Miami As Text (’19-’20) by Jessica Horsham

Jessica Ann Horsham is a currently studying international relations at Florida International University, and is in her senior year as an FIU Honors student. She is heavily interested in pursuing a career in law, with current aims to focus on human rights and injustices within the justice system. Though her career will eventually divulge her in tons of paperwork, Jessica loves to explore the outdoors, exercise, and be near the beach; traveling is one of her favorite things to do as she loves to emerge herself in different cultures and truly learn about what makes each place special. Her current endeavor, the Miami in Miami class taught by John W. Bailly, will take her on this journey of emerging her in her very hometown to discover all of its unknown and secret places. These are her Miami as Texts.

Metro As Text

The Melting Pot: Connected by Jessica Horsham of Florida International University traveling via Miami-Dade Metrorail on September 11, 2019.

When people think about Miami, it is always the typical beaches, late night clubs, and other debauchery that is associated with the memory. When people try to describe Miami, it then focuses on the people who live here, which is always essential, they describe it as a melting pot of different races, religions, walks of life, and ethnicities. However, what people fail to realize is that this very concept is reflected in the city itself, its layout and its neighborhoods; and on September 11, 2019, we were able to fully explore this via the Miami Dade Metrorail, a vein that runs through the heart of Miami and its neighborhoods. In the 1980s, the metrorail was adding more stations and expanding in the post-World War II economic success that the U.S. was experiencing. However, as Miami’s city planning has proven to be inefficient, the city continued to grow and the metrorail simply could not keep up—the citizens needed more, and this has pushed the dependency of most people towards cars and private vehicles. Today, the metrorail, metromover, and the metrobus struggles with ridership as these other means continue beat out the rails despite it being less efficient. Today, we got to experience the true Miami for what it is, beyond its people, through the most efficient means: the metrorail. From the Lowe Art Museum, hosting two of the most incredible El Greco pieces—who was a Greek painting in Spain, how Miami is that—to Vizcaya’s unique blend of Europe, the Americas, and Tequestas to Overtown’s amazing Jackson’s Soul Food, these spots are all representative of the true Miami melting pot. Each neighborhood filled with some history that links all of us “Miamians” to one another and to our land. Too often we feel as though we never have any linkage to the city where we reside and call our hometowns, however, if you ever just take the time to look, as we did, you too will find your roots in Miami. 

Downtown Miami as Text

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Photos by Maria Cruz of FIU

Justice for None by Jessica Horsham of Florida International University in Downtown Miami on September 25, 2019. 

Despite the cultural infusions that have been present for many years, no piece of land in the United States has served as an exception to racism, prejudice, and inequality that once was rampant. However, it is presumptuous to assume that though things have begun to heal, these scars no longer affect us in the “land of the free.” As a result, people continue to ignore these scars, there is no denying its remnants, even in our “diverse and progressive” city. As you walk through the streets of downtown, it is clear to notice one of the most prominent distinctions between the homeless, most of these disenfranchised people are black—how is this possible where are supposed to be considered equal in a land of opportunity? One of the most appalling stops was the Longhouse and its similarities to our current Miami Dade County Courthouse. Both of these structures that were meant to uphold justice for all were places wherein many injustices occurred to individuals who often times were innocent; they were only guilty because of their genes—a pigment in their skin. From slave houses to courthouses, our justice system in its most basic and tangible meaning has been built upon structures that continue to emphasize the paradoxical meaning of equality for all and innocence. In the front of our current justice building, the Miami Dade Courthouse, there is a plaque wherein our citizens are simply labeled as “negroes.” How do we let this derogatory and degrading plaque still stand? In a place of equality? This specific amnesia and ignorance surrounding our history and our current system is what allows these divisions to continue to divide our nation. This is the exact reason why I have chosen to practice law and dedicate my life to it. Too many times does the system designed to protect the innocence corrupt it and unequally punish its offenders. Our justice systems need those dedicated to fight for our citizens, rather than those motivated to send them to our overflowing prisons and ultimately change their lives and those around them forever. Justice is supposed to mean something more, to protect all people, its current affairs does not reflect that and that is why we must change it. 

Over Under Paris (2019) by Jessica Horsham

Ligne 7


This stop on ligne 7 was named after the Opera Garnier, which was built by Charles Garnier between 1861 to 1875, during the Second Republic under Napoleon III. It has been an established landmark in French and Parisian culture and has played a prominent role in art. Fourteen painters, mosaicists, and over 73 sculptors took part in creating the façade of this masterpiece of a building. The golden, shining statues of Harmony and Poetry are just a glimpse into the beauty of the eclectic house, with no spaces robbed of décor, colors, or theatrical effects. Not only was it once the host of the Royal Academy of Music and the Paris Ballet, but it was also the opera house from Phantom of the Opera, an iconic show and movie that has continued to live on stages throughout the world. Despite its sewage problems that are prevalent underground due to issues with its initial construction, the ligne entrance for the Opera, rather than following the typical, gothic art nouveau style has remained a marvelous, marble entrance over fears that it would disrupt the aesthetic of the surrounding area

The Palais Garnier, otherwise known as the Paris Opera, embodies the culture of Paris and the true establishment of French culture designated by Louis XIV, this was his goal. Louis XIV restructured entire world politics and the French culture to dedicate itself to opulence, fine arts, and to truly distinguish it from other countries, such as Italy. The ever-decadent designs pay homage to the rulers throughout French history. The Opera is an embodiment of distinguished French movements throughout history as it combines rococo, iron framework, baroque, and classicism all blended together. Even today, audiences are still left in awe of the immaculate designs and productions and shows from all over the world still aspire to perform here. Over 600,000 visitors still pass through the grand lobby, tours are conducted almost daily, and almost 91% of seats for all shows have been filled in the 2017-2018 season alone. In addition to this, it also helps to foster young people under the age of 28 and encourages them to immerse themselves in the ballet and theatre through its many partnerships and even discounted seating. As we walked around the area, it was interesting to see how all of the roads, just like with many historical buildings, all lead to the Opera. Romanistic in its layout, the house was able to be seen from all around and stood as the true staple of the area. Though I was unable to tour the inside of the facility due to a show being performed that day, its magnificence was still able to take my breath away from just the entrance. The arts culture in Paris is one that has left me in awe as it seems to be the heart of the French, something that binds them together and gets people talking no matter what the subject. References to previous great minds such as Chopin and Molière who all lived and performed in Paris is more than remarkable. Miami, as it undergoes its own transition to revive the arts itself simply just does not compare to the Parisian art culture, it is not limited to one or two areas in Paris as it does in Miami, it completely envelops the city itself and can be found almost anywhere. Paris has been renowned for its authentic artistic culture, attracting many artists of all types throughout its time and this building is a prime example as to why Paris is a pinnacle point for culture and the arts.  

