Over Under Paris by Sheyla Rodriguez



Just like me, many people that have had the opportunity to travel to cities around the US, but not outside the continent , tend to romanticized this idea of perfection of the transportation system in the US. In my case, I have always known that there are faults in the way people move around from place to place, from city to city. Those who have cars spend hours stuck in traffic, while those who depend on public transportation are experiencing the inefficacy of a transportation system that clearly is urging for some changes. I remember back in the Spring Semester professor Bailly informing us that our ‘’Metro Card’’ was going to be our ‘’best-friend’’during the month we will spend abroad. Not having a clear vision of the way this was going to work, I didn’t pay too much attention to it. I thought to myself, ‘’This metro is probably going the be like the one I took when I visited  Boston and Washington.’’ However, it took me just a day in Paris to understand Professor Bailly’s words and to realize why so many people consider France’s metro system to be one of the best in the world.

Métro de Paris

The Métro de Paris opened its doors for the first time on July 19th 1900. It is composed of 14 major lines that account for more than 300 different stations. The Métro de Paris is ranked as one of the busiest metro system in Europe, transporting 4.5 millions passengers a day. In addition, it serves three of the largest stations in the world including Châtelet – Les Halles.  Many of the train stations are located underground. Unfortunately, due to the time when these stations were built, disabled people have a hard time accessing the metro lines nowadays.

Purpose of the Project and how it was accomplished

The purpose of this project was to dig deep into what makes Paris unique. To accomplish this goal Ligne 2 of the metro system: Porte Dauphine ↔ Nation was selected and as I explored Paris under and over, data of the people, neighborhoods, government, culture, and history of France from each of the stations was collected. A combination of intense research and observations are portrayed along this project.

Ligne 2 History

Ligne 2 of the Metro runs from Porte Dauphine to  Nation. When it first opened in December 1900 its configuration was different. It was not until April 1903 that it changed to the current route it provides nowadays. It is 7.7 miles long and the seventh busiest one. In 2010, it provided transport to 92,100,000 individuals.


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Station: Anvers

History: This underground station opened its doors for the first time on October 21st1902 as a continuation of line 2 from Étoile. It was given this name after the Place d’ Anvers and the city of Antwerp. This station does not  have connections with other metro lines.

Observations:One of the busiest stations of the line. Many people getting in and out of the train. Little tables of people selling candy, books, and water are seen right away when people exit the metro station. Around the area, there are several Parisian souvenirs stores. French is not the only language being spoken in the area.  Many people were speaking English, Spanish and even languages I could not understand. The diversity of race and ethnicities found within this area of the train station could be due to the fact that this a tourist area that many people, regarding their religion, come visit to see the Basilica of the La Sacre- Coeur. This Roman Catholic Church not only celebrates religion, but politics as well. Tourists around the world come and enjoy not only the architecture of the Basilica but the amazing views from the top of the hill. This area is also a place filled with art history. At the end of the 19th centuries many artist such as Pissarro, Picasso, Monet and between others lived in studios nearby. It is the place where cubism, the famous movement of art, was born. Many people of my demographic were walking around and sitting in parks, demonstrating that this is a town of mixed people. Regarding an analysis I made of the people I saw and interacted with that day, I thought that a cool name to summarize it could be “The international Barrio” because of the mixed of people from different countries that I encountered there

Places/Things that caught my attention:

-Basilica of the La Sacre- Coeur: This Roman Catholic Church was designed by Paul Abadie. It’s construction started in 1875 but it was finished in 1914. It was not only built for religious purposes, but for political reasons as well. Nowadays,  It is one of the monuments most visited in Paris. The style that predominates in the design of the Basilica is Neo-Romano-Byzantine. The high ceilings and a mosaic depicting Christ is one of the details that caught the attention of people the most.

-Place du Tertre: This is the place where the artists from the village come and express their art. You see many tourists walking around the little boutiques, buying portraits, books, and artwork. This place is a real representation of what Parisian streets look like, narrow streets with many caffes and restaurants around.

-The Wall of Love: a 40 square meters wall in the Jean Rictus garden square created by Frederic Baron in 2000. It includes the phrase ‘’I love you’’ in 250 languages. Frédéric stated that the wall was a way to support one of the most beautiful feelings that humans can ever experience. This place attracts hundreds of young people, who accompanied by their loved ones, take pictures with this giant mural. This is not an actual fact, but more my personal opinion. I think that this wall also symbolizes unity. It doesn’t matter where we come from or the language we speak because at the end of the day, they all signify the same. It could also serve as a way to spread awareness in the violent word we are leaving in.

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Station: La Chapelle

History: This metro extension opened its doors for the first time on January 31st1903 as a continuation of line 2 from Anvers to Alexandre Dumas. It is not the typical underground station. People get out to a high- open bridge. The name of the station comes from the Place de la Chapelle, (after Barriere de la Chapelle), a gate that was constructed for the collection of taxes as part of the Wall of the Farmers- general. This station has connections with metro line 4 and 5 as well as with the RER.

