Day 39: The hostel.
10 gennaio 2022

We moved base camp back to Santa Ana. I may have already mentioned this on a few pages in this travelogue of mine. But in this month and a half I’ve done a lot of writing and the memories are starting to overlap.

It’s going to be a busy week. We have the new season of the podcast to launch and Mission El Salvador to wrap up. The final pages of one chapter are written and the new one begins immediately. 100% uptime. The way we like it.

A hostel is an interesting place to stop and observe the reality that surrounds us. There is a continuous turnover of people and the fact that we are in such a peculiar nation encourages the presence of equally peculiar travelers. Observing them provides a unique insight into the type of people who come to the country. And there’s little you can do about it, Bitcoin has put El Salvador on a lot of people’s map. There are quite a few who are here intrigued by the “ley” in one way or another. For some it’s the main reason, for others it’s an interesting curiosity. 

We make friends with a Dutch couple. They are nice and very interesting. Very sharp conversation. He is a perfectly formed bitcoiner. He has a crystal clear view of the technology and its most complex implications. It’s a pleasure to meet here. With people from all corners of the planet. It gives you the exact perspective of how global this phenomenon is. Of the staggering number of people that bitcoin coalesces. 

Then there is a couple of American friends. Travelers, digital nomads. Those people who live travel as a direct expression of freedom. I always like their attitude. We all go out for dinner after chatting for a while. We go back to one of the worst bars downtown, our favorites. One of them owns bitcoin and he came for that too. He doesn’t get to spend them very often, he bought them, he understands technology well but he doesn’t have that somewhat obsessive relationship of those of us who have made a passion and profession out of it. At the end of the dinner he was overjoyed to pay his bill with a Lightning transaction. It was great to watch him. Watching his friend’s reaction to seeing him pay. The genuine astonishment. The satisfaction. The wonder of the gesture. 

We don’t stop long enough to think about the simplest things, we who “are in the business”. To the fact that using bitcoin is fucking cool. To how erotic it is. To the awe in ecstatic onlookers. To the deep meaning. It’s the most punk thing you can do. It’s the biggest fuck you can scream. It is a declaration of independence. It is pure digital will. 

Before going back we take a walk in the center. It is Saturday night after all. Although here it would seem to have a different meaning. But instead we arrive in the central square of Santa Ana and there is music and a lot of noise around. People here are often simpler and it’s nice to see such basic ways of entertainment still being so effective. Santacencos just need a Chinese speaker, a smartphone and a microphone to sing and dance into the night. People arrange themselves in a circle drawing the dance floor. They watch, clap, sing happily. Those with the most daring spirit are the performers. The stars of the evening. They stand in the center and engage the crowd. In turn, people let themselves be carried to the center of the floor and dance for a few minutes. The music is Latin. The lyrics are often provocative or ironic. It’s a lot of fun. 

It all looks so dim but it’s also incredibly sophisticated. The glance is very interesting. The same people who sometimes have shabby clothes, a bit wrinkled, faces marked by the sun, beards maybe a little unkempt. Everyone, without exception, is holding a smartphone and filming the scene. The music on which the singer on duty is performing comes from a Chinese phablet, connected to the speaker. They are YouTube videos of karaoke and the words are scrolling on the screen. There is a gentleman doing Instagram live from his device. In between songs he entertains his audience. He frames us and greets us by announcing with pomp and circumstance that there are also Americans in attendance tonight (that would be us).

This is what technology does. It pervades societies in ways we often underestimate. Tools that are flexible and cheap enough can enable similar lifestyles and opportunities across great distances. It is the direct effect of economies of scale. Everything is now software. For the brawny executive in New York as for the mechanic or the worker in Santa Ana. This is the real scope of our revolution.

Bitcoin is inevitable because it is a form of money better suited to a world where a guy in India can follow the Instagram feed of a farmer in El Salvador framing a group of Italians dancing in the square and believing them to be Americans.

Those who still doubt this need to seriously start traveling.