Study Abroad Info Session October 2019

15 October, 2019 AT 03:30 PM IN SASC 160

Join Professor Bailly and Program Assistant Sofia Guerra for an introduction to the France, Italy, & Spain study abroad programs of the FIU Honors College. Whether you are going to Europe in Summer 2020 or considering 2021 or 2022, this session will be helpful.

Check out #fiuhonorsabroad2019 on Instagram for photos from Espana, France, & Italia. Check our FIU Broadcast Media major Lily Fonte’s video and webpage of the 2019 Italy program.


Espana Study Abroad
France Study Abroad
Italia Study Abroad

John William Bailly  15 October 2019

Study Abroad Info Session September 2019

September 06, 2019 AT 12:00 PM IN DM 100

This meeting is primarily for students already registered in FIU Honors 2020 France, Italy, or Spain study abroad. All Honors students, however, are welcome to attend. Parents and significant others are also welcome.

Join Professor Bailly and Program Assistant Sofia Guerra for an introduction to the France, Italy, & Spain study abroad programs of the FIU Honors College. Whether you are going to Europe in Summer 2020 or considering 2021 or 2022, this session will be helpful.

Check out #fiuhonorsabroad2019 on Instagram for photos from Espana, France, & Italia


Espana Study Abroad
France Study Abroad
Italia Study Abroad

 John William Bailly  04 September 2019


Photo by Melissa Alvarez (CC by 4.0)

In hell, in hell, there’s heaven. It’s the words that greet my ears as I land in Madrid after my month away in Italia, words that Frank Ocean sings and words that calm me as I anticipate the next three weeks, the end to my time studying abroad as an undergraduate. This is the land of my great-grandparents, both maternal and paternal, and I am fluent in the language. This will hopefully feel like home, and if anything, a fresh start.

Photo by Isabella Marie Garcia (CC by 4.0)



I have analyzed city after city from the perspective of daytime, a viewpoint that illuminates and one that I am fully conscious of, a perspective that is fueled by caffeine and the start of the new day. What if I started with the alternative perspective first? The one that is darkened by a falling sun and a rising moon, the tipsy and intoxicated groups of people my age, or even older, stumbling around in the early hours of the morning across a city they’ve always known, or are just getting to know. A perspective that I witness on my first night in Madrid and one that immediately captures my attention. To be a madrileño, a native and true inhabitant of Madrid, one must accept this calling of the night as routine, a facet of the day that is not odd nor uncalled for. I accept it wholeheartedly.

The influence of America on Madrid’s nightlife is hard to notice at first. With the habit that many Spaniards have throughout the week of eating dinner so late and then staying up to hang out at bars until one, two, maybe even three in the morning, it’s a far cry from the work till we drop culture that pervades America. While I experienced my time in Madrid as someone with relatively little work responsibilities and zero familial responsibilities, I could still feel the difference between the way nightlife is embraced in Madrid as opposed to Miami. Even on a Tuesday night in Madrid, it felt like most of the city was out exploring the town just as midnight was about to strike. Don’t people work or go to school or have lives to tend to?

I later research the reasons behind why Spaniards choose to eat and drink so late into the night and find out that it has less to do with a cultural attitude and more to do with a systematic change in the way time zones are handled in the country. In solidarity with Nazi Germany, General Franco ordered that the country follow the Central European Time, which places Spain one hour later in routine, especially since the country should be following the Greenwich Mean Time. As a result of this shift in 1940, Spaniards have taken to adjusting their entire lives to a timezone that doesn’t rightly fit their geographic location on the planet. Workdays end later, around 8pm or 20h, and thus, socialization is left till the very late hours of the night and into the very early hours of the morning, a habit that is further allowed by the fact that workdays begin around 9am. I’m sure if America was systematically following the timezone that didn’t fit its geography, we would find ourselves socializing in restaurants, bars, clubs, etc. into the early hours of the next day, and on days of the week that aren’t normally regarded as days fitted for going out.

El Imperfecto (Photo by Isabella Marie Garcia (CC by 4.0))

My first night in Madrid begins at El Imperfecto bar that is located on the corner of Calle de las Huertas and one of the many side streets in the barrio. A neon-colored bar that is plastered with movie posters, celebrity headshots, and various bobs and trinkets, my friends and I sit and order a round of mojitos to enjoy as we settle into our home for the next week. There’s an 80s playlist in the background playing the likes of Michael Jackson, Hall & Oates, Madonna, etc. and movie posters on the wall of American classics from Scarface to Pulp Fiction. While the ways in which nightlife throughout the week is embraced differently in Madrid than from my experience in Miami, there’s an Americanization to entertainment that I notice immediately as I take in all the content that’s brimming in this bar. Whether an appeal to American tourists or just an overall love for America and the music, movies, and people it has brought to the rest of the world, it’s clear that America has come back to Spain in the form of pop culture and what has been consumed culturally, a vuelta I notice as the local students next to us in the bar sing along to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.”

A 3am nightcap of hot chocolate and sugar-coated churros at Chocolateria San Ginés.

Barrio de las Letras

Now for the daytime perspective of Madrid, especially this little barrio of the city that was once home to the great Spanish writers and poets of past centuries, from Miguel de Cervantes to Federico García Lorca. Writers that could weave tragedy and comedy together into one work, a dance that reflects the ups and downs of life and how we manage to cope amidst all our troubles, celebrations, sadness, and happiness. As I walk around the Barrio de las Letras, I find myself stepping on golden words and passing handwritten quotes on buildings, phrases once written by great Spanish poets but now converted into a written form of street art.

As a home to these famous Spanish writers and poets, the Barrio de las Letras pays homage to these figures that breathed Spain’s essence into written stories and characters. There seems to be nothing inherently American in this pride for Spanish literature and poetry until I begin looking at the institutions and spaces that soon attracted American writers and poets to Madrid and commenced an exchange of cultures in the form of scenes. One such exchange can be seen in the establishment of Cervecería Alemana which literally translates to “German bar” and was established by German manufacturers in Plaza Santa Ana in the heart of the barrio. As a bar already founded on a mixing of cultures, the mash of identities is furthered by the personalities that would frequent the establishment in the mid-1900s, especially that of American writer Ernest Hemingway.

“Nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night. Appointments with a friend are habitually made for after midnight at the cafe.”

Ernest Hemingway

I am not unfamiliar with Ernest Hemingway and the many cities he called home throughout his life. From my late grandfather’s love for him as his favorite author to my experience navigating through the Parisian neighborhoods and establishments he would frequent, Hemingway has become more familiar to me than ever before in my life, even though I remember my grandfather continually bringing him up in every other conversation we would have as I was growing up. To walk these cities and see these establishments still standing till this very day is surreal. The very bars and restaurants that fed Hemingway have the ability to feed me today. In both the literal and metaphorical sense, the establishments in the Barrio de las Letras fueled the writing of these authors, as they drank their cafes and beers and looked on at the people of their day milling around the streets within view, gathering up observations and ideas about the yet-to-be-written scenes and characters of their prose and poetry. An exchange of cultures, from America to Germany and into Spain, that has exploded into an unbelievable level of multiculturalism within Madrid’s core, one that I personally witness as my class and I, a group of Miami students with mixed identities, stand in the middle of Plaza de Santa Ana and listen to our French-American professor read a poem of Federico García Lorca to us in both Spanish and the translated English version.

Photo by Isabella Marie Garcia (CC by 4.0)

What have we brought to Madrid? We, a collective of American students. We, a collective of my mixed identity as a woman born in South Florida to Cuban parents and grandparents and Spanish great-grandparents. We, a collective of my many personalities as I adapt to the foreign cities I find myself in on my travels. I don’t know if there’s a direct answer to this question. One thing I’m sure of is the inevitable influence that a carrying over of identities and cultures can bring to a city, even a barrio, one that blends ideas and histories together and generates an entirely new hybrid way of being and existing within a space. An influence that I have brought in my time within Madrid and the barrios I’ve explored extensively in the one week I’ve had, and through the conversations I’ve had in within small cafes and the looks I’ve exchanged with strangers on the metro, the vuelta of America to España isn’t finite as I take back my experience of being a madrileña for a week to Miami and Madrid continues to evolve and learn from the many cultures that meet within its city limits.

Photo by Melissa Alvarez (CC by 4.0)


Following a week in a metropolis like Madrid, the small city feel of Sevilla was a complete juxtaposition to the hustle and bustle I had grown accustomed to within my time in Spain thus far. With its colorful walls and painted tilework, Sevilla immediately screamed of character and authenticity.

There was nothing modern about the historic district of Sevilla, which housed our buzzing tired bodies for the next four days of the program. It was walkable and filled with detail, almost too much detail to take in all at once. As I walked around the city on my own one day, I entered neighborhoods that closed in on me gradually with their bright yellow and pink walls. I passed tapas bars that were a dream all on their own. Tintos de verano, bocaditos, sangria with immersed cinnamon sticks. I walked by store after store of flamenco dresses and all the accessories that are necessary for the dance and observed the personality of the city through the physical structures rising around me. This unique sense of architectural character was not one that I saw often in Miami, a metropolis all on its own that is filled with gated communities teeming with cookie cutter homes, and neighborhoods that rarely have a personal essence attached to them. Aside from the art deco buildings that can be found around Miami Beach, this spreading of an architectural authenticity is a rarity in Miami as minimalist, modern design overtakes the city. In the historic district of Sevilla, this minimalist, modern design is completely ignored for the true state of how the city once existed. Most of all, the zeitgeist of historical Sevilla is perfectly captured in the details found within Plaza de España.

“Certainly, Sir, since October 12, 1492, there has not yet been a single day in the history of America of more importance and spiritual significance than today, when the great Ibero-American Exhibition begins.”

José Cruz Conde, general commissary of Sevilla’s exposition, to King Alfonso XIII

Completed in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exhibition in 1929, the plaza encircles its visitors with the glory of Spain’s power as a country and colonizing power through various alcoves that present Spanish provinces and the many events that support Spanish nationalism and pride for the motherland. As I walked and analyzed the painted scenes on the tiles of each alcove, I attempted to discern scenes from history that I had learned about in my education. It proved difficult, since I was biased in having learned about Spain from American textbooks and professors and having very little understanding of specific events within the history of Spain, but upon later research, I found out about events like The War of the Bands (pictured above), and their significance to Spain as an empire. Most of all, I witnessed the power that a country can have in distorting history to encourage pride in one’s homeland. Constructed in order to boast about Spain’s legacy and celebrate the decisions of Spanish conquistadors in discovering and colonizing new lands across the globe, the very existence of this beautiful plaza is founded on the Americas and the need that the country felt in boasting about its ability to “breathe” life and knowledge of the Western Hemisphere into existence. You would not be here without us is the core message of Plaza de España, a message that is at first hidden as one takes in the details of the plaza, but maybe that’s the power of the space. Distract with overwhelming beauty and meticulous craftsmanship and before you know it, you’ve been conquered.

Past the depictions on the painted tilework of the plaza were unexpected surprises waiting for any visitor to sort through. Free books, most written in Spanish or translated to a Spanish version, and all for one’s personal choosing. I discovered a phenomenon in the plaza that I had only ever seen within the United States. Little free libraries where one could drop off books that one had finished reading and wished to donate to one’s local community. Inspired by microlibraries that popped up around Oregon in the 1990s, the first official free little library as organized by a non-profit appeared in the early 2000s in the state of Wisconsin. From there, the movement has spread across the United States and from my discovery in the plaza, to even countries across the globe who include books from native authors and translated versions of classics, such as the Spanish translation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick that I found within the Toledo alcove in the plaza.

Photo by Juan Ortega (CC by 4.0)


Of the three main cities we resided in Spain, Barcelona felt the most like a home. I’m not sure if it was the beaches or the colorful people I found in my time there, but the city became a haven as I finalized my own rendition of a “Grand Tour.”

Barcelona is real. It immediately catches you with its funky architecture, like Gaudi’s blend of spirituality and nature within public parks and the ever-growing magnitude of La Sagrada Familia, and also throws one off as you begin to understand the underlying thread of resistance to a Spanish identity and a strong adherence to oneself as Catalonian that can’t be missed. I am an autonomous self, different from the rest of this country and for that, I resist. This resistance that bleeds down Catalonian flags in the form of four red strips and is symbolically draped through a yellow ribbon. This city is real but not just because of this resistance and strong adherence to a Catalonian identity, but rather because of the pain I witness in varying forms throughout the city, a pain that is grieved in one way but celebrated in another form. A pain that has little connection to the Americas but relates more to a universal suffering and a need to define one’s identity and the ways in which we take the varying shapes and forms of this pain and desperation and try to make something livable, manageable, bearable of life from it.

Barri Gòtic

With the many dancing eggs rising up and down in celebration of Corpus Christi located throughout the various cloisters and courtyards of churches within the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona, there’s a lightheartedness to faith I sense as we visit various of these dancing eggs on one of our class days in Barcelona. Whether symbolically representing the body of Christ or fertility, I get the immediate impression that Barcelona knows how to have fun with traditions.

Past the dancing eggs, there’s a hard to breath truth I see with my own eyes as we enter the Santa Anna de Barcelona church in the neighborhood. Men after men laying down sleeping across the pews of the church. I pass them as I walk up to look at the details of the church but it’s hard to not look at them. How can I focus on this stain glass when I can sense the weight of life right next to me?

I later learn about how many of these men end up at the church. As migrant workers and young immigrants, many from North Africa, the restart of a new life comes at this harsh price of having no home nor a family to care for them in the city. As a result, they take to living within the church and in similar religious spaces across the city. It’s a harsh reality to witness but I also think about the messages taught in the Bible. Messages of selflessness and love for one’s neighbor and I wonder: If you can’t bear to look at these men or accept their reality as you pray, are you a true believer of your faith?

