Alongside the River Ruecas near the Charco de la Nutria, surrounded by vegetation and in a rugged defile, can be found a shelter adorned by numerous cave paintings which is known as the Cueva de la Chiquita or Cueva de Álvarez. It was the first cave with paintings to be discovered in the province of Cáceres. It is a site associated with a legend of a snake which has been used either as a shelter or as a ritual meeting place for centuries.

In the vicinity of Cañamero, on the defile of the River Ruecas and very close to the Cancho del Fresno Reservoir, lies the cave known as the Cueva de la Chiquita or Cueva de Álvarez. In it can be contemplated over a hundred very different signs drawn on the rock walls. They are classified as belonging to Iberian schematic art dated from the late Neolithic to the end of the Bronze Age and even the start of the Iron Age, between the 4th and the 1st millennium B.C.

As early as 1916 the Abbé Henri Breuil, a pioneer in the study of this kind of cave paintings, was fascinated by the profusion of images of this cave and mentioned it in his classic book Hispanic Schematic Paintings. It was the first cave with paintings to be discovered in the province of Cáceres. The shelter is a large rectangular cavity on a rocky outcrop of the defile. It is not particularly deep as it was formed by the inclination of the quartzite strata and by their erosion.

At some points black smoke stains make it clear that the site was used as a shelter for centuries. The remains of a stone wall also suggest that it was blocked up at some time. The paintings are divided into four groups by what appears to be a large panel; the highest are seven metres above ground level.

Making use of the natural canvas of the quartzite, the paintings were executed on the smoothest areas; in some cases paintings are superimposed on others. Some of them represent highly schematicised human figures either in the form of anchors or in the form of crosses. There are also symbolic elements such as crosses, dots, lines, or circles. One of the paintings is striking as it represents a kind of rectangle divided into three compartments. Most of them are executed in various reddish tones together with some in white.

On the lower part of the panels a reddish stain can be seen, which is probably due to the natural oxidation of ferrous minerals; popular tradition sees it as the snake of the legend of the cave which gives it its name. According to this fable, long ago a goatherd called Álvarez lived in the shelter and one day he found a small snake near the river. After adopting it and giving it the name ‘Chiquita’ he began to look after it and to feed it on the milk of his goats. Every afternoon the goatherd called the snake by name and it never failed to appear. But the goatherd had to go to war and was away from the village for several years. When he returned he ran to the cave in search of his snake, but he found to his horror that it had grown into a huge animal which devoured both people and livestock. The monster did not recognise the goatherd and devoured him in no time at all, leaving a mark on the wall of the cave. The shelter can be visited and offers easy access; it includes interpretative panels.