Spain’s national lottery, known as “El Gordo” (the Fat One), was first established in 1812 and operates somewhat differently from most British lotteries. It has a total of 1,800 winning tickets. Each ticket costs a whopping €200 but it is then sub-divided into ten ‘decimas’ which cost around €20 each. The ‘decima’ is then broken down into individual ‘participations’ that cost about €5.

In 2011 a group of women from the village of Sodeto in north-west Spain forked out £5000 on a 17 per cent share of ticket number 58268. This translated into 1,200 individual tickets. Many of these tickets were bought by the 250 or so residents of Sodeto. This number won the biggest jackpot in the history of El Gordo – a whopping £600 million!

Happy days indeed! The joyous citizens of Sodeto celebrated by doing the conga and downing more than seventy bottles of bubbly. They couldn’t believe their ‘luck’. Every family in Sodeto had purloined, at least, one ticket worth £83,000. Some had one ticket, others had more.

Olga Bonet, 49, with hardly any teeth in her mouth, became a millionaire overnight. “We bought a new mattress and eat more ham now”, she explained. Big Fran, who was almost destitute, had bought four tickets and he garnered £332,000. He left town on the day he cashed the cheque.

Jose Maria Cambra’s wife had bought two tickets and then their son found two more that they had forgotten about! They were chuffed. Dad joked: “‘I kept saying: look for some more, look for some more”.’ Borja Vinueles, a young farmer, used his share of the jackpot to buy himself a liquid manure spreader. Fair enough!

The only sour note of the drama was a Greek man, Costis Mitsotakis, a Greek filmmaker, who had moved to the village to follow a sweetheart named Sandra. He was the only resident of Sodeto who failed to purchase a ticket. He was gutted!

How does this story connect to faith?

Some of the villagers thanked God for this amazing bonaza. Others begged to differ. Sandra (one ticket only) splashed out on a Harley Davidson motorbike. She opined: “For one moment, our village was chosen by the universe. It still gives me goosebumps”.

Sandra is living in a pantheist story. The universe is divine.

Marisol, a local hairdresser lives in a different story. She believes that luck is a purely random affair. Luck is God, and luck is dumb. Marisol is living in a naturalist story. There is no God. Only nature exists.

So in Sodeto there are three different faiths (perhaps more). Theism, Pantheism and Naturalism. All to be found in one village in Spain that won the ‘Fat one’.

Mark Roques
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Mark Roques

Mark taught Philosophy and Religious Education at Prior Park College, Bath, for many years. As Director of RealityBites he has developed a rich range of resources for youth workers and teachers. He has spoken at conferences in the UK, Holland, South Korea, Spain, Australia and New Zealand. Mark is a lively storyteller and the author of four books, including The Spy, the Rat and the Bed of Nails: Creative Ways of Talking about Christian Faith. His work is focused on storytelling and how this can help us to communicate the Christian faith. He has written many articles for the Baptist Times, RE Today, Youthscape, Direction magazine and the Christian Teachers Journal.