El Salvadorans still face some obstacles in their bitcoin adoption journey but they still have hope for the future.
All images in this article were sourced from the author. It takes a lot of planning and work to create the travel vlogs for Bitcoin Explorers. It is not easy to tell an adventure like ours using music and images. It is a lot of work. It’s time to get moving. We pointed the noses of our car, which was rented in Bitcoin, towards the outskirts of the city. It left behind its urban agglomeration. The first challenge was to fill the tank with Bitcoin. It is not clear why car rental agencies in this country tend to bring you the car with half the fuel tank. That’s our experience, even with the rentals we made last summer. It seems that gas stations still accept Bitcoin. We were only given one laconic number. They refueled us and presented us with a Chivo QR Code without blowback.
The Lightning transaction was very fast, especially considering state sh*twallet standards. The Chivo wallet was a bit of a mystery to us as we left our hotel. We ate breakfast, went to the desk, and requested the bill. We were ready to go in a few hours. The front desk provided us with an address on-chain. Great. It was delivered to our room and I made the transaction using BitBox02. I set the fees high to get a quick confirmation and then I quickly filled our backpacks. I am just thinking about how convenient bitcoin can be, and I receive a WhatsApp message from my front desk confirming that I can pay my hotel bill from my room. They inform me that the payment transaction has been canceled. Canceled? A bitcoin transaction? How is that possible?
I opened my laptop to check the status of mempool.space. It is there, carved digitally in travertine. There are already nine blocks that have been mined after the one containing it. It is confirmed and cemented. I roll my eyes, thinking that Chivo is the only one who can sucking so badly. I regain my patience and head down to the front desk. I show the confirmations the hotel staff. I explain to them that it is impossible for the transaction to be canceled. It must be a problem in their wallet. The address is correct and the transaction ID is the exact same. They tell me to not worry and that they will call Chivo customer support with all details. They tell me that this bitcoin is not working properly …” Do you get it? Do you also understand why there is distrust? They don’t have the ability to see that it is Chivo, not Bitcoin that is the problem. They don’t see the difference. They have this horrible user experience and that is why they love Bitcoin. I explained what was actually happening and recommended another wallet. But those words will likely have been lost to the wind.
It is amazing, however, that the software that was instrumental in the Bitcoin Law in this nation, the state wallet, continues to perform poorly after more than 15 months. How can a wallet miss an off-chain transaction? It only needs to read the timechain.
It is, in our view, the main source of many problems. We have been in stores where they have said they no longer accept bitcoin due to its complexity. This was most likely due to Chivo. Another reason they give is that there are not enough transactions. Too little volume. Think about it. Is it really surprising?
It is not Venezuela, Argentina, or Nigeria. It does not have a hyper-inflated national currency. When they get their salaries, the Salvadorans don’t have to rush to buy anything. Salvadorans receive their salaries in dollars and live in U.S. Dollars. Despite our dislike for it, the American currency is still the most sought after in emerging countries. To grab it, some people will pay twice, if not triple its value. Why would people in El Salvador choose bitcoin for their daily lives? Are you sure that Bitcoiners talk about monetary sovereignty, privacy and self-custody in these locales? It is normal for dollars to be preferred in this area, so it is not surprising that bitcoin volume is not coming from locals. We should ask why Bitcoiners don’t spend their satoshis here, but that is another story. Santa Ana is our absolute favorite town and we went there to experience real El Salvador. We love Casa Verde, which is a place we find authenticity in. Although it appears to be a hostel, it is actually a hotel, a bar, and a community center. It’s a special place. It is a great place to stay if you are ever in the area. Carlos, the owner, will be pleased to meet you. He will ask you for bitcoin and tell you that Rikki or Laura sent you.
It is a beautiful city with its mixture of colonial architecture and rich colors. It is smaller than San Salvador, which is a good thing. It is more livable.
We always have a great time meeting new people every time we visit. A beautiful folk market is located near the central square. You will find stalls selling all you need on the charming streets. It’s a pleasure to browse them. Do not be distracted by the curious looks of the locals or the giggles of children. They are still not used to seeing foreigners. It’s because they are used to seeing foreigners here. A little curiosity is never fatal. It is natural to assume that even though bitcoin is accepted in San Salvador, which is larger and more cosmopolitan, it would be less popular here. It would be a mistake to assume this. Ask at the stalls, in the markets. Many small traders will have a Chivo wallet in hand and a desire to win customers (from whom they might be able to squeeze a few dollars more). They will be willing to take risks and put their lives on the line. You will likely be their first bitcoin transaction. They will need to learn how to do it from scratch.
We spent hours walking the streets of downtown. It’s hot in the day, but cool and breezy at night. We bought toothpaste tubes, a lighter (even though we can’t stop losing them), and Mexican-style tortillas from street stalls. After making a young street vendor happy with their first Lightning transaction, we ended up at Plaza de la Libertad, the central plaza. It is the heartbeat of the community. It is always full. It is beautiful and elegant, with its early 20th-century buildings, the National Theater in pure Art Nouveau style, and the municipal palace. The cathedral is the most beautiful in El Salvador, they claim. The square was bustling with activity on this day. They were setting up a large stage and tuning instruments. They also lined rows upon rows of chairs. It was obvious that there would soon be a concert. We approached to take a look around and were attracted to the scene as two moths to light. A portly man in his 60s saw us approaching and approached us. He explained that he was the director of the youth-philharmonic and that there would be a symphonic music event that night. The young musicians will combine the sounds of their classical instruments with local rock bands, performing covers of great metal songs with symphonic arrangements. He begged us to not miss the show and told us that it would be at 6 p.m. He was happy to see us, and you can see that he cares about us going.
We’ve seen it before. That smile, that attitude. It’s a deep desire to show someone distant that there is another El Salvador, one that isn’t dominated by violence and poverty. It is composed of people who are capable of organizing, studying, dancing, and organizing. It is a chance to find redemption. They want to prove their worth. This attitude grabs you in your gut, I promise.
We were willing to accept it.
We returned on the scheduled time. They had reserved two seats in the third row for us, just behind the authorities. We were pleasantly surprised by the show. Beautiful, sincere and genuine. It was also moving and musically amazing. Rikki contributed this guest post. These opinions are not necessarily those of BTC Inc.