7 min readMar 30, 2022
Paragliding over lake Atitlan. I’m taking the photo from about 2000 feet above the lake.

This is part of an ongoing series to keep those interested in Bitcoin Lake/ Lago Bitcoin updated on progress. If you want to begin at the beginning, you can start here.

I’m going to be upfront and candid at this point. Why? Because we have garnered significant support from the community and the wider Bitcoin community. And Mike Peterson and Bitcoin Beach have been very generous in their support of our effort. When I first started this journey early in 2021, it was slow going and I felt uneasy about how this was going to work. I’ve met a lot of people. Some with good intentions, some with not good intentions. Every interaction, until recently, has felt like a hustle — like I was trying to sell something. Everyone seems to receive the idea with skepticism which is understandable. Naively, I felt that a lot of Bitcoiners would jump on an opportunity to recreate a Bitcoin Beach experience in Guatemala. I’ve had many people say they would support the effort, but never came through in the end. I’ve had companies want to help, but haven’t followed through. On this most recent trip I had companies calling me out of the blue to push their products and services trying to use my goodwill and growing publicity for their own benefit. And we’ve had other issues with a competing crypto project trying to convert into a Bitcoin project using the same name. Bitcoin Lake is a project we have started and maintain. We’ve put serious work into this and I’m starting to feel protective of the effort. One thing I know of true Bitcoiners is they aren’t posers. Bitcoiners don’t take credit for work they haven’t done nor do they try to usurp another’s — it’s part of the ethos of Bitcoin. I could feel no greater validation than to have the support of the team at Bitcoin Beach. Further, I’m not sure why another effort would want to use well recognized branding but not use wallet services of the same brand — yes read between the lines. I’ve just started, so I can only imagine the bombardment of such offers to Mike and the folks at Bitcoin Beach. And finally, why am I doing this? Because I am a Bitcoiner. I believe Bitcoin can change communities and the environment. I believe Bitcoin will promote a green energy revolution. I believe this because this is the vision of this project. And we are seeing initial fruit in this endeavor.

I want to thank my wife for her support of this project. And I would like to thank a small but important team behind the scenes that has helped. I want to thank @exp531 for his help from the beginning. Ricky has financially supported this effort and is essentially a co-founder of this effort. Ricky is responsible for our first official hire for the project: Eliazar. On this last trip I was fortunate enough to have Bill Whittaker join me to help with mining installation. Bill has been a tremendous help over the past several months in planning for Bitcoin mining in Panajachel in a sustainable manner. He’s been a great guy to get to know and I look forward to his continued help in the future. I also want to thank Gerson Martinez and Ricardo Carmona for their support of our effort.

My internal goal was to have 100 businesses up and going with Bitcoin by the end of the year. In the two trips since January, we now have nearly twenty businesses that accept Bitcoin! A Bitcoiner can now come to Panajachel and have a complete stay entirely on Bitcoin.

A start to the businesses accepting Bitcoin

With the help of Eliazar, if a Bitcoiner wants to take a taxi or tour bus to Panajachel and pay in Bitcoin, we can arrange that. Upon arrival there are now three hotels that accept Bitcoin, multiple restaurants, coffee shops, artisan shops and what are called “typical” vendors. These vendors are numerous along the main tourist street of Santander and sell the “typical” tourist items. We also have a boating service that can shuttle you across the lake and a tourist outfit that will accept Bitcoin so you can go paragliding like I did :) — seen in the photo. I’m proud of this effort. It requires pounding the pavement and spending hours explaining to people the benefits of Bitcoin. We will continue this effort until most of Panajachel is aware of and accepting Bitcoin. It’s a community of nearly 20,000 people.

Eliazar and I are orange pilling a hotel owner at Grand Hotel
The first boat ride paid for using Bitcoin. First in the world (that we are aware of)

When I first started the project, I was really conflicted about whether we would use the Bitcoin Beach Wallet or another wallet like Wallet of Satoshi or even local solutions out of Guatemala City. In the end, while it is not as simple to use as the Wallet of Satoshi (nothing comes close to simplicity), we decided to use the Bitcoin Beach Wallet because it is simple, we love the map feature to show other businesses and people the growing network, and the username function is a great. Most importantly, it’s free with no transactional fees and allows no possibility of introducing newbies to shitcoins. Further, it allows Eliazar and I to speak “one language” to get everyone onboarded without a lot of confusion. The dollar only denomination is really not a problem since most in the local economy already are familiar with the conversion rate and do some business in dollars. The Bitcoin Beach Wallet team has been very responsive as has Galoy Money — truly grateful.

The educational component is going well. The kids are learning and all already understand the concept of fiat and scarcity. If given the choice between the local Quetzal currency, the US dollar or Bitcoin — they all chose Bitcoin. If asked if they want to spend or save their Bitcoin, they all want to save it! With the help of Bill, we introduced mining to the students and I set up a full node so they are gaining an appreciation of the Bitcoin network.

Setting up the Umbrel node
Bill teaching about Bitcoin mining. Note ASIC to the left of Josue on the desk.

We continue with the cleaning of the lake as part of the educational process for Bitcoin Lake. We want to instill in the children that being environmentally minded is congruent with Bitcoiners and Bitcoin mining.

We reached another major milestone during this trip as well. The mayor, Cesar Piedrasanta, has been really tremendously helpful in accommodating our requests. I’ve shown up several times to the office unannounced and he takes the time to talk (not always, but most times). We’ve stressed how we want to help the community and the environment. During my last visit, I evaluated the city’s waste water treatment facility and asked questions that Ricardo provided. This allowed us to assess the feasibility of capturing what is now escaping methane at the plant. Bill reassessed the facility this visit and has mapped out a road map for us to apply Bitcoin miners to generate revenue that can be used to fix the facility. Ricardo’s assessment can be found here.

We also have assessed the solid waste treatment facility and see a tremendous opportunity to capture wasted energy from the organic waste collected from the city. In Santiago de Atitlan across the lake from Panajachel we see opportunity there in capturing wasted organic material from the various coffee processing facilities there some of which don’t process the waste in a sustainable way. There is also a significant seaweed problem along the shores, a lot of it is pulled up and left to rot. The Atitlan basin has tremendous opportunity. Opportunity that can stay in the basin region to benefit the people of the area around the lake. Unlike the original gold that the Spanish came a looted, I believe there is plenty of digital gold available for mining that can stay in this Mayan region for the benefit of the people!

As a goodwill gesture towards this end, we installed a Bitcoin miner at the local municipality! Again, to our knowledge, the first municipality in Central or South America mining Bitcoin! It is my desire that in various projects, we use the proceeds from the mining operation to provide a universal basic income for the residents. While this may not be a popular opinion among Bitcoiners, I feel that we aren’t giving something for nothing. If we are using people’s waste for mining, they should benefit from this process and that would be our intention.

Bill Whittaker and I presenting a Bitcoin miner to the city of Panajachel
Josue, Eliazar, Bill and I after installing the ASIC

While there, we were featured in numerous publications including El Faro, Be In Crypto, Bloomberg Linea, and we were alsofeatured in a newsletter by Banco Industrial.

We are excited about next steps. If you would like to be involved, please hop on over to our Twitter feed to stay up to date and drop a DM!

Bitcoin Lake, BitcoinLake, Lago Bitcoin, and LagoBitcoin are trademarks of Patrick C. Melder, MD