“Real survival” is what I call the dependency on a tool to put food on the table. South of the border the machete is the most life-dependent tool used today. Self-proclaimed web experts can debate what is the best tool for this use or that, but the truth is that many people in Latin America depend on the machete for a means of income, food procurement, and day-to-day survival. No company knows this more than Imacasa, a hardware manufacturer based in El Salvador and maker of some of the world’s best machetes. The agricultural tool company migrated from Germany in the early 1960’s when German machete mogul Weyersberg moved to Central and South America to fulfill growing needs and expansion. Later on, Imacasa became its own company and one of the world’s leading machete, axe, and shovel manufacturers along with producing other hand tools. I recently had the opportunity to visit the factory first hand, and take a very detailed look at the world of machetes.
A machete in one country may have a completely different look in another. I had a rough idea of the geographic variations on machetes, however, I was still surprised at the many blade shapes that were popular in a specific region. Axes reign king up in northern areas, but when you start heading south, you’ll see a tool that is not just used for chopping, but everything from kitchen work to major agricultural undertakings. The entire U.S. market for machetes is roughly the same size as the country of Guatemala.
Imacasa listens to the demands of the markets in each country, building a quality tool for use in that area. Here is just a brief look at some of the styles.
The Jamaicans and the Puerto Ricans prefer a type of machete that has an elongate blade with an upswept point at the end. This point can be used for many different tasks, but the most common I’ve observed is popping the delicate crown off of a coconut. Paraguay also uses a similar variation but likes their machetes painted red. Another style common to Puerto Rico utilizes an extremely long, thin, saber-like blade ranging from 22 all the way to 28 inches! It looks similar to a classic cavalry saber. The Costa Ricans like a unique blade for cutting grass, a very wide machete with a hump at the end. It resembles the Nessmuk-style hunting knife, though a little larger. Some of the grass-cutting machetes are manufactured with a 120-degree bend near the handle so the user can hold the machete with a straight hand and still cut the grass vertically.