The People of Gibraltar
 1820s - José Maria - 'En la Sierra Mando Yo'
. . . After journeying some miles, a strong light glared in the distance before us; on approaching, we found it to issue from a small open shed, in front of which stood several horses with guns on their flanks. Some men stepped out and demanded money, but in too quiet a way for banditti, and I was at first at a loss to understand what it meant.

Presently one came to me, and in an authoritative tone, as though he would take no refusal, demanded money for the protection he afforded as guardia de camino. This is a tax to which the traveller in Spain is always liable on meeting with these police, and which he would joyfully pay, were they efficient and not in league with the rogues it is their duty to suppress, as is too frequently the case.

I afterwards learned that the man whom I paid on this occasion, had been one of José Maria's band, which would account for his imperative bearing. As one cannot pass a day in Andalucía without hearing of José Maria, and as that part of the country I was now entering was the principal field of his exploits, a few particulars concerning him may be neither uninteresting nor out of place. 
José Maria was originally a small farmer in a village near Antequera, but not meeting with success, he assumed the more profitable, and in Spain more honourable, profession of a smuggler. In an affray with the military he shot one dead, made his escape into the mountains, and being there joined by some wild fellows, outlaws like himself, who created him their chief, his name soon became the terror of the South of Spain.  
His head-quarters were in the steep and lofty mountains of Ronda, in the vicinity of Grazalema, but he traversed the whole of Andalucía, and so rapid and mysterious were his movements, that while at one time he seemed ubiquitous at another he was nowhere to be found.

Smugglers in the mountains of Ronda ( 1884 - Manuel Baron y Castillo )
A story is current, that an English lord came to Spain for the express purpose of meeting with this brigand, but after long seeking him in vain in his usual haunts, he gave up the search in despair, and was travelling onward to Madrid, when, between Carmona and Ecija, he was waited upon by José in person, who, in return for his condescension in seeking an interview, politely relieved him of his purse and baggage, in order that he might journey without encumbrance to the capital.  
José had different methods of raising money. He would send to the gentlemen or farmers in the country, and demand a large sum, many thousand dollars, threatening, unless this were paid within a certain time, to burn down their houses and lay waste their lands.

These threats, it is said, José never failed to put in execution, though he seldom committed personal violence except when resistance was offered. Another plan was so daring that it could hardly be projected in any other European country than Spain, where, however, from the supineness of the police it met with great success. 

Campo smugglers mocking their pursuers with Gibraltar in the background ( Unknown ) 
It was, with his troop well armed and mounted, to take up a station on the high-road - sometimes even within sight of a great city - and there remain all day, stopping every traveller that passed, robbing all, and carrying off the most wealthy and influential to be ransomed.

Englishmen have often paid forced contributions to José's treasury ; even those of the garrison of Gibraltar have not escaped his depredations. It is an oft-told story, that a party of officers, on a shooting excursion among the mountains inland from Gibraltar, were suddenly attacked and made prisoners by his band; that one of them, on the first surprise, used his weapon and wounded a brigand ; that the lives of all were consequently in danger, and were spared only by José's representing to the infuriated robbers that a large ransom would be more available than a heap of corpses.  
One of the party was accordingly sent down to Gibraltar to procure this ransom, while his friends were detained as hostages for his return at a certain hour the next day, and he was warned that the first appearance of an attempt at rescue would be the signal for the immediate massacre of all his comrades. He made the best of his way to the Fortress, but could not reach it before the gates were shut for the night and he had to wait till the special permission of the Governor for his admittance was

Then he had no easy task to collect in a few hours the large amount of cash demanded and to reach the mountains in time to save the lives of his friends which depended on his punctuality; but he did accomplish it and the party returned to Gibraltar in safety, warned for the future not to venture so far from the guns of the Fortress, unless in sufficient numbers to set José and his band at defiance.

So formidable at length became the power of this ladron, that the public conveyances were compelled to pay him black-mail, to ensure their safety, and travellers would endeavour to procure from him passports to carry them securely through his dominions ; for he was, in fact, as absolute in Andalucía, as Ferdinand himself was at Madrid, and he was literally what he was styled by the peasantry 'El Senor del Campo' — the Lord of the Country. 
This sway he exercised for more than ten years, from 1823 to 1833, which reflects not very favourably on the strength or energy of Ferdinand's government. Troops were indeed, occasionally sent against him, but he always contrived to elude them, or to oppose them with success.

The secret of his long continued impunity may be traced to the fact that many of the local authorities influenced either by fear or interest, were in collusion with him, and that the peasantry all wished him success ; for, as he never oppressed them, but by opposing the regular troops, assisted and protected their smuggling transactions, in which they are nearly all, in one way or other, engaged, he was greatly beloved and venerated.

He was, in fact, regarded as a hero ; for such a life, wild and adventurous, where there is plenty of plunder and no laborious duty, has wondrous charms in the eyes of the lower Andaluces, by whom the laws of meuum et tuum have never been well understood.

