Christopher Carlos Montejo: Paris 2022

by Christopher Carlos Montejo of FIU

Paris is a sprawling network of streets, tunnels, and rails. Personally, it is the most well-developed city transport system I’ve ever traveled in. Miami is the worst offender as it is untraversable without a car, while New York stands out as the United States’ best. Yet New York pales in comparison to Paris. Among many of the train lines in Paris, one of the most fascinating is Line 6. It is host to some of the most interesting stops in all of Paris. From the Eiffel Tower to Arc de Triomphe, line 6 is full of tourist hotspots, lesser-known museums, and incredibly important cemeteries and gardens.


The Denfret-Rochereau stop’s most notable sights are the Catacombs and the Museum of the Liberation of Paris. The Museum of the Liberation of Paris features tons of information on Jean Moulin, one of the most iconic and important figures in World War II and the liberation of Paris. He was not famous because of his legendary battle skills, as he never fought, he was important because he was an incredible leader and organizer. His role in the war was one of a kind and without him maybe there would be no liberation. It’s a testament to the many roles of war and how we can contribute as individuals to a greater cause. His contribution will forever be remembered and honored. They also had a temporary exhibit on photography of war by women, which was fascinating. Rarely do we speak of the roles of women in wars, so it was amazing to see women take on an incredibly important role, which is also artistic as well as journalistic. Across the museum are the Catacombs. The Catacombs are haunting and everyone should experience them once in their lives. It was originally created as a better place to store the dead, as above-ground cemeteries can be unsanitary and space-consuming. Walking through the tunnels, it’s unbelievable to think that whenever you’re walking on the street in Denfret-Rocheraeu, you are above the Catacombs. It felt never-ending and infinite as if there were trillions of dead. Think of all the history and people that are now stored underground. It makes one think of how they would like to be buried and remembered.


Raspail most notably is next to the Giacometti Institute and the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Arts Museum. The Giacometti Institute is host to the artist Alberto Giacometti. A Swiss sculptor and artist, he is regarded as one of the most important sculptors of the 20th century. His work is haunting and borderline creepy to see in person, the string-like figures can be disturbing for some, but I found them oddly beautiful and touching. His portraits of heads and busts are fascinating and almost intimate in their expressiveness and intensity. His technique is one of a kind. The Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Arts Museum is a beautiful space for exhibitions. The architect Jean Nouvel wanted to create a space that is synergistic with nature, therefore it has giant glass walls that do not separate the inside and outside but rather blend them. It’s a building that stands out from the rest of the Haussmann-era Art Nouveau buildings but is a modern flair rather than an eyesore. The artist featured when I visited was Sally Gabori, an Australian indigenous artist who began painting at 80 years old. Her work is fascinating as she started at a late stage in her life with no prior traditional art experience. She was not coming from a western arts background and was not trained in painting. Yet, her abstract works that cover massive canvases manage to capture the fleeting memories of her indigenous upbringing and life on her native island. She blends colors that create a sense of mystical nostalgia for a land that you left a long time ago, and wish to return to. She is one of my newest favorite artists, and she is an amazing person! The two artists you can see at this stop are from completely different periods of time, which gives you a glimpse into the evolution of art history and its forerunners.


Two major sites near the Trocadero stop are the gardens bearing its name, and the Cemetery de Passy. The Trocadero Gardens are beautiful and you have an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower from it. The garden was originally created for the Universal Exhibition of 1878, and then transformed for the 1937 Universal Exhibition, into the current garden we are familiar with. On the other side of the stop, you may find the Cemetery de Passy. The Cemetery is special and small, hosting famous artists Manet and Morisot, who are incredibly important in art history. Their works are present in the d’Orsay and other museums around the city, such as Manet’s most controversial work, Olympia, which shattered the art world. Manet is known for his riot-inducing works that captured the essence of modernity and modern life. He was also a pivotal figure in the art movement known as Impressionism. Morisot is notable for being one of the few famous female painters of her time, especially in the impressionist movement, as the art world is incredibly male-dominated. Her works are among the best of the movement, which helped carve a place for women in art, as you had to respect her amazing talent. She painted primarily landscapes and depictions of women, with a unique style that is difficult to copy.


