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Playing cards have been with us since the 14th century, when they first entered popular culture. Over the centuries packs of cards, in all shapes and sizes, have been used for games, gambling, education, conjuring, advertising, fortune telling, political messages or the portrayal of national or ethnic identity. All over the world, whatever language is spoken, their significance is universal. Their popularity is also due to the imaginative artwork and graphic design which is sometimes overlooked, and the “then & now” of how things have changed.

Playing Cards from Mexico

MEXICO shares a long tradition with Spain in the field of playing cards. The Estanco de Naipes (playing-card monopoly) was established in 1576.

EXICO shares a long tradition with Spain in the field of playing cards. The early Spanish colonists carried packs of cards with them. When these wore out new ones would have been made from local materials, maybe drum skins, rawhide or paper. The first printing press was established in Mexico in 1539 by Juan Pablos, who had come over from Italy. Cards were undoubtedly very popular, since prohibitions were passed as early as 1539 and the Estanco de Naipes (playing-card monopoly) was established in 1576.

The manufacturer F. Munguia commenced producing playing-cards in Mexico in 1868 with the brand names La Campana and La Estrella. A few years later, in 1872, a certain P. Munguia started production, but it is not known whether the two businesses were related. However, La Cubana S.A. became the successors of P. Munguia and continued producing playing cards with the brand names La Campana and La Estrella. Their 1960s catalogue shows an extended range of playing card brands as well as other products.

Cockerel trademark - Naipes Gallo - Clemente JacquesOne of the more influential, and widely plagiarised, Mexican designs has been Clemente Jacques’ “Marca Gallo” playing cards, first published in the 1920s and still produced today by Pasatiempos Gallo S.A. Clemente Jacques also produced the magnificent Naipes Nacionales →

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 Seville and France, as well as manufactured in Mexico under licence.

By the end of the XVI century over 100,000 packs per annum were being manufactured in Mexico which sold for three reales each and were preferred to those imported from Spain.

Mexico re-gained independence in 1821. Local manufacturers were free once again to produce their own cards, although cards also continued to be imported. Many packs from this period are anonymous and their manufacturers cannot be identified. The designs usually followed the Spanish National pattern and its derivatives, as well as new Mexican designs shown in these pages.

Playing Cards from Mexico

"Los naipes, un juego muy antiguo difundido entre los orientales y los europeos, llegaron hasta América desde los primeros encuentros de las dos civilizaciones. Los navegantes de Cristóbal Colón se entretenían al jugar cartas durante el trayecto del viaje y de igual manera, los pasajeros que viajaron de Europa a las Indias eran jugadores apasionados que se valían de los naipes para matar las largas horas que la nao recorría hasta llegar a su destino.…"

Anonymous miniature playing cards from Mexico, c.2000

Above: anonymous miniature cards

Other Mexican manufacturers and producers include Bartolo Borrego • Emilio Cuenca • Enrique Guerrero • Gómez Hermanos • Comercial y Manufacturera • Productos Artísticos Osiris • Aeronaves de MexicoPronaco • Productos Leo • Naipes El ReyProductos GacelaJuegos y Fichas S.A.Productos CamachoMiguel GalasOrpamex (Organización Papelera Mexicana) • Productos El Cisne • Grupo Editorial RAF S.A. • Anahuac • Naipes El Venado • Naipes Ramar • Casa Velux • AGSA Comercial • Gráficas Menhir • Multicolor S.A. • Promociones Tauro • Foliproa • Norte S.A. • Mercurio Comunicación and other anonymous makers →.

Playing Cards in Mexico employ Spanish suit symbols: cups, swords, coins and clubs - termed copas, espadas, oros and bastos.

Bartolo Borrego, 1836 Mexico c.1835 anonymous Mexican pack, c.1850 F. Munguia, c.1868
Baraja Cuahutemoc, c.1950 Marca Gallo Intransparente by Clemente Jacques, Mexico Naipe El Ferrocarril by La Cubana S.A. Baraja Taurina detail from special pack for Aeronaves de Mexico S.A., designed by Ramón Valdiosera Berman, mid-1960s

FURTHER REFERENCES:

García Martín, Enrique: "Clemente Jacques", in LA SOTA no.15, Asescoin, Madrid, September 1996

García Martín, Enrique: "Las Barajas de Símbolos Españoles en América", in LA SOTA no.25, Asescoin, Madrid, September 2001

Grañen Porrúa, María Isabel: "Hermes y Moctezuma, un Tarot Mexicano del Siglo XVI".

Links to other Latin American Countries:   Argentina    Brazil    Chile    Colombia    Cuba    Dominican Republic    Ecuador    El Salvador    Galapagos    Guatemala    Honduras    Panama    Paraguay    Peru    Puerto Rico    Uruguay    Venezuela

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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

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Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996.

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