Haven Blackmon: Declaration 2019

Jean Moulin c. 1937. Photo by public domain

Life of Jean Moulin

Jean Moulin was born June 20, 1899 in the city of Béziers in southern France. His father was a history professor who was actively engaged in political organizations such as the Radical Socialist Party and the League of Rights of Men. Jean was heavily influenced by his father, and they were known to be inseparable in his childhood. After the death of his older brother, Jean’s performance in school declined, and he was a mediocre student. He developed and interest in drawing cartoons, which became quite popular. In 1917, he began studying for a law degree at the Law Institute of Montpellier, but shortly thereafter was drafted into the Army during World War I in 1918. For a short while he was an engineer in the military, but he never engaged in battle and the war ended not long after he was drafted. The most important work Jean did while in the army was his duty to bury soldiers who died in battle. With the help of his father, he was discharged from the army after only one year. 

After leaving the Army, he quickly returned to his studies and graduated with his law degree in 1921. Following his graduation, Jean became a civil servant, and through his hard work eventually earned the title of youngest sub-prefect in France in 1925. He was later promoted to become the youngest prefect in France. Not long thereafter, Jean married Marguerite Cerruti in 1926, but their marriage was short lived and they divorced only two years later. 

As Moulin continued working for the government, he achieved higher titles and took on more administrative responsibilities, and in 1937 became the youngest prefect in France. In February 1939, he transferred to be the prefect at Chartres. However, France soon became involved in WWII and Moulin’s department faced an influx of refugees. He saw firsthand the struggles of the refugees and voiced his sympathy despite the growing hostility of many citizens. During this time, Jean was preparing to resign from his position as prefect in order to join the Air Force. Although he did not meet age and certain physical requirements, Jean was persistent and worked fervently to obtain a position in the military. Unfortunately, Moulin was still denied a position. As the Germans moved into the region in which Moulin served, the French people suffered and died at the hands of Nazis. As this became apparent, German officials blamed these killings on France’s Senegalese soldiers. The Germans tried to force Moulin into signing a document faulting the French soldiers for the murders, but Moulin new it was the fault of the Nazis and refused to sign. Consequently, Jean was captured. Fearing he would be tortured and made to sign the document, he attempted suicide by cutting his throat with glass, but he did not succeed. He was soon found and given medical attention, and he survived the attempted suicide. For the rest of his life following the incident, Jean wore scarves to conceal the scar across his neck.  

Following this incident, Moulin assumed the responsibility of uniting numerous resistance groups against the Germans. By uniting these resistance groups, they joined and he then became the chairman of the National Council of the Resistance. He did this in collaboration with General Charles de Gaulle, who was the leader of Free France at the time. This occurred in May 1943, and the very next month he was captured and imprisoned by the Gestapo. He was brutally tortured by the Gestapo, but refused to share any information. As he was being transported to Germany by train, Jean Moulin died on July 8, 1943. After his death, he was revered as a hero by the French resistance. 

Personal Relevance

In the years leading up to and during World War II, Jean became increasingly more vocal about his political opinions and his opposition to Nazi Germany. Upon German occupation of France, he repeatedly risked his life to resist their regime. The aspect in which I relate most to Jean Moulin is to his personal convictions and the way in which his actions aligned with them. Neither I nor most anyone else can say for certainty whether they would risk their life in such brutal ways to protect those who are innocent and defenseless. However, one thing I consider to be most important to my character and my self-worth is my integrity, and the degree to which I strive to carry out actions that align with my convictions. I make conscious decisions every day to make sure that my actions align with my most core beliefs. Every day is another opportunity be active in creating change to benefit the lives of others, and my activism is a reflection of my most fundamental beliefs that all people should be equal under the law. Jean Moulin embodied these convictions in the most fundamental way, and we can all draw inspiration and courage from his actions.

Sources:

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Jean Moulin.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 4 July 2018, http://www.britannica.com/biography/Jean-Moulin.

Clinton, Alan. Jean Moulin, 1899-1943 the French Resistance and the Republic. Palgrave, 2002. 

“History – Historic Figures: Jean Moulin (1899 – 1943).” BBC, BBC, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/moulin_jean.shtml.

“Jean Moulin Biography.” The Famous People, 8 Nov. 2017, http://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/jean-moulin-6071.php.

Marnham, Patrick. The Death of Jean Moulin: Biography of a Ghost. John Murray, 2001.

Simkin, John. “Jean Moulin.” Spartacus Educational, Spartacus Educational, Aug. 2014, spartacus-educational.com/2WWmoulin.htm.

Zimmerman, Dwight. “The Death of Jean Moulin: The French Resistance Gets Its Greatest Martyr.” Defense Media Network, 28 July 2013, http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/the-death-of-jean-moulin-the-french-resistance-gets-its-greatest-martyr/. 

Jean Moulin c. 1937. Photo by public domain

Life of Jean Moulin

Jean Moulin was born June 20, 1899 in the city of Béziers in southern France. His father was a history professor who was actively engaged in political organizations such as the Radical Socialist Party and the League of Rights of Men. Jean was heavily influenced by his father, and they were known to be inseparable in his childhood. After the death of his older brother, Jean’s performance in school declined, and he was a mediocre student. He developed and interest in drawing cartoons, which became quite popular. In 1917, he began studying for a law degree at the Law Institute of Montpellier, but shortly thereafter was drafted into the Army during World War I in 1918. For a short while he was an engineer in the military, but he never engaged in battle and the war ended not long after he was drafted. The most important work Jean did while in the army was his duty to bury soldiers who died in battle. With the help of his father, he was discharged from the army after only one year. 

After leaving the Army, he quickly returned to his studies and graduated with his law degree in 1921. Following his graduation, Jean became a civil servant, and through his hard work eventually earned the title of youngest sub-prefect in France in 1925. He was later promoted to become the youngest prefect in France. Not long thereafter, Jean married Marguerite Cerruti in 1926, but their marriage was short lived and they divorced only two years later. 

As Moulin continued working for the government, he achieved higher titles and took on more administrative responsibilities, and in 1937 became the youngest prefect in France. In February 1939, he transferred to be the prefect at Chartres. However, France soon became involved in WWII and Moulin’s department faced an influx of refugees. He saw firsthand the struggles of the refugees and voiced his sympathy despite the growing hostility of many citizens. During this time, Jean was preparing to resign from his position as prefect in order to join the Air Force. Although he did not meet age and certain physical requirements, Jean was persistent and worked fervently to obtain a position in the military. Unfortunately, Moulin was still denied a position. As the Germans moved into the region in which Moulin served, the French people suffered and died at the hands of Nazis. As this became apparent, German officials blamed these killings on France’s Senegalese soldiers. The Germans tried to force Moulin into signing a document faulting the French soldiers for the murders, but Moulin new it was the fault of the Nazis and refused to sign. Consequently, Jean was captured. Fearing he would be tortured and made to sign the document, he attempted suicide by cutting his throat with glass, but he did not succeed. He was soon found and given medical attention, and he survived the attempted suicide. For the rest of his life following the incident, Jean wore scarves to conceal the scar across his neck.  

Following this incident, Moulin assumed the responsibility of uniting numerous resistance groups against the Germans. By uniting these resistance groups, they joined and he then became the chairman of the National Council of the Resistance. He did this in collaboration with General Charles de Gaulle, who was the leader of Free France at the time. This occurred in May 1943, and the very next month he was captured and imprisoned by the Gestapo. He was brutally tortured by the Gestapo, but refused to share any information. As he was being transported to Germany by train, Jean Moulin died on July 8, 1943. After his death, he was revered as a hero by the French resistance. 

Personal Relevance

In the years leading up to and during World War II, Jean became increasingly more vocal about his political opinions and his opposition to Nazi Germany. Upon German occupation of France, he repeatedly risked his life to resist their regime. The aspect in which I relate most to Jean Moulin is to his personal convictions and the way in which his actions aligned with them. Neither I nor most anyone else can say for certainty whether they would risk their life in such brutal ways to protect those who are innocent and defenseless. However, one thing I consider to be most important to my character and my self-worth is my integrity, and the degree to which I strive to carry out actions that align with my convictions. I make conscious decisions every day to make sure that my actions align with my most core beliefs. Every day is another opportunity be active in creating change to benefit the lives of others, and my activism is a reflection of my most fundamental beliefs that all people should be equal under the law. Jean Moulin embodied these convictions in the most fundamental way, and we can all draw inspiration and courage from his actions.

Sources:

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Jean Moulin.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 4 July 2018, http://www.britannica.com/biography/Jean-Moulin.

Clinton, Alan. Jean Moulin, 1899-1943 the French Resistance and the Republic. Palgrave, 2002. 

“History – Historic Figures: Jean Moulin (1899 – 1943).” BBC, BBC, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/moulin_jean.shtml.

“Jean Moulin Biography.” The Famous People, 8 Nov. 2017, http://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/jean-moulin-6071.php.

Marnham, Patrick. The Death of Jean Moulin: Biography of a Ghost. John Murray, 2001.

Simkin, John. “Jean Moulin.” Spartacus Educational, Spartacus Educational, Aug. 2014, spartacus-educational.com/2WWmoulin.htm.

Zimmerman, Dwight. “The Death of Jean Moulin: The French Resistance Gets Its Greatest Martyr.” Defense Media Network, 28 July 2013, http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/the-death-of-jean-moulin-the-french-resistance-gets-its-greatest-martyr/. 

Shalenah Ivey: Miami as Text 2018-2019

Shalenah Ivey is a recent graduate of Florida International University and its Honors College as of Spring 2019. While a student, she majored in Art History, minored in Spanish Language and Cultures, and completed a certificate in Film Studies. Her passions in life are art in its many forms, the written word, and the understanding and celebration of cultures from around the world.  While also having experience in video art and film photography, it is with writing that Shalenah hopes to inspire, awaken, and reach those near and far.  More information about her can be found at divineivy.wordpress.com.

Shalenah completed the FIU Honors College seminar Art Society Conflict taught by Professor JW Bailly in 2018-2019. These are her Miami as Texts.

PAMM AS TEXT
Think Pink by Shalenah Ivey at PAMM, 14 October 2018
Blue is my favorite color.  It is as deep as it is endless and as mystifying as it is sincere.   It has stained my soul. It has dyed my daydreams. Yet, I have been told by many that when they think of me, the color pink is never far away.  Walking into PAMM’s newest exhibit I felt as if I was wading into an aura. Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1980–83 | A Documentary Exhibition captured the entire process of the iconic Miami installation by married artists, Christo and Jeanne-Claude.  Comprised of preliminary sketches, court documents, and other photographs, it brought to life the sheer complexity of the undertaking of the project.  When I stepped into the exhibition, there was a black and white photograph of the artists strolling hand in hand upon the Biscayne shore. It was as expansive as it was intimate and I felt to be a part of that fleeting moment, invited within their world.  

Thus, I fell into Surrounded Islands, immersed and captivated by the physicality of it all.  So tangibly potent were the artifacts steeped in time. The finiteness of a date attached to a legal record.  Hurried signatures and stamps. Pinks maps and pink papers and even pink tarps apart of the original installation.  Inescapable was the hue and unforgettable its presence. The world, my world, was permeated with pink. I felt it without touching it.  Surrounded by the vision of the artists on an island of my own.

I close my eyes and what radiates is pink.

DEERING AS TEXT
Take Heed by Shalenah Ivey at Deering Estate, 04 November 2018
Primus Devine was the name of my great great great grandfather.  He lived most of his life a slave in South Carolina. He tasted freedom perhaps a decade.  We know almost nothing about him. Had I not had an insatiable curiosity at age 17, we may still not know his name.  He is the farthest back my family (on my mother’s side) has been able to go in our ancestry. I have always clinged to the stories my grandmother has told me of her childhood growing up in 1950s South Carolina.  Although her family was poor, her stories are rich with a boundless love. Exploring the Deering Estate and the untouched landscape that stretched beyond the house reminded me of my perpetual attachment to the past.  The ways in which time cruelly escapes me. The ways in which the walls of an old building whisper stories. We adventured into a pure paradise. Then to that of a grave. We don’t even know their names. But their bones stay.  The sky is still bleached blue. Papaya hangs from branches and rests on fallen trunks. Green but rotting. I think of the grave again. Have we failed them? Have we failed each other? Daggers and death still live on. The trees speak.  The trees sing. The trees weep. Listen, Miami.

VIZCAYA AS TEXT
Mary, did you know? by Shalenah Ivey at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, 10 November 2018
I think one never grows tired of visiting the Miami marvel known as Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.  The muted clementine walls that wait outside. The way that archaic touches lining the street only hint at the grandness awaiting within.  Walking the shadowy path amongst the forest on the way to the mansion. Hearing the sound of traffic die down within the breaths of the trees.  Perhaps there is a transcendence or perhaps the allure of grandeur can simply overwhelm the senses. Gold and silk and ancient objects adorn the walls and spaces of Vizcaya.  For James Deering, the estate’s owner, there was truly no limit. There is no other option but to be in awe of his creation. Yet, despite the many times I have been to Vizcaya, I have never noticed the statue of Mary that sits almost discreetly in the formal dining room.  Her face is pained with sorrow. Her countenance concentrated with the softest of melancholy. What is it Mary? What has you so troubled? The word decadence embellishes my mind. Decay beyond what can decompose, beyond what can tarnish… Oh, but the sky is so blue across the bay.  The manatee swims so near. What shines will rust and what stands will fall. Bacchus calls. The grapes will rot with tenderness. The waves will hum to you if you let them. A baby’s coffin is in the room with Mary. I wonder what she could say if she could speak.

UNTITLED AS TEXT
Never, ever enough art by Shalenah Ivey at UNTITLED, 09 December 2018
I read this in Samuel L. Jackson’s voice.  It made it all the more real, all the more crucial, all the more potent.  Dreams are free, motherfucker. Unfortunately, I did not think to take a picture of the didactic.  Yet, those words will stay with me. The Untitled Art fair was sincerely worth the last four years I failed to make it to Art Basel.  I refuse to lament on the past, however, and I firmly believe everything happens in the time in which it is supposed to happen. Thus, I am only grateful I experienced what I did today.  Not only what but when. When and also with who. The first steps into the Untitled fair were nothing short of captivating. My remaining steps proved to be increasingly special. The art curated was as cutting edge as it was promised to be.  It is both inspiring and comforting to be surrounded by such talent and to know that people are in this world creating endlessly. Dreams are free, motherfucker! But for how long? What do I dream? I dream of Spain and of love and blue skies and of eternity and true happiness and of empty sun-glinted beaches.  The color blue has permeated the day. My favorite color. Today, I asked, “How long does it take for the the sun to set on Jupiter?” I was told that I took the sun when I left.

(Photo by Nikki Roe CC BY 4.0)

MARGULIES AS TEXT
Magnificent Margulies by Shalenah Ivey at Margulies Collection, 24 February 2019
I paused, perplexed in front of an iridescent sculpture.  I stood, unsettled in the presence of concrete.  I felt, touched by the bygone world of my grandmother in a single photo.  Two young black boys carrying ice blocks, barefoot down a country road.  These instances were just a fraction of my experiences at the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse.  More than just a trip to the collection, our class had the privilege to experience a personal tour by Mr. Martin Margulies, owner of the institution.  His smile was a spark.  His demeanor was modest.  There was a certainty in his hearty voice that drew me in, compelling me to listen attentively to his words throughout the afternoon.   He asked us what is the value of beauty and what is it that makes something art.   There were hundreds of millions of dollars worth of art surrounding us yet the tour with Mr. Margulies had the warmth of someone showing us their home.  Each piece was purposeful and weighted in it space.  Each room was a world of its own.  A wonderfully weird diner scene, an image of Americana.  The solitude of a New York bus rider.  A space with infinite reflections, infinite realities.  What does it mean when the depths of wonder know no bounds?

Larry Bell exhibition at ICA Miami (Photo by Shalenah Ivey CC BY 4.0)

ICA AS TEXT
Listen to the Beat by Shalenah Ivey ICA Miami, 22 March 2019
We musn’t forget that art is alive.  That it is a force that moves and breathes like you and I.  Sometimes it mourns and is imbued with grief. Other times, it gives birth to elated dreams.  If we are still enough and if we are open enough, we can hear the beating of its heart. Art is the most special when it makes us hear our own.  When it unifies us and seals as one, even if the moments are fast and few. At the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, I felt the works of art viewed by my class erase visages and barriers.  Abstracted visions and the frivolity of reality slowly stripped away at us until all that showed was a naked and naive innocence of wonder. Larry Bell’s minimalist world took us to another plane.  In blackness, our bodies were erased, but there was still touch and voice. A dimension of soul and sound. He prepared us by taking away our shadows. He made a figment of our reflections. We were baptized in a pool of vulnerability. The third floor of the ICA connected us to a woman’s world and we were pierced by the female gaze.  Judy Chicago’s works reminded me of a rebirth. Our blood and bodies returned to us. The tactile and the red physicality of what it means to be alive. Emotions, glorious and ghastly. At the center of this all, the heart. Don’t try to escape its sound.

Tschabalala Self. Untitled, 2017. Rubell Family Collection.

RUBELL AS TEXT
Bite Me by Shalenah Ivey at Rubell Family Collection, 04 April 2019
Someone said to burn it down.  Someone else said the piece was totally disturbing.  Another simply wrote, “Perfection.” These are comments taken from the Rubell Collection’s Instagram post of Tschabalala Self’s Untitled (2017) mixed media canvas.  I’m not sure if I love it or hate it.  Perhaps it is both. Perhaps I love only her.  But does it even matter? I see a woman in full possession of herself.  The divinity of Venus. I see a crude caricature. An image steeped in a ugly history, an ugly present.  I think of Sarah Baartman. A slave to her body while also having her humanity raped. I think of women in music videos, treated as nothing more than a prop.  I think of the girls who twerk in front of the mirror, falling in love with themselves. What is this vessel of bone and fat and skin? The woman who is unashamed of her body is a dangerous weapon.  The woman who revels in her own sublimity and her own imperfections. Whatever you think of her, our lady is a gun and a goddess. She is not for consumption and if you disagree, you can bite me.

DEERING AS TEXT
For all that is Human by Shalenah Ivey at Deering Estate, 20 April 2019
Shell had the beauty of ivory in my hand.  I was hushed then humbled by what it is and what it means to be human.  When stepping into the Cutler Fossil site at the Deering Estate, my classmates and I were told to quiet ourselves.  I did so and absorbed the spirit of where I stood; a place that was home to people ten thousand years ago. We were on sacred ground.  Almost overwhelming was the action of imagining the souls of those who once lived here. I was the first to hold one of their tools. It was smooth and a portal to the breaths of a prehistoric people.  I wish we could know their names, know their faces. Did they think of time? Was love their heaven? How did they say goodbye? I wonder if they felt sorrow. I wonder if they singed. I wonder when they looked up to the sky, if the clouds made them feel the same way as they do me?  Gentle and transcended and filled with peace; in touch with all that is divine. I mark my memories with the clouds. If only, we could know theirs. These questions go unanswered, kept secret by the enigma of time. Yet, under a canopy of unending green, the knowledge that they lived is enough.  Their presence is enough.

EDITORS AND LAST UPDATE
Stephanie Sepúlveda &John William Bailly  25 April 2019
COPYRIGHT © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Isabella Marie Garcia: Miami as Text 2019

Photo by Johanna Altamirano (CC by 4.0)

Isabella Marie Garcia graduated in Spring 2019 from the Honors College at Florida International University with a double major in English with a concentration in Literature and Women’s and Gender Studies, and a double minor in French Language and Culture and Art History. She’s heavily interested in work that challenges gender ideals, female sexuality, and brings taboo subjects up to the surface. She currently works at LnS Gallery and hopes that her work, whether it be through written, visual, or spoken word, can help challenge even just one individual to see how important intersectionality is within our world and one’s own local community. Her writing blog can be found at spookyrose.wordpress.com.

Isa completed the FIU Honors College seminars Poetry Art Community in 2017-2018, Honors France 2018, Art Society Conflict 2018-2019, Honors Italia 2019, and Honors España 2019 as taught by Professor JW Bailly. These are her Miami as Texts.

ESPAÑA AS TEXTS

VUELTA

BARCELONA

break it down for me by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Barcelona, España

Trencadís. It’s the shattered nature of these colorful tiles and their haphazard arrangement that attracts me initially to Antoni Gaudí as an architect. The contrast of the pink with the greens, the yellow and the blues, and it all be from accidental breaks in ceramic is commendable. What’s not so accidental is the attention to detail I later witness in La Sagrada Familia, details I barely capture until I walk around later with friends who point out pieces of the modern cathedral’s insides that are indiscernible if unfamiliar with Catholicism. I am not in love with the electric lighting of the space, a feature I do understand was included because of the modern nature of the structure, but the selection of colors and the naturalistic elements of the space retain a Gothic way of existing that draw me in immediately. We are cast in a light of green and blue to represent life but our backs are turned to the red that bleeds out for our sins. We see the tall spires of what’s meant to represent a forest and all of God’s creation rising in white columns above us. We walk down into the crypt later to the end of a wedding and the singer is croaking out “Moon River,” and Gaudi’s tombstone is simple but speckled with tiny details, from the natural twist of the wrought iron to the imprinted waves in the stone behind the Virgin Mary that overlook him. When the tram took away his life unexpectedly, I imagine the city of Barcelona mourning this accident, an unexpected rupture in the city’s core. As I look around the city of Barcelona and see the shattered but meticulously placed tiles of Park Güell or the symbolic selection of stain glass in La Sagrada Familia, I know that this is not accidental. Like the belief Gaudi felt towards God’s role as creator, I see that everything has a purpose in the architectural spaces he brought to life.

