FIRST DOCUMENTED CUBA BITCOIN TRANSACTION IS NOW HISTORY
BY JUSTIN OCONNELL
This week, the first documented Bitcoin transaction in Cuba was put in
the history books. Although people have been visiting Cuba since the
advent of Bitcoin, this is the first public transaction, considered
significant in large part because of recent changes that swept the tiny
island nation off the U.S. coast.
Washington D.C. and Cuba have opened up relations in recent months after
the formal restoration of diplomacy. Five decades long the United States
and Cuba spent devoid of the benefits of working together. The Obama
Administration liberalized economic life for Cubans on the island, and
Cuban-Americans, with many recent reforms, and Congress will likely be
asked to lift the trade embargo and end its travel restrictions for the
“It’s about showing Cubans and the Bitcoin community that it is now
possible to receive Bitcoin through Nauta, the Cuban state-run public
Wi-Fi,” Fernando Villar, BitcoinCuba founder, told CCN. “This will
hopefully open everyone’s eyes on the possibilities and finally put Cuba
on the Bitcoin map.” The idea came about spontaneously.
“I was taking a personal trip to Cuba to visit family and friends on the
island,” Villar told CCN. “I asked [CoinStructive CEO] Chris Groshong a
few days before my trip, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if you could send me some
Bitcoin from the U.S. to Cuba through the new public Wi-Fi networks?’”.
The rest is history.
I didn’t know if it would truly work, but I had my camera handy when it
did. I was not only able to receive the Bitcoin but also send some back.
BitcoinCuba believes there is big potential for Bitcoin in Cuba, but
Villar remains cautious of the historical hurdles the island nation will
have to overcome.
“The future for Bitcoin in Cuba is promising, but it’s going to take
some time and effort,” Villar said. “Cubans are only now being connected
through public Wi-Fi, which is somewhat cost prohibitive at $2 an hour,
with the average Cuban salary about $20 a month.” To be certain, the
Wi-Fi parks are incredible to see, Villar says.
“Cubans bring their smartphones, laptops and tablets to these parks to
get connected to friends and family, as well as to learn about the world
outside the island,” Villar tells CCN. “It’s only a matter of time
before they also start receiving money through those networks.” Of all
the things the Castro regime suppresses, technology and innovation are
not among them, according to Villar. Due to capital controls in the
nation, Bitcoin could make life easier for many people.
“Right now Cubans deal with a dual currency system that makes it
prohibitive for Cubans to compete in a global market. There aren’t many
currency exchanges in which people are buying up Cuban pesos or
convertible pesos, so their currency is essentially worthless outside of
the island,” informs Villar.
“We strongly feel that even a minimal adoption to Bitcoin will start to
help Cuban entrepreneurs sell their goods or service globally in a
simple and efficient way,” he says. “These entrepreneurs are going to be
the ones that are going to elevate the economy in the near future.”
Villar used the Airbitz wallet, as seen in the video, for the
transaction. The wallet won first place in the start-up competition this
year in New York City at the Inside Bitcoins Conference. Known for it’s
easy-to-use design, Airbitz also integrates a detailed Bitcoin merchant
directory, so mobile users can locate a store and spend bitcoins on the
same application. Airbitz’s decentralized infrastructure has made it one
of the most popular Bitcoin wallets on the market.
“The beauty of this occurrence is that as a company, Airbitz had nothing
to do with it!” Paul Puey, CEO of Airbitz, told CCN. “We simply build
the best product we can, and both the sender and recipient in Cuba felt
that the best option was Airbitz.”
I’d like to think we did some cool, creative PR stunt, but it was the
organic growth of people deciding to use Airbitz.
The Airbitz team understands the importance of BitcoinCuba’s work on the
“From what we have heard, Bitcoin is still barely understood or heard of
in Cuba. Knowledge is the biggest issue and we’re happy to see
organizations such as bitcoincuba.org make a strong effort to empower
their citizens with knowledge about Bitcoin,” Puey said.
For now, Cuba remains an outwardly centrally planned economy. Many
anticipate it will take a long time for the country to promote private
enterprise and allow political reforms. Some believe Cuban authorities
could tighten state controls in the short-term. Cubans remain divided on
the issues. Does the island encourage foreign investment and private
enterprises or does it stick to its socialist paradigm, which offers –
as some experts believe – better education and health care than is
available to most Latin Americans? Whatever the path they choose,
Bitcoin has not waited.
“With a country so steeped in the chains of capital controls, restricted
trade, and even limited access to digital information, Cuban citizens
will quickly find amazing benefits from the financial freedom that
Bitcoin can,” Puey said. “The possibility to bring them free trade,
easily purchased Internet access, and the ability to send and receive
money globally will be greatly appreciated by Cubans.”
For once we have a currency that knows no boundaries and it turns the
borders we draw between countries from imaginary to non-existent.
Villar became involved in Bitcoin in late 2013 after reading articles
about the currency on Reddit. In February 2015, he founded
BitcoinCuba.org because he believed Bitcoin and the block chain could
massively help the lives of Cubans. Being of Cuban descent, Villar has
friends and family that send remittances to Cuba. “There isn’t a better,
cheaper and faster way to send remittances than through Bitcoin,” he
According to Villar, there isn’t quite yet a Bitcoin scene, per se, in
Cuba – namely, in Havana. And so, CoinStructive, where Villar is a
senior consultant, and BitcoinCuba, have partnered to circulate Bitcoin
and Blockchain educational materials including videos in Spanish to
create awareness about the digital currency.
“We hope that sometime soon we will be able to run a Bitcoin and
Blockchain workshop in Havana to promote the currency and technology,”
Source: First Documented Cuba Bitcoin Transaction is Now History – CCN:
Financial Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency News –