Amanda Sardinas: Paris 2022

Art that Mirrors Life

Ligne 12: Porte de la Chapelle ↔ Mairie d’Issy

There’s a popular saying that goes ‘’life imitates art’’. This theory is known as mimesis. With the power to influence social norms, art represents the ever-evolving culture we live in. Art also gives significance to people’s lives and aids in the preservation of cultures and communities across the globe. Every person’s complex identity is manifested in different pieces and being in Paris has shown me how the French culture has progressed because art has reflected their history in different ways.

I have been able to explore Paris like a local and now truly understand the impact art has had on the people and the city. My group and I chose metro line 12 and discovered a handful of hidden gems, as well as the way art has mirrored Paris’s entire story.

Solferino- Musee d’Orsay

Museum of Movement

Once an old train station then converted into a museum, the Musee d’Orsay, was full of bustling surprises. It seemed like a very suitable altercation for this building to go from a train station to a museum because I associate train stations with movement, and the moment I walked into Musee d’Orsay all I could see was the liveness radiating off all the sculptures and paintings that were sprawled out across the building. Filled with rich collections from many different artists, the museums most impressive section was its impressionist gallery. From Manet to Monet, colorful and vibrant pieces popped off the walls and told a story about what Paris was like in the past and how they have painted our future.

Inside the Musee d’Orsay by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)
Picture of painting Rouen Cathedral by Claude Monet in Musee d’Orsay Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

An art movement that started in the late 19th century, impressionism, challenged traditional approaches in art. Those that partook in this movement were known as impressionists and they painted during a time when human rights were on the rise and class equality was occurring. Many artists in the past yearned for the kind of creative independence that the Impressionists championed by creating a paradigm for independence and subjectivity that supported artistic expression. They would intentionally attack the political and artistic views of society by portraying concepts never seen before. The Impressionists disdained the use of classical subject matter and instead embraced modernism in their art. They did this with the intention of producing works that were reflective of the contemporary environment in which they lived. For example, Monet’s Rouen Cathedral, was a series which displayed this one church at different angels throughout various seasons. The outside of a church is a representation of a relevant location that anyone can resonate with because of its accessibility to everyone. The common thread that ran across all of them was an interest in the way light might capture a particular instant in time, with color giving clarity rather than obvious shapes and lines. This movement changed the scale by making art a pass time that everyone can appreciate despite their social class.

A subject matter that was very consistent with the Royal Academy of Arts, an organization that determined which pieces should or shouldn’t be commissioned and approved of, was classical/romanticized versions of divine and submissive women. For instance, The Birth of Venus by Alexandre Cabanel demonstrates Venus lying completely in the nude on top of water, surrounded by angels. She oozes sexuality and submissiveness as she lays sprawled out slightly covering her face. However, this piece didn’t cause controversy. It was Olympia, by Edouard Manet that almost flipped Paris upside down. For Manet, it’s not a matter of paying respect to Greek mythology, but rather capturing the actual beauty of an actual courtesan in a real and natural setting. She isn’t coy, because she is confidently staring at the viewer with no shame or remorse for what she’d done. It’s always moving. In this artwork, the shadows surrounding Olympia are placed in an unconventional way, making her seem raw. For the first time, Manet shows us what it was like to be a woman living that lifestyle during that historical period. He gives us a taste of modernism’s fragility and openness by letting go of the pretenses and pursuing something unique.

Picture of painting The Birth of Venus by Alexander Cabanel in Musee d’Orsay Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)
Picture of painting Olympia by Edouard Manet in Musee d’Orsay Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Another example of an impressionist mirroring life is Gustave Caillebotte, and his piece titled, The Floor Scrapers. This is an early portrayal of the urban working class in the city. The men are sweaty, dirty, and the viewer can assume that they have been in that position for a while because of their swollen hands and lack of shirts. These men are fixing up an apartment in Paris that they unfortunately will never be able to afford to live in. They are enhancing the foundation of the notion that impressionists admired the working class for their strength and discipline to survive. Edgar Degas who was also a very famous impressionist painter has a piece titled Women Ironing, which depicts women working. Realism in life is reflected in Degas’ approach to this subject matter. Women Ironing is an honest look at the working class in Paris, and it allows Degas a chance to show off his keen eye for detail and mastery of observational painting. Degas captures this moment with perfect precision. The first woman yawning seems to be weary and suffering from heat exhaustion. Her coworker, however tired, keeps at her duty. It’s amazing how well Degas picked up on the motions of both women, making the viewer feel like they are peeking through a window and watching them. Impressionism art was affordable, simple enough to interpret, and relatable. Most impressionist paintings centralize on the notion that Paris is the city it is today because of those who maintained it back then, as well as the beautiful sites that inspired many impressionist pieces.  

Picture of painting The Floor Scrapers by Gustave Caillebotte in Musee d’Orsay Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)
Picture of painting Women Ironing by Edgar Degas in Musee d’Orsay Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Pigalle-Moulin Rouge

The Cabaret that Never Sleeps

It is known as ‘’A kingdom of nighttime pleasures’’, with lights, smells, and sounds so profound you become entranced from the moment you enter (Moulin Rouge, Luhrmann, 2001). The Moulin Rouge has served as a vital part of Montmartre’s social fabric for almost a century. Spanish entrepreneur, Joseph Oller and French showman, Charles Zidler created the Moulin Rouge in 1889. On October 10, it opened its doors to the public in the Montmartre area and became a ‘’holy’’ place for women, men, and the dance of the Cancan. Both, Oller and Zidler, wanted to create an ambiance that would appeal to a wide range of people despite social status, and the cabaret’s location in Paris’s 18th district (which was both fashionable and rural at the time) allowed it to quickly build a reputation that would inspire artists like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and dancers from all over the world.

Moulin Rouge Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Moulin Rouge: La Goulue, 1891. Color lithograph. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec established his name and became renowned while roaming around the streets of Place Blanche, which is where Moulin Rouge is located on. It was and still is a progressive and modernist district running on nightlife, sex, and dreams. Unlike the starting impressionists, who preferred to encapsulate depictions of upper-middle-class leisure, Henri represented the new and grittier urban lifestyle in his art. In fact, Moulin Rouge was one of the first buildings in Paris to have electric lights displayed. Hence, the name Moulin which means mill, and rouge which is a dark, and intimate shade of red. Toulouse-Lautrec would seek inspiration for his works by visiting exotic and vivid sites like the Moulin Rouge, the Chat, and the Mirliton. Approximately seventeen of his paintings are directly influenced by Moulin Rouge. He made lithographic posters for the Moulin Rouge that became instant hits due to his eccentric depictions of social and sexual themes. His most popular poster titled, Moulin Rouge: La Goulue, features the sensual and talented dancer, La Goulue, also known as the greedy one, dancing freely on stage. She was famous because of her gymnastic approach and erotic performances of the Cancan. The audience found, with enormous delight, the new dance, the French Cancan, with its dancers, the Chahuteuses (the rowdy girls), and its raucous beat, intoxicating. Due to its emphasis on female leadership, the cancan was one of the first dances to signal a shift toward female independence and empowerment. The Moulin Rouge balls immediately became highly sought occasions because of its extravagant show girls and sensual shows. For example, besides Goulue many other women rose to fame through the prospects of performing at Moulin Rouge. Nini Pattes-en-L’Air (legs in the air) was another great dancer, and she opened a French Cancan school becoming the first person to ever teach this scandalous and upbeat type of dance professionally.

Toulouse-Lautrec respected this group of individuals. He lived with them, represented them, and wished to communicate his appreciation for them via his art. He succeeded in showing his appreciation for this class of individuals, and he did so without judgment. As a result of his physical restrictions, it is said that he had a sympathetic place in his heart for those who were marginalized. He emphasizes how these ladies are treated and how they lived. As sex workers and cabaret workers, they were seen as undesirable in the upper-class Parisian culture. In his honest portrayals of their lives, he doesn’t make people seem to have any specific or obvious emotions like sad or joyful. They’re simply going with the flow and making the most of what they’ve been handed. Toulouse-Lautrec displays the truth and beauty of these women during that time. Their value was not to be demeaned or questioned just because they chose a lifestyle in the arts. Paintings of the artist depict women having fun, dancing, and engaging in acts of passion. A sense of freedom and unity is seen through his paintings of the women doing the Cancan. The people painted in his work, despite their differences, are indulging in the same pleasures of the night. Till this day Moulin Rouge still conjures up images of a Parisian joie de vivre where pleasure, joy, and liberation are always celebrated.

Abbesses-Montmartre (Artist Neighborhood)

Midnight through Montmartre

Artist painting in Montmartre Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Go back in time to when some of the greatest artists in history lived in the charming little village of Montmartre. A quaint district where iconic impressionists such as Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin Lautrec, Picasso, Van Gogh, etc. used to live and would work on their masterpieces. By the turn of the twentieth century, the neighborhood had become a haven for artists of all kinds. Montmartre had become the epicenter of Parisian intellectual and artistic activity. This was also probably because at the end of the nineteenth century, whenever alcohol came into the city of Montmartre, their alcohol wouldn’t get taxed since it was outside of city limits. This made day drinking a very affordable past time. It was a great place to live at, at the time for artists also, because of its picturesque buildings, cheap housing, and natural light for paintings. There are café’s surrounding the entire hill as well as spots where artists can show off and sell their artwork. An area built on community and a love for the arts, Montmartre is living painting. 

The Moulin de la Galette located in Montmartre Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Auguste Renoir was an impressionist painter and one of his most popular paintings, Bal du Moulin De Galette, was inspired by the area/restaurant called The Moulin de la Galette located in Montmartre. Renoir immortalized the ambiance that took place at this location during the late 1800’s. Montmartre is a district built on community and heart, which is reflected in Renoir’s painting despite it being created centuries ago. People are socializing, dancing, and eating together. He created a scene perfect for the style of impressionism because of the movement and casualness of the subjects. Those in this group are embracing the idea of leisure time and friendship. You can tell the subjects are working class by the way they are dressed. The men aren’t wearing top hats, and the women are not in over-the-top gowns. A chaotic element is what makes it a radical piece of art. Just a mixture of vivid color and wedged figures are the only things catching the eye as they are lit from above by rays of sunlight filtering through the trees. The painting’s brushstrokes are clearly visible and unfinished, which contributes to the uproar. To be honest, it’s nice to see how everyone is savoring the company of one other. They seem to be middle-class people, yet they are clearly enjoying the finer things in life like companionship. The author of a book titled “How to Read Literature like a Professor” describes how precious it is when characters dine together in a story, referring to the last supper and how Jesus eats with his fellow disciples as a final act of love. Paintings are like literature in that they both convey a tale with rich symbolism and allusions to self-reflection. This work highlights communion. Everyone in this artwork is forming a temporary community in which we, the spectators, may also feel a part of. It is a composition that honors society and the public that is still being emphasized today in real life.

