City the cathedraw of wood painted stone color--for the capital of 65,000 people was once destroyed by earthquake--was well kept; an air of peace and happiness prevailed among the people who went to church in the morning and sauntered in the plaza to hear the music in the evening. Apparently they did not fear arrest on suspicion of assassinating the President if they spoke above a whisper. The foreigners were not altogether brow-beaten and the hotel was comparatively good. If you wanted anything done you found that the natives were actually willing to earn money. I could count on the hotel porter, under financial encouragement, to awaken me at 4 o'clock when I was to start on my mule ride to pick up the steamer at La Libertad...

Duties a Heavy Burden.

    Salvador is being dragged down to the level of the other States. Conditions are growing worse, economically as well as politically. On the 700,000 quintals of coffee produced every year, each quintal pays a tax of 40 cents in gold. Sugar is free of export charges as yet, and a little is shipped to Ecuador and to Europe. With no access to our Atlantic Coast, there is no market for Salvadorean fruit. All imports must come from our Pacific Coast States or by way of Magellan or Panama, for want of railroad connection through Guatemala. The cry of the tariff reformer has not yet been heard in the land, where the only manufactures are from an occasional handloom.
    Duties are the heaviest of any country in the worl, and are arranged on a system to encourage official favoritism in return for bribes. They are mostly according to weight, with a pound of barbed wire paying almost as much as a pound of lace. On top of this is a special tax of 240 per cent., and still another bonos oro of 360 per cent. put on for war purposes.

    Flour which costs in San Francisco $3.75 a barrel in Salvador costs about $12; a case of coal oil that costs 75 cents in New York costs $7 laid down in Salvador. No wonder the Salvadorean eats little bread; no wonder he goes to bed early.

Fertile Soil Country's Salvation.

    But while the tropical rains continue to fall, no amount of misgovernment can destroy the fertility of the Salvadorean's soil... The secret of the Salvadorean's happiness and content I found on my ride across the country when I passed plot after plot of coffee ground as large as village squares, each owned and worked by some peasant proprietor.
FREDERICK PALMER.

The Federal Reserve Bank's estimated consumer price index shows that $1 in 1909 was equivalent to $22.78 in 2007 dollars.

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