Fabian Rodriguez: France as Text 2019


Photo by Alex Gutierrez

Fabián David Rodríguez Riera is currently studying biology at Florida International University. Fabian’s plan is to go to medical school where he can pursue his longtime dream of becoming a plastic surgery. He is a junior who came from Cuba about six years ago in search of a brighter future. His hobbies are dancing, playing sports, especially soccer, and listening to music. Fabian’s as texts can be found.


“Religion and power in Paris” by Fabian Rodriguez of FIU in Paris, France on 07/08/2019.IMG_7218

Paris is a well known city throughout the world. I was excited to come to one of the most visited cities in the world, however, I was a little worried to interact with a society whose language and culture is different from mine. In a city that is more than 2000 years old it is very difficult to pick a place as my favorite. Between the Eiffel Tower and it’s revolutionary ambitions; the arc of triumph and its glorification of Napoleon and his soldiers; the Louvre and it’s unique pieces of artwork that cemented history; and the Sainte-Chapelle and it’s political reasons for construction; I would definitely have to pick Sainte-Chapelle. As I walked into the servant’s part of the Chapelle I was not that impressed since it looked like every other gothic Chapelle I have seen. However, as soon as I walked into the main part of the Chapelle, where the crown of thorns was displayed, I was astonished by its beauty. I was even more surprised to learn that the entire story of the Bible was implanted into the stained glass. The high ceilings made me feel like a fly and the unique gothic structures intrigued me very much. I felt privileged to see how many people come to this beautiful building and just see it like that, a beautiful building, without knowing the reason it was built and the many stories it tells. 


“The eccentricities of a king” by Fabian Rodriguez of FIU in Versailles, France on 07/08/2019.56558E3C-81BC-42F8-A78A-5CB934024FD4

Seeing Versailles for the first time is overwhelming. As soon as I laid eyes on the palace I felt such a glamour and I knew then why the French are so proud of their culture. Seeing the long lines reassures Louis’ purpose for building the palace. He wanted to create something that would transcend through time. 

If someone asked me what is the most eccentric place I have ever been, i would definitely say it would have to be Versailles. This palace, contrary to many other buildings in Paris, is not a political statement but a building that showed the power of France and the greatness of Louis the 14th. An evidence of this is the hall of mirrors, where king Louis used to receive diplomats and tried to make an impression so they would invest in the greater good of France. When I first walked into the hall, I felt as if time had stopped and I pictured how shocking would have been to walked into the room back in the 15th century and see the king in his throne and the gardens being reflected on the hundreds of mirrors that were there. This eccentricity can be seen in the many sculptures and paintings that portray Louis as Apollo and Mars. Seeing the gardens designed by Andre Le Notre was formidable. The symmetry, the fountains, and the music made it seemed like we were visiting a palace whose host was the sun king: Louis XIV. 


“Montluc: a dark place within a beautiful city” by Fabian Rodriguez of FIU in Lyon, France on 07/15/20197B1CBF53-1A2E-4E14-B3D9-7F66529D834B

Just a few hours to the south of Paris, the city of Lyon can be found. The city is the home of over two million people and it is the third largest urban area in France. Over 2000 years ago, Lyon was the capital of the Roman Empire in Gaul.

In my opinion Walking through Lyon is like walking through time. There can be seen architectural structures from the Roman Empire like the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière; or La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière which contains gothic roots. Moreover, the city of Lyon played a huge role in the Second World War, as it became the center of the French resistance. 

One of the things that interested me the most of Lyon was our visit to the Montluc prison since it is evidence of the horrendous acts committed by the Nazis during WWII. Montluc was built in 1921 after WWI as a military prison for French soldiers who were condemned there or were waiting to be sentenced. For the time, this prison had good living conditions. However, after the German invasion of the “Free Zone” in November 1942 it served as a prison were Jewish people or Resistance fighters were waiting to be deported or executed. Just like Adrian told us, the prisoners weren’t allowed to go outside and there would usually be up to eight of them in one cell. It is hard to imagine how they were able to survive this for up to two month most of the time. As I walked through the doors of each cell and saw the faces of some of the people and even children that were imprison there, I couldn’t help but to feel devastated but at the same time ashamed for letting some of these events repeat themselves. 


