Flamenco 41 by Maryam Mughal


Dance is one of the purest forms of art and expression, not only does it tell a story by the way the performers interact with each other, but it also displays the mixture of cultures that contribute to the music and movements that make each dance unique. Most people when referring to Spanish dance tend to name Flamenco as the dance of Spain however, Spain’s dance culture is influenced by different aspects depending on the regions. These different dances have traveled through Spain, Europe and to the Americas giving birth to different dance styles or modified versions of the Spanish dances.

Dance Tidbits by Freddie Brock


The traditional dances were folk dance that were different and unique to different regions of Spain. These dances led to the more famous and modern dances that now define Spaniard music and dance.

  1. Sardana:
    • This is was a dance that was very popular the Catalan region of Spain and it is considered to be a part of the identity of Catalonia. It is a dance that is played by a ‘cobla’, the live band that plays the music. Men and woman dance it equally as they move in a circle slowly taking small steps back and forth to the rhythm of flute and drum like instruments. It is still very important to Spanish culture and the are about 200 bands that play this style of music in Catalonia.
  2. Muiñeira:
    • This dance is regional to the areas near the stretch of Galicia and this dance demonstrates the derivation from Celtic culture that is more common in the northern part of Spain near the Iberian Peninsula. The use of Bagpipes (gaita) and traditional outfits show the resemblance to Irish culture. It is danced at a moderate fast pace that is common to the dances of Spain in it could be done in circles and rows of dancers.
  3. Sevillanas:
    • The dance of the south originating in the region of Sevilla. It was derived from Seguidillas a type of fast paced folk dance for couples. The lyrics are the most important part of this music and they sing about common life themes. The dance was later influenced by Flamenco and vice versa making them very similar and easy mistaken by those that do not know.
  4. Bolero:
    • The original bolero originated in Spain as a ballroom dance. It was the influence of the Flamenco style dance that follows the name of boleras because of the music style and use of ‘castanuelas’, but it was actually made by combining the folk dance of sevillana with a contradanza. Although there is a dance originated from Cuba with the same name, it does not relate to the Spanish bolero until recent times where the Spanish have incorporated the more modern Cuban Bolero into Spanish Bolero for a different twist on the Dance.
  5. Fandango:
    • It is a very common and popular couples dance that originated in Andalucía. The dance is intended to show a story between a couple, and it is revealed in the movement of taunting that each dancer shows the other. Could be seen as a fight or represent a war between two people. It is very similar to Bolero, and Flamenco because the music, instruments used (castanuelas).
  6. Jota:
    • Jota represented by the sound of the letter ‘J’ is a dance from the northern parts of Spain, Aragon. However, this dance is one of the only ones that is spread throughout Spain being represented differently in each region expressing the different aspects of cultures that each Spanish region have. It is composed of a fast-passed dance and even includes jumps.
  7. Flamenco:
    • Flamenco is the dance that is known to represent Spain. Nonetheless, it was introduced and developed in the south of Spain (Andalucía), and could even be considered insulting to ask someone from the North if they dance Flamenco. It is composed of different dances and rhythms from Arabic and Jewish decent and classical Spanish music. Today it is one of the most popular Spanish dances because of its music, use of guitars and, remixes they have done to the music to make it seem more modern.
  8. Paso Doble:
    • Paso Doble is an interesting form of expressing Spanish culture because it is meant to model the act of bullfighting, a common entertainment and cultural identity of Spain. It is a fast-passed couples dance where the man represents ‘el matador’ and the woman is the swift flowing cape. It was originated as a French military march that is still referred to during festivals. Paso doble is one of the various dances that was later incorporated in Latin American dances.
  9. Zarzuela:
    • This atypical dance is more of a theoretical musical style where the music changes between spoken and sung scenes. It was originated in Madrid in the Zarzuela Theatre. This was another of the dance entertainments that incorporated its self in the New World and the different countries adapted it to their own mixtures of cultures.

Guaguanco Series Art Print by
Arturo Cisneros

Relation to the new world

Most dance-based cultures in Latin America where not fully and solely influenced by Spanish dances because most Hispanic dances are mostly alterations of African dances. However, that minor alteration that changes the African dance is the input of Spanish dance that was brought from Europe.

  1. Religion in colonization dance: Before Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas, the indigenous groups had their own ritualistic dances and ceremonies, after the natives, the slaves brought from Africa brought their own experiences and interpretation of religious dancing. During the conversion period Catholics priests decided to allow the slaves and natives to dance and have ceremonies if they modified them to refer to the Catholicism. Slaves found a way around conversion by lying and giving African names to Catholic Saints they would praise their African gods but to the Spaniards view they were praising Spanish saints. This not only birthed a new religion (Santeria) practiced mostly in the Caribbean Islands but also to various new dance forms that had mixtures of Religious Spanish dances and African dances.
  2. Guaganco:
    • It is a topical dance of the Caribbean that originated from African culture. It derived from the Cuban Rumba a typical dance that originated in the northern parts of Cuba mostly in the capital La Havana. It is meant to represent a man trying to seduce a woman and the woman tantalizing him by leading how she reacts to his advances.

  1. Same name diferente steps:
  • As the formal dances above mentioned moved to the Americas, they changed not only because of the difference in liberty of the American people but also because of their physical consistency. In dances like the Seguidilla and Fandango, in the Americas they were changed to be about more feet movement called el Zapateo because the regid torso position helped to have a faster foot movement. This dance became very popular and still is in places like Mexico, and Colombia. The dance of Jota stayed pretty similar however, without the castanuellas , the hops and fast paced danced turned into dances like ‘Tiranas of Argentina and ‘Jaranas’ in Mexico.
  1. Zamacueca:
    • This dance was very important because it became the symbol of independence from the Spanish colonies. It was known as the mestizo dance. It originated from the general dance of
      sonecitos del pais which was the dance that most of Latin America transformed from the popular Spanish dances of la Jota and Seguidilla. In Argentina it became known as la Zamba and in Mexico La Chilena, with time the different countries changed the mane and some movements.
  2. Son:
    • Los sonecitos del pais developed with time into different more sensual dances known as Sones and Jarabes. From this musical mix derived El Son. It was very popular in the Caribbean although there is a Mexican Son. the Caribbean one originated in Cuba. this dancee gave a stop to the other dances that were fast leg movement a led to a more Afro- hip movement.
  3. Danzon:
    • This dance was the mixture of independence and elegance. it sported the movements and etiquette of the Waltz and the Polka but with a more sensual modern twist that the couples got to dance closer and touch each other more, so close they need to dance on a single tile.
  4. Jarabe Tapatio:
    • This famous Mexican dance was a Jarabe that derived from the Spanish dances and it encompass most of Mexican tradition. It originated in Jalisco and it is the music that accompanies the famous Mariachi bands.
  5. Punta:
    • Punta is a reference to the mixture of “Mayan dances and the religious dramas of Moors and Christians”. It is the typical dance of the countries on the Atlantic coast (Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua ect.) It is a celebration to the dead and it is danced by moving the hips and lower parts of the body.

Before doing this research, I believed that most Hispanic dances were a mix African, Native, and Spanish dances, this research showed me what dances truly contributed to what specific dances. It showed me that no dance is truly pure, and it actually is an art form that represents a mixture of cultures and people.


“Spanish Dance and Music: Overview.” Spanish Art, Spanish Art, 2011, www.spanish-art.org/spanish-dance.html.

Jessop, Tara. “10 Traditional Spanish Dances You Should Know About.” Culture Trip, Tara Jasop, 22 May 2017, theculturetrip.com/europe/spain/articles/10-traditional-spanish-dances-you-should-know-about/.

Wall, Amy Lynn, “Dance as a cultural element in Spain and Spanish America” (1992). Presidential Scholars Theses (1990 – 2006). 151. https://scholarworks.uni.edu/pst/151

Architettura Pubblica dall’Italia all’America

Roman Colosseum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

by Maria Carla Robaina

“Architecture should speak for its time and place, but yearn for timelessness”

Frank Gehry

It is said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and if that truly is the case, the Italians could burst with pride at any moment. Over the years, there have been many ideas and movements that have originated in Europe (specifically in Italy) which Americans have shamelessly adopted as their own. A very palpable one is Italian architecture, which has been imitated all over America since the very beginning of our nation as we know it, in an attempt to become a little more like the Romans. There is no surprise here, seeing as the United States always aimed to be the most powerful nation, and the Roman Empire was, and continues to be even after its fall, the greatest, longest lasting world power to ever exist. So why not copy their architecture? After all, architecture is, in my humble opinion, the perfect, most functional combination of science, and art. It is history, culture, past, present, and future intersecting into one; always recycling concepts, and reinventing itself: an everlasting reflection of the people. 

While America’s motives are clear, it takes a curious eye to see exactly how America has embedded Italian architecture into its own. When we look at long-standing governmental structures, churches, and even suburban houses designed by American architects, we might be inclined to think that they invented it. In reality, they made a few alterations to an already existing model that was born in Italy. In some ways, we see that even today! All you need to do is buy a plane ticket to New York City, go down to Battery Park at the tip of the island of Manhattan, and recharge your closet with fake Gucci, and Fendi products. 

When it comes to architecture, different religious, political, and artistic movements play a big role in dictating what the next building is going to look like. So, the best way to explore Italy’s influence on American architecture is to take a tour of Italian architecture and history.

Beware though, that this is a trip back in time, and with chronological stops along the way. Once you’ve seen it, you can’t un-see it, and you’ll find Italy around you, every single day!

Stop I: Ancient Rome

Roma was founded by Romulus in the year 753 BCE, and it became a republic in 509 BCE with the rise of the Senate [1]. Much like America has done, the Romans also borrowed ideas from other cultures. In the 2ndcentury BCE, the Romans borrowed architectural ideas from the Greek, and created their own style. This ancient Roman style consisted of an external Greek façade with many contributions to suit Roman needs. 

The Colosseum:

a. Roman Colosseum (Photo by Dennis Jarvis CC BY 4.0)
b. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (Photo by Emma Griffiths CC BY 4.0)

The ancient Greeks developed the idea of an amphitheater to stage plays, and entertain the masses. These structures were built on hills, which allowed everyone, no matter how far away from the stage, to see everything. One main feature of these amphitheaters is that they are completely open spaces with a stage on one extreme, and a semicircular seating arrangement in front of it [2]. 

The Romans took this concept, and improved it in the construction of the Colosseum in 80 CE. They added more seating space by having a centralized stage with seats creating an elliptical 527 meter circumference with a 48 meter height divided into four floors.  With 45000 seating places, 5000 standing places, and 80 entrances, this provided a solution to Rome’s increasing population. Another feature that stands out is the presence of a backstage area, and a network of underground tunnels, which allowed for the preparation of the performances. This was especially true of gladiator shows, where the gladiators, and their wild animal counterparts were kept hidden from the audience in these tunnels. A partial roof, and above-ground seats were also features that the Romans added to the Greek design, which is similar to the stadiums, and arenas that we have today [3]. 

So, while the concept of an amphitheater was created by the Greek, our present-day implementation more closely resembles the Roman version of it. The clearest example is found in a football stadium, not only in the overall shape, and design of the building, but in the kinds of performances that it houses. Many football players share a similar background of low socioeconomic status, and football provides a possible exit from the life that they grew up having. Much like the gladiators back in ancient Rome, football players endure immense physical stress with the hope, but never assurance of a brighter future. While they do this by personal choice, it is inevitable to notice the similarities between the two groups, and how history repeats itself, even if on the other side of the Atlantic. What’s more enlightening, these upgraded gladiators are AMERICAN football players, which says a lot about the United States as a nation. We have been so fixated on the success of the Romans, and the desire to reach it, that we have copied one too many aspects of their identity, ignoring the people at the bottom who are affected by this. 

Arches and Vaults:

With the rise of Rome came wealth, and an increase in immigration. High population densities demanded architectural solutions, which included the use of arches, and vaults in constructions for public use. Arches originated in ancient Egypt and Greece but the Romans were the first to use semicircular arches in bridges, and large scale architecture like we see today [4]. 

Arch of Constantine (Photo by Mark Cartwright CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

One of the structures that used arches is the Arch of Constantine. This arch was built in 315 CE in honor of Emperor Constantine’s victory. It has three arches, and it is a symbol of wealth, power, and authority [5]. Not surprisingly, an American interpretation is found in New Orleans Mint (1838), which really made me think about the intentions behind this. New Orleans Mint is overpopulated with an excessive number of arches (See link below). But what better way to bless a country with good fortune than to include symbols of wealth in its money-making facility? Whether intentional or not, there’s no denying that in the 1830’s there was a lot of Italian influence on American architecture.

New Orleans Mint arches: https://www.dreamstime.com/interior-old-u-s-mint-city-new-orleans-louisiana-usa-old-u-s-mint-city-new-orleans-inside-view-image106734768

The use of oversized arches is also seen in The Presbytere, a museum in New Orleans that was built in 1813. In its picture, we can even compare the size of the arches to that of the people standing below them, and we can appreciate how these arches served a decorative purpose, and were not just entrance points, an idea that is entirely Roman in nature since Greek and Egyptian arches were built large enough to allow people to go through them.

