I'm currently an undergraduate student in the Honors College at Florida International University double majoring in English with a concentration in Literature and Women’s and Gender Studies, and double minoring in French Language and Culture and Art History. I'm heavily interested in work that challenges gender ideals, female sexuality, and brings taboo subjects up to the surface. I hope that my work, whether it be through written, visual, or spoken word, can help challenge even just one individual to see how important intersectionality is within our world and one’s own local community. My writing blog can be found at spookyrose.wordpress.com.
In hell, in hell, there’s heaven. It’s the words that greet my ears as I land in Madrid after my month away in Italia, words that Frank Ocean sings and words that calm me as I anticipate the next three weeks, the end to my time studying abroad as an undergraduate. This is the land of my great-grandparents, both maternal and paternal, and I am fluent in the language. This will hopefully feel like home, and if anything, a fresh start.
MADRID: NIGHTLIFE SPILLS INTO THE BARRIO
I have analyzed city after city from the perspective of daytime, a viewpoint that illuminates and one that I am fully conscious of, a perspective that is fueled by caffeine and the start of the new day. What if I started with the alternative perspective first? The one that is darkened by a falling sun and a rising moon, the tipsy and intoxicated groups of people my age, or even older, stumbling around in the early hours of the morning across a city they’ve always known, or are just getting to know. A perspective that I witness on my first night in Madrid and one that immediately captures my attention. To be a madrileño, a native and true inhabitant of Madrid, one must accept this calling of the night as routine, a facet of the day that is not odd nor uncalled for. I accept it wholeheartedly.
The influence of America on Madrid’s nightlife is hard to notice at first. With the habit that many Spaniards have throughout the week of eating dinner so late and then staying up to hang out at bars until one, two, maybe even three in the morning, it’s a far cry from the work till we drop culture that pervades America. While I experienced my time in Madrid as someone with relatively little work responsibilities and zero familial responsibilities, I could still feel the difference between the way nightlife is embraced in Madrid as opposed to Miami. Even on a Tuesday night in Madrid, it felt like most of the city was out exploring the town just as midnight was about to strike. Don’t people work or go to school or have lives to tend to?
I later research the reasons behind why Spaniards choose to eat and drink so late into the night and find out that it has less to do with a cultural attitude and more to do with a systematic change in the way time zones are handled in the country. In solidarity with Nazi Germany, General Franco ordered that the country follow the Central European Time, which places Spain one hour later in routine, especially since the country should be following the Greenwich Mean Time. As a result of this shift in 1940, Spaniards have taken to adjusting their entire lives to a timezone that doesn’t rightly fit their geographic location on the planet. Workdays end later, around 8pm or 20h, and thus, socialization is left till the very late hours of the night and into the very early hours of the morning, a habit that is further allowed by the fact that workdays begin around 9am. I’m sure if America was systematically following the timezone that didn’t fit its geography, we would find ourselves socializing in restaurants, bars, clubs, etc. into the early hours of the next day, and on days of the week that aren’t normally regarded as days fitted for going out.
My first night in Madrid begins at El Imperfecto bar that is located on the corner of Calle de las Huertas and one of the many side streets in the barrio. A neon-colored bar that is plastered with movie posters, celebrity headshots, and various bobs and trinkets, my friends and I sit and order a round of mojitos to enjoy as we settle into our home for the next week. There’s an 80s playlist in the background playing the likes of Michael Jackson, Hall & Oates, Madonna, etc. and movie posters on the wall of American classics from Scarface to Pulp Fiction. While the ways in which nightlife throughout the week is embraced differently in Madrid than from my experience in Miami, there’s an Americanization to entertainment that I notice immediately as I take in all the content that’s brimming in this bar. Whether an appeal to American tourists or just an overall love for America and the music, movies, and people it has brought to the rest of the world, it’s clear that America has come back to Spain in the form of pop culture and what has been consumed culturally, a vuelta I notice as the local students next to us in the bar sing along to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.”
A 3am nightcap of hot chocolate and sugar-coated churros at Chocolateria San Ginés.
Barrio de las Letras
Now for the daytime perspective of Madrid, especially this little barrio of the city that was once home to the great Spanish writers and poets of past centuries, from Miguel de Cervantes to Federico García Lorca. Writers that could weave tragedy and comedy together into one work, a dance that reflects the ups and downs of life and how we manage to cope amidst all our troubles, celebrations, sadness, and happiness. As I walk around the Barrio de las Letras, I find myself stepping on golden words and passing handwritten quotes on buildings, phrases once written by great Spanish poets but now converted into a written form of street art.
As a home to these famous Spanish writers and poets, the Barrio de las Letras pays homage to these figures that breathed Spain’s essence into written stories and characters. There seems to be nothing inherently American in this pride for Spanish literature and poetry until I begin looking at the institutions and spaces that soon attracted American writers and poets to Madrid and commenced an exchange of cultures in the form of scenes. One such exchange can be seen in the establishment of Cervecería Alemana which literally translates to “German bar” and was established by German manufacturers in Plaza Santa Ana in the heart of the barrio. As a bar already founded on a mixing of cultures, the mash of identities is furthered by the personalities that would frequent the establishment in the mid-1900s, especially that of American writer Ernest Hemingway.
“Nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night. Appointments with a friend are habitually made for after midnight at the cafe.”
I am not unfamiliar with Ernest Hemingway and the many cities he called home throughout his life. From my late grandfather’s love for him as his favorite author to my experience navigating through the Parisian neighborhoods and establishments he would frequent, Hemingway has become more familiar to me than ever before in my life, even though I remember my grandfather continually bringing him up in every other conversation we would have as I was growing up. To walk these cities and see these establishments still standing till this very day is surreal. The very bars and restaurants that fed Hemingway have the ability to feed me today. In both the literal and metaphorical sense, the establishments in the Barrio de las Letras fueled the writing of these authors, as they drank their cafes and beers and looked on at the people of their day milling around the streets within view, gathering up observations and ideas about the yet-to-be-written scenes and characters of their prose and poetry. An exchange of cultures, from America to Germany and into Spain, that has exploded into an unbelievable level of multiculturalism within Madrid’s core, one that I personally witness as my class and I, a group of Miami students with mixed identities, stand in the middle of Plaza de Santa Ana and listen to our French-American professor read a poem of Federico García Lorca to us in both Spanish and the translated English version.
What have we brought to Madrid? We, a collective of American students. We, a collective of my mixed identity as a woman born in South Florida to Cuban parents and grandparents and Spanish great-grandparents. We, a collective of my many personalities as I adapt to the foreign cities I find myself in on my travels. I don’t know if there’s a direct answer to this question. One thing I’m sure of is the inevitable influence that a carrying over of identities and cultures can bring to a city, even a barrio, one that blends ideas and histories together and generates an entirely new hybrid way of being and existing within a space. An influence that I have brought in my time within Madrid and the barrios I’ve explored extensively in the one week I’ve had, and through the conversations I’ve had in within small cafes and the looks I’ve exchanged with strangers on the metro, the vuelta of America to España isn’t finite as I take back my experience of being a madrileña for a week to Miami and Madrid continues to evolve and learn from the many cultures that meet within its city limits.
SEVILLA: IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS
Following a week in a metropolis like Madrid, the small city feel of Sevilla was a complete juxtaposition to the hustle and bustle I had grown accustomed to within my time in Spain thus far. With its colorful walls and painted tilework, Sevilla immediately screamed of character and authenticity.
There was nothing modern about the historic district of Sevilla, which housed our buzzing tired bodies for the next four days of the program. It was walkable and filled with detail, almost too much detail to take in all at once. As I walked around the city on my own one day, I entered neighborhoods that closed in on me gradually with their bright yellow and pink walls. I passed tapas bars that were a dream all on their own. Tintos de verano, bocaditos, sangria with immersed cinnamon sticks. I walked by store after store of flamenco dresses and all the accessories that are necessary for the dance and observed the personality of the city through the physical structures rising around me. This unique sense of architectural character was not one that I saw often in Miami, a metropolis all on its own that is filled with gated communities teeming with cookie cutter homes, and neighborhoods that rarely have a personal essence attached to them. Aside from the art deco buildings that can be found around Miami Beach, this spreading of an architectural authenticity is a rarity in Miami as minimalist, modern design overtakes the city. In the historic district of Sevilla, this minimalist, modern design is completely ignored for the true state of how the city once existed. Most of all, the zeitgeist of historical Sevilla is perfectly captured in the details found within Plaza de España.
“Certainly, Sir, since October 12, 1492, there has not yet been a single day in the history of America of more importance and spiritual significance than today, when the great Ibero-American Exhibition begins.”
