Andrew Vazquez: Miami as Text 2022-2023

Photograph taken by Jose Villavicencio // CC by 4.0

Andrew Vazquez is a senior at Florida International University studying history. He is planning to pursue a graduate degree either in history or law. He his hoping to find a way to utilize his love of early modern history in his future career.

Downtown As Text

“The Wagner House” This house was built by William Wagner in 1855 and is the oldest building in Miami. Photo by Andrew Vazquez/CC by 4.0

Miami’s forgotten People

By Andrew Vazquez of FIU at Downtown Miami, 31 August 2022

If you ask someone to say what comes to their mind after hearing the word “Miami” you would get any number of responses ranging from beaches to Scarface, to sunny weather but few would mention Native Americans who lived in the land before the Nothern “Pioneers” arrived. Whether it be our territorial ancestors of the Tequesta, the Seminoles who were pushed into the land by American aggression or perhaps another group unknown to us today, people have lived-in modern-day Miami for thousands of years.

The Tequesta people were some of the first to be encountered by the European conquistadors with the first meeting coming in 1513 when Ponce de Leon came to Miami. Imagining what the Tequesta must felt when looking out to the sea from the mouth of the Miami river they saw massive ships flying an unknown flag approaching their home. The Tequesta were an incredible group of people who managed to maintain their alliances with the Spanish until they fled to Cuba following the British acquisition of Florida in the seven years war.

After the Tequesta were forced to flee their native home by the British the Seminoles originating in Georgia quickly replaced them as the newly formed American state began their wars of extermination against the natives. There were three “Seminole Wars” in a period of roughly 50 years, with many years between conflicts the Seminoles interacted with some of the northern settlers such as William Wagner.

With this the main point of this blog post begins to reveal itself. The remnants of the Native civilizations that came before us. The Wagner house is the oldest structure in Miami and hosted a group of Seminoles for dinner along side its owners, this is perhaps the most wholesome monument regarding either the Tequesta or Seminole peoples in Miami. The last intact monument to native peoples we saw in our walk was the Miami circle, a large hole near the mouth of the Miami river that is believed to have been the center of the Tequesta capital. The other memorials we have to the Tequesta are unsavory at best, with the most notable of which being found in a Wholefoods. This Whole Foods was shamelessly built over the largest found Tequesta burial site and instead of being persevered and properly shared with the public is was built over with only a mural to commemorate the dead.

The pure disregard that we have shown to the Native people that once inhabited the land we now call home is disgusting. Despite the fact many members of our class have lived in Miami-Dade all their lives some had never even heard of the Tequesta people. We must encourage areas where we can learn about these Native groups and the Miami History Museum is the perfect place for it. The History Museum had tons of information regarding the Tequesta their culture and history. This is what we need more of.

Overtown As Text

Destruction of History

By Andrew Vazquez of FIU at Overtown, 14 September 2022

Carl Sagan said, “You have to know the past to understand the present,” but how can we know the past when it is actively being destroyed. When Miami was founded in 1896 it immediately became a segregated city just like many others in the south. The same people who voted to incorporate the city were forced to lived outside the new city in what is now called Overtown. After the hurricane of 1928 and the subsequent rebuilding, Overtown became an entertainment hub. With Miami being a segregated city, black entertainers were not allowed to spend the night near the venues they had just performed. Some of the most famous black performers of their time such as Billie Holiday, and Josephine Baker would go to Overtown after their shows and perform for the people there. The lyric theatre was the heart of this “little Broadway” and is one of the few historic buildings still standing in Overtown today.

                Overtown is the site of some incredible history particularly during the civil rights movement. With both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr speaking to the people of Overtown. Sadly, the historical places which should have been preserved have not been given the protection they deserve. The Greater Bethel AME church, a place in which Martin Luther King gave his first speech for the “Crusade for Citizenship,” is falling apart. The greater Bethel church is not alone in this fate with the Dorsey house, home of the first black millionaire in Miami, also looking like its seen better days. Instead of looking for ways to preserve these parts of our history we are looking for work arounds of the limited protection they have. The destruction of these historic places would not be new to Overtown the highway system and I-95 systematically tore through Overtown and the civil rights movement in 1957, displacing many with short notice and no recourse. I-95 was not the last way Overtown was dismantled with massive amounts of gentrification overtaking the neighborhood. High-rises now take the places of schools and parks. During our short trip we heard from Wendel a worker at the Greater Bethel Church how the congregation has been displaced and diminished with the construction of new apartments.

               The question must be asked again, how can we know the past when it is being actively destroyed?

Chicken Key as Text

Emerging from the Mangroves. Photo taken by Andrew Vazquez/CC by 4.0

Majesty of Nature

By Andrew Vazquez of FIU at Chicken Key, 5 October 2022

Standing by the water at the Deering Estate is one of the most beautiful scenes in Miami, the seemingly endless Biscayne Bay only being interrupted by a patch of green rising from the ocean. That patch of green is Chicken Key, an uninhabited sanctuary with its only structure being a few benches and a fire pit. Endangered species and native plants that are rarely found in their previous territories flourish. Our visit to Chicken was to ensure their continued prosperity.

Hurricane Ian, while not striking Miami directly, did have effects on the nature of Miami-Dade. Strong winds and heavy rain lead to massive amounts of pollution being sent to the ocean making its way to Chicken Key. Due to the isolated nature of Chicken Key pollution tends to build up with many fishing nets and balloon strings getting caught in the mangroves. With the tangling in the mangroves turtles which nest on the island get stuck among the debris and eventually die. The mangrove forest that encompasses Chicken Key is a unique biome that can be found in South Florida being in the middle of the salt water bay and the fresh water streams coming from lake Okeechobee, and due to this needs to be protected. The pollution on Chicken Key does not just affect the plants and animals of the island. With the interconnectedness of nature a decrease in plant or animal life in a small island can have catastrophic effects elsewhere. 

Chicken Keys isolation means that there is no simple way to get to the island, with canoes and kayaks being a common method. This method is without a doubt the best option, not only being green but also because it allows the visitor freedom in exploring the island and neighboring mangrove tunnels. The feeling of emerging from the mangroves, seeing light peering into an otherwise dark tunnel, it is like rediscovering the world. While it can be a struggle to fight against the current on the way to the island, it made landing all the sweeter. Once on the island the work began. Trash piled on the western side of the island and nets were found all along its perimeter. Even debris from the Caribbean could be found with garbage originating from both Cuba and Haiti being previously reported. Once all the trash was gathered the trip back could begin, this was significantly easier with the help of the current guiding the canoes back to their home in the Deering Estate. It was truly freeing sailing back to the Deering Estate sitting among the waves seeing the world move around you. 

The fun day of canoeing and swimming was beautifully paired with community service resulting in an experience that while tiring was incredibly rewarding. As someone who does not often volunteer their time this was an eye opening experience, working to protect our environment is not only necessary it can even be fun.

Vizcaya as Text

Making of Miami

By Andrew Vazquez of FIU at Vizcaya, 19 October 2022

Ponce de Leon blvd, Granada blvd, and the name Florida itself are all ways in which we can see Spanish and Mediterranean culture influencing our city. Perhaps the most grandiose building that displays Mediterranean influence is Vizcaya. Biscayne bay and by extension Vizcaya are named after a region in the Spanish Basque country near the western border with France. It was following the shipwreck of some Spaniards native to the region, in what was once Tequesta bay, that the body of water was renamed.

James Deering being a rich man in the 19th-century spent time in Europe to become cultured, while his brother seems to have taken to European art caring about even the most minor details, James seems to be more focused on the appearance of being cultured. Vizcaya is the perfect example of appearances triumphing over all. Vizcaya could be considered Mediterranean revival but in a deeper sense it is a mismatch of styles, all of Mediterranean origins. Paul Chalfin the interior decorator and artist mind behind Vizcaya can also be shown to have been heavily influenced by the Mediterranean styles training as an artist in Paris before beginning his career.

There are two elements of Vizcaya that are particularly interesting in understanding the Mediterranean influence of Miami, the triumphal arches leading to the gardens and the two explorers that seem to guard the estate. Triumphal arches are usually associated with the Roman Empire which would build them to celebrate military victories, but the most famous example is in France. James Deering had no grand military conquest, objectively he had no right to construct these arches, but money talks more than tradition. The two explorers immortalized outside Vizcaya are one Ponce de Leon and Bel Vizcaya. Ponce de Leon is familiar to Florida and Miami in particular. Ponce de Leon was the Spanish explorer who led the first Spanish exploration of Florida. While Ponce de Leon is honored in Miami with a major street, Bel Vizcaya is nowhere to be seen. That is because Bel Vizcaya does not exist and was made up by James Deering to justify the name Vizcaya. These two aspects seem to embody Miami just like the Mediterranean revival style found commonly across the county.  

