Photo by Alex Gutierrez (CC By 4.0)
Gianmarco Agostinone is a senior at Florida International University pursuing a combined Bachelors and Masters degree in computer science. It is his second study abroad, the first being Italy 2018. He plans on going into fintech (Financial Technology) after he graduates at a major banking institution.
Paris As Text
Paris, A City Like No Other by Gianmarco Agostinone of FIU in Paris on July 7th 2019
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Paris, a city of great power and rich history. Founded over 2000 years ago by the Romans, it went from a weak and unorganized settlement to the cultural powerhouse it is today. It is the birthplace of many of today’s ideologies that we find to be basic rights. Documents such as Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen showed the world that the times of Monarchies stripping the rights of the many for the privilege of the few was over. This city lead the revolution not only in France but in all of Europe.
These achievements have neither been forgotten nor have ended in this city. As it is still recognized by the world for its triumphs, evident by the fact that over 40 million people visit the city a year to see for themselves the greatness it has become. Monuments such as the Notre Dame, are a testimony for Paris’s strength. It was built to show Paris’s power and beauty and today is still seen as such an influential monument that when it caught flames it was not just a tragedy for Paris but for the world.
But Paris is not only revered for its past but also its present. It leads the world with progressive ideas on improving the overall quality of life for its people. It provides amenities such as Universal Healthcare, free education, vast amounts of public parks, vast investments into the arts, affordable and good public transportation, and more. Paris has out shown, and will continue to outshine, cities around the world.
Versailles As Text
The Sun King by Gianmarco Agostinone of FIU in Versailles on July 7th 2019
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Who was the Sun King?
Was he a power hungry dictator?
A man who wanted nothing else but to fulfill selfish and personal goals at the cost of his people?
Or was he a visionary?
Someone who knew that he had to put the immediate needs of the people second to the greater good of the country?
To understand this we must look further than his reasons and reflect on the outcome of his actions.
For when we look back at history, intent is always triumphed by the result.
So who was the Sun King?
He created a palace like no other.
One that strikes awe in friends and foes alike.
One so grandeur and magnificent that people from all over come to see it for themselves.
With a garden so vast that one could visit it a thousand times and it will never grow old.
He conquered his enemies.
Crushed the foreign legions who threatened his reign.
But he also waisted away his people’s coin.
Spent them on lavish things and unnecessary wars that although brought prosperity to France, took from the pockets of its people.
Yet they never ceased to adore him.
So who was the Sun King?
He was feared by his enemies.
He was envied by his allies.
He was loved by his people.
He was more than a man.
He was King Louis IV and he was a god.
Izieu As Text
Maison d’izieu by Gianmarco Agostinone of FIU in Izieu on July 15th 2019
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The Maison d’izieu was a unique place.
One where children, who were persecuted and hunted down for nothing more than the religion their family practiced, could seek shelter.
Parents from all over France, sent their kids there in hope that they can have a better life and make it through this genocide their people were undergoing.
And it did work, for a time.
The Maison d’izieu was like an unaffected bubble in the war zone that surrounded them.
The kids their were able to attend classes, partake in activities, and enjoy life without the constant overhead threat that in any second all of their joy could be taken away.
They could live their lives as the normal kids they are and should be thought of as.
But one day that all changed.
When Klaus Barbie ordered his Gestapo thugs to raid the refugee.
Where they kidnapped 44 of the children and their 7 supervisors to send them away to camps.
Where they sent them to murder them.
It is a sick and disturbing idea that someone can justify to themselves that butchering children is okay.
There is no cause that should condone that.
Because children can’t harm anyone.
They don’t fight wars or commit crimes or join resistance fighters.
They just want to play outside and go to school and be with their friends and family.
So what happened at Maison d’izieu was more than just a thing that happens in war.
It was a crime against humanity.
And should not be forgotten.
Lyon As Text
The Letter by Gianmarco Agostinone of FIU in Lyon on July 15th 2019
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I write to you, hoping that one day you will be able to read this. Hoping that one day we can reunite and live the rest of our lives together. Everyday I stay in my this hell hole they call Montluc, I feel my despair grow inside me. All day I am stuck in a cell with 7 others, never seeing the light of day, waiting for something, anything to happen. My cellmates and I pass the time talking of our families, our pastimes, our memories, anything to keep the reality of where we are from overwhelming us. Everyday I replay my memories of us together, wishing we can make new ones soon. Everyday I think about how this could have happened to us. How people let these men take us from our homes because of the religion we practice and the ideologies we preach. How do these things justify our imprisonment? If I could go back in time and change my beliefs I would if that meant I would be at home with you and not here in this hell. But here we are. Today they called my name out from a list, and that we were to leave in the afternoon. No one knows where, or why they told us to leave our belongings behind, but we can only wish for the best. And wish that one day we will reunite, and forget these horrible days.
Normandy As Text
Nameless by Gianmarco Agostinone of FIU in Normandy on July 25th 2019
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To the nameless comrades.
So young, yet so brave.
You sacrificed your lives so that those by your side can live to fight another day.
You may have no names, but your fellow comrades will forever remember your faces.
To the nameless fathers and mothers.
Who had to leave their children behind in this world.