José Cruz Conde, general commissary of Sevilla’s exposition, to King Alfonso XIII
Completed in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exhibition in 1929, the plaza encircles its visitors with the glory of Spain’s power as a country and colonizing power through various alcoves that present Spanish provinces and the many events that support Spanish nationalism and pride for the motherland. As I walked and analyzed the painted scenes on the tiles of each alcove, I attempted to discern scenes from history that I had learned about in my education. It proved difficult, since I was biased in having learned about Spain from American textbooks and professors and having very little understanding of specific events within the history of Spain, but upon later research, I found out about events like The War of the Bands (pictured above), and their significance to Spain as an empire. Most of all, I witnessed the power that a country can have in distorting history to encourage pride in one’s homeland. Constructed in order to boast about Spain’s legacy and celebrate the decisions of Spanish conquistadors in discovering and colonizing new lands across the globe, the very existence of this beautiful plaza is founded on the Americas and the need that the country felt in boasting about its ability to “breathe” life and knowledge of the Western Hemisphere into existence. You would not be here without us is the core message of Plaza de España, a message that is at first hidden as one takes in the details of the plaza, but maybe that’s the power of the space. Distract with overwhelming beauty and meticulous craftsmanship and before you know it, you’ve been conquered.
Past the depictions on the painted tilework of the plaza were unexpected surprises waiting for any visitor to sort through. Free books, most written in Spanish or translated to a Spanish version, and all for one’s personal choosing. I discovered a phenomenon in the plaza that I had only ever seen within the United States. Little free libraries where one could drop off books that one had finished reading and wished to donate to one’s local community. Inspired by microlibraries that popped up around Oregon in the 1990s, the first official free little library as organized by a non-profit appeared in the early 2000s in the state of Wisconsin. From there, the movement has spread across the United States and from my discovery in the plaza, to even countries across the globe who include books from native authors and translated versions of classics, such as the Spanish translation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick that I found within the Toledo alcove in the plaza.
BARCELONA: A HOMAGE TO DEEPLY ROOTED PAIN
Of the three main cities we resided in Spain, Barcelona felt the most like a home. I’m not sure if it was the beaches or the colorful people I found in my time there, but the city became a haven as I finalized my own rendition of a “Grand Tour.”
Barcelona is real. It immediately catches you with its funky architecture, like Gaudi’s blend of spirituality and nature within public parks and the ever-growing magnitude of La Sagrada Familia, and also throws one off as you begin to understand the underlying thread of resistance to a Spanish identity and a strong adherence to oneself as Catalonian that can’t be missed. I am an autonomous self, different from the rest of this country and for that, I resist. This resistance that bleeds down Catalonian flags in the form of four red strips and is symbolically draped through a yellow ribbon. This city is real but not just because of this resistance and strong adherence to a Catalonian identity, but rather because of the pain I witness in varying forms throughout the city, a pain that is grieved in one way but celebrated in another form. A pain that has little connection to the Americas but relates more to a universal suffering and a need to define one’s identity and the ways in which we take the varying shapes and forms of this pain and desperation and try to make something livable, manageable, bearable of life from it.
With the many dancing eggs rising up and down in celebration of Corpus Christi located throughout the various cloisters and courtyards of churches within the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona, there’s a lightheartedness to faith I sense as we visit various of these dancing eggs on one of our class days in Barcelona. Whether symbolically representing the body of Christ or fertility, I get the immediate impression that Barcelona knows how to have fun with traditions.
Past the dancing eggs, there’s a hard to breath truth I see with my own eyes as we enter the Santa Anna de Barcelona church in the neighborhood. Men after men laying down sleeping across the pews of the church. I pass them as I walk up to look at the details of the church but it’s hard to not look at them. How can I focus on this stain glass when I can sense the weight of life right next to me?
I later learn about how many of these men end up at the church. As migrant workers and young immigrants, many from North Africa, the restart of a new life comes at this harsh price of having no home nor a family to care for them in the city. As a result, they take to living within the church and in similar religious spaces across the city. It’s a harsh reality to witness but I also think about the messages taught in the Bible. Messages of selflessness and love for one’s neighbor and I wonder: If you can’t bear to look at these men or accept their reality as you pray, are you a true believer of your faith?
The pockets of pain widen as we continue to visit more sites in the quarter. There’s the 1938 bombing by General Franco in the Plaça de Sant Felip Neri, which killed 42 children, many of which had been seeking refuge in the makeshift orphanage located in the plaza. There’s the dedication to Saint Eulalia and the assortment of torture exacted on her by Romans, thirteen different forms of cruelty depicted on her tomb in the Cathedral of Barcelona’s crypt. So much pain and personal suffering throughout this old neighborhood in Barcelona and it all culminates during the night of the Sant Joan Festival.
As a celebration of the summer solstice, the night is filled with fire performances and performers dressed as devils. It seems like a carefree celebration and a chance to just let go and break the rules, even if it’s just for a night, but there’s the very physical and metaphorical nature of the fire being the core element of the celebration that makes the night hard to bear. With sparks striking my body from time to time, I come to understand how the pain of Catalonia and the desperation to be represented as a sole identity, completely separate from the rest of Spain, is a painful journey. One that continues to be fought by the Catalonian people, as the Spanish government and countries around the world turn a blind eye to this self-declaration of independence by Catalonia. The tiny singes to my skin feel like a continuous call by the Catalonian people. They have been ignored and invalidated for declaring who they are and for that, I understand why fire dominates this summer night in June. Filled with rage and anger, it’s a call of resistance to being invalidated but a testament to the power of a people and their self-assertion of who they truly are.
Muchisimas gracias to Professor Bailly, Victoria Atencio, and my fellow classmates for being my Honors España 2019 familia as I end my journey of studying abroad in the country where my roots lie. T’estimo molt.
Title credit belongs entirely to Frank Ocean, one of the many voices that became the musical soundtrack during my time on the Honors Spain program. All photographs, unless otherwise stated, were taken by Isabella Marie Garcia.
Congostrina, Alfonso L., et al. “How the Streets of Barcelona Have Become a Refuge for Unaccompanied Migrants.” EL PAÍS, Ediciones EL PAÍS S.L., 16 July 2019, elpais.com/elpais/2019/07/16/inenglish/1563270972_849261.html.
Hervás, María. “Reportaje: ¿Qué Queda Del Madrid De Hemingway?” EL PAÍS, Síguenos En Síguenos En Twitter Síguenos En Facebook Síguenos En Instagram, 9 July 2011, elpais.com/diario/2011/07/09/madrid/1310210665_850215.html.
Isabella Marie Garcia graduated in Spring 2019 from the Honors College at Florida International University with a double major in English with a concentration in Literature and Women’s and Gender Studies, and a double minor in French Language and Culture and Art History. She’s heavily interested in work that challenges gender ideals, female sexuality, and brings taboo subjects up to the surface. She currently works at LnS Gallery and hopes that her work, whether it be through written, visual, or spoken word, can help challenge even just one individual to see how important intersectionality is within our world and one’s own local community. Her writing blog can be found at spookyrose.wordpress.com.
break it down for me by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Barcelona, España
Trencadís. It’s the shattered nature of these colorful tiles and their haphazard arrangement that attracts me initially to Antoni Gaudí as an architect. The contrast of the pink with the greens, the yellow and the blues, and it all be from accidental breaks in ceramic is commendable. What’s not so accidental is the attention to detail I later witness in La Sagrada Familia, details I barely capture until I walk around later with friends who point out pieces of the modern cathedral’s insides that are indiscernible if unfamiliar with Catholicism. I am not in love with the electric lighting of the space, a feature I do understand was included because of the modern nature of the structure, but the selection of colors and the naturalistic elements of the space retain a Gothic way of existing that draw me in immediately. We are cast in a light of green and blue to represent life but our backs are turned to the red that bleeds out for our sins. We see the tall spires of what’s meant to represent a forest and all of God’s creation rising in white columns above us. We walk down into the crypt later to the end of a wedding and the singer is croaking out “Moon River,” and Gaudi’s tombstone is simple but speckled with tiny details, from the natural twist of the wrought iron to the imprinted waves in the stone behind the Virgin Mary that overlook him. When the tram took away his life unexpectedly, I imagine the city of Barcelona mourning this accident, an unexpected rupture in the city’s core. As I look around the city of Barcelona and see the shattered but meticulously placed tiles of Park Güell or the symbolic selection of stain glass in La Sagrada Familia, I know that this is not accidental. Like the belief Gaudi felt towards God’s role as creator, I see that everything has a purpose in the architectural spaces he brought to life.
a compass in one hand, a sextant in the other by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Sitges, España
When he arrived in Sitges and attempted to buy Santiago Rusiñol’s house, Charles Deering must have noticed the importance that this man’s collection of paintings, preliminary sketch drawings, portraitures, ancient glass bottles, medieval armory, and so on, meant to him. For one to come into a man’s personal home and immediately see cash signs takes some level of ignorance, and yet, I can’t see Charles Deering as a man without self-awareness. Though caressed by his familial wealth, Deering was not blind to the importance of art in an individual’s life, so much so that his foundation of Palau Maricel was an attempt to attract artists and students seeking to acquire knowledge of art. At the top of one of the windows in the exterior of the palace is a stone carved depiction of Charles Deering himself alongside artists, and framed by a compass and sextant, nautical instruments used for travel and precision. Though he aspired for the Palau Maricel to become a pilgrimage for artists and for the arts, the failed execution of Deering’s dream led to the collapse of a city’s worth to the outside world, as he exported the magnetism of his art collection in Sitges to the States.
