Join Joe Hall, our intrepid reporter, as he ventures into Cuba to uncover the burgeoning Bitcoin community in this fascinating video. Accompanied by local guide Paco de la India, Joe navigates through the intricacies of the Cuban economy and its history, including references to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Experience first-hand the challenges of travelling in Cuba as Joe recounts his journey through the country's security checkpoints and old airports, highlighting the stark contrast between the lack of modern amenities like seatbelts and the growing interest in digital currencies like Bitcoin.
Discover the unique ways Cubans are adopting Bitcoin to combat hyperinflation, navigate their centrally planned economy, and deal with their devalued peso. Joe shares his personal experience of trading Bitcoin for Cuban pesos and the increasing interest among locals in this digital currency.
Gain insights into the Cuban economy where the average salary barely covers living expenses and how Bitcoin is seen as a potential solution. Learn about the government-controlled industries, the network of state-run stores, and the impact of price controls on the market.
Explore the recent changes in Cuban laws allowing the creation of small and medium-sized businesses and how Cuban-American entrepreneurs like Julian are navigating this landscape. Experience the challenges of operating a business in Cuba, from sourcing hard-to-find items to dealing with red tape and bureaucracy.
Delve into the world of peer-to-peer Bitcoin trading in Cuba, where traditional exchanges are non-existent due to embargoes. Watch a live demonstration of a transaction via the Lightning Network on Telegram and learn about the increasing acceptance of Bitcoin by private businesses in Cuba.
Hear about the rapid changes happening in Cuba, from the rising availability of cars through Uber and La Nave to the growing interest in Bitcoin. Attend a Bitcoin meetup where Cubans from all walks of life share their optimism about this digital currency.
Witness the challenges, risks, and rewards of organizing a Bitcoin event in Cuba, and join Joe and the organizers as they celebrate their success in a classic red Cadillac. Despite the risk of internet cutoffs, the video ends on an optimistic note about the future of Bitcoin in Cuba.
Join us on this journey of discovery and hope as we explore the potential of Bitcoin to transform the Cuban economy. This is not just a story about Bitcoin; it's a story about resilience, innovation, and the indomitable spirit of the Cuban people.
When was the last time you had fish? I don't remember. You don't remember? I don't know. And when was the last time you had lobster? Never. Never? You've never had. . . There's lobster everywhere. It's not for Cubans. It's not for Cubans. It's for tourists. Yes, for tourists. Rampant inflation, communism and a struggling economy. A dystopian combination for such a picturesque location. I'm in Cuba, a Caribbean island known for its cigars, rum, music and fun. As well as getting stuck in huge crowds. conflicts between international superpowers. It's also the most fertile ground for Bitcoin adoption that I've ever seen. My name's Joe Hall, and I'm a reporter for Cointelegraph. Joining me on this trip is gonna be this guy, Paco de la India.
We flew to Cuba to investigate the growing Bitcoin community I'd read about in the book, Check Your Financial Privilege by Alex Gladstein, the CSO of the Human Rights Foundation. Plus, I wanted to attend Cuba's first ever Bitcoin meetup. But before we get there, there's one thing I wanna share with you. I'm not a Bitcoin expert, but I've been in the Bitcoin community for a long time, and I've seen a lot of people who are very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, One more thing Cuba is famous for, nuclear Armageddon. Yeah, you heard that right. The Cuban Missile Crisis occurred in 1962 during the Cold War, just one year after Cuba became a communist country. Thankfully, that crisis was averted, otherwise we wouldn't be here, but the communist state of Cuba endured.
Even today, the Cuban economy is centrally planned, which means it's run by the government. This is Cuba. Let's go on a Bitcoin adventure. The airport is so old man. No, it's all red. It's like Marxism. They stopped me man. Dude, I was so scared. They stopped me for like 15, 20 minutes. Every checkpoint, he got stops. I sailed through. Paco went into a separate line, was quizzed by other people. What were they saying to you? He's like, what do you do here? Why are you here? And I'm like, I make videos. He's like, on what? I'm like, Bitcoin. He's like, so you give advice on Bitcoin? I'm like, no, I make travel videos. And then he was like. . . Show me. I'm like, here, I don't have internet. He's like, even I don't have internet.
True story, they didn't have internet. Welcome to the beach, please. How old are you, Parker? Like 30-something? I am 33. 33, okay. Yeah, so this cold is older than us, and yet he has a garment at the same time. And there's a lovely fake apple sticker just there. Parker, have you got your seatbelt on? No, there's no seatbelt. They didn't think about safety back then. There's no seatbelts. There's no bloody seatbelts. Do you like a seatbelt? There was no danger in the 50s. Wow. Life is better. Do you know Bitcoin? I've been here for a long time. Just linked up with two of these louder voices in the Bitcoin community. We're going to go for dinner with them at a place that accepts Bitcoin.
