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~~ Gallery 11 ~~
Regional Cards

Spanish-suited Cards
ˇ page 5 ˇ

the Cadíz pattern

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homeland patterns - I
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homeland patterns - II
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early fancy patterns
page 4
South American patterns
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my credit to Dylan Sung and Simon Wintle for their kind contribution to this page

One of the most fascinating varieties of the Spanish-suited patterns is the Cadíz style: its graphical relation to early cards is still very evident. This is considered a true pattern, actually used in some countries, though no longer in Spain.

Historically, the birth of the Cadíz pattern dates back to the early 19th century. This was one of several new patterns that during the same period were created in various parts of Spain by different manufacturers, but most of them lasted but a few years. This was not the case of the pattern born in Cadíz (Andalusia). Initially, cards with this design were used both in the south of the country and in several Spanish colonies where it was exported (particularly in Northern Africa, America and Asia). When the Castilian pattern became the national design of Spanish playing cards (from the early 1900s onwards), the Cadíz pattern had already subsided in the homeland, but not abroad, where it managed to survive.

The Cadíz pattern has maintained several graphic features of the old Spanish national pattern, from which it clearly sprang. Despite the relatively recent origin, many elements of the Cadíz style, such as the shape of Cups, match the ones found in early Spanish cards, whose designs partially sprang directly from the Moorish decks, while others blended with French patterns brought into the country (Franco-Spanish style).
The pictures below show a sample from an uncut sheet dating back between the late 15th and the early 16th century (left), while on the right is a modern deck, kindly provided by Simon Wintle, both a collector and the author of unique packs, based on original illustrations: though not a replica, the latter deck can be considered a fair example of what Spanish playing cards might have looked like 500 years ago.

All illustrations of the Cadíz pattern are quite naive, and typical elements are easily recognizable:
  • Cups have the shape of chalices, whose cylindrical upper part is decorated with a /////// pattern; the cavalier of the same suit usually bears the word Ahiva or Ahí va, an exclamation whose relation with the card is still obscure (see also the Expressions gallery).
  • the cudgels in the Batons suit are even more irregular than the ones featured in Catalan style decks; the ace, in particular, can be easily told because of its many long branches;
  • court characters are roughly drawn, quite ancient-looking, and colours are usually dimmer than in any other pattern.

recent 40-card Cadíz pattern by A.Camoin & Cie. (Morocco),
made of uncoated pasteboard, with rough finish and sharp corners
Cadíz decks usually consist of a traditional number of cards, i.e. either 48 or 40, and have sharp square corners. This pattern can be found especially in northern Africa, and in some Asian countries, where decks used to be imported from southern Spain, though in a few cases it is still found in South America: therefore, it should be considered Spain's official "export pattern", but nowadays some of these lands locally manufacture their own decks.

Cadíz pattern by Malka Frères (Morocco);
all aces feature the Arabic text Al Maghreb ("Morocco")
The court cards belonging to the classic Cadíz pattern show elements in common with other Spanish-suited styles, particularly with the ones used in Latin America.
For instance, the kings are very reminiscent of the ones found in the Catalan varieties, with the usual "hourglass" (tapered) shape, as well as the four rampant horses.
The knave of Coins, instead, is undoubtly related with the Estilo Paris pattern used in Uruguay (see page 2), as in the background it features a hound tied to a short pole, a specific detail which only appears in these two patterns.

some Cadíz court cards, by Malka Frères (Morocco);
comparative samples from Catalan and "Estilo Paris"
patterns are shown on the right

Los Dos Tigres brand, by Fournier (Spain)
A less classic variety of the Cadíz style is a traditional brand by Fournier (Spain), named Los Dos Tigres ("the two tigers"). It was originally made for Spanish-speaking areas in Asia and Africa, and still today these cards are being exported to such faraway coutries, although the number of players who presently use these cards has considerably decreased.
The illustrations of this pattern are much more refined than those of standard Cadíz versions, and the cards have rounded corners with a plastic coating, but most traditional elements (the Ahi Va expression, the wrigly shape of the ace of Batons, etc.) are present.

In countries of central and south America, some Cadíz editions may show signs of hybridization with the other main design from Spain, the Catalan pattern. The sample on the right comes from El Salvador, and belongs to these non-conventional variants. For instance, the aforesaid exclamation Ahí va is missing from the cavalier of Cups, and the shape of the ace of Batons is not as rough as it should be. However, the square corners, the naive finish of the illustrations, and other features are those of a Cadíz pattern.

Cisne brand, from El Salvador

The Philippines are among the few Asian countries where the use of the Cadíz pattern is still reported; the game played with these cards is called Cuajo. Regretfully, the game has almost become obsolete, and the locals who know how to play are very scarce.
The Philippines used to be a Spanish colony up to the late 1800s; this gives reason for the use of the Cadíz pattern, but the rules of the game came from the Far East. Traders from China are known to have reached the Philippines as early as the 11th century, and other clues too seem to indicate that the origin of Cuajo is almost certainly Chinese.
The deck has a very special composition. Each suit consists of seven subjects only: ace, 3, 4, 5, knave, cavalier and king; for each subject there are four identical cards, so their total number is 7 x 4 suits x 4 times = 112. This matches perfectly the composition of the so-called Four Colour cards (see page 3 of the Chinese gallery).
In second place, the rules of Cuajo have much in common with those of Mah Jong, Si Se Pai, Ceki (see Indonesia and Malaysia) and others belonging to the same group: taking turns, the players pick one undealt card, discard one of theirs, and try to complete simple combinations such as three aces, three 5s, etc., or series (3-4-5, etc.) in order to close the hand.

Furthermore, the same word Cuajo is Chinese. In Spanish it means "clot", but referred to the game, this name seems a translitteration of an indigenous one. A Chinese game called Kwa Oh, i.e. the same pronounciation as Cuajo in Spanish, played with Four Colour cards, has been reported in the playing card literature, although its rules are not known; the spelling of this game's name in Chinese glyphs is .

Interestingly, the same two glyphs, according to the main language spoken in China, i.e. Mandarin, sound Kan Hu; also a game with this name was reported by sinologist Wilkinson, by the turn of the 20th century (see more about his research on Chinese cards in China, page 1); Wilkinson even created a card game of his own, based on the original one, which he called Kanhoo, evidently bearing in mind the Chinese name, and marketed it in the Western world.
We do not know whether Kwa Oh and Kan Hu were the same game. The characters used by Wilkinson for spelling Kan Hu are  , which partly mismatch the aforesaid ones. This is only apparently a controversy, as in both names the glyphs have no real meaning (the first one translates "looking at the lake", the second one "looking at a pot"): they are used phonetically, i.e. only to produce a given sound. Since  and   are pronounced exactly in the same way, there is no real difference between the two names.
The special deck for playing Cuajo is only made by the Spanish manufacturer Fournier. The cards have sharp corners, as most Cadíz editions have.

go to
page 1
homeland patterns - I
page 2
homeland patterns - II
page 3
early fancy patterns
page 4
South American patterns


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


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