Chaussée d’Antin La Fayette

In 1910, alongside the Opera station, what was once a north gate to the city of Paris (under Louis XIII), the Chaussée d’ Antin La Fayette station was officially opened. The term causeway was first used to explain this area as the roads nearby needed to be uplifted to avoid the marshy plains below. It was originally named after, by himself, Louis Antoine de Paradaillan de Gon Drin the first Duke of Antin who was the son of Madame de Montespan, one of Louis XIV’s favorite mistresses. The second part of the name is dedicated to Marquis de La Fayette, a French hero during the American Revolutionary War and initially the French Revolution. As of 2013, it has seen over 7 million travelers pass through the station, that is more than the entire population of the entire state of Arizona or Washington. This area is where the real Parisians go for shopping; despite how iconic Champs Elysees has become, it also has been overwhelmed with tourists. This station places you in between streets lined with stores with all recognizable names: Gucci, Longchamp, Prada, all of the designer brands. Merging fashion and art the Galeries Lafayette on Haussmann has achieved the perfect crossover. This massive department store has aimed to make the most prestigious and exclusive brands available to all with many discounted prices and mixing older and newer lines. The ultimate capitalist venture, for over 120 years, Galeries Lafayette has attracted many tourists and Parisians alike; in 2009 it recorded earrings of over one billion euros.

Upon entering this massive department store, it is easy to see why this spot is not just a regular mall nor is it solely an artistic creation. With its massive, ornamented glass ceiling, it almost resembles an opera house or a museum at the least; it is a true work of art. Walking up to the building itself could not have matched the surprise and astonishment of stepping through the larger than life doors at the entrance. Decorated in the overwhelming rococo style typical to Parisian life, it was easy to see why it attracted so many tourists; there were people from all over the world, speaking different languages, and all there for different purposes. Some were there to seriously shop, while many others, like myself, were there to get a glimpse at all of the elite brands housed there. Despite all of its ornate décor, the heart of this building is not in the culture nor the art, it is capitalism. Though France is seen as a champion for universal healthcare and its social policies, the consumer culture has invaded these beliefs born from the revolution. Despite the equality that has continuously been strived for throughout the years, these brands are representative of the separators that society uses to distinguish and segregate people of different classes. The fact that areas such as these are more popular than many museums shows the dedication that people have to their looks and perceptions rather than culture, art, and knowledge. These brands are not all inclusive nor do they focus on the people, these brands are almost all about maximizing profit. Many factories are located in less developed countries to take advantage of the cheap labor and ever lower working wages. Even a progressive nation such as France has fallen under the predatory clutches of capitalism, a system that negates almost all of the country’s beliefs.

Pont Marie—Cite Internationale des Arts

Similar to many stops on this line, the Pont Marie station was opened in 1926 and was named after a nearby bridge over the Seine that connects to the Ile Saint-Louis, one of the natural islands in the Seine. This area is a typical yet unique residential area due to the conditions of those who live here: artists of all kinds with workshops. There are two distinct areas like this that can be found in Paris, this one located in the Marais, one of the first buildings, and in Montmarte. This area has been supported and funded by the Ministry of Culture and Foreign Affairs and the Academy of Fine Arts. These housing projects have not been a new concept to French history as under the reigns of Francis I and Louis XIV, they have both brought over incredible artists, housed them, and paid for their necessities in order for them to paint for the royal family and France as a whole. One of the most notable names was brought over by Francis I and he, luckily, brought over some of his most prized possessions; perhaps you’ve heard of Leonardo da Vinci? Or maybe the Mona Lisa? This idea to create Paris as a true creator’s habitat has remained throughout its years.

Areas such as these continue to shock me. It is truly amazing that countries as advanced as our own, continue to support the arts in overwhelming ways. While Miami-Dade County has made great strides towards funding the arts and artists of many kinds, it is still not a state-wide initiative nor is it a country wide one. This brings into perspectives the values of our country versus France; in many ways, while France has traditionally been our greatest ally, it has also been one of our biggest opposites. The arts in the U.S. has not been as emphasized or cultivated, funding in our public-school systems for the arts has been drastically decreased and is almost nonexistent. Art appreciation and art history are classes that are required in the curriculum in France, this is something that is not instituted in the U.S. whatsoever. Art is one of the only things that remain from times of history and wars, it is one of the best, most tangible ways to recreate, envision, and teach history through. While this area was not entirely the most artsy, it did have an extremely cute outdoor bar, along the Seine where people of all ages, mainly of the younger generation, were lounging and engaged in a multitude of discussions. There were also many street performers, and as we moved through the area, we stumbled upon the Bastille monument. It was interesting to see how the area had developed around it to match the demography—there were tons of restaurants, cafes, and bars around this monument where the entire history of the world had changed, so to the times have changed.

Palais Royal—Musée du Louvre

In an effort to expand the public’s access to art and the Lourve, the platforms added for ligne 7 were opened in July 1916. This entrance has been specifically redesigned by Jean-Michel Othoniel, titled Kiosk of the Night-Walkers in 2000 for the 1000 years of the Metro. This bright glass bead structure is yet another unexpected design that starkly contrasts the other metro stations as well as the surrounding area. The main attraction to this area is the Lourve, an old defensive fortress that was then opened by revolutionaries with the artworks they seized from the royal family and many lords, is the world’s largest and most visited art museum. It first opened on August 10, 1793 and has grown enormously since then. The Lourve has originally pieces from the beginning of time up until the present day and is home to many of the revolutionary pieces that not only changed the art world but also impacted the entire society around its times.

From studying the works contained in the Lourve through a book and online sources to seeing them in person will leave one simply out of breath and in disbelief. I found myself wondering how so many of these great works were produced in their time realm and have lasted the true test of time. Art ties people to history, it ties people to ancestors and those long gone. The pieces in this museum have changed, criticized, and forced society to confront issues thereby pushing forward progress. All of those pieces have affected my life and have helped to guide me into the current society in which I currently live. The Lourve cannot be conquered in one day, or two days, or even a week. This massive museum deserves the full time it truly takes to explore it and it truly embodies the entire French culture—from its early beginnings to its lowest points to its current state.

Place Monge

Opening in February of 1930, this station and the neighboring attractions will represent many of the most radical French ideals still in place today. This was one of the first stations to cross under the Seine and it is named after Gaspard Monge, the French mathematician who later invented descriptive geometry. This area is surrounded by an almost entirely Islamic community with almost all of its restaurants specific to a specific country or region—allegedly some of the best lamb can be found by walking through these streets. Just a few blocks away from the station lie the Grand Mosque of Paris, the Jardin Des Plantes, and the Museum of Evolution. The Grand Mosque of Paris was built in 1920 by the architect Maurice Tranchant de Lunel, however, it required a great number of Moroccan, Algerian, and Tunisian craftsmen to add of the miraculous detailed symmetrical work that is attributed to all typical Islamic art. It is now the 3rd largest mosque in all of Europe and the oldest in France. Its main goals focused on promoting the visibility, safety, and comfortability of Islam and Muslims in France. The Jardin des Plantes was originally the Royal Garden of Medicinal Plants in the 17th century and was perhaps the reason why surrounding this square, the French government decided to build many scientific museums around it, such as the National Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Evolution. The embracement of science, knowledge, and logical reasoning has been one to separate France from the U.S. and other countries just as France sternly separates itself from religion. In 1920, there were regulations in place that initially prevented the French government from contributing to the construction of the mosque as it violated a law strictly forbade such actions towards any religion. Despite all of its focus on its technological advances in all fields, the U.S. is not nearly as accepting of all of these ideals as is France. There are still many states, districts, and neighborhoods that refuse to accept the theory of evolution nor do they go out of their way to keep religion and the state complete separate. In many of the southern and western public schools, Christianity is taught almost on a daily and issues such as climate change, practicing safe sex, the human anatomy, and evolution are entirely ignored. This does nothing but hinders students and often times prevent them from pursing further education or setting them back very far behind other students. Academically, students in the U.S. are already behind in areas such as art and literature, in a country where mathematics and STEM designated jobs are praised, it is ridiculous that such critical lessons are left up to the discretion of so many people. While I have been raised Catholic, I am thankful that my family has not simply ignored the sciences, but the same cannot be said for other children in the U.S. Even on a campus as diverse and progressive as FIU, if one were to propose an entire museum dedicated to evolution, there would certainly be those opposed to it within the community. The U.S., and as one would say, its “puritan values,” continue to affect the development of the nation and all of its people. These same issues are not present in French culture and society where rather than a freedom of religion, it is a freedom from religion in all of its aspects.