James Deering and Vizcaya are interesting characters being influenced by the Mediterranean. In Vizcaya’s every room appearances are key, ranging from rococo to baroque. Vizcaya with its grand appearance and Mediterranean character perfectly embodies Miami.

South Beach as Text

The Making of South Beach

By Andrew Vazquez of FIU at South Beach, 2 November 2022

South beach is a place where fashion reigns supreme. While this does include fashion in the traditional sense, with visionary Gianni Versace once calling south beach home, I’m referring to architectural fashion.

There are three main styles that encompass south beach showing the evolution and preservation of the island through time. 

The first style seen in south beach is renaissance revival. Renaissance revival is incredibly popular throughout the Miami area with Vizcaya and the city of Coral Gables being the most relevant examples. This style harkens back to the Spanish legacy of Miami, once being a colonial possession of Spain. Key aspects of this style include the clay tile roofs commonly associated with south Florida.

The next style seen in South Beach is the most famous of south beach, Art Deco. Art Deco is not only the most famous but in my opinion the most interesting. Art Deco is fairly common in south beach with the island hosting the largest Art Deco neighborhood in the world. Because of the uniqueness of the style, it is important to understand its underlying history. Around the same time Art Deco was developed vast technological improvements were being made and people began to look to machines as a source of beauty. This idea of machines being beautiful can be seen all throughout Art Deco with many buildings being reminiscent of toasters or fridges. The influence of technology can also be seen with the use of neon and rocket imagery. Finally the cultural elements of Egypt are evident with King Tut’s tomb being recently discovered at the time. The style itself can be explained in the rule of three. Art Deco is typically three floors, and is divided into three sections. While there are many other aspects that define Art Deco these are the major ones. 

The final style commonly seen in south beach is MiMo or Miami Modern. This style, similar to Art Deco, looks to objects as inspiration, with many buildings looking like ships. This style can also be seen with the appearance of shapes being stuck together in odd fashions and of course with the pastel colors of Miami.

There are many things that make south beach one of a kind, and the convergence of ideas and culture is exemplified by its architecture. Most areas, even if their architecture is impressive, stick to one style, the previous example of Coral Gables also applies here, while it is beautiful it fails to capture the imagination the same way as south beach. It is also this mismatch of styles that attracts tourists to the island. While the beach is beautiful it is not unique to south beach, but its architecture is.

The Deering Estate as Text

The Real Miami

By Andrew Vazquez of FIU, 16 November 2022

Miami today is a metropolitan area where we go from air-conditioned box to air-conditioned box. In a city such as this, it is easy to feel disconnected with nature.

The Deering Estate is a picturesque view of what Miami was before the Spanish colonization. A place that is untouched by man, barring a crashed plane. It is rare to find a place, not just in Miami, in which just three ecosystems are in such close proximity to one another. The Deering Estate is unique in the fact that eight ecosystems are found within a few minutes’ walk from one another. Walking through the eight different ecosystems it was impossible not to feel at one with nature. With the metropolitan nature of Miami being in these ecosystems felt like being transported to a movie and with each transition to another area it was like a shift in the movie’s genre.

The tropical hardwood hammock felt like a classic exploration movie taking place in a jungle. In this ecosystem there were unnerving amounts of foliage surrounding you. Being placed in this environment one cannot help but feel like you are an uninvited guest in the home of the plants. Being completely surrounded by green did however provide the best views and interesting stories, with a beautiful bridge and a freemason well.

The other ecosystem which I will address was my favorite and bordered the tropical hardwood hammock. The Pine Rocklands was once a dominant ecosystem in Florida but has been reduced to roughly 3% of its historic ranges. This destruction is not entirely like others with humans simply wanting more room to build. While that is a factor, most pine Rocklands today are being overtaken by other ecosystems such as the hardwood hammock. Pine Rocklands are incredibly interesting in their need to catch on fire every few years, with its plants all being adapted for this. However, people tend to be afraid of large swaths of land catching fire and have been quick to put out any such fires leading to the decline of the ecosystem. Because of this, even within the Deering Estate where routine fires are conducted the encroachment of the hardwood hammock can been seen in the Pine Rocklands.

Through the Tropical Hardwood Hammock, Pine Rocklands, Salt Marsh, Mangroves, Submerged Sea Grass Beds, Deering Estate Flow-way, Remnant Slough, and Beach Dune Chicken Key, the real Miami can be seen. These ecosystems, many of which used to span the entire state have been reduced to a shadow of their former selves, rely on institutions like the Deering Estate to preserve them and their many inhabitants. We must also work to preserve the native environment in any way we can as it not only gives us a place to get away from the world but also an insight into our own pasts.

Rubell Museum as Text

Vanity vs Virtue

Vanity vs Virtue, what is the Rubell Museum? The Rubell museum is a privately owned contemporary art collection with two locations, Miami, and DC. The Rubell’s collection has a vast array of work, as is the nature of contemporary art, dating back to the 60’s when the couple first started collecting art. With the Rubell family collection now standing at over 7000 pieces not all can be displayed at a single time, but the museum is not short on fantastic and original works. These works range from a portrait of the Rubells in the form of a mattress to world famous Kusama infinity rooms. One key aspect of the Rubell museum that separates it from the numerous galleries in Miami is that the work is not for sale, it truly is a personal collection.

               While there is nothing strange about having a personal collection, in fact many members of the art community have a collection themselves. This does not mean that the Rubell’s are not a special case, as not many make their galleries open to the public. Their display of artistic splendor can be interpreted in many contrasting ways, as a simple vanity project or a display of virtue. An important question is why would this museum be considered a vanity project? As was previously stated this museum is made up of the personal collection of the Rubell’s, some may consider this a display of wealth rather than a service to the community. Through my discussions with gallery owners during Miami art week I asked if they ever displayed their personal collections in their galleries. To this question I received the answer “no” because they considered it vanity.

               On the other hand, this collection could be considered virtuous. Throughout the years the
Rubell’s have collected some fantastic pieces from now world-renowned artists. There is no obligation to allow others to see your property, it would not only be easier it would be cheaper for the Rubell’s to keep their collection private. As a historian I can only appreciate the collection being available to the public as it allows the critical examination of these works, and the acquisition of information on a broader scale.

               I believe the Rubell Museum to be a virtuous project. In allowing our FIU class to enter free of charge the Rubell Museum displayed their desire for communal interaction. This community driven nature was only further amplified by the presence of Mera Rubell herself. Mera Rubell happened to see our class navigating our way through her massive collection when she approached us to discuss art collection and the history of the museum. Unprompted Mera Rubell taught a class, containing no art majors, about the history of contemporary art and the history of individual pieces within the collection. Most significantly Mera Rubell offered life advice that will stick with me for years to come. Imagine a butterfly on a ship in the middle of the ocean. While I do not remember the exact wording it was along the lines of, “If you are not paying attention, you will never stop to think about the butterfly, but the magic of life is stopping to wonder how the butterfly got there.” So, is the Rubell Museum a simple vanity project or a virtuous project? Like art everyone will have their own interpretation centered around preconceived biases, but after meeting the people responsible for the museum, the answer is clear.

Miami Art Week as Text

Eye of the Beholder

The Untitled Art Fair is a part of Miami’s illustrious Art Week, this particular exhibit finding its home in South Beach. Untitled focuses on contemporary art, what I now know is a very broad range of pieces. Galleries from around the world came to Untitled to display their works

               The first important thing to discuss is the commitment to community displayed by everyone involved in the Untitled event. Omar Lopez-Chahoud the artistic director and curator of Untitled pushed for our FIU class to be given free entry into the event and even took time to talk with us in what must have been stressful time for him with the event taking place. The incredible people did not end with Omar Lopez-Chahoud with multiple galleries talking and discussing all the aspects of gallery management and curation. The crucial minutes they spent talking to a group of students with the collective buying power of a wet napkin showed how much these people value community and understanding of the arts as they had a limited amount of time to sell their works.

                Untitled gave an insight into the world of art and how galleries function. Some galleries only showed local artists some only showed queer and minority artists, and many had no limitations to what they displayed. The most striking difference between the galleries was the non-profit gallery Dimensions Variable, it was incredible to see a nonprofit in a field I never considered possible.