It’s the Eiffel Tower, not much is needed to be said. From the stop, you have a beautiful view of the most iconic structure in the world. The Eiffel Tower is a monument to the French Revolution and the greatest (male) scientists. Along its beams, you can read the names of the most brilliant men in the history of science, but it is a shame women are not represented. Women scientists such as Madam Curie deserves recognition as much as any other scientist of her time, and I think they should update the tower’s names. It was originally going to be taken down, as the popular opinion of the time said it was the ugliest thing in the city and it was only for the Revolution’s anniversary and the 1889 Universal Exposition, but once radio lines were installed at the top, it stayed to this day. It’s interesting to think if the Montparnasse tower will become iconic or as famous as the Eiffel Tower, as it similarly is hated during its introduction. I doubt it. I remember being terrified climbing up the staircase as I’m scared of heights and falling even though I’m in one of the most secure buildings in the world. But once you’re at the top, it is a spectacular view of the entire city. It’s too bad you can’t see the Eiffel Tower from it.

Charles de Gaulle-Etoile

Of course, it goes without saying that this stop is the stop for the Arc of Triomphe. The Arc de Triomphe was originally Napoleon’s idea to honor and commemorate his military victories and his generals and soldiers, along with the French Revolution. It began construction in 1806 but was only completed 30 years after under King Louis-Philippe. I remember feeling strange as I passed through it, as I never like to idealize or romanticize war. But the eternal flame and the unknown soldier were truly touching. Being forgotten is my greatest fear and giving a life just to be forgotten sounds like the worst thing that could happen to someone. To see a memorial to all of those that have given their lives to a greater cause such as the French Revolution and have them honored was the most beautiful of the whole monument. It never is extinguished, unless a drunk man decides to use it as an impromptu bathroom. The stop is named after Charles de Gaulle, former president and icon of World War II. He was the leading figure in the liberation of France and represented the France that did not want to bow to Nazi or Vichy control. He broadcasted out to millions of French, calling them to take arms and fight for a liberated France. He was incredibly brave and without him, France would have not had the strong leader it needed to break free from Nazi control and cooperation.


In this stop, there is Yin and Yang. On one side, You have the Montparnasse cemetery, which is the second largest cemetery in the city and is the final resting place of some of the greatest literary and artistic minds. On the other, the biggest eyesore in the whole city is the Montparnasse Tower. The tower, which can be seen from anywhere unlike the Eiffel Tower, is the antithesis of Paris. The only redeeming factor is that it has an amazing view from the balconies, especially since you can’t see it if you’re looking out from it. When I visited the Montparnasse cemetery, I spent more time than I expected. Some of the most important graves I paid respects to were Simone de Beauvoir’s and Jean-Paul Sartre’s tombs, which were covered with kisses all over it as well as Baudelaire’s tomb. The famous sculptor Ossip Zadkine had his initials spelled with stones, and Man Ray had a simple tomb with his name etched into it with a stone-like crayon. In Paris, graveyards are a cultural phenomenon. I never visit graveyards in Miami,  but here you find people reading books or playing the newspaper’s crossword puzzle sitting on a bench. Everyone finds a way to leave a mark on their favorite artist’s tomb, and although it can sometimes be damaging, I think it’s beautiful. I left stones at the base of the tombs I visited, as a memento to say I made the pilgrimage to visit you, that I was there, and that I left my mark. It’s comforting to know these people are remembered so strongly through death that they have many daily visitors that bring tokens of affection.

In my exploration of Paris, I have come to learn and understand how much history is in this city. Every stop on every line is a site of cultural or historical significance. You can see it by how many streets are named after famous writers or philosophers. There is always a plaque commemorating the deaths of those who liberated France in World War II. There’s an abundance of statues honoring the French Revolution. Every street corner is special and important in Paris, sometimes you don’t even notice.


“Charles De Gaulle.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 

“The Birth of the Eiffel Tower – Official Eiffel Tower Website.” La Tour Eiffel, 4 Jan. 2022, 

“History of the Arc De Triomphe.” Arc De Triomphe, 26 July 2019, 

“Trocadero Gardens.” ParisCityVision, 

Christopher Carlos Montejo: France as Text 2022

Izieu as Text

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Lyon as Text

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

Does Not Bow

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

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

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

Versailles as Text

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


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

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

Paris as Text

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

Paris is

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

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

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

Normandy as Text

A Sacrifice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Philip B. Edelen.” Philip B. Edelen | Silent Heroes, 

Pere Lachaise as Text

Like You

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

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

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

Max Ernst Biography, 

Christopher Montejo: Declaration 2022

Black Venus and Human Rights

(Photo by Gaston Paris/Roger Viollet via Getty Images)


Josephine Baker was an American-born French woman of color, who was a singer, dancer, activist, and French Résistance fighter during World War II. One of the most influential people of the 19th century, she was a trailblazer and icon who has forever impacted the culture and society of the western world. But to understand her importance and connection to the modern-day and the history of human rights in France and beyond, it is critical to begin by understanding her life before examining her legacy.

