Tatiana Arevalo – France as Text 2019

Photo courtesy of Enya Serrano

This is Tatiana Arevalo, and she in the process of completing the France 2019 study abroad. A little bit about herself, she is currently a Third year student at Florida International Universities’ honors college. She is pursuing a dual degree in International Relations and Psychology with a specialization in behavior analysis. It is her second year participating in the competitive Model United Nations travel team at the university. She is also a part of the Student Government Association where she serves on the executive cabinet as elections commissioner. Outside of academia you can find her find me at the beach, traveling, hanging out with friends or swimming. This is her first time doing a study abroad with Professor John Bailly, and her first time in France. She’s excited to learn more about human rights and French diplomacy.

PARIS AS TEXT
“Vive la vie” by Tatiana Arevalo of FIU at The Lourve

As you walk along the long halls of the louvre you find yourself lost in a maze of unparalleled beauty. If these walls could talk they’d tell you a story different from what you interpret it to be. Two eyes and one painting is all it takes to form a connection. I looked at the painting sizing it up to capture every detail of the oil on the canvas within my mind, taking a mental photograph. When something inspires you I like to think that it’s staring right back at you. Upon my initial perception of the photo I had thought that this picture was painted during the time of the French Revolution because to me this picture screams “power to the people”. Lady liberty is leading all kinds of people into battle from the young soldiers to old men and from rich to poor. Everyone is uniting under the French flag following the ideal of liberty into battle for something greater than the individual. A concept that has carried for centuries with the protection of the rights of man in which freedom, not monarchy is the only thing that reigns.In the painting lady liberty embodies the liberal culture of France by having her gown showing her breast. She also holds onto memories of the French Revolution by wearing a hat similar to those worn by revolutionaries.

Originally I had wanted to see this picture because I had seen it on the Coldplay cover with what appeared to be the words “viva la vida” spray painted in white (Talk about a clash of cultures: a British rock band branding an album cover in Spanish using a French painting). After seeing it face to face it is now my favorite paintings because it embodies the political and societal culture of France. These are most  fundamental of their ideals along with the persistence they have had towards fighting for freedom. The only reason why I was able to see this painting today was because of the revolutionaries that had the same spirit that was painted into this painting.

VERSAILLES AS TEXT

“Tears of gold” by Tatiana Arevalo of FIU at Versailles

The hall of mirrors the halfway point between the palace and the gardens. Everywhere you look you see your reflection there’s no escaping it. three hundred and sixty degrees surrounded by gold,glass and tears. The hall of mirrors allows you to look out but not in, you get lost in the beauty that you forget that this palace was built on the backs of French people. How many loaves of bread would have been bought instead of building this room? How many starving children died unable to enjoy adulthood? How many people suffered at the hands of the man that built this? These questions ran through my mind. I tried hard not to forget them repeating them to myself over and over until I finally exited the room. You admire the hand painted scenes of battle, conquest, and triumph that serve as if it remind you that France is all powerful. Portraits of kings looking like Greek gods. For a second you believe it. The chandeliers sparkle leaving your eyes gleaming wondering whose eyes have also been alluded by the gold light. The mirrors reflect the sunlight coming from the window as if to remind you that there’s more to this grand palace. Head turned you look at the symmetrical garden that extends farther than the eye can see. Dark rich green bushes with pink and yellow flowers whose scent perfumes the room. Breath taking yes, and I painted a picture in your head that probably seems beautiful except it’s not because behind all this beauty lies the untold story of Versailles, one that you won’t find in any brochure. That this palace was built at a time when the citizens of France had nothing and the king had everything including this palace. No matter how beautiful the art it is it’s nothing compared to a human life. Louis XIV once said “I once had to wait” and the same could be said about those people that waited for a better life and never got it as a result of Versailles. These walls were made with tears of gold.

