Culture: Loteria – the Latin American Game of Bingo

Mexican "Bingo": The Game of Loteria (Card imagess from Gallo)
Mexican “Bingo”: The Game of Loteria (Card images from Gallo)

The first time I played Loteria was poolside in Cancun. We had just ambled up from the sugar sand beach to take a dip in the pool. The ambiance by the pool was quite different than at the shore. Pop music blared at a deafening level, and waiters and waitresses buzzed around the lounge chairs serving mas cervesas to the sunburned Northerners. A little put off, I found a chair to put my stuff and hopped into the pool. When I popped up for a breath, there was an announcement on the loud speaker, “Loteria to begin in 3 minutes! Prizes for the winner” shouted our poolside cruise director.

Well who can turn down a poolside game with the potential of a prize? Not me!

Turns out, Loteria is the Latin American version of bingo– except instead of calling out numbers (and letters), the names of items/objects that are illustrated on the cards are called out. Ever since that day, I’ve been charmed by the illustrations. The vintage styling, and bright bold colors are eye catching. But what is more interesting I find is what some of the illustrations depict.

Yes, there is the common objects/items like the sun, a fish, a woman… but there are also objects that seem a bit unique, like instead of a tree, there is a pine tree, or instead of a shoe, there is a boot. But those are not the ones that really caught my eye. I love the dandy, the mermaid, the scorpion, the little devil, and the drunk. There must be some great cultural history to why these items were selected.

In doing a bit more investigation, I also found out there are different ways to play. For instance, instead of calling out the the item’s name, a riddle is read. From there, you must guess which item it is. Some of them are pretty obvious, but others not as much. Here are a few examples:

Beat it silly, do not let it reach me! (the spider)

Polishing the path, along the entire royal street. (the lady)

The guide of the sailors. (the star)

Would you have guessed correctly?

Free Printable Hand Drawn Loteria Cards

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, I thought it would be fun to take a little time and design a few of my own loteria cards. They can make great gift cards or tags. Print them out and string on a  hostess gift, or present to give it a little Mexican flair! Enjoy.

Free Printable Hand Drawn Loteria Tags from Wanderlust Designer (B.Nute productions)

Printable items are copyright protected, and provided free of charge by Wanderlust Designer for personal use only. Wanderlust Designer’s printables can not be sold, altered, or provided for download on any other site. For questions or inquiries, please contact Questions at Wanderlust Designer.

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