Andalucia's complicated sierras, ravines, caves and hidden valleys were for centuries a refuge for those who didn't get on with the authorities. As long ago as the 9th century the El Chorro area was an epicentre of prolonged and widespread opposition to Cordoban rule led by an Islamic Robin Hood, Omar Ibn Hafsun.
In the 19th century the bandits who preyed on the rich became folk heroes. The most famous was El Tempranillo (the Early One) born in 1800 at Jauja in the Córdoba province. At the age of 22 he claimed 'The king may reign Spain, but in the sierra I do'. He reputedly demanded an ounce of gold for each vehicle which crossed his domain.
In 1844 the activities of the bandits led the government to set up the Guardia Civil, Spain's rural police force. Many bandits were forced into the service of local landowners or the Guardia Civil itself. El Tempranillo was, in this way, murdered by an old comrade.
The last of the bandits was Pasos Largos (Big Steps), a murderous, agile and clever poacher who haunted the area between El Burgo and Yunquera east of Ronda. He was killed in 1934 during a shootout in a cave with the Guardia Civil.
After the civil war, until the 1950s, the Andalucian sierras became a refuge for communist guerrillos waging a last resistance to Franco. The Sierra Bermeja north of Estepona and the mountains of Axarquía were among their hideouts.