Marie-France Desir: France as Text 2019

Photo by Alex Guiterrez

Marie-France Desir is currently a junior at Florida International University’s Honors college. She is currently pursuing a bachelor in businessess administration with a major in Marketing and a minor in Social Media Marketing. She is currently participating in the France Study Abroad 2019 to expand her knowledge of the culture, the history, and the art.

The following are her reflections during the France Study Abroad trip 2019.



The Global Tower by Marie-France Desir of FIU in Parc Du Champs De Mars on July 3rd, 2019

Photo by Alex Gutierrez

Once upon a time, The Eiffel Tower was the tallest building in the world. Built in 1887, it was never expected to last over 100 years. It defied all expectations that were created for it, it defied all words that categorized it as ugly and not artistic, and it defied the religious notion that was the foundation of France during that time. Born in the age of the Enlightenment period, it was a sore for eyes for those who classified beauty in a different manner. It also created a controversial conversation that helped shatter the constricting religious boundaries that were faced during that time.  It started a conversation that brought people from around the world just to see exactly what France and what Paris was doing to make a change.

That is exactly what I felt at the moment, sitting in front of the Eiffel Tower at 23:00, watching it glow and sparkle. It was also the first night that let me see exactly what kind of people came just see this magnificent tower that once upon a time, was just a scrap of metal to some. Around me where the people of Paris, the people of France, and overall just people around the world. Some people came with family, friends, or their lovers, sitting on the lawn as if it was just a normal Parisian night. While others came from across the world just to see this magical event that only last five minutes at the start of the hour. However, it is clear that those five minutes will last forever to them. Sitting on the lawn waiting for this tower that has brought hundreds and thousands of people every day from almost every part of the world to light up, I took a moment to appreciate the world shattering and defying change and statement the Eiffel Tower consisted of, on that one night in Paris.

Versailles as Text

Inside a Woman’s Room by Marie-France Desir of FIU in Versailles on July 7th, 2019

CC by 4.0


The most memorizing parts of Versailles were the parts that were especially influenced by some woman, such as the Petit Train and the Queen’s chambers. One woman who had taste and style, yet it destroyed her reputation with her people who would eventually hold such a grudge that eventually would cost her life. Marie Antionette was a decadent women who loved money and style.  Some would say her taste was a little too extravagant, especially on the budget she was spending. However, as a Queen, Marie-Antionette did not care about such little matters such as money, and felt that it was her duty to live her lavish life to be able to be the best Queen she could be. Her taste and style is seen in her bedroom at Versailles and created a little getaway for herself with the Petit Trianon.

As soon as you walk into the bedroom you can clearly see that there is no wall that is left bare.  The Queen’s quarters was created to highlight the style and taste of the queen. It was designed to make sure that each wall was covered with a design that was as out-going as her. There are two large chandeliers that loom over the room while the walls and ceilings are covered in a floral decoration and glistening gold crowns on the edges. The creation of Versailles was built by a man, but there happened to be small little getaways that highlight the artistic taste of the Queen’s who reside in them, such as a woman’s room.


The Children by Marie-France Desir of FIU at Maison d’Izieu

CC by 4.0



Throughout history, wars tend to consist of lots of death and in other terms simply just genocide. In classrooms, there are always mentions of the murders of women and children, yet their stories are never really told. Rarely are the names, photos, or stories of what occurred to the children brought to light. This could be due to the fact of the sensitivity of the subject because no one wants to imagine their children being murdered or tortured. But in most countries, where genocide has occurred, there are children whose lives were taken away before they have ever lived.

Growing up, I always knew the story of the Holocaust and understood the number of lives that were taken away, but never did I really encounter the story of the children. The Maison d’Izieu housed a little over 100 children during the time of the anti-semantic laws. Families all over Europe would send their children in hope that they were safe and would survive. This is similar to how my family came to the United States. When violence and corruption were engulfing Haiti, my dad sent our family to the United States to be safe while he stayed back until he could come and rejoin his family. Luckily for us, our dad did not have to find out that his children were arrested and murdered like the children in Izieu. Forty-four young and innocent kids were arrested and eventually murdered on April 6th, 1944. Their names and most of their faces are memorialized in Izieu, yet their stories are not as known as they should be.

Looking at their drawings and sketches inside the room, it’s clear that these kids were expressive, creative, and had a good heart. They clearly understood what kind of situation they were living in, but everyone still tried to make the most of a horrible situation. Everyone should remember the faces and the names of the children who were taken away. Not only to simply be more educated of time in the war but for their families and their memory.


Home By Marie-France Desir of FIU at the city of Lyon

CC by 4.0
CC by 4.0

The peaceful city in between the two rivers, its buildings made of gold rock, and arguably the city that host the best views of sunsets, led me to fall in love in just the matter of four days. However, it wasn’t the ice cream, the food, or the beautiful scenery that made me fall in love. It was its rich history and the people that fought for their lives that impressed me.

Meeting people such as Claude Bloch and Laurent and hearing their story and their family’s stories made me appreciate what the city of Lyon had overcome and how they have built something beautiful over their tragedy.

Both Claude Bloch and Laurent’s family stayed in Lyon despite the painful hardships they faced there. Claude Bloch lost his mother and grandfather at such a young age, while also managing to survive concentration camps on his own. However, he did not let them take his humanity and he held on to the idea that he was not the animal the Nazi’s claimed him to be. Now, he stays in Lyon, his home, where he created a large and beautiful family, and where he has been able to tell his story to people from all across the world.

Laurent stayed in Lyon, the place in which his mother ended up in Montluc after being an agent of the French resistance. His mother risked her life being a part of the French resistance due to her being a Jew, and the very active role she played in the resistance. The role she played as a woman in the French resistance is an amazing story that is being recognized in history and her story should be told over and over again. It is empowering to see how people of different ages and genders had come together for one common goal.

As I think about their stories and the situations they were in, I wonder if I could have stayed in a country in which I felt so much tragedy and pain. If I could still, consider that place my home. This is what amazes me about Lyon, the people there are so proud and are so a part of Lyon that no matter what, it will always be there home, and they will always fight to save it.

Tatiana Arevalo – France as Text 2019

Photo courtesy of Enya Serrano

This is Tatiana Arevalo, and she in the process of completing the France 2019 study abroad. A little bit about herself, she is currently a Third year student at Florida International Universities’ honors college. She is pursuing a dual degree in International Relations and Psychology with a specialization in behavior analysis. It is her second year participating in the competitive Model United Nations travel team at the university. She is also a part of the Student Government Association where she serves on the executive cabinet as elections commissioner. Outside of academia you can find her find me at the beach, traveling, hanging out with friends or swimming. This is her first time doing a study abroad with Professor John Bailly, and her first time in France. She’s excited to learn more about human rights and French diplomacy.

“Vive la vie” by Tatiana Arevalo of FIU at The Lourve

As you walk along the long halls of the louvre you find yourself lost in a maze of unparalleled beauty. If these walls could talk they’d tell you a story different from what you interpret it to be. Two eyes and one painting is all it takes to form a connection. I looked at the painting sizing it up to capture every detail of the oil on the canvas within my mind, taking a mental photograph. When something inspires you I like to think that it’s staring right back at you. Upon my initial perception of the photo I had thought that this picture was painted during the time of the French Revolution because to me this picture screams “power to the people”. Lady liberty is leading all kinds of people into battle from the young soldiers to old men and from rich to poor. Everyone is uniting under the French flag following the ideal of liberty into battle for something greater than the individual. A concept that has carried for centuries with the protection of the rights of man in which freedom, not monarchy is the only thing that reigns.In the painting lady liberty embodies the liberal culture of France by having her gown showing her breast. She also holds onto memories of the French Revolution by wearing a hat similar to those worn by revolutionaries.

Originally I had wanted to see this picture because I had seen it on the Coldplay cover with what appeared to be the words “viva la vida” spray painted in white (Talk about a clash of cultures: a British rock band branding an album cover in Spanish using a French painting). After seeing it face to face it is now my favorite paintings because it embodies the political and societal culture of France. These are most  fundamental of their ideals along with the persistence they have had towards fighting for freedom. The only reason why I was able to see this painting today was because of the revolutionaries that had the same spirit that was painted into this painting.


