El valiente loteria

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Mexico loves La Lotería Mexicana, a bingo-style game with colorful cards and occasionally matching language. 

This much-loved game, or juego, rose from being the pastime of social elites to a national phenomenon played by friends and familia at fiestas throughout the country. 

Let’s look at everything related to La Lotería Mexicana, from its beautifully-drawn cards to its occasionally outrageous callers. 

How Do You Play La Lotería Mexicana? 

La Lotería Mexicana is not to be confused with the lottery (La Lotería). When people talk about La Lotería Mexicana, they’re referring to a game that’s similar to bingo played in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. 

Items required: 

  • Players


  • A special pack of 54 lotería cards


  • A playing board for each player called a



  • A


    to read out the cards selected


Similar to bingo, players (jugadores) receive a playing board, in a 4×4 grid, with a total of 16 squares. Whereas bingo cards are filled with numbers, the Mexicano lotería cards, called tablas, feature vibrant pictures of animals, objects, and characters. 

Once every jugador has their tablas, the game can begin. Instead of matching numbers as in bingo, La Lotería players match pictures. A cantor, which literally means “singer” but is actually more a caller, has a deck of 54 cards. Each card has a different drawing corresponding to the images on the tablas. Modern cards and tablas often feature the name of the image (imágenes) represented and a number (número), too. 

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The cantor shuffles and then picks a card from the pack (baraja) at random, just as numbers are pulled from a tombola in bingo. The difference with La Lotería Mexicana is that the cantor often comes up with an original, even poetic, way to describe the card they’ve pulled. 

Players match the description to their tabla, placing a stone or bean on the pictures called out. Someone wins (the ganador) once they complete the agreed objective, such as a row, column, diagonal, all four corners, or a pozo — a group of images in a square. A player completing their tabla has to shout “lotería!” 

A cantor varies their language to describe the cards (cartas) depending on where the game is played. They will use more poetic and light language in a family setting and perhaps a more risqué version in an adult environment. The real fun of the game lies in the skill of the cantor. 

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What Phrases Are Used in La Lotería Mexicana? 

La Lotería Mexicana | People Playing Game at Tablesource

Some cantors use classic phrases to describe the cartas during the game. The images are a glimpse into Mexican historia y cultura (history and culture) with various personalities (personajes).  

Some classic card images include: 

La calavera (the skull): Al pasar por el panteón, me encontré un calaverón. This means, “As I passed by the cemetery, I found myself a skull.” 

El borracho (the drunkard): A qué borracho tan necio ya no lo puedo aguantar, which translates as, “I can’t stand this annoying drunk anymore.” 

El camarón (the shrimp): Camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente. This phrase is for the philosophers — it tells how the tides take the shrimp that sleeps. 

Each of the 54 cards has a set phrase that the cantor can use or ignore and invent on their own. Many cantors inject some social or political humor into their descriptions to amuse the crowd. 

What Is the History of La Lotería Mexicana? 

The traditional lotería has its roots in 15th century Italy, where it traveled to Spain. The Spanish brought the game to Mexico in the 18th century, around 1769. 

Initially played by the elite, La Lotería Mexicana grew in popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries thanks to traveling fairs, known as ferias. These ferias brought farmers and families together, and a few games of La Lotería became popular at the events. Cantors would recite their description or riddle about the card drawn. Once the crowd had identified the card, the game would continue. 

Early tablas were made of cardboard or tin on which the characters were painted. These Italian Renaissance-influenced art subjects like the sun (el sol), the moon (la luna), and the stars (la estrella) are known today as the campechana set. The iconography changed during the years according to fashions and social contexts until the end of the 19th century. 

Lithograph and printing presses revolutionized the distribution possibilities for the game. Clemente Jacques, a French immigrant, living in Mexico, was instrumental in the rise of La Lotería Mexicana. 

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How Did La Lotería Mexicana Become Popular? 

Clemente Jacques owned a bottling and canning business in Mexico and a printing press. (The Clemente Jacques brand still continues today.) His company’s tomato ketchup bottle was one of the cards in a version of La Lotería and displayed his firm’s name. 

Jacques took advantage of this free marketing tool to start mass-producing his version of the game. He even printed a small tabla within tinned rations given to Mexican soldiers to help them while away the time when on duty. Soldiers played the game with their families when they returned home from duty, sending the game’s popularity soaring. 

The version by Jacques is known as “Gallo de Don Clemente,” with Gallo meaning rooster, the national emblem of Jaques’ native France. Jacques’ version became the accepted classic version and helped the game spread outside Mexico’s borders into the United States and further afield. 

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Are There Modern Versions of La Lotería Mexicana



Yes, there are many versions of the cartas in La Lotería Mexicana in much the same way as the board game Monopoly has different versions. 

In the 1930s, the Catholic Church produced a playing set with various religious objects and concepts to help people learn more about the Catholic faith. 

Modern themes and occasions could include baby showers and hen or stag nights. A very popular version related to food, called La Lotería del Comal, features items such as hot plates (el comal), a mortar (el molcajete), the saucepan (la olla), and jars (los jarritos). 

