Grain milling has been a constant activity in the traditional economy of the island. The colonization of the islands meant the introduction of agriculture and the appropriate technology for their exploitation. New cereals from the New World, such as corn (millo in the Canary Islands), were also introduce.
The windmill was introduce by the colonizers to the island of Fuerteventura in the 18th century. They quickly reached great diffusion, especially in the centre and north of the island. The location is due to the climatic factors of the area, where the constant presence of the trade winds guaranteed a constant source of energy.
The implantation of the mills led to socio-economic changes on the island, as an economy based on cereals developed, so building numerous mills throughout the before mentioned territory . These windmills were built in open places, where the presence of the wind was constant, configuring one of the most characteristic features of the rural landscape of the island of Fuerteventura.
Although the mill provided great advantages in grinding grain, it was not a substitute for traditional grinding systems. Both, the hand mill and the tahona continue being used, especially at a more domestic level or during the absence of wind.
The traditional windmill type, which on the island it is call male mill, is a construction in masonry, made of stone, mud and lime. It has a circular plant and a truncated cone shape. It is topped by a kind of wooden cap, which rotates by means of the rudder or tail, piece that guides the blades in the direction of the wind.
In the raise, it has two or three floors. The lower floor is designate for the storage of tools used by the miller. The second floor, also called “middle room“, is where the grain is collected. Finally, the third floor is where the machinery is housed. In the two-level mills, the grain was stored in the lower floor. The base of the mills was finished off with a wall of dry stone that surrounded the construction.
These mills usually had four blades, but there were also examples with six. The structure of the blades was composed of a wooden frame on which a canvas fabric was placed.
For the correct operation of this type of mill, the wind is the most essential thing. From the action of this one starts up a machinery composed by different elements that allow the grinding of the grain for the obtaining of flour or gofio.
The machinery was mainly of wood built, although some of its pieces were made of iron. This forms a complex gear, whose function was to multiply the force of the rotation of the blades and transmit it to the moving stone so that the grinding occurs.
When the blades are moving by the force of the wind, they turned a cogwheel that, in turn, moved a reel called a spindle. This piece connects with the mobile grinding stone through a metal shaft embedded in a rectangular piece of iron, which it is call lavija, which adheres to the internal face of the wheel. The shaft transmits the movement to the upper wheel, making it rotate on the lower one, thus producing the crushing of the grain.
For safety, this mechanism by using a brake could be stopped, which exerted pressure on the cogwheel.
The milling process was carried out by pouring the grain into the hopper, from where it passed to the canaleja, which led it to the grinding wheels, which crushed it and displaced the walls of the so-called raft. The resulting product, flour or gofio, fell through a tube to the central floor, where it is collect and stored in sacks.