It's called El Cuarto de Tula. Mi amiga aquí, que no quiere revelar su identidad, me muestra cómo comprar bitcoins y aparecer con Telegram Group Fruits. Aquí hay. Comprando Sats, 50 a 500 MLC, vendiendo. ¿Comprar? Sí. Comprar. Él dijo una moneda, CUP. Así que cuban pesos. Voy al bol. Ahora está haciendo el transfer de cuban pesos. So that's how you buy Bitcoin peer to peer in Cuba. Telegram groups, over lightning, almost zero fee, or basically zero fee, pretty quick and you just post it and share it on Telegram. So the government doesn't know that they're sending Cuban pesos to each other for the purchase of Satoshi. It's f*****g wild. It's so cool to see. Bloomium.
away how much people are putting into Bitcoin here, how much they're educating themselves, how much they're realizing they need it. And one of the girls we're talking to, she's putting pennies into Bitcoin. She knows in 10 years time, 20 years time, 30 years time, Bitcoin will still be there while the Cuban peso might not be. You know, using all these digital tools to find a way to build for her own future. How phenomenal is that? So she says the group. . . are growing. There are more and more people interested in this technology. The other thing is they don't care about bull runs.
They don't care about bull runs in bear markets because when the peso is so bad, you know, Bitcoin can crash from its highs of 69,000 to 4,000 and it's still doing better than the Cuban peso does over time. I've never seen a use case as strong as Cuba for Bitcoin adoption. It's just absolutely wild. So this morning we've come to Mr. Navi's to sell a little bit of Bitcoin for some Cuban pesos to have some cash in hand. However, he's told us that it could take some time because we have to count out a lot of paper money. Yeah, you'd give wads of cash for like really small items. It's such an inconvenience, such an inconvenience.
I guess that's what happens when your currency is hyperinflated. And that's 1000, that 1000 is equal to $5. That is 20 million. So Venti meal, how much is that in dollars? A hundred bucks. A hundred bucks, and it looks like that? Yeah. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. 300. This is only $400, and look at all this paper. So it reads the invoice, and I press send. I say, yeah, sure. Yeah, you got it. So fast. Yeah, yeah. I really love Bitcoin. This is something incredible. $400 is the monthly salary of three or four professionals. Doctor, engineer, atomic engineer can make $100 a month. Oh my God, and that's what it looks like just down there. The minimum salary is $12. So the minimum salary is $12 per month.
And the average salary is about 4,000 Cuban pesos, which is roughly $23 per month. That is frightening. As my friend Katria explained, the average salary for a Cuban is peanuts. I have literally no idea how Cubans live off this amount of money. A study by Columbia Law School concluded that, despite the direct and indirect government subsidies, the cost of living in Cuba is completely disproportionate to workers' earned income. According to the study, a Cuban's average salary covers just 12. 5% of their living expenses. But as Catria explains, Cuban salaries are lower still, and they cover something in the order of 3 to 8% of projected living expenses.
I'm going to try to explain to you what is going on with the money here. You're familiar with an American dollar, okay? So two years ago, one of those was worth 25 Cuban pesos. Because the currency is devalued so much, nowadays, supposedly, it's worth 120 pesos. But the official rate and the rate that we pay is actually 200 pesos. going 200 pesos. So we've gone from $1 being worth 25 pesos to 200 pesos. in just two years, is devalued eight times. Four months later, and the peso has crashed even further. $1 is now worth 250 pesos, or 10 times less. I'm in danger.
Yo les dije que vendieran, o sea, que cambiaran una parte de sus pesos cubanos hacia Bitcoin o aunque sea hacia dólar y no lo hicieron. Y al final se devaluó tanto la moneda que con todos los ahorros de toda su vida ellos no pudieron comprarse ya nada. Probablemente ni una bicicleta. Con los ahorros de 20 o 30 años trabajando. ¿Para qué yo voy a ahorrar en un dinero que cada vez pierdo y pierdo y pierdo más poder? Estoy aquí con Vitalio, el otro cofundador. de la comunidad cubana de Bitcoin. Vitalio estaba diciendo una frase interesante antes sobre cómo Bitcoin podría ser la salida o el salto. Sin Bitcoin, nosotros estamos encerrados aquí.