The pockets of pain widen as we continue to visit more sites in the quarter. There’s the 1938 bombing by General Franco in the Plaça de Sant Felip Neri, which killed 42 children, many of which had been seeking refuge in the makeshift orphanage located in the plaza. There’s the dedication to Saint Eulalia and the assortment of torture exacted on her by Romans, thirteen different forms of cruelty depicted on her tomb in the Cathedral of Barcelona’s crypt. So much pain and personal suffering throughout this old neighborhood in Barcelona and it all culminates during the night of the Sant Joan Festival.

Photo by Isabella Marie Garcia (CC by 4.0)

As a celebration of the summer solstice, the night is filled with fire performances and performers dressed as devils. It seems like a carefree celebration and a chance to just let go and break the rules, even if it’s just for a night, but there’s the very physical and metaphorical nature of the fire being the core element of the celebration that makes the night hard to bear. With sparks striking my body from time to time, I come to understand how the pain of Catalonia and the desperation to be represented as a sole identity, completely separate from the rest of Spain, is a painful journey. One that continues to be fought by the Catalonian people, as the Spanish government and countries around the world turn a blind eye to this self-declaration of independence by Catalonia. The tiny singes to my skin feel like a continuous call by the Catalonian people. They have been ignored and invalidated for declaring who they are and for that, I understand why fire dominates this summer night in June. Filled with rage and anger, it’s a call of resistance to being invalidated but a testament to the power of a people and their self-assertion of who they truly are.

Muchisimas gracias to Professor Bailly, Victoria Atencio, and my fellow classmates for being my Honors España 2019 familia as I end my journey of studying abroad in the country where my roots lie. T’estimo molt.

Photo by Isabella Marie Garcia (CC by 4.0)

Title credit belongs entirely to Frank Ocean, one of the many voices that became the musical soundtrack during my time on the Honors Spain program. All photographs, unless otherwise stated, were taken by Isabella Marie Garcia.

Works Cited

Cervecerí­a Alemana

Congostrina, Alfonso L., et al. “How the Streets of Barcelona Have Become a Refuge for Unaccompanied Migrants.” EL PAÍS, Ediciones EL PAÍS S.L., 16 July 2019,

Hervás, María. “Reportaje: ¿Qué Queda Del Madrid De Hemingway?” EL PAÍS, Síguenos En Síguenos En Twitter Síguenos En Facebook Síguenos En Instagram, 9 July 2011,

Jones, Jessica. “Travel – The Real Reason Why Spaniards Eat Late.” BBC, BBC, 8 May 2017,

LtlFreeLibrary. “Little Free Library.” Little Free Library, 19 July 2019,

“Madrid’s Barrio De Las Letras.” United Airlines Magazines, 8 Apr. 2016,

“Ou Com Balla Barcelona 2019 – The Dancing Egg: IrBarcelona.” Ir Barcelona,

“Partying and Nightlife in Spain.: USA.”

“The 1929 Seville Fair.” Mexico at the World’s Fairs,

Alexandra Gutierrez- France as Text 2019

Alex is wrapping up her time at Florida International University as a member of the Honors College. By the end of the summer semester, she will have earned her Bachelors Degree in Communication Arts. But before graduating, she is joining Professor Bailly on a study abroad experience throughout France.

Photo by Jessica Horsham (CC 4.0)


15 years of Catholic School, 21 Years of Reflection by Alexandra Gutierrez of FIU in Paris, France on 7/5/19

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

Before I left to the airport for this study abroad trip, my abuela, who is the most religious person I know, lit a Jesus candle, blessed me with Holy water, and prayed over me for a safe journey. I’ve never put much thought into these extreme measures she goes through to ensure my safety since it’s something she’s been doing my entire life. But these past few months I’ve really questioned my faith and what I believe to be true.

And then I found myself outside Notre Dame on a cold July morning listening to the lecture about the 800 year old cathedral. “If you think you’re Catholic, you aren’t a real catholic according to the standards set forth hundreds of years ago”, Bailly states as I fix the cross around my neck. The wind is knocked out of me. My entire foundation is built up around this idea. Fifteen years of my life spent in Catholic school, participating in campus ministry retreats, and attending weekly mass. My life revolved around this religion. But it’s true, I’m not a real catholic.

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

Over the years, I’ve begun to pick and choose what I want to follow. I don’t believe in shunning members of the LGBT community or stripping them from their rights. I believe in women having an equal right to pursuing dreams and succeeding. And yet, I support my friends who belong to these groups, champion for equality, and continue to wear the “Our Father” prayer around my neck. To some, I may not necessarily be considered a religious person, but I am a faithful one.

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

Walking through the streets of Paris, the most secular industrialized country, I searched for any answers or signs of faith. Then we entered Sainte Chapelle and the hairs on my arms stood up. Yes, it’s beautiful from first glance with the high-vaulted ceilings, decorative altar where the Crown of Thrones once stood, and of course the incredibly intricate and stunning stained glass artwork (despite King Louis IX’s appearance in the biblical timeline). It made my heart grow thinking that something so beautiful can be created as a reflection of God’s love. But the more you dive into what makes up the church, you find yourself surrounded by an unquenchable thirst for power and greed beyond compare. Churches across Paris such as Sainte Chapelle, Notre Dame, Eglise Saint-Severin and even the churches of the world put forth a sense of community, faith, and hope. When in reality, the entire foundation is tainted with centuries of lies, war, and corruption. Despite this, I continue to hold onto my hold onto my faith. But the moment I become ignorant or unaware of the church’s problems, I add to these issues. Being blind to the flawed foundation will make me a part of the problem.

All in all, the thought-provoking statement made me interested in becoming aware of these flaws and understanding that it does not make me a bad Catholic if I continue to practice my faith. I do still consider myself Catholic, as does my eighty-three year old abuela (which is especially important).


What if? by Alexandra Gutierrez of FIU in Versailles on 7/7/19

What if Versailles was never built? What if, in an alternate universe, King Louis XIV remained in Paris and never converted the hunting lodge into the greatest palace on earth? And how would the timeline between the 17th and 18th century differ?

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

As we walked through decorated corridors and elaborate rooms, this thought continued to bounce around. Trillions of dollars were spent to expand the distant lodge and make it what is today, all while the rest of 17th century France was out of resources, adequate amenities, and proper care. Was the exorbitant palace more important than the people, who eventually died of sickness and starvation? To Louis XIV, the answer was clear as day. But if he would have not been as determined and passionate for Versailles, many of the major events of the 17th and 18th century that shaped France as a nation would not have taken place. For starters, the French Revolution would not have been sparked by the huge investment that took to construct Versailles.The monarchy may have stayed standing for a longer period and not have been executed as they were. In an alternate timeline, the revolution might have happened later in history. Without the French Revolution throughout the 18th century, the march of over 6,000 women to Versailles, the Reign of Terror, and the attempt to completely destroy the Royal lineage would have been an distant thought.

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

This alternate universe would be nowhere near as socially advanced as France or the world is today. Because of the French Revolution and King Louis XIV’s dream of a palace, I, as a woman, can vote, get an education, and speak my thoughts due to the advancement of human rights.

France without Versailles would not be a dominating and progressive country in the 21st century. Louis XIV was dedicated to its expansion, whether or not that meant that his people were dying. This outlook allowed for a palace of this stature to come into being and put an entire country on the map for centuries to come. Versailles showed the world that France was not only wealthy, but was a powerful and dominating state. If the idea of constructing a striking and influential palace would have never crossed the King’s mind, France would have remained behind and would not have grown culturally, socially, or politically.

To think, a hall of mirrors that takes breaths away, vast gardens that seem infinite, and extravagant ceiling pieces that feel so real have all molded an entire country over centuries and will continue to do so. With the thousands of shoulders I bumped into today, I’m confident Versailles will never stop impacting the state of France nor the world.

Lyon as Text

Paris’ Traboule by Alexandra Gutierrez of FIU in Lyon, France on 7/10/19

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC by 4.0)

When I picture the streets of Paris and its people, I find myself walking onto a movie set surrounded by never-ending sunsets, dreamy background music, and magical days. All of what makes it the most visited city in the world.

Instead, I was hit in the face with chaos and turmoil. A constant rush, being pulled in different directions. All of what makes up any metropolitan city.

Sure, Paris is magical, but its pockets of magic you’ll find. Scattered around the city like whispered conversations behind closed spaces, or in this case, traboules.

A traboule hides courtyards and gardens from the outside. They are intimate and unique. They bring people home and allow for an escape

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC by 4.0)

2 hours south, you’ll find Paris’ very own traboule. Although third most populated city in France, it’s a gem between rivers.

The city of Lyon is bursting at the seams with vivid architecture, treasured experiences, and a history so powerful, it hits emotions deep enough to leave a mark.

Each building is colored with the shades of a sunset, which express the beauty and age of the glowing city. Cobblestone roads form twisted paths that lead to a church, so gracefully positioned, protecting her city at the very top. All of what makes up the beauty of Lyon.

Individuals seated near and far from us, holding stories that impact generations. Lyon is home to a community bound together by its past. A past so crucial, it must never be forgotten. Stories and experiences that must live on forever. All of what makes up the history of Lyon.

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC by 4.0)

Like Claude Blonch, who at the age of 15 was catapulted into the horror that was the Holocaust. And at 91 years old continues to tell his story for all who listen.

Like Laurent’s mother, Denise Vernay, who played a major role in the French Resistance. A female, Jewish resistance fighter who was determined to put an end to the ongoing nightmare or die trying.

Their stories, much like others, is an important message to the future, not just in this city but throughout the world. Lyon, with its buildings made from the gold mountains, winding rivers, and significant history make it that much more magical. All of what makes Lyon Paris’ traboule.

Izieu as Text

To Izieu by Alexandra Gutierrez of FIU in Maison D’Izieu on 7/12/19

Sami, Hans, Nina, Max-Marcel, Jean-Paul, Esther, Elie, Jacob, Jacques, Richard, Jean-Claude, Barouk-Raoul, Majer, Albert, Lucienne, Egon, Maurice, Liliane, Henri-Chaïm, Joseph, Mina, Claudine, George, Arnold, Isidore, Renate, Liane, Max, Claude, Fritz, Alice-Jacqueline, Paula, Marcel, Theodor, Gilles, Martha, Senta, Sigmund, Sarah, Max, Herman, Charles, Otto, Emile, Lucie, Mina, Sarah, Eva, Moïse, Miron

I cannot fathom what you went through on April 6, 1944. The amount of fear and terror that went through your mind. When just a few days before you were running around the lawns, picking flowers, and getting raspberries on your knees. You were splashing each other by the water, making water bubbles with your mouth. Picking out costumes for the upcoming play and rehearsing lines outside. Your hands were busy coloring in backdrops, deciding what crayon to choose next. Yellow or blue for the pirates coat? You were learning how to read and write, learning math and history. And on the days you yearned for the loving embrace of your mother and father, you wrote to them. You wrote about what you were learning, what you were doing. You didn’t want them to worry, but you missed them more than anything in the world, with every fiber of your being.

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

And then the trucks came and you were taken away. You were sent to Izieu to be protected, but instead were stripped from the place that kept you safe. You were stripped of your childhood and your innocence. You were considered resistance fighters when in actuality you were too young to comprehend the meaning of those two words. Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyon, is responsible for the tears you shed, the fear you felt. There was absolutely no point in your arrest nor was there a reason for your death. 

The light that radiates from you will never burn out, for it is our responsibility to hold your story close. Your story of courage, strength, and resilience. I’ve seen the photos, drawings, and the letters. And I want you to know that I see you and I hear you. And I know that it is within my power to share your story and never let it become someone else’s reality.

I send you all my love. 10000000000000000000000 hugs and kisses

Normandy as Text

Elizabeth A. Richardson by Alexandra Gutierrez of FIU in Normandy American Cemetery on 7/23/19

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

“Take cover!”, you hear someone yell. You crouch down, praying you won’t get hit, praying you won’t be seen. Trying to be as small as you possibly can. Your hands are pressed against your ears, blocking the incredibly loud explosions that surround you. Your eyes are closed shut, shut so tightly trying to prevent your eyesight from going. Shut so tightly out of fear. You begin to remember your life before the war. Mom’s cut you a slice of her famous apple pie, with a nice warm cup of coffee to accompany it. She’s smiling at you. Man, what you would give to see her smile again, to have one last bite of that pie, another sip of that coffee. What you’d give to go back, even if it’s just for a few minutes. A few minutes of normalcy is all you hope for. 

A sense of hope is one of the most powerful forces in this universe. And it’s what Elizabeth A. Richardson,  provided for so thousands throughout the war as an American Red Cross Volunteer. 

Before the war, Elizabeth A. Richardson was born in 1918 Ohio, but grew up in Indiana. She attended Milwaukee-Downer College Wisconsin and earned two degrees, in English and Art. After college, she began working with her advertising career. Like many people of that time, Liz didn’t like the idea of the US getting into another war. And once Pearl Harbor hit, Liz was convinced the war needed to happen. She became more interested in the news and broadcast updates, hoping that the war would not drag on for too long. She watched as friends and loved ones were drafted into this nightmare. As the war grew with time and number of casualties, Liz knew she had to do something. It was 1944 when Liz and two of her friends joined the American Red Cross as volunteers (Madison, 2007).

Volunteers for this humanitarian organization had certain requirements to even be considered. These requirements included being single, over the age of 25, and a college graduate. The process also included physical examinations, recommendation letters, and thorough interviews. It is believed that these interviews were the most important aspect of the application process because it showcased the applicant’s personality. To put things into perspective, less than twenty percent of all women who applied made it in (Madison, 2007).

After weeks of training, Liz was ready to take on the role within the Red Cross. She, along with 15,000 other Americans, arrived on the shores of England in July of 1944. What was left of England was scarce. Bombs and bullets left this once developed country in shambles, with food shortages, collapsed cities, and devastated civilians. Liz, along with her team, were seen as a shimmering glitter of hope, an effect the Red Cross had on people time and time again (Madison, 2007).

