Early years and family
Hostos (birth name: Eugenio María de Hostos y de Bonilla[note 1]) was born into a well-to-do family in Barrio Río Cañas of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. His parents were Don Eugenio María de Hostos y Rodríguez (1807–1897) and Doña María Hilaria de Bonilla y Cintrón (died 1862, Madrid, Spain).
The Hostos family surname (originally Ostos) came from the Castile region of Spain when Don Eugenio de Ostos y Del Valle, born Ecija, Seville, Spain, moved to Camagüey, Cuba, and married, in 1736, Doña María Josefa del Castillo y Aranda. Their son Don Juan José de Ostos y del Castillo, who was born in Camagüey, Cuba, would eventually pass through the Dominican Republic, where he married Doña María Altagracia Rodríguez Velasco, eventually settling in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, where his son Don Eugenio María de Hostos y Rodríguez was born.
At a young age his family sent him to study in the capital of the island San Juan, where he received his elementary education in the Liceo de San Juan. In 1852, his family then sent him to Bilbao, Spain where he graduated from the Institute of Secondary Education (high school). After he graduated, he enrolled and attended the Complutense University of Madrid. He studied law, philosophy and letters. As a student there, he became interested in politics. In 1863, he also wrote what is considered his greatest work, "La Peregrinación de Bayoán". When Spain adopted its new constitution in 1869 and refused to grant Puerto Rico its independence, Hostos left and went to the United States.
Hostos arrived in the city of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic where he settled with his wife, Belinda Otilia de Ayala Quintana (1862–1917), a Cuban native, whom he married in 1877 in Caracas, Venezuela. The couple had five children: Carlos Eugenio (born 1879, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic), Luisa Amelia (1881), Bayoán Lautaro (1885), Filipo Luis Duarte de Hostos (born 1890, Chile), and María Angelina (born 1892, Chile).