Picture of painting Bal du Moulin De Galette by Auguste Renoir in Musee d’Orsay Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Pablo Picasso was one of Montmartre’s most notable previous inhabitants. A run-down block of flats known as Bateau Lavoir quickly became a gathering spot for several artists, authors, and performers, who were all living on a budget. When Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in 1907, he did it at his Bateau-Lavoir studio. Picasso’s depiction of prostitutes from Avignon Street, Barcelona’s famed red-light district, features five young prostitutes, naked and sprawled out with African and Iberian inspired heads. This could be interpreted as disrespectful to some due to his exploitation of women and culture. However, the painting does raise awareness for African art and women of that lifestyle being represented in a painting that is unique and incredible. Picasso took influence from African sculptures and had an African period which lasted from 1907 to 1909. The French empire was spreading into Africa at the time, and African antiquities were being returned to Paris museums. Exaggerated and strange tales about the African kingdom of Dahomey dominated the news. In this milieu of African fascination, it was natural for Picasso to turn to African relics for inspiration for some of his work. Picasso was one of the first famous European painters to recognize African art as something to be appreciated and not shunned upon. This was important because it launched the notion that the city of Paris was one of progression. That the people could be open to embracing other cultures and incorporating them in their daily lives making it accessible. Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque also co-founded Cubism, one of the most renowned and significant art movements of the twentieth century, in Montmartre as well!

Assemblee Nationale- Palais Bourbon

Can we Mold a Peaceful Future?

Art not only mirrors life in the moment, but it also reflects how we envision our future. Strolling past the Palais Bourbon, which is where the National Assembly meet to discuss political/global matters, my group and I came across one of the most magnificent monuments I had seen during my time in Paris. The monument stood right alongside the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs. It was revealed to the public in 1937. It consisted of a woman topless symbolizing liberty cradling a mother and her child. Behind them are working class citizens listening to Aristide Brian give the message of conciliation in the The Procession of Nations that was led by France. The sculpture was made to honor the great late Aristide Brian who was a statesman in France, and he highly advocated for peace. Paul Lanowski, creator of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, designed the monument and made sure to add plenty of details to emphasize the message of peace. For example, there is a shield behind the two women and the child, symbolizing protection, and virtue not weaponry. There are also more women than men in the monument. Two working class men are shown, and the rest are women and children. This is because men are seen as instigators of war and death, who mistreat women and don’t acknowledge the mythology which goes as far as to say that women should be idolized because they are mothers birth life. The child is the focus and symbol of peace. He is protected on both sides by women because he is fragile. Quotes said by Brian circulate around the monument spreading the word to the people.

Memorial monument for Aristide Brian Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Between 1903 and 1931, he served twenty-five times as a Minister and eleven times as President of the Council. As Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1926 to 1932, he was dubbed “the Pilgrim of Peace” for his efforts to bring France and Germany together. In 1924, he was sent to Geneva to be a delegate to the General Assembly of the League of Nations. From here, he works on his ideas about equal security for all countries to guarantee the safety of each, the procedure and importance of arbitration, and the creation of a true law of international relations. In 1926 in Geneva, he gave a speech advocating for, “No more wars, no more brutal and bloody solutions to our differences! Admittedly, they have not disappeared, but from now on, it is the judge who will say the law. Like individuals, who go to settle their differences before the magistrate, we too will settle ours through peaceful procedures. (…) Put away the guns, the machine guns, the cannons: make way for conciliation, arbitration, peace’’ (Brian, 1926). Because of him Germany is accepted into the League, and he also won the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10th, 1926. On August 27, 1928, the Kellogg-Briand Pact was established, which was an agreement to prevent war. The Pact of Paris was one of numerous worldwide initiatives to avert another World War, however it had little influence in slowing the rise of the Nazi Regime in the 1930s or preventing World War II.

Brian believed in progressive liberation and the unity of the world. His name will forever be associated to this monument because it reflects someone who inspired people to have hope for the development of a world where humanity can live cohesively and resolve global issues peacefully. It also goes to show that even when evil things happen, humanity must never succumb to a level where peace is forgotten. Despite the events that took place after his death in 1932 (World War II), the monument stands tall and proud as a significant piece of art reminding us that we should never stop reaching for unity, peace, and a better future for upcoming generations.

Concorde- Petit Palais

Love in Art

Built in the 1900’s, the Petit Palais is an art museum filled with classic pieces of art history such as a wide array of sculptures, paintings, and even lost artifacts. The museum houses a magnificent collection of furniture and knick knacks from Versailles that were taken and sold by revolutionaries during that time. The museum celebrates the achievements and benefits of art and how they reflect the City of Paris.

Picture of painting The Sleepers by Gustave Courbet in Petit Palais Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Walking through each pavilion I learned that the most exciting thing is connecting the dots when it comes to educating oneself about different artists and the meaning of their pieces. For example, the painting that had really caught my eye was one made in 1866 and titled The Sleepers by Gustave Courbet. Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet was a French painter who pioneered Realism in 19th-century French art. He defied academic tradition and the Romanticism of the preceding generation of visual artists to depict simply what he experienced and believed. The Sleepers was a very erotic painting that displayed two women holding and caressing each other on a bed. It sems like they are resting because they just indulged in sexual intercourse. The broken pearl necklace and hairpin thrown on the bed further prove this theory. The painting clearly reflects lesbianism. I had instantly thought to myself how bold it was of the artist to have displayed this painting in 1866 when open lesbianism was tabooer back then. However, after researching turns out Paris was home to a rising lesbian subculture. The artist was just painting his reality. The hidden reality that was same sex love. The last public execution in France for homosexuality occurred on July 6, 1750, in Paris. As early as 1791, the French Revolution abolished the death penalty for homosexual acts. Despite all this occurring, a lot of artworks that demonstrated these themes were just too raw to be accepted and shown by the academy and would be kept under the rug until recently.

Picture of painting L’Origine du Munde by Gustave Courbet in Petit Palais Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

As with several his other works, including L’Origine du Monde, the artwork was not allowed to be shown publicly until 1988. Both L’Origine du Monde and The Sleepers emphasize themes of challenging the standard and representation of women and not reenforcing traditional views of their desires and purpose in life. With L’Origine du Monde, Courbet intimately displays a woman’s vagina claiming that a woman’s ability to reproduce is how the world started not God. This challenges religion and traditional constructs. The Sleepers is an iconic painting and according to The Encyclopedia of lesbian and Gay Histories and Cultures ‘’… created an impact in 19th-century art, because after the public display of Le Sommeil, a number of contemporary artists were influenced by the theme of lesbian couples’’ (Smartify, 2022, par. 3). This motif’s repetition helps reduce the stigmas connected with lesbian relationships.

Courbet defied the world through his artwork, but in doing so he opened the gate for society to be more accepting of these ideals. Because this type of artwork mirrored what was once considered a taboo interpretation of reality, now society can indulge in what is now considered a normal pleasure such as loving whoever you want to love.

Madeleine- Gucci

Museology in Fashion

Gucci Store Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Renowned artist, Andy Warhol, once famously stated that, ‘’When you think about it, department stores are kind of like museums where images of mass advertising and popular culture that everyone can recognize are a form of art’’.  This observation seems highly relevant in this day and age because many high-end fashion brands such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Channel, etc. live off of the exclusive, museum-esq look and don’t touch reputation. The art of fashion and advertising is one that is prominent in Parisian culture. Walking through a lot of different neighborhoods a person could very well tell the City of Paris is thriving from its commercialism and lavishness. Luxury brands are on every corner with extravagant marketing tactics which coerce customers into walking in and indulging in what it’s like to be rich. The mannequins that stand inside the display glass are strategically dressed in the latest trends and fashion. They instantly catch people’s eye’s because of how well put together the outfits look. Mannequins were created to represent the perception of the human body and its beauty and nowadays symbolize commercialism due to the fact that they are used to sell clothing and accessories to the people.

Mannequins Posing Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)
Gucci Accessories Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

My group and I walked into Gucci to get the full ‘’Housewives of Beverly Hills’’ experience. The level of product presentation was at its peak. The luxury items are placed throughout the store to resemble the aesthetic aura of a museum or art show, like a statue of a sacred and holy figure. The moment you enter through the heavy glass door you are greeted by security that is trafficking a line of people who want to walk in and join the spectacle. Once you get the green light to go up the escalators you are welcomed by shelves of accessories such as purses and sunglasses sprawled out on shelves reflecting off a mirror wall. It’s as though the inanimate objects are vain and looking at themselves in the mirror, but you just so happened to interrupt. You are then presented with a guide who follows you through the three stories worth of merchandise. They offer you water and/or champagne. Like a tour guide, she explains to you the quality of the product, the cost, and the process of purchasing such an expensive item. If you decide to purchase anything you are given a certificate of authenticity to prove what you bought is authentic and if you’re traveling to another country, you must present this receipt to the airline for security reasons. It’s like transferring a piece of art. You can take pictures and gawk at the objects like you would in a museum. In fact, I saw one woman staring at a red leather handbag in such a manner it was like she was witnessing Monet paint his water lilies for the first time. All in all, everything we witnessed was stunning and prestigious, but it did feel like we walked through an art museum that had no history or context.

Gucci Mannequins Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Unfortunately, many luxury brands will purposely ruin their merchandise to continue their reputation of exclusivity, which harms the environment due to the waste of materials and lack of sustainability. It really pegs the question ‘’Is luxury worth the demise of our planet?’’.

Turns out the processing of raw materials such as leather creates and emits a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions. However, with the art of advertising many different platforms such as ads, tik tok videos, and Instagram posts have raised awareness on this issue by demanding the need to embrace environmentally suitable methods. So even though a lot of luxury brands have display windows that look like a scene out of a beautiful contemporary painting, maybe we should take a second to really look and make sure they are not only artistically aware but also environmentally conscious.   

Notre-Dame-des-Champs- Café Culture   

Cafe in Nortre-Dame-des-Champs Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

To be Parisian one must acclimate to the café culture that is highly prioritized in Paris. France conjures up images of winding cobblestone alleyways and lovely cafés trapped in time and culture. Whether you have been to France or not, we conjure up this lovely image with desire and melancholy. It was beautiful being able to live out this fantasy walking through the streets of Notre Dame des Champs. There is an art behind the importance of cuisine and café etiquette that I had never seen before. There was a time when cafes were a hub for cultural exchange, but they are now just remnants of an era gone by. It still is lovely seeing people spending time with each other outside instead of on their phones. French coffee etiquette is heavily influenced by Italian coffee customs. Traditionally, milky coffees have only been served in the morning, possibly with a croissant or some type of pastry. As a post-meal kicker or an afternoon one, Espresso is the most prevalent type served throughout the remainder of the day. The time in which you are sitting down and getting served is also part of the process. The French like to engage in ‘’people watching’’ as a pastime. Drinking coffee is considered a lingering leisure where you enjoy the moment. Café’s draw tourists in because of how addicting the lifestyle is. The art of drinking a coffee in France is a huge part of the French culture.

