Emiliana is a Political Science major at Florida International University. She is passionate about human rights, is part of the Panther Mock Trial Team, loves baking, dancing and going to concerts. After graduation, Emiliana plans on working for Congress, teach a foreign language in Italia, and attend Stanford Law School to become an attorney.
“Spring Encounter as Text”
“Past, Present, and Future”
By Emiliana Tacconi of FIU in Tampa, January 27, 2023.
I decided to participate in the Italia study abroad because I want to learn more about my heritage. Both of my paternal grandparents and my maternal grandfather were born and raised in Italia, and had to immigrate to Venezuela in order to escape from the horrors of World War 2. Sadly, my paternal grandfather passed away before I was even born, and my maternal grandfather passed away months before I migrated to the United States of America. Nevertheless, their memories and spirits still remain alive to this day through the stories my family fondly shares. Furthermore, my paternal grandmother, or my Nonna, lives in Venezuela and cannot travel to the United States regularly to visit due to her age. While I still have a living family in Italia, my most treasured connections are hanging by a thread, and I am hoping I will be able to strengthen those connections by learning more about the country my grandparents loved so much. Thankfully, I have been able to visit Italia multiple times, especially when I was a little girl. The two memories I look back on the most are when my Italian cousins introduced me to Nutella, and when my Nonna, my family and I, welcomed the new year.
Baby Emiliana celebrating New Years (photo by Taziana Bartolucci/Tacconi-Bartolucci Media)
When I think of Italia, I think of history. The history of my family, my career, and my religion. The history of my family past and present, as I continue to create memories in the country that birthed my last names with my family, and by myself. I knew this was the program destined for me when during an information meeting, Professor John William Bailly explained that this study abroad focuses on understanding our current selves by understanding our past. This message resonated with me, especially because I will be turning twenty years old during the program, a time where studying the history of Italia will help me understand the history of my family and the history of my career. The history of my career because the foundation of politics and law originated in Ancient Rome, and I am studying political science and will become a prosecuting attorney. I became increasingly interested in Italian law and politics when I studied The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli and when I learned that civil law and the practice of prosecuting a criminal started in Italia and are still used in the United States as well as most of the Western countries. The history of my religion because the Vatican is the heart of Catholicism. I am most looking forward to studying my religion wholly and in person. In order to appreciate the beauty of catholicism, it is imperative to criticize the horrors the Catholic Church has and continues to perpetuate. Paralleling the theme of understanding the present through the eyes of the past, I want to learn the ugly truths history wants to erase in order to keep up the facade of a pretty picture.
I am most excited to send my family a postcard from the Vatican, to research the philosophical roots of the Renaissance in Firenze, and to connect to my religion in Cinque Terre, more specifically, while we stay in the Santuario Nostra Signora di Soviore. I want to write to my family about the academic experience of visiting the Vatican, and for there to be evidence of how that experience affected me in the moment, in the hands of my beloved. So far in my career, political philosophy has been the most interesting subject. Ever since I read The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli, I have been waiting for the moment to visit his city and research the philosophical roots he was inspired by and others were planting during the Renaissance in Florence. In regards to connecting with my religion, I knew that while the Vatican was going to be the most academic experience, the Santuario Nostra Signora di Soviore will be the most spiritual experience. I am looking forward to hearing the experience of the monks living there, and to being struck by the sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding her dead son.
Overall, I expect this program to be a transformative experience in a transformative period of my life. I will be leaving behind girlhood and entering womanhood as during this trip I will turn twenty years old. In my mind, Italia is a familiar country and Rome means visiting my zios and cougine. So to be able to experience a new side of Italia as I visit places I have never been to before, and learn the complex reality of such an influential country.
“Ancient Rome as Text”
“A Roman Way of Life”
The Ancient Roman and Modern American way to live share multiple similarities. At the end of the day, the essence of humans remains the same regardless of continent or time, which has been proven to be the case between the Ancient Roman Empire and the Modern American Empire. Both started with a fight to become independent in order to start their journey towards greatness. Slowly but surely, both successfully employed their strengths to build strong military, economic, and political systems that maximized their power. Similarly, both emphasized culture as they spread their language, ideologies, and activities globally.
