After a day in Jalisco’s famed agave fields, I returned to Guadalajara full of dancing juice and a desire to continue exploring. I jumped on Facebook to catch up on the chisme and I noticed a particularly colorful banner featuring a Lambo and stacks of bitcoin - it just happened to be for a party that night in the city. The name of the event? Cryptop€rr€o.
“Perreos” are particularly wild reggaetón parties, named after the hyper-sexualized ‘twerk’ style of dance that takes place usually in a dark, sweaty, and location of questionable legality. Typically, not my scene. But who can resist a flyer with an animated sports car and stacks of BTC in a desert with hot pink lettering? Not me.
When I arrived at the event, I was pleasantly surprised. The music was more than your top 20 reggaetón jams, featuring global beats produced in part by the deejays, Dj Carchorra, Tropikulers, and Fkng Wey. The venue, Andén - Foro Cultural, sported steampunk-esque murals on the walls, and projections of aliens in bikinis as bitcoin fell from the sky. The raunchy crypto-internet-trap aesthetic suited the tunes perfectly.
After a few drinks and some dancing, I decided to track down the host. I wanted to know who organized this affair and why. That’s when I found Edgar.
In the true sense of the phrase, ‘mi casa es tu casa,’ Edgar was welcoming. We talked a bit about Guadalajara, the music, and the event. Getting down to business, I asked about his interest in cryptos. Half-joking, half-serious, he said that he enjoyed everything digital and futurist. As we ran out of beers, I asked if I could buy a round with litecoin. “Claro que si!” Several beers and mezcales later, it was time to wrap it up and head home. We parted ways, but it made me think about other experiences with cryptos I’ve had here in Mexico.
Crypto in Mexico
Mexico isn’t exactly the cryptocurrency hotspot of the world, but adoption is beginning to gain speed as a young population of digital enthusiasts preach its gospel. Though most have heard of its incredible rises and falls, it’s less of a store of value to many in this crowd, and more of a new, interesting way to buy and sell goods and services.
When we think of adoption, it tends to be on a larger-bankier scale. With regulations, investors, suits, and consortiums crowding the media. It’s hard to see what is happening on the ground sometimes.
This part of Mexico’s crypto-movement, from what I have experienced, is taking place on a much more natural level, with people buying comic books, throwing parties, sending money to their families, and investing, not in the coin, but in the ‘scene.’ You can see people depositing their hard-earned pesos in BTC ATMs, and when asked “why?’ rarely is the answer “I want to retire early,” more likely the answer will be “because it’s exciting.”
While the number of locations to use cryptocurrencies is quite small – only 12 ATMs and even fewer establishments officially accepting crypto in the entire country – more often than not, simply asking, informing, and helping will at least land you a couple beers and a new friend.
But big changes are happening on a more ‘business-formal’ level, as well.
I mentioned in a previous article that over half of the country’s population lacks access to a bank account, while the vast majority of people have a cell phone. That, coupled with the US$70-billion remittance market, leaves a huge window of opportunity for fintech solutions in Mexico.
The country’s fintech scene is growing quickly. So quickly in fact, the country recently rushed through a set of regulations to ensure the security and safety of investors and consumers in the sector.
With over between 240-300 fintech startups, poised to take over 30 percent of the country’s banking market, looking to carve out their own solutions in Mexico’s fast-moving economy, the bill is largely welcomed, and even supportive of the community it hopes to cultivate.
Under this bill, both traditional banks and non-bank financial institutions looking to work with payments, remittances, crowdfunding, marketplace lending, and financial management using cryptocurrencies or implementing ‘non-traditional’ financial solutions such as blockchain tech or other technologies will fall under the regulatory umbrella of the Protection and Defense of Financial Services Consumers and the National Banking and Securities Commission. In this, crowdfunding operations will be evaluated for creditworthiness and financial platforms will be vetted to ensure the necessary security measures are in place to prevent money laundering and reduce the risk of cyberattacks. Additionally, the bill defines clear rules that will promote stability, increase transparency, and encourage competition.
While the bill has not yet passed due to bureaucratic holdups and worries of expensive oversight costs, regulatory officials hope to hammer out an economical and effective roadmap in the coming months.
The new regulations are sure to draw more foreign attention to the country, perhaps even new startups and investment.
Even Mexico’s Former President Vicente Fox, who you may know from his hilarious f-bomb laden anti-wall Youtube video, is down with the cause. Recently, Fox ventured to the Singapore Blockchain Economic Forum where he spoke on behalf of the blockchain’s potential, both in Mexico and on a global level.
Indeed, blockchain tech is seen as a solution to some of the most significant problems impacting the country by many. From corruption to the country's complicated energy supply chains, the former president hopes the technology can help Mexico become a true leader in Latin America. In Singapore, Fox noted: “You cannot corrupt a machine or a computer.”
While blockchain tech is touted as the next big thing, it seems the idea of cryptocurrencies as a true equalizer has fallen under the radar – but fortunately, there is a growing population of perreo-loving internet-famous crypto-preachers ready to pick up the torch, or at least project a neon, bikini-clad alien alebrije to guide others into the light.
Featured image from Shutterstock