Jaime el Barbudo: the Valencian Robin Hood
The Valencian Robin Hood controlled an extensive territory that included numerous sierras of Alicante and Murcia.
Who was going to say that for these lands —the northeastern part of Region de Murcia and the southwest of Alicante province— there was, once, a robber in the purest Robin Hood style. Yes, that is, that hero who robbed the wealthiest nobles to later share the booty among poor people, because that was the English outlaw, which is part of British folklore from very old. Different hypotheses, from numerous researchers, give rise to the controversial origin of the English legend, which seems to go back to the 13th century.
But let’s go to the case that concerns us: Jaime el Barbudo (Jaime the Bearded), who was born in the town of Crevillent (Alicante), on October 26, 1783. The origin of this story, with apices of legend, seems to go back to the time when Jaime was working in some vineyards in the neighboring town of Catral, which he was in charge of guarding. Perhaps, encouraged by his youth, did not hesitate to kill, during a struggle, a popular bandit who assaulted different crops: el Zurdo (Lefty). After this and, fleeing not only from justice but also from the companions of the deceased, he took refuge in the mountain, where he was welcomed and integrated into the band of the Mojica brothers (or Mujica, according to different sources). But these men were very angry with their victims, in addition to stealing from anyone —whether noble or a humble merchant—, so Jaime decided to face them and, thus, managed to create his own band, captained by himself. Of course, his gang of bandits would be dedicated to stealing from those who possessed the most to deliver it, then, to the most disadvantaged. In addition, violence was not the first option when they assaulted someone, which they used to do in secluded rural roads lost between the mountains of Alicante and Murcia. The humble people of the towns admired him and, at times, hid him in their homes from the king’s militias.
During the French invasion of Spain by Napoleon, between 1808 and 1813, the bandit and his gang joined the guerrilla war to fight the invader. After the war, Jaime was pardoned from his previous activity as a bandit, for his active collaboration in fighting the French, although in 1815 he returned to the mountains to devote himself, once again, to banditry.
Five years later, in 1820, Rafael de Riego established liberalism after a coup d’etat, to which the bandit responded by ascribing himself to the parties of the royalist cause and destroying every monument or constitutional symbol of any town through which he and his band passed. He proclaimed, in addition, to the absolute king: Fernando VII.
After the Liberal Triennium, in 1823, the absolutist government was reinstated, the bandit was pardoned and appointed, by the consistory of Murcia, Sergeant Major. Jaime dedicated himself then to pursue and capture other bandits and fugitives. But a year later, in 1824, the then sergeant was summoned in the prison of Murcia to receive orders. When he appeared in the place he was accused of robbery and murder and, finally, he was hung on the gallows on July 15 of the same year, in the plaza of Santo Domingo. They say that his body was dismembered, fried, placed in several cages and exhibited in different locations in Murcia and Alicante.
The following expressions are nowadays barely heard, although they were present until a few decades ago: in Crevillent, to imply that someone felt cheated, they said «a robar a la Garganta» (to steal go to la Garganta), the road that leads to the town of Aspe, from very old. In Elche, to express that someone likes to steal, they said «eixe es més lladre that Jaume el de la serra» (that man is more thief than Jaime, the one in the sierra). In other nearby towns, when they felt cheated they also said «to steal go to Crevillent».