Salvadorans are fond of stories and poetry. Poets, playwrights and writers have always played a significant role in expressing important issues in El Salvador. Salvador Salazar Arrue’s (commonly known as Salarrue) collection of short stories, Cuentos de Barro (Tales of Mud), published in 1933, is considered seminal to the birth of the modern short story genre in Central America. More recently, Claudia Lars has written plays about 20th century Salvadoran life. Manilo Argueta is the country’s most noted contemporary novelist. Contemporary poets include Lilian Jiménez and José Roberto Cea, who produce works that describe and reflect the struggle of Salvadoran people today. Probably the most famous modern poet is the revolutionary Roque Dalton, who tried to escape European poetic models and develop a distinctive Salvadoran style. His best known work is Poesia D’amore.

Traditional Salvadoran handicrafts use natural materials to make wicker furniture, ceramics and pottery, weavings, masks, textiles and basketry. The village of Ilobasco is well known for producing ceramic figures, which are often used in nativity scenes during Christmas. The village of La Palma in northern El Salvador has become famous for a style of painting begun by Fernando Llort. Used on wood, cloth and jewellery, the style involves images of rural life painted in bright colours in a simplistic manner.

Most Saladoran music is similar to that found throughout Central America. Common instruments are the pito, a type of flute, the marimba, a wooden xylophone, and drums such as the tambor and tun. In the cities, people enjoy contemporary pop and techno music. Radio stations play salsa, merengue and Mexican ranchero music, and the cumbia style of dancing is very popular because of its intense beat. Popular at festivals, folk music features guitar, flutes and drums and offers personal commentary about Salvadoran politics and people.

  Did you know?
The most widely known archeological site in El Salvador is the ruins of El Tazumal, located near Santa Ana in western El Salvador. Featuring a central pyramid, Tozumal was first settled by the Mayans in 5000 BC, and the current ruins were built in stages from 500 to 900 AD by the Pipil people. The main pyramid is 23 metres high.

  Did you know?
Salvadoran sorpresas (surprises) are miniature scenes painted inside small round shells the size of a walnut. Often the outside of the shell is painted to resemble a nut, egg or round fruit. Inside is a detailed picture of village life.