As I’ve walked through the Deering Estate in the south of Miami time and time again, I’ve passed through the property of a man that left a city in a country tied to my own blood ruined and yet, the city of Miami thrives because of Deering’s investment in the estate. The cities of Sitges and Miami themselves are incredibly similar in terms of aesthetic, with both drawing visitors with their beaches and coastal breezes, and yet Miami tops Sitges in terms of art pilgrimages, as hundreds of thousands flock to Art Week Miami during the month of December and many fill the streets of Wynwood to witness sanctioned graffiti on the sides of buildings. With the investment of the Deering Estate and his brother’s Vizcaya Villa, Miami has flourished as a young city in the art world when compared to the old legends of Rome, Paris, and New York City. For Sitges, this attraction as an art haven is dust. Though Deering is not the direct reason as to why Miami has risen in the arts, his contribution and name in the city has had the power to draw visitors to his estate after so many years, as was the case in Sitges. Could it be said that Miami replaced Sitges? Perhaps, but I also believe that the power of a name is underrated, and the names in Rusiñol’s collection, from el Greco to Picasso, should be more powerful than that of a rich man.
Celestial Bodies by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Granada, España
Seven levels. Each one stacked on top of the other, a spiritual video game that we look up to and admire. Though removed of its colors, the dome above us is overarching and potent, reminding me of a cave with its stalagmite formations. I wish I could see the seven levels light up in their true colors, the deep primary blues and reds that would brighten the ceiling and unify the environment to its true nature. There’s the heavens that are said to be made of white pearls and those of gold and another of iron and I wonder why there’s this need to place wealth into a spiritually rich setting. It’s bragging rights, it’s ostentatious shows of power, it’s the hope that money can buy divine points. Do we truly believe that the Almighty will accept us if we flash him our goodies, a VIP pass into the sky if we give him our credit score? I see it in all the spiritual spaces I visit but I ignore it and look up with my mouth gaping, amazed at the power of a faith foreign to my own. There are seven levels or seven heavens themselves and I believe them to be powerful on their own without the gems and shiny materials, and yet, those very features in the space are what keep my eyes posted and staring. How can I judge them when I am caught in their tricks?
Gypsy by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Sevilla, España
The first dance is a duo. There’s the man with his all black ensemble and the woman in her floor length dress. The looks on their faces are playful and even as the bullet-like sounds of their feet hit the floor, I can tell this is a dance of passion. The turn of her dress as she wounds her leg around the legs of her male partner, capturing him in a rhythmic lock. It is the passion of a gypsy and the passion of feeling love for another individual, for one’s culture, for one’s body.
The second dance is a solo. She is possessing us. The rapid hits against the floor with the soles of her shoes echo into the room, but they reveal more anger and sadness than passion. She is possessing us. The drape of a black sheet over her body as her male partner looks onward. The curve of her body as she leans backward and is taken over by her anger. BAM! It hits us like schrapnel as she slams into the ground continuously, the sharp turns of her dress cutting into the air like knives. It is the anger of a a Romani gypsy being forced from her home and forced into Andalusia Spain. This home is not their home. The anger of the word gypsy, which becomes your identity the moment you’re foreign. Gypsy as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “sometimes offensive : a member of a traditionally itinerant people who originated in northern India and now live chiefly in south and southwest Asia, Europe, and North America.” It is the sadness of a woman who has lost her home.
The third dance is another solo. He is showing off. The grin on his face haunts us as he circles the dancefloor, eyeing us individually as he scouts for a victim he’ll lay his eyes on. He is showing off. The sweat flies off his head as he faces each and every one of us, ready to charge. This is the dance of a determined Sevilla striving to keep its cultural identity. It relegates the unwanted to the edges of its core, the tight streets swallowing them up, exorcising them from living with the “real” citizens. He is mourning the loss of a cultural purity that isn’t that pure but determined to maintain it at all costs. As the gypsy looks on, Sevilla dances with conviction about who they are. It is the conviction that makes us afraid but also amazes us, of a people that are determined to keep who they are no matter who enters their city.
The fourth dance is the reconciliation. The man and the woman dance together once again. Sevilla and the gypsy turned refugee that crosses into a foreign city, carrying the burden of a lost home. There’s a calm acceptance of what has happened, that the cultural diversity of the city will warp to fit those who move to live inside its walls, and that the dance is what it is because of this pain, this anger, this sadness.
a las cinco de la tarde: an abecedarium by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Madrid, España
A las cinco de la tarde …
Bodegas closing and opening as the siesta hour hits and the bullfights commence, the matador translates to the killer and I see five bulls go down. I don’t flinch as the horses drag their bodies across the dirt of the Plaza de Toros arena and out of sight.
Carlos the Third. A man who helped shaped Madrid’s city planning into what we see today and dragged the city out of a darkness. I find the duality of kings and their influence hard to understand. There’s a middle ground of morality that stands and is seen in the streets of their kingdoms but wavers when I think about the innocent who died for this city.
Don Quijote. A character and a novel as written by Miguel de Cervantes and published between 1605 to 1615. I walk the Barrio de las Letras and find the house he died in, along with the gold plated writing on the ground that speaks to me. Why is it that Spanish writers are bypassed and overshadowed in the literary world?
El Rastro and its abundance of antiquities. I pocket my patches, expired film, and pins in my crossbody and call it a day.
Federico Garcia Lorca. At five in the afternoon, the world stopped. To this day, Lorca’s assassinated body has never been found. Yesterday, June 12th, marked three years since the PULSE nightclub shooting in Orlando. I’m so far from home and am constantly reminded of this violence, of how those who wish to love within their same gender are criminalized and eliminated from existing.
Gracias y de nada. Thank you Madrid for welcoming me into your barrios and for the characters that fill your streets.
Hola y bienvenidos. This feels like coming home as I hear the language of my family and can respond with ease.
I wish my abuelo was alive to see me feeling comfortable in the very city he visited in his twenties, a young Cuban soccer player / writer who smoked a pack a day and consumed literatura, a Hemingway in his own right.
Juntos. Apartados. Unidos in this foreign city.
Kilometer zero from which the city begins. I keep finding these in the capitols of the countries I visit. Time to restart and begin anew.
La Libre Cafe. I sit at the bar of this feminist cafe/bookstore located in a corner of Lavapies and the man next to me notices my Canon F-1. We talk about film photography as he explains he works in the field, and I learn he’s from Rome and has lived in places from New Jersey to Buenos Aires to the south of France. He explains to me that Madrid has changed greatly since the last time he visited and that tongues of all parts of the world pass through these streets without cessation. We are living examples of this shift.
Memorials to the 191 who fell in the Atocha train station. I am surrounded by blue as I read their names.
Nights are endless here in Madrid. The madrileños, a word that defines both the citizens of Madrid and is synonymous with cats, stay out till the dawn of a new day.
Originally, Plaza Mayor was the site of executions and stranglements. Now, I walk the space and am surrounded by street vendors and overpriced restaurants. The blood of the martyrs is overlooked to those uninformed.
Por favor. I beg the city to be easy on me but it never listens. I must adapt.
Quit your expectations and be content with what you see. You can never see a city in its entirety on your first try.
Reina Sofia. A museum dedicated to a queen. I feel the royalty of having Dali, Goya, Picasso, and others all in one space. A converted hospital filled with the ghosts of artists and their lasting works.
Sol. Una puerta. A door to the sun. I feel the sun finally bake my skin after so much frigidity.
Twenty two years and I double my piercing count. This is a city that is filled with abuelas and their alternatively dyed hair, teens and young adults who bear tattoos on their arms and the back of their necks. I feel safe in this capitol.
Unlike France and Italia, España holds my biological roots. Madrid was the residence of my father for a year after my paternal family packed up and left Cuba in exile. I am a blend of Galician and Catalonian and wonder if these roots are the reason behind my instant comfort in this city.
Vale. It means good to go. An affirmative saying that I hear as I walk into supermarkets, cafes, and throughout the city.
What if the day began later and the nights never ended? What if the day stopped midway through and the town fell asleep? Welcome to Madrid.
X is two lines cutting across each other. It can mean erasure or denial. There’s the Museo de las Americas with its shrunken human heads and mummified bodies. I wish to put an X on the museum for its lack of concern over whether these artifacts should be displayed. These are human beings, not war trophies.
Yo. It is I. The word that gives me the power to define who I am.
Zero. This is the number of times I have felt the need to go back home as I navigate a new metropolis.
everything was designed to last forever by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Toledo, España
A hole in the wall. Punched through the ceiling, and a sight I’ve never seen before in any other cathedral thus far. La Catedral Primada Santa Maria de Toledo darkens our bodies and blows our minds away with its creeping beauty. I’ve always loved Gothic cathedrals more than the showy decadance of Baroque or the orderly symmetry of Renaissance. The way the color spectrum of stain glass beams onto my skin and onto the tiled floors and marble columns, the power contained in the circumference of a rose window. There are stories that shine through the glass and my eyes immediately fixate on these windows of light from the outside world. The sun has ultimate control over how these places of worship are manipulated in ambiance and lighting. Our guide for the day keeps repeating one phrase over and over and over again as we explore the cathedral.
Everything was designed to last forever.
Everything was designed to last forever.
Everything was designed to last forever.