Rennes- Luxemburg Gardens

Great Women Frozen in Time

Statue of Anne Marie Louis d’Orleans in Luxemburg Gardens Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

People come together to create a serene scene. Couples lovingly embrace on the grass, students analyze and observe the sculptures that circulate the garden, and the air smells different in a place of such peace and comradery. It’s like you walked into an impressionism painting. Instead of ‘’A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte’’ it’s liked I walked into a Sunday afternoon in Luxemburg Gardens. There was constant movement and color reflected in the way people communicate with each other in the gardens. For some background history, after Henri IV was assassinated in 1610, the Gardens had been created. Marie de Medici, his wife, was unable to remain at the Louvre because of his lingering memories. In the style of her childhood home, Florence’s Palazzo Pitti, she designed the Palais du Luxembourg and its gardens to replicate the aura of her home. The most significant aspect of the gardens for me was the twenty female statues that surrounded the area. The sculptures were commissioned by Louis-Philippe, who was the king of France from 1830 to 1848. Each monument honors a specific woman who left their mark on France. My favorite was Anne Marie Louis d’Orleans, because in her lifetime she never married or had any children. To develop a monument for a woman who stayed independent because she couldn’t marry her one true love is bold. She initially wanted to marry a man named Antoine Nompar de Caumont, but he was seen as unsuitable. Another statue that inspired me was the one of Marguerite d’Angouleme. She is considered one of the first modern women because she played a significant role in culture during her time. She was an intellectual and loved to learn, which spread throughout the town. Marguerite d’Angouleme also embraced progressiveness and she kept many Protestants safe during that time. Overall, these women are being remembered and honored in a place that symbolizes unification.

Montparnasse-Bievenue- Montparnasse Tower

Ugliest Building in Paris

Paris is known for its classic and historical architecture that has lasted from the Middle Ages till the 21st century. Paris’s unique and distinctive characteristics are seen through the art of their architecture. Haussmann architecture refers to the iconic Parisian style of 19th-century architecture whose everlasting charm and ability to take you back in time has made Paris one of the world’s most visited and beloved cities. However, with tradition comes challenge and as time progressed some were curious as to how Paris’s sophisticated buildings would look in contrast to some modernity.

Montparnasse Tower Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

The impressive Montparnasse tower is the highest skyscraper in the French capital. It is also the third-tallest building in France, despite being often condemned and regarded as the city’s ugliest construction. The 59th-floor terrace of the glass-and-steel office skyscraper, originally designed by Eugène Beaudouin, Urbain Cassan, and Louis Hoym de Marien, offers some of the best views of the city, primarily because you can’t see the tower itself. Its height is at 210 meters form the floor, which is almost 100 meters less than the Eiffel Tower, which is one of the most iconic pieces of architecture in the world. It felt like the people who constructed this building were trying to compete with the Eiffel Tower, which clearly didn’t go as planned because everyone despises it. The Urban landscape which surrounds the monolithic tower makes it seem out of place and obstructively blatant. Unlike the unified cream-colored flats, there is no mystery or beauty behind the tower, just a sense of good ole New York looking capitalism. A building where people go in and never come out. In fact, this tower is so obnoxiously tall that two years after its completion, a law was created that states the construction of buildings over seven stories high were banned in the city center.  

There is a beauty in Paris’s old architecture and cobble stone streets that makes the people who live here feel proud of their strong city. A city that withheld a lot of history and you can see it through the cracks on the walls. Heavy is the head that wears the crown and Paris’s old architecture carries the weight and responsibility of never letting anyone forget what they endured to receive the reputation their city has today. There really is no need for skyscrapers and futuristic buildings to make their way into the streets of Paris. A story of a city whose ideals are filled with art, history, beauty, and life are told through the buildings and streets.

Port de Versailles- Paris Expo Port de Versailles

Transported Between Two Cultures

Piece of Berlin Wall Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Paris Expo Port de Versailles is a pavilion filled with unique and immersive exhibitions. From Dinosaur museums to urban gardens, there is something for everyone here. Something that was interesting to see as well was the fact that a piece of the Berlin Wall stood outside of the pavilion. The Iron Curtain that once divided Europe, stands tall as a piece to be admired and appreciated, which was great to see because there’s also a piece of the Berlin Wall in Miami. We are all connected by the idea of unity and collaboration that was shown the day the wall got taken down and distributed around the world.

Immersive ‘’Japan’’ Documentary Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)
Immersive ‘’Japan’’ Documentary Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

In addition to cultures blending, my group and I were fortunate enough to see a new exhibition that was playing at the expo. It was an immersive cultural experience that allows viewers to experience Japan in a series of 360-degree projections.  It was titled ‘’Japan’’ designed by Pierre Goismier and was produced by GEDEON Programmes. I thought it was so beautiful seeing the emphasis of a different culture being shown in such a creative format. The film shows different examples of local people in Japan cohesively working with nature to uphold the essence of Japan. You’re taking a trip throughout the 3,000-mile Japanese area in what is their four seasons, seeing places like Hokkaido Island in the winter and Okinawa’s crystal-clear waters in the summer. This is a journey into the heart and soul of Japan, following the lives of the people who maintain these traditions, live in peace with the natural world, or have devised their own unique methods. As you sit and watch the show you realize how tranquil the culture is. The people of Japan are extremely in tune with nature and their community. We watched a man who was 90 years old make tea from scratch. He had stated, ‘’We live out our days with nature’’ as if there’s a matrimony between humans and nature. We also witnessed the craftsmanship behind blading. The man stated it’s a spiritual process where you must respect the blade so that it can respect you. The people of Japan learn these talents and with patience and dedication expose future generations to it. The tender, love, and care put into something as simple as making salt in Japan, parallels to the way the French prioritize charcuterie. There are certain things throughout different cultures that are prioritized and seen as a type of art.

I admired the fact that Paris had this exhibition which embraced a completely different culture through film. Some of the finest sources of knowledge, inspiration, and pleasure are documentary films, which reveal vital, often untold tales and draw a broader audience’s attention to them. Seeing local people of Japan unite to tell the story of their ancestors and their traditions to local people of Paris was heartwarming. We are all just trying to learn and accept each other to prevent making the same mistakes made in the past due to prejudice and ignorance. In addition, documentaries have become essential components and initiators of social issue campaigns. My time in Paris has exposed me to so many different cultures and I’m grateful I was able to not only be in Paris, but to then be transported to Japan through this unique artform.

Overall, Paris has taught me how to be an artist. She has taught me how to look at a sculpture and not only appreciate its beauty, but also understand its history. She has also shown me what’s it’s like to stay true to your roots. Buildings upon buildings stay untouched to preserve the art of what was once the most iconic time in history. Streets upon streets are where artists like Monet and Picasso once felt inspired and created some of their most impactful pieces. With every step I take I am following the footsteps of some of the greatest people that have ever lived. The various art forms that are praised here are praised for good reason because it defines the people of Paris and the rights of humanity.

Immersive ‘’Japan’’ Documentary experience Photo by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)


Arnason, H., & Mansfield, E. (2012). History of Modern Art (7th ed.). Pearson.

Foster, T. C. (2014). How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines, Revised Edition (Revised ed.). Harper Perennial.

Gedeon Media Group. (2022, April 25). JAPAN Immersive Experience in Paris Expo Porte de Versailles. – Gedeon Media Group.

The Great Periods. (2022, July 1). Moulin Rouge.

The Met Collection. (2021, March 29). The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Paris Insiders Guide. (2022). The 20 Queens Of Jardin du Luxembourg | Paris Insiders Guide.

Propeace. (2022). Un monument pour Aristide Briand à Paris, l’homme qui voulait faire les « Etats-Unis d’Europe » | Wiki Propeace.

Smartify. (2022). Smartify | The Sleepers – Gustave Courbet.

Amanda Sardinas: France as text 2022

Paris as Text

“A City that Wears its Heart on its Sleeve,” by Amanda Marie Sardinas of FIU at City of Paris on July 2nd, 2022.

Photo of Paris from Eiffel Tower View by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Studying abroad was supposed to be me taking a risk and experiencing a broader perspective on culture, as well as participating in this idea I had of self-exploration. Due to all the obstacles that my fellow classmates and I endured throughout our Spring semester; we didn’t think we’d actually make it here in Europe. However, here we are, and I’ve come to realize that my temporary visit to France will become permanently engraved into my future self and her endeavors. The moment I took my first steps onto Paris grounds I knew that I had come face to face with true happiness and the closest thing I’ll ever get to, to time travel. For me happiness has become about exploring and learning about a specific place that is filled with wonder, romance, history, and life. A place that I had only ever seen on T.V and thought I’d never be able to travel there. Happiness is meant to be felt deep in your bones and send shivers down your spine the moment you crane your neck up, to get a long-lasting look of that beautiful iron tower that erects over the city of Paris. Houses are lined up, and untouched since the era in which they were built in, and the worn-out gravel keeps your eager steps off balance. I am amidst a cultural epiphany where the Parisian way of life is, as the saying goes, “la vie en rose’’ (life in pink). Beauty, liberty, and history paint the canvas of this magical city’s architecture. Architecture that has remained sturdy and in character since its transition from the Middle Ages all the way up to the 21st century. In the end Parisian’s cultural identity is seen through what they consider to be the most unique and distinctive characteristic of their city, which is their architecture.

Photo of The Arc De Triomphe by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Paris wears its history proudly and patriotically on its sleeve. As a Cuban American I am accustomed to this type of culture where pride for one’s island is prevalent in daily recognitions, such as wall graffiti’s honoring the native flag, as well as flags being hung-up all-around neighborhoods and buildings. Both America and Cuba tend to be very patriotic and loyal towards their nations. Paris consists of several world-famous sites such as the neoclassical architecture of the The Arc De Triomphe and the modernized look of the Eiffel Tower, as well as other architectural marvels, to serve as poignant reminder of the many distinct eras and governments that have made their mark on the city and encouraged this patriotic way of living. For example, Napoleon Bonaparte was the leader of the French Revolution in its last years. In reference to historian/journalist, Noa Radosh, ‘’He became Emperor of France in 1804 and ruled the country until 1814’’ (2019, par. 3). Gorgeous neoclassical statues adorn the Arc de Triomphe highlighting different aspects of the French Army. The first one on the left shows Napoleon in all his glory surrounded by gods, especially the Greek goddess of Nike who represents victory and wisdom. Le Départ des Volontaires en 1792, also known as la Marseillaise, represents a diverse set of French people marching in unity to battle. Then, the back side of the arc shows two more astonishing statues which aim to symbolize the prospects of war and the pursuit of peace. Many contributions were made by Napoleon, some of which are still important to France today such as being one of France’s greatest military generals, his triumph in conquering Spain and granting the Jews and Muslims their rights back into Spain, helping popularize universities, and his emphasis on spreading ideas of the revolution to the people. Hence, why The Arc De Triomphe, which was Napoleon’s idea, was sought through even after his death and commemorates all of his and France’s victories. Serving as a main symbol in Paris, The Arc De Triomphe reminds the French people of their national identity and spirit.

