GAUCÍN: Balcony of the Ronda Mountains where the Holy Child appeared to St. John of God.
The illustrious, always noble, very hospitable village of Gaucín.

History

PREHISTORIC ERA - Cave paintings exist in a cave in the township of Gaucín, and a major complex of caves with paintings from 40 different paleo & neolithic cave cultures is near Benaojan, another village in the Ronda mountains.

IBERIANS, called "bastulos poenos" by Roman commentators, Pliny, Strabo and Ptolemy, lived in Gaucín when the Phoenicians invaded. Ancient Iberian ceramics have been found in the castle's water deposit.

PHOENICIANS established gold mines on the nearby Sierra Bermeja and probably controlled Gaucín during their hegemony in the region.

ROMANS found Gaucín the easiest place to access the Ronda mountain range from the sea to penetrate the interior, and they built roads to accommodate the traffic. The Roman road, Camino de Gibraltar, is still used, and in parts the original stones are intact. Gaucín was a rest stop for soldiers after the battle between Julius Caesar and the sons of Pompey, which took place in Monda. The Romans built the castle, though nothing remains of their construction.

VISIGOTHS invaded Gaucín in the fifth century. They named the town Belda and left a necropolis. In 1309 the Visigoth Guzman el Bueno, died fighting the moors in front of the castle.

MOORS - In 714 a.d. Tarik invaded Spain through Gibraltar, using the Roman roads for his conquest. Belda, now ruled from Damascus, was re-named Gauzan (meaning rich village or hard rock) and as the western outpost of the Kingdom of Granada it was the site of many battles. King Henry IV finally liberated Gaucín in 1457.

16TH CENTURY - The Moorish population (mudéjars) rebelled several times against the Catholic kings, killing soldiers and priests and causing mayhem. Fearing collusion between the mudéjars and their co-religionists in Africa, the crown waged continual war against the malefactors. Many mudéjares crossed back over the Straits, but some became vagrants, and the town became depopulated and impoverished.
Gaucín was connected to the series of Coastal lookout towers built to spot Moroccan pirates who conspired with resident mudéjars to kidnap Christians for ransom from the Spanish crown or for the slave trade.
Ruined farmers or decommissioned soldiers turned to banditry (bandolerismo,) hunting mudéjar vagrants to sell into slavery, and preying on the local population.

18TH CENTURY - The British took Gibraltar in 1704, and the local priest, fearing that Gaucín would be sacked, hid church treasures, but the British stayed away. By the end of the century many British Gibraltarians were coming to the Gaucín to spend the summers in the cool mountains.

19TH CENTURY - The French invaded Gaucín in 1808 during the Napoleonic Wars. Experienced mountain guerrillas, 700 strong, tried unsuccessfully to defend the castle, but the French hauled canon up the escarpment, sacked the town, laid waste the Carmelite convent and expropriated its treasures, razed 135 private houses and killed citizens, and burned the municipal archives. They stripped the Santo Niño of his costly vestments and threw the image over the cliff. (A Spanish proverb says, "El Francés, mal vecino es." I.e., The Frenchman is a bad neighbor.)
The French adventure impoverished Gaucín, and bandolerismo became a career. Bandoleros lived in caves and preyed on travellers and townsfolk, killing and robbing with impunity. Bandoleros are to be distinguished from the contrabandistas, smugglers who illegally imported English goods from Gibraltar.
Bandoleros and contrabandistas provided inspiration for Prosper Merimée´s novel that was adapted by Bizet into the opera Carmen. There is evidence to prove that Gaucín, not Ronda, was the setting for the bandolero Act III.
During the Carlist wars in the 1830´s the castle was repaired, fortified and provisioned by the Crown. However, the enemy captured it, confiscated jewelry, food stocks and savings, and imposed burdensome taxes.
At this time English settlers in Gibraltar began coming in greater numbers to Gaucín for its cool summer air, and the hotel where they stayed is still functioning today as a restaurant, the Hotel Nacional.

20TH CENTURY - The Civil War: more than 50 people were shot before the nationalists captured Gaucín in September 1936. Impoverished by war, many citizens turned again to contrabandismo and bandolerismo. Some became rich; the Guardia Civil shot others. Memories of this epoch are still vivid among the elderly of the village.
Two books of Gaucín history are for sale by the gaucineño historian Miguel Vásquez González:
'Gaucín, Gastronomía Popular' and 'El Toro de Cuerda de Gaucín'
On sale at the Town Hall, Ethnografic Museum, Tourism Office or the Stationery Store on Calle San Juan de Diós.