“Tears of gold” by Tatiana Arevalo of FIU at Versailles

The hall of mirrors the halfway point between the palace and the gardens. Everywhere you look you see your reflection there’s no escaping it. three hundred and sixty degrees surrounded by gold,glass and tears. The hall of mirrors allows you to look out but not in, you get lost in the beauty that you forget that this palace was built on the backs of French people. How many loaves of bread would have been bought instead of building this room? How many starving children died unable to enjoy adulthood? How many people suffered at the hands of the man that built this? These questions ran through my mind. I tried hard not to forget them repeating them to myself over and over until I finally exited the room. You admire the hand painted scenes of battle, conquest, and triumph that serve as if it remind you that France is all powerful. Portraits of kings looking like Greek gods. For a second you believe it. The chandeliers sparkle leaving your eyes gleaming wondering whose eyes have also been alluded by the gold light. The mirrors reflect the sunlight coming from the window as if to remind you that there’s more to this grand palace. Head turned you look at the symmetrical garden that extends farther than the eye can see. Dark rich green bushes with pink and yellow flowers whose scent perfumes the room. Breath taking yes, and I painted a picture in your head that probably seems beautiful except it’s not because behind all this beauty lies the untold story of Versailles, one that you won’t find in any brochure. That this palace was built at a time when the citizens of France had nothing and the king had everything including this palace. No matter how beautiful the art it is it’s nothing compared to a human life. Louis XIV once said “I once had to wait” and the same could be said about those people that waited for a better life and never got it as a result of Versailles. These walls were made with tears of gold.

Lyon As Text

“Martyr” Tatiana Arevalo of FIU at Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière in Lyon

The church of Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière sits on the mountains much like a city upon a hill watching over the people, always above never below. Candles lit in red, white, and blue the colors of the French flag; the colors of pride. The Virgin Mary illuminates each candle lighting the prayers of those that come to the church asking for a blessing or a sign that something greater exists. As I looked right in front of me I saw Joan of Arc a woman who died as a martyr in the name of Catholicism during the Hundred Years’ War. We idealize people like Joan of Arc have paintings of her in Notre Dame, statues of her in Place des Pyramides and have celebrities dress up as her for the Met gala. She receives all this praise even though she murdered thousands of Christians because of the visions she revived from Saint Margaret, Saint Catherine, and Saint Michael on behalf of god. She was known as an amazing fighter using strategic tactics that later influenced the French army for the rest of the war. She partly helped France was able to hold its legitimate rule over its sovereignty despite rival coronation of Henry VI of England. However, based on today’s standards how would she be considered any different from those that are committing violent acts in the name of religion. She had the backing of King Charles VII, and many organizations have the backing of theocratic governments such as Iran. We as western developed countries judge countries that governments are intertwined heavily with religion or that back religious movements. Which is contradictory because of the religious undertones found in the United States where religion is separated from the state, but it is still used as a justification for many political arguments. Much like Joan of Arc and the church, religion can be a good thing, but when it’s coupled with proxy wars, and as a means for political oppression then we might need to take a step back and stop idealizing those that use the church as a means of power. Connections between the past and the present bridge the world together and the continuity of religion makes it an issue relevant today. Although I hadn’t prayed to the Virgin Mary but I had a divine realization in Lyon. 

Izieu As Text

“The end” ” by Tatiana Arevalo of FIU at Maison d’Izieu

Forty four heart beats racing, speeding up as the sound of the footsteps get closer. Shock begins to radiate throughout their bodies as they repeat to themselves “this can’t be real, this can’t be real”. Forty four innocent lives were taken at the Izieu children’s orphanage on the morning of April 6, 1944, forty four lives that forever had their childhood stripped away from them. That same morning they were thrown into trucks that headed directly for the Jewish concentration camp of Auschwitz where none of them were able to make it out alive. Around the former orphanage home you can read letters about how happy there were, often writing messages of inspiration and hope to relatives. In their final days, some of them even mention God in their letters. One can only imagine that they found glimpses of happiness in the midst of chaos. Their parents had sent them away during the war hoping that at least their children would be sheltered instead of persecuted. The orphanage is located in the South of France which was free while many of their parents lived in North France which was under control of the Nazis. As the war progressed the Germans began to move towards the South of France where nearby Lyon was occupied. 

These children fell victim to a broken humanity. The opposition claimed that they were under direct orders to take down any one that was part of the French resistance, which poses the question of how could any child have been a part of that. Klaus Barbie (“the butcher of Lyon”) was the one that authorized the murder of these children via telegram and at his court hearing in 1987 for crimes against humanity he couldn’t even give an explanation as to why he did it. There’s no justification for what happened to the children of Izieu. The rage and outrage felt towards what happened should be applied to the innocent lives being lost everyday in Yemen, Venezuela, Pakistan, and all around the world. There are children being trafficked, sold for organs, dying of hunger, unable to go to school, sold into marriages, are victims of gun violence. It is up to us to actively change the future while remembering the past. We have the ability to change the future and stand up to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone ever again. And in the end although there lives ended far too short, their stories will not be forgotten because they will live by memory. And to be remembered is to stay immortal. 

Melany Gomez- France as Text 2019

Melany Gomez is a senior at Florida International University’s Honors College. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Interdisciplinary Studies and forms part of the Quantifying Biology in the Classroom program (QBIC). QBIC is a program that allows her to explore the biological sciences to a greater depth. She enjoys conducting research on​ infant development and working with children. Melany plans to graduate in Spring 2020 and would love to work in the pediatrics field, preferably as a physician. Below you will be able to find her France as Texts.


To the Giant in Paris by Melany Gomez of FIU in Champ de Mars, on July 2nd2019

Let the glistening giant watch over the streets of Paris. Night after night, let the lights inspire the artists, the tourists, the citizens. Let the people gather beneath its skirt and find reassurance that France is progressive, France is ingenious, France is prosperous. In a country where ideas surge, and enlightening movements have been given birth to, you were dropped one day in the late 1880s to show the world that agricultural France had indeed become industrialized. You were a concept, you were a statement, you were much more than mere art. Though the French people’s eyes to your beauty had to adapt, it became evident that 132 years and more you would last. Now I am here, a Cuban in France, having evaded a regimen in an island that had threatened to cut my curious wings. Now I am here, walking through the streets of Paris, looking for you even in the distance. Knowing that though you’re flexible enough to move, there’s no bringing you down. Now I am here in Paris in awe with your beauty, in awe with the diversity of the people in the streets below you. I have seen many from various places like Asia, Europe, and even the Americas coexist with each other, celebrating their differences. I am here in Paris, knowing that though this city has seen many battles, (starting with its first inhabitants the Gauls, then the Romans, the revolutionaries, and the Nazis) with you by their side they can unite. Your iron figure seduces the mind of whoever thinks of Paris, for you are a symbol of this modern city. Here is to Gustave Eiffel for engineering his tower, here is to the glistening giant.VERSAILLES AS TEXT


The Latone  Fountain  in the Gardens of Versailles – Photo by Melany Gomez

Greatness At The Expense Of The Poor by Melany Gomez of FIU in Versailles, on July 7th,2019

Gold gates, marble walls, and magnificent gardens are all signs of the wealth of a king, or better yet, his kingdom. Through the renovations completed at Versailles, Louis XIV had planned to enrich the country’s culture and overall standing in Europe. A king’s wealth, of course, is originated from a country’s monetary funds, and so while more money went to renovations less went to feed the common people. Louis XIV, or the sun king, constructed one of the most amazing palaces and gardens in Europe where he celebrated his reign and himself. This was reflected all throughout Versailles including in his gardens where he built fountains such as Bassin de Latone where he showed off his mighty power, threatening that the gods would punish anyone who dares cross him. He achieved part of the Versaille we see today by expanding his father’s old hunting lodge in Versailles through various building campaigns; and even then, he was not the only king who expanded on it. Although it is now a major historical place and a massive tourist attraction calling people from all over the world to it, one wonders if the sacrifice made to build it was justified.

When thinking of the monarchies in France, where the king had the ultimate power, it is easy to overlook the peasants who scarcely supported the growth of France before the revolution. Perhaps, by keeping the eyes closed to their misery and the level of insignificant cultural input they provided to the growing country, one can justify the misuse of funds: from bettering the lives of the many to bettering the appearance and comfort of a hunting lodge and making it ready for its king. Looking at the impact Versailles has had in the history of France today, it is no doubt Louis XIV’s vision for the lodge was in many ways ingenious and, in those times, justified. Nevertheless, I think of the world today, where civilizations are not enriched by building great monuments if its people are starving. I stand in the hall of mirrors and walk through the “Hameau de la Reine” and though I am able to appreciate their beauty, I think of the world today, where the education of the masses has inspired revolutions and the input of its people has enriched the country’s culture more than the input of a current king or a president. I believe in today’s world an expense like that would not be justified. Because today, our president represents the people, but he is not the people, we are the people and we build the future.