Josephine Baker’s Life

Born as Freda Josephine McDonald on June 3, 1906, in St. Louis, Missouri, Josephine was raised fatherless and in deep poverty. Neglected by her family and society, she learned how to be independent and self-sufficient in order to survive. Rebellious and refusing to be put in a box, at the young age of 8 she did not attend school and instead worked as a housekeeper for wealthy white families. Once she became 13, she began work as a waitress in the Old Chauffeur’s Club, where jazz musicians from all of Missouri performed. While working there, she acquired a calling to the stage and used her connections in order to work her way into becoming a performer. She began in vaudeville, eventually joining the hugely successful Broadway revue Shuffle Along in 1923, during the Harlem Renaissance. Through this work ethic and tireless performance, she eventually made a name for herself and was able to become the lead for an all-black vaudeville show to take place in Paris. Her departure from the United States would mark the biggest shift in her life.

Josephine first arrived in Paris in the fall of 1925 as a member of La Revue Nègre. She was surprised by the freedom she felt in France. Free from the racism of the United States, she felt at home in Paris and was able to truly blossom. This escape to Paris would be seen by other artists of color in the future, such as James Baldwin. La Revue Nègre was a massive hit and Josephine became an overnight sensation. Her style of dancing and performance was seen as exotic and “savage,” which thrilled French audiences. Most famously, her performance while only wearing a skirt made of bananas made waves in the newspapers. She maintained her relevancy and fame until the beginning of World War II. Using her fame and connections, she became a spy for the French Résistance against the Nazi powers. Outside of espionage, during the war effort, she also performed shows for the Red Cross and was made a member of the Ladies Air Auxiliary. For her work, she was awarded the Legion of Honor and the Medal of the Resistance. However, this only marked the beginning of her fight for the freedom of others.

After the war, Josephine began her campaign and crusade for human rights. She adopted 12 children of different ethnicities from around the world, naming it her “Rainbow Tribe.” She did this in order to show proof that racial harmony was possible, and that children that did not share a country of origin could live happily together. She later joined Martin Luther King Jr. in the historic March on Washington, giving a speech to a crowd of thousands. Throughout her life onwards, she continued to be an advocate for racial equality and human rights.

Josephine Baker eventually suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died in a coma on April 14, 1975 while on tour for a revue based on her life. Her funeral had over 20,000 attendees and she was the only American-born woman to receive full French military honors. In her life, she was the first of many feats and achievements and had risen from segregated poverty to the castles of European royalty.

Now that we have an understanding of Josephine Baker’s life as an icon of the liberating jazz age, we can begin to connect her legacy to the world beyond the stage.

Connection to Human Rights

Josephine Baker’s connection to human rights was nothing subtle or hidden. In Europe, she was a Résistance fighter and opponent of the fascist powers invading France. In the United States, she was an activist and advocate for the Civil Rights Movement and racial equality. In interviews and speeches, she would use the platform to promote ideas of unity, criticizing the unfair treatment of people of color in the United States. In her historic speech during the March on Washington, she stated:

“You know, friends, that I do not lie to you when I tell you I have walked into the palaces of kings and queens and into the houses of presidents.  And much more. But I could not walk into a hotel in America and get a cup of coffee, and that made me mad.  And when I get mad, you know that I open my big mouth.  And then look out, ‘cause when Josephine opens her mouth, they hear it all over the world.”

This statement on her “big mouth” exemplified her presence as an outspoken and brazen speaker for justice in the United States. She continued by stating:

“Friends and brothers and sisters, that is how it went. And when I screamed loud enough, they started to open that door just a little bit, and we all started to be able to squeeze through it.  Not just the colored people, but the others as well, the other minorities too, the Orientals, and the Mexicans, and the Indians, both those here in the United States and those from India.”

This cry for justice extended outside of the United States and her race. She fought and spoke for all oppressed groups from around the globe. Her work on and off the stage showed that she was a true champion of the cause of human rights, as she put her reputation and life on the line for the rights of others.

Her work as an entertainer of color gave her leverage and a voice in the upper echelons of society. By having a spotlight, both literally and metaphorically, she was able to cast her message with volume and urgency, invading the ears of those in power in an attempt to make them listen, or at least to disrupt their line of thinking. With fame came an audience and her global fame meant her words reached to farthest reaches of the world. This made Josephine Baker unique as a human rights activist with one of the largest platforms available.

Connection to Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was the foundation of human rights fought for in the French Revolution. Inspired by thinkers of the Enlightenment, it was the first most comprehensive human rights document, as it protected citizens of all kinds, both men and women, of different races, and of different sexualities. In the Declaration, it states:

“The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man.” 