SITGES

a compass in one hand, a sextant in the other by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Sitges, España

When he arrived in Sitges and attempted to buy Santiago Rusiñol’s house, Charles Deering must have noticed the importance that this man’s collection of paintings, preliminary sketch drawings, portraitures, ancient glass bottles, medieval armory, and so on, meant to him. For one to come into a man’s personal home and immediately see cash signs takes some level of ignorance, and yet, I can’t see Charles Deering as a man without self-awareness. Though caressed by his familial wealth, Deering was not blind to the importance of art in an individual’s life, so much so that his foundation of Palau Maricel was an attempt to attract artists and students seeking to acquire knowledge of art. At the top of one of the windows in the exterior of the palace is a stone carved depiction of Charles Deering himself alongside artists, and framed by a compass and sextant, nautical instruments used for travel and precision. Though he aspired for the Palau Maricel to become a pilgrimage for artists and for the arts, the failed execution of Deering’s dream led to the collapse of a city’s worth to the outside world, as he exported the magnetism of his art collection in Sitges to the States.

As I’ve walked through the Deering Estate in the south of Miami time and time again, I’ve passed through the property of a man that left a city in a country tied to my own blood ruined and yet, the city of Miami thrives because of Deering’s investment in the estate. The cities of Sitges and Miami themselves are incredibly similar in terms of aesthetic, with both drawing visitors with their beaches and coastal breezes, and yet Miami tops Sitges in terms of art pilgrimages, as hundreds of thousands flock to Art Week Miami during the month of December and many fill the streets of Wynwood to witness sanctioned graffiti on the sides of buildings. With the investment of the Deering Estate and his brother’s Vizcaya Villa, Miami has flourished as a young city in the art world when compared to the old legends of Rome, Paris, and New York City. For Sitges, this attraction as an art haven is dust. Though Deering is not the direct reason as to why Miami has risen in the arts, his contribution and name in the city has had the power to draw visitors to his estate after so many years, as was the case in Sitges. Could it be said that Miami replaced Sitges? Perhaps, but I also believe that the power of a name is underrated, and the names in Rusiñol’s collection, from el Greco to Picasso, should be more powerful than that of a rich man.

GRANADA

Celestial Bodies by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Granada, España

Seven levels. Each one stacked on top of the other, a spiritual video game that we look up to and admire. Though removed of its colors, the dome above us is overarching and potent, reminding me of a cave with its stalagmite formations. I wish I could see the seven levels light up in their true colors, the deep primary blues and reds that would brighten the ceiling and unify the environment to its true nature. There’s the heavens that are said to be made of white pearls and those of gold and another of iron and I wonder why there’s this need to place wealth into a spiritually rich setting. It’s bragging rights, it’s ostentatious shows of power, it’s the hope that money can buy divine points. Do we truly believe that the Almighty will accept us if we flash him our goodies, a VIP pass into the sky if we give him our credit score? I see it in all the spiritual spaces I visit but I ignore it and look up with my mouth gaping, amazed at the power of a faith foreign to my own. There are seven levels or seven heavens themselves and I believe them to be powerful on their own without the gems and shiny materials, and yet, those very features in the space are what keep my eyes posted and staring. How can I judge them when I am caught in their tricks?

SEVILLA

Gypsy by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Sevilla, España

The first dance is a duo. There’s the man with his all black ensemble and the woman in her floor length dress. The looks on their faces are playful and even as the bullet-like sounds of their feet hit the floor, I can tell this is a dance of passion. The turn of her dress as she wounds her leg around the legs of her male partner, capturing him in a rhythmic lock. It is the passion of a gypsy and the passion of feeling love for another individual, for one’s culture, for one’s body. 

The second dance is a solo. She is possessing us. The rapid hits against the floor with the soles of her shoes echo into the room, but they reveal more anger and sadness than passion. She is possessing us. The drape of a black sheet over her body as her male partner looks onward. The curve of her body as she leans backward and is taken over by her anger. BAM! It hits us like schrapnel as she slams into the ground continuously, the sharp turns of her dress cutting into the air like knives. It is the anger of a a Romani gypsy being forced from her home and forced into Andalusia Spain. This home is not their home. The anger of the word gypsy, which becomes your identity the moment you’re foreign. Gypsy as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “sometimes offensive : a member of a traditionally itinerant people who originated in northern India and now live chiefly in south and southwest Asia, Europe, and North America.” It is the sadness of a woman who has lost her home. 

The third dance is another solo. He is showing off. The grin on his face haunts us as he circles the dancefloor, eyeing us individually as he scouts for a victim he’ll lay his eyes on. He is showing off. The sweat flies off his head as he faces each and every one of us, ready to charge. This is the dance of a determined Sevilla striving to keep its cultural identity. It relegates the unwanted to the edges of its core, the tight streets swallowing them up, exorcising them from living with the “real” citizens. He is mourning the loss of a cultural purity that isn’t that pure but determined to maintain it at all costs. As the gypsy looks on, Sevilla dances with conviction about who they are. It is the conviction that makes us afraid but also amazes us, of a people that are determined to keep who they are no matter who enters their city. 

The fourth dance is the reconciliation. The man and the woman dance together once again. Sevilla and the gypsy turned refugee that crosses into a foreign city, carrying the burden of a lost home. There’s a calm acceptance of what has happened, that the cultural diversity of the city will warp to fit those who move to live inside its walls, and that the dance is what it is because of this pain, this anger, this sadness. 

Olé.

MADRID

a las cinco de la tarde: an abecedarium by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Madrid, España


A las cinco de la tarde …

Bodegas closing and opening as the siesta hour hits and the bullfights commence, the matador translates to the killer and I see five bulls go down. I don’t flinch as the horses drag their bodies across the dirt of the Plaza de Toros arena and out of sight.

Carlos the Third. A man who helped shaped Madrid’s city planning into what we see today and dragged the city out of a darkness. I find the duality of kings and their influence hard to understand. There’s a middle ground of morality that stands and is seen in the streets of their kingdoms but wavers when I think about the innocent who died for this city.

Don Quijote. A character and a novel as written by Miguel de Cervantes and published between 1605 to 1615. I walk the Barrio de las Letras and find the house he died in, along with the gold plated writing on the ground that speaks to me. Why is it that Spanish writers are bypassed and overshadowed in the literary world?

El Rastro and its abundance of antiquities. I pocket my patches, expired film, and pins in my crossbody and call it a day.

Federico Garcia Lorca. At five in the afternoon, the world stopped. To this day, Lorca’s assassinated body has never been found. Yesterday, June 12th, marked three years since the PULSE nightclub shooting in Orlando. I’m so far from home and am constantly reminded of this violence, of how those who wish to love within their same gender are criminalized and eliminated from existing.

Gracias y de nada. Thank you Madrid for welcoming me into your barrios and for the characters that fill your streets.

Hola y bienvenidos. This feels like coming home as I hear the language of my family and can respond with ease.

I wish my abuelo was alive to see me feeling comfortable in the very city he visited in his twenties, a young Cuban soccer player / writer who smoked a pack a day and consumed literatura, a Hemingway in his own right.

Juntos. Apartados. Unidos in this foreign city.

Kilometer zero from which the city begins. I keep finding these in the capitols of the countries I visit. Time to restart and begin anew.

La Libre Cafe. I sit at the bar of this feminist cafe/bookstore located in a corner of Lavapies and the man next to me notices my Canon F-1. We talk about film photography as he explains he works in the field, and I learn he’s from Rome and has lived in places from New Jersey to Buenos Aires to the south of France. He explains to me that Madrid has changed greatly since the last time he visited and that tongues of all parts of the world pass through these streets without cessation. We are living examples of this shift.

Memorials to the 191 who fell in the Atocha train station. I am surrounded by blue as I read their names.

Nights are endless here in Madrid. The madrileños, a word that defines both the citizens of Madrid and is synonymous with cats, stay out till the dawn of a new day.

Originally, Plaza Mayor was the site of executions and stranglements. Now, I walk the space and am surrounded by street vendors and overpriced restaurants. The blood of the martyrs is overlooked to those uninformed.

Por favor. I beg the city to be easy on me but it never listens. I must adapt.

Quit your expectations and be content with what you see. You can never see a city in its entirety on your first try.

Reina Sofia. A museum dedicated to a queen. I feel the royalty of having Dali, Goya, Picasso, and others all in one space. A converted hospital filled with the ghosts of artists and their lasting works.

Sol. Una puerta. A door to the sun. I feel the sun finally bake my skin after so much frigidity.

Twenty two years and I double my piercing count. This is a city that is filled with abuelas and their alternatively dyed hair, teens and young adults who bear tattoos on their arms and the back of their necks. I feel safe in this capitol.

Unlike France and Italia, España holds my biological roots. Madrid was the residence of my father for a year after my paternal family packed up and left Cuba in exile. I am a blend of Galician and Catalonian and wonder if these roots are the reason behind my instant comfort in this city.

Vale. It means good to go. An affirmative saying that I hear as I walk into supermarkets, cafes, and throughout the city.

What if the day began later and the nights never ended? What if the day stopped midway through and the town fell asleep? Welcome to Madrid.

X is two lines cutting across each other. It can mean erasure or denial. There’s the Museo de las Americas with its shrunken human heads and mummified bodies. I wish to put an X on the museum for its lack of concern over whether these artifacts should be displayed. These are human beings, not war trophies.

Yo. It is I. The word that gives me the power to define who I am.

Zero. This is the number of times I have felt the need to go back home as I navigate a new metropolis.

TOLEDO

everything was designed to last forever by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Toledo, España

A hole in the wall. Punched through the ceiling, and a sight I’ve never seen before in any other cathedral thus far. La Catedral Primada Santa Maria de Toledo darkens our bodies and blows our minds away with its creeping beauty. I’ve always loved Gothic cathedrals more than the showy decadance of Baroque or the orderly symmetry of Renaissance. The way the color spectrum of stain glass beams onto my skin and onto the tiled floors and marble columns, the power contained in the circumference of a rose window. There are stories that shine through the glass and my eyes immediately fixate on these windows of light from the outside world. The sun has ultimate control over how these places of worship are manipulated in ambiance and lighting. Our guide for the day keeps repeating one phrase over and over and over again as we explore the cathedral. 

Everything was designed to last forever.

Everything was designed to last forever.

Everything was designed to last forever.

I am not a devotee to these spaces. I am not the worshiper that crosses her heart and kneels before the grand gold altar. I do not believe the Virgin Mary descended from heaven but I understand the power of faith in driving those who do believe in these stories and relics. As I look around this cathedral and the hundreds of years that stand restored before us, a gaping hole in the roof that brings down light and draws out our astonishment, it becomes ever more clear to me about the energy that is harvested in these churches as a result of their worshipers and local communities. An energy that keeps them around long enough for the future to see and experience altarpieces, stained glass windows, and understand the power of belief in funding and driving the creation and maintence of these spaces. An energy at the core of the cathedral that has the power to stun even the non-believers.

ITALIA AS TEXTS

GRAND TOUR REDUX

VENEZIA

may the city scalp your selfish skin alive by Isabella Marie Garcia in Venezia, Italia

Buongiorno to the empty streets you walk down in the morning to reach the Rialto. This is the city that rises in tide and surprises you with its subtle calm. The men of Venice are heavy at work. Men who throw empty delivery crates to the side and drag carts from restaurant to restaurant across waterside cobblestones. Men who steer boats and gondolas down lapping waters, the only ones currently weaving in and out of the city’s liquid. I want to ask them what they think of this island that soon overflows with a tide of tourists, seeking to consume and ravish themselves of what Venice has to offer. Is Venice self-indulgence or are the self-indulgent in Venice? 

Ciao to the edges of the island, where the bustle of the visitors and tourists dies and the silence of permanent residancy heightens. I see university students and art kids with their legs over the sides of canals, the free exhibitions of the Venice Biennale are empty for the most part, occasionally trickling with wanderers. I think about the idea of home and how Venice is an isolated mansion. It’s pillaged constantly by the outside world but then left in haunting silence at night. I want to ask its residents and even myself, who sleeps on its land during the night: Am I an invader or simply a guest?

CINQUE TERRE

a foreigner’s god by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Cinque Terre, Italia

al mare

to the sea

the train passes through tunnels of darkness

tunnels of darkness that shine on us 

tunnels of darkness that turn to light as the sea fills the space and i am ready for the clarity of the sea to wash over me 

We’re told these next few days are meant for self-reflection and a chance to intake all the content we’ve been bombarded with for the past three weeks. I’ve been told so much about this sanctuary and my expectations are high. The food, the peace, the beauty of being away from metropolises and urban worlds. I tear up on the drive up to the top of Monterosso, where Santuario di Nostra Signora di Soviore waits for us. This is what I’ve been waiting for this entire trip. A chance to expel any frustration, any stress, any anger, any sadness I’ve felt. The pink walls of the sanctuary stand juxtaposed against a quiet background of pure nature and a small church. There’s Gina, the small elderly woman who greets us when we arrive and who I see going in and out of the sanctuary and the church, keeping everything intact. As someone who was raised by a woman who rejected her Catholic upringing, I’ve been told to go against the doctrine of Catholicism and shun the teachings and symbols of the faith. Reject the cross. Reject the idols. Reject the ex-votos. Reject the belief that there’s a middle man between God and the world. Reject Catholicism and embrace Christianity. My mother rejects Catholicism and raises me under a Christian faith from the age of ten and I accept what I hear. It’s not until I begin to question my own identity in my early twenties that my ties to a faith loosen and I feel myself slipping. I’m given a chance to breathe for a month in a secular country and as I’m given another chance for air in a country that is the complete opposite, I struggle to grasp this wholehearted devotion to Catholicism. In this little sanctuary at the top of Monterosso, looking out at the distant city filled with life and lights that dot the landscape with their luminosity, I cry thinking about my mother and how much she would love it here, despite the fact that it’s a sanctuary founded on the Catholic faith. The calamari she would consume like oxygen, the silence of the surroundings, the escape from the rest of the world. I know she’s not happy with my decline in faith as she sends me messages on the daily about keeping close to God and his embrace, but I have found the embrace of the sea and the Italian terrain to be a stronger form of spirituality.

PISA

art pop a squat by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Pisa, Italia

it’s lived in

it’s bursts of energy

it’s academic and infamous for its mistakes

it’s a city i didn’t think i’d love as much as i did

With all the attention directed towards the freestanding bell tower that tilts with the mistakes of its architects, I thought I’d be over Pisa in a second. I’d go up the tower and down, over it all. I’d take the photographs that are more for my mother than for myself and leave, content with having ticked another box off on the list of must-see attractions. Yet I found myself wanting to stay past the planned departure time, hoping to keep my body firmly planted in the Square of Miracles, a name that so aptly describes what I feel when I lay down on the grass in the middle of Pisa. Titled the Square of Miracles by Gabriele d’Annunzio, an Italian poet, this “meadow of miracles” bustles with simultaneous energy and calm. Towards the Leaning Tower, there’s the line of visitors hoping to take their picture with the infamous structure, hands outstretched in awkward positions, frustration at how hard it actually is to get the perfect shot. I don’t blame them as I join them, but I also find the mistake of the tower’s very foundation to be ironic with the need to get a perfect shot. What’s the big deal? I see this bustle of energy and the rush towards perfection and I imagine Galileo Galilei standing at the top of the tower, dropping two masses of weight down into the square, hoping for some sort of miracle. Galilei found that the two masses fell at the same acceleration, and I find that Pisa is dropping the strive for vain perfection and a peace with mistakes simultaneously on me. I race past Keith Haring’s last mural accidentally and am ashamed at my own rush. As an artist who knew that his time was running out and that AIDS would claim another victim, Haring created his last mural in Pisa in 1989 on the side of the Church of Sant’Antonio. Tuttomundo, a wall that Haring wanted to combine ideas of peace and harmony with the tumultuous reality of being a human and having to maintain connection with others. I lie down later on the Square of Miracles with friends and I see the rush of living surging around me as others struggle to get the perfect shot, while many want to race through this city like it’s a bucket list. I do not understand and want more time. More time to stay on this grass and under this beautiful weather that I’ve been waiting to feel since the beginning of my time in Italy and deep down, I genuinely want to know what the rush is all about. Where do you have to be and what’s the rush? If anything, it’s an irony to learn that no matter how perfect you want the world to be, the mistakes will still stand, and what you’ll remember isn’t what you felt, but how you looked.

FIRENZE

hesitation by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Firenze, Italia

One hand tightly gripping the rock that will execute the deadly blow, the other firm on the slingshot, poised close to the shoulder. I am afraid. The strap of the slingshot wraps around him, molded into the shape of his back, chiseled with care into the softness of his butt. I am afraid. Though far away from reach, I can see the look in his eyes and it’s one that I’m constantly showing the world, though the world may not always notice. I am afraid. Michelangelo’s David was a commission accepted by the artist at the age of 26, a task that would take three years to complete and was finalized in 1504. I am afraid. Standing tall at the end of a walkway in the Galleria dell’Accademia, I walk up to the David and I am afraid.

Michelangelo accepted the challenge of making the statue at the age of 26. Twenty-fucking-six. I’m about to be 22 and feel the weight of decision-making pressing down on my back more than ever before, as I begin to work professionally and internally debate what graduate program, if any, would be best for me. Friends fear asking me the question but it’s asked anyways: What are you going to do now, post-grad?

Part of me believes my time away for two and a half months is a chance to escape from the answer to that question, yet I also feel like I should be finding answers to that question on this trip. For Michelangelo, the commission was one that he worked to get, convincing the Operai, the Overseers of the Office of Works in Florence, to let him finalize the sculpture. As I sit down behind the David with my close friends, I begin to feel the power of the statue in thinking about the artist who finalized him and brought him to life, and what he must have been going through as he slowly chipped a man into existence.

Just like the momentary hesitation that is seen in his marble eyes, ready to defeat a figure twice his size, I’m more than certain of the bouts of fear that must have landed on Michelangelo as he worried about the final results of his labor. A friend in the class tears up next to me as we talk about that fear, one that isn’t exclusive to artists or giant-slayers. It’s a fear that fills each of our young bodies up as we worry about our next steps. He was afraid and so am I, my friend admits.

Afraid of the dangers that lie up next, a day-long trek that will test our bodies. Afraid of the final days as we try to cling on to those we connect most with and afraid of strong personalities and bitchy indifference. Afraid of the return home and to the truth, and the need to make a decision with my future. Afraid and afraid and afraid. Yet, Michelangelo’s David stands tall looking out at me and telling me that this fearful hesitation is part of the process. I am not holding a slingshot ready to kill Goliath with a single throw, nor am I Michelangelo molding the marble to my needs. But I am afraid and I will keep chipping away, ready to shoot my shot, hesitant but willing to face my fears.

POMPEII

Self-Preservation by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Pompeii, Italia

We hold onto so much to remember who we are. I’m collecting receipts, ticket stubs, rolls of 35mm black and white and color film, tote bags, postcards, etc. in an attempt to preserve my time in Italy in physical, permanent form. It’s all a delusion because material items can be lost, destroyed, or possibly, immortalized but unusable, like the city of Pompeii. We see the roads and fast food stands of a former people, and we see their homes and bachelor pads and brothels standing tall before us. We see their theatres and their entertainment spaces and their gardens, but they are not there. We are lucky that the hot volcanic lava of Mount Vesuvius that coated their skin and city preserved their way of living for us to understand. Yet, how unlucky to be one of the 2,000-3,000 who felt the deep burn of the lava, frosting their hearts over into a dead corpse, the air ashed over by the eruption. We see a mother and father shielding their child from the inevitable and we immediately go to our phones to capture this sad moment. Are we remembering them or just trying to remember how we got to be here, in this ashy, immortalized city? I will continue to collect the physical mementos as I make my way around metropolises and small towns, attempting to hold onto the fleeting nature of memory and the warmth I find in momentary scenes. Like the people of Pompeii, who are immortalized in volcanic casts in their final moments, I can’t predict what my final moment will be. It could have been a moment where I’m laying my head on the shoulder of a friend as we make our way back home from a day trip, or the moment I crossed the road of a crazy intersection, or the moments that sit unnoticed until they’re long gone, and I miss the simplicity of those minutes spent sitting in silence, on my own or with friends. There’s a simple glory to Pompeii that was filled with those kinds of moments, as its citizens traversed around the town as we do on this trip, eating the street food created by various vendors and greeting each other on the street as they walked across old Roman roads to get to their intended destinations. I can not self-preserve these moments in the way I wish to, but I can only hope that like the people and city of Pompeii, I will exist in some kind of permanence for the future to see and understand who I was and wished to be.

ROMA

there is no room for feeling any pain : an abecedarium by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Roma, Italia

Photo by Lily Fonte (CC by 4.0)

A constellation of veiny bruises emerges along the top and inner sides of my thighs as a result of Appia Antica’s roughness.

Pietro Bernini’s The Ecstasy of St. Teresa lights up before us in the middle of lecture. This is not a jpeg nor a projected slide. This is the real thing and it stands high above you.

