“La Lotería” A Mexican Tradition

By Wendy Fregozo

Last Saturday a friend invited me over to play lotería. It was one of those times I had no excuse. I arrived a bit late after picking up some snacks and drinks; when I got there I saw a large table already surrounded by people seated under a large awning over the patio. They were so absorbed in their game, which had already begun, that only a few remarks of greetings could be picked out so as to not lose concentration.

I heard when someone shouted, “FULL” and that’s when everyone came out of their trance and welcomed me, kindly offering up a seat and having me choose a card. It was a peso per card. Being bold, I picked out two. Rules: “chorro” (hmm, bingo) and “llena” (full). I dug through the corners of my childhood memories, trying to remember what these meant but it was too late, the game was already beginning.

loteria (2)The person next to me asked what “chorro” meant, but everyone was so concentrated that I just kept playing along as much as I understood. My friend Lalo was drawing the cards. La Rosa, El Bandalón, El Cantarito (54 cards in all, including images of stars, fruit, and other typical items from Mexico) – the cards zoomed by so fast that my brain had to work at 100%.

Lotería consists of a large card containing 16 images; this time we used small rocks to mark each image (if there are no rocks, use beans or seeds – whatever’s in reach). One person draws the playing cards and as each name is called off, when your image shows up, you take off a rock (bean, seed, etc.)

That’s when I remembered, “chorro” is four images in a line whether vertical, horizontal, or diagonal. If 10 people are playing, the prize is 10 pesos, which can vary depending on the number of cards each player has. The first one to say “chorro” takes half the prize, or rather 5 pesos in this case. “Llena” (Full) means you’re the winner at the table because your card is clean, luck has favored you, and you’ve won! This is then followed by a series of mournful whispers of deception alongside the shouts of the winner.

Time flew by, and it was fun! It seemed like we were playing for thousands of pesos. Finally the money ends up changing hands, along with the laughter brought on by the game. This Lotería had been Aunt Lupe’s, who was visiting from Obregón.

Here in Mexico, Lotería has been a very popular game for many years. It’s a reason for family gatherings, or often there’s a stand set up at community fairs as a fundraising event. This is just one of the many splendid traditions of our beautiful country.

I’ll be sure not to hesitate the next time I’m invited to play!

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