               Dimensions Variable also served to permanently change my view of contemporary art. Going into Untitled I was not excited. I had a very limited view on what I considered to be art and I found some contemporary art interesting I never really appreciated it. During our viewing of the Dimensions Variable display one piece looked interesting, but it was because it was a simple pattern, something that would be on a shirt. The piece was then explained, the story behind it completely changed my impression of not just that piece but all contemporary art. What I may consider unimpressive is made completely new when the story is revealed. For this particular piece, Aesthetic Register of Covert Forces by Francisco Maso, the simple pattern is of the shirt worn by a member of the Cuban secret police. Not only is it impressive to be able to determine who is secret police, it takes an unfathomable amount of courage to expose them.

               Untitled Art Fair was a transformative experience that led to others including myself increasing their appreciation of the arts. While the galleries who spoke with us may have lost some of their selling time they successfully transferred a fraction of their passion to a class full of students who had no connection to the arts prior to this.

Kendall as Text

The Heart of Miami

Kendall is the suburban heart of Miami. With the rising of already high prices few can afford to live in Miami proper, but with the great city of Kendall they will always have a place to call home. While there are technically clear borders to define Kendall (West Dade expressway to its west, US-1 to its east, and two water ways to its north and south Snapper Creek Canal and Cutler Drain Canal respectively) any local knows Kendall is more of a concept. If you are outside the city and not in Coral Gables, or Hialeah you are in the local definition of Kendall.

               Kendall is a vast area and while it is more suburban in nature, with an endless sea of cozy neighborhoods, it is not boring. The Falls and Dadeland Mall are the two biggest shopping areas in Kendall but are by no means the only places one can go to for shopping, more niche interests such as baseball card collecting have stores around the city to fuel these hobbies.

               Cities the size of Kendall often start to fall into a path of urbanization in all its worse aspects destroying any greenspaces in favor of houses, condos, or shopping. Kendall has seen the failure of other cities and more greenspaces than one could possibly need. There are parks with playgrounds for children, and greenspaces that act as a nature reserve for endangered ecosystems.

               My personal favorite aspect of Kendall is the food. Kendall has some of the best food in Miami-Dade and there are very few types of food that cannot be found in the city. There are Cuban restaurants that you can have a full meal for $10 and on the same hand there are restaurants that might charge for just looking at the building. The number of high-quality options only increases if we utilize the local definition of Kendall and include Kendall West. The food scene in Kendall is not just about the restaurants with grocery stores from all over the world, Caribbean, Arabian, Brazilian, Korean, and many more.

               Unlike many other areas of Miami-Dade Kendall does have a decent amount of public transportation. Dadeland south and north both have stations for the Metrorail. The Metrorail is a great way to traverse Miami, or at least its most urban areas. Aside from these stations which only service the more commercial areas of Kendall the Metrobus runs throughout the city, however like America as a whole, a car is virtually required.

               Kendall is a beautiful area that is the perfect mix of urban and suburban. A great place for a family. Multiple weeks could be spent solely within its governmentally defined borders. Miami cannot truly be known without knowing Kendall first.

My Miami Final Reflection as Text

The Duality of Miami

Miami in Miami, taking Miami locals and attempting to show them the real Miami. While I had never lived in Miami before University, I had spent every summer for 18 years visiting the city and my family in it. The concept that I did not know Miami almost seemed condescending at first, but it took less than five minutes for me to come face to face with my ignorance of a city I thought I was familiar with.

               With this course I was able to see the natural elements of a city I deemed to be fully urbanized, Chicken Key and the Deering Estate showed a sanctuary from the city and an escape into nature. The environments that once ruled southern Florida such as the Pine Rockland and the Mangrove forests still remain in limited areas across the county and give an insight into how our geographical ancestors lived.

               The styles which Miami was founded on were also displayed in this course with the Renaissance Revival of Vizcaya and the Deering Estate. These two buildings show the start of what would become the hallmark of Miami for the following century. Other more recent architectural styles such as MIMO and Art Deco were also discussed with the reasoning for their implementation and their key features.

               The dirty laundry of Miami was also constantly exposed, showing the pendulum of progress in which, we live. A plaque to Colonel Dade a man whose stupidity caused the death of the vast majority of his soldiers. Aside from his military incompetence the war he was engaged in was a war of genocide against the Seminole people. Despite this our county in named after this man who died closer to Orlando than Miami and we have spent taxpayer dollars on his commemoration. The destruction of Overtown is yet another part of Miami’s dark past which is not brought to light by the school systems. I-95 which was built directly through the heart of the neighborhood to break up a hotbed for civil rights activism. Churches and other buildings which should be on historical registries are instead treated as eyesores in the way of gentrification.

               Miami in Miami has shown the good, the bad, and the ugly of Miami. Some may find the negative aspects this course unveils as a way to bash or look down upon Miami, but this could not be further from the truth.  In order to truly love someone, we must see them at their worst as well as their best. Miami in Miami does not look to discredit Miami, but it cannot and will not cover up its faults.

Andrew Vazquez: Paris 2022

Paris Over Under

Paris is a city of over 2 million people and the primary mode of transportation for these Parisians and those visiting the city is public transportation. Paris is one of the world’s most active cities when it comes to public transportation with 4,680 million journeys in 2019. To accommodate this insane amount of travel Paris has four main forms of public transportation, the Metro with 16 lines, RER with 5 lines, Tramway with 4 tracks, and Buses with 64 routes. After spending a month in Paris, I have used many of these public transportation options but am still not even close to riding them all. For this Over Under project, I focused on getting to know Metro line 6 (the best metro line), this is a collection of my 10 favorite stops, in order from east to west, and why they are interesting.

Nation- The final stop on the eastern end of line 6. The first thing to note about this stop is that it has many connecting lines including the RER A and Metro lines 1,2, and 9. Once you leave the metro station and emerge from the ground you will see the Place de la Nation. The Place de la Nation hosts a massive bronze sculpture called The Triumph of the Republic by Jules Dalou. This sculpture was added to the area to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Revolution (similarly to the Eiffel Tower). The symbolism found in this monument is vast with a woman representing the republic standing on top of the globe being drawn in a chariot by lions led by liberty. Beside the republic stand Justice and Labor. Aside from the beautiful sculpture which alone is worth a visit, the Nation station is full of history. Formerly known as Place du Trone (Place of the Throne), this area was very active during the French Revolution, especially during the reign of Terror. Over 1300 people lost their lives to the guillotine in this square which at this point was called Place du Trone-Renverse (Place of the Overthrown Throne).

Picpus- This is a small stop with seemingly nothing of note near the eastern end of line 6, but it is a must-see for any American visiting Paris. Just a short walk from the metro station is the Picpus Cemetery. Within this modest cemetery rests one of the most important men in American history Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette was a Frenchman who believed so strongly in the ideals of liberty that he sailed to America at only 19 years old to join the American Revolution, after the American victory he returned to France and was heavily involved in the lead-up to the French Revolution and the July revolution. Lafayette loved America and on his last visit to the United States, he brought back with him soil from bunker hill as he wished to be buried under American soil. On the day of my visit sat a jar of dirt from bunker hill on his grave as well as many coins to honor his legacy. Above Lafayette’s grave is an American flag placed there originally by American General John Pershing during World War I, and according to legend, it remained flying during World War II even under German occupation. Aside from Lafayette Picpus cemetery hosts two mass graves for those who were guillotined at Place du Nation, after killing those deemed to be a threat to the revolution, they would simply throw their bodies into the churches garden. The cemetery is reserved for those in the mass graves and their families.

Place d’Italie- The first thing to mention about this stop is the green space within the large roundabout that makes up the place d’Italie. While it is intimidating trying to walk to the middle of the roundabout the fountain in the middle is a great place to relax and it feels detached from the busy area surrounding it. Within the green space, there is a statue of Marechal Juin the monument addressed the Tunisian and Italian campaigns which he commanded. On opposing sides of the square, you can find the town hall and a large mall. When I visited, the town hall was packed as there was a party of roughly 30 waiting to get married. Both the town hall and mall have beautiful designs but are starkly different, the mall looks very modern and piques interest as to what it might be blocks away, while the town hall is a more traditionally beautiful building. Another important historical building can be found nearby the Place d’Italie station, The Manufacture des Gobelins, this is a historic tapestry factory created by the Gobelins a family of dyers, stretching back to medieval times. This factory became the supplier for French monarchs when Louis XIV purchased the building. Due to the quality of tapestries produced in the factory and Louis’s pride, he decided that no other tapestries would be imported from other countries. Even today the Manufacture des Gobelins produces tapestries using the same high loom method.