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

Most of these men have never travelled to another country, let alone for fought in a war. They were far from what they defined as comfort. Whether it was a sleep in their own beds, a homemade meal, or a trip to the cinema with school friends, this was their normal. And it’s what they yearned for after what felt like years of waiting in trenches, carrying loads of supplies for miles, and eating rationed military food. But what made them hope for a sliver of normalcy the most was after witnessing atrocities. Men that over time became friends because of their similarities. Soldiers who created a brotherhood because of the experience and devastating memories of watching familiar faces become hurt, ill, blown up, or killed right in front of them. The horrors that stem from these memories can leave a lasting impact on anyone. That is why it is vital to have hope in a better tomorrow. Keeping their minds off the war, reminding them of reality, love, courage (Madison, 2007). 

The American Red Cross was there, on the sidelines, to help these men in whatever capacity. Volunteers would travel to military bases or be stationed at hospital ships or trains. The most well-known form of transportation was ClubMobiles. These were trucks and buses that were converted into a pop-up shop for volunteers, which provided materials such as chewing gum, magazines, cigarettes, and even a record player (Madison, 2007).  

The ClubMobiles would hand out warm cups of coffee and sweet doughnuts to the thousands of soldiers that lined up.  How much did they give out? Liz, with the other volunteers, would keep the men entertained, even if it was just for a few hours to keep their minds off of the condition of the world. They would play board games with GIs, help them write letters to those back home, and even join them for a lovely dance under the stars. Members of the American Red Cross would also donate money and blood to help anyone who needed it (Madison, 2007).

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

These women, including Liz, were not sent overseas to fancy the men. They weren’t there to be provocative nor sensual. The majority of these GIs had not seen a woman, much less an American woman, for months. The sight of these volunteers brought them back to reality. In a letter written by Liz, after being preserved for many years, she writes “you feel sort of like a museum piece- ‘Hey, look, fellows! A real, live American girl!’” (Madison, 2007). And most of the times, they were covered in mud and dirt. But that didn’t stop these women preserving their femininity by putting on nail polish, spraying perfume, and of course, wearing lipstick  (Madison, 2007).

To these men, Liz and the Red Cross Team was more than just entertainment. Setting aside the things that kept them focused on something that wasn’t war, destruction and death, the most important job for these volunteers was being there for the soldiers when they needed someone who would listen. GIs have injuries and scars that remind them of these terrible memories, but what sticks around the longest are the things they witnessed. Having someone to talk to about these things can help soldiers understand and come to terms with their past (Madison, 2007). 

As the war continued, Liz’s station moved from England to France. But before she could help more soldiers, her two-seater plane crashed near Rouen, France. Liz, along with Sgt. William R. Miller, Ninth Air Force, were killed on impact on July 25, 1945 (Madison, 2007). 

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

Throughout this class, we posed many hypothetical situations/questions. If you were Louis XIV or Napoleon, would you kill innocent civilians in order to progress the state of your country for the future? If you were Louis XVI, would you try fleeing from your country? These questions make me consider both sides and make me examine values. But if you were to ask if I could see myself being a Red Cross volunteer or even a GI at the time of WWII, I’d have an immediate answer. I don’t think I’d be able to do it. My entire being does not have half the courage those men and women possess. The idea of putting my life on the line for my country and experiencing the horrors they went through is absolutely overwhelming. I will never stop commending them for their bravery and selflessness.

The anniversary of her death is July 25, 1945. She would have been 101 years old. Her body is currently buried at Plot A, Row 21, Grave 5 in the American Cemetery in Normandy. Before she was buried in Normandy, she was buried in a different cemetery in France. But in 1948, the US requested she be moved to Normandy Cemetery (“Elizabeth Ann ‘Liz’ Richardson”, 2003). Katherine J. Parkin, author of “It’s Up to the Women”, summed up Liz’s mission. She writes, “While her death in a plane crash just months after Germany’s surrender created a pretext for the unusual recognition of her contributions, it was her death in the theatre of war that was distinctive, not her work as a Red Cross volunteer” (Parkin, 2010). Because of her heroic efforts and bravery, her college, back in Milwaukee, created an award in her memory. The Elizabeth Richardson Prize is awarded to a female student who goes above and beyond within the studio art program (“Elizabeth Ann ‘Liz’ Richardson”, 2003). Elizabeth is also remembered through numerous drawings, photographs, and letters she wrote to family during her time as a Red Cross Volunteer. 

Through Liz’s experiences, we, as women of the world, are reminded that war is not to be fought by just men. Women alike can play a role in serving our country. And although only four women are buried amongst the 9,387 tombs in Normandy, they must never be overlooked. They gave their lives for the well-being of others, something that should never be undermined by gender. Liz showed us that if you are determined to fight, it should never matter whether or not you wear lipstick or put your hair up. You fight just the same, with courage in your heart and selflessness in your soul. 

Photo by Victoria Atencio (CC 4.0)

I never had the opportunity to meet my abuelo and neither did my own dad. Back during the start of Fidel Castro’s Cuban Regime, my abuelo, along with other revolutionaries, created a secret organization in order to overthrow the government in the early sixties. The revolution at this time was still young, but they were determined to bring down the regime before it got worse. Throughout the night, they would fly planes from South Florida over to Cuba and bomb important areas of the country, demonstrating to Castro that they were not going down without a fight. My abuelo, who was the main bomb-maker, promised my abuela that he would stop going on these missions once my dad was born. One night, a pilot, who was scheduled to go on a mission, chickened out of going through with it just as the plane was prepped on the runway. The opportunity to act was closing in. My abuelo ended up standing up and taking his place in the mission. His plane was then shot down somewhere over Cuba and he was never seen again. He was 29 years old. My dad was 2 years old. 

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

 My abuelo, like Liz and the thousands of fighters throughout World War II, put their lives on the life for something so much greater than them. It’s the absolute devotion to an idea or belief that shows how incredibly courageous they were. It’s because of them that we are able to carry out our lives the way we do today. Although we aren’t where we need to be in the world today, their stories remind us to preserve what we have, fight for our future, and persist for a better tomorrow.,

“Review of Madison, James H., Slinging Doughnuts for the Boys: An American Woman in World War II.” Humanities and Social Sciences Net Online,

WYNN, NEIL A. “Slinging Doughnuts for the Boys: An American Woman in World War II – By James H. Madison.” History, vol. 94, no. 316, Oct. 2009, pp. 514–515. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/j.1468-229X.2009.00468_10.x.

Indiana Magazine of History. “Soldiers’ Solace: Clubmobile Women During World War II.” Moment of Indiana History – Indiana Public Media,

Parkin, Katherine J. “’It’s Up to the Women“: House Work and Identity in American Life.” Gender & History, vol. 22, no. 2, Aug. 2010, pp. 451–457. EBSCOhost,

Bosshart, Mary Kay. “Elizabeth A. Richardson, an American Red Cross Volunteer Buried at the American Cemetery in Normandy.” Elizabeth A. Richardson, an American Red Cross Volunteer Buried at the American Cemetery in Normandy, Blogger, 29 Jan. 2014,

“Wearing Lipstick to War.” National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives and Records Administration,

Père-Lachaise as Text

Jim Morrison by Alexandra Gutierrez of FIU in Père-Lachaise Cemetery on 7/26/19

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

Jim Morrison, or James Douglas Morrison, was born in Melbourne, Florida 1943. Since his father was a navy officer, the Morrison family moved to several different states before residing in Virginia. Growing up Jim was considered a good student in school, but due to the strict guidelines and restrictions at home from his father, he tended to rebel. His favorite subjects to learn were art and poetry. After high school, Jim went on to take a few classes at Florida State University before transferring to the University of California, Los Angeles. He was majoring in film studies while at UCLA. It was at this time that he befriended Ray Manzarek, future band-member. Ray, organist, introduced Jim to guitarist Robbie Krieger and drummer John Densmore. And thus, The Doors were born. 

It’s the summer of 1965. The band has been formed and music was being created. They choose on the band title “The Doors” after a quote by the famous poet, William Blake, in the nineteenth century. The quote goes as follows: “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear as it is, infinite.” With a unique band title, The Doors were ready to make it big. They didn’t get picked up by a recording studio until they played at a gig off of Hollywood Sunset Strip. It was their provocative lyrics, Jim’s baritone voice and poetry lyrics, as well as a psychedelic sound made the band that much more interesting. 

After being picked up by the company, they released two albums that first year. And between the years of 1968-1971, The Doors released six albums in total, with seven top ten releases between that time span. Throughout their success, Jim continued to be inspired by Native American lore and myths. Later on he would refer to his alter ego as the Lizard King, since he was always shedding away old skin and being renewed. This rejuvenating mentality was ongoing battle that Jim faced. Because of his massive success in such a short amount of time, he was overwhelmed with the lifestyle that came with being a rockstar in the 60s. Alcohol, sex, drugs all consumed Jim faster that anyone could have imagined. This environment made him feel “immune to normal authority”. It caused him to rebel more than ever. Show after show he was being arrested for reckless activities such as public drunkeness, harassment, and even indecent exposure while performing at a concert in Miami in front of thirteen thousand fans. At one point, Jim Morisson caused the band to be banned from the Ed Sullivan show after promising the executives he wouldn’t sing the lyrics “girl, we couldn’t get much higher” from the hit song “Light My Fire”. The live show aired and Jim went on to sing the lyrics without a care. 

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

This careless and irresponsible behavior really put a strain on the band. It got to the point that fellow band-members were considering breaking off. In 1971, Jim decided to move to Paris with his girlfriend to get away from the arrest charges, from the stress of band life, and from the environment of a rockstar. He was focusing more on his poetry and eventually published a book on his work titled, “ The Lords [and] The New Creatures”.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t run that far from his demons before they caught up with him. On July 3, 1971, Jim Morrison was found dead in his bathtub. Examiners say it was due to a heart failure, but since there was no autopsy performed, many believe it was in fact a heroin overdose.. He was buried in the Père-Lachaise cemetery on July 7. The news of his death was not released to the public until July 9. 

“When the music’s over, turn out the lights. For the music is your only friend.”

I was introduced to The Doors by my dad when I was younger. At such a young age, I didn’t realize the impact that music can have on people, the impact it can have on me. 

It has the power to make us feel so deeply, striking chords in our souls. Power so intense, it moves us across the living room floor, tethers one another, breaks through doors of time. It open old wounds or heal us, time after time. Locates the grooves etched into our bones and amplifies how we feel, think, and say. It’s in the background, like we’re make believe characters on a movie plot in rural California. It’s there at 3AM, sad boy hour. Makes us aware of our life fleeting faster each year. Break us down, getting to the last Russian nesting doll. Music transcends time. The fear of oblivion, of being forgotten, is nonexistent when it comes to artists, music. For Jim Morrison, 6ft under ground for 48 years,  it’s his music that continues to be a friend to generations, including mine.

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

“Jim Morrison Biography.” Encyclopedia of World Biography,
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Jim Morrison.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 29 June 2019,
“Jim Morrison.” This Day In Music, 28 Apr. 2019,
“Primary Menu.” The Doors,
Caulfield, Keith. “The Doors: A Billboard Chart History.” Billboard, 21 May 2013,

Over Under Paris

Declaration Project

Natalie Mateo- France as Text 2019

Photo taken by Jessica Horsham

Natalie Mateo is a senior at Florida International University majoring in History and minoring in Political Science. She hopes that the history of France’s social, legal, and humanitarian movements, as well as the life experiences obtained in completing a study abroad program, will aid in her goal of attending law school and attaining her Juris Doctorate degree.

Below are her reflections throughout the France 2019 program.

Paris as Text

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Fearless by Natalie Mateo of FIU in Paris, France on July 2nd, 2019

Since the first notions of Paris, its people have been fearless in the face of danger and despair. From 300 BC with the Parisii, a Gaelic tribe that inhabited the area who fought fearlessly against Roman invasion around 50 BC, to the citizens who laid down their lives in the pursuit of liberté, fraternité, and égalité during the French Revolution in the late 18th century. Paris has seen enough bloodshed, riots, and revolutions to instill in its people a sense of pride and zest for life that I have already come to fall in love with in my first week calling Paris my home. As such, I must be like the Parisians and push on even when fear has made my blood run cold.

My first try at this, aside from traveling abroad for a month, was conquering my own battle and climbing to the top of Le Tour Eiffel. As someone who has dealt with a fear of heights for most of my life, thinking about making the climb up was unimaginable to me as I sat in my Miami bubble a month ago. But, once I set my eyes on the colossus, with my heart pounding and my knees trembling, a voice in my head simply said “up.” So up I went. Every step and staircase made me shudder and as doubt began to whisper in my ear, I continued on, repeating “up.” While this is no storming of the Bastille or march on Versailles, it certainly gave me a huge rush once I came back to the ground knowing I had slayed my Goliath.

Versailles as Text

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Heaven Born of Hell by Natalie Mateo of FIU at Versailles on July 7th, 2019

On the outskirts of Paris, a paradise lays in wait. The hunting lodge of Louis XIII that was turned into the French cultural birthplace founded by Louis XIV. Its golden gates appear from the brush before welcoming visitors to view its grandeur and opulence. Every corner shows the sun king himself looking down upon his subjects as they walk through this fantasy with eyes wide open and mouths agape. The gardens are full of Greek gods and goddesses around every corner taking in every bit of sunlight bestowed onto them. The fountains tell stories of power and punishment to both amaze and frighten visitors of Louis XIV’s wondrous nature.  Operatic choirs fill the air with harmonious melodies that make you feel like you are floating through Versailles. But how could heaven on earth come to be?

