For years the Morales clan has been playing Bingo in Naranjito, and it is no ordinary pasttime. This is a seriously enjoyable experience where "professionals" singers display their talents, humor, and memory. Though everyone gets a chance to call out the numbers, or "cantar los bolos," those who do it best are the ones I call professionals. They don't do it for a living but for family entertainment. When they call out the numbers it is always with a little comment here and another comment there, and most of the remarks have come down from another generation and are memorized. For example, we say, and not in order:
I 22 (in Spanish of course), los patitos comiendo arroz, arroz rhymes with dos - (the ducks eat rice
O 75, el mas viejo- the eldest;
B-12, la vitamina - the vitamin
N-33 la edad de Cristo - the Lord's age
You might mention someone's favorite number, usually their birthdate, or age, or call the bolos in a particular accent, like my younger sister Sarita does with a Cuban or Dominican accent, which makes us laugh until we wet our pants.
Since this is the second generation playing bingo, Doris went way out to get the original wooden fichas or bolos with numbers, and bright flat multicolored plastic markers. Of course you also have to sew a special bag with a drawstring to put these fichas or bolos in, and she did. If you look at the cards, they are smooth and worn on the edges from years of use and you will notice that many of the bingo cards have family names written on their lucky "cartones" to establish some ownership." This Sunday, I saw Sarita, Gisela, Carmen, Juanita, and Michelle written on some of the cartones. My favorite "carton," has to have 7, 10, 19, and 20 on it. In fact, I should have written my name on the cartones I used this past Sunday since I won, four times! An all time record for me.
Playing bingo with family is not about winning . But of course, it is about winning and some good natured bragging rights( especially when I was younger.) Is this a paradox or contradiction? You want everybody to win sometime and no one to go home poor. If a child is also playing, I remember they were carefully tutored to say the number and letter clearly, and with our eyes darting back and forth from our cartones to theirs, we double checked their cards so they would not miss an estacao or bingo.
Each carton, costs 5 cents to play and the winning prize for the game itself might be a mere forty cents. You are not going to get rich playing bingo in Naranjito, but you will have fun. Even if you don't win that round, you always have a chance to make a nickel or two. You might have noticed the picture of a card, with four words written on them. Estacao means having two opposite(B and O) numbers on the same row, terna, when you are the first to get three in a row or column, esquina for the first to get a corner, and ambo de cabeza, which means you have gotten two numbers on the top row. You can feasibly win three nickels in just one shot if you get two numbers on the top row and two are on corners. But wait, you might not be alone, some one else might have gotten the same corner number or bolos to win estacao, terna, ambo de cabeza, or esquina, and they have to be boleado, which means, that they will call out a number for each person by name who is competing for that nickel (which are also played), and the highest number wins the nickel for that particular estacao or esquina. You also want to be alert, so don't get distracted because that is how you get "pasmada ( which literally means stail), " and if you figure you had a terna or esquina, after someone else calls it, you won't get yours, even if you made it first. You have to claim it when it happens.
You can also win the Bingo round by getting the four corners or the traditional filling the row. But sometimes, depending on how we played we could win by doing the cross, or la cruz by filling in all the numbers around the "free." Another way of playing la cruz, is to play it like the esquina or estacao, where a separate place was set for la cruz. The cruz was often the hardest to do, so we would save an additional nickel for each time it went unclaimed. Sometimes getting la cruz meant getting "una cantidad gordita," or a fat pile of nickels.
For many years, my aunt, Titi Sarita was the Bingo Queen and primary hostess, followed by my other aunt, Titi Juanita, who would take turns hosting the bingo games which were spontaneously solicited after a hearty lunch of arroz con pollo y habichelas. This Sunday was a deja vu, and as you can see only one of the older sisters, Mom, was there for the bingo, as some have already departed, but my sisters and I are ready to continue the tradition and maybe our children will also join us, too. Bingo!