Denfert-Rochereau- Denfert-Rochereau is a stop best known for the catacombs, but even above ground, it has some fantastic things to see. At this stop you are first greeted by a sculpture of a lion, this sculpture is a replica of The Lion of Belfort a sculpture by Bartholdi, who also made the statue of liberty. The statue symbolizes the French resistance to the Prussians in Belfort, 1880 which was led by Colonel Denfert-Rochereau. The symbolism feels extended by The Liberation of Paris Museum just across the street. The Museum of the liberation of Paris, formally known as the Musee Liberation Leclerc Moulin is also near this metro stop. The Museum is partially named after Jean Moulin the most important member of the French resistance during World War II. Moulin never once fired a gun, but his ability to unite others made him irreplaceable. All throughout Paris, you are met with tributes to perseverance and determination, this reminds us of the importance of fighting against evil even when the odds are against you. World War II was the darkest time in human history and this Museum and Paris in many ways is a tribute to those who were brave enough to stand for their beliefs against an overwhelming force.

Raspail- Near Raspail you can find, yet another cemetery that will make an appearance on this list, the Cimetere du Montparnasse. Despite the name of the cemetery belonging to another metro station Raspail is in fact the closest station. While not as grand as the Pere Lachaise cemetery it does have some beautiful and impressive graves. Among the numerous tombs and memorials rest important people in France’s intellectual and cultural history. Some famous philosophers and political thinkers such as Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the first self-proclaimed anarchist, Simone de Beauvoir, and Jean-Paul Sartre two French existentialists. In addition to intellectuals’ famous artists such as Charles Baudelaire and Serge Gainsburg call Montparnesse their final resting place. It is important to note that not only French people are buried in this cemetery, with former Mexican president/dictator Porfirio Diaz and former Iranian Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar have their tombs in Montparnasse.

Montparnasse-Bienvenue– This is one of my favorite stations in Paris, here you can see when Paris chose its identity. Paris is a very large city and as an American large city means high-rises, but the Paris skyline is almost void of the metal behemoths. Montparnasse is home to the exception, the Tour Montparnasse. Construction began in 1969 and the tower became the tallest building in Paris besides the Eiffel Tower. The skyscraper faced massive backlash before, during, and after construction with many claiming it is the ugliest building in Paris. Being the only skyscraper in central Paris and one of the few outside La Defense the Tour Montparnasse is unmistakable for all the wrong reasons. The city of Paris needed to modernize, but because of the will of the people, the modernization did not happen at the expense of the city’s incredible history. Down the street from the Tower are small cafes that just act as a reference to what was lost when the building was made.

Cambronne- The main appeal of the Cambronne station is the World Heritage Centre, the headquarters of UNESCO. UNESCO stands for the United Nation Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. The mission statement of UNESCO is “to contribute to the building of a culture of peace… through education, the sciences, culture, communication, and information” one of the main ways they do this is by creating world heritage sites. A world heritage site is deemed to have a special cultural value to humanity and they are given certain legal protections. Surprisingly there is only one of these sites in the city of Paris, the banks of the Seine River (which can be accessed in multiple line 6 stations). The World Heritage Centre itself is a massive building with its gates lined with photos of world heritage sites and on days when the building all the flags of the member nations are flown in the courtyard. While there are certainly more aesthetic and impressive buildings in the city of Paris the UNESCO World Heritage Centre is impressive for what it does and the mission it is trying to achieve.

Bir-Hakeim- This is the Eiffel Tower stop, that alone is all that needs to be said to draw crowds, but many metro stations around Paris stop near the tower but I can assure you Bir-Hakeim is the best one. No other metro line has a better view of the Eiffel Tower than metro line 6, between the station Passy and Bir-Hakeim the metro goes over the Seine River and has an unobstructed view of the tower. In addition to being close to the Eiffel Tower Bir-Hakeim, it is also next to the Ile aux Cygnes a small island with a beautiful pedestrian walkway that has an incredible view of the Eiffel Tower, the island itself is peaceful and would be a great place for a small picnic. Regardless of how beautiful I find the island the main attraction will always be the Eiffel Tower which was made in 1889 not only the celebrate the centenary of the French Revolution but also for the World’s Fair which was hosted in Paris. The Eiffel Tower was an engineering masterpiece that perfectly complements the theme of progress present in both the revolution and the World’s Fair. At the time of its construction, the Eiffel Tower was the tallest building in the world almost twice the size of the previous tallest building. The tower can be seen as a monument to science with the names of 72 French scientists being listed along its border, albeit no women are listed on the tower. While controversial at the time for its aesthetic, one critic Guy de Maupassant, ate lunch at the tower every day just so he didn’t have to see it. Despite its early critics, the Eiffel Tower is now synonymous with Paris and is perhaps the most famous building in the world.

Trocadero- Trocadero is a stop defined by vast knowledge. This stop contains multiple museums, an aquarium, a theater, and a library. Directly in front of the station sits the Palais de Chaillot designed in a classical style with two wings and a garden in front of it overlooking the Eiffel Tower. Four quotations are placed above its main entrances written by French poet Paul Valery, as the quotations are long, I have not included them here, but they are in the reference section. In the southern wing of the building, you can find the naval museum and museum of mankind. The museum of mankind is particularly interesting, its goal is to compile in one place everything that defines humanity. In the eastern wing of the building, there is the Cite de l’Architecture et du Paris and the Theatre National de Chaillot. Within the museum of architecture are plaster models of sculptures, scale replicas of buildings, as well as stained glass. Aside from the museum multiple statues and memorials can be found in the surrounding area. The palace itself has its own interesting history, in 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations in the Palais de Chaillot. In addition to this, the palace was the original headquarters of NATO. Another area around this station worth seeing for lovers of impressionist art and art history is the Passy Cemetery which holds the tomb of Edouard Manet.

Charles de Gaulle-Etoile- The final stop on the western end of line 6 Charles de Gaulle-Etoile is known for the Arc de Triomphe. The Arch was commissioned by Napoleon to honor those who fought in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, but most importantly to commemorate his many victories. The Arch was commissioned in 1806 but would not be completed within Napoleon’s lifetime finally being completed in 1836. As it was customary for victorious armies to walk through triumphal arches this monument became a symbolic place for the French military. After World War I the French army marched through the arch with even a plane flying through. The tradition of walking under the arch ended after World War I as a memorial to the unknown soldier was added. It is now tradition to take a route around the arch which Charles de Gaulle famously did when the allies liberated Paris in World War II. The arch is interesting as it serves as a constant reminder of war, but it also symbolizes French pride and unity with a parade around the arch happening after the French victory in the 2018 World Cup. The Arc de Triomphe was always meant to unify whether it be the military victories in the time of Napoleon or in its more modern context of unifying through national pride.

History is so important to understanding who we are and with Paris hosting the history not just of France but of other countries around the world it has a responsibility to preserve it. These stops all work in tandem to show this, the history of Paris is the history of the world. World leaders from Mexico to Iran, and musicians from Argentina to Romania all have their final resting places in Paris. The ideals of the enlightenment which spread across the globe originated in this city.  With a vast Museum network, agencies to protect cultural sites, a vocal populace, and statues and monuments to preserve the past people and events. Paris understands the responsibility it has and works to honor it, and for this I love Paris.

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“Eiffel Tower.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., “History of the Place De La Nation.” History of Place De La Nation in Paris France, “Place D’italie Square in Paris.” Place D’Italie Square in Paris France,
Happ, John E. “Lafayette, the American Experience.” Journal of the American Revolution, 19 Aug. 2017,
“Home.” Petit Palais, 10 Mar. 2022,
Imboden, Durant. “Île Aux Cygnes, Paris.” (Swan Island) | Paris for Visitors, Paris for Visitors,
“Inscriptions for the Palais De Chaillot.” De Gruyter, Princeton University Press, 8 Mar. 2015,
Meier, Allison. “A Tale of Two Revolutions at the Grave of the Marquis De Lafayette.” Atlas Obscura, Atlas Obscura, 10 June 2021,
“Musée De L’Homme (Museum of Mankind).” Muséum National D’Histoire Naturelle Official Website,
Salas, Erick Burgueño. “France: Public Transport Users in Paris and Île-De-France, by Mode.” Statista, 22 Apr. 2022,
Unesco, and UNESCO United Nations Department of Global Communications. “UNESCO.”,

Andrew Vazquez: France as Text 2022

Izieu as Text

The Fallen Sanctuary

Hidden away in the French alps sits a beautiful house with a picturesque view of the surrounding mountains. Izieu is clearly beautiful but its incredible views are stained by tragedy. Following the surrender of France in World War Two Izieu was under the control of Italy. After the allied forces landed in southern Italy the German army moved into this region and the full weight of the holocaust came to the people of Izieu. 

