Windmills in Formentera - Baleària

Published in issue 35 of Baleària Magazine | Text by: CARMELO CONVALIA | Photos by: CONSELL DE FORMENTERA

The connection is no coincidence, as there is enough historical documentation to conclude that wheat and cereal crop production was important both during the Middle Ages up to the 14th century, and during the second and definitive repopulation of the island in 1695. In the early 18th century the first colonists from Ibiza began to build a social structure dependent on the resources provided by land and sea. These settlers were concerned not only with feeding the spirit, by building churches, but also the stomach, by erecting windmills.

The first three mills to be built were: En Teuet (1773), located on a promontory close to Sant Ferran, in the geographical centre of the island; the old La Mola (1778) mill, at the highest point of this region, and the En Bet or Ses Roques (1797) mill, of which all that remains is the old tower, which was incorporated into a house built in the Sixties.

Over the course of the 19th century, four more mills were built: En Mateu and En Jeroni, close by one another and located in the higher part of Sant Francesc, known as Sa Miranda. Later additions included the mills of En Botigues, built just a few metres away from the old La Mola, and En Simó, at Cap de Barbaria, which ceased operations in 1955 and was demolished by its owner when he relocated to a new building where a motorised flour mill was installed in 1960. Practically the whole of the island, then, is dotted with these wind-powered contraptions, which have provided food for generations of Formentera residents.
Over the years these constructions have gradually fallen into disuse, and in 1965 when grain milling moved on with the arrival of the first diesel-powered engines, these historic landmarks ceased to function. The last windmill in operation was La Mola, up until 1964. Years earlier, in 1958, many of them lost their sails to a great storm which the oldest residents remember to this day. The only ones still to retain them are the aforementioned La Mola and the En Jeroni mill.
La Mola is the only one which can be visited, having been restored in 1993 by the Balearic Islands Foundation, which bought it from Formentera's last miller, Joan Torres Mayans, who was hired to return the construction to life, restoring all its elements, sails, arms, wooden gears and millstone, and reinforcing its structure. Visitors can now marvel at all the parts which make up a real treasure of traditional engineering. A hand-crafted mechanism which makes use of the power of the wind to transform wheat into the flour which would ultimately end up in the farmers' ovens in the form of bread.