Louis XIV’s ambitions of a beautiful yet powerful palace marked his reign and has left a strong stamp on history. In creating Versailles, Louis XIV thought of every detail of the palace to make it the strongest and most political portraiture of himself. From depictions of the royal family as Greek gods and goddesses to fountains depicting the downfall of his enemies disguised as mythology, every inch of Versailles is drenched in Louis XIV’s power. But all this power came with a human cost. The construction of Versailles severely drained the royal purse and its maintenance consumed roughly 20% of France’s tax revenue. The people of France were starving, and many believe that it was Louis XIV’s love for the flashy that set the French Revolution in motion. But, despite these casualties, Versailles still stands and is visited by roughly 5 million people a year who experience Louis XIV’s aspirations for France with awe and wonder. As difficult as it is to say,  the benefit of Versailles creation has far outweighed its cost.

Izieu as Text

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Never Again by Natalie Mateo of FIU at Maison d’Izieu on July 12, 2019

The Maison d’Izieu was intended to be a safe place. A place where Jewish families could send their children to survive the war. A place where Jewish families sent their children to survive antisemitism. Within these walls stayed roughly 60 children at its peak and had cared for over 100 by the time Klaus Barbie arrived on April 6, 1944. Sabine and Miron Zatlin, the couple who opened and operated the home, had done everything they could to give these children protection and foster a childhood during one of the darkest times in history. This all ended when Klaus Barbie gave the order to have all the children, aged between 5 and 17 years old, and their caretakers arrested and deported to concentration camps, leaving one sole survivor.

It is with great tragedies like this that the world seems to say, “never forget.” Plaques commemorating victims and those lost lined with the words “never forget.” But these words seem like an empty promise to me whenever I watch the news.

Never forget the Holocaust and yet there are concentration camps in China persecuting Muslims.

Never forget the poisonous nationalist governments that arose before WWII and yet there is an increase in nationalism worldwide.

Never forget the families torn apart by Hitler’s orders and yet there are families being separated at the U.S. border.

Never forget the children of Izieu and yet after a week of news coverage people have already forgotten the names and faces of children that have died under ICE custody:

Carlos Gregorio Hernandez, 16

Juan de Leon Gutierrez, 16

Felipe Alonzo- Gomez, 8

Jakelin Caal, 7

And more whose names have not been released but their ages range from 2 years old to 17 years old.

Rather than solemnly swearing to “never forget” actions must be taken to ensure these events remain in our history books with the words “never again.”

Lyon as Text

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Is this what France has become? By Natalie Mateo of FIU at Montluc Prison on July 10th, 2019

Is this what France has become?

A place where people cower in fear

A place where Jews get arrested and sent away never to be heard from again

People who haven’t even laid eyes on the Torah in their lifetimes but had a great great grandfather who was a rabbi snatched up in the middle of the night

A place where families are torn apart

A place where children are resistance fighters

A place where mothers and their children and held in cells

What have we become?

The Vichy government handed us over to the Germans as if we didn’t come from revolutionaries who killed a king

What they have taken for granted is the resilience and power of their people

The Resistance prints messages and papers several feet under ground

The Resistance sings La Marseilles in the streets

The Resistance graffities Vive La France on the side of buildings

The Resistance is hiding Jewish families in their farm houses

The Resistance is sending love letters to their spouses before laying down their lives for France

The Resistance is Jean Moulin, our unifier who slit his throat to protect the Senegalese soldiers in the French Army

The Vichy government may have forgotten what France is, but its people have not

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité

These are principles tattooed onto the hearts of every Frenchman

These principles are what keep us going

These principles will guide us through this never-ending nightmare

These principles are what makes dying for France worth it

Normandy as Text

Photo taken by Alex Gutierrez CC by 4.0

A One Ended Conversation with an American Hero by Natalie Mateo of FIU at Normandy American Cemetery on July 23, 2019

Plot F. Row 1. Grave 30.

Service number O-464313.

4th Infantry Division, 8th Infantry Regiment.



Raymond J. Hansen.

Born July 15, 1912 in Eau Claire County, Wisconsin where you would later enlist in 1941. You had two sisters and three brothers who I’m sure kept you humble and on your toes as siblings always do. I have my two sisters to thank for my humility. You spoke three languages: English, Danish, and German. I’m sure this helped you and made you a valuable asset to the armed forces in the thick of World War II. The ugly and monstrous child of the “war to end all wars.” You graduated high school in Denmark, Wisconsin in 1930 with the same bright eyes of innocence and hunger for the world that high schoolers still maintain today. Did you ever think you would lay down your life for our nation then? As you held your diploma in your hand, did you ever think that a gun would soon take its place? Three years later you would get your first college degree from North Central College. You then answered your calling and completed seminary school in 1936 at the Evangelical Theological Seminary and became a pastor at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church of Webster, Wisconsin. In 1938 you would become a reverend and begin leading the congregation of United Brethren Emmanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Augusta, Wisconsin. And your last happy memory on record, April 14th, 1941, when you married your beautiful bride Léona Marks. But, a few months later, the bombing of Pearl Harbor happens and the day after, December 8th, 1941, you marched right over to the nearest enlistment office to serve your country. What did Léona say? Did she beg you to stay? Or did she send you off with tears in her eyes knowing this was the right thing to do? I couldn’t imagine having to see my husband off to war after only 8 months of marriage. That’s not enough time. How many lonely nights did she spend worrying about you and crying herself to sleep? Did you two make the best of your time together before you went to fight? I would like to think you two spent your time inseparable. Helping the congregation, staying home together, wrapped in each other’s arms, spending nights slow dancing by a fire, and flooding each other with words of love and kisses. I know that’s what I would have done. Then it was time for you to begin your training. Being a chaplain, they needed you to play priest, doctor, and confidante all in one. You bounced around between New Jersey and Florida and also had a short stint at Harvard University where you were taught the basic principles and practices of several religions so you could serve all the men serving under you. Then on January 26, 1944, you arrived in England and began to put your training to use. You kept the soldiers’ morale up by being a close friend, holding mass, and giving confession that the soldiers fondly referred to as “padre’s time.” Did you see the fear and pain in their eyes? What did you say to them? How did you reassure them? Or were you just as scared as they were? Fortunately for your men you had first aid training before the war and received further training after enlisting. This meant that in addition to soothing and healing the men of your regiment spiritually off the battle field, you also tended to their physical wounds on it. It must have been soothing for them to see such a familiar face and close friend helping them as they laid there with bullets zipping past them. Did you ever question God while you were trying to save these young boys? Did you ever ask, “why them”? Since God is supposed to be all powerful and mighty and the ultimate punisher of evil, did you ever lose faith in his abilities as you saw innocent people dying at the hands of the wicked without retribution? I know I would have. I’ve questioned my faith for less almost a century after you laid down your life for me to be able to live mine. Then the most important moment of the war yet: D-Day. For five days you managed to stay safe and fulfill your duties: bandaging and burying soldiers. How many last rites did you have to give to the young men whose lives had barely started? How many eyes did you need to close that had barely been opened to the world? How many sons did you witness lay down their lives for the sins of the world? How many friends did you have to bury? And again, I ask, did you ever question God? All of this death and decay must be for God’s plan, right? Then, on June 11th, 1944, shortly before your 32nd birthday, the Germans overwhelmed you and you were hit in the line of fire. Your records engraved with the words “KIA- Killed in Action.” You had served honorably and were a light for many in your regiment. You would later be given the Purple Heart, a medal for those who were killed in combat. I’m sorry for asking again Raymond but I can’t stop wondering if you ever questioned God. With everything you saw in your short time in combat, was it God who kept you strong? Or were you just naturally resilient and hopeful? Why didn’t he protect you from death? Did he abandon you just like I feel he has abandoned me? Did he comfort you as you died? Did he wrap you in his warm glow as you felt your body going cold? I’m still waiting for that feeling. After 12 years of Catholic school, two of which were filled with depression and thoughts of suicide, without a single helpful and warm hand in sight, am I even worthy of his love and protection? Because if he couldn’t even protect you from Nazis committing the most heinous crimes in history then what hope is there for me? I still don’t know. The bible tells me yes but the Church tells me no. The gospels told me Jesus loved outcasts and sinners and yet when I spent two years wanting to die and spending my nights staring at fistfuls of pills my Catholic school told me “go ahead, but if you fail, we’re kicking you out.” Did I still deserve God’s love then? Do I deserve God’s love now? I know you can’t answer me. I know you’ve been long gone. But being able to survive that darkness, and getting to know you through my research, I know 16-year-old me could have really used some “padre’s time.”

Letter read at the grave of Raymond J. Hansen at the Normandy American Cemetery:


I thank you for your great sacrifice and your unwavering faith. I thank you for conducting mass and holding confessions as the ground shook beneath you. I thank you for putting your life on the line to bandage wounded soldiers in the battlefield and for also risking your life so that my generation can live the lives that we have been given. Live that’s we take for granted each day. I thank you for sacrificing yourself in order for the United States to continue holding on to its freedom and the rights that we hold dear to our hearts. I thank you for the greatest sacrifice of your own life so that our class, a group of immigrants as well as first- and second-generation Americans, could stand here today. I will thank you and the other men and women buried here in the Normandy American Cemetery again and again every day of my life, for the rest of my life, for everything you have given us. I hope that the world never forgets to appreciate the amount of sacrifice and pain given here during the D-Day invasion and that we continue to fight for what is right.

With the utmost love and admiration,

Natalie Mateo


“Capt Raymond J Hansen (1912-1944) – Find A Grave…” Find A Grave,

“Chaplain – Captain RAYMOND J. HANSEN (Photo Added).” Fallen Heroes of Normandy | Detail,

“Raymond J Hansen.” Honor States,

“Raymond J. Hansen.” Raymond J. Hansen | American Battle Monuments Commission,

Suedois50. “HANSEN Raymond J – 8 IR 4 ID.” Mémoire & Data,

Suedois50. “HANSEN Raymond J – 8 IR 4 ID.” Mémoire & Data,

Père Lachaise as Text

Photo taken by Alex Gutierrez CC by 4.0

The Most Famous Magic Baguette: The Two Injustices Committed Against Victor Noir by Natalie Mateo of FIU at the Père Lachaise Cemetery on July 26, 2019

Born Yvan Salmon on July 27, 1848, Victor Noir’s fame met him in death. In 1868, at the age of 19 years old, Noir became a political journalist for La Marseillaise, an anti-Bonapartist newspaper.  During his time at the newspaper, the editor, Pascal Grousset, became involved in a written conflict with Pierre Bonaparte, the great nephew of Napoleon I and the first cousin of the French Emperor Napoleon III, in which Pierre Bonaparte felt that La Marseillaise was defaming his family. This written altercation then led to the two men challenging each other to a duel. Grousset would later send Victor Noir and Ulrich de Fonvielle, another journalist at La Marsellaise, as his seconds to Pierre Bonaparte’s home to arrange the details of the duel. At Bonaparte’s home, the discussions of the duel went horribly awry and resulted in Bonaparte shooting Noir in the chest resulting in his death on January 11, 1870. The people of Paris were livid that a member of the Bonaparte family murdered a young French journalist. Victor Noir’s death resulted in several riots throughout Paris and he was considered a martyr of the people. Over 100,000 people attended his funeral in Neuilly. Politicians of the time then used his death as a political ploy for their elections and reelections by stating they attended the funeral, and hence were on the side of the people. Pierre Bonaparte was then tried for murder but argued in court that Noir had struck him first by slapping him in the face which resulted in the shooting. Despite having Ulrich de Fonvielle, the other young man who went to arrange the duel, as a witness to testify against Bonaparte in court, Bonaparte was acquitted. This sentencing set off even more riots and demonstrations throughout Paris as the Second Republic crumbled around Napoleon III. I find that this court ruled “innocence” of Pierre Bonaparte is the first injustice committed against Victor Noir.

As someone who aspire to go to law school, I can’t help but to notice all of the injustices and pitfalls that occur in the legal system. Pierre Bonaparte getting away with the murder of a young journalist is an instance we have seen time and time again in society. A wealthy and connected person commits a crime and either gets away with it or serves minimal time in jail and walks away merely with a slap on the hand. A recent example of this is the case of rapist Brock Turner. On January 18, 2015, Brock Turner, a former student at Stanford University, sexually assaulted an unconscious young woman behind a dumpster. He was then stopped by two other Stanford students who then pinned him to the ground and called the police. As the investigation began, Brock Turner’s phone contained nude images taken of the unconscious woman as well as text messages sent to a group chat discussing the images. The case gained national attention not only for the crime committed, but for Brock Turner’s actual trial. Coming from an affluent family, as well as his background as a student athlete on Stanford’s swim team, the judge who presided over Turner’s case did not want to “ruin his future.” In addition to this, Turner’s father sent a letter to the judge requesting he be lenient with his son so his life wouldn’t be ruined over “20 minutes of action.” The maximum sentencing facing Brock Turner for sexual assault was 14 years. However, he was given only six months in county jail and three years of probation. More disgustingly, Turner was released from jail after only three months.

After the fall of the Second Republic, Victor Noir’s body was exhumed and placed in the Pere Lachaise cemetery. In 1891, sculptor Jules Dalou was commissioned to make a piece to be placed atop Noir’s final resting place. Dalou sculpted Noir as if he had just been shot dead, his eyes still partly opened and his top hat falling down from his hand. Dalou also included another detail, a noticeable bulge under Noir’s belt. The statue became the center of superstition attracting women in flocks from all over the world. It is said that if you rub his protruding bulge, it will prevent infertility and increase vitality. If you kiss his feet, you will meet your husband within a year. If you kiss him on his nose, lips, and/or chin, you will be reunited with a loved one. As simple as these superstitious acts may seem, some people, of course, go above and beyond in completing these acts. Some women have climbed onto the statue of Noir and sat on his bulge while other have done the same to his face. This then led to the erection of a fence around the grave of Victor Noir by the French government in 2004. However, the women of Paris were up in arms and after several demonstrations, the fence was removed and Noir’s statue was fully accessible again. I find this to be the second injustice committed against Victor Noir.

