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Meet Mike Alfaro, the Latino Millennial Who Reinvented a Traditional Mexican Game

Photo: Courtesy of Amy Alfaro

Lotería, the bingo-style game that’s been a mainstay of Hispanic families for generations, has gotten a makeover. Designer Mike Alfaro, a Latino Millennial, has transformed the game from classic to cheeky. 

“It really just started with a way of trying to express myself,” says the Guatemala native, who moved to the United States when he was a teenager.

Back to the source

He got the idea to reimagine the game after finding his old Lotería cards at his parents’ house.

“I was looking at the cards and thought, ‘Oh wow, they’re a little outdated,’” says Alfaro, a creative director at an advertising agency. 

When Alfaro started to redesign the traditional game cards in 2017, it was the beginning of the #MeToo movement. There was political and racial tension in the country, and he didn’t like people mischaracterizing Millennials, Latinos, and immigrants as lazy, entitled, or poor.

 “I felt like there was this horrible perception of immigrants and Latinos that was put out in the media and blasted out,” says Alfaro. “I wanted to show another side, another reality.”

Tradition with a twist

The first card he reimagined was “La Dama,” a traditional woman, who became “La Feminist.” Next, the mermaid “La Sirena” became “La Selfie.”

Each card blended tradition with a Millennial twist. “El Mundo,” the man holding the world, became “La Student Debt,” and “La Campana, a bell, became “La Notification.” 

He posted the designs on social media and without any promotion, Millennial Lotería was a success. Blue Star Press made his cards into a party game. 

“It’s really rewarding because it’s not something I’m doing for a client,” he says of his side business. “It’s something I’m doing for myself.”

Writer and executive producer Tanya Saracho is one of his biggest fans. The showrunner of the STARZ original series “Vida,” a drama about Mexican-American siblings, asked him to create “Vida” Lotería cards depicting the show’s cast, including “La Hot Mess” and “La Wifa.” 

Embracing heritage

“Speaking Spanish is a big part of my heritage,” says Alfaro, explaining how he initially got jobs as a translator.

He’s worked hard and is grateful for the opportunity to chase his dream.  He’s made Super Bowl commercials and launched Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos Tacos campaign.

Most gatekeepers, especially in media, are not Latino — but that’s slowly changing. Alfaro knows the more diversity, the better.

“It’s up to us to open those doors,” he says. “Representation matters a lot.”

Kristen Castillo, [email protected]

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