Chaos is everywhere. Chaos is quiet and chaos is quick. It picks you up and throws the truth out the grand door. It makes you question your own sanity.

Dante said the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain neutrality in the middle of a moral crisis. The hottest places in Rome are nowhere to be found. Is nobody neutral in this city?

Eliminate your biases. Eliminate the distaste your mother feels for Catholicism. Eliminate her voice as it appears in the back of your head, scolding you for visiting churches and holy sites.

Find your people. Lose your people. These are the streets of Rome.

Gelato in the freezing night air. It’s a comforting freeze and yes, G Fassi is better.

How does so much history casually sit next to each other? How can we come from such a young city like Miami and not feel overwhelmed by the deep roots that wrap themselves around our ankles and drag us underground?

Imagine the ruins of the Roman Forum as they once were. When does a space become a ruin?

Jesus welcomed with open arms. We welcome each other with sleepy eyes and quickened paces.

Kill your coins. The fives and ones and the odd twos that jingle in your wallet.

Labicana has not always been a tram stop. It was once an ancient Roman road and entered the empire through the Aurelian walls. Now, it is the marker for our lost minds as we try to get back home.

Maybe Roman history doesn’t make my eyes shine.

Never accept the roses handed to you by the vendors in the plazas and tourist traps. Never accept the stories told to you as complete fact. There is always a bias.  

Outsiders to an empire that will never rise again.

Portamaggiore is the great door to late nights staying in, to cold nights and sad nights, and nights of hope talking frankly with one another about our current states.  

Question the Catholic Church. Why must we pay to make your insides light up?

Romanismo. Two to zero as the seagulls of winners fly around in circles and the flags of AS Roma supporters billow in the wind.

Saint Cecilia with her hidden face, cloaked with a cloth and bearing a blade’s attempts at silencing her. You don’t need to see her face to know she’s heartbroken and determined all at once.

Trams and buses and a metro. There is no room on these at times, and there is no room for feeling any pain.

Uscita to your right and your left. Choose.

Void of humbleness, Rome is a bloodstream boasting with glory and the dangers of it, the limits of pride, the grace of an artist’s sculpting hand.

X, an error as you try to lock away all the details and infinite information.

Young bodies lean against erect, ancient columns.

Zillions of mosaics placed cautiously together to form images and symbols, from the face of an angry Christ to the deep blue night sky speckled with golden stars, hovering over us, threatening to drop and cut us with their tiny sharp edges.

TIVOLI

Silencio Per Favore by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Tivoli, Italia

As a bus takes us up into the hills of Tivoli, the calming jolts of a bus ride are speckled with dialogue about our Miami homes and what we’re already missing. I feel cruel thinking it’s irrelevant, but I am arrested by the views that scroll past my window like a movie.

How can this exist? How am I here?

Why are we thinking of Miami when all this unearthed beauty lies at the soles of our feet?

As an individual, Hadrian was a migrant from his native birthplace of Spain. Upon becoming emperor, he discovered that the Palatine Hill was not home. The chaos of Rome became too much and he retreated into the countryside, seeking an escape from the chaos.

I find myself constantly overwhelmed by the chaos of Rome and I find myself retreating into moments of silence, like the atmosphere that can be found in the nature that surrounds us on our trip to Tivoli, in order to regain a sense of peace that has been lost by the push and shove of Rome.

I walk away from the crowds of the Roman Forum and cry in the quiet corner of the ancient law courts. I walk away from an overwhelming social situation and into the night of the city, letting the quiet walk back home calm my shaking nerves. I separate myself from the rest of the class and walk around Villa d’Este on my own, calmed by the delicacy of irises, the roses, the archways that frame the fake-looking countryside. I am even calmed by the tiny chaos that comes in waves through the space, the small children who are at the villa running around, simultaneously disturbing the peace of the space while also breeding life into it.

As I discover the calm of Tivoli, I’m reminded of the question I asked about why Hadrian would want to return back to Rome when he had a villa to escape to and live in till the end of his life. Why would I want to return back to the chaos of Rome or even the craze of my own life in Miami? Yet, with his role as emperor to complete, and my own roles at home that I must fulfill, I understand the need to separate oneself whenever possible but also to never forget one’s responsibilities.

I sit cautiously in a cave and hear the crash of a waterfall and forget about the chaos for just a moment. These are my favorite days. Days where the greenery is endless and I look out onto a scene that is too perfect, the days when my body is aching from the lunges across natural terrain and I am struggling to balance on the rocks and steps of an untainted part of the earth. I forget about my anger and my frustration and remember why I am here. As Hadrian returns to Rome replenished from the home he has created in the surrounding countryside, I return to Rome renewed and ready to live out the rest of my days here with an openness to the chaos.

Maybe the dialogue is irrelevant to the scenes that pass us by, and the moments of frustration build the tears up in my eyes, but we are here and we are aching and we are a chaos of our own kind, trailing our energy from the caves of Villa Gregoriana into the metros and trams of Rome.

FRANCE AS TEXTS

OVER UNDER PARIS

PÈRE LACHAISE

Georges Méliès: Le voyage dans le cinéma by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Père Lachaise Cemetary, Paris, France

A Parisian born in 1861, Georges Méliès grew up with a strong creative desire, often filling his school notebooks with pictures of caricatures and puppets and eventually building puppets of his own. After helping out his family’s shoe business and serving for three years in the military, Méliès delved into stage magic and the power of illusion at the Egyptian Hall in London, an exhibition hall that often featured magic shows to the general public. He put on his own shows, but attendance was generally very low, yet Méliès became not only director of his shows, but also a producer, writer, and set designer. After having seen a production by the Lumiere brothers, Méliès wanted to purchase a cinematograph and begin his own film productions, but the Lumiere brothers did not want to sell any of their film equipment. Modifying a film projector into a film camera, Méliès also bought his own film and developed it through trial and error. Having directed 500 films in the span of 17 years, including a 13-minute long film on Joan of Arc, Méliès built his own film studio and incorporated his experience with magical illusions into his works. In 1902, Méliès created « Le voyage dans la lune », an adventure film that included innovative special effects, such as jump cuts, and launched Méliès to international success. After 1909, Méliès stopped making films and turned to selling sweets and toys at the Montparnasse station in Paris until passing away from cancer in 1938 at the age of 76.

Red velvet seats, one after the other, ready to be accepting of you for the next hour or so.

Midnight premieres, advanced screenings with their exclusivity, award shows where actors and actresses don Vuitton, Gucci, De la Renta dresses and suits and live tweeting captures every dramatic moment.

Science fiction conventions brimming with devotion and awe over the fantastical and the impossible.

The power of film has been a common tie across cultures and individuals and is my common tie to Georges Méliès. I’m probably the last person you’d want to see a film with, and it’s not because I talk during movies or crunch on my popcorn. It’s not because I spoil endings or fall asleep during a movie.

It’s because I can’t bear to watch films without complete peace around me, either getting annoyed at the tiniest child crying or at the crunching of a candy bag. I can’t even stand to watch movies on opening nights because of the amount of noise being created by the amount of people in the theater. I’m unbearable to the common moviegoer, just ask any of my friends, and while I initially thought it as just an annoying quirk, I now see it as a demonstration of my respect for film and the power it has had in my own life.

For Méliès, fantasy had always been a comforting force in his life, and gradually became his entire motivation to create works of art. Ever since I could remember, I always watched classic movies as a result of my Abuelo’s influence as a babysitter, making me watch grainy versions of Singing in the Rain and The King and I. Film has always been the buzz in the background of my own life, and when my Abuelo passed this past January, it felt very weird to not have that figure in my life who shared this obsession with the film world. I miss the hum of the Turner Classic Movie channel in my home as I sit at night doing work in my room and watching the Oscars with snarky old man commentary.

Film is a ritual in my eyes. Whenever a new film comes out that I want to see, I make sure to wait a bit before I watch it, and I try to go to the movies on discount days, and most of all, empty theater days. Being consumed by moving art in the dark stuns me to this day, and every time I leave a theater, I’m at peace with the ways in which art can put things into perspective.

Méliès kept moving along in his film career even when others were denying him easy access. He made sure he tried it out for himself, and not just the role of filmmaker, but also producer and set designer. In full command, Méliès became his own company, and I have found ways in which to do the same. I used to think I couldn’t be multi-purposed in terms of my own career or abilities, but as I double major in English Literature and Women’s and Gender Studies, minor in French Language, seek a Film Studies certificate, curate my own writing blog, and make my own collages and short film diaries, I’ve realized how unlimited I really am. I don’t have to choose one thing I want to be or do. I can choose to have many choices at my disposal and when looking at the filmography and career scope of Méliès, I’m comforted to know I don’t have to be or create one thing. I can take the form of many things, whether it be a personified moon with a rocket ship jutting out of its eye, or a weathered old man serving candy to the young children and travelers of Paris.

NORMANDY CEMETARY

Sisters of Sacrifice by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Normandy, France

for Dolores Browne

Sergeant of the U.S. Women’s Army Corps.

Drafted from Connecticut.

Gone on July 13th, 1945 and only 23, maybe 24, years old.

I know you served in the first and only all-female, all-black battalion of the Women’s Army Corps. Number 6888th. I know you’re one of only four women buried in this very ground as a result of your service. I know you were one of three black women killed in a Jeep accident in France and that your fellow comrades and gracious French citizens had to raise money in order to organize your funeral. I know you were the only one of those three women who died days later as a result of your injuries and that no other traces can be found of where you come from.

Who claims you?

That’s all I know of you.

The women of the 6888th Postal Directory Battalion, also known as the “Six Triple Eight,” went by one motto:

No mail, no morale.

They converted temporary post offices into demanding workstations, with several shifts of sorting through sky high piles of letters and packages in order to get mail to its proper owner. Even if there were 1,000 Robert or John Smiths fighting in Europe, they would find the exact man to hand a personal message to, never failing in fully delivering and completing their missions. Over 855 women served in the 6888th battalion of Women Army Corps, and 150,000 served in the Women Army Corps. Their conditions were rough, their sacrifices were great, and for the women of the only all-black battalion, they were never publicly recognized for their service at the end of the war.

I don’t know much. I don’t know who your mother is or where you went to school, if you loved coffee or smoked cigarettes. I don’t know if you owned a record player and would play the top hits with your best friends after school, I’m not sure if you had many friends or if you were a loner. I don’t know if you intended to marry or if you wanted to become a doctor.

I don’t know who you really are but I recognize you today.

What I can guess is that you went abroad with a fire burning through your veins to prove yourself. Not just your individual persona, but the color of you skin and the hearts of your fellow sisters. You have to prove your worth when you shouldn’t have to explain yourself to anyone. I’ve felt the need to prove myself but never to your extent.

I’ll never be in your shoes. I’m not black. I come from a Cuban family that fled to avoid persecution but the shade of my skin isn’t vulnerable in the eyes of the world.

I’m a woman but privilege is real.

I can’t relate to much of your life, but what I do relate to, I cling to, that urge to prove yourself only to fall into a trap. Nobody there at the end of the day to recognize all of your hard work. Nobody who believes in you, or at least you think doesn’t believe in you. You’ve felt all that and I have as well.

I don’t know the details of your life, Dolores, but the circumstances you lived in and what you represented have paved the way for women of color across all fields, making strides gradually but surely. You are one of four women in this cemetery, and that’s little, sure, but it’s never been about quantity.

As a young woman of your age, I thank you for what you’ve done and what you could’ve been. You are one of 150,000 women who gave themselves to us in order to be stronger, freer women.

I see you in the young girls who run freely without care.

I see you in the young black woman who fights gun violence and breaks her throat in protest.

I see you in the innocent black lives that are lost as a result of hatred and ignorance.

Young black women, ready to fight, not with guns, but with words and their crafts, I see you.

I see myself in you, Dolores, and for that, thank you.

ALPS

Plateau d’enfance by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Plateau des Glières, France

Climb up.
Jump!
Balance on the rotten log that divides you from the rest of the trail.
Breathe in the crisp air that envelops you.
The speckling of wildflowers dancing as the alpine air hits them.
The crunch of the rocks & pebbles as your classmates solve the natural puzzle before them.
The peaks that rise before you, telling you that you’re smaller than you think.

It’s the burn in your calves that makes you second guess the beauty of the French Alps.

It’s beautiful, sure, but it hurts.
It hurts to climb when you feel your legs on fire.
It hurts to breathe when you can hear your heart throbbing.
It hurts seeing how far back you are from the rest of the crew, how one of you couldn’t even finish.

But there is a pain that goes beyond the physical sores, an aching chest, loss of breath.

It’s the pain of tiny hands never getting the chance to grasp a colored pencil ever again, their small bodies yanked from an alpine paradise, a temporary home against a background of intolerance.

Can you not see their small smiles, joyous at the bar of chocolate they bite into, a piece of candy that means everything?

Can you not see their worries for their family? Where is maman? How is papa? Me? I’m okay, happy as can be.

They can’t see a life bigger than their minds, eyes bright and open towards understanding, arms forever open.

They can’t see Lucienne Friedler.
They can’t see her young face, looking out at the mountains that connect together.
They can’t see her curly locks when worn naturally, straight when brushed out.
They can’t see who she could be, the young woman from Anvers, a February baby, who could rise to academic excellence, maybe a journalist, possibly a doctor.

But she can’t escape.

Jewish.

She’s just an idea that needs to end.

When we look to the mountains and wilderness for refuge, remember those who couldn’t escape. Remember those who breathed in poisonous fumes when they should have breathed in fresh grass and a clean childhood. Remember those who forever remained children.

LYON

B-3962 by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Lyon, France


Beware.
It’s happening now.
Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandmas, grandpas.
Finding themselves stuck, in a home, that’s now confinement.
Mont Luc.

We’re sitting in restaurants, walking along roads, and riding along on metros and buses. History is breathing heavily right next to you, telling you to stay vigilant, warning you to take action. History is old, and history is slow, but listen to it. It’s telling you with wrinkled hands and a gentle pace that you can’t turn your back on the truth. You can’t turn your back on the children lost at the border, the mothers weeping for their safety, or the sting of leaders not giving a damn. You can’t turn your back on issues beyond our country lines, and even though they don’t compare to the severity of a mass genocide, it still matters. It still matters that gunfire is the first resort rather than the last resort. It still matters that an embassy opening provoked a rightful protest against those who have stolen homes, only to end in the death of 58 innocent civilians and harm to more than 1,000. If we can’t protest without risk of flying bullets, then what are we? Cattle herded in silence?

When Monsieur Bloch tells you how he lost his grandpa in a matter of minutes, you cry thinking about your own loss this year and how you didn’t even get the chance to say goodbye. For a man who risked his own safety to get his family out of a communist regime that slowly infiltrated the island, Abuelo was living proof of resistance against oppression. He huddled a two year old daughter and humble wife to a land scary with possibilities, and here I stand. I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye, but he doesn’t deserve a goodbye when I can still see and hear him. I see his anger at Fidel Castro in my own anger at ignorant systems, and hear his cackle in my mother’s own laugh, and I know that history is much more than what has occurred. It’s what can take place and what will happen.

Beware.

VERSAILLES

Dieu by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Versailles Museum and Gardens, France

God. Dios. Allah. Dieu. Jehovah.

I do believe God has a name, which assumes I believe in a god. That belief in a divine power has its limits, of course, when it comes to the trust you put in a god, and most of all, a human who believes themselves to be a god. Louis XIV, with his maison and jardins, filtering millions into aesthetics, while a child rots on the street and bellies died empty. Marie Antoinette, a goddess in her own eyes, constructing an artificial haven, façades as fake as her, basking in a world she didn’t even want to enter. These two figures, believing themselves to be divine, have created a legacy that manifests itself in sweaty, red-faced tourists and selfie sticks, billions of visitors per year, and Cuban cafes named after their home in the heart of the 305. When considering the people they left to starve and the ignorance they enclosed themselves in, miles away from the casualties of reality, it’s easy to hate on Louis and Marie, but also easy to forget the power of divinity. But wouldn’t you do what you wish if you thought you were divine?

PARIS

abecedaire de juillet by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU in Paris, France

A month away from home

Bisous from strangers

Champions du monde

Dancing in the Parisian dark

Euphoria in your jetlagged bones

Falafel picnic in the park

Goodbyes don’t come yet

Home is here

Île-de-France and its floating history

Justice for some, none for others

Kilo shop thrift finds

Latin Quarter’s narrow streets

Metros of every color and personality

Nothing feels real

Odéon before you depart for Saint-Michel

Paris are you a dream?

Quiet moments as we walk next to legacies

Reggaeton by the Seine

Stendhal syndrome at Saint-Chapelle’s stain glass

Together or alone, it doesn’t matter

Under a city of life, you ride along

Vin of red, white, and pink

World cup watch parties as we down happy hour drinks

X marks the heart you left in the city

Young souls with open eyes and open hearts

Zero euros for what you’ve felt all at once

VIZCAYA AS TEXTS

isla de tesoro
by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens (Poetry Art Community 2017-2018)

always out of reach
a vessel of the sea
that’s always out of reach
I look out onto the water
gripping my camera
hoping for a ship
that personifies adventure
but I get a boat that’s slowly rotting
its corpse sucked away by the atlantic
I look up at the roof of a “home”
gripping my phone
hoping for a ship
that personifies imagination
but I get a cheap imitation
one you could find perched
on a tacky armoire in kirkland’s
what’s with all these inreachable illusions?
the titanic was the largest passenger ship afloat
in 1912
in 2017
it’s popular oceanic junk
european men bragging about their grand and wonderful women
gran princesa de los cielos
mv princess victoria
ss principessa jolanda
claiming them as their own
an ownership that was never theirs to begin with
and now belongs to the sea

You think You own these vessels
vessels of propulsive speed
vessels capable of wreckage and destruction
You never owned them in the first place
not even the sea does
as wood disintegrates and metal corrodes

Sugar, Spice, and Everything Saucy
by Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens (Art Society Conflict 2018-2019)

The laziness of a European summer. It’s a contradiction of moving limbs that don’t know what rush hour is, that don’t feel that a rush even exists. A languor that hits you most when you’re laying outside, sweating but cooled down by the breeze that shivers your skin and picks up displaced blades of grass. We are so far away from home. Would you like to be my home?

The summer of European laziness. Vizcaya and its lack of labels. It’s an estate. It’s a villa. It’s history. It’s future. It’s Spanish and French. It’s Italian and Bahamian. It’s gay billionaire vibes. It’s policing the borders of a female stone body.

It’s pretending to have your shit together. It’s knowing you don’t. It’s j’ai dit and yo digo and I said this so why are you challenging me? Everyone knows about it. Nobody knows a thing about it.

One April night, you’ll sit on the steps of this estate speaking to a woman who’ll become one of your close friends. You’ll be crying about a close friend who’ll become a stranger, and the life in the evening will continue on. There’s families and singles and couples and whole groups sitting, standing, walking, pacing. You’ll think of the lack of labels you felt in that moment, where do you go when you don’t fit anymore, when the puzzle piece’s edge has been chewed off and doesn’t mold to the group? You’ll feel a sense of peace for this European villa and its creeping beauty, it’s saucy bitch and her resistance to the waves of a tempestuous bay.

Everything and nothing all at once.

Photo by Sofia Guerra (CC by 4.0)

Stained and Shattered Mosaico
By Isabella Marie Garcia of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens (Honors España 2019)

I conquered Vizcaya in college. In just my undergraduate years, I’ve visited this preservation of European-inspired architecture, a Bahamian-French-Italian-Spanish- inspired villa in the south of Miami, at least a dozen times. I fought and challenged the sauciest bitch that was my tour guide time and time again. I found my voice in a student poetry evening, where a couple walked up to me after my reading and told me that they had never heard the Bahamian aspect of Vizcaya voiced so loudly. I’ve reflected on all the selves of Isa that have walked through the forested paths leading from the parking lot into the roundabout. Ponce de Leon is looking down at you and your classmates are looking at each other. All the faces that have shapeshifted semester after semester. I’ve walked down the natural corridor leading up to the villa with groups of seventeen to forty peers, the same gray- haired ponytail leading us all into the home.

I see the Isa of wide-eyed days, looking up to the staircase where J’AI DIT is written, surprised at the connection to the initials of the villa’s creator. There’s the Isa yelling at Jonah arriving late to his poetry station and the Isa clinking styrofoam cups of rum coquito in the parking lot of Vizcaya Village with Steph, smuggling their share of emotions into the December evening.

Yet Vizcaya has conquered me.

There’s the Isa who arrives to Vizcaya on the night of ZipOdes heartbroken at the close friend who doesn’t want to be her friend anymore, who is brought to tears as she hears Steph going through the same thing. I see the Isa of frustrated days looking out onto the barge, annoyed at a man’s words about altering a woman of stone because her breasts are too much. Isa’s always been too much.

My dear friend once told me that she has come to Vizcaya time and time again yet she has never been the same person each time she’s come to visit.

As I stand in the place that has seen the many selves that I am, I don’t know who I will be the next time I come to visit. As I imagine myself five months from now about to enter Spain, the land of my great-grandparents, I don’t know who I’ll be.

Will I feel right at home? Is this land where I truly come from? Will I be angry? Will I be sad?

