Over Under Paris: Exploration of an Art Riddled City – Line One
Art reflects life. Life reflects art. No better example of this can be seen than here in France. Everywhere you look there is art and history, intimately intertwined, it is hard to find one without the other. In my in depth discovery of line one of the Paris metro stations I found it especially true. Walking the beautiful streets of Paris I learned about the past, contemporary and art.
Art as Modern Age: La Défense
Walking out of La Défense you feel like you were transported to another city. Instead of the usual charming architecture that defines Paris, you are faced with modern highrises and glass paneled structures. The contrast of the modernist style with the gothic charm I had come so familiar with seen in the 19th century buildings was unsettling. I felt like I was in Chicago not Europe (minus the noise and constant stream of cars), it was all a little eerie. Similar, but slightly off enough to make one feel unease. Like looking at a distorted image.
An arc mirroring that of the renowned Arc de Triomphe stood tall as the landmark of the area. This stop had various interesting art sculptures everywhere: with an egg shaped building, a colorful abstract piece seeming to be made from clay, a black metal fence like structure created in water adjacent shapes, and my personal favorite, the Thumb.
A giant display of a bronzed thumb was positioned erect. No title, or plaque, we were left puzzled by its meaning or purpose, but it did make for a good story.
The modern buildings and art were an interesting beginning to our line. Located in the business sector of Paris, on the outskirts, it does make you envision a bit of what Paris could be like if it were not preserved. You cherish it more for existing outside the norm of what a bustling city should appear like.
Art as Victory: Charles de Gaulle-Etoile
When war is won, victory is celebrated. The Arc de Triomphe is a representation of this victory. Made by Napoleon It has become a national symbol of France. Second only to the eiffel tower, the image of this massive piece of limestone instantly mentally takes you to Paris city center. From the top you can view the entirety of Paris.
Located at the summit of the Champs-Élysées the arc was created to emulate the victory arcs made by ancient Romans. Begun by Napoleon in 1806, it was completed by French King Louis Phillipe in 1836. When Napoleon died his body was carried through it as a show of his military power and savvy.
When I first viewed this landmark I was genuinely shocked. I had just seen the eiffel tower, the quintessential Paris attraction and loved it. Though smaller than I had imagined it to be, the uniqueness of it alongside its peaceful park surrounding it (and my own personal built up excitement) made seeing the Eiffel Tower an instant core memory for me.
The Arc de Triomphe was the complete opposite for me, but in the best way. I had very little expectations or excitement to see it in real life. I had seen the pictures people posted in front of it and honestly thought it a silly thing to get excited for, thinking ‘It’s only an archway’. But once I set eyes on it for the first time I was blown away. The sheer size of it is enormous, much larger than I had imagined. With gorgeous intricate details and statue work along all sides. Located at the top of a high fashion and very busy lane, in the center of one of the most terrifying roundabouts I’d ever seen, it was anything but peaceful, instead the hustle and bustle of a true city.
An art piece dedicated to war, listed within its inner walls are the names of all French Victories and Generals. Along the outer you can see depictions of Nike, Greek goddess of victory. May her grace shine on us all.
Art as Fashion: George V
As you ascend the stairs up from George V station you are instantly met with luxury. The Louis Vuitton store is just outside it. The largest Louis Vuitton store in the world, it is five stories of all one of the biggest (and French) names in fashion has to offer.
Paris is known as a Fashion capital. Due not only to its citizens having great style (which is true, I am obsessed) but because it is the birth place to some of the most prestigious designers in high fashion (Chanel, Dior, Cartier, and Yves Saint Laurent to name a few) and host to THE Paris fashion week.
It’s not only luxury along this lane. Adias and Levi’s also have a storefront on the Champs-Élysées. Any brand wanting any stake in fashion makes sure to be placed along this street. The look is worth more than any profit made from sales, a necessity.
Fashion is art. A designer is a painter, the clothes their masterpiece, with you and me the very willing art collectors.
