Nicole Pena is an Honors College Student of Florida International University. She is currently obtaining a degree in Chemistry: Bachelor of Arts.
Below she uses her love of photography and knowledge from this trip to express her as Text assignments for Italia Study abroad.
Tivoli as Text
“Small Town, Vast History” by Nicole Peña of FIU at Villa Adriana in Tívoli, Italy
Tívoli had a primary history of philosophy, sexuality, and culture. The first Villa Adriana was for philosophers and intellectuals while the second Villa D’Este explored the sexuality of Italians. After seeing these two villas, I had more of an in depth reflection with the story of Hadrian and his male lover, Antinous.
Romans were known to have a very sexual character and used this culture for pleasure and entertainment. Hadrian had a wife at the time but found ways to have other relationships with both men and women. Having more than one partner was common and acceptable back in the Roman era.
As understanding Roman sexuality, I can only feel that we are going backwards in America. Yes, homosexuality is becoming a more acceptable topic but still is growing in negativity. As a college student in their prime state of vulnerability and confusion, I feel that everyone is still trying to find themselves, even with sexuality. I found it incredibly interesting that Hadrian was able to have a same sex love and grew such an attachment that he even created a temple for him after his death. His wife at the time seemed to have known of this relationship and still was found to be an acceptable concept of more than one partner.
Another concept that Tívoli takes into account, much like all Romans, was women’s body image and beauty. The Temple of Venus found in the Villa of Adriana was of a woman most likely coming out of a bath as she is in her cleanest state. The portrayal of women truly shows their thoughts of how beautiful, sexy, and pure they can be. This contradicts much of how Americans view women’s body today. As a woman, I feel the need to look at every flaw my own body has. Body image has grown to be a negative concept that has put women down, including myself. As Mother’s Day just passed, we realize how incredible our bodies are. The ability to hold and grow humans in our body is truly a miracle of life that should be cherished. Women shouldn’t dismiss the beauty of a body just because it isn’t viewed as a “perfect” body from the outside world.
Rome as Text
“79 AD” by Nicole Pena of FIU at the Colosseum: Rome, Italy
Who would of thought cruelty would be entertaining? I think about this question but I find that I am being a complete hypocrite. The moment of relief I get when the bad guy gets killed in every single action movie. Clearly, the thought of death is intriguing but in a bit of a different context.
The Colosseum was a place of entertainment whether it consisted of innocent or guilty people. This circular amphitheater, created by the Flavian family, was made to give back to the people. Animal sacrifices, persecutions and gladiator fights took place here. The audience would laugh and bet as each person fell. The concept of ethnicity was definitely not familiar to the Romans. But is familiar to us now? We find entertainment in the sport of Football. The players are beaten down for a win much like a Gladiator did in order to survive.
As I walked through the Colosseum, I quickly notice the rich history and beauty of this colossal Roman structure. To even think that a structure from 79 AD is even still standing, it leaves me in awe. All I could think was if I was a Roman back then, would I have enjoyed this type of entertainment too?
“As a Gladiator” poem
As a gladiator,
I am fighting,
Looked down upon.
As a gladiator,
I am a fighter,
Look at me as I just won.
As a gladiator,
I am fighting,
Trying to get my last breath.
As a gladiator,
I am a fighter,
Trying to be my best.
Pompeii as Text
“What Once was” by Nicole Pena of FIU at Pompeii, Italy
As I began walking into POMPEII, I had the instant urge to know more about the city. What was so special about this Roman city that there was enough tour groups to fill up to its entirety on a Monday?
On August 24, 79 AD, the sky of Pompeii slowly grew from blue to black. People were confused and not sure what was going on. Soon lava rocks began to fall from the sky which brought fear to the people. They began to leave their homes and whole lives behind. Others were not too lucky and stayed. Unfortunately, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius took the lives of 2,000 to 3,000 people.
The lava rocks produced a mold over time of the people and is shown throughout Pompeii. The horror of their faces and positions took me aback. I can’t believe that these humans who thought they could wait out the storm died instantly. The thought of staying truly scares as someone from Miami who chooses to wait out hurricanes.
It brought me to the broad idea: is anyone ever safe? Is our homes truly the safest place we can be? Nature is a wild thing that can affect us at any moment and time. We are constantly in a vulnerable state no matter where we are. But should we let fear rule our life? I truly believe we shouldn’t. I will always live by the motto: whatever happens, happens for a reason. With what was in Pompeii, it is now an incredible landmark.
Florence as Text
“Firenze is Women Empowerment” by Nicole Peña of FIU at Firenze, Italy
Firenze is all about women empowerment. Whether it is mythology or not, art in Firenze praises women as sexually liberated goddesses.
In the Uffizi Museum, the Botticelli’s Birth of Venus is primarily known for praising Venus and all of her glory, especially in a nude state. Botticelli incorporated the background of waves that look like semen and erecting trees to enforce sexuality as well. The completion of Venus truly brought women a new view on sexuality and how it can be portrayed as good.
In Botticelli’s Primavera, the season of spring brought fertility and sexuality to the whole painting. This classical imagery allowed for a narrative to occur with openness to interpretation. Venus was also portrayed in this painting having sex with Mercury. Both paintings connect well with women empowerment and how sexuality is used in a good way.
Another painting with Venus by Titian is displayed in the Uffizi. Venus is shown as pleasing herself in a normal and casual way. Other people in the background are casually doing their own chores while Venus is in this act of masturbation. I found this painting extremely empowering for women because she is able to do what pleases her without the judgement of others. I find being sexuality liberated in today’s world is difficult.
In Artemisia’s Judith Slaying Holofernes painting, two women are chopping off a guys’ head. If that doesn’t scream out to you that women are strong, then I don’t know what does! Although back then women were oppressed of their sexuality and free expression, those few paintings that were saved have been truly influential to Firenze’s view on women. The fact that a woman’s painting is displayed in this museum portrays how now we are praising women and their ability to bring such anger and power into a painting.
While I do know that Firenze was created by the Medici family, who were primarily influential men in the Tuscan area, they used their office to bring in all these artworks to show their high status. By doing so, they definitely liberated the sexuality of women. Although it’s only a few paintings, the strength behind them has allowed women empowerment to grow and structure itself to what it is today.
Pisa as Text
“Miracles or meant to be” by Nicole Peña of FIU at Pisa, Italy
The Medieval era is something I AM NOT used to and I can honestly say it is not my favorite. It totally contradicts all my beliefs as a Catholic. Since I was very young, I have learned that God is our Savior and is reliable. He is loving and will always be there during times of need.
Walking through a Pisan Romanesque church for the first time, I quickly noticed the simple bricks and large columns. All were placed in a certain way to make the building seem longer than it really is. The Medici family donated the gold ceiling as well, which brought an extravagance Baroque theme to the Gothic cathedral.
Once I reached the altar, my eyes were directed straight to the God looking down on me. I felt inferior to someone that I have looked up to in Glory all my life. As Machiavelli once said, “it is better to be feared than loved”; the Gothic era definitely portrayed that. Right next to the feared God, there was a Renaissance painting of Him. I quickly distinguished the difference between the two. The Gothic God was intimidating while the Renaissance God shines bright with open arms. Which God would have been followed more?
The theme of Gothic Romanesque moved through the Cathedral and to the Baptistry that was from the 1200s. The same architectural structure followed through this dome but the aspects of renaissance related to a small yet reflective moment. One of the workers did a short singing performance which gave me chills as his voice prolonged through the striped walls and columns, reaching to the heavens and bringing a great connection with earth.
A true miracle that is standing in the same field is the tower of Pisa. How it is still standing today is beyond me. This circular bell tower was definitely a new concept as other bell towers were structured with four corners. This tower was used for scientific and mathematical advancements, such as Galileo testing weight and Fibonacci understanding mathematical sequences.
There is a great connection between all of these three structures: miracles. The baptistry, cathedral, and bell tower are all not standing up completely straight due to the unsteady soil. It makes complete sense as to why the place I was standing in was called the field of miracles.
Cinque Terre as text
“YOU ARE A DREAM, CINQUE TERRE” by Nicole Peña of FIU at Cinque Terre, Italy
Since the moment we got here in Cinque Terre, I have fallen in love. The blues from the Mediterranean Sea and the colorful buildings all brought a uniqueness and ease to the area. During this whole study abroad, I was most excited for this beautiful coast of Cinque terre which means in Italian “five lands.” The day of the hike was when we explored those five towns that lie between the mountains and the sea. The extreme contrast between blues, pinks, yellows, etc… in the buildings brought contrast to other Italian cities on the coast.
First, the hike to get in between each town was a BIT brutal, but definitely rewarding. The UNESCO world heritage hike has trails that haven’t been worked on for centuries. It is protected by UNESCO to keep the original trail that the donkeys and Romans used to walk on. The steep hills and uneven steps continuously tested my ability to complete the hike. The scenery of the sea and the nature definitely allowed for a time to reflect.
