WTF Lotería del Estado!?
My wife and I took our two sons to see a movie in Barcelona, and before the film started, an advertisement for Spain’s national lottery was shown, called “The Guiris”. It was a 2-minute short to hype the Spanish lottery’s Christmas Day drawing —known as “El Gordo”, the fat one — the world’s largest lottery and an annual highlight for the country since it was first won in 1812.
At first I sort of laughed about the ad. But the more I thought about it, the more disappointed I became.
The exact origins of the word “Guiri” are disputed, but it’s used by Spaniards as a mostly innocuous way of referring to all foreigners. Most countries have a similar word. When we lived in China it was “Laowai” (老外).
I have always appreciated that foreigners living in another country are foreigners. Thinking you can “go local” can be a recipe for mutual frustration. The beauty of the world is that cultures are different, and that people from those cultures can cross boundaries to find points of intersection where joy, inspiration and understanding are created. And I’ve also always appreciated being made fun of. Life’s no fun if you take yourself too seriously. In the days of Trumplandia, Americans need all the laughter we can get.
But the ad from the Loterías y Apuestas del Estado (which belongs to the government’s Ministry of Finance and Public Administrations) goes too far. The stereotypes are all there — the obesity, the insensitivity, the lack of culture, even the socks and sandals on a beach. No doubt there is a lot of ugliness in the foreign ghetto of Costa del Sol, where foreigners live in a bubble that is purposefully separate from the rest of Spain.
But those are not the only foreigners living in or visiting Spain.
I will get over it. But for my sons? What lesson does this teach them? To reinforce “otherness” at a time of resurgent nationalism and xenophobia. Sure, the ad was meant as a joke. But there are good and bad jokes. And a big part of a joke is timing. Arguably, this is not a time to be reinforcing stereotypes but to instead be breaking them down.
We have lived in Spain for almost 3 years, including a year in Granada, where we embraced our “Guiri” status. We even inaugurated a “Guirifest” (complete with an invitation that was written in terrible Spanglish, see below), to thank our Spanish friends. The families of the Albaicín and the colegio publico Gómez Moreno could not have been more loving and open to us. I will cherish that year and those friends forever. That is the Spain I choose to embrace. #VamosRayo
After seeing “The Guiris”, I am momentarily saddened, but my love for Spain remains unfazed, and does my desire to live there.
Yo sé que ya hay.
Oh, and by the way Loterías y Apuestas del Estado, I think I’ll pass on buying a lottery ticket this Christmas.