Deep affections

Take a look at the intimacy of Unamuno's family

Child Miguel de Unamuno (c.1870)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

Miguel de Unamuno was born in Bilbao in 1864, one of five siblings. His father died when he was still a child, and his mother was the guiding figure in the writer's infancy and adolescence.

In 1891, Unamuno married Concepción Lizárraga Ecenarro, known as Concha Lizárraga. The couple settled in Salamanca and welcomed nine children. Unamuno's long period of exile, which kept him away from his home for six years, strengthened the family ties despite the distance. Following the loss of his eldest daughter, Salomé, and his wife between 1933 and 1934, the man of letters sank into a deep sadness from which it was difficult to emerge. He died two years later in Salamanca, during the most recent outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.

Group portrait with Salomé Jugo and Félix de Unamuno, among others (c.1870)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

An unusual family tree

Unamuno's parents, Félix and Salomé, were uncle and niece. The writer's grandmother Benita was also his aunt, as she was his mother's mother and his father's sister. His father was also his great-uncle, as he was his grandmother's brother, and his maternal great-grandmother was his paternal grandmother.

Studio portrait of Salomé Jugo, mother of Miguel de Unamuno and her three daughters (c. 1880)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

The source of the memories

Unamuno's father died in 1870. His mother was left a widow at the age of 30, and took refuge in religion. Unamuno grew up with the influence of the women of his family: the strong maternal figure, the pampering of his grandmother Benita, and the sisterly love of his female siblings, Susana, Felisa, and Jesusa.

Studio portrait of Concha Lizárraga and her son Fernando (c.1893)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

With childhood in the soul

Following their marriage on January 31, 1891, Unamuno and Concha Lizárraga welcomed their first child, Fernando, in July 1892. The family grew to include nine children. The writer loved children, and was happy in a home full of laughter and the joy of childhood.

"Oh! When I have children of flesh and blood, full of life, love, and sweetness. It is one of my dreams. Like a child who collects nickels in a piggy bank until he has enough to buy a toy, so I save up my tenderness for when I have a child. A child! Perhaps I will have too many, and my nickels won't be enough. Poor children! How much I love you!"

Marine, Pedro Larraza, 1886, From the collection of: Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University
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"My home is not a rock, but a boat in the great river of time; I go into it without feeling anything, and it seems that it's not me but the banks that pass before my eyes. I do not want fleeting pleasures mixed with anguish; I want the sweet and lasting fusion of warm pleasure and sweet sorrow; a state of pleasant uncertainty about tomorrow; I want pleasure made habit and habit made pleasure. Every hour brings its own quiet delight: the children wake me up, the sun enters my room, I go outside and contemplate the distant mountains when I grow tired. Such is my life"

Family portrait of Miguel de Unamuno (c. 1907)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

A vast brood

After Fernando came Pablo, Raimundo, Salomé, Felisa, José, María, Rafael, and Ramón. Between 1900 and 1914, the family lived in the chancellor's house, a home given to them by the University of Salamanca while Unamuno held the position of chancellor.

Studio portrait of Miguel de Unamuno and Concha Lizárraga, January 31, 1916, From the collection of: Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University
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Misfortune struck the family in 1906, when one of the couple's sons died. Known as Raimundín, he had been born with health problems. This came as a tough blow for Unamuno, triggering a deep existential crisis from which he was only able to escape with the help of his wife. She was a source of vital support for Unamuno, and he affectionately referred to her as his habit.

Portrait of Raimundo, Miguel de Unamuno, From the collection of: Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University
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Drawing of mother with baby, Miguel de Unamuno, From the collection of: Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University
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Family portrait of María, sister of Unamuno, Concha Lizárraga and their children (c. 1924)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

A difficult void to fill

In February 1924, Unamuno was exiled in Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands by General Primo de Rivera's dictatorship. His wife, children, and aunt María—who was living with the family at the time—remained in Salamanca. The pain of Unamuno's absence was felt by the members of his family despite the fact that they were together.

Unamuno, Felisa, Salomé, María and Concha Lizárraga in Versailles (March 1925)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

The Christmas lottery

In 1925, Concha won 37,500 pesetas (around 237.31 US dollars today) in the Spanish Christmas lottery, known as the Gordo de Navidad. She and her daughters used the money to visit Unamuno in Paris. The author spent around a year there in voluntary exile, after traveling there by boat from the island of Fuerteventura.

Following his stay in Paris, the author set himself up in the southwestern French commune of Hendaye, where he stayed until his return to Spain in February 1930. This period was difficult and filled with doubt. Unamuno's whole family would come to visit him in summer, and the reunited relatives would rent a typical summer house.

Unamuno sitting in a chair with his wife, Concha Lizárraga, and surrounded by his sons and daughters, August 1928, From the collection of: Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University
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Portrait of Unamuno and his sons and daughters leaning out of a balcony in a house in Hendaye, August 1928, From the collection of: Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University
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Unamuno sitting with his grandson Miguel Quiroga (c. 1930)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

Miguel Senior and Miguel Junior

A great joy was waiting for the writer when he returned to Spain following his exile: his first grandson, born during his absence. The first thing he did was go and meet him. Unamuno formed a special bond with the little one, a bond that would ensure the last years of his life were full.

Portrait of José Mª Quiroga (c.1932)Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

Another child

Unamuno loved his son-in-law José María Quiroga Plá, who married Salomé and was the father of Miguel Junior, or Miguelín, like he was one of his own sons. Quiroga always expressed deep respect and admiration for his father-in-law. At times, he would play the role of secretary and help Unamuno organize his letters and documents.

Unamuno walking along the Zamora highway with his wife, Concha Lizárraga, c. 1930, From the collection of: Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University
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From 1930, new hope was born with the arrival of Unamuno's new grandchildren Mercedes, Carmina, Salomé, and Miguel. But everything changed when Salomé and Concha passed away within a year of each other. The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 took some of the family members in Madrid by surprise. Unamuno would never see them again.

Unamuno sitting inside his house surrounded by his grandchildren, c.1932, From the collection of: Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University
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Son, daughter and grandson of Unamuno making origami, c.1935, From the collection of: Unamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University
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Drawing of Concepción Lizárraga by Miguel de UnamunoUnamuno House-Museum, Salamanca University

Your hand is my destiny

Unamuno's life would not have been the same without his family. Concha, his pillar, was foremost among them. The writer died two years after her death. Unamuno's children and grandchildren carried on, continuing his spirit and the valuable legacy of his life.

"Shroud me, old memories, memories almost as old as I am; you come to me from so far away … Oh, how time has passed!"

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