Tag Archives: Mexican bingo


R is 31. His family is from Mexico, he was born in Sanger, California. He was very excited and happy to tell me about how his family played the game Loteria.

“We were big on Loteria, Loteria is like Mexican bingo… we played as a family with beans or rocks or pasta shells… so Loteria is pretty much like, like bingo but with cards… so there’s a deck of cards that has different pictures of things… like la sirena, la musica, el apache, la ranaand the pictures that go with them… stuff like that and pretty much you buy the game and it comes with these preset boards, they’re 5 by 4 or 4 by 4… something like that… and they have some of the different card pictures on them… but we would cut them up and rearrange them to like… make our own luck… so pretty much everybody gets their boards ready and then we shuffle the deck and the middle square on the board is a free play… and you win by… as you draw cards, you put like a bean or pasta shell… my mom liked glass rocks… the shiny ones that people use for like aquariums or flower arrangements… everyone in my family had their own pieces… my tia liked pasta, my other tia used dry pinto beans, my grandma used coins, like dimes, nickels, or quarters because she liked money (laughs) I like rocks, like smooth river rocks I would find at Avocado lake… we would go there swimming in the summer… so you draw cards and if you have the card on your board you put a piece over it and so… basically when you start the game, there’s two pots, there’s a game pot and a jack pot and there’s money in ‘em, quarters, nickels, dimes, you know cuz grandma… so the first to match the four corners wins the jack pot, then if you matched across horizontally or diagonally you would get the smaller game pot. We would play this all the time… bar-b-q’s, holidays… my family got together a lot, like weekly, for family dinners or whatever… everyone calls it Loteria but my family calls it cholupa, after one of the cards… it’s a lady in a canoe wearing like a folklorico dress… I didn’t find out it was called Loteria until like 5 years ago, we always called it cholupa after that card. We all kind of had our own cards that were also like our nicknames… like my tia was la dama because she thought she was fancy and my uncle was el boracho because he liked to drink and I was el apache because my skin is darker.”

Loteria came to Mexico by way of Italy and Spain, for a brief history of Loteria see, https://teresavillegas.com/history-of-la-loteria/ for variations on game play, see http://www.maravillasoftware.com/loteriamexicana.html. The customizations R’s family members added, such as individual game pieces and nicknames associated with the cards show folklore’s role in identity formation and cultural pride passed along in family tradition.