The Ancient Romans built a military based on their own citizens, that was later also open to mercenaries. The United States utilizes a similar strategy as the U.S Army is made up of both Americans and foreigners. While in the Ancient Roman times a salary was enough for foreigners to fight for them, the United States had to offer more incentives, such as financial aid to gain a higher education, and immigration aid. These tactics helped build the military that protected the Empires from losing their assets, and scaring their enemies from attacking them.
Furthermore, their economic power started with a slave-based economy, which begs the question “can an empire be built without the oppression and uncompensated labor of others?” How different would the Empires have been had they had someone other than rich white men leading them? In the HBO series, Rome (2005), the audience sees the mistreatment of servants and women as the rich and the men dispose of them as they please. Sadly, this mistreatment is still seen in Modern America, but with subtle differences. The rich are still abusing the poor, but instead of it being with chains and whips, it is with unsafe working conditions and unlivable wages, maintaining the cycle of poverty and increasing the wealth gap. Men still have more rights, hold more positions of power, and hoard more wealth than women. Just like Ancient Rome was always led mainly by men, the United States has always been led mainly by men. The closest the United States has come to having a female president is our current Vice President, Kamala Harris, the first woman to have served in such a high position of power. Even when it is closer to home, women are still conditioned to provide unpaid labor from cooking, to cleaning, to childcare with a smile on. However, in America now that women have the right to work, men expect to share the responsibility to provide financially without sharing the housework. In addition, domestic and sexual abuse by men to women is still a sad reality in today’s society just like it was in the ancient society.
Politically, both countries do have reasons to be praised for as they created systems that helped them keep their power for as long as it lasted. The United States modeled their Senate after the Ancient Roman Senate, with it being used to create legislation and represent the people. Moreover, the United States implemented the Ancient Roman’s ideas of checks and balances into their government, to prevent corruption and excess power in the hands of one person or entity. This political system helped ensure the people of each empire felt mostly represented in their officials, and therefore, more satisfied, which allowed the rulers to keep and expand their power.
Culturally, both empires were trendsetters and imperialistic. Due to their power, their language and customs were known beyond their borders and even replicated. For example, the United States modeled its stadiums to be similar to the Ancient Roman stadiums as they share a similar oval shape and purpose. Just like Americans get ready to watch football games and concerts in their stadiums, the Ancient Romans did the same, as entertainment is a human desire that goes beyond centuries. In fact, the Tragedy of Julious Caesar play by William Shakespeare that Americans read today is based on what happened in Ancient Rome.
Ultimately, I reject the way Ancient Romans lived due to the oppression based on class, gender, race, and immigration/citizenship status. Although there have definitely been advancements in the rights and treatment of these minority groups in the United States, that Roman way of life is still alive and well in modern America.
“Historic Miami as Text”
“Historic Progress in Miami”
I immigrated from Venezuela to Miami with my parents, my brother, and my dog in late November 2017. It was heartwarming to see that my Venezuelan culture is celebrated in Miami as I can find an arepera easily in Doral, get Venezuelan foods such as Flips (named Toops in the United States) in Publix, and not be judged for my Venezuelan accent, as an array of accents are present and welcomed in Miami. The diversity, inclusivity, and progress that are main characteristics that make Miami the great city it is today.
However, the history of Miami is not as pretty as it appears to be. Although it is not taught in schools, it is imperative to know that Miami did not magically create itself, as it was taken from the Tequesta in the 1500s and built with the labor of enslaved people and immigrants. From the entire walking lecture Professor Bailly conducted, all I had been taught in high school was the story of how Julia Tuttle and Mary Brickell got Henry Flagler to expand the railroad system down to Miami with a box of oranges, which is what led to the founding of Miami as a city. While it should be celebrated that Miami was founded by a woman in a time where sexism was so prevalent, it should also be acknowledged that Miami was able to get incorporated because Black men voted in favor of it, unaware of the fact that they were victims of a scheme.
What surprised me the most about the Historic Miami Walking Lecture, was the Fort Dallas/William English Plantation Slave Quarters as well as the Wagner Family Homestead. Both of these landmarks are hidden parts of history that should be in every history book used to teach in Miami. Although it can cause a knot in someone’s throat to learn about the horrific parts of history, they are still essential to understanding how we got to where we are today. We cannot move forward and have true progress without addressing our past.