Photo of The Eiffel Tower by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

The Parisian way of life is filled with conspicuous innuendos located all around Paris, which emphasize how sexually liberated they tend to be. For instance, Gustave Eiffel designed the Eiffel Tower for the 1889 Exposition Universelle, which commemorated the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. Its modern look celebrates science without limitations and the idea of progression. It exceeds the height of the church, which back in the day was a huge no-no. French Revolutionists wanted to separate state and church, which Gustave achieved by making the Eiffel Tower a long-lasting monument of science. However, not only is the Eiffel Tower a key component to the progress made in science and is considered an industrial masterpiece, but it is also an obvious hats off to the male private part and their ‘’superiority’’ in society at the time. The names carved on the tower also only acknowledge white male French scientists. And even though this monument is a step forward for science and a step back for women and feminism, there is a place located within Paris that kind of shows the significance of women and its interpretation of motherhood. That place would be Square de la place Dauphine, which is said to be the birthplace of Paris and is ironically enough shaped to symbolize a woman’s vagina. This is another example of Parisians doing the most to make their city uniquely and hilariously sexualized to mirror their views on the matter.  

Photo of Square de la place Dauphine by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Architecture that’s so vulnerable and true to its city guides people in the right direction of learning how to honestly understand and appreciate its cultural identity. Someone like me can resonate to its roots and admire the adoration the people have for their home. It’s a place that cannot be fully appreciated from a screen but must be seen in person to fully immerse yourself in what is known as the Parisian lifestyle. A culture full of pride and vigor, stays strong and allows visitors to go back in time and understand their history and ideals through their building’s stories.


Radosh, N. (2019, September 30). 14 Events That Shaped Paris’s History. Culture



Versailles as Text

“Two Kings, One Versailles,” by Amanda Marie Sardinas of FIU at Versailles Palace and Gardens on July 3rd, 2022.

Photo of Versailles Entrance Gate by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Louis XIV was a king who dreamt lavishly. He took on the prospect of enhancing the iconic palace of Versailles for the sole purpose of leaving a cultural legacy. A legacy so impactful, that till this day the palace still stands in all its beauty and glory. During his 72-year reign, Louis XIV altered Versailles by expanding the chateau, which had been built by Louis XIII, to impress those all around the world. He wanted this place to be the new and elite Paris for the wealthy. Through symbolism and strategic architectural designs, he made his message of authority very clear. From the consistent references and self-comparisons to Apollo, to placing his bedroom at the center of Paris and claiming ”The state is me”, Louis XIV made sure to portray himself as a divine and respectful being. Visiting this location was a sight to behold; however, all I could think about while being there is how inadequate Louis XVI must’ve felt compared to Louis XIV. Louis XVI just couldn’t handle the pressure of the great legacy that Louis XIV bestowed upon the future generations of the monarchy. The uprise and downfall of the leadership in Versailles are a clear indication of the ends not justifying the means for the monarchy, but a step forward towards the French Revolution.

Photo of Versailles by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)
Photo of Portrait of King Louis XIV by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)
Photo of Portrait of King Louis XVI by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

The Palace of Versailles found itself right in the middle of the uprising. The Palace, which was constructed to serve as the French monarchy’s official residence during Louis XIV’s rule, retained this purpose under Louis XVI. As the “Sun King,” Louis XIV consolidated the monarchy’s authority and ruled during a time of exceptional wealth, during which France rose to become the dominating force in Europe and a pioneer in the humanities. Whereas Louis XIV was a strong-willed ruler who was determined to leave a legacy, Louis XVI was the complete opposite. Prior to the monarchy being overthrown during the French Revolution, Louis XVI was the final king of France. Louis XVI lacked self-confidence and maturity. A tyrannical monarchy and a massive debt made it difficult for ruler Louis XVI of France to do his duty as an honorable king and serve his people. For much of his time in office, he would be dogged by his inability to solve the country’s severe fiscal issues. As I entered one of the grand rooms in the palace, I was able to visibly see the differences in character of both men through their portraits. Louis XIV stands confidently for his portrait, with his hair voluptuously sprawled out like a male peacock flashing his fancy feathers to get attention and praise. The colors that surround his silhouette are comprised of bold reds and golds, which signify confidence. His crown and sword are obviously seen, kind of like they are being flaunted. On the other hand, Louis XVI’s portrait is more mellow. He uses shades of blues and white’s, which make his portrait seem more relaxed and calmer. His facial expression makes him look like he is uncomfortable and feels awkward. His crown is subtly peeking out from the left side and his sword seems to get lost behind the enormous cape that seems to be drowning Louis XVI.

Versailles also aided Louis XIV in gaining control of the nobles by giving ample room for him to keep a close eye on them. He would use the palace’s lavish upbringing to distract everyone. During King Louis XIV’s reign, the Palace of Versailles promoted absolutism via propaganda and noble control. Louis XVI wasn’t very strategic or business savvy; hence, him being persuaded by Benjamin Franklin to form an alliance with the American rebels to help them in their pursuit of independence from the British. However, this ends up being Louis XVI’s demise because the French rebels seek inspiration from America’s pursuit of freedom. He also refused to sanction the ‘’Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen’’, which ‘’…[proclaimed] liberty, equality, the inviolability of property, and the right to resist oppression’’ (Britannica, 2022). By the 5th of October in 1789, the impoverished ladies of Paris had had enough. They marched to the royal house at Versailles because there was a shortage of bread, which meant that they were unable to provide for their families in the absence of it. Additionally, there were reports that the royal family staged sumptuous feasts for military troops. During this time it seems as though instead of the king controlling his people, the people were taking control of him. The royal family was then taken back to Paris to receive their punishments for a lack of consideration of the people, and Versailles was left behind like a pipe dream for the monarchy.

Versailles was meant to enhance the reputation of French culture and status. Till this day it still does because of its history and impact. However, the means of building it to accommodate only those with fortune didn’t catch on and Louis XVI clumsily made sure its purpose would dissipate. The French Revolution overcame the monarchy, which mirrored how both Louis XIV and Louis XVI ruled their nation during their reign. Overall, I’m glad to have been able to pretend to live like a royal walking through the halls of Versailles, even though I know very well I would’ve been a rebel during that time.


Encyclopedia. (2022). French Revolution – Events of 1789. Encyclopedia Britannica.

Lyon As Text

“Five Stages of Grief,” by Amanda Marie Sardinas of FIU at Lyon on July 8th, 2022.

Would you rise when the sun wakes up every morning?

Would you rise when you hear sirens echoing the streets?

Would you rise in the line of fire?

Would you rise when there’s nothing to eat?

Would you rise when all is taken including being free?

Would you fall at the sound of a cell closing?

Would you fall when you hear the screams?

Would you fall as you’re being shackled?

Would you fall in front of a child, who’s only fifteen?

Would you fall when your body can’t carry the weight of the fear, they let you keep?

Would you hate if they beat the hope you had left?

Would you hate if love you can no longer see?

Would you hate if you became an animal?

Would you hate never knowing what happened to your family?

Would you hate when your faith proved to be a target and not a sign of what was once holy?

Would you continue on, despite being corrupted?

Would you continue on after you were bit by the sharp teeth of the beast?

Would you continue on every night enduring the nightmares they gifted you?

Would you continue on, knowing what became of humanity?

Would you continue on when the silence that followed these tragic events spoke louder than the actual torture of accepting defeat?

Would you love because the sun goes to sleep every night and the stars shimmer with hope?

Would you love because magnificent things like honey, clouds, music, and trees exist only on this Earth?

Would you love the family and life you created because you didn’t let them win?

Would you love life wholeheartedly because you know defeat wasn’t tattooed on your skin?

Would you love because love is all we have and it’s what got you through what future generations will hope to never ever let happen again?

Photo of Claude Bloch by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

The Holocaust is defined as the persecution and mass killing of millions of European Jews and other people, such as Romani people, people with intellectual disabilities, political dissidents, and homosexuals, by the German Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945. This happened because of their beliefs and was supported by the government. Many suffered tragic deaths and horrible torture solely because of what religion they practiced and/or their political views. Visiting Lyon really put the tragedies of the Holocaust into perspective for me because I was able to connect with the history physically and emotionally of what took place there during those dark times. It is very overwhelming walking amongst a city, or even a country, like Lyon or France that endured the horrid monstrosities of the Nazi regime. As much as I have learned about the Holocaust and World War 2 in school, nothing could have mentally prepared me for walking into the Prison of Montluc and speaking with Holocaust survivor, Claude Bloch.

Photo of Prison De Montluc by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)
Photo of Inside of Prison De Montluc by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)
Photo of Inside a Cell in Prison De Montluc by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Built in 1921, ‘’Montluc [prison] became an internment camp for members of the resistance, hostages, and victims of the racial persecution, prior to their transfer to Drancy and subsequent deportation to the concentration and extermination camps’’ (Only Lyon, 2022, par. 4). The moment I stepped foot into the prison I felt an instant wave of anguish and a hint of familiarity. For some background knowledge about my family history, my grandpa was a political prisoner in Cuba for 14 months. He, like Claude Bloch, is open about his experience and has described to me the barbaric conditions he endured while being captured. Learning about the way the people were treated, as well as standing there and imagining how the conditions must’ve been like, hit home for me. My grandpa described his experience as traumatizing because he would be fed only twice a day, be put into solitary, and be beaten by the guards if he wasn’t doing his chores correctly. So being in Montluc and grasping the concept of acknowledging that up to ten people had to squish together in a tiny little cell, with no air conditioning, one bucket for sanitary reasons, and two meals a day that they all had to share, made me want to sob and hug my grandpa who had to endure conditions like that. It even made me more upset knowing Claude, at only fifteen years old, also stayed in that prison before being taken to a concentration camp. He was just a child and couldn’t possibly understand what was going on. Hearing him describe the fear he felt when the soldiers would barge into their little shack every other day announcing who would leave with luggage (those who would be deported to camps), and who would leave without any luggage (those who would be executed), crushed my soul. No human being, especially those who were put in there for no reason at all, should ever have to experience being treated like an animal.

Photo of Holocaust Survivor, Claude Bloch, and F.I.U Professor, John William Bailly by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

My poem is meant to shed light on this devastation that occurred and in fact is still occurring in some other places. Countries like North Korea and Cuba, till this day, have people of opposing beliefs suffering in prisons like the one Montluc once was. The only way to overcome these tragedies is to acknowledge that they really happened and spread the word like Claude Bloch does.


Only Lyon. (2022, June 16). National Memorial Prison of Montluc. Lyon France. Retrieved 2022, from and-museums/museums/national-memorial-prison-of-montluc

Maison D’Izieu As Text

“A Home Away from Home,” by Amanda Marie Sardinas of FIU at Lyon on July 10th, 2022.