Lyon As Text

“Martyr” Tatiana Arevalo of FIU at Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière in Lyon

The church of Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière sits on the mountains much like a city upon a hill watching over the people, always above never below. Candles lit in red, white, and blue the colors of the French flag; the colors of pride. The Virgin Mary illuminates each candle lighting the prayers of those that come to the church asking for a blessing or a sign that something greater exists. As I looked right in front of me I saw Joan of Arc a woman who died as a martyr in the name of Catholicism during the Hundred Years’ War. We idealize people like Joan of Arc have paintings of her in Notre Dame, statues of her in Place des Pyramides and have celebrities dress up as her for the Met gala. She receives all this praise even though she murdered thousands of Christians because of the visions she revived from Saint Margaret, Saint Catherine, and Saint Michael on behalf of god. She was known as an amazing fighter using strategic tactics that later influenced the French army for the rest of the war. She partly helped France was able to hold its legitimate rule over its sovereignty despite rival coronation of Henry VI of England. However, based on today’s standards how would she be considered any different from those that are committing violent acts in the name of religion. She had the backing of King Charles VII, and many organizations have the backing of theocratic governments such as Iran. We as western developed countries judge countries that governments are intertwined heavily with religion or that back religious movements. Which is contradictory because of the religious undertones found in the United States where religion is separated from the state, but it is still used as a justification for many political arguments. Much like Joan of Arc and the church, religion can be a good thing, but when it’s coupled with proxy wars, and as a means for political oppression then we might need to take a step back and stop idealizing those that use the church as a means of power. Connections between the past and the present bridge the world together and the continuity of religion makes it an issue relevant today. Although I hadn’t prayed to the Virgin Mary but I had a divine realization in Lyon. 

Izieu As Text

“The end” ” by Tatiana Arevalo of FIU at Maison d’Izieu

Forty four heart beats racing, speeding up as the sound of the footsteps get closer. Shock begins to radiate throughout their bodies as they repeat to themselves “this can’t be real, this can’t be real”. Forty four innocent lives were taken at the Izieu children’s orphanage on the morning of April 6, 1944, forty four lives that forever had their childhood stripped away from them. That same morning they were thrown into trucks that headed directly for the Jewish concentration camp of Auschwitz where none of them were able to make it out alive. Around the former orphanage home you can read letters about how happy there were, often writing messages of inspiration and hope to relatives. In their final days, some of them even mention God in their letters. One can only imagine that they found glimpses of happiness in the midst of chaos. Their parents had sent them away during the war hoping that at least their children would be sheltered instead of persecuted. The orphanage is located in the South of France which was free while many of their parents lived in North France which was under control of the Nazis. As the war progressed the Germans began to move towards the South of France where nearby Lyon was occupied. 

These children fell victim to a broken humanity. The opposition claimed that they were under direct orders to take down any one that was part of the French resistance, which poses the question of how could any child have been a part of that. Klaus Barbie (“the butcher of Lyon”) was the one that authorized the murder of these children via telegram and at his court hearing in 1987 for crimes against humanity he couldn’t even give an explanation as to why he did it. There’s no justification for what happened to the children of Izieu. The rage and outrage felt towards what happened should be applied to the innocent lives being lost everyday in Yemen, Venezuela, Pakistan, and all around the world. There are children being trafficked, sold for organs, dying of hunger, unable to go to school, sold into marriages, are victims of gun violence. It is up to us to actively change the future while remembering the past. We have the ability to change the future and stand up to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone ever again. And in the end although there lives ended far too short, their stories will not be forgotten because they will live by memory. And to be remembered is to stay immortal. 

Normandy As Text

“The one” photo taken by Alex Gutierrez at the Normandy American Cemetery

Greatness it’s what as humans we strive for to make an impact on the world. We spend our whole lives trying to find our place in the world, and when we realize what it is only then can we truly find ourselves. Water, wind, and sand the three comments of the beach that live in harmony. A place of relaxation and tranquility where memories of summer flourish under the heat. I wish it felt like that but even now looking into the horizon I still feel the gloominess of death that stays trapped; a curse of time. I can only imagine the freezing cold water splashing upon the faces of the soldiers waking them up like an alarm clock. Trugging forward they must have gone side by side with their brothers and sisters. 10,000 goodbyes that were never said, where the only thing left to do was keep moving forward. Each cross represents a story, a journey, a person who meant something to someone. I felt guilty for not knowing enough but now I do, and your contributions will not be forgotten. Every single American should be thankful. It is because of these strong men and women that we are able to live in a country that allows us to be free.