Touching the same walls that were built by enslaved people that housed so much misery and progress in the William English Plantation Slave Quarters sent a chill down my spine. I could not even start to imagine the terrors they must have gone through every single day, and how those terrors are being erased from history as current lawmakers seek to dilute or even eliminate the ugly parts of the United States’s history, as seen with the banning of teaching critical race theory in the classroom. Then, during the Second and Third Seminole Wars, the Slave Quarters were repurposed to become Fort Dallas. Therefore, the place that was built to enclose people of color was now being used to aide the government commit a genocide against another group of people of color. Ironically enough, the same place that was originally created to legally exploit enslaved people, became the first place used to argue and decide the law as Fort Dallas became the first courthouse before the City of Miami was incorporated.With such a juxtaposition, it was clear that Miami was a place to learn from the past in order to create progress.
Progress was seen with the story of the Wagner Family Homestead. The Wagners showcased that said progress is possible by being an immigrant, interracial couple in love in the midst of heavy segregation. The Wagner family befriended their Seminole neighbors by sharing a meal, and clothes. Nevertheless, their generosity did not end there, as the Wagners became advocates and “middle men ” between the Seminoles and the White settlers, promoting peace and equality. Their story touched my heart as it showed that progress is only possible when working passionately and united against discrimination. I would place myself in the Wagner family history, because I too aspire to become an advocate promoting human rights, fairness, and equality, acknowledging and educating myself and others on those that came before us. Without learning about all of our history, our present becomes fictional.
“Italia America As Text”
“The Different Lives of the Law“
By: Emiliana Tacconi B of FIU, 12th of March, 2023.
Although my life has always been affected by the law, I was not able to fully appreciate all of the complexities and intricacies of the law until I started learning it more in depth and “practicing” it in my mock trial competitions. As your average citizen, I knew the law on a very superficial level based off of what I remembered from eighth grade civics class and high school history classes. However, that is not even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to knowing the law, much less understanding it. That is why when Professor Bailly offered me the chance to become more familiar with the law of the country I am currently living in,the United States of America, and the country my grandparents come from, Italy, I could not deny it. The law impacts our everyday decisions, such as when to cross the street, and our long term plans, such as where to plant the roots of the next chapter of our lives.
Even when the law determines all of the aspects of our lives, most people are not familiar with it, either by a choice made by themselves or by someone else. When the law has complicated verbiage that a lay person would not understand, it is not accessible for the general public whose livelihood depends on it. When the law is so localized that it varies greatly from one state government to another, and one nation’s government to another, it can negatively affect that same livelihood. When people are positively affected by a law, they usually tend to not see beyond their privilege to acknowledge how that law might be negatively affecting someone else. That is the case in both the American and Italian legal systems.
Historically, both the United States and Italy started out with a monarchy. These monarchies set up the example of a ruling class and a working class, an example of privilege and oppression that has carried out to the twenty first century. However, both countries decided to separate themselves from these monarchies in search of independence to set up their preferred form of government, a republic. A republic is a form of government in which the citizens elect representatives to make the legal decisions for them based on the constitution. (Longley). Nevertheless, there are multiple paths a republic can take. While the United States is a democratic republic, Italy is a parliamentary republic.
Although each country has its own version of a republic, both enjoy multiple similarities between their political and legal systems. The United States government is divided into three branches; the judicial, the legislative, and the executive; just like Italy. Each branch is in charge of a different aspect of the government, as the judicial system is made up of legal courts, the legislative writes the laws, and the executive must approve and implement their laws, as well as house the leader of the country. Furthermore, both systems benefit from a Constitution, which details the rules each country must follow in order to maintain order. Under both the American and Italian constitutions, their citizens’ human rights, such as freedom of religion, the right to vote, and the security that everyone is equal before the law, are guaranteed (granted, in America it is under the Bill of Rights, which are amendments to the constitution). (Gubitosi, et al). By having their human rights guaranteed in writing in the most important document in each country, both governments are aiming for their citizens to be liberated from the negative effects of political oppression.