I won’t be sure until I walk through the Spanish streets and hear the accented lisps of my bisabuelas and the the Catalonian anger of my paternal great-grandfather. I might morph into the Barcelona woman that stems from my father’s end or find that Galicia is my true maternal home.

Yet, like the Vizcaya that has seen me going through all the emotions that scratch and scuff the inside of my heart and the edges of my bones, I’ll feel at home soon enough in the most unlikely of places.




Maria Carla Robaina: Italia America 2019

Architettura Pubblica dall’Italia all’America

Roman Colosseum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

by Maria Carla Robaina

“Architecture should speak for its time and place, but yearn for timelessness”

Frank Gehry

It is said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and if that truly is the case, the Italians could burst with pride at any moment. Over the years, there have been many ideas and movements that have originated in Europe (specifically in Italy) which Americans have shamelessly adopted as their own. A very palpable one is Italian architecture, which has been imitated all over America since the very beginning of our nation as we know it, in an attempt to become a little more like the Romans. There is no surprise here, seeing as the United States always aimed to be the most powerful nation, and the Roman Empire was, and continues to be even after its fall, the greatest, longest lasting world power to ever exist. So why not copy their architecture? After all, architecture is, in my humble opinion, the perfect, most functional combination of science, and art. It is history, culture, past, present, and future intersecting into one; always recycling concepts, and reinventing itself: an everlasting reflection of the people. 

While America’s motives are clear, it takes a curious eye to see exactly how America has embedded Italian architecture into its own. When we look at long-standing governmental structures, churches, and even suburban houses designed by American architects, we might be inclined to think that they invented it. In reality, they made a few alterations to an already existing model that was born in Italy. In some ways, we see that even today! All you need to do is buy a plane ticket to New York City, go down to Battery Park at the tip of the island of Manhattan, and recharge your closet with fake Gucci, and Fendi products. 

When it comes to architecture, different religious, political, and artistic movements play a big role in dictating what the next building is going to look like. So, the best way to explore Italy’s influence on American architecture is to take a tour of Italian architecture and history.

Beware though, that this is a trip back in time, and with chronological stops along the way. Once you’ve seen it, you can’t un-see it, and you’ll find Italy around you, every single day!

Stop I: Ancient Rome

Roma was founded by Romulus in the year 753 BCE, and it became a republic in 509 BCE with the rise of the Senate [1]. Much like America has done, the Romans also borrowed ideas from other cultures. In the 2ndcentury BCE, the Romans borrowed architectural ideas from the Greek, and created their own style. This ancient Roman style consisted of an external Greek façade with many contributions to suit Roman needs. 

The Colosseum:

a. Roman Colosseum (Photo by Dennis Jarvis CC BY 4.0)
b. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (Photo by Emma Griffiths CC BY 4.0)

The ancient Greeks developed the idea of an amphitheater to stage plays, and entertain the masses. These structures were built on hills, which allowed everyone, no matter how far away from the stage, to see everything. One main feature of these amphitheaters is that they are completely open spaces with a stage on one extreme, and a semicircular seating arrangement in front of it [2]. 

The Romans took this concept, and improved it in the construction of the Colosseum in 80 CE. They added more seating space by having a centralized stage with seats creating an elliptical 527 meter circumference with a 48 meter height divided into four floors.  With 45000 seating places, 5000 standing places, and 80 entrances, this provided a solution to Rome’s increasing population. Another feature that stands out is the presence of a backstage area, and a network of underground tunnels, which allowed for the preparation of the performances. This was especially true of gladiator shows, where the gladiators, and their wild animal counterparts were kept hidden from the audience in these tunnels. A partial roof, and above-ground seats were also features that the Romans added to the Greek design, which is similar to the stadiums, and arenas that we have today [3]. 

So, while the concept of an amphitheater was created by the Greek, our present-day implementation more closely resembles the Roman version of it. The clearest example is found in a football stadium, not only in the overall shape, and design of the building, but in the kinds of performances that it houses. Many football players share a similar background of low socioeconomic status, and football provides a possible exit from the life that they grew up having. Much like the gladiators back in ancient Rome, football players endure immense physical stress with the hope, but never assurance of a brighter future. While they do this by personal choice, it is inevitable to notice the similarities between the two groups, and how history repeats itself, even if on the other side of the Atlantic. What’s more enlightening, these upgraded gladiators are AMERICAN football players, which says a lot about the United States as a nation. We have been so fixated on the success of the Romans, and the desire to reach it, that we have copied one too many aspects of their identity, ignoring the people at the bottom who are affected by this. 

Arches and Vaults:

With the rise of Rome came wealth, and an increase in immigration. High population densities demanded architectural solutions, which included the use of arches, and vaults in constructions for public use. Arches originated in ancient Egypt and Greece but the Romans were the first to use semicircular arches in bridges, and large scale architecture like we see today [4]. 

Arch of Constantine (Photo by Mark Cartwright CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

One of the structures that used arches is the Arch of Constantine. This arch was built in 315 CE in honor of Emperor Constantine’s victory. It has three arches, and it is a symbol of wealth, power, and authority [5]. Not surprisingly, an American interpretation is found in New Orleans Mint (1838), which really made me think about the intentions behind this. New Orleans Mint is overpopulated with an excessive number of arches (See link below). But what better way to bless a country with good fortune than to include symbols of wealth in its money-making facility? Whether intentional or not, there’s no denying that in the 1830’s there was a lot of Italian influence on American architecture.

New Orleans Mint arches: https://www.dreamstime.com/interior-old-u-s-mint-city-new-orleans-louisiana-usa-old-u-s-mint-city-new-orleans-inside-view-image106734768

The use of oversized arches is also seen in The Presbytere, a museum in New Orleans that was built in 1813. In its picture, we can even compare the size of the arches to that of the people standing below them, and we can appreciate how these arches served a decorative purpose, and were not just entrance points, an idea that is entirely Roman in nature since Greek and Egyptian arches were built large enough to allow people to go through them.

The Presbytere, New Orleans

Another Roman innovation were groin vaults, which were used in the Baths of Caracalla. Built in the year 212-216/217 CE, these public baths had a 24 meter long tepidarium (warm bathroom) [6]. These vaults were meant to fortify structures, and they were also used in the construction of New Orleans Mint (See link below for pictures).

Baths of Caracalla (Photo by Chris Warde-Jones CC BY 4.0)

New Orleans Mint Groin vaults: https://www.dreamstime.com/interior-old-u-s-mint-second-floor-city-new-orleans-louisiana-usa-old-u-s-mint-inside-second-floor-view-new-orleans-image106734826

The Pantheon:

The Roman Pantheon was originally finished in 25 BCE, however, in 80 CE it was demolished, and the one we see today is the reconstruction under Emperor Hadrian in 118 CE. He had vast knowledge of culture, and respected  all religions, so he intended to create an inclusive space for people of all faiths to gather. Churches provided gathering grounds for people since religion was a social act.Aside from the personal beliefs that led to this decision, it also acted as a political strategy since during this time, a large portion of Rome’s habitants did not worship Roman gods, so making them feel accepted was of utmost importance for the government [7]. 

 The Pantheon is considered a perfect space because it has the same length, and height. It has 8 Corinthian columns in the front under a triangular roof. An enormous dome (the largest surviving dome from antiquity) stands on the back of the building [7]. This structure is very similar to the United States Supreme Court building, which was finished on 1935. The two structures do have some marked differences because the Pantheon has a large dome, which the Supreme Court lacks, and the Supreme Court is elevated off ground-level, and there are stairs leading up to its entrance. However, just like the Pantheon, the Supreme Court building has a triangular roof, and exactly 8 Corinthian columns in the front [8]. The number 8 bears a lot of weight in religion, especially those religions based on the bible such as Catholicism. The 8 is the symbol of resurrection, and regeneration, so it represents a new beginning, something that was definitely fitting for the Pantheon since it was RE-constructed. After learning a lot about the Romans in these past few months, I can’t help but think that this is not a coincidence. I believe that even though the Pantheon was meant to be an inclusive ground, its design included the number 8 as an inconspicuous representation of Roman Catholicism. The fact that the U.S. Supreme Court is modeled after this makes me believe that there are only two reasons why it happened: 1. Copying Italian architecture in governmental structures became so important that they did it thoughtlessly (unlikely since it’s not an exact replica), or 2. Christianity, and therefore biblical references, play a large role in America’s history as “One nation, under God (…)”. I am aware that the presence of the number 8 might just be about a liking for symmetry. Nonetheless, I can’t help but think that perhaps there is more to it that we have yet to uncover. 

a. The Pantheon in Rome (Photo by Martin Olsson CC BY 4.0)
b. United States Supreme Court (Photo by Kjetil Ree CC BY 4.0)

While the U.S. Supreme Court is definitely a copy of the Pantheon, a subtler application of this classic Roman architectural style is found in George Washington’s Virginia home: Mount Vernon. Not surprisingly, the number 8 makes an appearance again in the form of columns. In this case, the classic Corinthian columns are americanized and modernized since they are squared columns with little to no embellishment at the top (where the column meets the roof).

Mount Vernon, Virginia (Photo by Martin Falbisoner CC BY-SA 3.0)

Stop II: Byzantine-Roman Architecture

The Byzantine era began around 330 CE, when the Roman capital was moved to Byzantium, in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire. In its beginnings, Byzantine architecture was indistinguishable from Roman architecture since it emphasized the same classical Roman elements. A distinction, however, was in the improvement of walls, and domes in churches. With the rise of Christianity, a lot of emphasis was placed on churches, and their fortification [9]. During this time, the interior of buildings was more important than their exterior. Basically, the exterior was meant to be functional, with the thick walls, and larger domes, while the interior could be more adorned, with intricate, and colorful mosaics.

An example of Byzantine-Roman architecture is the Basilica diSant’ Apollinare Nuovo (505 CE) in Ravenna, Italy, which has a very rich mosaic on its ceiling. Similarly, the U.S. Supreme Court (1789) has a mosaic design on its ceiling. 

a. Basilica diSant’ Apollinare Nuovo’s ceiling mosaic (Photo by Sailko CC BY-SA 4.0)

b. United States Supreme Court’s ceiling mosaic (Photo by “Architect of the Capitol” CC BY 4.0)

While there are marked differences, it surprised me to find out about the many influences of Italian architecture in the design of the United States’ Supreme Court building, especially because the latter houses different styles from different eras.

Stop III: The Renaissance

The renaissance movement was born in Florence in the 1300s CE, and lasted until the 1600s CE. This period is one of my personal favorites because it was characterized by realism, and naturalism. This era was marked by advances in the arts, sciences, and architecture, all of which went hand in hand [10]. 

A well known edifice of this era is the Basilica Papale di San Pietro in the Vatican City or Saint Peter’s Basilica. Its construction was completed in 1626, and included a large dome, which was common in the Renaissance [11]. 

Basilica Papale di San Pietro (Photo by Giggel CC BY-SA 4.0)

Another prime example of renaissance architecture is the dome in the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (1436). This dome is one of the most impressive achievements of the Renaissance because never before had anyone constructed such a large dome. On top of the cathedral’s height, a pedestal for the dome was built that put the dome’s base at the staggering height of 170 feet, with a shape known as quinto acuto or “pointed fifth”. Designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, the dome’s construction ended in 1436 CE, and it is until this day, one of the most significant architectural feats to ever exist [12].

Dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Photo by Bruce Stokes CC BY-SA 2.0 Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic)

Here in America there are plenty examples of buildings with large domes that mimic the style of that in Santa Maria del Fiore. Perhaps the easiest that comes to everyone’s mind is that of the U.S. Capitol. The reason for their similarity is that Thomas Jefferson wanted Congress housed in a replica of an ancient Roman temple, specifically, a “spherical” temple. The U.S. Capitol’s designs evoke the ideals that guided our founding fathers when they created the new republic; ideals which also came in part from ancient Rome. In the 1850s, architect Thomas U. Walter added a cast iron dome to the design, and it is inevitable to see the similarity to the one in Florence [13]. 

United States Capitol (Photo by Andrew Bossi CC BY-SA 3.0  Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

Palladian Architecture: The Palladian Window

Palladian architecture refers not to a new era in scientific, artistic, political, or religious movement, but to a specific 16thcentury Venetian architect named Andrea Palladio [14]. He changed the landscape of his hometown, and extended his influence with a rippling effect throughout the world, breaking down geographic, and time barriers to persist even in the modern day. Palladian windows are incredibly large,three-section windows where the center section is arched and larger than the two. Many constructions in the late renaissance included these kinds of windows to give a feeling of formality [15]. It is remarkable that this style has stood the test of time, and continues to be used in suburban neighborhoods in America with great prominence. Not only do they evoke elegance, but they also allow sunlight to come in, which balances out the sophisticated renaissance style with the incorporation of nature in indoor spaces [15]. Furthermore, these windows are one of my favorite icons of the renaissance because by letting in the sunlight, they help reduce the use of electricity when unnecessary, something that really helps the planet, and that I am passionate about. 

Palladian window in Mount Vernon, Virginia (Photo by Tim Evanson CC BY-SA 2.0)
Inside view of Mount Vernon (Photo by Appitecture CC BY-SA 4.0)

Final Remarks:

The end of this tour of some of the major Italian architectural movements has arrived, at least for the time being. Who knows the many ways in which Italy is yet to manifest itself in America? One thing I know is that there is an undeniable influence that Italy has had, and continues to have on our lives. When it comes to architecture, I love that we have concrete examples (no pun intended) as evidence of the remarkable impact that such a small country can have. Italian architecture is everywhere around us, so in going to Italy, I have the complete reassurance that I’ll still feel, on some level, at home. From modern day stadiums, to the use of arches and vaults in our very own university campus (See picture below), to majestic governmental structures, and even something as overlooked as a window, Italian architecture is ubiquitous. So the next time I go to a concert, I’ll have Rome in my mind. All of this, the little things, are part of our culture, our history, our identity. So, in a way, aren’t we all Italy?

FIU’s Green Library (Photo by Maria Carla Robaina CC BY 4.0)

Google Slides Presentation:

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/13BSf6dlaSi4XUVGcgWY7y9dRhk2sRC5X-YeOZvX8bmk/edit?usp=sharing

References:

  1. History of Rome. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.rome.info/ancient/history/
  2. Cartwright, M. (2019, April 11). Greek Theatre Architecture. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/article/895/greek-theatre-architecture/
  3. Roman Colosseum Architecture. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://romancolosseum.org/roman-colosseum-architecture/
  4. Britannica, T. E. (2008, November 17). Arch. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/technology/arch-architecture
  5. Cartwright, M. (2019, April 11). The Arch of Constantine, Rome. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/article/497/the-arch-of-constantine-rome/
  6. Vault (architecture). (2018, December 09). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vault_(architecture)#Groin_vaults
  7. Cline, A. (2018, February 16). The History and Architecture Behind Rome’s Pantheon. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/pantheon-in-rome-history-and-architecture-249498
  8. Supreme Court Building. (2018, October 19). Retrieved from https://www.aoc.gov/capitol-buildings/supreme-court-building
  9. Cartwright, M. (2019, April 11). Byzantine Architecture. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/Byzantine_Architecture/
  10. Editors, H. (2018, April 04). Renaissance. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/topics/renaissance/renaissance
  11. Saint Peter’s Basilica (Rome) (1506-1626). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/history-of-art/saint-peters-basilica.htm
  12. King, R. (2013). Brunelleschis dome: How a renaissance genius reinvented architecture. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
  13. Capitol Hill Neoclassical Architecture. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aoc.gov/capitol-hill/architecture-styles/neoclassical-architecture-capitol-hill
  14. Craven, J. (2018, February 23). Architecture in Italy – From Ancient to Modern. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/architecture-in-italy-for-casual-traveler-177683
  15. Craven, J. (2017, November 26). Introduction to the Palladian Window. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-palladian-window-177518

Daniella Stalingovskis: España Ida 2019

Ida: Spain’s Fashion to the Americas by Daniella Stalingovskis

Introduction:

Image result for tapadas

Juan Mauricio Rugendas, Tapada. New York, The Hispanic Society of America.

In this project, the main focus will be pertaining to Spain’s influence within the fashion realm and what has the Americas borrowed from them in this transatlantic dynamic dialogue. We will examine the brief history and impact of Spain’s influence and power throughout different eras ranging from the Moors dominating Spain, during 1492 where the Catholics defeated the Moors and exiled them, and after the Age of Conquests where the New World was discovered by Christopher Columbus and conquered during that time. While examining fashion trends and habits, we will also expand on societal roles in Spain and its changes and similarities when compared to the Americas, particularly to women and the natives. This project will also examine how Spain has had their fair share of the fashion industry in the global market in the current period. The project revolves around various cultures and religious impacts towards Spain and the influence towards the Americas and how those differing choices of styles and accessories benefited the population in the New World whether it be the Islamic tapadas or the Catholic guardainfante dresses. It is difficult to ignore the diverse mix of cultures and religions that developed Spain’s history and its influence towards the Americas.

Pre-1492:

The Moorish Empire in Spain:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is castle.jpg

An 8th Century Moorish Castle in Gibraltar
Source:
http://gibraltar.gi/tourism/?language=en&category=1&item=31

Before the Catholic monarchy dominated Spain and exiled the Jewish and Muslim population, the country was ruled by the Moors from 711 A.D to 1492. The Moors were a general population of people who were of northern African descent and predominantly of Muslim faith. They were led by general Tariq bin Ziyad and defeated the Visigoths by crossing from North Africa to Gibraltar and continued to dominate the majority of Spain until the fall of Granada in 1492.

Society During Moorish Rule:

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Ernst, Rudolf. Nach dem Beten (After Prayers), oil on hardboard, 92.7 × 73 cm, London, Mathaf Gallery

The Moorish society at the beginning was seen as more tolerant than other periods of conquests and domination periods. It was depicted diverse with Muslims, Christians, and Jews having similar rights, but the Christians and the Jews had more restrictive policies than the Muslims did and were seen as second-class citizens. Even though the non-Muslim citizens had the right to follow their beliefs and were not forced to convert, they had to declare that Islamic influence and power is superior, avoid converting Muslim citizens, and had restrictions when attempting to build their churches or synagogues. The true dynamic between citizens with differing religions in Moorish Spain is still debated by historians with some saying that the Muslims showed contempt to non-Muslims and some saying the non-Muslims were treated as the bottom of the social hierarchy. Nonetheless, the Jews and Christians were not persecuted nor forced into slavery for their differing beliefs. Some reasons as to why the non-Muslims were mostly tolerated was because Christianity and Judaism are monotheistic like Islam and the number of Christians outnumbered the population of Muslims so converting them would be risky and expensive to accomplish. However, around the 11th century, the Muslim rule became more repressive towards non-Muslims and tensions became stronger which led to the Muslim reign to decline and Christian rulers reclaiming some land from the Moors. In addition, the Muslim rulers of the kingdom were divisive with one another, enabling the Christian rulers to shatter the kingdom and conquer Spain once more.

Women in Moorish Spain:

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Rosati, Giulio. Picking the Favourite. 1880

Similar to the non-Muslims in Moorish Spain, women were also generally seen as second-class citizens but also had some rights and privileges. However, women did not have as much freedoms compared to a Muslim man, but a Muslim woman was depicted to have more freedoms than a Christian or Jewish man. Some freedoms that a woman can obtain in Islamic Spain was protections from violence and theft, the ability to purchase or sell goods as well as owning or inheriting property and being able to seek employment. Some of the more repressive laws against women were that husbands could domestically abuse their wives, limited rights to inheritance, and only men could initiate the divorce process had more leverage in court than women did. Another common restriction that is noticeable in both Islamic and Christian Spain is the restriction of women wearing certain dresses and accessories since there were high expectations of modesty. In many cases, the freedoms of women could be heightened through marriage. A current wife could prevent a husband from having a second wife or a concubine despite polygamy being allowed in traditional Islamic law. Although discouraged, a Christian or Jewish woman could rise on the social hierarchy ladder by marrying a Muslim man and can earn more rights than a non-Muslim would. The idea of tolerating interfaith marriage was a stark contrast of the previous kingdom’s policies from the Visigoths where interfaith marriage would result with the man being executed and half of the woman’s property would be confiscated. There is a nuance concerning women’s rights during the Moorish period as it was a mix of some freedoms and repressions for them, but they were still seen as inferior to their male counterparts and were not seen as equals during this period due to the very apparent restrictions.

Tapadas:

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Fierro, Pancho. Going to Church. (between 1850-60). Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes

In Moorish fashion, women would wear veils on their faces called the tapado. The term translates to English as the covered one which correlates as to how the accessory was used during that time. The veiling accessory was popular among Muslim women and eventually adopted by Christian women and wore them both in Spain and the Americas during the 16th and 17th century. However, the men and policymakers did not like the women partaking in wearing the tapado. The tapado gave women many freedoms in the city such as having anonymity and having their social status hidden. Between 1586 to 1639 there were multiple laws passed to restrict the use of the veils in the name of Christianity. To the legislators of Spain, most notably Cortes de Castilla in 1586, petitioned to King Philip II saying that they perceived the tapadas as an offense to God since women had the freedom of anonymity, that men could not recognize the women and approach them for their exoticism and alluring mysterious presence and even accusing men of wearing tapados themselves to perform sinful acts. The monarchy imposed these laws but saw no significant change in Madrid, Seville, or in Lima. This controversy allowed artists and writers to depict and reinforce the idea and theme that veiled women were seductive and mysterious during the late 16th century. In Peru, tapadas were well known in Lima since many of the converted Moors and Muslims would flee there as their new home. These women in Lima were known as Las Tapadas Limeñas and these veils were seen more as a rebellion to allow women the freedom to wear what they want and continued to do so despite policies attempting to forbid them of wearing them.

