Alexandra Gutierrez- France as Text 2019

Alex is wrapping up her time at Florida International University as a member of the Honors College. By the end of the summer semester, she will have earned her Bachelors Degree in Communication Arts. But before graduating, she is joining Professor Bailly on a study abroad experience throughout France.

Photo by Jessica Horsham (CC 4.0)
Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)
Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)
Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

PARIS AS TEXT

15 years of Catholic School, 21 Years of Reflection by Alexandra Gutierrez of FIU in Paris, France on 7/5/19

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

Before I left to the airport for this study abroad trip, my abuela, who is the most religious person I know, lit a Jesus candle, blessed me with Holy water, and prayed over me for a safe journey. I’ve never put much thought into these extreme measures she goes through to ensure my safety since it’s something she’s been doing my entire life. But these past few months I’ve really questioned my faith and what I believe to be true.

And then I found myself outside Notre Dame on a cold July morning listening to the lecture about the 800 year old cathedral. “If you think you’re Catholic, you aren’t a real catholic according to the standards set forth hundreds of years ago”, Bailly states as I fix the cross around my neck. The wind is knocked out of me. My entire foundation is built up around this idea. Fifteen years of my life spent in Catholic school, participating in campus ministry retreats, and attending weekly mass. My life revolved around this religion. But it’s true, I’m not a real catholic.

Over the years, I’ve begun to pick and choose what I want to follow. I don’t believe in shunning members of the LGBT community or stripping them from their rights. I believe in women having an equal right to pursuing dreams and succeeding. And yet, I support my friends who belong to these groups, champion for equality, and continue to wear the “Our Father” prayer around my neck. To some, I may not necessarily be considered a religious person, but I am a faithful one.

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)
Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

Walking through the streets of Paris, the most secular industrialized country, I searched for any answers or signs of faith. Then we entered Sainte Chapelle and the hairs on my arms stood up. Yes, it’s beautiful from first glance with the high-vaulted ceilings, decorative altar where the Crown of Thrones once stood, and of course the incredibly intricate and stunning stained glass artwork (despite King Louis IX’s appearance in the biblical timeline). It made my heart grow thinking that something so beautiful can be created as a reflection of God’s love. But the more you dive into what makes up the church, you find yourself surrounded by an unquenchable thirst for power and greed beyond compare. Churches across Paris such as Sainte Chapelle, Notre Dame, Eglise Saint-Severin and even the churches of the world put forth a sense of community, faith, and hope. When in reality, the entire foundation is tainted with centuries of lies, war, and corruption. Despite this, I continue to hold onto my hold onto my faith. But the moment I become ignorant or unaware of the church’s problems, I add to these issues. Being blind to the flawed foundation will make me a part of the problem.

All in all, the thought-provoking statement made me interested in becoming aware of these flaws and understanding that it does not make me a bad Catholic if I continue to practice my faith. I do still consider myself Catholic, as does my eighty-three year old abuela (which is especially important).

VERSAILLES AS TEXT

What if? by Alexandra Gutierrez of FIU in Versailles on 7/7/19

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

What if Versailles was never built? What if, in an alternate universe, King Louis XIV remained in Paris and never converted the hunting lodge into the greatest palace on earth? And how would the timeline between the 17th and 18th century differ?

As we walked through decorated corridors and elaborate rooms, this thought continued to bounce around. Trillions of dollars were spent to expand the distant lodge and make it what is today, all while the rest of 17th century France was out of resources, adequate amenities, and proper care. Was the exorbitant palace more important than the people, who eventually died of sickness and starvation? To Louis XIV, the answer was clear as day. But if he would have not been as determined and passionate for Versailles, many of the major events of the 17th and 18th century that shaped France as a nation would not have taken place. For starters, the French Revolution would not have been sparked by the huge investment that took to construct Versailles.The monarchy may have stayed standing for a longer period and not have been executed as they were. In an alternate timeline, the revolution might have happened later in history. Without the French Revolution throughout the 18th century, the march of over 6,000 women to Versailles, the Reign of Terror, and the attempt to completely destroy the Royal lineage would have been an distant thought.

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)
Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

This alternate universe would be nowhere near as socially advanced as France or the world is today. Because of the French Revolution and King Louis XIV’s dream of a palace, I, as a woman, can vote, get an education, and speak my thoughts due to the advancement of human rights.