“Such a tragedy needs to be remembered” by Fabian Rodriguez of FIU in Izieu, France on 07/15/2019.E26F131E-9D7D-4484-91B6-29203D46C996

The Izieu Maison was founded by Sabine Zlatin and Miron Zlatin as a way to hid and protect “Jewish” children from the Nazis in World War 2. The home is found in what was considered the Free Zone before November 1942. Therefore, this was thought of by “Jewish” parents as a safe place to send their kids during the war. 

As I walked into the house I couldn’t help to think how those children, who were just between four to seventeen years old, must have felt walking into the house. It must have been a very sad moment for them knowing they had to leave their lives behind but I think that deep down they must have known that their parents did it for a reason. I know that the circumstances were not the same, but I felt a connection to these kids since I had a similar feelings when leaving my Native country, Cuba. I also felt an empty soul when my dad left but I knew it was for a better future. Children from different backgrounds, like Polish and even German, were welcomed in Izieu; and just like me they had to learn another language that was not their native tongue, in their case it was French. Reading some of the children’s letters like the one who was thanking an anonymous person for a gift, shows how genuine and mature they were. The best part of the house was the little room with fourteen chairs and two black boards that served as a way to stop the Nazi’s goal of dehumanize Jews. In 1944 Izieu was raided under the orders of Klaus Barbie and 44 children were arrested together with seven adults. I felt so much rage knowing that these were just children, not resistance fighters, and that the war was already over.

In my opinion this monument and all of the documents inside serve as evidence of the despicable actions carried by the Nazis. It also serves as a way to remember those children and to never forget their story so that something like this won’t happened ever again. 

“ Who is not forgotten is not dead” by Fabian Rodriguez of FIU at Normandy, France on 2019.Bn7yc5zkQPK+q54YJis+Ww

Thomas Dry Howie

Rank: Major

Battalion Commander and Infantry Officer in the 29th Infantry Division  

Branch: U.S. Army

Entered from: Virginia

Samuel Butler once said: “To die completely, a person must not only forget but be forgotten, and he who is not forgotten is not dead”

Just so you don’t forget:

In the spring of April 12th, 1908, the state of South Carolina had the honor to welcome you to the world, Thomas Dry Howie. You grew up to be an exemplary scholar, and after obtaining a high school diploma, you went off to a military college in South Carolina, the Citadel (Bedingfield, 2017). Your academic potential showed as you made the Dean’s List as an English Major (Mebane, B.). However, you also exceeded in your extracurricular activities as the captain of the baseball team and All State Halfback on the football team (Bedingfield, 2017). At this young age, you demonstrated Herculean amounts of tenacity and leadership which are clearly perceived in the hunger strike that you led in order to protest the poor quality of food in the mess hall at the Citadel (Mebane, B.).

The contrast between courage and grief must have been palpable the day you parted for England. Tears probably flowed down Elizabeth’s eyes, while Sally looked confused, as you two embraced, since she was too little to understand the magnitude of your mission. Your head must have been spinning from all the commotion. And your heart must have been torn. But if you were certain about something, it was that this war was necessary in order to ensure the wellbeing and the future of your little daughter. 

A little over 75 years ago, on July 6, you and the rest of your comrades landed on Omaha Beach. After surviving the assault, you were sent to take control of St. Lo together with the third battalion. Sadly, at the still young age, 36, on July 17 1944, a mortar shell took your life. But not your legacy. 

Just so I don’t forget: 

Your denunciation of the quality of the food back in college that has implemented a sense of leadership and dignity in me. These same values are the ones that I hope to pass on to my fellow citizens of Cuba with the goal of fighting a dictatorship, just like you did.  Your stance against racism gave me the opportunity to migrate to a strange country where I could feel comfortable and positive about a better future.  Your fearless actions in the battlefield paved the way for our citizens, who now know they have a responsibility to stand up for what they believe in.

 “To die completely, a person must not only forget but be forgotten, and he who is not forgotten is not dead”

And through this piece of writing I expect to remember you.

I expect to let your will of fire burn in our citizens.

I will be forever in your debt for allowing me and millions of people to live free from oppression.

Thank you Major!


