France Spring 2020 As Texts: Kathleen Gomez

Photo by Nicholas Gomez (CC by 4.0)

Kathleen Gomez is a senior at Florida International University studying English Literature. She is in the Honors College and is currently working as a substitute teacher. One day she hopes to have a career which combines her love of literature and baking. In July of 2020, she will be studying abroad in France, learning more about history, the world, and pastries.

Vizcaya as Text

“The Decadence of a Fence” by Kathleen Gomez of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Photo by Kathleen Gomez (CC by 4.0)

From the painting of the Virgin Mary slashed in half simply to be displayed over an organ to the fake books lining the walls to the installation of a dumbwaiter so as not to see any workers, Vizcaya is a true testament to the absolute decadence that wealth can afford. Nothing less could be expected as the first thing you see when you walk into the house is a statue of Dionysus, Greek god of wine, pleasure, and overall debauchery. From the garish Rococo decor in certain rooms to the expanse of elegant gardens with a view of the water, there is no shortage of beauty to look at when visiting Vizcaya. However, when you look up who constructed Vizcaya, you undoubtedly get the name James Deering, and of course, while he owned, paid for, and designed the house, records seem to forget he did not take up the hammer alone; there is nothing of the tenth of Miami’s population or the many Bahamian builders who were enlisted to complete the project. We can appreciate and indulge in the luxurious lifestyle of Deering by visiting his house and living vicariously through retellings of the history all we want but we shouldn’t forget those who helped build it and who lived there to help keep it running because, in the end, it was just as much their house as Deering’s. 

Just because Deering had a secret garden where those of the upper class could sneak away for affairs with those of lower social standing doesn’t mean that we should keep the people who helped build this lavish house a secret of history. Upon first walking up to the house and seeing the moat, the words of David Walker, an American abolitionist, came to mind: “The greatest riches in all America have arisen from our blood and tears: and will they drive us from our property and homes, which we have earned with our blood?” When you think back to the moat that was added to keep people off the property and the concealed passages for workers to slip by unnoticed by higher society, you truly see the divide that comes about with excess. As we saw in episode 6 of Versailles, Louis XIV was unsympathetic towards, or at least unaware of, the needs of his workers, showing how money can create a barrier between people and that sometimes that barrier is a moat.  So what makes something belong to someone? Is it the one who pays for it with money or the one who pays for it with work?


MOAD as Text

A language of Liberty: A Freedom Tower Abecedarian” by Kathleen Gomez of FIU at the Freedom Tower

Photo by Kathleen Gomez (CC by 4.0)

All our histories are reflected back at us

behind glass cases, plastered on walls.

Cartographers documented our paths across a nation

detailing our journey from HOME to home.

Every face staring back at me has a story

from the ones in a frame to the ones talking to me as we walk up the stairs.

Gomez, Rodolfo. I hear the name echoing in the walls of this tower.

Here, in the heart of Miami, stands a monument to freedom. 

Inspired by the Giralda, the grand bell tower in Spain,

jutting out along the Miami skyline,

knelling the freedom that so many seek in the US. 

Lingering outside, I can’t help but smile at

“My statue of liberty.” Did he have this same feeling?

No one knows our story, and yet everyone does. 

Oceans away, we found the idea for universal human rights.

Perhaps I’m only an American. Maybe I don’t know Spanish and I can’t

quite say Pedro Pan or Ministerio del Interior with ease but

really, when I walk up to the glass cases in this tower I see my history, I

see my grandpa’s eyes smiling in mine, his nose wrinkling with laughter.

Taking a look out the window, I see the city that greeted him.

Understand that without the notion of universal human rights, the

very European ideology of crossing an ocean, of fighting for equality, I

wouldn’t be here today, looking at a city made up of dreams. Leave your

xenophobia at the door on your way into our city and

yell from this monument of freedom, shout from this statue of liberty with

zeal that La Libertad para todos está aquí.

