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El Zonte

Being more Camry than Lexus meant my passage to the beach was of the $1.50 chicken bus variety rather than the $50 cab ride. As with many things Central America, the ride provided only 95% of the passage, leaving me half way between nowhere and the next place wondering just how incomplete the journey actually was. Ousted from the fancier (had air-conditioning which almost worked) city bus at the edge of what could loosely be described as a tiny village, it was time to enjoy the genuine local experience. Generally a chicken bus does not have chickens on it, however one is sandwiched in like battery hens so tight that aircon will not penetrate below the ears anyway. Recent additions to the bus have to struggle for a spot in the entry steps area in the hope of progressing higher on to the main aisle as passengers squeeze out the gate at subsequent stops.. Managing my backpack while feigning casual concern for its contents in a land recently famed for its bloodlust just wasn't working. Locals would've spotted the insecure unease from the back seat wondering why I wouldn't surrender my cargo to the overhead storage. Thanks to a friendly old gent who'd also earlier told me which bus to catch, then mentioned El Zonte was coming up. I was able to squeeze off again without doing too much rubbing up the wrong noses.

Then there I was! Bitcoin Beach, or El Zonte as it was known last time I visited a decade ago. The roads were a bit flasher, some new buildings had popped up, but like most sleepy villages is not rushing into upgrades at any notable pace. It still has the feel of being an intrusion upon the native jungle, a casual gentle encroachment rather than sympathetic or deliberate planning. Same narrow streets demanding patience and submission by road users if they expect their turn at getting through. Same unrelenting warmth to the air, barely comfortable in the shade rising to wtf in direct light. Same population, a blend of bronzed surfers and hippies scattered among cherry locals walking the dusty paths. Same blend thatch-roofed timber structures hoping a hurricane won't mess with their hairdo and concrete structures preying earthquake epicenters are distant, all occasionally flanked by suspiciously foul trickles that tickle ya snorer without permission. This same El Zonte however has an adolescents Bitcoin Beach glint in it's eye.

So, just how bitcoin friendly is Bitcoin Beach? ...Fully. Hoorayyy, finally! Everyone accepts bitcoin here so once more I can convince myself I'm on the threshold of a digital revolution. Restaurants, hotels, stores, even the hole-in-the-wall burger joint give it a thumbs up. The pictured 'Bitcoin Hardware Store' just may be the littlest hardware store on the planet, which is perfect for it serves as a fine metaphor for the 'shrinking to zero cost' nature of technology. This hardware is digital, all things bitcoin related, pocket size or less other than a few tee shirts, and whats more the store doubles as a welcoming totem to the village.

First night here and straight into a bitcoin meetup. A fresh rinse of culties to bed in with and a chance to take the pulse of El Zonte. Present were an eclectic bunch to be sure, all stripes gathering to exalt the looming revolution while soaking in a fine layer of sweat. Pumping warm orange air up each others arses is par for the course with my culties. Its surprising how many angles it can be thrust at you from and the enthusiasm with which it is delivered, bit like a gang bang for geeks without the physical exertion or messy fluid transfer. And its on the reg, these things are scheduled to run at least every week, more if prepared to travel a little bit.

Heaven ;)

Fluffer metaphors aside, this place has an incredibly positive energy about it. The surfers are there for one thing, and in the nicest possible way give no fux about other worldly things, they just wanna surf, dude. The bitcoiners are eyes wired-open looking to explore orange opportunities, and the locals are still adjusting to menace free streets.

One question many want answered is just how much has the country changed under the tenure of President Bukele? Generally the answer is overwhelmingly 'mucho', accompanied by lashings of praise and a few 'you just won't understand how bad it was's. Bitcoin is only a fraction of the country's upswing in fortune, (...for now) the real change has come from the top.

Bukele knew he must curb the problem at a political level, so chopping the backhanding between wealthy gangsters and sympathetic politicians was critical. His first move was to charge dodgey cabinet ministers and have them slung into jail. With that the gangsters looked to bring the country low by attacking it on a social level, taking out bus drivers, or even busloads of people. Naturally bus drivers thought it better to call in sick, so the country became paralyzed from a transportation perspective. Next move, Bukele. He called a state of emergency, instructed the armed forces to link with police, then grab any gangbanger they could find. They swept through the country town by town, hauling in any dipshit dumb enough to have a tattoo visually displayed. I'll wage this coup on crapheads has been the most decisive governmental move since Nixon was found with his hand in the crookie jar. The planet would be hard pressed to find so precipitous a reversal of fortune and its not likely to be repeated elsewhere anytime soon, unlike US politics where the deception beds in one senator deeper n two laws cronier with each corruption scandal. The bilges of DC are filling with an evolved genus of political parasite which modern science is struggling to categorize, while El Salvador is about to burst forth in bloom.

Then there is the story of the lad at my hotel - who has the hole through his chest to prove it. Only 15mths ago he was accosted in the street of a neighborhood not his own, at gunpoint, and told to hand over everything he had. The amount he had to give was zero, but that wasn't gonna fly. The gangsta pulled the trigger, twice, each time the weapon failing to discharge. After a giving it a knock, the third attempt worked sending our guy tumbling over backward. Lying on the ground Fernando struggled for his senses, then in those eternal moments worked out he could still feel his legs. Whilst the trainee gangsta battled with his pistol, itchy to deliver the kill shot, our guy sensed he had it in him to leg it, n that's what he did, leaving el gangstarito to cope with a dim sense of failure. The one bullet passed right thru our guy who is left with the scars in and out as per photos.

This story is typical. He lost a brother, and a nephew to gang violence, and has other rellies who have been shot but survived. Every local you talk to will tell you of family members who have been taken out. This is a society which was victim to violence on any street, at any moment, and was held hostage to the pillaging demands of homicidal psychopaths with guns. It is rather humbling being among this upswing, particularly as a soft nested kiwi infused with western decay.

That's it for now. (...or then really, I know it's been a few weeks since) Next stop Berlin, de El Salvador that is, the other bitcoin friendly village, hangin off the side of a Volcano.

Blessed B, Bitcoin ;)

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