A month and a half spent in El Salvador using only bitcoin, never spending fiat currency, either in the form of cash or electronic payments.
That was the challenge.
We made it. And today our mission comes to its end. They called us crazy. They told us that we would end up getting killed. That it was impossible. To stay away from the area around La Union because it is crawling with cutthroats there. To not venture outside of the tourist areas because Bitcoin there is the last thing on people’s minds.
But then again, you know, people give lip service because genetics gave them a mouth.
Our goal was to get to know a country that has been so abused. To meet the population. To verify the penetration of Bitcoin in all social spheres. Especially in the less privileged ones. To understand if it is possible to buy tomatoes at the folk market, from the most battered stall. In the area around La Union we have not only spent time, but stayed for several days. And, guess what, we met only decent people, always helpful to us, always smiling. “Zitti e Buoni” we would like to sing to someone.
Living on bitcoin alone in El Salvador is possible and, ironically, it is thanks to the Chivo wallet. The same one that we have criticized over and over again. While it is the worst possible application on the Bitcoin protocol, its diffusion in the population is remarkable. So there are many who have it in their pockets and, rather than lose a customer, there will be many who will accept your transactions if you are among those who want to follow in our footsteps. All this is not enough, we have denounced it countless times. But neither can we deny how today it is the most popular application in El Salvador, and that without it, our mission, would have failed miserably after a few hours.
The legal tender is a challenge that is full of complexity and that develops on many different levels. In our travels we have met dozens of foreigners who have come to the country to buy land, invest in assets, transfer part of their business here. The international sounding board orchestrated by the Bukele administration is working and it is certainly the part of the operation that, at the moment, is having the most success. It is wrong to consider it a secondary aspect, even for those who, like me, are particularly concerned with the humanitarian aspect of technology.
The funds that are coming to El Salvador will be an invaluable resource and will contribute greatly to improving living conditions in the country. It will be a slow and gradual process. But if the national leadership knows how to guide development in a virtuous manner, there will be many different opportunities for a very large segment of the population. There will always be the excluded, of course. Just as there will certainly be those who benefit the most. But we must not make the mistake of setting the bar too high. Salvadorans are also just human beings and you can’t expect perfection. For that there is Bitcoin.
It will take a few years to know the outcome of this bet. The amount of things that can easily go wrong is immense. But the scale of the initiative is such that it could hardly be expected to be easy. And it won’t be.
We really hope that many more travelers will want to come and learn about this wonderful country and want to come here and spend their satoshi. It will be so important to do so. As imperfect as it is, the uniqueness of this experiment should not be underestimated and should have all our support. Come to El Salvador and directly contribute to the growth of the universe’s first Bitcoin Economy. You will not regret it.
We will be posting a travel guide of sorts in the next few days. It will be as accurate as possible. We will list all the places we visited and all the businesses that accept bitcoin. Every hotel we slept in, every restaurant we ate and drank at, every little store we bought goods from. We really hope it will be useful to everyone who wants to venture out this far. Unlike us, they will have a canvas from which to start. They won’t be driving blind.
As far as we personally are concerned, then, there is a news. We have decided not to leave the country. To stay longer. At least another month. The situation in old Europe is not so reassuring. The Omicron variant is raging and our centralized governments just don’t seem to know how to deal with it. Here in the tropics it’s the middle of summer, we can work comfortably from our base camp in Santa Ana, the pandemic is staying away, and there are still very interesting things to see, to discover, and to tell you about. However, Mission El Salvador 2021 is over. And it has been a success. This diary will no longer be updated daily. But there will be more surprises and more insights. So don’t forget us.
With love, Laura e Riccardo