Opening in August of 1900, the Châtalet station is the center of Parisian life and is the largest and most complex metro station in the world. This station was named after a castle that was located on the right side of the river Seine but was destroyed by Napoleon in 1802, the term itself was used in medieval times to describe a small castle. Châtalet is home to many different groups of people, from the gays to the Jews, this area is a huge melting pot yet somehow it all radiates Frenchness and the Parisian culture. It is also home to the Centre Pompidou which not only has the largest modern art museum in Europe, but also a vast public library, right in the center of Paris, it has had over 180 million visitors since 1977 and continues to attract tourists from all over. This center was the first site for a large, free public library. Centre Pompidou is a sore thumb compared to all of the other buildings surrounding it, but it is reflective of the art movements it holds within. Châtalet is also home to an extremely large, lower end shopping mall and simply adds to the lively nature of streets of bars, cafes, restaurants, and stores with a variety of products. Despite this area once being one of marshland, it is now constantly filled with people and is often a great site to celebrate big victories before the traditional Champs Elysse. On the night of the Algerian soccer win, the streets in Châtalet erupted into a happy chaos with people running, shouting, and chanting. This is an area that is meant to draw people together to gather and discuss issues and share in their most joyous moments. In addition to this, it has made remarkable efforts to attract the younger generations by just offering a multitude of places to hang out without being charged expensive prices and free areas to relax or even study—this lively place has something for everyone, even for those who do not find themselves in other crowds can easily find themselves amongst these streets. Bringing together different forms of art, literature, and academia, and attract millions of people yearly is something that this area has been able to perfect. The leading city of culture and art purposefully plans areas such as these, even the great president Charles de Gaulle advocated for such a site as this in 1968. Once again, we are able to see the repeated importance of truly free and accessible education to all in France. The library in the Pompidou is massive and requires no charge to enter and simply sit and read or study or use the computers. France values its citizens and rather than see providing for them as a burden, views it as an investment into the future and progression of France. This thought process acts in a positive reactionary force and reinforces the trust and relationship between the government and its people. These outward support for the betterment of the daily lives of its citizens, rather than just the economic status of the state and top 1% is an idea that was born out of the revolution and has luckily persisted.


The Rue d’Aubervilliers station was renamed Stalingrad in 1946 after the Battle of Stalingrad in Russia. This was the target city of German forces in the Soviet Union and fighting lasted 7 months. It was one of the largest and bloodiest battle in the history of the world, there were over 2 million casualties. Despite the Germans revolutionary tactics in war, Russia had the winter on their side and was eventually able to defeat the Germans and push them back. This changed the atmosphere of the war and its trajectory forever—this marked the turn of the war in favor of the Allies. Today, in Paris, the area seems very similar to Miami’s own Wynwood. Upon exiting the station, it did not feel like the rest of Paris, there were a ton of street vendors and the apartments and store fronts were not in the best conditions nor were they preserved the same way that one is used to seeing along the streets. However, once walking a few more blocks, you were thrown into a more artsy, organic lifestyle that is associated with many European cities. There was a major art installation piece entitled, “La Foret Escargot” by the Inzouk Association, a collaborative effort of 22 artists. This snail has just begun its journey in Stalingrad and will be slowly moving its way towards Malakoff in 2020. Its prime focus is to develop a greater respect for the environment, with almost all of its materials being reused or recyclable pieces. However, such a structure as this has then focused on forcing the “urban sub dwellers” to understand and wonder about the future of their waste and reconsider the life of an object. Then, a huge outdoor project looms behind it, the Paris-Plages. These artificial beaches provide a multitude of activities for people of all ages to take part in during the particularly hot summer days; though seemingly a tourist spot at first, it was overrun with locals.

It is quite ironic, yet beautiful, how the “La Foret Escargot” was installed in the hottest summer that Paris has ever known. There have been multiple heat waves, days of 100+ degree weather, and even instances made by government officials to cool off in the fountains (even the famous Eiffel Tower ones) all due to climate change. Climate change is real and it is ridiculous that there are people in positions of power who truly ignore the research and data of scientists. Despite having signed the Paris Agreement in 2016 to pledge to lower emissions and pollution, while there have been significant strides, this summer is a testament to the fact that more must be done in this battle against climate change. The Paris Agreement is a great starting point for the directions that states should begin to take, however, the earth does not rely on such agreements nor does it wait for anyone. Action must be taken, and it must be taken now. While in the Jardin des Plantes, there were multiple stickers and floor artwork dedicated to environmentalist groups advocating for stricter measure to combat climate change. While nations such as the U.S. and the U.K. have digressed in their promises due to leading officials, France has not. The people of France have not allowed such an extreme issue to be left unhandled. Art installations such as these force those naysayers to truly reassess the situation and are even used as an education tool for children to learn about the effects of their daily lives in order to inspire them to reduce waste. This installation was supported and partly funded, as well as given the space, by the French government—despite whatever issue it may have going on, they are still one the leading progressive states and that is evident by the way the climate issue is being handled.


Located near the edge of the city and merged with a major train stations sits the Château-Landon station which was opened in November 1910. Its name traces its ties back to the times of kings and queens with it being named after a noble family, and it sits on the old Roman road that leads up to Saint Denis. This area is solely residential and is located on the outskirts of Paris which drastically changed the neighborhood itself. It was extremely quiet and many of the storefronts at the bottom were all small restaurants or places to buy groceries, many of which were closed at the time. This is stark contrast to any areas closer to Paris or even the Latin Quarter where there is always a steady flow of traffic and activity roaming on the streets. This quiet, homey area really shows the way that the residential lives differ based on where you live—there were more smaller children and families flocking to the smaller parks located along the canal even compared to the larger parks in Paris where there is a significant older population. Despite its quietness, this area was nice to remind me of the multiplexity of Paris—it is simply not always crowded areas and the ever going activities. Areas such as these are where those who we pass by on metro rides rushing to get to different places eventually retreat back into, these are the quiet places they often prefer to the commotion of Paris. It was a different change of speed and intensity that is often associated with Paris.

