Crypto in Argentina: Searching for Stability

South America Sep 30, 2020

When you imagine the people who visit Coinmap to find the best places to spend crypto or the nearest Bitcoin ATM, where do you think most of them come from? Many would guess (correctly) that the US takes the top spot, but who comes in second? Not the UK or Nigeria or Germany, but Argentina. But it makes sense: there are strong incentives for many Argentines to adopt cryptocurrencies, and indeed Bitcoin in Argentina is booming. While we've already briefly noted the country's relationship to Bitcoin, Argentina's recent past and current embrace of digital currencies makes it a strong crypto hotspot worthy of closer inspection. Once you've read about the factors that make this South American locale a crypto case study, visit our Coinmap heatmap to add places that accept Bitcoin in Buenos Aires or check out our sister site to buy crypto instantly with your pesos!

A history of currency mismanagement

Speaking of Argentine pesos (ARS), the erratic history of this fiat currency is a good place to start when trying to understand what makes Argentina so Bitcoin friendly. Today, the country has an economy stronger by many metrics than South Africa, is a member of the G20, and hosts a diverse economic base, but getting to this point has been rocky. Inflation in Argentina has been a major problem for much of the 20th century, with stagflation dominating the era of the Argentine dictatorship (1976-1983) and hyperinflation rearing its head as the 80s closed. Along with other issues like capital flight, the Latin American debt crisis, and general corruption, the result by the early 90s was a general decline in the country's economy and an outlook that resembled a tailspin.

A limited look at the erratic Argentine economy over the last 40 years. By the IMF.

The solution to most of these issues, according to economist Domingo Cavallo, was to repair the peso. He fixed a 1-to-1 exchange rate between the turbulent peso and the stable US dollar (USD), and for much of the 90s inflation fell, the economy grew, and it became common practice for Argentines to keep their savings safe by converting to dollars. But by the beginning of the millennium, things again saw collapse: too much borrowing to prop up the artificial exchange rate had again led to debt problems. Fast forward to 2011, and ARS was again pegged to USD, though this time with strict controls on who could convert their pesos to dollars and how (spoiler: almost no one and almost impossibly). The economy revived again, if slowly, until crisis came knocking. Again.

This latest economic difficulty began around 2018, and Argentina in 2020 faced the prospect of total economic collapse and defaulting on billions of international loans. What's worse, attempts to restructure these debts don't seem to be working even in the short term. With the added global crisis caused by COVID-19, this year was just the latest in a predictable cycle of attempted currency repair followed by crisis. With constantly changing controls over what individuals can do with their hard-earned money, savings wiped out by volatility, and their country diving ever deeper into hock to lenders, it's no wonder that the citizens of Argentina are fed up with government control over cash.

More than tango: a culture of innovation

So in fact it's probably inaccurate to say that Argentina is crypto friendly: the country's government has added additional hoops to jump through if citizens want to purchase crypto to already familiar restrictions on purchasing foreign fiat currencies. Instead, it's the case that many Argentines on an individual level have embraced the forward-looking "be your own bank" philosophy of crypto, setting new trading records for Bitcoin throughout this year. Indeed, many elements of Argentine culture welcome change and innovation. After all, Argentina is a country of immigrants, which can be seen in the variety of widely spoken languages, including Spanish, Italian, German, and English, and it has produced iconic cultural artifacts including tango, the inventive literature of Jorge Luis Borges, a major film industry, and five Nobel laureates.

When it comes to crypto, Argentines have been unusually notable as early adopters and educators. The first and still largest crypto meetup in Latin America, the Latin American Bitcoin & Blockchain Conference, was held in Argentina in 2013, and though it is held in a new location every year, it is still organized largely by Argentines. A "Bitcoin embassy" in Buenos Aires was also established in 2014. Various notable personalities have also arisen from and within the Argentine crypto space, including Santiago Siri, who hopes to expand crypto beyond mere money; Leo Beltran, who, in his young teens became a face-to-face Bitcoin evangelist; and La Bitcoineta, an eye-catching van that travels the country and the region educating people about crypto. Even major international news outlets headquartered in Argentina are devoting coverage to crypto topics like the benefits of hardware wallets.

Stable at last?

Argentina's economic troubles are being met by a culture predisposed to innovation, so what is the outlook for crypto? Largely positive, since a majority of Argentines believe that cryptocurrencies are the best way to protect their funds and take economic stability into their own hands. Just as interesting are the coins that are popular. The country's history of volatility is fueling an interest in stablecoins like Dai (DAI), which aim to keep fluctuation at a minimum. Furthermore, recent government crackdowns on trading and buying crypto are driving interest in privacy-focused coins like Monero (XMR) and Zcash (ZEC). Of course, the standbys of Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) are also widespread both as means of saving and a means of exchange: as shown on our Coinmap heatmap, a few hundred locations in major and minor Argentine cities accept crypto.

The many places to spend crypto and Bitcoin ATMs in Buenos Aires. By Coinmap.

Hopefully now our Argentine readers, as well as those from around the world who may see similar local conditions, have a deeper understanding of why crypto is taking off and why it's a good idea to invest in crypto no matter where you live. So whether you've already converted pesos to crypto or you want to start saving, the easiest way to buy Bitcoin instantly is through our sister site,!

Cover photo: Argentina (La Boca)-Tango show by Güldem Üstün, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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