While the superstition is done in good fun, I can’t help but think about how the world would feel if the same was done to the grave of a woman. If I were to have lived and died the same as Victor Noir and a post mortem statue of me was placed on my tomb, would my body become the same center of superstition as his has? Would the world stand by and laugh as men kissed my cold metal lips or rubbed themselves against my body? Or would the world decide that doing that was off limits since I am a woman? As much as society loves to sexualize the female body, it is oddly something that is still off limits. The female body is portrayed as sensual and voluptuous in paintings and the media and yet women all over the world need to remain pure and untouched. This double standard exists throughout the world but is the most prominent and hypocritical in cases of sexual assault. A woman gets raped and, while she still faces hardships and backlash, people still flock to her side to defend her. A man gets raped and he is mocked and laughed at. “What do you mean you got raped?” “Men can’t get raped!” “Oh c’mon man she’s super hot you’re telling me you didn’t like it?” “You were hard so that meant you liked it.” Where is the justice for these men? Where is the justice for Victor Noir? As I researched his life and saw images of women laughing as they touched an unconscious/ dead Victor Noir, I couldn’t help but think “If this body was alive, these women would be no better than the men they are told to fear.” Victor’s killer walks away innocent and he is sentenced to an eternity of women fondling him for some supposed good luck and fertility. Is that all he has been reduced to? Unfortunately for him, it seems the world has forgotten his story and wishes to only remember him as a statue that he never even saw in life. To me, Victor Noir will continue to be a victim for all eternity.


“12 Janvier 1870.” 12 Janvier 1870 – Funrailles Tumultueuses De Victor Noir –,

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Victor Noir.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 23 July 2019,

Corentin. “Au Cimetière Du Père Lachaise, La Tombe De Victor Noir Est L’objet D’une Tradition Mystérieuse Un Peu Obscène.” Buzzly,

Gray, Emma, and Emma Gray. “This Letter From The Stanford Sex Offender’s Dad Epitomizes Rape Culture.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 6 June 2016,

Kaushik. “Victor Noir’s Mysterious Erection.” Amusing Planet,

“Les Rites Sexuels Sur Le Gisant De Victor Noir.” Brèves D’Histoire,

Sanchez, Ray. “Stanford Rape Case: Inside the Court Documents.” CNN, Cable News Network, 11 June 2016,

Ugc. “Erotic Erosion: The Recumbent Effigy of Victor Noir.” Atlas Obscura, Atlas Obscura, 29 Jan. 2013,

“Une Tradition Nécro-Érotique Sur La Tombe De Victor Noir.” Paris ZigZag | Insolite & Secret,

“Victor Noir.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 6 Nov. 2018,

Marco Linares: Italia as Text 2019

“Ruins, Beauty, and Water” by Marco A. Linares at Tivoli, Italy. 13 May 2019.

Tivoli has proven to be one of Italy’s most amazing places. Unlike in hectic Rome, the people are calm and proud, the air is clean, and serenity fills every void – after experiencing it, there is no doubt why Hadrian chose Tivoli as the perfect escape from Rome.

In his villa, Hadrian showed me that pleasure and knowledge can (and should) go together. His lavish baths, his towering libraries, and his expansive grounds make him akin to a deity, but at the same time, his temple idolizing his deceased lover and the idea of closing himself off to the world – in essence being antisocial – to study and learn humanize him. Hadrian’s villa makes you feel like you can understand one of the greatest emperors that ever lived, making you wonder whether your perception of any great leader is correct or simply biased by their status.

Afterwards, Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este perplexed me with his lavish villa and made me rethink water and its function. I realized that it is not simply a necessary fluid – as I naively believed – but also something that can be harnessed and turned into art that calls you and makes you wonder if it is the most beautiful thing in the word. If I had been one of the cardinals being brought out there and showed those dramatic views, d’Este would have gained my vote and would have become Pope – there is a reason I am not a cardinal.

Lastly, the hike down into the valley of hell tests one physically and mentally. 100 meters down surrounded by nothing but pristine nature and cascading water. The absolute beauty numbs your senses and even a while after returning to civilization everything does not live up to the natural beauty of this valley. If that is what the descent into hell looks like I would not mind going there after all.

Tivoli is a must see place for all those seeking to truly understand Italy. Off the beaten path, it allows one to realize that though all roads lead to Rome, there is a lot of beauty to see on the way.

Unanswered Questions” by Marco A. Linares of FIU at Pompeii, Italy. 15 May 2019.

Pompeii was a lively Roman town, bustling with trade due to its proximity to the sea. In 79 BCE it was covered and abandoned as a result of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and forgotten for nearly 1500 years. Once the King of Naples decided to begin excavating it, it proved to be the best preserved Roman town ever discovered, shaping our idea of how Roman life was like no other.

Technology and advancements in techniques have made exploring Pompeii easier and more efficient. We are able to reconstruct buildings, create renderings, and scan the ground before breaking into it. Every once in a while, news break out about another section of Pompeii being excavated and new information being unearthed. Every discovery allows experts to zero in on what life was really like, but despite every new discovery some questions shall remain unanswered for eternity.

Who were these people? What were their names? What did they like? What were their dreams? What was their favorite food? They were homo sapiens – that we know – but what made them human? That we will never know.

Pompeii is an incredibly important archeological find, but it is also a town of thousands of humans who were never able to live life fully and were ultimately forgotten by society, so forgotten that now archeologists are forced to rename everything in the town using nothing more than what they find near it.

Pompeii is a draining experience, one that leaves you with more questions than answers. Casts of the dead are everywhere, waiting to be cataloged and displayed. Some are merely shaped like humans, others have gruesome facial expressions and body language that show how much pain they endured in their final moments, making one wonder, who were you? How can I remember you?

“Are they different after all?” by Marco A. Linares of FIU at Rome, Italy. 15 May 2019.

Melting pot of civilization – that is the most apt description of Rome.

Ancient Romans romanticized about the Greeks. Their art and knowledge was something that astonished Romans and led to them to claim being Greek descendants. Furthermore, as they idolized them so, Romans appropriated their culture in an attempt to be more like the ideal society that was Greece. Romans took heir columns, their gods, and their civic structures. All borrowed and adapted to fit their needs.

Romans were also amazing politicians and masters at public relations. No matter what, Romans always managed to bring the conquered under the Roman banner in the most unique ways, eventually leading to the pax Romana, something unheard of since then. Was religion a dividing issue? Bring your own gods and worship them in your temple. Was Roman citizenship an issue? Come become a citizen. Feel like you are too far from Rome? Come to the capital free of the constraints of an immigration policy. No matter the problem, the Romans had a practical solution. But Rome eventually fell, and its position as the hegemon of antiquity was filled by the church.Christianity added to the melting pot of culture that is Rome, creating an incredibly unique mix of devotion, power, and unrivaled leadership. It must be noted how much the church took from Rome in matters of practices as well as structure. Everywhere in Rome one can find the holy see adorning facades of churches and a variety of other buildings. Much like the Romans, the church took over old temples and repurposed them as catholic churches (often destroying the temple and building atop it), the church took Roman basilicas and replaced the judge’s seat with the cross – implying that the judge was now God, it even took some pagan structures and statues and preserved them by bringing them into the catholic fold – though a large number were destroyed. For a while, and for some to this day, the catholic church has been the most powerful institution on the world, commanding armies, waging war, and certainly enjoying the spoils.

In recent times the church has moved away from its aggressive practices and history, but the question remains, is the Papacy that different from the Emperors of ancient Rome?Christianity added to the melting pot of culture that is Rome, creating an incredibly unique mix of devotion, power, and unrivaled leadership. It must be noted how much the church took from Rome in matters of practices as well as structure. Everywhere in Rome one can find the holy see adorning facades of churches and a variety of other buildings. Much like the Romans, the church took over old temples and repurposed them as catholic churches (often destroying the temple and building atop it), the church took Roman basilicas and replaced the judge’s seat with the cross – implying that the judge was now God, it even took some pagan structures and statues and preserved them by bringing them into the catholic fold – though a large number were destroyed. For a while, and for some to this day, the catholic church has been the most powerful institution on the world, commanding armies, waging war, and certainly enjoying the spoils.In recent times the church has moved away from its aggressive practices and history, but the question remains, is the Papacy that different from the Emperors of ancient Rome?

“Realization” by Marco A. Linares of FIU Honors College at Firenze, Italy. 27 May 2019.

Inactively active. Inanimately animate. Inhumanely human. Michelangelo’s David is all this and much more, inviting reflection and eventual realization of social truths.

David’s story is the epitome of humanity. Upon hearing the insults his people are subject to, he first wonders about the rewards to be had for defeating this insulting giant; then he bravely volunteers to fight him, despite having never fought before. David masks his actions under religious zealotry, but this act is driven by nothing more than pride and greed.

Life is an insurmountable and endless obstacle course – a gauntlet no human has ever survived. David, like all of us, confidently faces it unarmed, inexperienced, and alone – all under the promise of a better life with fewer obstacles in the future, regardless of the danger it poses.

Michelangelo embodies us all as we go through life like nobody else in his famous David. Somehow the solid marble captures how we jump at the opportunity for betterment, disregard all threats, and proudly step into the field naked and unarmed. What is even more impressive is that it also manages to capture how, on sight of the challenge ahead of us, at least for a second, we are afraid and hesitant; for a bit we realize that our future may not be as we expected it, and we doubt ourselves and every decision we made up to that point.

This duality is perfectly captured by Michelangelo and his chisel. When looked from his front, David is brave and ready to face the challenge that lies ahead without any regard for the consequences. However, when looked from his left, as he sees what he is about to face, the doubt and hesitation becomes prominent in his perched eyebrows and worried gaze.

Michelangelo’s colossal David may have been made out of a block of marble, but it is a perfect reflection of humanity and maybe even of the author himself when he took on this project. Intentionally or not, Michelangelo’s David comments on society at an incredibly intricate level. Lastly, I think Vasari put it best when he stated when referring to the David that “whoever has seen this work need not trouble to see any other work executed in sculpture, either in our own or in other times.”

“A city made for people, not cars.” By Marco A. Linares of FIU Honors College at Siena, Italy. 27 May 2019.

Long winding roads, open plazas scattered at random, and people – people everywhere, walking on the streets, naturally, in their city.

Siena was the first European city to ban cars from its historic center – a bold step to take – but definitely one in the right direction. Cars pollute with their exhausts, lowering the life expectancy of all those who inhabit the city. Emissions from cars also damage artwork and structures, wearing away at them and gradually reducing our cultural heritage. Cars are also the worst enemies of architecture because the vibrations they produce can permanently damage and sometimes destroy unique and essential buildings in learning about our history. By banning cars from its historic centers, the Sienese became the first to avoid all of these negative effects of cars in an extremely progressive way. Aside from this all, Siena’s regulation allows the people full access to the streets and plazas. This is essential for a society to become interconnected and properly coexist. People walk and stop to greet one another or to walk into a shop, they sit in groups in plazas for lunch, and people seem substantially happier.

Across the ocean, however, there is the land of the free and the home of the brave. So free that they are entirely dependent on cars to go about their daily lives. So free that when they want to enter a store or greet a friend they must first find parking and then walk to their destination. So free that they cannot go to work if their car breaks down. Streets are expanded and constructed constantly in America, but never considering the pedestrian, only the automobiles. Money is poured into infrastructure to accommodate more cars and further drive a wedge between people.

One is a city made for people, the other for cars. One fosters human connections, the other servers them before they can be created. One allows true freedoms, the other one restricts them.

The land of the free and the home of the brave has quite a bit to learn from Siena, lodged far from large cities, this cozy hill town knows what it needs to do to keep society functioning. Hopefully the United States looks to Siena as a model to follow before irreparably changing the way that its society operates.

“Refuge” by Marco A. Linares of FIU Honors College at Cinque Terre, Italy. 29 May 2019.

How can one describe the Cinque Terre? Some will simply say they are a tourist destination. Others will say that they are the most picturesque places in all of Italy. Others will say they are small, quaint, and colorful villages in the Italian hillside that have resisted the forces of capitalism and remained as original as possible. Though these are not entirely wrong, I disagree with these definitions because they fail to include the essence of the Cinque Terre.

Hidden amidst mountains, these villages could easily be missed if not for their colorfully painted buildings. Fishermen once were and can still be seen as the backbone of these societies as every city has a port and a myriad of fishing boats anchored there. Aside from this, one can see how resistant these towns have been to global capitalism, not a single McDonald’s or any other giant chain store is present in any town. Their terraces allow them to be as self-sustainable as possible, allowing for small, family owned businesses to thrive. The people are so proud of their originality that they made it a UNESCO world heritage site so that the towns would remain the same way for generations to come.

Knowing these facts surely makes one more aware of the history and importance of the Cinque Terre, but it is not until one truly experiences and immerses into them that the essence becomes revealed.

Compared to Roma, Firenze, Venezia, Siena, Pisa, or Assisi, the Cinque Terre are distinct. It is difficult to put into words how a sense of serenity is accompanied by the utter beauty of the landscapes and overwhelms its visitors, offering a refuge from the world. Laying on its cliffside beaches, trekking through its trails, or simply sitting in one of its cafes feels surreal – almost like one has left everything one knows behind. There is nothing in the Cinque Terre that reminds one of the troubles of life – quiet and peace fill this refuge. Out of all the places in the world, this one must be one of the most peaceful ones in existence. The Cinque Terre allow and almost prompt reflection; no person can experience them without leaving a changed person.

Per Venezia, qualsiasi cosa” by Marco A. Linares of the FIU Honors College at Venezia, Italy. 8 June 2019.

Venezia is an astonishing city. It is the embodiment of human willpower and determination. After countless barbarian raids, a group of us were fed up and made the bold move to erect a city in the middle of a lagoon. From the sea this city rose atop istrian pine and stone – growing beyond the wildest imagination of any man. Slowly we grew to be masters of the sea and became the only bridge between East and West – the bridge through which all trade must pass. Venezia became the birthplace of modern day capitalism.

