From the traveling fairs of late 19th century Mexico to the 2023 State Fair of Texas, Lotería is a beloved game that crosses cultures, continents, and generations. Combining the leisurely pace of Bingo with colorful artwork of Mexican culture, playing Lotería has become a time-honored tradition for many Texas families – as much of a tradition as attending the State Fair of Texas every year! With those traditions in mind, the State Fair of Texas decided to combine our love for both and create a version of Lotería that honors the past and the present. Introducing the State Fair of Texas Lotería.
What is Lotería?
Commonly referred to as “Mexican Bingo,” Lotería actually has roots in Europe and found its way to late 17th-century Mexico by way of Spain. When it first took root, the game was mainly played amongst the Mexican Elite, but the traveling carnivals and fairs of the 1800s slowly spread knowledge of the game from town to town. It didn’t take long for the game to catch on.
In 1887, a Mexican manufacturing entrepreneur by the name of Don Clemente Gallo popularized the game further when he created and began mass-producing the most recognized version of the Lotería art on his printing press. Don Clemente also printed canned food packaging for military rations and decided to include little versions of the Lotería game in those rations so that soldiers had something to pass the time with. These soldiers would eventually take these games home to their families and thus spread the popularity of the game and its iconic artwork.
Naturally, the Lotería game became a beloved piece of identifiable Mexican culture that crossed borders and can now be played in many countries around the world.
How Do You Play Lotería?
If you’ve played Bingo, then you can play Lotería. Instead of letters and numbers, Lotería game cards – or tablas – are made up of randomized configurations of beautiful “cards” that contain imagery of specific items like a cactus or the moon. A deck of 54 cards that contain these same images is then shuffled and pulled one at a time by a chosen “announcer” who calls out the name of the card. If your game board contains the particular image card called out, you place a marker on it – a “marker” can be something as simple as an uncooked pinto bean. The first player to fill in their tabla in a predefined pattern exclaims “Bingo!” or “¡Lotería!” and that player wins the round. Predefined patterns can range from four in a row in any direction, all four corners, or even having to fill your entire tabla.
One interesting way of playing Lotería, involves the announcer refraining from immediately calling out the name of the card he or she draws, but instead, they create an improvised short poem or riddle that alludes to the image on the card. Eventually, one of the players will guess the image and the card is then shared with everyone. This is not the most common method of play, but it shows how versatile and creative Lotería can be.
The State Fair of Texas Lotería
One of the enduring aspects of Lotería is that it is extremely adaptable. Various cultures around the world have honored it by creating unique twists on the game. This includes reimagining the artwork of the cards in a variety of fun and creative ways. In 2019, the idea to create a State Fair of Texas version of Lotería was conceived with the intent to create all new artwork for each of the 54 cards. This artwork would represent key elements of the Fair that all fairgoers could connect with. Clever ways to integrate the use of the Spanish titles and combine them with new Fair iconography on each card would act as an homage to the original game.
The State Fair of Texas’ marketing team began the work of compiling ideas for imagery, starting with fan favorites like Big Tex, the Texas Star Ferris Wheel, and the ever-popular corny dog. Once the 54 image ideas were collected, the Fair partnered with The Matchbox Studio, a neighboring creative agency in Deep Ellum, to design each of the unique 54 pieces of art. One important element that was key to the entire design process was the decision to pay tribute to the classic Don Clemente artwork while incorporating the colorful flair of the Fair.
“I aimed to maintain the majority of the same subject matter and poses while also taking the opportunity to highlight elements from many diverse activities and Fair experiences,” said Taylor Culligan, the Matchbox Studio designer who crafted the card designs. “The most satisfying cards were the ones that felt closely related to the original cards but also embodied a specifically-Fair visual or experience.”
After months of tweaks and enhancements, the State Fair of Texas Lotería game was finalized, complete with 54 game card designs and 10 tablas of randomized configurations on those designs. Many fun and beloved Fair icons made the list, including Little Big Tex, The Top O’ Texas Tower, and the butter sculpture. There is even some lesser-known imagery that perhaps only hardcore Fair fans would easily recognize, like the Hall of State archer, the grow towers from the Big Tex Urban Farms, and the popular ladder game on the Midway. There are lots of surprises within the artwork for every Fair fan to enjoy, and it’s our hope that families throughout Texas can enjoy this special version of a time-honored game. It’s a game Big Tex himself would surely be honored to play with ya!
Want to play the State Fair of Texas Lotería?
Introduced at the 2023 State Fair of Texas, our version of Lotería is a bit of an “exclusive” item as only a limited amount of physical game packages were created. Several copies of the game have already been given away to lucky Fair fans who follow the Fair on social media. We’re not stopping there, however – stay tuned for plenty of different ways to win your own copy of the game. Follow us on social media here or join our email list here to be the first to learn about future giveaways.
Want to print out your version of the State Fair of Texas Lotería? Click here to download a PDF version of the 54 cards and the tablas to play Lotería at home right now, the best game for folks of all ages!