Observations: Not many people getting in and out of the train in this station. The area is not as modern and it seems to be a low income neighborhood. The buildings, the parks, and the streets are not very clean. One of the areas with highest number of homeless in parks and streets.   As you get out of the train, little business are seen all around the streets. The prices are reasonable and it is important to highlight that the street food is not expensive in comparison to other areas in Paris.  As I moved around, the race and ethnicity of the place caught my  attention. There were many Indian people walking around. It was easy to distinguish since  the way they were dressed was very characteristic of their culture. Research done afterwards confirmed that this place is well known for its activities and colors  that depicts the culture of Sri Lanka and South India. Back in the 1980s, many ethnic Tamils fled the violent civil wars in Sri Lanka and came to France for refugee. Nowadays, over 100,000 Sri Lankan Tamils live in France and the majority are concentrated in Paris; being the reason why, specifically in this neighborhood, the Tamil language could be found in every corner (from people speaking it or in propaganda in the streets). Without a doubt, this area has a different touch when it comes to ethnicities and culture. As I moved through the area, I felt that I wasn’t in France anymore, I was traveling in my mind to a whole new world. I felt  the same feeling I have every time I go to ‘’La Pequena Habana’’ and I’m being transported to my roots, to ‘’Mi Cuba Bella’’.

Places/things  that caught my attention:

-Little market shops: authentic Sri Lankan and Indian food can be found easily in these stores. Spices such as  curry is one of the most demanded in the area.

-Indian Clothing shops: in these stores people are able to find cotton clothes and jewelry that are a true depiction of the Indian culture.

-Chapelle Notre Dame des Malades: a small Catholic Church with a magnificent architecture. Big windows and high ceilings are one of the unique patterns that make the church unique.

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Station: Stalingrad

History: This station was originally called Rue d’Aubervilles. It opened its door for the first time ever on January 31st1903. Several alterations were made to the line, but in 1946 the station name was changed to ‘’Stalingrad’’ after the Soviet victory at the battle of Stalingrad in WWII. This station has a connection with metro line 5 and 7.

Observations: the design of this metro station  is similar to La Chapelle. It is not the typical underground exit that most individuals are used to see. People get off in a high-open bridge that somehow connects them to metro lines 5 ,7 or to the streets.  One of the things I noticed was the lack of tourists attractions. This might be the reason why there is not much diversity in ethnicity around the area. The majority of the people I observed were locals having picnics, riding bikes and exercising. As I moved far out of the station, I noticed that the number of young people started to increased. Many of them were just sitting in small cafes and bars facing the streets (Typical Parisian tradition) having a good time with friends. I would say that this area reflects a mixed of young people and seniors that cluster around specific places depending on their social group. The streets were not as clean, but people seem to live in harmony.

Places/Things that caught my attention:

-Place de la Bataille-de-Stalingrad: it is a square found in the 19tharrondissement of Paris that was named after the Battle of Stalingrad, one of the largest battles of World War II between Germany + allies and the Soviet Union.

-Embassy of Algeria: the embassy plays an important role here in France. It helps local, Algerian, and international citizens in France with different type of papers and consular services. For example, how to apply in order to obtain an Algerian visa, how to become an Algerian citizen etc.

-Plaza Havana Club: as I walked around the area this plaza was one of the big surprises of the day. I would have never imagined that they would have an area dedicated to ‘’La Habana’’ the capital of Cuba. This Plaza  runs in between June 27thto September 27thwith the objective to bring a piece of Cuba to Paris .In this plaza, bartenders prepare Cuba’s most famous cocktails: Mojito, Daiquiri, Cuba Libre. As a Cuban, it is truly an honor to see my roots being brought to another continent. It was such an incredible experience to see a piece of mi ‘’Cuba Bella’’ en las calles de Paris.

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Station: Colonel Fabien

History: This station open its doors for the first time ever on January 31st1903. Back then it was called Combat after Barriere du Combat, a gate built for the collection of taxes that later on was demolished. Moreover, the name of the station was changed in after Pierre- Georges Fabien, a colonel who shot a German soldier and that gave birth to the armed French Resistance in Paris.

Observations:  this is the usual underground station that most people are used to see. Even tough it does not have connections with other metro lines, a decent amount of people make use of this station. Once you get out from the station, you can see a lot of movement in the area. Young people walking around, cars everywhere, seniors walking their dogs, and  tons of cafes and bars. The architecture of the buildings varies depending the direction you move from the station. For example, to the left of the station more modern buildings can be observed (more spacious balconies and the designs of the buildings were different). However, to the right of the station typical Parisian buildings are depicted ( old buildings with narrow balconies filled with colorful flowers and cafes at the bottom of the building). A few tourists in the area, but the majority are local people.

Places/Things that caught my attention:

-Place du Colonel-Fabien: a square  that has trees and benches around it. It was named after the communist resistance hero Pierre George, whose war name was Colonel Fabien. This square was one of my favorite things I saw in the area since people could just sit there and relax for a bit.

-Albert Camus Monument: in the area, there is a big monument dedicated to Albert Camus. I didn’t know who he was, but just by seeing the monument I was astonished. After doing some research,  I found out that he was a French philosopher, author, and journalist that won a Nobel Prize in Literature when he was just 47 years old.

-Self-Service Gas Station: I had never seen a self service gas station before. It took me a few minutes to realize that there weren’t a cashier in the gas station. People were just putting gas, there was not even a little kiosk where to buy water or soda, ‘’it was just gas.’’ This is something that we do not see in Miami and that I was surprised to see. That night, I thought about how effective would be to have these self-service gas stations. Maybe it is faster to put gas on? But then, I realized that this might left many people without work.

