14:18 PM

Mexican 'lottery' mural highlights UHCL's Hispanic heritage

A few steps into the Office of Student Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at University of Houston-Clear Lake and it will become clear that the university takes great pride in its Hispan ic student population.

The unveiling of the strikingly colorful "Lotería" wall in the Office of Student Diversity, Equity and Inclusion was first intended to mark UH-Clear Lake's 10th anniversary as a Hispanic-Serving Institution last year. It was delayed due to the pandemic, but it was part of this year's kickoff of events celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.

La Lotería — the Spanish word for lottery — is often referred to as Mexican bingo. The game has Italian origins, but is traditionally connected to Mexican heritage.

"It makes sense with our geographical location that Latinx individuals will identify with the game and will be familiar with the older generations in their families having played it," said Joshua Quinn, coordinator of SDEI's Women, Gender and Sexuality Programs.

Quinn explained that each of the cards on the wall represents a part of culture. "Even today, different Latinx artists will make new versions of the cards to help connect younger generations with their culture," he said.

"Our Lotería was created by Jacq Garcia, a UHCL alumna of Hispanic descent. With the help of (Coordinator of Diversity Programs) Aja Rodriguez, we drafted different ideas here in SDEI to see what UHCL 'spin' we could put on each card, and Jacq did the drawing. Our cards are very particular to us," he said.

The idea came, Quinn explained, when he and Rodriguez went to a conference at another university and saw the way they had personalized a version of the Lotería cards. That's why, of the 54 playing cards, UHCL Hawks will see quite a few that are very specific and personal.

"I decided to make several of the tiles — such as 'El Grafiti,' 'El Esculptura,' 'El Senedero,' and 'El Mascota,' much more Texas and UHCL-specific," Garcia said. "Whenever I was thinking about UHCL, Houston and Texas specifically, I really tried to think of all the iconic things that we have, as well as things that are recognizable."

They explained that the inspiration for the El Grafiti card, which says "BE SOMEONE," came from the fact that this bridge overpass graffiti has been a staple in Houston culture since 2012, but its creator is also a UHCL alumnus.

"La Esculptura and El Senedero are two of the more iconic elements of UHCL," they said. "The 'Kissing Stones' are something every UHCL student sees when they go into the Bayou Building. I really wanted each card to have some history to it and a specific reason for putting it there."

El Senedero, which means nature trail, is represented in the UHCL campus's beautiful outdoor walking paths. And all students will recognize "La Mascota" as UHCL's own Hunter Hawk. Of course, "La Estrella" references Texas as the Lone Star State.

"It was a two-year process because of the pandemic," Quinn said. "But since its unveiling, we have had a lot of students say they didn't expect something so meaningful to their culture here on a wall. The vibrant colors Jacq chose make it even more celebratory."

Lotería, Quinn explained, is played very fast and they don't repeat the numbers as they do in bingo. "That's part of the fun of the game," he said. "It's traditional to play with pinto beans instead of markers, because that's a staple for any family. And if you get the winning pattern, you yell, 'Bueno!'"

Garcia said every card has a bit of Texas or UHCL history attached. "And each number has a significance as well," they said. "For example, 'El Espacio' depicts Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman to go to space. She's also a former Johnson Space Center director. The number on the card is 1993, which is the year she went into space."

They said they hoped students would learn more city, state and UHCL history through the cards. "I invite every person that interacts with the cards to look into the topics of each one, because it's interesting, and reading more about people's stories is so much fun," they said.

UHCL is celebrating over 11 years as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. For more information about Hispanic Heritage Month events, go online.