The food in Cinque Terre with its fresh fruits and seafood was to die for. In Vernazza, the fisherman town we stopped at in our hike, had the smell of savory seafood filled in the air! Lemons were also another delicacy of Cinque Terre. It was great to mix, the two: land and sea. Cinque Terre is also known for their white wine. I did not believe how fresh the wine was up until we hiked through the wineries, especially when we were leaving the town Corniglia. There was a moment where the hiking trail consisted of beautiful terraces with grape vines. Since the wineries covers down almost the whole mountain, the barrel system that is used is extremely efficient
The fresh food and wine in Cinque Terre helped me realize how terrible our food production is in America.If we grew our own products without hormones, it may cut down in food supply but will allow for a healthier population. I truly believe we need to change our produce system to prevent diseases, especially since we are the number one country for obesity. America should attempt to have a system where our lifestyles could best resemble that of the Italians, where food is less processed and health is more easily attainable.
Venezia as Text
“See you soon Italy” by Nicole Peña of FIU at Venezia, Italy
Venezia was on a whole new and different level from what we had previously seen on this trip. The uniqueness of this city brought cultural diversity to the Venetian Lagoon. The narrow alleyways and constant blue canals that we bumped into at every turn truly embody Venezia and its beauty. The twisting of the streets made it easy to get lost in this endless city.
This city was built on only small islands of sand in order for the Venetians on the mainland to protect themselves from the Barbarians. This idea of building from the water with pine trees, sand, and Istrian stone led to the flourishment of what we call Venezia today. Trade is immensely significant as Venezia connects the East and West. Whether it be pigments, spices, or other products, it produces constant revenue and allows for capitalism to occur.
A huge tourist trap has to be the gondola rides. With its black sleek exterior, which was created by noblemen who wanted to conform to their society, gondolas have attracted over 60,000 tourists that arrive everyday by its popularity. As seen in movies and television, the romance definitely was nice to feel in the air as couples were seen constantly riding the gondolas. This attraction has been known as a symbol for Venice and its romanticized aspect.
The Piazza of San Marco stood out to be the best Piazza we saw during the trip. With its extravagant structure, it was the first spot to get filled up every morning by tourists. The consistent history portrayed in this piazza, especially with Saint Mark and Casanova, brought many to the basilica and Florian Caffe. Seeing Saint Mark’s basilica was an impactful moment for me. The Romanesque columns, Islamic dome, Gothic spires, and renaissance statues were extremely overwhelming, but beautifully done. The diversity used in the architecture and artwork showed Venice’s great connection with the rest of the world. A huge concept of wealth is also shown through all its cultural diversity. The basilica literally screamed out to me “WE ARE POWERFUL” as they were able to mix all of these cultures together.
Clearly, Venice has a great system to be able to attract more tourists than there are residents. In my opinion, Venice is a beautiful city and may have been the best we saw. It reminded me much of home, especially with the trip coming to an end and how homesick I had become. It’s time to go back to reality. It’s not a goodbye, but a see you soon Italy.
In this project, the main focus will be pertaining to Spain’s influence within the fashion realm and what has the Americas borrowed from them in this transatlantic dynamic dialogue. We will examine the brief history and impact of Spain’s influence and power throughout different eras ranging from the Moors dominating Spain, during 1492 where the Catholics defeated the Moors and exiled them, and after the Age of Conquests where the New World was discovered by Christopher Columbus and conquered during that time. While examining fashion trends and habits, we will also expand on societal roles in Spain and its changes and similarities when compared to the Americas, particularly to women and the natives. This project will also examine how Spain has had their fair share of the fashion industry in the global market in the current period. The project revolves around various cultures and religious impacts towards Spain and the influence towards the Americas and how those differing choices of styles and accessories benefited the population in the New World whether it be the Islamic tapadas or the Catholic guardainfante dresses. It is difficult to ignore the diverse mix of cultures and religions that developed Spain’s history and its influence towards the Americas.
The Moorish Empire in Spain:
Before the Catholic monarchy dominated Spain and exiled the Jewish and Muslim population, the country was ruled by the Moors from 711 A.D to 1492. The Moors were a general population of people who were of northern African descent and predominantly of Muslim faith. They were led by general Tariq bin Ziyad and defeated the Visigoths by crossing from North Africa to Gibraltar and continued to dominate the majority of Spain until the fall of Granada in 1492.
Society During Moorish Rule:
The Moorish society at the beginning was seen as more tolerant than other periods of conquests and domination periods. It was depicted diverse with Muslims, Christians, and Jews having similar rights, but the Christians and the Jews had more restrictive policies than the Muslims did and were seen as second-class citizens. Even though the non-Muslim citizens had the right to follow their beliefs and were not forced to convert, they had to declare that Islamic influence and power is superior, avoid converting Muslim citizens, and had restrictions when attempting to build their churches or synagogues. The true dynamic between citizens with differing religions in Moorish Spain is still debated by historians with some saying that the Muslims showed contempt to non-Muslims and some saying the non-Muslims were treated as the bottom of the social hierarchy. Nonetheless, the Jews and Christians were not persecuted nor forced into slavery for their differing beliefs. Some reasons as to why the non-Muslims were mostly tolerated was because Christianity and Judaism are monotheistic like Islam and the number of Christians outnumbered the population of Muslims so converting them would be risky and expensive to accomplish. However, around the 11th century, the Muslim rule became more repressive towards non-Muslims and tensions became stronger which led to the Muslim reign to decline and Christian rulers reclaiming some land from the Moors. In addition, the Muslim rulers of the kingdom were divisive with one another, enabling the Christian rulers to shatter the kingdom and conquer Spain once more.
Women in Moorish Spain:
Similar to the non-Muslims in Moorish Spain, women were also generally seen as second-class citizens but also had some rights and privileges. However, women did not have as much freedoms compared to a Muslim man, but a Muslim woman was depicted to have more freedoms than a Christian or Jewish man. Some freedoms that a woman can obtain in Islamic Spain was protections from violence and theft, the ability to purchase or sell goods as well as owning or inheriting property and being able to seek employment. Some of the more repressive laws against women were that husbands could domestically abuse their wives, limited rights to inheritance, and only men could initiate the divorce process had more leverage in court than women did. Another common restriction that is noticeable in both Islamic and Christian Spain is the restriction of women wearing certain dresses and accessories since there were high expectations of modesty. In many cases, the freedoms of women could be heightened through marriage. A current wife could prevent a husband from having a second wife or a concubine despite polygamy being allowed in traditional Islamic law. Although discouraged, a Christian or Jewish woman could rise on the social hierarchy ladder by marrying a Muslim man and can earn more rights than a non-Muslim would. The idea of tolerating interfaith marriage was a stark contrast of the previous kingdom’s policies from the Visigoths where interfaith marriage would result with the man being executed and half of the woman’s property would be confiscated. There is a nuance concerning women’s rights during the Moorish period as it was a mix of some freedoms and repressions for them, but they were still seen as inferior to their male counterparts and were not seen as equals during this period due to the very apparent restrictions.
In Moorish fashion, women would wear veils on their faces called the tapado. The term translates to English as the covered one which correlates as to how the accessory was used during that time. The veiling accessory was popular among Muslim women and eventually adopted by Christian women and wore them both in Spain and the Americas during the 16th and 17th century. However, the men and policymakers did not like the women partaking in wearing the tapado. The tapado gave women many freedoms in the city such as having anonymity and having their social status hidden. Between 1586 to 1639 there were multiple laws passed to restrict the use of the veils in the name of Christianity. To the legislators of Spain, most notably Cortes de Castilla in 1586, petitioned to King Philip II saying that they perceived the tapadas as an offense to God since women had the freedom of anonymity, that men could not recognize the women and approach them for their exoticism and alluring mysterious presence and even accusing men of wearing tapados themselves to perform sinful acts. The monarchy imposed these laws but saw no significant change in Madrid, Seville, or in Lima. This controversy allowed artists and writers to depict and reinforce the idea and theme that veiled women were seductive and mysterious during the late 16th century. In Peru, tapadas were well known in Lima since many of the converted Moors and Muslims would flee there as their new home. These women in Lima were known as Las Tapadas Limeñas and these veils were seen more as a rebellion to allow women the freedom to wear what they want and continued to do so despite policies attempting to forbid them of wearing them.
Tocas de Camino:
Also known as the alhareme and the more common term toque, the Tocas de camino were a specific style of headdress that is known to be similar as a turban in Moorish Spain. It was also adopted by the Christians in the mid-15th century and was considered as a national headdress since it was popular in the early 17th century. In Spain, it would be worn by essentially any social ranking. However, in the New World, it was also commonly worn but for a different purpose. The Spanish rulers wanted to provide an alluring, exotic, and distinguished idea of Iberian fashion to spread the European image and accomplished this by gathering articles of clothing that described at the time of Iberian fashion. Since the toca was so commonly worn, it was included with the image of an Iberian person. Then, the accessory was served to distinguish the noble Spaniards from the lower classes and natives. The toca has also evolved over time with thinner fabrics and covering the very back of the head and extended through the neck and chest while being adorned with jewels.
