Alexandra Gutierrez: France as Text 2019

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

Photo by Jessica Horsham (CC 4.0)


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

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

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

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

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

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

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

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

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


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

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

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

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

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

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

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

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

Lyon as Text

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

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC by 4.0)

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

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

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

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

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC by 4.0)

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

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

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

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

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC by 4.0)

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

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

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

Izieu as Text

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

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

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

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

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

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

I send you all my love. 10000000000000000000000 hugs and kisses

Normandy as Text

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

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

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

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

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

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

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

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

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

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

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

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

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

Photo by Victoria Atencio (CC 4.0)

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

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Père-Lachaise as Text

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

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

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

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

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

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

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

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

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

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

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC 4.0)

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

Over Under Paris

Declaration Project

Author: miamiastext

Admin Account for Miami in Miami

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