Yesterday marked the first day of the August vacations in El Salvador. In the capital, the celebrations began at 5:00 this morning when people gathered around the Plaza Las Américas to sing in commemoration of their patron, Divine Savior of the World (Divino Salvador del Mundo), after whom the city and country are named. At the center of the plaza is the Monument to the Savior of the World (a giant statue of Jesus Christ standing atop the globe), which is a national symbol of El Salvador. Later that day, there was a procession from the statue to Cuzcatlán Park featuring floats and costumed revelers.
Although the festival itself is of a religious nature, this week is also a time for secular retreat. Last year, about 70,000 Salvadorans left the country for vacation, most of them to other parts of Central America. Additionally, over 19,000 Salvadorans living abroad returned to the country.
The religious events of the week will culminate with a Saturday evening mass celebrating the Transfiguration of Jesus, a miracle in the Gospels and Catholic feast. This feast is celebrated every year on August 6, and holds particular significance for El Salvador as it also commemorates the victory of the Spanish over the indigenous Cuscaltecos in 1526. Elsalvador.com provides a full list of the week’s festivities on their website. Security will be tight all week, with the National Civl Police deploying 20,600 officers to patrol the areas in which the main festivities will take place. Last year, 78 homicideswere committed during the festival, down 26% from the year before, and San Salvador’s Mayor Quijano has stated that safety will be a top priority.