Chopines, Chapines, and the Guatemalan Chapíns:
The Moors had developed the origins of a high-platformed heel called the chapine which is now currently known as the chopine shoe. These types of shoes were very popular in both Spain and in Venice. They created the shoes either out of cork or from wood and served various purposes. The peasants would wear these to keep women elevated from getting their feet wet from dirt and mud. On the other hand, the upper-class women would wear these shoes to flaunt and establish their wealth and had more luxurious versions of these shoes. The shoes then went out of style around the 1730s due the modern heel being established that society uses today. However, one could assume that a more modern type of the chopine is back in the fashion market. It has seen a resurgence in the Americas and all around the world since the 1990s and has been somewhat popular in the modern market and sells them in the form of either sneakers or open-toed sandals or heels in the name of high-top platform shoes. In Guatemala, the people that live there nowadays call themselves a chapín. This term originated because of the Spaniards that immigrated from Spain and settled there. They would point out the clunky shoes and the non-Guatemalan people would use this term originally as an insult regarding as someone who is not noble and pretended as if they were. However, the term’s meaning shifted when Guatemala gained independence in 1821 and use it as a prideful term to describe the Guatemalan population.
The Golden Age of Conquests:
The Rise and Fall of Fashion Influence in Catholic Spain:
In 1492, it was a pivotal year for Spain due to the Catholics conquering from the previous Moorish empire and Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the New World. These events had led the Catholic monarchy a drastic increase in power, wealth, luxury, and influence in the fashion sphere. Due to multiple resources that the Americas offered such as gold, jewels, log wood (Haematoxylum campechianum), the Spanish dominated in fashion with their black, green, or red farthingales embroidered with golden or silver trimmings and stunning pearls and rubies. Whether it be in the Royal Court or in the Americas, the nobles and elite would wear the extravagant outfits to flaunt their upper-class status and reinforce the European culture to the natives no matter how time-consuming and uncomfortable some of the outfits were. Spain had spread their popular styles in France, England, Holland, and Austria where they borrowed and incorporated the same styles. It was until the mid-17th century when Spain lost its popularity and France took the lead in fashion.
Farthingales and the Guardainfante Controversy:
The origins of the Spanish farthingale dress began with the verdugo which appeared in 1470 which involved rigid hoops to make the skirts in the dresses stick out in a cone or bell shape by having a small hoop just below the waist and then larger hoops further down the dress. Then in the 16th and 17th century, it evolved into a type of farthingale called the guardainfante. This dress had a wider skirt and gave more of a prominent bell shape from the waist down. It sparked controversy because the dress’s reputation of being worn to hide illegitimate pregnancies, despite no consistent data proving the accusation. Another reason why it was criticized was because men thought women wore the dresses to challenge their authority since it gave women more personal space and they accused women of hiding items underneath the large skirts. It was declared banned to every woman but prostitutes in 1639 by King Phillip IV. However, the ban did not succeed in censoring the outfits because the dresses were still being worn in the royal families. The dress was also popular in Portugal and Latin America, specifically in Mexico where the women thought the dress was very elegant. The guardainfante dwindled in popularity around the world at the end of the 18th century but the Spanish were stubborn in losing the tradition and continued to wear an evolved version called the tontillo, also known as the pannier.
Gauchos, Vaqueros, and the Cowboys:
The gaucho, vaquero, and modern cowboy outfits differ from each other but has the same origins in 12th century Spain where cattle herders wore vests, spurred boots, and tight trousers. The three variations of the costume are different because it was a form of adaptation to their varying environments. In the gaucho outfit, their most recognizable features are the calzoncillos, which are breeches, and the Chiripá which are baggy pants worn over the calzoncillos. The gauchos who lived in Argentina and Chile wore ponchos to protect themselves from the Andes Mountain’s weather conditions. They also wear coin decorated belt buckles called the cinturones. The vaqueros in Mexico is considered to be the direct ancestor of the American cowboy. They kept the spurred boots, the sombrero, and bolero jacket like their Spanish origin, but they differ because they wore armas and chaparjos which were cowhide slabs that served as protective gear from the thorny bushes in the Americas. The modern cowboy that has the most well-known outfit usually wears Stetson hats, denim jeans, fancy embellished belt buckles, and high-heeled boots. These outfits vary throughout the New World due to differing environmental changes, but it traces all the way back to the cattle herders in Spain.
Mantillas and the Peineta vs. Peinetón
In 1721, a traditional shawl made from silk with floral motifs called the mantilla had risen in popularity in Spain and in Mexico. These were seen as family heirlooms as they were commonly passed down from older generations. They would also be accompanied with a Spanish comb called the peineta would also be seen alongside with the flamenco dress style with the shawl’s variation, mantón de manila. The depiction of women wearing mantillas while listening to their lovers playing guitar had spread from Spain to Mexico and the Philippines. The mantilla used to be worn by upper-class women but then lost their popularity and only lower-class women, gypsies and flamenco dresses wore them. Referring back to the Spanish comb named the peineta, it was challenged by the Argentine women from the postcolonial movement. They would wear a 3 ft by 3 ft comb on their heads called the peinetón to assert Argentine presence to distance themselves from Spanish authority and for female independence. It was a short-lived fashion accessory only spanning from 1832 to 1836.
Social Roles and Las Castas:
Women’s Roles in Spain:
Similar to the Moorish period, women in Catholic Spain also were seen as inferior to men and had multiple restrictions compared to their male counterparts. During the 16th and 17th century, women in Spain were not allowed to learn how to write nor were they able to participate in the professional workforce. Most were expected to be either a homemaker or a nun. To run a business or gain more privileges, a woman would have to be a widow to inherit certain businesses and properties but the inheritance would still be restrictive. The common theme of women’s education was preparing for marriage and the responsibilities of being married with a potential family. They were excluded from professional institutions and their opinions were discredited. For the most part, women were seen as a fragile being that needed protection, irrational, and physically and morally weaker than men. They also perceived feminine sexuality as dangerous because they thought it gave men “temptations” to commit sinful acts. There are also many common themes of restrictions of clothing and the freedoms those pieces of attire provided.
Women’s Roles in the Americas:
When the New World was discovered in 1492, there was a sizable number of Spaniards that decided to emigrate to the new location. From data collected of emigrants from 1493 to 1600, there was a total of 54,881 men and only 10,118 women who moved to the New World. The reason why the number of women was less than the amount of men was because single women who were not married was much less likely to receive authorization to travel unless she was married to her husband in New Spain. Another method for single women to travel to the New World was for them to be a servant for another traveler. Some reasons as to why women would migrate to the Americas was a better social system due to them having more power in commerce and crafting, being the top of the new hierarchy as a European in the New World, and not having to do many of the household chores such as weaving and cooking since the Natives were used as servants at the time. Some Spanish women also helped alleviate burdens for the militia in the Americas by doing various chores for them such as washing clothes, caring the injured, and sometimes had to defend themselves when the men were away from the garrisons. Some examples of women who fought alongside with the conquistadors were Doña Isabel de Guevara of Argentina and Doña Inez Suarez of Chile. In the households, the Spanish wife would serve as the foundation of preserving the Spanish European traditions and culture in the family. The wives would also try to maintain cultural standards such as speaking only in Spanish, sewing and embroidering in European designs and celebrating Catholicism. In modern Latin America, many middle-class and upper-class households have domesticated servants to do the house chores and sometimes take care of the kids when the parents are working. In some cases, the servants have their own small private room in the same house, so they can do the chores in a timely matter and quick access. The typical domestic servant would come from a lower-class background as similar to the past when Spain ruled the New World.
When the Spaniards started to settle to the New World, there would be a mix of people from different heritages due to the Spaniards breeding with the Native population and the African slaves. Because of this, the European colonists would call the mixed children as castas, an Iberian word meaning “lineage”. The term was commonly used in the Americas during the 17th and 18th century to identify the mixed population. In the New World, the Spanish elites created a social system of classes based on race called Las Castas. The origins of this system started in Spain after the Christians took over from the Moors and would examine the blood purity and lineage of their citizens since they did not want people to live in Latin America if they were considered tainted of Moorish or Jewish blood. The four original categories for races would be the Peninsular, Criollo/a, Indio/a, and the Negro/a. Each racial category was given a set of rights and privileges. The peninsular was a Spanish person born from Europe and they were considered the elites of the social hierarchy. Criollos and Criollas were those of Spanish blood but born in the New World. They essentially had almost the same privileges as the peninsular class but were sometimes seen as inferior to them. Indios and Indias were the Natives living in the New World and the Negros and Negras were African slaves sent for forced labor. Other common racial categories were Mestizos, Castizos, Cholos, Mulattos, and Zambos. The Mestizos were a mix of a Spanish and Indian parent, Castizos had a Spanish and Mestizo parent, Cholos were from an Indian and Mestizo parent, Mulattos descended from Spanish and African parents, and Zambos were from their Indian and African parents. There were much more combinations and categories for more complex mixes with common paintings from the 18th century usually reinforcing about 16 categories. These meticulous methods of determining the race of a person would determine their entire lifestyle and socioeconomic standing. The mindset of European superiority has been a common theme throughout the history of colonialism, even with the United States’ history of treating the natives and the African slaves poorly due to their race.
