The name Alcaucîn comes from the Arabic “Al Cautin”, meaning “Arches" or “Bows”. Thus some historians claim that the village owes its name to the presence of an aqueduct, while others point to the abundance of yew trees, from whose wood the bows used in hunting and warfare were made.
What is certain is that the site on which the present-day village stands has been inhabited since prehistoric times, as the remains found at El Boquete de Zafarraya testify. It is also believed that Zalia fortress was built by the Phoenicians before its subsequent occupation by the Arabs and, ultimately, its conquest by Christian troops in 1485, whereupon the castle became a “prison-cum-bishopric for restless Moorish converts”.
Several centuries later, it was besieged during the Napoleonic invasions, but the episode that caused most damage to Alcaucîn was the earthquake in the late 19th century that razed houses to the ground and diverted the course of underground water currents.
In any event, all of these factors have created a village with a strong sense of identity that serves as a magnet for the rest of the province. The poet Joaquîn Pêrez Padros defined Alcaucîn as "a painters’ refuge". This trend may have been begun by the artist Lope Martînez Marco who, whilst living in Benamargosa, came into contact with the Vêlez-Málaga school of painting, thus consolidating his reinvented realism tendencies. All of this has influenced the modern-day layout of Alcaucîn, where all major public works undertaken since the eighties of the last century have followed his lead, aesthetically speaking.
We can see his hallmark in the distinct rustic flavour of the brickwork that adorns key architectural features such as windows, doors and cornices in contrast with their white background. This is particularly evident in the Plaza de la Constitución, the faèade of the Town Hall, the church of El Rosario and the two-floor mansion opposite the Civic Centre. Other such examples encountered as we continue our tour of Alcaucîn are El Corralón park, the village fountain and even the pavement at the entrance to the village.
The local economy is based primarily on the olive groves and tomato plants of the Zafarraya area, though periodic forest work is also generated by the large number of pine trees that populate the publicly-owned mountain areas. The Sierra Tejeda was initially the mainstay of Alcaucîn, being responsible for the early re-settlers in the forests, the coal merchants (with whom the nickname "tiznaos" or “blackened ones” given to the people of Alcaucîn originated), the shepherds, the snowfields and even the smugglers.