When Michael Peterson made a semi-permanent move to El Salvador, the California native’s motive was simple and, well, fittingly expected: He wanted a place to surf in the wintertime.
“I came to El Salvador on a surf trip and I just kind of fell in love,” he explained. “The water’s warm, the waves are great, the people are super friendly. So my wife and I decided to buy a house and move there — that was 14 years ago.”
Now, in a less-than-expected twist, Peterson is working on bootstrapping bitcoin economies in two villages on the eastern coast of the country: Punta Mango and El Zonte. More than just an economic mission, Peterson’s work has social ramifications, too; its primary focus is to provide El Salvadoran youth with bitcoin-earning employment. The aim here is twofold: kickstart a bitcoin economy and keep kids in their local communities and out of the clutches of El Salvadoran gangs.
The Anonymous Bitcoin Whale
Peterson and his wife weren’t always focused on Bitcoin philanthropy, though shortly after they made El Salvador their second home, the couple found themselves engaging in nonprofit work.
Peterson told me that during the honeymoon phase of their new living arrangement, he and his wife would just vacation in the Central American country for a couple of months in the winters, returning back home to California to run their seasonal food business in the summers.
Eventually, though, their vacations started lasting a bit longer — and began involving charity work. They embedded with local nonprofits and churches before discovering a need for “an umbrella organization” to coordinate efforts between all of the various organizations on the ground in El Salvador.
Then, in 2017, one charity approached Peterson after it received a bitcoin donation, asking him what they should do with it.