The Modern Spanish Industries:
Despite the history of Spain’s rise and fall in wealth, power, and even in fashion dominance, Spain currently has a good share within the fashion industry with its mass retailers such as ZARA, Mango, and Desigual stores taking over in North and South America. According to the data in 2015, most of Spain’s fashion companies receives their revenue primarily from the global markets with Inditex (owner of Zara, Stradivarius, etc.) making 82.3% of their sales from international markets, MANGO earning 83%, and Desigual making 77% of sales around the world. These leading brands also display their dominant presence around the globe with Inditex having at least one store in 88 countries with 7,013 stores in total and MANGO with 2,700 stores located in 107 countries.
Zara is one of the most well-known Spanish retailers in the fashion market. The company strives to offer trendy clothing with affordable prices to their consumers. The founder, Amancio Ortega, revolutionized the fashion industry during the 1980s in terms of designing, delivering, and developing the fashion collections in a more time-efficient manner. Zara abandoned the traditional method of presenting a new collection since it was time consuming with an average time of six to nine months until another collection would be replaced. To analyze the issue, Inditex would consult with the regional managers about consumer demands and predictions and they found that about 50% of the products were relatively nearby the stores. This discovery allowed the company to manufacture and deliver the new clothing in about three to five weeks which was a drastic time-efficient change. They also decided to reduce the amount of waste by choosing fabrics in only four colors and planned to dye and print on the clothing only if it was near the factories. The result allowed Zara to design and sell 20,000 different products which is a significant increase compared to their competitors only designing around 1,000 to 2,000 products. It is both a cost and time efficient model in the fashion design industry and is applied in numerous other fashion companies currently.
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Latina, 15 Aug. 1999, www.zonalatina.com/Zldata55.htm.
Dance is one of the purest forms of art and expression, not only does it tell a story by the way the performers interact with each other, but it also displays the mixture of cultures that contribute to the music and movements that make each dance unique. Most people when referring to Spanish dance tend to name Flamenco as the dance of Spain however, Spain’s dance culture is influenced by different aspects depending on the regions. These different dances have traveled through Spain, Europe and to the Americas giving birth to different dance styles or modified versions of the Spanish dances.
The traditional dances were folk dance that were different and unique to different regions of Spain. These dances led to the more famous and modern dances that now define Spaniard music and dance.
This is was a dance that was very popular the Catalan region of Spain and it is considered to be a part of the identity of Catalonia. It is a dance that is played by a ‘cobla’, the live band that plays the music. Men and woman dance it equally as they move in a circle slowly taking small steps back and forth to the rhythm of flute and drum like instruments. It is still very important to Spanish culture and the are about 200 bands that play this style of music in Catalonia.
This dance is regional to the areas near the stretch of Galicia and this dance demonstrates the derivation from Celtic culture that is more common in the northern part of Spain near the Iberian Peninsula. The use of Bagpipes (gaita) and traditional outfits show the resemblance to Irish culture. It is danced at a moderate fast pace that is common to the dances of Spain in it could be done in circles and rows of dancers.
The dance of the south originating in the region of Sevilla. It was derived from Seguidillas a type of fast paced folk dance for couples. The lyrics are the most important part of this music and they sing about common life themes. The dance was later influenced by Flamenco and vice versa making them very similar and easy mistaken by those that do not know.
The original bolero originated in Spain as a ballroom dance. It was the influence of the Flamenco style dance that follows the name of boleras because of the music style and use of ‘castanuelas’, but it was actually made by combining the folk dance of sevillana with a contradanza. Although there is a dance originated from Cuba with the same name, it does not relate to the Spanish bolero until recent times where the Spanish have incorporated the more modern Cuban Bolero into Spanish Bolero for a different twist on the Dance.
It is a very common and popular couples dance that originated in Andalucía. The dance is intended to show a story between a couple, and it is revealed in the movement of taunting that each dancer shows the other. Could be seen as a fight or represent a war between two people. It is very similar to Bolero, and Flamenco because the music, instruments used (castanuelas).
Jota represented by the sound of the letter ‘J’ is a dance from the northern parts of Spain, Aragon. However, this dance is one of the only ones that is spread throughout Spain being represented differently in each region expressing the different aspects of cultures that each Spanish region have. It is composed of a fast-passed dance and even includes jumps.
Flamenco is the dance that is known to represent Spain. Nonetheless, it was introduced and developed in the south of Spain (Andalucía), and could even be considered insulting to ask someone from the North if they dance Flamenco. It is composed of different dances and rhythms from Arabic and Jewish decent and classical Spanish music. Today it is one of the most popular Spanish dances because of its music, use of guitars and, remixes they have done to the music to make it seem more modern.
Paso Doble is an interesting form of expressing Spanish culture because it is meant to model the act of bullfighting, a common entertainment and cultural identity of Spain. It is a fast-passed couples dance where the man represents ‘el matador’ and the woman is the swift flowing cape. It was originated as a French military march that is still referred to during festivals. Paso doble is one of the various dances that was later incorporated in Latin American dances.
This atypical dance is more of a theoretical musical style where the music changes between spoken and sung scenes. It was originated in Madrid in the Zarzuela Theatre. This was another of the dance entertainments that incorporated its self in the New World and the different countries adapted it to their own mixtures of cultures.
Relation to the new world
Most dance-based cultures in Latin America where not fully and solely influenced by Spanish dances because most Hispanic dances are mostly alterations of African dances. However, that minor alteration that changes the African dance is the input of Spanish dance that was brought from Europe.
Religion in colonization dance: Before Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas, the indigenous groups had their own ritualistic dances and ceremonies, after the natives, the slaves brought from Africa brought their own experiences and interpretation of religious dancing. During the conversion period Catholics priests decided to allow the slaves and natives to dance and have ceremonies if they modified them to refer to the Catholicism. Slaves found a way around conversion by lying and giving African names to Catholic Saints they would praise their African gods but to the Spaniards view they were praising Spanish saints. This not only birthed a new religion (Santeria) practiced mostly in the Caribbean Islands but also to various new dance forms that had mixtures of Religious Spanish dances and African dances.
It is a topical dance of the Caribbean that originated from African culture. It derived from the Cuban Rumba a typical dance that originated in the northern parts of Cuba mostly in the capital La Havana. It is meant to represent a man trying to seduce a woman and the woman tantalizing him by leading how she reacts to his advances.
Same name diferente steps:
As the formal dances above mentioned moved to the Americas, they changed not only because of the difference in liberty of the American people but also because of their physical consistency. In dances like the Seguidilla and Fandango, in the Americas they were changed to be about more feet movement called el Zapateo because the regid torso position helped to have a faster foot movement. This dance became very popular and still is in places like Mexico, and Colombia. The dance of Jota stayed pretty similar however, without the castanuellas , the hops and fast paced danced turned into dances like ‘Tiranas of Argentina and ‘Jaranas’ in Mexico.
This dance was very important because it became the symbol of independence from the Spanish colonies. It was known as the mestizo dance. It originated from the general dance of sonecitos del pais which was the dance that most of Latin America transformed from the popular Spanish dances of la Jota and Seguidilla. In Argentina it became known as la Zamba and in Mexico La Chilena, with time the different countries changed the mane and some movements.
Los sonecitos del pais developed with time into different more sensual dances known as Sones and Jarabes. From this musical mix derived El Son. It was very popular in the Caribbean although there is a Mexican Son. the Caribbean one originated in Cuba. this dancee gave a stop to the other dances that were fast leg movement a led to a more Afro- hip movement.
This dance was the mixture of independence and elegance. it sported the movements and etiquette of the Waltz and the Polka but with a more sensual modern twist that the couples got to dance closer and touch each other more, so close they need to dance on a single tile.
This famous Mexican dance was a Jarabe that derived from the Spanish dances and it encompass most of Mexican tradition. It originated in Jalisco and it is the music that accompanies the famous Mariachi bands.
Punta is a reference to the mixture of “Mayan dances and the religious dramas of Moors and Christians”. It is the typical dance of the countries on the Atlantic coast (Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua ect.) It is a celebration to the dead and it is danced by moving the hips and lower parts of the body.
