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Posted June 30, 2011 | Last Updated July 24, 2013 at 12:37pm | Share this page on Facebook
Map of Central America

Playing Cards from Guatemala

After arriving in what was named the ‘New World’, the Spanish sent expeditions to Guatemala, beginning in 1519. Before long, Spanish contact resulted in an epidemic that devastated native populations. During the colonial period, Guatemala was an Audiencia and a Captaincy General (Capitanía General de Guatemala) of Spain, and a part of New Spain (Mexico). The region was not as rich in minerals (gold and silver) as Mexico and Peru, but its main products were sugarcane, cocoa, blue añil dye, red dye from cochineal insects, and precious woods used in artwork for churches and palaces in Spain. In 1583 one Alonso Martínez de Orteguilla was authorised to administer the manufacture and sale of playing cards in New Mexico (which included Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras). Playing cards were supplied from Spain and France, as well as manufactured in Mexico under licence.

Spanish playing cards from c.1500-c.1800

Right: Spanish cards exported to new Spanish colonies, c.1550 onwards.


In recent years packs have been published in Guatemala by El Cuervo y Cia, Promotora Continental and ‘Juegos El Borrego’.

pack manufactured by El Cuervo y Cia., Ltda, Guatemala, c.1970s

Above: box, Ace of Spades, back and extra card from French-suited pack manufactured by El Cuervo y Cia., Ltda, Guatemala, c.1970s. The extra card has a short text speculating about “the origin of the deck of playing cards”, which is stated as being either of German or Spanish origin, or possibly even as old as the game of chess, and also the origins of the four Kings, Queens, etc.


The Mayans lived in Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, the southern part of Mexico and northern parts of El Salvador until European settlers arrived.

Mayan Playing Cards - Baraja Maya - from Guatemala

Above: Mayan Playing Cards - Baraja Maya - from Guatemala. 52 cards + 2 Jokers in box with explanatory leaflet in Spanish and English.   See more →

Dragon Cards by Francisco Flores Spanish National Cards by Felix Solesio

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