Monday, June 21, 2010

The Loteria can be found all around San Miguel de Allende

Loteria, Spanish word for Lottery, is a game of chance in Mexico dating back to the the 18th century from Spain. It is very similar to Bingo. The "board" above is from the late 1800's. You can find this game in a few stores around San Miguel de Allende and some of the little boutiques in town sell funky purses, boxes and jewelry using the Loteria's images.
Originally the Loteria was a hobby of the upper class and later it became popular at Mexican fairs. Today, it is mainly a children's game. It is also used as a teaching tool and by several artists in their creations.
The most famous producer of the Loteria card sets is Pasatiempos Gallo (also known as Don Clemente) located in Queretaro, about an hour drive from San Miguel de Allende. They have been publishing these cards since 1887. The traditional set has 54 Loteria cards. Each card has its own number, name and an image. To start the game, the caller (cantor or singer) will randomly select a card from the deck and announces it by name. Often though, the cantor will use a riddle instead of reading the card's name. For example, Number 46 is El Sol (the sun) and the cantor will call out, "La cobija de los pobres" which translates, "The coat for the poor." I love it! The players will mark their board with a small rock or pinto bean as a marker when they have a match. When a player has four "beans" in a horizontal, vertical or diagonal row or other previously specified patterns, he will yell out Loteria or Buena (good) and win!
Recently the Museo de Las Americas in Denver had a show of Loteria canvases created by a few local artist. These contemproary interpertations ranged from silk screen, wood cut, gliclees, acrylic or a combination of these techniques. I thought it would be fun to look at the traditional card as shown above with an updated image below.

Love the colors and the abstract way the artist depicted the Bandolon.
The Barril is drawn with the colors of the Mexican flag.
I like how the artist has used little Barriles in the background of the canvase.
One of my favorites, El Borrracho. I am sure you know El Borracho translates to The Drunk.
I like how this artist has created Los Borrachos going around in a circle, getting dizzier, dizzier and drunker and drunker!

This is a typical copper Cazo, cauldron, that can be found all around Mexico, especially in the town of Santa Clara de Cobre in the state of Michoacan. The main livelihood of this town is fabrication of copper (cobre) vessels anywhere from vases, pots, cazos, sinks... (This town will be one of the stops on my "Artisan & Architecture" tour in the spring of 2010.)

El Cazo, is derived from the word cazar, to hunt. It's fitting that the three pig heads are in the Cazo. Love it!
La Escalera, the Ladder. Makes sense that the escalator is called that.

Very clever on how this artist went outside the box and made his interpretation of the Loteria card three dimensional.
I bought this little vinyl bag at a cute boutique in San Miguel. I have used it several times in the last few weeks and I get at least a couple of compliments on it every time I go out.

One of the many special things about San Miguel is the creative people and the treasures one can find in the boutiques and shops around town. It is a shopper's paradise. Always something new and different.

Join me on one of my guided tours and you will see first hand what I am talking about!


  1. Very interesting, I'm from Mexico and I'm searching for info about bandolón instrument. It seems it is played no more.

  2. Thanks.
    I can not believe it is not played any more.