The Presbytere, New Orleans

Another Roman innovation were groin vaults, which were used in the Baths of Caracalla. Built in the year 212-216/217 CE, these public baths had a 24 meter long tepidarium (warm bathroom) [6]. These vaults were meant to fortify structures, and they were also used in the construction of New Orleans Mint (See link below for pictures).

Baths of Caracalla (Photo by Chris Warde-Jones CC BY 4.0)

New Orleans Mint Groin vaults: https://www.dreamstime.com/interior-old-u-s-mint-second-floor-city-new-orleans-louisiana-usa-old-u-s-mint-inside-second-floor-view-new-orleans-image106734826

The Pantheon:

The Roman Pantheon was originally finished in 25 BCE, however, in 80 CE it was demolished, and the one we see today is the reconstruction under Emperor Hadrian in 118 CE. He had vast knowledge of culture, and respected  all religions, so he intended to create an inclusive space for people of all faiths to gather. Churches provided gathering grounds for people since religion was a social act.Aside from the personal beliefs that led to this decision, it also acted as a political strategy since during this time, a large portion of Rome’s habitants did not worship Roman gods, so making them feel accepted was of utmost importance for the government [7]. 

 The Pantheon is considered a perfect space because it has the same length, and height. It has 8 Corinthian columns in the front under a triangular roof. An enormous dome (the largest surviving dome from antiquity) stands on the back of the building [7]. This structure is very similar to the United States Supreme Court building, which was finished on 1935. The two structures do have some marked differences because the Pantheon has a large dome, which the Supreme Court lacks, and the Supreme Court is elevated off ground-level, and there are stairs leading up to its entrance. However, just like the Pantheon, the Supreme Court building has a triangular roof, and exactly 8 Corinthian columns in the front [8]. The number 8 bears a lot of weight in religion, especially those religions based on the bible such as Catholicism. The 8 is the symbol of resurrection, and regeneration, so it represents a new beginning, something that was definitely fitting for the Pantheon since it was RE-constructed. After learning a lot about the Romans in these past few months, I can’t help but think that this is not a coincidence. I believe that even though the Pantheon was meant to be an inclusive ground, its design included the number 8 as an inconspicuous representation of Roman Catholicism. The fact that the U.S. Supreme Court is modeled after this makes me believe that there are only two reasons why it happened: 1. Copying Italian architecture in governmental structures became so important that they did it thoughtlessly (unlikely since it’s not an exact replica), or 2. Christianity, and therefore biblical references, play a large role in America’s history as “One nation, under God (…)”. I am aware that the presence of the number 8 might just be about a liking for symmetry. Nonetheless, I can’t help but think that perhaps there is more to it that we have yet to uncover. 

a. The Pantheon in Rome (Photo by Martin Olsson CC BY 4.0)
b. United States Supreme Court (Photo by Kjetil Ree CC BY 4.0)

While the U.S. Supreme Court is definitely a copy of the Pantheon, a subtler application of this classic Roman architectural style is found in George Washington’s Virginia home: Mount Vernon. Not surprisingly, the number 8 makes an appearance again in the form of columns. In this case, the classic Corinthian columns are americanized and modernized since they are squared columns with little to no embellishment at the top (where the column meets the roof).

Mount Vernon, Virginia (Photo by Martin Falbisoner CC BY-SA 3.0)

Stop II: Byzantine-Roman Architecture

The Byzantine era began around 330 CE, when the Roman capital was moved to Byzantium, in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire. In its beginnings, Byzantine architecture was indistinguishable from Roman architecture since it emphasized the same classical Roman elements. A distinction, however, was in the improvement of walls, and domes in churches. With the rise of Christianity, a lot of emphasis was placed on churches, and their fortification [9]. During this time, the interior of buildings was more important than their exterior. Basically, the exterior was meant to be functional, with the thick walls, and larger domes, while the interior could be more adorned, with intricate, and colorful mosaics.

An example of Byzantine-Roman architecture is the Basilica diSant’ Apollinare Nuovo (505 CE) in Ravenna, Italy, which has a very rich mosaic on its ceiling. Similarly, the U.S. Supreme Court (1789) has a mosaic design on its ceiling. 

a. Basilica diSant’ Apollinare Nuovo’s ceiling mosaic (Photo by Sailko CC BY-SA 4.0)

b. United States Supreme Court’s ceiling mosaic (Photo by “Architect of the Capitol” CC BY 4.0)

While there are marked differences, it surprised me to find out about the many influences of Italian architecture in the design of the United States’ Supreme Court building, especially because the latter houses different styles from different eras.

Stop III: The Renaissance

The renaissance movement was born in Florence in the 1300s CE, and lasted until the 1600s CE. This period is one of my personal favorites because it was characterized by realism, and naturalism. This era was marked by advances in the arts, sciences, and architecture, all of which went hand in hand [10]. 

A well known edifice of this era is the Basilica Papale di San Pietro in the Vatican City or Saint Peter’s Basilica. Its construction was completed in 1626, and included a large dome, which was common in the Renaissance [11]. 

Basilica Papale di San Pietro (Photo by Giggel CC BY-SA 4.0)

Another prime example of renaissance architecture is the dome in the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (1436). This dome is one of the most impressive achievements of the Renaissance because never before had anyone constructed such a large dome. On top of the cathedral’s height, a pedestal for the dome was built that put the dome’s base at the staggering height of 170 feet, with a shape known as quinto acuto or “pointed fifth”. Designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, the dome’s construction ended in 1436 CE, and it is until this day, one of the most significant architectural feats to ever exist [12].

Dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Photo by Bruce Stokes CC BY-SA 2.0 Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic)

Here in America there are plenty examples of buildings with large domes that mimic the style of that in Santa Maria del Fiore. Perhaps the easiest that comes to everyone’s mind is that of the U.S. Capitol. The reason for their similarity is that Thomas Jefferson wanted Congress housed in a replica of an ancient Roman temple, specifically, a “spherical” temple. The U.S. Capitol’s designs evoke the ideals that guided our founding fathers when they created the new republic; ideals which also came in part from ancient Rome. In the 1850s, architect Thomas U. Walter added a cast iron dome to the design, and it is inevitable to see the similarity to the one in Florence [13]. 

United States Capitol (Photo by Andrew Bossi CC BY-SA 3.0  Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

Palladian Architecture: The Palladian Window

Palladian architecture refers not to a new era in scientific, artistic, political, or religious movement, but to a specific 16thcentury Venetian architect named Andrea Palladio [14]. He changed the landscape of his hometown, and extended his influence with a rippling effect throughout the world, breaking down geographic, and time barriers to persist even in the modern day. Palladian windows are incredibly large,three-section windows where the center section is arched and larger than the two. Many constructions in the late renaissance included these kinds of windows to give a feeling of formality [15]. It is remarkable that this style has stood the test of time, and continues to be used in suburban neighborhoods in America with great prominence. Not only do they evoke elegance, but they also allow sunlight to come in, which balances out the sophisticated renaissance style with the incorporation of nature in indoor spaces [15]. Furthermore, these windows are one of my favorite icons of the renaissance because by letting in the sunlight, they help reduce the use of electricity when unnecessary, something that really helps the planet, and that I am passionate about. 

Palladian window in Mount Vernon, Virginia (Photo by Tim Evanson CC BY-SA 2.0)
Inside view of Mount Vernon (Photo by Appitecture CC BY-SA 4.0)

Final Remarks:

The end of this tour of some of the major Italian architectural movements has arrived, at least for the time being. Who knows the many ways in which Italy is yet to manifest itself in America? One thing I know is that there is an undeniable influence that Italy has had, and continues to have on our lives. When it comes to architecture, I love that we have concrete examples (no pun intended) as evidence of the remarkable impact that such a small country can have. Italian architecture is everywhere around us, so in going to Italy, I have the complete reassurance that I’ll still feel, on some level, at home. From modern day stadiums, to the use of arches and vaults in our very own university campus (See picture below), to majestic governmental structures, and even something as overlooked as a window, Italian architecture is ubiquitous. So the next time I go to a concert, I’ll have Rome in my mind. All of this, the little things, are part of our culture, our history, our identity. So, in a way, aren’t we all Italy?

FIU’s Green Library (Photo by Maria Carla Robaina CC BY 4.0)

Google Slides Presentation:



  1. History of Rome. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.rome.info/ancient/history/
  2. Cartwright, M. (2019, April 11). Greek Theatre Architecture. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/article/895/greek-theatre-architecture/
  3. Roman Colosseum Architecture. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://romancolosseum.org/roman-colosseum-architecture/
  4. Britannica, T. E. (2008, November 17). Arch. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/technology/arch-architecture
  5. Cartwright, M. (2019, April 11). The Arch of Constantine, Rome. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/article/497/the-arch-of-constantine-rome/
  6. Vault (architecture). (2018, December 09). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vault_(architecture)#Groin_vaults
  7. Cline, A. (2018, February 16). The History and Architecture Behind Rome’s Pantheon. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/pantheon-in-rome-history-and-architecture-249498
  8. Supreme Court Building. (2018, October 19). Retrieved from https://www.aoc.gov/capitol-buildings/supreme-court-building
  9. Cartwright, M. (2019, April 11). Byzantine Architecture. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/Byzantine_Architecture/
  10. Editors, H. (2018, April 04). Renaissance. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/topics/renaissance/renaissance
  11. Saint Peter’s Basilica (Rome) (1506-1626). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/history-of-art/saint-peters-basilica.htm
  12. King, R. (2013). Brunelleschis dome: How a renaissance genius reinvented architecture. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
  13. Capitol Hill Neoclassical Architecture. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aoc.gov/capitol-hill/architecture-styles/neoclassical-architecture-capitol-hill
  14. Craven, J. (2018, February 23). Architecture in Italy – From Ancient to Modern. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/architecture-in-italy-for-casual-traveler-177683
  15. Craven, J. (2017, November 26). Introduction to the Palladian Window. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-palladian-window-177518

Isabella Marie Garcia: As Texts

Photo by Johanna Altamirano (CC by 4.0)

Isabella Marie Garcia graduated in Spring 2019 from the Honors College at Florida International University with a double major in English with a concentration in Literature and Women’s and Gender Studies, and a double minor in French Language and Culture and Art History. She’s heavily interested in work that challenges gender ideals, female sexuality, and brings taboo subjects up to the surface. She currently works at LnS Gallery and hopes that her work, whether it be through written, visual, or spoken word, can help challenge even just one individual to see how important intersectionality is within our world and one’s own local community. Her writing blog can be found at spookyrose.wordpress.com.

Isa completed the FIU Honors College seminars Poetry Art Community in 2017-2018, Honors France 2018, Art Society Conflict 2018-2019, Honors Italia 2019, and Honors España 2019 as taught by Professor JW Bailly. These are her Miami as Texts.




break it down for me by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Barcelona, España

Trencadís. It’s the shattered nature of these colorful tiles and their haphazard arrangement that attracts me initially to Antoni Gaudí as an architect. The contrast of the pink with the greens, the yellow and the blues, and it all be from accidental breaks in ceramic is commendable. What’s not so accidental is the attention to detail I later witness in La Sagrada Familia, details I barely capture until I walk around later with friends who point out pieces of the modern cathedral’s insides that are indiscernible if unfamiliar with Catholicism. I am not in love with the electric lighting of the space, a feature I do understand was included because of the modern nature of the structure, but the selection of colors and the naturalistic elements of the space retain a Gothic way of existing that draw me in immediately. We are cast in a light of green and blue to represent life but our backs are turned to the red that bleeds out for our sins. We see the tall spires of what’s meant to represent a forest and all of God’s creation rising in white columns above us. We walk down into the crypt later to the end of a wedding and the singer is croaking out “Moon River,” and Gaudi’s tombstone is simple but speckled with tiny details, from the natural twist of the wrought iron to the imprinted waves in the stone behind the Virgin Mary that overlook him. When the tram took away his life unexpectedly, I imagine the city of Barcelona mourning this accident, an unexpected rupture in the city’s core. As I look around the city of Barcelona and see the shattered but meticulously placed tiles of Park Güell or the symbolic selection of stain glass in La Sagrada Familia, I know that this is not accidental. Like the belief Gaudi felt towards God’s role as creator, I see that everything has a purpose in the architectural spaces he brought to life.


a compass in one hand, a sextant in the other by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Sitges, España

When he arrived in Sitges and attempted to buy Santiago Rusiñol’s house, Charles Deering must have noticed the importance that this man’s collection of paintings, preliminary sketch drawings, portraitures, ancient glass bottles, medieval armory, and so on, meant to him. For one to come into a man’s personal home and immediately see cash signs takes some level of ignorance, and yet, I can’t see Charles Deering as a man without self-awareness. Though caressed by his familial wealth, Deering was not blind to the importance of art in an individual’s life, so much so that his foundation of Palau Maricel was an attempt to attract artists and students seeking to acquire knowledge of art. At the top of one of the windows in the exterior of the palace is a stone carved depiction of Charles Deering himself alongside artists, and framed by a compass and sextant, nautical instruments used for travel and precision. Though he aspired for the Palau Maricel to become a pilgrimage for artists and for the arts, the failed execution of Deering’s dream led to the collapse of a city’s worth to the outside world, as he exported the magnetism of his art collection in Sitges to the States.

