Event—Scholarly Seminars

Edgar Garcia, University of Chicago


A Migrant's Lotería, Edgar Garcia

This paper examines poet Juan Felipe Herrera’s and artist Artemio Rodríguez’s uses of the Mexican game of chance Lotería in their book collaboration Lotería Cards and Fortune Poems: A Book of Lives (1999). In its thematic engagement with Mexican and Central American migration to the US, the book’s framework of chance emphasizes the deep risk and even impossible odds of migration. But whereas such risk tends to be understood in terms of a theory of probability that has capitalist incentive and a certain racial fatalism at its heart, Herrera’s and Rodriguez’s book recalls an older pre-Pascalian sense of Fortuna, in which fate is humanized and speculation is not captive to the uneven distribution of risk in a world of commodified risk. In reading their game of chance as a way of participating in the unfolding of futurity, this paper also examines a revealing persistence of metaphors of divination, fortune-telling, and gambling in early twentieth century Western Marxism (especially the writings of Adorno, Benjamin, Bloch, and Lukács).