the content of these galleries is a private property
neither the text nor the pictures may be republished, nor used for any purpose, without the author's permission

back to the
~~ Gallery 11 ~~
Regional Cards

Spanish-suited Cards
ˇ page 4 ˇ

Overseas Patterns
Latin America

go to
page 1
homeland patterns - I
page 2
homeland patterns - II
page 3
early fancy patterns
page 5
the Cadíz pattern
go to the page's

my credit to Diego Peña for providing me
with valuable information and interesting decks


Traditional Spanish decks are commonly used all over Latin America, from Mexico to countries as south as Argentina and Chile. Brazil instead, being of Portuguese cultural background, tends to use the standard international pack, reflecting the preference of the European country for French-suited cards; therefore, in Brazil too Spanish-suited decks are manufactured, but they represent a minor share of the local production.

In Latin America, these patterns are generically called Estilo Español or Tipo Español ("Spanish Style" or "Type"), to distinguish them from the international French-suited deck, also commonly used.

a Castilian deck by Gallo S.A. (Mexico)


El Fenix brand, by Gallo S.A. (Mexico)
Mexico was the first American country where playing cards were imported from the European continent.
During the 16th century, due to the frequent contacts between these territories (Spain's colony) and the homeland, cards were brought to Mexico both by sailors, who played with them during the long voyage, and for the use of residents of Spanish origin.
Representing a source of income, in 1576 the local government issued an act by which the monopoly of card manufacturing passed under the direct control of the Spanish royal family. A few years later, 1n 1583, a local press started producing the first Mexican decks.
In Mexico, though, playing cards remained a pastime for the high class, the rich Spanish settlers, and never stirred the interest of the local Indian population very much.

Probably for this reason, despite its early origin, the Mexican playing card industry never developed as much as it did in Spain, from where decks were imported up to the early 19th century. During the second quarter of the same century Spanish-suited cards were imported from the United States, and only from the mid 1800s domestic manufacturers became active.
Still today the local standard production is restricted to a rather small number of manufacturers.
Although graphically attractive, with brighter colours than other Spanish designs, several editions lack a plastic coating, and are printed on very thin pasteboard.

El Rey brand (unknown manufacturer), Mexico

Don Clemente brand, with yellow background, by Gallo S.A. (Mexico)

The pattern of modern Mexican cards is a variety of the Castilian style. It follows quite faithfully the illustrations found in standard Spanish editions, but a few graphic details are typical.
The pictures are more flamboyant than the ones found in Spanish decks, with rich decorations such as the complicated embroideries on clothes worn by court personages. The choice of colours too is almost glamorous, with striking effects, sometimes enhanced by the use of a coloured background (pale yellow, or grey).
In editions made by the largest Mexican manufacturer, Gallo S.A., the ace of Coins is decorated with palm leaves, while the usual flags, shields, heraldic emblems, etc. have been dropped. Although this probably depends on the manufacturer's free choice, rather than being a traditional feature, other minor companies seem to have borrowed this detail (notice the deck by Leo S.A., on the right).

Castilian pattern by Leo S.A. (Mexico)

But the most interesting detail is probably the choice of female personages for knaves. In fact, all four knaves wear clothes fit for a male page, but carefully examining their faces, the length of their hair and their... busts, in all Mexican decks at least two of them (belonging to the suits of Coins and Batons), look more female than male. In some editions, all four of them have feminine features.

a selection of female knaves from different brands by Gallo S.A.
Since no female courts are ever found in original Spanish decks, this peculiar detail is likely due to a relatively recent "contamination" by other patterns, as it is not found in early Mexican decks.

The earliest decks printed in Mexico date back to the mid 19th century. Up to that time playing cards had been imported, mainly from Spain. During the 1850s, the Spanish cardmakers were in a stage of transition; the Castilian and Cadíz patterns had not been created yet, and the old national design was being simplified into the modern Catalan one, as described in page 1. Most Mexican decks still reflected the Spanish production, but the edition shown below, printed by F.Munguia in 1868, shows signs of a change.
All court personages stand on a small amount of ground; this detail is no longer very evident in the modern Castilian pattern, but in many Mexican editions its traces are still visible. Curiously, in the south of Italy the same ground turned into a low pedestal (see Siciliane and Napoletane).
The kings no longer wear a coat with long sleeves, but a mantle; furthermore, three of them are bearded, and also the cavaliers and knaves wear a moustache. Instead, the traditional exclamation Ahí va is still found below the cavalier of Cups.
The ace of Coins features the national crest of Mexico, an eagle holding a snake in its beak, a detail also found in other local editions of similar age by different manufacturers. The Cups are curiously shaped (yet without a cover), while the ace of Batons is already very similar to the modern Castilian and Mexican ones. The 3 of Batons is an oddity: in all Spanish and Spanish-derived patterns, either old or new, the three cudgels cross each other, bound by a ribbon, but not in this edition.


