Adopting Bitcoin 22 was a Bitcoin- and Lightning-focused conference in El Salvador that aims to provide educational resources to Bitcoin from around the world. Joe, Arun, Mark, and I traveled to El Salvador to represent STARBACKR. Although I only arrived there on the second day, I want to recap what I experienced.
El Salvador Is Far Away, But Worth A Travel
Traveling to El Salvador was not easy for me. Not only because it’s about 20 hours of traveling but also because the general public opinion of El Salvador is not too great. It is so bad that most of my family did not want me to go. I did some asking around and decided to go regardless.
And I didn’t regret it. Don’t get me wrong, 20 hours of travel was not great, but the country makes it up immediately. Shortly after arriving, I met J, a local who spent some time in the states and was able to answer a lot of my questions about the country, its citizens, and also Bitcoin adoption in El Salvador.
Bitcoin In El Salvador – Room To Grow
About 14 months ago, the president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, introduced a law that makes Bitcoin legal tender in El Salvador and therefore forces every merchant in the country to accept it. Back then, this news caused a mixed response from Bitcoiners because it is fantastic for a country to embrace Bitcoin, but forcing people to accept it is not in line with most Bitcoiners’ views.
A year later, a lot has changed. As it turned out, the law was never strongly enforced, so while many places accept Bitcoin, no one is forced to do so. While I like that a lot, it also caused some merchants that accepted Bitcoin last year not to do so any longer. While this is unfortunate, merchant adoption is still high enough to impress me. Immediately after touchdown, I purchased an espresso at the Airport using my Bitcoin Beach Wallet. So while not EVERYONE accepts Bitcoin, you will always find someone who does in the close vicinity, something that is not the case where I come from.
Chivo, the national wallet, sees some usage, especially their ATMs, are getting used a lot by the country’s citizens. There they can not only buy Bitcoin but also buy and withdraw USD directly from their wallet. For many, this is an essential feature because they can get their remittances from family abroad without paying ludicrous fees. While there, I rarely saw an ATM without people using it.
But there is still a long way to go. J told me that most people still do not know about Bitcoin. Especially in the countryside, there a people who still don’t know that it exists and who, therefore, still use Western Union. Some people have heard of “Bitcoin” before but don’t know what it is. Others believe that Bitcoin is controlled and minted by Bukele and are unaware of what it is. Needless to say, the people there are intelligent, passionate, and eager but lack access to education about Bitcoin. The Adopting Bitcoin conference is a great way to start, but we can not stop there!
But I realized that just coming there for the conference might not do the trick. We need more people that come to El Salvador and engage with the people living there to understand their perspective and their needs. We need more people translating resources into Spanish, and we need better access to these resources. We are used to being able to gather information with a quick Google search, but the same is not true for many people living in El Salvador.
Adopting Bitcoin 22 – An Adoption-Focussed Conference
The conference strives to bring Bitcoiners together while supporting Bitcoin adoption in the country. And man… They are doing an excellent job at that. Adopting Bitcoin 22 was an event packed to the brim with engaging panels and speeches of the most paramount people in this space. It was as the travel around the globe acts as a natural gate so that only people committed to the cause come there, without the conference feeling elitist at all. The result was a strong signal and no noise whatsoever. Everywhere in the conference center, little groups of Bitcoiners formed and discussed all sorts of things. If you do not come for the content, come for the people!
Unfortunately, my travel plan did not allow me to be there for the first day, but only being there for the second and third made it up entirely. This year’s conference had three stages: The Bitfinex Stage, the Galoy Stage, and the Solutions Stage. Additionally, to panels and talks, multiple workshops focussed on the more practical side of things. I don’t want this post to recap the panels and talks I saw, but let me tell you that those were great. You can watch recordings of all stages on the Adopting Bitcoin Youtube Channel.
Additionally, there was a small expo “hall” where Bitcoin and Lightning companies could showcase their businesses. STARBACKR had a booth there, and I was stunned by all the fantastic support we got there. Thank you so much for coming by and chatting with us about STARBACKR.
On the last day, instead of having more panels and talks, the conference team organized shuttles for every attendee to travel to El Zonte, the infamous Bitcoin Beach, and back. Getting to experience El Zonte was one of the main reasons I wanted to go to El Salvador in the first place, and it is worth the travel. Of course, the people there were expecting Bitcoiners to come to the conference, so I am sure that the experience is a little biased. Even if it’s 50% less remarkable for the rest of the years, it would still be an incredible experience.
What About Security?
While my family was worried about this a lot, I was not really because I trusted the conference team to ensure everyone’s safety. But I was still interested in the general safety levels in the country, so I again asked J about it. And what he said stuck with me. He told me that for the first time in many years, he finally feels hope again, while four years ago, he would have given everything to get his family out of the country. So, according to him, security in the country has improved dramatically, and I believe him. While there, I saw nothing that would make me question what J told me. Of course, that does not mean one shouldn’t be careful when traveling to El Salvador. I am sure that you should keep your guard up whenever you travel to an unknown country, and like there are places you should not freely roam around at night in every big city, the same is true for San Salvador. But during my stay, I never felt uncomfortable or unsafe.
Concluding – Would I come back to Adopting Bitcoin & El Salvador?
If you read to this point, you probably know I had a fantastic time there. I always understood how vital Bitcoin would be for this world, but getting to experience what “financial privilege” means firsthand solidified my beliefs further. Of course, I would return to El Salvador, and if everything goes as planned, I will soon! And you should too!