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Station: Pere- Lachaise

History: this typical underground station opened its doors for the first time on January 31st1903 as a continuation of line two. It received the name of the Pere Lachaise Cemetery which adopted its name from Francois d’aix de La Chaise. A cool fact about the station is that in 1909 it was the first metro station to have an escalator. In addition, it is one of the busiest station of metro line 2 and has a connection with metro line 3.

Observations: It is definitely one of the busiest stations of the metro line 2. The amount of people getting in and out of the train is incredible, but it is important to highlight that not as many people as are seen in Anvers. The surrounding area is filled with cafes and people selling shoes, books, and music records. There is a mixed of ethnicities in the area since many tourists from around the world come here to see the graves of international stars such as Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Theodore Gericault, Colonel Fabien, Jim Morrison between others. It is satisfying to see that not only adults come to this place to pay tribute to such iconic people. I saw little kids talking about famous painters that they consider their idols and just seeing their cultural level  is something incredible and that I think we have to make sure we expand to America. When it comes to languages, I heard a few people talking in Spanish and English (some of them were from Spain).  But in general, I could not tell if there is a certain ethnic group that characterizes this area. I think the main reason being the high number of tourists that frequent the area.

Places/things that caught my attention:

-Pere Lachaise Cemetery: one of the most visited places in Paris (3.5 million average annually), Pere Lachaise Cemetery was named after Francois d’Aix de la Chaise (Louis XIV’s confessor). It opened its doors in 1804. It has 44 hectares and around  70,000 burial plots. Different art movements are found within the cemetery. For example: baroque, gothic, neoclassical etc. This cemetery is very different from what we are used to see in America, maybe this is the reason why I was so captivated by the designs of the graves.

-Notre Dame du Perpetuel Secours: a small Catholic Basilica that depicts the gothic movements. One of the main characteristics that is easy to observe in this church is the pointed arches and vaulted ceilings. This church is not visited by many people, so as soon as you go in you can feel the peace, the silence. In addition, the stained glass work was beautiful. It gave the church a unique touch along with the images of the saints all around the Basilica.

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Station: Nation

History: this typical underground metro station was called Place du Trone, the place where the guillotines used to be and where many got beheaded. However, it was renamed in honor of Bastille Day in 1880. This name comes from the Place de la Nation which is nearby the exit of the last stop of line two metro station.

Observations: at first, the station seems very quiet, but as you move around you realize that is actually very busy. This might be because the station has connections with metro lines 1, 6, 9 and the RER. Once you get out, there is one of the cleanest and most beautiful parks I have ever seen. The surrounding area is extremely clean and there is no much noise around it. The majority of the people I observed were adolescents walking around and even sitting in the park with bottles of wine. I emerged myself in their culture and sat in the park to eat some almonds that I had, and right at that moment  I realized why my demographic decides to sit around this area. I had no other preoccupations in mind than just to feel the breeze as I lined back in the grass. After research was done, various tourist websites affirm that there is an incredible night life around the area. This makes sense since I saw numerous bars around the area. In addition, the architecture of the neighborhood is basically 18thcentury  buildings where the majority of the citizens are in the middle-class range.

Places/Things that caught my attention:

– Place de la Nation: back in time, this place was famous for having the most cases of guillotines during the French Revolution. Nowadays, a giant park sits around it and in the middle of it there is a bronze sculpture called:The Triumph of the Republic. Shops and colorful flowers can be seen from the Place, allowing individuals to have a pleasant time while sitting in the park.

Building that resembled an allusion of the novel Nineteen Eighty- four by the English writer George Orwell. The drawing had the big eye as if it the government was watching every move we make as citizens (‘’Big Brother is watching you’’). Back in time it was a way to criticize the government’s radical actions. This is something that characterizes French citizens. Since the era of the French Revolution many individuals protested for what they believed was right.

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Station: Pigalle

History: this underground station opened its doors for the first time in October 7th1902. It was named after Place Pigalle which celebrates the life and contributions of the sculptor Jean- Baptist’s Pigalle. It is one of the stations that serves the well known by many Red- Light district.

Observations: this metro station is used by a decent amount of people. However, its busiest hours are at night. It has connections with metro line twelve. This area is one of the most visited by tourists. You could hear different languages being spoken and this is because many want to explore the red- light district. Pigalle’s reputation comes from many years ago where prostitutes used to hang out. This area is also known for its influence in the arts and this is represented by several museums and theaters in the area. As soon as you get out of the metro, you see young couples, single individuals and even parents with their children walking down the street that takes you to Moulin Rouge. This shows the difference in culture between French people and Americans. It was really shocking seeing how open French people are when it comes to certain topics. The main street was filled with sex shops and ‘’dance places.’’ Propaganda of these places were all around the street and as I looked more around the more shocked I was. This is something that we don’t see as often in America unless you go to Las Vegas. In addition, there were many bars and cafes in the area that allow people to sit and have a good time for a while.

Places/Things that caught my attention:

-Sex shops: along the streets there were countless sex shops. It was spurring to me to see hundreds of people entering these stores. This made me think about how conservatives Americans and even Latin families are when it comes to topics like this one.

