It was 12.35 on Saturday morning when one of the singing lottery number announcers pulled out El Gordo. The first prize in Spain's annual Christmas lottery, whose minor prizes had been sung out by children from the San Ildefonso choir since 9am, had come out of the drum to the great excitement of the audience in the packed theatre. The number: 03347.
This year holders of the 1,700 'décimo' tickets started celebrating around the country, as the number had been sold by a large number of lottery offices.
In the province of Malaga, 34 'décimos' with 03347 had been sold in eight municipalities: Vélez-Málaga, Marbella, Ronda, Torremolinos, Torrox, Benalmádena, Almáchar and Malaga, each one bringing 400,000 euros to its owner.
One happy customer was José Delgado from Benajarafe. He had bought seven tickets with the winning number and, in keeping with the "sharing" nature of this famous draw, he had given one to each of his three children, one to his brother, one to his brother-in-law and one to a friend, keeping the last for himself and his wife.
Unhappy with the number
It was thanks to his wife, he explained later, that he ended up with winning tickets. She had picked the last three figures, 347, and he had gone to his local office, run by Águeda Claros, to see what her computer could come up with. He didn't like any of the available combinations, but settled, still dissatisfied, for 03347. As a result he and his family and friend are 2.8 million euros better off.
Some of the money from the second, third, fourth and fifth prizes also came to this area, amounting to a total of nearly 17 million euros. This, nevertheless, was nowhere near the 128 million euros the Christmas lottery showered on Malaga province last year, its biggest share of the Gordo and other prizes yet.
Joy in Almansa
Elsewhere in Spain celebrations were particularly lively in the town of Almansa in Albacete. One lottery office there sold 139 series (1,390 'décimos') of the second prize number, 21015. Of those 150 million euros, 1.5 million found their way to Vélez-Málaga, where a group of friends shared ten tickets brought down by an aunt who lives in the Albacete town.
Aside from the celebrations and popping corks, however, one of the most touching images resulting from last Saturday's lottery came from the Madrid theatre itself where the draw took place. The emotion of drawing the balls that corresponded to El Gordo was too much for once of the San Ildefonso singers, Nerea Pareja Martínez, who could not hold back her tears.