Spanish town wins the lottery

The World

This story was originally covered by PRI’s The World. For more, listen to the audio above.

Spain, plagued by high debt and high unemployment, doesn’t have much to celebrate this holiday season. But recently, a few Spaniards in the northeast village of Pallejah got some good economic news. They won the annual Christmas lottery, known as El Gordo, or “The Fat One.” And now they’re all somewhere between rich and a lot better off.

When asked how he felt about the win, Jose Maldonado, a bar owner who organized and bought the community’s multi-million dollar jackpot ticket, simply let out a scream and danced. Behind Maldonado were more than a hundred cheering supporters. Or, better put, said Maldonado, co-winners.

“The whole town played on my number,” he said. “If someone’s kid didn’t chip in, then one of his or her parents did. And vice versa. Otherwise they wouldn’t be out here on the street.”

Maldonado’s bar was actually closed for the celebrations, but his patrons were still revelling later in the day, at the Extremadura Bar right across the street.

A red-faced metal worker named Jose smiled and said how much he won: 400 thousand. “Most of us are poor in this town,” he said. “I’m going to pay off my mortgage.”

Mortgages are a big problem in Spain. A lot of people hold mortgages worth more than their homes because the housing market crashed. And under Spanish law, the debt follows you wherever you go. When you die, your kids inherit it.

On one street a sad-faced elderly woman walked her dog in the drizzle. She wasn’t worried about paying her mortgage, but she didn’t seem happy either.

“I didn’t buy in,” she lamented. “I’m angry.”

But then she immediately added, “Although my daughter played. And she won 400 thousand dollars.”

So maybe Maldonado was right. In a village of just a few thousand people, it’s not so hard to imagine that nearly every family got lucky, or ‘touched’ as they say here.

PRI’s “The World” is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. “The World” is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. More about The World.

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