« Bitcoin Nation » - El Salvador
Many photographers and journalists of my generation, interested in war and conflict, would at one point read Richard Kapusciznsky's all-time classic "The Soccer War" and watch Oliver Stone's "Salvador”. » The latter now feels insanely cheesy. With the country's troubled history in mind and never having been to Central America, I found "Bitcoin Nation - El Salvador" a challenging theme to explore for this NFT project.
I set out to straightforwardly document this alien and invisible world of bitcoin, and being 'in the realm of crypto,' I hoped it would give me access to President Nayib Bukele's surprise project. Last year he had suddenly declared Bitcoin the official currency of El Salvador - which until now was only the US dollar. The 40-year-old president of Palestinian origin started out as an anti-establishment candidate, describing himself as "the world's coolest dictator," but soon took an authoritarian turn. Yet he continues drumming the bitcoin beat, and bitcoin celebrities from all around the world keep flocking to El Salvador. The Pacific beach town of El Zonte became "Bitcoin Beach," and "Volcano Bonds" and "Bitcoin City" are meant to be the future.
When official doors remained closed for me, I started digging for clues in the county's troubled past and present or anything, even remotely related to the bitcoin world. Vignettes of the bloody civil war regularly popped up, and I came across a few "bitcoin events." The sudden spike of almost a hundred homicides in the course of one weekend in late March, due to what seemed a breakdown of a secret deal between the government and the two main gangs, had President Bukele declare a state of emergency, martial law and intensify the war on the gangs. I could see fringes of it. But nothing compared to the brutality of the spectacularly filmed daily government propaganda videos of mass arrests and more-than-rough prisoner handlings I watched on TV, Twitter, and Instagram.
It was at a small bitcoin event that I found a hint why I may have been shunned and didn't get any access to show the "shiny world of Bitcoin Nation," as I had hoped. My NFT ticket was definitely the "wrong church" in the Bitcoin world. To paraphrase one of the speakers: "If I want to gamble, I go to Vegas and party with beautiful hookers, instead of being a loser, sitting around in my basement, frustrated, minting NFTs. Shitcoins.
"El Salvador and the President were meant to be guests of honor at the Bitcoin 2022 conference in Miami. But due to the internal tension, he canceled the visit, and the 30+ thousand delegates had to discuss the future of bitcoin without him."
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