El Espadero (Swordsmith) de Ocotlán

June 4, 2017

For my last birthday, Rocío blew me away with a hand crafted machete etched with the Seahawks logo with a handle made of bull horn made by Apolinar Aguilar and pictured here with a sheath made by my friend Pablo Acevedo.

The machete was made in the Angel Aguilar workshop of Ocotlán de Morelos. As I learned more about him, it seemed natural to do a documentary on him.

Ocotlán de Morelos has been a center of knife and sword making since Dominican friars From Toledo, Spain (think Inigo Montoya from Princess Bride) brought their craft in the 16th Century during the Spanish conquest of Mexico. There remain 45 forges down from over 100 in the last century.

The vanity wall..

As you may have noticed, I like to film my subjects working at night so I can control the lighting better and focus attention on the subject as I choose. For some, this was not their normal “shift.” In Aguilar’s case, owing to the heat generated in the forge, he actually prefers to work at night.

From the movie, “Red Sonya”

I don’t like driving at night outside of the cities in Mexico. The highways, the speed bumps, the cars, and the daredevils who drive them combine to make the experience a bit taxing for me. So we checked into a relatively nice hotel to do our work. I have to admit that my tolerance for sketchy accommodations has waned since moving to Mexico. I’ve had lizards drop on my face, slept on pillows that competed with bags of cement, and been bitten by beetles in bed.

Fortunately we waited until the rains were just beginning to tease us with the promise of a cooler spring. A big dump of rain began just as we were setting up. Rocío, ever the artist, saw a number of good shots including the opener of the roofs shedding water.

The wares

These documentaries are not intended to be “how to” videos, but vehicles for the artists to tell their stories. A more detailed description of the process of blade making as practiced by Don Apolinar can be found here in this excellent blog post: http://markinmexico.blogspot.mx/2006/12/ocotlan-de-morelos-mexico-steel-worked.html

Tools of the trade

Apolinar, a few years ago, was assisting in a float during a religious procession when he fell from the truck and injured his head. The resulting seizures caused the family to attempt to retire him but he became so depressed that they feared he would die as did his great uncle at the age of 110 after they retired him. So Apolinar continues to work under his family’s observation.

I accidentally deleted the first interview we did. Ugh. So we decided to go ahead and shoot the night scenes and redo the interview afterward. Shortly after we concluded, he suffered a slight seizure and I regretted straining him needlessly. As I post this, He is in the hospital for an intestinal infection. Fingers crossed (an atheists prayer) for him…

So, after all that, here is the video:

This year is going to be great with a trip to the states in September, with Rocío accompanying me after finally getting her visa. We’ll go camping with the kids near Seattle. Then for Day of the Dead, the kids will come south all together and stay in the house with us. And next spring, we are planning a trip to Europe.

Wikipedia entry on Don Apolinar:


Wikipedia entry on Ocotlan


Directions to Taller Angel Aguilar:


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