I am a Venetian and as such I will lay my life down for Venezia if I need to. What does it need? A body so it can cash in on the pilgrimage of thousands of Christians? I shall steal the body of St. Mark from under the noses of Muslims and bring it back. Does it need priceless pieces of art so that it can grow in opulence and display its power? I shall attack our allies and pillage their city, and I shall bring back countless pieces of art and treasures unbeknownst to man. Does it need to maintain the monopoly over glass blowing? We shall build a town to contain our master glass blowers and keep them there with their secrets. Does it need sailors to fill its merchant ships? I shall go and enlist hundreds of drunkards at the local pubs and make sure they are manning the boats by dawn. Per Venezia, qualsiasi cosa!

“The General” by Elaine Morales

De Gaulle (1890-1970) was in every sense a contradictory character — Jean Lacouture, an earlier biographer, called his colossal personality “a battlefield” — with tensions between “restraint and hubris, reason and sentiment, classicism and romanticism, calculation and provocation”. He was “a soldier who spent most of his career fighting the army; a conservative who often talked like a revolutionary”. And Gaullism “succeeded in becoming the synthesis of French political traditions reconciling the left to the state and the right to the nation, the left to authority and the right to democracy”. He was able to achieve this unifying transcendence because of the “legitimacy” — his favourite word — he had acquired during the Second World War as leader of the French government in exile.

Lewis Jones (2018)
Charles De Gaulle during World War II

Early Years

Charles Andre Joseph Marie de Gaulle was born on November 22, 1890 in the region of Lille in the Nord Department. His family, specially his uncle and his grandfather inspired him to learn about history and inserted him into the lecture word. He learned compositions and was passionate about poetry. At the age of fifteen, he anticipated the future when wrote an essay with the title “General de Gaulle”, in which he imagined he was the leader of the French army on its victory over Germany in 1930.  Years later, he joined the French army placing his father and his own intellectual interests about history and his country. During his first years of serving the army, he demonstrated strong abilities besides his physical qualities (height: 6’5”), and five years later he was promoted to sergeant. During his studies at the academy he started being an average student, and then he increased his skills, intelligence, knowledge, and personality being on the top of his class. The time of being proved arrived to his live when the World War I stayed. 

World War I

After two months he rejoined the army as commander of the 7thCompanyand two months later he was assigned regimental adjutant. He performed a good job on his position, earning the Croix de Guerreand ascending to Captain. Once again, he received a bullet on his left hand and was out of battle during four months. Once his abilities led him coming back, he rejoined the forces, leading the 10thcompany again. For last time, he received bayonet wound on the left thigh after being stunned by a shell. He survived the effect of this incidents and the consequences of poison gas, but was captured by the Germans. 

During the first days of the war he was wounded while performed as platoon commander in the Battle of Dinant.He received a bullet on his knee and was hospitalized enough time to criticize the methods of the French Militia. There were three aspect that De Gaulle found erroneous about the military tactics: the over-rapid offensive, the inadequacy of French generals, and the slowness of English troops. 


De Gaulle spent almost three years on prison under the German regimen. He got depressed because he was absent on the War. This situation was for him a fatality. His passion for the battle were so strong than got him frustrated about being incarcerated. He never complained about the food, the situation, the lonely, the exile; his only concern was not being part of the French army.  He used this time to read, to learn German, to discuss with other prisoners about military strategies and possibilities of victory. He also wrote his first book “ Discorde chez l’ennemi” which was published on 1924 and explained the division and issues within the German troops. When the war was terminating, he was liberated, and came back to his father’s home with his three brothers who survived the war. 


Charles went to Poland to as staff of the French Military Mission to Polandand earn the decoration of Virturi Militari. Once back in France he studied at the Ecole de Guerreduring two years, in which his grades were good, but never excellent. His professor Moyrand referred to him as an intelligent man, with unique attitudes as leader and as soldier, and as extremely arrogant with excessive amount of self-confidence.  One year later after finishing his studies, Charles published an essay on tactics depending of the circumstances, which constituted for many a response to his professor Moyrand. The same decade, he published other articles and lectures such as “Historical Role of French Fortresses”, “Leadership in Wartime”, and “Prestige”, ending on the formation of his book The Edge of the Sword. He came back to Ecole de Guerre as a commandant, but this time with the position of commander as he had sworn years earlier. Gaulle continued writing, even proposing his tactics to the senator, arguing for his concepts and ideas and earning prestige amount the militaries. 

Tanks and rapid maneuvers rather than trench warfare. 

On his book published on 1934, named Toward a Professional Army, he explained his position against the old trench warfare and the benefits of the use of tanks and rapid maneuvers. He believed so much on himself and was strong about his ideals, he defended his war strategies and his book was a success. Gaulle sold more than 700 copies on France and the thousands of copies on Germany (good numbers for that time and topic). After his book, he earned more respect and prestige across the country, and his tactics were criticized in France and followed in Germany. He was a well-known figure when he published his new book France and her Armyin 1938. 

Word War II

During War II he was the command of the 4thArmoured Division, he wrote books, criticized strategies and was in front of tanks battles. During the German invasion, he was directing the attack at Montcornet and was defeated several times by the enemies.  He rejected order of withdrawal and advance into the field, enjoying one of the few victories of French.  During this period, he was so secure about his tactics, rejecting superiors advises and confronting the Germans face to face. Then, he was given a mission to go to London, many of his collagenous had rejected and he accepted. On his biography he specified the depression and frustration he felt forming part of this mission. This meant his recognition of the government and a decided break from the French Army. During this time, he had several ideological problems with Churchill, demanding the rights of the French Committee (Jones, 2018).

Churchill and De Gaulle (1944)

Free French

He was recognized as the leader of the Free French and confronted as usually problems with his superiors. Gaulle’ wife and daughter had to move constantly while in London, and they were living separated for the general. He was a public figure and counted with admires in France, while the Vichy sentenced him to four years’ imprisonment and the court martial in absentia condemned him to death. After agreements and conversations, he formed the Free French National Council and then the Free French Air Force which cost him almost being killed in a plane sabotage on April 21st, 1943. To the other hand, president Roosevelt refused to accept him and even when their relationships started to improve, De Gaulle was not a trusted person to the American government. He stayed with his ideals and was clear on every meeting, he asked for being recognized as a leader figure of Free French. On June 14 of 1944 Charles went back to France in the wake of invading army. France welcomed him as deserved, and he headed the first allied troops to enter the capital: “Leclerc’s Free French second armored division. Sometime later, he was also the head of the provisional French government. In the elections of 1945, he failed to win enough votes and retired from the public life (Rudolph, 2016). The major cataclysm of France has passes, but Charles De Gaulle was not satisfied with the results, writing the following phrase:

It is not tolerable, it is not possible, that from so much sacrifice and ruin, so much heroism, a greater and better humanity shall not emerge.”

Charles De Gaulle. 

The President of the Fifth Republic

The official felt that France did not need him, or at least that his ideals were so pure for a country still on recovery. He wrote his book Memories of the War. When the Fourth Republic stayed, he planted his disposal for the country. Algeria returned the power to him after winning the war, and he was assigned as president of the Fifth Republic. Instead of following Argelia’s interests, the president stayed by the France’s benefits, creating discomfort and resulting in the white revolution in Algiers. He suffered attempts against his life at this time.

His labor most important during this period were:

  • Trying to convert France in an atomic power rose
  • Healing the relationships with German
  • Making the first attempts of inserting Britain to the European community
  • Tour for 10 Latin American countries.

On the elections, he was reelected on the second ballot for seven years. Between his achievements during this period are:

  • Tour of 6000 miles around the Soviet Union. 
  • He signed the declaration for the closeness between Eastern and Western Europe. 
  • Called to EEUU to withdraw from Vietnam during a speech on Cambodia. 
  • For his peaceful position he made of Paris a neutral point for meetings between EEUU and Vietnam. 
  • He launched the first nuclear powered submarine in 1967.
  • One of the most controversial elements during these years was his visit on 1967 to Canada, where he used the slogan “Vive le Quebec libre” encouraging the French-Canadian separatism. 
  • He continued with his foreign policy by visiting the Soviet Union, Poland and Romania in order to increase their relationship. 

“The cemeteries are full of indispensable men.”

Charles De Gaulle

Rival French Leaders shaking hands only for the show

De Gaulle government was categorized as a “dictatorship”, and years later he admitted on his letters to his son that for ten years he was really a monarch (Jones, 2018). Young students started to fight for their rights and the necessity of taking part on the decisions of the country. This point in the French history is considered the major crisis of Gaulle. He left the country without notification and returned when military security was assured. He stayed with his arrogance and self-confidence, and at this time this characteristic is shown on the phrase he uses to refers to the revolutionary students: “When a child gets angry and oversteps the mark, the best way of calming him is to give him a smack.” (Jones, 2018). He negotiated with the students and workers, but a little later he dissolved the parliament. He won one more time the elections but was unpopular and considered too old for the government. He resigned the presidency on April 28thof 1969. He published his book The Renewal, the first of three book Memoirs of Hope, this was considered the fastest seller in France. When he was almost 80 years old, he died suddenly at his home with the company of his wife on November 9thof 1970.  France and the whole world felt his death. 

“How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?”

Charles De Gaulle

Equality in Death: The Life of Joseph-Ignace Guillotine

CC 4.0 by unknown, Musee Carnavalet

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

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

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

CC 4.0 by the New Yorker, 2009

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

CC by 4.0, Georg Heinrich Sieveking 1793

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

CC 4.0 by Gunnar Kaestle

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

CC 4.0 by Welcome Collection

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

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

Madame Guillotine, The Scarlet Pimpernel Broadway Musical


Britannica, T. E. (2017, October 26). Guillotine. Retrieved from

Death of Joseph-Ignace Guillotin. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Death Penalty Facts. (2019, March 22). Retrieved from

Joseph Ignace Guillotin – Alchetron, the free social encyclopedia. (2018, July 28). Retrieved from

Joseph Guillotine – The Doctor of Death | History Channel on Foxtel. (2017, June 09). Retrieved from

Russo, N. (2016, March 25). The Death-Penalty Abolitionist Who Invented the Guillotine. Retrieved from

(n.d.). Retrieved from

Team, R. C. (2018, October 14). Death penalty: How many countries still have it? Retrieved from

Sofia Guerra: Ida

Odesia por el Laberinto:
Journey of the soul to the New World

“Labyrinths are allegories for journeys representing ventures across time and space, from This World to the Otherworld and back”

Corelyn F. Senn (2002)

Labyrinth within picturesque garden at the Ancient Spanish Monastery. North Miami Beach, FL 2019. taken by
Sofia Guerra

The journey of the soul beings already tainted by sin. According to Catholic doctrine sin entered the earthly world through the actions of one human, and we bare the responsibility for the disobedience of Adam’s second wife as the following generations (Roman 7:9-11).

The second half of the 15th century brought political changes to Spain that would eventually domino into radical historical, political, and religious changes that we see in effect to this day. The marriage between Castilian heiress and Aragon heir, Isabella and Ferdinand II, in 1469 unified the two predominately powerful Catholic kingdoms occupying what is drawn with modern boarders as “España” . Note: this was not a marriage of love, it was essentially a power move.

The Kingdom of Spain now held one of the largest military fronts of in the developing Western world. The unification of the two largest regional powers during an era wrought with violence and conversion flavored the next two centuries for Europe, and the Americas. The spirit of crusader conquest had received its ‘second wind’ later in the previous century. The Holy Office of the Inquisition was founded in 1478.

For centuries prior to the official founding of the Inquisition, Spain had been a multi-religious land. Tensions over land between Moores, Jews, and Catholics accumulated between the 8th and 15th century. The Moores were pushed out with the fall of Granada in 1492. While there were some converts among the marginalized religious populations, the Catholics Monarchs lacked tolerance for this behavior deeming converts illegitimate Catholics due to their lack of ‘blood-purity.’

12th century facade, made in Spain and relocated to North Miami Beach, FL. Part of Ancient Spanish Monastery campus. taken by Sofia Guerra (2019).

Conversion and conquest would become the dominate message emanating from the Kingdom of Spain entering the 16th century. Multiplicity within Spanish Catholicism mimicked the past religious diversity of the Iberian peninsula, including its instability. The Catholic message of the country was far from unified. However, the newly dominating Catholic Monarchs were essentially a medieval superpower. With an enormous military front and the backing of the Roman Catholic Church, Isabella and Ferdinand II moved forward with the Inquisition.

Architectural Styles

The architectural style of Medieval Spain encompassed predominate European traditions. Histories of great medieval Italian basilicas paved the ground work for a Spanish counterpart. Romanesque and Gothic flavored freestanding sculptures punctuate the grand spaces.  Simple bright light walls tied in luminescent Gothic architecture, yet it was distinctly flavored by its Moorish occupants.

From the West, Spain uses the traditional cross-shaped floor plan. This was, and still is the cannon for construction of Cathedrals across Europe and the world after its medieval conception. Vaulted ceilings, sculptural door jams, and catholic narratives typically dress the Cathedrals. Biblical stories are brought to life as Christ’s passions are depicted through frescos covering the walls. The artists tasked with adorning the Cathedrals walls did not shy away from the brutality Christ faced in his pious trials. The aim was to essentially ‘move’ individuals spiritually through intimidation tactics and a running narrative. Gothic traditions of a bright white luminescence work to literally light up the place, but also evoke the symbology of the color. White evokes purity in spirituality; the simplicity of the hue promote penance without distraction from over-ornamentation.

Stained-glass windows, vaulted ceilings, and St. Bernard du Clairvoux, Spain 12th Century AD. North Miami Beach, FL. Part of Ancient Spanish Monastery campus. taken by Sofia Guerra (2019).

