Mills in Altoaragón

by Bernardo Molinero


Ask most people I know to describe you a mill and they will come up with one of those enormous machines making the Netherlands a tourist trap. Others will remember the slender enemies of Don Quijote. Mention water-mill and Mississippi steamers emerge on the horizon.

Mills must dominate the landscape, people seem to think.



 Learn about the parts of a mill

 Visit the mills; catalogue

 Read more about mills; links

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Mills in Altoaragón are different.

Although some mills are big and house several production units (e.g. Almazorre), most are humble constructions, with sometimes only one multi-purpose room (e.g. Sarsa da Surta).

There are no sails showing you the way: none is wind-driven (). The first water-mill I visited in 1989 (the fulling mill of Lacort) was the only one with the familiar external wheel.

Almazorre (1994)
All other water-mills have the wheel mounted on a vertical axle, hidden in a cavity under the mill. Most olive crunching mills were powered by muscle power: they lack the wheel.

Modern time came and was strongly against the mills. The construction of better roads made it possible to bring bread from the city up to the mountains. This, together with the industrial production of flour and olive oil made life for the small village mills impossible.

Alquezar (1994)
The job starts at home. Preparation is paramount. Read Pallaruelo. Study recent and old maps. Old maps from the 1930s and 1950s are readily available on the web. Search for abandoned villages. Most likely there is a mill in a valley nearby. Learn about old customs and old tools: visit the Sabiñánigo and Ainsa museum.

Practice in gardening: the vegetation can be very dense and thorny. Should you prefer to stay free of scratches, then explore this testimonial of Aragón's recent past.

I hope you enjoy this visit as much as I enjoyed the field work. (wittingly applied cliché)

Some tried to survive with better mill-stones, or the production of fodder, or even the production of electricity. They didn't succeed.

Today the mills are forgotten, many lie in ruins, but they haven't lost their charm.

Obviously you need some sort of explorer's mind to detect and find the constructions in the landscape. Contrary to the trends in the tourist-industry, there are no carefully planned adventurous trips to the mills. You are on your own.

The Christmas display in Boltaña featured a wind mill before it became fancy and computer controled.