Tag Archives: House of the Scorpion

House of the Scorpion Loteria, Card #4


How else do you get a spare heart?

Spoiler alert!  If you have not read House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer, yet: this may upset you…  On the other hand, it tells you right on the back of the book in the blurb what is supposed to happen.  I think that the only person who does not know is Matt, the clone.


House of the Scorpion Loteria Card 3


El Latigo Negro

This is another of the Loteria cards that I designed digitally for my Loteria Card Lesson plan based on the book House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer.  The first card was called Durango, and the second was called Property of the Alacran Estate.  Each card is meant to represent an aspect of the story – and I have read this book and listened to it on CD over 50 times, so my references can be pretty detailed.

This card represents El Latigo Negro.  When Matt Alacran (the clone) was left alone at the Alacran Estate – when the other children were away at boarding school – he relied on a rich fantasy life to entertain himself.  He would often pretend to be one of a few television heroes that were played on the estate television.  Since El Patron insisted that life at the Estate be kept the same as when he was a child, these TV series were rather vintage – maybe from the 1950’s or 1960’s.

El Latigo Negro was the only character I was able to find on the internet.  He was a Zorro-like character who wielded a long whip instead of a gun, I think.  That actually makes me think of a great George Hamilton film called Zorro, The Gay Blade because the gay brother used a whip…

But I don’t think that this is what Mrs. Farmer was referring to when she referenced the character.  😉  I don’t even know if she had anyone specific in mind.

It is difficult to find information on El Latigo Negro, but I found a very interesting blog post here written by an aficionado of old B movies.  According to that post, El Latigo Negro was honored in two series.  The one referenced in the post – I think – was part of a trilogy made in the late seventies.  But there was also a trilogy of films made in the 1950’s, as well as a series of comic books based on the character.

The other two heroes mentioned were Don Segundo Sombra (Sir Second Shadow) and El Sacerdote Volante (The Flying Priest).  The Don Segundo Sombra I found was based on a 1926 novel about a gaucho, so I don’t think that was who Matt admired.  The description in the book says that Matt’s Don Segundo drove sports cars and seemed more like a James Bond character.

As for The Flying Priest, I think she made him up, but it makes a great visual – a flying priest who flings holy water on demons and burns them like acid.  Hee hee.

House of the Scorpion Loteria Card 1

The purple mountains of Durango...

The dusty cornfields and purple mountains of Durango...

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.

House of the Scorpion Loteria


scorpion2bAfter we read House of the Scorpion, I worked up a lesson plan that I have wanted to do for a long time.  I wanted my students to create an personal loteria card that illustrated some event, character, or concept in the story.  Then, they were to write a paragraph explaining why they chose that image and what it had to do with the book.

I hate to say this, but most middle school students are reluctant to draw.  I insisted that they give it their best shot.  Some of them did a great job, some traced their images – that is completely okay with me – and some scratched out the minimum required drawing.  I insisted that they fill in the whole card space – making some sort of background.  After I collected them, I planned to scan in the pictures and make a loteria deck out of them.

There were a few things that I had not control over.  I handed out a list of possible drawings, but I really couldn’t say, “Oh, so-and-so is already drawing a heart (or a wine glass or a scorpion):  why don’t you draw something else?”  So I ended up with a couple of versions of the same sort of image.  Of course, I also warned them that they couldn’t just draw a skull and crossbones because they liked drawing them – it had to be explained in connection with the story.  Of course, some didn’t listen, but that’s another story…

After scanningoctaviooriginal the lot of pictures, I decided to “touch them up” a little bit in PhotoShop.  The first one I did was the one above.  The picture to the left was the original.  I cropped it and enlarged it.  Then, as I usually do, I intensified the hues.  Finally, I used one of the many, many special effects to simulate a stone wall.  In the story, the scorpion is probably not stone-aged, but I really liked the effect.  After that, I worked on a few more, with good results.

As often happens with me and Photoshop, I got more and more involved in my editing process.  So, my question is this:  is it really student art now?  I am thinking about it.  Now, if I were a kindergarten teacher and did something cutesy with my students work, I think that would be okay.  So I am going to go for it.

I have three classes of 9-10 students each, and my plan is to combine the images to create Loteria tablas of nine images each.  Each student will receive a card with his or her image included in the group.  I will have to juggle a bit to replace all of those hearts and wine bottles, but I think it will be something for them to keep and remember from the class.  I will post the finished products later.