Architects: Enrique Egas the Elder (Netherlandish, active in Spain, ca. 1455-1534); Diego de Siloé (Spanish, ca. 1495-1563); Juan de Maeda (Spanish, ca. 1510-1576); Alonso Cano (Spanish, 1601-1667); Francisco Hurtado Izquierdo (Spanish, 1669-1725); José B. Begun 1521, main (west) façade 1667, sanctuary (Sagrario) 1704-ca. 1717, Image: 1969. Granada Cathedral, Catedral de Granada, Interior: view of portal to Royal Chapel from north. Architecture; Architectural Elements.

From the From the East-Moorish and beyond- the Spanish heavily borrow a variety of arch shapes and designs, as well as different forms of ornamentation from the same group they spend hundreds of years pushing out of the Iberian peninsula. Ogee, and lancet arches had long been appropriated by the Spanish which distinguish their style from other European styles. Voussoir arch ways, which were not original to Moorish architecture, yet regularly and incredibly used, became a staple in masterpieces like the baths at Albambra de Giralda. Rather than following in strict adherence to the Italian tradition of heavy sculptural reliefs on the door jams and archivolts, the Spanish used those surfaces as opportunities to employ the intricately precise geometric designs, and similarly designed coffers and corbels to show divinity. The Moorish and Western European elements are so well integrated that it becomes an architectural flavor that is distinct to the Iberian Peninsula.

Architects: Enrique Egas the Elder (Netherlandish, active in Spain, ca. 1455-1534); Diego de Siloé (Spanish, ca. 1495-1563); Juan de Maeda (Spanish, ca. 1510-1576); Alonso Cano (Spanish, 1601-1667); Francisco Hurtado Izquierdo (Spanish, 1669-1725); José B. Begun 1521, main (west) façade 1667, sanctuary (Sagrario) 1704-ca. 1717, Image: 1969. Granada Cathedral, Catedral de Granada, Interior: view of dome of apse. Architecture; Architectural Elements.

Cathedrals in the New World

The first Cathedrals in the New World were put up as symbols of power from the missions sent through the Spanish Inquisition. They became institutions of conversion, education, and exploitation. The first monks of the Franciscan order reached New Spain early in the 16th Century and quickly began headway on building Cathedrals and Monasteries to house the new Catholic presence in the land.

Facade of Monastery of San Francisco. Lima, Peru. wikimedia: public domain

Along with their patrons, the institutions built were distinctly Spanish in origin. Regardless of order, whether it be Franciscan, Dominican or Jesuit the structures still emanated the style seen across Spain’s holy buildings. Across the Atlantic ocean the spirit of Spain had made it, and embedded itself in the white walls, vaulted ceilings, and voussoirs that held up the enormous power of the Catholic church in the new world.

Interior, facing the high alter of the Monastery of San Francisco. Lima, Peru. wikimedia: public domain

The sacred structures erected in South and Central America bear the flavor left on Spain by the Moores.  From the outside the new Cathedrals showed resemblance to discovered Moorish forts. The infrastructure is intimidating and solid, rendered in white. Sculptural decadence varies from structure to structure. However, a striking point to note is that when the ornamentation is included it is highly geometric-in Moorish fashion. This influence snowballs into the interior as well. The alters are gilded and decadent, simple and to the point. Ornamentation is non-objective, however it is balanced and vast giving viewers plenty to work with in terms of focus points for mediation. While a new Catholic may not be staring at a Christ figure they don’t recognize, they can recognize balance and perfection within shapes.

El Laberinto: Origins

Source Unknown

El Laberinto, or the labyrinth, holds pagan origins, and can be traced back to the Island of Crete where the Minoan people lived an arguably decadent life free of strife. The original Labyrinth is associated with the palace of Knossos and the myth goes as follows:

The craftsman Daedalus created a Labyrinth to hold the Minotaur captive. To prevent the beast from attempting to escape and wreak havoc, the Minoan people performed a sacrifice each year. Children would be sent into the Labyrinth never to return.

An Athenian hero traveled to the Island of Crete and rid the utopian town off their filicidal habits in exchange for a pardon of Athenian debts to be paid to King Minos. Entering the labyrinth under the guidance of the King’s daughter Ariadne, Theseus slays the beast.

So, what does this mean for the origins and ultimate symbolism of the labyrinth?

Labyrinth of Batty Langley.
Unknown – “Labyrith,” Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.

It becomes a symbol of an elusive and darkly-rooted theme of playfulness and exploration. In the Cretan myth, the labyrinth acts as a tool to confuse and imprison the half-human-half-animal Minotaur. Children also cannot escape on their own. Only the already renowned ancient hero is triumphant, and even he requires help.

The greenery thickens as one delves deeper into the Labyrinth. Taken at the
Ancient Spanish Monastery. North Miami Beach, FL taken by Sofia Guerra (2019)

The Labyrinth also represents the heroes’ journey, theme with a long tradition with western culture. It lives in ancient mythologies and modern religions, as well as most stories of struggle in popular culture today. The meandering maze of Crete has not been found. Its story pervades, and since its conception Labyrinths have become features to religious structures ranging in doctrine.

Pilgrimage of the Spirit

The first Cathedrals were validated by the power of the relic they held. Holy relics are often artifacts of the Saints. Catholic pilgrims made their journey to bask in the holiness of these relics they would often meditate on why they were starting this voyage in the first place. Since Cathedrals were often city centers, medieval pilgrims would travel from far and wide for their individual spiritual journey..

Similarly, to the pilgrims of medieval Europe, the spirit of exploration and spirituality of Spain made a ‘pilgrimage’ backed by militant and religious power to the New World. This sentiment came to me when reflecting upon the unknown voyage monks took, as well as the unknown exploitation the indigenous people would face upon encountering the newcomers to their land. The rapid change occurring over the megacontinent of the Americas manifested itself in violence and oppression. But in the name of God? The indigenous people had their own religious practices that the Spanish essentially dismantled upon their arrival by appropriating and changing indigenous beliefs to fit that of Catholic doctrine.

Ancient symbols such as the Labyrinth encouraged the meditative process. It is a freestanding symbol of balance and perfection: chaos perfectly enclosed in a sphere. The shape is universally recognizable. It exists in nature, and it is a common language. The sphere represents the cycle of life and death, a never-ending journey, and in this case a journey of self-exploration. It inspired the piety of pilgrims as it provided them not only the time, but a visual symbol to associate their spiritual journey with. The Labyrinth contains a meandering maze that can be conquered by few but approached by all, it exists in religions across the globe, including Hindu folklore. Today its meditative qualities are the same and still in practice.

A fork in the road, which way would you go? Taken at the Ancient Spanish Monastery. North Miami Beach, FL Taken by Sofia Guerra (2019)

When I began doing research for this project, I wanted to find the oldest Catholic structure in Florida. It turned out to be a 12th Century Spanish Monastery that had been completed IN Spain in 1133 and later transported to North Miami Beach, Florida in the 1950’s. Exploring this cloister led me to a labyrinth deep in the Monastery grounds that as I walked, evoked thoughts within me of the first people to walk a Labyrinth in mediation and how the symbol even came to be. It soon became clear, as the spirit of journey, self-discovery and spirituality lives within all of us, and has persisted in humans since the dawn of time.

Finding a labyrinth within a picturesque garden was not what I expected I had gone to just observe the architecture, and I wound up taking a journey instead.
Taken in the Monastery Gardens of the Ancient Spanish Monastery. North Miami Beach, FL. Taken by Sofia Guerra (2019).

The Spanish invasion of the Americas brought pork, sugar, disease and colonization. It also brought new religion, spirituality, and a new language for searching for spirituality. Deities range across religions but geometry exists in the natural environment that surrounds us all.  Recognizing the beautiful and divine around us day to day was accentuated in this country through elaborately sculpted, geometric facades and interiors of the first Cathedrals of New Spain.


Antonis Kotsonas. “A Cultural History of the Cretan Labyrinth: Monument and Memory from Prehistory to the Present.” American Journal of Archaeology 122, no. 3 (2018): 367. doi:10.3764/aja.122.3.0367.

Bayón, Damián, and Murillo Marx. History of South American Colonial Art and Architecture : Spanish South America and Brazil. Rizzoli, 1992.

Fiore, Jan. “A Sanctuary of Peace and Tranquility Miami’s Ancient Spanish Monastery.” Antique Shoppe Newspaper, June 2016.

Giffords, Gloria Fraser. Sanctuaries of Earth, Stone, and Light : The Churches of Northern New Spain, 1530-1821. The Southwest Center Series. University of Arizona Press, 2007. 

Senn, Corelyn F. “Journeying as Religious Education: The Shaman, the Hero, the Pilgrim, and the Labyrinth Walker.” Religious Education 97, no. 2 (January 1, 2002): 124–40.

Verstique, Bernardino. FOUR. Religion in Spain on the Eve of the Conquest. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000.

Italia-America: Legislative Structures

In today’s fast paced world, it is easy to get lost in the moment, forget about the past, and neglect the future. This post aims to do the exact opposite by creating a connection between the Roman Republic and the United States – two of the greatest civilizations to have ever existed. This post will place special focus on the legislative systems of each great society, allowing the reader to understand the roots of the concepts and institutions often taken for granted.

The Roman Republic’s and the United States’ legislative systems, though hundreds of years apart, bear considerable similarities while being discernibly different. Both consist of a multi-tier legislative system with some form of executive overseeing it all. The Roman system consisted of the Assemblies, the Senate, and the Consuls and other magistrates with veto power.[i] The American system consists of the House,[ii] the Senate,[iii] and the President[iv] and his cabinet. Unlike the Roman system in which any one of the institutions could create and pass laws,[v] the American system has a hierarchy in which laws start in the House of Representatives, move to the Senate, and then are approved by the President.[vi] Needless to say, the United States took a myriad of the concepts first used by Romans in their government and applied them in theirs.

To fully understand how any legislative system works, it is crucial to understand how each position is filled and who is responsible for filling it. Therefore, it is best to explain it from the grassroots to the elite, from elected officials to appointed ones, from the Assemblies to the Senate.

Roman Assemblies & American House of Representatives

The Assemblies in Classic Rome were made up of the people, they indirectly elected the magistrates, accepted or rejected laws, administered justice, and declared war.[vii] It is important to understand that for the Romans, at least initially, this was the most important branch of the legislative, as they selected a number of officials with substantial veto power. When discussing the role of these assemblies in the legislative structure of Rome there are three that must be discussed: the Centuriate Assembly, the Tribal Assembly, and the Plebian Council. Each of these had a key role in the creation and adoption of laws and was composed of different sections of the populace.

One of the most powerful institutions of Rome was the Centuriate Assembly (Comitia Centuriata). This committee, as its name suggests, was originally composed of all Roman citizens, which at the time were soldiers, divided into groups of 100. To reach a decision, each group of 100 would vote within itself and the decision from each group would be recorded, each group received 1 vote and whenever a side received a majority of the vote the matter was settled, and voting was no longer necessary. The Centuriate Assembly was so powerful because it was the one that selected and empowered the highest-ranking Roman Magistrates, including: Consuls, Praetors, and Censors, who were crucial in the legislating process.[viii] After a while, the groups were no longer divided into 100 Roman citizens but rather they were divided by social status and wealth, meaning that those in the upper rungs of society had a disproportionate effect on the outcome of elections.[ix]

Another important Assembly was the Tribal Assembly (Comitia Populi Tribute). This committee worked very similarly to the Centuriate Assembly when voting on legislative issues. It was composed of all Roman citizens divided into Tribes, each one of the 35 tribes would vote within itself and then report the majority of the vote; each tribe had one vote and whenever one side of the matter received a majority of the votes it was no longer necessary to continue. The Tribal Assembly was noticeably weaker than the Centuriate Assembly because it did not elect any Magistrates and its decisions could easily be vetoed by a number of other actors. [x]

Lastly, the Plebeian Council (Concilium Plebis) must certainly be discussed when talking about Rome’s legislative structure. Unlike any of the other Assemblies listed above, the Plebeian Council was composed exclusively of the commoners also referred to as plebeians. This Council was originally not very powerful, but slowly grew to be one of the most powerful institutions in Rome. It could adopt laws which applied only to Plebeians at first, but later to all Roman citizens, it elected a number of key magistrates with veto power, and could try specific judicial cases.[xi]

As explained earlier, the American system employs a number of ideas from Roman times. A very clear example of this is the multi-tier legislative system. Like the Roman Assemblies which divided the people into sections, asked them vote within those sections, and report the majority votes to decide the outcome of several decisions. The American founding fathers employed this very same system as the basis for the American voting system and later on the election of House of Representative members.[xii] Like in Roman times, American voters are divided into equal groups based on censuses done every 10 years; each group gets to vote for a representative in the House of Representatives.[xiii] This way – one could argue – the people are indirectly choosing which legislation they support and which one they oppose by voting for someone with similar ideals to theirs. Separately, and very similarly to Roman Assemblies when electing Magistrates, [xiv] these sections of voters play an essential role in legislating by electing who will run the executive and have veto power on a series of matters.[xv] Unlike Romans, who selected each Magistrate separately, Americans select only the President, who then has leeway to choose his Cabinet.[xvi]

Roman Magistrates & American Executive

Now let’s move to analyze the Magistrates of Rome and their role within the policymaking structure. Generally, Magistrates in Rome were elected by the citizens of Rome to rule in their name and held a series of powers over certain religious roles, the military, the judicial system, and could call assemblies to vote and preside over them.[xvii] Some of them played a very important role in the legislating structure of Rome, namely the Consuls, the Censors, the Plebeian Tribunes, and in extreme situations the Dictators. These offices, except that of the Censors, are essential in legislating because of the veto power they hold. This means that unless they agree with a proposed law being passed, the law will never come into force. Among these, special attention must be brought to the Plebeian Tribunes who were elected by the Plebeian Council and whose role was to protect the interests of the plebeians by vetoing any legislation that was likely to be negative for them.[xviii] Lastly, the Censors had a special role in legislating. Aside from conducting the censuses and censoring public behavior, the Censor’s role included appointing the members of the Senate in the early Republic – this role was then overtaken by the Consuls. The power of appointing Senators allowed the people to indirectly select who would be part of the Senate and implicitly what the future of Rome would look like.[xix]

The American system’s counterpart to the Magistrates would be the Executive, but like in Rome, the powers that these elected officials hold is substantially limited. For starters, only one actor – the President – is elected and has veto power over legislation, and this power is not absolute as that of Roman Magistrates as it can be undone with a supermajority of the Senate or by Judicial decisions.[xx] This branch of government definitely shares most of the roles and powers that Roman Magistrates had, but with regards to policymaking its power has become more limited.

