Nahuizalco is one of many places in El Salvador where the Nahuat language is still spoken. Its name in Nahuat means “place of four Izalcos.” Local elders say that it was founded by four families from the neighboring town of Izalco. Nahuizalco is part of the Ruta de las Flores, (route of the flowers) situated only 9 km from Sonsonate and 74 km from San Salvador on the southern part of the mountain range Apaneca-Ilamatepec. The town maintains its indigenous and artisan traditions including a charming night market, workshops and handicraft stores throughout the municipality.
The night market typically operates daily from early hours of the day until ten at night. In the evening hours, vendors display their merchandise with candles, a traditional expression of Nahuizalco. The market offers seasonal fruits, vegetables, sweets, fish and meats, local condiments, artisan bread and traditionally made crafts.
It was founded as a town in 1858 and was part of Guatemala until 1823. In 1955, Nahuizalco was established as a city. It is one of the strongest and oldest indigenous communities of El Salvador. The colonial church was seriously damaged during the earthquakes in 2001 but has since been restored. The church honors San Juan Bautista every June 20 to 25 and the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary in the month of October in gratitude to the favor received 154 years ago.
Visitors to the town enjoy the Nahuat-Pipil Museum, a visit to the colonial church dating back 160 years, and a walk along its park, the cobbled streets and a specialized museum where visitors can find all kinds of crafts. Nahuizalco is also home to inviting natural resources like, La Golondrinera Waterfall, La Cueva del Amor, and trails for nature lovers who enjoy river crossings.
Nahuizalco is well-known for its local arts. The local indigenous population is dedicated to the artisan trade, especially in the elaboration of furniture and eye-catching household items carved with natural fibers such as tule, wicker, wood and cotton constituted as its local economic heritage. Its night market is famous. The streets are lit only by candles and the products made of wicker and tule are on display. On occasion women working in the markets wear traditional dress consisting of skirts that are tight at the hips and secured at the waist by means of a knot.
Nahuizalco has numerous oral accounts of its heritage. It is said that in 1857 a terrible cholera epidemic occurred in the town. The inhabitants devoted to the Virgin of the Rosary believe that her intercession saved many through the Milagro de Nahuizalco. Patron saint festivities take place throughout the year when visitors can witness folkloric dances, processions and ancient rites very characteristic of this corner of Sonsonate.
Nahuizalco also celebrates de Semana de Pidon, also known as Canchules during the month of June. Local stories tell that years ago, when the children of indigenous communities set out to work in the fields, they stopped by homes along the way to ask for food for the road. Since then, the town prepares and gifts foods for locals and tourists.
The Casa de la Cultura located in front of the central park, has traditionally offered free Nahuat classes to visitors. In this historical site visitors can learn more about the customs and legends of this town. The Nahuat Pipil Ancestral Council share their experiences and those of their ancestors with visitors who would like to learn more about this magical town.
Visitors can also learn more about the indigenous settlements in the area and their history at the Nahuat Pipil Community Museum, and about the products forged from wicker, tule, indigo and other materials created by different communities in the department of Sonsonate.
The gastronomy of this corner of Sonsonate is very particular. Some of the favorite dishes are yucca dough and fried fish which is sold all over the place. In the mornings, vendors prepare tayuyo, a corn tamale filled with sweet panela and ticucos, which are very similar to the tamale stuffed with red or white beans with peas wrapped in garden leaves.
Regional snacks include chanfaina, also known as moronga. This is a preparation with spiced pork viscera and is usually a complement to typical dishes such as boiled or fried yucca. Visitors can also enjoy a delicious mango cut into pieces or grated garnished with lemon, salt, chili and algüashte, a condiment based on green seeds and squash. Popular local drinks include the fruit liqueur produced in an artisanal way, Vinos Carranza, and drinks made out of pineapple, apple, pear or other seasonal fruits.
Visitors coming from San Salvador can take the Carretera Panamericana (CA-8) in direction to Santa Ana- Sonsonate. At the point known as “El Poliedro” in the municipality of Lourdes, take the detour to Sonsonate, which is on the right. Along the way you will find the signs that tell you how to get to each destination on the Ruta de las Flores.
During Semana Santa, (holy week), the place becomes especially joyful, with masses held, and downtown processions that begin on Domingo de Ramos. There is an overall feeling of respect during this special week.
Mauricio Alexander Cáceres García is a Correspondent for Latina Republic focused on El Salvador and Latin America. He is a renowned and awarded Photojournalist and Documentarian from El Salvador. He has extensive experience reporting on migration, community, travel, tourism and patrimony. His work showcases the power of human stories. Among his specializations, Cáceres has reported on “The migrant route” of the Guatemalan border, Mexico and the United States. Cáceres has a degree in Migration from the Universidad de Centro América, UCA. Cáceres has served as an Editor of the newspaper Más, EDH and elsalvador.com. He has extensive experience in national and international news coverage, studied journalism has won several photography awards throughout Latin America, including second place on a photographic contest centered on the migrant woman, and earning the Santa Clara de Asís prize for his report on the migrant route.