Throughout the occupation of France, many Jewish families sent their children to the countryside believing that it would be safer for them. Izieu was a prime candidate for refuge as the Italians were less oppressive than the Vichy and German governments, and many children were sent there as a result. As the German army took control of Vichy France and Italy they brought with them the SS and Klaus Barbie. Klaus Barbie, The Butcher of Lyon, was a man with nothing but evil in his heart. Every new piece of information I heard about this monster only increased the abhorrence I have for him. On April 6th, 1944 the Gestapo under the command of Klaus Barbie went to Izieu and kidnapped the children who were living there at the time. Of the 44 children taken none survived.

Izieu for a period of time provided a refuge where these children could simply be children even while the world around them was falling apart. The children attended classes, drew pictures, and even wrote to their parents during this time. While this attempt at providing a normal life is admirable and shows the good people can do, it’s impossible to leave the memorial without a bitter taste. The cruelty of man is displayed on a grand scale. How can anyone let alone a father sentence 44 children to death? One of the most upsetting aspects of this was that justice was not served until 1987 more than forty years after his crimes. The reason for this is that Barbie was protected by the US government which used him as an anti-communist agent. How many war criminals have the US protected for its own gain?
This memorial makes you question the nature of man. Clearly, there are good people in this world, the ones who helped these children live a semi-normal life, but there is also evil, those who condemned children to death for simply being Jewish. Simply hearing the letters written by these children was enough to bring a class of 20 to tears, the fact a man sentenced all these children to death is harrowing. We as humans allowed this particular brand of hate to survive and expand for years before the allied powers worked together to stop it, but even the allies were contributors to its reign. The French with their “Strange Defeat” and the hiring of Nazis by the Americans and British after the war. Morality was abandoned by these countries when they sensed the possibility of personal gain. Who is brave enough to trust others when humans have such a large capacity for evil?

Lyon as Text

A City Through Time

The allure of Paris is known across the world, the eiffel tower is one of the most famous buildings ever constructed and can be seen on hundreds of movie posters, albums, and family photos. In my opinion, while beautiful, Paris fails to hold up to the city of Lyon. Lyons history has been preserved within its architecture. Many cities simply destroy older buildings when they feel the need to expand, Lyon is different they expand eastwards. Lyons eastward expansion has created a perfect picture of its history. 

Lyons history starts with its founding by the Romans. Lyon was a very important city for the Romans, acting as the capital of the province of Gaul. Lyon was founded on previously unsettled land, something that was unusual for the Romans to do outside of Italy, but the strategic location of the city between the Saone and Rhone rivers was too good to ignore. Roman influence can still be found in Lyon with a large Roman theater on a nearby hill. The Roman history of Lyon can also be seen in a speech delivered by former Roman emperor Claudius advocating for those outside of Italy to be treated fairly as Romans, this speech is preserved on a tablet in Lyon.

Moving past antiquity the medieval world of Lyon can be seen. The buildings look to be emerging from the ground with a pinkish stone, and with small statues of Mary watching over you as you go into unknown areas. It is in this section of Lyon that its most incredible feature becomes apparent, traboules. Traboules are like secret passageways that help to link the streets of old Lyon, while many traboules are private property there are still numerous passageways open to public use (provided you stay quiet). It would take hundreds of pages to fully explain the history of these traboules and all of their historical uses from their role in the french resistance to the location of the first workers’ revolt. Even the metro lines show how Lyon has evolved as a city becoming more modern the further east you go. 

The city of Lyon is organized like a book; you can read it as you explore. Being able to see the division of time from one block to the next makes Lyon a city that any historian would love.

Paris as Text

The Parisian American Exchange

The United States and France have always shared a special relationship, while this relationship originally stemmed from their mutual dislike of the British it became something more. Some of the most important figures in American history and culture have called France, more specifically Paris, home. What is it that makes this connection so strong, why have so many famous Americans resided in Paris? To understand this American-Parisian connection we must understand the two major time periods that influential Americans lived in Paris long term.

The first period in which Americans found themselves in Paris was the late 18th century. During this period we had many founding fathers such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams living in Paris. The primary reason for this first batch of influential Americans was diplomatic. Franklin frequently met with Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to gain support for the American revolution. After receiving French support and the later signing of the Treaty of Paris 1783 officially ending the Revolutionary war many of the Americans in Paris returned to America to begin governing, however, some stayed and impacted French history. Thomas Paine is a great example of an American who remained in Paris, he was an avid supporter of the French revolution and even wrote a pamphlet “Rights of Man” which supported the French Revolution. Paine in many ways marks the exchange of ideas between the two countries with other examples being Voltaire’s initiation into the FreeMasons by Franklin and the establishment of an Institute of Science in America.

The second time period when Americans flocked to Paris is in the 20th Century. This period was focused on cultural exchange, due to this many of the famous Americans who lived in Paris at this time were involved in the arts. The most famous example during this time is Ernest Hemingway. Paris was popular with various artists for many reasons in this period. Paris, and France as a whole, was more accepting of the LGBT community and did not have segregation like in the United States. These factors made Paris very attractive to Americans such as Gertrude Stein and Josephine Baker. Paris was a place where one could unapologetically be themselves in a time when the United States was punishing people for just that.

As I study history the realization of France’s importance to America only continues to grow. American ideals are in many ways based on the French, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Montesquieu shaped the American government and their ideas were brought back by the first wave of Americans in Paris. The second wave of Americans were able to express their creativity in a safe environment and greatly advanced American culture. Many of the ideals that I hold are simply borrowed from the French. Without the social freedoms of Paris, I would not be who I am. With the United States continuing down a path of weakening individual freedoms I can not help but wonder if another generation of Americans will flee to Paris. If another wave of Americans truly does come to Paris, what will they bring with them this time, diplomacy, culture, or something else entirely?

Versailles as Text

Beauty or Pain

The Sun King, Louis the Great, King of France, and Navarre, arguably the most successful king in French history and the pinnacle of absolute monarchy, all these titles belong to the same man Louis XIV. While these titles may seem grand I can assure you, that they are modest compared to his house, The Palace of Versailles. Versailles is not simply big it is colossal, with 2,300 rooms the place was able to sleep 3000 and host parties with up to 20,000 people in attendance. Versailles was not always the gold-plated behemoth we see today it was once upon a time a hunting lodge built by Louis XIII.

Louis XIV was a cruel man, he waged constant wars and let his people starve to fund his vanity projects. Louis XIV started France down its spiral of debt that led to the execution of the future king roughly 80 years after his reign. Versailles was not just expensive it was a huge economic strain on the French state at some points consuming 25% of the French income. It is clear that the building of Versailles caused the death and suffering of many French citizens. Does the pain Versailles caused discredit its beauty or can we separate the two?

There is one key aspect that helps to separate Versailles’ beauty from the pain it caused and that is time. The people who starved due to the building of Versailles lived more than 300 years ago. I have no emotional attachment to the French people of the 17th century. This large gap in time makes Versailles less problematic. Anyone who was alive during the building of Versailles may have seen the palace in a negative light. Aside from the death, it caused some may have issues with Versailles due to Louis XIV himself. It’s not hard to see how he could be a controversial figure. Personally, I do not find it difficult to separate the artist or visionaries from their creations. All people are flawed, everything has a less than perfect past, but that does not mean it is not beautiful.


Normandy as Text

Theodore Roosevelt Jr, photo provided by the library of congress

Bravery in its Purest Form

Theodore Roosevelt Jr, a name that sounds eerily familiar. Roosevelt was born in 1887 and was the son of former President Theodore Roosevelt. Theodore Jr was truly a man who lived his life to the fullest, being involved in business, politics, and the military before his death in 1944, just a month after D-day. 

Being the namesake of Theodore Roosevelt was not an easy task and throughout his childhood and life as a whole Theodore jr wrestled with those monstrous expectations. These expectations can be seen in the college he attended, going to Harvard, his father’s alma mater instead of West Point or Annapolis which he was interested in.

After graduating from Harvard in 1909 Roosevelt became successful in the business world working in banking. Despite his success, Roosevelt still wanted to serve his country and in 1915 he was able to. In 1915 Roosevelt took part in a camp to help prepare men to become military officers, and two of his three brothers joined him. Due to this camp when the United States entered the war Roosevelt joined as a Major. While Roosevelt’s greatest accomplishments were in World War 2 there were significant events that are important to understanding Roosevelt. Roosevelt was one of the first to volunteer to go to the western front, when he arrived and saw the living conditions bought his entire battalion new combat boots with his own money (battalions can be as large as 1,000 people). In this first instance, you can see exactly what kind of leader and man Roosevelt was. Roosevelt earned a few medals during his time in the war such as the Croix de Guerre, this shows that Roosevelt’s bravery and heroism were recognized by all. Finally, this last event shaped the rest of Roosevelt’s life, he was shot in the leg and while he survived without the need for amputation he would walk with a cane for the rest of his life.