There are apps and electronic versions of La Lotería Mexicana, some of which will act as the cantor so everyone (todos or todas) can enjoy the game. 

What Are the Classic 54 Lotería Mexicana Cards? 

La Lotería Mexicana | 8 Cards Photosource

Once the game took off in popularity, people would meet in the street or in plazas to play. Some of the verses and phrases spoken after drawing a card became fixed. This led to Samuel Juárez Martínez writing and standardizing the phrases. Many people learned these by heart, and they form the backbone of La Lotería Mexicana to this day. 

Here are the 54 classic cards and the associated phrases that the cantor speaks (we’ve also included translations). Some are old and traditional phrases that may seem out of step with modern speech and may not be in everyday use.  

There are many regional variations, so this list is by no means exhaustive. But these are the 54 classic cards of La Lotería Mexicana. 

  1. El Gallo:

    El que le cantó a san Pedro no le volverá a cantar.


    The rooster: The one who sang to St. Peter won’t sing to him again.


  2. El Diablo:

    El diablo son las mujeres cuando se quieren casar.


    The devil: Women are devils when they want to marry.


  3. La Dama:

    La chula de Severiana un tacón quería empeñar.


    The dame: Severiana’s girl wanted to pawn her high heels.


  4. El Catrín:

    Don Ferruco en la Alameda su bastón quería empeñar.


    The wealthy: Don (Sir) Ferruco wanted to pawn his walking stick in la Alameda (a famous square in Mexico City).


  5. El Paraguas:

    El paraguas quitasol.


    Umbrella: A play on words that means “umbrella umbrella” but works along the line of “the thing for water also stops the sun.”


  6. La Sirena:

    Medio cuerpo de sirena, medio cuerpo de mujer.


    The siren: Half a siren’s body, half a woman’s body.


  7. La Escalera:

    La escalera, siete palos, la escalera del pintor.


    The ladder: The ladder with seven poles, is the painter’s ladder.


  8. La Botella:

    La botella del tequila, la botella del mezcal.


    The bottle: A bottle of tequila or mezcal. This was the bottle of tomato ketchup that features Clemente Jacques’ business name.


  9. El Barril:

    El barril es quintaleño, el barril del mezcal.


    The barrel: The barrel weighs 100 pounds, the barrel of mezcal.


  10. El Árbol:

    El árbol de la esperanza que de venir no se cansa.


    The tree: The tree of hope never tires of giving.


  11. El Melón:

    El melón y sus olores, un pedazo me has de dar.


    The melon: The lovely smell of melon, you must give me a slice.


  12. El Valiente:

    ’Tate quieto, Valentín, no te vayas a pelear.


    The brave: Stay where you are, Valentín, don’t go and fight.


  13. El Gorrito:

    El gorrito ponle al nene, no se te vaya a resfriar.


    The bonnet: Put the bonnet on the baby lest they catch a cold.


  14. La Muerte:

    La muerte siriquiflaca, montada en su burra flaca.


    Death: The grim reaper comes, riding his skinny donkey.


  15. La Pera:

    Me esperas donde quedamos, para poder platicar.


    The pear: Wait for me where we met so that we can talk.


  16. La Bandera:

    Bonito Cinco de Mayo, el pabellón nacional.


    The flag: Beautiful May 5th, the national flag (May 5,

    Cinco de Mayo

    , is an important date in the Mexican calendar.)


  17. El Bandolón:

    El bandolón ya no suena, hay que llevarlo a afinar.


    Mexican musical instrument, like a guitar: The band is no longer playing; it’s time for them to tune up.


  18. El Violoncello:

    El violoncello del maistro, que no deja de sonar.


    Cello: The maestro’s cello never stops making its sound.


  19. La Garza:

    Llegaron los picos largos de la feria de San Juan.


    The heron: Their long beaks have arrived for the fiestas

    of San Juan.


  20. El Pájaro:

    El pájaro churlumirlo, que no deja de cantar.


    The bird: The blackbird never stops singing.


  21. La Mano:

    La mano del escribano, la mano del criminal.


    The hand: The hand of the scribe, the hand of the criminal.


  22. La Bota:

    La bota rechina, la bota del general.


    The boot: The general’s boots are squeaking.


  23. La Luna:

    La luna tuerta de un ojo, que no deja de brillar.


    The moon: The one-eyed moon, with only one eye, never stops shining.


  24. El Cotorro:

    Perico, da’cá la pata y empiézame a platicar los trabajos que pasabas cuando no sabías hablar.


    The parakeet: Loquacious one, give me your paw and tell me about the work you did when you didn’t know how to talk.


  25. El Borracho:

    Al borracho, mi compañero, ya se lo van a cargar.


    The drunk: A more sinister version to the one above: ‘The drunkard, my friend, is about to be killed.


  26. El Negrito:

    Para negros, en La Habana; uno acaba de llegar.


    A black man: A black man has just arrived in Havana (Cuba was one of the main slave-trading ports during

    colonial times



  27. El Corazón:

    El corazón de una ingrata yo lo voy a traspasar.


