Immigrant artist gives classic game Lotería a ‘Millennial makeover’

Courtesy of Millennial Loteria

In Latino culture, we always have to add our sazon to everything from food to dancing and now games, but as millennials, we take our new age swag and progressive outlooks and put a spin on things - even Mami and Papi's old school Mexican Loteria game.

Think of Loteria as Bingo, but with a matching deck of cards to the board. Loteria is a throwback version played mostly in Mexico and Central America. Traditional figures such as el gallo, or the rooster, la dama or the lady, and la sirena or the mermaid were familiar images, but now the age-old game is getting a makeover a -la-millennial.

Mike Alfaro, the game’s re-creator, said it all started with an Instagram account in June of 2017. Alfaro’s goal was to update lotería to be more representative of Hispanic-Americans, their diversity, and their accomplishments.

The game went viral with more than 36,000 followers, and the first edition sold out in five days. In December he released the full version of the game with features such as mini bitcoins for the playing pieces with over 10,000 units pre-ordered before its release date.

“The concept for me came out of love. I have a love for the game and grew up playing it, and I think Latinos from Mexico and Central America feel the same way,” he tells Beyond Borders.

“Loteria’s images were outdated and problematic, whether it was representing underlying sexism or colorism or straight up racist representations.  If you look at it through a millennial lens, it can be problematic. I wanted to give this game a millennial reboot that all of a sudden became more relatable to us and spoke to people and in a way broke stereotypes that people have about Latinos, specifically Hispanic Americans, and immigrants.”

The game reimagines La Dama as La Feminist, El Catrin as El Hipster, Las Jaras as La Hashtag, and more.  The catch is that instead of players yelling out Bingo or Loteria, when they win players will call out “Yaaaaasssssssssss, Lotería!”

Alfaro says it’s all fun and games, but Millennial Lotteria can be positioned to have a broader conversation around Latino culture and how Latinos are viewed and treated in America.

Alfaro arrived in the United States from Guatemala in 2007 and said he wasn’t cultured shocked, but more surprised at how his American counterparts knew so little about Latinos and their culture.

“People were surprised I had internet in Guatemala or a cell phone. People would tell me I was so well-spoken and I would reply, ‘compared to what?'”

“They always had a reaction to me that I would not expect, and had this idea of me as a poor immigrant. I felt like I needed to break these stereotypes. In a way, this Millenial Lotteria is a way to show a more modern version of Latino Immigrants and Hispanic Americans, like the way we are and the things we talk about.”

Now Alfaro is the creative director of an advertising agency in Los Angeles, and uses his art to come up with different concepts for other clients.

He’s worked on ideas for commercials and also runs the Hispanic marketing department at his company. He said he is used to seeing how his clients want to relate to Latinos, but in the consumer market Latinos are often an afterthought.

There were many statistics he took into consideration when updating Millennial Lotteria Alfaro says. For instance, when it came to creating his card El Hipster, he says people usually picture a white Brooklyn millennial, but the average age of a Hispanic person living in America is about 27.

“We are right smack in the middle of being a millennial. The majority of Latinos living in America are, and I wanted to represent our current life,” Alfaro said.

“We over-index on cell phone usage on social media, and Latina consumers are some of the biggest consumers of fashion and beauty products.

“That’s why we have cards like El Nail Art and El Bad Ombre, a play on words on what the president said, but also a bad dye job.”

With that in mind, Alfaro says Millennial Loteria was an extremely personal project and when it came time to select the images for his deck of cards he wanted to pick things that represented his life or the lives of his friends.

“I pulled from the truth of my life, and the fact that it’s connected so well with so many people reflects a truth of mine. Whether it was an experience or daily uses of things, I chose things that related to me. For instance, La Dama is now The Feminist. That was one of the first cards I created because I realized that none of my friends that are girls would ever want to be defined as La Dama, they would want to be referred to as La Feminist or someone who is out there and is independent,” Alfaro said.

“Although guys are feminists as well, that was something I wanted to explore more, this was also happening during a big movement like #MeToo, and The Women’s Marches and everyone was aware of it. El Uber is another one; I take Uber’s all the time or La Selfie because I love taking selfies.”

Alfaro says that although the game is intended for fun, he also hopes people take away a more profound message.

“In my mind, this is as much as a love letter to Loteria as a really sharp critique of Loteria and the old school way of thinking. It’s a different approach to how millennials view things.

“But if I’m going to be criticizing Loteria, then I’m also going to criticize, and who we are so it doesn’t feel as preachy, and if I can make fun of myself for being a millennial, then I can also make fun of Loteria. This is a way of modernizing it while also being able to laugh at ourselves.”

Millennial Loteria is now available for purchase on Amazon for $22.46.

Follow @MillennialLoteria on Instagram.