Saturday, January 08, 2011
tarjetas de loteria
I know nothing about the history of Mexican loteria cards, other than the obvious fact that like tarot cards, they were invented for purposes of playing a game, in this case bingo.
Also, like the tarot trumps and the Fool card, they are not simply game tokens but also iconic images, imbued with symbolic meanings which are not always immediately apparent. A person would have to be singularly devoid of curiosity and imagination not to wonder what the loteria set's number 27 image of a transfixed heart symbolized to the person who created it.
There is no standard set of images for the tarot deck any more. The Tarot de Marseilles used to fill that role, but it's been supplanted since 1900 by a proliferation of designs and intentions from which devotees can choose their favorites to suit their own interpretation of the cards. The loteria cards, however, are most often seen in their standardized, "authentic" version, universally recognized as the Don Clemente Series 1 set of 54 images. But people are in no way constrained from producing their own versions of the loteria images or replacing the classical pictures with images of their own which they find resonant, and I love the personal interpretation of the loteria cards made in the late nineties by Tejana artist Cristina Sosa Noriega simply titled My Loteria.
I don't know how widely the loteria cards are used for divination among Mexican and Chicano people, but considering the potency of these folk art images, I'd be willing to bet they're used that way a lot. Some of the cards such as 14 El Muerto (death) need no interpretation (or introduction), but others, like the transfixed heart, demand some sort of explanation.
Fortunately, to help add complexity to the bingo game, there is a standardized riddle for each picture which, if unraveled, contains a clue to the meaning. Sometimes, as with 7 La Escalera (the ladder), the riddle offers a didactic sort of instruction with "Climb me step by step; you don't want to hop up." But other times the riddle causes more confusion than it clears up, as with the one that goes with the wounded heart: "Don't miss me heart, for I shall return in a truck."