We’re heading to El Zonte, today known as “Bitcoin Beach,” for the last day of Adopting Bitcoin. It’s here that in 2019, an anonymous donor supported social projects with “the only requirement to develop a bitcoin-based economy.” Gradually a Bitcoin economy emerged in El Zonte. This place was an incubator to experiment before expanding Bitcoin to the rest of the country.
El Zonte is a beautiful surf beach. But it is small: 3,000 inhabitants if I believe Wikipedia. The main street is a dirt road where there was a food court organized by locals today.
It was nice to see “Hope House,” where all this movement started. There, they give English classes and computer science lessons to kids. For this community, “Bitcoin is hope.”
But with all the government communication, today, El Zonte looked more like a Bitcoin amusement park. Disneyland for Bitcoiners, with giant Bitcoin signs, QR codes everywhere, and television channels interviewing visitors.
Yes, all these small streets vendors and tiendas accept Bitcoin. And Lightning works smoothly: instant payments with almost no fees. But as soon as we leave the food court organized as part of the conference, it’s another story. Even the touristy Michanti Hotel, in El Zonte’s main street, doesn’t accept Bitcoin. There it’s cash or credit card. I said “even,” but this may be normal. Cash is king in El Salvador, and most places do not accept credit cards. The rare businesses accepting credit cards do not have a huge incentive to switch to Bitcoin. They already have simple, user-friendly, digital, instant payments with credit cards. Contrarily, unbanked people (70% of the population) who own a small business can leapfrog from cash to digital payments using the Bitcoin/Lightning infrastructure. These people will maybe never have a bank account or a credit card. That’s why El Zonte is exciting!
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