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Mexican Loteria Chalupa y Buenas

By Ayme Peña

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Loteria is a Mexican game that has seen centuries go by, yet its purpose remains intact; to gather family and friends for a fun game of chance. 

Caption: Wall decor at Suerte Bar and Grill, McAllen, TX

In 1887, Don Clemente Jaques began publishing the game. Don Clemente used in his card designs have become iconic in Mexican culture, as well as gaining popularity in the United States and some European Countries. The traditional Loteria card deck is composed of a set of 54 different cards each with a different picture.

Once the deck is shuffled a caller will call one card at a time until a lucky player shouts Buenas or Loteria right after completing the agreed pattern.

I was born in a small town in Tamaulipas, Mexico at a young age my parents permanently relocated across the border to what I know as my Texas home town, the Rio Grande Valley. One thing that remained the same in both counties was the family game nights. I found it fascinating how no matter the occasion, loteria was always the night’s attraction. As a kid it was the only time I was able to sit around the table with adults. This included my grandparents all playing and laughing together.

I know that there are many others with experiences just like me in towns along the Mexico and US border. 



As I got older and traveled across the world, I ensured that I always took part of my culture with me in my carry on. Loteria’s 54 calling cards and 10 game cards have become somewhat of a passport to me. I’ve introduced the game to many fellow Americans who live in northern states. After playing for over 25 years, I've never come across the same game. No single draw has ever been duplicated. Yes, of course, I won in the same areas but the cards dealt were never called in the same order.

Chalupa y Buenas is more than just a title. “La Chalupa” is the character card of a lady in the canoe. A common phrase used as a figure of speech among Mexicans when trying to pun the action of winning is “ Y qué dijiste, Chalupa y Buenas?” translation “and what did you think, Lady in the canoe and you won?” This vision and interpretation led me to title my project “Chalupa y Buenas.” I understand the importance of keeping traditions alive and as long as the reader understands the concept and the generational gift of passing on our heritage and culture of this game I will say “Chalupa y Buenas”.

Conducting meetings across the Rio Grande Valley gave me a greater sense of belonging. Every Saturday and Sunday, men and women set up their shops at flea markets. The vendor's work impacts families directly; it connects them and brings laughter to their cultures. 

I spoke to a lady who is from Honduras, who said she’s never played the game but works day and night creating game sets. All her work is handmade and sold at markets at a fraction of cost. Speaking to two teachers, one in elementary and one in high school made me realize the impact one's own culture brings to the table. It's not a part of a curriculum but it's a way to connect with the students and make them feel at home. The children know the game, even if they prefer technology. 

Being invited to play at homes to talk about Loteria was very rewarding. The game is so inclusive it brings the best out in everyone. It's all the stories heard that make me want Loteria to be known world wide. You don’t have to be Mexican to take part or share the game with others. There is no greater game for bringing multiple groups together.

I encourage you to think back to your childhood and find that thing that you used to do and now has been lost. Technology may get the best of us– but our traditions will survive. 


The people who created this game in Italy back in the 15th century could have never imagined where it would be now. If it would have never been brought to New Spain (now Mexico) in 1769 there would be no Loteria. I am so glad that this former hobby of the upper classes has now become a tradition at Mexican homes. 


Listen to Ayme's Podcast

About the Author


Ayme Peña was born in Tamaulipas, Mexico in the late 80s. Her parents permanently relocated to the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) when she was four years old and she was blessed to call it home. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in International Business from The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, followed by a Masters in Interdisciplinary Studies. Ayme is a proud mother of two boys. Her goal is to continue with graduate studies and pursue a PhD. She is passionate about education and is eager to immerse herself once again with the RGV community, not only does she envision turning conversations into documents but also documenting via podcast production and community workshops.


About Texas Folklife's Community Folklife Fellowship

The Texas Folklife Community Folklife Fellowship program is a statewide, NEA-supported pilot program that provides training in oral history, interviewing, audio storytelling, archives, and podcast production for adults. Participants learn to document community traditions in their own cities and towns throughout the state, through workshops and community partnerships. The program supports applicants from diverse regions and communities of the state of Texas.

Learn More About Community Folklife Fellowship