I am not a devotee to these spaces. I am not the worshiper that crosses her heart and kneels before the grand gold altar. I do not believe the Virgin Mary descended from heaven but I understand the power of faith in driving those who do believe in these stories and relics. As I look around this cathedral and the hundreds of years that stand restored before us, a gaping hole in the roof that brings down light and draws out our astonishment, it becomes ever more clear to me about the energy that is harvested in these churches as a result of their worshipers and local communities. An energy that keeps them around long enough for the future to see and experience altarpieces, stained glass windows, and understand the power of belief in funding and driving the creation and maintence of these spaces. An energy at the core of the cathedral that has the power to stun even the non-believers.
may the city scalp your selfish skin alive by Isabella Marie Garcia in Venezia, Italia
Buongiorno to the empty streets you walk down in the morning to reach the Rialto. This is the city that rises in tide and surprises you with its subtle calm. The men of Venice are heavy at work. Men who throw empty delivery crates to the side and drag carts from restaurant to restaurant across waterside cobblestones. Men who steer boats and gondolas down lapping waters, the only ones currently weaving in and out of the city’s liquid. I want to ask them what they think of this island that soon overflows with a tide of tourists, seeking to consume and ravish themselves of what Venice has to offer. Is Venice self-indulgence or are the self-indulgent in Venice?
Ciao to the edges of the island, where the bustle of the visitors and tourists dies and the silence of permanent residancy heightens. I see university students and art kids with their legs over the sides of canals, the free exhibitions of the Venice Biennale are empty for the most part, occasionally trickling with wanderers. I think about the idea of home and how Venice is an isolated mansion. It’s pillaged constantly by the outside world but then left in haunting silence at night. I want to ask its residents and even myself, who sleeps on its land during the night: Am I an invader or simply a guest?
a foreigner’s god by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Cinque Terre, Italia
to the sea
the train passes through tunnels of darkness
tunnels of darkness that shine on us
tunnels of darkness that turn to light as the sea fills the space and i am ready for the clarity of the sea to wash over me
We’re told these next few days are meant for self-reflection and a chance to intake all the content we’ve been bombarded with for the past three weeks. I’ve been told so much about this sanctuary and my expectations are high. The food, the peace, the beauty of being away from metropolises and urban worlds. I tear up on the drive up to the top of Monterosso, where Santuario di Nostra Signora di Soviore waits for us. This is what I’ve been waiting for this entire trip. A chance to expel any frustration, any stress, any anger, any sadness I’ve felt. The pink walls of the sanctuary stand juxtaposed against a quiet background of pure nature and a small church. There’s Gina, the small elderly woman who greets us when we arrive and who I see going in and out of the sanctuary and the church, keeping everything intact. As someone who was raised by a woman who rejected her Catholic upringing, I’ve been told to go against the doctrine of Catholicism and shun the teachings and symbols of the faith. Reject the cross. Reject the idols. Reject the ex-votos. Reject the belief that there’s a middle man between God and the world. Reject Catholicism and embrace Christianity. My mother rejects Catholicism and raises me under a Christian faith from the age of ten and I accept what I hear. It’s not until I begin to question my own identity in my early twenties that my ties to a faith loosen and I feel myself slipping. I’m given a chance to breathe for a month in a secular country and as I’m given another chance for air in a country that is the complete opposite, I struggle to grasp this wholehearted devotion to Catholicism. In this little sanctuary at the top of Monterosso, looking out at the distant city filled with life and lights that dot the landscape with their luminosity, I cry thinking about my mother and how much she would love it here, despite the fact that it’s a sanctuary founded on the Catholic faith. The calamari she would consume like oxygen, the silence of the surroundings, the escape from the rest of the world. I know she’s not happy with my decline in faith as she sends me messages on the daily about keeping close to God and his embrace, but I have found the embrace of the sea and the Italian terrain to be a stronger form of spirituality.
art pop a squat by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Pisa, Italia
it’s lived in
it’s bursts of energy
it’s academic and infamous for its mistakes
it’s a city i didn’t think i’d love as much as i did
With all the attention directed towards the freestanding bell tower that tilts with the mistakes of its architects, I thought I’d be over Pisa in a second. I’d go up the tower and down, over it all. I’d take the photographs that are more for my mother than for myself and leave, content with having ticked another box off on the list of must-see attractions. Yet I found myself wanting to stay past the planned departure time, hoping to keep my body firmly planted in the Square of Miracles, a name that so aptly describes what I feel when I lay down on the grass in the middle of Pisa. Titled the Square of Miracles by Gabriele d’Annunzio, an Italian poet, this “meadow of miracles” bustles with simultaneous energy and calm. Towards the Leaning Tower, there’s the line of visitors hoping to take their picture with the infamous structure, hands outstretched in awkward positions, frustration at how hard it actually is to get the perfect shot. I don’t blame them as I join them, but I also find the mistake of the tower’s very foundation to be ironic with the need to get a perfect shot. What’s the big deal? I see this bustle of energy and the rush towards perfection and I imagine Galileo Galilei standing at the top of the tower, dropping two masses of weight down into the square, hoping for some sort of miracle. Galilei found that the two masses fell at the same acceleration, and I find that Pisa is dropping the strive for vain perfection and a peace with mistakes simultaneously on me. I race past Keith Haring’s last mural accidentally and am ashamed at my own rush. As an artist who knew that his time was running out and that AIDS would claim another victim, Haring created his last mural in Pisa in 1989 on the side of the Church of Sant’Antonio. Tuttomundo, a wall that Haring wanted to combine ideas of peace and harmony with the tumultuous reality of being a human and having to maintain connection with others. I lie down later on the Square of Miracles with friends and I see the rush of living surging around me as others struggle to get the perfect shot, while many want to race through this city like it’s a bucket list. I do not understand and want more time. More time to stay on this grass and under this beautiful weather that I’ve been waiting to feel since the beginning of my time in Italy and deep down, I genuinely want to know what the rush is all about. Where do you have to be and what’s the rush? If anything, it’s an irony to learn that no matter how perfect you want the world to be, the mistakes will still stand, and what you’ll remember isn’t what you felt, but how you looked.
hesitation by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Firenze, Italia
One hand tightly gripping the rock that will execute the deadly blow, the other firm on the slingshot, poised close to the shoulder. I am afraid. The strap of the slingshot wraps around him, molded into the shape of his back, chiseled with care into the softness of his butt. I am afraid. Though far away from reach, I can see the look in his eyes and it’s one that I’m constantly showing the world, though the world may not always notice. I am afraid. Michelangelo’s David was a commission accepted by the artist at the age of 26, a task that would take three years to complete and was finalized in 1504. I am afraid. Standing tall at the end of a walkway in the Galleria dell’Accademia, I walk up to the David and I am afraid.
Michelangelo accepted the challenge of making the statue at the age of 26. Twenty-fucking-six. I’m about to be 22 and feel the weight of decision-making pressing down on my back more than ever before, as I begin to work professionally and internally debate what graduate program, if any, would be best for me. Friends fear asking me the question but it’s asked anyways: What are you going to do now, post-grad?
Part of me believes my time away for two and a half months is a chance to escape from the answer to that question, yet I also feel like I should be finding answers to that question on this trip. For Michelangelo, the commission was one that he worked to get, convincing the Operai, the Overseers of the Office of Works in Florence, to let him finalize the sculpture. As I sit down behind the David with my close friends, I begin to feel the power of the statue in thinking about the artist who finalized him and brought him to life, and what he must have been going through as he slowly chipped a man into existence.
Just like the momentary hesitation that is seen in his marble eyes, ready to defeat a figure twice his size, I’m more than certain of the bouts of fear that must have landed on Michelangelo as he worried about the final results of his labor. A friend in the class tears up next to me as we talk about that fear, one that isn’t exclusive to artists or giant-slayers. It’s a fear that fills each of our young bodies up as we worry about our next steps. He was afraid and so am I, my friend admits.
Afraid of the dangers that lie up next, a day-long trek that will test our bodies. Afraid of the final days as we try to cling on to those we connect most with and afraid of strong personalities and bitchy indifference. Afraid of the return home and to the truth, and the need to make a decision with my future. Afraid and afraid and afraid. Yet, Michelangelo’s David stands tall looking out at me and telling me that this fearful hesitation is part of the process. I am not holding a slingshot ready to kill Goliath with a single throw, nor am I Michelangelo molding the marble to my needs. But I am afraid and I will keep chipping away, ready to shoot my shot, hesitant but willing to face my fears.
