Sheyla E Rodriguez Riera: France as Text 2019

Photo by Elaine Morales

Sheyla E Rodriguez Riera is a rising junior at Florida International University. She is majoring in Biology with a minor in Chemistry. Sheyla plans to graduate from FIU Honors College in the Spring of 2021. Sheyla’s dream is to become a dentist one day, and not only have her own dental practice, but to be able to give free dental care to people in developing countries. Attach below are her France 2019 As Texts.


“Paris: Once a Dream, Now a Reality ” by Sheyla Rodriguez of FIU in Paris.hoYTu6EkQXaIz9o0clpWqw.jpg

Photo By Sheyla Rodriguez

Coming from a country where the Internet was limited for most people, I wasn’t able to look on social media for places around the world. Seeing Paris in movies was one of the best memories I have as a child. The dream of visiting a beautiful city with so much history, art, fashion, and culture was seen as ‘’a dream’’ impossible to achieve. 

It was a busy morning in Paris. Countless people were going in and out of the metro. As we headed out of the Trocadero metro station, there was the giant “Tour Eiffel’’. I stopped for a second, in complete shock, to observe the architecture of one of the most visited structures in the world. As I got closer to the base of the tower, the pieces of iron that hold it together were way more visible. From the base up, I observed how the three levels got smaller and the 324 meter structure looked very strong. The best part was going up hundreds of staircases to reach the first and second floor, where the Parisian views were breathtaking. While I was inside the tower, all I kept thinking about was the unique experience I had of witnessing the inside of one of the most relevant structures of the modern world. Finally, at the top I was able to see a military school and the battle fields from afar, it was very cool experience. As many of the other world’s structures created by man, I thought that the Eiffel Tower had been created with the purpose of attracting tourists and to bring beauty to the city. However, learning that the construction of the tower was due to political reasons in order to celebrate the 100th years of the French Revolution was something that impressed me. That day I took the time to appreciate every detail in Paris and when I sat to have a picnic with my peers in front of the tower, I realized that I WASN’T dreaming anymore, my biggest dream had become a reality. 


”From a Hunting Lodge to a Gigantic Palace” by Sheyla Rodriguez of FIU in Versailles.

Photo by Sheyla Rodriguez

As I walked through the Palace of Versailles, I found myself battling a mixed of emotions. My eyes couldn’t believe the magnificent architecture of the Palace I was witnessing. I had never seen a line so long and so many people anxiously waiting to see what the ‘’Sun King’’ was able to put together. As I walked through the Palace, every single detail in each of the rooms caught my attention. The exuberance of the ceilings and the decorations of the rooms transmitted a message of power and wealth that characterized Louis XIV. However, the gigantic gardens impressed me the most. The symmetric, greenish, musical gardens reminded me of the times when I used to have fun in the gardens of my Old Havana. The fountains gave a touch of elegance to the Palace. My favorite one was the ‘’Bassin of Latone.” The first thing that came to mind when I saw it was the beauty of nature and animals, but after professor Bailly explained that it was a message from Luis to the people I was completely shocked. It meant that those who disobeyed the king would somehow become a frog. This was represented by the fountains by two men, one with a frog hand and the other with a frog head. Visiting Versailles was a unique experience, especially being able to walk through the past of the king and queen’s life. It also made me question if the construction of such a luxurious Palace was necessary, considering the fact that many people during the time were starving to death in the city. There is one thing I will remember forever and that is how amazed I was as I walked through Versailles, the palace where Louis XIV and Louis XVI lived in. 


‘’The Story Behind Montluc’’ by Sheyla Rodriguez from FIU at Lyon.

Photo by Sheyla Rodriguez

About 292 miles from Paris, Lyon is known for its authentic landscapes and history. It is the third- largest city and the second- largest urban area in France.  As I walked around Lyon, I fell in love with the elevations and the views of the Rhone and Saone rivers. The uniformity and structure of the houses made out of rocks and painted with ‘’a kind of goldish pigment’’ that mimicked the nearby landscape was something to remember forever.

       Perhaps the beauty that characterizes Lyon, I can certainly say that its history was what captured my attention the most. Visiting the Montluc Prison was the highlight of my trip. Montluc was built in 1921 and initially used for military prisoners. After the invasion of the Germans to the ‘’Free France,’’ the prison became the place where many Jewish families were held before being sent to concentration camps. Hearing the testimonial of Claude Bloch, a holocaust survivor was a once in a lifetime experience. Knowing that Bloch was just a fifteen years old child filled with joy when the German Nazis killed his grandfather and mother and then took him to Auschwitz where he constantly had to fight for his life left me heartbroken. These acts show how mankind is able to dehumanize and torture others for supporting a different religion, or for having different ethnicities. The destruction of Jewish families and the hateful acts made in order to extinguish a race has been the most horrific era in history. All human beings should be seen as equal. In a world where hate is still a problem, it is our job to stand and fight for a world where we respect each other and live in harmony. Without a doubt, hearing Mr. Bloch’s story was an eye- opening experience. I am glad I got the opportunity to be a witness to someone that was able to survive such monstrosity. It was emotional to hear that he was able to remake his life after all that tragedy. Now, it is my duty to make his story transcend from generation to generation. Without doubts, Bloch is a true hero, a fighter, and the strongest person I HAVE EVER MET.  