A Veil Through Time by Melany Gomez of FIU in Maison d’Izieu, on July 12th,2019

Walking through the veil between the past and the present, through the Maison d’Izieu, is a powerful feeling. Within the first few steps, as you breathe in the fresh air of the once Italian occupied zone, you become enchanted by the panoramic view of the mountains of the Chartreuse and the Northern Vercors. However, despite the beauty of this place, there is a lingering feeling that a great injustice has been committed. As the history of this colony is revealed to me, I can see through the veil and I can hear children playing around the Maison, I can feel the emotions with which they write to their loved ones, and I can see them sitting at their desks, grasping tightly to the notion of what a normal childhood would pertain. The Maison d’Izieu Memorial is a place of remembrance. A place to ponder on how racism can cloud the mind to the extent of negating children the right to their humanity and justify the execution of innocents. Nevertheless, although it is important to remember the atrocious act against the 44 Jewish children and 7 adults on April 6th of 1944, it is just as important to keep in our memories that Maison d’Izieu Memorial is also a remembrance of courage during the darkest of times. It is important to remember how during a time where hope had vanished in the hearts of many, there were courageous people like Sabine and Miron Zlatin who refused to surrender to a spiteful cause and founded a haven on Earth where persecuted children could find refuge. Walking through the veil between the past and the present is a powerful feeling. After a journey like this, you take with you the responsibility to protect the future. As you learn about the courage of others, the blinding hatred of an irrational movement, and the innocence of the persecuted, the need to remain vigilant is implanted in your heart, and once it is embedded there is no escaping this feeling. 


The Hidden Passage by Melany Gomez of FIU in Lyon, on July 8th ,2019

I will remain free, 
Though I know they are coming for me,
Let the South know I’m here,
Let the North know of me,
Yet don’t tell the German ears.
They think they know your city,
Tell them Lyon hides beyond its streets,
Tell them Barbie will have to look beyond what he sees,
When in 1942 he dares come for you, 
Know I am here for you,
I will hide your men for you,
I’ll remain the center of the resistance for you.
I know Lyon will be mistreated,
But I stand with Jean Moulin,
Because the Nazis will be defeated.
And when in 1943, 
he dies from what Barbie did to him,
I will remain hopeful,
I will take care of all your grim.
I am here because of this country’s history,
You are not a German town,
You are French,
You will not be shut down.
When of Montluc I hear,
I’ll regret that I wasn’t near,
To help our people escape.
And though I know these are dark times,
That does not mean our movement will die,
We will continue to fight,
Because what the Vichy government did wasn’t right,
We are do not surrender,
The French are not cowards,
We are brave,
We will bring justice to the offender,
And put them in their graves.
Let the resistance use me as their hideaway,
Keep me a secret and I’ll protect you,
I am here because this country is French,
Do not let them take that away,
And your city will protect you. 
And when the years pass,
Tell them I hid you well,
And though we’ve been through hell,
Tell them that free I remain.

Gerardo Perez Rodriguez: France as Text 2019

Photo by Enya Pla Serrano

Gerardo Perez Rodriguez, born and raised in Puerto Rico, is a student at the Florida International University seeking a bachelors degree in Biological Sciences. Gerardo plans to graduate Summer 2020 from the Honors College and study medicine in fall 2020. Gerardo is an ambitious guy, he loves to help people and also he is a businessman. He dreams of one day becoming a successful Orthopedic Surgeon and be available to serve others in need.

Paris as Text

Eiffel Tower Paris, France Photo by Gerardo Perez

Meet me and see the beauty” by Gerardo Perez Rodriguez from FIU at Paris, France

Come… come, it is me calling. It is me, the city full of dreams and the ”City of love.” My heart blood flows all France with art, beauty, and history. Many were opposed to my vision because they thought I was a threat to all Paris. When I was born in the 1800s, two million people visited me. Following this, I became a symbol of power and strength across the country.

Many thought that I shouldn’t be taller than the cathedral and many thought that I was humiliating France monuments and architecture; others thought that for political reasons, I could be leading my entire Paris into a modern society. I think they were right; now I hold as a root and represent my Paris, France as a powerful country. People all around the world visit every day to watch the beautiful Paris. Maybe the people only remember the 18, 000 pieces used for my construction, or that I was only meant to be temporary or they remember how Gustave Eiffel, an engineer, designed one of the most beautiful and influential works of Paris. What they need to know is that my blood flows all over Paris and I am only meant to invite them to find out our history, what is happening in our country and how we come together. Come… Come… and visit the “City of Love”

Versailles as Text

Hall of Mirrors, Versailles Photo by Gerardo Perez Rodriguez

It is me, the Sun King. This magical and surprising place, Hall of Mirrors, shows the authority and power of France. By the end of the 17th century it was completely revolutionary. The most respected ambassadors and courtiers were invited to the Hall of Mirrors, and they were always stunned by France greatness. I represented myself as Apollo across the room, a protector of the arts. My ideal vision was to build something in which people all around the world could see and feel how great and powerful is France. In other words I had three reasons:
1. Political Achievements
2.Economic Achievements
3. Artistic Achievements

Yes! Look at all this people across the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, they are stunned. In my work you can see how the gardens are reflected. By making the Hall of Mirrors I still continue to shed a light each day through the 17 immense windows and see the successful work I’ve done. France is a successful and power country as I

Lyon As Text

Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière at Lyon, France Photo by Gerardo Perez Rodriguez

“Treasure of Humanity” by Gerardo Perez Rodriguez of FIU at Lyon, France (Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière)

Over this week, my classmates and I have seen most of the main sites in Lyon. By entering the third largest city in France, I noticed similarities related to the architecture and artworks from the Renaissance of the 15th century. The surrounding pink colored renaissance pastel tones in the apartment buildings contrast with the principal eyes and mind of Lyon, La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière or as I call it, the treasure of humanity. Across the years the Basilica has become a symbol of Lyon to the Virgin Mary as it watches the sunrise and the dawn every day.

The Basilica Notre Dame de Fourvière by the architect Pierre Bossan inspired by Romanesque, Byzantine and Gothic art style is displayed using mosaics and paintings. The Basilica is divided into three larges naves crossed with Virgin Mary’s relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Sprit (Trinity). Inside the Basilica a six wall mosaic was made; Joan of Arc, arrival of Saint Pothin in lyon, vow of Louis XIII, Battle of Lepanto, Council of Ephesus and the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception. Also, inside and outside of the Basilica the lion is used in sculptures and paintings inside the Basilique as a symbol of courage, nobility, strength.

Overall, seeing how the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière was built applying different art styles to create their own identity and their own message, makes me appreciate culture and how this can be a treasure of humanity. Power and Divine is the first thing that crossed my mind when I saw the Basilica. Our believes is what makes us unique and special and this is also shown in Joan of Arc’s painting. She had a connection with Power and Divine in order to save France.

Izieu As Text

Maison d’ Izieu, France photo by Gerardo Perez Rodriguez

“Second Opportunity” by Gerardo Perez Rodriguez of FIU at Maison d’Izieu, France

Loneliness and hope of seeing your family… one of the deepest and worst feelings a human being can have. In May 1943, Sabine and Miron Zlatlin, offered a second opportunity for Jewish children in Izieu to live their lives. Attendance records at Izieu listed 105 children. Here they were able to learn, make friends and discover themselves making drawings and letters from their heart. In April 6,1944 children and adults were arrested at the Izieu refuge on orders by Klaus Barbie. They were gone… Innocent children… Fight against the resistance? This children weren’t guilty. It’s upsetting how a person can tear other people apart by dehumanizing them. Nobody has the right to do such thing. A Remembrance plaque in 1945 a telegram was found in which Barbie had ordered to deport the children in the refuge, with this Barbie was charged with crimes against humanity with the result of being sentenced for life in prison.

No words can express the upsetting feeling this must have been for a parent, trying to send your kids for refuge and they end up dead and you end up alive. It is not fair, but this plot in our years of history helps us creat continuousness to not let this happen again. Anchored to this place, this memorial inspires reflection towards the future on the crimes committed against humanity. As I visited this places I felt a combination of emotions: sad and happiness, because thanks to Sabine each one of us can remember the kids that fought really hard to live a normal life

Sheyla E Rodriguez Riera: France as Text 2019

Photo by Elaine Morales

Sheyla E Rodriguez Riera is a rising junior at Florida International University. She is majoring in Biology with a minor in Chemistry. Sheyla plans to graduate from FIU Honors College in the Spring of 2021. Sheyla’s dream is to become a dentist one day, and not only have her own dental practice, but to be able to give free dental care to people in developing countries. Attach below are her France 2019 As Texts.

“Paris: Once a Dream, Now a Reality ” by Sheyla Rodriguez of FIU in Paris.

Photo By Sheyla Rodriguez

Coming from a country where the Internet was limited for most people, I wasn’t able to look on social media for places around the world. Seeing Paris in movies was one of the best memories I have as a child. The dream of visiting a beautiful city with so much history, art, fashion, and culture was seen as ‘’a dream’’ impossible to achieve. 