Photo of Maison D’Izieu by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

From the moment we’re born our parents take a personal vow to love and protect us indefinitely and to be by our side no matter what. For one, I have been fortunate enough to have parents that made sure my childhood consisted of happiness, hope, and opportunity, as well as the fact that I am blessed enough to live during a time and in a place where there’s no harsh dictatorship or invasions occurring. In my life I have never had to encounter the fear of being abandoned by my parents sacrificially so that I can live a better life or be safe. My grandma lived in America, specifically Miami, by herself at the age of 19 because she fled the Cuba regime in the 50’s with her younger sister. Her mother and father stayed behind and were trapped in Cuba for another five years. I can’t imagine the fear of letting your children go in hopes of them living a free and fulfilled life, not knowing if the ends justify the means. Unfortunately, the parents of the children who lived in Maison D’Izieu tried to do the same for their kids during such a dark time but were met with a tragic ending.

Photo of Plaque outside of Maison D’Izieu by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)
Photo of classroom inside of Maison D’Izieu by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

In November 1942, Nazi Germany seized control of the Vichy regime’s territories. In April 1943, a children’s home in Izieu, previously Vichy territory, was built to give sanctuary for dozens of children. Parents who were in hiding from the Nazi’s felt that the safest thing to do for their children was to send them here. Sabine Zlatin, a Jewish nurse and OSE volunteer, ran the residence, which was part of the OSE’s network of hiding places. Some of the children who resided there were French, while others were from Belgium, Austria, Algieria, Germany, and Poland. Several had come from other children’s homes in France. It was a place built on love and heart. The adults who worked in Izieu made sure to teach and comfort these children and care for them like they were their own. Unfortunately, on the morning of April 6, 1944, officers of the Lyon Gestapo, after being tipped off by an informant, raided the children’s home in Izieu and imprisoned everyone. Forty-four children aged 4 to 17, as well as seven staff personnel who had been caring for them, were imprisoned in Lyon and deported the next day to Drancy. Klaus Barbie, the leader of the Gestapo in Lyon, issued the deportation order. Barbie sent a wire to Paris in which he reported the arrest of the kids at the children’s home. According to the website Yad Vashem, ”During the children’s detention in Lyon, the Germans discovered the whereabouts of some of their family members, who were also then taken to Drancy and later deported to their deaths in Auschwitz” (2022, par. 5). By the end of June 1944, all of the children and adults housed at Izieu had been transferred from Drancy, transported to Auschwitz, and executed as well. In reference to the website Yad Vashem ”Miron Zlatin, Sabine Zlatin’s husband who ran the children’s home with her, was deported on 15 May, together with two of the older boys from the children’s home, to Estonia, where they were all shot to death” (2022, par. 6). Sabine continued to live a long life, spreading her words and experience onto the world. She passed away on September 21st, 1996, in Paris.

Photo of desk with drawings and letters inside of Maison D’Izieu by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)
Photo of room inside of Maison D’Izieu by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Walking through Izieu was like having a fever dream. Even though I was well aware of the tragedy that struck this beautiful place, there was no negative energy in the air. From the drawings on the tables, to the portraits of all the children, you can tell that despite being away from their parents and homes, they created a family amongst each other. A home away from home was developed. A home so magical and peaceful that when you look out the window you realize some of the kids’ drawings replicate the setting. They made funny comics based on their lessons and took silly pictures together. If you close your eyes and listen hard enough, you can still hear the kid’s laughter bouncing off the walls. They learned, lived, and laughed during their time in Izieu.

Photo: Group portrait of the children and staff, Izieu children’s home, France, summer of 1943 by Sabine Zlatin


Yadvashem. (2022). Maison D’Izieu | Children’s Homes in France During the Holocaust | Yad Vashem.

Normandy As Text

“Endless Love,” by Amanda Marie Sardinas of FIU at Normandy on July 26th, 2022.

Billie D. Harris and Peggy Seale Harris

Peggy Seale Harris (Left) and Billie D. Harris (Right), Photo Courtesy by Blake Stilwell,

Throughout this course semester the question of ‘’Would you risk your life for your country to save the future of humanity?’’ has come up on several occasions. It’s a loaded question and one which I can’t really answer because frankly I don’t know. I have been fortunate enough to live a healthy life. A life where I have opportunities, a great education, and am confident enough that I can do anything I set my mind to despite me being a Cuban American woman. Yes, terrible events and horrible people have made their mark on our history. However, I still feel like the emotion of love no matter what way you experience or interpret it finds its way of saving us. It’s clear that the love humans share for their country, no matter where they’re from, runs deep in our veins. From French Revolutionaries that fought during the French Revolution to resistance fighters who fought during World War II, our class has learned a lot about sacrifice and standing up for people for the notion that we must love and accept each other no matter what. Would I stand by my brother’s side or my boyfriend’s side to fight a war to save innocent people from being enslaved and/or slaughtered? Would I sacrifice a future of marriage, a house, and starting a family to ensure that future generations never have to ask themselves this question? I don’t know. I don’t know if I can watch someone, I wholeheartedly love march onto the battlefield and never return. Late Veteran, Billie D. Harris knowingly went into battle and sacrificed his love to his devoted wife, Peggy S. Harris to fight for the liberated future that I can live in.

In 1942, Peggy and Billie’s love tale started. Peggy Harris, from Vernon, Texas, was employed at Altus Air Force Base as an electrical instrument technician. She enjoyed poetry and music and originally corresponded with 1st Lieutenant Billie D. Harris, from Altus, Oklahoma, via his father’s letters (her boss and God-sent cupid). Despite her efforts to play hard to get and dissuade Billie, their romantic letter exchange continued until they ultimately met in a hangar at Altus Air Force Base. They then became inseparable. Billie D. Harris and Peggy Harris were wed on September 22, 1943. However, their two-week honeymoon was cut short when Lt. Harris was sent to fly P-51 Mustang escort aircraft. During World War II, Billie was a Lieutenant in the United States Army Air Force. He was a fighter pilot with the 355th Fighter Squadron/354th Fighter Group in southeast England. In 1944, Billie was designated as MIA after he failed to return after a mission over northern France. The couple had only been married for six weeks when her husband went missing over France. The Army Air Forces had notified his wife that he was still alive and returning home, but then they subsequently revoked that. He was killed and buried in a French cemetery to Peggy’s dismay. The War Department even told her that they were unsure whether the bones they held belonged to Billie. Distraught, Peggy couldn’t believe the love of her life who sacrificed himself for the sake of the country couldn’t even be given a proper burial with his body present. Peggy, being the devoted wife she was, made it her goal in life to find out what really happened to him. Peggy waited and waited for news about her husband for years. Until she decided to finally write to her congressman about it. She waited and wrote to members of Congress over and over for decades, right up until 2005. With the help of Billie’s cousin, Peggy searched profusely and discovered his remains were buried in Normandy.

Photo Courtesy by Evans, Karen, Town and street sign of where Billie avoided landing on July 17th, 1944, Word Press, 27th May 2019,

Turns out on July 17, 1944, his plane was shot down over Les Ventes, a small town in France, and he became a legend there. Billie avoided crashing into the village and instead went down in the woods nearby. The people in the village were so thankful for what he did that they buried him in their local cemetery. Since then, the people of the small town of Les Ventes have walked down the main street, which is called Place Billie D. Harris, every year to remember what he did. Billie D. Harris won the Distinguished Flying Cross award and the Air Medal award which is given out to people who demonstrate acts of bravery by doing something extraordinary while flying.

Photo Courtesy by Evans, Karen, Peggy visiting her husbands grave for the first time in 2005, Word Press, 27th May 2019,

Before Peggy passed away in April 2020 at the age of 95, she would send a bouquet of flowers to his tomb ten times a year. Being able to stand at his grave and personally give my gratitude to the legacy Billie left behind for future generations and his wife was an honor. Rubbing sand on his name after my speech made me feel like I personally knew him and Peggy. It felt like I was part of them or like I played a role in spreading their love story. Acknowledging the fact that this terrible event happened, yet the power of love and devotion to one’s country persevered through the bad, is inspiring to me. I hope Peggy and Billie would be proud. According, to Caroline, one of the tour guides who worked at the cemetery, Peggy would visit Billie often and when she couldn’t physically be there, she would call the cemetery and ask them to place the phone on his grave so she could talk to him. Caroline also mentioned how much Peggy would’ve appreciated my words and how she used to love receiving videos and pictures of people who visited his grave and knew their story. I will always hold this experience dear to my heart.

Photo of Amanda Sardinas paying tribute to Billie D. Harris’s grave. by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Although their time together was short, Peggy would be eternally dedicated to her husband and a widow for the rest of her life. She once stated, “Billie was married to me all of his life, and I choose to be married to him for all of mine.” They are the epitome of the type of sacrifices people during that time had to make to let future generations live a life without fear, lost, and hatred. I can obtain that bright future filled with love, happiness, and hope because of the many people who put everything on the line. Even though their love for each other was deep and eternal, their love for their country and the future was stronger. And for that I will be eternally grateful. Because with the help of a million silent heroes, the selfless team players who offered their support during the war, did not fight, and sacrifice their lives to be recognized, but because it was the right thing to do.


V. A. P. B. K. E. (2021, June 6). A Widow’s Journey to a Husband’s Valor. Tribute to Veterans.

Stilwell, B. (2021, November 27). How a World War II widow discovered her husband was a hero in France. We Are The Mighty.

US War Memorials. (2022). Harris Billie D.

Pere Lachaise As Text

“Colette: Femme Fatale,” by Amanda Marie Sardinas of FIU at Pere Lachaise on July 29th, 2022.

Song Of The Pretty bird- Shay Alexi Stewart

“I’ve lived 20 prettybird years
Of this great big prettybird life
And i think i pretty pretty pretty bird bird pretty much know what im talking about
People like to poke fun at my pretty bird pretty preening
At my pretty pretty bird pretty feathers
But look at my long clean coat
At my pretty pretty bird pretty pink legs
When pigeon men track me cross sky highway
They are happy to trace hungry orange eyes
between my pretty pretty bird bird feathers
To busy fantasizing pretty bird
Wet dreams swollen chest fluff fest
To pretty poke bird fun
To pretty poke fun bird
To pretty bird bird pretty bird bird pretty pretty pretty
Too busy fantasizing
to poke fun at permanently preening pretty bird
My vanity is insanity unless it helps get you off
What a treat hosting eyes between my thighs
They will spend equal time begging to share bed with me
Condemning mediocrity
How does one achieve complexity when all she was ever taught to be was basic
Pigeon man wants pretty bird to pretty bird
Until pretty bird fulfills ideas of prettiness
Then she’s too pretty pretty bird bird paralyzing and preened…

Pretty sure
pretty sure
Maybe not
Sorry sorry sorry sorry
Can i ask a question
Sorry sorry
May i may i

Pretty bird used to sing
Baby bird used to sing
Baby bird was pretty bird before pretty bird learned to pretty
And baby bird could compose whole symphonies
Acute intricacies melodies capturing varies poetry
But the reviews came in
and they preferred apology
So she shrank
learned to make herself small enough
to nearly fit back in her eggshell
to tip toe atop eggshells…”

This is a personifying poem which metaphorically compares societies treatment of women to birds. Birds who are ogled at for their beauty yet confined in their cage just like the ideal feminine standard society and social media try to advertise. It emphasizes the concept of society trying to break women down to make sure we stay in our nests cooped up and continue being afraid of being unapologetically ourselves.