Major Thomas D. Howie (. (2017, November 26). Retrieved from https://www.geni.com/people/Major-Thomas-D-Howie-The-Major-of-St-Lo/6000000031900553704

Bedingfield, G. (2017, August 6). Baseball’s Greatest Sacrifice. Retrieved from http://www.baseballsgreatestsacrifice.com/biographies/howie_thomas.html

Mebane, B. (n.d.). REMEMBERING A FORGOTTEN LEGEND – THOMAS DRY HOWIE, “THE MAJOR OF ST LO”. Retrieved from https://thecitadelmemorialeurope.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/remembering-a-forgotten-legend.pdf


“Who We Are” by Fabian Rodriguez of FIU @Pere_Lachaise

Photo credits to Alex Gutierrez 

I intend to honor and explore the life of one of the most influential writers of the 20th century in the battle against oppression towards minorities, especially African Americans. Back in the 20th century, Americans were still victim of oppression and the mistreatments of certain groups based on their gender, color, and even ethnicity was still in effect. However, through his writing, Richard Wright became the person that we all aspire to be; a person who fought for the rights of all minorities, regardless of the consequences.

Richard Nathaniel Wright was born in September 4, 1908 in Mississippi. He was a writer who focused his work on novels and short stories. His father left home when he was just five years of age (Britannica). Wright’s grandparents had been slaves but obtained their freedom after the war (Britannica). After his mother was left paralyzed, due to a stroke, Wright was always moving from place to place, and by twelve, he had only completed one year of schooling. At just sixteen years of age, Wright published his first short story (Britannica). His collection is very extensive, including works like Uncle Tom’s Children, Native Son and his notorious autobiography, Black Boy (Britannica). After moving to Chicago, Wright joined the Communist Party in 1933. After World War II, he moved to Paris where he lived until his death in November of 1960 at 52 years of age.

At first it was not easy to find similarities to someone who lived over eighty years ago. However, upon close consideration, I came to the realization that today is not so different as when Richard Wright was alive. Even though, sad to say, I have endured some of the challenges Wright denounced decades ago. As an immigrant who left Cuba for political reasons, it was hard for me to understand why I was judged by society in the land of the free. As an alien who didn’t understand the language, I still could understand how other members of society looked at me as an inferior being. Those same hardships Wright describes in his autobiography Black Boy were the same hardships I experienced as other kids did not interact with me because of the clothes I was wearing. When I first came to the United States, I went to three different schools in a period of 12 months, so I can relate to Wright feeling like an outsider everywhere he went.
Below is a poem exemplifying how we both felt by falling victim of oppression, and how White America can’t comprehend our feelings because they have never been in our shoes. The poem is titled “Who We Are”.

Like you, I know what it feels like to be looked at with hatred.
Like you, I know what it feels like to be judged based on my ethnicity.
Like you, I know what it feels like to be their laughing stuck.
Like you, I know what it feels like to think life is not fair.
Just like you, I know the struggle of constantly moving from school to school.

They don’t know what it feels like to be an outsider.
They, don’t know us…
They don’t know what it feels like to wake up and try to prove them wrong every day.
They, don’t know us…

But how can they know us?
How can they understand our struggles?
They, who are born with privilege.
They, who are taught to hate us.
We need to teach them otherwise.

Richard Wright and I have differences like the color of our skin and the periods in which we lived. However, that would be too superficial. People endure life and perceive differently based on their experiences. Richard and I are no so different! As someone who has experienced the lies and horrifying actions of a communist regime, I was not pleased to read that Richard Wright became a member of the communist party. However, I tried to looked at it with an open mind. I know for a fact what it is to be blinded by an ideology that promotes a society for the people and by the people, yet fails time and time again. If I could, I would let you know, Richard Wright, that those ideals have many hidden secrets that only benefit those at the top. If I could, I would let you know that this regime oppresses homosexuals, religious groups, and even people of color, and women. Those whom you tried to help through your writing. If I could, I would let you know that communists have killed millions simply for opposing their ideals, and even more people are dying everyday of hunger.


Richard Wright. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.biography.com/.amp/writer/richard-wright

Britannica, T. E. (n.d.). Richard Wright. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Richard-Wright-American-writer

France as Text
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John William Bailly  28 June 2019

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