Before doing this research, I believed that most Hispanic dances were a mix African, Native, and Spanish dances, this research showed me what dances truly contributed to what specific dances. It showed me that no dance is truly pure, and it actually is an art form that represents a mixture of cultures and people.
Jessop, Tara. “10 Traditional Spanish Dances You Should Know About.” Culture Trip, Tara Jasop, 22 May 2017, theculturetrip.com/europe/spain/articles/10-traditional-spanish-dances-you-should-know-about/.
Wall, Amy Lynn, “Dance as a cultural element in Spain and Spanish America” (1992). Presidential Scholars Theses (1990 – 2006). 151. https://scholarworks.uni.edu/pst/151
“Architecture should speak for its time and place, but yearn for timelessness”
It is said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and if that truly is the case, the Italians could burst with pride at any moment. Over the years, there have been many ideas and movements that have originated in Europe (specifically in Italy) which Americans have shamelessly adopted as their own. A very palpable one is Italian architecture, which has been imitated all over America since the very beginning of our nation as we know it, in an attempt to become a little more like the Romans. There is no surprise here, seeing as the United States always aimed to be the most powerful nation, and the Roman Empire was, and continues to be even after its fall, the greatest, longest lasting world power to ever exist. So why not copy their architecture? After all, architecture is, in my humble opinion, the perfect, most functional combination of science, and art. It is history, culture, past, present, and future intersecting into one; always recycling concepts, and reinventing itself: an everlasting reflection of the people.
While America’s motives are clear, it takes a curious eye to see exactly how America has embedded Italian architecture into its own. When we look at long-standing governmental structures, churches, and even suburban houses designed by American architects, we might be inclined to think that they invented it. In reality, they made a few alterations to an already existing model that was born in Italy. In some ways, we see that even today! All you need to do is buy a plane ticket to New York City, go down to Battery Park at the tip of the island of Manhattan, and recharge your closet with fake Gucci, and Fendi products.
When it comes to architecture, different religious, political, and artistic movements play a big role in dictating what the next building is going to look like. So, the best way to explore Italy’s influence on American architecture is to take a tour of Italian architecture and history.
Beware though, that this is a trip back in time, and with chronological stops along the way. Once you’ve seen it, you can’t un-see it, and you’ll find Italy around you, every single day!
Stop I: Ancient Rome
Roma was founded by Romulus in the year 753 BCE, and it became a republic in 509 BCE with the rise of the Senate . Much like America has done, the Romans also borrowed ideas from other cultures. In the 2ndcentury BCE, the Romans borrowed architectural ideas from the Greek, and created their own style. This ancient Roman style consisted of an external Greek façade with many contributions to suit Roman needs.
The ancient Greeks developed the idea of an amphitheater to stage plays, and entertain the masses. These structures were built on hills, which allowed everyone, no matter how far away from the stage, to see everything. One main feature of these amphitheaters is that they are completely open spaces with a stage on one extreme, and a semicircular seating arrangement in front of it .
The Romans took this concept, and improved it in the construction of the Colosseum in 80 CE. They added more seating space by having a centralized stage with seats creating an elliptical 527 meter circumference with a 48 meter height divided into four floors. With 45000 seating places, 5000 standing places, and 80 entrances, this provided a solution to Rome’s increasing population. Another feature that stands out is the presence of a backstage area, and a network of underground tunnels, which allowed for the preparation of the performances. This was especially true of gladiator shows, where the gladiators, and their wild animal counterparts were kept hidden from the audience in these tunnels. A partial roof, and above-ground seats were also features that the Romans added to the Greek design, which is similar to the stadiums, and arenas that we have today .
So, while the concept of an amphitheater was created by the Greek, our present-day implementation more closely resembles the Roman version of it. The clearest example is found in a football stadium, not only in the overall shape, and design of the building, but in the kinds of performances that it houses. Many football players share a similar background of low socioeconomic status, and football provides a possible exit from the life that they grew up having. Much like the gladiators back in ancient Rome, football players endure immense physical stress with the hope, but never assurance of a brighter future. While they do this by personal choice, it is inevitable to notice the similarities between the two groups, and how history repeats itself, even if on the other side of the Atlantic. What’s more enlightening, these upgraded gladiators are AMERICAN football players, which says a lot about the United States as a nation. We have been so fixated on the success of the Romans, and the desire to reach it, that we have copied one too many aspects of their identity, ignoring the people at the bottom who are affected by this.
Arches and Vaults:
With the rise of Rome came wealth, and an increase in immigration. High population densities demanded architectural solutions, which included the use of arches, and vaults in constructions for public use. Arches originated in ancient Egypt and Greece but the Romans were the first to use semicircular arches in bridges, and large scale architecture like we see today .
One of the structures that used arches is the Arch of Constantine. This arch was built in 315 CE in honor of Emperor Constantine’s victory. It has three arches, and it is a symbol of wealth, power, and authority . Not surprisingly, an American interpretation is found in New Orleans Mint (1838), which really made me think about the intentions behind this. New Orleans Mint is overpopulated with an excessive number of arches (See link below). But what better way to bless a country with good fortune than to include symbols of wealth in its money-making facility? Whether intentional or not, there’s no denying that in the 1830’s there was a lot of Italian influence on American architecture.
The use of oversized arches is also seen in The Presbytere, a museum in New Orleans that was built in 1813. In its picture, we can even compare the size of the arches to that of the people standing below them, and we can appreciate how these arches served a decorative purpose, and were not just entrance points, an idea that is entirely Roman in nature since Greek and Egyptian arches were built large enough to allow people to go through them.
Another Roman innovation were groin vaults, which were used in the Baths of Caracalla. Built in the year 212-216/217 CE, these public baths had a 24 meter long tepidarium (warm bathroom) . These vaults were meant to fortify structures, and they were also used in the construction of New Orleans Mint (See link below for pictures).
The Roman Pantheon was originally finished in 25 BCE, however, in 80 CE it was demolished, and the one we see today is the reconstruction under Emperor Hadrian in 118 CE. He had vast knowledge of culture, and respected all religions, so he intended to create an inclusive space for people of all faiths to gather. Churches provided gathering grounds for people since religion was a social act.Aside from the personal beliefs that led to this decision, it also acted as a political strategy since during this time, a large portion of Rome’s habitants did not worship Roman gods, so making them feel accepted was of utmost importance for the government .
The Pantheon is considered a perfect space because it has the same length, and height. It has 8 Corinthian columns in the front under a triangular roof. An enormous dome (the largest surviving dome from antiquity) stands on the back of the building . This structure is very similar to the United States Supreme Court building, which was finished on 1935. The two structures do have some marked differences because the Pantheon has a large dome, which the Supreme Court lacks, and the Supreme Court is elevated off ground-level, and there are stairs leading up to its entrance. However, just like the Pantheon, the Supreme Court building has a triangular roof, and exactly 8 Corinthian columns in the front . The number 8 bears a lot of weight in religion, especially those religions based on the bible such as Catholicism. The 8 is the symbol of resurrection, and regeneration, so it represents a new beginning, something that was definitely fitting for the Pantheon since it was RE-constructed. After learning a lot about the Romans in these past few months, I can’t help but think that this is not a coincidence. I believe that even though the Pantheon was meant to be an inclusive ground, its design included the number 8 as an inconspicuous representation of Roman Catholicism. The fact that the U.S. Supreme Court is modeled after this makes me believe that there are only two reasons why it happened: 1. Copying Italian architecture in governmental structures became so important that they did it thoughtlessly (unlikely since it’s not an exact replica), or 2. Christianity, and therefore biblical references, play a large role in America’s history as “One nation, under God (…)”. I am aware that the presence of the number 8 might just be about a liking for symmetry. Nonetheless, I can’t help but think that perhaps there is more to it that we have yet to uncover.
While the U.S. Supreme Court is definitely a copy of the Pantheon, a subtler application of this classic Roman architectural style is found in George Washington’s Virginia home: Mount Vernon. Not surprisingly, the number 8 makes an appearance again in the form of columns. In this case, the classic Corinthian columns are americanized and modernized since they are squared columns with little to no embellishment at the top (where the column meets the roof).
Stop II: Byzantine-Roman Architecture
The Byzantine era began around 330 CE, when the Roman capital was moved to Byzantium, in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire. In its beginnings, Byzantine architecture was indistinguishable from Roman architecture since it emphasized the same classical Roman elements. A distinction, however, was in the improvement of walls, and domes in churches. With the rise of Christianity, a lot of emphasis was placed on churches, and their fortification . During this time, the interior of buildings was more important than their exterior. Basically, the exterior was meant to be functional, with the thick walls, and larger domes, while the interior could be more adorned, with intricate, and colorful mosaics.
An example of Byzantine-Roman architecture is the Basilica diSant’ Apollinare Nuovo (505 CE) in Ravenna, Italy, which has a very rich mosaic on its ceiling. Similarly, the U.S. Supreme Court (1789) has a mosaic design on its ceiling.