”Side by side”

February, 1944

Today my petition was approved. I am going to the beaches of Normandy, leading my troops into the beaches of Utah. I had asked Major General Raymond Barton many times to which he denied my request. He then told me as he signed my petition that he thought I was making a mistake. I smiled, because I knew deep down where I wanted to be when the military plan was executed. I’ll admit like any man I’m scared of death, but what scares me more is the fear of leaving my men without a leader. I’ve fought alongside them have read them poems, told them stories inspired them the best I could given the conditions of war. I always believed that if I acted as a beacon of hope full of life I could share my pieces of my happiness with others. In politics I was stretched too thin as if I didn’t belong because I didn’t have a sense of direction. It was my father’s field. The compass pointed West towards the Philippines and that’s where I went the compass pointed East towards Puerto Rico and that’s where I went. It was forever changing and my impact didn’t last. So now that I found my passion I won’t run away I’ll face the challenges head on. My father taught me that when he took me and my siblings for hikes. He told us that challenges are to be confronted head on, and that facing them generates growth. I don’t know if I’ll make it out of Normandy alive. I don’t know if we’ll win the war. I don’t know if my son will survive. The only thing I know is that I will be with my soldiers fighting for those on the other side. These men deserve to come back home to their families and so help me God I will make sure they do. We won’t go down without a fight so we will face death because it’s standing in our way.

My fathers son:

“You bore a name so heavy that the weight of the free world seemed to rest on your shoulders. You lived up to your name in every aspect. You could have easily been at peace in New York far away from war, you would have been sheltered because of your name. Instead you petitioned to have your name listed as commander of your unit. You went at the age of 56 with the first wave of troops at Utah beach. You inspired them with courage leading them into the spoils of war.

You showed them that even the son of a president had the moral obligation to serve his country. You made your own name apart from your fathers. Those in the military knew your name because of the person you were. A champion of human rights and the embodiment of a leader. You broke orders to fight for those individuals living in concentration cramps that were being treated as less than human. You lead your troops on the front lines, side by side you saw the war first hand. The country I live in today is free because of you. I thought I knew what it meant to be a leader as the first person in my family to go to college, I thought I knew what it meant to be a leader when I go to my competitions and work with students on a resolution, I thought I knew what it meant to be a leader when I would tutor those in my classes. But I was wrong because the embodiment of a leader is you who puts themselves on the same level of others. It’s a quality that in my years of inexperience I have yet to learn.

I will remember you not because of your name, but for the heroic actions you took at Utah beach.”

Pere Lachaise as Text

“Kisses of cowards” taken by Tatiana Arevalo of FIU at Pere Lachaise cemetery

“De Profundis”: An open letter to Oscar Wilde

I wish you could see the world right now, to live in an era where the notion of equality persists, 

I know our world is far from perfect but it would have been a world perfect just for you, 

You were unapologetically you, your style, your charisma, your ego, your eccentricity, your pain it was all you

You wrote books, essays, and plays that let our minds make judgement of your work 

For some it was beautiful reminding them that life should be appreciated instead of deciphered 

For others it translated into a lesson of morality reminding us about the trials and tribulations of life 

You instilled in us the ideals of aestheticism that things should be put in place for the purposes of beauty

Much like Dorian Gray enamored with the vitality of youth

I wonder if you were inspired by your trip to Greece, where you learned about the classics along with the beauty of indulgence 

You believed in the intoxication of romance, and yet you got to experience it under the cloak of another persona, 

A double life; a contradiction to the ideal that we are only one person,

This theme was prevalent in the importance of being Earnest where two lives were lived to run away from social obligations, 

Tell me was that you? 