Self-Preservation by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Pompeii, Italia
We hold onto so much to remember who we are. I’m collecting receipts, ticket stubs, rolls of 35mm black and white and color film, tote bags, postcards, etc. in an attempt to preserve my time in Italy in physical, permanent form. It’s all a delusion because material items can be lost, destroyed, or possibly, immortalized but unusable, like the city of Pompeii. We see the roads and fast food stands of a former people, and we see their homes and bachelor pads and brothels standing tall before us. We see their theatres and their entertainment spaces and their gardens, but they are not there. We are lucky that the hot volcanic lava of Mount Vesuvius that coated their skin and city preserved their way of living for us to understand. Yet, how unlucky to be one of the 2,000-3,000 who felt the deep burn of the lava, frosting their hearts over into a dead corpse, the air ashed over by the eruption. We see a mother and father shielding their child from the inevitable and we immediately go to our phones to capture this sad moment. Are we remembering them or just trying to remember how we got to be here, in this ashy, immortalized city? I will continue to collect the physical mementos as I make my way around metropolises and small towns, attempting to hold onto the fleeting nature of memory and the warmth I find in momentary scenes. Like the people of Pompeii, who are immortalized in volcanic casts in their final moments, I can’t predict what my final moment will be. It could have been a moment where I’m laying my head on the shoulder of a friend as we make our way back home from a day trip, or the moment I crossed the road of a crazy intersection, or the moments that sit unnoticed until they’re long gone, and I miss the simplicity of those minutes spent sitting in silence, on my own or with friends. There’s a simple glory to Pompeii that was filled with those kinds of moments, as its citizens traversed around the town as we do on this trip, eating the street food created by various vendors and greeting each other on the street as they walked across old Roman roads to get to their intended destinations. I can not self-preserve these moments in the way I wish to, but I can only hope that like the people and city of Pompeii, I will exist in some kind of permanence for the future to see and understand who I was and wished to be.
there is no room for feeling any pain : an abecedarium by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Roma, Italia
A constellation of veiny bruises emerges along the top and inner sides of my thighs as a result of Appia Antica’s roughness.
Pietro Bernini’s The Ecstasy of St. Teresa lights up before us in the middle of lecture. This is not a jpeg nor a projected slide. This is the real thing and it stands high above you.
Chaos is everywhere. Chaos is quiet and chaos is quick. It picks you up and throws the truth out the grand door. It makes you question your own sanity.
Dante said the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain neutrality in the middle of a moral crisis. The hottest places in Rome are nowhere to be found. Is nobody neutral in this city?
Eliminate your biases. Eliminate the distaste your mother feels for Catholicism. Eliminate her voice as it appears in the back of your head, scolding you for visiting churches and holy sites.
Find your people. Lose your people. These are the streets of Rome.
Gelato in the freezing night air. It’s a comforting freeze and yes, G Fassi is better.
How does so much history casually sit next to each other? How can we come from such a young city like Miami and not feel overwhelmed by the deep roots that wrap themselves around our ankles and drag us underground?
Imagine the ruins of the Roman Forum as they once were. When does a space become a ruin?
Jesus welcomed with open arms. We welcome each other with sleepy eyes and quickened paces.
Kill your coins. The fives and ones and the odd twos that jingle in your wallet.
Labicana has not always been a tram stop. It was once an ancient Roman road and entered the empire through the Aurelian walls. Now, it is the marker for our lost minds as we try to get back home.
Maybe Roman history doesn’t make my eyes shine.
Never accept the roses handed to you by the vendors in the plazas and tourist traps. Never accept the stories told to you as complete fact. There is always a bias.
Outsiders to an empire that will never rise again.
Portamaggiore is the great door to late nights staying in, to cold nights and sad nights, and nights of hope talking frankly with one another about our current states.
Question the Catholic Church. Why must we pay to make your insides light up?
Romanismo. Two to zero as the seagulls of winners fly around in circles and the flags of AS Roma supporters billow in the wind.
Saint Cecilia with her hidden face, cloaked with a cloth and bearing a blade’s attempts at silencing her. You don’t need to see her face to know she’s heartbroken and determined all at once.
Trams and buses and a metro. There is no room on these at times, and there is no room for feeling any pain.
Uscita to your right and your left. Choose.
Void of humbleness, Rome is a bloodstream boasting with glory and the dangers of it, the limits of pride, the grace of an artist’s sculpting hand.
X, an error as you try to lock away all the details and infinite information.
Young bodies lean against erect, ancient columns.
Zillions of mosaics placed cautiously together to form images and symbols, from the face of an angry Christ to the deep blue night sky speckled with golden stars, hovering over us, threatening to drop and cut us with their tiny sharp edges.
Silencio Per Favore by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Tivoli, Italia
As a bus takes us up into the hills of Tivoli, the calming jolts of a bus ride are speckled with dialogue about our Miami homes and what we’re already missing. I feel cruel thinking it’s irrelevant, but I am arrested by the views that scroll past my window like a movie.
How can this exist? How am I here?
Why are we thinking of Miami when all this unearthed beauty lies at the soles of our feet?
As an individual, Hadrian was a migrant from his native birthplace of Spain. Upon becoming emperor, he discovered that the Palatine Hill was not home. The chaos of Rome became too much and he retreated into the countryside, seeking an escape from the chaos.
I find myself constantly overwhelmed by the chaos of Rome and I find myself retreating into moments of silence, like the atmosphere that can be found in the nature that surrounds us on our trip to Tivoli, in order to regain a sense of peace that has been lost by the push and shove of Rome.
I walk away from the crowds of the Roman Forum and cry in the quiet corner of the ancient law courts. I walk away from an overwhelming social situation and into the night of the city, letting the quiet walk back home calm my shaking nerves. I separate myself from the rest of the class and walk around Villa d’Este on my own, calmed by the delicacy of irises, the roses, the archways that frame the fake-looking countryside. I am even calmed by the tiny chaos that comes in waves through the space, the small children who are at the villa running around, simultaneously disturbing the peace of the space while also breeding life into it.
As I discover the calm of Tivoli, I’m reminded of the question I asked about why Hadrian would want to return back to Rome when he had a villa to escape to and live in till the end of his life. Why would I want to return back to the chaos of Rome or even the craze of my own life in Miami? Yet, with his role as emperor to complete, and my own roles at home that I must fulfill, I understand the need to separate oneself whenever possible but also to never forget one’s responsibilities.
I sit cautiously in a cave and hear the crash of a waterfall and forget about the chaos for just a moment. These are my favorite days. Days where the greenery is endless and I look out onto a scene that is too perfect, the days when my body is aching from the lunges across natural terrain and I am struggling to balance on the rocks and steps of an untainted part of the earth. I forget about my anger and my frustration and remember why I am here. As Hadrian returns to Rome replenished from the home he has created in the surrounding countryside, I return to Rome renewed and ready to live out the rest of my days here with an openness to the chaos.
Maybe the dialogue is irrelevant to the scenes that pass us by, and the moments of frustration build the tears up in my eyes, but we are here and we are aching and we are a chaos of our own kind, trailing our energy from the caves of Villa Gregoriana into the metros and trams of Rome.
Georges Méliès: Le voyage dans le cinéma by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Père Lachaise Cemetary, Paris, France
A Parisian born in 1861, Georges Méliès grew up with a strong creative desire, often filling his school notebooks with pictures of caricatures and puppets and eventually building puppets of his own. After helping out his family’s shoe business and serving for three years in the military, Méliès delved into stage magic and the power of illusion at the Egyptian Hall in London, an exhibition hall that often featured magic shows to the general public. He put on his own shows, but attendance was generally very low, yet Méliès became not only director of his shows, but also a producer, writer, and set designer. After having seen a production by the Lumiere brothers, Méliès wanted to purchase a cinematograph and begin his own film productions, but the Lumiere brothers did not want to sell any of their film equipment. Modifying a film projector into a film camera, Méliès also bought his own film and developed it through trial and error. Having directed 500 films in the span of 17 years, including a 13-minute long film on Joan of Arc, Méliès built his own film studio and incorporated his experience with magical illusions into his works. In 1902, Méliès created « Le voyage dans la lune », an adventure film that included innovative special effects, such as jump cuts, and launched Méliès to international success. After 1909, Méliès stopped making films and turned to selling sweets and toys at the Montparnasse station in Paris until passing away from cancer in 1938 at the age of 76.
Red velvet seats, one after the other, ready to be accepting of you for the next hour or so.
Midnight premieres, advanced screenings with their exclusivity, award shows where actors and actresses don Vuitton, Gucci, De la Renta dresses and suits and live tweeting captures every dramatic moment.
Science fiction conventions brimming with devotion and awe over the fantastical and the impossible.
The power of film has been a common tie across cultures and individuals and is my common tie to Georges Méliès. I’m probably the last person you’d want to see a film with, and it’s not because I talk during movies or crunch on my popcorn. It’s not because I spoil endings or fall asleep during a movie.
It’s because I can’t bear to watch films without complete peace around me, either getting annoyed at the tiniest child crying or at the crunching of a candy bag. I can’t even stand to watch movies on opening nights because of the amount of noise being created by the amount of people in the theater. I’m unbearable to the common moviegoer, just ask any of my friends, and while I initially thought it as just an annoying quirk, I now see it as a demonstration of my respect for film and the power it has had in my own life.
For Méliès, fantasy had always been a comforting force in his life, and gradually became his entire motivation to create works of art. Ever since I could remember, I always watched classic movies as a result of my Abuelo’s influence as a babysitter, making me watch grainy versions of Singing in the Rain and The King and I. Film has always been the buzz in the background of my own life, and when my Abuelo passed this past January, it felt very weird to not have that figure in my life who shared this obsession with the film world. I miss the hum of the Turner Classic Movie channel in my home as I sit at night doing work in my room and watching the Oscars with snarky old man commentary.
Film is a ritual in my eyes. Whenever a new film comes out that I want to see, I make sure to wait a bit before I watch it, and I try to go to the movies on discount days, and most of all, empty theater days. Being consumed by moving art in the dark stuns me to this day, and every time I leave a theater, I’m at peace with the ways in which art can put things into perspective.