While there are marked differences, it surprised me to find out about the many influences of Italian architecture in the design of the United States’ Supreme Court building, especially because the latter houses different styles from different eras.
Stop III: The Renaissance
The renaissance movement was born in Florence in the 1300s CE, and lasted until the 1600s CE. This period is one of my personal favorites because it was characterized by realism, and naturalism. This era was marked by advances in the arts, sciences, and architecture, all of which went hand in hand .
A well known edifice of this era is the Basilica Papale di San Pietro in the Vatican City or Saint Peter’s Basilica. Its construction was completed in 1626, and included a large dome, which was common in the Renaissance .
Another prime example of renaissance architecture is the dome in the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (1436). This dome is one of the most impressive achievements of the Renaissance because never before had anyone constructed such a large dome. On top of the cathedral’s height, a pedestal for the dome was built that put the dome’s base at the staggering height of 170 feet, with a shape known as quinto acuto or “pointed fifth”. Designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, the dome’s construction ended in 1436 CE, and it is until this day, one of the most significant architectural feats to ever exist .
Here in America there are plenty examples of buildings with large domes that mimic the style of that in Santa Maria del Fiore. Perhaps the easiest that comes to everyone’s mind is that of the U.S. Capitol. The reason for their similarity is that Thomas Jefferson wanted Congress housed in a replica of an ancient Roman temple, specifically, a “spherical” temple. The U.S. Capitol’s designs evoke the ideals that guided our founding fathers when they created the new republic; ideals which also came in part from ancient Rome. In the 1850s, architect Thomas U. Walter added a cast iron dome to the design, and it is inevitable to see the similarity to the one in Florence .
Palladian Architecture: The Palladian Window
Palladian architecture refers not to a new era in scientific, artistic, political, or religious movement, but to a specific 16thcentury Venetian architect named Andrea Palladio . He changed the landscape of his hometown, and extended his influence with a rippling effect throughout the world, breaking down geographic, and time barriers to persist even in the modern day. Palladian windows are incredibly large,three-section windows where the center section is arched and larger than the two. Many constructions in the late renaissance included these kinds of windows to give a feeling of formality . It is remarkable that this style has stood the test of time, and continues to be used in suburban neighborhoods in America with great prominence. Not only do they evoke elegance, but they also allow sunlight to come in, which balances out the sophisticated renaissance style with the incorporation of nature in indoor spaces . Furthermore, these windows are one of my favorite icons of the renaissance because by letting in the sunlight, they help reduce the use of electricity when unnecessary, something that really helps the planet, and that I am passionate about.
The end of this tour of some of the major Italian architectural movements has arrived, at least for the time being. Who knows the many ways in which Italy is yet to manifest itself in America? One thing I know is that there is an undeniable influence that Italy has had, and continues to have on our lives. When it comes to architecture, I love that we have concrete examples (no pun intended) as evidence of the remarkable impact that such a small country can have. Italian architecture is everywhere around us, so in going to Italy, I have the complete reassurance that I’ll still feel, on some level, at home. From modern day stadiums, to the use of arches and vaults in our very own university campus (See picture below), to majestic governmental structures, and even something as overlooked as a window, Italian architecture is ubiquitous. So the next time I go to a concert, I’ll have Rome in my mind. All of this, the little things, are part of our culture, our history, our identity. So, in a way, aren’t we all Italy?
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.
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.
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.
Jean Moulin was born June 20, 1899 in the city of Béziers in southern France. His father was a history professor who was actively engaged in political organizations such as the Radical Socialist Party and the League of Rights of Men. Jean was heavily influenced by his father, and they were known to be inseparable in his childhood. After the death of his older brother, Jean’s performance in school declined, and he was a mediocre student. He developed and interest in drawing cartoons, which became quite popular. In 1917, he began studying for a law degree at the Law Institute of Montpellier, but shortly thereafter was drafted into the Army during World War I in 1918. For a short while he was an engineer in the military, but he never engaged in battle and the war ended not long after he was drafted. The most important work Jean did while in the army was his duty to bury soldiers who died in battle. With the help of his father, he was discharged from the army after only one year.
After leaving the Army, he quickly returned to his studies and graduated with his law degree in 1921. Following his graduation, Jean became a civil servant, and through his hard work eventually earned the title of youngest sub-prefect in France in 1925. He was later promoted to become the youngest prefect in France. Not long thereafter, Jean married Marguerite Cerruti in 1926, but their marriage was short lived and they divorced only two years later.
As Moulin continued working for the government, he achieved higher titles and took on more administrative responsibilities, and in 1937 became the youngest prefect in France. In February 1939, he transferred to be the prefect at Chartres. However, France soon became involved in WWII and Moulin’s department faced an influx of refugees. He saw firsthand the struggles of the refugees and voiced his sympathy despite the growing hostility of many citizens. During this time, Jean was preparing to resign from his position as prefect in order to join the Air Force. Although he did not meet age and certain physical requirements, Jean was persistent and worked fervently to obtain a position in the military. Unfortunately, Moulin was still denied a position. As the Germans moved into the region in which Moulin served, the French people suffered and died at the hands of Nazis. As this became apparent, German officials blamed these killings on France’s Senegalese soldiers. The Germans tried to force Moulin into signing a document faulting the French soldiers for the murders, but Moulin new it was the fault of the Nazis and refused to sign. Consequently, Jean was captured. Fearing he would be tortured and made to sign the document, he attempted suicide by cutting his throat with glass, but he did not succeed. He was soon found and given medical attention, and he survived the attempted suicide. For the rest of his life following the incident, Jean wore scarves to conceal the scar across his neck.
Following this incident, Moulin assumed the responsibility of uniting numerous resistance groups against the Germans. By uniting these resistance groups, they joined and he then became the chairman of the National Council of the Resistance. He did this in collaboration with General Charles de Gaulle, who was the leader of Free France at the time. This occurred in May 1943, and the very next month he was captured and imprisoned by the Gestapo. He was brutally tortured by the Gestapo, but refused to share any information. As he was being transported to Germany by train, Jean Moulin died on July 8, 1943. After his death, he was revered as a hero by the French resistance.
In the years leading up to and during World War II, Jean became increasingly more vocal about his political opinions and his opposition to Nazi Germany. Upon German occupation of France, he repeatedly risked his life to resist their regime. The aspect in which I relate most to Jean Moulin is to his personal convictions and the way in which his actions aligned with them. Neither I nor most anyone else can say for certainty whether they would risk their life in such brutal ways to protect those who are innocent and defenseless. However, one thing I consider to be most important to my character and my self-worth is my integrity, and the degree to which I strive to carry out actions that align with my convictions. I make conscious decisions every day to make sure that my actions align with my most core beliefs. Every day is another opportunity be active in creating change to benefit the lives of others, and my activism is a reflection of my most fundamental beliefs that all people should be equal under the law. Jean Moulin embodied these convictions in the most fundamental way, and we can all draw inspiration and courage from his actions.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Jean Moulin.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 4 July 2018, www.britannica.com/biography/Jean-Moulin.
Clinton, Alan. Jean Moulin, 1899-1943 the French Resistance and the Republic. Palgrave, 2002.
Zimmerman, Dwight. “The Death of Jean Moulin: The French Resistance Gets Its Greatest Martyr.” Defense Media Network, 28 July 2013, www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/the-death-of-jean-moulin-the-french-resistance-gets-its-greatest-martyr/.
Ancient Rome medicine, with its mix of science and superstition, brought about many advances in the area which are still seen in our times.
Roman medicine was derived from Greek medicine, and influenced by knowledge from conquered civilizations, such as the Etruscans, Egyptians, and the Persians. The knowledge from the conquered people combined with the knowledge developed in Rome, mostly derived from the battlefield, made the Romans have an advanced medical system for their age.
The romans combined their scientific knowledge, greatly limited by today’s standards, with religious beliefs. Romans believed that diseases were a result of displeasing the gods, and that rituals such as sacrifices to the gods would cure them. Aesculapius was particularly important in ancient roman medicine. The Romans adopted the Greek god of healing in 292 BCE, when they stole Aesculapius’ sacred snake. Despite of their belief in the gods, romans still used the services of doctors to heal sickness.
The doctors in rome were craftsmen, and learned the profession through apprenticeships. Civilian doctors had different levels of education and skills, many being Greeks. On the other hand, the military has experienced medical personnel.
The romans were the first in history to build hospitals, generally for the military. The medics in the military had a more practical approach to medicine than the civilian doctors, as they were observant and methodical, documenting which treatments worked so other doctors could do the same. An important event for roman medicine was the civil war which happened after the assassination of Julius Caesar. The new emperor, Augustus, formed a professional military medical corps. Giving doctors titles, lands, and retirement benefits. This changes, combined with the large amount of war injuries, led to great medical advancements, in a way that would not be seen until the late 19th century.