Tocas de Camino:


Fernando Gallego. (1490?), The Tucson Museum of Art, Arizona, USA
Mor, Anthonis. Lady with the Jewel.1552 Mueso De Nacional Del Prado, Madrid

Also known as the alhareme and the more common term toque, the Tocas de camino were a specific style of headdress that is known to be similar as a turban in Moorish Spain. It was also adopted by the Christians in the mid-15th century and was considered as a national headdress since it was popular in the early 17th century. In Spain, it would be worn by essentially any social ranking. However, in the New World, it was also commonly worn but for a different purpose. The Spanish rulers wanted to provide an alluring, exotic, and distinguished idea of Iberian fashion to spread the European image and accomplished this by gathering articles of clothing that described at the time of Iberian fashion. Since the toca was so commonly worn, it was included with the image of an Iberian person. Then, the accessory was served to distinguish the noble Spaniards from the lower classes and natives. The toca has also evolved over time with thinner fabrics and covering the very back of the head and extended through the neck and chest while being adorned with jewels.

Chopines, Chapines, and the Guatemalan Chapíns:

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Chapines, Christoph Weiditz, Tractenbuch von 1529, f. 23. Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nurnberg.

The Moors had developed the origins of a high-platformed heel called the chapine which is now currently known as the chopine shoe. These types of shoes were very popular in both Spain and in Venice. They created the shoes either out of cork or from wood and served various purposes. The peasants would wear these to keep women elevated from getting their feet wet from dirt and mud. On the other hand, the upper-class women would wear these shoes to flaunt and establish their wealth and had more luxurious versions of these shoes. The shoes then went out of style around the 1730s due the modern heel being established that society uses today. However, one could assume that a more modern type of the chopine is back in the fashion market. It has seen a resurgence in the Americas and all around the world since the 1990s and has been somewhat popular in the modern market and sells them in the form of either sneakers or open-toed sandals or heels in the name of high-top platform shoes. In Guatemala, the people that live there nowadays call themselves a chapín. This term originated because of the Spaniards that immigrated from Spain and settled there. They would point out the clunky shoes and the non-Guatemalan people would use this term originally as an insult regarding as someone who is not noble and pretended as if they were. However, the term’s meaning shifted when Guatemala gained independence in 1821 and use it as a prideful term to describe the Guatemalan population.

The Golden Age of Conquests:

The Rise and Fall of Fashion Influence in Catholic Spain:

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Anguissola, Sofonisba. 1561-1565.
Elisabeth of Valois holding a Portrait of Philip II. Museo Nacional Del Prado, Madrid

In 1492, it was a pivotal year for Spain due to the Catholics conquering from the previous Moorish empire and Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the New World. These events had led the Catholic monarchy a drastic increase in power, wealth, luxury, and influence in the fashion sphere. Due to multiple resources that the Americas offered such as gold, jewels, log wood (Haematoxylum campechianum), the Spanish dominated in fashion with their black, green, or red farthingales embroidered with golden or silver trimmings and stunning pearls and rubies. Whether it be in the Royal Court or in the Americas, the nobles and elite would wear the extravagant outfits to flaunt their upper-class status and reinforce the European culture to the natives no matter how time-consuming and uncomfortable some of the outfits were. Spain had spread their popular styles in France, England, Holland, and Austria where they borrowed and incorporated the same styles. It was until the mid-17th century when Spain lost its popularity and France took the lead in fashion.

Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez - Infanta Margarita Teresa in a Blue Dress - Google Art Project.jpg
Velazquez, Diego. 1659.
Infanta Margarita Teresa in a Blue Dress. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Related image
Goya, Francisco. 1746.
Queen María Luisa in a Dress with hooped Skirt. Museo Nacional Del Prado, Madrid

Farthingales and the Guardainfante Controversy:

The origins of the Spanish farthingale dress began with the verdugo which appeared in 1470 which involved rigid hoops to make the skirts in the dresses stick out in a cone or bell shape by having a small hoop just below the waist and then larger hoops further down the dress. Then in the 16th and 17th century, it evolved into a type of farthingale called the guardainfante. This dress had a wider skirt and gave more of a prominent bell shape from the waist down. It sparked controversy because the dress’s reputation of being worn to hide illegitimate pregnancies, despite no consistent data proving the accusation. Another reason why it was criticized was because men thought women wore the dresses to challenge their authority since it gave women more personal space and they accused women of hiding items underneath the large skirts. It was declared banned to every woman but prostitutes in 1639 by King Phillip IV. However, the ban did not succeed in censoring the outfits because the dresses were still being worn in the royal families. The dress was also popular in Portugal and Latin America, specifically in Mexico where the women thought the dress was very elegant. The guardainfante dwindled in popularity around the world at the end of the 18th century but the Spanish were stubborn in losing the tradition and continued to wear an evolved version called the tontillo, also known as the pannier.

Gauchos, Vaqueros, and the Cowboys:

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Corpany, Kim. 2010.
Board Meeting Cowboy Painting
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Borein, Edward. 1920. Vaquero.
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Bouchet, Jose. 2014. A Gaucho

The gaucho, vaquero, and modern cowboy outfits differ from each other but has the same origins in 12th century Spain where cattle herders wore vests, spurred boots, and tight trousers. The three variations of the costume are different because it was a form of adaptation to their varying environments. In the gaucho outfit, their most recognizable features are the calzoncillos, which are breeches, and the Chiripá which are baggy pants worn over the calzoncillos. The gauchos who lived in Argentina and Chile wore ponchos to protect themselves from the Andes Mountain’s weather conditions. They also wear coin decorated belt buckles called the cinturones. The vaqueros in Mexico is considered to be the direct ancestor of the American cowboy. They kept the spurred boots, the sombrero, and bolero jacket like their Spanish origin, but they differ because they wore armas and chaparjos which were cowhide slabs that served as protective gear from the thorny bushes in the Americas. The modern cowboy that has the most well-known outfit usually wears Stetson hats, denim jeans, fancy embellished belt buckles, and high-heeled boots. These outfits vary throughout the New World due to differing environmental changes, but it traces all the way back to the cattle herders in Spain.

Mantillas and the Peineta vs. Peinetón

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Cesar Hipolito Bacle. 1834. Museo de Arte Hispanoamericano. Buenos Aires, Argentina.
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Miller E.,Richard. 1910. Black Mantilla

In 1721, a traditional shawl made from silk with floral motifs called the mantilla had risen in popularity in Spain and in Mexico. These were seen as family heirlooms as they were commonly passed down from older generations. They would also be accompanied with a Spanish comb called the peineta would also be seen alongside with the flamenco dress style with the shawl’s variation,
mantón de manila. The depiction of women wearing mantillas while listening to their lovers playing guitar had spread from Spain to Mexico and the Philippines. The mantilla used to be worn by upper-class women but then lost their popularity and only lower-class women, gypsies and flamenco dresses wore them. Referring back to the Spanish comb named the peineta, it was challenged by the Argentine women from the postcolonial movement. They would wear a 3 ft by 3 ft comb on their heads called the peinetón to assert Argentine presence to distance themselves from Spanish authority and for female independence. It was a short-lived fashion accessory only spanning from 1832 to 1836.

Social Roles and Las Castas:

Women’s Roles in Spain:


Velázquez , Diego. 1635-1643. The Needlewoman. National Art Gallery, Washington D.C.
Link:
https://www.nga.gov/features/slideshows/spanish-painting-in-the-seventeenth-century.html#slide_6

Similar to the Moorish period, women in Catholic Spain also were seen as inferior to men and had multiple restrictions compared to their male counterparts. During the 16th and 17th century, women in Spain were not allowed to learn how to write nor were they able to participate in the professional workforce. Most were expected to be either a homemaker or a nun. To run a business or gain more privileges, a woman would have to be a widow to inherit certain businesses and properties but the inheritance would still be restrictive. The common theme of women’s education was preparing for marriage and the responsibilities of being married with a potential family. They were excluded from professional institutions and their opinions were discredited. For the most part, women were seen as a fragile being that needed protection, irrational, and physically and morally weaker than men. They also perceived feminine sexuality as dangerous because they thought it gave men “temptations” to commit sinful acts. There are also many common themes of restrictions of clothing and the freedoms those pieces of attire provided.

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Ortega, Jose. 1897. Inés de Suárez

Women’s Roles in the Americas:

When the New World was discovered in 1492, there was a sizable number of Spaniards that decided to emigrate to the new location. From data collected of emigrants from 1493 to 1600, there was a total of 54,881 men and only 10,118 women who moved to the New World. The reason why the number of women was less than the amount of men was because single women who were not married was much less likely to receive authorization to travel unless she was married to her husband in New Spain. Another method for single women to travel to the New World was for them to be a servant for another traveler. Some reasons as to why women would migrate to the Americas was a better social system due to them having more power in commerce and crafting, being the top of the new hierarchy as a European in the New World, and not having to do many of the household chores such as weaving and cooking since the Natives were used as servants at the time. Some Spanish women also helped alleviate burdens for the militia in the Americas by doing various chores for them such as washing clothes, caring the injured, and sometimes had to defend themselves when the men were away from the garrisons. Some examples of women who fought alongside with the conquistadors were Doña Isabel de Guevara of Argentina and Doña Inez Suarez of Chile. In the households, the Spanish wife would serve as the foundation of preserving the Spanish European traditions and culture in the family. The wives would also try to maintain cultural standards such as speaking only in Spanish, sewing and embroidering in European designs and celebrating Catholicism. In modern Latin America, many middle-class and upper-class households have domesticated servants to do the house chores and sometimes take care of the kids when the parents are working. In some cases, the servants have their own small private room in the same house, so they can do the chores in a timely matter and quick access. The typical domestic servant would come from a lower-class background as similar to the past when Spain ruled the New World.

Las Castas:


Las Castas. Anonymous, 18th century, oil on canvas, 148×104 cm, Museo Nacional del Virreinato,Tepotzotlán, Mexico.
de Mena, Luis. Virgin of Guadalupe and Castas (1750) Museo de America, Madrid.

When the Spaniards started to settle to the New World, there would be a mix of people from different heritages due to the Spaniards breeding with the Native population and the African slaves. Because of this, the European colonists would call the mixed children as castas, an Iberian word meaning “lineage”. The term was commonly used in the Americas during the 17th and 18th century to identify the mixed population. In the New World, the Spanish elites created a social system of classes based on race called Las Castas. The origins of this system started in Spain after the Christians took over from the Moors and would examine the blood purity and lineage of their citizens since they did not want people to live in Latin America if they were considered tainted of Moorish or Jewish blood. The four original categories for races would be the Peninsular, Criollo/a, Indio/a, and the Negro/a. Each racial category was given a set of rights and privileges. The peninsular was a Spanish person born from Europe and they were considered the elites of the social hierarchy. Criollos and Criollas were those of Spanish blood but born in the New World. They essentially had almost the same privileges as the peninsular class but were sometimes seen as inferior to them. Indios and Indias were the Natives living in the New World and the Negros and Negras were African slaves sent for forced labor. Other common racial categories were Mestizos, Castizos, Cholos, Mulattos, and Zambos. The Mestizos were a mix of a Spanish and Indian parent, Castizos had a Spanish and Mestizo parent, Cholos were from an Indian and Mestizo parent, Mulattos descended from Spanish and African parents, and Zambos were from their Indian and African parents. There were much more combinations and categories for more complex mixes with common paintings from the 18th century usually reinforcing about 16 categories. These meticulous methods of determining the race of a person would determine their entire lifestyle and socioeconomic standing. The mindset of European superiority has been a common theme throughout the history of colonialism, even with the United States’ history of treating the natives and the African slaves poorly due to their race.

Modern Era:

The Modern Spanish Industries:

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Created by: Tim Van de velde

Despite the history of Spain’s rise and fall in wealth, power, and even in fashion dominance, Spain currently has a good share within the fashion industry with its mass retailers such as ZARA, Mango, and Desigual stores taking over in North and South America. According to the data in 2015, most of Spain’s fashion companies receives their revenue primarily from the global markets with Inditex (owner of Zara, Stradivarius, etc.) making 82.3% of their sales from international markets, MANGO earning 83%, and Desigual making 77% of sales around the world. These leading brands also display their dominant presence around the globe with Inditex having at least one store in 88 countries with 7,013 stores in total and MANGO with 2,700 stores located in 107 countries.

Zara’s Legacy:

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Zara is one of the most well-known Spanish retailers in the fashion market. The company strives to offer trendy clothing with affordable prices to their consumers. The founder, Amancio Ortega, revolutionized the fashion industry during the 1980s in terms of designing, delivering, and developing the fashion collections in a more time-efficient manner. Zara abandoned the traditional method of presenting a new collection since it was time consuming with an average time of six to nine months until another collection would be replaced. To analyze the issue, Inditex would consult with the regional managers about consumer demands and predictions and they found that about 50% of the products were relatively nearby the stores. This discovery allowed the company to manufacture and deliver the new clothing in about three to five weeks which was a drastic time-efficient change. They also decided to reduce the amount of waste by choosing fabrics in only four colors and planned to dye and print on the clothing only if it was near the factories. The result allowed Zara to design and sell 20,000 different products which is a significant increase compared to their competitors only designing around 1,000 to 2,000 products. It is both a cost and time efficient model in the fashion design industry and is applied in numerous other fashion companies currently.

References:

Pre-1492:

  1. Bass, Laura R., and Amanda Wunder. “The Veiled Ladies of the Early Modern Spanish World: Seduction and Scandal in Seville, Madrid, and Lima.” Hispanic Review, vol. 77, no. 1, Winter 2009, pp. 97–144. EBSCOhost, http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=37835327&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
  2. BBC Staff. “Religions – Islam: Muslim Spain (711-1492).” BBC Religions: Islam, BBC, 4 Sept. 2009, www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/history/spain_1.shtml.
  3. Bennett, Chris. “Gibraltar Website.” Gibraltar Website Gibraltar.gi, Gibraltar Tourism, 2006, gibraltar.gi/tourism/?language=en&category=1&item=31.
  4. Dawson, Daniel. “Women under the Law in Islamic Spain, 700s–1492.” Women under the Law in Islamic Spain, 700s–1492 – Armstrong Undergraduate Journal of History, Virginia Commonwealth University, Nov. 2015, www.armstrong.edu/history-journal/history-journal-women-under-the-law-in-islamic-spain-700s-1492.
  5. Eddegdag, Ismail. “They Cover Everything But One Eye: Meet Las Tapadas Limenas, Mysterious Muslim Women in Peru.” Mvslim, Mvslim, 29 Jan. 2017, mvslim.com/las-tapadas-limenas-mysterious-muslim-women-in-peru/.
  6. Fuchs, Barbara. Exotic Nation. University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc., 2009.
  7. Kwei, Ivon. “Origen De La Palabra ‘Chapín.’” Aprende Guatemala.com, Guatemala.com, 13 July 2017, aprende.guatemala.com/cultura-guatemalteca/general/origen-palabra-chapin/.
  8. Oatman-Stanford, Hunter. “These Chopines Weren’t Made for Walking: Precarious Platforms for Aristocratic Feet.” Collectors Weekly, Auctions Online USA, 17 Apr. 2014, www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/these-chopines-werent-made-for-walking/.
  9. Ta Neter Foundation Staff. “The ‘Moors’ of Europe.” The Moors: Moor Etymology, Moors Truth, Real Moors, Moor Origins, Moorish History, True Moors, Africans in Europe, Ta Neter Foundation, 2014, www.taneter.org/moors.html.

The Golden Age of Conquests:

  1. Brassac, Esther. History of Women’s Costumes during the Renaissance, Art Création Décoration, 4 Oct. 2013, www.art-estherbrassac.com/anglais/themes_a/cloth_r1.html.
  2. Boucher François. 20,000 Years of Fashion: The History of Costume and Personal Adornment. H.N. Abrams, 1987.
  3. de Lorenzo, Victoria. “Spanish Fashion in the Golden Age ( La Moda Española En El Siglo de Oro ), Museo de Santa Cruz, Toledo, Spain, March 26‒June 14, 2015.” Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture, vol. 20, no. 5, Nov. 2016, pp. 575–588. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/1362704X.2016.1156387.
  4. Karl, Barbra. “Early Modern European Court Fashion Goes Global: Embroidered Spanish Capes from Bengal.” Ars Orientalis, Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2017, quod.lib.umich.edu/a/ars/13441566.0047.004/–early-modern-european-court-fashion-goes-global-embroidered?rgn=main;view#N4-ptr1.
  5. Pendergast, Sara, and Tom Pendergast. Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. Edited by Sarah Hermsen, vol. 3, UXL, 2013.
  6. Steele, Valerie. Encyclopedia of Fashion And Culture. Vol. 1-3, Thomson Gale, 2005
  7. Thepaut-Cabasset, Corinne. “Dressing the New World.” Dressing the New World, Hypotheses, Jan. 2016, dressworld.hypotheses.org/.
  8. Tortora, Phyllis. “Europe and America: History of Dress (400-1900 C.E.).” LoveToKnow, LoveToKnow Corp, fashion-history.lovetoknow.com/fashion-history-eras/europe-america-history-dress-400-1900-c-e.
  9. Wunder, Amanda. “Women’s Fashions and Politics in Seventeenth-Century Spain: The Rise and Fall of the Guardainfante.” Renaissance Quarterly, vol. 68, no. 1, Spring 2015, pp. 133–186. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1086/681310.

Social Roles and Las Castas:

  1. Antolini, Paola. 1492: The Role of Women. Commission of the European Communities: Women’s Information Service, 1993.
  2. Deans-Smith, Susan. “Casta Paintings.” Not Even Past, Not Even Past Organization, 29 June 2018, notevenpast.org/casta-paintings/.
  3. Estes, Roberta. “Las Castas – Spanish Racial Classifications.” Native Heritage Project, Native Heritage Project WordPress, 15 June 2013, nativeheritageproject.com/2013/06/15/las-castas-spanish-racial-classifications/.
  4. Jelin, Elizabeth. “Migration and Labor Force Participation of Latin American Women: The Domestic Servants in the Cities.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 3, no. 1, 1977, pp. 129–141., doi:10.1086/493446.
  5. Mcewan, Bonnie G. “The Archaeology of Women in the Spanish New World.” Historical Archaeology, vol. 25, no. 4, 1991, pp. 33–41., doi:10.1007/bf03373522.
  6.  Soong, Roland. “Racial Classifications in Latin America.” Racial Classifications in Latin America, Zona Latina, 15 Aug. 1999, www.zonalatina.com/Zldata55.htm.
  7.  “World Art.” Annenberg Learner, Annenberg Learner, 2017, www.learner.org/courses/globalart/work/85/.

Modern Era:

  1. Bejarano, Leticia, et al. “Analysis of the Spanish Fashion Industry – Máster Carlos III MaDI.” Máster En Dirección Internacional De Empresas, Be International, 1 June 2017, madi.uc3m.es/en/international-research-en/markets-and-industries-en/spanish-fashion-industry/. 
  2. Steve Maiden, et al. “How Zara Turned ‘Chic Cheap’ into a Global Fashion Revolution.” Washington Post, The, 2017 Sept. 6AD. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bwh&AN=wapo.48e00a08-4a14-11e7-9669-250d0b15f83b&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Nicole Pena: Italia as Text 2019

Nicole Pena is an Honors College Student of Florida International University. She is currently obtaining a degree in Chemistry: Bachelor of Arts.

Below she uses her love of photography and knowledge from this trip to express her as Text assignments for Italia Study abroad.

Tivoli as Text

“Small Town, Vast History” by Nicole Peña of FIU at Villa Adriana in Tívoli, Italy

Views from Villa Adriana. CC by 4.0.


   Tívoli had a primary history of philosophy, sexuality, and culture. The first Villa Adriana was for philosophers and intellectuals while the second Villa D’Este explored the sexuality of Italians. After seeing these two villas, I had more of an in depth reflection with the story of Hadrian and his male lover, Antinous.

   Romans were known to have a very sexual character and used this culture for pleasure and entertainment. Hadrian had a wife at the time but found ways to have other relationships with both men and women. Having more than one partner was common and acceptable back in the Roman era.

   As understanding Roman sexuality, I can only feel that we are going backwards in America. Yes, homosexuality is becoming a more acceptable topic but still is growing in negativity. As a college student in their prime state of vulnerability and confusion, I feel that everyone is still trying to find themselves, even with sexuality. I found it incredibly interesting that Hadrian was able to have a same sex love and grew such an attachment that he even created a temple for him after his death. His wife at the time seemed to have known of this relationship and still was found to be an acceptable concept of more than one partner.

   Another concept that Tívoli takes into account, much like all Romans, was women’s body image and beauty. The Temple of Venus found in the Villa of Adriana was of a woman most likely coming out of a bath as she is in her cleanest state. The portrayal of women truly shows their thoughts of how beautiful, sexy, and pure they can be. This contradicts much of how Americans view women’s body today. As a woman, I feel the need to look at every flaw my own body has. Body image has grown to be a negative concept that has put women down, including myself. As Mother’s Day just passed, we realize how incredible our bodies are. The ability to hold and grow humans in our body is truly a miracle of life that should be cherished. Women shouldn’t dismiss the beauty of a body just because it isn’t viewed as a “perfect” body from the outside world.