-Moulin Rouge: just a few meters from the metro station, there is the famous Moulin Rouge. Moulin Rouge was the place where the Can-Can dance was given birth. Nowadays, it is a cabaret that offers tourists attractions. Individuals can enjoy the  musical dance experience and have a good time. It’s symbol is a red windmill that reflects passion and sensuality.

-Musee National Gustavo Moreau: this museum highlights the role that art played and still plays in France. It is dedicated to Gustavo Moreau, painter who based his work on the symbolism movement. I couldn’t get in since it was closed, but I wanted to make sure to learn more about the art in this area.

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Station: Bares- Rochechouart

History: not the usual underground station. It opened its doors for the first time on January 31st1903. Originally it was calledBoulevard Barbès,but its name was changed eight days later to what we know today as Bares- Rochechouart. A cool fact about this station is that Pierre Georges also known as Colonel Fabien killed a a German soldier when he was getting into the train in this same station.

 Observations: a decent amount of people make use of this train station. It might be due to the fact that it has connections with metro line 4. I noticed specifically something different in this station, there were groups of men sitting in the stairs of the metro and trying to talk to people as they passed by. These men didn’t look like homeless, but I didn’t quite understand what they wanted. As I walked around, I didn’t feel safe in the area since there were large groups that looked like ‘’gangs.’’ The surroundings were not clean,  there were even clothes and food in the streets. This area has a lot of African influences. The majority of the population is black and the way they dress its characteristic of African cultures. Women wear long and colorful dresses and a big hair ribbon where they balance bags of food and different objects (this was really cool to see). Research done about this neighborhood showed that this area is known for African and Asian roots. However, I didn’t observe many Asians in the area.

Places/Things that caught my attention:

-Drawings that resemble African roots in buildings: I think it is really cool for artists to describe ethnics groups through art. A beautiful representation of African women caught my attention as I walked around the era. I think, this is a nice way to show how we value other people religions and culture despite where they come from.

-Gare Du Nord: one of the busiest train stations in France that not only serve nationally, but to other countries as well (For example: Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, United Kingdom etc). It’s architecture is breathtaking and when you look at it closely it looks like a palace.

-Hopital Lariboisiere:  this hospital was finished in 1853 as a way of aiding with the second cholera pandemic that France was facing. I got the chance to enter and explore the hospital. Something that caught my attention the most was the courtyard right in the middle of the hospital where several patients and even doctors were sitting around. This is something that we don’t see back in America. In addition, inside the hospital there was a church in which people were praying. To me it was strange but cool at the same time since back home churches and hospitals are separate institutions.

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Station: Courcelles

History: this underground station opened its doors for the first time on October 7th1902. It doesn’t have  connections with other metro lines.

Observations: one of the most calm stations from line number two. Barely any people getting in and out of the train. As you get off the station , you can rapidly notice that this a middle-high class neighborhood. It offers a pleasant and peaceful environmental as there is many shops around the area that are not too crowded.  It is characterized by its cleanliness and nature. There are hundreds of trees that surround the area. In here, you could feel a more ‘’familiar environment.’’ Parents walking around with their children and mascots. The buildings that surround the area are from the Art Nouveau art style and many of them have sculptures visible from every side of the streets.

Places/Things that caught my attention:

-Parc Monceau: an elegant park surrounded by hundreds of trees. Such a peaceful public space where people come and sit in the grass to play games, talk, and have picnic. It was built in the 17thcentury and even nowadays people who visit enjoy the beauty of the numerous statues, the large pond, and the singing birds. I sat in the grass as I ate an ice cream and I engaged in a conversation with a group of French teenagers. This was a real culture shock, but one of the best experiences I had in Paris.

-Paroisee Saint- Francois de Sales: a small Catholic Church found nearby Parc Monceau. It highlights the power of the church. I couldn’t go in since it was closed but I would’ve loved to explore the art movements that the church itself portraits.

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Station: Charles de Gaulle-Étoile

History: this underground station opened its doors for the first time on September 1st1900. It was originally called Étoile but after the death of Charles the Gaulle the station name was changed to what we know today as Charles de Gaulle-Étoile.

Observations: definitely one of the busiest stations of the metro line number two. Hundreds of people getting in and out of the train. This station has connections not only with metro lines one and six, but with the RER as well. It was hard to catch up any specific ethnic group in the area since this stop is used by countless tourists in order to visit two of the most famous places here in Paris: Avenue des Champs- Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe. Large groups of people are seen around the area. These people come from all over the world just to see with their own eyes the history of France. I saw a group from Brazil, people from Argentina, Asia etc.  I also saw many photographers around the area. There are many cafes and shops in which people sit around to have a good time while looking at one of the most impressive monuments in history. Overall, the streets are relatively clean when you look at the number of people that visit this area everyday.

Places/things that caught my attention

-Diversity of people and culture in the area

-Avenue des Champs- Elysees; 1.2 miles long and 230 feet wide, this famous avenue runs between the Place de la Concorde and the Place Charles de Gaulle, right where the Arc of Triomphe sits. This is the avenue in which many recognized stores are found, for example Louis Vuitton. Right in this avenue is where the final of the Tour de France takes place. Many people love to walk around the area and I was there I enjoyed the walk through the famous avenue.