The Porte de la Villette

Opened in 1910 but serving as a Gallo-Roman village during the Roman empire, the roads along Porte de la Villette link modern day Paris to the ancient roads that led to Flanders and eventually Rome. Fashioned similarly to the area surrounding Pompidou, and itself, it is all fashioned in a very modern design with a lot of shared, common spaces, floating gardens, and various technological hubs. In the middle of the Parc de la Villette lies the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, opened in 1986; this museum focuses on all things science and technology, promoting science and its culture. It is the largest science museum in all of Europe and has several floors dedicated to many things such as a mini aquarium, a huge public library, and even a planetarium. This center and square alone could be considered its own mini city as it has almost all of the commodities needed all within the square. Its goal is to spread scientific discovery, exploration, and general technological knowledge amongst the public and the youth. In its massive library, it even has free classes and activities for everyone—with workshops focusing on areas of employment, health, and languages. Each workshop has different levels and different opportunities for those based on age, and they are all free to the public. It works in conjunction to the school, under the same name, to further conduct research, display it, and run the entire museum and all of its parts, creating a more hands on environment for all students. This structure alone represents the emphasis that France has placed on the sciences and education. The true birthplace for such strong ideas stem from the French Revolution and its complete abolishment of the monarchy and traces of the church and religion. By separating itself from the church, France and its leaders have then been able to build upon science and revolutionize it to develop new technologies and techniques. This scientific revolution has been able to launch new and improved cures for diseases, maintaining high yielding crops, and solve the issue of clean water and a sewage system for France. These were just a few of the immediate issues science had begun to solve for the country and as such has remained a pillar of its society for the many years after, it is still reflected today. This museum and research centers proves to the world that France, despite being the center for art and culture, can also take on the role of science and discovery.


This ancient, yet clean looking stop came as a surprise as it had been site of a former Roman village along the ancient Roman road that linked Lutetia to Lyon. It has served as a place of inspiration for numerous writers and artists that have created magnificent stories based on these streets, including Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Laying on the outskirts of the Latin Quarter, it is easy to see how the environment of this area remains lively and as a true testament to time. Tucked away in the corner is a large, gothic styled church, the Saint-Medard Church, that was ransacked in 1561 and as a result has been rebuilt immediately after with its interior being updated as far as 1647. This church had immaculate stained-glass windows that featured 3 female saints and only Saint Michel, something I found rather unusual considering that it is often the men saints or Joan of Ark who are normally celebrated in most historically relevant churches. Also, though it is still a lively area, it is not typical of the young, broke students that populate the heart of the Latin Quarter. This area, less chaotic and with more road space (remember larger for Romans), is a much more refined and expensive area, yet the park next to the church remains a favorite amongst the population’s children. However, the era of craftsmanship prevalent throughout France remains here with several butcher shops, brasseries, and cheese specialists. This area also has a massive basilica at the top of the hill that has been preserved very well from the ancient Roman times. This stop was able to mix in all very important and different time periods of French history all in one area: the Romans, the French Revolution, and the emerging political uproar and modernism.

All images are CC by 4.0.

Jessica Horsham: France As Text (2019)

Photo by Elaine Morales (CC by 4.0)

Jessica Ann Horsham is a currently studying international relations at Florida International University, and entering her senior year as an FIU Honors student. She is heavily interested in pursuing a career in law, with current aims to focus on human rights and injustices within the justice system. Though her career will eventually divulge her in tons of paperwork, Jessica loves to explore the outdoors, exercise, and be near the beach; traveling is one of her favorite things to do as she loves to emerge herself in different cultures and truly learn about what makes each place special.

She is currently completing the 2019 France Study Abroad as taught by John W. Bailly and these are her “France As Texts.”

Paris as Text

Photo by Jessica Horsham (CC by 4.0)

J’existe. I exist. By Jessica Horsham of FIU on the Champ de Mars on 3 July 2019.

Paris, France simply does not exist, one does not simply exist in Paris, France. Despite being the world’s third most visited city with over 17.4 million visitors each year, they never seem to truly be able to emerge themselves in its culture or connect with the people. People come to Paris to free themselves yet only get surrounded in the same guided paths as the other tourists around them. In a city rich with history and art from nearly 2000 years ago, people seem to step over it constantly. Everywhere in Paris tells its story of how it got here. One can travel from a university that was established in 1925, where some buildings are a tell-tale sign of its date and travel over a system that stretches more than 100 miles circling above and below the city to only ever land at the same three spots. Despite, the century of history in one pivotal square across from Louvre that held some of the most cathartic decisions to change the entire world or the now distinguished public green park that stretches for miles surrounding an iconic building, one cannot equate the tourist paths to nothing, as the stops along their general paths were unprecedented or found anywhere else in this world. However, many will lose themselves in this façade of Paris and simply drift though. This is not enough, it is not enough to simply exist in this city; Paris calls on you to engage with its people, the buildings, and its parks, it is all beautifully crafted to foster these interactions—bonjour does take you very far. Those who dare to be bold, adventurous, and different will only find that Paris offers plenty to those who are even willing to dip their toes in it. Shrouded in its vastness of beauty lies a city with dark secrets and a history ready to be uncovered.

Versailles as Text

Photo by Jessica Horsham (CC by 4.0)

A Letter to the People by Jessica Horsham of FIU in the Château de Versailles on 7 July 2019.

Fictionally written through the hands of the Sun King, Louis XIV of France.

To my evermore loyal subjects,

As we begin the trillion-dollar expenditure of the new royal home, there have been grievances expressed and some of you may be skeptical of the necessity of this palace. Allow your king as appointed by the one, true God, to ease your worries and suspicions; you are all allowed to speak with me one on one, following proper paperwork and approval, and are allowed to enter for multiple occasions. Thereby, this palace does not belong to one person nor one family, it belongs to France.

This palace is simply not a place for the nobles to indulge, Versailles will place France as a leading power in the world. This palace will attract foreign dignitaries from all over the world and I will be able to negotiate treaties on your behalf with all corners of the world to help place France in stability and prosperity. Versailles will intimidate and frighten our enemies, as it helps me to hold our nation together to remain the largest state in Europe throughout all of our time. For the next 400 years, Versailles will host over 10 million people each year and it will have attracted the most powerful people in the world, in addition to common folk who will admire France and look to it for inspiration. We must distinguish ourselves from our neighbors and Europe, it is time to truly create our own culture and identity; we must not continue to live in the shadows of Italy or England, the time for France is now and Versailles will be France.

Izieu as Text

Photo by Jessica Horsham (CC by 4.0)

Remember Their Names by Jessica Horsham of FIU at Maison d’Izieu on July 12, 2019.

Arnold Hirsch, 18.

Tucked in behind the trees that envelope the refuge, like blankets protecting a child from the night’s monsters and cold air, the Maison D’Izieu welcomed dozens of children escaping the persecution and camps of the Nazis and the Vichy collaboration.

Theo Reiss, 17.

The orphanage first opened in April 1943 to provide children made orphans by the Holocaust or those whose lives were threatened, a safe place to escape from France to safe nations such as Switzerland or with the hope of being placed with a family who would be able to hide them.

Marcel Bulka, 14.

The orphanage had taken great care to establish itself as legitimate and went through the proper documentation and paperwork, prior to its opening. It was approved by the necessary government officials from the region.

Maurice Gerenstein, 14.

This refuge had taken in children from all over Europe who were escaping persecution, from Russia to France to Poland to even Austria; this home was simply for all children facing persecution or deportation.

Henri Goldberg, 14.

As testified by the children themselves in letters written to their families, each other, or their caretakers, this home was a place for them to grow and experience the childhood that they rightfully deserved.

Max Teitelbaum, 13.

While the children were not oblivious to the horrors occurring outside of their little village, for the time that they each spent there, they allowed themselves to embrace the feelings of happiness and safety. 

Otto Vertheimer, 13.

They attended school, celebrated Christmas, as not all children were practicing Jews, participated in their own plays, made up their own stories, rode bicycles, and simply played outside.

Jacques Benguigui, 13.

