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Mexican Bingo or Lotería


La Lotería or Mexican Bingo is a traditional Mexican card game. The difference between bingo and Mexican bingo is that Mexican bingo uses images on a deck of cards instead of numbered ping pong balls.

The game originated in Italy in 15th century and was brought to Mexico by Spaniards in 1769.

Initially played by the colonial Mexican elite, it eventually was embraced by all social classes.

A French businessman Don Clemente Jacques started publishing the game with images in 1887. His version was distributed to Mexican soldiers along with the rations and supplies. When the soldiers brought home the game to their families, it became hugely popular with the general public.

A game set consists from 54 different cards. Although the back card has a number and a picture, numbers are ignored, and the goal is to locate a matching picture.

In Lotería, the announcer could give an improvised short poem or familiar phrase alluding to the image on the card (e.g. "la guía de los marineros" - "Sailor's guide" for the image of the star or "el que se comió el azúcar" - "the one who ate the sugar" for the image of el negrito ("the little black man")).

Each player uses a chip - it could be a small rock, a shell, a kernel of corn or a bean-to mark the corresponding spot on his or her board or tabla. The first player to appropriately fill whole game board or a predefined pattern (a row, column or diagonal) will shout either “Bingo!” or “Lotería!” to win the game and receive the prize.

This version of Lotería, the “Don Clemente Gallo,” is most recognized nowadays and has become iconic in Mexican culture as well as popular in United States and some European countries.Lotería has been played as a game of chance, as a pastime, and for educational purposes. Many bilingual teachers use the game as a teaching tool in the United States.


Pilsen Chicago Mexican Culture Loteria Doors

Images of Lotería in Pilsen popped up in 2016 as a mean to combat gang graffiti which was a big problem on Pilsen doors. The author of this idea was Rick Garza, the owner of International Real Estate, a real estate company on 18th street.

And while most doors include traditional images from the game, like the ladder that accompanies the card La Escalera, other doors feature creative riffs on classic Lotería images, like La Valiente - the brave woman, instead of El Valiente -a brave man, El Musico - the musician, El Soldado - the soldier.


El corazón - the heart

No me extrañes corazón, que regreso en el camión. - Do not miss me, sweetheart, I'll be back by bus.

Pilsen Chicago Mexican Culture Loteria Doors
El soldado - the soldier

Uno, dos y tres, el soldado p'al cuartel. -One, two and three, the soldier heads to the fort.

P.S. The top sentence is in Latin "Si vis pacem para bellum" - "If you want peace, prepare for war", is a contemporary addition to the card. The image of the soldier has been modified from the traditional one - we see an American soldier instead of Mexican.

Pilsen Chicago Mexican Culture Loteria Doors
La valiente - the brave woman

Por qué le corres cobarde, trayendo tan buen puñal. - Why do you run, coward? Having such a good blade too.


Pilsen Chicago Mexican Culture Loteria Doors

El pino - the pine tree

Fresco y oloroso, en todo tiempo hermoso. - Fresh and fragrant, beautiful in any season.

Pilsen Chicago Mexican Culture Loteria Doors
La escalera - the ladder

Súbeme paso a pasito, no quieras pegar brinquitos - Ascend me step by step, don't try and skip.

Pilsen Chicago Mexican Culture Loteria Doors
La botella - the bottle

La herramienta del borracho. - The tool of the drunk.

La luna - the moon

El farol de los enamorados. - The street lamp of lovers.

El Sol - the sun

La cobija de los pobres. - The blanket of the poor.

La chalupa - the canoe

Rema que rema Lupita, sentada en su chalupita. - Lupita rows as she may, sitting in her little boat.


Pilsen Chicago Mexican Culture Loteria Doors
La dama -the lady

Puliendo el paso, por toda la calle real. - Improving her gait, all along the main street

Pilsen Chicago Mexican Culture Loteria Doors

El músico - the musician

El músico trompas de hule, ya no me quiere tocar. - The rubber-lipped musician does not want to play for me anymore.

Pilsen Chicago Mexican Culture Loteria Doors
La palma - the palm tree

Palmero, sube a la palma y bájame un coco real -

Palmer, climb the palm tree and bring me a coconut fit for kings. (Lit: "A royal coconut.")

Pilsen Chicago Mexican Culture Loteria Doors
La rosa - the rose

Rosita, Rosaura, ven que te quiero ahora. - Rosita, Rosaura, come, as I want you here now.

Pilsen Chicago Mexican Culture Loteria Doors

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