The roman legions had the best doctors in Rome. Much of the roman knowledge of anatomy and physiology came from the battlefield, as dissections were not allowed. Surgeons also acquired their experiences in the military.
The Ancient Romans made many advances in what nowadays would be considered public health. The Romans believed that the workers should also be in good health, as the soldiers and the rich. Therefore, they could be considered the first to have public health for all social classes.
One of the most important aspects of Roman public health was the use of aqueducts. They had a system of fresh running water and a sewer system, as clean water was considered essential. The water supply to the city of Rome was designed by Julius Frontinus in 97 AD, and it supplied around 1000 million liters of water a day. This helped to prevent the proliferation of diseases that were either transmitted through dirty water, or that relied on standing water. The romans also had public toilets which were flushed by clean water, and a sewer system to make sure all waste was removed from the city.
Bad hygiene was one of the prominent causes of disease transmission in the ancient world. The Romans had great hygiene, as they regularly washed themselves. Roman baths, for example, played a major role in society, as they were part of the citizens daily lives.
Another important factor were the cities themselves. The cities were built in places that were considered healthy, or were modified to become a healthier environment. For example, marshes were draining to avoid malaria carrying mosquitoes. Julius Caesar not only drained the Codetan Swamp, but planted a forest in its place.
Influence in modern medicine
There are currently 6210 hospital in the US. The hospital system started in the ancient Rome military, and it is the prominent form of care in America.
Roman medicine saw the beginning of specializations, as physicians were divided into different specialties. Nowadays, doctors have to specialize in a certain area after medical school. There are more than 120 options to choose from.
Roman surgeons had basic knowledge of the importance of sanitation. They boiled all the surgical instruments prior to the start of the experiment, and used acetic acid to clean the wounds.
Public health is a major part of modern medicine, as it focuses on preventing diseases. Clean Water is one of the most important elements of health. 884 million people still do not have access to clean water. Many of those people need to walk long distances to get water, which can be contaminated with diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and dysentery. Access to proper disposal of sewage is also of extreme importance to public health.Currently, 2.3 billion people live without access to sanitation. Approximately 1 million people die every year from diseases related to the lack of access to clean water and sanitations.
Medical terminology is based on Latin and Greek. The Romans developed the field of medicine and anatomy based on the Greek knowledge. Since many anatomical parts were elucidated by the Greeks and the Romans, their names are in those languages. Latin was the predominant language used in medicine until the eighteenth century.
The Ancient Romans believed that diet was essential for health, and that moderation of food should be practiced. Nowadays it is known that good nutrition is key to health, as lack of certain elements in a diet can disrupt the normal functioning of the body and lead to diseases.
O’Rahilly. “Etymology”. Basic Human Anatomy. Retrieved from : https://www.dartmouth.edu/~humananatomy/resources/etymology.html
“ The Water Crisis.” Water.org. Retrieved from : https://water.org/our-impact/water-crisis/
“Medicine in Ancient Rome.” The History of Learning. Retrieved from: https://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/a-history-of-medicine/medicine-in-ancient-rome/
“Ancient Roman Medicine.” UNRV Roman History. Retrieved from: https://www.unrv.com/medicine.php
Brazier, Yvette. “ Ancient Roman Medicine.” Medical News Today. Retrieved from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323600.php
Cartwright, Mark. “ Roman Medicine.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: https://www.ancient.eu/Roman_Medicine/
“Importance of good nutrition.” HHS.gov. Retrieved from: https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/eat-healthy/importance-of-good-nutrition/index.html
Before we can begin to look into patronage in ancient Rome, it is essential to have an understanding of the origins behind the social hierarchy. According to Roman historian Titus Livy, Romulus himself separated 100 men and made them senators. The descendants of these senators were considered upper class and more specifically known as patricians. Those who were not descendants, also considered the common people of Rome and lower class, were known as plebeians. The distinction between the two groups was dependent mainly on the original ancestry and extremely wealthy land-owning individuals. Within these different classes, a complex and reciprocal relationship known as patronage was founded.
Ancient Rome: Patron-Client Relationships
Patronage consists of a relationship in which a patron, a person of high position and power, uses his influence to assist or take care of another individual, thus making them his ‘client’ and requiring services in return. If a client were unable to repay their ‘debt’, the loss of trust and loyalty would lead to the termination of the relationship.
Some of these services include but are not limited to: – Unconditional respect and support – Political support and votes – Fighting in war for his patron – Reporting any plots against the patron being conspired by others – Ransoming family members caught in battle – Raising money for patron’s daughter’s dowry
Structurally, no matter how powerful or important a patrician, there was always someone above them, such as the emperor. Sometimes, patricians themselves became clients to the emperor, as the emperor would assist in the patrician’s social or political status and the patrician would sign the emperor’s name in their will. The common people of Rome, however, became clients to the patricians instead and supported them regardless of their patron’s interests and opinions. These clients were in need of material goods/security that were then granted by their patrons as long as the client returned the favor, which typically consisted of political votes and support. A patron was free to have as many clients as they were able to, which only added to the patron’s prestige as their number of clients and support increased. However, as listed above, the exchanges would consist of different things and it was expected that the client be fully committed to whatever was asked of him by his patron.
Three Core Characteristics of Patron-Client Relationships
The three core characteristics of patron-client relationships are: – The inequality in status, wealth, and influence between the two parties – The element of reciprocity in the exchange of goods and services – The importance of face-to-face contact between both parties.
Regardless of the nature of the relationship, what the exchanges in services specifically entail, and who the individuals are, these three characteristics are present in every patron-client relationship. Apart from this, a crucial component in these relationships is also a kind of loyalty and honor that resembles that of blood-related family, which is seen in both ancient Rome and the Mafia.
Beginnings: The Mafia In Sicily
German scholar Henner Hess described the mafia as, “neither an organization nor a secret society, but a method” where “the Mafioso not only achieves a personal material or prestige gain but also discharges certain functions within the subcultural system by entering the service of others.”
For many years, the island of Sicily seemed to have been struggling with developing some kind of a proper government and creating trust between the people and formal organizations. It was inconsistently ruled by foreign aliens and had an influx of bandit-type fugitives that highly influenced the nature and customs of the region, as the values that were held by these people leaned more towards lawlessness than anything else. Without the promise of a fair government present to protect the people and their property, towns and villages created groups or clans known as ‘families’ that relied on compromise and revenge to achieve protection and justice. At the time, the main relationships present in Sicily were between peasants, bandits, and the Mafiosos. The peasants were responsible for taking care of farming and property owned by wealthier landowners and the bandits made their income by robbing these peasants. Due to the general distrust of government and authority in Sicily, rather than turning to law enforcement, landowners and peasants turned to the Mafiosos for property protection. From this was born a patron-client relationship, where the Mafia granted property protection to the peasants from the bandits in exchange for a fee of a percentage of crops produced. Moreover, the Mafia would sometimes work both sides, allowing the bandits to complete their operations without punishment. In return, the bandits would give them part of the profit they made. As this went on, the Mafia became more powerful and were able to establish themselves as a viable source of protection and enforcement within Sicily through the success of these reciprocal relationships. However, their power ran into trouble around 1925 when Italian dictator Benito Mussolini made it a goal to destroy the Mafia, as it posed a threat to his own power and reputation. As he started cracking down on Mafiosos, Italian immigrants began to flock to the United States in search for opportunity and fleeing vendettas.
Beginnings: The Mafia in America
In January 1920, the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution was passed, thus banning the export of liquors and the home brewing of beverages with over half a percent of alcohol. The passing of this act in combination with the Italian immigrants coming in from Mussolini’s rule essentially gave birth to the American Mafia. Many of these immigrants were former Sicilian mafiosos or criminals that situated themselves in specific parts of New York City, one of which became known as Little Italy, where they began their new lives of crime. The high demand for alcohol at the time gave opportunity for criminals to smuggle in alcohol from other countries or opening their own secret breweries. In turn, the profits from these illegal activities greatly contributed to the wealth and success of the American Mafia in New York City, expanding the number of active families. As the number of members and wealth grew, the American Mafia engaged under the same concept of patron-client relationships in Rome and almost identical to the patron-client relationships seen in Sicily.
Patronage and the American Mafia
Roman philosopher Seneca stated, “if you wish to make a return for a favor, you must be willing to go into exile, or to put forth your blood, or to undergo poverty, or even to let your very innocence be stained and exposed to shameful slanders.” This level of dedication and loyalty are seen in both ancient Roman times between a patron and his client and hundreds of years later in the American Mafia.
Members doing the dirty work, known as soldiers (who will be discussed later in this post), were completing operations ordered from the boss in exchange for a cut of the profit and the protection/pride that comes from being a made member of the family. This relationship between soldier and boss checked off the three core characteristics mentioned earlier (inequality in status, face-to-face contact, and exchange of goods/services); the boss is of a much higher ranking than the soldier, all ideas or orders for operations are spoken of in person, and the boss provides his members with protection and profit in exchange for the completed operation. The more money being earned and the more successful operations, the more powerful and feared a family became, much like the power and prestige from having multiple clients in ancient Rome.
