The Natural Area of Multiple Uses of Barra de Santiago is a coastal-marine ecosystem located in the south-western region of El Salvador, about 15 km. away from the border with Guatemala. It has an extension of 2200 hectares and it is located at 13°42′ North Latitude and 90°03′ West Longitude in the Department of Ahuachapan, in the municipalities of San Francisco Menéndez and Jujutla.

One of the main communities that are located around the area is Barra de Santiago. This community is located on a stretch of sand 9 kilometers wide between the sea and the estuary; it has 696 families, for a total of 4,878 inhabitants (Leon et al, 1998). There are community associations that have formed over time, currently, only a few of these remain functioning, such as ACASALBA, Women’s Association of La Barra de Santiago (AMBAS), the Turtle’s Hatchers group, La Chacra, Las Brisas, The Committee Pro-Improvement of Barra de Santiago, the Association of Friends of Barra de Santiago (ABS), Las Barreñitas and the newly formed crab gatherers groups: Azuleros and Puncheros.

There is also representation of religious groups. The Ministry of Environment recognizes AMBAS as the organization responsible for co-management of Natural Area, with which they coordinate management actions with the local office and the link with the technical department that visits them periodically. In the complex, there are registered 130 species of trees; in the estuary there are 74 species of fish, six species of amphibians and 22 species of Reptiles. The species that are best known by the population are the green lizard, the iguana, and the Ridley Turtle Lepidochelys olivacea (PNODT, 2004).

The area is important as a resource for the communities living in the vicinity, which depend on fishing, the extraction of different species such as crabs, shells, snails and others, as well as lumber, firewood and poles for their plots. The 9 kilometers stretch of sandy beach has a great tourist attraction so it is visited by a large number of people and has about 100 summer houses. It is a tourist area where there are several places to eat and also to watch birds and crocodiles.

Fishing activities are the main source of income for the local people, being crabs and shrimp the main resources; in addition, in the mangrove they can be extracted the “mud shrimp” which is used as bait to catch fish in places like the coral reef in Los Cóbanos. About 180 people benefit from the recollection of Sea Turtle eggs and fishing in open waters. Along the beach there are several restaurants, varying in size, where fishery products are marketed and tourists are catered.

Barra de Santiago belongs to the Grand Landscape of the Coastal Plain; that includes areas of cultural value, such as Cara Sucia, a Pre-colonial Regional Centre with evidence of human occupation from 400 BC. up to 950 AD.. This centre contains more than 20 structures, including two ball games, an acropolis and monumental terraces. This center is the sole representative of the Cotzumalhuapa culture in the country. In Barra de Santiago can also be found Island El Cajete, which is a Pre-colonial Regional centre from the Early Post-classic Period (900 – 1200 AD), with approximately 20 structures (PNODT, 2004).

It also has a turtle hatchery administered by FUNZEL with the collaboration of the Association of Turtle Hatchers of Barra de Santiago (ACOTOMBAS).
Among the key partners in the area are The Women’s Association of La Barra de Santiago (AMBAS), Friends of La Barra de Santiago, ACOTOMBAS, and the Municipality of Jujutla.

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