Undeterred by a 21.5-percent jobless rate and the prospect of recession, four out of every five Spaniards are expected to snatch up a ticket to a lottery known as “El Gordo”, or the “Fat One”.
Long queues snaked through the streets as people took a chance to dream of an escape from the economic crisis, each person buying an average of more than 60 euros’ worth of tickets. In Madrid’s main artery, the Gran Via, many waited for tickets at a small kiosk. “I am spending more than last year, 100 euros, and I am sharing the tickets with my friends and family,” said a 48-year-old office worker, Victoria. “Some of them are having a very tough time financially and I want us to win,” she said. A tradition that dates back nearly two centuries, “El Gordo” is an engrained Christmas ritual. Family, friends and colleagues can play the same number and share the gains if they are lucky on December 22, when pupils from former Madrid orphanage San Ildefenso sing out the numbers on national television. “I don’t usually play the lottery, just ‘El Gordo’,” said 33-year-old Begona Ramirez, who works in the crisis-hit construction sector and is spending 100 euros on tickets.