La Dama: How Lotería Viva Puts Womanhood On Its Head

The game of Lotería is all about tradition. But when artist Andrea Cueva set out to rework the beloved Mexican card game through her project “Lotería Viva,” she wanted to trump traditions from their core. The card of “La Dama” was the perfect place to start. 

“Women are a big factor in Lotería,” Cueva tells Emperifollá. “I wanted to show that we have many sides. That we don’t have to be one or the other, like women are told to.” 

Cueva opted to recreate “La Dama” – one of 54 cards in Lotería –  as a
self-portrait. It’s the first one she made in the series, which debuted last October in New York City after two years of production. In the game, this card is represented through an upper class woman wearing a blue blazer and long skirt combo with pearls, gloves, and a hat, the starter pack of classic damas everywhere in Latin America. “She looked too submissive, too quiet,” Cueva says. “I wanted to break those stereotypes I grew up seeing.” 

Loteria Dama Mexican Game Artist Andrea Cueva

Cueva, who also goes by her artistic name Cuevawolf, grew up in Monterrey, México, and moved to the United States to pursue a career as a creative director. She says her ambitions were a constant point of criticism from friends and family members back home, which motivated her to center her work around womanhood and empowerment. 

“La Dama” is the perfect example. She dressed herself in a red suit and hat with white gloves in front of a deep blue background. You can’t really tell if she’s smiling or not, “just like the Mona Lisa,” as Cueva explains. She’s also wearing red lipstick, a symbol of power  to Cueva, who confesses to don scarlet lips whenever she wants to feel powerful. She’s also revealing her cleavage and her tattoos, a choice Cueva says was meant to address the criticisms she has received for getting tattoos because of her gender. “From the neck up she’s a ‘dama’ but from the neck down she’s something else,” Cueva says. “We are all like that, we have many different sides.”

Loteria Dama Mexican Game

This is a bold reconstruction of a classic Mexican game that has symbolized family unity for centuries. Lotería, a similar iteration of Bingo, was first created in Italy in the 18th century and arrived in México by the 19th century. Since then, it’s been a staple of Mexican households and, recently, has been reworked by artists like Mike Alfaro – the brain behind Millennial Lotería – and Valfré – whose version feature her own characters. 

To Cueva, the two-year process was a time to reconnect with her roots at a moment of political and social hostility toward Latinos in the United States. “I wanted to prove that we have rich cultures and rich histories,” she says. “We are powerful, especially when we are all together, like when we play Lotería.”

Frances Solá-Santiago

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