-The Arc de Triomphe: extraordinary architectural monument created in 1806 by Napoleon in order to honor those who helped him defeated the Austrians. In the arch itself are the name of the generals that helped Napoleon in the wars and also the name of the battles they won. The architecture of the Arch blows people away.This has been one of my favorites monuments that I have visited here in Paris. The tomb of the Unknown Soldier found within the Arch is the part that I like the most about it.



Byrne, M. (2017, August 09). Welcome to the Hottest Neighborhood in Paris. Retrieved from https://www.gq.com/story/pigalle-paris-guide

Davidson, C. (2019, June 26). Paris to South Asia in a Metro Ride: Chapelle Area. Retrieved from https://www.tripsavvy.com/la-chapelle-little-sri-lanka-1618685

Imboden, D. (n.d.). Paris Métro (2019). Retrieved from https://europeforvisitors.com/paris/articles/paris-metro.htm

La Basilique du Sacré Cœur de Montmartre. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com/

Le mur des je t’aime. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.lesjetaime.com/

Paris Perfect. (2018, December 11). Some Interesting Facts About the Place du Tertre. Retrieved from https://www.parisperfect.com/blog/2017/03/place-du-tertre/

***All pictures were taken by Sheila Rodriguez Riera ***

Thank you!







Sheyla E Rodriguez Riera: France as Text 2019

Photo by Elaine Morales

Sheyla E Rodriguez Riera is a rising junior at Florida International University. She is majoring in Biology with a minor in Chemistry. Sheyla plans to graduate from FIU Honors College in the Spring of 2021. Sheyla’s dream is to become a dentist one day, and not only have her own dental practice, but to be able to give free dental care to people in developing countries. Attach below are her France 2019 As Texts.


“Paris: Once a Dream, Now a Reality ” by Sheyla Rodriguez of FIU in Paris.hoYTu6EkQXaIz9o0clpWqw.jpg

Photo By Sheyla Rodriguez

Coming from a country where the Internet was limited for most people, I wasn’t able to look on social media for places around the world. Seeing Paris in movies was one of the best memories I have as a child. The dream of visiting a beautiful city with so much history, art, fashion, and culture was seen as ‘’a dream’’ impossible to achieve. 

It was a busy morning in Paris. Countless people were going in and out of the metro. As we headed out of the Trocadero metro station, there was the giant “Tour Eiffel’’. I stopped for a second, in complete shock, to observe the architecture of one of the most visited structures in the world. As I got closer to the base of the tower, the pieces of iron that hold it together were way more visible. From the base up, I observed how the three levels got smaller and the 324 meter structure looked very strong. The best part was going up hundreds of staircases to reach the first and second floor, where the Parisian views were breathtaking. While I was inside the tower, all I kept thinking about was the unique experience I had of witnessing the inside of one of the most relevant structures of the modern world. Finally, at the top I was able to see a military school and the battle fields from afar, it was very cool experience. As many of the other world’s structures created by man, I thought that the Eiffel Tower had been created with the purpose of attracting tourists and to bring beauty to the city. However, learning that the construction of the tower was due to political reasons in order to celebrate the 100th years of the French Revolution was something that impressed me. That day I took the time to appreciate every detail in Paris and when I sat to have a picnic with my peers in front of the tower, I realized that I WASN’T dreaming anymore, my biggest dream had become a reality. 


”From a Hunting Lodge to a Gigantic Palace” by Sheyla Rodriguez of FIU in Versailles.

Photo by Sheyla Rodriguez

As I walked through the Palace of Versailles, I found myself battling a mixed of emotions. My eyes couldn’t believe the magnificent architecture of the Palace I was witnessing. I had never seen a line so long and so many people anxiously waiting to see what the ‘’Sun King’’ was able to put together. As I walked through the Palace, every single detail in each of the rooms caught my attention. The exuberance of the ceilings and the decorations of the rooms transmitted a message of power and wealth that characterized Louis XIV. However, the gigantic gardens impressed me the most. The symmetric, greenish, musical gardens reminded me of the times when I used to have fun in the gardens of my Old Havana. The fountains gave a touch of elegance to the Palace. My favorite one was the ‘’Bassin of Latone.” The first thing that came to mind when I saw it was the beauty of nature and animals, but after professor Bailly explained that it was a message from Luis to the people I was completely shocked. It meant that those who disobeyed the king would somehow become a frog. This was represented by the fountains by two men, one with a frog hand and the other with a frog head. Visiting Versailles was a unique experience, especially being able to walk through the past of the king and queen’s life. It also made me question if the construction of such a luxurious Palace was necessary, considering the fact that many people during the time were starving to death in the city. There is one thing I will remember forever and that is how amazed I was as I walked through Versailles, the palace where Louis XIV and Louis XVI lived in. 


‘’The Story Behind Montluc’’ by Sheyla Rodriguez from FIU at Lyon.

Photo by Sheyla Rodriguez

About 292 miles from Paris, Lyon is known for its authentic landscapes and history. It is the third- largest city and the second- largest urban area in France.  As I walked around Lyon, I fell in love with the elevations and the views of the Rhone and Saone rivers. The uniformity and structure of the houses made out of rocks and painted with ‘’a kind of goldish pigment’’ that mimicked the nearby landscape was something to remember forever.