It was a busy morning in Paris. Countless people were going in and out of the metro. As we headed out of the Trocadero metro station, there was the giant “Tour Eiffel’’. I stopped for a second, in complete shock, to observe the architecture of one of the most visited structures in the world. As I got closer to the base of the tower, the pieces of iron that hold it together were way more visible. From the base up, I observed how the three levels got smaller and the 324 meter structure looked very strong. The best part was going up hundreds of staircases to reach the first and second floor, where the Parisian views were breathtaking. While I was inside the tower, all I kept thinking about was the unique experience I had of witnessing the inside of one of the most relevant structures of the modern world. Finally, at the top I was able to see a military school and the battle fields from afar, it was very cool experience. As many of the other world’s structures created by man, I thought that the Eiffel Tower had been created with the purpose of attracting tourists and to bring beauty to the city. However, learning that the construction of the tower was due to political reasons in order to celebrate the 100th years of the French Revolution was something that impressed me. That day I took the time to appreciate every detail in Paris and when I sat to have a picnic with my peers in front of the tower, I realized that I WASN’T dreaming anymore, my biggest dream had become a reality. 

”From a Hunting Lodge to a Gigantic Palace” by Sheyla Rodriguez of FIU in Versailles.

Photo by Sheyla Rodriguez

As I walked through the Palace of Versailles, I found myself battling a mixed of emotions. My eyes couldn’t believe the magnificent architecture of the Palace I was witnessing. I had never seen a line so long and so many people anxiously waiting to see what the ‘’Sun King’’ was able to put together. As I walked through the Palace, every single detail in each of the rooms caught my attention. The exuberance of the ceilings and the decorations of the rooms transmitted a message of power and wealth that characterized Louis XIV. However, the gigantic gardens impressed me the most. The symmetric, greenish, musical gardens reminded me of the times when I used to have fun in the gardens of my Old Havana. The fountains gave a touch of elegance to the Palace. My favorite one was the ‘’Bassin of Latone.” The first thing that came to mind when I saw it was the beauty of nature and animals, but after professor Bailly explained that it was a message from Luis to the people I was completely shocked. It meant that those who disobeyed the king would somehow become a frog. This was represented by the fountains by two men, one with a frog hand and the other with a frog head. Visiting Versailles was a unique experience, especially being able to walk through the past of the king and queen’s life. It also made me question if the construction of such a luxurious Palace was necessary, considering the fact that many people during the time were starving to death in the city. There is one thing I will remember forever and that is how amazed I was as I walked through Versailles, the palace where Louis XIV and Louis XVI lived in. 

‘’The Story Behind Montluc’’ by Sheyla Rodriguez from FIU at Lyon.

Photo by Sheyla Rodriguez

About 292 miles from Paris, Lyon is known for its authentic landscapes and history. It is the third- largest city and the second- largest urban area in France.  As I walked around Lyon, I fell in love with the elevations and the views of the Rhone and Saone rivers. The uniformity and structure of the houses made out of rocks and painted with ‘’a kind of goldish pigment’’ that mimicked the nearby landscape was something to remember forever.

       Perhaps the beauty that characterizes Lyon, I can certainly say that its history was what captured my attention the most. Visiting the Montluc Prison was the highlight of my trip. Montluc was built in 1921 and initially used for military prisoners. After the invasion of the Germans to the ‘’Free France,’’ the prison became the place where many Jewish families were held before being sent to concentration camps. Hearing the testimonial of Claude Bloch, a holocaust survivor was a once in a lifetime experience. Knowing that Bloch was just a fifteen years old child filled with joy when the German Nazis killed his grandfather and mother and then took him to Auschwitz where he constantly had to fight for his life left me heartbroken. These acts show how mankind is able to dehumanize and torture others for supporting a different religion, or for having different ethnicities. The destruction of Jewish families and the hateful acts made in order to extinguish a race has been the most horrific era in history. All human beings should be seen as equal. In a world where hate is still a problem, it is our job to stand and fight for a world where we respect each other and live in harmony. Without a doubt, hearing Mr. Bloch’s story was an eye- opening experience. I am glad I got the opportunity to be a witness to someone that was able to survive such monstrosity. It was emotional to hear that he was able to remake his life after all that tragedy. Now, it is my duty to make his story transcend from generation to generation. Without doubts, Bloch is a true hero, a fighter, and the strongest person I HAVE EVER MET.  

‘’A Story that Needs to be Known’’ by Sheyla Rodriguez from FIU at Izieu

Photo by Sheyla Rodriguez

As I walked through Izieu, a home designed to protect children from the Nazi persecution, I understood how hard it must have been to live in the most devastating period in history. Back in time, Izieu was one of the most secure spots parents could send their children, since it was located in the area that wasn’t occupied by Germany. This house used to receive children from different places such as France, Germany, Poland, etc.  Even though being separated from their families was a difficult process for the children, there are letters and drawings of them that document how well they were treated. Children were provided with meals, they had time to play outside, they would receive an education, they would communicate with their loved ones, and they would even celebrate Christmas. They were also aware of the situation and what was going on around them. Many of them expressed in their letters how much they would love to have their parents back, to be reunited. But sadly, their ‘’relative happiness and hope’’ came to an end. Things drastically changed when Lyon Gestapo arrested the 44 children that were there and seven other adults. He took them to a prison in Lyon and the next day they were deported by orders of Klaus Barbie. Many of them were tortured and killed.

As I walked through Izieu, the classroom left me in shock. I could imagine the children learning and laughing in a normal day.  But at the same time, I felt a sense of emptiness. It was all a blurry image of desks, this time with no children, as tears fell from my eyes. Oh lord, ‘’What an unfair world.’’ The frames with the pictures of those innocent kids which lives were taken will always be in my mind. My heart is broken in pieces, my mind just can’t understand how a human being is capable of destroying families, of killing people. These kids are part of me now and it is my duty to share their story so the whole world can know about the ‘’Crimes Against Humanity.’’

Elaine Morales Fraginals: France as Text 2019.

Elaine Morales is a student at Florida International University majoring in Psychology with a concentration on Behavior Analysis. Elaine plans to graduate this Summer 2019 from the Honors College and start her Masters in Behavior Analysis next Fall. Elaine plans to become a certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and work with Autistic kids. She is also an entrepreneur who is developing her Behavior Analysis clinic (N3N3 BA Therapy, LLC) and a personal blog https://crazypsycho.blog about Psychology issues in the XXI century. These are her France as Texts.

Aesthetic Controversy in Paris by Elaine Morales of FIU at Paris, France

Paris is the most visited city in the world, and thousands of people arrive here every year to see famous structures such the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Pyramid. They observe what they eyes are prepared for: stunning edifications with a lot of history inside. However, the most amazing element of both is the aesthetic controversy behind them. Paris is an elegant city, where styles such as Gothic, Renaissance, Mannerism, Belle Epoque and Baroque (French classicism) combine all together to create a beautiful harmony.   Such equilibrium was broken with the inclusion of mass a pure iron just facing La Seine. The Eiffel Tower ended with centuries of classic art just to send the message of the Modern Era. It wasn’t the arrival of a new style to Paris; it was the Industrial Revolution itself. The tower broke all the aesthetic codes that had have been stablished in Paris since Rome. An atypical welcome to the world where we live in today. It was an imposition of technology, metals, new styles, new feelings, new beginnings a new way of thinking over the city of Paris. It converted an historical land in an adaptable capital, being so controversial that became the more iconic sign of the city nowadays. 

Something similar happened with the insertion of the pyramid in the Louvre Museum. A modernist edification in the middle of a classic French Renaissance monument. The contraposition of two different styles changing the way of thinking of a methodic population. An edification of a new generation that remembers the start of the art in Egypt. It was a harsh in the city and a wound in the culture for many Parisians. Both are symbols of Paris and constitute attractions for locals and tourists. They represent the aesthetic controversy of the most visited city, and perhaps the conflictive and revolutionary temper that characterize all France.  

Was it worth? By Elaine Morales of FIU at France, 2019.

Was it worth? It was the last question professor Bailly asked at the end of the class at Versailles. A massive YES killed my concerns at that moment. However, once I summarized all the elements learned during the day, my answer differed from the massive YES. Louis XIV created a monument at Versailles. He had a vision and he accomplished what he dreamt about: everyone in the world wants to see Chateau de Versailles. It is probably the Rococo itself, a piece of art, a unique palace, the best of France….But he sacrificed the food of his people, the peace of a country and probably the continuation of the monarchy in France. He used the state money to build Versailles, a place where only him and his relatives were able to live in. He used the life of his people to create a Monument for himself. The palace was not meant to be used for the good of France, was made to enhance the power of the king. The palace is a tourist attraction today and provides revenue to the country thanks to the people who fought in the French Revolution and abolished the monarchy. If the monarchy of France would have stayed the way it was Versailles would be the palace where the king lives instead of a place for the good of the country. 

