Maria Zambrano

Biography of María Zambrano, the Veleña philosopher

Maria Zambrano Alarcón, Spanish essayist, philosopher, writer and poet, was born on April 22, 1904, in Vélez, Málaga. His parents were Blas José Zambrano García de Carabantes, and Araceli Alarcón Delgado. Both teachers from the Graduate School of Vélez.

A relevant event in his life is the birth of his sister Araceli on April 22, 1911, which he describes, in his own words, as: “the best gift my parents gave me”, “it was the greatest joy of my life”.

She was sentenced to a long exile and her important work, oriented towards civic engagement and poetic thought, was only recognized in her native country at the end of the 20th century. When she was already an old woman, she was awarded the two highest literary awards granted in Spain: in 1981, she received the Prince of Asturias Awards and the Cervantes Prize in 1988.

Studies and loves of María Zambrano in adolescence

Her family moved to Madrid and later to Segovia, where María completed her high school studies at the Segovia Institute. In that institution, only she and another young woman were the only female students.

In that same period, he began an affair with his cousin Miguel Pizarro. Obviously it was a forbidden love and, despite the fact that the relationship lasted a few years, their families finally separated them, sending Miguel to Japan, to work at the University of Osaka as a Spanish teacher. For her it meant the greatest love of her life, with whom she shared a great approach to the literary world.

Then, in 1924, his family moved again to Madrid, where he began his studies at the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of the Central University of Madrid. It is then that he meets the teachers who were important in his career: Julián Besteiro, García Morente, Manuel Bartolomé Cossío, Xavier Zubiri and Ortega y Gasset.

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María’s political activism and collaborations

In 1928, he participated in some student movements through the Spanish University Federation (FUE) and collaborates with various newspapers, such as the Liberal Y Freedom, from Madrid and Manantial de Segovia. The fruit of his political activism resulted in his first work, called “Horizonte del liberalismo”, in 1930. He also began relationships with some members of the Generation of 27.

From the year 1931 she works as an assistant professor at the central University, in the Chair of Metaphysics. In 1932 he made collaborations with the Revista de Occidente, Cruz y Raya and Hora de España.

Listed as the worst political mistake she made, María participated in the creation of The Spanish Front and signing of the manifesto, on March 7, 1932. This occurred due to the strong professional closeness and collaboration that María had with José Ortega y Gasset.

Zambrano upon discovering that the movement contained a fascist profile, making use of his power, dissolved the movement. From this moment on, he no longer participated in party politics. However, he continued his political activity, criticizing rationalism and its excesses and proposing a poetic reason.

On September 14, María married Alfonso Rodríguez Aldave, who was appointed Secretary of the Embassy of the Spanish Republic in Santiago de Chile. She moved with her husband to Santiago de Chile, where she published the first version of “The intellectuals in the drama of Spain” and an “Anthology of García Lorca”. Before, in his passage through Havana, he met the one who would become his best friend, José Lezama Lima.

After eight months, they return to Spain, the same day that Bilbao falls and the Spanish intellectual diaspora begins. When asked why they return if the war is lost, their response was “That’s why.”

Her husband joined the army and María is dedicated to collaborating in the defense of the Republic as Propaganda Counselor and National Counselor for Evacuated Children. His presence is active in the group of intellectuals who work on the editorial board of the magazine Hora de España. He also participated in the reopening and management of the House of Culture of Valencia.

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The exile of the philosopher

On January 28, 1939, María Zambrano left in exile, along with his mother, his sister Araceli and other relatives. Since then, Maria has lived in various places. In some with her husband, in others with her mother and sister, with friends or other relatives. Among the places he frequented are: the Caribbean, Mexico, America, Havana, Puerto Rico, Rome, Switzerland, Paris. In several of them, she served as a university professor. In Mexico she was appointed Professor of Philosophy at the University of San Nicolás de Hidalgo, in Michoacán.

In parallel, it continues with the publication of articles and some books such as “The Confession: Literary Genre and Method”, “The Agony of Europe” or “The Living Thought of Seneca”. He also published “Thought and Poetry in Spanish Life” and “Philosophy and Poetry”. On the other hand, he began a long and fruitful period of collaboration with various Latin American magazines.

Since 1964, a little house in the forest has been moved to France, to La Pièce. During his stay in the lonely house, he completed some of his works, such as “The tomb of Antigone”, “The man and the divine” or “Glades of the forest”.

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Last years of the Spanish thinker

His health deteriorated more and more and in 1984, after an exile of almost half a century, he returned to Spain. He settled in Madrid, where despite his delicate state of health, he continued his intellectual activity. And in that same city, passed away on February 6, 1991. His remains were transferred to Malaga and buried between an orange tree and a lemon tree in the Velez cemetery. On his tombstone you can read the phrase “Surge amica mea et veni”.


The first of the very late awards she received was that of “Adoptive Daughter of the Principality of Asturias” in 1978.

Most important acknowledgments:

  • Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities in 1981.
  • On December 19, 1982, the Governing Board of the University of Malaga granted her appointment as Doctor honoris causa.
  • Favorite Daughter of Andalusia in 1985.
  • Miguel de Cervantes Award in 1988.

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