Loteria, sometimes known as Loteria Mexicana or even Mexican bingo is a game that is massive in the Latin American country and looks to be growing in popularity all of the world. It’s quite similar to the British Paddy Power online bingo or American versions of the game where numbers are drawn out of a drum or electronically except this colourful version of the game uses cards and pictures instead of numbers.
History of Loteria
Surprisingly for a game that is traditionally played in Mexico it originated in Italy in the 15th century but by the 1700’s it had made its way to Mexico. It was originally a pass time for the elite upper classes of Mexico until its popularity grew through being played at traditional Mexican fairs. The most popular cards and designs were created by Don Clemente Jacques and they have become iconic in Mexican culture.
There are 54 individual cards that depict a different character on each that are recognised all across Mexico as the official set of cards, including an introductory story about each that have become synonymous with each card. Some of them are:
El diablito ("the Devil") - Behave yourself buddy, or the little red one will take you away
La muerte ("Death") - Death, thin and lanky.
La rosa ("the Rose") - Rosita, Rosaura, come, as I want you here now.
La calavera ("the Skull") - As I passed by the cemetery, I found myself a skull.
El apache ("the Apache") - Ah, Chihuahua! So many Apaches with pants and sandals.
Much like a traditional game of bingo you will have a sheet that depicts the characters on in a set of 16 squares and as each character/card is called out you need to match these to what is on your sheet. Unlike bingo however there are lots more ways in which you can win. Winners can match the following patterns of squares:
(Image source: MaravillaSoftware)
How to play
To play this game, you need a group of 3 or more. There are large player cards one for each participant and the facilitator’s small cards with pictures representing public welfare services provided by the State Government. All of the large cards have four different pictures. Each picture also has a number in the upper right hand corner. However, no picture will have the same number. For example, a picture of food on one large card may have the number 3; on another card, the same picture may have the number 5.
The facilitator’s stack of cards includes all possible combinations of pictures and numbers. The facilitator shows a picture and calls out the corresponding number one by one from the stack of small cards. If a player has the picture AND matching number on their big card, they mark it with a counter (usually beans, buttons, stones, etc). The first person who gets two pictures with the corresponding numbers either on a vertical, horizontal or diagonal line shouts out “Lotteries” and becomes the winner. The game may be repeated to give others an opportunity to win.
Loteria isn’t just a game though to some, it’s used as a tool to teach children about the country, its values and its links to their history. In America, because the Loteria cards include the spanish name of the item beneath in its picture they are sometimes used as a teaching tool for Spanish reading, writing and values.