Machetes: A Look at Historical Armed Liberation
I'm obsessed with the tool commonly called a machete. I'm an avid outdoors-man, and when I can I spend hours in the forest. Naturally, interacting with the world around me, the bioregion I dwell in and am a part of, requires some tools. The machete has a great range of uses, and a good one can be acquired for a small price. It is essentially a large knife, and therefore has all of the uses of a good knife, and a few more.
What I didn't know about machetes until recently is that they've historically played a huge role in resistance movements, slave revolts, and other revolutionary actions. They've also taken a huge variety of forms, often shaped for optimal efficiency in whatever is common use in the region, such as the bolo used commonly in Filipino households, weighted at the tip to allow in part for the cracking of coconuts.
The Haitian slave revolt that lead to the formation of Haiti was achieved in part because the slaves, being forced to work primarily on sugar cane plantations, were wielding and proficient with machetes, which in addition to being an invaluable tool for wandering the forest or cultivating plants, are basically swords. As in many places, a regional martial art evolved around using the weapons at hand, and this is the case in the Caribbean. So the people of Haiti, armed and maintaining the agricultural output of the land, could mount an effective assault against their enslavers, eventually capturing other weapons.
The "Spanish-American War", really a series of wars against indigenous and Afro-Caribean peoples worldwide, saw an extreme amount of machetes being used by resistance forces. In Puerto Rico, some resisters were referred to a Los Macheteros, which literally means "the machete wielders". These voluntary defenders picked up their machetes, and along with other fighters were able to hold several strategic points until the Treaty of Paris was signed. More recently, the clandestine Puerto Rican freedom organization The Boricua Popular/People's Army, named a terrorist organization by the FBI, is often referred to in common parlance as Los Macheteros, evoking imagery of the freedom fighters of the past.
Halfway across the globe, the Filipino resistance fighters used as one of their popular tools the machete, ideal for the guerrilla combat being waged first against the Spanish, then the American army. As mentioned before, machetes are a common tool in the islands.
What we see is that populations of people with weapons, which allow them to defend themselves from tyrants and enslavers, have a far greater ability to either free themselves or resist enslavement in the first place. As I have written elsewhere, this is aided largely, and perhaps even hinges in big part upon, some level of self-sufficiency. The machete aids in this as well. It may not be the most effective weapon in the world, but it has proven itself time and again as a useful tool for liberation, especially considering the low cost and availability. The machete has found its place in the history of liberation because of it's wide applicability and cheapness. Even in the days in which forging them took some expense and time, it was a tool that even the poorest families had, and usually cherished. Now I understand that better, and appreciate my barong.