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,

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.

Medical Advancements & Healthcare System

by Keysa Garcia


Picture [11].

Different technological advancements are being brought to countries with an increasingly high number of individuals who can’t get the correct treatments due to the lack of advancement in their countries healthcare systems.

Top Tier

When looking at the world and it is entirety, our society tends to label countries. For example, Chinese people are labeled as people who eat dogs or that all Mexican foods are spicy. However, when one thinks of Spain they think of lazy people who take 3 hour siestas in the middle of the day. What people don’t know about Spain is that it is amongst the top five researching and developing countries within the medical technology world [1].

Not only is Spain amongst the top five countries, but it flourishes in other medical aspects besides research and development. For example, agrobiotechnology, the application of biotechnology on to agriculture is ranked third in the world. Another example includes, Spain being the fifth largest exporter of health technology and Spain ranking third in reproductive technology.

Reproductive Technology

As previously mentioned, Spain is very advanced in reproduction technology. One of the largest and most well-known fertility centers, Instituto Valenciano de Infertilidad (IVI). The Instituto Valenciano de Infertilidad is one of the first fertility groups to open up in Europe and all over the world. The institution was founded in 1990, and 65 clinics in 11 different countries; with 35 of the clinics in Spain and 19 in the United States [8].

What most Americans dream of is having a family, and sometimes this isn’t possible. As many American females wish to conceive naturally, many have to turn into in vitro fertilization. In result to this many American fertilization companies rely on any advancements or new techniques that Spain produces. An example of this includes embryo transfers. Medical professionals in the United States transfer embryos by playing a small catheter and releasing the embryo [9]. However, researchers and developers at the IVI have noted higher success rates if this process is down with a guided ultrasound [10]. Findings like these, have lead to merging of Spanish fertilization companies with American Fertilization companies [3].

The embryo transfer process [9].


When reflecting on the aspects within the Americas influenced by Spain, one can look into the what is taught to students at the high school, collegiate, and graduate level. Michael Servetus (villanueva de Sigena, Aragón, Spain, 29 September 1509 or 1511 – 27 October 1553) was one the first Europeans to describe the functions of the pulmonary circulation [4]. Michael Servetus explains the functions of pulmonary circulation by describing the color of the blood, and the size and location of different ventricles. The functions Michael talks about are all common teachings a student learns in an American classroom setting.

Approximately 35% of deaths that occur in United States are respiratory related, and 75% (a total of 26%) of that is caused by Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) [6]. However, when you compare COPD death rates the 26% of deaths in the United States towers over the 6.9% of deaths in Spain [7].

Spanish-Arabic Medicine

At the starting point of the 7th century till the end of 8th century, an Arabian culture started too spread from the Straits of Gibraltar to Egypt, and leading to the Spain. As the culture migrated through the country, so did the writings of many medical professionals. Many of these writings, were works done by Rhazes.

Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi, Rhazes, was a Persian polymath, physician, alchemist, philosopher. Besides all of these attributes Rhazes is an important figure in the history of medicine [13]. Rhazes was a personal physician while living in Baghdad but his literary works on the differences between measles and smallpox’s traveled through Europe and made its way to medical schools in Cordova, Sevilla, and Toledo. [12]

In addition to Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi, a.k.a Rhazes… We are introduced to an Arabic doctor, who practiced medicine in Cordoba. Abul Kasim, migrated to Spain and was the first to be interested dentistry. Abul is also the first too manifest an illustrated literary piece about surgery, within this text he illustrates about many topics including removal of teeth and plaque [14]. These two concepts are top reasons why individuals in today’s society go to the dentist.


The Iberian Peninsula was visited by many foreigners who all shared one common trait, that trait was a vast knowledge within the medical and surgical field. The surgical aspects one gets to learn about today or gets to see on Tv stemmed from the megalithic era. WIthin the megalithic era, the first “surgical” procedure was performed, the procedure is what we know as trepanation, the procedure of making a hole in an individual’s skull. Until the Renaissance, Spain did not flourish within the medical and surgical field. As time went by, improvements and advancements were made. However, most advancements were noted by medical breakthroughs, such as anesthesia, and many technological breakthroughs in the 19th century. [15]

However, since the 19th century Spain has not stopped. Spain is currently envied by many countries by their surgical transplant rates. It is noted in the video description, that 27 organs are donated by every million people! This is currently (2015, when the video was posted), twice as much as the Americas. [16] However, I believe that in North America this rate is not as high as Spain’s due to the eating habits and lifestyle Americans, most organs are not eligible for transplants.

Transplant Surgery in Spain envied by others. [16]

Healthcare System

When looking more in depth about the Healthcare System of Spain, various sources mentioned how Spain started implementing electronic health records (EMR) during the past decade. However, as a current healthcare assistant and healthcare system trainer at the University of Miami, I am always reminded that our system is “faulty” because it’s only 3 years old. My provider states that for every patient within our system there should be four sets of eyes, as he also mentions on he misses writing a patient’s prescription on a tiny piece of paper.

Nonetheless, Spain has introduced their electronic health records (EMR) within two decades. According to MIT technology review, by the year 2010 more than 95% of Primary Care Physicians were using the EMR and also placing more than 250 million prescriptions. [5]


Antonia Goggans testimonial about dealing with the Spanish healthcare and comparing it to the United States [2].


[1] Article Post – Medical Research and Development in Spain

[2] Youtube Video – Antonia Goggans Testimonial

[3] Article Post – Merging of Spanish and American Fertilization companies

[4] Article Post – History on Michael Servetus

[5] Article Post – Emergency Medical Records Statistics

[6] Research Article – COPD Background and Statistics

[7] Article Post – COPD Spain Death Rates

[8] Webpage – IVI Locations and Facts

[9] Youtube Video – Visual representation of Embryo Transfer

[10] Article Post – Ultrasound increases Embryo Transfer success rate

[11] Picture – Clipart

[12] Article Post – A History of Surgery

[13] Webpage Info – Wikipedia

[14] Webpage – History of Medicine

[15] Article Post – History of Surgery

[16] Youtube Video – Transplant Surgery in Spain

Study Abroad Info Session March 2019

March 19, 2019 AT 3:30 PM IN RB 120 – 3 HONORS POINTS

Join Professor Bailly for an introduction to the France, Italy, & Spain study abroad programs of the FIU Honors College. Meet students that have completed the programs and have all your questions answered. Whether you are going to Europe in Summer 2020 or considering 2021 or 2022, this session will be helpful.

Check out #fiuhonorsabroad2018 on Instagram for photos from Espana, France, & Italia


Espana Study Abroad
France Study Abroad
Italia Study Abroad


Stephanie Sepúlveda & John William Bailly  18 March 2019