Rome as Text

“79 AD” by Nicole Pena of FIU at the Colosseum: Rome, Italy

Nicole Pena photographed at the front of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy. CC by 4.0.

Who would of thought cruelty would be entertaining? I think about this question but I find that I am being a complete hypocrite. The moment of relief I get when the bad guy gets killed in every single action movie. Clearly, the thought of death is intriguing but in a bit of a different context.

The Colosseum was a place of entertainment whether it consisted of innocent or guilty people. This circular amphitheater, created by the Flavian family, was made to give back to the people. Animal sacrifices, persecutions  and gladiator fights took place here. The audience would laugh and bet as each person fell. The concept of ethnicity was definitely not familiar to the Romans. But is familiar to us now? We find entertainment in the sport of Football. The players are beaten down for a win much like a Gladiator did in order to survive.

As I walked through the Colosseum, I quickly notice the rich history and beauty of this colossal Roman structure. To even think that a structure from 79 AD is even still standing, it leaves me in awe. All I could think was if I was a Roman back then, would I have enjoyed this type of entertainment too?

“As a Gladiator” poem

As a gladiator,

I am fighting,

Looked down upon.

As a gladiator,

I am a fighter,

Look at me as I just won.

As a gladiator,

I am fighting,

Trying to get my last breath.

As a gladiator,

I am a fighter,

Trying to be my best.

 

Pompeii as Text

“What Once was” by Nicole Pena of FIU at Pompeii, Italy

Molds of human remains from Mt. Vesuvius eruption at POMPEII, Italy. CC by 4.0.

As I began walking into POMPEII, I had the instant urge to know more about the city. What was so special about this Roman city that there was enough tour groups to fill up to its entirety on a Monday?

On August 24, 79 AD, the sky of Pompeii slowly grew from blue to black. People were confused and not sure what was going on. Soon lava rocks began to fall from the sky which brought fear to the people. They began to leave their homes and whole lives behind. Others were not too lucky and stayed. Unfortunately, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius took the lives of 2,000 to 3,000 people.

The lava rocks produced a mold over time of the people and is shown throughout Pompeii. The horror of their faces and positions took me aback. I can’t believe that these humans who thought they could wait out the storm died instantly. The thought of staying truly scares as someone from Miami who chooses to wait out hurricanes.

It brought me to the broad idea: is anyone ever safe? Is our homes truly the safest place we can be? Nature is a wild thing that can affect us at any moment and time. We are constantly in a vulnerable state no matter where we are. But should we let fear rule our life? I truly believe we shouldn’t. I will always live by the motto: whatever happens, happens for a reason. With what was in Pompeii, it is now an incredible landmark.

Florence as Text

“Firenze is Women Empowerment” by Nicole Peña of FIU at Firenze, Italy

Artworks from Ufizzi Musuem. Cc by 4.0

Firenze is all about women empowerment. Whether it is mythology or not, art in Firenze praises women as sexually liberated goddesses.

In the Uffizi Museum, the Botticelli’s Birth of Venus is primarily known for praising Venus and all of her glory, especially in a nude state. Botticelli incorporated the background of waves that look like semen and erecting trees to enforce sexuality as well. The completion of Venus truly brought women a new view on sexuality and how it can be portrayed as good.

In Botticelli’s Primavera, the season of spring brought fertility and sexuality to the whole painting. This classical imagery allowed for a narrative to occur with openness to interpretation. Venus was also portrayed in this painting having sex with Mercury. Both paintings connect well with women empowerment and how sexuality is used in a good way.

Another painting with Venus by Titian is displayed in the Uffizi. Venus is shown as pleasing herself in a normal and casual way. Other people in the background are casually doing their own chores while Venus is in this act of masturbation. I found this painting extremely empowering for women because she is able to do what pleases her without the judgement of others. I find being sexuality liberated in today’s world is difficult.

In Artemisia’s Judith Slaying Holofernes painting, two women are chopping off a guys’ head. If that doesn’t scream out to you that women are strong, then I don’t know what does! Although back then women were oppressed of their sexuality and free expression, those few paintings that were saved have been truly influential to Firenze’s view on women. The fact that a woman’s painting is displayed in this museum portrays how now we are praising women and their ability to bring such anger and power into a painting.

While I do know that Firenze was created by the Medici family, who were primarily influential men in the Tuscan area, they used their office to bring in all these artworks to show their high status. By doing so, they definitely liberated the sexuality of women. Although it’s only a few paintings, the strength behind them has allowed women empowerment to grow and structure itself to what it is today.

Pisa as Text

“Miracles or meant to be” by Nicole Peña of FIU at Pisa, Italy

Photo of the ceiling in Pisa Cathedral. CC by 4.0.

The Medieval era is something I AM NOT used to and I can honestly say it is not my favorite. It totally contradicts all my beliefs as a Catholic. Since I was very young, I have learned that God is our Savior and is reliable. He is loving and will always be there during times of need.

Walking through a Pisan Romanesque church for the first time, I quickly noticed the simple bricks and large columns. All were placed in a certain way to make the building seem longer than it really is. The Medici family donated the gold ceiling as well, which brought an extravagance Baroque theme to the Gothic cathedral.

Once I reached the altar, my eyes were directed straight to the God looking down on me. I felt inferior to someone that I have looked up to in Glory all my life. As Machiavelli once said, “it is better to be feared than loved”; the Gothic era definitely portrayed that. Right next to the feared God, there was a Renaissance painting of Him. I quickly distinguished the difference between the two. The Gothic God was intimidating while the Renaissance God shines bright with open arms. Which God would have been followed more?

The theme of Gothic Romanesque moved through the Cathedral and to the Baptistry that was from the 1200s. The same architectural structure followed through this dome but the aspects of renaissance related to a small yet reflective moment. One of the workers did a short singing performance which gave me chills as his voice prolonged through the striped walls and columns, reaching to the heavens and bringing a great connection with earth.

A true miracle that is standing in the same field is the tower of Pisa. How it is still standing today is beyond me. This circular bell tower was definitely a new concept as other bell towers were structured with four corners. This tower was used for scientific and mathematical advancements, such as Galileo testing weight and Fibonacci understanding mathematical sequences.

There is a great connection between all of these three structures: miracles. The baptistry, cathedral, and bell tower are all not standing up completely straight due to the unsteady soil. It makes complete sense as to why the place I was standing in was called the field of miracles.

“YOU ARE A DREAM, CINQUE TERRE” by Nicole Peña of FIU at Cinque Terre, Italy

Views from the UNESCO hike. CC by 4.0.

Since the moment we got here in Cinque Terre, I have fallen in love. The blues from the Mediterranean Sea and the colorful buildings all brought a uniqueness and ease to the area. During this whole study abroad, I was most excited for this beautiful coast of Cinque terre which means in Italian “five lands.” The day of the hike was when we explored those five towns that lie between the mountains and the sea. The extreme contrast between blues, pinks, yellows, etc… in the buildings brought contrast to other Italian cities on the coast.

First, the hike to get in between each town was a BIT brutal, but definitely rewarding. The UNESCO world heritage hike has trails that haven’t been worked on for centuries. It is protected by UNESCO to keep the original trail that the donkeys and Romans used to walk on. The steep hills and uneven steps continuously tested my ability to complete the hike. The scenery of the sea and the nature definitely allowed for a time to reflect.

The food in Cinque Terre with its fresh fruits and seafood was to die for. In Vernazza, the fisherman town we stopped at in our hike, had the smell of savory seafood filled in the air! Lemons were also another delicacy of Cinque Terre. It was great to mix, the two: land and sea. Cinque Terre is also known for their white wine. I did not believe how fresh the wine was up until we hiked through the wineries, especially when we were leaving the town Corniglia. There was a moment where the hiking trail consisted of beautiful terraces with grape vines. Since the wineries covers down almost the whole mountain, the barrel system that is used is extremely efficient

The fresh food and wine in Cinque Terre helped me realize how terrible our food production is in America.If we grew our own products without hormones, it may cut down in food supply but will allow for a healthier population. I truly believe we need to change our produce system to prevent diseases, especially since we are the number one country for obesity. America should attempt to have a system where our lifestyles could best resemble that of the Italians, where food is less processed and health is more easily attainable.

 Venezia as Text

Photographed Nicole Pena. CC by 4.0

“See you soon Italy” by Nicole Peña of FIU at Venezia, Italy

Venezia was on a whole new and different level from what we had previously seen on this trip. The uniqueness of this city brought cultural diversity to the Venetian Lagoon. The narrow alleyways and constant blue canals that we bumped into at every turn truly embody Venezia and its beauty. The twisting of the streets made it easy to get lost in this endless city. 

This city was built on only small islands of sand in order for the Venetians on the mainland to protect themselves from the Barbarians. This idea of building from the water with pine trees, sand, and Istrian stone led to the flourishment of what we call Venezia today. Trade is immensely significant as Venezia connects the East and West. Whether it be pigments, spices, or other products, it produces constant revenue and allows for capitalism to occur. 

A huge tourist trap has to be the gondola rides. With its black sleek exterior, which was created by noblemen who wanted to conform to their society, gondolas have attracted over 60,000 tourists that arrive everyday by its popularity. As seen in movies and television, the romance definitely was nice to feel in the air as couples were seen constantly riding the gondolas. This attraction has been known as a symbol for Venice and its romanticized aspect. 

The Piazza of San Marco stood out to be the best Piazza we saw during the trip. With its extravagant structure, it was the first spot to get filled up every morning by tourists. The consistent history portrayed in this piazza, especially with Saint Mark and Casanova, brought many to the basilica and Florian Caffe. Seeing Saint Mark’s basilica was an impactful moment for me. The Romanesque columns, Islamic dome, Gothic spires, and renaissance statues were extremely overwhelming, but beautifully done. The diversity used in the architecture and artwork showed Venice’s great connection with the rest of the world. A huge concept of wealth is also shown through all its cultural diversity. The basilica literally screamed out to me “WE ARE POWERFUL” as they were able to mix all of these cultures together. 

Clearly, Venice has a great system to be able to attract more tourists than there are residents. In my opinion, Venice is a beautiful city and may have been the best we saw. It reminded me much of home, especially with the trip coming to an end and how homesick I had become. It’s time to go back to reality. It’s not a goodbye, but a see you soon Italy. 

Mozelle Garcia: Italia as Text 2019

Tivoli As Text

The Foreigner

Mozelle Garcia of FIU at Tivoli Italia, Instagram @mozelleg99

I hear the birds on the summer breeze, picturing a life of leisure and ease

philosophy by day, debauchery at night 

who could possibly stop me? my soldiers win every fight.

But judge me they may, judge me they do;

those pesky native Romans, the ones who 

do not dare to see beyond their gleaming white city,

do not care to accept those from different places.

Even if for them I’ve battled and gotten my hands dirty,

a Spaniard like me could never have their good graces.

So here I’ll live, here I’ll stay

In my brilliant villa far away.

Where I can read on my own and narrow my guests to

those who love the same pleasures that I do.

Exercise and bathing,

fishing and star-gazing.

And a view from atop the hill

where I can see the city which I must visit,

take my place for which many would kill.

Being Emperor of Rome won’t be all bad, will it? 

The issue of a leader not being accepted by much of his or her people has not gone away in civilized society. We need only look to the many Americans who continued to question President Barack Obama’s birthplace even after proof of his natural born status was publicized, and of course how many people were doubtful of his competency because of his race. With this they allowed their prejudices to impede them from forming opinions that were actually based on the quality of his leadership. 

The Big Ideas

Hadrian ruled after Trajan, during the “Pax Romana,” a period of peace which lasted 200 years. During this time Roman citizenship was granted to more and more people, increasing opportunities for trade and the connectedness of the empire as a whole. Instead of making new conquests, Hadrian toured the empire and learned from the different cultures within it. This can be seen by the various different architectural styles that made up his villa in Tivoli. While Hadrian may have had his flaws, his place of birth should not have been used to drive him away from the people he meant to rule over. Still, the result of that was a gorgeous and unique residence with features that exemplify the best of ancient Roman utilities. After having the opportunity to tour the villa, who can complain?

 

Rome as Text

Nothing Gold Can Stay – Colosseum

Mozelle Garcia of FIU at Rome Italia, Instagram @mozelleg99

Knowledge of works like the Flavian Amphitheater, called “Colosseum” by the public who associated it with a colossal sculpture that used to be just outside of it, has fluctuated through history. The Romans in 79 CE certainly knew where it came from and what it was for – the Emperors Vespasian and Titus wanted to give back to the people part of the pleasures which the overly lavish Emperor Nero had reserved for himself. The Colosseum was a place where Roman citizens could gather to watch gory spectacles. Wild animals tearing at each other, feral with fear and goaded on by the roar of 50,000 or more people stomping, clapping, shouting. Men would be thrown to the animals too, condemned prisoners with nothing left but the right to die. Not to be forgotten are the Gladiators, not quite like the modern celebrities of today who are idolized for their artistic pursuits, rather they were more like the animals, made famous by their actions when they were cornered with no choice but to fight. And fight they did; battles that ended with blood soaking into the sand of the arena.

And suddenly there I was, the only battle raging  seemingly a fight for a space to take pictures. Many people visit wonders like this just to check them off a list, but while at the Colosseum I had a battle within myself to see past the magnificence of the architecture and rather consider the price it cost. To capture this I chose a picture from outside the Colosseum, taken from high up in the Roman forum where one can see that I wear a bronze ring bought in the gift shop. It shines in the sun, like I imagine the real thing once did when it was covered with polished white marble. This visit was one of the first excursions of our entire trip, and so with this ring I will carry the Colosseum with me everywhere we go. It’s metallic glaze has already begun to rub off, staining my hands dark green with tarnish. It’s transformation reflects that of the real thing perfectly, as the words of Robert Frost prove true once again; nothing gold can stay.

The ring will be a reminder of the roots of all Rome, a place built on war and conquest, run by political masterminds who transformed the republic into an empire. They did this by distracting the public from the real problems by providing something cool to look at. We can call them masterminds, because their goals are still accomplished today. Witnessing the Colosseum is overpowering, and it is what many people imagine when they think of Rome. It gives the people today the impression that the Romans likely would have wanted it to give, that they were a powerful and advanced people capable of great feats. But it’s our job to remember that everything is not always what it seems, and that’s the mindset we must have even when contemplating less famous works moving on. 

Pompeii As Text

WITH A WHIMPER

Mozelle Garcia of FIU at Pompeii Italia, Instagram @mozelleg99F7AF3E86-8CA0-464B-9E22-DADB7577DA04

This is how the world ends. Not with a bang, but with a whimper – T.S. Eliot.  

When people think of a volcano they think of lava flowing, rampant and out of control, burning the trees and covering the earth in hard new rock. But it wasn’t like that in Pompeii. The eruption there was not sudden, but slow and deceptive. Everyone pictures volcanoes exploding with a bang, but in Pompeii the estimated 2,000 people who stayed behind as the rocks rained from the grey sky were killed in a much slower way. The most striking image in my exploration of Pompeii was that of the ancient man who sat down and tried to cover his face as the fumes cut off his breathing forever. Or perhaps he prayed in vain, wondering what he and his people had done to offend Vulcan, the Roman god of volcanoes, but then again most of them hadn’t even known that Mt. Vesuvius held that heated fury within it before it was too late. I imagine that the people felt the effects of the fumes before they hit fully – giving them just enough time to know they messed up by staying, just enough time to panic and feel the fear. They perished not with a bang, but with a whimper.

It was hard walking through Pompeii and seeing all of the places people used to live. Seeing animals and little children frozen in time was one of the hardest parts as well – they had no choice but to stay. We look at Pompeii and we can appreciate the historical value of the perfectly preserved city, with the paintings and mosaics of many houses and villas intact, and the evidence of the civilized society rampant in all the fast food places and chariot traffic regulations. At the same time we sympathize with the dead, but we cannot speak badly on their behalf when really, we haven’t gotten much better. It’s so easy to see people’s mistakes in retrospect. Every time a disaster occurs today people come out with claims of what they would’ve done differently. But it’s no help after the fact.

The decimation at Pompeii occurred 1,940 years ago, and we’ve come a long way since then, like how we can monitor seismic activity and offer faster transportation. Still, that doesn’t change the fact many people today can try as much as they like to be proactive with natural disasters, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. 14 years ago Hurricane Katrina ravaged all of New Orleans and it was the low income individuals with no place to go and no possibility of finding another future if they left their only properties and possessions behind, that suffered the most. The city is still not fully rebuilt. Pompeii was forgotten through the years after it was destroyed, only the records of Pliny the Younger who saw the destruction himself can help us to know what happened. The same thing occurs in developed countries all the time where the media will cover an event nonstop until the next one comes along, no one pays any more mind, but the issues persist there. I think that the history of Pompeii should serve as a lesson to the people today of the importance of taking the wrath of nature seriously, but also of having sympathy for victims with no control, and enough compassion to follow up and be certain that no city is forgotten. We can do better than that.

Firenze As Text

THE HALL OF WOMEN vs THE DAVID

Mozelle Garcia of FIU at Firenze Italia – Uffizi Gallery, Instagram @mozelleg99
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The David is praised and singled out for the distinct and immaculate way that it captures humanity. The tension of the young man’s body and the look of doubt in his eyes in combination with the aura of confidence and bravery that exudes from him all the same and makes the viewer appreciate their own humanity and potential. What could be more impressive than the David? Brunelleschi’s Dome? Giotto’s tower? Well, impressive is a relative term, and so is impactful, but from my experience the hall adjacent to the gallery leading up to the David was more impactful than the David himself. I explored this wing alone after sifting through the trinkets in the gift shop, somewhat bored and not expecting to be moved so much once again farted having seen the David for the first time. This wing contained rows and rows of sculptures and busts of mostly women, along with children and animals. I had not seen anything like this in all of my time traveling through Italy. Most were nameless, made by unknown artists most likely for familial commissions. But as unimpressive as these marble and plaster sculptures – most of them partially reconstructed – may be by themselves, all together they made me feel like I was walking through a happier side of history. The David celebrates courage and masculinity. All it takes is one gigantic 17 foot sculpture made by the renaissance master Michelangelo in the early 1500s to overpower one’s senses, but the hall will all the women overpowered me in a different way. It just made me happy and relieved in a way to see that some fraction of ancient art was devoted to the everyday women, not even necessarily deities. While the David is undeniably humanistic and empathetic I can’t quite call him warm, not in the way that the women in this hall are. A picture can’t capture the feeling of walking through and seeing all of the hairstyles and expressions of maternity and gentle in interacting with children and dogs. The hall of women easily emits warmth. I feel that it is important to represent historic moments and religious stories in art, but the purity of celebrating everyday moments brings a different sense of peace and inspiration to me. The final sentiment that I had when leaving the little gallery and glimpsing the David again was that perhaps one man may be very strong, but while one woman can do the same, many women coming together can do even more.  

Pisa as Text

Calls to Heaven

Mozelle Garcia of FIU at Pisa, Italia. Instagram @mozelleg99
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Quite often throughout our study abroad journey we have been truly surprised. Our calendar and syllabus only reveal so much, but in the moment when we are finally experiencing the things that our grand tour has built up to, there are always amazing details to blow us away. The demonstration of the acoustics inside of the Pisa Baptistery of St John was one of the most pleasant surprises of its kind. A unique architectural style termed Pisan-Romanesque – for the Romanesque influences are apparent in the heavyset structure and the simplicity of the colors and designs – the Baptistry connects to the gentler side of Heaven in what is personally my favorite way.

The dome in this Baptistry from 1363 is nothing to boast of, and the oculus isn’t even open, but nonetheless it is full of light, and with a single call for silence and a few moments of vocalisations a simple guard turned the bland space into a capsule for the voices of the heavens. I loved this feature of the Baptistry so intensely because I think it highlights how beauty is not only present in a visual sense, but through other medeis as well. In the digital age we live in, pictures are taken, crafted, shared, picked apart until they emulate perfection in the eyes of their creator. But just looking at pictures can’t compare to witnessing the total beauty of a place which in my opinion should account for sounds, smells, even the temperature of the air within it. The emphasis on sound within this Baptistry shows that the Pisan people were more interested in their connection with God than with opulent beauty on earth. I think that learning of places like this can help people to realize that there are more ways of connecting to spirituality, to other people, and to feelings in general than just through visual media. It’s no wonder that the Baptistry is located in the Piazza dei Miracoli (the Plaza of Miracles), it doesn’t get as much love as the famous leaning bell tower, but from my experience it has even more heart. 

