Friday, October 30, 2009


Type: That by which something is symbolized or figured; anything having a symbolic signification; a symbol, emblem

Prototype: The first or primary type of a person or thing; an original on which something is modelled or from which it is derived; an exemplar, an archetype

Archetype: In the psychology of C. G. Jung: a pervasive idea, image, or symbol that forms part of the collective unconscious.

(from the Oxford English

Dictionary Online)

“To us the images of Loteria cards and boards weren’t types but prototypes and archetypes in the nation’s psyche. To play a single game was to traverse the inner chambers of la mexicanidad” (Stavans 27).

It is reported that the game Loteria first gained widespread popularity in Mexico after a shrewd French entrepeneur, Don Clemente Jacques, began distributing boards for the game alongside the canned foods that his company provided for soldiers during the Mexican Revolution. When the dust from the war settled, the soldiers had not forgotten about the game that they had played to while away the hours on the lines of battle, and Jacques had to use “the same press he used to create food labels” (26) just to keep up with demand. And so it is that one of Mexico’s national pastimes grew up alongside one of the most important events in her history.

Appropriately so, I think.

For one thing, the game carries immense social significance: one form of the game, La Loteria Nacional, offers the chance to win riches for the cost of a single peso. The competitive form of the game, meanwhile, acts as a meeting place for family, friends, and neighbors to gather around and socialize while coming up with clever riddles and poetic nuggets to outwit the other players.

However, one of the most profound aspects of the game may be in the images themselves. Each of the cards depicts a vivid illustration of an object or person taken out of Mexican culture. But these pictures can’t be reduced to mere cultural artifacts. They’re not simply representations of what people think of when they think of Mexico. In one interpretation, they are symbols taken out of the Mexican consciousness, ripe with varied signs as to what it means to be Mexican.

Works Cited

Stavans, Ilan "Mexico's Ritual of Chance." Americas 57.1 (2005): 22-27. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 30 Oct. 2009.

1 comment:

  1. I love this. The idea that "Mexican consciousness" itself is represented in the images generates all kinds of interesting parallels between what's happening in Caramba and what happens in a game of loteria. Very nice, Andrew.