GUATEMALA CITY—Alvaro Rodriguez, the first winner of the new Guatemalan "Scratch 'n' Win" national lottery, is now the proud owner of his own sewing machine, a 1945-model Singer XS-100.
Rodriguez, a 26-year-old fruit-crate stacker, was described as "speechless and stunned" by lottery officials, who on Monday presented him with the luxurious, fully automated sewing device, as well as a gigantic oversized check for the machine's cost—a staggering nine American dollars—on a surprise visit to Rodriguez's modest, bathtub-sized home.
"I can't believe it!" the ecstatic winner told reporters. "I will be able to make my clothes in a fraction of the time. No more will I slave like a dog, hand-stitching my ponchos with needle and thread. From now on, I will live like a king."
Four lucky Guatemalans, including Rodriguez, scratched off the winning combination of "U," "F" and "C"—the initials of the lottery's sponsor, the United Fruit Company. Rodriguez, however, was singled out as the sole winner when the other three were disqualified after being killed by death squads earlier in the week.
The new "Scratch The Flies Off The Dying Children" lotto game is being hailed as a success by sponsors and citizenry alike.
"Over 35 percent of the Guatemalan populace bought a ticket, far exceeding our highest hopes," United Fruit Company spokesperson Donald Hamlinger said. "I mean, that's almost as high as the country's infant mortality rate."
Added Hamlinger: "Lots of people are asking, 'His own sewing machine? How long are you letting him rent it?' We want to make it clear to the people of Guatemala that he owns it. Mr. Rodriguez won his very own foot-pedaled, self-spooling sewing machine. Sure, it sounds too good to be true, but it is. The Guatemala Lottery makes dreams happen."
Despite the impressive lure of the once-in-a-lifetime luxury of a personal sewing machine, the new lottery has drawn criticism. Some feel that the cost of the lottery tickets, approximately one-seven-hundredth of an American cent, is prohibitively high. Others say the lottery offers such impossibly luxurious prizes that the Guatemalan poor will squander all their money on the game.
"How could anyone resist the chance to win a sewing machine that automatically sews the thread into the fabric?" said rural Guatemalan villager Inez Menchu. "It is as if God Himself is tempting us with sweet nectar from heaven."
Despite the lottery's critics, many of whom have already been put to death by the government, Rodriguez had no complaints Monday as he sat down to enjoy his brand-new used sewing machine.
"I know in my heart I should just put the sewing machine in the bank, so that I may live comfortably off the interest for the rest of my life," Rodriguez said. "But I can do that tomorrow. Today, I am going to live it up. Today, I will sew myself some new clothes. I think I just may sew all day long!"
As for his future plans, Rodriguez said he has no intention of quitting his job.
"I am not going to change just because I now have this deluxe sewing machine that no one else in the country has. I do not want my newfound status as one of Guatemala's super-rich to keep me from appreciating the good things in life that I have always enjoyed: three square meals a week, soles on the bottom of my feet, and over half my teeth. Even though I am a big sewing-machine owner guy now, I am still going to stay the same me my family has always known and loved."