Art as Nature: Tuileries
In the midst of this city lies a green oasis. Not uncommon through Paris is pockets of greenery – a reprieve from the paved roads and concrete buildings. These gardens stand as a quiet amid the chaos city life has to offer.
The Tuileries is one such garden. It was originally created for the Palais de Tuileries in 1564 by Catherine de Medici; they were redesigned by Louis XIV’s famous gardener in 1664.
Now it is still a beautiful park. A great place to bring your family, partner, friends, or a solo trip to enjoy some nature alone.
Art as Art: Lourve Rivoli
The Lourve is arguably the most famous museum in the world. Housed here in humble Paris the building is anything but. Formerly a palace home to past French Monarchs, the Lourve holds the official title of being the largest museum in the world. Corridor after corridor of some of the most acclaimed art hangs on the walls.
Visiting was slightly overwhelming. With sections ranging from ancient Egypt to Rome you don’t know where to start. Guided by my professor we began in the Greek corridor. Seeing statues that are 2,000 years old. We ascended the massive staircase, greeted by Nike at the top. After that, we went to giant room after giant room of art. We saw the flatter 2 dimensional medieval art, usually of holy depictions; to that of the renaissance, more complex works of art fully showing the depth of the human body, still holy depictions – but not always with religious intent. Here I met a new favorite artist, Caravaggio with his painting “Death of the Virgin”. Its dark colors and sorrow was haunting and very different from the normal depictions of Mary that are usually ethereal. Of course, we also got a look at the infamous Mona Lisa.
Though not at this stop, a short walk through the Tuileries gardens and across the Seine lies my personal favorite, Musee D’orsay.
Musee D’orsay is another Paris art museum. Famous for its exhibits of Impressionist and Post-impressionist art from the greats such as Monet, Van Gogh, Matisse, and Manet. Though a fraction of the size of the Lourve, this draw is actually an advantage. A more intimate feel is provided for the visitor.
The museum is an old train station (the French love to reuse buildings). From the top of the entrance stairs you see a room of statues. As you walk through them, to your sides doorways give way to rooms of hanging paintings. The privacy given within the rooms makes it a more personal experience compared to the Lourve. A Standout painting from here is “Dante and Virgil” by Bougurereau.
Then you ascend up to the top, the fifth floor. Here is where the gems lie, impressionist and post impressionist paintings everywhere. Seeing my first Monet’s in real life was breathtaking. Experiencing this with my classmate Jake (a huge Monet fan himself) made it all the more exciting, squeaking with glee from room to room. The best moment for me was by far the Van Gogh room. I’ve always loved art, following many contemporary artists for years. More recently I have gotten into more “classically renowned” artists, one of which is Van Gogh. My phone case and lock screen is his art. Even though I knew what type of museum it was, and that there were Monets there, it didn’t cross my mind that they would have Van Gogh pieces. Actually seeing a “starry night” (though not the famous, famous one) was such a cool experience.
Both great museums, they are amazing examples of what France has to offer as far as classical historic art.
Art as Religion: Saint Paul
Religion can be as beautiful as any art piece. For centuries it was the focus of the masterminds in painting such as Leonardo Da vinci and Raphael. A Parisian church is just faith manifested in art. Saint Paul’s Cathedral, located at the stop of the same name, is no exception. A part of the historic Marais quarter, elegant and grand, no detail was spared in the making of this holy space.
Religion plays an interesting role in French history. A Catholic country with heavy influences from the Pope and those in power of the faith, the relationship they maintained with the monarch made them an unstoppable force. A huge catalyst for the French Revolution was the people being fed up with the abuse of said power.
This power was obviously bad for the subjects and partitioners of the church, but it made those in religious power go all out in portraying stories of the Bible – exalting God’s beauty with the beauty of the church.
Tall ceilings with large gothic pillars line the main long body of the church. Stained glass scenes of the bible are along the windows. Large paintings of more scenes depicted in gorgeous renaissance style are also hung on the walls.
