El Salvador is commonly thought of as a Catholic country, though today many surveys put the proportion of Catholics at half or less of the population. The name of the country, and of a great many of its towns, reflects that Catholic heritage, with saints’ names being especially popular. Catholicism is on display throughout El Salvador in the form of murals, bumper stickers, rosaries in cars, and crèche scenes. In Western El Salvador, a remarkable range and variety of cofradías, or lay confraternities, help define Catholic life. Each cofradía serves as custodian of a number of religious statues throughout the year, and sponsors at least one annual feast.The feasts often feature special foods and drinks, music, dancing and fireworks.
Salvadoran Catholicism can often value remembrance of martyrdom, whether in the form of traditional religious piety, or in remembrance of martyrs of the 1980s civil war, such as Archbishop Oscar Romero. A history of violence plagues the country, and El Salvador continues to struggle with one of the world's highest murder rates. Gang violence tops citizen concerns, and there is a low level of trust in other people, in government and in social institutions. As a result, the Catholic Church is the most trusted institution in El Salvador.