After World War I Roosevelt followed in his father’s footsteps and got involved in politics. The most important positions he held were Governor of Puerto Rico and later Governor of the Philippines. Roosevelt was the first American Governor of Puerto Rico to try to learn Spanish, learning at least 20 words a day. During his time as Governor (in both locations), Roosevelt was well received and liked by his constituents easing poverty and encouraging investment. After the election of FDR in 1932, Roosevelt withdrew from politics.

When the United States entered World War 2 Roosevelt was placed in a more administrative position, but he quickly requested to return to a combat unit in 1941. Roosevelt took part in the African campaign and was promoted to Brigadier General before being removed from his division and being sent to England. Omar Bradley was the one who removed Roosevelt from his post and wrote in his autobiography that Roosevelt was removed for “loving their division too much.” While in England Roosevelt helped to plan D-Day and he repeatedly requested to join the men in the first landing party. Roosevelt’s request was rejected twice before his petition was finally accepted. Roosevelt felt that his presence on the beaches would calm the men. Among the first to land on Utah beach and the highest ranked, Roosevelt and his men were about a mile off course, upon hearing this Roosevelt famously said “We’ll start the war from right here!” During the ensuing battle, Roosevelt walked around the front with his cane while under enemy fire telling stories of his father and reading poetry to the men. After the success of D-day and Roosevelt’s outstanding leadership and bravery, a promotion was in the works, but Roosevelt died of a heart attack just 5 weeks later.

Theodore Roosevelt Jr’s sacrifice was immense, this was a man who went out of his way to serve his country and constantly put himself in danger to do it. Using the Roosevelt name he most likely would have been able to avoid service in WW1 altogether. During World War II he re-enlisted while needing a cane to walk and hiding heart issues. The love Roosevelt had for his fellow man is clear by his actions and his bravery was and is unmatched. Roosevelt is an inspiration to me, since a young age he was burdened with the lofty expectations that came with his name, throughout his life he constantly met and exceeded them. I can almost guarantee that I would not have been able to act with the same bravery as him, but I hope when I die I will be remembered as someone who cared for others just as Roosevelt is.


Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. [2 September date received] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.
“Theodore Roosevelt Jr.: World War II: U.S. Army: Medal of Honor Recipient.” Congressional Medal of Honor Society,
“Theodore Roosevelt Junior during the Battle of Normandy.” Musée Mémorial De Bloody Gulch,
“Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. (U.S. National Park Service).” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior,

Lachaise as Text

The tomb of Benjamin Constant. Photo taken by Andrew Vazquez/CC by 4.0

Defining Liberty

“For forty years I have defended the same principle: freedom in everything, in religion, in philosophy, in literature, in industry, in politics-and by freedom I mean the triumph of the individual”(Benjamin Constant). What does freedom mean to you? Freedom is a concept that is very important to the American populace, but we rarely take time to establish what it means. Freedom is something we just assume everyone knows and feels the same about. Benjamin Constant is someone who asked himself that question and came up with an answer. 

The French Revolution was a time where liberty seemed to be expanding, the decriminalization of homosexuality, the abolition of slavery, and so much more. Shortly after this great victory for liberty things turned ugly, the reign of terror began, something that seems to contradict the egalitarian principles championed by these same people just months prior. How could these two extremes exist in the same society? Benjamin Constant believed it was because of our definition of what liberty is and its role in society.

Benjamin Constant was born in Switzerland to descendants of French huguenots in 1767. The Huguenots were a group of French protestants that followed the teachings of John Calvin; they were expelled from France after the Edict of Nantes was revoked. Constant was only able to obtain French nationality in 1790 when a law giving civil rights to descendants of those exiled from religious beliefs was passed. This instant shows some of the success of the French revolution, the meritocratic and secular nature of the movement in its early days allowed for those who had the ability to change French history participate in its government. 

While known for his political philosophy Constant was also an accomplished novelist and politician. Constant had many spells in French politics surrounding the Napoleonic regime, first appointed by Nepoleon to the Tribunat in 1800 before being removed in 1802. Napoleon brought Constant back into government in 1815 in a more important advisory role as a member of the council of the state. After Napoleon’s hundred days Constant was elected to the council of deputies and was a member from 1819 until his death in 1830. Perhaps the most important period of his poltical career was the shortest, during the hundred days Constant had a more influential role drafting policy and being able to implement some of his ideas, drafting the Acte Additional which made Napoleon a constitutional monarch. Constants poltical theories really spread after his death with his ideas for a monarch with only “moderating powers” being implemented in Brazil, Portugal, and in some regions of Italy. 

To understand Constant it is important to know his beliefs, there are two important aspects of his political theroy to undertsand, his views on liberty and seperation of powers. While less important his view on separation of powers is interesting, contrary to Montesquieu and his three branches, Constant believed in five. The five branches of government he proposed are the Monarch/Moderator, the Executive, the Representative Power of Opinion, the Representative Power of Tradition, and the Judiciary. In this system the Monarch would exist outside of government but be able to appoint the ministers which made up the Executive branch, the executive branch would function with multiple ministers making up the head of state, the two representative branches would represent the opinion of the masses and the other would be hereditary, and finally the judicial branch would be similar to the way we view it today. 

Constants most important contribution to political philosophy was his views on liberty. Constant makes a clear distinction between ancient and modern liberty. Ancient liberty is that which was present in the Greek city states and is based on the right to participate in the state, but requires subordination to it. Ancient liberty required a small state, a homogenous society, slavery, and warfare to succeed. Modern liberty on the other hand was based on personal freedom, freedom from the state. Modern liberty works for the modern state with a large territory, no slavery, and focuses on mercantilism. This Modern liberty is how I view liberty today, private affairs are not governmental matters and Constant would agree.

Constant risked his life for what he believed, he critized the Jacobins, Napoleon and later Charles X. He believed the Revolution was attempting to make ancient liberty fit a modern state, and that was the root of their failures. he disagreed with the Jacobins but did not think the were crazy like many critics of the time. He fought against Napoleons imperialism and denounced French colonialism and advocated for the rights of non-white colonial subjects.

I personally would not have been able to openly critize any of those groups out of fear of death. Revolutionairies and monarchs are not known for their openess to criticism. Constants belief for the ultimate freedom of the individual is something that I believe in strongly, and is something that is incredibly important to both our class and modern day America. It has been said multiple times that the United States and France exist on a pendulum with periods of great liberty and periods of decline. We are currently in a period of decline which makes Constant and his ideals more relevant today than ever before.


“Benjamin Constant De Rebecque (1767-1830).” Musée Protestant, 14 Dec. 2020,
“Benjamin Constant.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.,
Laursen, John C, and Anne Hofmann. “Benjamin Constant on the Self, Religion and Politics: An Introduction.” Historical Reflections, vol. 28, 2002, pp. 311–319.

Andrew Vazquez: Declaration 2022

Actions are Worth More Than Words: The Life and Actions of Marquis de Lafayette

Gilbert du Motier de La Fayette, Marquis de La Fayette, better known in the United States simply as Lafayette was a French nobleman who lived from 1757 to 1834. Lafayette’s life coincides with numerous world-altering events and he was engaged in many of them. The most important events during his lifetime that Lafayette had a profound impact on were the American Revolution of 1775, the French Revolution of 1789, and the July Revolution of 1830. Before we can begin to understand the effects that Lafayette had on human rights we must first know what exactly he did with his life. 

Lafayette in the American Revolution

As previously alluded to, Lafayette was heavily involved in the American Revolution. When Lafayette was only 19 years old he decided to leave France where he was a courtier (advisor) to Louis the XVI and join the revolutionary force in America. When Lafayette arrived in America he had very little military experience and went to address the Continental Congress, the leaders of the revolution, to ask for a military commission. Lafayette was granted the rank of Major General due to his wealth and status, Lafayette joined George Washington’s command and became very close friends with the future president. Lafayette played a big role in the Battle of Monmouth in 1778. Here he took command after General Lee, at the time second in command of the Continental Army, gave many conflicting orders causing disarray, Lafayette was able to lead the Americans to a stalemate. 

