Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean

Portal of Culture of Latin America and the Caribbean

El Salvador - Zacatecoluteca, Santa Lucia Sacatecoluca

The city of Zacatecoluca was the birthplace of Presbyter Jose Simeon Cañas, Doctor in Theology, and Liberator of enslaved Africans and mestizos in Central America. Today there is a monument to the abolition of slavery in the historical centre of Zacatecoluca, a memory site built by activists of the movement of people of African descent in El Salvador. 

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The enslaved people of the haciendas and camps of Zacatecoluca and Apasteque played an important role in one of the most important uprisings against slavery in Central America, known as the uprising of El Marquesado. During the first five years they kept running from their masters until they formed groups of around one hundred persons called “juntas” (boards), which fought actively against slavery. However, the movement was violently stifled on 1625 by the Spanish authorities led by the mayor of San Salvador Pedro de Aguilar Lasso de la Vega, who took prisoners and in a not unusual practice at the time had one of them beheaded, placing the head in the central plaza of Zacatecoluca, in order to instil terror in any potential rebel.

Since very early during colonial times, Zacatecoluca had an important population of people of African descent. In the year 1740 the population of Zacatecoluca was twelve Spanish, one hundred and forty natives, and four hundred and fifty persons classified as mulattos and mestizos, who made up the militias under the command of Spanish officers. Towards 1783 the population of mulattos and of afro-mestizos had grown significantly and reached the figure of two thousand eight hundred and five persons, in comparison to one hundred and fifty nine Spanish and one thousand two hundred and eighty seven natives.

Zacatecoluca was the birthplace of liberator Jose Simeon Cañas, born on February 18th, 1767. On December 1823 Cañas urged the Central American Federation to immediately liberate the enslaved persons in Central America. After a long debate of his motion, an agreement was reached in favour of granting freedom to enslaved persons in exchange for compensating the owners instead of the victims. In order to do this, an indemnity fund was established in each one of the provinces, made up by cash or land. The definitive law was proclaimed on April 17th, 1824, and this law included the loss of citizenship rights of any person having slaves in their property or involved in the traffic in persons. The manumission of enslaved persons was established on article 13 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Central America: All men are free in the Republic. Those availing themselves of the protection of the law cannot be slaves, nor may the citizens be involved in the slave trade.  

Today, in front of the cathedral we may find the Civic Plaza by the name Presbyter Jose Simeon Cañas y Villacorta. The plaza has three bronze sculptures made by Spanish sculptor Benjamin Saul. This monument known as Homage to Father Cañas, was dedicated to the liberator and represents the granting of freedom to Central American enslaved persons. The square is an important memory site and a place of vindication for the Movement of Persons of African Descent in El Salvador.

Easy access. Located 40 km to the south-east of the capital city of San Salvador.
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Other data of interest

El Salvador

Historical name


Founding Date

It was an Indian village before the arrival of the Spanish on the 16th century


 Departamento de la Paz, Municipio de Zacatecoluca / Department of La Paz, Municipality of Zacatecoluca , PC: 1601 .

Phone numbers

+503 2334-7900

Web link




Local monument



Access level


Current Use

Settlement, monument

Original use


Property kind