As I’ve walked through the Deering Estate in the south of Miami time and time again, I’ve passed through the property of a man that left a city in a country tied to my own blood ruined and yet, the city of Miami thrives because of Deering’s investment in the estate. The cities of Sitges and Miami themselves are incredibly similar in terms of aesthetic, with both drawing visitors with their beaches and coastal breezes, and yet Miami tops Sitges in terms of art pilgrimages, as hundreds of thousands flock to Art Week Miami during the month of December and many fill the streets of Wynwood to witness sanctioned graffiti on the sides of buildings. With the investment of the Deering Estate and his brother’s Vizcaya Villa, Miami has flourished as a young city in the art world when compared to the old legends of Rome, Paris, and New York City. For Sitges, this attraction as an art haven is dust. Though Deering is not the direct reason as to why Miami has risen in the arts, his contribution and name in the city has had the power to draw visitors to his estate after so many years, as was the case in Sitges. Could it be said that Miami replaced Sitges? Perhaps, but I also believe that the power of a name is underrated, and the names in Rusiñol’s collection, from el Greco to Picasso, should be more powerful than that of a rich man.


Celestial Bodies by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Granada, España

Seven levels. Each one stacked on top of the other, a spiritual video game that we look up to and admire. Though removed of its colors, the dome above us is overarching and potent, reminding me of a cave with its stalagmite formations. I wish I could see the seven levels light up in their true colors, the deep primary blues and reds that would brighten the ceiling and unify the environment to its true nature. There’s the heavens that are said to be made of white pearls and those of gold and another of iron and I wonder why there’s this need to place wealth into a spiritually rich setting. It’s bragging rights, it’s ostentatious shows of power, it’s the hope that money can buy divine points. Do we truly believe that the Almighty will accept us if we flash him our goodies, a VIP pass into the sky if we give him our credit score? I see it in all the spiritual spaces I visit but I ignore it and look up with my mouth gaping, amazed at the power of a faith foreign to my own. There are seven levels or seven heavens themselves and I believe them to be powerful on their own without the gems and shiny materials, and yet, those very features in the space are what keep my eyes posted and staring. How can I judge them when I am caught in their tricks?


Gypsy by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Sevilla, España

The first dance is a duo. There’s the man with his all black ensemble and the woman in her floor length dress. The looks on their faces are playful and even as the bullet-like sounds of their feet hit the floor, I can tell this is a dance of passion. The turn of her dress as she wounds her leg around the legs of her male partner, capturing him in a rhythmic lock. It is the passion of a gypsy and the passion of feeling love for another individual, for one’s culture, for one’s body. 

The second dance is a solo. She is possessing us. The rapid hits against the floor with the soles of her shoes echo into the room, but they reveal more anger and sadness than passion. She is possessing us. The drape of a black sheet over her body as her male partner looks onward. The curve of her body as she leans backward and is taken over by her anger. BAM! It hits us like schrapnel as she slams into the ground continuously, the sharp turns of her dress cutting into the air like knives. It is the anger of a a Romani gypsy being forced from her home and forced into Andalusia Spain. This home is not their home. The anger of the word gypsy, which becomes your identity the moment you’re foreign. Gypsy as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “sometimes offensive : a member of a traditionally itinerant people who originated in northern India and now live chiefly in south and southwest Asia, Europe, and North America.” It is the sadness of a woman who has lost her home. 

The third dance is another solo. He is showing off. The grin on his face haunts us as he circles the dancefloor, eyeing us individually as he scouts for a victim he’ll lay his eyes on. He is showing off. The sweat flies off his head as he faces each and every one of us, ready to charge. This is the dance of a determined Sevilla striving to keep its cultural identity. It relegates the unwanted to the edges of its core, the tight streets swallowing them up, exorcising them from living with the “real” citizens. He is mourning the loss of a cultural purity that isn’t that pure but determined to maintain it at all costs. As the gypsy looks on, Sevilla dances with conviction about who they are. It is the conviction that makes us afraid but also amazes us, of a people that are determined to keep who they are no matter who enters their city. 

The fourth dance is the reconciliation. The man and the woman dance together once again. Sevilla and the gypsy turned refugee that crosses into a foreign city, carrying the burden of a lost home. There’s a calm acceptance of what has happened, that the cultural diversity of the city will warp to fit those who move to live inside its walls, and that the dance is what it is because of this pain, this anger, this sadness. 



a las cinco de la tarde: an abecedarium by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Madrid, España

A las cinco de la tarde …

Bodegas closing and opening as the siesta hour hits and the bullfights commence, the matador translates to the killer and I see five bulls go down. I don’t flinch as the horses drag their bodies across the dirt of the Plaza de Toros arena and out of sight.

Carlos the Third. A man who helped shaped Madrid’s city planning into what we see today and dragged the city out of a darkness. I find the duality of kings and their influence hard to understand. There’s a middle ground of morality that stands and is seen in the streets of their kingdoms but wavers when I think about the innocent who died for this city.

Don Quijote. A character and a novel as written by Miguel de Cervantes and published between 1605 to 1615. I walk the Barrio de las Letras and find the house he died in, along with the gold plated writing on the ground that speaks to me. Why is it that Spanish writers are bypassed and overshadowed in the literary world?

El Rastro and its abundance of antiquities. I pocket my patches, expired film, and pins in my crossbody and call it a day.

Federico Garcia Lorca. At five in the afternoon, the world stopped. To this day, Lorca’s assassinated body has never been found. Yesterday, June 12th, marked three years since the PULSE nightclub shooting in Orlando. I’m so far from home and am constantly reminded of this violence, of how those who wish to love within their same gender are criminalized and eliminated from existing.

Gracias y de nada. Thank you Madrid for welcoming me into your barrios and for the characters that fill your streets.

Hola y bienvenidos. This feels like coming home as I hear the language of my family and can respond with ease.

I wish my abuelo was alive to see me feeling comfortable in the very city he visited in his twenties, a young Cuban soccer player / writer who smoked a pack a day and consumed literatura, a Hemingway in his own right.

Juntos. Apartados. Unidos in this foreign city.

Kilometer zero from which the city begins. I keep finding these in the capitols of the countries I visit. Time to restart and begin anew.

La Libre Cafe. I sit at the bar of this feminist cafe/bookstore located in a corner of Lavapies and the man next to me notices my Canon F-1. We talk about film photography as he explains he works in the field, and I learn he’s from Rome and has lived in places from New Jersey to Buenos Aires to the south of France. He explains to me that Madrid has changed greatly since the last time he visited and that tongues of all parts of the world pass through these streets without cessation. We are living examples of this shift.

Memorials to the 191 who fell in the Atocha train station. I am surrounded by blue as I read their names.

Nights are endless here in Madrid. The madrileños, a word that defines both the citizens of Madrid and is synonymous with cats, stay out till the dawn of a new day.

Originally, Plaza Mayor was the site of executions and stranglements. Now, I walk the space and am surrounded by street vendors and overpriced restaurants. The blood of the martyrs is overlooked to those uninformed.

Por favor. I beg the city to be easy on me but it never listens. I must adapt.

Quit your expectations and be content with what you see. You can never see a city in its entirety on your first try.

Reina Sofia. A museum dedicated to a queen. I feel the royalty of having Dali, Goya, Picasso, and others all in one space. A converted hospital filled with the ghosts of artists and their lasting works.

Sol. Una puerta. A door to the sun. I feel the sun finally bake my skin after so much frigidity.

Twenty two years and I double my piercing count. This is a city that is filled with abuelas and their alternatively dyed hair, teens and young adults who bear tattoos on their arms and the back of their necks. I feel safe in this capitol.

Unlike France and Italia, España holds my biological roots. Madrid was the residence of my father for a year after my paternal family packed up and left Cuba in exile. I am a blend of Galician and Catalonian and wonder if these roots are the reason behind my instant comfort in this city.

Vale. It means good to go. An affirmative saying that I hear as I walk into supermarkets, cafes, and throughout the city.

What if the day began later and the nights never ended? What if the day stopped midway through and the town fell asleep? Welcome to Madrid.

X is two lines cutting across each other. It can mean erasure or denial. There’s the Museo de las Americas with its shrunken human heads and mummified bodies. I wish to put an X on the museum for its lack of concern over whether these artifacts should be displayed. These are human beings, not war trophies.

Yo. It is I. The word that gives me the power to define who I am.

Zero. This is the number of times I have felt the need to go back home as I navigate a new metropolis.


everything was designed to last forever by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Toledo, España

A hole in the wall. Punched through the ceiling, and a sight I’ve never seen before in any other cathedral thus far. La Catedral Primada Santa Maria de Toledo darkens our bodies and blows our minds away with its creeping beauty. I’ve always loved Gothic cathedrals more than the showy decadance of Baroque or the orderly symmetry of Renaissance. The way the color spectrum of stain glass beams onto my skin and onto the tiled floors and marble columns, the power contained in the circumference of a rose window. There are stories that shine through the glass and my eyes immediately fixate on these windows of light from the outside world. The sun has ultimate control over how these places of worship are manipulated in ambiance and lighting. Our guide for the day keeps repeating one phrase over and over and over again as we explore the cathedral. 

Everything was designed to last forever.

Everything was designed to last forever.

Everything was designed to last forever.

I am not a devotee to these spaces. I am not the worshiper that crosses her heart and kneels before the grand gold altar. I do not believe the Virgin Mary descended from heaven but I understand the power of faith in driving those who do believe in these stories and relics. As I look around this cathedral and the hundreds of years that stand restored before us, a gaping hole in the roof that brings down light and draws out our astonishment, it becomes ever more clear to me about the energy that is harvested in these churches as a result of their worshipers and local communities. An energy that keeps them around long enough for the future to see and experience altarpieces, stained glass windows, and understand the power of belief in funding and driving the creation and maintence of these spaces. An energy at the core of the cathedral that has the power to stun even the non-believers.




may the city scalp your selfish skin alive by Isabella Marie Garcia in Venezia, Italia

Buongiorno to the empty streets you walk down in the morning to reach the Rialto. This is the city that rises in tide and surprises you with its subtle calm. The men of Venice are heavy at work. Men who throw empty delivery crates to the side and drag carts from restaurant to restaurant across waterside cobblestones. Men who steer boats and gondolas down lapping waters, the only ones currently weaving in and out of the city’s liquid. I want to ask them what they think of this island that soon overflows with a tide of tourists, seeking to consume and ravish themselves of what Venice has to offer. Is Venice self-indulgence or are the self-indulgent in Venice? 

Ciao to the edges of the island, where the bustle of the visitors and tourists dies and the silence of permanent residancy heightens. I see university students and art kids with their legs over the sides of canals, the free exhibitions of the Venice Biennale are empty for the most part, occasionally trickling with wanderers. I think about the idea of home and how Venice is an isolated mansion. It’s pillaged constantly by the outside world but then left in haunting silence at night. I want to ask its residents and even myself, who sleeps on its land during the night: Am I an invader or simply a guest?


a foreigner’s god by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Cinque Terre, Italia

al mare

to the sea

the train passes through tunnels of darkness

tunnels of darkness that shine on us 

tunnels of darkness that turn to light as the sea fills the space and i am ready for the clarity of the sea to wash over me 

We’re told these next few days are meant for self-reflection and a chance to intake all the content we’ve been bombarded with for the past three weeks. I’ve been told so much about this sanctuary and my expectations are high. The food, the peace, the beauty of being away from metropolises and urban worlds. I tear up on the drive up to the top of Monterosso, where Santuario di Nostra Signora di Soviore waits for us. This is what I’ve been waiting for this entire trip. A chance to expel any frustration, any stress, any anger, any sadness I’ve felt. The pink walls of the sanctuary stand juxtaposed against a quiet background of pure nature and a small church. There’s Gina, the small elderly woman who greets us when we arrive and who I see going in and out of the sanctuary and the church, keeping everything intact. As someone who was raised by a woman who rejected her Catholic upringing, I’ve been told to go against the doctrine of Catholicism and shun the teachings and symbols of the faith. Reject the cross. Reject the idols. Reject the ex-votos. Reject the belief that there’s a middle man between God and the world. Reject Catholicism and embrace Christianity. My mother rejects Catholicism and raises me under a Christian faith from the age of ten and I accept what I hear. It’s not until I begin to question my own identity in my early twenties that my ties to a faith loosen and I feel myself slipping. I’m given a chance to breathe for a month in a secular country and as I’m given another chance for air in a country that is the complete opposite, I struggle to grasp this wholehearted devotion to Catholicism. In this little sanctuary at the top of Monterosso, looking out at the distant city filled with life and lights that dot the landscape with their luminosity, I cry thinking about my mother and how much she would love it here, despite the fact that it’s a sanctuary founded on the Catholic faith. The calamari she would consume like oxygen, the silence of the surroundings, the escape from the rest of the world. I know she’s not happy with my decline in faith as she sends me messages on the daily about keeping close to God and his embrace, but I have found the embrace of the sea and the Italian terrain to be a stronger form of spirituality.