I’ve been told I can be “too loud,” “too expressive,” or even “too vulgar.” I’ve experienced shame when the clothes that I have worn fit me different because of my body type; being told I’d just be “asking for it” from what I wear.

It’s been brought to my attention by some that a girl like me, who’s intelligent, confident, and kind, couldn’t survive in a place like France or Miami because I’d be “eaten alive.” But none of this is true. For I know I am capable of anything I set my mind too.

I manifest my own life and dreams just like the French author Colette. Her iconic opening line from her novel titled, Claudine at School, sets up the tone for a woman whose entire life celebrates the complexity and debauchery that is being a progressive woman. The line is as follows, “My name is Claudine, I live in Montigny; I was born there in 1884; I shall probably not die there” (Colette, 1900, p. 1).

A woman whose worse nightmare is dying in her hometown because she was told she couldn’t write, love, or travel where she wanted to just because she was a woman. Colette is a spirited woman, who despite being told she needed to conform to societies standards still broke free of her cage and inspired other young women, including me, to do the same through her literature.

Photo by Unknown Author, Colette and Missy posing together, before 1944,

Colette is a woman who reclaimed her voice and life making sure to shine bright after living in the shadow of her dominating husband.

Colette, full name Sidonie Gabrielle Colette, was born on January 28th, 1873, in Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye, France. She died on August 3rd, 1954 and was buried right here in Pere Lachaise Cemetery.

For her, conformity was not an option—especially when it came down to who and how she should love. Colette was a woman who found her voice and her body through the process of self-discovery. In Paris around the turn of the century, a free-thinking and sexually liberated novelist explored her sexuality and didn’t care what society thought of her. Despite Paris’s image as a fashionable and sensual free-for-all at the turn of the century, homophobia and misogyny were still prevalent outside of intellectual avant-garde group settings.

It’s nice to learn from Colette that women of the past had such intricate sexual needs, but only those as rebellious as Colette could pursue such impulses and get away with it. After divorcing her first husband who took the credit for all her Claudine books, she continued to write over 30 successful sexually explicit novels and continued to have a long list of scandalous love affairs. In fact, a lot of her literary work mirrored her reality. She went on to having an openly gay relationship with a woman named Mathilde de Morny (missy), as well as seducing relationship with her 18-year-old stepson from her second marriage with a man known as Henry de Jouvenel. That specific love affair inspired her novel titled ‘’Cheri’’(premonition).

She was a very progressive woman who got what she wanted when she wanted it. She was one of the first people to accept and embrace the idea of androgyny, which is a mix of female and male traits. She would cut her hair short and sometimes dress in male suits. Colette wrote about many different things in her last 20 years. In Ces Plaisirs, which came out in 1932 as “Those Pleasures” and later as “Le Pur et l’impur” (The Pure and the Impure) in 1941, she looked at different aspects of female sexuality.

Photo by Manuel, Henri, Colette in Tuxedo (1873-1954)

Colette’s stories were inextricably linked to her own life. Her life was all about freedom: she could love whoever she wanted, live however she wanted, and write whatever she wanted.

She did everything, not caring about tip toeing on eggshells or ruffling up some feathers.


Johnstone, R. (2019, July 3). Colette: “What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realised it sooner.” My French LifeTM – Ma Vie Française®.

Nicolaou, E. (2018, September 14). Colette Only Shows A Sliver Of Colette’s Eventful Love Life — Here’s The Rest. Refinery29.

Amanda Sardinas: Declaration 2022

Berthe Morisot (1841-1895): Berthe’s Brushstrokes towards Equality

    Photo courtesy of Yves Rouart and Galerie Hopkins-Custot, Paris

I would always rather be happy than dignified. – Charlotte Bronte  

The quote above originates from the classic novel Jane Eyre and was written by renowned feminist author, Charlotte Bronte. Jane Erye is one of my personal favorites. The fictional character of Jane emphasizes passion, power, and independence on behalf of the women living during the, very patriarchal, Victorian Age. She marries for love, relishes in her adoration for sketching, and challenges old traditions with her wit and intelligence. I admire those, especially women, who have paved the way for me to live the life I live in now. My life consists of hardly ever being looked down upon for pursuing an education, speaking freely, and constantly being encouraged to pursue anything I set my mind to. The character of Jane Eyre shares plenty of attributes that parallel with a great woman known as Berthe Morisot who I chose for this Declaration project. Berthe made her mark, following her passion of painting during the Impressionism Movement, even when it was not considered dignified enough for society.

Berthe Morisot was born in an affluent, bourgeois family on January 14th, 1841, in Bourges, France. She had advantages lower-class individuals did not, such as obtaining a distinguished art education alongside her older sisters, Edma and Yves. The sisters studied with Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, an eminent French artist noted for his plein-air painting style and a crucial role in the Impressionist movement. Their parents had encouraged them to work with Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot at the Louvre which deepened their study and admiration for painting. He inspired them to paint in the open air and in nature, something Berthe would do for the rest of her life. Despite the fact that Edma Morisot was the most talented, she had given up painting to marry a navy commander. Berthe, on the other hand, became a model for Édouard Manet and entered the Parisian avant-garde society. Soon after at the age of thirty-three, she married Eugène Manet, Édouard’s younger brother. Getting married at thirty-three was very taboo during her time because by her waiting so long to get hinged meant she was considered an old maid to society. However, she didn’t care because she adored Eugène and married for love not status. She gave birth to her only daughter, Julie, at thirty-seven, and continued to use her family as muses.

Eugène Manet, Berthe Morisot & their daughter Julie Manet at Bougival, 1880. Posted on 20.09.2016
Morisot, Eugene Manet & their daughter Julie Manet 1880

Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Thomas Eakins, and other esteemed artists are highly renowned names that are constantly recognized in correlation to the Impressionist movement. The Impressionist Movement originated in 1860 and lasted until 1886. Impressionists rejected classical subject matters in favor of modernism, seeking to produce works that mirrored their surroundings and ‘’A great part of the struggle of nineteenth-century experimental painters was an attempt to recapture the color, light, and changeability of nature that had been submerged in the rigid stasis and studio gloom of academic tonal formulas’’ (Arnason, 2012, p. 28). Morisot addressed impressionist elements of modernity in her depiction of the human form, including the intimacy of everyday bourgeois living and family life, a passion for gardens, the significance of fashion, and women’s domestic labor. Her paintings, which are intentionally unfinished in appearance, are not an unmediated reflection of her everyday environment; rather, they confront the temporality of representation and truth behind beauty. When she joined a radical new artists’ association in 1874, she was the only female artist to display in their debut exhibition later on. This was because she was adamant in forming contacts with the Parisian avant-garde and fighting for her talent to get the recognition it deserved. For their untidy, seemingly incomplete work, critics mocked this group of “impressionists,” but Morisot remained unfazed. Some of the works she showed that year are among her most famous such as Woman at Her Toilette (1875-80).

In Morisot’s “Woman at Her Toilette” (1875-80), the subject radiates selfhood. Courtesy Art Institute of Chicago
Berthe Morisot, “In England (Eugène Manet on the Isle of Wight)” (1875), oil on canvas (Musée Marmottan Monet, Denis and Annie Rouart Foundation, photo by Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY) 

Berthe Morisot’s painting career was a back and forth between positive and surprising prospects and patriarchal society’s foreseen oppressions. On the one hand, Berthe’s husband Eugène had resigned his profession as a prosecutor in the French Ministry of Justice to care for their daughter Julie and organize Berthe’s exhibitions. He deeply loved, supported, and advocated for his wife. A woman could not have had a stay-at-home spouse and a developing career in the arts during that period, or at any other time frame since, so both Eugène and Berthe were breaking barriers together. According to Gordon, writer for official website of ARTDEX, ‘’Perhaps to express her gratefulness and devotion to him, Berthe made Eugène the only male subject in all of her paintings, examples of which are in England (Eugène Manet on the Isle of Wight) (1875) and Eugene Manet and His Daughter in the Garden (1883)’’ (2021, para. 8). In Eugène Manet on the Isle of Wight) (1875), Morisot depicts her husband, sprucely dressed in a straw hat, leaning on a chair, and gazing out a window, which shows a garden, a fence, and a well-dressed woman and daughter walking along the coast behind the curtains and greenery on the windowsill. Boats may be seen behind them, implying that these women are on their way somewhere while the male remains at home. In it, she stays faithful to tradition by creating opulent rooms while allowing her spirit to run wild.

Even though this accomplished, educated painter received peer and public praise throughout her lifetime, Morisot’s name isn’t discussed as much. Morisot once wrote in her diary in 1890, “I don’t think there has ever been a man who treated a woman as an equal, and that’s all I would have asked for — I know I am worth as much as they are” (Almino, 2018, para. 4). Her paintings are just as important to Impressionism as those of her male colleagues, yet because she was a woman her work was automatically casted aside throughout history. Morisot is frequently viewed as a feminist icon, sometimes even radically so, due to her exclusive concentration on the females in her environment, which consisted of aristocratic women and chambermaids. It is said that ‘’Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot, and Suzanne Valadon were among those to confront directly and, to varying extents, subvert the tendency to treat female models as objects of a masculine, heterosexual gaze’’ (Arnason, 2012, p. 714). Berthe was intensely aware of the male-centric environment in which she found herself. Whether they were ladies of higher social standing or maids and house staff, she mostly depicted women and children in home scenes and parks. Her male Impressionist colleagues had the privilege of painting beautiful Paris locations that Berthe could not visit without a male companion.

Berthe Morisot, “The Cradle” (1872), oil on canvas (Musée d’Orsay, Paris, RF 2849, © Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt)

Berthe Morisot’s painting, The Cradle, is a picture of motherhood’s joys and the emphasis on women’s roles and responsibilities in late-nineteenth-century France. It is one of my favorites because it is so gentle, yet powerful at the same time. Berthe’s sister, Edma, is seen in the picture, tenderly watching her daughter Blanche (Berthe’s niece) sleep in her cradle. Because the mother is portrayed carefully sheltering her infant, there is a sense of security in this artwork. Her arm rests softly on the crib’s edge, as if she were cradling her infant, even though the baby is sound asleep. Soft pastels and primaries are among the colors used, giving the spectator a sense of comfort and Zen.

