What Happens When a Whole Community Instantly Becomes Millionaires

by Eric Daniels

If you had gone to the local tavern in Sodeto, Spain, before December 22, 2011, you would have heard locals grumbling about how the drought had lasted so long and worried about the young people who were choosing to move out of town to seek better jobs. As you walked down the streets, you would have seen homes needing various kinds of repairs. If you peeked in the windows, then you would have seen modest amounts of food put on tables by homemakers, but on December 22, 2011, all that changed when every person, except one, became a millionaire by playing the Spanish lottery.

The Spanish lottery is unlike the American lottery. Each ticket in the Spanish lottery costs quite a little money. Players are allowed to buy fractions of a single ticket. In the days leading up to the drawing, a local organization had brought tickets and sold shares to the 240 residents of Sodeto.

Before the drawing, each household owned at least part of the tickets, except for one man. He had moved to the community to marry one of the local residents, but the relationship did not work out. No one asked Costis Mitsotakis to buy a ticket. He is not sure if it was the failed relationship or the fact that he lived about two minutes from the planned community, but no one knocked on his door to ask him to buy a share.

Eager residents of the stone houses in the planned community of Sodeto listened to the television as the winning numbers were called, hoping that their numbers would be the right ones. At the same time, they assumed that their numbers would not be the winning ones. After the numbers were called, the residents who became instant millionaires poured from their homes to celebrate on the streets of the small farming community.

While Costis was not to share in their instant wealth, he too joined the lively celebration. The Greek filmmaker grabbed his video camera and recorded the residents as they celebrated the fact that Lady Luck had come to visit their community.

If you step into the tavern today, the whole mood is different as residents find it much easier to smile. While they used to scrape together enough change to buy a beer, they now pay for it with a large bill. Many have spent the money to repair their homes. A couple of adult children who had moved away have returned. The mood in the community is much more jovial. Women still prepare meals at home, and no one has chosen to move from the city.

There have been unintended consequences of everyone in the community, except one, becoming instantly wealthy. More salespeople are knocking on residents’ doors. The landfill is filling up faster as residents get more unsolicited direct advertising.

Yet, the residents say that they love their lifestyle and intend to maintain it like it was when they had to worry about the rain. Most residents in the community still get up and go to work each morning.

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