La Lotería - Mexico's Bingo

October 10, 2017

If you were raised in a Mexican family or spent a lot of time with a Mexican family, you were likely introduced to the game of La Lotería, or The Lottery. La Lotería is a game of chance referred to by many as Mexican bingo. But rather than using balls with numbers on them, La Lotería uses a deck of cards containing images of game characters.

The games deck contains 54 cards, each containing a different image. Each card also contains a number. But in practice, the number is ignored as it is the character’s name that is called out to the players.

Each player has at least one “tabla,” or game board. The tabla contains 16 different images comprised of the game characters, their names and their card number (1-54). Each tabla contains a unique set of 16 characters so that no two players have the same characters on their tabla.

La Loteria Backpack

To start the game, the caller (cantor, or singer) randomly selects a card from a shuffled deck of cards and announces it to the players by its name. The players with a matching image on their tabla mark it off with a chip or other kind of marker. In my family we used pinto beans.

The first player with four chips in a horizontal, vertical or diagonal row, squared pattern, any other previously specified pattern or fills the tabla first shouts "¡Lotería!" is the winner.

The origin of La Lotería can be traced far back in history. The game originated in Italy in the 15th century and was brought to Mexico in 1769. In the beginning, La Lotería was a hobby of the upper classes but eventually it became a tradition at Mexican fairs.

The most famous maker of the card sets nowadays is Pasatiempos Gallo, S.A. de C.V., headquartered in the city of Santiago de Queretaro. The current images have become iconic in Mexican culture.

The following is a list of all the original 54 La Lotería cards, traditionally and broadly recognized in all of Mexico.

1 El Gallo ("the rooster")

2 El Diablito ("the little Devil")

3 La Dama ("the lady")

4 El Catrín ("the dandy")

5 El Paraguas ("the umbrella")

6 La Sirena ("the mermaid")

7 La Escalera ("the ladder")

8 La Botella ("the bottle")

9 El Barril ("the barrel")

10 El Arbol ("the tree")

11 El Melon ("the melon")

12 El Valiente ("the brave man")

13 El Gorrito ("the little bonnet")

14 La Muerte ("Death")

15 La Pera ("the pear")

16 La Bandera ("the flag")

17 El Bandolón ("the mandolin")

18 El Violoncello ("the cello")

19 La Garza ("the heron")

20 El Pájaro ("the bird")

21 La Mano ("the hand")

22 La Bota ("the boot")

23 La Luna ("the moon")

24 El Cotorro ("the parrot")

25 El Borracho ("the drunkard")

26 El Negrito ("the little black man")

27 El Corazón ("the heart")

28 La Sandía ("the watermelon")

29 El Tambor ("the drum")

30 El Camarón ("the shrimp")

31 Las Jaras ("the arrows")

32 El Músico ("the musician")

33 La Araña ("the spider")

34 El Soldado ("the soldier")

35 La Estrella ("the star")

36 El Cazo ("the saucepan")

37 El Mundo ("the world")

38 El Apache ("the Apache")

39 El Nopal ("the prickly pear cactus")

40 El Alacrán ("the scorpion")

41 La Rosa ("the rose")

42 La Calavera ("the skull")

43 La Campana ("the bell")

44 El Cantarito ("the little water pitcher")

45 El Venado ("the deer")

46 El Sol ("the sun")

47 La Corona ("the crown")

48 La Chalupa ("the canoe")

49 El Pino ("the pine tree")

50 El Pescado ("the fish")

51 La Palma ("the palm tree")

52 La Maceta ("the flowerpot")

53 El Arpa ("the harp")

54 La Rana ("the frog")