Méliès kept moving along in his film career even when others were denying him easy access. He made sure he tried it out for himself, and not just the role of filmmaker, but also producer and set designer. In full command, Méliès became his own company, and I have found ways in which to do the same. I used to think I couldn’t be multi-purposed in terms of my own career or abilities, but as I double major in English Literature and Women’s and Gender Studies, minor in French Language, seek a Film Studies certificate, curate my own writing blog, and make my own collages and short film diaries, I’ve realized how unlimited I really am. I don’t have to choose one thing I want to be or do. I can choose to have many choices at my disposal and when looking at the filmography and career scope of Méliès, I’m comforted to know I don’t have to be or create one thing. I can take the form of many things, whether it be a personified moon with a rocket ship jutting out of its eye, or a weathered old man serving candy to the young children and travelers of Paris.
Sisters of Sacrifice by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Normandy, France
for Dolores Browne
Sergeant of the U.S. Women’s Army Corps.
Drafted from Connecticut.
Gone on July 13th, 1945 and only 23, maybe 24, years old.
I know you served in the first and only all-female, all-black battalion of the Women’s Army Corps. Number 6888th. I know you’re one of only four women buried in this very ground as a result of your service. I know you were one of three black women killed in a Jeep accident in France and that your fellow comrades and gracious French citizens had to raise money in order to organize your funeral. I know you were the only one of those three women who died days later as a result of your injuries and that no other traces can be found of where you come from.
Who claims you?
That’s all I know of you.
The women of the 6888th Postal Directory Battalion, also known as the “Six Triple Eight,” went by one motto:
No mail, no morale.
They converted temporary post offices into demanding workstations, with several shifts of sorting through sky high piles of letters and packages in order to get mail to its proper owner. Even if there were 1,000 Robert or John Smiths fighting in Europe, they would find the exact man to hand a personal message to, never failing in fully delivering and completing their missions. Over 855 women served in the 6888th battalion of Women Army Corps, and 150,000 served in the Women Army Corps. Their conditions were rough, their sacrifices were great, and for the women of the only all-black battalion, they were never publicly recognized for their service at the end of the war.
I don’t know much. I don’t know who your mother is or where you went to school, if you loved coffee or smoked cigarettes. I don’t know if you owned a record player and would play the top hits with your best friends after school, I’m not sure if you had many friends or if you were a loner. I don’t know if you intended to marry or if you wanted to become a doctor.
I don’t know who you really are but I recognize you today.
What I can guess is that you went abroad with a fire burning through your veins to prove yourself. Not just your individual persona, but the color of you skin and the hearts of your fellow sisters. You have to prove your worth when you shouldn’t have to explain yourself to anyone. I’ve felt the need to prove myself but never to your extent.
I’ll never be in your shoes. I’m not black. I come from a Cuban family that fled to avoid persecution but the shade of my skin isn’t vulnerable in the eyes of the world.
I’m a woman but privilege is real.
I can’t relate to much of your life, but what I do relate to, I cling to, that urge to prove yourself only to fall into a trap. Nobody there at the end of the day to recognize all of your hard work. Nobody who believes in you, or at least you think doesn’t believe in you. You’ve felt all that and I have as well.
I don’t know the details of your life, Dolores, but the circumstances you lived in and what you represented have paved the way for women of color across all fields, making strides gradually but surely. You are one of four women in this cemetery, and that’s little, sure, but it’s never been about quantity.
As a young woman of your age, I thank you for what you’ve done and what you could’ve been. You are one of 150,000 women who gave themselves to us in order to be stronger, freer women.
I see you in the young girls who run freely without care.
I see you in the young black woman who fights gun violence and breaks her throat in protest.
I see you in the innocent black lives that are lost as a result of hatred and ignorance.
Young black women, ready to fight, not with guns, but with words and their crafts, I see you.
I see myself in you, Dolores, and for that, thank you.
Plateau d’enfance by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Plateau des Glières, France
Climb up. Jump! Balance on the rotten log that divides you from the rest of the trail. Breathe in the crisp air that envelops you. The speckling of wildflowers dancing as the alpine air hits them. The crunch of the rocks & pebbles as your classmates solve the natural puzzle before them. The peaks that rise before you, telling you that you’re smaller than you think.
It’s the burn in your calves that makes you second guess the beauty of the French Alps.
It’s beautiful, sure, but it hurts. It hurts to climb when you feel your legs on fire. It hurts to breathe when you can hear your heart throbbing. It hurts seeing how far back you are from the rest of the crew, how one of you couldn’t even finish.
But there is a pain that goes beyond the physical sores, an aching chest, loss of breath.
It’s the pain of tiny hands never getting the chance to grasp a colored pencil ever again, their small bodies yanked from an alpine paradise, a temporary home against a background of intolerance.
Can you not see their small smiles, joyous at the bar of chocolate they bite into, a piece of candy that means everything?
Can you not see their worries for their family? Where is maman? How is papa? Me? I’m okay, happy as can be.
They can’t see a life bigger than their minds, eyes bright and open towards understanding, arms forever open.
They can’t see Lucienne Friedler. They can’t see her young face, looking out at the mountains that connect together. They can’t see her curly locks when worn naturally, straight when brushed out. They can’t see who she could be, the young woman from Anvers, a February baby, who could rise to academic excellence, maybe a journalist, possibly a doctor.
But she can’t escape.
She’s just an idea that needs to end.
When we look to the mountains and wilderness for refuge, remember those who couldn’t escape. Remember those who breathed in poisonous fumes when they should have breathed in fresh grass and a clean childhood. Remember those who forever remained children.
B-3962 by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Lyon, France
Beware. It’s happening now. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandmas, grandpas. Finding themselves stuck, in a home, that’s now confinement. Mont Luc.
We’re sitting in restaurants, walking along roads, and riding along on metros and buses. History is breathing heavily right next to you, telling you to stay vigilant, warning you to take action. History is old, and history is slow, but listen to it. It’s telling you with wrinkled hands and a gentle pace that you can’t turn your back on the truth. You can’t turn your back on the children lost at the border, the mothers weeping for their safety, or the sting of leaders not giving a damn. You can’t turn your back on issues beyond our country lines, and even though they don’t compare to the severity of a mass genocide, it still matters. It still matters that gunfire is the first resort rather than the last resort. It still matters that an embassy opening provoked a rightful protest against those who have stolen homes, only to end in the death of 58 innocent civilians and harm to more than 1,000. If we can’t protest without risk of flying bullets, then what are we? Cattle herded in silence?
When Monsieur Bloch tells you how he lost his grandpa in a matter of minutes, you cry thinking about your own loss this year and how you didn’t even get the chance to say goodbye. For a man who risked his own safety to get his family out of a communist regime that slowly infiltrated the island, Abuelo was living proof of resistance against oppression. He huddled a two year old daughter and humble wife to a land scary with possibilities, and here I stand. I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye, but he doesn’t deserve a goodbye when I can still see and hear him. I see his anger at Fidel Castro in my own anger at ignorant systems, and hear his cackle in my mother’s own laugh, and I know that history is much more than what has occurred. It’s what can take place and what will happen.
Dieu by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Versailles Museum and Gardens, France
God. Dios. Allah. Dieu. Jehovah.
I do believe God has a name, which assumes I believe in a god. That belief in a divine power has its limits, of course, when it comes to the trust you put in a god, and most of all, a human who believes themselves to be a god. Louis XIV, with his maison and jardins, filtering millions into aesthetics, while a child rots on the street and bellies died empty. Marie Antoinette, a goddess in her own eyes, constructing an artificial haven, façades as fake as her, basking in a world she didn’t even want to enter. These two figures, believing themselves to be divine, have created a legacy that manifests itself in sweaty, red-faced tourists and selfie sticks, billions of visitors per year, and Cuban cafes named after their home in the heart of the 305. When considering the people they left to starve and the ignorance they enclosed themselves in, miles away from the casualties of reality, it’s easy to hate on Louis and Marie, but also easy to forget the power of divinity. But wouldn’t you do what you wish if you thought you were divine?
abecedaire de juillet by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Paris, France
A month away from home
Bisous from strangers
Champions du monde
Dancing in the Parisian dark
Euphoria in your jetlagged bones
Falafel picnic in the park
Goodbyes don’t come yet
Home is here
Île-de-France and its floating history
Justice for some, none for others
Kilo shop thrift finds
Latin Quarter’s narrow streets
Metros of every color and personality
Nothing feels real
Odéon before you depart for Saint-Michel
Paris are you a dream?