Pero ya el Bitcoin, al ser un dinero que es universal, un dinero que no conoce una frontera, es ese salide, ese escape que puede ayudarnos. A la familia cubana le ayudaría mucho. majority of the means of industrial production, agriculture, energy, manufacturing, telecoms, banking, telecommunications, you name the industry it's likely they control it. Price controlled goods can be bought in these places called tiendas or shops. a network of government-run stores. However, in these government-run stores, they accept the MLC. Whereas if you have pesos, you can expect queues and worse quality products. To find out more about the MLC, which sounded a lot like a CBDC or a central bank digital currency, I reached out to Eric Garcia Cruz, the founder of CubaPay and Bitremesas.
He has been a little critical of the regime of late and is now on Cuban humanitarian parole in the US. es el NLC. En español es moneda libremente convertible. Es una moneda de mierda que está llena de dólares. Como Luna. Suena a USD. De Luna, sí. Me das tu dólar y te doy una moneda de mierda. and you can use that icon only in the stores to buy food. collecting or stacking or saving USD? There is a reason for that, because the government, the only way they have to trade with some country is using fiat physically, you know, using the dollar bills and not using a digital transaction like any other country could do.
Cubans are also given a predetermined amount of subsidized food on a monthly basis. There are often shortages for Cubans of basic food stuff that you probably ate today. When was the last time you had fish? I don't remember. You don't remember? Oh no. And when was the last time you had lobster? Never. Never? You've never had, there's lobster everywhere. It's not for Cuban. It's not for Cubans. It's for tourists. Yeah, true. For tourists. At any point in Cuba, you're always 30 miles or 50 miles, I think, from the coastline. And yet this is the first time my friend is eating lobster. How cool is that? But also, how sad is that? It's supposed to include things like chicken, eggs, and milk.
But if you ask my friends here, some eggs. Well, luckily my family sends me eggs. And a glass of milk? A while ago. A while ago? Yes. How long ago, more or less? I don't know how to tell you, but a while ago. Just think about how easy it is to get a glass of milk in whichever country you're in right now. While these price controls help maintain affordability for essential goods, they also create distortions in the market, leading to shortages, black market activity and disincentives for production and investment. Meet Julian, my new Cuban-American friend who's one of the lucky few able to set up a business in Cuba.
Following a series of protests in August 2021, the communist government of Cuba relaxed laws allowing the creation of small and medium-sized businesses. While it might seem like a step forward for Cuba, there was also a lot of red tape and bureaucracy standing in the way of creating a business. But for my mate Julian, it was a bit easier, thanks to being born in the US to Cuban parents. So Julian and his dad run a tourism business as well as Mr. Navi's, a bar and restaurant that sells goods it's hard to get your hands on in Cuba, like consumer electronics and even sex toys. $1 is 200 pesos. Yeah. $1 is 200 pesos. That is $0. 25. Yeah. Miami people, South Beach.
Yeah, right? What were you doing to us? I paid $6 for a bottle of water. We make our own snacks as well, our own coffee, our own chocolate, our own powder for your milk. And why do you make it all yourselves? We make it because it's somewhat difficult in order to reach people. Like the Cuban people, you know, there's not like a supermarket here. In Cuba there is no Walmart, McDonald's or Big Chains and you can absolutely forget your Starbucks venti latte. And that's what we're trying to have here, we're trying to make a supermarket for the Cuban people. And that's what we don't charge in dollars, we charge in pesos so then the Cuban people could afford it. Ah, pesos or satoshis right? Or satoshis, yeah, yeah.
So this is five cigars, we have two Portuguese and three Romeo and Juliet Churchurchills. Awesome, thanks so much. It wouldn't be a Bitcoin documentary about Cuba without buying some Cuban cigars with Bitcoin. This is probably one of the coolest purchases I've ever made. Let's go. It's almost like being Cuban is risky. Why don't you use exchanges, crypto exchanges in Cuba? Many people put a limitation on you saying that because you're Cuban you can't enter. Binance, Coinbase, Muchísimo. Simplemente por ser cubano, tener un pasaporte cubano o una identificación cubana. En Cuba estamos bloqueados por el embargo económico, comercial y financiero.
A ver, estás bloqueado por IP, pero si llegas a entrar usando una VPN, si desconectas la VPN y ven que tu IP era cubana, te bloquean la cuenta, incluso si ya la fundiaste. Si nosotros elegimos estar en Bitcoin, ser soberanos con nuestro dinero, ¿para qué se lo vamos a dar a alguien para que nos lo custodie? Eso no es la solución. Bitcoin se creó para que cada cual fuera dueño de su dinero y cada cual decidiera qué hacer con él. Eso puede ser hasta una ventaja porque para usar muchos de estos servicios tienes que hacer un KIC. Sin embargo, en Cuba, como ya desde entrada, por default, estamos denegados, pues nunca podemos hacer KIC. Entonces eso es bueno para nosotros.
