El Trapiche. The Sugarcane Mill

The first Sugarcane mill was established in 1516 on la Hispaniola a little bit after Columbus brought the first sugarcane in 1493.  In the 17th century this wooden tool became an important part of the sugar production. You can find some antique models in the Museum of Rum, the Brugal warehouse in Puerto Plata or in front of the BEICA offices in Santo Domingo. This piece of wood later became the symbol of rum production!

As any technology, also this one was redesigned and innovated to produce with more efficiency and volume.

One of the first artifacts to press the juice out is located in the Museum of Rum and is called Cunaya or also Majaculo. This was leaned to a tree for example, the sugarcane placed in the hole between the wooden parts and squeezed by sitting on the handle. The juice got extracted in small quantities…

Newer forms of sugarcane mills were invented using manpower. The period of slavery was ended sometime between 1820-1840 so it is definitely not connected with rum production in the Dominican Republic.

And this is the most famous sugarcane mill type (Trapiche in Spanish)

I have the following drawings from the book by Jose Chez Checo – “El Ron en la Historia Dominicana”.

As you can see this sugarcane mill was moved by ox. I found another nice photo on wikipedia. As the sugarcane gets pressed the juice falls down into the canoe and in the end into to pot which is later heated up. When this one got full new ones were place under it.

To make the work cheaper new types of mills were invented. Below a mill powered by the wind and the other one by water.

The following mill is located in the Museum of Rum stated that it comes from Buffalo. The influence of metal got into sugar production.

Exploring the internet i stumbled upon some fascinating videos. Here a video using this mill the traditional way.


Later some heavier mechanics were used. This one definitely looks interesting – a more industrial version.

Here a video made for the Museum of Rum. The parts from the sugarcane factory start at 2:50

As you can see the sugarcane mill went through some interesting evolution beginning with small production to a complex sugar producing system. For me a fascinating evolution of the symbol for rum production.

What do you think? Do you have any interesting sugarcane mill photos?



  • http://twitter.com/noeliacruz noeliacruz

    did you know there is a original trapiche still running in Hato Mayor, DR? http://www.diariolibre.com/movil/noticias_det.php?id=337361

    • http://www.pavolkazimir.com/ Pavol Kazimir

      Hi Noelia,

      Wow! I did not know that. Thank you for the info i will check that out soon!