Business & Economy

Anonymous donation, pandemic consolidate bitcoin economy on Salvadoran beach

By Hugo Sanchez

Chiltiupán, El Salvador, Jun 10 (EFE).- Some 40 businesses on central El Salvador’s El Zonte beach have promoted a local exchange project with bitcoin as currency, consolidated by an anonymous donation and strengthened amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

After almost two years of using the cryptocurrency, this community of farmers and fishermen are at the forefront of El Salvador becoming the first country in the world to make it legal tender through its Bitcoin Law.

The initiative, approved early Wednesday by Congress and at the request of President Nayib Bukele, has generated conflicting opinions, mainly due to the lack of information on how the government will promote it.

However, this community continues to see bitcoin as a long-term investment opportunity to meet its goals, long denied by the traditional financial system.

El Zonte is a popular area for foreign and national surfers. From the moment one arrives in the village, signs saying “We accept bitcoin” can be seen everywhere.

Román Martínez, one of the promoters of the initiative, told EFE that the social projects with the youth of the area arrived before the Bitcoin Beach project.

He said that initiatives were promoted to “fill the tank of love” by encouraging young people to do sports or education projects in exchange for bonuses.

“It was a dream to change this community with a couple of young leaders,” Martinez said at the Hope House facility, where the beneficiaries of the 21 projects come together and which is now also home to the Strike platform.

He noted that the community of farmers and fishermen “sees hope in bitcoin” and “brought that freedom and hope to be able to dream and learn from a technology that is the future.”

“People who have never had access to a bank account can now receive electronic transactions,” he said.

He indicated that the cryptocurrency came through an anonymous donor who knew about the social projects and became their main sponsor with “the only requirement to develop a bitcoin-based economy.”

The first project with the cryptocurrency was a bond for young people to clean the river that runs through the community.

At the beginning, these young people with income in bitcoin went to the only store that accepted it to buy pupusas, the typical Salvadoran food that is found in every corner of the country. Then came the pandemic.

The international emergency due to the coronavirus mainly hit the tourism sector and in El Zonte “everything stopped.”

Due to the lack of tourists and income, the project made three donations of between $40-$45 to some 500 families in bitcoin.

As the pandemic took the dollars out of El Zonte, bitcoin took their place.

“The biggest challenge was finding and advising businesses – convincing (them) to accept bitcoin. It was easy because dollars were scarce,” he said.

The most basic purchases, such as vegetables and chicken, were soon possible using bitcoin.

Small shops, restaurants, bars, hotels and beauty parlors have joined in and already number about 40.

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