BTC-only meetup held by Cuban Bitcoin community

The Cuba Bitcoin group organized a meetup at the Pazillo, a Bitcoin-friendly bar and restaurant. The group consists of Bitcoin enthusiasts and activists who previously only communicated through anonymous social media accounts on Telegram. The meetup was a way for them to bring their discussions into the real world.

Cuba’s interest in Bitcoin represents a shift away from the centralized economic model that has shaped the country’s progress for decades. Despite limited internet access, financial constraints, and a socialist government, Cubans are increasingly turning to cryptocurrency as a means of financial freedom and a way to exit the local economy.

The co-founder of Cuba Bitcoin, who goes by the pseudonym Forte11, stated that the mission of the meetup was to educate Cubans about the potential of Bitcoin in Cuba, rather than to convince them to adopt it. The group welcomed a diverse range of attendees, including small business owners, software developers, teenage students, grandmothers, and Bitcoin vlogger Paco de la India, who delivered a talk on Bitcoin adoption around the world.

Although Cuba is technically a centrally-planned economy, the state recently relaxed laws on private business ownership. This presents a target market for Bitcoin merchant adoption, especially as recent regulations passed in Cuba have made it legal to accept cryptocurrencies for goods and services.

To demonstrate this, the group sold Cuba Bitcoin t-shirts for 1,000 Satoshis ($0.30) so attendees could learn about the layer-2 lightning network. The T-shirts sold out quickly.

However, the main topic of discussion at the meetup was how to obtain Bitcoin in a country where mobile internet access is limited, and smartphones are not yet widely available. Due to the US trade embargo, popular exchanges like blockchain, Kraken, and Gemini are not available in Cuba. As a result, Cubans tend to buy Bitcoin through peer-to-peer exchange using Telegram trading groups.

During the meetup, Bitcoin Cuba co-founder “C” gave a talk on how to buy Bitcoin through peer-to-peer exchanges on Telegram. Cubans can exchange Cuban pesos or the Cuban MLC, a “dollar-backed” government-owned stablecoin, for Bitcoin using a lightning-enabled tipping bot chat on Telegram. Mobile transfers can also be used, as more Cubans gain access to government-run banking services. Most trades in the Telegram groups range from $0.20 to $50, as the average Cuban owns just $40 a month.

Related: ‘The Bitcoin Standard’ author becomes economic adviser to El Salvador

Erich Garcia Cruz, a well-known Cuban cryptocurrency enthusiast, also attended the meetup. He emphasized the potential of Bitcoin to enable financial freedom, stating that teaching businesses to use Bitcoin as a payment method could pave the way for greater adoption in Cuba. More than 10 businesses in Havana already accept Bitcoin for goods and services.

The success of the first Cuba Bitcoin meetup has inspired the community to plan regular future meetups and events. This interview is part of an upcoming YouTube documentary about Bitcoin adoption in Cuba. Subscribe here.

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