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La Prensa Grafica article

Chalatenango in the Internet

Finding the coordinates

By: Veronica Vasquez
Photos: Francisco Aleman / Burt Glassman
(Photos are available in the original article at:

Translation from Spanish: Luis Felipe Trigo Boix

A north-american project wants to photograph all the places on Earth where you find a main meridian and parallel. The picture of the single Salvadorian confluence is already on the Internet.

More than a year ago, Burt Glassman read an article in a US paper that covered this ambitious project: photograph each and every place on Earth where you find a main meridian and parallel. In other words, use the crossing of coordinates – the point of confluence – to crate a photographic mosaic of the world, a register that shows the geography of the planet.

In Cuscatleca land

With enthusiasm, he visited the internet site only to see that others had already visited all the confluences near his house, on the east coast of the United States.

He did not dismay. He took advantage of a visit to El Salvador – he is married to a compatriot – and discovered in the web page that no one had visited the only confluence in El Salvador. The point where the meridian 89 crosses the parallel 14 is just to a side of the Cerron Grande dam, seven kilometers south-west of the city of Chalatenango

And if Ahuachapan had just one more kilometer of land to the west, the confluence in the department of Jutiapa in Guatemala, would fall in Salvadorian territory.

The logistics

Glassman integrated a group of Salvadorian friends. And they became full of the enthusiasm of 'el gringo', as he calls himself.

Thus, Julio Avila, Jorge Guirola, Roberto Avila, Jaime Ruiz, Polo Murillo, Roberto Currlin and Burt Glassman prepared the logistics for this trip in one month.

In that time they obtained detailed maps of the area, to assure amongst other things that there would be no land mines in that place, due to the fact that war was intense in Chalatenango.

They also obtained autos, motorcycles and a GPS device.

These devices connect with at least three of the 24 satellites that orbit our planet, so that the information they receive is used to determine the exact point on Earth where the user is located.

The project that aims to photograph the confluences is possible thanks to this technology and the Internet.

The Adventure

While the trip was in its planning stage, no other confluence in Central America had been visited.

But just a week before their departure, the confluence that is 3.7 kilometers from Puerto Limon, Costa Rica was documented.

This took no motivation away from them and on October 20, 2001 they started their journey.

Most of the route was made by car and motorcycle, but the last 600 meters they walked until they got the middle of Cerro Pando.

The confluence falls exactly to one of its sides, just before you reach the summit, inside private property.

They crowned their adventure at 10:00 in the morning. The specific point is not spectacular, but the view of Cerron Grande and the Guazapa volcano made the effort worthwhile.

Murillo puts it in these words: "This confluence could have been in an horrendously lost place or in an ugly place, like my house, but no, it is in a beautiful place".

And Glassman adds in his broken Spanish: "This is excellent, wow! We made it. They view was so excellent. Wow! We made it. The view is so beautiful … Far out!"

Now the images of the Chalateco landscape are in Internet.

The confluence that are left

The confluence project has already registered 10 percent of the confluence point in the planet. By the closing time of this edition 1,467. There are 12,764 still to be documented.

The project does not include those confluences that fall in the oceans or that are too close to the poles.

This is because in frigid lands the confluences are too close from each other. The distance between the lines of latitude (which are horizontal) are always 110.9 kilometers apart.

However, the distance between the longitude lines – the vertical ones – varies.

At the Equator, the distance between them is 111.4 kilometers. But, as you approach the poles the distance is reduced. Near the poles they are only 1.93 kilometers apart.

In the Central American area, all confluence points are valid but only this one in El Salvador and two in Costa Rica have been documented.

Three remain in Belize, nine in Guatemala, 10 in Honduras, 11 in Nicaragua and five in Panama.

The closest ones are those near the borders of El Salvador.

One in Guatemala at 10 kilometers of Moyuta department of Jutiapa, and another at eight kilometers south-east of Sabanetas, La Paz, Honduras.

Coordinates for what

The parallels and meridians are imaginary lines that are used to precisely localize any point in the planet.

The more important ones are the parallel we call Equator and the Greenwich meridian – the zero meridian- that goes over the English city with the same name.

The Equator measures 40,091 kilometers. It would take 25 million people hand in hand to cover it.

The meridian zero crosses the yard of the Royal Astronomic Observatory in Greenwich.

A brass band marks the exact place and tourists all over the world take pictures of themselves with one foot on the occidental hemisphere and the other in the oriental hemisphere.

From these two main lines the mapmakers drew others: 180 parallels that measure the latitude and 360 meridians that measure the longitude.

The territory of El Salvador is between latitude 14 and 14 to the north of the equator, in other words 13 and 14 parallels above the equator.

And 89 degrees to the west of the Greenwich meridian.

The GPS device connects to at least three of the 23 satellites to determine the exact coordinates of a point in the planet

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