Nevertheless, each country’s government is still characterized by their unique rules. While in the United States, the judicial branch has the power of judicial review, which allows them to determine whether an act done by the executive and legislative branches is constitutional or not, the Italian judicial branch does not have that power. In Italy, they have a separate court, the Constitutional Court, to decide whether a law is compatible with their constitution or not. The biggest difference that stood out to me, is that a defendant in Italy will be tried by a panel or a couple of judges, whereas in the United States, a defendant facing a felony can be tried by a jury of their peers. While a panel of judges is more likely to be more knowledgeable on the law, and therefore more capable of applying it, a jury of one’s peers is more likely to force the attorneys to be more thorough and clearer when presenting their evidence and witnesses, in order to make it more understandable for the lay persons in the jury. Although each system has its own way of trying a trial, both ultimately serve the same purpose, which is to apply the law to the best of their ability when it comes to the facts of each case.
As someone who is working towards becoming a prosecutor in the United States, I find the Italian way of practicing the law equally fascinating and intriguing, as it forces me to expand my legal knowledge and question why we write, practice, and enforce the law in our own way. Although the law can be complex, it is the duty of each citizen to try to understand it to the best of their ability with the resources they have in order to learn how their country works, and how they can apply the law to be an active citizen and improve their own and their peer’s livelihoods.
“Vizcaya As Text”
“The Ugly side of Beauty”
By Emiliana Tacconi of FIU in South Carolina , March 19, 2023.
Picture of Bocchus in the Vizcaya Entrance taken by Emiliana Tacconi B./ CC by 4.0
The first time I ever went to Vizcaya was in December of 2023 with two friends. We were all so impressed to see a property that was so big and carefully decorated in various styles. At first glance, it seems like an effortlessly gorgeous house. Everything in the design is so well thought out that it just fits perfectly together. That is why when I first entered Vizcaya, I was so surprised with how well everything flows together, which brings out the majesty of Vizcaya. Being welcomed by a garden with a stream of water that leads to the main entrance really enhances the message that James Deering wanted to communicate with Vizcaya.
James Deering was a man that wanted to make an impact in the history of Miami, Florida. Deering saw himself as a visionary that knew how to maximize the potential of a city that was under the global radar. He understood the essence of what still makes Miami the city that it is today. He understood that Miami was, is, and will be characterized by a kind of pleasure, extravaganza, and parties unique to this city. So when the first thing you see once you get past the doors is a sculpture of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and ecstasy, pouring wine into a bathtub, the message is very clear. Deering makes sure there is no doubt in his guests’ mind that you are being welcomed to enjoy the fine pleasures of life in abundance at Vizcaya.
But once you see past the beauty of Vizcaya and start learning about its history, you get first hand exposure to the ugly side of its beauty. That is what happened to me the second time I went to Vizcaya with Professor Bailly and my Italia class. As Professor Bailly was lecturing about all the grandiose pieces at Vizcaya, my jaw dropped. I could not believe it is possible to import a ceiling from another continent and build an entire room around it. I could not believe it is possible to buy a fountain from an Italian town square. I could not believe someone would cut a painting of the Virgin Mary just because he wanted to use it to cover parts of an organ. I could not believe someone would put his safe in the pantry. I could not believe any of this would be possible, or right for the latter, much less over a hundred years ago.
I could not believe such things would be possible because it is simply not in my tax bracket, nor in my values. I could not believe someone could have so much wealth and use it to create a facade of welcoming with a reality of exclusion. James Deering was very clear with what he wanted, to welcome the elite and exclude everyone else. The proof is in the moat. The moat he built around Vizcaya to ensure regular people could not get close to him or what he created without drowning in water, or stabbed my cacti when the water was not possible. Although Miami tries to be a city open to its diversity, the reality is that it tries its best to make sure not everyone can get past the moat. Once you learn how, although it is a city built by immigrants and people of color, it tries its hardest to exclude them from history and the pleasures it offers the elite. That message of inclusion, but only if you meet certain requirements, is very Miami, so at least I have to give Deering that.
Now you understand why what struck me the most at Villa Vizcaya was not the ceiling, nor the fountain,nor the painting, but the pantry. The pantry that was so full of innovation, yet restricting freedom. Of course Deering had the money and vision to install a noise drowning floor, a brand new vacuum, and a brand new refrigerator. Even though Deering housed all that innovation, he did not house freedom. Deering had a significant portion of Miami’s population building his dream house, but did not give them safe working conditions, a livable wage, or any recognition. The Indigenous people whose land was stolen, and the Bahamians that built Vizcaya are nowhere to be seen, but the Spaniards that may have landed there hundreds of years before Deering was even born have the now museum named in their honor. At the end of the day, Deering’s message did align with the essence of Miami, take pleasure in the beauty and ignore its ugly, discriminatory history.
