Lily Duke: Paris 2022

Over Under Project: Line 1

By Lily Duke of FIU on July 1st, 2022

The Parisian Metro Line 1 spans 10.3 miles, including many of the most iconic sites within the capital of France. From a medieval castle, to a modern business district, Line 1 demonstrates how multifaceted Paris is, allowing one to explore the city through 25 unique stops.

  1. La Défense
Photo taken by Lily Duke, CC by 4.0

Exiting the metro station and entering La Défense was a surreal experience. I found myself confronted by a landscape that felt straight out of a dystopian novel. It’s highly likely that my distaste and shock derived from having become accustomed to the low skyline and beautiful architecture of central Paris. With that being said, the area of La Défense felt worlds away from Paris. 

Like many stops on line 1, the commitment to satiating and exacerbating the chokehold of consumerism was seen in this area. The metro station itself was connected to a shopping mall, ensuring the utmost convenience for the consumer. I am sure that upon in depth exploration, one may find reasons to enjoy the area. However, the mall itself failed to compare to that of Les Halles and Carrousel du Louvre, rendering myself unlikely to ever feel the need to return to the La Défense. 

Photo taken by Lily Duke, CC by 4.0

La Défense felt lifeless and lacked character. While sculptures were placed throughout the area, no plaques or context were given to the artwork, therefore rendering its presence superficial and hollow, like artwork in a hotel placed to simply take up space. Unlike the rest of Paris, La Défense has failed to capture the essence of the city, resulting in an eerie and jarring atmosphere. 

Empty parking lot in mall, Photo taken by Lily Duke, CC by 4.0

While researching La Défense, I came across information regarding the low skyline or the rest of the city. I had assumed that the majority of Paris was very low due to buildings being protected as historically significant and for aesthetic purposes. However, I discovered that, while the former reason may be partially true, the maintained city design results from the intricate and extensive tunnel layout below. If the buildings were to rise higher, the tunnels below would collapse. (Rowan, 2016) One can assume that La Défense does not have as many tunnels as central Paris, therefore allowing the presence of the high rises. 

If my analysis of the area wasn’t obvious, I’ll explicitly state that La Défense was my least favorite area within Paris. While I understand and appreciate its necessity, as a business district, I found myself desperate to return to the city in which I had grown accustomed. 

2. Porte Maillot 

I personally found this stop extremely strange. One can see the return of traditional French architecture, while also seeing the modern presence across the river (La Défense). Furthermore, the initial area surrounding the metro was under construction, which is rarely seen within Paris. While we had moved closer to the Paris I had come to love, it still felt widely unfamiliar. 

Photo by Lily Duke, CC by 4.0

Just outside the metro stop is the Palais des Congrés, an event hall paired with a shopping center. This is the first mall I have visited where the stores were not open on a Sunday. While I am aware that French culture includes store closing on Sunday, I have seen many malls across Paris failing to do so. One can assume that this is a result of immense tourism and an unwillingness to miss out on the potential profit. The mall in question seemed to house rather expensive brands, and was overall rather pretentious looking. This leads one to believe that the establishment does not need to exploit consumerism or tourism, or at least wants to create the facade of such stance. Regardless, it was a unique experience to walk through an empty mall after having experienced the chaos of Les Halles (which will be touched upon later). 

3. Champs-Élysées-Clemenceau

Paris has served as the backdrop to some of the most glamourous cultural moments. When one exits the Champs-Élysées-Clemenceau metro stop, the appeal is obvious. Lined with the most extravagant stores imaginable, and the Arc de Triomphe situated at the end of the road, it is challenging to not get swept away by the spectacle of it. 

While I am the first to admit I love glitz and glamour, I did not feel drawn to this area. Perhaps in a future where money is in abundance and price tags are of no concern, I may feel differently. But I can confidently say I am not within the demographic that the street was designed for.

This street encapsulates the dangers of consumerism. A culture has been fostered that encourages one to believe they must buy certain items purely because of the name tag, and disregarding the price or necessity. This has resulted in unnecessary consumption, especially seen through the French tradition of seasonal wardrobes (which implies one must completely replace their closet with new clothing every season to stay fashionable). I strongly dislike this concept for many reasons, including environmental consequences and financial burdens. 

In regard to nightlife, the area surrounding the Champs Élysées holds many high end options; I went to Le Duplex. While overall a fun experience, the expensive entry fee and cost of drinks felt unnecessary. This perspective could be easily applied to the entire area. When visiting Champs Élysées, one pays for a specific name on a shopping bag or a photo under a neon sign. I personally found much more enriching experiences in the Latin Quarter, where the culture feels significantly less pretentious. 

4. Tuileries

After having read “The Lost King of France: How DNA Solved the Mystery of the Murdered Son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette” by Deborah Cadbury, I was extremely excited to visit the Tuileries. However, somewhere along the lines, I had avoided the vital information that the Tuileries palace was burned down, and therefore, no longer exists. The area across from the Louvre that once housed and imprisoned French royals and emperors is now occupied by a beautiful park. 

Catherine de’ Medici enlisted the assistance of architect Philibert de l’Orme (the mind behind Fontainebleau) to construct the Tuileries in 1564. After the death of her husband, Henry II, Catherine’s son took over the throne and she wanted a residence close to him. However, in 1570, Philibert died. Catherine went on to hire Jean Bullant, who had helped her in designing Château de Chenonceau after she took it from Henry II lover, Diane de Poitiers. I would have loved the opportunity to see the culmination of two architects who individually worked on other masterpieces within France. However, It almost feels more appropriate to have a park, beautiful and ever changing, built atop the ruins. As the Third Republic strengthened in France, those who opposed the governance protested within Paris.In 1889, the Tuileries were burned down by said insurgents, known as the Communards. This building represented the monarchy, and the abandonment and lack of commitment to democracy. 

Furthermore, the Musée de l’Orangerie is located within the Tuileries, which feels like a perfect place to explore the artwork housed. Monet’s water lilies, as commissioned by the French prime minister Clemenceau, attract many to the museum, allowing one to get up close and personal with some of the most iconic pieces of art created. While smaller than the other museums we visited, this intimate experience was profound and potentially my favorite. 

5. Louvre-Revoli 

Walking the halls of the Musée du Louvre was an out of body experience; the amount of culture and history housed within one building was astonishing. Throughout my academic journey, I have studied various pieces of art. It was overwhelming to stand before them. The physical and original versions of said artwork were somewhat startling; they abruptly highlighted how these artists, revolutionary and world renowned, were human. The Mona Lisa was forged by human hands. The Winged Victory of Samothrace, featuring the goddess Nike, was a mortal creation. There is something quite jarring, yet inspiring, about being in the presence of true masterpieces. 