Roman Senate & American Senate

Lastly, the most important and most powerful institution in the Roman Republic was the Senate. This institution evolved, as did all others, from being composed entirely of patricians to being composed of plebeians as well.[xxi] Senators were appointed for life, first by the Censors and then by the Consuls, and in theory they could only advise the Magistrates and indirectly propose legislation. However, the Senate’s advice was followed, making them the de-facto leaders of Rome. Separately, the Senators controlled the finances and foreign policies of Rome, allowing them the most control over the lives of Romans. Furthermore, the Senate had the exclusive right to appoint a Dictator for a short period of time and could suspend civil government and rule Rome by itself.[xxii]  

The American system has its own Senate, but it is definitely different than the one seen in Rome. First of all, American Senators are elected, though they do serve long terms in office in what seems to be a lifetime position, they can be removed if the people will it so. Secondly, the American Senate has a larger influence in legislating since they are one of the two chambers of Congress that need to approve every law by having a majority vote in favor. Lastly, American Senators alone do not control the finances or have power to elect a dictator, though they can vote to remove a sitting president from office and must agree, alongside with the House of Representatives and the President, on the country’s budget.[xxiii]

Roots of the Systems

Both systems have the same underlying root of anti-monarchical sentiment but have adapted to remain practical. Romans had overthrown the last king of the Roman Monarchy and were determined to never have another totalitarian ruler;[xxiv] this is the reason they had such a strong and effective checks and balances system.[xxv] Separately, Romans used a rough idea of what would later be known as federalism when they conquered new lands and allowed them to maintain fragments of their own culture and often many laws.[xxvi] Nonetheless, they realized that a system of checks and balances would be impractical when dealing with war and other urgent matters – this is the reason why the Romans created a way to consolidate power into one individual, a Dictator, to effectively deal with the situation at hand.[xxvii] Romans also realized that the prestige, wealth, and power of its elite families could be used for the benefit of Rome and therefore allowed them to wield influence over policymaking and foreign policy by being part of the Roman Senate.[xxviii] Lastly, to combat monarchy, Romans created the Assemblies in which the people indirectly voted on laws and elected Magistrates as describes above. It is in this way that the Roman legislative structure took the best from monarchies, oligarchies, and democracies in order to work efficiently.

Similarly, Americans had declared their independence from the British Monarchy and won their Revolutionary War. Like the Romans, the founding fathers sought to never have the United States ruled by a monarch and they did so by instituting very similar checks and balances to that of the Romans and used the principle of federalism in which each state could have its own set of freedoms which included choosing a religion and enacting its own laws.[xxix] Similarly to the Roman system, the American one sought to be democratic with a concealed oligarchy by restricting who could vote and be part of government.[xxx] Nonetheless, as the system has evolved, it has become markedly more democratic and liberal.

Functional Checks and Balances

Ancient Romans and Americans both discovered that the best way to prevent tyranny and totalitarianism was to distribute power to prevent any one person or branch of government from becoming too powerful. Both systems achieved this through a complex system of checks and balances. The Roman system had twelve veto players: any of the ten Plebeian Tribunes could veto legislation unfavorable to the Plebeian class[xxxi]  and the two Consuls could veto any legislation as well.[xxxii] The power was balanced among the institutions named above in which each was responsible for a section of any process, ensuring that no institution grew too powerful.[xxxiii] An example of this can be seen within the legislating process: the Senate can only advice Magistrates on what legislation they believe should be passed, these in turn take that advice to the Assemblies and call for a vote, then a number of other minor Magistrates must enforce it if it is within their scope of power.

The founding fathers faced a similar concern, they feared that if they did not establish a sound system with effective checks and balances they would soon be back to monarchical rule.[xxxiv] Loosely basing the system on Rome’s, the founding fathers balanced the system by dividing it into three branches (Legislative, Executive, and Judicial) with equal power and different roles in every government action. They also gave these branches veto power, allowing them to veto any legislation they thought was in violation of the Constitution.[xxxv] Another distinction between the systems is that of the Judicial branch; unlike in ancient Rome where either the people via Assemblies or Magistrates were in charge of administering justice, the founding fathers created a separate Judiciary to ensure that laws were applied to all equally.[xxxvi]

Something that makes both systems stand out in very similar ways is the practicality of its legislative systems. Early on both realized that the effective checks and balances would likely yield the best laws and policies for the people and the state but failed to work efficiently in times of crises. For this reason, both Romans and Americans were very pragmatic and had a solution in place for this very problem. The Roman Senate could appoint a Dictator – the highest office in Ancient Rome – until his task was complete or for 6 months, whichever came first. This individual would be given 24 fasces which meant he had supreme authority over all matters regarding the problem he was assigned to solve (usually it was war) – including capital punishment without trial – and all other legislative institutions were only allowed to veto his actions in very extreme cases.[xxxvii] The American system has something similar in place, whenever the country has found itself in times of war or economic troubles, the executive has been given almost unchecked power in order to solve the issue with the legislative bodies cooperating and rarely vetoing the President’s actions. This is evident when the roles of the American President are analyzed: the office holds the power over all foreign policy and can deploy a limited number of troops anywhere in the world without Congressional approval.[xxxviii]

This individual would be given 24 fasces which meant he had supreme authority over all matters regarding the problem he was assigned to solve (usually it was war) – including capital punishment without trial – and all other legislative institutions were only allowed to veto his actions in very extreme cases.[xxxvii] The American system has something similar in place, whenever the country has found itself in times of war or economic troubles, the executive has been given almost unchecked power in order to solve the issue with the legislative bodies cooperating and rarely vetoing the President’s actions. This is evident when the roles of the American President are analyzed: the office holds the power over all foreign policy and can deploy a limited number of troops anywhere in the world without Congressional approval.[xxxviii]

Social Status

Another similarity that both systems have is the social statuses of each position. In the Roman system, like the American one, each position in the legislative structure brought with it an implied status. In both systems there was an implied idea that the legislative system, as well as the political one, was akin to a ladder with each position being a rung which would allow the individual to climb socially and politically.

In the Roman system, Senators were definitely the ones with the highest status: they were appointed for life, were usually rich or became rich via their position, and usually their families were part of the elite or became a part of the elite after their appointment as senators. Senators were usually chosen from previous consuls, who in turn had been Praetors, Aediles, and Tribunes before having the position. It was rare to see someone being appointed Senator without either a family history of Senators or a long history of public service as elected Magistrate.[xxxix]

Similarly, in the American system, there is a generally agreed upon norm where people climb up the metaphorical ladder. Like in ancient Rome, Senators are the most respected ones and tend to either be wealthy or become wealthy during their tenure in office. These usually come from the House of Representatives or from high state offices such as Governor. The system is quite similar within each state with the slight difference that it is seen as the beginning of a politician’s career rather than its climax. However, unlike in Rome, the highest office is arguably that of President. Past Presidents have historically climbed up the ladder and been elected public servants or military generals before being elected into office.[xl]

The Evolution of the Systems:

The government and especially the legislative structures of Rome evolved like those of no other civilization before it. They overthrew the monarchy and established what can only be classified as an early Republic, guaranteeing great liberties, protection, and civic participation to its citizens.[xli] By today’s standards it was by no means democratic or liberal but at its time it was incredibly forward thinking. Rome was the hegemon of its time, a civilization all other civilizations have studied and will continue to study for millennia to come. That is not to say that they were a flawless civilization. The Roman Republic was plagued by issues which became evident as it evolved. The most noticeable one was the disproportionate amount of power the aristocracy had. Whether it was because they were the original members of the Senate or because nothing was ever done without them knowing about it, one thing is certain – they were simply too powerful. This issue came to its climax when Julius Caesar declared himself dictator for life and effectively ended the Republic and though most legislative institutions continued to exist they were only a façade to keep the people from overthrowing another king.

If looked at in a timeline, the Roman Republic existed for 464 years according to most historians, and once it morphed into the Roman Empire it lasted an additional 430 years ruled by emperors. The United States has existed for less than 250 years. This begs a series of questions, where is America headed? Will the United States give in to authoritarianism? Will its carefully designed system of institutions persevere and keep democracy alive forever? What is the future of American democracy? As similar as the United States is to Rome and as many great empires have fallen in the past foreshadowing a very ominous future for the United States, I believe that the home of the free and the land of the brave will never stop functioning in such a democratic way, if anything, its slow and gridlock-prone legislative system will build a better future for all in ways we are currently unable to imagine.

  • [i] Wasson, Donald L. “Roman Government.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 29 Nov. 2015,
  • [ii] U.S. Constitution. Art. I, Sec. 2.
  • [iii] U.S. Constitution. Art. I, Sec. 3.
  • [iv] U.S. Constitution. Art. II, Sec. 1.
  • [v] Bringmann, Klaus. “Rome and Italy: The constitution of the classical Republic.” A History of the Roman Republic, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2007, pp. 37-48.
  • [vi] Schoolhouse Rock! “I’m Just a Bill.” YouTube, written by David Frishberg, 27 Mar. 1976,
  • [vii] Lintott, Andrew. “Ch. V: The Assemblies.” The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 40-65.
  • [viii] Lintott, Andrew. “Ch. V: The Assemblies.” The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 49-61.
  • [ix] Lintott, Andrew. “Ch. V: The Assemblies.” The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 61-63.
  • [x] Lintott, Andrew. “Ch. V: The Assemblies.” The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 49-65.
  • [xi] Lintott, Andrew. “Ch. V: The Assemblies.” The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 49-65.
  • [xii] U.S. Constitution. Art. I, Sec. 4-5.
  • [xiii] U.S. Constitution. Amend. XVII.
  • [xiv] Lintott, Andrew. “Ch. VII: The Higher Magistrates and Pro-Magistrates.” The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 94-105.
  • [xv] U.S. Constitution. Art. II, Sec. 1.
  • [xvi] U.S. Constitution. Art. II, Sec. 1.
  • [xvii] Lintott, Andrew. “Ch. VII: The Higher Magistrates and Pro-Magistrates.” The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 94-105.
  • [xviii] Lintott, Andrew. “Ch. VIII: Tribunes, Aediles, and Minor Magistrates.” The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 121-129.
  • [xix] Lintott, Andrew. “Ch. VI: The Senate.” The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 65-72.
  • [xx] U.S. Constitution. Art. I, Sec. 7.
  • [xxi] Lintott, Andrew. “Ch. VI: The Senate.” The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 65-72.
  • [xxii] Lintott, Andrew. “Ch. VI: The Senate.” The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 86-89.
  • [xxiii] U.S. Constitution. Art. I, Sec. 1-3.
  • [xxiv] Cornell, Tim J. “Ch. 9: The Beginnings of the Roman Republic.” The beginnings of Rome: Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars (c. 1000 – 264 BC). Oxford: Routledge, 1995, pp. 215-236.
  • [xxv] Lintott, Andrew. “Ch. XI: The Balance of the Constitution.” The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 191-214.
  • [xxvi] Lintott, Andrew. “Ch. VII: The Higher Magistrates and Pro-Magistrates.” The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 104-121.
  • [xxvii] Lintott, Andrew. “Ch. VII: The Higher Magistrates and Pro-Magistrates.” The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 109-113.
  • [xxviii] Byrd, Robert C. “Ch. 8: Erosion of Senate Authority,” The Senate of the Roman Republic: Addresses on the History of Roman Constitutionalism. Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1995, pp. 93-105.
  • [xxix] Hamilton, Alexander, or Madison, James. Federalist No. 51: The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances Between the Different Departments. New York Packet, 8, Feb. 1788.
  • [xxx] Crews, Ed. “Voting in Early America.” The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Spring 2007,
  • [xxxi] Lintott, Andrew. “Ch. VIII: Tribunes, Aediles, and Minor Magistrates.” The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 121-129.
  • [xxxii] Lintott, Andrew. “Ch. VII: The Higher Magistrates and Pro-Magistrates.” The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 104-121.
  • [xxxiii] Lintott, Andrew. “Ch. XI: The Balance of the Constitution.” The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 191-214.
  • [xxxiv] Hamilton, Alexander, or Madison, James. Federalist No. 51: The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances Between the Different Departments. New York Packet, 8, Feb. 1788.
  • [xxxv] U.S. Constitution. Art. I, II, III.
  • [xxxvi] Madison, James. Federalist No. 47: The Particular Structure of the New Government and the Distribution of Power Among Its Different Parts. New York Packet, 1, Feb. 1788.
  • [xxxvii] Lintott, Andrew. “Ch. VI: The Senate.” The Constitution of the Roman Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 86-89.
  • [xxxviii] Edelson, Chris. “Exploring the Limits of Presidential Power.” American Constitution Society. 2, Dec. 2013,
  • [xxxix] “Roman social and political structures.” Khan Academy, Khan Academy, 27, Dec. 2016,
  • [xl] Makse, Todd. “Foundation of American Democracy.” Florida International University, POS 2041, 21-28 Aug. 2017.
  • [xli] Cornell, Tim J. “Ch. 9: The Beginnings of the Roman Republic.” The beginnings of Rome: Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars (c. 1000 – 264 BC). Oxford: Routledge, 1995, pp. 215-236.