Cinque Terre as Text

A Place For Reflection

Mozelle Garcia of FIU at Cinque Terre, Italia Instagram @mozelleg990547B95F-CDDC-45C2-B180-B664B414C40E.jpeg

As a member of generation Z, I naturally am influence by the trends and stereotypes of young people’s intimacy with technology. The prospect of hiking for 18 miles and nearly 8 hours seemed rather daunting to me before I had to opportunity to embark on the journey. These days, people can’t be bored at all. They don’t know how to deal with it. They desire content stimulation of the mind, or at least what passes as stimulation. A lot of it is oftentimes really just a simulation, as one treks mountains and explores ancient cities through a digital screen. When these coastal towns were built, some during the Ancient Roman era, the people never expected it to grow to the desirable tourist destination it is today. Their trails were functional, not scenic. That part came as a bonus, possible because of the natural beauty and wonders present in the landscapes of Liguria, the region of Italia where Cinque Terre is located. To be honest, I was tempted to fill the silence with some music such as Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” to keep me going through the endless expanses of stairs and steps along the way. (I also assigned the same title to the stairway pictured above as it lead right to a gorgeous panoramic view of the sea and of Manarola). I held back from listening to music however, electing to remain alert in case there was an issue along the trail.

We were told that Cinque Terre was a place for reflection, but at the times I was not slowing down or stopping to take a photo I was staring at my worn down sneakers and  trying very hard not to fall off the side of the trail to my certain doom. I didn’t quite reflect on my life or my decisions, but rather focused on on the challenge before me, “just get to the end and think about it later” was the mentality. Perhaps that’s a good thing, as I imagine it was the one that the ancient people had when traveling from town to town in such a laborious manner. We are so used to convenience today that we can’t be bored and we can’t enjoy the simple things in life  because we don’t know how to face them. I certainly tried; I kept a slower pace, smelling flowers and taking useless photographs. They’re useless because they could never capture the real scenery with all its depth, it’s perfection in color tones and imperfections in power lines and fleeing figures intruding on the scene. We were told that Cinque Terre was a place where we should reflect. The peace of the mountain sanctuary, with the warm atmosphere stomping out the cold air, helped me to do just that after our long hike, and so I saw how I can change to live more for the moment rather than to pass the time.  

Venezia As Text

The Flower in Adveristy

Mozelle Garcia of FIU at Venezia, Italia. Instagram @mozelleg99

“The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all”
It was not a great poet who said that, this quote actually comes from a Disney Movie of all places. They are the words spoken by the Emperor of China in the film “Mulan,” and they were the words that came to mind on several occasions during my time in Venice, as no volume of incidences could take away my wonder when I would see little flowers blooming in the most improbable places.

I’m no scientist or biologist, so I can’t know the technicalities of it all, but to me it’s amazing and beautiful how a seed can end up in a place as remote as a pillar above the Bridge of Sighs and find the means to grow into a flower. I don’t have a picture, but try and imagine it; an open window leaving the courtroom in the Doge’s palace, a view of the bridge from very close, and to the left on a rooftop above, a little flower. It was a beautiful moment, enough for even a picture-happy Generation-Z like me to forget to whip out her phone. But you know, there were flowers like that blooming all around the city, and in the cells of the prisoners there was no exception. I was very struck by the art on display in one of the ancient jail cells now open to the public. Many of the prisoners drew women – what they missed in jail I suppose – but one prisoner, well, they doodled the same basic little flower that adorns the margins of every schoolgirl’s notebook.

I don’t know exactly why it struck me so. Without being educated about history, we feel a bit disconnected from the people in the past. It was during the Grand Tour that I learned for the first time that while society’s practices and the way we do things with the aid of technology may evolve, people are largely the same, with the same talents, interests, concerns, etc. I think that this doodle on the prison wall captures that well. It captures feeling trapped, longing to see green, or maybe just passing the time. Just like a schoolgirl with her notebook. All over Venice is evidence of the shared humanity we have with the people of the past. I believe that it is only right to have felt more connected with the city  than any other as this was our final destination on the Grand Tour.

Venice may not have as much in the way of churches and historical wonders as other places I’ve been, but the lack of automotive traffic or modernized constructions along with the romantic, almost mystical energy that fills the city as the night falls and the tourists ship off altogether provided a feeling of authenticity surpassing all others. Looking at the past as if it were disconnected from the present is a mistake that is made all too often. Perhaps it is that we are used to seeing movies that tell legends of the past, and at the end of them always remind ourselves that they aren’t real. While much of the history we say may be fictionalized or exaggerated, it is important to never forget that the stories come from true events and involve real people with real emotions.

Going through the prison cells was an odd experience. One thinks that surely the people kept in here were for the most part criminals that had done bad things, but the conditions in which they were kept, and the distinct justice system under which they were prosecuted left me feeling like it may all have been far too harsh. The ancient world may have been harder, but that doesn’t mean that people were innately stronger. I feel that it is important to keep in mind the perspective of the oppressed, of the peasant, and even of the prisoner as we explore great ancient cities like these where the wealthy and the poor lived as neighbors but yet in different worlds. Venice itself was relatively good about that, making all nobles wear black and have black gondolas, for example, in order to prevent them from flaunting their wealth. But still, it is important to once again see the similarities in people then and today and to learn about the importance of these kinds of cautions, and of preventing disparities that border on the unjust from being so rampant.

 

Julia Cavati de Abreu: Italia as Text 2019

Tivoli as Text

The way they lived

The catholic church believes that people should focus on the next life, not on this one. This mentality extends from the way of living to the works of art. But the villa of the church cardinal Ippolito II d’Este challenges this idea. The beautiful gardens are fully devoted to earthly pleasures, with its monumental fountains calling people to enjoy this life, with no reminders anywhere of the next life.

The gardens themselves are gorgeous, begging the person to stay and appreciate, but the man behind them poses interesting questions about religion. For years the catholic church taught its believers to focus on the next life, while the members of the church themselves did the opposite, amassing wealth and power. Villa d’Este is a grandiose reminder that the church members are just as human and just as flawed as anyone else, despite being seen as examples to be followed. Therefore, no matter what one’s faith is, a person should never accept what is told to them by officials of their religion as the pure truth without considering what they believe, and what the churches motives might be. Questioning institutionalized religion is essential for members of the faith, so they can better understand their religion, see when they or others are being manipulated, and also become more tolerant of people with different faiths. After all, every religion has its flaws, its dirty secrets, and its complications. Accepting one’s religions own faults will allow people to see behind other religions flaws, and hopefully lead to a more accepting future.

Rome as Text

Time Changes

A temple to all gods. That was the ideal of the Pantheon when it was built. A temple to one God. This is the current ideal of the temple. The Romans were polytheists, and had multiple temples dedicated to multiple gods. This gods were borrowed from the greeks, purely roman, or even deified roman leaders. By building a temple for multiple gods, with the spaces reserved for the god icons having the same size, the romans showed their respect for all the beliefs that existed in the empire.

After Rome fell, and christianity became the ruling religion, the pantheon was repurposed as a christian church. Many churches were built where old roman temples were. Unlike the Romans, christians believed in only one God, and are not accepting of religions which claim otherwise. Having different beliefs than those of the church lead to harsh punishment, and the accepting nature of the romans was lost. There is also the questions of appropriation. Due to a lack of respect for any religions other than their own, christians destroyed many pagan temples and their sculptures. But they also preserved a lot by making it their own. Christian churches have columns that belonged to roman temples, and have a similar shape to those of roman basilicas. By appropriating those aspects of roman culture as their own, the christians saved many structures which we now are able to appreciate, to the cost of destroying their history. The pantheon is a great example of that: the temple that was supposed to be dedicated to eight gods equally became dedicated to only one. Thanks to that, we can appreciate it in all of its beauty and grandeur, but stripped of its original gods. And, most importantly, stripped of its original meaning of acceptance and inclusion. As I walked into the pantheon, I felt overwhelmed. I could barely believe that it existed, in all its splendor, for over 2000 years. It served to show that despite of the different beliefs and the complications along the way, the essence of the pantheon was still there: a place of spirituality, to connect with your god, to worship.

Pompeii as Text

Ashes to ashes

Thousands of people stared at the sky on the year 79 AD, from the roman city of Pompeii. They stared as the Vesuvius erupted, projecting  a column of smoke into the air. They watched as the ashes started to fall. Many fled, but a couple thousand stayed, being burned to death by the heat from the eruption, or suffocated by the noxious fumes. They were covered by the ashes, forgotten for almost 2000 years, erased by the volcano. But their tragedy became a great source of our knowledge of Ancient Rome. The city of Pompeii, and its inhabitants, were frozen in time, their buildings and objects left behind as it was in the first century. This led to a greater understanding of their daily lives.

What fascinated me the most when visiting the city is how real Ancient Rome became as I walked down their streets, and how similar they are to us. The restaurant outside the gym, where romans could get what would be their equivalent of fast food, shows how we are all still human. We only hear the stories of the lives of the great, hardly ever of the common men. We hear of the battles and the victories, of the gods, of the architectural displays of power we can still see in Rome, such as the Colosseum. Seeing how they lived, walking the streets they walked, visiting their private houses gave me a better sense of what being a Roman was than I could ever get from history books or documentaries. Seeing how they lived made it much more difficult to see how they died. The figures made from the empty spaces in the rock capture the inhabitants of Pompeii in their last moment of life. Adults cover their children, people attempt to protect their faces somehow, perhaps afraid of death. Then and now, we are the same, from the way we live to the way we die, we are human. Seeing the humanity of the Ancient Romans makes Pompeii so special. Besides, natural disasters can happen anywhere, and the modern world is still young. Who knows if 2000 years in the future we won’t be buried in ashes ?

Firenze as Text

Ends or Means?

It is impossible to speak of the Renaissance without mentioning the family which funded it in Florence: The Medici. Originally a banking family, they accumulated increasing wealth and power through corrupt methods. Despite of how they operated, they were crucial in the art and architecture from Florence in the 15th and 16th century. From a distance, the valley of Florence is dominated by a single structure, Brunelleschi’s dome. Brunelleschi himself was supported by Cosimo the Father. Michelangelo was supported by Lorenzo de Medici at an early age, before he went to create some of the most spectacular works of art in history. The Birth of Venus, by Botticelli, that brought back female sexuality to paintings was commissioned by the Medici. Walking through Florence, seeing the Uffizi gallery and the Medici chapel, seeing all the fantastic artwork that exists because of the Medici, and seeing their coat of arms everywhere inspires admiration for how they changed art and architecture. But seeing those things now, out of their original context, softens the reality. Much of what we now see as their legacy was created as demonstrations of power and wealth. They were extremely corrupt, and infected both Florentian politics and the catholic church with their corruption. Knowing all the facts, I have to wonder if the ends justify the means. It is accepted now that the Medici were a great family, and that their contribution to the Renaissance is crucial for its development. But if they ruled in the current era, would they be accepted. It begs the question of what people want from their rulers. Honesty or greatness. It is possible to have both, but can having one distract from the lack of the other? If an American president proved to be corrupt, but an excellent ruler who greatly advanced the country, would we accept it? As an outside observer, from a different culture and a different era, I cannot help but appreciate all that the Medici have done for Florence. This is their city, and you are reminded of that everywhere you go. But I would not accept a Medici in power nowadays, and I believe most people would agree. The times have changed, so did politics. And so should people. Considering the way leaders of the past ruled, and comparing them to the ideals of a leader is the best way to choose a ruler.

Siena as Text

The Greatness of Us

The greatness of God is beyond human comprehension. To us, it would be overwhelming. Overwhelmed. That is how I felt as I walked into the Siena cathedral. Built in the gothic era, it has the same purpose as the grandiose baroque churches, which is to reflect the greatness of God on earth, but with a rather different method. The later churches achieve this goal by opulence, which also served to demonstrate the power and wealth of the catholic church. In Siena, the goal is achieved by excess and mixtures. There is no organization in the church decorations, different eras clash and combine to form something authentic, only seen in the city. Siena prides themselves in their authenticity. From maintaining ancient traditions such as the palio to having a civic tower almost as high as the church bell tower, Siena shows that they are their own city, not the city of the Medici or the Pope, but the city of Siena. This pride is reflected in the church. One of the mosaics on the church floor depicts a battle against Florence, which Siena won. The flag mast that the Siena army stole from Florence during battle stands in the church, a war relic in the temple of God. This apparent contradiction serves to further show the city pride. Even in church, they have reminders of who they are. The war imagery and relics could have seemed out of place in another church, but not here. Everything seems out of place, a collage of different ideas and styles, accumulated throughout the years, which completely overwhelmed me. The church shows not only the greatness of God, but the greatness of humans, who built churches and won battles. The mixture between secular and divine in Siena is unique to the churches that we visited. They are aware that religion depends on people. People are the ones who build temples, give money, and dedicate time to the church. By adding to the cathedral imagery and objects which appeal to the pride of the people of Siena, the church becomes stronger. And absolutely dazzling.

Cinque Terre as Text

Time Tunnel

A magic train travel lands me in Monterosso. The train crosses through mountains and through time. After long minutes in darkness, with the earth above us, the tunnel ends, and the ocean sprawls infinite below. Cinque Terre seems suspended in a remote past, immune to modernity. An Unesco site, its quaint beauty is preserved, with no modern buildings to be seen. The five cities are tourist traps, but they still stay as they were before the influx of outsiders. And that is what makes them so fantastical. A place like no other I have seen so far, walking through Cinque Terre feels like reversing time, walking through this small cities as they were many years ago. The Cinque Terre trail connects the cities. It cuts through unadulterated nature, which is so difficult to find nowadays. It cuts through the terraces, which is the way locals found to have agriculture in the mountains, and where the grapes and lemons they are famous for are grown. It cuts through the cities themselves, increasingly smaller as we move along. As I walked through the trail, I was amazed at the beauty of it all. The colorful houses, the mountains, the terraces, the sea. I am a city girl. I love the modern world, with its skyscrapers, cars, air conditioning, internet, and all commodities imagined. But how many places, known for their natural beauty, are being transformed into a concrete jungle? Beautiful beaches have a coastline of high-rises, that stand in the way of the sun. Cinque Terre is so special because they resisted this. They resisted the money and added tourism they could have, and instead remained true to themselves, to their roots. And it is only more beautiful because of that. The five cities show the importance of remaining loyal to your truth, no matter if  a city or a person, it can only make you more special.

Venice as Text

beauty, Out of necessity

Out of necessity, a group of people created what would be one of the most fascinating and beautiful cities in the world. Venice stands on water and small patches of land, a seeming impossibility brought to life. Walking through Venice, I was amazed by how unique the city is, with canals in place of roads and boats in place of cars. The city seems to be a living creature, it has movement, due to the slanted nature of its constructions and the gentle sway of the ever present water. I could not understand how people could look at what appeared to be unlivable small islands and transform it into a powerful city. The early Venetians moved there to escaped the Barbarians. They did build Venice solely to preserve their safety and well being. Out of sheer necessity they built an impossible city, the only of its kind in the world. Their uniqueness also prove to be their power, as Venice ruled the seas for centuries during the middle ages. The story of Venice shows us that sometimes, difficulties can be the greatest motivators. The early Venetians could have given up, and accepted being raided by the Barbarians yearly, but instead they used their fear and hope for a peaceful life as a reason to do what seemed impossible, and build a city in the water.  When visiting Venice, it is important to appreciate its beauty, but also to reflect on the resilience of its people, and perhaps, to leave the city feeling inspired to turn adversities into victories.

Danielle Rodriguez: Italia as Text 2019

Tivoli as Text

Danielle Rodiguez of FIU at Tivoli

The town of Tivoli is by far my favorite place that the class has been to together by far. I am a huge nature lover and the outdoors is what really connects me with the world. As I have expressed before, history is extremely important and something everyone needs to know but walking through this Valley called the Valle of Gregoriana gave me a feeling of happiness and excitement. Although it was tough to hike down and up and around it is something I felt fortunate to do. We don’t see any of this beauty back home and so it was just so magical I even said, “This is so fricken awesome.” Once I got to the ground. I was so excited to keep going and discovering new things. As we got lower and saw the waterfall, the water would then go down into a black hole that many people have died in and were never found and that is why it has the nickname “The Valley of Hell.” Climbing into the caves was also something that I have always wanted to do. Right when professor Bailly asked if we wanted to go into it I was the first person behind him trying to keep my tears back because it was just so beautiful. It is so hard to put into words the feeling i felt that day but it is definitely something i will never forget and if I come back to Italy this will be a spot I come to no doubt. The next few weeks will be hard to beat this day and feeling.

In 105 BC they discovered that a major flood happened and wiped away dozens of houses, including the Villa Of Manilus Vopiscu. Then, from this day on they realized that floods were happening often and this would kill many people and cause great damage. Then again a major point in history was 1826 when the water was so high it destroyed the banks and left a major part of the town underwater. Then when Pope Gregory XVI was elected he decided to create a dam and during his power it was completed.

Rome as Text

Danielle Rodriguez of FIU at Rome

Rome has been such a dream. The beautiful pictures and places that my grandma would always show me has finally came true. It’s a place more beautiful than I imagined it to be. Somewhere where people should visit at least once in a life time. It’s filled with such beauty, faith, and history.

One of the things that stood out to me the most and I would say made me emotional was the Escala Santa. These steps have not been open to the public for about 300 years and to see the amount of people go and express their faith was amazing to me. As we climbed up on our knees and touched the spots that supposedly jesus’ blood dropped it was such a sense of hope. It gave me chills.

Another amazing place was Appia Antica. To me like I’ve mentioned previously, outdoor activities are my favorite. The fact that it’s the oldest road/highway in Rome really made me have a big WOW moment. The church that we visited called “Domine Quo Vadis” was beautiful. It’s pretty much when Catholicism started and Peter decided not to be a coward anymore. The feet of Jesus was something that was so incredible to me as well. Also, the catacombs was something I had never seen before! To be able to see where these Martyrs died and all the different levels of tombs was incredible. Rome is definitely somewhere I need to bring my family to.

Pompeii as Text

Danielle Rodriguez of FIU at Pompeii

The trip to Pompeii was very exciting. We got up early and spent three hours on the bus to get there. Once we got there we saw all these ruins that had been covered in ash by Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. I thought it was extremely smart since they did not have light to put white stones in the ground called Cat Eyes so it can reflect and they can have a way to see. As we were walking I noticed these stone bar-like tables that were used for little fast food spots and that was genius to me. Pompeii had about 130 restaurants and 40 bakeries. What I enjoyed most was learning how they discovered the bodies in 1748. Everything was forgotten for about 1500 years until excavation workers discovered the bodies. They would pour plaster on it and then they found the bodies in the exact positions they were in when burned away. The Garden of the Fugitives was impressive. How they found all those bodies and preserved them. It was very emotional seeing family members hold onto each other in their last breaths. Another thing that stuck to me was the oldest surviving Roman amphitheater. The painting from The Villa of the Mysteries was something that is greatly appreciated from all around the world. It expressed female sexuality and it really stands out for how naturalistic it is. I personally think Pompeii is somewhere that is needed to visit, but I do not think that I connected to it as much as I would’ve liked to or that I connected to it as much as other places.

Pisa as Text

Daniell Rodriguez of FIU at Pisa

Who would’ve ever thought that a mistake would attract so many people? The leaning Tower of Pisa is a bell tower that is unique in its own way because of its circular structure. The tower tilted due to the moisture in the soil that made it start leaning. In order to prevent it from falling they needed to add lead in order to keep it stable. An interesting fact is that Galileo himself stood up at the exact spot I did in the 1600s to test if the velocity is independent of mass. But he was not successful because he did not take into consideration the wind. Something I thought was very different was when I walked into the baptistery and everything was plain. There was no art and no color. It is not necessarily my favorite but it was something different I won’t forget. It was called Pisan Romanesque.  What really stuck out to me was when the guard walked into the baptistery and started singing and the beautiful voice prolonged all throughout the baptistery that gave me chills. This represented our connection to God from Earth. From the baptistery we walked over to the Cathedral and it immediately caught my eye. A fact I’ll never forget is the chandelier that is hanging as you walk in that Galileo used to figure out the formula for the Law of Pendulum. In the church, we saw Saint Raineri in his casket with a clear glass. It showed him covered in a hair shirt which represents continuous discomfort so that one forgets about the body and focuses on the soul. They then reconstructed his face and made a mask so that people ignore the body and nurture the soul. I definitely learned a lot in the city of Pisa and am happy to have had the opportunity to have this experience that I will never forget.

Florence as Text

Danielle Rodriguez of FIU at Florence



Piazza Della Signoria is an L shaped plaza in Florence, Italy. This is the main point of origin and history of the Florentine republic and it still maintains its reputation as the political focus of the city. It overlooks the old palace. This is known as the Florence City Hall, a museum and one of the most visited monuments of the Renaissance. It is an area well known to meet for tourists and locals. The plaza has the prominent Palazzo Vecchio overlooking the square. It is the scene of the great triumphs such as the return of the Medici in 1530 as well as the bonfire of the Vanities instigated by Savonarola which then was burned at the stake in 1498 because he was denounced by the inquisition as a heretic. There is an inscription on the floor of the exact spot of his death. The Piazza has many sculptures all around which all have different meanings. The David which was made by Michelangelo used to be in this location but is now moved to a museum. It was placed as a symbol of the Republics defiance of the tyrannical Medici. Then to the right of the David there is a sculpture of Hercules and Cacus which is meant to show the power of the Medici family after their return from exile. In this plaza there is also the Uffizi Gallery. This is Italy’s top art museum because of the great artworks done by Botticeli, Leonardo di Vinci, Raphael, Carvaggio, and Artemisia. There is no way someone can visit Florence and not go to this museum. A fun fact is that Boticelli is known to have burned a few of his paintings at one of the bonfires. The attempt of Savonarola to end the power of the Medicis obviously failed. What I admire about this specific location is all the politics involved and how Savonarola stuck to his truth until his very last breath.

