Creativity With Sticks And Hide, The Splendor Is In Simplicity (Updated)

Categories: DIY

**UPDATE: Talking to one of my writers who is from Mexico, I came to find out the name of this kind of furniture. They are called Equipales.

Equipales are still hand-manufactured in many parts of the country. However in Zacoalco de Torres, a small town south of Guadalajara, the tradition dates back to Pre-Hispanic times. By the shallow shores of Lake Atotonilco, families have manufactured equipales since legend says that Hueman, the Aztec shaman taught the 'equipalera' technique of the Gods to the early settlers. Today equipales link the mythical past to a modern cultural icon.

The word 'equipal' derives from the Náhuatl word 'icpalli' meaning asentadero or seat. The icpalli are illustrated in the ancient cloth books like the Codex Mendoza. They range from low and flat seats, woven of reeds, to ones with pedestals for the higher classes. It is said that the last Aztec ruler, Moctezuma, had his equipal sent from Zacoalco de Torres.

Zacoalco de Torres is less than an hour's drive south of Guadalajara. While researching Mexican cultural icons, I had uncovered a slim reference to the traditional equipaleros of Zacoalco.

In this town of 26,000, more than 300 families manufacture equipales. A factory town without a factory, Zacoalco is really a series of workshops of various sizes. While several are located on the main approach to town, the majority are located in the "Barrio de Las Cebollas", the Onion Quarter, across the railroad tracks.

Traditionally the frame of the equipal is joined with ixtle, a type of vegetal fiber removed from the maguey cactus. Also the seat is tied with this fiber. The procedure to prepare and to spin ixtle was learned from their ancestors: it is extracted with cazanga, washed, dried, tarabilla, and spun. Reeds and leather are attached on the maguey fiber. Usually pigskin is favored because it is porous, allowing air to circulate. An equipal made from leather can last twenty years or more.

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