Last year, after my classes finished reading House of the Scorpion (written by Nancy Farmer), I asked them to create loteria cards. I asked them to draw images that were representations of characters, symbols, concepts, themes – anything relevant to the story. This was very difficult for them, and a little tedious for me, because there were a lot of repeat cards. I decided at the beginning of the assignment not to assign the student specific cards, hence the plethora of cups (poison wine), scorpions, and hearts.
To keep myself stimulated while this activity was going on, I decided to do some loteria cards of my own. So far, I have 32 – each representing different aspects of the story. I did try one exercise – I laid a card on each student’s desk, then asked the student to turn it over. Then I asked that student to tell me why I chose that image for my loteria deck. After some coaxing, my more reluctant students were able to say something. I had some very sharp students last year that totally got it.
Now, to explain the above card (I am not sure yet if I will put a word on it…):
Durango is where El Patron, the original Matteo Alacran, was born. His last name a tribute to the people of Durango, who are called “alacranes” or scorpions. Celia, the cook, and Matt’s mother figure, is also from Durango. She was saved from becoming an “eejit” because El Patron recognized her accent and kept her on to cook traditional dishes for him.
There is a very important story that El Patron tells four times in the novel. The first time he tells it is when he and Matt meet for the first time (pp. 57-58). There, he just provides the bare bones of the story: that he was born in Durango (he always mentions the dusty cornfields and purple mountains – hence the image above), that his brothers died of various things before they had a chance to grow up, and his sisters died from typhoid.
Later on in the story, El Patron tells the story three more times: at his birthday celebration (pp. 100-101), when he is in bed and sick for the first time (p. 200), and finally, when he wants to the ultimate sacrifice from Matt (pp. 232-233). Each time he tells the story, we learn more details about the deaths of his brothers. He also adds more detail to the fiesta where his sisters contracted typhoid. It’s a masterful device, and I endeavored to point this out to my students.
I love this book so much – it is obvious that I’m a bit obsessed. But, then again, I must have read it (okay, listened to it on CD) at least 30 or 40 times, because I also listen to it when my students are reading with the CD in class… I never grow tired of it and always find something new to remark upon each time.