El Salvador has 5 national archaeological
parks. Click on their names in the map or below for information
about each park:
Hours and Fees
All 5 parks share the same operating hours and fees:
Tuesday through Sunday, 9am - 4pm (closed
- $1.00/Salvadorans, $3.00/foreigners.
- $1.00/cars, $2.00/buses
- Entrance is free for Salvadorans under 8
or over 60 years of age.
- Other Central Americans subject to same fees
The archaeological parks of El Salvador rank high amongst
the most visited in Central America. The number of visitors to San Andrés
or Tazumal alone is only exceeded by Tikal (Guatemala) and Copán (Honduras).
During the year 2009 we recorded the following visitor
statistics for the 5 parks:
Joya de Cerén
and San Andrés received larger numbers of visitors in December
due to celebrations for Baktun 13, leading to aout 20,000 addtional
visitors at Tazumal and 3,500 at San Andrés. Casa Blanca was closed
through July and the data here are for August through December.
The gran total of park visitors is 159% greater than in 2009.
The parks hold great importance for local
education and tourism; 90% of total visitors are Salvadoran (and many
of these are student). 10% are foreigners from diverse countries.
The number of students visiting the parks
(particularly San Andrés, Joya de Cerén, and Tazumal) has many times
far exceeded their capacity, and we have witnessed moments when over
3,000 students have been in a park, leading to a multitude of problems:
parking lots crowded with buses, site museums filled to bursting, destruction
of restroom facilities, impossibility of adequate supervision by school
teachers, encumbrances created with regard to other park visitors, and
FUNDAR introduced measures to address this
previously tolerated overuse of the parks. Now it is requested that
schools schedule their visits in advance so that we can coordinate their
dates and avoid the massive crowds which are mostly a thing of the past.
We have also attempted to limit the size of each school group (which
formerly could be over 400 students) and ensure that there are sufficient
teachers for supervision so that these visits can be a real opportunity
for learning about prehispanic heritage.
of the Archaeological Parks
Decides to End its Participation in the Archaeological Parks
of El Salvador
September 2009, after working with enthusiasm for 10 years at
Cihuatán, 5 years at San Andrés and Joya de Cerén, and 2 years
at Tazumal and Casa Blanca, FUNDAR notified the Secretaría de
Cultura that it would not seek to renew its contract of cooperation
for the development and care of these parks expiring on December
31st, 2009. We
believe it is time to open opportunities so that other individuals
or institutions may also participate in this important endeavor.
the challenge of managing these parks when the authorities in
charge of cultural heritage asked for our help. From the onset
we knew that this would be a difficult task, but also that we
were being given a magnificent opportunity to improve the parks.
when we began our cooperative efforts, we found these parks in
various degrees of neglect and some in appalling abandonment.
We enthusiastically dedicated ourselves to their betterment in
every sense. Now as we end our involvement, with great satisfaction
we can affirm that our efforts to improve the parks are very evident.
We established norms for cleanliness and maintenance. We have
implemented signage and the zonification of various areas in the
parks according to their uses. We have built and repaired rest
rooms. We have installed and repaired water pumps and irrigation
systems. We have established regular and effective grounds maintenance
in the extensive gardens we have planted. We have undertaken many
actions for the conservation of archaeological structures. We
have also opened new interpretative trails for visitors. We have
created picnic areas. You can see these and many other improvements
on this website under the sections for each park.
these years we have also advanced in archaeological investigations
as well as in public education and other contributions to disseminating
our cultural heritage. We have over many years been actively collaborating
to combat archaeological depredation through testimony for the
establishment and renewal of international treaties, and cooperation
with international agencies seeking to enforce laws against the
export and sale of our archaeological heritage. We have made numerous
official denouncements of incidents of looting and destruction
of archaeological sites and colonial churches. No other individual
or institution has fought cultural depredation in El Salvador
as much as FUNDAR. These actions are described in other sections
of this website.