    The heart: The heart of an ungrateful woman is one I will pierce.


  28. La Sandía:

    La sandía y su rebanada, un pedazo me has de dar.


    The watermelon: You’ll have to give me a slice of that watermelon.


  29. El Tambor:

    No te arrugues, cuero viejo, que te quiero pa’ tambor.


    The drum: Don’t get wrinkly, old leather; I want you for a drum.


  30. El Camarón:

    Camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente.


    The shrimp: The shrimp that sleeps is taken by the tides.


  31. Las Jaras:

    Las jaras o no las jaras, o las dejas de jalar.


    The arrows: Throw them or not; you’ll have to pull them out. This is a play on words, with the


    being asked whether they want to play on or not.


  32. El Músico:

    El músico, trompa de hule.


    The musician: The rubber-lipped musician.


  33. La Araña:

    La araña teje su tela.


    The spider: The spider weaves its web.


  34. El Soldado:

    Centinela, ponte alerta, que te habla tu general.


    The soldier: Be alert, sentry! Your general is speaking to you!


  35. La Estrella:

    La estrella polar del norte, que no deja de brillar.


    The star: The Northern Star, which never stops shining.


  36. El Cazo:

    El caso que te hago es poco; el caso es averiguar.


    The pot: I pay scant attention to you. You need to find out why. Another play on words, with


    meaning attention and


    saucepan, but also they refer to homophones in Mexican Spanish.


  37. El Mundo:

    El mundo es una bola, y nosotros, un bolón.


    The world: The world is a ball, and we’re just a mob.


  38. El Apache:

    Para apaches, en Chihuahua; uno acaba de llegar.


    The Apache: An Apache has just arrived in Chihuahua.


  39. El Nopal:

    El auxilio de San Luis, que le llaman el nopal.


    Prickly pear: The help from San Luis is what is called prickly pear help.


  40. El Alacrán:

    ¡No levantes esa piedra, que te pica ese animal!


    The scorpion: Don’t lift that stone; this animal will sting you!


  41. La Rosa:

    Rosa, Rosita, Rosaura, Rosita se ha de llamar.


    The rose: Rosa, Rosita, Rosaura. No, she’s to be called Rosita.


  42. La Calavera:

    Al pasar por el panteón, me encontré un calaverón.


    The skull: As I passed by the cemetery, I found myself a skull.


  43. La Campana:

    La campana, y tú, debajo.


    The bell: The bell, with you underneath it. There are other versions where a person is listening to the bell while the


    has run off with that person’s sister.


  44. El Cantarito:

    Todo cabe en un jarrito, sabiéndolo acomodar.


    The jug: Everything fits in a jar if you have the know-how.


  45. El Venado:

    Don Venancio, a la carrera, un balazo le han de dar.


    The deer: Don Venancio, on the run, must take a bullet.


  46. El Sol:

    Solito me estoy quedando, solito me he de quedar.


    The sun: A play on words,


    means ‘a little bit of sun’ and ‘being alone.’ So this phrase means: Alone I am becoming, alone I must stay, mixed with a plea for the sun to stay with a person a while longer.


  47. La Corona:

    Si te mueres, te la pongo, la coronita imperial.


    The crown: If you die, I’ll put the imperial crown upon you.


  48. La Chalupa:

    Rema y rema, Joaquinita, y no dejes de remar.


    The canoe: Row and row, Joaqunita, don’t stop rowing.


  49. El Pino:

    Te empino y me voy de paso, y empinado has de quedar.


    The pine tree: I’ll push you and be on my way, but you’ll remain standing tall.


  50. El Pescado:

    Me pescaron vacilando en la puerta del zaguán.


    The fish: They caught me hesitating at the hallway door.


  51. La Palma:

    Sube a la palma, palmero, y bájame un cocotal.


    The palm tree: Climb the palm tree, coconut harvester, and bring me down a coconut grove.


  52. La Maceta:

    En la maceta me dieron, por no saber barajar.


    Plant pot: They put me in this pot because I didn’t know how to shuffle cards.


  53. El Arpa:

    El arpa vieja de mi suegra.


    The harp: My mother-in-law’s old harp.


  54. La Rana:

    ¡Qué saltos pega tu hermana en la puerta del zaguán!


    The frog: Look at your sister, leaping in the hallway door.


It’s Time to Play La Lotería Mexicana 

La Lotería Mexicana | Photo of 1 Card El Corazonsource

La Lotería Mexicana is a simple game for all the family and can be more risqué depending on the crowd. Its iconography and distinctive cards have made it one of the most visually appealing Bingo-style games globally. 

The game of chance sees the skill placed in the hands of the cantor, whose job is to amuse and tease the jugadores until someone wins. It’s also a great way to practice your Spanish language skills and learn some idioms and phrases that punctuate the Mexican lexicon. 

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As time goes by, you may even invent some of your own! And don’t forget, games are a fantastic way to switch off gadgets, save energy, and get friends and family together. 

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