Mexican Loteria Card Games
A seriagraph print
by artist Kent Swanson
based on the Luna card
Mexican Loteria Card Games
Mexican loteria is a wonderful traditional card game similar to “Bingo.” However, it is also a form
of folk art, as each of the colorful cards has an image of popular Mexican figures, such as “El
Catrin” (The Gentleman), “El Borracho” (The Drunk), “La Calavera” (The Skeleton), “La Chalupa”
(The Flower Boat), etc. There are many different variations of these colorful cards, including
loteria cards with images from the Day of the Dead, fruits, and other unusual figures.
The game is played in a similar way to bingo, except that Mexicans use beans as place
markers, and the name of each card is called out during the game. In Mexican homes
everywhere, you can here the game being played: “La Muerte! La Catrina! La Sandia! La
Traditionally, the person who calls out the cards should ideally make up a rhyme about the
image, and the other players guess which one the person is talking about. They then place a
dry bean on the object that they have correctly identified.
When the cards are filled, the winner shouts “Loteria!” and wins a prize. The game was a
popular betting game in town ferias (town fairs).
The loteria cards have 20 squares with a different image in each square. The traditional loteria
includes images of fruits, vegetables, people, and other objects such as:
La Dama (The Lady)
El Catrín (The Gentleman)
La Calavera (The Skull)
La Sandia (The Watermelon)
La Chalupa (The Boat)
El Borracho (The Drunk)
El Soldado (The Soldier)
These days, the images are not necessarily the traditional ones listed above. My wife and I have
a collection of Mexican loterias with images of fruits, vegetables, world flags, etc. Artists and
creative game manufacturers are coming up with lots of unique designs for loterias these days.
There are other versions of this game as well. In the Mexican state of Campeche, there is a
version of loteria with 25 squares and 90 images. This version includes numbers and images.
There is said to be a version in the state of Yucatan that uses pictures of regional chiles and
Maya women dressed in the traditional clothing from that area.
Teachers in the United States and elsewhere have discovered the use of loteria cards as a
great way to teach Spanish in their classrooms. As there are dozens of cards all with colorful
images, students can associate the word with the image. And since there is someone who
calls out the name of each loteria card, the students can hear the exact pronunciation of the
words as they play the game.
Loteria images are also popular in modern Mexican folk art, decorating colorful boxes,
notecards, just about anything you can think of!
See this website from Boston University on the History of the Mexican Loteria Card Game.
Check out this site for an interesting article about loteria: El Balero website.
Traditional Loteria Playing Cards
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