“Renaissance as Text”
“How The Dominoes Cascaded in a Line”
By Emiliana Tacconi of FIU in Miami, April 9, 2023.
As a political science student, everything impacts my major. As humanity explores new things and changes how it operates, politics must catch up. Nevertheless, not everything impacts politics in the same way nor the same amount. That is why it is a strong point to argue that the Renaissance altered politics in a fundamental way as a very influential part of humanity was going through a rebirth. The Renaissance brought with it peace and stability to Europe as it ironically also brought change, rebellion, and modernism. Feudal lords were able to focus on their economic growth instead of fighting to preserve their lands all thanks to the monarchs. Monarchs had a parallel change as their main goal was to consolidate their powers into either united city states or nation states. These monarchs’ rising powers opposed the Church in terms of collecting tax as jurisdiction in legal issues, which in turn declined the Church’s impact on society. This affected the way people saw religion and even themselves. The people started to worry less about religious salvation in the afterlife and started to focus more on reaching their full potential in life.
Therefore, the religious control over politics was decreasing as individual monarch power and economic power rose. This affected every single area in political science. The consolidation of cities and nations created the necessary stability for international relations and international business deals, which then led to the analysis of comparative politics. The focus on self and personal achievement led to great philosophical works and political theories that influenced the American, and global, government and society. The more I study these concepts, the more fascinated I get with human nature and history. The more I question how we got to where we are now and everything that had to occur in a very specific way in order for our day to day to be the way it is. For example, had Hugo Chavez not ruined my home country, Venezuela, I would not be writing an essay about the impact of the Renaissance to prepare for my Italy study abroad as a political science student at an American university. Instead, I would be celebrating my cousin’s wedding. But alas, all the domino pieces cascaded in a line, just like they were supposed to, just like it happened centuries ago, when so many things had to happen for the David to be sculpted and finished by Michaellagelo and not one of the many others who tried before him. So many things had to happen for that same sculpture, which is an icon of the Renaissance period, to become the subject of political debate.
So many things had to happen for people to question the word around them and decide to create change. That is definitely my favorite part of the Renaissance, studying how the choices one person made centuries ago impact the lives of people now. If the Italians were not pursuing their personal development as a result of the Renaissance, we would not have the American Dream that tells us to work hard in order to achieve our full potential. We would not be compelled with this idea of greatness, which would be glorious and catastrophic. It would be great to focus on the present and the small pleasures of mundane life, but it would be catastrophic to not want to reach for more and be ambitious enough to create. It would be catastrophic to not be able to create theories, art, analysis, scientific discoveries, and more. It would be catastrophic to have the great art be only religious Christian art (and this is coming from a Catholic), as it was mostly only religious authority figures that had the economic power to commission artists to create the masterpieces we have today. Although I enjoy the individual potential for greatness that the Renaissance gave humanity, I reject that it was mostly to Christian white men as it contributes to classism, racism, and sexism that still affects us today when all we study when it comes to the Renaissance, and the past in general, is the greatness of religious rich powerful white men.
“Deering Estate As Text”
“The Purple Flower Among the Green Leaves”
By Emiliana Tacconi B of FIU in Miami, April 16th 2023.