‘’A Story that Needs to be Known’’ by Sheyla Rodriguez from FIU at Izieu

Photo by Sheyla Rodriguez

As I walked through Izieu, a home designed to protect children from the Nazi persecution, I understood how hard it must have been to live in the most devastating period in history. Back in time, Izieu was one of the most secure spots parents could send their children, since it was located in the area that wasn’t occupied by Germany. This house used to receive children from different places such as France, Germany, Poland, etc.  Even though being separated from their families was a difficult process for the children, there are letters and drawings of them that document how well they were treated. Children were provided with meals, they had time to play outside, they would receive an education, they would communicate with their loved ones, and they would even celebrate Christmas. They were also aware of the situation and what was going on around them. Many of them expressed in their letters how much they would love to have their parents back, to be reunited. But sadly, their ‘’relative happiness and hope’’ came to an end. Things drastically changed when Lyon Gestapo arrested the 44 children that were there and seven other adults. He took them to a prison in Lyon and the next day they were deported by orders of Klaus Barbie. Many of them were tortured and killed.

As I walked through Izieu, the classroom left me in shock. I could imagine the children learning and laughing in a normal day.  But at the same time, I felt a sense of emptiness. It was all a blurry image of desks, this time with no children, as tears fell from my eyes. Oh lord, ‘’What an unfair world.’’ The frames with the pictures of those innocent kids which lives were taken will always be in my mind. My heart is broken in pieces, my mind just can’t understand how a human being is capable of destroying families, of killing people. These kids are part of me now and it is my duty to share their story so the whole world can know about the ‘’Crimes Against Humanity.’’


“What I Know and What I Wish to Know’’ by Sheyla Rodriguez of FIU at Normandy American Cemetery, France on 2019.IMG_8680

Seventy-five years after one of the most destructive and violent eras of all times, I have come from far away. I have come from a country that was one of France’s strongest allies back in 1944 during the battle of D-Day. I have come from far away, I have come from the United States to honor you, Peter E. Bonner.

This is what I know: 

I know that you were born in Philadelphia, January 11th, 1904.

I know that as a catholic chaplain, you were a member of the US Army holding the title of ‘’Captain.’’

I know that you assisted in the 86th Replacement Deport Service Group along the Normandy Coast during WWII, fighting for a world free of hate, fighting for a free America.

I know you earned a purple heart, awarded by the President to those killed in service.

I know that you were brave, strong, and determined.

But, I also know that leaving your family, your friends, your culture and your country was probably one of the hardest decisions of your life.

I know that you valued patriotism as you made the entrance through the stormy waters of Normandy in order to complete your missions.

I know you displayed discipline while exercising your best effort to come back home with the desired victory in your hands.

I know you were eager while trying end the biggest crimes against humanity the history of the world has ever heard off. 

I also know that you fought until your last breath in the service of your country so that young Americans, and even immigrants like me, could enjoy living in LIBERTY; for that reason, Captain Bonner, I will forever be grateful.

I owe you the numerous opportunities that the United States has afforded me since I came from my native country Cuba.

I owe you the rights that I enjoy as a citizen, but more than anything else, I own you my life because if it weren’t for your service as an immigrant, I would have lived judged and oppressed. 

Captain Bonner, I feel that I know so much about you, but still, it is not enough. I wish I could have you here with me to ask you more about your parents, your passions, your favorite book, your favorite drink, and even know what you think about dentistry. 

Captain Bonner, there is something else that I want you to know. Today, I not only came from far away to honor you, I came from far away to honor a true hero, a true fighter. As I lay these flowers on your grave, I promise to keep you in my heart forever and let the world know about the story of one of the bravest men history adopted, the story of a man that fought for suffering children and women. A man who, above all, valued FREEDOM. Today, and always, I honor you. 

Pere Lachaise As Text

4969F247-BB3A-4574-85B7-6ED45B14E4D6“Breaking Stigmas’’ by Sheyla Rodriguez of FIU at Pere- Lachaise Cemetery

Many years have passed since the most devastating times in the history of the world.
Many years have passed since The War was fought for Peace and Love.
Many years have passed since man and woman gave their all so we could all live in a better world.

Many centuries have passed but,
We all know about the Greek philosopher Aristotle.
We all know about the brave Julius Caesar and the rise of the Roman Empire.
We all know about the great Napoleon Bonaparte and the battles he won.
We all know about the prodigy Isaac Newton, and the laws of motion formulated.

Many centuries have passed, yet
I feel that history has failed us in telling the stories of the great women that contributed to art, science and literature.
I feel that history has failed us in educating about iconic women who broke through the patterns of society.
I feel that history has failed us in telling the stories of the great women that fought for equality in divided societies.

It is my honor to acknowledge a woman, a free spirit, who didn’t let society judge her based on her actions.
It is my honor to acknowledge a very liberated women who with her actions fought for the equality and freedom of the women of today.
It is my honor to acknowledge you, Edith Piaf.

