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Julian Nelson
Julian Nelson

The Power and Influence of El Salvador's Richest Families: The Book "The Richest of the Rich" Reveals All

The Richest of the Rich in El Salvador Book: A Revealing Look at the Oligarchy that Rules the Country

El Salvador is a small Central American country with a population of about 6.5 million people. It is known for its rich culture, beautiful landscapes, and turbulent history. It is also known for its extreme inequality, poverty, violence, and corruption. According to a recent report by Oxfam, El Salvador has one of the highest levels of wealth concentration in Latin America, with 1% of the population owning 40% of the total wealth.

the richest of the rich in el salvador book


How did this situation come about? Who are the people behind this enormous gap between the rich and the poor? And what are their roles and interests in El Salvador's politics, economy, and society? These are some of the questions that Maria Dolores Albiac tries to answer in her book "The Richest of the Rich in El Salvador", published in 1998. In this article, we will review and analyze this book, which offers a rare and insightful glimpse into the lives and fortunes of El Salvador's oligarchy.

The author: Who is Maria Dolores Albiac and what motivated her to write the book?

Maria Dolores Albiac is a Spanish journalist who has lived in El Salvador since 1980. She has worked as a correspondent for various media outlets, such as El Pais, BBC, CNN, and EFE. She has also written several books on El Salvador's history, politics, culture, and human rights.

Albiac decided to write "The Richest of the Rich in El Salvador" after noticing that there was a lack of information and transparency about El Salvador's economic elite. She wanted to shed some light on who they are, how they made their money, how they influence public affairs, and how they affect the lives of millions of Salvadorans. She spent two years researching and interviewing more than 100 families that belong to this exclusive group. She also consulted official sources, such as tax records, business registries, electoral rolls, land titles, and court documents.

Albiac's book caused a stir when it was published, as it revealed the names, faces, and stories of El Salvador's richest families. Some of them welcomed the book as a recognition of their achievements and contributions, while others criticized it as an invasion of their privacy and a distortion of their reality. Albiac said that her intention was not to judge or condemn anyone, but to inform and stimulate debate about a crucial issue for El Salvador's development and democracy.

The Old Coffee Families: How They Accumulated Wealth and Power Through Land and Politics

One of the main groups of families that Albiac identifies in her book are the old coffee families. These are the descendants of the landowners who dominated El Salvador's economy and politics since the late 19th century, when coffee became the main export crop. Some of the most prominent names in this group are Regalado, Duenas, Sol, Hill, Alvarez, Guirola, Llach, and De Sola.

These families amassed huge fortunes by owning vast plantations that employed thousands of workers under harsh and exploitative conditions. They also controlled the state apparatus, the military, the judiciary, and the media. They used their power to protect their interests and to suppress any opposition or dissent from the workers, the peasants, the indigenous people, and the intellectuals. They were responsible for many massacres, coups, and repressions that marked El Salvador's history.

The old coffee families also played a key role in the civil war that ravaged El Salvador from 1980 to 1992. They supported and financed the right-wing government and paramilitary groups that fought against the left-wing guerrillas and popular movements that demanded social justice and democracy. They opposed any reforms or negotiations that threatened their privileges and status quo. They were also involved in many human rights violations, such as the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980 and the massacre of six Jesuit priests in 1989.

After the peace accords that ended the war in 1992, some of the old coffee families lost part of their wealth and influence due to the decline of the coffee sector, the redistribution of land, and the emergence of new political actors. However, many of them still retain significant economic and political power through their ownership of banks, media outlets, foundations, and political parties. They also have strong ties with the United States and other international actors that have interests in El Salvador.

The Immigrant Families: How They Diversified the Economy and Challenged the Status Quo

Another group of families that Albiac describes in her book are the immigrant families. These are the families that came from Europe, Asia, Africa, and other parts of Latin America during the 20th century and became successful entrepreneurs and industrialists. Some of the most notable names in this group are Cristiani, Murray, Meza, Ayau, Siman, Dueñas, Poma, Kriete, Quiros, Salume, Safie, Eserski, Hasbun, Bahaia, Daboub, Kafati, Muyshondt, and Zablah.

These families arrived in El Salvador with different backgrounds and motivations. Some came as refugees from wars or persecutions in their countries of origin. Some came as professionals or technicians hired by local companies or international organizations. Some came as adventurers or opportunists looking for new opportunities or markets. Some came as missionaries or philanthropists wanting to help or convert others.

Tourism in El Salvador: How It Attracts Visitors and Boosts the Economy

Another sector that some of the immigrant families invested in is tourism. El Salvador has a lot to offer to travelers who are looking for adventure, culture, nature, and relaxation. Some of the main attractions are:

  • The beaches: El Salvador has more than 300 km of coastline along the Pacific Ocean, with some of the best surfing spots in the world. Places like El Tunco, El Zonte, La Libertad, and El Cuco attract surfers of all levels who enjoy the consistent waves, warm water, and friendly vibe. There are also beaches for swimming, sunbathing, fishing, and kayaking.

  • The volcanoes: El Salvador has more than 20 volcanoes, some of them active, that create a dramatic landscape and offer opportunities for hiking, camping, and sightseeing. Some of the most popular volcanoes are Santa Ana, Izalco, San Miguel, San Salvador, and Chaparrastique. They also form beautiful lakes and lagoons, such as Coatepeque, Ilopango, and Güija.

