El Machete

Here in Mexico the most essential agave machete mantool is the machete. They come in lengths of 16” to 28”. A good quality machete is quite the bargain here in Mexico.

We have a tree growing whose trunk is starting to displace the roof over our deck. Its root system is cracking the cement slab below as well. We are looking for someone to come and cut the tree down. It has doubled in size and more in the last four years.

We have cut a lot of trees down having lived many years in Southern Oregon, but I don’t like heights and this particular tree is close to our house, deck and electric wires as well as the capilla in the road – any or all are in danger of miscalculated felling. I used my machete to cut a gap between the roof and the trunk.

We have seen a lot of machete work since being in Mexico. An hombre skilled in wielding a machete is something to watch. I have seen them hack down trees so thick around that I wouldn’t have even considered attempting to take them down with an axe – purely a job for a chain saw.

I have learned how to sharpen them with a lima (file). Some of the classier sheaths include a pouch for the lima or you can get a separate sheath for your lima. Once or twice I have actually worn my machete at my side. It is common to see a Mexican national sporting his machete on his hip, gringos – well I wouldn’t wear it to go to town.

I read recently that Robert Rodriquez is getting ready to release a new film titled “El Machete”. Rodriquez who wrote, produced and directed one of my favorite Mexican films “El Mariachi” for a mere $7,000.00 back in 1992 making him an independent film maker of renown hasn’t done a lot of great films since – mostly pedestrian stuff with a lot bigger budgets.

Salma HayekRodriquez’s favorite female to cast, Salma Hayek, will probably not be part of “El Machete” cast. The film looks to be a sister film to the likes of the Friday the 13th series with tag lines like, “Yesterday He Was A Decent Man Living A Decent Life. Now He Is A Brutal Savage Who Must Slaughter To Stay Alive.” But I digress this is about machetes – not Salma Hayek (sorry guys).

The shorter blades are usually a bit heavier blade, used for serious hacking like the aforementioned trees and even cutting block. The longer blades are more often used for mowing down vegetation. I have seen hombres stooping along cutting large areas of grass with a machete in a horizontal slashing motion.

Our occasional gardener up at Rancho del Cielo refuses to use the lawn mower we have. He insists on cutting our extensive rolling lawn with a machete. He will operate a weed eater, but is simply afraid of the whirling machete blade attached to a motor near his feet. Labor is very cheap here, but I simply cannot embrace cutting thousands of square feet of lawn with a machete.

Men are not the only machete owner-operators. Alma the coffee baroness across the roadway has one and she knows how to use it. A while back we stopped at a restaurant in Coasta Esmeralda. The proprietress of the restaurant occasionally came out front to slash open coconuts. She never missed – even with her eyes closed.

I wonder why such a wonderful tool is not more popular north of the border. I suspect it might be that blades or sharp chains whirled by big motors are higher tech and more ‘civilized’. There are hombres with chain saws here and as mentioned weed eaters. But, all of them will still be seen with their trusty machete at their side.

ˇManténgase Sintonizado! (i.e. Stay Tuned)

John Calypso lives in Veracruz, Mexico. Back in the 60s, he was a very hip guy living in Hollywood and rubbing shoulders with Beatles and Monkees. Read lots more in his blog, Viva Veracruz.

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