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21 June 1805: The legendary bandit El Tempranillo is born

Above and left, portraits of El Tempranillo by John F. Lewis.
Above and left, portraits of El Tempranillo by John F. Lewis. / SUR
  • Many compare one of Andalucía's most notorious outlaws, José Maria Hinojosa Cabacho, to England's Robin Hood

On 21 June 1805, José Maria Hinojosa Cabacho, was born in the village of Jauja in Cordoba. He was to become one of Andalucía's most notorious and legendary bandits and has fascinated Spanish and foreign writers and artists ever since.

Hinojosa Cabacho was given the nickname, 'El Tempranillo', meaning 'the early one' as he became involved in a life of banditry at the tender age of 13. Although little is known about his childhood, it is believed that he was born into a poor family and probably learned his skills from his father. Turning to a life of crime was not uncommon for poor families in Andalucía in the 19th century, as the only means to survive and feed the family.

El Tempranillo is believed to have committed his first murder at the age of 13 in response to an attack on his family; the most common story is that it was over a slight against his mother. He managed to evade arrest and joined a gang of young bandits who roamed the Sierra Morena and Sierra de Ronda.

The bandit was a regular sight around the Venta de Alfarnate inn, which was a popular stopping place for travellers and in particular members of the aristocracy, his favourite victims.

One of the many anecdotes about El Tempranillo involves him telling a rich lady that a "hand so beautiful" as hers did not need so many "fine adornments", as he relieved her of her jewels.

El Tempranillo has captivated many foreign writers and artists, including the British travel writer, Richard Ford (1796-1858), who is quoted as saying, "When Fernando VII was the King of Spain and José María was the love of Andalucía." British artist John Frederick Lewis managed to arrange a meeting with him while visiting Cordoba and painted his portrait.

Small in stature, he was described as a slim man, barely five feet tall, and had just one hand, having lost one in a firearm accident.

King Fernando pardoned Hinojosa Cabacho in Estepa in 1832 and the bandit-turned-policeman was given the task of capturing his former fellow criminals. However, in what is widely believed to be an act of revenge, El Tempranillo was fatally injured while pursuing another bandit, El Barbarello, in September 1833.

He was buried in the church of the village of Alameda where his tomb can still be seen today. A bandit route taking in Alameda and surrounding villages is popular with tourists.