Though I am not Catholic, I am religious. For me entering these churches is serene. There is a quiet hush, for those in prayer. It is cool, both dark and light. A place to be respected, regardless of intentions of those that visit.
Art as Liberty: Bastille
Standing tall in the center of a square lies a pillar of freedom. With a concrete base, metal column, and golden adornment, the Bastille monument is large and grand.
The monument stands as a place holder of the spot that once held the Bastille, a prison and armory. The storming of the Bastille is an important moment during the French Revolution. It is a historic instance in which the people fought back against the establishment.
Now, July 14 (the day of the storming), is celebrated annually as a national holiday. Bastille day is like the French 4th of July. Large crowds come out to watch fireworks and bask in French Patriotism. My own experience of it was magical. Surrounded by my classmates, now great friends, looking up at the Eiffel Tower as the most insane firework show I had ever seen goes on. At points it looked like pixie dust was raining down on us. In that moment we all felt French, filled with joy.
Art as Mobility: Gare de Lyon
a station for fast transit this stop shows as an example of what public transportation has to offer. The art here is a lot more abstract, more conceptual. That is, the art in mobility. Paris has an amazing metro, train, tram and bus system. Intricate and all over the city, I have never had an easier time getting around carless.
Living in Miami, an extremely car dependent city with no car makes you appreciate this so much more. For me, there is a beauty in it.
A web of underground lines under the city, the metro acts like a skeleton. Connected each part to the next, below the skin, out of sight, but so essential.
Learning how to use the metro has also brought me confidence. Managing to get from one place to the solo without any hiccups is self assuring. My greatest feat was doing this with no signal and only a destination in mind. Mission successfully accomplished.
The only drawback is the relatively early closing times. Late Paris nights can be cut short due to this. Though the metro and RER may close, buses are always available. And if all else, make the late night later and stay out until the trains start going again.
Visiting and living in Paris for a month was a dream come true. I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity to get to explore this gorgeous city. A month full of lifelong memories.
Olivia Guthrie is a Junior at Florida International University currently studying Journalism. With a love for writing, she hopes to one day be living in New York City, creating media that helps better educate the public on the world they are living in, including the issues that are facing them and their loved ones. Her love of art and yearning to travel has landed her in Professor Bailly’s France study abroad class.
Paris As Text: One Land, Under Many Gods
Paris is a wonderous city.
With so many sites to see it is easy to get swept away. For me, nothing topped seeing the Notre-Dame Cathedral and its majesty.
Notre-Dame is one of the most worldwide known places of worship. Almost made a novelty by its fame, the church is housed on Île de la Cité, a small island in Paris.
Standing tall and glorious in its gothic decor, the site has been visited by thousands every year, Catholic or not.
Even with its modern-day significance, the history of the Cathedral and the land it lies on is a lesser known but equally impressive tale.
Notre Dame was built in 1163 by the Catholic Church. This makes the building more than 800 years old. It was built in a French gothic style with every detail of the building’s architecture being intentional – paying part to not only faith, but politics and power. The focal point is the circle in the center. The circle with its layers of painted glass windows, symbolizes God and the mother. The virgin Mary holds the holy trinity within her. The holy trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are the center and sequentially two outward layers of glass. Below and straight across the front are statues of Judeo Kings. These statues were beheaded during the French Revolution. This was an act by revolutionaries in response to dethroning the king and waging a rebellion against the Monarchy and Church (who worked together to keep each other in power and oppress the people).
This land, however, has been holy long before the Cathedral was built upon it. Before the land we know as France today was French, the Romans conquered it from the Parisi, the native people of the land in 52 B.C. Where the Cathedral stands today used to house a Roman Temple. There romans would observe religious rituals. This often involved prayers and sacrifices to whichever god the temple was dedicated to, usually with statues of said god there to be adored.
