Monday, August 24, 2009

Alicia en Lotería Land

USC holds an annual competition called "The Wonderland Award" to promote the use of the G. Edward Cassady, M.D., and Margaret Elizabeth Cassady, R.N., Lewis Carroll Collection, held at USC. The winner of the fifth annual Wonderland Award was Ghia Godfree, who imagined Alice inspiration Alice Liddell devising a Wonderland-focused card game. Here's a portion of Alice's "letter" describing the game to her "uncle" Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Carroll):

Lotería is a game much like bingo where players must arrange cards horizontally, vertically or diagonally. Although the first Lotería game was published in 1539 in France with the game quickly becoming popular with children in Spain; in Los Angeles, the game is most associated with Mexico and Mexican culture. I first encountered the game walking through La Placita Olvera or Olvera Street, located in the oldest section of downtown Los Angeles. Since 1930, Olvera Street has been home to a Mexican marketplace. On many a warm summer evening I have strolled from the stunning Union Train Station building to La Placita Olvera to enjoy an early dinner.

If you ever visit, we will make it one of our first stops. Looking at the Lotería tablas and cards sold along La Placita Olvera, I was struck by the folk art images of everyday social life juxtaposed with bold black text describing the images. Over the course of Lotería’s history in Mexico, it has been used to “assist the evangelization process,” “promote the sell of cigarettes,” and build “on a tradition of the social use of satire” by mocking “some social stereotypes and celebrating others.” During the playing of Lotería, the players fill in the images on their boards with a coin or piece of corn as the lottery caller picks up cards and calls them out. I have chosen heart buttons as small markers to reflect Alice’s experience with the Queen of Hearts. There is also a thimble, which should be presented to the winner very solemnly at the end of each round with the words, “We beg your acceptance of this elegant thimble.” One aspect of the game that I know will intrigue the whimsical logician in you is the manner in which the lottery caller of Lotería describes the cards. Rather than simply call out the text on the card, the lottery caller will often voice riddles, double entendres and occasionally folk wisdom or commonplace truisms.

Certainly you can guess this aspect of the game was why I immediately seized upon the idea of doing a Lotería game inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Not only was I drawn to its inherent wordplay but also to its potential as a teaching tool for child-friends. What better way to spend an afternoon than learning about Lotería and Spanish words and exploring the whimsical world of Alice, the White Rabbit, the Dormouse and so many others. In my version, I have changed the rules slightly so players have to fill the board completely with heart buttons in order to win. While younger players may simply want to match the text to the appropriate image, I am particularly thrilled with the possibility of having older players come up with riddles or verses when calling out the cards! I have included two cards full of such examples but hope that you will expand on these when you play the game.
And here are a few photos of the game:

You can see thumbnails of previous contest entries here.

*Previously: Alice in Wonderland-themed desktop wallpapers.

*Buy Alice in Wonderland toys at eBay.