How long Jose might have continued in power it is impossible to say, but like some other great men he chose to abdicate. In 1833, he made his own terms with the Queen's government, stipulating to break-up his band on condition of receiving an indulto, or pardon for all past offences, and a salaried appointment as an officer of Miqueletes, or police.

He did not long exercise this honest calling, for soon after, when attempting to secure some of his former comrades who had taken refuge in a farm-house, he was shot dead as he burst open the door. With all his bad qualities, José had some of a redeeming character. Among these were his kindness to his female prisoners ; his generosity to the poor ; his forbearance for he frequently restrained his troop from acts of violence, and displayed on occasions a certain chivalrous nobleness, hardly to be expected from a robber.  
In person he was very small, scarcely more, I was assured, than five feet in height, with bow legs ; but he was stout, strong and active, and for what he was deficient in body he made amends in boldness, determination, and talent.

His success, and the long continued control which he exercised over the lawless fellows who composed his band, proved these qualities, and that he possessed the difficult art of command. His courage indeed was proverbial. As an instance of it, it is reported that he once ventured into the presence of the Prime Minister at Madrid, and dared to beard him in his own house ; but this I regard as one of the many strange and improbable stories concerning him, which are in circulation among the peasantry. . . . 

This rather appealing piece of nonsense comes from George Dennis' A Summer in Andalucía which was published in 1838. (see LINK) It reveals the naive notion of the Spanish smuggler as a free and romantic figure, a notion which so many Englishman - and woman - seemed unable to avoid succumbing to.

The contrabandist as romantic hero -with his girl   ( Mid 19th century - Gustave Doré )

The truth is that people such as José - and he was by no means the only bandit circulating in the Campo area at the time - were two a penny. Bandits such as 'Mata Patas', Antonio Vasquez 'Cucarette' and others gave rise to José Carlos Luna's little ditty;
Barquito de vela
A dónde vas?
A Gibraltar.
Me quieres llevar?
No hijo
Que voy a un alijo.

Algeciras - "Barquito de vela a dónde vas" ( 1828 Arnaut )

The nearness of Gibraltar - not just as a smuggler's paradise but a steady supply of rich English visitors to the hinterland - proved irresistible for people who would otherwise have had hardly any other source of income. In other words they did in fact understand the principles of meum et tuum only too well - they knew that what was meum was very little whereas what was tuum was an hell of a lot. José Maria's motto - he was also known as 'el Tempranillo' - was;

El Rey mandará en España,
En la sierra mando yo

Gaucin with a view of Gibraltar - the kind of place where the King of Spain was only nominally in charge according to José Maria  ( 1849 - Genaro Villaamil Duguet Perez )

From the point of view of the Garrison all of them were a menace. The Calpe Hunt (see LINK) a massively popular institution in Gibraltar at the time, usually held their meetings in the Almoriama area which had often proved rich picking grounds for the likes of José Maria and his colleagues.

On a particularly fine July evening in the mid 19th century , a group of hunters were taking a short cut across a field of young barley when the owner of a field with ‘a thriving crop’ rushed out and started hurling insults at the hunters. ‘Jesus, Maria y José! Fuera de aqui!

The hunters recalling the exploits of the infamous bandit translated the owner’s words as ‘By Jesus, here comes Jos
é Maria. Save yourselves.’ Which they did post haste. Once inside the gates of the Garrison word went round that José Maria had captured not just a field but ‘large quantities of hunters, hounds and  whippers’ as well. The news was forwarded to the Spanish Governor of Algeciras who then despatched half an army to waste their time scouring the countryside in all directions for several days.

One officer who was much given to enjoying himself on these occasions described people such as José Maria as ‘Spanish gentlemen’ who ‘disregarding the troubles of housekeeping and spurning the shackles which a more artful state of society imposes on all who commune with the world – have taken up their dwelling within the sylvan fastness of the woods.’ They would then occasionally issue ‘forth from their seclusion and make the most unacceptable mistakes imaginable with regard to the property and persons of others.’

A picnic in la Almoraima - Far more dangerous than it seemed! ( Unknown )

Sir Francis Sacheverell Darwin (see LINK) who wrote a rather inane journal on his ‘Travels in Spain and the East’ was nevertheless rather less circumspect in recounting his experiences while travelling through the area on his way to Gibraltar from the small Spanish town of Veger. 

As he and his companions travelled through the ‘woods and wilds’ of the area ‘expecting to be robbed by the numerous banditti’ that infested the mountains, they came across ‘the quarters of some dead men hung from trees.’ It was with considerable relief that they were finally able to make it safely to Gibraltar.

José María 'el Tempranillo'  ( 1830s  John Frederick Lewis ) 

The view from the town of Alameda near Malaga where
José María 'el Tempranillo' owned his own property and where he was ambushed and killed by another bandit and old ex-colleague - "El Barberillo"  ( 1880s - Published by G.W. Wilson )