Por lo menos a nivel de privacidad, mejor que no tengan nuestros datos por ahí. No, es interesante, ¿verdad? Porque no puedes acceder a intercambios, tienes que usar Bitcoin y Lightning de forma peer-to-peer, lo que significa que aprendes a usarlo mejor, lo que significa que aprendes sobre custodia, custodia de tu propio, cómo usar Bitcoin peer-to-peer. Es un poco cool, de alguna manera. Hacer cubano es un riesgo y, mira, Satoshi no lo hizo para los cubanos, pero como que nos viene muy bien, Vicko. Literal. There are no exchanges in Cuba, as unfortunately it's very hard to register as a Cuban citizen due to the embargoes. However, Bitcoin finds a way with peer-to-peer transfers on telegram groups, signal groups and in-person meetups. Bitcoin always finds a way.
We're going to do a peer-to-peer trade using Telegram and the Lightning Network and Cataria is going to talk us through it because this is one of the things that she shows Cubans how to do. I'm going to create an offer and Cataria is going to buy it off me. Now you're going to do a slash and what you're going to do is sell. Sell. Create a sell order. It's going to ask me how many. Selling SATs for CUP. So how much can I sell right now? 20 pesos. 20 pesos? Let's do 20. 20 pesos. Entra en el método de pago. Tienes dinero. Tienes dinero. Te estoy vendiendo satoshis. Tu oferta ha sido publicada.
Eso se hizo automáticamente. Es genial. Yo voy al canal de ofertas. La tuya es esta última. Sí, eso soy yo. Es mi oferta. Bye, satoshis. Entonces, para poder enviarte, necesito que me envíes una factura con un monto y él te dice la cantidad exacta. 389 satoshis, equivalente a 20 pesos. Copié la factura. ¡Satoshis! ¡Satoshis! ¡Satoshis! Wow! So it's just come through on mine saying, hey somebody wants to buy you 389 sats for $20. No, 20 pesos. So I'm going to copy that. I'm going to open it in a wallet and then I'm going to send. So it's sending, sending, sending. It's already got there. Okay, I guess it's lightning, right? Oh, thank you. There you go. ya te lo envié, entonces cuando el vendedor confirme que recibió tu dinero deberás liberarlo.
I can tap on release, sending, your SATs have gone through. ¡Súper rápido! A growing number of private bars and restaurants in Cuba accept Bitcoin. We visited five of them in the capital, spending satoshis for mojitos, frijoles and Cuban sandwiches. I asked the owners why they choose to accept Bitcoin. Why do you accept Bitcoin? We started accepting it as another way to accept money with the problem that we have in Cuba, the economic problems that we have with a lot of different currencies. You are accepting Bitcoin because you are dealing with a private coin. el gobierno no tiene acceso a las transacciones, pero si lo haces, tienes la libertad de hacer lo que quieras con eso.
So I was speaking to my friend here and he talked to me about the law of Cuba. If you're a private organization and you accept crypto, you're on your own. There's no law that prohibits you from accepting crypto. What does that mean if you're on your own? That means the government doesn't interfere into it. That's the positive thing. For example, you are a foreigner and you come to Cuba and with Bitcoin, you don't need to bring cash. It's a lot safer. It's an opportunity to connect to the world and to have a currency that actually. . . means something to people in any part of the world. There is a big problem for all the businesses in Cuba.
And the problem is, how do you pay to your providers? You can't pay to your providers with CUP or MLC. So the suppliers you're talking about here are foreign suppliers, presumably in the US or Mexico. I am orange peeling those suppliers. I am very excited for Saturday, which is going to be. Cuba's first ever Bitcoin-only meetup on the island. And it's going to be a place where people like Katria and Forte come together to discuss how to use Bitcoin on a daily basis and how to avoid this financial apocalypse which is affecting Cubans all over the country. It's really heartening actually. It's cool to see.
Morning, we ordered a taxi today using Cuba's version of Uber, which is another sign that Cuba is opening up. La nave, and we are just going to go. . . It pretty much works like Uber, but with some slight Cuban differences. Yeah, like you can get this car also on Uber. Yeah, I mean, you can technically order one of these on la nave. But again, this didn't exist three years ago. It's wild how fast it's changing here. Un aplauso para nosotros, por favor. Un aplauso fuertísimo para usted. You walk into the meetup and there are just people sending people stats, people learning how to use the Telegram group, people generally sort of asking questions, being curious about Bitcoin. And it's men, women, children, elderly people, young people.