Relating this to Josephine Baker, she never was quiet and used her fame as a way to freely express her opinions to a wide audience. She truly believed in this right as she believed the silencing of oppressed voices was unjust and unfair. The Declaration also states that:

“Men are born and remain free and equal in rights.”

Josephine Baker believed in true equality and freedom. As a woman of color, she became famous in the white and male-dominated entertainment industry. She became equal in a field where it was heavily disadvantageous to those of her race and gender. She prevailed in a world that wanted to keep her quiet, a true icon of freedom and expression. The Declaration also stated that:

“The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.”

Josephine Baker resisted oppression like no other and throughout her life, she fought to preserve the rights of others. In her own words, she was “hounded by the government agencies in America” during the Civil Rights Movement and during World War II put herself in dangerous and life-threatening situations in order to gain an upper hand against the Nazi forces that were threatening Europe.

Therefore, Josephine Baker is connected to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen because she exemplified the rights prescribed and protected in the document. France was a safe haven for her, as a bisexual woman of color, unlike the United States, because of the Declaration. When originally written, the United States Constitution did not offer any rights or protection to different gender, sexual, or racial identities. White men were considered citizens first, therefore leading to the injustices and unfair societal structures suffered by minorities throughout the history of the United States. When she left the United States, the protections offered by the much more expansive Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen allowed her to grow as an artist and influential figure, as the Declaration was the birth of modern feminism and racial equality in the western world. Without this document, she would not have found refuge in France, nor have been able to champion these rights for those around the world.

Connection to Modern Life

Josephine Baker’s legacy and influence affect our world to this day. Without her, superstars of color such as Beyonce would not have had the foundation or history to follow. Artists pass torches through generations, and Josephine Baker created the torch for future independent women artists of color to carry. In her words:

“I took that rocky path, and I tried to smooth it out a little.  I wanted to make it easier for you.  I want you to have a chance at what I had.” 

Josephine used stereotypes and tropes of her time to captivate her audience. At the time and to this day, derogatory words like “exotic” and “savage” were used to describe women of color, and she used and embraced these sexual and racial tropes. She had her finger on the pulse of society and by doing so became a superstar. With her platform, she was then able to have a stage to promote her beliefs on social issues. This progression is seen with modern artists of color such as Megan Thee Stallion, as she is similarly an outspoken advocate and activist, while first becoming famous as a sexual and musical icon. Therefore, Josephine Baker laid the blueprint of the activist artist in the mainstream entertainment industry today.


In summary, Josephine Baker’s legacy will be felt for the rest of history. She laid the groundwork for all of those that preceded her, as she was the original international superstar of color. I am personally inspired by her as she was an artist that never stopped evolving while staying true to her beliefs as an outspoken activist. She was a tireless worker with an incomparable work ethic that forever changed the art and entertainment world. I see her as an inspiration and as an icon, and we should all strive to be like Josephine Baker. Hungry, loud, and true to others.


“(1963) Josephine Baker, ‘Speech at the March on Washington” BlackPast, 

“Declaration of the Rights of Man – 1789.” Avalon Project – Declaration of the Rights of Man – 1789, 

“Josephine Baker.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 

“Josephine Baker.”, A&E Networks Television, 7 June 2021, 

Meares, Hadley Hall. “Paris When It Sizzles: The Loves and Lives of Josephine Baker.” Vanity Fair, 2 Sept. 2020, 

“Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia.”, 28 Mar 2022,,had%20wed%20in%20June%201927.

Christopher Carlos Montejo: Miami as Text 2022

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

My name is Christopher Carlos Montejo and I am an honors college student at Florida International University majoring in Philosophy and Computer Science and minoring in Art and Psychology. My studies focus on the intersection of aesthetics, cognition, and community, and I plan to pursue a career in university professorship. In my spare time, I host a jazz show at the campus radio station, skateboard, write, and play too many video games.

Deering As Text

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


by Christopher Carlos Montejo of FIU at Deering Estate on January 28, 2022.

