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Playing cards in Puerto Rico

Playing cards in Puerto Rico

Playing cards in Puerto Rico

Playing cards in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico was 'discovered' by Columbus in 1493 and settled by Juan Ponce de León in 1510. Although frequently attacked by the British and Dutch in the 17th and 18th centuries, the island was in Spanish hands until 1898 when it passed to the USA by the treaty which closed the Spanish-American war. A new constitution adopted in 1952 gave the island home rule as an associated free commonwealth within the United States.

The Spaniards were fond of gambling and brought their dice, cards and recreational games with them. Early 16th century Spanish playing cards would have been available in Puerto Rico, similar to those recently discovered in Peru, and Spanish playing cards would have been used for the next 350 years or longer.

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 350 years or so after the first Spanish settlers arrived.

Most playing cards used in Puerto Rico until the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were imported from Spain. Puerto Rican casinos were being supplied from Spain in the 1930s. More recently packs have been imported from East Asia. Packs with Puerto Rico flags on the reverse are found in souvenir shops today. No local production of playing cards is currently known.

 

Puerto Rico souvenir playing cards made in Hong Kong, c.1960 Puerto Rico souvenir playing cards made in Hong Kong, c.1960 Tax Stamp 1940-65

Left and above: Puerto Rico souvenir playing cards manufactured in Hong Kong by Windmill Playing Card Co., c.1960. The backs show Puerto Rican dancers, but the court cards are standard 'Windmill' - disappointing! The packs were sealed with American Internal Revenue tax stamps.

Dragon Cards by Francisco Flores Spanish National Cards by Felix Solesio
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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. He is a former committee member of the IPCS and was graphics editor of The Playing-Card journal for many years. He has lived at various times in Chile, England and Wales and is currently living in Extremadura, Spain. Simon's first limited edition pack of playing cards was a replica of a seventeenth century traditional English pack, which he produced from woodblocks and stencils.


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