All of this
has been achieved with a modest state budget and, most importantly,
with donations which FUNDAR sought and channeled from individuals,
businesses, granting agencies, and international organisms. Nor
can we fail to mention the outstanding group of collaborators
who work directly in the parks and jointly with FUNDAR dedicated
their best efforts to improve them. El Salvador is in debt to
all of these people and entities for their contributions to our
We take great
pride in having converted Cihuatán into a true archaeological
park. We provided the infrastructure necessary for visitors, including
electricity, running water, rest rooms, an interpretative trail,
and a site museum, the “Museo Antonio Sol”, in addition to the
extraordinarily important discovery of the royal palace of Cihuatán
and the first excavations there. Other activities, including excavation
and consolidation of a temple to the Wind God, consolidation of
Temple P-12, and the repair and consolidation of the northern
wall of the Western Ceremonial Center, a 75+m long construction
that was in a state of dire collapse, have been documented here
on our web site, on the Cihuatán web site (www.cihuatan.org),
and in the reports, publications, and other materials relating
to our archaeological activities which are posted on both sites.
All of this was accomplished with over $300,000 from private and
international sources. This was without precedent in the archaeology
of El Salvador.
remains to be done, we end our participation with the immense
satisfaction of having fulfilled our self-imposed task of altruistic
collaboration in caring for the archaeological heritage of our
Now that the
serious responsibility of caring for the archaeological parks
has been completely assumed by the Government, FUNDAR can fully
dedicate itself to the goals for which it was established: archaeological
investigation and its dissemination by publications and other
means in order to enrich the knowledge about the past of El Salvador.
its deepest gratitude to the past authorities of CONCULTURA and
the present Secretaría de Cultura for entrusting to us this delicate
and difficult task, and we make patent our disposition to continue
collaborating with the Secretaría de Cultura in other aspects
related with the protection, investigation, and public education
of our archaeological heritage.
To all those
individuals and institutions who have believed in us during the
past 10 years and who support us, we extend our deepest gratitude
as we continue with our projects.
Brito, President of FUNDAR, December 31st, 2009
We greatly value your opinions. Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Signs an Agreement to Continue in the Co-administration of Cihuatán
On July 12, 2010, FUNDAR and the
Secretaría de Cultura signed an agreement for the co-administration
of Cihuatán. Click
here to read more.
The parks belong to the Nation and are under the direct
responsibility of its cultural organ, the Secretaría de Cultura (which
superceeded CONCULTURA in July, 2009). Some parks were purchased (Cihuatán,
Casa Blanca, Tazumal), while others were acquired under the agrarian
reform laws (San Andrés and Joya de Cerén).
FUNDAR participated over several years in the co-management
of the parks under yearly contracts subscribed with
the Government which specified the projects which FUNDAR was to carry
out at each park during the year in question under its “Resources Transference
Program”, or PTR (Programa de Transferencia de Recursos). Over
20 different non-governmental organizations (NGOs) participated in PTRs
Regarding the financing of PTR projects, 80%
was provided by the Government and 20% by FUNDAR. Quite apart
from the PTR projects have been FUNDAR’s contributions to park development
and archaeological investigation at Cihuatán, valued at over $300,000.
The execution of FUNDAR’s projects was rigorously
supervised and documented. FUNDAR made three reports per year
to CONCULTURA which documented activities in each park and included
financial reports prepared by an accountant and subject to audit. This
information is in the public domain.
In addition, the Government designated a special
committee to supervise each PTR project. The committee for
FUNDAR’s projects included one representative from our foundation and
two from the Government, normally including the Chief of the
Department of Archaeology (Archaeologist Fabricio Valdivieso
from 2005 to 2007). This supervision was additional to that of the “monitors”
assigned by the Government to supervise investigation projects.
Left: The PTR supervision committee
at San Andrés in 2007, composed of Fabricio Valdivieso (then Chief of
Archaeology, CONCULTURA), Paul Amaroli (FUNDAR), and Ivonne de Torres
(CONCULTURA); Rafael Amaya (FUNDAR’s parks manager) appears to the right
of this photo. Center: Fabricio Valdivieso and Rodrigo
Brito (FUNDAR) in the area of the tunnel at San Andrés. Right:
Marlon Escamilla (then of the Department of Archaeology) represents
CONCULTURA in an interview with the media in 2007 about the tunnel in
San Andrés (a PTR project).
