No Middle Ground: Inside Colombias Race to Become A Major Regional Crypto Market

Thursday 14 January 2021, 4:06 AM AEST - 2 weeks ago

At the time, bitcoin was valued at around $4,500, still in the nascent stages of what would become a historic price run.

I really didnt know how to approach the situation. A person like me, I never had more than $2,000 in my life, Atlas, who spoke on condition of pseudonymity, told CoinDesk.

As the price kept going up, Atlas said, his surprised father urged him to sell. Atlas held on and said he has managed to convince at least eight friends to invest in bitcoin as well. After the currency began trading above $30,000, Atlas started the process of taking out a mortgage on his family home to buy more.

Ive been getting texts almost daily from young people, to be honest. And those young people talk to other young people, Atlas said. (CoinDesk was not able to independently verify these details.)

Colombia saw a major boost in crypto use as a store of wealth as well as for transactional purposes in 2020, with peer-to-peer lending platforms and exchanges recording historic growth. LocalBitcoins reported that Colombia accounted for 11.3% of its global volume in 2020, making it one of the firms main markets alongside Russia and Venezuela. Transaction volumes on, one of Latin Americas largest crypto exchanges, grew by 350% between 2019 and 2020 in Colombia, with active users on the platform increasing by 125% to 16,092 according to data provided by the exchange.

The first months of 2020 did not go well for Atlas. When the year started, he was working a minimum wage job, making less than $300 a month. He said that after getting into a fight in a public space in his hometown, he ended up in jail for a few weeks. Around the time he was released, the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the region, leaving his family destitute.

We had absolutely no money, no power and no gas. We were making sandwiches with an alcohol burner, Atlas said.

The pandemic hit Latin America

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