art pop a squat by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Pisa, Italia

it’s lived in

it’s bursts of energy

it’s academic and infamous for its mistakes

it’s a city i didn’t think i’d love as much as i did

With all the attention directed towards the freestanding bell tower that tilts with the mistakes of its architects, I thought I’d be over Pisa in a second. I’d go up the tower and down, over it all. I’d take the photographs that are more for my mother than for myself and leave, content with having ticked another box off on the list of must-see attractions. Yet I found myself wanting to stay past the planned departure time, hoping to keep my body firmly planted in the Square of Miracles, a name that so aptly describes what I feel when I lay down on the grass in the middle of Pisa. Titled the Square of Miracles by Gabriele d’Annunzio, an Italian poet, this “meadow of miracles” bustles with simultaneous energy and calm. Towards the Leaning Tower, there’s the line of visitors hoping to take their picture with the infamous structure, hands outstretched in awkward positions, frustration at how hard it actually is to get the perfect shot. I don’t blame them as I join them, but I also find the mistake of the tower’s very foundation to be ironic with the need to get a perfect shot. What’s the big deal? I see this bustle of energy and the rush towards perfection and I imagine Galileo Galilei standing at the top of the tower, dropping two masses of weight down into the square, hoping for some sort of miracle. Galilei found that the two masses fell at the same acceleration, and I find that Pisa is dropping the strive for vain perfection and a peace with mistakes simultaneously on me. I race past Keith Haring’s last mural accidentally and am ashamed at my own rush. As an artist who knew that his time was running out and that AIDS would claim another victim, Haring created his last mural in Pisa in 1989 on the side of the Church of Sant’Antonio. Tuttomundo, a wall that Haring wanted to combine ideas of peace and harmony with the tumultuous reality of being a human and having to maintain connection with others. I lie down later on the Square of Miracles with friends and I see the rush of living surging around me as others struggle to get the perfect shot, while many want to race through this city like it’s a bucket list. I do not understand and want more time. More time to stay on this grass and under this beautiful weather that I’ve been waiting to feel since the beginning of my time in Italy and deep down, I genuinely want to know what the rush is all about. Where do you have to be and what’s the rush? If anything, it’s an irony to learn that no matter how perfect you want the world to be, the mistakes will still stand, and what you’ll remember isn’t what you felt, but how you looked.


hesitation by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Firenze, Italia

One hand tightly gripping the rock that will execute the deadly blow, the other firm on the slingshot, poised close to the shoulder. I am afraid. The strap of the slingshot wraps around him, molded into the shape of his back, chiseled with care into the softness of his butt. I am afraid. Though far away from reach, I can see the look in his eyes and it’s one that I’m constantly showing the world, though the world may not always notice. I am afraid. Michelangelo’s David was a commission accepted by the artist at the age of 26, a task that would take three years to complete and was finalized in 1504. I am afraid. Standing tall at the end of a walkway in the Galleria dell’Accademia, I walk up to the David and I am afraid.

Michelangelo accepted the challenge of making the statue at the age of 26. Twenty-fucking-six. I’m about to be 22 and feel the weight of decision-making pressing down on my back more than ever before, as I begin to work professionally and internally debate what graduate program, if any, would be best for me. Friends fear asking me the question but it’s asked anyways: What are you going to do now, post-grad?

Part of me believes my time away for two and a half months is a chance to escape from the answer to that question, yet I also feel like I should be finding answers to that question on this trip. For Michelangelo, the commission was one that he worked to get, convincing the Operai, the Overseers of the Office of Works in Florence, to let him finalize the sculpture. As I sit down behind the David with my close friends, I begin to feel the power of the statue in thinking about the artist who finalized him and brought him to life, and what he must have been going through as he slowly chipped a man into existence.

Just like the momentary hesitation that is seen in his marble eyes, ready to defeat a figure twice his size, I’m more than certain of the bouts of fear that must have landed on Michelangelo as he worried about the final results of his labor. A friend in the class tears up next to me as we talk about that fear, one that isn’t exclusive to artists or giant-slayers. It’s a fear that fills each of our young bodies up as we worry about our next steps. He was afraid and so am I, my friend admits.

Afraid of the dangers that lie up next, a day-long trek that will test our bodies. Afraid of the final days as we try to cling on to those we connect most with and afraid of strong personalities and bitchy indifference. Afraid of the return home and to the truth, and the need to make a decision with my future. Afraid and afraid and afraid. Yet, Michelangelo’s David stands tall looking out at me and telling me that this fearful hesitation is part of the process. I am not holding a slingshot ready to kill Goliath with a single throw, nor am I Michelangelo molding the marble to my needs. But I am afraid and I will keep chipping away, ready to shoot my shot, hesitant but willing to face my fears.


Self-Preservation by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Pompeii, Italia

We hold onto so much to remember who we are. I’m collecting receipts, ticket stubs, rolls of 35mm black and white and color film, tote bags, postcards, etc. in an attempt to preserve my time in Italy in physical, permanent form. It’s all a delusion because material items can be lost, destroyed, or possibly, immortalized but unusable, like the city of Pompeii. We see the roads and fast food stands of a former people, and we see their homes and bachelor pads and brothels standing tall before us. We see their theatres and their entertainment spaces and their gardens, but they are not there. We are lucky that the hot volcanic lava of Mount Vesuvius that coated their skin and city preserved their way of living for us to understand. Yet, how unlucky to be one of the 2,000-3,000 who felt the deep burn of the lava, frosting their hearts over into a dead corpse, the air ashed over by the eruption. We see a mother and father shielding their child from the inevitable and we immediately go to our phones to capture this sad moment. Are we remembering them or just trying to remember how we got to be here, in this ashy, immortalized city? I will continue to collect the physical mementos as I make my way around metropolises and small towns, attempting to hold onto the fleeting nature of memory and the warmth I find in momentary scenes. Like the people of Pompeii, who are immortalized in volcanic casts in their final moments, I can’t predict what my final moment will be. It could have been a moment where I’m laying my head on the shoulder of a friend as we make our way back home from a day trip, or the moment I crossed the road of a crazy intersection, or the moments that sit unnoticed until they’re long gone, and I miss the simplicity of those minutes spent sitting in silence, on my own or with friends. There’s a simple glory to Pompeii that was filled with those kinds of moments, as its citizens traversed around the town as we do on this trip, eating the street food created by various vendors and greeting each other on the street as they walked across old Roman roads to get to their intended destinations. I can not self-preserve these moments in the way I wish to, but I can only hope that like the people and city of Pompeii, I will exist in some kind of permanence for the future to see and understand who I was and wished to be.


there is no room for feeling any pain : an abecedarium by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Roma, Italia

Photo by Lily Fonte (CC by 4.0)

A constellation of veiny bruises emerges along the top and inner sides of my thighs as a result of Appia Antica’s roughness.

Pietro Bernini’s The Ecstasy of St. Teresa lights up before us in the middle of lecture. This is not a jpeg nor a projected slide. This is the real thing and it stands high above you.

Chaos is everywhere. Chaos is quiet and chaos is quick. It picks you up and throws the truth out the grand door. It makes you question your own sanity.

Dante said the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain neutrality in the middle of a moral crisis. The hottest places in Rome are nowhere to be found. Is nobody neutral in this city?

Eliminate your biases. Eliminate the distaste your mother feels for Catholicism. Eliminate her voice as it appears in the back of your head, scolding you for visiting churches and holy sites.

Find your people. Lose your people. These are the streets of Rome.

Gelato in the freezing night air. It’s a comforting freeze and yes, G Fassi is better.

How does so much history casually sit next to each other? How can we come from such a young city like Miami and not feel overwhelmed by the deep roots that wrap themselves around our ankles and drag us underground?

Imagine the ruins of the Roman Forum as they once were. When does a space become a ruin?

Jesus welcomed with open arms. We welcome each other with sleepy eyes and quickened paces.

Kill your coins. The fives and ones and the odd twos that jingle in your wallet.

Labicana has not always been a tram stop. It was once an ancient Roman road and entered the empire through the Aurelian walls. Now, it is the marker for our lost minds as we try to get back home.

Maybe Roman history doesn’t make my eyes shine.

Never accept the roses handed to you by the vendors in the plazas and tourist traps. Never accept the stories told to you as complete fact. There is always a bias.  

Outsiders to an empire that will never rise again.

Portamaggiore is the great door to late nights staying in, to cold nights and sad nights, and nights of hope talking frankly with one another about our current states.  

Question the Catholic Church. Why must we pay to make your insides light up?

Romanismo. Two to zero as the seagulls of winners fly around in circles and the flags of AS Roma supporters billow in the wind.

Saint Cecilia with her hidden face, cloaked with a cloth and bearing a blade’s attempts at silencing her. You don’t need to see her face to know she’s heartbroken and determined all at once.

Trams and buses and a metro. There is no room on these at times, and there is no room for feeling any pain.

Uscita to your right and your left. Choose.

Void of humbleness, Rome is a bloodstream boasting with glory and the dangers of it, the limits of pride, the grace of an artist’s sculpting hand.

X, an error as you try to lock away all the details and infinite information.

Young bodies lean against erect, ancient columns.

Zillions of mosaics placed cautiously together to form images and symbols, from the face of an angry Christ to the deep blue night sky speckled with golden stars, hovering over us, threatening to drop and cut us with their tiny sharp edges.


Silencio Per Favore by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Tivoli, Italia

As a bus takes us up into the hills of Tivoli, the calming jolts of a bus ride are speckled with dialogue about our Miami homes and what we’re already missing. I feel cruel thinking it’s irrelevant, but I am arrested by the views that scroll past my window like a movie.

How can this exist? How am I here?

Why are we thinking of Miami when all this unearthed beauty lies at the soles of our feet?

As an individual, Hadrian was a migrant from his native birthplace of Spain. Upon becoming emperor, he discovered that the Palatine Hill was not home. The chaos of Rome became too much and he retreated into the countryside, seeking an escape from the chaos.

I find myself constantly overwhelmed by the chaos of Rome and I find myself retreating into moments of silence, like the atmosphere that can be found in the nature that surrounds us on our trip to Tivoli, in order to regain a sense of peace that has been lost by the push and shove of Rome.

I walk away from the crowds of the Roman Forum and cry in the quiet corner of the ancient law courts. I walk away from an overwhelming social situation and into the night of the city, letting the quiet walk back home calm my shaking nerves. I separate myself from the rest of the class and walk around Villa d’Este on my own, calmed by the delicacy of irises, the roses, the archways that frame the fake-looking countryside. I am even calmed by the tiny chaos that comes in waves through the space, the small children who are at the villa running around, simultaneously disturbing the peace of the space while also breeding life into it.

As I discover the calm of Tivoli, I’m reminded of the question I asked about why Hadrian would want to return back to Rome when he had a villa to escape to and live in till the end of his life. Why would I want to return back to the chaos of Rome or even the craze of my own life in Miami? Yet, with his role as emperor to complete, and my own roles at home that I must fulfill, I understand the need to separate oneself whenever possible but also to never forget one’s responsibilities.

I sit cautiously in a cave and hear the crash of a waterfall and forget about the chaos for just a moment. These are my favorite days. Days where the greenery is endless and I look out onto a scene that is too perfect, the days when my body is aching from the lunges across natural terrain and I am struggling to balance on the rocks and steps of an untainted part of the earth. I forget about my anger and my frustration and remember why I am here. As Hadrian returns to Rome replenished from the home he has created in the surrounding countryside, I return to Rome renewed and ready to live out the rest of my days here with an openness to the chaos.

Maybe the dialogue is irrelevant to the scenes that pass us by, and the moments of frustration build the tears up in my eyes, but we are here and we are aching and we are a chaos of our own kind, trailing our energy from the caves of Villa Gregoriana into the metros and trams of Rome.




Georges Méliès: Le voyage dans le cinéma by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Père Lachaise Cemetary, Paris, France

A Parisian born in 1861, Georges Méliès grew up with a strong creative desire, often filling his school notebooks with pictures of caricatures and puppets and eventually building puppets of his own. After helping out his family’s shoe business and serving for three years in the military, Méliès delved into stage magic and the power of illusion at the Egyptian Hall in London, an exhibition hall that often featured magic shows to the general public. He put on his own shows, but attendance was generally very low, yet Méliès became not only director of his shows, but also a producer, writer, and set designer. After having seen a production by the Lumiere brothers, Méliès wanted to purchase a cinematograph and begin his own film productions, but the Lumiere brothers did not want to sell any of their film equipment. Modifying a film projector into a film camera, Méliès also bought his own film and developed it through trial and error. Having directed 500 films in the span of 17 years, including a 13-minute long film on Joan of Arc, Méliès built his own film studio and incorporated his experience with magical illusions into his works. In 1902, Méliès created « Le voyage dans la lune », an adventure film that included innovative special effects, such as jump cuts, and launched Méliès to international success. After 1909, Méliès stopped making films and turned to selling sweets and toys at the Montparnasse station in Paris until passing away from cancer in 1938 at the age of 76.

