If you’re like me, I’m sure that when you travel you do not settle for typical activities for tourists. Of course, the historical tours, the architectural walks or the tasting of exotic gastronomic specialties are very interesting and exciting. But there are simple and apparently unspectacular activities that are also part of the essence of a city. In Panama that means playing the lottery. Do not get ahead. Playing the lottery in Panama is a peculiar and different experience. To look for the numbers, you do not have to enter a drugstore or shop, where a vending machine gives you your future luck. In Panama, the sellers (they are mostly women and are known as billeteras), are on the outside of some businesses and display their numbers on rustic wooden boards.
If buying lottery is a rich and interesting ritual, doing it in Casco Viejo is even better. Do not expect to become a millionaire by buying Panamanian lottery. It’s not about that. It’s about having fun and being part of a ritual that embraces all aspects and elements of Panamanian day-to-day life, including births, weddings, dreams, aspirations and even death. Everything is in the numbers. Everything lives in them.
If you are visiting us (or if you live in Panama and have time to come visit our neighborhood) we recommend you to look for the numbers among the different vendors outside the Rey supermarket, in the Plaza Amador, one of the most flavourful places in Santa Ana, very close to Las Clementinas.
If you come from outside, you may be wondering what numbers to buy. The most popular coincide with the birthdays of the children, husbands, mothers or girlfriends of those who buy. That’s why the most requested numbers have endings that go from 01 to 31. But family fever does not stop at birthdays. On some occasions, the numbers look for the influences of the beyond. Here are 2 stories. My buddy Boli lives in our Casco Viejo and he is a driver by profession. He lost his mother 3 years ago. The lady was 84 at the time of her death, and since then Boli has not stopped buying the 84, perhaps with the expectation that his mother will help him from above. Another story that links the lottery numbers and death is that of Mrs. Rosa, who lost her husband of three decades. During the funeral, Rosa realized that her husband´s grave ended at number 38 and since then, that became “her” number. The relationship between Panamanians and their favorite numbers is one of extraordinary fidelity and tenacity. It does not matter if the number never comes out or if you win three draws in two months: the faithful lottery buyer never stops playing. Not only numbers related to family dates of relevance. Some people buy the license plate number or the number of the house they live in. And let’s not forget the dreams. On its website, the National Lottery of Panama has a section dedicated to relating the topics of certain dreams (or nightmares) with specific numbers. Here are some very curious examples. If a fire burns in your nightmare you must acquire the 7165. If your mother-in-law (another form of fire, sometimes less devastating) visits you in dreams, the most favorable number is 5550. If a tiger chases you in your dream, it is better to buy the 1715, but if it’s a shark, the 1339 is for you. If you had the pleasure of dreaming about the sea, the 4766 may be favorable. But if a sailor is incorporated into your dream landscape, you should look for the 7955.
A very popular factor when looking for winning numbers is the simplest and pure chance. Let me explain. Some people turn away from important dates related to their loved ones or their daily lives, and ask the blleteras for any random number, selected by them. Some ask for a covered number, that is to say folded so as not to show the number they are playing. Very recently I went to Plaza Amador to find my lottery numbers and asked Doña Angélica, a lottery vendor, if she is asked for many covered numbers. She said yes and explained how he chose the numbers she gave to her customers. “Each face has to do with a number. I just look at each face patiently and then I sell the number that relates to the face. ” “And what number corresponds to my face?” I asked. She answered in a blink: “Without a doubt you are a 33”. And I, also without hesitation, took the 33 to my house. If I win i´ll let you know you in our next installment of Las Clementinas blog.