Deering Estate as Text

“Where Art and Nature Converge” by Kathleen Gomez of FIU

Photo by JW Bailly CC by 4.0

“Out of the rolling ocean the crowd came a drop gently to me,”

a drop that has traveled from far and wide,

across the earth, foaming and chasing

by the tide. 

I’ve been cleansed by the Basin,

by the drops that have seen more world than I.

Epics are told in the lap of water on the shore,

and what can I do but listen?

Art is born from inspiration,

from the stories we hear dancing in the trees,

words waltzing in on a wind blown in from miles away,

from splashes in the brackish sky

and clouds in the clear sea.

These two fingers feel the pulse of the ocean,

nothing can mar el mar.

Art resides in nature,

the currents are sculptors,

shaping and carving new worlds.

The sun, smiling on the Point, 

a painter, splattering colors on canvas each night.

The crunch of the leaves underfoot, musicians,

singing a dirge for those who became earth. 

The plants out back, dancers

swaying and twisting their limbs, 

moving in patterns rare to the land.

And me? I can only hope a poet,

sitting on the edge of departure,

crafting ekphrastic phrases

that may go to someone

as the drop came to me.

The words bob in my head as though a bottle on the sea

and anchored by a house of stone,

they shatter on the shore. 

Nature is a masterpiece,

the estate its museum

and all of us now and again patrons,

in residency or not,

interpreting the beauty of the earth

and making it our own

“Every day at sundown for your dear sake, my love.”

-After Walt Whitman

History Miami as Text

“Are Words Enough?” by Kathleen Gomez of FIU

Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0

Can mere words do history justice?

What does a little placard hung up in a little room matter

when no one even knows the museum exists?

A footnote is not a sufficient place for stories.

For histories.

And do you want to know how I know that?

Because today you hear “the Chinese virus” dripping from TVs,

see people scorched with dirty looks and branded with disgust. 

A museum off of Flagler Street doesn’t matter in the end

if textbooks aren’t stained with our mistakes.

No, not just mistakes.

Atrocities. 

We have blood on our hands and a little memorial in a dark room won’t cut it anymore.

It’s time for schools to have classes dedicated to the people we’ve put out of house and home.

Words are just the start.

Words mean nothing if they’re spoken for no one to hear,

Written for no one to read. 

Words need to be acted upon,

Spoken over and over for people to memorize.

To know.

To commit to their hearts and change their ways.

We may be the “Magic City”

But shoving our past all onto the second floor causes us to lose our charm. 

Do not take this the wrong way, 

We should all visit the history of Miami at the HistoryMiami museum

And learn about the true Floridians,

The ones that lived here before the colonial experience

The ones that built the city we live in today.

But an afternoon spent strolling through exhibits shouldn’t be our stopping point.

Words can do history justice as long as we don’t tuck them away or whisper them.

Words can do history justice as long as we don’t stop speaking them.

Miami Beach as Text

“A Golden Shovel Lying on the Shore of South Beach” by Kathleen Gomez of FIU

Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0

I cannot wait for that exultation

that will wash over me as I finally stand on the shore. Is

that day so far away? How much longer till I can walk along the

words that make up my city, going

from “Some Days at Sea” to the feeling of 

one day on the beach? I long for the glow I’ll feel on Ocean Drive when an 

icon studded in neon reminds me I’m no longer stuck inland.

I’m finally back on the beach, babe. I feel my soul

walk two paces behind me, taking in the sights, the smells, the city. I can’t wait to 

peek out that porthole window in my pastel portmanteau-esque sea-

side motel and see Miami fill the streets of Miami again. Then I’ll walk past 

the mangroves’ epitaph written in the foam that tickles my toes and know the 

worst thing in the world is not to be confined to our houses.

I cannot wait to get lost on the beach and think about all that can’t be lost to the past.

I cannot wait to watch the Miami sun get caught in the stained glass of the 

Jewish Museum and watch it shed light on stories too true not to tell. Caught in our headlands,

we cannot forget what we have done. Caught up in the moment we must plunge into

the present and make amends for the past. Watch me fall deep

into the now of Miami that holds a past and a future of eternity.

After Emily Dickinson

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