Red velvet seats, one after the other, ready to be accepting of you for the next hour or so.

Midnight premieres, advanced screenings with their exclusivity, award shows where actors and actresses don Vuitton, Gucci, De la Renta dresses and suits and live tweeting captures every dramatic moment.

Science fiction conventions brimming with devotion and awe over the fantastical and the impossible.

The power of film has been a common tie across cultures and individuals and is my common tie to Georges Méliès. I’m probably the last person you’d want to see a film with, and it’s not because I talk during movies or crunch on my popcorn. It’s not because I spoil endings or fall asleep during a movie.

It’s because I can’t bear to watch films without complete peace around me, either getting annoyed at the tiniest child crying or at the crunching of a candy bag. I can’t even stand to watch movies on opening nights because of the amount of noise being created by the amount of people in the theater. I’m unbearable to the common moviegoer, just ask any of my friends, and while I initially thought it as just an annoying quirk, I now see it as a demonstration of my respect for film and the power it has had in my own life.

For Méliès, fantasy had always been a comforting force in his life, and gradually became his entire motivation to create works of art. Ever since I could remember, I always watched classic movies as a result of my Abuelo’s influence as a babysitter, making me watch grainy versions of Singing in the Rain and The King and I. Film has always been the buzz in the background of my own life, and when my Abuelo passed this past January, it felt very weird to not have that figure in my life who shared this obsession with the film world. I miss the hum of the Turner Classic Movie channel in my home as I sit at night doing work in my room and watching the Oscars with snarky old man commentary.

Film is a ritual in my eyes. Whenever a new film comes out that I want to see, I make sure to wait a bit before I watch it, and I try to go to the movies on discount days, and most of all, empty theater days. Being consumed by moving art in the dark stuns me to this day, and every time I leave a theater, I’m at peace with the ways in which art can put things into perspective.

Méliès kept moving along in his film career even when others were denying him easy access. He made sure he tried it out for himself, and not just the role of filmmaker, but also producer and set designer. In full command, Méliès became his own company, and I have found ways in which to do the same. I used to think I couldn’t be multi-purposed in terms of my own career or abilities, but as I double major in English Literature and Women’s and Gender Studies, minor in French Language, seek a Film Studies certificate, curate my own writing blog, and make my own collages and short film diaries, I’ve realized how unlimited I really am. I don’t have to choose one thing I want to be or do. I can choose to have many choices at my disposal and when looking at the filmography and career scope of Méliès, I’m comforted to know I don’t have to be or create one thing. I can take the form of many things, whether it be a personified moon with a rocket ship jutting out of its eye, or a weathered old man serving candy to the young children and travelers of Paris.


Sisters of Sacrifice by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Normandy, France

for Dolores Browne

Sergeant of the U.S. Women’s Army Corps.

Drafted from Connecticut.

Gone on July 13th, 1945 and only 23, maybe 24, years old.

I know you served in the first and only all-female, all-black battalion of the Women’s Army Corps. Number 6888th. I know you’re one of only four women buried in this very ground as a result of your service. I know you were one of three black women killed in a Jeep accident in France and that your fellow comrades and gracious French citizens had to raise money in order to organize your funeral. I know you were the only one of those three women who died days later as a result of your injuries and that no other traces can be found of where you come from.

Who claims you?

That’s all I know of you.

The women of the 6888th Postal Directory Battalion, also known as the “Six Triple Eight,” went by one motto:

No mail, no morale.

They converted temporary post offices into demanding workstations, with several shifts of sorting through sky high piles of letters and packages in order to get mail to its proper owner. Even if there were 1,000 Robert or John Smiths fighting in Europe, they would find the exact man to hand a personal message to, never failing in fully delivering and completing their missions. Over 855 women served in the 6888th battalion of Women Army Corps, and 150,000 served in the Women Army Corps. Their conditions were rough, their sacrifices were great, and for the women of the only all-black battalion, they were never publicly recognized for their service at the end of the war.

I don’t know much. I don’t know who your mother is or where you went to school, if you loved coffee or smoked cigarettes. I don’t know if you owned a record player and would play the top hits with your best friends after school, I’m not sure if you had many friends or if you were a loner. I don’t know if you intended to marry or if you wanted to become a doctor.

I don’t know who you really are but I recognize you today.

What I can guess is that you went abroad with a fire burning through your veins to prove yourself. Not just your individual persona, but the color of you skin and the hearts of your fellow sisters. You have to prove your worth when you shouldn’t have to explain yourself to anyone. I’ve felt the need to prove myself but never to your extent.

I’ll never be in your shoes. I’m not black. I come from a Cuban family that fled to avoid persecution but the shade of my skin isn’t vulnerable in the eyes of the world.

I’m a woman but privilege is real.

I can’t relate to much of your life, but what I do relate to, I cling to, that urge to prove yourself only to fall into a trap. Nobody there at the end of the day to recognize all of your hard work. Nobody who believes in you, or at least you think doesn’t believe in you. You’ve felt all that and I have as well.

I don’t know the details of your life, Dolores, but the circumstances you lived in and what you represented have paved the way for women of color across all fields, making strides gradually but surely. You are one of four women in this cemetery, and that’s little, sure, but it’s never been about quantity.

As a young woman of your age, I thank you for what you’ve done and what you could’ve been. You are one of 150,000 women who gave themselves to us in order to be stronger, freer women.

I see you in the young girls who run freely without care.

I see you in the young black woman who fights gun violence and breaks her throat in protest.

I see you in the innocent black lives that are lost as a result of hatred and ignorance.

Young black women, ready to fight, not with guns, but with words and their crafts, I see you.

I see myself in you, Dolores, and for that, thank you.


Plateau d’enfance by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Plateau des Glières, France

Climb up.
Balance on the rotten log that divides you from the rest of the trail.
Breathe in the crisp air that envelops you.
The speckling of wildflowers dancing as the alpine air hits them.
The crunch of the rocks & pebbles as your classmates solve the natural puzzle before them.
The peaks that rise before you, telling you that you’re smaller than you think.

It’s the burn in your calves that makes you second guess the beauty of the French Alps.

It’s beautiful, sure, but it hurts.
It hurts to climb when you feel your legs on fire.
It hurts to breathe when you can hear your heart throbbing.
It hurts seeing how far back you are from the rest of the crew, how one of you couldn’t even finish.

But there is a pain that goes beyond the physical sores, an aching chest, loss of breath.

It’s the pain of tiny hands never getting the chance to grasp a colored pencil ever again, their small bodies yanked from an alpine paradise, a temporary home against a background of intolerance.

Can you not see their small smiles, joyous at the bar of chocolate they bite into, a piece of candy that means everything?

Can you not see their worries for their family? Where is maman? How is papa? Me? I’m okay, happy as can be.

They can’t see a life bigger than their minds, eyes bright and open towards understanding, arms forever open.

They can’t see Lucienne Friedler.
They can’t see her young face, looking out at the mountains that connect together.
They can’t see her curly locks when worn naturally, straight when brushed out.
They can’t see who she could be, the young woman from Anvers, a February baby, who could rise to academic excellence, maybe a journalist, possibly a doctor.

But she can’t escape.


She’s just an idea that needs to end.

When we look to the mountains and wilderness for refuge, remember those who couldn’t escape. Remember those who breathed in poisonous fumes when they should have breathed in fresh grass and a clean childhood. Remember those who forever remained children.


B-3962 by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Lyon, France

It’s happening now.
Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandmas, grandpas.
Finding themselves stuck, in a home, that’s now confinement.
Mont Luc.

We’re sitting in restaurants, walking along roads, and riding along on metros and buses. History is breathing heavily right next to you, telling you to stay vigilant, warning you to take action. History is old, and history is slow, but listen to it. It’s telling you with wrinkled hands and a gentle pace that you can’t turn your back on the truth. You can’t turn your back on the children lost at the border, the mothers weeping for their safety, or the sting of leaders not giving a damn. You can’t turn your back on issues beyond our country lines, and even though they don’t compare to the severity of a mass genocide, it still matters. It still matters that gunfire is the first resort rather than the last resort. It still matters that an embassy opening provoked a rightful protest against those who have stolen homes, only to end in the death of 58 innocent civilians and harm to more than 1,000. If we can’t protest without risk of flying bullets, then what are we? Cattle herded in silence?

When Monsieur Bloch tells you how he lost his grandpa in a matter of minutes, you cry thinking about your own loss this year and how you didn’t even get the chance to say goodbye. For a man who risked his own safety to get his family out of a communist regime that slowly infiltrated the island, Abuelo was living proof of resistance against oppression. He huddled a two year old daughter and humble wife to a land scary with possibilities, and here I stand. I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye, but he doesn’t deserve a goodbye when I can still see and hear him. I see his anger at Fidel Castro in my own anger at ignorant systems, and hear his cackle in my mother’s own laugh, and I know that history is much more than what has occurred. It’s what can take place and what will happen.



Dieu by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Versailles Museum and Gardens, France

God. Dios. Allah. Dieu. Jehovah.

I do believe God has a name, which assumes I believe in a god. That belief in a divine power has its limits, of course, when it comes to the trust you put in a god, and most of all, a human who believes themselves to be a god. Louis XIV, with his maison and jardins, filtering millions into aesthetics, while a child rots on the street and bellies died empty. Marie Antoinette, a goddess in her own eyes, constructing an artificial haven, façades as fake as her, basking in a world she didn’t even want to enter. These two figures, believing themselves to be divine, have created a legacy that manifests itself in sweaty, red-faced tourists and selfie sticks, billions of visitors per year, and Cuban cafes named after their home in the heart of the 305. When considering the people they left to starve and the ignorance they enclosed themselves in, miles away from the casualties of reality, it’s easy to hate on Louis and Marie, but also easy to forget the power of divinity. But wouldn’t you do what you wish if you thought you were divine?


abecedaire de juillet by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Paris, France

A month away from home

Bisous from strangers

Champions du monde

Dancing in the Parisian dark

Euphoria in your jetlagged bones

Falafel picnic in the park

Goodbyes don’t come yet

Home is here

Île-de-France and its floating history

Justice for some, none for others

Kilo shop thrift finds

Latin Quarter’s narrow streets

Metros of every color and personality

Nothing feels real

Odéon before you depart for Saint-Michel

Paris are you a dream?

Quiet moments as we walk next to legacies

Reggaeton by the Seine

Stendhal syndrome at Saint-Chapelle’s stain glass

Together or alone, it doesn’t matter

Under a city of life, you ride along

Vin of red, white, and pink

World cup watch parties as we down happy hour drinks

X marks the heart you left in the city

Young souls with open eyes and open hearts

Zero euros for what you’ve felt all at once


isla de tesoro
by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens (Poetry Art Community 2017-2018)

always out of reach
a vessel of the sea
that’s always out of reach
I look out onto the water
gripping my camera
hoping for a ship
that personifies adventure
but I get a boat that’s slowly rotting
its corpse sucked away by the atlantic
I look up at the roof of a “home”
gripping my phone
hoping for a ship
that personifies imagination
but I get a cheap imitation
one you could find perched
on a tacky armoire in kirkland’s
what’s with all these inreachable illusions?
the titanic was the largest passenger ship afloat
in 1912
in 2017
it’s popular oceanic junk
european men bragging about their grand and wonderful women
gran princesa de los cielos
mv princess victoria
ss principessa jolanda
claiming them as their own
an ownership that was never theirs to begin with
and now belongs to the sea

You think You own these vessels
vessels of propulsive speed
vessels capable of wreckage and destruction
You never owned them in the first place
not even the sea does
as wood disintegrates and metal corrodes

Sugar, Spice, and Everything Saucy
by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens (Art Society Conflict 2018-2019)

The laziness of a European summer. It’s a contradiction of moving limbs that don’t know what rush hour is, that don’t feel that a rush even exists. A languor that hits you most when you’re laying outside, sweating but cooled down by the breeze that shivers your skin and picks up displaced blades of grass. We are so far away from home. Would you like to be my home?

The summer of European laziness. Vizcaya and its lack of labels. It’s an estate. It’s a villa. It’s history. It’s future. It’s Spanish and French. It’s Italian and Bahamian. It’s gay billionaire vibes. It’s policing the borders of a female stone body.

It’s pretending to have your shit together. It’s knowing you don’t. It’s j’ai dit and yo digo and I said this so why are you challenging me? Everyone knows about it. Nobody knows a thing about it.

One April night, you’ll sit on the steps of this estate speaking to a woman who’ll become one of your close friends. You’ll be crying about a close friend who’ll become a stranger, and the life in the evening will continue on. There’s families and singles and couples and whole groups sitting, standing, walking, pacing. You’ll think of the lack of labels you felt in that moment, where do you go when you don’t fit anymore, when the puzzle piece’s edge has been chewed off and doesn’t mold to the group? You’ll feel a sense of peace for this European villa and its creeping beauty, it’s saucy bitch and her resistance to the waves of a tempestuous bay.

