History of Cuevas de San Marcos
As for the origins of the town, the remains found in the Belda cave prove that the area has been inhabited since prehistoric times and that it was an important location in both Roman and Arabic times. Inside the cave, flint axes, spear tips and other stone utensils have also been found, providing clues as to the way of life of the settlers who inhabited the area millions of years ago. Also discovered here were fossilised human remains and traces of dolmen culture in the shape of small idols and a flight of steps cut from the rock, in addition to the menhir of the Niño de Piedra (Stone Child) found in a place known as Las Cruces.
Local communities thrived and developed during the Iberian period, by which time they were in communication with the Phoenicians on the coast (7th century before Christ).
During the Roman occupation, Belda became an important town in Andalusia. This is witnessed by the discovery in the area of amphorae and coins pertaining to the Lower Roman Empire. Evidence has also been found of Visigoth culture in late Roman remains that still survived during this period.
The area continued to prosper during the Muslim occupation, traces of which can still be found on the hill known as Cerro del Camorro, where a fortress was built in the wake of a popular uprising against the Emirate of Córdoba. The crushing of this rebellion brought about a depopulation of the area from which it did not properly recover until well into the 12th century. The Muslims were definitively expelled in 1424 by Pedro Narváez, the Governor of Antequera. The settlers who replaced them used their new land to raise cattle and, little by little, a number of hamlets began to spring up, one of which gave rise to the present-day town, which gained its independence from Antequera in 1806.
El dîa de San Marcos (St. Mark’s Day) is a popular pilgrimage which takes over the whole of the surrounding countryside. One popular ceremony sees the Devil tied to a broom bush on a day that celebrates the end of the olive harvest. The origins of this curious ritual lie in the legend of Cueva de Belda. Tradition has it that, in their flight, the Arabic monarchs of Granada hid their treasures in the cave, where the Devil himself would appear and confront anyone who dared to look for it. This continued until a monk entered the cave, cross in hand, in search of the treasure and ultimately defeated the Devil, subsequently tying him up with flowers.
The local economy is based primarily on the cultivation of the olive groves, supplemented by small-scale cattle farming and textile production, though cereal crops and occasional esparto work are becoming increasingly important.