Leaping Over Language Barriers
The pounding waves in Half Moon Bay lure crowds of surfers and tourists—and are also causing massive erosion. A 2020 study found that all major tourist attractions, infrastructure and about 125 buildings in this small city are now vulnerable to sea level rise. In 2022, the City responded with a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, with actions the City and the community can take to respond to changing climate conditions.
In implementing the plan, the City then faced a common problem: how to fully engage residents, especially the Spanish-speaking community? The answer came in the form of the very popular Mexican bingo game called Lotería.
Lotería consists of 54 cards with images in a rustic, hand-drawn style—like a tree, star, moon, melon, musician and cactus. As in bingo, players use a board with a matrix of images and the caller names the image, holding up the visual.
The beauty of this solution is combining something quite complex with something very fun and familiar. And the visual aspect leaps over language barriers.
Half Moon Bay’s Lotería uses the same authentic cardboard and the same visual style, that everyone knows and loves. But with a twist. For example, it includes very similar tree, but this one is burning due to drought. The back of the card has information about the issue represented by the visual, which the caller reads aloud (cards are printed in English and Spanish) and players are invited to ask questions.
The concept can be adapted for any City and any type of project—parks, transportation, recycling, equity, community planning—to boost community participation and have fun doing it.