  • The ruins: El Salvador has a rich pre-Columbian heritage that can be explored in several archaeological sites. The most famous one is Joya de Cerén, also known as the Pompeii of America, where a Maya village was preserved by volcanic ash. Other sites include Tazumal, Cihuatán, San Andrés, and Casa Blanca.

  • The culture: El Salvador has a diverse and vibrant culture that reflects its history and identity. Visitors can experience the local cuisine, music, art, crafts, festivals, and traditions. Some of the highlights are pupusas (stuffed corn tortillas), cumbia (a dance music genre), murals (colorful paintings that depict social and political messages), hammocks (hand-woven fabrics for sleeping or relaxing), and Semana Santa (Holy Week celebrations).

Tourism in El Salvador has grown significantly in recent years, thanks to the efforts of the government and the private sector to promote the country as a safe and attractive destination. According to the Ministry of Tourism, El Salvador received more than 2.5 million visitors in 2019, generating more than $1.5 billion in revenue. Tourism also creates jobs and supports local communities and businesses.

Conclusion: What Can We Learn from the Book and What Can We Do to Improve the Situation?

"The Richest of the Rich in El Salvador" is a book that reveals a lot about El Salvador's history, economy, politics, and society. It shows how a small group of families have accumulated wealth and power over generations and how they have shaped the country's destiny for better or worse. It also shows how some of these families have diversified their activities and adapted to changing circumstances.

The book has many strengths and weaknesses. On one hand, it provides valuable information and insights that are not easily available elsewhere. It exposes the realities and challenges that El Salvador faces as a result of its unequal distribution of resources and opportunities. It also stimulates discussion and debate about how to address these issues and improve the situation for all Salvadorans.

On the other hand, the book has some limitations and biases that should be taken into account. It focuses mainly on the economic aspects of wealth and power, without considering other dimensions such as social, cultural, or environmental factors. It also tends to generalize and simplify the diversity and complexity of El Salvador's elite. It does not acknowledge the differences and conflicts that exist within and among these families. It also does not recognize the positive contributions that some of these families have made to El Salvador's development.

development, inequality, and social justice. It shows that El Salvador is still a deeply divided and polarized country, where a small elite holds most of the wealth and power, while the majority of the population struggles to survive and access basic rights and services. It also shows that El Salvador's democracy is fragile and vulnerable to authoritarian tendencies and external influences.

What can we do to improve the situation? There is no easy or quick answer to this question, but there are some possible actions or solutions that could help. Some of them are:

  • Promoting transparency and accountability: The public should have access to reliable and accurate information about the sources and uses of public funds, the assets and interests of public officials, and the performance and impact of public policies and programs. The public should also have mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the actions and decisions of the government and other actors, and to demand explanations and sanctions when necessary.

  • Strengthening institutions and checks and balances: The different branches and levels of government should respect their roles and functions, as well as the constitution and the law. They should also cooperate and coordinate with each other to ensure effective governance and service delivery. The judiciary should be independent, impartial, and professional, and protect the rights and freedoms of all citizens. The civil society should be active, diverse, and participatory, and represent the interests and needs of different groups and sectors.

  • Reducing inequality and poverty: The government should implement policies and programs that promote inclusive and sustainable development, that create opportunities for education, employment, health, housing, and social protection for all people, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized. The government should also ensure a fair and progressive taxation system that redistributes wealth and resources more equitably. The private sector should contribute to social responsibility and environmental sustainability, as well as to innovation and competitiveness.

  • Fostering dialogue and reconciliation: The different actors in El Salvador's society should engage in constructive dialogue and negotiation to resolve their conflicts peacefully and democratically. They should also recognize their common history, identity, values, and goals, as well as their diversity and differences. They should also seek justice and reparations for the victims of past violence and human rights violations, as well as forgiveness and healing for the perpetrators.


Here are some frequently asked questions about "The Richest of the Rich in El Salvador" book:

  • Where can I buy or read the book?

The book is available in Spanish only. You can buy it online from Amazon or other platforms. You can also read it online for free from this link:

  • Who are the richest people in El Salvador today?

According to Forbes magazine, there are two billionaires in El Salvador as of 2021: Carlos Enrique Siman Mora ($1.3 billion) and Mario Siman ($1 billion). They are both members of the Siman family, which owns one of the largest retail chains in Central America.

  • How does El Salvador compare with other countries in terms of wealth distribution?

According to the World Bank, El Salvador has a Gini index of 38.6 as of 2018, which measures the degree of income inequality in a country. A higher value means more inequality. This places El Salvador among the most unequal countries in Latin America, which has an average Gini index of 46.9. However, El Salvador has improved its Gini index from 51.3 in 2000.

  • What are some of the benefits and challenges of having a wealthy elite in a country?

Some of the benefits are that a wealthy elite can invest in productive activities that generate growth, employment, innovation, and competitiveness. They can also contribute to social welfare through philanthropy, charity, or corporate social responsibility. Some of the challenges are that a wealthy elite can influence or capture political power to protect their interests or privileges at the expense of others. They can also evade taxes or regulations that affect their profits or assets.

  • What are some of the best practices or examples of countries that have achieved a more equitable distribution of wealth?

Some of the best practices or examples are countries that have implemented progressive taxation systems that tax the rich more than the poor, and that use the revenues to finance public services and social programs that benefit the majority of the population. They have also promoted social policies that reduce poverty and inequality, such as education, health, social protection, and land reform. Some of these countries are Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Germany.



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