Expatriate to El Salvador?

by: James Dunlap

In the years since the end of its civil war in 1992, El Salvador has developed an amazingly vibrant economy. There is good reason for this and Peruvian economist Alvaro Vargas Llosa describes the situation perfectly. In El Salvador people are “desperate to own and trade goods and services.” Salvadorans are hard working and friendly people and here individuals from all walks of life are busy trying to get ahead. Most seem weary of politics and wish to move beyond the troubled past. El Salvador really has two economies, especially in the capital, San Salvador. One economy features upscale shopping malls and exclusive beach hotels. The other exists on the streets of the city. Despite the pressures of a worldwide economic downturn, people in both sectors are making heroic efforts in the pursuit of free enterprise.

San Salvador has a dynamic business community. One trip down the street that bisects the city’s central shopping district, known locally as El Paseo, is proof of this phenomenon. The street is lined with restaurants, nightclubs, shopping centers, home stores, supermarkets, and shops of every description. The cornerstone of El Paseo is the Gallerias Mall, a rectangular three-story shopping center actually constructed around a historic house. The Gallerias food court is an international dining experience. One can feast on sushi or McDonalds, tacos or Pizza Hut. The shopping center caters to an endless stream of customers seeking luxury goods and the best coffee in the world.

A mile or two from the city center are three large shopping malls. The first, Las Cascadas, has a store so much like a Wal-Mart that it is actually now owned by Wal-Mart. The place is crowded with customers, day and night, seven days a week. Best of all, every line, more than twenty in all, is open, cashiers at the ready. Retired people bag your groceries. Printed on the backs of their shirts is this motto: “I am here to serve you.”

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