Photo taken by Lily Duke, CC by 4.0

Beyond the Musée du Louvre, the Louvre-Rivoli metro stop also connects one to an underground mall. I found this slightly strange, but was ultimately not surprised. The Louvre attracts about 9 million visitors a year (with recent years taking a dip in visitors due to the Covid). (Number of visitors to the louvre paris 2020 2021) Therefore, it makes sense that this is a location that one would deem profitable. Not to mention, the metro stop increases accessibility, as briefly touched upon when discussing La Défense. Once again, Paris has demonstrated its commitment to consumerism, which is inevitable in a city so heavily influenced by tourism.

6. Châtelet

Photo taken by Lily Duke, CC by 4.0

Out of all the stops on Line 1, I visited Châtelet the most frequently. Whether it be due to its size (as it is connected to Les Halles) and subsequent ability to transfer to another line, or mall and surrounding shops, Châtelet is a hub of convenience. Joined to Les Halles, which is one of the largest stations underground in the world, While Châtelet was added to line 1 in 1977, it was not combined with Les Halles until 2018. This decision was made due to concerns over Les Halles ability to evacuate people during an emergency. 

Châtelet sees significant foot traffic, rendering it a prime shopping destination. The area surrounding Châtelet is strongly dominated by the Westfield Forum des Halles (an underground mall). This is, at times, overwhelming. The shopping center is home to many of the most popular brands. Furthermore, the station of Châtelet-Les Halles is utilized widely by those who live outside the city but work within to get into Paris. Therefore, the mall is constantly overflowing with customers, creating a hectic environment. While I have attended this mall many times, some of my favorite moments within the area were elsewhere. 

The restaurant, L’Escargot, sits a few minute walk away from Châtelet. This restaurant truly highlights that french dining is an experience rather than a means to satiate hunger. While pricey, I will recommend this restaurant to anyone who wants to fully embrace French culture. 

7. Hôtel de Ville

Upon arriving at Hôtel de Ville, we attempted to enter the town hall, but we’re met by guards, who informed us the hall was only open to the public one day a year. The inability to enter the town hall as a tourist (which was completely understandable for safety and efficiency) highlighted how widely accessible the rest of Paris is. Upon failing to enter the city hall, we visited the tourism office sitting adjacent. While a fairly obvious sentiment, I was struck by how many excursions and museums the city has to offer, with walls of hundreds of colorful pamphlets surrounding the office. I was hit by an overwhelming sense of panic, as I realized I would not be able to do everything in the short remainder of the trip. However, I found solace in the strangest of ways. 

The city preserves an interesting duality. So heavily dictated by tourism, it is amazing to see how authentic the local experience can be. Despite the plethora of popular tourist attractions, one can still fall in love with Paris in the backstreets and in quiet parks. In regard to the unease previously mentioned and the subsequent remedy, it was as simple as tapping my metro card as we left Hôtel de Ville. This objectively insignificant moment reminded me that I was not in Paris to simply be a tourist. For a month, I lived in Paris, fully immersed within the culture and openly embracing every aspect that makes the tourists come and the locals stay. 

While a night river cruise across the Seine would have been amazing, I much more value the intimate and humble experiences, such as having a drink with friends on the river bank, our feet dangling off the edge. 

8. Bastille

Similar to the Tuileries, the name of the Bastille stop commemorates a building that no longer stands. In 1789, the Bastille prison was stormed. With the tension between the 3rd estate (the commoners) and the monarchy (King Louis XVI) had reached a head. Therefore, the people rose, and successfully stormed the Bastille prison, a building which wholly represented the dictatorial nature of the crown. This day, July 14th 1789, would later be remembered as Bastille Day, celebrated to honor the independence of France. In 1889, 100 years after the Bastille was stormed, the Eiffel Tower was completed, signifying a continued commitment to democracy and freedom.

During the french revolution, the Bastille was destroyed. As a result, a monument to what occurred and was subsequently achieved has been built in its place. Furthermore, a modern opera house also sits atop where the prison once was. Overall, this area is beautiful but made me appreciate how many other sites within Paris have endured and allow us to physically explore history.

9. Gare de Lyon

Paris is massive, spanning 105.4 km². Impressively, this city that attracts millions feels widely intimate and accessible. This can easily be attributed to the extensive and affordable transportation implemented throughout the city, a notable facet to this machine being the train station, Gare de Lyon. Throughout the year, the station is estimated to see around 110 million visitors. Connecting Paris with the rest of the country, this metro stop is crucial to the functionality and popularity of the city.

Gare de Lyon, along with the entirety of Line 1, highlighted how ineffective the transportation in Miami is. Once one comes westward, away from downtown, transportation severely declines, making the city much less accessible. As someone who does not drive, my ability to travel, and increased sense of agency within Paris was amazing. Unfortunately, it has also rendered me concerned as to how I will fare once I return to Miami. 

10. Château de Vincennes

At the end of line 1 sits Château de Vincennes, a French castle surrounded by Paris. What I specifically enjoyed about this castle was how obvious the progression of time was. Each building within the grounds highlights a different period of French history. Within other castles, such as Fontainebleau, the inevitable updates to architecture and design (that come with new residents) were less notable due to consistency throughout the property. However, within Château de Vincennes, a medieval castle sits next to a rococo manor (resembling Versailles, which makes sense due to Louis XIV building it), both of which face a renaissance style church, completed under the leadership of King Henry II. Each building seems almost frozen in time, allowing one to compare and contrast the various rulers, styles and cultures throughout French history. 

It’s important to note that I entered the castle grounds free of charge. With the mere flash of my student ID, I was given a ticket and allowed to explore almost 700 years of French history. This is a testament to the accessibility of Paris and the commitment to education and culture. Especially in a site where the most privileged figures within France are immortalized, I strongly appreciate the lack of exploitation.


Cadbury, D. (2003). The lost king of france: How Dna solved the mystery of the murdered son of Louis Xvi and Marie-Antoinette. St. Martin’s Griffen. 