By day you bled on the paper writing magnificent novels that were successful, 

By night you found yourself in the company of young men such as Robert Ross and Lord Alfred Bruce Douglas 

I’ve never been persecuted or denied by my lover, but I know exactly what it feels like to write your emotions. To give pieces of yourself to the paper, to have eyes look over your work wondering if they too feel the same. You never tried to hide who you were because you weren’t ashamed. During the early years of my life I had been embarrassed of my culture. I didn’t want to speak Spanish because I thought it made me sound like an alien. My traditions of la novena, la fiesta del la immaculate conception, the songs of vallenato I began to realize that nobody else participated in. I didn’t want to hear to talk about Colombia. I didn’t want to talk to my mom in Spanish because I was ashamed. When I won my first writing prize for my essay in elementary school I remember channeling that pain of isolation I felt into my writing. I looked up at my mom and said “look I can write in English too”. That’s the story of how I too began to bleed on paper. I’ve come a long way since then embracing my roots as well as my emotions. You and I were both unapologetically ourselves. The only difference is I had to grow into myself when you always knew who you were. We both write what feel and disguise it as a story. 

I wish you could have been there in 2013 when France legalized same sex marriage or in 2015 when the United States Supreme Court voted to pass similar legislation. I wish you could see a world where you’re not persecuted for choosing who you love.

Progression of LGBTQ rights in France and Britian: 

Oscar Wilde lived in both Paris, France and London, England where he had two very different experiences regarding his sexuality. In France he was able to move about freely without much judgement while in England he had to keep his sexuality a secret. His sexuality was what caused him to be sent to jail to be put to work for two years under strenuous conditions. 

Before the French Revolution it was considered a capital crime (meaning punishable by death) to engage in same sex activities. Then after the French Revolution where the citizens advocated for the rights of man, all laws regarding oral and anal sex were abloshied. Leading figures such as Olympe de Gouges speaking on the sexual liberation of women also spoke about having open relationships with various people. During the 18th century France was one of the most progressive societies because it valued the importance of equal rights to everyone. Although the ideals of the Enlightenment argued for the equality of all men, they rarely ever mentioned specifically that were in favor of the LGBTQ community. They prioritized the toppling of the monarchy and human rights above anything else, and that meant extending the freedoms to minority groups. Voltiare a prominent philosopher thought that homosexuality would lead to a decline in the human race because of the inability to reproduce. In 1749 “Ancient and Modern Pederasty Investigated” was written by Thomas Cannon which was written to provide justification in favor of sexual acts performed by those of the LGBTQ community. Then came Jeremy Bentham with “Offenses against oneself” where he discussed repealing any laws targeting homosexuals. One of the main differences between France and England was that in France you were able to express yourself openly while in England you were able to write about your ideas (but without publishing it of course). England had established the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 which was enacted to protect women of all ages, and extinguish brothels. Under section 11 of this act acts of sodomy where defined as gross indecency. The victorian conservative values that dominated the era made it difficult for individuals to openly express themselves. That is why upon Oscar Wilde’s release from jail he sailed for France immediately. Even though he was a well known writer in England he still had to keep his sexuality a secret because of the laws put in place to prevent him from doing so. He was also well known by nobles and had established social connections. Despite this he still wasn’t able to enact any type of change that wasn’t controversial.He published plays critiquing the conservatism of Victorian society, to which his plays were not allowed to be performed. Had Oscar Wilde lived in France he would have been able to be openly gay without any legal persecution. In the modern society of today both the UK and France are signatories to the European convention on human rights and within the document it’s difficult to find a legal protection on the basis of sexual orientation. In protocol 12 article 1 it provides a general prohibition on the basis of discrimination but it is very broad and does not encompass all minority groups. Instead it leaves it up to the legislature of the country to determine. 

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