Before even the Romans it is suggested that the same land was used by the Parisi/Gauls for religious practice 2400 years ago. Their spiritual practice was tied to natural occurrences such as rivers and the stars. They too prayed and sacrificed in the name of these phenomena, which were seen as supernatural to them.
There is something beautiful to me about that. How this one spot, over multiple millennials, has held a holy meaning. It goes to show how connected we are as a human race. Three different people, practicing three different beliefs, with centuries separating them, all in one place.
One land under many gods
Knowing the history, the Notre-Dame feels almost like a tribute to faith. Whether or not you pray to the Christian God, another, or none – you can’t help but stand in wonder when you visit this site.
As I stood in admiration, goose bumps on my skin – classmates and teacher alike in a similar awe- I couldn’t help but think “Belief built this”. It doesn’t matter if what they believe is real or not, it was (and still is) true to them. Human faith in something more brought mortal hands to create such godly art.
As you walk up to the Château de Versailles, ascending as you would to the heavens, you are met with a golden gate glistening. Within its rings lay the face of a god upon a sun, the gold of it mirroring the shine of a true star. You can almost feel warmth radiating from it. The face that greets you is not of the Lord, nor Apollo, but the one whom you should truly serve with all your heart, the King, Louis XIV. Push through, and enter into Olympia
King Louis XIV is one of the most famous monarchs in the world. Coming to the throne at the young age of four in 1643 he reigned for 72 years, having one of the longest reigns in history. A man of big changes and glamor, even in exchange for his people’s quality of life, Louis was lustrous. One of the most important changes enacted during his ruling was the moving of the palace and noble courts from Paris to Versailles.
For centuries French Kings ruled from Paris. With many places to which they called home, one of the last before the Versailles move was the Louvre palace. Now it is the most famous museum in the world housing some of the most renowned art.
The King was under intense criticism from his French People and living in Paris, the capital and heart of the country became unsafe. Versailles, previously used as the King’s hunting lodge, was now home to the most important man in France. Louis did nothing quietly, and renovations began immediately to make Versailles what it is today. In this, a theme was chosen and pushed by the King – Louis as Apollo.
Blasphemous to show himself as Jesus or God, but still wanting to be seen as divine, Louis took on the Greek God Apollo as his alter ego. Apollo -the sun- was the epitome of youth and beauty, source of healing and life, and patron of the arts.
Wanting to be associated with this all-powerful deity, as bright as the sun, he placed his face on the body or head of Apollo (often with suns somehow in the image) to fuel the illusion. The mythology references didn’t stop there, with Greek Gods and tales being painted throughout the castle.
Though he meant it to only be a symbolism of his power, there is quite a bit of overlap between the characteristics of Louis XIV and the pantheon of Greek gods. The irony is not lost on me.
Like a true god, he was feared. Louis maintained a strict social code, and all wished to be in his favor. A story from the making of the castle involves the painter of one of his intricate mythology ceilings. It is said that after working on it painstakingly, and with much anxiety, for two years, once it was done Louis loved it so much that he asked for another. The artist killed himself instead of having to endure the pressure of creating for the King again.
Alongside this fear of god (Louis) was an adoration. He was worshiped by everyone in court who hoped to be seen in his favor and thus gifted by him, only furthering his god complex.
Louis was apathetic towards his people. Just how a god does not let mortals dictate his actions, Louis did not let the starvation and dying of his people keep him from spending enormous amounts of money to build and fund the upkeep of Versailles.
Powerful and beautiful like Athena or Zeus, his manifestation of these traits were not on his physical body, but instead displayed through Versailles. The might and beauty held within Versailles was an extension of his person.
Of course, a god must have his heaven and for Louis this did not lie within the walls of Versailles but instead around it. The gardens were his Olympia. Stretching over thousands of acres, the land was filled with lush forest with the acreage closest to the house being intricate and beautifully manicured gardens. In this were gorgeous flowers, a plethora of fruit trees, and grand fountains (often further depicting mythology).