Roughly six months after this battle Lafayette briefly returned to France as a diplomat alongside Benjamin Franklin. During this time Lafayette was able to secure French aid for the Americans and was treated like a hero by the French people. Lafayette returned to America with roughly 6000 French infantry and 6 ships. This leads us to the final battle of the American Revolutionary War which Lafayette greatly impacted, the Battle of Yorktown. In this battle, Lafayette had pinned and surrounded General Cornwallis and the British Army against the York River. Lafayette and the Americans were later reinforced by Washington and a French fleet. His success in the battle granted him the title of “Hero of Two Worlds” and caused Cornwallis’s surrender, what many consider to be the end of the war.

Lafayette in the French Revolution

After the American Revolution in 1782, Lafayette returned to his native France. Achieving one of his goals in America, Lafayette was now an influential and highly respected figure in French politics. Here some of Lafayette’s affinities for human rights were displayed prominently. Lafayette was the leader of a liberal aristocratic faction, the Fayettistes, and he pushed for religious tolerance and the abolition of the slave trade. 

Prior to the Estates-General Louis XVI enlisted the Assembly of Notables made up of members from the clergy and aristocracy. Lafayette was a member of this council and spoke for reform and insisted on an assembly that represented the whole of France. After the failure to achieve his goals with the Assembly of Notables, Louis XVI called upon the Estates-General which convened on May 5, 1789. The Estates-General was an ancient council in which all parts of French society would be able to make decisions. This council consisted of three estates: the clergy, nobles, and commons. Lafayette was selected as a representative of the second (noble) estate. Traditionally voting would be done with each estate having one vote, because of this the third (commons) estate would be constantly outvoted by the other two estates despite containing the vast majority of the French population. Lafayette attempted to make the voting by head rather than Estate but failed to gain support for this among the nobility. Resulting from this blatant unfairness, the Third Estate began to meet separately, they were slowly joined by some of the clergy and nobility, including Lafayette, and declared themselves the National Assembly.

After finding themselves locked out from the usual meeting hall the National Assembly met at a nearby tennis court leading to the Tennis Court Oath. In this oath members of the Assembly refused to separate until a constitution was established in France. On July 11, 1789, Lafayette presented to the Assembly his draft of the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.” Lafayette had prepared this draft with the help of Thomas Jefferson, the writer of the United States Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen is one of the most important documents ever written regarding human rights and will be expanded on in a later section.

Only a few days later on July 14th, the Bastille was stormed and a day after that, July 15th, Lafayette was made commander of the National Guard. The National Guard was charged with maintaining order, controlling traffic, and even sanitization. One of the most notable events of his tenure as commander of the National Guard was the October March. The October March was an event during the French Revolution in which thousands of people, primarily women, marched on Versailles. This march was motivated by the scarcity of bread and the fact that King Louis XVI had just rejected the proposed “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen” three days earlier. Lafayette, being the Commander of the National Guard, followed the angry crowd and looked to calm them once reaching Versailles. At this point, Lafayette was one of the most popular people in France, despite being an aristocrat the people loved him. Using his popularity he eased the tension by bringing the royals onto the balcony, here he kissed Marie Antoinette on the hand leading to cheers and quite possibly saving their lives. The royal family was taken to Paris following the insistence of the crowd, escorted by Lafayette and the National Guard.

Gravity seemed to quickly pull Lafayette down from his fame and his popularity in France began to decline following a few unfortunate events. The first of these events was the Flight to Varennes, this was the plot of the royal family to leave France. These events drastically reduced trust in Lafayette as the royal family was under the watch of the National Guard. Even though the royals were captured and brought back to Paris, radical revolutionaries such as Danton and Robespierre used this as a chance to discredit and turn public opinion against Lafayette. These men went as far as to call Lafayette a “person whom you could not trust” and a “traitor to the people.” This effectively made Lafayette appear as a royalist to the public and shifted support to the radicals. The second major blow to Lafayette’s reputation was the Champs de Mars Massacre. Anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 protesters gathered to demand the abdication of the King, during this demonstration the crowd became violent killing two men they thought may have been spies of the king. With this Lafayette and the National Guard appeared to restore order and were greeted with hostility from the crowd, with a member attempting to assassinate Lafayette. Following the failed assassination attempt the National Guard fired above the crowd in an effort to scare them off, however, this just lead to retaliation and after two members were killed they fired into the crowd itself killing anywhere from 12 to 54 people and one (unreliable) source claiming 400. Understandably, Lafayette’s reputation was in shambles at this point and he resigned from his post in October 1791, shortly after the massacre.

Lafayette’s retirement was short-lived as in December of 1791 he was made to lead one of the three French armies, and in April of 1792, France declared war on Austria. At this point Robespierre was gaining more power and called for Lafayette to step down; he likely would have been tried for treason had he not been captured by the Austrians. Lafayette remained in custody until 1797 in various places in Prussia (modern-day Germany) and Austria. By this time Lafayette’s wife was imprisoned by the French as well with much of her family not surviving the Reign of Terror. Many prominent Americans tried to assist Lafayette while he was in prison with Washington, and Jefferson working to guarantee he was held in good conditions. James Monroe, future president of the United States and at the time Minister to France, secured US passports for Lafayette’s wife and children and helped them meet with Lafayette in prison. In 1797 Lafayette’s release was negotiated by Napoleon Bonaparte, but was initially not allowed back into France as he refused to recognize Napoleon as the rightful ruler of France. He was eventually allowed to return, but without citizenship and being banned from political life, he was not even invited to speak at the memorial service for George Washington in Paris. During the following years, Lafayette was offered many positions by both the American and French governments, however, he declined them all as a form of protest against the Bonaparte regime.

July Revolution

After a tour of the United States to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the country Lafayette returned to France to find a new King, Charles X, who attempted to reinstate the absolute monarchy. Lafayette remained an outspoken advocate for liberty and was public in his dislike of Charles X. Regaining his lost popularity Charles X felt it too dangerous to simply arrest Lafayette. On July 25, 1830, Charles X abolished the Chamber of Deputies, a body of elected officials to limit the power of the monarchy, causing riots throughout Paris. Lafayette joined the fray and routed the royalists, he quickly moved to maintain order fearful of a repeat of 1789. Lafayette was offered the throne by the Chamber, however, he refused viewing it as unconstitutional. Not wanting to leave the French people without a ruler Lafayette and his faction installed Louis-Philippe, also known as, “The Citizen King” as monarch, after guaranteeing certain reforms. Following this revolution, Lafayette retired once again, but rejoined the political sphere after Louis-Philippe started to implement similar reforms to Charles X. Lafayette remained a proponent of liberal philosophy until his death in 1834.

Contribution to Human Rights

Lafayette throughout his life in the public spotlight never shied away from his beliefs, even when they put his life on the line. Seeing the successful implementation of democracy in America Lafayette wanted a similar system in France. He pushed for a middle ground with a Constitutional Monarchy with a National Assembly elected by the people working with the King. Lafayette did not write as much as other revolutionaries of the time so his ideas are often less defined, however, he strongly wrote against slavery in his letters to both Washington and Jefferson. While his views on slavery were never widely implemented as he hoped, he did run a plantation without any slaves being bought or sold. Lafayette also gave many speeches in various forms of French governmental bodies supporting personal liberty and freedom of the press.

Previously alluded to in the section on the French Revolution, Lafayette also famously authored the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.” This document extensively defended human rights and liberty. Some of the highlights of this document include the second article claiming the right to liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression. “Resistance to oppression” is the most interesting part of that article in my opinion as it is not listed in the American Bill of Rights, but is a key aspect of both revolutions, this allows for the citizens to rise up if needed. The Declaration also made all citizens equal in law, abolishing noble and clerical privilege, keep in mind a noble wrote this. Decriminalization of homosexuality was also brought about by the Declaration as it made it impossible to prosecute for it as it was not specifically mentioned as illegal. While the Declaration did not make slavery illegal it inspired a successful slave revolt in Haiti. 

While his views were never properly written down and spread in the way they should have, Lafayette acted upon his ideals and fought for his vision of liberty for all in a way many others were too afraid to do. “Words may show a man’s wit, but actions show his meaning,” Benjamin Franklin. Lafayette garnered the respect of many throughout his life and in his death, his example is still clear to all those who look for it.

Personal Meaning

Lafayette’s achievements in the field of human rights are enjoyed by millions of people across the world today. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and its guarantee of freedom of speech and safeguard from arbitrary arrest is something we often take for granted. My family lived in both Communist Cuba and Fascist Spain places where if you said the wrong thing you would never be seen again. Another key aspect of the Declaration and Lafayette’s philosophy that affects me is all citizens being equal in the law and “employments, according to their capacity and without distinction other than that of their virtues and of their talents.” Equality in the law is something that greatly impacts me as sadly I am not noble nor rich and would have been immediately guilty in the past or unable to bring up rightful grievances against the elite. The second aspect of the previous statement regarding employment cannot be underplayed. This (theoretically) allows for competent people to run the government and bureaucracy instead of simply hereditary succession and elitist domination.

