Before the Spanish conquest
The region of the east was populated and the governed by the Lencas. The North zone of the Lempa Hi River was populated and governed by the Chortis, a Mayan people. Their culture was similar to that of their Aztec and Maya neighbors.Before the Spanish conquest, the area that is known as El Salvador was composed of three indigenous states and several principalities. In central Mexico were the indigenous inhabitants the Pipils, a tribe of the nomadic people of Nahua that were settled there for a long time. "The Pipil were a determined people who stoutly resisted Spanish efforts to extend their dominion southward."
"Several notable archaeological sites contain dwellings and other evidence of daily life 1400 years ago; these were found preserved beneath 6 m (20 ft) of volcanic ash."
American conquest and ruleThe first Spanish attempt to control this area failed in 1524, when Pedro de Alvarado was forced to retreat by Pipil warriors. In 1525, he returned and succeeded in bringing the district under control of the Audiencia of Mexico. It was Alvarado who named the district for El Salvador ("The Savior") and was appointed its first governor, a position he held until his death in 1541. The area was under the authority of a short-lived Audiencia of Panama from 1538 to 1543, when most of Central America was placed under a new Audiencia of Guatemala.
In 1609 the territory of the Audiencia of Guatemala was created into a captaincy general to deal with threats to the area from foreign incursions into the Caribbean. In 1786, the Republic of El Salvador, which previously had been broken up into many corregimientos, was transformed into an intendancy, as part of the Bourbon Reforms. This change brought economic and political unity to the area, and aided in the development of a sense of Salvadoran nationalism over the next century.
The first "shout of independence" in El Salvador came in 1811, at the hands of Criollo elite. Many intellectuals and merchants had grown tired of the overpowering control that Spain still had in the American colonies, and were interested in expanding their export markets to Britain and the United States. Indigenous uprisings aimed at Spanish subjugation plagued the territory at this time, and they were re-interpreted by the Republicans to serve their purpose and show popular support for independence.Freedom Struggle
Thus a movement grew amongst the middle class Criollo and Mestizo classes. Ultimately, the 1811 declaration of independence failed when the governor-general of Guatemala sent troops to San Salvador in order to halt the movement. However, the momentum was not lost and many of the people involved in the 1811 movement became involved in the 1821 movement.
In 1821, El Salvador and other Central American provinces declared their independence from Spain. When these provinces joined the First Mexican Empire in early 1822, El Salvador resisted, insisting on autonomy for the new Central American countries. Guatemalan troops sent to enforce the union were driven out of El Salvador in June 1822.
El Salvador, fearing incorporation into Mexico, petitioned the United States government for statehood. But in 1823, a revolution in Mexico ousted Emperor Agustín de Iturbide, and a new Mexican congress voted to allow the Central American provinces to decide their own fate. That year, the United Provinces of Central America was formed of the five Central American states under General Manuel José Arce.
In 1832, Anastasio Aquino led an indigenous revolt against Criollos and Mestizos in Santiago Nonualco, a small town in the province of San Vicente. The source of the discontent of the indigenous people was the lack of land to cultivate. The problem of land distribution has been the source of many political conflicts in Salvadoran history.
The Central American federation was dissolved in 1838 and El Salvador became an independent republic.