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Latin American Playing Cards

Playing Cards in Central and South America

Playing cards had been introduced to the Americas with explorers such as Columbus or Cortés, whose fellow countrymen were keen gamblers. On his first voyage, Columbus discovered San Salvador Island, Hispaniola (now occupied by the Dominican Republic and Haiti) and Cuba, and on his second voyage, Puerto Rico and Jamaica (1493). The following year, the Catholic Monarchs and John II of Portugal signed the Treaty of Tordesillas to apportion the rights to future discoveries, drawing a line along the meridian 370 degrees west of Cape Verde Islands and granting Portugal all of the territory to the east of that line and Spain all of the territory to the west of it (1494). By 1576 the Spaniards began to establish playing card monopolies in their South American dependencies from which they gathered revenues for the Spanish crown. The first of these was in Mexico. Revenue from the tax on both imported and locally manufactured cards was a significant addition to the revenues from the Spanish colonies.

More recently, in Latin America juntas and dictatorships have prevailed in many countries, but by the end of the 20th century authoritarianism had retreated and democracy moved forwards: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Nicaragua, Mexico and El Salvador developed multi-party systems and their economies changed, all of which affects the types and quality of playing cards found there today.

Native Indian cards are a curious spin-off and the Apaches in particular, but also other tribes and ethnic groups made their own cards modelled on the Spanish pack. During the 18th and 19th centuries Italian card makers such as Pedro Bosio, Agostino Bergallo and Giuseppe Cattino supplied Spanish-suited playing cards to Spanish colonies in South America. Cards were imported from Italy or Belgium, and by foreign manufacturers such as Fournier, Comas, DondorfGoodallGrimaudMuller  and  USPCC. For example, Dougherty manufactured Spanish-suited cards for sale in Mexico and South America beginning in 1882.

Argentina    Bolivia    Brazil    Chile    Colombia    Costa Rica    Cuba    Dominican Republic    Ecuador    El Salvador    Galapagos    Guatemala    Honduras    Mexico    Nicaragua    Panama    Paraguay    Peru    Puerto Rico    Uruguay    Venezuela

You can click the countries on the map...

Spanish playing cards from c.1500-c.1800

Above: Spanish playing cards exported to new Spanish colonies from c.1550 onwards. Cards like these would have been in use for the first 200-300 years or so after the first Spanish settlers arrived. (click the images to see more)

Argentina Chile Colombia Cuba Dominican Republic Ecuador El Salvador Galapagos Islands Guatemala Honduras Mexico Panama Paraguay Peru Uruguay Venezuela Dragon Cards by Francisco Flores Spanish National Cards by Felix Solesio
Last Updated November 30, 2015 at 09:52pm

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