       Perhaps the beauty that characterizes Lyon, I can certainly say that its history was what captured my attention the most. Visiting the Montluc Prison was the highlight of my trip. Montluc was built in 1921 and initially used for military prisoners. After the invasion of the Germans to the ‘’Free France,’’ the prison became the place where many Jewish families were held before being sent to concentration camps. Hearing the testimonial of Claude Bloch, a holocaust survivor was a once in a lifetime experience. Knowing that Bloch was just a fifteen years old child filled with joy when the German Nazis killed his grandfather and mother and then took him to Auschwitz where he constantly had to fight for his life left me heartbroken. These acts show how mankind is able to dehumanize and torture others for supporting a different religion, or for having different ethnicities. The destruction of Jewish families and the hateful acts made in order to extinguish a race has been the most horrific era in history. All human beings should be seen as equal. In a world where hate is still a problem, it is our job to stand and fight for a world where we respect each other and live in harmony. Without a doubt, hearing Mr. Bloch’s story was an eye- opening experience. I am glad I got the opportunity to be a witness to someone that was able to survive such monstrosity. It was emotional to hear that he was able to remake his life after all that tragedy. Now, it is my duty to make his story transcend from generation to generation. Without doubts, Bloch is a true hero, a fighter, and the strongest person I HAVE EVER MET.  


‘’A Story that Needs to be Known’’ by Sheyla Rodriguez from FIU at Izieu

Photo by Sheyla Rodriguez

As I walked through Izieu, a home designed to protect children from the Nazi persecution, I understood how hard it must have been to live in the most devastating period in history. Back in time, Izieu was one of the most secure spots parents could send their children, since it was located in the area that wasn’t occupied by Germany. This house used to receive children from different places such as France, Germany, Poland, etc.  Even though being separated from their families was a difficult process for the children, there are letters and drawings of them that document how well they were treated. Children were provided with meals, they had time to play outside, they would receive an education, they would communicate with their loved ones, and they would even celebrate Christmas. They were also aware of the situation and what was going on around them. Many of them expressed in their letters how much they would love to have their parents back, to be reunited. But sadly, their ‘’relative happiness and hope’’ came to an end. Things drastically changed when Lyon Gestapo arrested the 44 children that were there and seven other adults. He took them to a prison in Lyon and the next day they were deported by orders of Klaus Barbie. Many of them were tortured and killed.

As I walked through Izieu, the classroom left me in shock. I could imagine the children learning and laughing in a normal day.  But at the same time, I felt a sense of emptiness. It was all a blurry image of desks, this time with no children, as tears fell from my eyes. Oh lord, ‘’What an unfair world.’’ The frames with the pictures of those innocent kids which lives were taken will always be in my mind. My heart is broken in pieces, my mind just can’t understand how a human being is capable of destroying families, of killing people. These kids are part of me now and it is my duty to share their story so the whole world can know about the ‘’Crimes Against Humanity.’’


“What I Know and What I Wish to Know’’ by Sheyla Rodriguez of FIU at Normandy American Cemetery, France on 2019.IMG_8680

Seventy-five years after one of the most destructive and violent eras of all times, I have come from far away. I have come from a country that was one of France’s strongest allies back in 1944 during the battle of D-Day. I have come from far away, I have come from the United States to honor you, Peter E. Bonner.

This is what I know: 

I know that you were born in Philadelphia, January 11th, 1904.

I know that as a catholic chaplain, you were a member of the US Army holding the title of ‘’Captain.’’

I know that you assisted in the 86th Replacement Deport Service Group along the Normandy Coast during WWII, fighting for a world free of hate, fighting for a free America.

I know you earned a purple heart, awarded by the President to those killed in service.

I know that you were brave, strong, and determined.

But, I also know that leaving your family, your friends, your culture and your country was probably one of the hardest decisions of your life.

I know that you valued patriotism as you made the entrance through the stormy waters of Normandy in order to complete your missions.

I know you displayed discipline while exercising your best effort to come back home with the desired victory in your hands.

I know you were eager while trying end the biggest crimes against humanity the history of the world has ever heard off. 

I also know that you fought until your last breath in the service of your country so that young Americans, and even immigrants like me, could enjoy living in LIBERTY; for that reason, Captain Bonner, I will forever be grateful.

I owe you the numerous opportunities that the United States has afforded me since I came from my native country Cuba.

I owe you the rights that I enjoy as a citizen, but more than anything else, I own you my life because if it weren’t for your service as an immigrant, I would have lived judged and oppressed. 

Captain Bonner, I feel that I know so much about you, but still, it is not enough. I wish I could have you here with me to ask you more about your parents, your passions, your favorite book, your favorite drink, and even know what you think about dentistry. 

Captain Bonner, there is something else that I want you to know. Today, I not only came from far away to honor you, I came from far away to honor a true hero, a true fighter. As I lay these flowers on your grave, I promise to keep you in my heart forever and let the world know about the story of one of the bravest men history adopted, the story of a man that fought for suffering children and women. A man who, above all, valued FREEDOM. Today, and always, I honor you. 

Pere Lachaise As Text

4969F247-BB3A-4574-85B7-6ED45B14E4D6“Breaking Stigmas’’ by Sheyla Rodriguez of FIU at Pere- Lachaise Cemetery

Many years have passed since the most devastating times in the history of the world.
Many years have passed since The War was fought for Peace and Love.
Many years have passed since man and woman gave their all so we could all live in a better world.