The children were free here, they were safe. They had fresh water and food supplied by the surrounding village, they were protected. While Sabine Zlatin would venture to find new routes and connections to relocate the children with guaranteed safety until the war was over, the camps were closed, and the killing of innocents had ended.

Raoul Bentitou, 13.

Many of the children also attended local schools in the village and everyone was aware of their presence, this was a legal orphanage in all of its means.

Max Balsam, 13.

On June 22, 1941, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, beginning the war on both fronts. 

Esther Benassayag, 13.

On September 3, 1943, Italy’s surrender to the Allied armies was announced.

Joseph Goldberg, 12.

On October 13, 1943, Italy declared war on Germany.

Mina Aronowicz, 12.

The Germans then reclaimed this “free” area of Italy and began to viciously hunt down all Jews throughout the province.

Jacqueline Luzgard, 12.

News of the raids began spreading and many of the orphanages began to relocate and move children out as soon as possible.

Paulette Mermelstein, 12.

Sabine Zlatin began to explore different routes to smuggle the children away into hiding and safety— she began her last exploratory route on April 3, 1944.

Suzanne Szulzklapper, 12.

The end of the war was near, soldiers were tired, the resistance continued to rise exponentially, and the Allies were closing in on the Germans.

Claude Reifmann-Levan, 11.

The Germans knew that they would not win.

Armand Teitelbaum, 11.

On April 6, 1944, only two months before D-Day, Klaus Barbie gave the order to arrest all of the people and children at Izieu.

Jean Ament, 11.

A convoy of Nazi troops arrived in the afternoon and detained all 44 children and seven of their caretakers were arrested and sent to Montluc.

Edmond Gamiel, 11.

Only one caretaker, Lea Feldblum, 27, survived.

Isidore Kargeman, 11.

42 of the children were sent to Auschwitz where they were murdered in the gas chambers.

Elie Benassayag, 11.

Arnold, Theo, and Miron were sent to a labor camp in Estonia where they were shot to death soon after.

Jean Balsam, 11.

Sabine soon heard of what had occurred and upon arrival discovered her worst nightmare, the entire little village was abandoned.

Marthe Spiegel, 11.

These children were not resistance fighters. They were not soldiers; they were not fighting in the war on either side. Most were not even practicing Jews; they were only children.

Liliane Gerenstein, 11.

They believed that they were safe, they should have made it out alive. Liliane wrote a moving letter to God asking to bring back her parents, to protect them. She places their safety and their lives above her own; this is the innocence and purity that was within each of these children.

Jacob Benassayag, 10.

Their innocence, their rights to live, the right to their childhood was viciously and maliciously robbed from them.

Charles Weltner, 10.

In heartfelt messages to one another and to their caretakers, they express eternal gratefulness for their current state of happiness. They acknowledge that though they may not have much, they are content and full of life.

Gilles Sadovski, 9.

They wish one another happy birthday, profess the sweetest wishes for one another, there is not a trace of maliciousness in any one of them nor was it ever portrayed to any other person.

Max Leiner, 9.

They deserved to live, they deserved to have a full life.

Georges Halperm, 9.

How can the same God I have known all my life allow such a tragedy to occur?

Renathe Krochmal, 9.

A God who is just, fair, and righteous— one who “rewards the good and punish the evil.” How did He allow this to happen?

Mina Halaubrenner, 9.

How did He allow for an extra three children that day to arrive to their ultimate slaughter?

Santa Spiegel, 9.

Despite all of the glory He has bestowed upon us, this crime is of no contest.

Zygmund Springer, 8.

April 6, 1944, left many parents orphaned— alone in a world without their only children.

Richard Benguigui, 8.

Those left behind were then shoved into corners and silenced for years despite the screams of Sabine and those who aided the orphanage.

Marcel Mermelstein, 8.

How cruel is it that the ones that are supposed to be protected and saved above all else were the ones targeted by such hatred?

Samuel Adelsheimer, 7.

The names of the children were forgotten, only to be remembered by those whose families had survived, and by Sabine.

Liane Krochmal, 7.

However, during Klaus Barbie’s trials, in 1987, the children were an essential focus.

Emile Zuckerber, 6.

This heinous act was part of the tragedies that finally condemned Barbie and created the statute of crimes against humanity.

Jean Claude Benguigui, 6.

This proved that the actions taken by Klaus Barbie and those soldiers under him were solely for the sake of being at war.

Albert Bulka, 5.

This was a deliberate, vindictive attack targeted to erase a whole group of people.

Lucienne Friedler, 5.

A five year old could not have aided the resistance, fought in a war.

Claudine Halaubrenner, 5.

It was because of these 44 children that Klaus Barbie was finally convicted. Many of their parents devoted their lives to searching for him after the war. He was the one who gave the order to arrest and deport the children, the hearts of society.

Fritz Loebmann, 15.

The Nazis were all too close to success in erasing the humanity, the identity, and the presence of the Jewish people. Fritz is a testament to that. His name on the plaque, commemorating the children and adults that were stripped from the home and ultimately were murdered, was added much later. In all of the commotion, he had not been recorded as being present as he was not supposed to be at the home at that time. They had only discovered his presence much later.

Moise Reifmann, 64.

Hova Reifmann, 60.

Suzanne Reifmann, 38.

Lucie Feiger, 50.

Marie Friedler, 36.

Miron Zlatin, 40.

That was the legacy that the Nazis had strived to attain: no recollection of these innocent lives. They did not succeed, as such, it is our duty and our responsibility to carry the names of those who suffered from Izieu.

Lyon as Text

Photo by Victoria Atencio (CC by 4.0)

B-3692, Claude Bloch by Jessica Horsham in Lyon, France on July 10, 2019.

Monsieur Bloch: survivor, father, husband, gentleman, son, grandson, grandfather, inspiration, B-3692.

Upon seeing him for the first time, our hearts collectively ached for this gentle old man who was in such great shape that he was passing us on the stairs. Despite his great physical condition, this was not always the case for Bloch as we would soon come to find out.  has one of the most moving stories—he is a Holocaust survivor. Claude Bloch was only fifteen when he was arrested alongside his grandfather and mother in France, within the first few minutes of being held in the Gestapo headquarters, his grandfather was killed. The Nazis main mission was to exterminate this group of people, one Bloch never really was as neither he nor his family were practicing Jews, to erase all Jews from the Earth and from history. B-3692 was their first way of doing so, by giving them this number, as Bloch said, you exit the realm of humanity; without your humanity, what’s left of you? They treated them as if they were not people and, in these camps, the only true way to resist was to survive, to keep fighting every day for your breath—even at 100 pounds, Monsieur Bloch never gave this fight up. Throughout this time, Claude Bloch also lost his mother, who up until their last interaction was always protecting him, shoving him in the right direction even if he did not know what it meant at times. Despite surviving Auschwitz, Monsieur Bloch was thrown back into society with little to no help from the French people nor the government. Thankfully, he was reunited with his grandmother in the same home he had lived in, yet it was a lot emptier than what he had remembered. Though he was one of the few lucky enough to grow up and out of this era, find love, and start a family, the repercussions of his experiences followed him all throughout his life. Despite being urged to speak his testimony of his time, Bloch was silenced and forced to continue his life as if his deportation had been a vacation or trip away. He was initially refused reentry to the school he was wrongfully torn from, there was no one to help him through the relentless and repeating nightmares, no one had wanted to hear or know about any of his experiences. Unlike many of the survivors, Bloch did not attempt to move away, instead choosing to stay in Lyon even after his beloved grandmother had passed. Bloch had no option but to stay and work, move on with his life, as if these great crimes against humanity had never entirely touched him or been carried out directly against him. He was forced to continue onward. During my time with Bloch, it was ridiculous to imagine how he was silenced and forced to battle his demons alone, his tattoo never fading just like the scars on his heart from his losses and all that he witnessed during camp. At 15 or 16, you are not thinking about whether or not you are going to be called to your execution nor should you be, however, Bloch experienced this a handful of times—each list, each name casting more anxiety than the last. Justice for Bloch had not been served until decades later and Bloch acknowledged that his nightmares followed as well. How is it that even after all he has been through and seen throughout all of his life that he is yet again worried for the state of our future, that he is not optimistic about it? A man who should not have survived in those conditions, where everything was against him, yet he overcame, is not optimistic about our future. After liberation and generations of peace, love, and family, he is truly fearful for the future, how can this be? The current state of the world politics, oppression, racism, and segregation has succeeded into mimicking that of the past as Monsieur Bloch expressed. These conditions have only fostered great tragedies to occur and if we cannot learn from the past mistakes of our parents and their parents and those in our past, we will only arrive at the same inevitable destination. To resist is not enough to abstain from, that is not the only option nor is it the right one. The state of nonactive voters and those who simply choose not to participate in politics is no longer acceptable, this is how those who stood with the Nazis were able to gain power and silence others, silence is not resistance. We must use our voices and stay vigilant and loud, otherwise, we will have once again failed Claude Bloch and the other 6 million people who died because people remained silent.

