HomeThe Journal of Historyvol. 59 no. 1 (2013)

Reconstructing the Environment of Illegal Gambling Activity in 19th Century Manila through the Juegos Prohibidos

Marco Stefan B. Lagman

Discipline: History



The 19th century Philippines have been described by historians as a period of rapid and widespread socioeconomic change. A particular feature of this transformation was the increase of recorded crimes in the country, particularly in more urban areas such as Manila. Of the many offenses considered illegal, there were certain forms of gambling that the Spanish colonial government considered as petty crimes.

This paper seeks to recreate the typical “gambling environment” that the Guardia Civil Tercio encountered during the arrests that they made from the early decades of the 1880s well up to the 1890s. The review of selected Juegos Prohibidos documents reveals details of these crimes, which include information as to which places in Manila did these illegal gambling activities occur, at what time of the day were these carried out, and what were the characteristics of the usual petty gamblers. These reports also indicate how members of the Guardia Civil dealt with the people whom they arrested. Moreover, while these reports were written from the point of view of the arresting authority, such records also reveal the ways in which subordinate groups attempted to hide their activities and elude law enforcement agents of the Spanish authorities.