The most important trait for any Greek god, the distinguishing trait between them and humans, is their immortality, and immortal he has become. Hundreds of years after his death we still speak of him. His palace is visited by thousands, all looking upon his golden face. He will not be one of the forgotten and will forever be seen as the sun king.
Lyon As Text: Birth of the Revolutionary – Fighting for What’s Right
Visiting Lyon, it is easy to get swept away by the relaxed pace of life, walkable streets, gorgeous hills, and postcard views. But this city has a deeper history, and ingrown spirit – a spirit of rebellion.
Lyon was previously the capital of Roman Gaul, Lugdunum. The colony was established nine years after Julius Caesar had conquered the native Gauls of the current day French area. The location was ideal as two rivers, Rhône and Saône, run throughout the area. One of Rome’s emperors, Claudius, was a native of this land, born in Lugdunum. During his time as emperor there was a lot of cultural tensions between the Gauls and Romans. As head of the country, and with a foot in both camps, he gave an important and radical speech on acceptance, tolerance, and equality; advocating for civil rights for the Gauls.
Nearly two millennia later, in 1848, the spirit to stand up for what is right struck again in Lyon. The first worker strike in France, and on a larger scale, the world happened here. The canut (silk workers) spoke up against their employers, demanding better salaries and working conditions. Now, France has some of the best workers rights: with five weeks of paid leave, 35 hour work week, and a better maternity and paternity leave (as compared to the U.S.).
During WWII some of Lyons most heroic actions yet come to light. Lyon was the capital of the French resistance against the Nazis. A major player in achieving this was Jean Moulin. Moulin was a leader figure in the resistance. Though he never fought a weapon, he showed immense courage and leadership, rallying people to fight against the Nazis and everything they stood for, and fight for a free France.
It was also here, many decades later, that the first trials against humanity took place in the Palais de Justice. Klaus Barbie, also known as the “Butcher of Lyon”, was a prominent Gestapo Nazi. He was the first person to be charged with crimes against humanity, one of the charges being the arrest and deportation of 44 Jewish Children from Izieu. Justice was finally served, though no sentence could ever equate to the damage he had done.
To this day the spirit lives on. There is a vivaciousness within the French. During my visit I bore witness to strikes by the French working class. At our class visit to the Eiffel Tower, we were able to witness a strike by the workers. They explained to us how the goods and services were overpriced while they were paid low. Throughout my time in Paris the metro or RER (more than a few times) were down due to workers strike. Self advocacy never ends.
It’s inspiring to see how the people of this land over time have kept up and encouraged the revolutionary energy that lives so brightly in France.
Izieu As Text: Beauty Amongst Horror
World War II is known for its atrocities. The crimes against people who exist outside of the Aryan race, in particular Jewish people, were unimaginable. My study abroad teacher for France, John Bailly, thought it important to highlight the war and the crimes made against humanity, for which I am very grateful.
The war between France and Germany began on September 3rd, 1939, following Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland. The war between the two countries was brief as Germany defeated France in 1940. As a result, France was split into two territories, the northern\western region which was German occupied, and the southern Vichy (still French) occupied. This southern part, though still France, was headed by Phillip Pétain, a hate filled war general from World War I. This ‘new’ France collaborated and encouraged Naziz ideals.
When the U.S. invaded northern Africa in 1942 Germany felt the impending threat of the U.S. Military and decided to occupy all of France, encroaching on Vichy territory. They gave three parts of this newly acquired land to the Italians, their less bigotry allies.
It is in this territory that we find the Izieu Jewish orphanage. The home was for Jewish children (aged five to sixteen) whose parents were either taken by the Germans or lived in German occupied France and thought it safer for the kids to be away in less hostile territory. Here children learned, played, and lived relatively happy lives while so much horror was going on around them. It was a haven.
On April 6th, 1944 (after the Italian surrendered the previous September) led by Klaus Barbie, the Gestapo came to the Izieu orphanage and rounded up all the children and caretakers. All of the children were murdered.
