Christopher Carlos Montejo: France as Text 2022

Izieu as Text

All photographs were taken by Christopher Carlos Montejo/CC BY 4.0

Carry

By Christopher Carlos Montejo of FIU at The Maison d’Izieu on July 10, 2022

I see out of a window, a frame of rolling mountains, towering trees, and running rivers. Plains of grass where dragonflies and children play on quiet days and quieter nights. It is full of peace and empty of sorrow.

I hear the cries of a child to a mother, it has been so long since I’ve seen you. I hope we will be reunited soon, I miss you. Thoughts of your embrace keep me warm at night. The only pain greater than separation from your mother is separation from your child.

I taste my tears, a frame missing a photo hangs in front of me. There is only a name below it, of a child erased by the hands of fascist pigs, thrown into waves of time, and lost in its sands. Their smile is gone forever, all that remains is a victim of genocide.

I smell the pines in the thin air. The same air the children in this school breathed. The same air that carried their laughs, their songs, their stories. The air in the wind that left with them.

I feel the weight on my shoulders and chest. The weight of the children. The robbed, the stolen, the dead. The weight of these crimes against humanity, the Holocaust. The weight of their names, the responsibility. They are ours to carry. To spread, to protect, to remember, and to never let happen again.

Lyon as Text

All photographs were taken by Christopher Carlos Montejo/CC BY 4.0

Does Not Bow

By Christopher Carlos Montejo of FIU at Lyon on July 8, 2022

I was already in love with the chaos, diversity, and grit of Paris, so I dreaded leaving for a quiet culinary tourist city. Lyon is beautiful, its winding cobblestone alleys and pastel towers are a sight, but I worried it would feel hollow and boring compared to the liberating revolutionary spirit of Paris. Yet, Lyon, just like Paris, it’s a contradiction at every corner.

On one side, you have your Michelin star restaurants, designer stores, and crowded churches. But on the other, graffiti murals, punk show posters, and a spirit of revolution and anti-authority are as strong as the capital. Down in Croix-Rousse, the walls are painted with the words of the youth. Black boots echo down the streets and ANTIFA stickers pollute the lamp posts. The clean image of fine dining clashed across the river with the spirit of youth. After all, Lyon was home to one of the first worker revolts in the country, with its silk factories, and during World War II, was home to the resistance and its leaders. All over the city, you can find monuments of the resistance of the past, and find the people of the resistance of the present. The alleyways and traboules are more than cute photo spots, but ways to dodge nazi troops and transport vital war materials. Under this fine and cute cover of an antique city, lies an underground network of protest and defiance. Now that I’m gone, I miss Lyon, the sister rebel of Paris.

Versailles as Text

All photographs were taken by Christopher Carlos Montejo/CC BY 4.0

Gilded

By Christopher Carlos Montejo of FIU at Versailles on July 3, 2022

As I went down the halls of Versailles, I couldn’t help but think of what it took to create the decadent palace. Even though it was aesthetically beautiful and perfect, it felt hollow. It was a symbol of monarchy, oppression, and power, that was built during a time when the common person was struggling. It was the ultimate encapsulation of the ego of the Sun King, and upon the death of Louis the 14th, there were cheers from the peasants that endured great suffering as they watched a palace of gold be erected. Because of this, It’s difficult for me to separate the disparity and royalty. The center of the French monarchy in 1682, today it’s become one of the most important and iconic landmarks in France, attracting millions of tourist dollars, which the French government can use to provide for the people. We can appreciate the palace and reap its benefits today, as it’s so far removed from any of the sufferings in its time. But personally, it’s difficult to ignore. Although Louis the 14th did many great deeds in his reign, such as the Hotel Des Invalides, Versailles did not serve the public at all until the revolution and modern day, it was just for the nobles to enjoy. Furthermore, knowing the toxic court life that spawned from the palace and how distant it was from the reality of Paris, leaves Versailles as a symbol of something, thankfully, long gone. I prefer the Versailles in Miami.

Paris as Text

All photographs were taken by Christopher Carlos Montejo/CC BY 4.0

Paris is

By Christopher Carlos Montejo of FIU at Paris on July 31, 2022

Paris is a contradiction. Throughout time, the identity of Paris and the Parisian has evolved dramatically. Paris has always been synonymous with places such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, and the Parisian is pale and French and reads classic literature and enjoys new wave cinema. Yet, on every street corner, every plaza, you find a clash of history and culture with the past and present. New York and Paris both having statues of liberty is fitting, as they are sister cities, and Paris has become a blend like her sister. Culturally, Paris is a soup. Now, the entire world is represented in the city. The average Parisian was not born in France or fit in the traditional image. Historically, Paris is a pendulum. You see it in Montmartre being hammered with a giant cathedral, or the Pantheon worshipping God one day and worshipping scientists the next. The city is under a constant redefinition and evolution of its identities, steadily progressing forwards but finding a way to step backward. From Amelie to Le Haine, Paris is not a stagnant word.