I hate mosquitos but I hate the feeling of bug spray more, so I went into the swamp trail with just a T-shirt. In the backwoods hike, we walked along a ridge that countless others spanning millennia traveled. I constantly checked my arms to swat away any mosquitos. We arrived by the mangroves, their long fingers drinking from the fresh water, the same the Tequesta drank from centuries ago. In the soil next to it, lay artifacts of tools and meals. Memories tucked below the topsoil. Their laughs and stories still whisper with the wind. We moved on and descended into a solution hole. The pit was created from decaying leaves and rainwater. Animals looking for a drink would be unknowingly trapped and suffer a bitter end. The soil was fertile. Our hike ended at a burial mound. From the buried bodies of the Tequesta people, a sacred tree grew and reached the skies. It was not the largest tree, physically. But its presence bore down on us, we were so small compared to its energy that permeated the skin. Its stretching branches carried the weight of the sky and its people. This ecosystem thrives from decay, it is a beautiful circle that is living and breathing. Beneath this soil is history. The Bahamians, Tequesta, they all rest here, unknown to most of the world. Their tools and food came from the earth, and they returned to it. I am participating in a cycle. My body is feeding the mosquitos. Some day my body will feed a tree as well.

Vizcaya as Text

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


by Christopher Carlos Montejo of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens on February 18, 2022.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been to Vizcaya. I’ve been during the day, night, alone, on a tour, on a first date, on a last date, even accidentally during a wedding. Yet, each time, I discover something new, some secretive minute detail carved onto the walls. There is no expense spared in Vizcaya, there is an obsessive detail dedicated to every inch of the palace to make it as extravagant and gaudy as possible. It’s excessive, it’s glamorous. But it’s a manufactured contradiction. Miami wasn’t Spanish villas and Roman arches. It was mangroves and swamps. Vizcaya is the whole European world packaged and imported to a continent that does not share that history. A place out of place. But that forced image now represents Miami more than anything else. So much so, that the surrounding neighborhood of Coral Gables used Vizcaya as a thematic blueprint. An old-world colonial village that pushes out the “savages.” You can still see the segregation today. Miami was not only shaped by the image of Vizcaya but its mission. We’ve paved and plugged up every hole with concrete and palm trees, transforming this land into an unrecognizable imitation.

In the front of Vizcaya Gardens, are two giant marble statues. One is of Ponce de León, the conquistador that discovered Florida, and the other is a fictional conquistador, Vizcaya. The ego of the American conquistador, with his fiction, myth, and self-righteousness. Vizcaya tries so hard to be European, but it is so American.

Downtown Miami as Text

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


by Christopher Carlos Montejo of FIU at Downtown Miami on March 11, 2022.

I’m waiting by a ventanita to get something to eat, leaning against a wooden statue of a Native American chief, the corny and offensive stereotype used to sell cheap tobacco. There’s a blonde woman buying some lottery tickets, she’s asking where the Powerball is at now. There’s a black construction worker moving his head to the reggae over the speakers. A Venezuelan woman is asking if there are any croquetas left. Flys buzz around me as a Dominican man smoking next to me asks for a straw for his Jupina, his hands remind me of my dad’s. I fumble through my wimpy Spanish and pick up a Cuban sandwich. As I skateboard away I take a look at the building adjacent to it. It’s boarded up, falling apart from the seams, I assume covid is the reason it shut down, it even looks like it caught it.

Whenever I tell someone I’m from Miami they think of sports cars and cocaine cowboys. Images and advertisements of the beach, nightclubs, and eternal summer are what come up. In Brickell, there’s a billion-dollar mall project called the City Center, inside it are million-dollar designer brand stores. Surrounding it are billion-dollar skyscrapers that are home to million-dollar condos and its million-dollar people. But what’s on the ground? Displaced working people, who have to make room for the ones that want to live in the sky by the sea. The people I saw by the ventanita.

The center is not malls and ivory towers. This is the real center. But the real Miami is falling apart.

South Beach as Text

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


by Christopher Carlos Montejo of FIU at South Beach on April 1, 2022.

The weather is beautiful, I wish I brought something to swim in. From the pier, the water looks crystal clear and you can see all of the diving beachgoers and the sand beneath the water. It never gets old to lay under the shade of a lifeguard tower, in the famous Miami sand so many across the world come to visit. Maybe I could go for a swim and skate by the Art Deco District, I adore the style of the buildings. There’s a pretty good noodle place next to my favorite museum, maybe I’ll pass by it on the way back. Sometimes, even in my most cynical moments, I like South Beach.

As we walk down the pier, the professor tells us the history of what came to be South Beach. The shores were lined with mangroves that protected the land and its people, who formed a community near the water. But once the mangroves were chopped up by an influx of railroad barons, the community and its land were cut into pieces. He tells me that the reason you don’t see any plants below the water is that nothing can grow anymore. With the mangroves gone, the land slowly returns to the ocean, taking everything with it. Therefore, sand has to be imported from the Bahamas every year to keep Miami from sinking. Because of some rich and powerful men, Miami, both in land and identity, is washing away from the shore. Yeah, that sounds like the Miami I’ve come to learn.

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