Gare de Lyon – Paris Tourist Office. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2022, from 

Number of visitors to the louvre paris 2020. Statista. (2021, August 5). Retrieved July 25, 2022, from 

Photograph: Ruins of the Tuileries Palace, grand vestibule and Place du Carrousel (May 1871). (n.d.). Retrieved July 24, 2022, from,fires%20of%20a%20popular%20insurrection. Rowan, L. (2016, September 27). Why the City of Paris has virtually no tall buildings like every other bustling European metropolis. History Daily. Retrieved July 15, 2022, from

Lily Duke: France as Text 2022

Permanence within the Fleeting

By Lily Duke of FIU at Maison d’Izieu on July 10th, 2022

As nature evolves, chaotic and unburdened, a reminder of both immense injustice (in the most extreme sense of the word) and humanity sits inconspicuously within. While initially unassuming yet beautiful, Izieu brutally reveals a unique depth of humanity, demonstrating both an unconscionable capacity for barbarity and what we should centrally protect and celebrate.

The children of Izieu, photo by Lily Duke, CC by 4.0

World War II saw the occurrence of countless atrocities, rendering the average individual blissfully ignorant as to the scope of what occurred. While the holocaust is taught and depicted in media, for many (myself included), it is challenging to fully comprehend what truly occurred, beyond a detached understanding, until physically confronted by the reality. Izieu amplifies this sentiment, presenting a poignant opportunity to educate and honor those victimized by pure hatred, while emphasizing hope and happiness.

photo by Lily Duke, CC by 4.0

In 1944, the Maison d’Izieu was home to 44 Jewish children and their 7 caretakers. The parents of the children had sent them away to Izieu, an area under Italian control and thus assumed to be less dangerous for Jews, to protect them from the war. The refuge was widely acknowledged to be a place of happiness for the children, with former students claiming their time at Izieu as some of the best years of their lives (THE HOUSE: REFUGE OF THE CHILDREN 1943-44, 2022). This is actively highlighted throughout the memorial (to combat the subsequent dehumanization conducted by the Nazis). Unfortunately, this peaceful and caring environment was brutally undermined. On the 6th of April 1944, Gestapo, under the instruction of Klaus Barbie, raided Izieu, taking the children and their teachers to concentration camps, where they eventually died. 

Personally, the most impactful moment of touring Izieu was walking into the classroom, and seeing not only the empty tables, but how small they were. There is no way to possibly perceive the children as a threat. Ranging from 3 to 16 years old, these children, and their caretakers, were not involved in the French resistance or challenge the Nazi agenda. Their death was innately a demonstration of power and pure hatred. 

photo by Lily Duke, CC by 4.0

It would be so easy for the children of Izieu to resemble the nature surrounding, just a fleeting moment to be forgotten. However, that is where the beauty and hope of this museum can be found; their lives are celebrated and voices amplified, diligently resisting the victimizing nature of history and ignorance. While true justice can never be achieved in cases as horrific as this, in a sense, the memory of the children is immortalized. 

Exhibition within Maison d’Izieu, photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0


THE HOUSE: REFUGE OF THE CHILDREN 1943-44. Maison d’Izieu. (2022, February 28). Retrieved July 11, 2022, from 

Lyon: The Duality Within 

By Lily Duke of FIU in Lyon on July 8th, 2022

Lyon a history book. As one meanders through the streets, the intricate pages come to life. The voices, dreams, and sacrifices of many are immortalized through the architecture, exbibits, and diligent efforts of those who refuse to allow time to take its toll. 

During World War II, France became occupied by Nazi Germany. Even today, one can still feel the effects of the war when exploring the city of Lyon. Memorials and museums are woven within Lyon, allowing those who were taken brutally to be remembered and honored. Lyon saw immense oppression during World War II under both the free Vichy government, and Nazi occupation. French residents were targeted for being Jewish, sent to concentration camps, and murdered. 

Photo taken by Lily Duke, CC by 4.0

Violence and hatred can seem so much louder than hope and resistance. However, in Lyon, one is reminded, that a light shines brightest when lit in darkness. As monikered by Charles De Gaulle, Lyon became the capital of the Resistance, a group of individuals who abhorred and actively undermined the antisemitic pursuits of the Nazis. From publishing newspapers, and providing information to the allies, to actively fighting the Nazis, the Resistance were unwaveringly committed to free France, even when aware of the potentially fatal risk.

Photo taken by Lily Duke, CC by 4.0

Upon visiting notable locations, such as the former prison, Montluc, and reading about the awe-inspiring actions of those incarcerated by the gestapo for their affiliation to the Resistance, one naturally contemplates how they themselves would act and have fared during times of immense conflict. Those within the Resistance jeopardized every innate human right to fight for their cause. Idealistically, I would love to say I would stand with them, doing whatever necessary to protect others. But to be entirely candid, I truly do not know if I could confidently stand before barbarity. I cannot imagine myself capable of committing such amazing acts of heroism when not only my life, but that of my family, were threatened. However, fear can coexist with proactivity, and I must honor the sacrifices of others by not passively progressing through life, silent to the injustices I witness. Lyon has taught me that I must use my voice to represent those who cannot speak. 

Photo taken by Lily Duke, CC by 4.0

I feel it is also important to acknowledge that the city itself, beyond its historical significance, exemplifies contrasting, yet successfully coexisting, themes. While there is an obvious commitment to preservation and respecting the past, a strong interest in the future is seen. As of 2026, all diesel cars will be prohibited within Lyon to combat pollution. (Diesel banned in the metropolis of lyon from 2026, 2022). Furthermore, the city has both embraced and limited tourism. Certain areas are obviously highly commercialized and catered towards the stream of new visitors, while other zones strictly enforce silence to respect the residents and limit the obvious discomfort of tourism. In general, Lyon seems to have established an impressive balance, surely establishing itself as a source of inspiration for cities across the world.


Diesel banned in the metropolis of lyon from 2026. Plugavel. (2021, October 1). Retrieved July 12, 2022, from 

Immortality in Death 

By Lily Duke of FIU in Paris on July 6th, 2022

Delaroche, P. (1855). La Jeune Martyre Musée du Louvre. 

         In 1855, Paul Delaroche finished a painting entitled The Young Martyr, which is currently housed within the Musée du Louvre. In this melodramatic depiction, the French artist portrays a young woman, recently deceased, floating bound in a river, with a halo above her head. This painting is widely said to represent religious persecution under Diocletian (a Roman emperor). However, it is equally speculated to depict Delaroche’s wife, who died young. Regardless of interpretation, the concept of sacrifice yet immortality is central, due to her state and ethereal quality. For a martyr, as shown in the painting, death consolidates their legacy, allowing them to become more than their physical body; death through martyrdom allows one to become a symbol. 