France without Versailles would not be a dominating and progressive country in the 21st century. Louis XIV was dedicated to its expansion, whether or not that meant that his people were dying. This outlook allowed for a palace of this stature to come into being and put an entire country on the map for centuries to come. Versailles showed the world that France was not only wealthy, but was a powerful and dominating state. If the idea of constructing a striking and influential palace would have never crossed the King’s mind, France would have remained behind and would not have grown culturally, socially, or politically.

To think, a hall of mirrors that takes breaths away, vast gardens that seem infinite, and extravagant ceiling pieces that feel so real have all molded an entire country over centuries and will continue to do so. With the thousands of shoulders I bumped into today, I’m confident Versailles will never stop impacting the state of France nor the world.

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

Lyon as Text

Paris’ Traboule by Alexandra Gutierrez of FIU in Lyon, France on 7/10/19

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC by 4.0)

When I picture the streets of Paris and its people, I find myself walking onto a movie set surrounded by never-ending sunsets, dreamy background music, and magical days. All of what makes it the most visited city in the world.

Instead, I was hit in the face with chaos and turmoil. A constant rush, being pulled in different directions. All of what makes up any metropolitan city.

Sure, Paris is magical, but it’s pockets of magic you’ll find. Scattered around the city like whispered conversations behind closed spaces, or in this case, traboules.

A traboule hides courtyards and gardens from the outside. They are intimate and unique. They bring people home and allow for an escape

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC by 4.0)

2 hours south, you’ll find Paris’ very own traboule. Although third most populated city in France, it’s a gem between rivers.

The city of Lyon is bursting at the seams with vivid architecture, treasured experiences, and a history so powerful, it hits emotions deep enough to leave a mark.

Each building is colored with the shades of a sunset, which express the beauty and age of the glowing city. Cobblestone roads form twisted paths that lead to a church, so gracefully positioned, protecting her city at the very top. All of what makes up the beauty of Lyon.

Individuals seated near and far from us, holding stories that impact generations. Lyon is home to a community bound together by its past. A past so crucial, it must never be forgotten. Stories and experiences that must live on forever. All of what makes up the history of Lyon.

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC by 4.0)

Like Claude Blonch, who at the age of 15 was catapulted into the horror that was the Holocaust. And at 91 years old continues to tell his story for all who listen.

Like Laurent’s mother, Denise Vernay, who played a major role in the French Resistance. A female, Jewish resistance fighter who was determined to put an end to the ongoing nightmare or die trying.

Their stories, much like others, is an important message to the future, not just in this city but throughout the world. Lyon, with its buildings made from the gold mountains, winding rivers, and significant history make it that much more magical. All of what makes Lyon Paris’ traboule.

Izieu as Text

To Izieu by Alexandra Gutierrez of FIU in Maison D’Izieu on 7/12/19

Sami, Hans, Nina, Max-Marcel, Jean-Paul, Esther, Elie, Jacob, Jacques, Richard, Jean-Claude, Barouk-Raoul, Majer, Albert, Lucienne, Egon, Maurice, Liliane, Henri-Chaïm, Joseph, Mina, Claudine, George, Arnold, Isidore, Renate, Liane, Max, Claude, Fritz, Alice-Jacqueline, Paula, Marcel, Theodor, Gilles, Martha, Senta, Sigmund, Sarah, Max, Herman, Charles, Otto, Emile, Lucie, Mina, Sarah, Eva, Moïse, Miron

I cannot fathom what you went through on April 6, 1944. The amount of fear and terror that went through your mind. When just a few days before you were running around the lawns, picking flowers, and getting raspberries on your knees. You were splashing each other by the water, making water bubbles with your mouth. Picking out costumes for the upcoming play and rehearsing lines outside. Your hands were busy coloring in backdrops, deciding what crayon to choose next. Yellow or blue for the pirates coat? You were learning how to read and write, learning math and history. And on the days you yearned for the loving embrace of your mother and father, you wrote to them. You wrote about what you were learning, what you were doing. You didn’t want them to worry, but you missed them more than anything in the world, with every fiber of your being.

And then the trucks came and you were taken away. You were sent to Izieu to be protected, but instead were stripped from the place that kept you safe. You were stripped of your childhood and your innocence. You were considered resistance fighters when in actuality you were too young to comprehend the meaning of those two words. Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyon, is responsible for the tears you shed, the fear you felt. There was absolutely no point in your arrest nor was there a reason for your death. 

The light that radiates from you will never burn out, for it is our responsibility to hold your story close. Your story of courage, strength, and resilience. I’ve seen the photos, drawings, and the letters. And I want you to know that I see you and I hear you. And I know that it is within my power to share your story and never let it become someone else’s reality.

I send you all my love.

10000000000000000000000 hugs and kisses

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