Over two hundred bitcoiners descended on Uvita from January 18th – 20th which is a popular seaside spot in Costa Rica. The Bitcoin Freedom Festival was billed as a spiritual gathering for those who celebrate freedom money, nature and sovereignty. What many bitcoiners are still discovering about this beautiful place along the southern Pacific coast is that Uvita and Dominical, {the town 18 km north} are the region known as Bitcoin Jungle.

One Of A Kind Bitcoin Festival

The Bitcoin Freedom Festival was held at The Awake Center in Uvita. When you arrive at the appropriately named Awake Center for the festival you quickly realize this is NOT going to be like any other conference you’ve experienced. [Note: It reminded me of attending my first Slow Money Gathering in Boulder, Colorado in 2013 where they closed the conference using a Quaker style practice of silent meditation. Quakers gather in the silence and wait expectantly to come into the presence of the Divine and to be guided by the still, small voice by which God speaks to us from within. During the silence, anyone may feel moved to offer a simple spoken message (vocal ministry) that is inspired by this holy encounter.]

There were three outside covered pavilions where the speakers were featured with the most striking one being a round structure [the Shala] which on Sundays serves as a place for ecstatic dance. The Shala is more reminiscent of a buddhist temple than a conference site. The heart of the grounds was the cafeteria [The Cora] which nourished its visitors and where a small sign at the entrance in very small lettering that only those fully present would notice was the sign “Be, Don’t Become.” The head chef was gracious and very proud of her role in feeding people all organic and vegan meals. For those who consider high quality food to be medicine she seemed to take delight when I said “You and your team are the festival’s primary health care workers on premises.” If this were anything besides a gathering of bitcoiners that would have been the only food offered BUT alas there was also generous portions of beef being served by an outside vendor in another part of the property for the carnivores. This festival also had a place on the AWAKE grounds but NOT INSIDE FESTIVAL BOUNDARIES where merchants and vendors who accept bitcoin could have a booth and sell to festival attendees and the public at large.

To give you some idea how unique this event was, consider this: When was the last time you attended a Bitcoin gathering where shoes came off in the meeting places such as the Cora and the Shala AND where many of the event organizers were barefoot all three days? Oh, with a river bordering the property? If your goal is to get in touch with and be part of nature this was easy to do. If your goal was an air conditioned corporate event this was decidedly NOT for you.

An Incomparable Country Meets Incomparable Money

It’s helpful to understand some of Costa Rica’s cultural history as well in understanding the event. For example, Costa Rica was way ahead of its time in 2002 by embedding “pax natura” into their constitution. Pax natura means peace with nature. I’m not aware of another country with greater care for and love of nature, a culture that avoids waste, a culture that produces most of what it needs locally [including power] and has no standing army. Costa Rica has always remained a neutral country and never engaged in fighting between nations or tribes in Central America which makes it rare. And of course the greeting “Pura Vida” is the perfect expression that you will hear often when you visit. The phrase itself has many shades of meaning.

What prompted the wonderful people behind Bitcoin Jungle to sponsor this festival? They wanted to demonstrate to the local community [Uvita and Dominical] that many bitcoiners would be drawn to the area. By the last day of the festival one of the organizers kept hearing feedback from the local shopkeepers saying “you were right.” We met with one of the merchants at the local Bahia Farmers Market the Wednesday following the conference and she said her business was up 80% because of the conference. She had done so well since signing up for bitcoin 2 years ago that the merchant in the next booth started asking her how she can accept bitcoin. [Wallet tips: In addition to being able to use the Bitcoin Jungle App, the Phoenix wallet worked as did Wallet of Satoshi and Strike. The Muun wallet will work but in the high fee environment you might only use it for purchases of $100 or more. I used my Muun wallet to pay for our lodging and there were a surprising number of places that accepted bitcoin. Nearly every place we went during a two week trip accepted bitcoin using the Bitcoin Jungle App. The beauty of the Bitcoin Jungle App is it lets the user hold bitcoin and use the Costa Rican payment system Sinpe which is widely used in Costa Rica.

Connect With Self So You Can Connect With Others

It’s difficult to capture in words the serenity of the venue. Even so, the true heart of the venue is the river which defines the southern boundary of the property. Since the conference was held during the dry season the river had lots of exposed rock that for those who are ambitious can rock hop to the ocean several kilometers away. Many conversations were held and friendships formed by festival goers cooling off in the river because all venues were outdoors and covered but not air conditioned. Since January is the dry season in Costa Rica it is hot and the river is the place to cool off and connect. The Awake owner indicated he has plans for a cold plunge but it had not been set up in time for the festival.

If you live or work in a place with winter or just drab cloudy cold weather this entire region will warm your body and soul from the inside out. You will literally feel the stress melt away if you allow yourself to slow down. In this age of too many screens, too many distractions, too much insanity this place and the festival is just what the doctor ordered. There were meditation sessions and breath work and many mindfulness programs that focus on connection with self which, in this author’s opinion, is the most important connection. FULL STOP. If we don’t enjoy a strong connection to Self, there is little chance we will enjoy our connection to others.

Many bitcoiners have made a pilgrimage to El Salvador since bitcoin was made legal tender there in September 2021. Give yourself a huge gift and check out its Central American neighbor. You will find Bitcoin Jungle to be a deeply spiritual region that resides in a country and a people who are intimately in touch with nature. Due to the hard work of the Bitcoin Jungle Team, many area merchants have embraced the bottom up adoption of Lightning. It seems only fitting that such a deeply spiritual place would also adopt a deeply spiritual form of money. Pura Vida. 

This is a guest post by Mark Maraia. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.


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