While Lafayette’s contributions to human rights may seem more abstract than other revolutionaries, just try to imagine your life without just one of these principles and see how much they all mean to your daily life. As John Quincy Adams, 6th US president said Lafayette is truly a “benefactor of mankind.”


“Biography of the Marquis De Lafayette.”, Independence Hall Association,;

Bowers, Courtney E. “Man, Myth, Marquis: A Historiographic Essay on the Marquis de Lafayette.” The Histories 5.1 (2019): 5.

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

DUNCAN, MIKE. Hero of Two Worlds: The Marquis De Lafayette in the Age of Revolution. PUBLIC AFFAIRS, 2022. 

Leepson, Marc. “The French Revolution of Marquis De Lafayette.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.,;

Rigney, Ann. “Figures and Actors: On the March to Versailles 5–6 October 1789.” Tropes of Revolution. Brill, 1991. 10-26.

Andrew Vazquez: Miami as Text 2022

Photo Taken by Manuel V./ CC by 4.0

Andrew Vazquez is a 20-year-old Junior at Florida International University. He is studying History. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree, he wants to continue his education by attending Law School.

Deering Estate As Text

“The First Miami”

by Andrew Vazquez of FIU at Deering Estate 28 January 2022

The Deering Estate is a roughly 400 Acre plot of land in Palmetto Bay, Florida. While a piece of land that size in Miami-Dade is impressive, that alone is not enough to warrant a trip. So what makes The Deering Estate important?

History of the Deering Estate

The Deering Estate has an incredible history from its eccentric founder to the people who lived on the land long before the founding of America. Starting with Charles Deering, the namesake of this estate, he was a very wealthy businessman based in Chicago in the early 20th century. Following his successful career near the end of his life, Charles Deering purchased this large swath of land and built a Spanish-style villa where he would live with his family until his death in 1925. One of the most interesting aspects of this villa comes from the fact that it was built in the 1920s, in America, meaning the prohibition was in full swing. While that may have stopped some from having alcohol Charles Deering was not one of those people, and his house was fitted with a secret cellar filled with bottles of various drinks.

Charles Deering was also something of a preservationist and because of this, the Deering Estate is a pristine landscape that shows off many Florida ecosystems. Walking through the Deering Estate you will see parts of Florida that can be found nowhere else. Perhaps the most important aspect of Deering’s preservation is the remnants of the Tequesta people. The Tequesta people were the group of Native Americans who lived in the Miami area prior to colonization.

The Tequesta were truly incredible and ingenious, the Floridian landscape provided many things such as ample hunting and freshwater but it does have its drawbacks. Southern Florida is not known for its hard rocks and because of this, the Tequesta were unable to make stone tools like other societies, however, that did not stop them as they used shells as an alternative. These shell tools can still be found in the Deering Estate, these tools are easy to find as they fit perfectly in your hand. Another important remnant of the Tequesta people is the burial ground that is located inside the Deering Estate. The Tequesta burial mound contains the remains of roughly 15 people and is easily spotted by the giant tree on its peak.

So why is the Deering Estate important? It is an incredible look into how Miami looked before it was covered in skyscrapers and cement. This is also one of the few places where the Tequesta people and society are preserved, in contrast to this preservation other Tequesta sites have been incredibly disrespected with a large burial site being covered by Whole Foods. The Historical and Ecological significance of the Deering Estate provides more than enough reason to visit the Deering Estate and experience it yourself.

Vizcaya As Text

“An Indecisive Mansion”

By Andrew Vazquez of FIU at Vizcaya 18 February 2022

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is the former home of James Deering. James Deering is in many ways similar to his brother, and former owner of the Deering Estate, Charles Deering. Both of these men were made rich by the Deering Harvester Company and chose to invest large sums and spend their golden years in Miami.

Despite obvious similarities between the two brothers, their “projects” in Miami are vastly different. The Deering Estate is by no means a small property and the villa is beautiful, but James Deering and Vizcaya had me thinking Charles was modest! Vizcaya is one of the most extravagant pieces of architecture I have ever seen and it is truly stunning. When viewing Vizcaya Museum and Gardens you wouldn’t be remiss to think you were looking at an Early Modern European Palace, but in reality, it was built in 1916. The classic European style this mansion invokes is not a coincidence James Deering, like many other of the wealthy elite of his time, spent a lot of time abroad and brought those influences back to America.

As I have already mentioned and is made evident by the photos above Vizcaya is beautiful, perhaps the most striking aspect of its beauty comes from its lack of a singular identity. The style of Vizcaya seems to almost alternate from room to room, some being very symmetrical and linear while others are free-flowing and natural. The disunity of Vizcaya complements its extravagance to highlight the eccentric nature of its creator.

James Deering perfectly embodied the eccentric millionaire and Vizcaya was his outlet. Roman Triumphal Arches were constructed to simply mark the entrances to his garden. This garden is also very reminiscent of great French gardens such as the one in Versailles. Moorish rugs are beautifully draped along some walls. To bring this European tour to a close, Deering used a Spanish Caravel to symbolize Vizcaya and even created a Conquistador to invent a legend for Vizcaya. His eccentric personality is also displayed by pictures of random children hung in his study as he had no children of his own to display.

James Deering was without a doubt a unique personality as one would need to be to create a building such as Vizcaya. Vizcaya perfectly showcases this unique personality in the many different ideas and styles utilized in its design.

Downtown As Text

“A City Like No Other”

By Andrew Vazquez of FIU at Downtown Miami 11 March 2022

When asking about Miami one of the most common words you hear is unique. This city truly is like no other, but what makes it different, and what separates it from other cities? In 1896 Julia Tuttle founded the city of Miami. Miami is the only major city in the United States founded by a woman. On top of being founded by a woman, the first registered citizen of Miami was Silas Austin, a Black man. The diversity of Miami does not end there, the oldest building still standing in Miami is the Wagner House. This house was built by William Wagner a German-American with his Creole wife in 1855. Wagner later became a sort of ambassador between the Seminoles and the Americans during the Seminoles wars. These examples show how Miami was already expressing itself in a way that was entirely different from the rest of the world.

People have seen Miami’s unique personality for a long time and have been able to express it beautifully. The city itself has encouraged this expression, giving 1.5% of costs for county buildings to art projects. Above is a picture of a sculpture called “Dropped Bowl with Scattered Slices and Peels” by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. This piece truly expresses Miami in a way words cannot, it shows a city that is bursting at its seams, exploding outward and expanding.

Miami is a beautiful place full of various personalities that have come together to create something that I have never seen before anywhere around the world.

SOBE As Text

“A Hidden Dark Past”

By Andrew Vazquez of FIU at SOBE 1 April 2022

South Beach is one of the most beautiful parts of Miami-Dade County. Ocean Drive is a street full of character, on one side you have a beautiful view of the ocean and on the other, you have the largest Art Deco district in the entire world. My personal favorite Art Deco building is shown above and exhibits many of the hallmarks of the Art Deco style. Similar to other Art Deco buildings it is segmented into thirds and is only three stories tall, to avoid paying for an elevator. This particular building also has eyebrows, “portholes”, and a ziggurat roofline. While I personally do not feel any other building on Ocean Drive is as spectacular, they are beautiful in their own way. Another impressive building on Ocean Drive is the Versace Mansion. While it is not an Art Deco building it is stunning. The Mansion itself has some aspects such as the Apollo symbolism that is reminiscent of Versailles. The Versace Mansion is the scene of a tragedy however as  Gianni Versace himself was assassinated right on his doorsteps.

The tragic or dark part of South Beach did not begin with Versace’s assassination. The beauty of what we now call Miami Beach is simply lipstick on a pig. Ocean Beach as it was previously called as a place where segregation was halted and families of all races would gather and play baseball and enjoy picnics. This place of peace was destroyed when it was purchased by Carl Fisher, after this, he renamed Ocean Beach Miami Beach and implemented segregation. Any Black workers would require identification cards to go to the island for their jobs. Dana Dorsey, the first black millionaire in Miami owned what is now Fisher Island, wished to create a “colored” resort where the black community could enjoy the beach once again. This dream was dashed when the depression hit, and Dorsey was forced to sell the island to Fisher himself and it too became segregated. Fisher did not only discriminate against the Black community but the Jewish community as well. The Jewish community was allowed on Miami Beach but only below 5th and Fisher only allowed this because of the money they brought, but clearly anti-Semitic signs were common across the island.

Sure South Beach is a beautiful place but it is and will remain plagued by its past.

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