As she examines this extension of herself in the form of a newborn, the mother’s expression is filled with content and thoughtfulness. Blanche is a legacy that can blossom into a magnificent member of society with the correct amount of tenderness, love, and care. But, in order for this to happen, Edma must recognize the fulfilling duty, relationship, and devotion that raising her daughter entails, which I believe she does via her expression. The white and gauzy curtain that drapes over the child’s cradle lends an innocent aura to the picture. The mother is similarly covered in her own curtain, indicating that she is equally encased in this intimate setting. The quiet moments a mother embraces to admire her loved ones whether they be directed towards her children or to her husband, should be acknowledged as powerful. There is nothing like a mother’s love. A mother who would sacrifice anything and everything to make sure her family is safe and secured. Morisot’s gender and social status forced her to paint solely about the bourgeoisie’s home life and/or subjects she was familiar with as a woman painter. She focuses on present life in her work because she avoids the topics that the Academy would have favored, which include religion, mythology, and/or ancient history. She perfectly conveys the true spirit and essence of motherhood, despite it not appealing to critics and the Academy.

The Guerilla Girl’s, a feminist activists’ group, breakthrough installation, “Do Women Still Have to be Naked to Get into the Met Museum?” (1989), placed them on the map and on everyone’s radar. The billboard employs a picture by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres called Grand Odalisque. The purpose of this painting was to emphasize a woman’s sensual and exquisite allure. A gorilla mask is then edited over her face to display the Guerrilla Girls’ signature trademark and to underline the ferocious nature that every woman possesses deep within her. “Less than 5% of the painters in the Modern Art categories are women, while 85 percent of the nudes are female,” is a bolded statistic laid out next to the lady figure. “Less than 4% of the painters in the Modern Art categories are women, while 76% of the nudes are female,” says the most recent re-count (2012). The piece’s theme elucidates how males rule the art industry while women are labeled as delicate muses rather than being inspired to become great innovators. The fact that this sculpture is refreshed every few years, keeps the battle for artistic equality alive and has also encouraged exhibits to research and highlight female artists who never received the attention and praise they deserved. For example, on October 21, 2018, through January 14, 2019, The Barnes Foundation dedicated an entire exhibit to the trials and tribulations of Berthe Morisot. The exhibit recognized the extraordinary journey of a lady who overcame social conventions and then deservingly joined the Paris avant-garde. The exhibit opened with the most fitting quote said by Berthe, which stated ‘’Work is the sole purpose of my existence…. Indefinitely prolonged idleness would be fatal to me from every point of view’’ (Morisot, 1871). This quote can be interpreted as a direct correlation to what Berthe Morisot significantly valued in her life, which was her career and her passion.

Courtesy of (1989)
Berthe Morisot with Violets (1872) Édouard Manet | Image source:

Morisot’s individuality and sense of independence is depicted in two illustrations. The first piece was painted by Edouard Manet. She is shown wearing a beautiful black dress with ruffles and train, lace gloves up to her elbows, and a ribbon around her neck. She is dressed elegantly in black but has a determined expression on her face; she is not one to let her appearance get in the way of her profession. In the second painting she is dressed elegantly in her 1885 self-portrait, even down to the way her scarf is wound around her neck. She’s holding a brush and a palette, showing herself as a professional lady with a sense of style, proving that the two aren’t mutually incompatible. She pinpoints characteristics not usually seen in portraits of woman for there is no sensuality exuded, just pure assertiveness and professionalism.

Berthe Morisot, “Self-Portrait” (1885), oil on canvas (Musée Marmottan Monet, Denis and Annie Rouart Foundationm, photo courtesy Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris, France / Bridgeman Images)
Berthe Morisot, “Getting Up” (1885-6)

Morisot did not have her own studio for the majority of her career. She created scenes centered in the “toilette”, like people getting dressed, encased by mirrors, soothing wallpaper patterns, and light flowing through dainty curtains. She also emphasized figures in parks and gardens, as well as in her own bedroom. She didn’t paint nudists very frequently, but when she did, it was usually a modest picture from behind. She paints woman in a more innocent light, which was considered unique. It is undeniable that Berthe Morisot was a remarkable artist. She overcome gender stereotypes in a variety of ways, one of which was to take advantage of the new artistic freedom given by Impressionism. She was also utilizing her social standing to paint subjects that were off-limits to males.

Mary Cassat, “Reclining Nude” courtesy of icanvas

I feel that for a woman with her wealthiness she could’ve tested the waters a bit more regarding painting nudes that other female painters at that time didn’t have because they couldn’t afford too. I would’ve liked to have seen Berthe take a more aggressive approach to representing woman in their natural state embracing their sexuality for self-worth and not for the male gaze. For instance, Mary Cassatt was a Pennsylvania-born American impressionist painter. She spent the most of her adult life in France, where she met Edgar Degas and displayed her work with the impressionists as well. Cassatt’s themes in her work centered on bourgeois women’s daily lives, like Berthe, however she also painted/sketched her fair share of nudes that show women in a playful light and a sensual one. My favorite one being Reclining Nude by Cassatt. The woman in the painting acts coy with her arms draped across her forehead, yet her expression is cheeky because she smirks slightly at the viewer. Her body language suggests she is comfortable with her physic despite her tummy’s obvious love pouch, and she is still trying to act modest by having her legs hinged together as she poses. I think this is a perfect representation of the female gaze painting a woman in the nude in contrast to some male artists who paint nude females and objectify them.  

Berthe Morisot struggled to reconcile her status as a member of high society with her free artistic spirit, despite being featured in seven impressionist exhibits and producing over 850 artworks throughout her lifetime. She passed away on March 2nd, 1895, due to contracting pneumonia. However, she lived a fulfilled life. Furthermore, she battled in her creative career to be embraced for who she was, rather than being perceived as a weak, feminine figure who would have been brilliant if she had been a ‘’man’’. Berthe’s legacy shouldn’t be forgotten. Various feminist and art history scholars may disagree over whether she genuinely belongs among feminist icons. Still, one thing is certain: Berthe Morisot was a fearless female artist who fought for her deserved place at the top of a male-dominated profession. She confronted challenges that women face today, more than a century and a half later. Women of various professions may identify with Berthe Morisot and be encouraged by her example to fearlessly continue their journeys, knowing that they are just as deserving of respect and distinction as their male counterparts. Berthe Morisot once said ‘’Real painters understand with a brush in their hand’’ (The Art Story, 2020). Despite Berthe being a woman, she always knew she belonged in the art world. She is an inspirational figure who has resonated deeply with me because of her endurance, artistry, and wisdom.

Berthe Morisot Collage 1841-1895 (2019). Courtesy of 365WomenArtists


Arnason, H., & Mansfield, E. (2012). History of Modern Art (Paperback) (7th ed.). Pearson.

Almino, E. W. (2018, November 9). Why Berthe Morisot Was an Essential Figure in the Impressionist Movement. Hyperallergic.

Barnes Foundation. (2020, June 23). Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist.

Gordon, J. (2021, May 1). Berthe Morisot And Radical Feminism. ARTDEX.

Schjeldahl, P. (2018, October 22). Berthe Morisot, “Woman Impressionist,” Emerges from the Margins. The New Yorker.

The Art Story. (2020). Berthe Morisot Paintings, Bio, Ideas.

Amanda Sardinas: Miami as Text 2021-2022

Amanda is a junior at Florida International University and is majoring in Communications Performance and Arts. She loves her major because she learns a lot about people, their behaviors in the modern work place, culture, and how society has evolved. She has always been a people person and hopes to engage in a career where her daily duty is to help, guide, encourage, and inspire others.
Amanda adores reading and also considers herself to be a complete movie buff. Her two favorite novels are ”Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte and ”Call Me By Your Name” by Andre Acliman. Her preferred movie decade is the eighties.
She finds that there is beauty and romance in the art of traveling and her goal is to utilize her blog to ignite a cultural fire in those who view it. She also wants to motivate others to take a leap of faith like the one she is taking by participating in the Honors College France Study Abroad Program. Amanda believes that embracing and learning about other cultures can help society develop a deep and meaningful understanding for the way different cultures juggle universal systems, as well as gain insight into the way others handle issues and how it differs from our given culture.

Deering as Text

“Lost and Found,” by Amanda Marie Sardinas of FIU at Deering Estate on January 28th, 2022.

It was said by America’s sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln, that ”History is not history unless it is the truth”. I resonate deeply with this quote because for centuries aspects of history have always been tested and exposed for the greater good of society. For example, our current morals and beliefs may not have been what America approved of during the thirties or the fifties because knowledge overpowers ignorance. Obviously, this is a great thing for we as a society are constantly finding ways to enhance ourselves for the better. We evolve and learn from our history to make a brighter future for generations to come.

Unfortunately, due to COVID, I was unable to visit Deering Estate in person. However, I now have a location I can look forward to, to visit because of the deep and meaningful history that cocoons this significant area. The beauty that is Deering Estate doesn’t just stem from its luxurious architecture. Sure, the Richmond and Deering families took this land and transformed it into a lavish inn and then with Deerings passion for art it became a place for him to showcase his expensive collections and live peacefully for his remaining time. However, the Richmond Cottage, with its vintage wooden structures and two story frame, or even the Stone House, which consists of three stories, 18-inch poured concrete walls, and/or its modern Otis elevator are not what instantly captured my attention when reading about the estates history, it was the truth that had been lost and was then found. The reality of this lavish structure sprouted from a time of hardship and suffering for the minority group of Afro-American and Afro-Bahamian laborers because of the prominent racial segregation that occurred then. Credit was not given where it was due, because while Deering Estate wanted to display itself as a serene and peaceful sanction, its truth is its history lies in the fact that minority groups shed blood, sweat and tears for its development with little to no acknowledgement. One defining moment of Deering Estate history is when four members of this minority group died and another five were injured due to the lack of safety and precaution within the work environment and lack of urgency from rescuers. No recognition or proper memorialization occurred after this tragic event, leaving future generations unaware of everything that had happened. It is said that the future goals of Deering Estate is to finally honor those who sacrificed so much for this land and educate the public.

The Tequesta tribe were the original people who on Miami grounds hunted, made shell like tools, created ceramics, experienced blood shed, and witnessed the acquisition of European colonists such as Ponce de Leon who landed on Biscayne Bay in 1513. It is proven that an entire community of Tequesta people located themselves amongst Deering Estate, yet there is no existing image or documentation to further demonstrate they currently exist. However, the most interesting aspect of Deering Estate is The Tequesta Cutler Burial Mound, which is only one of two Tequesta burial sites which have been dug up. According to Sheila Steiglitz from Cutler Bay News, ”It is believed that 12 to 18 Native Americans, including women and children, are buried there in a circular placing, much like the spokes of a wheel”. Nature provides its condolences by stretching its branches through out the burial sites protecting the tribe like a mother who hovers over her new borns cradle. I could imagine how the wind feels like gliding through the leaves and branches playing like a soft prayer that whooshes past your ears. The sounds of nature remind you of what the Deering Estate and the Tequesta tribe have endured and experienced, making mother nature the only one to truly know the harsh realities of what occurred behind the mass extinction of the tribe. Overall, the truth will always be uncovered. We must embrace open minds and open hearts to fully understand the true origins of our history and our culture.

Photo Edit Montage for Deering Estate Miami on Text of FIU. Photo Edit by Amanda Sardinas/CC BY 4.0


Bailly, J. W. B. (2021, April 25). Deering Estate Walking Tour. John William Bailly.