We fight for better societies based on the respect of the human rights, in the quality of education and health care access, in the happiness and stress level of the people. Then, how are we going to sustenance that it was worthy to sacrifice all the human rights for a palace. Humans, nature comes, and life always come first, and every time we forget it, we lose. It is never going to be worthy changing priorities and putting enrichment, power and wealth before peace, love and tolerance. 

Threefold death by Elaine Morales of FIU at Lyon, France.

Humanity is defined by the Cambridge dictionary as all people in the world as whole, or the qualities characteristic of people. None has the right to dehumanize others, to make them slaves, to kill them or to convert them into numbers. B-3692 was the difference between a person and an item. Once that number was part of Claude Bloch’s forearm, he wasn’t considered a human being anymore, and was condemned to the most horrific tortures I have ever heard off.  He was fifteen when his grandfather and his mother were killed, when he had to say good bye to his school, city, friends, and his childhood in order to play the role of a man in order to survive. His dreams were no longer a toy, a girl or a trip. His only dream was waking up with the strength to work and to support the hate, the mistreatment and the pain. He just wanted to survive the Holocaust induced by the Nazi Germany. 

Two thirds of the Jew’s population (6 million) were murdered between 1941 and 1845, and Mr. Bloch could be considered lucky for surviving. The most painful memory from his story was his mother pushing Bloch away to save his life. The most hopeful one was the sight of the Swiss Red Cross flag in the darkness at the moment he was saved.

         Even when The Shoah was over, he was murdered several times. The first time was when the Germans dehumanized him and made him a number. The second one was when Germans treated him like an object and tortured him without compassion. The third one and the most unforgettable one, was when justice wasn’t done. When his mouth was silent because no one wanted to hear his story. When the Nazis never paid for what they did. When the next generations led Klaus Barbie into liberty and under protection by the American Government. We kill Mr. Bloch when we allow our government to separate people and to differentiate us between races, colors and economic status. We murder him when we do not repeat his message, when we forget the Jews that died in the last century. We continue killing Jews, killing memories every time we hide the pain and cover the blood that others caused. We are complicit if we do not end discrimination, if we do not respect others and if we do not love life the way Claude Bloch did. 

Unfinished Letter by Elaine Morales of FIU at Izieu, France.

Izieu, April 6th1944. 

Dear Mother:

I hope you and dad are as well as me when you receive this letter. I miss you so much and I can’t wait to see you again. I am behaving really good, better than last year, and I am doing my homework after class. I am eating a reasonable amount of food as you suggested and only one spoon of sugar per day. I am learning the French language and Miss Feldblum says I am really good at dialectics. I have been sad because I am forgetting my piano lessons and I feel that dad is going to be mad at me. I promise to practice all the songs as soon as I get home. Mom, I miss you when I go to sleep and sometimes, I have nightmares about the war. I see a door that closes, you and dad are in a white side and I am in a dark side, and I don’t see you again. I wake up crying and wishing I could hug you. I wonder how aunt Mary is doing, if she misses me as much as I miss her.  I met another girl here; her name is Esther Benassayag and she is also 12 years old. The kids are good, and we have a lot of time to play together but I always prefer talking about modals and dresses with Esther. We love going out and running around the fountain. The water here is clear and fresh. I respect everyone in the house, just as you told me in your last letter, and I am especially kind with the adults Lucie, Mina, Sarah, Moise and Miron. Moise is really old, have white hair and looks like grandfather. I know you are worried about my health and my stomach problems. I assure you I’m fine, and I’m taking hot chocolate every morning. My clothes are clean, and my toys are few, but I really like them. Mom, I have to end my letter here because Miss Friedler is saying my name. They are all taking breakfast and I am late for my hot chocolate. Oh mom, Miss Friedler is yelling at the kids, something bad is happening because she is the nicer adult here. Mom, there are more adults yelling, they have red symbols in their uniforms, and they look really tall. Their cars are giant, and they have big toys in their hands. Mom, I am scared, these adults are not like Mina or Lucie. They are coming here! They want me, they want me! Mom. What should I do? Mom, I don’t know wha

(The letter is unfished on purpose. The writing style and the vocabulary used in the letter are based in a 12 years old girl. The letter is fiction. All the names, ages and dates are based in historical facts).  

Natalie Mateo- France as Text 2019

Photo taken by Jessica Horsham

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

Below are her reflections throughout the France 2019 program.

Paris as Text

CC by 4.0

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

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

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

Versailles as Text

CC by 4.0

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

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

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

Izieu as Text

CC by 4.0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carlos Gregorio Hernandez, 16

Juan de Leon Gutierrez, 16

Felipe Alonzo- Gomez, 8

Jakelin Caal, 7

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

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

Lyon as Text

CC by 4.0

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

Is this what France has become?

A place where people cower in fear

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

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

A place where families are torn apart

A place where children are resistance fighters

A place where mothers and their children and held in cells

What have we become?

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

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

The Resistance prints messages and papers several feet under ground

The Resistance sings La Marseilles in the streets

The Resistance graffities Vive La France on the side of buildings

The Resistance is hiding Jewish families in their farm houses

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

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

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

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité

These are principles tattooed onto the hearts of every Frenchman

These principles are what keep us going

These principles will guide us through this never-ending nightmare

These principles are what makes dying for France worth it

Sebastian Cajamarca: España as Text 2019

My name is Sebastian Cajamarca. I am an undergrad student at Florida International University purposing a bachelor’s degree in psychology. I am a junior in the honors college currently on the honors program for Spain Study Abroad 2019.

Complete Silence by Sebastian Cajamarca of FIU at Madrid, Spain (Plaza De Toros) 

In a stadium full of thousands of people screaming and shouting, the only thing that stood out was the silence. In a very spontaneous and fun day, our class decided to participate in one of Spain’s most viscous sports: Bullfighting. 

As a tourist, I didn’t know much about Spain, much less Madrid. The only things I knew about this country were the stereotypical Spain traditions that are known by many Americans. Such as flamingo dancing, party life in Madrid, and bullfights. Therefore, I had a preconceived idea of what I wanted to experience here. 

 Next thing you know, the first bull appears. It was a viscous and dangerous round. Somehow, the first bull survived. Cows come into the arena signifying victory for the bull. Thankfully, we learned that in class and I was able to figure it out. Otherwise, I would still be wondering about the cows! However, the remaining bulls did not have the same luck. Bull after bull kept coming in and the matadors, with the help of their assistant, kept killing the bulls. Slowly but shortly the bulls started to die. It was gruesome and merciless the way each dead bull was dragged outside of the stadium. However, there was one bull performance that highlighted my experience. 

During the third round or so, the whole stadium went silent as a matador was trying to stab a bull in neck. I had never experienced such goosebumps when that stadium went completely silent. That was the last time I heard that silence. The matador was gored in the leg. This had to be the most amazing thing I had ever witness. People were screaming, crying, and cheering. I had never seen a man be lift by a bull’s horn so viciously. They never did tell us what happened to the matador or his leg. They just kept the show going. I’ll never forget it.

The View by Sebastian Cajamarca of FIU at Toledo, Spain

The city of Toledo, its food, and people have been my favorite experience in Spain yet. We had an unforgettable experience in Toledo. Our tour guide, Juan showed and taught us about the historic churches and religious cultural norms that the city has been following since its beginnings. Right after our tour, a couple of us went to eat at a local restaurant in the city. I ordered the best burger I’ve had in Spain yet! After our meal, we all came to a consensus that Toledo had really good food to offer. Almost better than most place we have been too! After we ate, the real excitement began. 

Our class’ objective was to get the full view of Toledo. To do this, we hiked up mountains and rocks. It was a tricky, fun, and dangerous task for me because I had never gone hiking before. It was a full day of physical activities that was all new to me. As someone who lives in Miami, I don’t have the opportunity to hike. Much less, being able to have such glorious views from up a mountain. Throughout this experience, I learned that I like to take some risks in my life and go out in to the world. More importantly, the point of hiking wasn’t for us to lose weight or be in shape but to be able to witness the city of Toledo how is was meant to be seen. I am looking forward to do more activities like these during the summer and for the rest of my life.

“My Head is Still Buzzing” by Sebastian Cajamarca of FIU at Sevilla, Spain

On a very spontaneous day, my roommate, Alain and I decided to walk around the city of Sevilla. After grabbing dinner, we came across a flyer for a flamenco show. At first, I was not sold on the idea of going to a flamenco show. On the other hand, Alain recommended that we should go and took it upon himself to buy two tickets for us.