David, J.-L. (1793). The Death of Marat Musée du Louvre., Photo by Lily Duke, CC by 4.0

Perspective is an important component to consider when discussing martyrdom and legacy. Jean-Paul Marat was murdered by Charlotte Corday (who was subsequently executed for her actions) in 1793 for his aggressive encouragement of the Reign of Terror. With Marat being a Jacobin, and Corday being a Girondin (two politically and violently opposed groups during the French Revolution), both individuals could be argued to be martyrs by their respective parties. Needless to say, through death, both Charlotte and Jean-Paul confirmed their legacies. 

What I personally find intriguing about the concept of martyrdom is one’s inability to truly know if their actions will benefit their cause or simply be in vain. Similarly, many artists die before their work reaches is due appreciation, rendering them oblivious as to their success and subsequent impact on their field. In the late 19th century, Paris attracted an eclectic stream of artists due to the progressive and diverse culture, some of which being Oscar Wilde, Van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Arthur Rimbaud. These artists are specifically acknowledged to have far exceeded their level of fame after death than during their lifetime. The development of ones legacy seems to be strongly determined by societal capabilities to consume said art, therefore, rendering them revolutionaries of their time. Regardless, as martyrs are immortalized through their death, these artists were preserved through their work and their evolving relationship with the city. 

Thomas Edison and Gustave Eiffel statues within the office of the Eiffel Tower, Photo by Andrew Vazquez, CC by 4.0

Paris is a city interwoven with death, but not restricted by it. Throughout the city, there are countless reminders that we are capable of becoming and creating something bigger than ourselves. Almost every street name honors the legacy of a significant figure, whether it be a martyred saint, a poet or a politician. Their actions carried them past death, immortalizing them through time and history. 


Oppression Gilded in Gold

By Lily Duke of FIU at Versailles on July 3rd, 2022

Photo by Lily Duke, CC by 4.0

As a child, I visited Versailles. I remember the golden gate and beautiful gardens, a palace fit for fairytales. However, revisiting almost a decade later proved to be a unique experience entirely. With my formerly superficial appreciation abandoned, I found myself almost overwhelmed as I consciously traversed the halls that had once been lit by the Sun King, stood in the rooms where absolute power had dissolved, and followed in the footsteps of those who would eventually rebuild a nation. While beautiful and awe-inspiring in architecture, the reality of Versailles signifies a deeply troubled period of time within French history.

When King Louis XIV moved the French court from Paris to Versailles (his former hunting lodge located around 6 hours away from the capital) in 1682, he disrupted the structure of governance, highlighting not only the ability for change, but also the egocentric and dictatorial nature of the crown. The very construction of Versailles consolidated the fragility of the relationship between the monarchy and the people. The physical distance established by the Sun King, Louis XIV, later evolved into full-fledged detachment when King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette abandoned any preexisting façade or efforts, unabashedly taking advantage of the third estate (the commoners) to live lavishly. Versailles became the physical embodiment of every value the French Revolution fought against. When the women marched to Versailles on October 5th, 1789, they not only apprehended the royal family, but destroyed the ornate decorations within. For every opulent decoration represented a child lost to hunger or the enforcement excessive taxation.

Photo by Lily Duke, CC by 4.0

A disconnect between the classes is inevitable and somewhat unshakable. In many cases, these dynamics are so systemic and widespread that opportunities for change are neglected and deemed to be unrealistic. As seen with Louis XVI, in instances of extreme social disparities, public instability is unavoidable. While the French Revolution is a rather extreme and violent example of this concept, class conflict has consistently manifested around the world. In the case of the United States of America, the rich consistently get richer at the expense of the poor, rendering it is challenging to entirely dispel notions of America facing revolutionary level conflict.

Photo by Lily Duke, CC by 4.0

Versailles is innately built upon the people, becoming a symbol of inherent oppression gilded in gold. While we should appreciate its beauty and artistry, it is crucial that we also understand its downfall and assess how further division between classes will one day undermine the values in which our country was built upon. 

Honore De Balzac

By Lily Duke of FIU at Père Lachaise Cemetery on June 29th, 2022

Photo by Lily Duke, CC by 4.0

I live through escapism; whether it be turning my music up too loud, diving into myths, or befriending fantastical heroes who live on pages. I find nourishment in leaving this world for another, even if just for the briefest of moments. Honore De Balzac directly contradicts this sentiment. His writing challenges the reader, daring them to confront reality and find enjoyment in doing so.  

Balzac was a 19th century French author born in 1799. As prompted by his father, Balzac began a career in law after graduating university. However, he quickly decided that his future lay in writing. He began writing plays and articles under the pseudonyms, “Lord Rhône” and “Horace de Saint-Aubin”. These bodies of work were widely unsuccessful. It was not until he abandoned his pseudonyms and fully embraced his work that he earned recognition.

         His experience in law and journalism brought him into contact with a wide variety of individuals in Paris, providing an authentic and honest perspective. This allowed Balzac to distinguish his work from his opponents and consolidate his position as a founder of the literary field of realism. Realism is built upon a foundation of reality and honesty, straying from the out of touch nature of the previous movement of romanticism, which was generally characterized as fantastical tales. 

As a prolific writer known for his ability to write lengthy novels in extraordinarily short periods, Balzac created a large body of work, with his most notable creation being Comédie humaine, a compilation of novels that depicted life in France. His characters were nuanced, and truly human, portraying mortality and poverty honestly. Balzac preserved the escapism sought by many readers, while also completely encapsulating and defining realism. When one turns his pages, they find themselves within the streets of post Napoleonic Paris, riddled with the problems and joys of a working-class resident. 

In his personal life, Balzac was said to be rather dramatic and strange, constantly wearing sleeping robes and living lavishly. While he is often acknowledged to have been rather promiscuous with women, Balzac entered a marriage with Ewelina Hanska in 1850.Initially a married admirer, Ewelina wrote to Balzac with the intention of purely expressing her appreciation for his work and his progressive portrayal of women. Balzac, impressed by her insightful perspective and intelligence, responded to her anonymous letter. The two began an extensive correspondence. Ewelina’s husband eventually died, and she married Balzac. What I find beautiful about their relationship is that he fell in love with her because of her words and her opinions, finding himself completely infatuated by a woman he had never met. It’s important to note though, to somewhat counteract the ironic romanticization that has occurred, Balzac was said to engage in multiple affairs with other women during his marriage.

