Jorge Alberto Rodríguez Rivera, Zacoalco de Torres Jalisco
It is said, that Moctezuma, the last Aztec ruler, ordered a special chair to be made for him — it was called icpalli — seat for the gods. The word equipal comes from the Náhuatl word icpalli meaning asentadero or seat.
Equipales are still hand-manufactured in Mexico today, however, in Zacoalco de Torres 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 are a link to Mexico’s mythical past.
The process of building equipales is not only a matter of carpentry; more exactly, it is truly a form of art. That is why equipales are so unique in design, structure, durability, comfort, and aesthetics and are sought after all over the world.
The wood palo dulce is used for the bottom and for the frame of the equipal, and the crosspieces are made of posa honeycomb, a wood with a beautiful grain. The manufacture of the furniture requires a special skill, since all the wooden elements are carved with a curved machete or cazanga.
Traditionally the frame of the equipal is joined with ixtle, a type of vegetal fiber removed from the maguey cactus. The seat is also tied with this fiber. Reeds and leather are attached to the maguey fiber. Usually pigskin is the favored leather because it is porous, allowing air to circulate — an equipal made from leather can last 20 years or more. These techniques have been passed on
for centuries to present-day artisans without minimizing the original tradition of quality and craftsmanship.
Some of the larger producers have their own looms for weaving the colorful fabrics associated with this rustic furniture. The artisans know the choice seasons to cut the wood — they say that it is better to cut the wood during a full moon when the sap is in the plant. So the wood lasts longer. If it is cut in the new moon, polilla or moths can cause damage.
The equipal furniture requires little maintenance. Take a day-trip and visit the Zacoalco workshops. Equipales are also sold in furniture stores countrywide and available over the internet. Wherever you live, you, too, can sit like Moctezuma, comfortable upon your equipal.
Francisco I. Madero #229
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