Surprise, surprise. The Chivo Wallet is the antagonist of another “From The Ground” report. We’ve covered the El Salvador story from the Dutch, Salvadoran, French, and North American perspectives. It’s time for Italy to step up to the plate. The Bitcoin Italia Podcast pilgrimaged to San Salvador with a clear mission: to spend a month and a half without even touching a dollar bill. To pay for everything with sats.
If you are a “From The Ground” aficionado, you already know who the bad guy of the story is. You guessed it, the Chivo Wallet. Always in their way, sabotaging the whole operation. If Salvadorans only knew how well the Lightning Network works with literally any other wallet, including the Bitcoin Beach one.
Before the adventure begins, there’s something to be said about the Italian prose. These blog posts are a pleasure to read. The language is lush and extravagant, the sentences are full of color and aromas. If you like this “From The Ground” report, we highly recommend that you read all of the linked articles in their entirety.
The Bitcoin Italia Podcast States Their Mission
We already summarized it, but in the El Salvador series’ introductory post, the people behind the podcast state their objectives in a beautiful way.
“The goal is to visit it all, getting out of the big cities and tourist routes, meeting the people, living even in rural and non-civilized contexts, to understand how much this technology is really penetrating the territory and whether the population has really grasped its deep meaning. Are they experiencing it as an opportunity or is it simply another form of money to survive on?”
If you’re a “From The Ground” reader, you already know. Most commerces don’t accept Bitcoin yet. The educational campaigns the government offered were just promises. And the typical Salvadoran is as clueless about Bitcoin as the typical citizen from any other country. Still, it will be interesting watching this unfold through Italian eyes. After that, they pose a deeper question.
“Are the continuous announcements of President Nayib Bukele, the Bitcoin City, the Bitcoin Bond, just sophisticated political propaganda techniques or do they correspond to a precise project that is really taking shape?”
That remains to be seen. And, maybe, the Bitcoin Italia Podcast people are the ones to find out exactly what’s going on with President Bukele. And the infamous Chivo Wallet.
Arrival And Chivo Wallet’s First Appearance
Traveling in pandemic times proves to be a nightmare. The tale of what these people had to live through while in transit in the United States is chilling, but it’s not “From The Ground” material. This series is about El Salvador and Bitcoin. And it starts in San Salvador’s airport, looking for a cab with Lightning capabilities.
“On the way out we are mobbed by taxi drivers, our question is simple: we can only pay with cryptocurrency. A crowd is created in front of us. Faces a bit puzzled at first. Then a burly taxi driver approaches us and with a big smile shows us his smartphone. He has two different wallets installed, Chivo and Bitcoin Beach. The forty-minute drive to San Salvador and our hotel is beautiful. Tropical climate, palm trees as far as the eye can see, Latin American music and a lot of tiredness.
Tomorrow the adventure begins.”
Let’s get right to it, shall we?
The Chivo Wallet Is The Problem
On Bitcoin Italia Podcast’s second day in San Salvador, their objective is clear. “Find food, adapters for local power outlets, and purchase SIM cards for our devices. Paying in bitcoin, of course.” They quickly find an electronics store willing to take their sats, but you already know what’s coming. Before the Chivo Wallet makes its ugly entrance, the Italians throw this gem out:
“Throwing oneself into the many street markets, in fact, the glimpse is unequivocal: this is a society founded on cash. Everywhere merchants and customers walk around with wads of crumpled banknotes in their hands. It is the kingdom of the dollar where we are playing this game.”
But then, it’s time for the truth to come out:
“At the time of payment the two young people show us the interface of the Chivo wallet and here the headaches begin. The app is not very understandable and they can only generate a bitcoin QR, so we have to pay on the base layer without being able to take advantage of the speed of the Lightning Network. Not too bad. We sit outside the store looking around while we wait for the on-chain confirmations to arrive.”
Later, at a restaurant, they have to confront THE OTHER problem with the Chivo Wallet. Even when they generate a Lightning QR code, this happens:
“At the time of payment, we have to explain to the owner how to generate a Lightning receipt. It is hidden in the menu of the app. Hard to find. Convinced that we’ve finally made it, we realize that the transaction starts from our wallet but doesn’t reach Chivo.”
Once again, they have to pay with an on-chain transaction.
BTC price chart for 12/24/2021 on Bittrex | Source: BTC/USD on TradingView.com
What Does A Real Salvadoran Entrepreneur Think About Bitcoin?
While they’re waiting for the necessary on-chain confirmations, they talk to the restaurant’s owner “about Bitcoin and Salvadoran politics.” First, they talk about the Chivo Wallet:
“We discover that their use of the Chivo wallet is entirely similar to how we use PayPal. It offers a free electronic payment option and sending money from Chivo to Chivo is always instant. There are few tourists and he had never received payments from other wallets. He mainly uses it to exchange dollars with friends and clients.”
Then, they talk about Bitcoin and the Italians discover the hard truth:
“He’s not really clear on what Bitcoin is and absolutely doesn’t understand the difference between an on-chain transaction and a Lightning transaction. The app doesn’t help, the GUI seems to give more prominence to USD payments, almost as if Bitcoin is an accessory.”
The app in question, of course, is the Chivo Wallet. Finally, they talk about Bitcoin education:
“He is interested in the technology, he says he wants to learn more, but points out that no educational initiative has been promoted by the government and that the few tutorials available only show the operation of the wallet without making the slightest mention of the protocol that supports it.”
This is heart-breaking. However, what the restaurant owner says will be crucial when the Italians download the Bitcoin Beach Wallet and see the difference in approach they took. This will happen in the second “From The Ground” episode hosted by the Bitcoin Italia Podcast. Coming soon.
The devastating first day doesn’t end there. The Italians go to a bar and, once again, the Chivo Wallet fails and they have to settle their bill with an on-chain transaction. At least, they’re getting by using Bitcoin only. The mission still stands. The Bitcoin Italia Podcast closes with:
“It’s too early to take stock of course and we’ll still have plenty of opportunities to delve deeper, but after the first two days in El Salvador we have the distinct impression that the bottleneck of the Bitcoin Ley is precisely the state wallet.”
If our “From The Ground” reports are correct, it certainly seems that way. The Chivo Wallet is the main problem.
Featured Image: Bitcoin Italia Podcast at El Salvador, from this post | Charts by TradingView