Many centuries have passed but,
We all know about the Greek philosopher Aristotle.
We all know about the brave Julius Caesar and the rise of the Roman Empire.
We all know about the great Napoleon Bonaparte and the battles he won.
We all know about the prodigy Isaac Newton, and the laws of motion formulated.

Many centuries have passed, yet
I feel that history has failed us in telling the stories of the great women that contributed to art, science and literature.
I feel that history has failed us in educating about iconic women who broke through the patterns of society.
I feel that history has failed us in telling the stories of the great women that fought for equality in divided societies.

It is my honor to acknowledge a woman, a free spirit, who didn’t let society judge her based on her actions.
It is my honor to acknowledge a very liberated women who with her actions fought for the equality and freedom of the women of today.
It is my honor to acknowledge you, Edith Piaf.

The Life of Edith Piaf: A French Songwriter, Singer, and Actress.

Edith Piaf was born in France, December 19th, 1915. She was given this name after Edith Cavell, a World War I British nurse executed for helping French soldiers escape from the Germans. Her artistic career was a complete success. She was well known, not only in France, but around the world as well for her chanson and torch ballads that frequently mentioned love and loss. Her success in this industry doesn’t necessarily means she had an easy life. Piaf’s childhood was a complete blur. Her mother, Annetta Giovanna, a singer and circus performer, abandoned Piaf at birth. For a short period of time, Piaf’s maternal grandmother took care of her until her father, Louis Alphonse Gassion, a street performer, decided to give Piaf up to her paternal grandmother. Piaf’s childhood was spent singing and playing in a brothel that her grandmother managed in Normandy. At the age of three years old, she became blind; fortunately, four years later, she recovered her sight.

When she was 14 years old, her father encouraged Piaf to join him in the street performances and this is when she begins singing in public. A few years later, Piaf met Louis Dupont, who
soon became the father of her only daughter who later dies at the age of two. She then had several affairs and it is said that she was sleeping around with many guys; which was not very usual for a women of that time who was supposed to stay at home, cook, and take care of the children.

In 1935 (she was around 24 years old), Piaf’s talent was discovered by Louis Leplée, a cabaret owner who hired her to sing at night in the club. He was the first one to call her ‘’Little Sparrow’’ a nickname that would form an essential part of her artistic career in the years to come. That same year, she made her debut, and she was already signing in the greatest halls of Paris. Some of her most famous songs are: ‘’La Vie en Rose,’’ Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien,’’ ‘’La Foule’’in between others.

She also sang for Germans, and many reasoned she was collaborating with them. In a period of oppression and dehumanization, many people disliked her, but the reality was that despite all her faults, its seems that she was using ‘’her voice’’ to fight the horrors of the most devastating time in history. While dedicating concerts to Germans, she would take pictures with the Jewish prisoners. Then she would go home, and with the help of intellectual friends, she would create ‘’fake documents’’ that she would deliver to them when she was back in concerts. It is said that Piaf saved the lives of hundreds of Jews from the horrific tortures they were exposed to. Many of them testify in her favor when she was accused and taken to court. However, there are still doubts of Piaf’s real intentions and weather or not she was collaborating with Germans.

Many horrific events, such as the loss of the love of her live (Marcel Cerdan) in a plane accident caused Piaf to continue drinking and consuming drugs. She was promiscuous and faced drug addiction. Additionally, several car accidents left her almost hopeless about life. These complications took her life the 10th of October 1963; she was only 47 years old when she died of liver cancer. Piaf was buried in Paris in Pere Lachaise Cemetery next to her daughter. The day of her funeral, thousands of fans covered the streets of Paris to celebrate the life of one of France’s most iconic female singers.

Commonalities, Differences, and Ambiguities between Edith Piaf and I

As I emerged myself in the live of Edith Piaf, it was impossible not to find connections with a women that is a real example of female empowerment, intelligence, and persistence.

As a minority, female, student trying to pursue a career in the STEM field, I see myself in Edith Piaf. When I started college, I rapidly realized the disparities found within the career I was going into. Out of a 100% students perusing STEM careers, only 20% of them are women. Just like Edith Piaf did, I have used my voice through pieces of writings and debates to support organizations of “Mujeres Latinas” that are advocating for equality within math, science, and technology careers. In my case, alongside other powerful women, I have joined
organizations and protests to advocate for the inclusion of women in all fields, for equality in payment and for leadership positions. Together, we have been able to raise money to award scholarships to female students who have struggled to pay for their education. Just like Edith Piaf did, I have fought for the a new generation of women, for a world free of stereotypes and stigmas.

Piaf was also an independent women fulfilled of dreams. She was very young when she started working with his father to make a living and when she became a star she never forgot where she came from. Part of my story relates to Piaf’s life. I was around sixteen years old when I started working minimum wage. Simultaneously, I was trying to learn English and taking seven classes in High School. However these experiences made me grow into the strong minded women I am today. I am happy to say that I’m working even harder to accomplish my dreams of becoming a dentist and help those in need in developing countries.

