BeinCrypto spoke to Roman Martínez, founder and community leader at Bitcoin Beach in El Salvador. He discussed the recent bitcoin moves in the country and how the community is responding.
El Salvador has been making headlines ever since its president Nayib Bukele announced BTC would become legal tender.
Since then, the follow-through has been surprising. The Salvadorian government has been announcing its bitcoin purchases. In addition, Bukele seems set on becoming the first in the world ever to mine the cryptocurrency using energy from volcanoes.
However, one part of El Salvador had already been using BTC for purchases even before the Bitcoin Law was passed. Bitcoin Beach has been around since 2019. It began as a way to prove BTC’s use for daily transactions.
“We are happy that El Salvador adopts bitcoin as legal tender. It is for what we had fought these years ago since the Bitcoin Beach project began. It was a dream that is currently being fulfilled,” says Martínez.
The first month has already been relatively successful. The official wallet, Chivo Wallet, surpassed 500,000 users in the first week of its launch. Although this was incentivized through the $30 worth of BTC each new user gained when downloading for the first time.
It has since become the case study many refer to when discussing the cryptocurrency’s benefits.
Creating Bitcoin Beach
“[Bitcoin Beach was] born with the dream of a group of young people to be able to change their community, with the dream of seeing young people succeed and be professionals,” he says.
“The main reason for creating this project was to see a change in the community. A change that opens up new opportunities for us and that the entire community benefits from these new opportunities.”
The operation at Bitcoin Beach works successfully using the bitcoin layer two integration, the Lightning Network.
“In our community we made a total change in the economy, using bitcoin as each person’s day-to-day. It was well accepted. We all started using BTC to buy, a tomato, a soda, a pupusa. Thanks to these results, we believe El Salvador is ready for the use of bitcoin.”
Building on a solid foundation
For Martínez, the fact that this cryptocurrency was not completely unknown before the bill passed is important.
“We do not know an exact amount, but we do know that there were many BTC users in the country. Bitcoin was not an unknown topic in the country. Rather it was something that had been of much importance. Currently, there are many, many users of bitcoin nationwide,” he says.
The most recent statistics from the Chivo wallet put the downloads at 2.25 million users. This is accounts for roughly 35% of the population.
In addition to the uptake, Bitcoin Beach’s use of the Lightning Network is encouraging to Martínez, especially concerning the larger rollout across the country.
“The lightning network has the capacity and sufficient characteristics to implement it at the national level. The lightning network is the network that the whole country should use since it is a network in which direct transactions can be carried out and in a safe way.”
Change is not without backlash
However, the arrival of bitcoin as legal tender has not come without its share of criticism. On an international scale, institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expressed disapproval.
On the ground in El Salvador, several protests preceded the official inauguration of this legal tender. These protests focused on concerns that the introduction of cryptocurrency would bring instability to the economy.
Bitcoin for longevity
Despite the negative responses, Martínez believes in the longevity of BTC in the country.
“There is a possibility that another government could make changes to the Bitcoin Law, but for the moment, we are working so that bitcoin is firmly established and immovable,” he says.
As a result of this aim to establish BTC firmly in the country, he sees it as a draw for the cryptocurrency community.
“We believe that yes, El Salvador has the potential for the crypto industry to come, investors to come, and together we raise not only the economy but also the entire country,” he says.
“We believe that El Salvador will benefit positively since bitcoin is not only another currency but also financial freedom. It is a new economy, it is a new method of moving the country forward.”