Thursday, March 22, 2012

Of Machetes and Swords

Frequently in the smaller towns near Chiclayo men will board a combi with a machete strapped to their back or belt. Many men earn their living cutting sugar cane so the tool of their trade is always with them.

Machetes designed for cutting cane typically have a blade about 10” long and 5” wide at the top. This one in the photo is commercially made. Most of those seen in our region are home-made but follow the same general pattern, except they have a longer and thicker handle, perhaps either for better balance or two-hand use. They’re sold in Chiclayo’s mercado modelo for about $17.

The edged weapon carried by the man who boarded our combi when we were coming back from Tierras Blancas last week was a whole different animal. The handle appeared to be flawless and of an exotic wood, and wire-wrapped… something normally seen only on expensive knives and swords. The sheath looked to be hand-tooled leather, housing a blade estimated at 24” in length. A question to a fellow passenger revealed that the man is a well-known local shaman, and that he uses the sword when conducting his rituals.

He got off the combi at a remote desert crossroad where there were only a couple of houses and a handful of people standing around. We wondered where he could be going, so looked for him as the combi pulled away. Neither one of us saw him. There was no trace of him. The guy had vanished! Maybe there’s something to this shamanism thing.


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