MADRID, Spain – Maria Lourdes Perez, 13, is used to making Spaniards millionaires by singing out lottery prizes in pesetas — Spain's doomed currency.
On Sunday, as she sings in euros for the first time in Spain's illustrious lottery history, she will make many of them happy, but not quite millionaires.
Perez is one of the children of Madrid's San Ildefonso boarding school who sing out winning lottery numbers and prize amounts during the weekly edition of one of Spain's dozen-odd lotteries. She stands up to a microphone and belts out figures in a very specific and contagious cadence.
The musical tradition is more than 200 years old, but as of New Year's Day the lyrics will be sung in euros, the European Union's new single currency. The 133-year-old peseta is out.
"It won't be the same anymore. To sing the numbers in pesetas is easy, but in euros it doesn't sound right. It seems like some words are missing," Perez said while rehearsing for the Loteria El Nino, held every year on the Feast of the Epiphany and named after the baby Jesus.
"One million, four hundred forty thousand, euuuu-ros," Maria sang as she got ready for El Nino, which boasts $429 million in prize money. Her singing teacher Pedro Vazquez corrected her pitch and posture.
In pesetas, the jingle would have gone "two hundred thirty nine million, five-hundred ninety-five thousand, eight-hundred and forty peseeee-tas" per winning ticket, which in the complex world of Spanish lotteries is divided into ten separate stubs, each of which cost 18.03 euros.
With the switch to the euro there, most prizes will be in the thousands rather than millions. A million pesetas are worth about $5,500.
The winnings sound much nicer in pesetas, Maria says. Most Spaniards would agree.
"I've been playing the Christmas lottery for more than 30 years, and I feel it's a pity that the prices won't be in pesetas any more," said Juan Cruzado, 62, as he bought tickets for himself and his son at a lottery agency in Seville.
"In euros, the smaller figures look strange. But we will have to get used to it. We won't be able to boast about being millionaires. But either in pesetas and euros, the important thing is to win."