History of El Salvador till Spanish Conquest in 1528
El Salvador is located in Central America and presence of humans in El Salvador is as ancient as in Central America. Humans first passed through El Salvador between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago while migrating from North America. The oldest mark of humans in El Salvador are cave paintings in the caves located in the Department of Morazan (department in northeast of El Salvador). These cave paintings date back to at least 6000 BC.
From those earliest settlers came a succession of Pre-Columbian civilizations that left their indent on El Salvador. Lenca people are regarded as the first civilization. They are given the credit of building towns and cities in the region. The Olmecs (first major civilization to develop in Central America) followed. They reigned over Guatemala and southern Mexico but also spread into western El Salvador. Some of their sculptures and pyramids dating from around 2000 BC still exist.
The Olmec Empire crumbled around 400 BC and the Mayan Empire rose from its ashes. Mayans too inhabited parts of El Salvador and prospered. In fifth or sixth century approx., the Ilopango Volcano located in central El Salvador erupted. This devastated Mayan cities present in the region. It annihilated the population and wiped out agriculture for decades. Post the eruptions, the Mayans deserted El Salvador.
First new migrants to arrive post-Ilopango were the Pipil people. They arrived in El Salvador in the 11th century. 400 years later when the Spanish arrived, Pipil were still dominating the region. Even today the name Cuzcatlan given to the region by Pipil is an alternate word to describe El Salvador. It is a perennial source of national pride. Spanish used to call Pipil Cuzcatlecos. Capital city of Cuzcatlecos was where today’s capital city San Salvador stands. Pipil prospered owing to their trade with Aztec empire and cultivation of Cacao. Pipil had mastered very complex techniques of irrigation. They are among the most fascinating Pre-Columbian civilizations of Americas.
The Cuzcatlecos, as the Spanish called the Pipil, built their capital city where the modern capital San Salvador stands today. They became wealthy trading with the Aztec Empire to the north and by cultivating cacao. They also mastered complex irrigation techniques. The Pipil are one of the more interesting if little-known about, civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas.
With arrival of Europeans in the New World, arrived diseases to which indigenous Americans had absolutely no immunity. These diseases ravaged indigenous people like hurricanes. When first Spanish army under the command of conquistador Pedro de Alvarado reached El Salvador in 1524, three years after navigator Andres Niño had “discovered” El Salvador, smallpox had already ravaged the Cuzcatlecos. Still Cuzcatlan army offered tough resistance to Spaniards and until 1528 couldn’t be conquered by Spanish forces.