January 20, 2021

This child has a prize


In the heart of Madrid de los Austrias, moving along its worn stone roads, a famous place is hidden. In one corner of the well-known Plaza de la Paja is the oldest childhood institution in Madrid: the San Ildefonso Residence-Boarding School. Upon entering the reception, an analog radio of those of yesteryear floods the atmosphere of classical music. It is noted that here the melody plays a fundamental role. The sound is mixed with the voices of children laughing and playing in some halls with more than 100 years of history, although their soul may touch the 500. Because some historians date the origin of the school in the reign of the Catholic Monarchs. This building is the seat of the educational center only since 1884, since it has occupied various locations in the capital throughout its history. Walking its wooden stairs, with holly vines and poinsettias as a Christmas decoration on its railings, is an exercise in nostalgia. Here, these dates are especially important and are felt in the environment.

Its interior holds valuable treasures: they, the children who share the fate of the National Christmas Lottery throughout Spain. This 2019 are 32, 14 boys and 18 girls, between 9 and 14 years old, who will be divided into groups of four per table: two extracting the balls and two more with their angelic voices singing the winning numbers. Before, the institution was exclusively dedicated to raising orphaned children who were the ones who carried out this work. While listening to it on television, some people still think it's like that, but no. Since the 80's, the boarding school welcomes kids with all kinds of family situations and who also play this magical role in the chance date.

The essays

The American poet Emily Dickinson said: «Good luck is not accidental, it is a product of work; thus, the smile of fortune has to be earned by hand ». This phrase makes more sense when you see them rehearse. These children have been practicing vocalization, intonation, tuning, posture and ball extraction since October. One of them rolls on the ground in full test. «Come guys! We are going to concentrate. Nothing happens. Get well Roberto, ”says educator Jesús Martínez to the members of the table in the center's auditorium.

For the teacher it is also his first year in this voluntary Lottery program that the center's teachers choose, four in particular. He has taken it eagerly and wants everything to go well. When he recounts the process that has been going on in these months, he is excited about it: «We first started by doing a voice test to unite the couples whose chords fill better. It's very important. Here, we also consider joining veterans with beginners, so the newest feel safer, ”he says. To improve the reading of numbers, he uses pages with almost unpronounceable figures, which children take home to practice. «Then they have to repeat them in the multiple essays and here we begin to polish the most basic details. Little by little they acquire it as a routine », he concludes.

Behind the scenes: a family

Although it seems an easy exercise, it is not. While they musically tune the number with the correct body position, they must pick up a tiny ball, rotate it almost 180 degrees and focus their eyes to read and memorize the figure. "This requires speed, mental agility and a lot of ease that are earned through training," says Martínez. These little ones, of course, dominate the practice, because they not only play it in this draw. "Sometimes we forget that they are also responsible for singing the National Lottery every Thursday and Saturday," he recalls.

Jesus understands that his job is to guide the students. He is the director of a work and that is why he understands that the nerves are normal. «He is very nice and has patience. He tells us that we are not ashamed, that we imagine that it is another essay, ”says his student Nerea about him. The twelve-year-old girl is already a veteran, however she confesses to us that she still has a great fear: «What scares me the most is to release a cock».

Also with her 12 years, Bileiki, rookie and inseparable friend of Nerea, disagrees: "No, the worst thing is that you drop a ball." At that time, his companion reminds him that the carpet is prepared with a material that prevents them from rolling and moving: «Well, nothing happens, you bend over, take it and continue».

Luis, who is a couple with Nerea in today's essay, is one of the smallest. With only nine years, he opens in this raffle. He is silent until we ask him to tell us some training anecdote: "Once I said ten euros instead of 10,000, he was asleep." Everyone laughs. He should not like to get up very early because when we ask him how he will celebrate tomorrow how well he has done in the draw, it is resounding: «I will go to rest and sleep. I will get up very soon ». All his teammates laugh again and this time louder. "Do not forget that there is the general rehearsal at the Royal Theater the day before," shouts out loud another of the educators who have heard it from afar.

The hours of practice are noticed, but also the good atmosphere. Here they have a good time and, above all, great friendships are forged for overtime accumulated in company. "Who would you like to have the‘ ‘el Gordo’ ’play if you sang it?" Everyone opts for their families or for the needy, except Bileiki. "To her," he says while pointing to the director of the Residence-Internship. Rosario Rodríguez, or Charo, as they call her, laughs and hugs her. We could cross out the flattering comment, but when we listen to the director we conceive the sensitivity of her truthfulness: "This is still like a big house and we all feel like a big family."

At the end of the rehearsal, we leave wishing them luck so that everything goes great. One of them turns to say goodbye and points out smiling hesitantly: "No, good luck to you." You are right, now fortune is in your hands.

Nerea, the talisman girl, repeats for the fourth year

Nerea Parejo has a "Fat" extracted and four prizes sung. For those who don't remember her, she is the famous girl who cried last year when she shared her luck. The excitement to realize that he had to sing the first prize in the morning conquered Spain. The 60,000 euros arrived at twenty past nine with the number 47,862. The little girl was so excited that, while she dried her tears, she could barely sing it. That was when the Teatro Real de Madrid broke into a loud applause of encouragement. And it must be that it worked. Nerea sang in less than 20 minutes two more prizes, one of them, the second, endowed with 1.25 million euros. "I got excited because it was a short time to start," he explains. Her mother, who at that time was watching her from the armchairs, could not help but burst into tears with her. «My girl is always lucky», she recalls when she remembers another fifth prize sung by her in 2017 and the extraction of the «Gordo» in 2016. This will be her fourth consecutive year in the draw and the tranquility of the experience shows. The 12-year-old girl goes through the trials helping and advising her fellow beginners to deal with those nerves to the surface.

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