Izalco was little more than a curious hole in the ground in a cornfield. The farm was on the southern slopes of the old Santa Ana volcano, and the hole, or “vent”, was at 1300 meters above sea level. Wisps of black sulfuric smoke would occasionally arise but not seem out of the ordinary on the slopes of a volcano. And then one day in 1770, Izalco was born.
Fiery spurts and flowing mounds of lava issued from the side of that old mountain, and El Salvador’s youngest volcano began to build its own mountain. Lava flowed down the slope up to 7 kilometers and hardened. More lava flowed and hardened on top of the previous flow. More lava and more lava flowed, and layer upon layer hardened, and the young volcanic cone began to rise. One hundred meters, two hundred meters, three hundred meters, the new mountain rose from the slopes of the old. Its eruptions were almost continuous. As its elevation grew its incandescent night time displays of fire became visible from further and further out at sea. Izalco became a reliable night time guide for seagoing vessels to the port of Acajutla in El Salvador. “Faro de Pacifico”, the Lighthouse of the Pacific, it was christened.
Five hundred meters, six hundred meters, our volcano continued to grow. Eruptions were almost continuous with just brief interruptions for two hundred years. So many people wanted to see the volcano that a hotel with a vantage point was planned and construction began. Six hundred twenty meters, six hundred thirty meters, six hundred forty meters and hotel construction neared its conclusion. Six hundred fifty meters and the hotel was finished. And so was Izalco. It is a curious feature of history that the volcano which erupted almost continuously should stop just when the hotel was completed. But so it was. Izalco has not erupted since 1966. But it is still visited and climbed by many intrepid travelers.
Detail of the forests at the foot of the volcano. Izalco is El Salvador’s youngest volcano. The cone rises without vegetation from the forest below.
Our volcano is featured in the beautiful tale of Le Petite Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. It was inspired by his El Salvadoran wife Consuelo.
The national coat of arms features 5 volcanoes. These five symbolize the five member states of the United Provinces of Central America, formed July 1, 1823.
Projected on a staff above the volcanoes is a Phrygian cap, an ancient symbol of liberty. The five flags are upheld with indigenous wooden war spears with obsidian points.
The motto below is “Dios, Union, Libertad”.
The old worlds and new worlds are depicted on the front of the 10 colones banknote.
The Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, the three sailing ships that constituted the expedition of Christopher Columbus, are depicted sailing to the new world from the old world.