Spain’s Bitcoin Boulevard Aims to be World’s Biggest and Best

Grace Caffyn
Oct 3, 2014 at 00:31 UTC
Updated Oct 3, 2014 at 14:47 UTC

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More than 20 merchants in Madrid’s busiest shopping district will open for a Bitcoin Boulevard-style event today.

While streets in Arnhem, The Hague and Cleveland have all hosted similar bitcoin awareness initiatives, organiser Félix Montero says his event, Calle Bitcoin, will be the world’s biggest yet.

Around 200 bitcoin users are expected to attend the two-day spectacle, which is to feature a pub crawl, treasure hunt and photo competition, alongside giveaways in the digital currency.

While Spain’s bitcoin community is small, Montero hopes the outdoor event will showcase the currency’s purchasing power and utility to those in the “offline” world.

“We thought a bitcoin street was the best way to prove that bitcoin payments stand up even to the pressure of a crowded bar or shop in speed and flexibility,” he said.

Gold mile

The ‘calle’ itself is located at luxury shopping hotspot Serrano Street – also known as the city’s ‘Gold Mile’.

Besides the usual coffee shops, bars and restaurants, the 1.5 km area also features an international fashion boutique, a design hotel, an architect practice and – bizarrely – a gynaecologist.

Montero explained:

“Once merchants saw that the bar next door was sporting a ‘Bitcoin Accepted Here’ sticker they lost all fear and wanted in!”

Experimental event

The event is largely experimental, involving all kinds of payment mechanisms, apps and processors, both better- and lesser-known, Montero said.

Though BitPay, Blockchain and Coinbase are ‘gold’ sponsors, smaller regional startups such as CoinffeineAvatar BTC and Bitcoin Spain, owner of the country’s first Robocoin ATM, will be out in force to greet passers-by.

Nicolas Cary, Blockchain’s CEO, praised the event for its commitment to the local bitcoin community, stating: “Calle Bitcoin is a perfect example of how grass roots efforts are making a big difference locally.”

Moe Levin, director of European business development at BitPay, echoed this sentiment – adding that events like this underscore both the technology’s ethos and its community:

“There is no other payment system in the world as open-source and community oriented as bitcoin. These are two very unique traits.”

Tech-savvy supporters

Calle’s 13 volunteers have been instrumental in getting the project off the ground, often taking time out from their full-time jobs to visit prospective merchants and give tutorials on bitcoin point-of-sale systems.

Fernando Bitti Loureiro, a regular at bitcoin meetups in Madrid, sees the project as an opportunity to dispel common misconceptions about the digital currency first-hand. He added:

“The information about bitcoin one finds on the Internet is [either] too technical, too speculative or too ideological.”

Another volunteer, Santiago Márquez Solís, is hoping to engage visitors with his Flappy Bird-inspired android game. Unlike the original however, players must navigate through a series of fast-moving buildings using their bitcoin avatar. After crashing (inevitably very quickly) they are greeted with information about shops participating in the event.

In the spirit of open-source development, the whole project has been documented on popular forum Bitcoin Talk since its inception. Montero hopes that fellow Spanish-speakers will use these conversations as a blueprint to create their own events in the future.

Calle’s own future looks promising too, as each merchant has pledged to continue accepting bitcoin for at least three months after this week’s event.

Montero is confident many will stick with the currency past this point, and hopes to scale up in 2015, adding:

“Hopefully, next year we can do it with 100 merchants.”

Images via Calle Bitcoin and VICTOR TORRES / Shutterstock.com

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