El Gordo Llanito

Christine Vasquez - Tuesday 17th December

Tonight is the Extraordinary Christmas Gibraltar Government Lottery Draw - El ‘Gordo’ de Christmas, where you can win a cool million.

I was plunged into the ‘la loteria’ club by the fact that my 94-year-old aunt can no longer walk down from the Upper Town to get her tickets, although she remembers every number she’s been buying for decades.

These are ‘fijos’, for the uninitiated, numbers kept for her unless she hasn’t picked them up by the day of the draw, and then they’re sold on. There is many a tale of woe of people having forgotten and their number being drawn. Probably equally as apocryphal, is the warning that if you give up your fijo, it will win! So who would be prepared to gamble against these odds? You hold onto them!

In my case, my aunt holds onto el fijo de Papa Gigi and de Mama Gigi and Auntie Pepa, bless her, and Eugenio - did he die in 81 or 82? She buys my late dad’s and my mum’s - although I can’t remember her ever actually having won anything.

The result is I queue up at Trico’s and ask for her numbers - from zero to 9,999 - in one window and then queue up again for the 10,000 to 100,000 numbered tickets in the other window. I have to know how many shares of each we have. Dos decimos of one, three of the other, seven of the other…..

Then I have two numbers from Bautista-two decimos of each.

Two from the Casemates Kiosk- One decimo here, and one from Ruby’s-Exercise to be repeated every two weeks!

And, this is what many, from a dwindling generation, continue to do. And, as confirmation that it is something appertaining to the older generation … you need to pay cash.

But the lottery is something we’ve all always lived with. I remember listening to the draw when I was small. It was broadcast by Radio Gibraltar and always sounded like it was recorded in a busy hall, with echoing sounds of footsteps and coughs coming out of the big, old wireless at home. As a child I would wonder where it was being recorded. I have a recollection it was the lobby of the then House of Assembly. My grandmother would be sitting next to me writing the numbers down (tomando el parto) on the cardboard from a box of tea bags. She would then go into Lottery Club jargon; money back, ‘centena’ and the inevitable ‘he perdio por un numero’. The piece of cardboard, with a slight aroma of tea, would be taken round the neighbours in Moorish Castle Estate.

The Christmas lottery with its extra prizes and life changing million is extra special. Clubs, workplaces, friends, families all buy into the dream together. They buy for each other and with each other.

As a journalist, I’m not one to praise politicians, always of the opinion you should ‘treat them mean - keep them keen” but its idea to stagger the sale of Christmas lottery tickets has proved a great success. It was in reaction to Spaniards buying them all up a few years ago, long queues and reports of their resales in the Campo. Now you can buy Christmas lottery tickets throughout the year and everyone gets a chance to win, or at least to dream. Nothing is straight forward however and those in the club know - the high numbers are released first, while every Gibraltarian knows the low ones are the winners.

The odds are good - 100 thousand tickets. The idea that everyone knows someone who’s won something is tantalising. So today people will be making plans, just in case, this year, this Christmas, it’s them who attracts El Gordo.

Today’s draw will be broadcast live on GBC Television at 7.30pm