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Washington D.C. with Ambassador Mayorga of El Salvador, Madam. After my visit in June, I was invited on a follow-up visit to El Salvador in August. My wife Lola and I ventured out and spent five days exploring the country and new business opportunities. The overview of that journey is as follows.




Close By

El Salvador is much closer to the US than most people probably realize. Since we live in South Florida, we were able to take a direct flight from Miami to San Salvador in about 3 hours. The government was generous to us. We were taken directly from the plane to a special reception area, our immigration paperwork was processed, and our bags were collected for us. I have to admit that the service level was superb and the treatment we received during our visit was an understatement. The people of El Salvador are proud of their hospitality.








modern and safe

In my professional career spanning 35 years, I have spent a great deal of time traveling internationally, and much of it in developing countries. I have seen some appalling conditions and heart-wrenching abject poverty. Media coverage of El Salvador has focused on things like El Salvadoran refugees on the US southern border looking for a better future, MS-13 gangs terrorizing the population, the scars of the 80's and 90's civil war. I can't say that these things aren't at least partially true, but I can say that we didn't see any evidence of them in the San Salvador metro area. Lola and I also did our own trips to some neighboring provincial areas, and we didn't see any evidence of these things there either.


There is definitely some poverty in El Salvador. Many people struggling to get in and out of San Salvador's major streets are selling fruit, nuts and treats by the side of the road. One percent of the population is living in shack-type dwellings in some districts. But, the infrastructure of the country is more developed than I expected and a lot of construction work is going on. Cell service is widely available, though most often 3G. Internet is prevalent, fast and fast. San Salvador is very clean and waste management is going well. The traffic flows well and the vehicles on the road are in good condition and safe.


A very pleasant surprise was that San Salvador had a very advanced network of restaurants, bars and shops. This was not only in one highly rated district of San Salvador but throughout the metro area. Businesses were running well and were very diverse. Prices were reasonable (similar to US) but a little more expensive than I expected.


I spent a lot of time in Taiwan in the 90s. During that decade, the country transformed itself from a developing country to a developed country. El Salvador thinks Taiwan was in the midst of that change. El Salvador is a country on the climb. People feel it too. Although they may not have everything that the people of the first world countries have, they are not angry about what they do not have; They just look to the future.


Pennies

In 2000 the US introduced the Sacagawea dollar coinage in an attempt to increase the use of the coin in commercial ventures. By the end of the decade, it had flopped, and it had vanished into obscurity. Well, if you've ever wondered where all those dollar coins went, El Salvador is the answer.


The first time I went to the U.S. Bought something using dollars and I received change, so I had to look twice at what I got. I mention this because the truth is, as things sit, El Salvador is a very heavy US dollar economy. Prices were displayed exclusively in dollars in all areas we looked at. Very few commercial establishments even advertise that they accept bitcoin. Of course, I was a little disappointed by this, but there is good news.






Bitcoin Beach, while quite small, is very real. Shops and street vendors are well versed and comfortable with bitcoin. You can buy soda, ice cream, artisan soap, T-shirts, coffee and jewelry with bitcoin or dollars. Sellers don't care which one you use and if you choose bitcoin, they are comfortable with the way they transact. If it can happen here, it can happen in San Salvador, and if it can happen in San Salvador it can happen anywhere in the world.


Outside of Bitcoin Beach, El Salvadorans are largely enthusiastic about bitcoin, although their knowledge level is low and this causes panic. This is completely understandable because bitcoin just didn't mean anything to most people ten weeks ago. But their desire to learn about it is strong and there is a realization that it marks a major turning point in El Salvador's future. As we traveled across the country and people learned that we run businesses in the bitcoin mining space, they questioned us; Saul and Romeo our drivers, George the Boutique Hotel owner, Mario from Reptile Farms, Benjamin the Attorney, Napo from the T-Shirt Factory and many more were sponges on any knowledge we could impart.


But the most interesting and exciting part of the whole trip happened when we were invited to a small gathering at a new friend's house on our last day in El Salvador. There were many children there in their early teens. Just as they were about to go out for a boat ride, a member of the group named Sarah approached me and asked me if bitcoin was a good thing for El Salvador. Not wanting to give him a lengthy answer involving Austrian economics, geopolitics and the importance of hard money, I told him "Yeah, it was great for El Salvador and he should be excited and bold and proud." Should be. His country was taking courageous steps." I thought it would come to an end and she wanted to move on with the boat ride. Well, it turns out I underestimated Sarah a lot. Within minutes, not only Sarah, but an entire cast of El Salvador youths were grooving to me on bitcoin. The boat ride was put on hold, and we spent the next hour delving deeper into inflation, monetary policy, global reserve currencies, separating government from money, and the mechanics of bitcoin.

These kids are smart, they're inspired, and they'll make a difference in the world. They are not infected by preconceived establishment rhetoric, and they will not accept anything without fully challenging it.


The country is led by President Naeem Bukele, who is forward-looking and action-oriented. I met with several members of his administration, including members of the bitcoin implementation team. I can tell you that President Bukele hasn't surrounded himself with a bunch of bureaucrats, but has assembled a young, aggressive and innovative team. They act more like a company preparing for an IPO than a government. Contrary to the quality of the El Salvador team and their ability to execute with the fuss in the US Senate over the cryptocurrency portion of the infrastructure bill, I can't help but shake my head. While El Salvador is teeming with a monetary revolution, the U.S. The cryptocurrency can't even settle on certain sentences of the law as the 87-year-old senator could block the will of 99 other senators in his sixth term.


As Lola and I reflect on our journey now, we have a deep realization that we are standing at ground zero of a revolution. Certainly, the leadership of President Bukele and the technology of Jack Mallers have played a big part in El Salvador's bitcoin movement, but the true energy to see it coming will come from the public and young people who see the way to a better tomorrow. They are on the ship and they will do that.

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