Everything and nothing all at once.

Photo by Sofia Guerra (CC by 4.0)

Stained and Shattered Mosaico
By Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens (Honors España 2019)

I conquered Vizcaya in college. In just my undergraduate years, I’ve visited this preservation of European-inspired architecture, a Bahamian-French-Italian-Spanish- inspired villa in the south of Miami, at least a dozen times. I fought and challenged the sauciest bitch that was my tour guide time and time again. I found my voice in a student poetry evening, where a couple walked up to me after my reading and told me that they had never heard the Bahamian aspect of Vizcaya voiced so loudly. I’ve reflected on all the selves of Isa that have walked through the forested paths leading from the parking lot into the roundabout. Ponce de Leon is looking down at you and your classmates are looking at each other. All the faces that have shapeshifted semester after semester. I’ve walked down the natural corridor leading up to the villa with groups of seventeen to forty peers, the same gray- haired ponytail leading us all into the home.

I see the Isa of wide-eyed days, looking up to the staircase where J’AI DIT is written, surprised at the connection to the initials of the villa’s creator. There’s the Isa yelling at Jonah arriving late to his poetry station and the Isa clinking styrofoam cups of rum coquito in the parking lot of Vizcaya Village with Steph, smuggling their share of emotions into the December evening.

Yet Vizcaya has conquered me.

There’s the Isa who arrives to Vizcaya on the night of ZipOdes heartbroken at the close friend who doesn’t want to be her friend anymore, who is brought to tears as she hears Steph going through the same thing. I see the Isa of frustrated days looking out onto the barge, annoyed at a man’s words about altering a woman of stone because her breasts are too much. Isa’s always been too much.

My dear friend once told me that she has come to Vizcaya time and time again yet she has never been the same person each time she’s come to visit.

As I stand in the place that has seen the many selves that I am, I don’t know who I will be the next time I come to visit. As I imagine myself five months from now about to enter Spain, the land of my great-grandparents, I don’t know who I’ll be.

Will I feel right at home? Is this land where I truly come from? Will I be angry? Will I be sad?

I won’t be sure until I walk through the Spanish streets and hear the accented lisps of my bisabuelas and the the Catalonian anger of my paternal great-grandfather. I might morph into the Barcelona woman that stems from my father’s end or find that Galicia is my true maternal home.

Yet, like the Vizcaya that has seen me going through all the emotions that scratch and scuff the inside of my heart and the edges of my bones, I’ll feel at home soon enough in the most unlikely of places.

Shalenah Ivey

Shalenah Ivey is a recent graduate of Florida International University and its Honors College as of Spring 2019. While a student, she majored in Art History, minored in Spanish Language and Cultures, and completed a certificate in Film Studies. Her passions in life are art in its many forms, the written word, and the understanding and celebration of cultures from around the world.  While also having experience in video art and film photography, it is with writing that Shalenah hopes to inspire, awaken, and reach those near and far.  More information about her can be found at divineivy.wordpress.com.

Shalenah completed the FIU Honors College seminar Art Society Conflict taught by Professor JW Bailly in 2018-2019. These are her Miami as Texts.

Think Pink by Shalenah Ivey at PAMM, 14 October 2018
Blue is my favorite color.  It is as deep as it is endless and as mystifying as it is sincere.   It has stained my soul. It has dyed my daydreams. Yet, I have been told by many that when they think of me, the color pink is never far away.  Walking into PAMM’s newest exhibit I felt as if I was wading into an aura. Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1980–83 | A Documentary Exhibition captured the entire process of the iconic Miami installation by married artists, Christo and Jeanne-Claude.  Comprised of preliminary sketches, court documents, and other photographs, it brought to life the sheer complexity of the undertaking of the project.  When I stepped into the exhibition, there was a black and white photograph of the artists strolling hand in hand upon the Biscayne shore. It was as expansive as it was intimate and I felt to be a part of that fleeting moment, invited within their world.  

Thus, I fell into Surrounded Islands, immersed and captivated by the physicality of it all.  So tangibly potent were the artifacts steeped in time. The finiteness of a date attached to a legal record.  Hurried signatures and stamps. Pinks maps and pink papers and even pink tarps apart of the original installation.  Inescapable was the hue and unforgettable its presence. The world, my world, was permeated with pink. I felt it without touching it.  Surrounded by the vision of the artists on an island of my own.

I close my eyes and what radiates is pink.

Take Heed by Shalenah Ivey at Deering Estate, 04 November 2018
Primus Devine was the name of my great great great grandfather.  He lived most of his life a slave in South Carolina. He tasted freedom perhaps a decade.  We know almost nothing about him. Had I not had an insatiable curiosity at age 17, we may still not know his name.  He is the farthest back my family (on my mother’s side) has been able to go in our ancestry. I have always clinged to the stories my grandmother has told me of her childhood growing up in 1950s South Carolina.  Although her family was poor, her stories are rich with a boundless love. Exploring the Deering Estate and the untouched landscape that stretched beyond the house reminded me of my perpetual attachment to the past.  The ways in which time cruelly escapes me. The ways in which the walls of an old building whisper stories. We adventured into a pure paradise. Then to that of a grave. We don’t even know their names. But their bones stay.  The sky is still bleached blue. Papaya hangs from branches and rests on fallen trunks. Green but rotting. I think of the grave again. Have we failed them? Have we failed each other? Daggers and death still live on. The trees speak.  The trees sing. The trees weep. Listen, Miami.

Mary, did you know? by Shalenah Ivey at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, 10 November 2018
I think one never grows tired of visiting the Miami marvel known as Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.  The muted clementine walls that wait outside. The way that archaic touches lining the street only hint at the grandness awaiting within.  Walking the shadowy path amongst the forest on the way to the mansion. Hearing the sound of traffic die down within the breaths of the trees.  Perhaps there is a transcendence or perhaps the allure of grandeur can simply overwhelm the senses. Gold and silk and ancient objects adorn the walls and spaces of Vizcaya.  For James Deering, the estate’s owner, there was truly no limit. There is no other option but to be in awe of his creation. Yet, despite the many times I have been to Vizcaya, I have never noticed the statue of Mary that sits almost discreetly in the formal dining room.  Her face is pained with sorrow. Her countenance concentrated with the softest of melancholy. What is it Mary? What has you so troubled? The word decadence embellishes my mind. Decay beyond what can decompose, beyond what can tarnish… Oh, but the sky is so blue across the bay.  The manatee swims so near. What shines will rust and what stands will fall. Bacchus calls. The grapes will rot with tenderness. The waves will hum to you if you let them. A baby’s coffin is in the room with Mary. I wonder what she could say if she could speak.

Never, ever enough art by Shalenah Ivey at UNTITLED, 09 December 2018
I read this in Samuel L. Jackson’s voice.  It made it all the more real, all the more crucial, all the more potent.  Dreams are free, motherfucker. Unfortunately, I did not think to take a picture of the didactic.  Yet, those words will stay with me. The Untitled Art fair was sincerely worth the last four years I failed to make it to Art Basel.  I refuse to lament on the past, however, and I firmly believe everything happens in the time in which it is supposed to happen. Thus, I am only grateful I experienced what I did today.  Not only what but when. When and also with who. The first steps into the Untitled fair were nothing short of captivating. My remaining steps proved to be increasingly special. The art curated was as cutting edge as it was promised to be.  It is both inspiring and comforting to be surrounded by such talent and to know that people are in this world creating endlessly. Dreams are free, motherfucker! But for how long? What do I dream? I dream of Spain and of love and blue skies and of eternity and true happiness and of empty sun-glinted beaches.  The color blue has permeated the day. My favorite color. Today, I asked, “How long does it take for the the sun to set on Jupiter?” I was told that I took the sun when I left.

(Photo by Nikki Roe CC BY 4.0)

Magnificent Margulies by Shalenah Ivey at Margulies Collection, 24 February 2019
I paused, perplexed in front of an iridescent sculpture.  I stood, unsettled in the presence of concrete.  I felt, touched by the bygone world of my grandmother in a single photo.  Two young black boys carrying ice blocks, barefoot down a country road.  These instances were just a fraction of my experiences at the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse.  More than just a trip to the collection, our class had the privilege to experience a personal tour by Mr. Martin Margulies, owner of the institution.  His smile was a spark.  His demeanor was modest.  There was a certainty in his hearty voice that drew me in, compelling me to listen attentively to his words throughout the afternoon.   He asked us what is the value of beauty and what is it that makes something art.   There were hundreds of millions of dollars worth of art surrounding us yet the tour with Mr. Margulies had the warmth of someone showing us their home.  Each piece was purposeful and weighted in it space.  Each room was a world of its own.  A wonderfully weird diner scene, an image of Americana.  The solitude of a New York bus rider.  A space with infinite reflections, infinite realities.  What does it mean when the depths of wonder know no bounds?

Larry Bell exhibition at ICA Miami (Photo by Shalenah Ivey CC BY 4.0)

Listen to the Beat by Shalenah Ivey ICA Miami, 22 March 2019
We musn’t forget that art is alive.  That it is a force that moves and breathes like you and I.  Sometimes it mourns and is imbued with grief. Other times, it gives birth to elated dreams.  If we are still enough and if we are open enough, we can hear the beating of its heart. Art is the most special when it makes us hear our own.  When it unifies us and seals as one, even if the moments are fast and few. At the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, I felt the works of art viewed by my class erase visages and barriers.  Abstracted visions and the frivolity of reality slowly stripped away at us until all that showed was a naked and naive innocence of wonder. Larry Bell’s minimalist world took us to another plane.  In blackness, our bodies were erased, but there was still touch and voice. A dimension of soul and sound. He prepared us by taking away our shadows. He made a figment of our reflections. We were baptized in a pool of vulnerability. The third floor of the ICA connected us to a woman’s world and we were pierced by the female gaze.  Judy Chicago’s works reminded me of a rebirth. Our blood and bodies returned to us. The tactile and the red physicality of what it means to be alive. Emotions, glorious and ghastly. At the center of this all, the heart. Don’t try to escape its sound.

Tschabalala Self. Untitled, 2017. Rubell Family Collection.

Bite Me by Shalenah Ivey at Rubell Family Collection, 04 April 2019
Someone said to burn it down.  Someone else said the piece was totally disturbing.  Another simply wrote, “Perfection.” These are comments taken from the Rubell Collection’s Instagram post of Tschabalala Self’s Untitled (2017) mixed media canvas.  I’m not sure if I love it or hate it.  Perhaps it is both. Perhaps I love only her.  But does it even matter? I see a woman in full possession of herself.  The divinity of Venus. I see a crude caricature. An image steeped in a ugly history, an ugly present.  I think of Sarah Baartman. A slave to her body while also having her humanity raped. I think of women in music videos, treated as nothing more than a prop.  I think of the girls who twerk in front of the mirror, falling in love with themselves. What is this vessel of bone and fat and skin? The woman who is unashamed of her body is a dangerous weapon.  The woman who revels in her own sublimity and her own imperfections. Whatever you think of her, our lady is a gun and a goddess. She is not for consumption and if you disagree, you can bite me.

For all that is Human by Shalenah Ivey at Deering Estate, 20 April 2019
Shell had the beauty of ivory in my hand.  I was hushed then humbled by what it is and what it means to be human.  When stepping into the Cutler Fossil site at the Deering Estate, my classmates and I were told to quiet ourselves.  I did so and absorbed the spirit of where I stood; a place that was home to people ten thousand years ago. We were on sacred ground.  Almost overwhelming was the action of imagining the souls of those who once lived here. I was the first to hold one of their tools. It was smooth and a portal to the breaths of a prehistoric people.  I wish we could know their names, know their faces. Did they think of time? Was love their heaven? How did they say goodbye? I wonder if they felt sorrow. I wonder if they singed. I wonder when they looked up to the sky, if the clouds made them feel the same way as they do me?  Gentle and transcended and filled with peace; in touch with all that is divine. I mark my memories with the clouds. If only, we could know theirs. These questions go unanswered, kept secret by the enigma of time. Yet, under a canopy of unending green, the knowledge that they lived is enough.  Their presence is enough.

Stephanie Sepúlveda &John William Bailly  25 April 2019

John William Bailly. 28 July 1896, 2019. Oil on panel.

Silas Austin was the first registered name on the charter to incorporate @cityofmiami on 28 July 1896. My painting reflecting on that moment is at auction to benefit the @loweartmuseum of the @univmiamiIndividuals can bid here https://one.bidpal.net/eveningofart19/browse/all(details:item/5)


Jean Moulin by Haven Blackmon

Jean Moulin c. 1937. Photo by public domain

Life of Jean Moulin

Jean Moulin was born June 20, 1899 in the city of Béziers in southern France. His father was a history professor who was actively engaged in political organizations such as the Radical Socialist Party and the League of Rights of Men. Jean was heavily influenced by his father, and they were known to be inseparable in his childhood. After the death of his older brother, Jean’s performance in school declined, and he was a mediocre student. He developed and interest in drawing cartoons, which became quite popular. In 1917, he began studying for a law degree at the Law Institute of Montpellier, but shortly thereafter was drafted into the Army during World War I in 1918. For a short while he was an engineer in the military, but he never engaged in battle and the war ended not long after he was drafted. The most important work Jean did while in the army was his duty to bury soldiers who died in battle. With the help of his father, he was discharged from the army after only one year. 

