Read of the Day: “The Luckiest Village in the World”
6:30 pm, May 7th | by Colette McIntyre
Sodeto is an isolated farming village in the Alberuela de Tubo province in Spain. The town’s seventy households were once struggling to make ends meet, victims of Spain’s severe economic downturn and a vicious drought; then, a few days before Christmas 2011, Sodeto won the largest lottery in the history of Spain: $950 million. Suddenly, quiet and tiny Sodeto became known as the luckiest village in the world. GQ author Michael Paterniti visited Sodeto two years after the big win to see how the town of farmers has handled the fortune and fame.
In this excerpt, Sodeto’s mayor hears the good news:
Rosa, the mayor, is in the kitchen, her mutt, Homer, eating the scraps. Sandra is at work. Costis, the carefree, is sleeping in the house where he lives just outside of town, in the fields. Sandra’s new—much younger—shepherd boyfriend (he’s 21; she’s 35) is slaughtering sheep, and José, a farmer with dark sideburns, is in his tractor, plowing the fields that will grow again with rice, alfalfa, and corn come spring. Marisol, the hairdresser, is at the dentist, and Paco, her husband, is killing time, running errands in town until her appointment is over. Ana, the Romanian, is upstairs, over the bar, getting ready to go down and open for no one.
The Christmas Lottery begins at 9 a.m. and includes several lesser drawings. El Gordo maybe gets announced three hours in, but it’s only 9:57 a.m., and—what’s this?—already the announcer is bruiting Olé, olé, olé, as the girl and boy, bespectacled, walk across the stage of the Teatro Real holding the acorns for El Gordo aloft, singing their strangled notes.
Rosa’s not even watching this but halfway listening on the radio. Nine fifty- seven a.m. That’s early, she tells herself. A voice says the number, and then says that it originated from the lottery office in the village of Grañén. Where is that little village? asks the announcer. And Rosa almost answers: On the Monegros plain, in Aragon! Then the number is said aloud—58268— as she goes for her ticket in a panic…could it be?—then calls her friend Carmen, of the Housewives’ Association. Pero que? Pero que? Could it be? she is yelling, and Carmen says, “Yes, we’ve WON. We’ve WON El Gordo.”
Rosa throws on an overcoat and sprints across the square for town hall. There’s a PA system there, one she uses only to announce water shortages or power outages. Now, hands shaking, she flips on the power, takes the microphone, and speaks, her voice crackling from speakers in the square. “Congratulations, Sodeto,” she says as calmly as she can. “We have just WON THE LOTTERY! Come to the plaza in order to celebrate.”
Then she races home to put on nicer clothes.
To read “The Luckiest Village in the World” in its entirety, head over to GQ.com
[Photo via ABC.es]