Quiet moments as we walk next to legacies
Reggaeton by the Seine
Stendhal syndrome at Saint-Chapelle’s stain glass
Together or alone, it doesn’t matter
Under a city of life, you ride along
Vin of red, white, and pink
World cup watch parties as we down happy hour drinks
always out of reach a vessel of the sea that’s always out of reach I look out onto the water gripping my camera hoping for a ship that personifies adventure but I get a boat that’s slowly rotting its corpse sucked away by the atlantic I look up at the roof of a “home” gripping my phone hoping for a ship that personifies imagination but I get a cheap imitation one you could find perched on a tacky armoire in kirkland’s what’s with all these inreachable illusions? the titanic was the largest passenger ship afloat in 1912 in 2017 it’s popular oceanic junk european men bragging about their grand and wonderful women gran princesa de los cielos mv princess victoria ss principessa jolanda claiming them as their own an ownership that was never theirs to begin with and now belongs to the sea
You think You own these vessels vessels of propulsive speed vessels capable of wreckage and destruction You never owned them in the first place not even the sea does as wood disintegrates and metal corrodes
The laziness of a European
summer. It’s a
contradiction of moving
limbs that don’t know
what rush hour is, that
don’t feel that a rush even
exists. A languor that hits
you most when you’re
laying outside, sweating
but cooled down by the
breeze that shivers your
skin and picks up
displaced blades of grass.
We are so far away from
home. Would you like to
be my home?
The summer of European
laziness. Vizcaya and its
lack of labels. It’s an
estate. It’s a villa. It’s
history. It’s future. It’s
Spanish and French. It’s
Italian and Bahamian. It’s gay billionaire vibes. It’s policing the borders of a female stone body.
It’s pretending to have your shit together. It’s knowing you don’t. It’s j’ai dit and yo digo and I
said this so why are you challenging me? Everyone knows about it. Nobody knows a thing about
One April night, you’ll sit on the steps of this estate speaking to a woman who’ll become one of
your close friends. You’ll be crying about a close friend who’ll become a stranger, and the life in
the evening will continue on. There’s families and singles and couples and whole groups sitting,
standing, walking, pacing. You’ll think of the lack of labels you felt in that moment, where do
you go when you don’t fit anymore, when the puzzle piece’s edge has been chewed off and
doesn’t mold to the group? You’ll feel a sense of peace for this European villa and its creeping
beauty, it’s saucy bitch and her resistance to the waves of a tempestuous bay.
I conquered Vizcaya in college. In
just my undergraduate years, I’ve
visited this preservation of
European-inspired architecture, a
inspired villa in the south of
Miami, at least a dozen times. I
fought and challenged the sauciest
bitch that was my tour guide time
and time again. I found my voice
in a student poetry evening, where
a couple walked up to me after my
reading and told me that they had
never heard the Bahamian aspect
of Vizcaya voiced so loudly. I’ve
reflected on all the selves of Isa
that have walked through the
forested paths leading from the
parking lot into the roundabout.
Ponce de Leon is looking down at
you and your classmates are
looking at each other. All the faces
that have shapeshifted semester
after semester. I’ve walked down
the natural corridor leading up to
the villa with groups of seventeen
to forty peers, the same gray-
haired ponytail leading us all into
I see the Isa of wide-eyed days, looking up to the staircase where J’AI DIT is written, surprised
at the connection to the initials of the villa’s creator. There’s the Isa yelling at Jonah arriving late
to his poetry station and the Isa clinking styrofoam cups of rum coquito in the parking lot of
Vizcaya Village with Steph, smuggling their share of emotions into the December evening.
Yet Vizcaya has conquered me.
There’s the Isa who arrives to Vizcaya on the night of ZipOdes heartbroken at the close friend
who doesn’t want to be her friend anymore, who is brought to tears as she hears Steph going
through the same thing. I see the Isa of frustrated days looking out onto the barge, annoyed at a
man’s words about altering a woman of stone because her breasts are too much. Isa’s always
been too much.
My dear friend once told me that she has come to Vizcaya time and time again yet she has never
been the same person each time she’s come to visit.
As I stand in the place that has seen the many selves that I am, I don’t know who I will be the
next time I come to visit. As I imagine myself five months from now about to enter Spain, the
land of my great-grandparents, I don’t know who I’ll be.
Will I feel right at home? Is this land where I truly come from? Will I be angry? Will I be sad?
I won’t be sure until I walk through the Spanish streets and hear the accented lisps of my
bisabuelas and the the Catalonian anger of my paternal great-grandfather. I might morph into the
Barcelona woman that stems from my father’s end or find that Galicia is my true maternal home.
Yet, like the Vizcaya that has seen me going through all the emotions that scratch and scuff the
inside of my heart and the edges of my bones, I’ll feel at home soon enough in the most unlikely
Shalenah Ivey is a recent graduate of Florida International University and its Honors College as of Spring 2019. While a student, she majored in Art History, minored in Spanish Language and Cultures, and completed a certificate in Film Studies. Her passions in life are art in its many forms, the written word, and the understanding and celebration of cultures from around the world. While also having experience in video art and film photography, it is with writing that Shalenah hopes to inspire, awaken, and reach those near and far. More information about her can be found at divineivy.wordpress.com.
PAMM AS TEXT Think Pinkby Shalenah Ivey at PAMM, 14 October 2018 Blue is my favorite color. It is as deep as it is endless and as mystifying as it is sincere. It has stained my soul. It has dyed my daydreams. Yet, I have been told by many that when they think of me, the color pink is never far away. Walking into PAMM’s newest exhibit I felt as if I was wading into an aura. Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1980–83 | A Documentary Exhibition captured the entire process of the iconic Miami installation by married artists, Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Comprised of preliminary sketches, court documents, and other photographs, it brought to life the sheer complexity of the undertaking of the project. When I stepped into the exhibition, there was a black and white photograph of the artists strolling hand in hand upon the Biscayne shore. It was as expansive as it was intimate and I felt to be a part of that fleeting moment, invited within their world.
Thus, I fell into Surrounded Islands, immersed and captivated by the physicality of it all. So tangibly potent were the artifacts steeped in time. The finiteness of a date attached to a legal record. Hurried signatures and stamps. Pinks maps and pink papers and even pink tarps apart of the original installation. Inescapable was the hue and unforgettable its presence. The world, my world, was permeated with pink. I felt it without touching it. Surrounded by the vision of the artists on an island of my own.
I close my eyes and what radiates is pink.
DEERING AS TEXT Take Heed by Shalenah Ivey at Deering Estate, 04 November 2018 Primus Devine was the name of my great great great grandfather. He lived most of his life a slave in South Carolina. He tasted freedom perhaps a decade. We know almost nothing about him. Had I not had an insatiable curiosity at age 17, we may still not know his name. He is the farthest back my family (on my mother’s side) has been able to go in our ancestry. I have always clinged to the stories my grandmother has told me of her childhood growing up in 1950s South Carolina. Although her family was poor, her stories are rich with a boundless love. Exploring the Deering Estate and the untouched landscape that stretched beyond the house reminded me of my perpetual attachment to the past. The ways in which time cruelly escapes me. The ways in which the walls of an old building whisper stories. We adventured into a pure paradise. Then to that of a grave. We don’t even know their names. But their bones stay. The sky is still bleached blue. Papaya hangs from branches and rests on fallen trunks. Green but rotting. I think of the grave again. Have we failed them? Have we failed each other? Daggers and death still live on. The trees speak. The trees sing. The trees weep. Listen, Miami.
VIZCAYA AS TEXT Mary, did you know?byShalenah Ivey at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, 10 November 2018 I think one never grows tired of visiting the Miami marvel known as Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. The muted clementine walls that wait outside. The way that archaic touches lining the street only hint at the grandness awaiting within. Walking the shadowy path amongst the forest on the way to the mansion. Hearing the sound of traffic die down within the breaths of the trees. Perhaps there is a transcendence or perhaps the allure of grandeur can simply overwhelm the senses. Gold and silk and ancient objects adorn the walls and spaces of Vizcaya. For James Deering, the estate’s owner, there was truly no limit. There is no other option but to be in awe of his creation. Yet, despite the many times I have been to Vizcaya, I have never noticed the statue of Mary that sits almost discreetly in the formal dining room. Her face is pained with sorrow. Her countenance concentrated with the softest of melancholy. What is it Mary? What has you so troubled? The word decadence embellishes my mind. Decay beyond what can decompose, beyond what can tarnish… Oh, but the sky is so blue across the bay. The manatee swims so near. What shines will rust and what stands will fall. Bacchus calls. The grapes will rot with tenderness. The waves will hum to you if you let them. A baby’s coffin is in the room with Mary. I wonder what she could say if she could speak.
UNTITLED AS TEXT Never, ever enough artbyShalenah Ivey at UNTITLED, 09 December 2018 I read this in Samuel L. Jackson’s voice. It made it all the more real, all the more crucial, all the more potent. Dreams are free, motherfucker. Unfortunately, I did not think to take a picture of the didactic. Yet, those words will stay with me. The Untitled Art fair was sincerely worth the last four years I failed to make it to Art Basel. I refuse to lament on the past, however, and I firmly believe everything happens in the time in which it is supposed to happen. Thus, I am only grateful I experienced what I did today. Not only what but when. When and also with who. The first steps into the Untitled fair were nothing short of captivating. My remaining steps proved to be increasingly special. The art curated was as cutting edge as it was promised to be. It is both inspiring and comforting to be surrounded by such talent and to know that people are in this world creating endlessly. Dreams are free, motherfucker! But for how long? What do I dream? I dream of Spain and of love and blue skies and of eternity and true happiness and of empty sun-glinted beaches. The color blue has permeated the day. My favorite color. Today, I asked, “How long does it take for the the sun to set on Jupiter?” I was told that I took the sun when I left.
