El Salvador President Nayib Bukele took the stage last year to fireworks and AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All night Long,” announcing to a cheering crowd of crypto enthusiasts at a beachside confab that Bitcoin would revolutionize his country. It was November, the digital token had just notched new all-time highs and El Salvador was at the very beginning of its experiment as the world’s first nation to use the cryptocurrency as legal tender.
Now, a year into the journey, there are far fewer fireworks. Adoption has moved slowly, and steep declines in Bitcoin’s price from those lofty levels last fall have dampened the early euphoria that swept across the nation. Bitcoin hasn’t replaced El Salvador’s hard currency, the U.S. dollar — it’s not even close — but it also hasn’t brought the financial ruin that some warned of either. Or not yet anyway.