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Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Absolute Joy, Misery, and Miracles of El Gordo

As the world is aware Spain has presented El Gordo, The Fat One, once again to the delight of more people than I can imagine. The lottery paid out Two Billion, Two Hundred million euros. Spain is the only country in the world where thousands and thousands of people dance with joy because they have received a financial boost from the lottery. Even those of us who did not win anything substantial are happy for those who struck it big. Our hope is that it will be our turn next time.

No individual wins the jackpot, as is the case in most other lotteries. No individual needs to win 100 million euros or dollars. To begin with, the average person is simply not equipped to be able to handle that much money at once. The Spanish system is unabashedly socialist. The idea is to spread it around as far and wide as possible.

The prizes don't sound like much compared with Euro Millions, or New York lottery. For first prize we have 4 million euros, second prize is 1,250,000 euros, third prize is 500,000 euros, fourth prizes are two amounts of 200,000 each, and fifth prize consists of eight 60,000 euros. However, these are formulas. The punter can buy a whole ticket, or tickets, in which case you win 4 million on the first prize, as many times as tickets you hold. You could buy ten whole tickets at 200 euros each, and if that number comes up you walk away with ten times the stated prize.

You are also offered the opportunity to buy fractions of a whole ticket. Most people opt to buy a tenth of a ticket for 20 euros, or what is known as a decimó. There are also lesser participations to be had that allow people with low budgets to participate perhaps in several numbers.

This year brought forth an extraordinary result in the form of several winners who are illegal immigrants. I'm thinking of Mohammed from Senegal, a country that Spain has had close relations with in the past. Senegal is a beautiful country, but without economic promise to its young men and women.

Mohammed left his home for the usually mistaken promise of Spain. He crossed the Sahara Desert and the Mediterrean Sea, a journey that results in far more lost souls to the sand or the sea than anyone knows. Once here in Spain he has had to rake and scrape just to eat, but still you will find him at the local locutorio sending small amounts of money home to family. For Mohammed to acquire 20 euros would be like me to acquire 20,000 euros. So, to pay the massive sum of 20 euros to buy a piece of paper was a great leap of faith for him. I have been doing the same thing for years and my number has not come in big yet. His number did, paying him 400,000 euros. He is in total shock!

Of course, everybody who heard this news are happy for Mohammed, however, his problems have just begun. He is an undocumented immigrant so will not have a bank account, but he now has a cheque that is made out to CASH for 400,000 euros. He is part of a large immigrant community of very needy people, and while he was not the only one of his community to win he will have to endure severe pressure to share his fortune.

Since the 22 December draw, at least one of the immigrants has been stabbed to death, so we can imagine there is serious trouble within the ranks.

As much as I would like to be favoured with a big win on the lottery I don't think I would want to be Mohammed. Sometimes it is true to be careful what we wish for.

Copyright (c) 2015
Eugene Carmichael

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