Jose Santana Torres’ first Bitcoin payment for taxi services was sort of an accident. His clients, Logan Ryan Golema and Lauren Slade, paid him an extra $135 for a $15 fare in Bitcoin. Jose’s story is about more than just accepting crypto, however. He is part of an emerging crypto economy on the island following Hurricane Maria. He spoke at the Coin Agenda Conference in March, sharing his story with audiences from around the world. He agreed to this exclusive interview with The Merkle.

Jose’s first crypto taxi ride

“I had no idea how to accept it or if I should, but I told him I’d accept it if he paid for the first taxi ride in cash and Bitcoin for the way back to his hotel. His fare was only $14.97 but he accidentally paid me $147.90. I contacted him to let him know he’d paid an extra $135 [by]accident and ended up giving him extra rides all week to cover the difference. Since then, I learned everything I could about Bitcoin and all my cabs accept it as payment.”

At the time, Jose had heard about Bitcoin a few times, but he wasn’t an investor.

Bitcoin Taxi Service, Anyone?

That first crypto payment is what led Jose to form Puerto Rico’s Bitcoin taxi service. Jose runs both a taxi service – including a VIP luxury fleet – and a second business repairing taxis all over the island. Needless to say, he keeps busy. Now a crypto believer, Jose’s made cryptocurrency payments a standout feature of his business, and he’s holding onto it for the long haul. “All crypto I accepted in my taxi is to invest and ‘hodl’, or hold onto for the future. I am saving for my retirement.” Jose also accepts Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, Lisk and TravelFlex.

Building a Business

Jose started his taxi service twenty years ago as a family business after studying electronic engineering and serving in the U.S. military. “A couple years into the taxi business, I opened up an auto body shop for taxi vehicles. Taxi-Meter Shop, my second business, serves all taxi drivers in Puerto Rico in need of repairs or help with meter services. In 2012, with my taxi and auto mechanic experience, I opened a new division in my business to cater to high-end clients called Taxi Concept Puerto Rico.”

Hurricane Maria’s Effects

Last year, after the hurricane, tourists stopped visiting, buildings were destroyed, and understandably, Jose lost a lot of taxi business. “I wanted to help in the efforts of rebuilding Puerto Rico. I started working as an Emergency Response Official with FEMA for the next three months. Today, we continue to rebuild Puerto Rico, and that makes me proud.”

Puerto Rico’s Emerging Crypto Economy

He hopes for a “crypto utopia”, as many are calling it, to be a place where U.S. investors looking for tax savings and Puerto Ricans can combine their talents. “Yes, there’s great tax advantages, but I would also like to see these investors bring in local entrepreneurs and students here in Puerto Rico. There are a lot of students graduating that emigrate straight to the United States for a better future. I would like them to stay and apply their skill here, to build a better Puerto Rico.”

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Photo: Jose Santana Torres with AnthemGold’s CEO, Anthem Blanchard, and his wife, Cynthia French Blanchard.