On our way to the flamenco show, we walked by the streets of Santa Cruz. During our time in Sevilla, my fifteen minute walk to the show engraved a memory in me that I will never forget. The sky was blue and red with long clouds, women were wearing beautiful dresses, kids were running happy, couples were getting busy, and local stores were thriving with success. Truly a remarkable experience. Once we got to the flamenco show, I did not know what to expect. We got there just in time. The show was about to start. The flamenco show had four performers: guitarist, singer, male dancer, and a female dancer. First, the guitarist and the singer come out. The guitarist starts tuning his guitar while the singer taps his foot on the wooden stage and makes a melody. Simple but the sound of his voice gave it a personal feeling. I felt happiness and sadness with a lot of mix euphoria.

The guitarist starts playing. A male and female flamenco dancer come out. The proceed to dance and embody the music. Softly building up their stamina as they went along. I had never seen dancing like this in my life. The passion and work each of them put into the show made me feel that my day was building its way up to see this show. The flamenco show made me feel like I finally experienced the real Spain. At the end of the show, Alain asked me what I thought of the show. I responded, “My head is still buzzing.” I was in awe. I was glad to do something new and liked it. Even more happy that I got to experienced it.

Reflection by Sebastian Cajamarca of FIU at Granada, Spain

During our bus ride from Sevilla to Granada, I had a rough time. However, the three-hour long bus ride gave me time to reflect and contemplate about my life for a bit. Since I did not have the best wi-fi connection, I only listened to Frank Ocean songs and enjoyed the view of the cities and farms we passed by. I felt better.

 Once we got to Granada, I gave myself enough time to reflect on my study abroad experience in Spain so far and what I was going to do after this. I did not expect for this bus ride to help that much but it did. Simply just sitting down and contemplating gave me good inner peace. After grabbing food, we took a cab to the Palacios Nazarier. In this palace, the greatest and oldest Islamic art in world resided.

Out of all the stunning centerpieces of the Alhambra that we came across, the one that spoke the most to me was the abundance of the water. The water is the reflection of the sky and the stars. Its main purpose was for contemplation. And before that bus ride, I didn’t think much about contemplation and reflection. However, I found it extremely fascinating now that I understood how helpful it was to reflect. I understood the purpose behind this simple work of art and appreciated it. I felt an abundance of happiness by looking at the clear reflection of the water. I felt a strong connection with myself and the many people that had come before me to ponder about life.

The Echo by Sebastian Cajamarca of FIU at Barcelona, Spain (Palau de la Música Catalan)

During a very unexpected but pleasant day, we were surprised with a quick tour of Barcelona’s most distinguish concert halls: Palau de la Música. The history of this concert hall unfolded as our tour guide walked us through different levels of the building and charismatically gave us more insight on their past, present, and future. The concert hall, insight and out, displayed enormous Catalan identity. From sculptures of Saint Jordi fighting a dragon on the outside of the building to trencadís art on pillars by Gaudí in the inside. It was a jaw-dropping experience to witness this concert hall like no other. Gaudí’s work created an ambiance of nature by mixing human made components. His work, among others, created the style of modernisme. It all came together once we had the privilege to watch a very talented choir rehearse. I had no idea what they were saying. Some were singing and others were talking among each other. It was perfectly choreographed to the point that if I closed my eyes I could picture what they were saying in my head. It was as if the Catalan people were talking. About their culture, history, people, and future. It was quite breathtaking. However, one should not attempt to close his or her eyes at any point inside this concert hall. The echo of their voices with the spectacular scenery around us accompanied each other very well and made for an unforgettable experience.

Call to Art by Sebastian Cajamarca of FIU at Sitges, Barcelona (Cau Ferrat Museum)

Once we arrived to Sitges, our lovely tour guide, Vinyet Panyella gave us great insight of the Cau Ferrat Museum. Walking the same path that Charles Deering did his first time in Sitges, Vinyet began to inform us about Deering’s adventures at Sitges. Together, Charles Deering and Ramon Casas – good friend and artist – began to explore Sitges. Our next stop, coincidently just like Deering and Casas, took us into the Cau Ferrat museum. This building had amazing art from collector Santiago Rusiñol. Every corner of the museum was a spectacular demonstration of collectionism. This place was called the Maricel Palace. It had an array of showings. All the way from paintings by El Greco to Pablo Picasso. However, nothing grabbed my attention more than seeing the pianos. Just simple instruments that weren’t explained much but kept me focus. I found it extremely compelling and inspiring to find out that Rusiñol new how to play piano and didn’t just had one for the sake of collectionism. Playing the piano here was used for practicing his calls to art. I related to that form of expression. Knowing this introduced me to a different perspective. It helped me understand Rusiñol a little better. Also, finding out that other influential people such as Victor Jara came here to play piano blew my mind. Jara was depressed about the current war and decided to come here to forget about it for a while. I didn’t feel that silly about being more charmed about these instruments than all the other magnificent art around me anymore.

Keysa Garcia: España as Text 2019

Photo of Keysa Garcia @keysadillaa at El Parque del Retiro @parque_del_retiro in Madrid, Spain

Keysa Garcia is a current student of the Florida International Univeristy Honors College and is majoring in both Biological Sciences and Chemistry with a minor in Mathematics. After attending Spain Study Abroad in the Summer, Keysa will work her way towards graduating in Spring 2020. She will begin by preparing for the MCAT and applying to Medical Schools, in order to fulfill her dreams of becoming a Pediatric Oncologist. Keysa is also passionate about traveling the world and emerging herself within different cultures, as she has been constantly reminded that you learn more a day abroad than a day at school.

Madrid as Text

“Notre Père.” by Keysa Garcia of @fiuhonors at in Madrid, Spain on June 8th, 2019

Painting by ??? // Photo taken by Keysa Garcia @keysadillaa

The faith and church order of the Roman Catholic Church is referred to as Catholicism, something that I have practiced and preached for as long as I can remember. As I have see pictures of my parents and god parents hovering over me as I was submerged into holy water in order to be regenerated, purified, and admitted into the Catholic Church is a reminder of what started it all. From there, many years passed as I still continued attending church and practicing my faith. I went to CCD classes, took my Communion pictures, attended Confirmation classes, and selected my Confirmation Sponsor.

However, through the midst of it all, life kept on moving and I began questioning my faith. My mother was diagnosed with Stage 3 Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, both of my maternal grandparents passed, and my father would never be home to help my 9 year-old self take care of my mother as he had to pick up any side job possible in order to have food on the table. Every little obstacle I faced made me questioned my faith and god more and more. However, I started to live everyday by thinking that God places his toughest soldiers in his strongest battles… My battle was just tougher than other elementary/middle schoolers, as I began to become to the maternal figure for my father and three brothers.

I believe the picture I chose captured one of the toughest times in my life, as it represents my catholic faith glowing and being what I was seeking guidance from but the moving man (life) being a distraction. A year had passed, and my situations were getting worse, and I officially gave up on my faith.

A few years later, I was enrolled in St. Brendan Catholic High School located in the heart of Westchester, Florida. An institution that gave me the best four years of my life, and gave me the opportunity to grow back into my faith. I decided to continue and strengthen the French my mom taught me at home in school, as I didn’t want to be like everyone else and take Spanish. Madame Castillo, welcomed the entire class and taught us the Notre Père, hearing the Our Father in the most beautiful language in the world made me want to learn more about my faith and regain my connection with god in French.

Depuis ce jour, je remercie Dieu d’être allé dans une école catholique. Je remercie également Dieu pour la beauté de la langue française que ma mère m’a apprise depuis l’âge de trois ans et je remercie Madame Castillo de m’avoir fait renouer des liens avec Dieu.

Toledo as Text

“Lost & Found Box” by Keysa Garcia of @fiuhonors at El Grecos View in Toledo, Spain on June 12, 2019

Photo of Keysa Garcia @keysadilaa in Toledo, Spain // Photo taken by Carlos Rojas @carlos_gucci

On June 11th of 2019, my Professor, John W. Bailly advised the entire Spain Honors Study Abroad class to dress in our best “hiking gear” for class tomorrow in Toledo. Immediately after hearing this I began to ask myself what did I get myself into… However, I accepted the news. On the morning of June 12th, I was rushing my way through breakfast and putting on my new black Decathlon cropped leggings making sure I suited Professor Bailly’s hiking gear standards.

