El Salvador could be the catalyst for the most audacious economic experiment since Bretton Woods. On September 7th 2021, they became the first country in the world to make the nascent digital currency, Bitcoin, legal tender. If other countries follow, it could lead to a new international monetary system. How did this come to pass? And what does it mean for Salvadorians?
A beach and a palace bookend Bitcoin’s story in El Salvador, and my film starts in the coastal resort of El Zonte, aka Bitcoin Beach, where I visit Michael Peterson, a US charity worker who developed this unique Bitcoin community. Most Salvadorians in El Zonte are unbanked, yet, with Bitcoin Beach, they were introduced to this new financial system.
I also sit with the President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, who, inspired by El Zonte, saw a chance to reset his country’s fortunes. He took the unprecedented step to align his country’s future with Bitcoin, taking on powerful interests at home and abroad.
The El Salvadorian people lie between these two men, ravaged by civil war, gang violence, and political corruption. Bukele has a bold vision for a new future, but his changes have bred distrust in some and hope in others. I travel to meet those protesting against Bitcoin and those who believe it can be a force for good.
On the day I published this video, El Salvador hosted 44 other emerging nations at a financial inclusion conference. What started as a small project in El Zonte may lead to Bitcoin becoming the standard for other countries worldwide.