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The city was named after Saint Thecla who was a saint of the early Christian Church, and a reported follower of Paul of Tarsus in the 1st century AD. She is not mentioned in the New Testament, but the earliest record of her comes from the apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla, probably composed in the early 2nd century.
Santa Tecla is situated at the southern foot of the San Salvador Volcano, and very close to San Salvador (14.5 km), the capital city. The municipality of Antiguo Cuscatlan sits on its eastern border.
Santa Tecla was founded as "Nueva San Salvador" on August 8th 1854 by the president José María San Martín after the capital city was destroyed by an earthquake. It served as capital of the republic from 1855 to 1859 and became departmental capital in 1865. The continued development of the city was spurred by the success of the local coffee industry, becoming a very productive commercial city. In 2003, the city was renamed to "Santa Tecla," which was the historical name of the region prior to the founding of the city.
Its current governor is Oscar Ortiz, of the FMLN party.