Prior to this trip and hike in Toledo, my life felt fuzzy. I found myself to be trapped inside a lost and found box, as if I were a sweater or a pair glasses that an elementary school child had left behind after a long day of learning how to add and subtract. Arriving to Toledo and walking over to Zocodover, I was thanking myself for signing up for OrangeTheroy and all those days where we had to put our treadmill incline at 10.0. As we finished our tour, and finished our lunch. I knew that the hike was going to start once Bailly released his man-bun and let all 17 of us (18 with Vicky) admire his lucious silver strands. We commenced our hike with our collapsible water bottles in one hand, and fear in the other. The hike continued and my biggest worry was what rock to put my foot on. At that moment I truly felt the fuzz from Miami fade away and I began to submerge myself in the views that El Greco painted which became complete clarity. I felt like I was able to leave the lost and found box and escape to what nature had to offer.

Puritans, like William Bradford believed that nature was a negative source of energy, as they believed that nature didn’t approve of there voyage. Puritans believed this as they faced danger throughout there voyage at sea. However, mountains are usually a place where one goes to clear their head, a space for contemplation. El Greco follows this tradition as he paints the same mountain ridge I was able to hike and admire.

Sevilla as Text

“Giralda” by Keysa Garcia @keysadillaa of the @fiuhonors at La Cathedral de Sevilla on June 17, 2019

The Giralda Tower, a portion of La Cathedral de Sevilla // Photo Taken by Keysa Garcia @keysadillaa

TURRIS FORTISSIMA NOMEN DNI PROVERBS 18” is engraved at the top of the the Giralda tower at La Cathedral de Sevilla this means “The name of the lord is a strong tower” and it is a proverb in the Bible (proverb 18:10). I believe that this proverb adequately suits the tower, as the tower is founded and built upon great origin and history.

The Giralda tower was built in hopes of being a minaret, a multipurpose tower that is built adjacent to a mosque and generally used as a focal point for Adhan, Muslim call to prayer. However, in the year 1248 during the Reconquista, the purpose of the Giralda tower have changed as the tower now serves as a a bell tower to a Christian Cathedral, La Catedral de Sevilla. The tower successfully began its transformation to be a bell tower in the 16th century as a portion of the building was added to include more bells, as Hernán Ruíz was commissioned to not only add height to the building but to create a statue that would embodied the true Christian Faith of Sevilla.

The area constructed by Hernán Ruíz, contains Sevilla’s motto NO8OD, No me ha dejado, meaning “She has not abandoned me”. The motto is spelled with an 8 in the middle in order to represent madeja, hank, a coiled or wrapped piece of yarn.

Granada as Text

“Seven Heavens” by Keysa Garcia @keysadillaa of the @fiuhonors at Alhambra @alhambra_oficial in Granada, Spain on June 18th, 2019

Lote Tree design on the walls of Alhambra @alhambra_oficial // Photo taken by Keysa Garcia @keysadillaa

When arriving to Alhambra, I decided to follow what Professor Bailly said and be “Islamic for a day” as I was able to follow the same path Muslims would walk, and have the opportunity to be surrounded by natural delicacies such as water and perfectly landscaped gardens. However, since I was placing myself in the shoes of being Islamic for the day, I wanted to know what it would be like to reach the seventh heaven.

It is stated that ancient philosophers believe that the seven heavens correlate to the seven different planets in our Solar System, Mercury, Venus, Moon, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The notion of Seven Heavens is rooted to ancient Mesopotamia religions, such as Judaism, Catholicism, and Islam. However, some differences are noted amongst the three. For example, Islamic tradition believes that Heaven and Paradise are two different things; as paradise is the final resting place of the soul, unlike Catholics who’s ultimate goal and final resting place for your soul is heaven.

When walking through the palace and fortress I was emerging myself in its beauty, a true experience like no other. Eagerly admiring the intricate work on the walls and ceiling, made me want to experience the seventh heaven by stepping out of my catholic faith and learning and exploring more about different ancient Mesopotamian religions.

Barcelona as Text

”The Sacred Family” by Keysa Garcia @keysadillaa of the @fiuhonors at La Sagrada Família @basilicasagradafamilia in Barcelona, Spain on June 21, 2019.

La Sagrada Família @basilicasagradafamilia // Photo taken by Keysa Garcia @keysadillaa

Located in the heart of Barcelona, Spain, La Sagrada Família to me is one of the most astonishing architectural masterpieces within the European Union, and also one of Antoni Gaudí most intricate works.

The constructing of the basilica began in 1882, under the supervision and directory of Fransico de Paula del Villar, it wasn’t until 1883 that Antoni Gaudí abolished Fransico de Paula del Villar plans and began to construct the basilica. Gaudí was given this project at the age of 31, until his tragic death in 1926 at 74, Gaudí worked on the basilica with the purpose of tying all symbols and popular stories of the Christian faith into one.

When designing the basilica, it seemed to be that Gaudí was aware of the complexity and time it would take to finish it as the most intricate portion of La Sagrada Família is the front, also know as The Nativity Facade. The Nativity facade is the only portion of the basilica to be near completion before his death. The facade is filled with sculptures of biblical figures, animals, symbols, and the tree of life. However, the facade is composed of three different entries and four different bell towers. The entries are Hope, Charity, and Faith that are located from left to right and the four different bell towers are dedicated to four different Saints, Matthew, Jude, Barnabas, and Simon.

After admiring the overwhelming yet beautiful Nativity facade, you made your way inside the basilica. Inside La Sagrada Família, you can really capture and embrace Gaudí love for nature as all the column you are surrounded with are representations of trees. However, you inside the basilica your eyes are drawn to the stain glass windows as one side is dedicated to the Resurrection as the other side is decayed to the birth of Christ.

As it is my third time visiting the Sagrada Família, I still find myself more and more amazed with the overwhelming architecture and spiritual message. I find myself sitting outside of La Sagrada Família for 2+ hours just admiring section by section, as Gaudí architectural work is breathtaking. Although the basilica remains unfinished, there is a hope that tourist and locals would be able to admire the finished basilica in 2026.

Sitges as Text

“Compare & Contrast” by Keysa Garcia @keysadillaa of the @fiuhonors at Palau de Maricel in Sitges, Spain on June 27, 2019

View from El Palau de Maricel @museudesitges // Photo taken by Keysa Garcia @keysadillaa

As someone who was born and raised into a strong Cuban family, I have had the honor of seeing how American and Spanish culture mix with one another. However, not only has my families nationality allowed me to see how two different cultures come together but living in the city of Miami, has allowed me to see how food, traditions, and music have been implemented into our life. During the Spring Semester I had the opportunity to visit Deering Estate, but during the Summer Semester I visited the Palau de Maricel… I where I was allowed to see how Spanish art and architecture in Deering Estate are influenced by the Palau de Maricel.

At the Palau de Maricel one is taken away by a white washed building with stone trimmings that sits along the Balearic Sea. However, I was moved when I took the time to look at the building as I could picture myself during my Friday morning IDH 4007 class at Deering Estate… As the columns and archways of the Palau de Maricel reflected to those Charles Deering implemented at his Estate in Cutler Bay, Florida. Nonetheless, being able to compare and contrast both buildings and their architectural structures was not as interesting as learning how Charles Deering played a role within the history of Sitges and the Palau de Maricel.

As our guide Vinyet told us the history between both locations and between different historic individuals. For example, learning how Charles Deering lived in the beautiful city of Sitges as he would store his artwork with the constant help of Miquel Utrillo within the building. When touring the building we had the opportunity to get “up close and personal” to masterpieces by Goya and El Greco, unlike the distance we had to keep at other institutions from the paintings. However, all these paintings were golden tokens in Charles Deering’s art collection.

Yet, those golden tokens rested on the walls of the Palau de Maricel until Charles Deering transported them to America. The art collection created between Charles Deering and Miquel Utrillo disappeared. As Vinyet explained everything with such knowledge and passion, she not only taught us about Spanish-American history but she was able to convey a message that all can interpret differently but all learn something from… It was a perfect way to end such an enriching program.

XC as Text

“All roads lead to…” by Keysa Garcia @keysadillaa of the @fiuhonors in Spain on June 27, 2019

Magnetic Tiles with popular street/plaza names // Photo taken by Keysa Garcia @keysadillaa

Monique Moussa: The Grand Tour Redux

Fire, Earth, Air, and Water

I signed up for the Grand Tour Redux thinking that it will be an amazing vacation to have. What better way is there to spend my summer than spending it in Italy? I did not really consider what I would learn, experience, embrace and potential love. I did not truly realize what I signed up for until the first day of class in Rome. It started to hit me; this is not going to be a vacation but rather a major educational trip for me. After the completion of this class, I can say with certainty that there was so much I had learned and now a foundation of knowledge on art and history that I did not have before. 

As time went on the trip, my mind started to wonder. I started making connections with all the places we have gone to. Then, something interesting hit me one day when I was in Cinque Terre; all the major cities we stayed to represent an element of nature. I was already so fascinated by the vastness of greenery I have seen in Italy, but upon making that realization I began to appreciate the cities for being in tune with nature even more.