You sacrificed watching your kids grow old, so that they could grow old.
You were not able to stay by their side and raise them, but you are always with them in their hearts.
To the nameless brothers and sisters.
Who had the rest of their lives to live and create beauty in the world.
You sacrificed your many years so that your little brother and sister can live in a world without such hate, and could remain the innocent little siblings you left them as.
To the nameless strangers.
The ones who had no personal gain for fighting this war.
No personal gain, yet they knew it was their duty to as a citizen of this world.
You sacrificed your lives for people you never met, people thousands of miles from your homes, and even though they will never know who you were, they will never forget what you have done for them.
So here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms, a father, a mother, a brother, a sister, a friend, a stranger, known but to god, but remembered by everyone.
When writing this poem I found inspiration from the idea that an individual can have such a profound impact on the world, and there could be no one who remembers their name. There are 307 unknown graves in this cemetery. 307 people who died fighting for one of the greatest causes this world has ever seen. And there is no one who knows who they were. They are just unmarked bodies in unmarked graves.
Dying this way is a terrifying way to go for me. Having your family know nothing about how you died and what you accomplished trying to make them proud. Having your family not know where you were buried of if you are even buried at all. They just know that you are gone and they will never be able to see you again.
The idea of disappearing from this world without a trace terrifies me, and yet these people took the risk and fought anyway. They looked past their fears to make a difference in this world and to make sure that no one after them will have to make the same decision as they or have it forced upon them. For that I am forever grateful.
When I think about these unmarked graves, I think of all the futures these people could have had if they lived. All of the memories, experiences, relations that will never happen. My grandpa was one of the lucky ones who survived fighting in the war, but what if he didn’t? He would have never married my grandma, never had my mom, and I would never have been born.
I wouldn’t be in France right now, learning about these heroes and living my life. One stray bullet could have been the deciding factor of my existence and that of those who died fighting for it.
This all has just shown me how fragile life is and makes me thankful for those who risked and gave up their lives fighting for the lives of others and I.
Pere Lachaise As Text
Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès by Gianmarco Agostinone of FIU in Pere Lachaise on July 26th 2019
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Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès was born on October 18th, 1753. He was a French nobleman that proved to become a vital member of the French Revolution with his skills in law and as a statesman. During the early days of the revolution, he was against the National Convention’s trial of Louis XVI stating that they did not have the power to act as judge and jury and that he should have a fair trial. But nevertheless he voted with the majority against Louis XVI, although stating that his execution should be postponed until it was ratified by a legislative body.
Later on in the revolution, he became a member of the Committee of Public Safety where he worked on many of the country’s legislative works. He was then a diplomat that was able to negotiate peace with Spain, Tuscany, Prussia and the Batavian Republic. Not supporting initial coups due to their more radical supporters, as the revolution took a more moderate turn he backed the rise of Napoleon, who eventually made him his second in command.
Under Napoleon, he basically ran the country. He was in charge of many of the everyday decisions for the country and represented Napoleon in his frequent absences at the Senate. Although he was extremely knowledgeable in the current affairs and inner workings of the country, Napoleon continuously ignored his advice. Some being drastic mistakes such as the entering war with Russia.
Nonetheless he was able to create his most important piece of work under Napoleon, the Napoleonic Code. This was one of the first set of laws in France that ended the Feudal laws previously in place throughout the country. It finally unified all the various local laws and customs around the country into one unambiguous set of laws.
After the reinstatement of the Monarchy he was sent to exile to Brussels until 1818 when he was allowed to return to France where he stayed until he died in 1824.
Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès was a very intelligent man. Although born into nobility, he was from a poor family and had to work hard for his position in life. So he understood the revolutionary cause and thats why he became active supporter. But he knew that in the turmoil of the French Revolution, advocating too strongly for one side could get you killed if the wrong people got a hold of you. So throughout his life he stayed in the middle of both sides as a moderator, trying to unite the country and only leaning towards one way when he knew it was a guaranteed victory. This is what allowed his to live a full life at the end instead of meeting his fate at the bottom of a guillotine.
Whenever he could he would do his best to push his advice to Napoleon even though it would often be ignored, which would always turn out to be fatal mistakes. If Napoleon would have listened, he could have avoided war with Russia and may have retained power.
I feel a big part of him always being more moderate in nature and never insistent on his beliefs was that he was openly gay in a time where it wasn’t legal to be. He would always be made fun of for it and at times disregarded for it. But he still worked hard to make France a better country and earn a reputation as a smart and intelligent man. And it is said that he didn’t outrightly legalize homosexuality but he did help normalize it and write out the direct wording of it being illegal in French law.
Although I have no real personal connection with this man, since I’m not nobility, a lawyer, a statesman, a diplomat or anything this man was, I still have a profound respect for him. He did what he could to both stay alive and help his country. He helped tear down the monarchy, attempting to do it in a legal manner. He essentially ran France while Napoleon refused to, he created one of the first widespread legal codes that became the basis for modern republics, and he knew better than to let his greed get to him by fighting against the unnecessary wars the Napoleon kept on dragging the country into. He did the best he could to keep both the country and himself alive. Even though he failed to uphold the Republic, it was not his fault and even in exile, his ideas and beliefs lived on.