Equipales are a form of traditional Mexican furniture and have been a favorite of Brian's since he started coming to Mexico in the 1970s. They are very comfortable and durable, often lasting 30 to 40 years or more.
Our friends Ken and Kris were kind enough to take us, along with our Roca Azul neighbors Dean and Valerie, on a day trip to the town of Zacoalco de Torres where equipales are still hand-manufactured. Zacoalco is where Ken and Kris bought their equipale set so they were familiar with the town. There are more than 300 families making equipales in Zacoalco which has a population of about 26,000. It's kind of like a factory town without a big factory.
We were able to wander into several shops and watch the process of making equipales which come in many shapes and sizes. There were chairs, sofas, loveseats, chaise lounges, tables, barstools - even swivel and rocking chairs.
Traditionally the frames of the equipales are made from wood, branches, bark, leather and woven palm or reeds. One of the artisans told us that the best wood is cut during a full moon when the sap is in the plant, thus the wood will last longer. The frame is tied together with leather or a fiber removed from the maguey cactus. The leather is pigskin or cowhide and is either died or painted. Cowhide is more expensive, but many prefer pigskin because it is more porous which allows air to circulate. In addition to leather the equipales are often upholstered with colorful fabrics - it all depends on what the customer wants.
The men in the photos above are making barstools, complete with footrests. The base shows the wooden support, reeds are woven for the seat, and then padding and leather are attached to the frame.
Since this is where the equipales are made there's a tremendous variety of styles, quality, and prices. I have to admit that we didn't find exactly what we wanted and may custom order something the next time we visit.
We were really happy that we visited Zacoalco. The friendly people were obviously proud of their town and it was reflected in the cleanliness and beauty we found there.
Kris, Ken and Valerie enjoyed soaking up some sun and watching the world go by on the town plaza.
As we were walking by the church, which is obviously very old, a woman stopped and told me I should go in and see the beautiful view inside the church.
As usual, I was pretty amazed. I think this church had the most gold of any church this size that we have been in. There was even a worker up on a scaffold applying or touching up the gold leaf.
Even though we didn't return with any equipales we thoroughly enjoyed our day. We hope to go back and spend some more time there in the future. Maybe we should figure out how to purchase this equipale and find a place for it............
Zacoalco was about a one hour drive from Roca Azul. It was only 33 miles but we had to go around a mountain range. Our route ...