Normandy as Text

Photo (1) by Jessica Horsham (CC by 4.0) & Photo (2) by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC by 4.0)

Ordinary Heroes by Jessica Horsham in the Normandy American Cemetery on July 23, 2019.

Colonel Ollie W. Reed and Lieutenant Ollie W. Reed Jr. are the only father-son couple to be laid to rest in this cemetery today and more importantly, Ollie Jr, otherwise known as Bud, was first to pass. These two are a true testament to the fact that ordinary people have the potential to live extraordinary lives, whether their time span on this earth was short or long, they made sure to leave their marks beyond the grave. Ollie Reed was born in Norton, Kansas on July 18, 1896; coming from humble beginnings, his father worked multiple jobs to keep the family stable and they lived on a peaceful ranch. Ollie and his childhood sweetheart, Mildred, met as young children who aspired to help their communities, country, and travel the world rather than fame and fortune. From he was only 16, Ollie made his impression as a kind, gentle man—always aiming to do the best for others with what he had. Naturally, Ollie excelled in physical sports and was a star football player, however, without any future in that career, he began exploring other opportunities. He was offered admission to West Point Military Academy, however, he refused admittance for Mildred, his soon to be wife. He knew that life as an army wife was extremely difficult and he did not wish to have her enter that life. While at Kansas State Agricultural College, the call to serve and help others continued to sing through his heart and he joined the ROTC and quickly advanced as a lieutenant, earning his company the best shooting percentage in only his second year—this was to be  a repeated occurrence in his life: promotions and records. He was soon entered into the Kansas National Guard and was deployed during the Mexican-American War, he quickly rose amongst the ranks and returned as a lieutenant. Despite his push against it initially, Ollie loved being a soldier and what it stood for and soon joined the First Officers’ Training Camp. Ollie was then sent around to multiple camps with his wife Mildred and on January 15, 1919, Ollie W. Reed, Jr., or Buddy, was born in Manchester Connecticut. After reassignment to yet another camp, Ollie, at Camp Dix in New Jersey, was deeply disheartened by the fact that he had not been fighting alongside the many injured soldiers he lived beside and returned home; many of whom he knew from other camps, schools, and trainings. Within two months, Ollie sailed to Germany as part of the army occupation following the war, Bud and Mildred were granted permission to follow in March of 1920. During their time living there, as Buddy grew into a toddler, he easily picked up the German language and was able to communicate with those in their occupied house. Buddy was incredibly smart and already began to follow in his father’s footsteps. After the 1918 armistice, many soldiers were fired or able to return home, Ollie remained and continued upwards. Upon returning from Germany the family was relocated once again and soon Mildred and Ollie welcomed their second boy into the world, Theodore Reed. Buddy and Ted were extremely close yet, also opposites; whereas Bud was phenomenal at football, Ted enjoyed horses and animals. Ollie then moved on to become a professor and instructor and Drexel Institute wherein he restructured their military program and helped it to achieve (and maintain their current scores), he was extremely stern with his students but truly cared for each of them—something he would always carry with him, they secretly called him “Uncle Ollie” behind his back. One thing that Ollie was extremely adamant about was communication—he said that once this breaks down, the attack will breakdown. Life on the road was a bit tough for Buddy as he tended to be rather shy and soon began to struggle socially as well as academically. At the prestigious Wentworth school, where his father taught, he struggled with the rigorous daily routine of being a transfer as well as an underclassmen, however, as Ollie knew as well, this was a direct path to West Point, the goal for both of them. Just like his father, Buddy was an amazing football player, which really helped him ease into his life at Wentworth. Upon getting accepted to West Point, Buddy eventually failed out after his first year, but dedicated that summer and year after to improving his math and French grades. However, similarly to his father, Buddy was driven to help people in the best way he knew how after watching his father do it all of his life. Upon graduation from West Point in 1942, Buddy married Laura Sloaman and had a baby boy Ollie III on January 28, 1944. By March 8, 1944, Bud received his deployment papers. Buddy knew that he was not going to make it home, he told his mother this. He did not know entirely where he was soon heading and was lucky enough to spend a few more moments with his family and the 91st Division before his final deployment. Ollie had longed to join the fight for freedom and see those who he trained and fought side by side survive and under him—he requested an overseas assignment, soon enough this was granted, and he was sent to London on May 19, 1944. Ollie was immediately driven to his new and last assignment as the commanding officer of the 175th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Division. In Italy on July 5, 1944, Buddy and his Company F, under the 363rd Infantry Regiment were overwhelmed with harsh artillery and Lieutenant Reed ordered his men to take cover, unfortunately some took this as an order to run. As he was diving to help his panicked men to cover, he was shot in the neck and killed instantly. He, along with 5 others were reported as missing in action as they lay lifeless under whatever could be thrown over them to preserve their bodies. In France, once crossing the Channel Colonel Reed was instructed to lead his men to the critical crossroads of Saint Lo. As his men pushed forward, they were met with even more intense artillery that caused them to be pushed back or gain only a few yards and even break communication, his number one rule. Under his Captain Gerhardt, this operation cost more lives than those that were lost at Omaha. The 29th Infantry were outgunned and outpowered.

The Reed family embodies an entire generation wherein families were torn apart, children died before parents, and the world was left with a missing generation. On July 30th, troops, including Reed, arrived at Saint Lo. Of this total 11,000 casualties, 3, 706 of these were from the 29th Division.  However, communications were still knocked out along the front lines and he ordered Reed to inspect the line and get back. He was then mortally wounded by a German shell as they came under fire. Colonel Reed died on July 30th, he was the highest ranking officer of the 29th to die in action. America was stunned when the remaining Reeds, Mildred and Laura, received two telegrams within the span of 45 minutes indicating both deaths. Ollie W. Reed was 48, Ollie W. “Buddy” Reed Jr. was 25.

