There are unlucky people and there are those that are really unlucky. Costis Mitsotakis is one such person. After his entire village in Spain won over $900 million he was the only resident that did not purchase a ticket. Every year at Christmastime Spain holds the El Gordo (“the fat one”) lottery. The lottery is eagerly anticipated and is one of the world’s oldest lotteries in existence. In 2011 residents of Sodeto, a tiny isolated farming village, were struggling with the double whammy of a severe drought and Spain’s severe economic problems. At one point unemployment rose to 20% in Spain.
Some villagers were thinking of passing on the El Gordo lottery but they bought tickets out of loyalty to the local homemakers’ association. Then their number came up. Every household in Sodeto held a piece of the winning ticket except for one; the household of Costis Mitsotakis. Villagers had won a jackpot of $950 million, the largest El Gordo jackpot in history. Some residents, mostly farmers and unemployed laborers, won millions and the least fortunate still walked away with $130,000. The big win was a rare bright spot amid the news of Spain’s relentless economic crisis.
The big win did not come without come without its own cost; the village has been plagued by salespeople and fortune seekers ever since. Vendors and scammers keep showing up in the village including bankers offering loans at high interest rates, luxury car dealers and furniture salesmen going door to door. José Manuel Penella Cambra was one of the winners and had just invested in an irrigation system for his farm. He was worried about making the payments but his wife had purchased two tickets worth $260,000 and his son found two more that she had forgotten bringing the total to $520,000.
The day the lottery announced the winners Sodeto residents realized that most of their neighbors had won too. As the news spread farmers rolled into town on their tractors. Sodeto’s mayor, Rosa Pons, said “Some of the ladies talked about going to the hairdresser. But the hairdresser won, too. And she said, ‘I’m not working today.’ So that ended that.” Costis Mitsotakis, a Greek filmmaker, moved to the village to be with a woman he was in love with. The relationship did not work out but Mitsotakis stayed. He was the only villager that didn’t buy a ticket. Mitsotakis said it would have been nice to win but the day after the win a neighbor called him to purchase some land he had been trying to sell without much success.