Day 15: Santa Ana mon amour.
15 dicembre 2021

Last night we arrived in Santa Ana rather late and definitely tired from a long day. After checking into our hostel, it was unthinkable to start working. So we decided to wake up early this morning and, after the inevitable traditional Salvadoran breakfast of scrambled eggs, tomatoes, mashed beans, cheese and fried banana, to dedicate the entire morning to write, work and catch up on what we had left undone.

It’s already afternoon when we finally get around to exploring the city. 

Santa Ana has been for a long time the richest city of El Salvador, especially in the first half of the 1900’s, during the so called “golden age of coffee”. Still today most of the production of the precious beans takes place in this area, but at that time huge estates and advanced technologies made the city the pride of the country. The architectures of the center still keep the vestiges of the greatness of that period. The city is beautiful and the atmosphere is totally different from San Salvador. The houses are all low, human scale, in elegant colonial style. The stores are one after the other in a blinding kaleidoscope of colors. The streets are crowded with noisy, smiling people. It reminds us so much of Santiago de Cuba or some of the old Spanish-founded towns in the south of Mexico: we immediately fall in love with it.

We are hungry so we can’t wait to get started with our favorite game. The one where we go into every hole we come across on our route to ask if maybe some kind soul is willing to feed us and accept Bitcoin. By now we’re used to the litany and we’ve found it to have positive spin-offs. It’s the perfect way to discover unknown places. We squeeze into every little avenue that inspires us and are curious to see if Bitcoin has made it here as well. Everywhere we look there is a hustle and bustle of popular markets, street vendors, stores of all kinds, we even happen to be in front of some clubs with sexy signs, where nice sex workers wink at us lasciviously. We refuse the experience, smiling and thanking them.

We quickly realize that we have a good chance of getting food. The Bitcoin logo surprisingly pops up here and there. Not everywhere like on the Beach. But it’s very present. Even some ramshackle stalls of scrap metal have it. And in fact when we enter even the most popular restaurants to ask if they want us as customers, the reactions are of surprise, but they say yes. As in San Salvador, the owner has a Chivo in his pocket. The transaction could be done but the problem is another. We were late and almost everyone ran out of food. Not too bad. We go back to the hunt.

After a while we find a very nice papuseria. The cook is disarmingly kind. She asks the owner that has the app on her smartphone, turns on the gas under the grill and makes us sit down. Bingo. We eat. We sit in a quaint courtyard, order two beers. The atmosphere is relaxed, we are the only customers, loud Latin music is ubiquitous in the city. We feel right at home.

With our bellies full, we get ready to head back to the hostel. We still have work to do, so we decide to stop at a supermarket to buy something so we don’t have to go out for dinner. Mindful of our last experience, the one where we paralyzed a cash register, we do the propitiatory dance at the Chivo wallet and cross our fingers. 

The store is crowded, we fill the trolley and get in line. The time to pay arrives: cold sweats. This time the cashier has another system. If at the super in San Salvador they had a real POS branded Chivo, here you type directly into the computer, in what looks like a desktop interface. After a few mouse clicks, the girl turns the monitor and shows me the QR code of the dollar payment. Nope. I explain that she has to select Bitcoin. She doesn’t understand. I help her with the terminal. We have to cancel the operation and start again from the beginning. From the initial menu I make her select Bitcoin and (unbelievable!) the Lightning option is clearly visible. We click on it, the new code appears on the screen. We exult. We did it! Not by a long shot. On my wallet, the transaction is confirmed, but nothing happens on the supermarket side. It doesn’t blink. Cold dead. Within a few minutes there are five clerks around us and the store manager. Some are fiddling around, others are watching and commenting. We turn to apologize to the huge line that has formed behind us. We blocked another checkout. Once again everyone is giggling and smiling at us. Viva El Salvador.

There is nothing to do. Chivo merchant can’t work with external wallets. The transaction does not result and the manager kindly asks us to wait about ten minutes. We go out to smoke a cigarette. By now we are laughing about it. The sun is setting over the beautiful city of Santa Ana and the reddish light gives it an even more fascinating touch. We return. We are told that the transaction, to them, just does not result. He asks us to leave him our number and tells us that he would call us tomorrow to get a refund if the situation is confirmed. The bad part is that we have to leave without the groceries. In there was our dinner and this can only mean one thing: we are fasting tonight.

We don’t care much and we go back to the hostel laughing serenely. We are now used to the madness in which we embarked. And if it were always comfortable and easy, what kind of adventure would it be?