Paris is fascists, Nazis, racists. Paris is philosophers, artists, poets. Paris is Islamic, Catholic, Jewish. Paris is atheist, secular, science. Paris is Roman, French, Gaul. Paris is Algerian, Pakistani, Tunisian. Paris is revolution, liberation, rebellion. Paris is nobility, monarchy, oppression. Paris is croissants, escargot, onion soup. Paris is kebabs, falafel, ramen. Paris is palaces, cathedrals, tombs. Paris is tunnels, basements, alleys. Paris is saints, kings, queens. Paris is punks, martyrs, communists. Paris is a contradiction.

Normandy as Text

A Sacrifice

By Christopher Carlos Montejo of FIU at Normandy on July 31, 2022

My name is Christopher C. Montejo. I am 20 years old. I was born on December 28, 2001. I am Cuban-American. I am from Miami, Florida. I am an atheist. I am a student.

His name is Philip B. Edelen. He was 30 years old. He was born on June 29, 1913. He was American. He was from Raleigh, North Carolina. He died in France. June 10, 1944. He was Catholic. He was a chaplain.

I hate war. And when it’s romanticized and stars John Wayne or Elvis. I hate Nazis. And when they parade down the streets. I hate fascists. And when they run our governments. I hate genocide. And when it’s ignored. I hate war.

I love peace. I love being able to denounce tyrants. I love my fellow man. I love being able to speak. I love reading. I love jazz. I love modern art. I love being a degenerate according to Nazis. I love living the life Philip died for me to have.

I wish I had the courage he did. I wish I could take a rifle in my hands. I wish I had the selflessness he did. I wish I could die for someone I never met. I wish I could die for someone that doesn’t exist yet. I wish he was still able to pray. I wish he was with his family and friends. I wish he could still enjoy Sunday dinners. I wish he could enjoy Spring. I wish he didn’t have to die. I wish no one had to die.

We, sisters and brothers of the free world, will not forget, turn away, or ignore. We will forgive, love, and protect. We will educate our children. We will enjoy this life built on sacrifice. We will stay in unity. And we will fight. Peace is to be protected. We will not let these deaths be in vain. We will continue the eternal battle against fascism. Against hate. Against the repetition of history.

“Philip B. Edelen.” Philip B. Edelen | Silent Heroes, nhdsilentheroes.org/philip-b-edelen. 

Pere Lachaise as Text

Like You

By Christopher Carlos Montejo of FIU at Pere Lachaise on July 31, 2022

I want to be like you. I think we would’ve been friends in college. You studied philosophy, art history, and psychology too. Maybe we would’ve had good aesthetic debates. We could share sketches. I’m 20 now, dead center of the year. You were 20 when you quit school to become an artist. I want to be like you. I don’t know if I have the same fearlessness as you had to carve a new identity from an unknown world. You weren’t trained or schooled in art. I don’t know if I could’ve made it out of a World War I draft alive or sane. I want to be like you. You abandoned and transformed artistic traditions. You were anti-establishment, authority, everything, and that is punk as hell. You pioneered a movement that changed art forever, and then again, from Dadaism to Surrealism. You weren’t okay with following standards. Like Nina Simone said, an artist’s role is to reflect the times. You broke and redefined the bounds of art. I want to be like you. In World War II you were a target of the Nazis. A degenerate artist. You were an enemy of the fascists. I want to be like you. When we were 20, I don’t know if I would’ve left school with you. Maybe I’d grow up and become an art history academic and write the textbooks that honor you. Now, you’re remembered in the museums, books, and here in this humble tomb. It’s not as famous or recognizable, but it is to me. I worry if I became an artist I wouldn’t succeed. Or be remembered. Or do anything of note, I would do what’s already been done. But I don’t think you had that fear. You did what was truly yourself, and what was important, uncomfortable, and challenging. You lived a full 84 years of art. You are etched in history and legacy forever. I want to be like you.

Here’s to the dadadists, surrealists, beatniks, punks, jazzmen, 20th-century anti-everything’s. Here’s to Coltrane, Dylan, and Carlin. Here’s to Duchamp, Man Ray, Hans Arp, and all the good people that traveled with you. Here’s to the hearts and the hands of the men, that come with the dust and are gone with the wind.

Max Ernst Biography, http://www.max-ernst.com/biography.jsp. 

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