The Life of Edith Piaf: A French Songwriter, Singer, and Actress.

Edith Piaf was born in France, December 19th, 1915. She was given this name after Edith Cavell, a World War I British nurse executed for helping French soldiers escape from the Germans. Her artistic career was a complete success. She was well known, not only in France, but around the world as well for her chanson and torch ballads that frequently mentioned love and loss. Her success in this industry doesn’t necessarily means she had an easy life. Piaf’s childhood was a complete blur. Her mother, Annetta Giovanna, a singer and circus performer, abandoned Piaf at birth. For a short period of time, Piaf’s maternal grandmother took care of her until her father, Louis Alphonse Gassion, a street performer, decided to give Piaf up to her paternal grandmother. Piaf’s childhood was spent singing and playing in a brothel that her grandmother managed in Normandy. At the age of three years old, she became blind; fortunately, four years later, she recovered her sight.

When she was 14 years old, her father encouraged Piaf to join him in the street performances and this is when she begins singing in public. A few years later, Piaf met Louis Dupont, who
soon became the father of her only daughter who later dies at the age of two. She then had several affairs and it is said that she was sleeping around with many guys; which was not very usual for a women of that time who was supposed to stay at home, cook, and take care of the children.

In 1935 (she was around 24 years old), Piaf’s talent was discovered by Louis Leplée, a cabaret owner who hired her to sing at night in the club. He was the first one to call her ‘’Little Sparrow’’ a nickname that would form an essential part of her artistic career in the years to come. That same year, she made her debut, and she was already signing in the greatest halls of Paris. Some of her most famous songs are: ‘’La Vie en Rose,’’ Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien,’’ ‘’La Foule’’in between others.

She also sang for Germans, and many reasoned she was collaborating with them. In a period of oppression and dehumanization, many people disliked her, but the reality was that despite all her faults, its seems that she was using ‘’her voice’’ to fight the horrors of the most devastating time in history. While dedicating concerts to Germans, she would take pictures with the Jewish prisoners. Then she would go home, and with the help of intellectual friends, she would create ‘’fake documents’’ that she would deliver to them when she was back in concerts. It is said that Piaf saved the lives of hundreds of Jews from the horrific tortures they were exposed to. Many of them testify in her favor when she was accused and taken to court. However, there are still doubts of Piaf’s real intentions and weather or not she was collaborating with Germans.

Many horrific events, such as the loss of the love of her live (Marcel Cerdan) in a plane accident caused Piaf to continue drinking and consuming drugs. She was promiscuous and faced drug addiction. Additionally, several car accidents left her almost hopeless about life. These complications took her life the 10th of October 1963; she was only 47 years old when she died of liver cancer. Piaf was buried in Paris in Pere Lachaise Cemetery next to her daughter. The day of her funeral, thousands of fans covered the streets of Paris to celebrate the life of one of France’s most iconic female singers.

Commonalities, Differences, and Ambiguities between Edith Piaf and I

As I emerged myself in the live of Edith Piaf, it was impossible not to find connections with a women that is a real example of female empowerment, intelligence, and persistence.

As a minority, female, student trying to pursue a career in the STEM field, I see myself in Edith Piaf. When I started college, I rapidly realized the disparities found within the career I was going into. Out of a 100% students perusing STEM careers, only 20% of them are women. Just like Edith Piaf did, I have used my voice through pieces of writings and debates to support organizations of “Mujeres Latinas” that are advocating for equality within math, science, and technology careers. In my case, alongside other powerful women, I have joined
organizations and protests to advocate for the inclusion of women in all fields, for equality in payment and for leadership positions. Together, we have been able to raise money to award scholarships to female students who have struggled to pay for their education. Just like Edith Piaf did, I have fought for the a new generation of women, for a world free of stereotypes and stigmas.

Piaf was also an independent women fulfilled of dreams. She was very young when she started working with his father to make a living and when she became a star she never forgot where she came from. Part of my story relates to Piaf’s life. I was around sixteen years old when I started working minimum wage. Simultaneously, I was trying to learn English and taking seven classes in High School. However these experiences made me grow into the strong minded women I am today. I am happy to say that I’m working even harder to accomplish my dreams of becoming a dentist and help those in need in developing countries.

Finding differences between Edith Piaf and I was not easy. Despite many people criticized Piaf for her “crazy lifestyle,” I think she shouldn’t be judged for the way she acted in society. People should decide what to do with their bodies and how to portrait theirselves. One of the differences I could find was that she was too open when it came to certain topics. She would sleep around with many guys, drink and consume drugs, while I am more conservative and calm. In addition, I could never see myself performing in front of thousands of people just like Edith Piaf did with tremendous courage.

Edith Piaf showed the world that women are capable of rising as well to fight for their ideals. Us women have have to prove ourselves in all aspects of life and it is inspiring to see a women lived her life not caring with the standards of society.

Information retrieved from:
– Pere-Lachaise Cemetery Website

Leave a Reply