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Juan Miguel has a large collection of porcelain tea cups. . SUR
Decades of collecting treasures that started at a flea market on the Costa del Sol
In the frame

Decades of collecting treasures that started at a flea market on the Costa del Sol

Retired teacher Juan Miguel Larios y Larios has since travelled throughout Europe, America, Africa and Asia picking up interesting objects

Alekk M. Saanders

Alhama de Granada

Friday, 5 July 2024, 10:58

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Where does a museum begin? Probably with a flea market. At least that’s what happened with a museum in the small town of Alhama de Granada, owned by 77-year-old historian and collector Juan Miguel Larios y Larios. Although Juan Miguel was a teacher, he was constantly learning as he travelled throughout Europe, America, Asia and Africa. He was always attracted to different cultures and in every country he tried to visit not only monuments, museums and galleries but also to look at antique shops and, of course, to browse in search of something interesting and special at flea markets. All of this led to his interest in collecting all sorts of objects, which Juan Miguel has accumulated over decades.

"This magnificent house with two monumental facades, three courtyards, an underground cellar, three stables, two barns and a total of forty living quarters was perfect for my museum"

Juan Miguel Larios y Larios

“My life has always taken place in different geographical locations - as a primary school teacher, as a graduate in geography and history and finally as a doctor in history of art. Research has become part of my lifestyle. The starting point for me as a collector was my time living in Cordoba, around the 1970s. However, it was Fuengirola, where I settled in 1981, that gave me the impetus to become a true collector. This was thanks to the antique flea market that takes place in the centre of the town every Saturday. Then the number of objects I collected increased significantly,” Juan Miguel told SUR in English.

Meanwhile the nature of the Costa del Sol meant that his collection became more international.

“It was exciting to interact with collectors and antique dealers from different countries. I always emphasise that the most qualified sellers were foreigners, mostly English, in my opinion, especially loyal to the traditions of their country of origin,” he added.

The façade, detail of one of the ceilings and interior of the museum in Alhama de Granada. SUR
Imagen principal - The façade, detail of one of the ceilings and interior of the museum in Alhama de Granada.
Imagen secundaria 1 - The façade, detail of one of the ceilings and interior of the museum in Alhama de Granada.
Imagen secundaria 2 - The façade, detail of one of the ceilings and interior of the museum in Alhama de Granada.

The flea market is an ideal place to find unique treasures. Once, an Englishman sold Juan Miguel a document from Germany dating back to 1484. In addition to various historical documents, Juan Miguel’s collection consists of paintings, sculptures, photographs and books from all styles and eras. Juan Miguel’s apartment in Fuengirola was so full of things that only the narrow ‘paths’ that led to the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom were uncluttered.

Not surprisingly, when Juan Miguel retired as a teacher, he decided to move to his larger home in his hometown, Granada. There he came up with the idea of starting a museum.

The bibliographic collection. SUR

“With everything I had collected, I thought I could put it together into a museum of sorts. That idea led me to the picturesque and historic town of Alhama de Granada, where my family has been from for generations. There I found a house for sale, the ancestral home of the noble family Negro Siruela, originally from the Italian city of Genoa. I couldn’t help admiring the quality of the building built entirely in stone and its spaciousness. My decision to purchase it was quick. This magnificent house with two monumental façades, three courtyards, an underground cellar, three stables, two barns and a total of forty living quarters was perfect for my museum,” he said.

Due to its size, the house overlooks three nearby streets. The collector explained how the ancient mansion has survived the vicissitudes of history and geological disasters such as the Spanish Civil War and the earthquake of 1884.

“But the fact that it has been owned by only three families has contributed to the preservation of its pristine structure and physiognomy. Anyway, it took ten years to restore the former splendour of the mansion and now more than 1,700 pieces are distributed over the five levels on display,” said Juan Miguel Larios y Larios.

The oldest artifact in the museum. SUR
Imagen principal - The oldest artifact in the museum.
Imagen secundaria 1 - The oldest artifact in the museum.
Imagen secundaria 2 - The oldest artifact in the museum.

The museum is divided into areas where the exhibits are grouped by theme and chronology. Juan Miguel is particularly proud of the bibliographic collection housed in two large rooms. Here you can find books from the beginning of the printing press to the present day, with rich and curious items. The archive contains interesting files and a wealth of information of all kinds. Incidentally, walking through the rooms you are sure to come across a bright collection of English porcelain cups.

In the bibliographic collection housed in two large rooms you can find books from the beginning of the printing press to the present day, with rich and curious specimens

“I have always had a special interest in England, which I love to visit. I have many prints from England, especially from the 19th century. I have books in English, especially old Bibles,” said the collector.

Juan Miguel added that one part of his collection that he likes to boast about is a collection of English Freemasonry items: aprons, medals, ribbons, jewellery and more. “These English artefacts were the only ones I could get, as Freemasonry was banned in Spain during the Franco regime,” he explained.

The collection of Freemason material and interiors of the museum. SUR
Imagen principal - The collection of Freemason material and interiors of the museum.
Imagen secundaria 1 - The collection of Freemason material and interiors of the museum.
Imagen secundaria 2 - The collection of Freemason material and interiors of the museum.

Museums in smaller towns are places where families can come together to learn. In addition, such museums can strengthen the local economy by providing a new attraction that can bring in tourism revenue. Alhama de Granada has traditionally attracted people with its baths and hot springs but it seems now it is becoming a new tradition to see Juan Miguel’s collection. Already on the list of must-see places for foreign visitors is the museum, which together with the house has received the status of a non-profit cultural foundation called Casa - Museo Juan Larios.

Alhama de Granada has traditionally attracted people with its baths and hot springs but it seems now it is becoming a new tradition to see Juan Miguel's collection

Juan Miguel’s museum is like a living, breathing book: step inside and you are instantly transported to another world and definitely to other times. It’s also a good example of how your passion and dedication can contribute to the cultural life of the society or a town you live in. And who knows, maybe entering a flea market on the Costa del Sol, will be your first step towards your future museum.

Casa - Museo Juan Larios is open both to visits and to study, as well as to philanthropic donations, both material and financial.

Address: Calle Salmerones, 3, Alhama de Granada.

More information: (0034) 679 417688.

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