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We present a catalog of subduction zone earthquakes along the Pacific coast from central El Salvador to eastern Chiapas, Mexico, from 1526 to 2000. We estimate that the catalog is complete since 1690 for MS ≥7.4 thrust events and M ≥ 7.4 normal-faulting events within the upper 60 km of the down-going slab. New intensity maps were constructed for the 27 earthquakes since 1690, using mostly primary data sources. By calibrating with recent events we find that the long axis of the (MM) VII intensity contour for such large earthquakes well approximates the length and location of rupture along the subduction zone and can thus be used to estimate the locations and magnitudes of older events.

The section from western El Salvador to Chiapas appears to have ruptured completely in a series of four to five earthquakes during each of the periods 1902–1915, 1743–1776, and possibly 1565–1577. Earthquakes of MW 7.75 ± 0.3 have caused major damage along the 200 km long section from San Salvador to Guatemala City every 71 ± 17 yr, apparently since at least 1575. Although the January 2001 El Salvador earthquake caused damage within part of this zone, no major thrust earthquake has occurred there since at least 1915. We find that much of this section has been relatively quiescent for moderate earthquakes shallower that 50 km since at least 1963. The conditional probability that an earthquake of MW 7.75 ± 0.3 will occur at this location in the next 20 yr is estimated at 50% (±30%).

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