Retrieved February 3, 2022, from


Vizcaya as Text

“To Marble or Not to Marble,” by Amanda Marie Sardinas of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens on February 18th, 2022.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a national historic landmark located on Biscayne Bay in the present day Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, Florida. I had never visited this so called ”iconic landmark” and was grateful to experience it with a much more mature and analytical mindset. Forty three acres of luxury, history, and love is what Vizcaya has provided the city of Miami with since 1916. James Deering, brother of Charles Deering, was a man on a mission and with a vision. He and Paul Chalfin, architect of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, decided Miami needed a bit of an upgrade. Empty land that was just filled with mosquitos, palm trees and had a lack of excitement was completely transformed into the beginning of the exotic and lavish night life ambiance Miami is known for till this day.

Photo of Vizcaya Mansion by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

In the famous 90’s movie titled ”Clueless”, the protagonist, Cher, refers to a girl as a ”…full-on Monet”. What she meant by this is from afar the girl is objectively good looking, however up close everything is just a hot mess. Personally, Vizcaya felt like a Monet to me. From afar Vizcaya is seen as this beautiful prospect of hope where thousandths of couples spend an absurd amount of money to get married at, young girls becoming women take their very meaningful and long lasting fifteen’s/sixteen’s pictures at, and overall is perceived as gorgeous because of how it faces the bay and relishes in the sunlight. However, on the contrary we have romanticized Vizcaya. Its history is not at all meaningful for it was built by Bahamians who endured terrible working conditions, received little to no pay, were not given any type of credit, and weren’t even allowed on the premises once construction was completed. James Deering even made sure that no one of lower stature could sneak into the area by creating a moat around his dear Vizcaya. Vizcaya was only to be associated with extravagant living and respectable reputation.

Photo of Ponce de Leon Statue by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Deering also emphasized this through the interior and exterior design of the house. He makes a mess of meshing cultures together and interpreting them superficially. To begin with, the first thing visitors are welcomed with is this enormous statue of the well known conquistador, Ponce de Leon. Ponce de Leon arrived to the America’s and discovered Florida in 1513. I believe James Deering deeply resonated with Ponce de Leon because he also felt like it was his god given right to explore and take claim of land he did not have a moral right too. Both men did not realize the true suffering they caused minority cultures in exchange for power and wealth.

Photo of Bacchus Statue by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)
Photo of Portrait by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Within the Vizcaya house visitors are presented with a widespread of rooms and nature blending into one. One could tell James Deering did admire nature because the trees act as curtains showing off the house and water fountains guide visitors like a stream running along a river. Sincerely, nothing shows off his personality more than the Bacchus, god of wine and ecstasy, statue which is cocooned by plants. The statue further proved his motives for providing visitors with a good time and a good party. James valued beauty more than meaning and within the house you are presented with various versions of Rococo design style. Rococo is decorative and less intellectual. His plethora of books on his shelves served no purpose for he wasn’t much of a reader. Everything through out the house is meticulously placed to make James Deering seem like this well rounded individual, when in reality he was just showing off his wealth. James showers his house with cherub babies and random artwork, to compensate for the fact that he never had children or got married. He even has a Victorian styled portrait of a woman whose last name was also Deering, yet there is no relation between James and her. He just put the portrait there to make people think that there was.

Photo of Painted Marble Wall by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

As you make your way through the house you are also tricked into believing that genuine marble makes its way along the rims and columns, but in reality, Deering just hired a very detailed artist who painted portions of the house to look like marble.

Overall, I enjoyed learning about the history of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens because it is still a piece of the city that I was raised in and so deeply admire. On the bright side the garden aspect of Vizcaya felt more genuine to me because in some sections the Bahamians were able to use native shells from the ocean to create little love caves through out the grounds. It was also interesting to see the French influence he incorporated into his estate such as some of the bushes being molded to look rounded instead of sharp like and linear. Back then this concept represented royalty and wealth because you are adjusting nature to look the way you desire. He also included miniature mazes amongst the grounds, which is another French influence, since they used these mazes to create chance encounters amongst lovers. This was an enlightening experience and I can’t wait to share new found understanding of the place with anyone who wants to visit.

Photo of Vizcaya Garden by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Downtown Miami Walking Tour as Text

“Finding Freedom on an Intersection,” by Amanda Marie Sardinas of FIU at Downtown Miami on March 11th, 2022.

Picture this: you’re in the middle of Downtown Miami with your classmates for a school lecture. The streets are raging with bumper-to-bumper traffic, the humidity makes your hair go all frizzy, and the sounds of construction are like music to your ears. You’re learning and embracing the true history behind this beautiful city that has raised you, and suddenly while you’re relishing in the exuberant energy radiating around you your professor screams ”RUN”, and there you are running after him towards the middle of an intersection laughing and taking selfies with your new family.

Photo of The Magic City’s Kilometer Zero by Isa Brime (CC by 4.0)

You may be thinking to yourself what makes this intersection so unique that you and your classmates had to dangerously run towards the center of it to take a whole bunch of pictures. Well, turns out it is a very special spot for the people of Miami because it is ”The Magic City’s Kilometer Zero” located at the junction of Miami Avenue and Flagler Street. There are no southwest, northwest, northeast, or southeast directions at this crossroads, but the sidewalks on each corner indicate the beginning of each of Miami’s divisions. For some background history, Josiah Chaille was the son of William Chaille, who, after migrating from Ocala to Miami, owned The Racket Store on Avenue D (later dubbed Miami Avenue). The Chaille family came in Miami around 1900, not long after the city was founded. Chaille and his business partner at the time, Hugh Anderson, greatly impacted Miami through the development and influence of the fabulous Wynwood we know and love today.

Before Chaille’s proposal, the city’s street names followed a pattern of letters for avenues and numbers for streets. As the city grew, the basic address system became obsolete. Recognizing this requirement, Chaille, who was on the Miami City Council, proposed a street name scheme based on a quadrangle system of naming and numbering streets. The historic Twelfth Street and Avenue D crossroads, or the more well-known Flagler Street and Miami Avenue intersection, was located at the quadrant’s center. Streets north of the center point were assigned numbers, starting with First, and directional designations dependent on whether they ran east or west of Miami Avenue. On October 6, 1920, the Miami City Council adopted the proposal and Chaille was forever remembered as the creator of the street naming system that Miamians utilize till this day.

Photo of Freedom Tower by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Miami is a place of opportunity and hope, which is represented in ”Magic City’s Kilometer Zero”. It feels like the intersection is a metaphor for the plethora of choices people have when they arrive to Miami. The infamous freedom tower is another signature landmark for Miami that also symbolizes freedom and possibility. This 17-story tower use to be called the Miami Daily News Tower and is architecturally inspired by the Mediterranean Revival style Giralda Tower in Seville, Spain. The News Tower was sold to Irving Maidman, a New York realtor, for $1,250,000 in September 1957. The facility sat unused for the next 4-1/2 years, until the US General Services Administration leased four floors for use as the Cuban Refugee Emergency Center. Many Cuban exiles fled to Miami when Fidel Castro took power in Cuba in 1959. More than 80,000 refugees had arrived in Miami by 1961, and they continued to arrive at a pace of 2,000 per week. More than 450,000 Cuban migrants were registered through the Cuban Refugee Centers between February 1961 and October 1978. During the 1960s, when it functioned as the Cuban Refugee Emergency Center it became a symbol of liberation for Cuban refugees. Those who step foot on Miami are presented with a city that has a deep-rooted history. It has its strength and like everything else also has its weaknesses, but overall, it has saved the lives of those who were stuck at an intersection and chose freedom.

Photo of Freedom Tower by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)


Chaille Street Naming Plan in 1920. (2022, March 12). Miami History Blog.

Chaille Street Naming Plan in 1920

South Beach as Text

“Say Hello to my Little Friend… Ocean Drive,” by Amanda Marie Sardinas of FIU at South Beach on April 1st, 2022.

From Tony Montana cruising down the neon lit streets in his Porsche 928, to singer, Pitbull also known as Mr.305 rapping on top of an expensive yacht, is a place so majestic and filled with life everyone dreams of having the luxury of living here. Can you guess which place I’m talking about? Will Smith said it best ”Welcome to Miami, Bienvenidos a Miami”. Visitors come from all over the world to see South Beach’s iconic Art Deco neighborhood located on Ocean Drive.

Photo of ”ScarFace” Plaque by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Carl Fisher, a Miami pioneer, played a key role in the development of South Beach as a tourist destination in the 1910s. By 1920, South Beach’s reputation had begun, with hotels and mansions springing up left and right. The South Beach Art Deco era began two decades later, during which many of the area’s hotels were established in this style of architecture; several of these hotels also took their everlasting stance on Ocean Drive. There is a variety of cultures that influence these unique, renowned structures. Three styles that are predominantly utilized through out Ocean Drive include; Mediterranean Revival, Miami Modern (MIMO), and Art Deco. Each have their own distinctions and characteristics.

Photo of Mediterranean Revival Building on Ocean Drive by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Mediterranean Revival was implemented in California in the 1920s and 1930s, when it was termed as “Spanish Colonial.” Its relations to Spain are significant since this architectural style was influenced by Spanish Renaissance, Spanish Colonial, and Venetian Gothic architecture in the nineteenth century. This rectangular-looking home design with tones of yellows, oranges, and lush gardens was passed down to Miami.

Photo of MIMO Styled Building by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Miami Modern is futuristic and geometric, being influenced by Art Deco, but consists of glass bricks, port whole windows, white and pastel highlights, and resonate with boats or yachts. Curved and/or Sharp angles, trapezoidal shapes, Hollywood-style glass walls, and flat roofs characterize the architecture. Many momentous events occurred throughout the 1950s and 1960s, which fueled the change and hope expressed by this movement.

Photo Edit Collage of Ocean Drive Art Deco Buildings by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

Art Deco was considered more bright and flashy. Art Deco, which blends Egyptian style and industrialization, follows the rule of three with its symmetrical lines, pyramid inspired steps on the roof, and ”eyebrow” looking shields above the windows. On November 4th, 1922, King Tut’s tomb was discovered, which impacted the revolution of rejecting traditional European styles because it was like nothing anyone had ever seen before. As you admire the buildings you begin to notice a lot of Mayan and Egyptian motifs, sharp lines, and geometric patterns as well as, aquatic and tropical themes which resonate with nature. The 1924 Paris Exposition des Arts Decoratifs and Industriels Modernes, a Paris design expo that promoted the decorative arts’ connection with technology, also impacted the Art Deco we experience today. Most if not all the buildings have neon signs, pastel colors, and quirky fonts which pay homage to the advanced tech that was booming at the time.

Photo of Ocean Drive Art Deco Building Posing with Amanda and Karina Gonzalez by Amanda Sardinas (CC by 4.0)

No matter where you walk on Ocean Drive, you are constantly being blessed by the presence of these beautiful structures that stand confidently over Miami’s beaches. Each building is a character of their own that exudes culture and history.

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