In Southern America cards arrived much later. Argentina is probably the country where the pastime encountered more success, but the first local decks were produced no sooner than the second half of the 19th century.
The modern production is covered by two main firms, Justo Rodero and Gráfica 2000 (former Gráfica S.A.), both producing different brands, but some smaller manufacturers too exist, and keep alive the market.

The number of cards in Argentinean decks may be 40 as well as 48 (the latter usually with two further comodines, or extra cards).
The main pattern used in the country, as well as in most other parts of South America, is the Catalan style, whose standard illustrations are usually followed very faithfully.

Casino brand by Justo Rodero (Argentina), 1950s

In a few editions, some details seem to have been borrowed by other styles: the deck shown below on the right looks like a hybrid variety, between the Catalan and the Cadiz pattern (see page 3).

Carlos V° brand by Gráfica S.A. (Argentina)

Naipes Tipo Español - Barcelonesa brand
by Gráfica 2001 (Argentina): almost a Cadiz pattern

Paisanito brand (Argentina), late 1940s
A peculiar feature of old Argentinean decks is that the 4 of Cups, the card which used to bear the tax stamp, was not packed inside the wrapper or tuck box, together with the other cards, but was inserted in a slit outside the package, for being easily checked.
This is the reason for which, in editions over 40 years old, the 4 of Cups might appear slightly darkened along one of its sides, where the card was directly exposed (see previous picture of Casino brand).

Paisanito deck in its wrapper:
notice the tax band and the edge
of the partially exposed 4 of Cups
Argentina, as well as Spain, has also produced decks which are based on traditional ones but use special suits and fancy illustrations.

non-standard Molina Campos deck;
the top left subject is a comodín
Since these decks have pip cards up to 9, and courts numbered 10, 11 and 12, they should be considered non-standard Spanish patterns rather than fancy poker cards.
The pictures on both sides show an edition designed by artist Florencio Molina Campos, a painter who celebrated his own country's folklore: all subjects are dedicated to the world of the gauchos, famous horsemen of the Pampas (Argentinean plains), shown in action on court cards.
The suit symbols are non-standard, though recalling the classic ones: Coins show old coinage; Mate, special vessels for drinking mate (a beverage made from gourds) represent Cups; Swords are featured in a particular style; Revenque, the gaucho's riding crop, is the symbol for Batons.

the Molina Campos gaucho deck,
manufactured by Kolorit (Argentina)
Another interesting variation on national folk themes is the Tango deck, shown on the right. In this unique non-standard pattern, suit signs are Knives, Bandoneones (Argentinean accordions), Mate (same as in the deck described above) and Lanterns, shaped as the typical ones found in local lanes.
All four aces feature short texts from popular songs, and old pictures of tango dancers are shown in court cards, whose subjects are though repeated in all of the suits.

Tango deck, by Arco Iris (Argentina);
the last card of the bottom row is a comodín


One Latin American country, Uruguay, does not use any of the traditional "Tipo Español" patterns, having a national standard known as Estilo Paris, i.e. "Paris Style".
These interesting cards on the one hand seem quite reminiscent of the old-looking Cadiz pattern (a relation between the two styles is discussed in page 3), but they also show a curious connection with the Aluette deck from France, discussed in the French & Belgian gallery (see sample 1 and sample 2).

Estilo Paris deck, by Casabo (Uruguay);
the top left card is a comodín

Another element of interest is the small hand which holds the ace of Batons, shown in a previous picture: this detail surely recalls classic tarots belonging to the Marseille group (see also the tarot gallery), whereas such hand never appears in any other Spanish-suited style.

Estilo Paris, Tatú brand by Casabo (Uruguay);
notice the small hand holding the ace of Batons, and
two tiny arrows at the opposite end of the cudgel

Besides showing a certain taste for decorations, which accompany the arrangement of pips, though not as colourful as the ones in Aluette cards, an unusual detail shared by both styles is a number of small arrows which in several Batons cards are featured along the shaft of the cudgels (see the samples below).

These clues, as well as the pattern's name, suggest that the Estilo Paris probably originated from a French version of the Spanish style, brought to Uruguay by sea.
In this pattern, colours are more subdued than the ones used for the Tipo Español, pale blue being the main shade of most secondary details.

go to
page 1
homeland patterns - I
page 2
homeland patterns - II
page 3
early fancy patterns
page 5
the Cadíz pattern


actual translation
SOTAKNAVE (Spanish-suited decks)
PAJEJACK (French-suited decks)


non-standard patterns advertisement decks sizes, shapes and colours standard pattern variants tarots non-suited cards Mercante in Fiera Uta Karuta, Iroha Karuta, Dôsai Karuta Âs Nas
regional patterns: Italy regional patterns: Germany regional patterns: Austria regional patterns: Switzerland regional patterns: France regional patterns: Sweden regional patterns: Portugal regional patterns: China regional patterns: South-Eastern Asia regional patterns: Japan regional patterns: India uncut sheets mottos and proverbs

or back to

Multi-language Glossary
the Fool and the Joker
Index Table
Regional Games
Playing Card Links