Over many years time, the Government has worked successfully
with different NGOs in the co-management of archaeological parks. Joya
de Cerén and San Andrés were developed and inaugurated as parks
by the Patronato Pro-Patrimonio Cultural (now defunct),
and subsequently managed for several years by this NGO under contracts
subscribed with CONCULTURA. Tazumal and Casa Blanca
were co-managed during a period of time by an NGO called Comité
de restauración y conservación de la iglesia colonial Santiago Apóstol
de la ciudad de Chalchuapa. The archaeological site – and future
park – Ciudad Vieja was managed for several years by
the Academia Salvadoreña de la Historia. It is also
relevant to mention that the largest national park in El Salvador, El
Imposible, is managed by the NGO SalvaNATURA; while
this park was created to protect a primary forest, it also includes
7 recorded archaeological sites (one of which, Piedra Sellada,
is in public access).
Two of the NGOs mentioned above, the Patronato Pro-Patrimonio
Cultural and the Academia Salvadoreña de la Historia, also conducted
archaeological investigations in the parks.
On a world-wide level there are many other important
examples of the model of co-management by NGOs of cultural heritage
sites belonging to states and nations. Here are some examples:
Panamá Viejo (Panamá, a UNESCO World
Heritage Site), managed by the NGO Patronato Panamá Viejo.
Cahokia (State of Illinois, USA,
a UNESCO World Heritage Site), managed by the Cahokia Mounds Museum
El Mirador (Guatemala, a National
Monument), the Foundation for Cultural and Natural Heritage Maya (PACUNAM)
is the leading participant in the management and investigation of
this site and its region.
El Brujo (Perú), the Wiese Foundation
leads the investigation and conservation of this site and recently
inaugurated a museum.
Archaeological Parks in El Salvador
Of the archaeological sites currently known in El Salvador,
there exist several which clearly should be protected and managed as
archaeological parks. Amongst these, there are 4 sites where the State
has acquired land, and in others there are proposals to do so. These
The Gruta del
Espíritu Santo is located a kilometer (0.6 miles) north of
the town of Corinto (Morazán Department). This is the only
future park currently recommended for visitors. This site
has park guards who can accompany visitors during the same operating
hours specified for the parks. There is no entrance fee. The site
has a large rock shelter harboring pictographs (paintings on the rock
face) which may possibly date to the Archaic Period (approximately
8000 to 1800 BC).
located in Cuscatlán Department near the road between San Martín and
Suchitoto. This site is not recommended for visitors without a guide.
Ciudad Vieja was the site of San Salvador from 1528 through 1545 when
it was moved to its present location. It is one of the very few well-preserved
Spanish sites from the conquest period.
Cara Sucia is
located near the border with Guatemala, 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) south
of the Litoral Highway near the “canton” Cara Sucia (Ahuachapán Department).
Although this site is national property and has park guards, its structures
are usually immersed in tall scrub, much to the frustration of its
few adventuresome visitors. Cara Sucia’s occupation begins around
900 BC and this apparently Maya settlement continues until the Ilopango
eruption in the 5th century AD. After a hiatus, the site was resettled
and constituted one of the easternmost centers of the Cotzumalhuapa
culture which flourished between AD 600 and 900 (the Late Classic
period) along much of the Guatemalan coast as far as the western edge
of Salvadoran territory.
(San Miguel Department) is a very extensive site with a long occupation,
stretching from about 500 BC to AD 900. Its apogee was in the Late
Classic as one of the two known regional centers of the Shila and
Lepa phases (the other is Tehuacán). The Government owns part of the
site but it lacks guards and other minimal conditions for the visitor.
(or “Pueblo Viejo Las Marías) is the largest archaeological site known
in El Salvador, and is closely affiliated with its neighbor, Cihuatán
(12 kilometers / 7 miles distant). CONCULTURA has a project to acquire
land at the site for a future park. It is presently divided between
dozens of owners and is not recommended for visitors.