"Cryptocurrencies are a way to be a little more integrated into the globalized world", said Erich Garcia Cruz, a Cuban resident who uses YouTube to teach locals how to use Bitcoin to skirt government restrictions and the US trade embargo.
The Cuban government curbs internet access and a US trade embargo restricts imports. Cruz, creator of the Bachecubano channel, thinks that Bitcoin could help Cubans get around the roadblocks.
For six months, the 33-year-old Havanan has been teaching his 28,000 followers how to buy Bitcoin and jump into the throngs of global markets.
"I believe that cryptocurrencies are a magnificent solution to thousands of current problems in Cuba. That's why we want to teach and give the best ways to use them to solve our daily problems at all costs," the influencer told Portal do Bitcoin.
The two market flows in Cuba
Cruz says that the market for technology products is completely controlled by the state and is limited to state-owned stores.
High tech products only arrive when citizens, family members and tourists bring products, usually from the USA, on commercial flights. These products are sold through informal networks - that's how Cruz buys equipment that he presents on his channel.
Cubans also don't have access to credit or debit cards. Cruz only managed to access the money he made from his YouTube channel when a close family member, who lives in the US, shipped goods to Cuba.
Cruz says that the Covid-19 pandemic has seriously affected these informal trade markets, which is "depressed at the moment, as there are no commercial flights". Demand grew, but supply became chaotic.
Cryptocurrencies as a solution
That's where Bitcoin comes in - it allows Cubans to participate in the global economy without relying on informal markets. For Cruz, Bitcoin provided financial freedom and greater control of the money he earns.
"That is why we are looking for solutions that allow Cubans, for example, to buy cryptocurrencies, trade them in international markets for other currencies and operate with them," he says.
Cruz wants to teach his followers how to use cryptocurrencies for transactions. He also wants to want them about the many pyramid schemes and scams that seek to attract the uninformed.
Buying Bitcoin in Cuba
Six months ago, Cruz posted his first video on Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. He started to teach his followers how to buy Bitcoin from Cuba.
Cruz demonstrates that Cubans must buy cryptocurrency from people who buy the coins from abroad, or have relatives to do so.
If Cubans don't have any friends or relatives willing to buy or sell Bitcoin on their behalf, Cruz said that groups on WhatsApp, Telegram and web platforms make it easy for buyers to find sellers.
Thanks to cryptocurrencies, Cubans can make purchases on major international sites and subscribe to digital services, such as Amazon and Netflix.
However, because all of this relies on informal networks, cryptocurrency is usually sold above market rate. But since it’s the only way for Cubans to buy Bitcoin, they don't have many other options.