America reacted crazily to the deaths of the father and son who had died on the European battlefields. However, their story embodies this generation and time perfectly. Men as young as 18 years old plunged into the darkness of war, not all of them would make it out, and just like Bud, they knew this. Families knew this. It is not common for a child to die before a parent, yet this generation is defined by such painful losses. The perfect nuclear, beloved, and “American-grown” family was suddenly shattered, just like the Reeds. These families were able to reunite because of the sacrifices made by men and women such as the Reed men. It is only a shame that the way Bud and Ollie had come to reunite was right next to each other on their deathbeds. However, it is also a shame that Bud’s death engraving is inaccurate as well as the misinformation that has been found online and through articles. These men did not give up their all nor did Mildred experience their deaths daily as she gathered letters and documents to record themselves for such mistakes to occur. These men deserved better than these mistakes, these men were remarkable and should be remembered not just for their bravery or sacrifice but also for that gentle, kind Reed heart that was unique to both men. Bud’s story resembled that of a multitude of lost servicemen, left in the fields, with no records of where they were or most times who they were. In addition to this, it is remarkable how men with so little were willing to risk it all for freedom and for their country; it not longer mattered your religion or race, all that mattered were the people next to you and all those who you had never met but were your brother and sisters that you needed to defend. I found it difficult to not only write this but also to read this out loud, not because of a lack of information nor the nerves, I struggled because how does one humanize people who were real life heroes, larger than life? This was something Bud struggled with as well. Colonel Reed did not have to enter the war, he was well past his age and very respected, he could have avoided it all. But he did not, he requested it because he knew what it meant. Colonel Reed could have avoided the front lines, sent another in his place to relay the information, but he knew the importance of communication, of information, so he went out there on the front lines, and died for that, alongside his men, the same people he had been worried about all his life. That is beyond bravery and courage and all of the attributes we give to heroes. Their sacrifice and their support and defense of ordinary people of men and women like me, gives me hope. Though my sacrifice will not be as great or courageous as these two men, I too aspire to help my nation in the best way that I can—through reform, through the legal system, through justice, for equality, and for freedom. These same ideals that led countless men into war are the same ideals that motivate me to continue forward. That fervor or call to give your all to people is one that I too hear as it echoes over the decades. However, no greater sacrifice can be served in comparison to Bud and Ollie. They never stopped fighting for us, for the future.

Pere Lachaise as Text

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC by 4.0)

A Child Prodigy by Jessica Horsham in Père Lachaise Cemetery on July 26, 2019.

The muse of all music, Euterpe, wept when Frederic Francois Chopin died on October 17, 1849, the world of music was forever changed and broken by his absence. Surrounded by a bed of flowers lies Chopin’s grave, he carried the Romantic period of music on his frail shoulders with dignity and grace. Though his body lies in Paris, wherein he made most of his most famous pieces and reinvented the entire romantic period, his heart lies in Warsaw, Poland where he was born on March 1, 1810. His mother introduced him to music and by the age of 6, young Chopin was training under Wojciech Zywny, soon surpassing him in technique and creativity. At the age 7, it was clear that Chopin was a musical genius, he had already begun composing and producing music. Chopin was the first to specifically orient all of his pieces around his beloved piano, any compositions that included other instruments all centered around the piano. As the only boy of 3 girls, a lot of the pressure rested on Chopin to establish the family name and create a legacy, one that he surely surpassed. After a short stint in Vienna, Chopin moved to Paris, where he would make his home. In Paris, he befriended incredible artists of all sorts—from Eugiene Delacroix, Franz Liszt, and Vincenzo Bellini, all established French elite artists.

What separated Chopin from other composers and artists at the same was his ability to create a story in his compositions and utilize the free-flowing form and design of music in a way no one had seen before. Chopin, an extremely sensitive, introverted man, found his release and outlet through music and his compositions; all of his pieces are extremely emotional and personal to his life. Some of his most dramatic, brilliant works are inspired by his relationship with the writer, George Sand. Originally, there was some confusion on the gender of his lover because of the name; however, Sand was a woman that preferred to write under a man’s name so that people would not criticize her work because of her gender. She also would dress in men’s clothing simply because it was more comfortable. Chopin, while small in stature had always been attracted to people with larger than life personalities such as Sand and many of those in his inner circles. He was extremely critical of himself and many described him as sad, with Sand describing themselves as the “rich girl and a sickly prince” right before their breakup.

Despite having continuous issues with his health after contracting tuberculosis in the 1840s, he was committed to his compositions. In fact, it was during this time that he produced some of his most famous pieces such as the Ballades and Opp, 48-67. The Ballade is a genre that refers to the style of a literary ballad or poem using a one movement instrument, such as the piano, was one that Chopin invented. During his life, many of his “friends” attempted to replicate his works; Franz Liszt, one of France’s most esteemed composers once performed a piece that Chopin had composed, yet he added a ton of additions to make it “prettier.” Chopin was reportedly outraged – and rightfully so – being quoted with saying that piece can only be played the way it was meant to be or not at all. Chopin’s music and compositions will be marked in history forever, his complexity and creativity has changed the landscape of music and it will never be the same.

Despite Chopin being a household name in music, it is the pressure placed upon a child to succeed that has registered with me the most. As the only male child of a family of 3 girls, having parents who had worked extremely hard, the child prodigy carried the weight of establishing his family name almost entirely on his own. Despite his older sister and mother being involved with music, it was clear from early on that neither of them could compare to Chopin. Therefore, it all rested on him. While my family has never outright placed this weight upon my shoulders, my siblings and I have always been raised with that mentality. A goal to not only do the best that we can do, but also be the best at what we do; whether that be to achieve the best grades or to place first in competitions, it was always the same. This weight can be especially hard for a child to carry and is perhaps why Chopin preferred to keep to himself, choosing to let out his true feelings through his music. Though I am more of an extroverted person, I hold my feelings close to me and am not to discuss the stress or any pressures I am feeling. Part of those stresses is to succeed and do well for my family, both of my parents are extremely handworkers, like Chopin’s, yet they do expect more from me. At times I have struggled with the weight of this, school has not always been the easiest and though I know my family wants the best for me, it has been a point of frustration. As I am sure it too was for Chopin who, despite not wanting to perform live, continued to do so at a young age because it was what his parents wanted. Chopin, seemingly learned to overcome this struggle once he moved away and into the freedom of Paris. The struggle to be different and to distinguish himself from those around him, such as Mozart and other child prodigies at the time. To reinvent something, leave an impact, do something meaningful and new that hadn’t been done before so that he would not fade away into the shadows of the greats; to establish oneself amongst the greats is something we all aspire to do. Due to the technological revolution and the rapid, free flow of information, despite having it all on our fingertips, it is harder to stand out and establish something different in these times. These insecurities haunted Chopin throughout his life, rather than succumb to it or spew hate as many do when insecure about themselves, he created his outlet and fit it so that it was specific and personal to him. Similar to Chopin, this study abroad has been more than just a vacation or a class away from home, it has been transformative and freeing experience, and for that I thank you Paris, as the many greats that have found their home here have done before me.