MARGULIES AS TEXT Magnificent Margulies by Shalenah Ivey at Margulies Collection, 24 February 2019 I paused, perplexed in front of an iridescent sculpture. I stood, unsettled in the presence of concrete. I felt, touched by the bygone world of my grandmother in a single photo. Two young black boys carrying ice blocks, barefoot down a country road. These instances were just a fraction of my experiences at the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse. More than just a trip to the collection, our class had the privilege to experience a personal tour by Mr. Martin Margulies, owner of the institution. His smile was a spark. His demeanor was modest. There was a certainty in his hearty voice that drew me in, compelling me to listen attentively to his words throughout the afternoon. He asked us what is the value of beauty and what is it that makes something art. There were hundreds of millions of dollars worth of art surrounding us yet the tour with Mr. Margulies had the warmth of someone showing us their home. Each piece was purposeful and weighted in it space. Each room was a world of its own. A wonderfully weird diner scene, an image of Americana. The solitude of a New York bus rider. A space with infinite reflections, infinite realities. What does it mean when the depths of wonder know no bounds?
ICA AS TEXT Listen to the Beat by Shalenah Ivey ICA Miami, 22 March 2019 We musn’t forget that art is alive. That it is a force that moves and breathes like you and I. Sometimes it mourns and is imbued with grief. Other times, it gives birth to elated dreams. If we are still enough and if we are open enough, we can hear the beating of its heart. Art is the most special when it makes us hear our own. When it unifies us and seals as one, even if the moments are fast and few. At the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, I felt the works of art viewed by my class erase visages and barriers. Abstracted visions and the frivolity of reality slowly stripped away at us until all that showed was a naked and naive innocence of wonder. Larry Bell’s minimalist world took us to another plane. In blackness, our bodies were erased, but there was still touch and voice. A dimension of soul and sound. He prepared us by taking away our shadows. He made a figment of our reflections. We were baptized in a pool of vulnerability. The third floor of the ICA connected us to a woman’s world and we were pierced by the female gaze. Judy Chicago’s works reminded me of a rebirth. Our blood and bodies returned to us. The tactile and the red physicality of what it means to be alive. Emotions, glorious and ghastly. At the center of this all, the heart. Don’t try to escape its sound.
RUBELL AS TEXT Bite Me by Shalenah Ivey at Rubell Family Collection, 04 April 2019 Someone said to burn it down. Someone else said the piece was totally disturbing. Another simply wrote, “Perfection.” These are comments taken from the Rubell Collection’s Instagram post of Tschabalala Self’s Untitled (2017) mixed media canvas. I’m not sure if I love it or hate it. Perhaps it is both. Perhaps I love only her. But does it even matter? I see a woman in full possession of herself. The divinity of Venus. I see a crude caricature. An image steeped in a ugly history, an ugly present. I think of Sarah Baartman. A slave to her body while also having her humanity raped. I think of women in music videos, treated as nothing more than a prop. I think of the girls who twerk in front of the mirror, falling in love with themselves. What is this vessel of bone and fat and skin? The woman who is unashamed of her body is a dangerous weapon. The woman who revels in her own sublimity and her own imperfections. Whatever you think of her, our lady is a gun and a goddess. She is not for consumption and if you disagree, you can bite me.
DEERING AS TEXT For all that is Human by Shalenah Ivey at Deering Estate, 20 April 2019 Shell had the beauty of ivory in my hand. I was hushed then humbled by what it is and what it means to be human. When stepping into the Cutler Fossil site at the Deering Estate, my classmates and I were told to quiet ourselves. I did so and absorbed the spirit of where I stood; a place that was home to people ten thousand years ago. We were on sacred ground. Almost overwhelming was the action of imagining the souls of those who once lived here. I was the first to hold one of their tools. It was smooth and a portal to the breaths of a prehistoric people. I wish we could know their names, know their faces. Did they think of time? Was love their heaven? How did they say goodbye? I wonder if they felt sorrow. I wonder if they singed. I wonder when they looked up to the sky, if the clouds made them feel the same way as they do me? Gentle and transcended and filled with peace; in touch with all that is divine. I mark my memories with the clouds. If only, we could know theirs. These questions go unanswered, kept secret by the enigma of time. Yet, under a canopy of unending green, the knowledge that they lived is enough. Their presence is enough.
Though the rise of the #MeToo movement and the increasing presence of women in the workforce and public spaces reflects a growing consciousness of women as equals, the amount of voices speaking out against pressing issues like sexual harassment, pay inequity, restrictive gender roles, etc. is louder than ever before. What is the state of women’s issues today and how does gender affect aspects of our everyday lives? Please join us for a “The Voice of Women” Civic Dinner event in collaboration with the FIU Honors College and Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. The event will be hosted by Isabella (Isa) Marie Garcia, an undergraduate student in the FIU Honors College double majoring in English Literature and Women’s and Gender Studies, and will be held on Thursday, March 7th, 2019 from 1-2pm. If you would like to join in on the pre-discussion lunch, please arrive to Vizcaya Museum and Gardens at 12:30pm. Please bring your own lunch. We hope to see you there!
This post is a listing of important news and upcoming events for all of Professor Bailly’s courses in the FIU Honors College.
There are two majors projects/events this semester: one at PAMM and the other at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens. PAC students are involved in both. ASC students must select one of the two as their main project for the semester. Study Abroad students can participate in the PAMM event as extra credit.
PAMM PAC Poetry Reading at PAMM
06 April 2019, from 14:00-16:30
Professor Richard Blanco and students of Poetry Art Community (PAC) will read their poems at the Perez Art Museum Miami. Following this formal reading, participating students from all five of Bailly’s classes will position themselves throughout PAMM and read their own poems or as Texts.
There will be two separate readings: formal and informal. The formal reading will be at a podium and only consist of professional poets and PAC students. The informal reading will be directly after the formal reading. The informal reading will consist of any students from all classes reading their work in a location within PAMM. Just like a poetry flash mob (5 extra-credit points for all Bailly students that participate in the informal reading by reading their work. All Bailly students will have free admission).
“To many American Millennials, the national debt may seem like an abstract concern. In an era of quickly growing debt and political polarization, the country’s national debt is consistently placed on the back burner by our political leaders on both sides of the aisle. But our generation actually has the most at stake when it comes to policy decisions made today about our country’s fiscal and economic future, and it’s up to us to come together and speak up. This conversation is geared toward college students and administrators.” – (Civic Dinners Official Website)
Dear Members of the Miami Contemporary Art Community,
In Spring 2019, we are entering the second semester of the new seminar I have developed in the FIU Honors College: Art Society Conflict (ASC).
Similar to other classes that I have taught (such as Aesthetics & Values and Poetry Art Community, co-taught with the poet Richard Blanco), my objective is for students to immerse themselves in the community of contemporary art, especially by working for/with an artist(s) on a project. We do not have any funds, but we are 35 dedicated students ready to work on creative, unique projects. We do not seek financial compensation in any manner; we want to participate in a contemporary art project purely for educational purposes.
For an idea of what we have undertaken in the past, please review these pages. Last semester, we worked with Robert Chambers on one of his installations at the Bakehouse Art Complex. We have also previously painted poems on roofs with Randy Burman, and worked with the Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark to build “Garbage Wall” at Untitled.
“Panther Alumni Week (PAW) connects students with alumni through class presentations, industry panels and networking events. PAW promotes the building of relationships, which leads to networking, internships, mentoring and career opportunities.
We’re proud to celebrate the sixth anniversary of PAW! With your involvement, we can make PAW bigger and better than ever.
Each year, we invite alumni to campus to engage with our students on campus by offering real world insight and valuable career advice.
PAW is scheduled for the week of February 4-8, 2019 and will take place on campus and online.”
Please join Professor John William Bailly and FIU Honors students currently enrolled in Poetry Art Community (PAC), Art Society Conflict (ASC), and the Honors Italy, Spain, France 2019 programs for a PAW potluck to share stories from previous trips and years, along with giving advice to future students.
All FIU Honors College graduates are invited to come back to campus and speak to the students. If you are an alumni of either Poetry Art Community, Art Society Conflict (previously known as Aesthetics & Values (A&V)), or the Honors Italy, Spain, France courses, please email Professor Bailly in order to confirm your attendance.
If you have not graduated but have completed any of the courses or the three study abroad programs, please feel free to join us. Professor Bailly can’t register you as an official PAW guest with FIU, but we’d love to have you come and share stories, advice, and eat with us.
Art Society Conflict (ASC): Thursday, February 7th, 2019 at 2:30pm in SIPA 220 PAW Speakers: Melissa Marie Garcia, Stephanie Villavicencio, Jonah Wichterich, Johayra Witter
Honors España,Italia, and France: Friday, February 8th, 2019 from 10:00am to 12:00pm in SASC 352 PAW Speakers: Gianmarco Agostinone, Natalie Brunelle, Tolga Erbora, Isabella Marie Garcia, Nicole Hernandez, Viktoriya Justiz, Anthony Padura, Jonathan Urra, Stephanie Villavicencio, Athena Watkins, Jonah Wichterich
If you realize at the last minute that you can join us, please do.
FIU Honors Spain 2018 (Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0)