Outside of the members, the patron-client relationships with the Mafia were even more highlighted. For instance, of their many money-making sources, the American Mafia became very prosperous through their involvement with the workforce. By the 1970s, they controlled all of the labor unions in New York City. An example of this is their relationship with construction companies; all concrete companies would get work allocated by the mobsters and then the family in charge of the company would receive a cut of the profit made from the job. Another example is with regular businesses. Mobsters often engaged in protection racketeering, where they would offer protection to business owners from other mobsters in return for money. If the business owner did not agree to it, the mobsters themselves would retaliate, causing the business owner to need protection regardless of whether they agreed or not, and in turn, would become a client of the family for that protection.
In contrast, failure to follow through with your ‘debt’ in ancient Rome typically resulted in loss of trust and termination of the relationship. You may have been seen as an ingrate for doing so but the consequences were not as violent as in the Mafia. Failure to follow through with your debt or loyalty to the mobster family usually resulted in death. Patronage then and in the Mafia also differ in the kind of activity that is happening in the exchanges. From what I understand, patronage in ancient Rome was less coercive than in the Mafia. Mobsters are consistently involved in patron-client relationships but many of them have an underlying nature of force or extortion. The element of fear is greatly present in mobster relationships and I wonder if the line gets blurred between reciprocity and coercion. In both, there exists exchange but the fear behind coercion leaves a relationship that is so unbalanced, it can function with fear alone, which is something that is not necessarily seen the same way in patron-client relationships in Rome.
Despite the potential differences, there is no doubt that patronage contributes greatly to the success of the Mafia, whether it be through fear alone or not. However, patronage is not the only contributing factor to their power. The structure and order within the Mafia played a significant role as well, also becoming two aspects of the mob that can also be traced to ancient Rome in some ways. To understand this, we have to look back at the internal conflict that helped reorganize things: The Castellammarese War; the power struggle between two crime bosses in the early 1930s between Salvatore Maranzano and Joseph Masseria.
Maranzano was one of the many immigrants driven out by Mussolini’s power and quickly involved himself in the bootlegging business as soon as he arrived to New York. He soon earned the nickname of “Little Caesar” due to his obsession with Julius Caesar, the Roman Empire, and a library at his home with books and statues dedicated to his idol.
Around the same time, Joseph Masseria, another successful mobster, was trying to move up the ladder of power and success, getting himself to a place of superiority above other mobsters. Maranzano refused to submit to Masseria’s supremacy, however, and took a chance when Masseria’s top lieutenant, Lucky Luciano, came to Maranzano with his plan to betray and kill Masseria. In a Brutus-esque manner, Luciano expressed his concerns for the reputation and function of the gang under Masseria’s control and, in April of 1931, orchestrated the murder of his own boss with the help of other men.
After the death of Massiera, although Lucky Luciano was granted some power for himself, Salvatore Maranzano labeled himself as the highest-ranked superior in New York and the “capo di tutti capi”, which translates to: the boss of all bosses. Inspired by his idol Julius Caesar, he planned to have the family structure based off of the military chain of command of a Roman legion. As the top boss, he would hold a power that was unquestionable. Lucky Luciano, once again concerned with the negative effects of power-hungry bosses and a desire to ensure efficient operations, orchestrated yet another murder and ended the power of Little Caesar only 5 months after his hit on Joseph Masseria.
Mafia Life After Luciano: Structure and Order
At the time of Maranzano’s death, there were four other mafia families present in the state of New York. After he was killed, Lucky Luciano hoped to create a layout of some sort in which the families could avoid as much conflict as possible with one another. In hopes to accomplish this, he arranged a private meeting with all five families of New York along with other mafia families from around the country, where they agreed to keep Maranzano’s structure inspired by ancient Roman legions.
Structure: Mafia and Roman Legions
Roman legions were a part of the general Roman army and were the principal force of the Roman Empire. The units went as follows: – a contubernia (8 men) – a century (10 contubernium together – 80 men) – a cohort ( 6 centuries together – 480 men) – the legion (10 cohorts)
Each legion had an officer who was third in command, named praefectus castrorum (camp prefect), in charge of the daily maintenance and running of the legion. He also looked after food supply, nutrition, equipment supply, etc. Above the camp prefect, stood six military tribunes, of which one was the senior tribune, second in command, and referred to as tribunus laticlavius (senior tribune). Finally, above the senior tribune, was the legatus legionis, the legionary commander in charge of the legion as a whole. Eventually, the senior tribune would look forward to taking his place. The legionary commander was part of the Roman senate off the battlefield.
As for a solider, he was to be of full Roman citizenship and required to take an oath to serve the Emperor and army until death, acknowledging the harsh punishment involved if he were to participate in any kind of disobedience. New soldiers were also required to do dirty work until they were able to secure a better position.
Seeing as the structure of the Mafia was inspired by Roman legions, many similarities can be seen between the two. In the families, each had a group of men known as soldiers, or made men, who were considered the lowest members of the family. Like the Romans, soldiers in the Mafia were required to take an oath for life and were typically responsible for the dirty work that keeps the family powerful. Loyalty was a must in both the Mafia and the legion. Membership exclusivity was also seen in both the legion and the mobsters, as the legion required full Roman citizenship and the mobsters required full Italian descent. Above the soldiers, stand the caporegime, or more commonly known as capo, who is in charge of leading his crew of soldiers. Much like the praefectus castrorum in the Roman legion, the capo was responsible for looking after the operations and daily activities of his soldiers. Above the capo is the underboss who takes instructions from the boss and makes sure that everything is carried out effectively. The underboss, too, can look forward to taking the position of the boss as he is next in line in the hierarchy incase anything happens to the boss. Finally, the boss is the legatus legionis of the Mafia family, in charge of the family as a whole. Also known as the Don, the boss is a highly respected, undisputed, and even feared leader of the family that oversees every single operation.
Order: The Commission and The Senate
Luciano was also responsible for founding the Commission which shared some similarities with the Roman Senate. Just as Rome transitioned from monarchy to republic, ridding itself of the idea of just one king, Lucky Luciano wanted the same for the Mafia families. No more boss of all bosses, just consensus among the families.
After the fall of the monarchy, the Roman Senate functioned as a governing and advisory council that was responsible for appointing officials, presenting proposals, controlling finances, and handling debates. Members of the Senate were appointed by someone of higher status, the consul, and were expected to serve as senators for life. Lucky Luciano’s Commission served a similar purpose in some aspects. The Commission became a governing body where new members were voted in, policies and regulations were established, and disputes between families could be settled. It consisted of the five New York mafia bosses, the Chicago boss, and the Buffalo boss. Similar to the appointing of new senators in the Roman Senate, new members into the Mafia were chosen by the bosses. Just as the Roman legion’s legatus legionis held a position in the Roman Senate, the Mafia boss held a position in the Commission. When the bosses could all agree on one individual for induction, that chosen person could become a soldier. The bosses served a similar purpose as the consuls in the induction of new members. Seeing as the only way out of the Mafia was death, members of the Commission were members for life, much like the members of the Senate were as well. Additionally, just as proposals took place in the Roman Senate, proposals of a different kind took place in the Commission. For instance, if a member wanted to kill a law enforcement officer, which was against the Mafia rules, they had to run it by the Commission first and get the notion accepted.
Despite some similarities, the Commission and the Senate have a fair share of differences as well. In the Senate, consuls were selected by the people of Rome, whereas the mob bosses were selected by other very important members of the Commission rather than regular (or more common) members of the families. The Senate was mainly responsible for advising the magistrates while the Commission was not really looking to advise anyone. Because the men in the Commission were already considered of the highest ranking, there was no idea or conflict that needed to be run by anyone above them. Moreover, considering the fact that the Mafia was composed of a number of highly dangerous criminals, any conversation ever had about or within the families was of top secrecy. The meetings held by the Commission were extremely confidential and held in secret, while the Senate meetings were open to the public.
To most, ancient Rome may feel different than our lives today in about a million ways. The traditions, the violence, and the influences of power seem so ruthless compared to what we have grown accustomed to here; so far removed, yet so much a part of us without many of us ever realizing. Over the years, the life of the Mafia became sensationalized in American society with successful movies such as The Godfather, Goodfellas, Casino, The Untouchables, etc. Mobsters became glamorized in pop culture and although the Italian-American identity has been recognized, the influence of ancient Rome has not. Perhaps it is too distant in history or simply too complex a detail to make use of in the big screens, but its roots dig deeper into history than we could have ever imagined. Although beginnings seem to have started in Sicily, true origins and concrete influences came from ancient Rome, a society whose structure, order, and brutality from hundreds of years ago managed to slither its way into one of the most successful criminal societies in the history of the United States of America.
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