Finding differences between Edith Piaf and I was not easy. Despite many people criticized Piaf for her “crazy lifestyle,” I think she shouldn’t be judged for the way she acted in society. People should decide what to do with their bodies and how to portrait theirselves. One of the differences I could find was that she was too open when it came to certain topics. She would sleep around with many guys, drink and consume drugs, while I am more conservative and calm. In addition, I could never see myself performing in front of thousands of people just like Edith Piaf did with tremendous courage.

Edith Piaf showed the world that women are capable of rising as well to fight for their ideals. Us women have have to prove ourselves in all aspects of life and it is inspiring to see a women lived her life not caring with the standards of society.

Information retrieved from:
– Pere-Lachaise Cemetery Website

Declaration Project by Sheyla E Rodriguez

Purpose of the Project

Public Domain. File: Arms of the French Republic

Throughout this semester, I had the opportunity to travel back in time and have a better understanding of France’s art, religion, politics, human rights and the power of women in society. In general, the overall purpose of this project is to analyze Simone Annie Liline Veil and to reflect on how her ideas influenced the way many people in society look up to her. Also, while analyzing important achievements and contributions of hers, I will be able to connect Simone’s ideals to my personal life as well. 

Who was Simone Annie Liline Veil?

Photo by Marie- Lan Nguyen CC BY 3.0

Simone Annie Liline Veil was born in Nice, France on July 13th, 1927 (1). At a very young age, Simone had to face the inhumanities and cruelty in ‘’concentration camps’’ along with some members of her family (2). During this time, she also had to overcome many obstacles such as the loss of her mother, father, and brother (2).  Fortunately, she was lucky enough to survive, not just to tell her story, but to fight for changes in France and Europe. Even though, the years she spent in the concentration camps were the darkest of her life, Veils went back to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 2005 where she spoke; and along with other holocaust survivors they celebrated the ‘’60thanniversary of the liberation of the camps’'(1). Years later, she became a lawyer and a politician, where she not only represented her nation and Europe, but she also elevated the power of women in society by serving as Minister of Health, President of the European Parliament and member of the Constitutional Council of France (2). Veil died in France on June 30th, 2017. She was honored with a special ceremony by many politicians, holocaust survivors, and even the president of France. Simone was then reburied in the Pantheon (a place where the bodies of important French figures lie) on July 1, 2018 (2).

Power of Women in Society, Women’s Rights, and Freedom. 

The role that women play in society has transcended within the years. Back in time, not only in France, but here in the United States and other parts of the world as well, women did not have the right to vote, to obtain an education, or even to form part of political affairs. However, nowadays the issue has been perceived different thanks to incredible women like Simone.

Quote by Simone Veil, 1982

Simone is a real example of how far a woman can go when their visions are strong enough to change the world. During her life, Simone served as Minister of Health of France (1974-1979), President of the European Parliament (1979-1993), and member of the Constitutional Council of France(1998) in which she had a huge impact not only in the power of women in society, but also in their rights and freedom (2).

My Body= My Decision created by Sheyla E Rodriguez

Simone worked hard in order to improve the conditions in women’s prisons (2). She fought for the adoptive rights of women and helped elevate the value of French women’s status (1). However, France remembers her by two important contributions: the legalization of contraceptives in France on December 4th, 1974 and the legalization of abortion in France on January 17th, 1975 (1). Fighting for such rights in a political setting were men dominated was not an easy task for Simone. Expressing her ideals about such a controversial topic triggered aggression and insult towards her and her family (1). However, these humiliations never stopped Simone from exposing her ideas. She fought with intelligence and courage for the betterment of women, for what she believed was right. It is important to highlight that Simone believed that abortion should be the last resource, but that women should have the right to decide for their lives. She saw motherhood as a choice rather than just a decision made by someone else. Today, not only in France, but around the world, people thank Simone for her ‘’courageous and determined fight’’ in order to legalize abortion.

Reflection and How I Relate to Simone

I relate some of my life experiences with many of the obstacles that Simone had to face throughout her life. I know what it feels like to be separated from someone you love, I know how it feels like to miss someone special. When my dad decided to come to the United States in seek of a better future, the Cuban government didn’t let my mom, my brother and I come with him. Since my mom was a doctor she had to wait for the government to ‘’liberate’’ her in order to come to the United States. The process took about three years. I can honestly say that these were the worst years of my life. I sympathize with Simone because after all the suffer, she found the strength to fight for her dreams and to bring peace to a ‘’divided Europe’’.

Public Domain: Woman Power Logo

As a women, I could not feel more represented by Simone’s ideas. In a world where women are still struggling for equality, where women make less than a man that holds the same scholar degree as her, it is important to highlight the contributions of a women that builded a platform in the changes that we as women want to see today. Because of Veil’s efforts in normalizing the duality of man, I alongside millions of other young woman, can comfortably fight for our rights without the fear of getting seriously reprimanded. Her efforts didn’t go unnoticed. Veil’s impact is still reflected and talked about today. Though today Veil’s efforts are undergoing an era of attack, legalizing abortions saved the lives of many.

Wrap- Up

Honoring Simon Veil by European Parliament


(1). “Veil, Simone (1927—).”. “Veil, Simone (1927-).” Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia, Encyclopedia.com, 2019, http://www.encyclopedia.com/women/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/veil-simone-1927.

(2). “Simone Veil.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Apr. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simone_Veil.

Thank you for Reading

Sheyla E Rodriguez.