Equality in Death: The Life of Joseph-Ignace Guillotine

CC 4.0 by unknown, Musee Carnavalet

Joseph-Ignace Guillotin was born on March 28, 1738 in Saintes, located in southern France– he was an aries. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin always excelled within his studies in Reims, France; he was interested in the arts and for a brief period of time, he became literature professor at the University of Bordeaux. Despite his success, Guillotin left for Paris and soon became an established physician, one of the best in the city. He was instrumental in the beginnings of the French Revolution as a chosen representative in the Estates General. One of the more outspoken members, Guillotin advocated for an equal representation of all of the classes and more non-nobility citizens in the Estates General, one of its undeniable flaws. He even supported women’s rights to be represented amongst the Estates General, something very uncommon during this time. Dr. Guillotin was a very outspoken and intelligent man. In a culture where almost everything is predetermined based on your social status and there is not much freedom to use other skills in a professional field, a literature major and professor moved forward towards an intricate field: medicine. Even in today’s “progressive” society, this is not common in France nor is it often even imagined by those lucky enough to continue their education, yet Dr. Guillotin accomplished this feat and much more. Not only did he then become an established doctor, but he also never gave up his literature background; by using his foundations as a scholar and writer, he became an active politician fighting for human rights- something that once was the core value of the Revolution, but became twisted along the way.

Despite his infamous killing machine, the guillotine, Joseph-Ignace Guillotin was a capital punishment abolitionist; he was staunchly against any practices revolving around executions. He believed that all of the current killings were unnecessarily cruel and was simply sorted based on your class in society. Whenever people of the lower, working classes were sentenced to death, they would often be: hung, which could take hours if improperly executed, quartered, painfully ripped apart by horses running in different directions, or even sentenced to the breaking wheel, where one’s bones would be broken and then bludgeoned or stoned to death. Wealthier or upper classes, would be privileged with the opportunity to be beheaded, however, this too had many issues. Each family or individual would have to hire their own executioner, with some being swifter and “better” than others. Otherwise, those families on the lower tier of the upper class would often risk hiring executioners who may have dull blades or simply would not complete the job in one swing; nonetheless, it always depended upon how much money you were willing to spend, even on your death bed.

These injustices, along with his personal experience as a doctor, pushed Guillotin to advocate against the death penalty, often writing many pamphlets criticizing against it. However, as time elapsed and the gruesome executions continued to occur, Guillotin realized that he should switch his focus to solving the most immediate concern: the way in which people are being tortured to death. This concern is what led him to propose to the National Assembly a law that would make the guillotine the official instrument of capital punishment, until its abolition in 1981. He oversaw the development of the first prototype and advocated for its use within the Assembly, that led to its successful use. Many critique Dr. Guillotin for the contradictions between his actions and his morals, and label him as a hypocrite for going against one of his fundamental beliefs against capital punishment. However, I fully disagree with these critiques of his character. Rather than being a hypocrite, Dr. Guillotin was an actor of change. The only reason why he chose to oversee the development of this machine was because he recognized that at this specific point in time, despite all of his efforts, he was not going to be able to prevent death nor would he be able to prevent capital punishment. Injustices were still occurring based on social class, people were still being tortured to death so he needed to make a decision, a change. He was an intelligent person and considering the political and societal environment at the time, this was the only solution to prevent unnecessarily cruel deaths.

CC 4.0 by the New Yorker, 2009

After its invention, the guillotine soon became the favorite object of the National Assembly and its successors soon after. During its height in the Reign of Terror under Maximilien Robespierre, between 1793-1794, almost 2,600 people had been sentenced to execution. By 1799, it was an upwards count of over 15,000 who had been beheaded. The guillotine did not discriminate between class, as was Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin’s main purpose, it claimed the lives of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette as well as common thieves and those who were “against the state.” Also, during Nazi Germany, Hitler was reported for using the guillotine and killed around 16,500 people by decapitation.

CC by 4.0, Georg Heinrich Sieveking 1793

Despite this widely used machine, Dr. Guillotin did not want to be associated with it nor did he ever wish for his name to be used in connection with the machine because, as previously mentioned, he was a staunch capital punishment abolitionist. Moreover, he only aimed to invent this device to provide equality in death for all French citizens; he did not believe that they should be subjected to cruel and unnecessarily violent deaths. The guillotine was never intended to be such a public nor entertaining event. He wished that it would take place in a private center, however, he was horrified by the increasing fanfare and bloodlust for dire entertainment amongst his fellow citizens. It is easy to see why he and his family petitioned the French government to change the name of the machine; after they were rejected, they decided to change their family name altogether.

CC 4.0 by Gunnar Kaestle

Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin was an active advocate for human rights in France and was one of the leaders in advocating for structural change. In his Petition of the Citizens Living in Paris, this pamphlet argued for the humane and egalitarian executions as well as an equal representation within the Estates-General for all citizens. Once elected as a representative within the National Assembly, he was able to pass a law that required all sentences of death to be carried out by his machine. During a follow up speech in 1789 defending his machine, he has been quoted as saying, “Now with my machine I take off your head in the twinkling of an eye, and you never feel it.” Many critics soon shamed his words and ridiculed him and his speech in various periodicals, nonetheless, he stayed dedicated to getting his plan approved and passed into law.

CC 4.0 by Welcome Collection

Joseph-Ignace Guillotin struggled with the legality of the death penalty. While morally he knew that he could not stand behind or support capital punishment, within his government, he struggled to defend against it. This same fight is one that is held all over the world in the current international system. As of 2017, there are about 142 countries around the world that have abolished the death penalty and many more that have not used it within the past 10 years or allow the penalty in extraneous circumstances. Nonetheless, in the United States, the death penalty is legal in 30 states, including Florida. As a prospective criminal attorney with hopes of living and working within Florida, this same battle is a reality that I may face. Whether I will be on the prosecution or the defense is still a mystery, however, I will be faced with the same dilemma: how does one justify capital punishment? This is something that I have and will continue to struggle with as I move throughout my law career. Thankfully, in part to Dr. Guillotin, society does not have to face the torturous deaths that were rampant during these times. However, despite the newfound “equality in death,” the death penalty is still an extreme and permanent punishment. Death cases do carry a heavy toll on one’s heart because an actual life is on the line, whether or not you are on opposing sides of the bench, the fate of an entire person’s life rests in your hands. While I am against the death penalty, as I do not feel it is within mankind’s authority to end a person’s life, because the method is egalitarian and not painful, it does make the extreme decision to do so a lighter burden to many. Nevertheless, the law does not entirely reflect nor does it care about “feelings.” It also would be wrong to deny that in extreme cases, the thought of capital punishment would be so heinous; for example, it would seem almost crazy that people would be against Ted Bundy getting the death penalty. But still, should humans be the ones to decide on life and when to end it? This is still something that I struggle with and will continue to do so throughout my entire career. Nonetheless, these discussions should occur within our society and should reflect the beliefs of all of the citizens. Dr. Guillotin’s arguments have helped to propel the fight to abolish capital punishment all over the world.

Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin lived a life dedicated to trying to achieve equal rights for all people, regardless of social or economic class. Though his machine helped to define a Reign of Terror, he did not advocate for any of the senseless killings to occur. As a proponent for equality under the law as well as equal representation, he has helped to shape our society today. Though creating this machine had made it easier to execute people by justifying the lack of pain, he also did create an egalitarian way for all to be executed and put an end to a torturous death that was common to the previous eras. His writings have been used to help abolish capital punishment in France and all over the world, while it has also served to ensure that those states that continue to practice capital punishment do so in a way that does not discriminate against anyone and is as painless as possible. He truly changed the landscape and redefined what it meant to have equality in death.

Madame Guillotine, The Scarlet Pimpernel Broadway Musical


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