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Gaucin

Surface Area: 97.3 square kilometres

Population: 1,983

What the natives are called: Gaucineños or Gaucinenses

Outstanding Sights: El Águila Castle, San Sebastián Parish Church, Vera Cruz and Santo Niño Chapels, Fuente de los Seis Caños (Fountain of the Six Spouts)

Geographical Location: in the Genal valley, in the southern part of the Ronda region, 36 kilometres from that city and 130 kilometres from the provincial capital. The village is 630 metres above sea level and records an annual rainfall of 1,340 litres per square metre. The average temperature is 14.5º C.
 

The municipality of Gaucín, bordered by the Rivers Guadiaro and Genal, is characterised by dense plant cover. In the upper elevations cork and evergreen oaks mix with carob, chestnut, dwarf olive and pine trees, while the stream banks abound with poplars, cottonwoods, ashes, willows and elms along with orange, lemon, plum and quince groves. This cursory list of species-there are many more-may give some idea of the exuberant vegetation of this area, which also exhibits a very varied terrain of vivid contrasts and sprawling vistas.

The village stretches from east to west like an amphitheatre from the foot of the Castillo del Águila (El Águila castle) to the slopes of Mount Hacho, across elevations that offer a perfect view of the sea and the roads that head inland from the coast. The village of Gaucín, which some romantic traveller called "Balcón de la Serranía" (Balcony of the Highlands), is in effect a watch tower affording views of the Sierra Crestellina range, the Genal valley and, on clear days, the distant lands of Jerez, Gibraltar and Africa.

Such a setting did not go unnoticed by the Romans, who were the first to settle here, as attested to by a number of findings, including ruins of villages in Casas del Abrevadero (only a few kilometres from the modern village), traces of the road that connected Gibraltar to Ronda and a statue of Mercury. It was the Arabs, however, who founded the town and gave it the name it is known by today, which in Arabic means "strong rock" (Sair-Guazan) and clearly alludes to the impressive mass on which the castle sits.

Under Visigoth rule, Gaucín was called Belda, and in the Byzantine era, it was under the jurisdiction of the province of Oróspeda, whose borders are not clear to us today. We know about the settlement of these civilisations in Gaucín from the ruins of the Visigoth or late Roman necropolis on the Enmedio hill, southwest of the present village of Gaucín.

This area’s years under the Crescent Moon were not precisely tranquil, in spite of the fact that there were periods of peaceful coexistence as a result of treaties between the Moors and Christians. Because of its location, it was involved in both the conflicts that sprang up on the coast and in the interior. The most significant of all the historical events that occurred in this place during the Middle Ages was the death of Pérez de Guzmán, better known as Guzmán El Bueno (The Good), who died fighting the Arabs in the vicinity of the Castillo del Águila on 17 September 1309.

The village passed into Christian hands for the final time on 27 May 1485. The troops of the Catholic Monarchs, under the command of the Marquise of Cádiz, entered the village after its surrender had been demanded and the inhabitants had submitted, from which it appears that there was no fighting on that occasion. In the nineteenth century, Gaucín, like so many other mountain villages, offered stiff resistance to the Napoleonic troops but finally succumbed to the French pressure. On 8 July 1810, the village was sacked by the Napoleonic forces, who not only slew a large number of people, but also burned the municipal and parish archives. They even hurled the image of the Santo Niño (Holy Child, much venerated in Gaucín) from the walls of the castle.

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