After leaving the Army, he quickly returned to his studies and graduated with his law degree in 1921. Following his graduation, Jean became a civil servant, and through his hard work eventually earned the title of youngest sub-prefect in France in 1925. He was later promoted to become the youngest prefect in France. Not long thereafter, Jean married Marguerite Cerruti in 1926, but their marriage was short lived and they divorced only two years later. 

As Moulin continued working for the government, he achieved higher titles and took on more administrative responsibilities, and in 1937 became the youngest prefect in France. In February 1939, he transferred to be the prefect at Chartres. However, France soon became involved in WWII and Moulin’s department faced an influx of refugees. He saw firsthand the struggles of the refugees and voiced his sympathy despite the growing hostility of many citizens. During this time, Jean was preparing to resign from his position as prefect in order to join the Air Force. Although he did not meet age and certain physical requirements, Jean was persistent and worked fervently to obtain a position in the military. Unfortunately, Moulin was still denied a position. As the Germans moved into the region in which Moulin served, the French people suffered and died at the hands of Nazis. As this became apparent, German officials blamed these killings on France’s Senegalese soldiers. The Germans tried to force Moulin into signing a document faulting the French soldiers for the murders, but Moulin new it was the fault of the Nazis and refused to sign. Consequently, Jean was captured. Fearing he would be tortured and made to sign the document, he attempted suicide by cutting his throat with glass, but he did not succeed. He was soon found and given medical attention, and he survived the attempted suicide. For the rest of his life following the incident, Jean wore scarves to conceal the scar across his neck.  

Following this incident, Moulin assumed the responsibility of uniting numerous resistance groups against the Germans. By uniting these resistance groups, they joined and he then became the chairman of the National Council of the Resistance. He did this in collaboration with General Charles de Gaulle, who was the leader of Free France at the time. This occurred in May 1943, and the very next month he was captured and imprisoned by the Gestapo. He was brutally tortured by the Gestapo, but refused to share any information. As he was being transported to Germany by train, Jean Moulin died on July 8, 1943. After his death, he was revered as a hero by the French resistance. 

Personal Relevance

In the years leading up to and during World War II, Jean became increasingly more vocal about his political opinions and his opposition to Nazi Germany. Upon German occupation of France, he repeatedly risked his life to resist their regime. The aspect in which I relate most to Jean Moulin is to his personal convictions and the way in which his actions aligned with them. Neither I nor most anyone else can say for certainty whether they would risk their life in such brutal ways to protect those who are innocent and defenseless. However, one thing I consider to be most important to my character and my self-worth is my integrity, and the degree to which I strive to carry out actions that align with my convictions. I make conscious decisions every day to make sure that my actions align with my most core beliefs. Every day is another opportunity be active in creating change to benefit the lives of others, and my activism is a reflection of my most fundamental beliefs that all people should be equal under the law. Jean Moulin embodied these convictions in the most fundamental way, and we can all draw inspiration and courage from his actions.


Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Jean Moulin.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 4 July 2018, www.britannica.com/biography/Jean-Moulin.

Clinton, Alan. Jean Moulin, 1899-1943 the French Resistance and the Republic. Palgrave, 2002. 

“History – Historic Figures: Jean Moulin (1899 – 1943).” BBC, BBC, www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/moulin_jean.shtml.

“Jean Moulin Biography.” The Famous People, 8 Nov. 2017, www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/jean-moulin-6071.php.

Marnham, Patrick. The Death of Jean Moulin: Biography of a Ghost. John Murray, 2001.

Simkin, John. “Jean Moulin.” Spartacus Educational, Spartacus Educational, Aug. 2014, spartacus-educational.com/2WWmoulin.htm.

Zimmerman, Dwight. “The Death of Jean Moulin: The French Resistance Gets Its Greatest Martyr.” Defense Media Network, 28 July 2013, www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/the-death-of-jean-moulin-the-french-resistance-gets-its-greatest-martyr/. 

Roman Medicine and its Influence on Modern Medicine

Ancient Rome medicine, with its mix of science and superstition, brought about many advances in the area which are still seen in our times.


Roman medicine was derived from Greek medicine, and influenced by knowledge from conquered civilizations, such as the Etruscans, Egyptians, and the Persians. The knowledge from the conquered people combined with the knowledge developed in Rome, mostly derived from the battlefield, made the Romans have an advanced medical system for their age.

The romans combined their scientific knowledge, greatly limited by today’s standards, with religious beliefs. Romans believed that diseases were a result of displeasing the gods, and that rituals such as sacrifices to the gods would cure them. Aesculapius was particularly important in ancient roman medicine. The Romans adopted the Greek god of healing in 292 BCE, when they stole Aesculapius’ sacred snake.  Despite of their belief in the gods, romans still used the services of doctors to heal sickness.

The doctors in rome were craftsmen, and learned the profession through apprenticeships. Civilian doctors had different levels of education and skills, many being Greeks. On the other hand, the military has experienced medical personnel.


Roman Army

The romans were the first in history to build hospitals, generally for the military. The medics in the military had a more practical approach to medicine than the civilian doctors, as they were observant and methodical, documenting which treatments worked so other doctors could do the same.  An important event for roman medicine was the civil war which happened after the assassination of Julius Caesar. The new emperor, Augustus, formed a professional military medical corps. Giving doctors titles, lands, and retirement benefits. This changes, combined with the large amount of war injuries, led to great medical advancements, in a way that would not be seen until the late 19th century.

The roman legions had the best doctors in Rome. Much of the roman knowledge of anatomy and physiology came from the battlefield, as dissections were not allowed. Surgeons also acquired their experiences in the military.

Public Health

The Ancient Romans made many advances in what nowadays would be considered public health. The Romans believed that the workers should also be in good health, as the soldiers and the rich. Therefore, they could be considered the first to have public health for all social classes.

Roman Aqueduct

One of the most important aspects of Roman public health was the use of aqueducts. They had a system of fresh running water and a sewer system, as clean water was considered essential. The water supply to the city of Rome was designed by Julius Frontinus in 97 AD, and it supplied around 1000 million liters of water a day. This helped to prevent the proliferation of diseases that were either transmitted through dirty water, or that relied on standing water . The romans also had public toilets which were flushed by clean water, and a sewer system to make sure all waste was removed from the city.

Bad hygiene was one of the prominent causes of disease transmission in the ancient world. The Romans had great hygiene, as they regularly washed themselves. Roman baths, for example, played a major role in society, as they were part of the citizens daily lives.

Roman Bath

Another important factor were the cities themselves. The cities were built in places that were considered healthy, or were modified to become a healthier environment. For example, marshes were draining to avoid malaria carrying mosquitoes. Julius Caesar not only drained the Codetan Swamp, but planted a forest in its place.

Influence in modern medicine

There are currently 6210 hospital in the US. The hospital system started in the ancient Rome military, and it is the prominent form of care in America.

Roman medicine saw the beginning of specializations, as physicians were divided into different specialties. Nowadays, doctors have to specialize in a certain area after medical school. There are more than 120 options to choose from.

Roman surgeons had basic knowledge of the importance of sanitation. They boiled all the surgical instruments prior to the start of the experiment, and used acetic acid to clean the wounds.

Public health is a major part of modern medicine, as it focuses on preventing diseases. Clean Water is one of the most important elements of health. 884 million people still do not have access to clean water. Many of those people need to walk long distances to get water, which can be contaminated with diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and dysentery. Access to proper disposal of sewage is also of extreme importance to public health.Currently, 2.3 billion people live without access to sanitation. Approximately 1 million people die every year from diseases related to the lack of access to clean water and sanitations.

Medical terminology is based on Latin and Greek. The Romans developed the field of medicine and anatomy based on the Greek knowledge. Since many anatomical parts were elucidated by the Greeks and the Romans, their names are in those languages. Latin was the predominant language used in medicine until the eighteenth century.

The Ancient Romans believed that diet was essential for health, and that moderation of food should be practiced. Nowadays it is known that good nutrition is key to health, as lack of certain elements in a diet can disrupt the normal functioning of the body and lead to diseases.

Works Cited

  1. O’Rahilly. “Etymology”. Basic Human Anatomy. Retrieved from : https://www.dartmouth.edu/~humananatomy/resources/etymology.html
  2. “ The Water Crisis.” Water.org. Retrieved from : https://water.org/our-impact/water-crisis/
  3. “Medicine in Ancient Rome.” The History of Learning. Retrieved from: https://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/a-history-of-medicine/medicine-in-ancient-rome/
  4. “Ancient Roman Medicine.” UNRV Roman History. Retrieved from: https://www.unrv.com/medicine.php
  5. Brazier, Yvette. “ Ancient Roman Medicine.” Medical News Today. Retrieved from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323600.php
  6. Cartwright, Mark. “ Roman Medicine.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: https://www.ancient.eu/Roman_Medicine/
  7. “Importance of good nutrition.” HHS.gov. Retrieved from: https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/eat-healthy/importance-of-good-nutrition/index.html

Italia America: Patronage in Ancient Rome and The Mafia in America



Before we can begin to look into patronage in ancient Rome, it is essential to have an understanding of the origins behind the social hierarchy. According to Roman historian Titus Livy, Romulus himself separated 100 men and made them senators. The descendants of these senators were considered upper class and more specifically known as patricians. Those who were not descendants, also considered the common people of Rome and lower class, were known as plebeians. The distinction between the two groups was dependent mainly on the original ancestry and extremely wealthy land-owning individuals. Within these different classes, a complex and reciprocal relationship known as patronage was founded.

Ancient Rome: Patron-Client Relationships

Patronage consists of a relationship in which a patron, a person of high position and power, uses his influence to assist or take care of another individual, thus making them his ‘client’ and requiring services in return. If a client were unable to repay their ‘debt’, the loss of trust and loyalty would lead to the termination of the relationship.

Some of these services include but are not limited to:
– Unconditional respect and support
– Political support and votes
– Fighting in war for his patron
– Reporting any plots against the patron being conspired by others
– Ransoming family members caught in battle
– Raising money for patron’s daughter’s dowry

Structurally, no matter how powerful or important a patrician, there was always someone above them, such as the emperor. Sometimes, patricians themselves became clients to the emperor, as the emperor would assist in the patrician’s social or political status and the patrician would sign the emperor’s name in their will. The common people of Rome, however, became clients to the patricians instead and supported them regardless of their patron’s interests and opinions. These clients were in need of material goods/security that were then granted by their patrons as long as the client returned the favor, which typically consisted of political votes and support. A patron was free to have as many clients as they were able to, which only added to the patron’s prestige as their number of clients and support increased. However, as listed above, the exchanges would consist of different things and it was expected that the client be fully committed to whatever was asked of him by his patron.

Three Core Characteristics of Patron-Client Relationships

The three core characteristics of patron-client relationships are:
– The inequality in status, wealth, and influence between the two parties
– The element of reciprocity in the exchange of goods and services
– The importance of face-to-face contact between both parties.

Regardless of the nature of the relationship, what the exchanges in services specifically entail, and who the individuals are, these three characteristics are present in every patron-client relationship. Apart from this, a crucial component in these relationships is also a kind of loyalty and honor that resembles that of blood-related family, which is seen in both ancient Rome and the Mafia.

Beginnings: The Mafia In Sicily

Map of Sicily

German scholar Henner Hess described the mafia as, “neither an organization nor a secret society, but a method” where “the Mafioso not only achieves a personal material or prestige gain but also discharges certain functions within the subcultural system by entering the service of others.”

For many years, the island of Sicily seemed to have been struggling with developing some kind of a proper government and creating trust between the people and formal organizations. It was inconsistently ruled by foreign aliens and had an influx of bandit-type fugitives that highly influenced the nature and customs of the region, as the values that were held by these people leaned more towards lawlessness than anything else. Without the promise of a fair government present to protect the people and their property, towns and villages created groups or clans known as ‘families’ that relied on compromise and revenge to achieve protection and justice. At the time, the main relationships present in Sicily were between peasants, bandits, and the Mafiosos. The peasants were responsible for taking care of farming and property owned by wealthier landowners and the bandits made their income by robbing these peasants. Due to the general distrust of government and authority in Sicily, rather than turning to law enforcement, landowners and peasants turned to the Mafiosos for property protection. From this was born a patron-client relationship, where the Mafia granted property protection to the peasants from the bandits in exchange for a fee of a percentage of crops produced. Moreover, the Mafia would sometimes work both sides, allowing the bandits to complete their operations without punishment. In return, the bandits would give them part of the profit they made. As this went on, the Mafia became more powerful and were able to establish themselves as a viable source of protection and enforcement within Sicily through the success of these reciprocal relationships. However, their power ran into trouble around 1925 when Italian dictator Benito Mussolini made it a goal to destroy the Mafia, as it posed a threat to his own power and reputation. As he started cracking down on Mafiosos, Italian immigrants began to flock to the United States in search for opportunity and fleeing vendettas.

