Bitcoin Lake — The Start
First off, the above picture is of Josue. He is the son of Nancy who owns Centro Educativo Josue. My last trip to Panajachel could not have been the success that it was unless Josue had translated for me! So kudos! He’s 19 and I put him in some pretty uncomfortable situations, like translating a meeting with the mayor of Panajachel — I had a little fun with that meeting which I will explain below.
His sister, Flor, is a wonderful young lady too! She has been helpful as well but is in school studying to be a doctor… so as a doctor… I wanted to make sure I wasn’t a distraction — but we did have a nice time together getting coffee on a Saturday in Santiago — pictured below.
Second, I’m grateful for all of the anonymous donors that sent satoshis to vendors and businesses that I brought on board during my last trip — thank you. However, we are still well short of the funding goal for the project which you can find in the previous article about phase one. And I get it, some random guy you don’t know is asking for Bitcoin donations. And then I get the random person on Twitter who asks how the funds are going to be used? That’s why I’m writing these articles — so you can see how the funds are going to be used. Just give what you can, any amount. Also, you can give directly to the school. I would love for us all to look back on this and say this is what we did together. Unlike in El Zonte (Bitcoin Beach) there is no anonymous donor providing Bitcoin to jumpstart the program — this is a bootstrap effort. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out on Twitter @lakeBitcoin or on Medium. And a huge shout out to @exp531 on Twitter for his financial contributions. As a Guatemalan he loves his country. I’m thankful he believes in me to help his country. I have some additional folks I will thank below.
My first trip in November of 2021 to visit Panajachel after a two year hiatus was interesting to say the least. I thought that there was going to be a certain amount of support based on prior commitments, but it became a very convoluted political situation of which I did not understand the extent to which certain individuals were persona non grata in the community. Nonetheless we developed a game plan and made sure Nancy, her children, and the teachers were supportive of what we were trying to do.
The purpose of this trip was to actually start educating the children and assess the viability of sustainable Bitcoin mining. The Bitcoin mining is to be the on-going economic “oil” to sustain the circular economy. This is the biggest difference between what we are doing here vs. what was done in El Zone, El Salvador.
My first day of class was a great success — below. I’ve educated adults my whole life as a surgeon: other surgeons, medical students and physician assistants. Teaching younger children is not my forte but by my second lesson I think I was doing pretty well.
Remarkably, the children seemed to really understand the concepts I was presenting and actually excited — relayed to me by Josue. And some of them are pretty smart. I’m super excited that these Spanish speaking kids are going to have an opportunity to be a part of the exponential Bitcoin economy. They get a first bite at the apple and I’m proud that we can provide this opportunity for them.
Part of our effort to instill the values of Bitcoin like low time preference, prudence, and savings is through our community effort to clean the community and lake — pictured below. This will be an ongoing activity for the children to earn Bitcoin/Satoshis. If you would like to contribute some Satoshis for them — please donate directly to the school above.
Another goal, albeit longterm, is to establish Bitcoin mining using sustainable energy sources as stated above. The initial plan was to use solar as a source of energy as I have described in my previous Medium essays. However, Ricardo Carmona suggested I look into Biogas/Biomining. So, I decided to tour the waste water treatment facility (WWTF) to assess this possibility. I was initially under the impression that the methane at the facility was being flared. This turned out not to be the case. The biodigester in use at the WWTF has some cracks in the cement which results in low pressure and the methane is vented to the environment. You may be aware that methane is more environmentally hazardous than CO2. Based on Ricardo’s initial assessment from the data I provided, it appears that we can capture the methane and generate energy for Bitcoin mining.
After the success at the WWTF, We decided to visit the city dump. Not surprisingly, we also found opportunity there for biogas mining with various piles of organic waste at various stages of decomposition for compost.
I requested a meeting with the mayor of Panajachel, Cesar Piedrasanta. He graciously agreed to meet with us (Josue, Nancy and me). Ricardo and Ricky mentioned above also joined as well as Gerson Martinez via zoom to discuss the opportunity for Bitcoin mining. All of them have an expertise in Bitcoin and/or mining and all are native Spanish speakers. We provided a 30,000 foot view of the opportunity for Panajachel and the lake. First and foremost we discussed the economic opportunity and the infrastructure improvements that mining could provide to the community and to the lake region. The mayor was enthusiastic and was really wanting to bring this to the community.
We requested a second meeting with the mayor which he also accepted several days later and I had the opportunity to teach his aides about Bitcoin. At this meeting, I suggested it would be a good idea to have a meeting of all the Mayors from around the lake to present these ideas. At the meeting he committed to make this happen. So, hopefully on my next visit in March we can expand upon the vision.
The mayor has a unique opportunity to make a “Bitcoin City.” Panajachel and the surrounding communities have every source of renewable energy available to them and they already have cities! It’s possible with enough vision, they can beat El Salvador to the moniker.
At this meeting I asked if I could wear the mayor’s hat.. this is where young Josue started feeling he was out of his league… but the mayor is good natured.
Another interesting contact during my meeting was with Dr. Jessica Kind. Dr. Kind works and lives in Santiago, across the lake from Panajachel. Dr. Kind has been working on a project to collect human waste and collect the methane for cooking. I’ve seen this before — on my first trip to India about twenty years ago. As I introduced her to Bitcoin and the sustainable practices we wanted to institute with Bitcoin mining as an economic incentive, she was intrigued. I’ve put her and Ricardo in touch with each other to see if we can build this project together for both communities.
One of the challenges we faced with every vendor/store owner was the issue of convertibility of Bitcoin into the local currency (Quetzal). The ideal solution would be to be able to provide a Bitcoin ATM. This is a similar issue in El Zonte, El Salvador. For the time being we have a solution we will be piloting whereby someone will provide the vendors with liquidity for them to exchange currency for BTC. A supporter of Bitcoin Lake has graciously stepped up to provide this avenue to “close the loop.”
While not a stated goal of the project, we would really like to support the artists in the community. Panajachel has a vibrant art community. Antonio Rosales is one such artist in Panajachel that my wife and I met in November. He paints and teaches art and spends all of his money for supplies. We got him set up with the Bitcoin Beach wallet and I printed some small QR codes out so he could place on some of his larger murals in the hotel I stayed at (https://www.portahoteldellago.com/). He has indigenous roots and is trying to preserve the culture of the indigenous people around the lake. My wife is an artist, so this really speaks to her.
In many respects, low time preference is already practiced in these communities. Time seems to slow down. I hope you will take the time to learn about Panajachel and Lake Atitlan (Lago Bitcoin). And please share some sats/BTC to make this happen!
I plan to return in March. I will teach the children every week via zoom and Josue and Eliazar will keep pushing us closer to the goal. If you would like to come and visit in March, drop me a line.
Bitcoin Lake, BitcoinLake, Lago Bitcoin, and LagoBitcoin are trademarks of Patrick C. Melder, MD