Balzac’s pen leaked blue, white and red, and his pages immortalize the residents of Paris. His collection of work became a living, breathing body that gave voice to a city of progress, hope and immense culture. Balzac once stated that Paris was the true author behind his literature, and he was merely the secretary. And while humble is not a word many would use when describing this eccentric author, the heart of his work remained true to its goal of realistically documenting the heart and soul of Paris.

The life and work of Balzac reminds me that I have a voice and I have opinions, both of which I actively disrespect through my reticence. Honore did not achieve fame until he abandoned his pseudonym and wholeheartedly embraced his work publicly. He produced outstanding work until his death in 1850. His cause of death is unknown, but it is speculated it resulted from his intense commitment to his work. 

A fear of failure dictates many aspects of my life. And it has left me living passively, finding comfort in escapism. But the true human experience is not linear, as seen with Balzac. He faced immense setbacks throughout his journey to success. But he utilized these hardships to inspire his writing, and subsequently earned appreciation. His life and commitment to realism has inspired me to live presently and without regret. 


Alloprof. Alloprof aide aux devoirs. (n.d.). Retrieved July 19, 2022, from 

Balzac, H. de, Stump, J., & Madden, J. (2005). The wrong side of Paris. Modern Library. 

Biographie de Balzac. Études littéraires. (n.d.). Retrieved July 20, 2022, from 

Roy Upton Talhelm

By Lily Duke of FIU at Normandy American Cemetery on June 24th, 2022

Roy Upton Talhelm was an American soldier who fought in World War II. At the age of 15 (in 1942), Roy enlisted in the army after having forged documents to change his age. Roy was subsequently placed within the famous “Easy Company” (G Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division). This specific company later became the inspiration and focus of the show Band of Brothers (released in 2001). At the time of his death, Talhelm was a private. 

Little is publicly known regarding Roy’s life prior to the war. However, it is stated that he worked in construction, implying he withdrew from education early. Growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, Roy met his girlfriend, Donna, at a young age. The two went on to have a child together while Talhelm underwent military training. Unfortunately, Roy was only able to see his daughter once before being deployed in Normandy in 1943.

       On June 6th, 1944, (also known as D-Day) Roy, along with the Easy Company, were dropped over Normandy. At the age of 17, Talhelm survived the initial jump, making his way to La Barquette bridge (located to the north-east of Carentan). He spent two days here, defending the bridge from the Nazis. On June 8th, 1944, Roy was severely injured. After four days of suffering, Roy Upton Talhelm died on June 12th, 1944. 

Photo by Lily Duke, CC by 4.0

         I feel it is important to emphasize how truly courageous and honorable Roy was. Out of the over 9000 buried within the Normandy American cemetery, Talhelm was the youngest. While all those who fought for the allies during World War II were immensely admirable, Talhelm was unique due to the element of choice. He could have avoided conflict until he was of age (which would have allowed him to evade enlistment entirely due to the war ending in 1945). I cannot personally imagine making such a fearless and selfless decision at my current age of 20, let alone at 15. 

My father was in the British parachute regiment. His time enlisted was short, and he was never put in any dangerous environments (beyond the obvious risk of jumping out of an aircraft). My grandfather was in the army. Neither my dad or grandfather ever faced an active war zone, and both left their divisions when they no longer wanted to serve. It is because of the actions of individuals like Roy that my family had the freedom to enlist voluntarily and safely leave the miliary when they decided to do so. Those who fought during World War II fought so we could evade both the atrocities of the Nazis but also the immense responsibility and consequences of war. 

I have family members who lived in London during World War II. My nan was a nurse working within a hospital that was bombed by the Nazis. She fortunately survived, but had the war continued longer, she could have died. While perhaps a dramatic sentiment, I strongly believe that I would not be alive today had it not been for the immense courage and resilience of people like Roy Upton Talhelm. They saw a future bigger than themselves and gave their entirety to their country and people. 

When reflecting on World War II, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the disturbing ideologies and practices of the Nazis. However, it is imperative to acknowledge the humanity and hope demonstrated by the opposing forces. Roy had no legal responsibility to enlist in the army (due to his age), which is a testament to his honor and integrity. At 15, Roy decided on the legacy he wanted to leave. Whether it was for his country, those within concentration camps, or for his daughter, Roy proactively took a stand against pure evil, establishing himself as a hero in the truest sense of the word.

Growing up in England, we would celebrate Remembrance Day on November 11th. This national holiday was held to commemorate the lives of those who fought and died in combat following World War I. Every year, we would read the poem, In Flanders Field, written by John McRae. This poem is beautiful yet haunting, highlighting that we must always remember the immense sacrifices made, and the integrity and courage of those who fell so we could rise.

In Flanders Fields 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow 

Between the crosses, row on row, 

That mark our place; and in the sky 

The larks, still bravely singing, fly 

Scarce heard amid the guns below. 

We are the Dead. Short days ago 

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 

Loved, and were loved, and now we lie 

In Flanders fields. 

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow 

In Flanders fields. 

– John McCrae 

Roy Upton Talhelm is buried in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, located in Section Plot C, Row 9, Grave 32.


Talhelm, Roy Upton. WW2 Gravestone. (2022, January 16). Retrieved July 10, 2022, from 

Lily Duke: Declaration Project 2022

Charlotte Corday: A Woman Undeterred by Death

Charlotte Corday, by Jean-Jacques Hauer (1793)

Can peace be born from violence, stability facilitated through chaos, or justice found in death? These conflicting ideologies have presented themselves time and time again in movements of dire consequence. The urgency for reform and progression can manifest in the most violent of manners, with many utilizing the pursuit of justice to rationalize brutality.

The French Revolution marked a period of immense growth within France, and subsequently, around the world, as democratization and the universality of human rights was developed and pursued. This journey was by no means peaceful, or free from cruelty or corruption (as the goals may suggest). With an abundance of ambitious yet clashing forces hoping to influence the future of the nation, growing dissent ironically facilitated tyrannical governance under those who had once intended to liberate. In many cases, the morality of significant yet violent decisions is simply be a matter of perspective, requiring one to assess what behavior they deem necessary or unjust when pursuing concepts as innate as the sanctity of life or the abolition of slavery. Despite centuries of enormous progress since the French Revolution, the conversation regarding whether the ends truly justify the means is still highly relevant to today’s social climate and is seen on both a small and large scale (through individual activism and global affairs). 