Beginnings: The Mafia in America

In January 1920, the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution was passed, thus banning the export of liquors and the home brewing of beverages with over half a percent of alcohol. The passing of this act in combination with the Italian immigrants coming in from Mussolini’s rule essentially gave birth to the American Mafia. Many of these immigrants were former Sicilian mafiosos or criminals that situated themselves in specific parts of New York City, one of which became known as Little Italy, where they began their new lives of crime. The high demand for alcohol at the time gave opportunity for criminals to smuggle in alcohol from other countries or opening their own secret breweries. In turn, the profits from these illegal activities greatly contributed to the wealth and success of the American Mafia in New York City, expanding the number of active families. As the number of members and wealth grew, the American Mafia engaged under the same concept of patron-client relationships in Rome and almost identical to the patron-client relationships seen in Sicily.

Patronage and the American Mafia

Roman philosopher Seneca stated, “if you wish to make a return for a favor, you must be willing to go into exile, or to put forth your blood, or to undergo poverty, or even to let your very innocence be stained and exposed to shameful slanders.” This level of dedication and loyalty are seen in both ancient Roman times between a patron and his client and hundreds of years later in the American Mafia.

Members doing the dirty work, known as soldiers (who will be discussed later in this post), were completing operations ordered from the boss in exchange for a cut of the profit and the protection/pride that comes from being a made member of the family. This relationship between soldier and boss checked off the three core characteristics mentioned earlier (inequality in status, face-to-face contact, and exchange of goods/services); the boss is of a much higher ranking than the soldier, all ideas or orders for operations are spoken of in person, and the boss provides his members with protection and profit in exchange for the completed operation. The more money being earned and the more successful operations, the more powerful and feared a family became, much like the power and prestige from having multiple clients in ancient Rome.

Outside of the members, the patron-client relationships with the Mafia were even more highlighted. For instance, of their many money-making sources, the American Mafia became very prosperous through their involvement with the workforce. By the 1970s, they controlled all of the labor unions in New York City. An example of this is their relationship with construction companies; all concrete companies would get work allocated by the mobsters and then the family in charge of the company would receive a cut of the profit made from the job. Another example is with regular businesses. Mobsters often engaged in protection racketeering, where they would offer protection to business owners from other mobsters in return for money. If the business owner did not agree to it, the mobsters themselves would retaliate, causing the business owner to need protection regardless of whether they agreed or not, and in turn, would become a client of the family for that protection.

In contrast, failure to follow through with your ‘debt’ in ancient Rome typically resulted in loss of trust and termination of the relationship. You may have been seen as an ingrate for doing so but the consequences were not as violent as in the Mafia. Failure to follow through with your debt or loyalty to the mobster family usually resulted in death. Patronage then and in the Mafia also differ in the kind of activity that is happening in the exchanges. From what I understand, patronage in ancient Rome was less coercive than in the Mafia. Mobsters are consistently involved in patron-client relationships but many of them have an underlying nature of force or extortion. The element of fear is greatly present in mobster relationships and I wonder if the line gets blurred between reciprocity and coercion. In both, there exists exchange but the fear behind coercion leaves a relationship that is so unbalanced, it can function with fear alone, which is something that is not necessarily seen the same way in patron-client relationships in Rome.

Despite the potential differences, there is no doubt that patronage contributes greatly to the success of the Mafia, whether it be through fear alone or not. However, patronage is not the only contributing factor to their power. The structure and order within the Mafia played a significant role as well, also becoming two aspects of the mob that can also be traced to ancient Rome in some ways. To understand this, we have to look back at the internal conflict that helped reorganize things: The Castellammarese War; the power struggle between two crime bosses in the early 1930s between Salvatore Maranzano and Joseph Masseria.

Joseph Masseria

Maranzano was one of the many immigrants driven out by Mussolini’s power and quickly involved himself in the bootlegging business as soon as he arrived to New York. He soon earned the nickname of “Little Caesar” due to his obsession with Julius Caesar, the Roman Empire, and a library at his home with books and statues dedicated to his idol.

Around the same time, Joseph Masseria, another successful mobster, was trying to move up the ladder of power and success, getting himself to a place of superiority above other mobsters. Maranzano refused to submit to Masseria’s supremacy, however, and took a chance when Masseria’s top lieutenant, Lucky Luciano, came to Maranzano with his plan to betray and kill Masseria. In a Brutus-esque manner, Luciano expressed his concerns for the reputation and function of the gang under Masseria’s control and, in April of 1931, orchestrated the murder of his own boss with the help of other men.

Lucky Luciano

After the death of Massiera, although Lucky Luciano was granted some power for himself, Salvatore Maranzano labeled himself as the highest-ranked superior in New York and the “capo di tutti capi”, which translates to: the boss of all bosses. Inspired by his idol Julius Caesar, he planned to have the family structure based off of the military chain of command of a Roman legion. As the top boss, he would hold a power that was unquestionable. Lucky Luciano, once again concerned with the negative effects of power-hungry bosses and a desire to ensure efficient operations, orchestrated yet another murder and ended the power of Little Caesar only 5 months after his hit on Joseph Masseria.

Mafia Life After Luciano: Structure and Order

At the time of Maranzano’s death, there were four other mafia families present in the state of New York. After he was killed, Lucky Luciano hoped to create a layout of some sort in which the families could avoid as much conflict as possible with one another. In hopes to accomplish this, he arranged a private meeting with all five families of New York along with other mafia families from around the country, where they agreed to keep Maranzano’s structure inspired by ancient Roman legions.

Structure: Mafia and Roman Legions

Roman legions were a part of the general Roman army and were the principal force of the Roman Empire. The units went as follows:
– a contubernia (8 men)
– a century (10 contubernium together – 80 men)
– a cohort ( 6 centuries together – 480 men)
– the legion (10 cohorts)

Each legion had an officer who was third in command, named praefectus castrorum (camp prefect), in charge of the daily maintenance and running of the legion. He also looked after food supply, nutrition, equipment supply, etc. Above the camp prefect, stood six military tribunes, of which one was the senior tribune, second in command, and referred to as tribunus laticlavius (senior tribune). Finally, above the senior tribune, was the legatus legionis, the legionary commander in charge of the legion as a whole. Eventually, the senior tribune would look forward to taking his place. The legionary commander was part of the Roman senate off the battlefield.

CC BY-SA 4.0

As for a solider, he was to be of full Roman citizenship and required to take an oath to serve the Emperor and army until death, acknowledging the harsh punishment involved if he were to participate in any kind of disobedience. New soldiers were also required to do dirty work until they were able to secure a better position.

Seeing as the structure of the Mafia was inspired by Roman legions, many similarities can be seen between the two. In the families, each had a group of men known as soldiers, or made men, who were considered the lowest members of the family. Like the Romans, soldiers in the Mafia were required to take an oath for life and were typically responsible for the dirty work that keeps the family powerful. Loyalty was a must in both the Mafia and the legion. Membership exclusivity was also seen in both the legion and the mobsters, as the legion required full Roman citizenship and the mobsters required full Italian descent.
Above the soldiers, stand the caporegime, or more commonly known as capo, who is in charge of leading his crew of soldiers. Much like the praefectus castrorum in the Roman legion, the capo was responsible for looking after the operations and daily activities of his soldiers. Above the capo is the underboss who takes instructions from the boss and makes sure that everything is carried out effectively. The underboss, too, can look forward to taking the position of the boss as he is next in line in the hierarchy incase anything happens to the boss. Finally, the boss is the legatus legionis of the Mafia family, in charge of the family as a whole. Also known as the Don, the boss is a highly respected, undisputed, and even feared leader of the family that oversees every single operation.

Order: The Commission and The Senate

Luciano was also responsible for founding the Commission which shared some similarities with the Roman Senate. Just as Rome transitioned from monarchy to republic, ridding itself of the idea of just one king, Lucky Luciano wanted the same for the Mafia families. No more boss of all bosses, just consensus among the families.

After the fall of the monarchy, the Roman Senate functioned as a governing and advisory council that was responsible for appointing officials, presenting proposals, controlling finances, and handling debates. Members of the Senate were appointed by someone of higher status, the consul, and were expected to serve as senators for life.
Lucky Luciano’s Commission served a similar purpose in some aspects. The Commission became a governing body where new members were voted in, policies and regulations were established, and disputes between families could be settled. It consisted of the five New York mafia bosses, the Chicago boss, and the Buffalo boss. Similar to the appointing of new senators in the Roman Senate, new members into the Mafia were chosen by the bosses. Just as the Roman legion’s legatus legionis held a position in the Roman Senate, the Mafia boss held a position in the Commission. When the bosses could all agree on one individual for induction, that chosen person could become a soldier. The bosses served a similar purpose as the consuls in the induction of new members. Seeing as the only way out of the Mafia was death, members of the Commission were members for life, much like the members of the Senate were as well. Additionally, just as proposals took place in the Roman Senate, proposals of a different kind took place in the Commission. For instance, if a member wanted to kill a law enforcement officer, which was against the Mafia rules, they had to run it by the Commission first and get the notion accepted.

Despite some similarities, the Commission and the Senate have a fair share of differences as well. In the Senate, consuls were selected by the people of Rome, whereas the mob bosses were selected by other very important members of the Commission rather than regular (or more common) members of the families. The Senate was mainly responsible for advising the magistrates while the Commission was not really looking to advise anyone. Because the men in the Commission were already considered of the highest ranking, there was no idea or conflict that needed to be run by anyone above them. Moreover, considering the fact that the Mafia was composed of a number of highly dangerous criminals, any conversation ever had about or within the families was of top secrecy. The meetings held by the Commission were extremely confidential and held in secret, while the Senate meetings were open to the public.


To most, ancient Rome may feel different than our lives today in about a million ways. The traditions, the violence, and the influences of power seem so ruthless compared to what we have grown accustomed to here; so far removed, yet so much a part of us without many of us ever realizing. Over the years, the life of the Mafia became sensationalized in American society with successful movies such as The Godfather, Goodfellas, Casino, The Untouchables, etc. Mobsters became glamorized in pop culture and although the Italian-American identity has been recognized, the influence of ancient Rome has not. Perhaps it is too distant in history or simply too complex a detail to make use of in the big screens, but its roots dig deeper into history than we could have ever imagined. Although beginnings seem to have started in Sicily, true origins and concrete influences came from ancient Rome, a society whose structure, order, and brutality from hundreds of years ago managed to slither its way into one of the most successful criminal societies in the history of the United States of America.


Weingrod, A. (1968). Patrons, Patronage, and Political Parties. Comparative Studies in Society and History,10(4), 377-400.

DeSilva, D. A. (1999). Patronage and Reciprocity: The Context of Grace in the New Testament. Ashland Theological Journal, 32-84.

Schmidt, S. W., Scott, J. C., Landé, C., & Guasti, L. (1977). Friends, Followers, and Factions: A Reader in Political Clientelism. University of California Press.

Eisenstadt, S. N., & Lemarchand, R. (1981). Political Clientelism, Patronage, and Development (Vol. 3). SAGE.

Critchley, D. (2008). The Origin of Organized Crime In America: The New York City Mafia, 1891-1931 (1st ed.). Routledge.

Dickie, J. (2005). Cosa Nosta: The History of the Sicilian Mafia (1st ed.). St. Martin’s Griffin.

Walston, J. (2017). The Mafia and Clientelism: Roads to Rome in Post-War Calabria (1st ed.). Routledge.

F. (2016, May 23). Mafia Org Chart. Retrieved from https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/mafia-family-tree.pdf/view

F. (2016, September 14). History of La Cosa Nostra. Retrieved from https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/organized-crime/history-of-la-cosa-nostra

H. (2009, October 22). Mafia in the United States. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/topics/crime/mafia-in-the-united-states

Cartwright, Mark. “Roman Senate.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, 12 Dec. 2016, www.ancient.eu/Roman_Senate/.

“Roman Senate.” United Nations of Roma Victrix (UNRV), 2019, www.unrv.com/empire/the-senate.php.

Sardell, Jason, et al. “Economic Origins of the Mafia and Patronage System in Sicily .” SSRN Electronic Journal, Jan. 2009, doi:0.2139/ssrn.2983507.

chiricorwaneta ra. (2016, Nov 18). The American Mafia: The Definite Guide to The Mob . Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HYmMVYbUQM

Declaration Project by Sheyla E Rodriguez

Purpose of the Project

Public Domain. File: Arms of the French Republic

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

Who was Simone Annie Liline Veil?

Photo by Marie- Lan Nguyen CC BY 3.0

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

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

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

Quote by Simone Veil, 1982

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

My Body= My Decision created by Sheyla E Rodriguez

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

Reflection and How I Relate to Simone

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

Public Domain: Woman Power Logo

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

Wrap- Up

Honoring Simon Veil by European Parliament


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

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

Thank you for Reading

Sheyla E Rodriguez.