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Definition and characterisctics of the bandit phenomenon
It has been given a lot of definitions about the word "bandolero". From Rome comes the word bandido, derivative of the latin word bannitus (exile), which were applied to those men who, necessary or voluntarily, moved away from the civil society in order to survive in the mountains and uninhabitant areas, became bandoleros (how it is known today), because they clearly stole, in their fight against the authority and laws. Another term is grassatores or "travelings", thieves who used to take shelter in the mountains, woods and forests and sack with arms to passerbies who walked by the poor quarters of the cities. And finally, there was also another kind of delinquent more fearsome: they were called hired killer, (in Spanish, sicarios from sicca, that means dagger with a narrow and very sharp blade with which they assassinated their victims before divested them of all).
If we take the verbal apparel out of the bandolerismo phenomenon, without looking for its causes and consequences, without judge it a priori, only some men who assault, steal, kill, extort... almost always in the countryside remain. However, for romantic writers, the bandolerismo has little to do with the situation that oppress the workers; but it is a reaction with an individual character in which the reasons of justice and/or revenge are probably presents. Romantic travelers focuse on Andalucía because here, the fictitious images of this movement, from narrow pass to the involved gullies, from the countryside house to the ways full of crossroads, are better created than in other regions.
Some nationalist, ethnocentric writers see the bandoleros as resistant elements of the national feeling against the foreign yoke, and other ones think, in the specific case of the andalusian bandolerismo, its origin must look for in the identity of these people; it would be a genuine sign of the andalusian essence, being behind in the society opposed to modernization.
For the regenerationists of the end of the 19th century, the bandolerismo was the answer to the large state of a backward society. Bandits developed from heroes to comun criminals. Among these thinker excel Zugasti, García Casero, Bernardo de Quirós and Ardila. Fore a lot of hispanic foreigners, the bandolerismo is a characteristic phenomenon of a backward country, which happen in Andalusia narrower than in other regions, because Andalusia is a backward region.
For some post-Franco writers, the bandolerismo is a way of delinquence like another one, which had special virulence in the 19th century, and even they compare it with other movements more recent like maquis. Investigators like Pitt Rivers wrote: “bandoleros have had different politic colours depending on the periods. Those of the post-war period were originately officers of republican forces... They were called red ones of the mountains”. According to Nadal professor, the bandolero term is used in the
The most of bandoleros belonged to familys with a very low economic profile. However, in the last decades of 19th century their relation is with the prosperity; although it is difficult to generalize, bandoleros don´t belong to very poor class. For example, in "Los Merinos” group there were members from the mining company; Joaquín Camargo “El Vivillo” inherited from his parents some lands, he was picador and smuggler and had a brother who was corsair; the Francisco Flores Arocha´s family was known in the village with the collective nickname “periquitos marqueses” (marquis budgies) and their neighbours take for granted they were the richest of the village; "Pasos Largos” was a country person and a poacher in El Burgo and his family, says Bernardo de Quirós, lived in relative welfare, cultivating some lands.
Spatial and temporal location of the andalusian banditry
The bandolerismo phenomenon in Andalusia extended around of all it but, mainly, in the places where the authority was more relaxed, in regions away from the power centre, the relief,etc... A lot of groups that robbed in the north of Cordoba province in the first third of the 19th century, according to Manuel Moreno, looked for refuge in the Portugal frontier. Another example is how the idea of the City council of Pozoblanco to form gunsmith groups was supported by the Audience of
It is possible to say, after doing a more detailed study, that exist four strips of bandit actuation in Andalusia:
- The river Genil, which in its meddium stretch pass by the mountains Subbéticas, between narrow passes and malpasillos. From Loja to Écija, it has in its banks villages that were the epicenter of the bandolerismo: Benamejí, Palenciana, Alameda, Jauja, Badolatosa,
La Rambla, Santaella, Estepa, Écija, etc…
- The fringe from Gibraltar to Granada, it is to say, the seawall of the Béticas mountains. With points so important as the own Gibraltar, Grazalema, Cortes de
la Frontera, Torre Alháquime, Villamartín, Ronda, Antequera, Alhama, El Borge, Granada…
- A fringe almost vertical to Gibraltar, which goes from the point to Carmona and Sevilla, in one hand in the mountain, to Estepa and Montellano, in the other hand in the flat from the last point to Arahal, Carmona and Seville.
- A fourth fringe could be the area of Sierra Morena central, which takes part of the north north of the provinces of Córdoba and Jaén.
Note: This information has been extracted from the work realized by Mr. Andrés Tenor Chamizo and Ms. Mª Carmen Roldán Borrego and publicated in the book of the Certificates of the IX Conferences about the bandolerismo in Andalusía, with the tittle of “The bandolerismo in Andalusía in the light of eight conferences of monographic studies”.