Charlotte Corday 

Charlotte Corday was a significant figure who emerged from the political turmoil of the French Revolution. Born on July 17th, 1769, in Écorchés, Normandy, Charlotte belonged to an impecunious aristocratic family, with the notable playwright, Pierre Corneille, being an ancestor within her lineage. In her youth, her sister and mother had died. As a result, Charlotte’s father sent her to live in Caen. As she grew up, Corday attended political rallies led by the Girondins. She quickly became loyal to their cause, deeming them and their ideologies to be the future of France. 

The Girondins were a political group established and dissolved (through being hunted and executed) during the French Revolution. While they shared the Jacobin sentiment of ending the monarchy and establishing a government for the people, the Girondins acknowledged the violent trajectory of the Jacobin movement. This sparked significant conflict between the two political groups, threatening the authority of the Jacobins and rendering the Girondins as wanted individuals, constantly at risk of execution. Charlotte, who was extremely loyal to the Girondins, set out to undermine the Jacobins and bring stable justice to France. 

Corday headed to Paris, intending to protect the future of the Girondins and France by murdering a man named Jean-Paul Marat. Marat was an extremely influential politician and journalist who contributed immensely to the violent nature of the French Revolution. Marat believed the death of all who opposed the established government was crucial to ensuring liberty and democracy within France. Marat’s writing is commonly acknowledged to have laid the groundwork for the Reign of Terror. This unforgiving approach made him a strong enemy to many, the Girondins included, who may have agreed with the goal of liberty and justice but asserted that Marat and his Jacobin counterparts would jeopardize the integrity and future of the nation with their violent practices (Silva, 2010).

Once arriving in Paris, Charlotte attempted to find Marat within multiple social settings, however, he was infrequent in his public appearances. Therefore, it was decided that she needed to acquire a private meeting with Marat. Understanding she could use her affiliation to the Girondins to her advantage, Corday wrote to Marat, stating she would disclose the identity and location of individuals who opposed Marat. This tactic worked, and Charlotte was given entry to Marat’s home. On July 13th, 1793, Corday entered Marat’s bathing room, where he was reclining in the bath, and stabbed him in the chest, killing him almost instantaneously (Towle, 2012).

It is important to note that no records indicate that Charlotte attempted to flee following the death of Marat. This, paired with statements made prior to her execution, strongly suggest that Corday had accepted death the moment she had decided to murder Marat.

The Death of Marat, by 
Jacques-Louis David (1793)

As seen within the famous painting, The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David, Jean-Paul was shown to be sickly (beyond the obvious depiction of him being deceased), bandaged within what is speculated to be a medicinal bath. At the time of his death, Marat was said to be suffering from an extremely painful and degenerative skin disease and was likely approaching death (Towle, 2012). Had Charlotte simply waited, she could have seen Marat’s death and kept her hands clean, preventing her own demise. This is a testament to how committed Corday was to her cause; the murder of Marat was both a revenge plot and a message to those who were aligned with him.

Corday was convinced that her actions would lead her martyrization, strengthening her cause and undermining her oppositions. However, this did not come to fruition, with Marat becoming a beacon of reignited commitment to his political pursuits. His body was even paraded around the streets of Paris for the public to mourn (which seems to have been a common practice within the city when a notable figure fell).

After stabbing Marat, Corday was quickly apprehended and brought before a court. With a state assigned representative, Charlotte stood by her actions, asserting that Marat was a tyrant who deserved to die. With that being said, in a letter sent to her father before her death, Corday acknowledged the inhumanity of her actions and begged for forgiveness, while maintaining no regret regarding her actions and subsequent consequences. 

On July 17th, 1793, Corday arrived at the Place de Grève, now known as the Place de l’Hôtel-de-Ville, and was brought upon the scaffold. Dressed in red under a purple sky, Charlotte Corday was executed by guillotine for the murder of Jean-Paul Marat. 

A Feminist Forged in Blood

Following the death of Marat, many of those actively advocating for women’s rights condemned the actions of Corday, asserting that her vigilante pursuits undermined their feminist goals and discredited the progress made towards expanding women’s role within society. Furthermore, Charlotte never expressed feminist intentions prior to or following the murder of Marat. I by no means intend to idolize or romanticize murder. However, due to the expectations of women to be submissive and delicate, and Corday’s commitment to the future of France, it is challenging to not consider Charlotte as a symbol of female empowerment. 

Charlotte Corday (The Assassination of Marat), by Paul-Jacques-Aimé Baudry (1860)

An autopsy was conducted to assess whether Charlotte had taken a lover, as it was believed that she could not have committed murder without the aid of a man. Despite the persistent villainization of Corday, the relentless misogyny would not even allow her ownership over her crimes. Even in artistic representations, such Paul-Jacques-Aimé Baudry’s painting entitled Charlotte Corday (The Assassination of Marat), Corday is still depicted to be weak and passive despite having killed a man. With that being said, beyond those who criticized her effect on feminism, (as previously acknowledged) some applauded her for acting like a man. While sexist by today’s standards, this statement was highly progressive for the time, promoting the acceptance of women being dominant, a trait historically assigned to men. 

Corday was an independent woman who identified an oppressive regime burgeoning before those who vociferously advocated for liberty and justice. While her methods were questionable, Charlotte was committed to her cause, and welcomed death as an unavoidable facet to the fruition of justice within France. 


While our modern social climate goes through periods of being highly reactive, as seen through the renewed commitment to certain movements (such as Black Lives Matter in 2020), it is fair to state that Revolution Era France significantly exceeded the instability and injustices we perceive today. Therefore, it is immensely challenging to assess whether certain acts are unjustified or inhumane when we are perceiving it through the lens of today’s standards. This concept can also be applied to current events, as those within privileged positions cannot understand the experiences of marginalized and oppressed individuals, therefore, rendering them unable to fully judge the actions which result from said injustices (within reason). 

Was the death of Jean-Paul Marat necessary? Questions such as this are always challenging to address as one can never truly assess what the alternate outcome would have been had certain actions not been taken. Charlotte Corday deemed Marat’s death to be imperative to the protection of liberty within France and the prevention of further injustices. However, adverse effects followed, and Marat’s murder intensified the tyranny of Corday’s oppositions. 

Corday highlighted that in times of extreme political and social conflict, radicalism inevitably manifests and can become necessary to ensuring progress. Charlotte Corday stated, following the assassination of Marat, “to save your country means not noticing what it costs.” One can ruminate extensively over whether well intentioned crimes can be justified. At the time of his death, Marat was idolized. However, merely two years later, the nation realized how victimized they had become by his words. While Charlotte considered herself to be a utilitarian martyr, she had been so villainized that her vigilante actions were never fully appreciated for what they represented. This was likely influenced by the fact she was a woman within a society unprepared to celebrate the strength and influence of an individual expected to be feeble and submissive. It was not until decades later that Corday was seen as a heroine. 