It's not like the Bitcoin meetups in countries in Europe, for example, where it tends to be a lot of white middle-aged men talking about the fall or the death of fiat currencies. It's a happy vibe and it's a good thing. yeah optimistic hopeful I'm just very fun really. I'm saving Bitcoin for my own retirement I'm self-administration of my retirement fund. But how old are you? I'm 24. And you're saving for your retirement at 24 with Bitcoin? Yeah I can't do it in Cuban pesos and USD dollar all that is kind of a cheat coin so I have to use Bitcoin. Wow. no es una representación de valor, es toda una ideología.
significa muchas cosas, entiendes? Es la descentralización, la libertad de que tú seas dueño de ti mismo y que puedas interactuar en el mundo con una libertad plena. Yo uso Bitcoin desde que en Cuba empezó a llegar más fácil la Internet a los móviles y lo uso para trader. Si se pudiera llegar a más personas, como lo estamos tratando de hacer con las comunidades, creo que las personas después que lo conocen no lo abandonan. Me ha permitido, digamos, ahora. . . utilizar servicios que no podía pagar y me ha ayudado con la inflación también. La reunión fue la culminación de meses de trabajo duro, estrés y ansiedad. Forte, Catria y Vitalion arriesgaron la escrutinía del gobierno cubano para organizar el evento.
Y ver una respuesta tan positiva de la comunidad local fue algo que se debía. Yo creo que después cuando entiendes realmente Bitcoin, como que elegir otra cosa es un poquito complicado. Me siento un poco. . . he estado cortado, super emocionado. Muchísimas gracias. Gracias. Estamos por entrar en un Cadillac rojo como un pequeño regalo para los organizadores de la comunidad bitcóin cubana. because I've never done it before. And you know, can't live in Cuba and not do this sort of thing. First time bro, first time for them. First time, first time. Let's go. Wow. While using Bitcoin might not be illegal, in Cuba, using a drone definitely is. No, guys.
nos encantó, pensamos que no iba a ir casi nadie, fue mucha gente y les gustó y prestaron atención muy emocionante, maravilloso, no pensamos que la gente hubiera tenido tanta aceptación y tanto interés por el bitcoin en Cuba y esperemos que se repita y lo van a repetir, no? hubo mucha gente que no tenía idea de que iba a ser así And people are really happy. They didn't just come there for food or drinks. They just came they were sat there to listen So congratulations to another Bitcoin meetup next month and to getting home safely. Remember don't start And thanks to Cointelegraph for this car.
Cheers! As I look back on a week spent in Cuba, I can't help but feel more optimistic and more joyous about the future of Bitcoin adoption in Cuba. There's one big thing standing in the way, and that's the risk of the government cutting off the internet. They could do that, and they actually did that last year. During the protests, they turned off the internet for over a week, leading to blackouts and inability to communicate and to connect online. Bitcoin is of course a digitally native currency. It lives on the internet, it's magic internet money. But even if it were to go offline, the Cubans that have already done it. stacked sats or saved in Bitcoin.
It would stay in their wallets until the internet comes online again or they find a new way to access their internet. So yeah, the genie is out the bottle here. Bitcoin is here and Bitcoin is like a mushroom, you know, you can leave it in the corner, you can throw shit at it and it'll still continue to grow. Turn the lights off, whatever, it'll still grow. And I've never seen a country like this in all the countries I've used Bitcoin in which is so fertile and so ready to take Bitcoin and run with it. It's lightning native, it's peer-to-peer, it's. . . easy to use and with a population that's educated higher than any other country I've seen in the world.
Everyone here, the taxi drivers to the waiters, they all have degrees in engineering. medicine, lawyers, you name it, they are far superior educated to anyone you meet in the US or Europe. There's a bright orange future for Cuba and people are grabbing it and they're seizing it with their hands. That fills me with hope, fills me with optimism and this has been a really moving experience for me but I know that there's now Bitcoin as a salida, a Bitcoin as a way to resolver or to solve the problems that people face on a daily basis. A hyperinflating currency, difficulties in transacting, difficulty in receiving remittance and difficulties in starting businesses.
Bitcoin resolves and fixes all of these things in a smart, easy to use and digitally native way. That is a message of hope for Cubans. That is a message for the Cuba of the future. This has been Joe Hall reporting for Cointelegraph. .