What Is Loteria? How Designer Valfre Is Bringing The Mexican Classic Into The Mainstream
When I was growing up, Lotería was like my own interactive version of Spanish language flash cards. Instead of popping open a book with words to memorize, I could see the characters on the cards, with their names in Spanish underneath, and learn them accordingly. The cards featured words like "la bandera," accompanied by a bright photo of a flag, or — my favorite card to draw — "la sirena," which featured a curvaceous mermaid jumping out of the water. So what is Lotería? Basically, it's like the Mexican version of American bingo. And for many Mexican-American kids growing up, it was a go-to source of entertainment for rainy days, nights in, or around Christmas time when the whole family got together.
You begin the game by drawing a card written in Spanish, and each player who has the drawn card on their playing board marks it off, with the goal being to get a full row on your card marked off, just like bingo. I can't say I think of the game very often now, except when I'm at a Mexican restaurant that features the playing cards as artwork or something, but Ilse Valfré, artist and designer of Valfré clothing and accessories, is looking to change that for nostalgic millennials who may remember the game from when they were younger.
Valfré has updated the classic game, complete with Valfré-specific characters (think super cheeky, wide-eyed, hand-drawn doll characters) in place of the original designs, giving the beloved game a refreshed and millennial look. Now, Valfré spoke with Elite Daily to discuss how introducing her own version of Lotería aims to bring Mexican culture into the mainstream for young women.
Over the last few years, Valfré has built her artistic empire from the humble beginnings of sketching and posting her work on Facebook all the way to a popular clothing and accessory brand, notable for its cheeky and totally Instagrammable iPhone cases. In 2016, Valfré spoke with Elite Daily about her original painstaking process of scanning her drawings to her Facebook page and praying for 100 likes at best. Now, her Instagram boasts close to 1 million followers (739K, to be exact), and her signature drawings and accessories have become cool girl must-haves.
Before making her own version of Lotería and putting the individual cards on T-shirt designs, Valfré sold Lotería card prints. Soon after, fans began asking for a full, updated version of the game. "It was completely their idea," says Valfré. "They started asking for it as soon as I introduced the first Valfré Loteria artwork, which was 'la sirena.'"
Valfré also reflected on what the game means to her, personally, as an artist who grew up in Mexico and played the game frequently over the years. "Lotería is a super popular game to play in all Mexican households," says Valfré. "I've played at birthday parties, school events, etc. My earliest memory was in kindergarten, and I remember I was so excited because I won the first round and the prize was a lollipop." I also couldn't help but share a bit of my own memories of Lotería with the designer. I mentioned to her how my mom always called the game "Chalupa" instead of Lotería, and she seemed to know exactly what I was talking about. "Of course, Chalupa!" she says enthusiastically. "This is a boat we use in the rivers in the south of Mexico, and there is a Lotería 'chalupa' card in the original game."
Valfré's version of Lotería features 56 cards and eight playing boards, all featuring original Valfré artwork. The original Lotería game comes with 54 cards, and though Valfré features most of the original cards in hers, she also adds some fun additions like "el dry shampoo," "la space babe," and "la romantica."
As someone who grew up seeing, playing, and loving Lotería, it's so cool to see Valfré bring it back with an updated version — especially to reach those who might not have ever heard of the game. Valfré seems to feel the same way. "I don't know if I've shaped [Mexican culture for the mainstream], though I hope I've helped bring it into the mainstream," she says. "Mexican culture has definitely shaped me as a creative. It has influenced the way I use color and humor in my work and I am very proud of that."
You can purchase the Valfré Lotería game on her website for $30, but it's a super limited-edition release — with only 500 games available. Grab one now so you can spend your next Friday night in with the girls brushing up on your Spanish vocabulary.