Bitcoin Pizza

You’re standing in front of a food truck in Yauco, falafel in hand. “Cash, card, or crypto?” asks the truck’s owner. You think to yourself, “what, this must be .0000001 of a bitcoin, right?”

Outlandish as it may seem, Prof. Raúl Moris’s foodtruck, which does sell falafel, accepts crypto as payment. It goes along with the rest of his educational mission to get Puerto Ricans into the new technology on their own terms, inspired by the Cordero siblings of the 1800s who ran free social and racially integrated schools to improve literacy rates decades before slavery was even abolished and federally funded schools were established.

Carrying on their legacy, “Cryptomoneda Pa’l Pueblo” — otherwise known as Crypto for the People by the People (CCPALPUEBLO) — is an outreach program to bring together Puerto Rico and global crypto know-how. They are, as stated on their website, “…a hybrid community reconstruction, economic, development, educational event, which brings together Puerto Rico and World Crypto talent in blockchain, ledger and programming. It’s doing what crypto was created for, to help the People”.

Professor Moris is a social worker, graphic designer, and also has a Masters’ degree in demography. Over the past two years he has gotten involved in the island’s growing crypto community.

Their group, Cryptomoneda Pa’l Pueblo, is a gathering of volunteers that believe that crypto is one of the most significant technological advancements that, in some time, will influence absolutely everyone’s life. “[Most] of our knowledge is imposed – social media, the internet, technology –it’s imposed on us. It comes from above, and we use it as part of our life, but we don’t understand the reasons or outcomes of something so powerful,” Moris said.

People participate in the Cryptomoneda Pa’l Pueblo events because they believe in the importance of the underlying technology. “We are volunteers, we don’t have anybody or anything to sponsor us. Because of that we can say whatever we want to say without hurting people’s feelings or wallets,” explained Moris.

Although the group has been suffering low attendance rates at their meet-ups over the past few months due to the crypto crash and bear market, they are still committed to educating everyday people. Part of their outreach includes visiting plazas and having these talks in public places, bringing education to community members who might otherwise not pursue an interest in this area. They frequent the Plaza de Guánica, where the Cryptomoneda Pa’l Pueblo group talks with the people who show up, discussing what crypto is and how it can be a part of people’s life.

The role of the diaspora

Another effort of theirs is the Crypto Repatriation project, led by a diaspora member who moved to the island a month ago and is documenting her experience on how to benefit from crypto and blockchain technologies. The diaspora has played a key role in the success of Cryptomoneda Pa’l Pueblo.

“We are running our first online course – it’s a free course sponsored by diaspora. They contribute when we need them and have been key in our survival – not only for this, but historically,” said Moris. Local and federal governments are slow and inefficient in bringing aid to Puerto Rico, especially after Hurricane Maria. Celebrity diaspora, like Ricky Martin and Calle13, as well as community centers in New York and Chicago started sending money to support their family and communities back home. With over seven million Boricuas living outside the island, there is a big opportunity to include them in building a community-based crypto program. “We want our diaspora to come back home,” Moris reiterated.

Crypto reimagined

For Puerto Rico, Moris sees cryptocurrency and blockchain technology as a tool for limiting corruption. “Those things we’ve been putting on paper, we can put on blockchain and ledger and use for all eternity,” said Moris of the blockchain’s purported transparency and possible use in things like elections archiving.

Moris and other volunteers are often initially met with hesitation and even hostility. In the last two years crypto has had a lot of bad press on the island. “When we go to places and small businesses, people equate crypto to gentrification. That is real. It’s not because it’s what’s necessarily happening, [but] the history of colonization comes up when we do our workshops. There is a stigma that comes with it,” Moris acknowledged of how many Puerto Ricans view the island’s largely insular crypto community.

But when people see Moris—a social worker with over 30 years of community service, a diaspora member born and raised in the Bronx who later returned to the island— they see that he, and the other members, are there to give, not to take.

Their education comes from a different angle. “It’s from the perspective of being a stale economy, a territory of the US, 500 years of colonialism – I don’t think any of the other organizations are doing it from the marginalized, oppressed perspective,” Moris said of what sets Cryptomoneda Pa’l Pueblo apart.

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