Poor Miners and Empty E-wallets: Latin American experiences with cryptocurrencies in crisis

Antulio Rosales*, Eva van Roekel, Peter Howson, Coco Kanters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines how cryptocurrencies are increasingly entangled with crises in Latin American political discourse and everyday economic life. In an effort of interdisciplinary integration, combining human geography with political economy and cultural anthropology, we critically assess the linkages between cryptocurrency, economic crisis and forms of political and economic precarity and exploitation. Drawing on experiences in Latin America, mostly on the cases of El Salvador and Venezuela, we explore how cryptocurrencies have rapidly emerged and expanded during periods of economic and political crises. We ground this discussion on social theories of money and critical analysis of blockchain and cryptocurrencies that question the apolitical assumptions of these apparent “trustless” infrastructures. The article contends that cryptocurrencies have the capacity to create potential niches for makeshift economic survival, speculation, and quick profit, while at the same time reproducing historical conditions of vulnerability, inequality, and ‘crypto-colonialism’. Though cryptocurrencies are surrounded by discursive stories of freedom and decentralized community control, our ethnographic data on El Salvador and Venezuela suggest they often rely on free market fundamentalism and conditions of political corruption by authoritarian state-backed elites.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Geography
Early online date15 Aug 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Aug 2023

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