Human Rights: Universalism vs. Cultural Relativism

There is a level of irony found in Corday withstanding the execution of the Girondins by murdering another. This seemingly never ending cycled continued when Charlotte was sent to the guillotine. As seen through the Reign of Terror, and the beliefs of Marat, execution became a core practice utilized to protect the rising regime. France eventually abolished the death penalty in 1981, claiming it violated human dignity. In comparison, within the United States of America, capital punishment is still legal in 27 states. Globally, the U.S is perceived to be a progressive nation that values and actively facilitates human rights. However, the death penalty is an extremely controversial topic, with widely dissenting opinions domestically. In regard to France, Corday and Marat had similar goals for the nation, but disagreed on the execution (in both senses of the word), which resulted in their deaths. This highlights the problem with universalism. If one nation cannot definitively develop a stance on a certain issue, how should one expect every global state to agree. This plays into the ideology of cultural relativism, which claims universalism neglects unique perspectives and potentially undermines aspects of certain cultures. 

Cultural relativism holds that human rights should be determined by a nation. The issue with this concept is the assumption that the governing body will always rule in favor of the nation while protecting its cultural identity. This is idealistic and improbable. As seen through the French Revolution, the new culture evolving was jeopardized because those in power made decision to consolidate their positions, which inevitably caused conflict. A direct correlation between the democratization of a state and its commitment to human rights is widely acknowledged. And with “38 percent of the global population [living] in Not Free countries,” (Repucci & Slipowitz, 2022) the state power afforded through cultural relativism is highly concerning. 

Furthermore, cultural relativism can promote the protection of potentially harmful behavior, leaving it up to state powers to determine the legality of certain actions. This is seen through Sharia law, the inhumane treatment of homosexuality within certain nations, and the Reign of Terror. While impossible at the time due to the revolutionary nature of the movement, the instability of France in the late 18th century highlights the need for universalism, ultimately placing the burden and power to enforce human rights on a global level rather than allowing a governing agency to pick and choose practices that benefit their agenda. It is a nuanced issue, but one can hope that with time, a consensus as to a universal standard of living can be established.

While the challenges of universalism are abundant, human rights are innately founded upon idealism, hope, and a commitment to progress. The French Revolution saw countless figures who dreamed of a future free from oppression and tyranny but never got to witness the outcome of their actions. Charlotte Corday murdered a man and embraced death for the heart of a nation that she never got to hear beating. Those who fight for human rights are not deterred by the behemoth that is institutionalized practices; they actively decide to be the change necessary, regardless of their own fate. 

As a woman who intends to work within the field of International Relations, aiming to facilitate the global enforcement of human rights from within an intergovernmental organization, I appreciate how necessary it is to not only dream, but proactively pursue change, especially in instances where reform seems unlikely. While Charlotte Corday’s commitment prompted actions I would never remotely consider, I hope to one day contribute to the universalism of human rights, and honor those who fought and died for the standards we have today.  


Baudry, P.-J.-A. (1860). Charlotte Corday (The Assassination of Marat) Nantes Museum of Arts. 

David, J.-L. (1793). The Death of Marat Musée Oldmasters Museum. 

Hauer, J.-J. (1793). Charlotte Corday Musée Lambinet. 

“Expulsion of the Girondins,” LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY: EXPLORING THE FRENCH REVOUTION, accessed April 19, 2022,

Pilkington, E. (2021, December 16). America’s death penalty divide: Why Capital Punishment is getting better, and worse. The Guardian. Retrieved April 20, 2022, from 

Repucci, S., & Slipowitz, A. (2022). The global expansion of authoritarian rule. Freedom House. Retrieved April 20, 2022, from 

Silva, M. A. (2010, January 1). Reflecting on the life of a revolutionary: Jean-Paul Marat. Inquiries Journal. Retrieved April 20, 2022, from 

Towle, S. (2012, July 31). Charlotte Corday and the bathtub assassination of Jean-Paul Marat. France Revisited – Life in Paris, Travel in France. Retrieved April 14, 2022, from 

Lily Duke: Miami as Text 2022

Film Photography taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

Lily Duke is a Senior at Florida International University pursing a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice with a certificate in Human Rights and Political Transitions. With a forever growing interesting in Global Affairs and Human Rights, Lily plans on earning her master’s in International Relations, ultimately aiming to work for an Intergovernmental Organization and travel the world! Beyond academics, Lily spends an inordinate amount of time reading and listening to music.

The Deering Estate as Text

By Lily Duke of FIU at the Deering Estate on January 28th, 2022

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

Miami: a city known for its diverse cultures, beaches, and weather. Beyond the hustle and bustle of the city (and ridiculously awful driving) lies an immersive opportunity for historical enrichment, available to anyone willing to look. The Deering Estate serves to be an interesting overlap of ecological wonder and historical significance, with eight different ecosystems and multiple sites and houses preserved to remember specific moments in time. 

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

The presence of the Stone House within such a beautiful, natural environment highlights an important dynamic that must be addressed. The ornate furnishing and dedication to a glamorous understanding of self-sufficiency emphasizes the immense wealth of the Deering family. With human rights at the forefront of this class, it is important to be consistently aware of one’s privilege (or disadvantage by comparison) and how that may interact with the law and execution of justice. As pointed out by Professor Bailly and the mere existence of the hidden wine cellar in the Stone House, money provides individuals with a level of freedom which significantly alleviates the burden of law. Illegal practices, such as smuggling copious amounts of alcohol during Prohibition (as seen in the case of Charles Deering), become more accessible. Immoral pursuits are that much more jarring when occurring a path away from a Tequesta Burial Mound.

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

As Professor Bailly acknowledged, we cannot change the past, and we render ourselves complicit through pretending it did not occur. We must honor those who were victimized and acknowledge the painful truth of history. We are living on stolen ground. This fact is consistently ignored, with education widely disregarding the importance of teaching Native American history. The Tequesta were a tribe located in South Florida, with strong ties to the Deering Estate land being found. However, as colonization began, the Tequesta could not withstand the conflict, slavery, and disease, subsequently resulting in their extinction. The Deering Estate provides a unique opportunity to explore and pay respects to the Tequesta. I am grateful that I got a chance to experience Miami in its most raw form, untainted by modern interference, and remember our true geological ancestors. 