The Purple Flower taken by Emiliana Tacconi B./ CC by 4.0
The Deering Estate is an immersive and welcoming experience that everyone living in Miami would benefit from. The Richmond Cottage and the Stone House are beautiful architectural designs with an interesting history. The Richmond Cottage was built in 1896 and went through a cycle of growth that reminds me of the cycle of growth people go through in their teens and early 20s. Much like that phase in life where you are starting to discover what makes you passionate in early adolescence, then go a different route in your late adolescence just to go back to your roots with a different perspective due to the experience of life that makes you appreciate your true self with a heart that is proud to show off its desires, the Richmond Cottage started out as a house, to be transformed into an inn, to end up being remodeled as a winter home that is now on display for the public over a hundred years later. The Stone House is what I imagine a couple made up of a rich lady and a grown frat boy during the early 1900s would create, when it was in fact created by a Coral Gables male architect. Gorgeous art decorates the walls, delicious food is on display (which made me a little disappointed when I found out it was fake because I could not try it), and divine little details, such as the strawberry theme, that were so well preserved all around that makes you feel like you could be living in that time period in the same moment you were taking in the moment. Once you go down the stairs and past the secret door, you will find one of the biggest wine cellars of the time period, and you will understand my grown frat boy comparison. Only a privileged rich white man would dare to break the law in such an ostentatious manner for the sake of the pleasure fine wine gives whoever dares to even taste it.
However, once you step into the nature preserves, that well- preserved and controlled environment that characterizes the Deering buildings becomes a beautifully wild and imperfect showcase of the true nature of Miami. Thanks to its range from mango and avocado grooves to a crashed airplane, with crocodiles, and trees for days in between, the nature preserve delightfully demonstrates the diversity that is so characteristic of Miami, as this city enjoys the cultures and foods of Venezuelans, Cubans, Bahamians, Afro-Americans, and so many more. Nevertheless, the Deering Estate and its wilderness are an excellent reminder that even though Miami was funded by primarily rich white American men, it was built with the blood, sweat, and tears of Afro-Bahamians and Afro-Americans in dreadful working conditions, as five of them died and four of them were injured in 1916. So when you are trying not to get lost between the extreme amount of trees as you are hiking up the preserve and taking pleasure in the beauties its nature has to offer, remember to appreciate the purple flower among green levees that encapsulates the importance of diversity and knowing our history.
“Departure as Text”
“Past, Present, and Future Reimagined”
By Emiliana Tacconi of FIU in Miami, April 23rd, 2023.
After reading my “Italia Spring Encounter as Text,” all I want to do is go back and tell myself that I should raise my expectations about how much growth I will be going through. January through April of 2023 taught me that my hard work does pay off, my dedication will be recognized when I least expect it, my dreams will come true, and love will embrace me in different ways through different people, when they all seemed so unlikely. While at the beginning of this year this amazing opportunity seemed so far away, the Italia study abroad is now in just two weeks. As I reflect on the last four months of my life, I cannot help but be in awe of the next four months of my life. One week and a half until I am on a plane to Madrid, where I will meet my now married cousin, who I have not seen in over four years, to go to Italy to stay with a family I have not seen in six years. Two weeks until I am on my own for the first time in nineteen years. Four until I officially enter womanhood as a twenty year old. Six weeks until I travel through Europe leaving my family in Miami. Nine weeks until I start my dream internship at the Miami State Attorney’s Office with my mentor and mock trial coach, until I get a taste of my dream job and the responsibilities that come with being a prosecuting attorney.
The best summer of my life so far will start with the transformative personal, religious, and academic experiences that will take place during the Italia study abroad. I appreciate so much the knowledge I have gained about the history of Italy and the lives of great Italians during the spring semester of this course. It made me reflect on my past by opening my eyes to the reality of the lavender haze I had of my grandparent’s country, as most of what I previously knew of Italia came from the stories they would share with me, and the majestic views I experienced as a little girl in Rome. It will make me appreciate my present as the walking onsite lectures will force me to live in the moment, and take in all the knowledge and beauty around me as that will be life before I know who I am supposed to be at the end of this summer. It will help me build the foundations for my future self to grow from.
The excitement I had at the beginning of this semester has started to mix with nervousness as I write my packing list and change my mentality from “what am I leaving behind?” to “what can I explore and gain?” My expectations have evolved to a more solidified sense of independence and growth instead of a vague concept of pretty monuments and spirituality. I am still most excited about writing to my family, and now my mock trial coaches too, and sending them the physical evidence of how my experiences have affected me from the Vatican. Furthermore, I am so excited about staying at Santuario Nostra Signora di Soviore in Cinque Terre as I know it will be even more of a bizarre spiritual experience than I could ever imagine. That is one of the many reasons why all I can say for certain when it comes to this once in a lifetime opportunity is that I am ready to experience the best month of my life next to my classmates, and the best summer of my life hand in had with the past, present, and future versions of myself.