Cinque Terre as Text

Danielle Rodriguez of FIU at Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is translated into the Five Lands. These beautiful old century seaside villages are in the Italian Rivera coastline. When hiking through the two millennia- old hiking trail, I saw the most beautiful mountains filled with terraces used for agriculture, shocking blue oceans, blue skies and colorful towns. A long time ago this was a place for people to stop while doing the Grand Tour to reflect and to take time off to just relax before starting up again. The five towns are called, Monterroso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. They are all connected by train or you can do the hike like I did. This was an extremely difficult hike that was 18 miles but something I sure am very proud of doing. We took a break at the fourth town because we were not sure if the hike would lead all the way to Riomaggiore because of a mudslide. But, we were able to find another trail that still lead us all the way to the fifth town and it sure was worth it. It felt like such an accomplishment that not many people do.

Cinque Terre is known for its wine, pesto, seafood and lemons. Since Vernazza is on the water you can only imagine it was an old fishing village and is now funded by tourists. You can find the most delicious seafood cones you will ever have. Monterroso is the town that I stayed at and it is the most touristy spot and modern. Cinque Terre is unique because it does not like commercialization and it does not bring franchise restaurants and hotels which attracts many tourists. Our last day in Cinque Terre was a free day and we got so lucky that it was a hot and sunny day. I went to the train station to get a day pass for all the towns and hopped around and tried foods from each place. Every place is unique in its own way. I ended up going back to Vernazza and lying down on this beautiful secluded beach full of rocks that was so relaxing and the sound of the waves made me just think of how lucky that I am able to have this opportunity that not many people do. It reminded me to live every moment to the fullest and always be grateful. But on the way home to the sanctuary I stopped in Monterroso and got a piña colada to enjoy on the beach one last time before leaving. It was of course delicious. This was a place I will never forget and will hope to come back so that I can bring my dad who is a fanatic about hikes and new trails. Cinque Terre, you were a dream come true.

Venice as Text

Danielle Rodriguez of FIU at Venice

Venice is unlike any other. The history of Venice starts around 400 AD. Venice is a city that is made up of many small islands that are connected by bridges, canals, and piers. Venice was built in the middle of a lagoon so that they can stay away from the armies and barbarians. This city was originally made for refugees who left their homelands. The Venice we see was born on March 25th 421 AD. When these people were on the island they realized they needed more space and a stronger foundation. They then started to dig and drain but while doing this they needed to protect the environment. They dug deep in the canals and would use wood to make the buildings. They would put these wooden pilings so close that they were touching. Then they would just cut off the top and create a firm platform for the foundation of their houses. But what I was concerned about was, doesn’t this wood rot? But apparently wood under water doesn’t. What is very scary is that this city floods periodically and this gives the feeling that the city is sinking. Over the past 100 years the city is said to have sunk a total of 9 inches! Someone said, “Global warming will cause the sea level to rise which will then eventually cover the Adriatic coastline and the city of Venice by 2100.” To me that is terrifying. But out of all the cities that I was fortunate enough to visit in Italy, I can easily say Venice was my favorite. I can’t exactly pin point why, but right when I set foot and looked out into the beautiful canals and all the transportation being boats and no cars to distract the beauty of conversations being heard around you, it was an amazing feeling.

Tivoli as Text

Danielle Rodiguez of FIU at Tivoli

The town of Tivoli is by far my favorite place that the class has been to together by far. I am a huge nature lover and the outdoors is what really connects me with the world. As I have expressed before, history is extremely important and something everyone needs to know but walking through this Valley called the Valle of Gregoriana gave me a feeling of happiness and excitement. Although it was tough to hike down and up and around it is something I felt fortunate to do. We don’t see any of this beauty back home and so it was just so magical I even said, “This is so fricken awesome.” Once I got to the ground. I was so excited to keep going and discovering new things. As we got lower and saw the waterfall, the water would then go down into a black hole that many people have died in and were never found and that is why it has the nickname “The Valley of Hell.” Climbing into the caves was also something that I have always wanted to do. Right when professor Bailly asked if we wanted to go into it I was the first person behind him trying to keep my tears back because it was just so beautiful. It is so hard to put into words the feeling i felt that day but it is definitely something i will never forget and if I come back to Italy this will be a spot I come to no doubt. The next few weeks will be hard to beat this day and feeling.

In 105 BC they discovered that a major flood happened and wiped away dozens of houses, including the Villa Of Manilus Vopiscu. Then, from this day on they realized that floods were happening often and this would kill many people and cause great damage. Then again a major point in history was 1826 when the water was so high it destroyed the banks and left a major part of the town underwater. Then when Pope Gregory XVI was elected he decided to create a dam and during his power it was completed.

Rome as Text

Danielle Rodriguez of FIU at Rome

Rome has been such a dream. The beautiful pictures and places that my grandma would always show me has finally came true. It’s a place more beautiful than I imagined it to be. Somewhere where people should visit at least once in a life time. It’s filled with such beauty, faith, and history.

One of the things that stood out to me the most and I would say made me emotional was the Escala Santa. These steps have not been open to the public for about 300 years and to see the amount of people go and express their faith was amazing to me. As we climbed up on our knees and touched the spots that supposedly jesus’ blood dropped it was such a sense of hope. It gave me chills.

Another amazing place was Appia Antica. To me like I’ve mentioned previously, outdoor activities are my favorite. The fact that it’s the oldest road/highway in Rome really made me have a big WOW moment. The church that we visited called “Domine Quo Vadis” was beautiful. It’s pretty much when Catholicism started and Peter decided not to be a coward anymore. The feet of Jesus was something that was so incredible to me as well. Also, the catacombs was something I had never seen before! To be able to see where these Martyrs died and all the different levels of tombs was incredible. Rome is definitely somewhere I need to bring my family to.

Pompeii as Text

Danielle Rodriguez of FIU at Pompeii

The trip to Pompeii was very exciting. We got up early and spent three hours on the bus to get there. Once we got there we saw all these ruins that had been covered in ash by Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. I thought it was extremely smart since they did not have light to put white stones in the ground called Cat Eyes so it can reflect and they can have a way to see. As we were walking I noticed these stone bar-like tables that were used for little fast food spots and that was genius to me. Pompeii had about 130 restaurants and 40 bakeries. What I enjoyed most was learning how they discovered the bodies in 1748. Everything was forgotten for about 1500 years until excavation workers discovered the bodies. They would pour plaster on it and then they found the bodies in the exact positions they were in when burned away. The Garden of the Fugitives was impressive. How they found all those bodies and preserved them. It was very emotional seeing family members hold onto each other in their last breaths. Another thing that stuck to me was the oldest surviving Roman amphitheater. The painting from The Villa of the Mysteries was something that is greatly appreciated from all around the world. It expressed female sexuality and it really stands out for how naturalistic it is. I personally think Pompeii is somewhere that is needed to visit, but I do not think that I connected to it as much as I would’ve liked to or that I connected to it as much as other places.

Pisa as Text

Daniell Rodriguez of FIU at Pisa

Who would’ve ever thought that a mistake would attract so many people? The leaning Tower of Pisa is a bell tower that is unique in its own way because of its circular structure. The tower tilted due to the moisture in the soil that made it start leaning. In order to prevent it from falling they needed to add lead in order to keep it stable. An interesting fact is that Galileo himself stood up at the exact spot I did in the 1600s to test if the velocity is independent of mass. But he was not successful because he did not take into consideration the wind. Something I thought was very different was when I walked into the baptistery and everything was plain. There was no art and no color. It is not necessarily my favorite but it was something different I won’t forget. It was called Pisan Romanesque.  What really stuck out to me was when the guard walked into the baptistery and started singing and the beautiful voice prolonged all throughout the baptistery that gave me chills. This represented our connection to God from Earth. From the baptistery we walked over to the Cathedral and it immediately caught my eye. A fact I’ll never forget is the chandelier that is hanging as you walk in that Galileo used to figure out the formula for the Law of Pendulum. In the church, we saw Saint Raineri in his casket with a clear glass. It showed him covered in a hair shirt which represents continuous discomfort so that one forgets about the body and focuses on the soul. They then reconstructed his face and made a mask so that people ignore the body and nurture the soul. I definitely learned a lot in the city of Pisa and am happy to have had the opportunity to have this experience that I will never forget.

Florence as Text

Danielle Rodriguez of FIU at Florence



Piazza Della Signoria is an L shaped plaza in Florence, Italy. This is the main point of origin and history of the Florentine republic and it still maintains its reputation as the political focus of the city. It overlooks the old palace. This is known as the Florence City Hall, a museum and one of the most visited monuments of the Renaissance. It is an area well known to meet for tourists and locals. The plaza has the prominent Palazzo Vecchio overlooking the square. It is the scene of the great triumphs such as the return of the Medici in 1530 as well as the bonfire of the Vanities instigated by Savonarola which then was burned at the stake in 1498 because he was denounced by the inquisition as a heretic. There is an inscription on the floor of the exact spot of his death. The Piazza has many sculptures all around which all have different meanings. The David which was made by Michelangelo used to be in this location but is now moved to a museum. It was placed as a symbol of the Republics defiance of the tyrannical Medici. Then to the right of the David there is a sculpture of Hercules and Cacus which is meant to show the power of the Medici family after their return from exile. In this plaza there is also the Uffizi Gallery. This is Italy’s top art museum because of the great artworks done by Botticeli, Leonardo di Vinci, Raphael, Carvaggio, and Artemisia. There is no way someone can visit Florence and not go to this museum. A fun fact is that Boticelli is known to have burned a few of his paintings at one of the bonfires. The attempt of Savonarola to end the power of the Medicis obviously failed. What I admire about this specific location is all the politics involved and how Savonarola stuck to his truth until his very last breath.

Cinque Terre as Text

Danielle Rodriguez of FIU at Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is translated into the Five Lands. These beautiful old century seaside villages are in the Italian Rivera coastline. When hiking through the two millennia- old hiking trail, I saw the most beautiful mountains filled with terraces used for agriculture, shocking blue oceans, blue skies and colorful towns. A long time ago this was a place for people to stop while doing the Grand Tour to reflect and to take time off to just relax before starting up again. The five towns are called, Monterroso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. They are all connected by train or you can do the hike like I did. This was an extremely difficult hike that was 18 miles but something I sure am very proud of doing. We took a break at the fourth town because we were not sure if the hike would lead all the way to Riomaggiore because of a mudslide. But, we were able to find another trail that still lead us all the way to the fifth town and it sure was worth it. It felt like such an accomplishment that not many people do.

Cinque Terre is known for its wine, pesto, seafood and lemons. Since Vernazza is on the water you can only imagine it was an old fishing village and is now funded by tourists. You can find the most delicious seafood cones you will ever have. Monterroso is the town that I stayed at and it is the most touristy spot and modern. Cinque Terre is unique because it does not like commercialization and it does not bring franchise restaurants and hotels which attracts many tourists. Our last day in Cinque Terre was a free day and we got so lucky that it was a hot and sunny day. I went to the train station to get a day pass for all the towns and hopped around and tried foods from each place. Every place is unique in its own way. I ended up going back to Vernazza and lying down on this beautiful secluded beach full of rocks that was so relaxing and the sound of the waves made me just think of how lucky that I am able to have this opportunity that not many people do. It reminded me to live every moment to the fullest and always be grateful. But on the way home to the sanctuary I stopped in Monterroso and got a piña colada to enjoy on the beach one last time before leaving. It was of course delicious. This was a place I will never forget and will hope to come back so that I can bring my dad who is a fanatic about hikes and new trails. Cinque Terre, you were a dream come true.

Venice as Text

Danielle Rodriguez of FIU at Venice

Venice is unlike any other. The history of Venice starts around 400 AD. Venice is a city that is made up of many small islands that are connected by bridges, canals, and piers. Venice was built in the middle of a lagoon so that they can stay away from the armies and barbarians. This city was originally made for refugees who left their homelands. The Venice we see was born on March 25th 421 AD. When these people were on the island they realized they needed more space and a stronger foundation. They then started to dig and drain but while doing this they needed to protect the environment. They dug deep in the canals and would use wood to make the buildings. They would put these wooden pilings so close that they were touching. Then they would just cut off the top and create a firm platform for the foundation of their houses. But what I was concerned about was, doesn’t this wood rot? But apparently wood under water doesn’t. What is very scary is that this city floods periodically and this gives the feeling that the city is sinking. Over the past 100 years the city is said to have sunk a total of 9 inches! Someone said, “Global warming will cause the sea level to rise which will then eventually cover the Adriatic coastline and the city of Venice by 2100.” To me that is terrifying. But out of all the cities that I was fortunate enough to visit in Italy, I can easily say Venice was my favorite. I can’t exactly pin point why, but right when I set foot and looked out into the beautiful canals and all the transportation being boats and no cars to distract the beauty of conversations being heard around you, it was an amazing feeling.

Ashley Rodriguez: Italia as Text 2019

Tivoli as Text

Green by Ashley Rodriguez of FIU at Tivoli, Italia.

Green.

As far as the eye can see

There is no end, no limit

To what could and could not

Be done.

The landscape at Hadrian’s villa in Tivoli

Humbles even the most ostentatious.

There is so much more than

One’s own existence.

We often assume our existence is the center of the universe.

The truth is that our existence is solely the center of OUR universe.   

There is no end in sight, just

Green.

Our minds wander to answer the burning question,

What awaits at the end of the landscape?

Perhaps this wandering imagination

Allowed the Romans to be free.

Free to embrace other cultures.

Free to love who you love.

You see Romans were not concerned

With conforming to sexual and societal norms

Romans were interested in ethereal pleasure

If we were more like the Romans in this way

Perhaps we would be substantially more content

With our lives.

Perhaps love would indeed win.

I imagine Hadrian stood where I stood,

possibly with his wife.

And dreamed a great dream

A dream where he had never fallen

Into the Nile river that day and that his great

Love story was still alive.

A dream where he could look

Into his lovers eyes one last time

and admire the way the green reflects

In them.

A dream where at the end of all of the green

Stood the great love of his life, Antinous

With a beating heart and life in his eyes.

Rome as Text

Destruction by Ashley Rodriguez of FIU at Roma, Italia.

The most beautiful things are found in destruction.

Destruction unearths the humanity hidden beneath the surface.

Through the cracks one can see what once was.

In the colosseum I see violence, injustice, and pain.

I see men fighting for the opportunity to live.

I see slaves praying to Gods they don’t believe in.

I see innocents being made savages.

Humanity in its rawest form.

I also see joy, laughter and love.

I see the crowds full of glee when a life is lost.

I see laughs being shared amongst friends.

I see a widow sob when her love takes his last breath.

These cracks give us insight into the truth about you and I.

Allows us to see what has stood the test of time.

Humanity has shown its ugly face time and time again.

We have not made much progress.

I turn on the TV.

I see the highlights of a boxing match.

I see bulls being made savages by humans.

I see a mother sob as she is separated from her child at an immigration camp.

Again I see violence, injustice, and pain.

Human nature is not always what it seems to be.

It is often just too painful to realize.

Millions travel to visit this wonder of the world.

They see an architectural marvel.

They see a community center.

Sure, they also see the destruction.

They see the building under construction and the caution tape.

One must look with a critical eye to truly see through the cracks.

Pompeii as Text

18 hours by Ashley Rodriguez of FIU at Pompeii, Italy.

I thought I knew pain.

When it comes it is all consuming,

overwhelms one’s senses.

Takes control.

Ones heart grows heavy.

I thought I knew pain, until Pompeii.

The people of Pompeii knew more pain than I will know in a lifetime.

The clay figures above give off an aura of indescribable loss.

I will never forget.

These figures seem like parent and child.

Their whole world was up in flames in a matter of 18 hours.

Imagine that.

The day before life was as usual.

18 hours later their souls reached their destinations.

I wonder what they were doing 18 hours earlier.

Were they cooking,walking home, or visiting neighbors?

I like to think they were dancing under the moonlight,

Blissfully unaware that it was their last night on this earth.

I also wonder how they ended up there.

Why didn’t they leave when they had the chance?

Maybe they were trying to flee, but knew it was too late.

They decided to spend their last moments in each other’s embrace.

Human touch is the remedy for most pain.

Perhaps they thought the same.

Parents should never have to watch their child take their last breath.

That’s not the way life is set up.

It is unnatural.

I cannot fathom the pain the parent was feeling knowing

there was nothing left.

Now that I have seen the face of true pain,

I pray that I never get the opportunity to meet it myself.

18 hours was all it took.

Siena as Text

Piazza Del Campo by Ashley Rodriguez of FIU at Siena, Italia.

The Piazza Del Campo is easily my favorite piazza in all of Italy. It‘s exquisite beauty stems from the natural colors that make up the buildings surrounding it. It is warm and welcoming even on cold days. The piazza is easily identifiable because it is a vast area of empty space. This piazza is different because it is designed in a way that is meant to be relaxed in. It is inclined and allows for one to simply bend their knees and meet the ground. The piazza has entrances all throughout the city. The narrow streets open and once again invite you to indulge in the city’s great traditions. In this piazza, the people of Siena are able to create a sense of community. There are several activities that take place in Piazza Del Campo ranging from lounging to protesting and to even horse racing. It is interesting to note that although Siena is composed of different rival towns, the Piazza is still able to unify the city. Perhaps if the United States adopted the camaraderie found in Siena many of the nations political problems could be solved. The Piazza is also known to host gatherings of college students in the late afternoon and early evening. I had the privilege of engaging in that tradition with my class. The Piazza is also a tourist site and it is a wonderful sight to see people from all over the world taking a moment to appreciate their surroundings. The Piazza Del Campo is a place that fosters community and inclusivity and I admire that.

Florence as Text


Bruised by Ashley Rodriguez of FIU in Florence, Italy.

My sweetest David

Oh how you have been beaten and bruised.

You came to existence after being hammered from a marble slab.

A slab that no one wanted.

With a combination of precision and skill you were  chiseled to perfection.

Your 17 foot body demands attention.

The uneasy look on your face demands empathy.

Did you already slay Goliath or were you about to face him?

These are questions that will never be answered.

You are the sweetest mystery.  

The position of your body keeps you in constant motion.

The contrapposto adds to your intimidating demeanor.

Michelangelo surely knew a person who is constantly in motion couldn’t possibly be defeated.

Once you were put on display, you were stoned.

In 1527, you were assaulted with a bench and it cost you an arm.

Finally, you were moved to a museum and were assumed to be safe.

You were then attacked by a man with a hammer.

Despite it all, there you stand.

Towering over those who doubt your resilience.

You have stood the test of time and are still one of the greatest works of art ever made.

You are the epitome of male beauty and forever will be.

You are the product of genius and love.

You are such a marvel because your creator loved your form dearly and used his genius to bring you to life.

I am not sure why people harm you.

Perhaps people have difficulty accepting the perfection that was achieved with your creation.

Until we meet again. Be good.

Cinque Terre as Text

Vernazza by Ashley Rodriguez of FIU in Cinque Terre, Italy.

Imagine a place that is as magical as it is resilient.  A place that is as simple as it is grand. Vernazza in Cinque terre is exactly that. Vernazza is one of the five towns that make up Cinque Terre in Italy. It is a small village with a vibrant personality. It is made up of cobblestone alleys that lead to colorful houses and shops. The most prominent feature of Vernazza is the stunning coastal views it offers. These coastal views are powerful. Since there is no end in sight, one begins to contemplate if there truly is an end. If there is one thing that I am certain of it is that Vernazza will have no end. A treacherous mudslide destroyed the village in 2011 and today it stands with grace. This village can inspire even the most hopeless of people. There is something about its ability to build itself from the ground up. Vernazza allows one to appreciate the past while keeping a hopeful eye on the future. Looking upon the town from the mountains gave me a sense of peace. Being unable to differentiate the ocean from the sky allows the mind to wander. A wandering mind allows one to complete the mission of visiting cinque terre on the Grand Tour.  A wandering mind allows for thoughts to flow freely and for complex ideas to process. Moments such as the one I experienced looking over the town of Vernazza don’t happen often and for that I will be forever grateful.

VENEZIA AS TEXT

Life by Ashley Rodriguez of FIU at Venezia, Italia.

Venezia is a town that is full of life. It is bustling with locals and with tourists. There are displays of life on every corner. There is art, poetry, and music throughout the entire city. There is an abundance of life on the water. Everybody’s favorite mode of transportation is through boats. When crossing a bridge over a small canal you can see the locals interacting with one another on their boats. They use vocal signals to let each other know when one is turning the corner on a boat. They have created a language that allows them to navigate through the narrow canals safely. The grand canal is a different story. The grand canal is full of water taxis, ferries, and gondolas! All of these boats communicate with one another and are able to coexist without a problem. There is life in the color choices of buildings. All the buildings are colors that invoke a brightness and light. There is life in the small alleyways. In these small alleyways you will find multiple shops selling Murano glass and you will stumble across several small bakeries. There is also so much life in St. Mark’s Square. During the day it is bustling with tourists trying to get the perfect picture of the cathedral. In the evening, you will find groups of people hanging around listening to the live music that is playing. Venezia seems to have the most life out of all of the cities I’ve visited. Perhaps this is because it was built by people who were looking to have a better life. Venezia, you are so full of life. Please don’t ever change.