Vizcaya as Text

By Lily Duke of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens on February 18th, 2022

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

When one strolls through the intricate and extravagant halls of Vizcaya, or meanders through the lush and picturesque gardens, the chaos of Miami dissipates, and the glamour of court life feels within reach. The almost ethereal estate, created by F. Burrall Hoffman (architect), Paul Chalfin (interior designer), and Diego Suarez (landscaper), possesses the dreamlike ability to transports its visitors to a European villa fit for royalty. 

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

However, as beautiful as the estate is, walking around Vizcaya allowed me to truly appreciate Miami as a whole. Like Vizcaya, many culture and countries serve to be the foundation of Miami. But, where Vizcaya has halted, Miami perpetually evolves, becoming its own growing community which welcomes and celebrates diversity. Vizcaya carefully selected its basis for inspiration, and actively prevented outside influence through limiting who had access to the estate. Therefore, an anomaly had been built within Miami. 

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

While preservation is crucial to ensuring historical documentation and artistry, Miami is beautiful because of its persistent growth which still honors the cultural basis of the various communities. Vizcaya feels as though it was built to be a display of wealth and superiority, consistently demonstrating a high commitment to ostentation living. This physically manifested within the beautiful salon that displayed the ornate instruments. As mentioned by Professor Bailly, these instruments were never played, simply becoming tools to emphasize wealth and a façade of sophistication, resulting in an almost hollow atmosphere. 

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

I by no means intend to criticize the active preservation of the estate, as, like any museum or site of significance, it is crucial to protect historical integrity. However, I do suggest scrutiny be directed at those who built Vizcaya and subsequently inhabited the estate. It is impossible to ignore how this estate reflect the historical tendency of colonizers, or in this case, the wealthy, to impose their culture, and completely neglect preexisting practices. Furthermore, original communities were merely acknowledged when it was deemed beneficial to the wealthy party’s interests. This is shown through the Bahamians tasked with building portions of Vizcaya, then being ultimately neglected and unrepresented in the final outcome. 

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

With that being said, public access now provided to those visiting Vizcaya highlights a subsequent dedication to inclusivity. I have merely fixated upon this concept of stagnation and exclusion to highlight the dichotomy I observed while exploring the estate. It is rare that one can go anywhere within Miami without feeling its unique presence, and I found it to be an immensely profound experience. 

Downtown as Text March 11th, 2022

By Lily Duke of FIU at Downtown Miami on March 11th, 2022

For two years, I lived and went to school in Downtown. My friends and I would explore the city in our free time; I liked to think I knew Downtown rather well. However, this was abruptly contradicted upon revisiting the area with Professor Bailly as a guide. 

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

Downtown is an unassuming yet poignant testament to how tainted and misconstrued American history has become. While the truth may be available to those willing and conscious of where to look, historical ignorance has become all too common. The privileged and victors (a word which I use in the loosest sense) have controlled the narrative and dictated what was subsequently celebrated and taught. This is seen directly through the history of the American military Major, Francis L. Dade. His legacy has become entrenched within South Florida, such as through his namesake county, Miami-Dade. During the Second Seminole War, he was killed in what was subsequently named the Dade Massacre.

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

Simply calling the battle the Dade Massacre highlights the gross reality of the situation; Dade led his army into native territory with the intention of essentially committing ethnic cleansing. When his ploy did not go as planned, resulting in his death, the narrative was spun, depicting the Native Americans as the aggressors and Dade as a war hero. 

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

Crimes against humanities were committed by the Germans during World War II. Unlike American history, Germany did not erect statues in their honor and name counties after them. I have heard firsthand from someone who grew up in Germany that the school system teaches the reality of what occurred, with no watered-down tails to preserve the honor of the nation (which America has similarly failed to achieve). While this could be easily attributed to the outcome of the war, I believe it is a matter of accountability. Occurring in an age where documentation and globalization was expanding, World War II crimes could not be easily swept under the rug. With the tarnished history of America having been ignored for so long, it is our duty to now acknowledge the truth and honor the victims of both the initial incident and history. 

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

South Beach, April 1st, 2022

By Lily Duke of FIU at South Beach on April 1st, 2022

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

It is easy to understand why South Beach attracts so many tourists yearly; the beautiful beach and active nightlife makes for an exciting vacation destination. However, South Beach is so much more than what is portrayed in the neon lit photos and film worthy visuals. From the unique architecture and the rich history to the inclusive community, South Beach is a testament to how multidimensional Miami is as a whole. 

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

As one traverses down South Beach, it is challenging to not get distracted by the atmospheric bars and well-dressed visitors. Home to many beautiful buildings (constructed in the style of art deco – a French form of art established in the 1920’s) and exciting restaurants, South Beach has proven itself to be a must-see location within Miami. While increasingly commercialized, the heart of the community remains, allowing South Beach to become a touchstone for inclusivity and the celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

With that being said, to fully appreciate the community and progress demonstrated, the tumultuous history must be acknowledged. South Beach is not immune to the inhumane targeting of LGBTQ+ individuals. While it has become known as a hub for the community over the last four decades, there have been a plethora of incidents which violate the values seen at the core of South Beach. Throughout the 1990’s, gay clubs were frequently raided, with many gay men being arrested under the guise of supposed drug use. As recently as 2009, incidents of law enforcement officials arresting individuals for simply being a part of the LGBTQ+ community have been reported. This demonstration of institutionalized homophobia was obviously met with backlash, prompting lawsuits and an increased interest in internal affairs and diversity training. With homophobic acts of violence and harassment occurring all too frequently in general, it is disturbing that the agency tasked with protecting the community actively perpetuated the issue.

In 1997, Gianni Versace was murdered on the steps of his mansion located on South Beach by an (allegedly) jilted admirer, who had previously killed four other gay men. Many have argued that homophobia contributed to the ineptitude of law enforcement when it came to arresting the murderer, as officers felt on urgency to protect the gay population. Versace was not only a revolutionary designer, but a symbol for progress and inclusivity, whether it be reflected through his sexuality or design choices (with the latter facilitating empowerment through undermining the restrictive notion of modesty). His presence in South Beach allowed the area to progress to what we see today.

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

South Beach is so much more than a spring break hot spot. Walking down the beautiful strip simply provides a surface level insight into how extensive and complex the history of South Beach truly is, emphasizing the extent to which we have left to learn about the places we think we know. 

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