For this project, I will go into explaining how each of the cities that we stayed at reflects an element from nature. By each of these cities, Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, and Venice, being related to these astrological notions allow for individuals of other faiths to want to come to Italy. That religion alone is not a reason to want to make a pilgrimage to these cities.

Rome – Fire

For each of the elements, there is a meaning to them. Rome demonstrates how it is like fire. Fire can create warmth but can continue burning from the ashes.  That is exactly what Rome is. Rome started most modern civilizations and ruler after ruler, it still controlled most of modern Europe despite and of their failures. Rome encompasses so much history and richness from the past but it continues to grow and demonstrate many modern ideas. Within Rome there is a train station, Termini, which can take you to the ruins of the old city but while the station itself is up to date with modern technology and designs. The train station has small shops, a food market and resembles a small mall.  As stated, Rome is the element fire, though it is no at its peak, it continues to burn and be on the large influential city. Many cities in the United States try to accomplish similar ideas. New York’s main train station is similar to Termini and is like Rome in the sense that it is a city with an extensive history.

How do you compete with fire

You touch it, you burn

You see it and it heats you up

Trying to copy fire that’s from the ashes

Never getting to the level of meaning

Ashes burning till today

Ashes that still hold so much meaning

Can we even compete and try to replicate this?

The US tries to be like this city of fire but how can it. How can it compete with a city that has been through so much and still raised? Rome’s rise began with the assassination of Julius Caesar, but that was just the beginning. There was Augustus who reformed the land and started to rule Rome as an emperor. Even after the introduction of Catholicism, Rome still was able to keep part of its history. Even with all the attempts to put out its fire, it is still standing and proud of its history. Like fire, it burns bright and makes Italy more known. There still stands tall and proud, the Colosseum, showing the power and magnificence of Rome. There is always a constant reminder to show the flames of what Rome used to be. In comparison to the United States, Italy has a significantly more cultural history as well as richness in their lands.

For those who are not very religious can still come to Rome and appreciate the city. Though Rome does have a dense religious history, due to its development and art that prospered in this city nonreligious individuals can feel a spiritual connection with the place. I found that the land contained and captured colors like no other place in the world before and looking back I could see Rome when it was at its highest and see it burning brighter than any other city. Referencing back to New York, New York is the Rome of the US. It contains historical significance and demonstrates the power of the US with the stock market and overall as a business city. Taking from Rome, the US wanted a place that lights up the US as much as Rome does for Italy but it does not compare. While New York does hold its own beauty, Rome is much more natural and has a depth that connects people to its city such as the fountains, the wildlife growth, the colors of the buildings, the architecture, just about everything from Rome.

Florence – Air

While Rome showed power and strength, Florence had shown how change is good.

One burst and it can push you down

One push and it can change your direction

One second you can be going backwards the next forward

Florence is like air

It changes directions

One minute it is not there then it is

It can be weak but it can also be extremely strong

But most of all, don’t underestimate the power of the air

Florence gives you a breath of fresh air. Moving from the hustle and bustle of Rome to this smaller city was empowering. It is known that Florence is the city for the renaissance yet it is so small. It shows how even the smallest of cities can make a difference. Florence contains many works of the Renaissance and not just any work but some of the most impactful ones. The colors of the city are not as bright as Rome but just as impactful. The city holds a shade of gray but it used to be a city known for its colors and bringing forth light by moving away from darker images.

When you walk past Brunelleschi’s dome, the stripes entrap you. It is hypnotic. I had to take a moment to let it all in. I did not think the dome was all that significant, even after the readings and the lectures, but the moment I saw the dome, my breath was stolen. I felt like was taken back in time; back to 1420 when there was a shift from the religious world to the new world. A world with art and science, the rebirth.

Florence does not just contain the dome but also the Sistine Chapel and the David. Though all three are religious pieces, they each invite the world to see them for more than just their religious reasons. They were revolutionary in the art world and people from all over come to just appreciate the works despite the religious aspect.

It used to be that Catholicism was what ruled Italy, but these artworks started that shift from religion. While in the past travelers would come to Florence to see the works made for god, now they come to see the art simply for its magnificence.

There is a division within Florence; the part for the tourists and the part for the locals. The division is separated by a river and where the locals live is Oltrarno. It is funny how one of the bridges, the bridge the Medicis took charge of, is only used for selling jewelry. It separates the two worlds of Florence, and it gives you a glimpse into another world. Oltrarno is just as beautiful and is known for its Boboli Gardens. The garden is a major tourist location even though it’s not towards central Florence simply because it is beautiful. People travel to Florence, not simply for its religious connections but because Florence makes people feel connected with nature and art. It is always changing and sometimes it might give you a little chill from the views you see, just like the wind.

Cinque Terre – Earth

Hoping off a train to see a beach has to be the best feeling ever and it was. After not seeing the ocean for a while, it got to me that I missed the view of seeing waves crashing on the shore. Coming to Cinque Terre was different, it was magical. The view of the ocean was incredible due to the color of the water, the rocks within the ocean and the rocks on the sand. All of these factors made the first glimpse into Cinque Terre. The hike though physically straining, it made me appreciate the city even more. It gave each town more meaning because we had to struggle to get there. With every struggling step, there was more reward for when we saw the villages.

At first, it seems like all the villages are the same; they are all colorful and by the sea. It is hard to detect the differences between the cities. Manarola, one of the five towns, is quite small. The local’s homes and the tourist locations are extremely close to one another. The locals are actively involved in the tourism business for the town. Specifically to Manarola is how tourists have to go through and see people’s homes before they get to the view of the ocean. So, those individuals really get to see how and who live in this majestic town.

Even with the obvious views of the water, many tourists come to see Cinque Terre for religious reasons. In the town of Manarola, there’s a church for Saint Lawrence. Though even with the world being mostly full of religious individuals. Cinque Terre is visited by for its ability to be one with nature, despite being tied to many religious buildings.

The earth is the ground

The earth is real and allows for growth

Slowly the earth grows

The earth has many layers

Sometimes you just gotta keep digging

You will find the depth of the earth

Find the secrets and hidden beauty

Cinque Terre is a symbol of the earth. It is true to its nature and shows the world for how it is not for how people want it to be.

Venice – Water

Finally but not least, we hope on the train to Venice. Since as long as I can remember, I’ve been told Venice is like no other city, no city can compete with Venice. I did not think much of it because I thought it was similar to the Keys, but I was wrong. Venice clearly being built on the water was more surprising to see than I thought. I cannot wrap my head around how the people of the past thought of such a plan to build Venice. Going over the canals to get to different parts of the city was interesting, it was like walking into a new hidden world. Every step further into Venice was another step towards discovering the city.

The city is lovely with all the vibrant colors of the masks and blowing glass. It gives the city a sense of liveliness. There were always people walking around the streets. Venice is known for having plenty of tourists, that more tourists come than there are people that live in the city itself. Yet, with all the tourists it makes Venice make more sense. It seems whole when there are plenty of people walking through the streets and why should they not? Venice has so much influence from around the world and it can be seen on every street.

Like every major city in Italy, there is a significant basilica that comes with it. In the main part of Venice is Saint Mark’s Square, within the square is Saint Mark’s Basilica. Saint Mark is the Saint for Venice and it can be seen, Venice’s flags have the symbol of Mark, the winged lion. The basilica is beyond wonderful. The outside is powerful with the four horses on top and with the La Pala D’Oro. Overall, the basilica and the square were wonderful sights to see.

San Polo was one of the hardest places to build upon in Venice due to the foundation. It is a small part of the city that is mainly covered by the small canal and in some parts the Grande Canal. There are plenty of local houses within this area of Venice, but there’s also still plenty of businesses that are based there. San Polo also has three churches, and for such a small part of the city, that is a lot of churches to have. It is a much simpler version of Saint Marks square. It is a shame that not many come to visit this part of Venice because it is not as popular as Saint Marks or the Rialto.

Venice is a city that many come to and do not even understand what they see when they come to Venice. It is not just a city built on water. It is an alive city that has cultures of all kinds expressed. This city many come just to see the city and due to the fact that saint Marks square is the largest open area, that is where most tourists go. They go because of the mystery of Venice.

Venice is like water, mysterious. It has masks for people to disguise themselves, it has buildings with Islamic and Roman architecture, the whole city is a mystery. With all the mystery it is still so refreshing to see. It is amazing seeing something contain so much yet be so small. Like water, Venice though it seems so small, it is vastly large.

In short, the trip truly taught me so much, but it surprisingly really connected me with nature more than I thought it would. The cities really had connections to nature if one just opened their eyes to see it. There is no need to be religious to have to go to these places. Simply having an open mind allows for anyone to have a great experience and enjoy the cities even their religious aspects.