Visiting Izieu, my class had no idea of its history. We were greeted by the serene quiet and pure beauty the hills and nature of the landscape had to offer. We were all in a shared awe of the scenery.
Tears were on all our faces as we learned the history and walked the halls these children lived in decades before, a heaviness in our hearts. It was eerie, the rustic simple architecture and gorgeous countryside where we know something so horrible happened. The dichotomy between the two, seeing the beauty and knowing the horror, almost made it worse and drew out more pain from within.
The worst type of people, and the most horrific crimes are those done against children. The innocent of the world. Usually barely old enough to understand what’s happening, let alone why it is happening.
44 lives cut too short. 44 children, never to be adults. 44 families forever changed
A classmate of mine referenced how it was nice, though of course hard, to learn about something we haven’t been desensitized to due to time. For most of our class we learned about kings and queens or subjects that lived hundreds of years before us, so separated from our current lives. The horrors of WWII, though still before our time, feel so much more relevant and prominent to us. The bigotry that existed then is far from gone, and it warrants anxiety over whether something like this could ever happen again, hit with the reality that in many ways it already is.
It’s heavy. The weight of cruelty is insurmountable. Religious or not, it makes you want to look up to the sky and shake your fists at whatever being could watch as these atrocities are done. You’re angry, and sad – and for me – a little hopeless. People live and go through the worst life has to offer every day. All around the world people are suffering. Throughout time people have cried and died by the hands of others. So how do we live? How do we find the strength to keep going through our own personal traumas and the knowledge of others?
Sometimes the most unimaginable horrible things happen totally out of your control. It is important to know and absorb this information. To remember their trauma, their lives, in order to keep their memories alive and try your hardest to keep such things from happening again. It is so, so important to learn about the past and the present injustices happening in the world. Discuss these things, analyze and digest them. Learn about these experiences outside of your own, but also remember to not be overwhelmed by it all. No one person can stop bad things from happening, and your own internal peace is important.
After such a heavy morning, my class went on a hike through the Alps. As a group we climbed to scales none of us had before.
The fresh cool air in my lungs, sweat down my back, the company of wonderful people around me – and that peace and beauty of nature everywhere.
Surrounded again by the breathtaking scenery, I try to think about the good. I think of the children at the Izieu home who were given even a few months of joy before the war took them. I think about how lucky I am to be in France, to be alive and experiencing this wonder, against my own personal odds. At the top of our summit, I am filled with this holy sensation, a spiritual peace.
Whether foolish or not, I hope for something better for those children, for all who agonized in the past, and those suffering today. Holding onto whatever sliver of hope and grace I can.
Dolores Mercedes Browne. A name prior to my enrollment in this class I had never known before, but am proud to now. Browne was a member of the Women’s Army Corps 6888 Central Postal Directory Battalion during World War II. Born in New York in 1921, she was just 21 when she enlisted in 1943.
As part of the Postal Directory Battalion she, along with about 900 other Black females, shifted through the backlogged military mail intended for soldiers. Here they had the task of organizing and ensuring the mail out of letters and packages to the respective deployed men. They worked long hours under terrible conditions and impressively were able to complete this remarkable task in just three months.
Their job was important. In order to keep up officer morale, communication with their families and loved ones was essential. Their motto was “No mail, low morale”. This task was given to them while also holding the weight of being the first and only all Black Female Women Army Corps (WAC) unit to be deployed overseas during WWII. As so, they faced a lot of racial backlash. Segregated even in the military, you are reminded that even as you go to be a hero for your home, the restrictions and discrimination of your country still follows you.
On July 8th 1945, just months before the war ended, Browne along with two other women in her battalion were in a jeep accident in France. Both women with her died instantly, while Browne was transported to a hospital for treatment where she died five days later on the 13th at the age of 23.
There is a lot of honor in fighting and dying for a country to which you were born, but refuses to acknowledge you as a person worthy of equal rights and dignity.
Even living in Northern America, Browne was subject to discrimination and unprovoked hatred. The idea of an intolerant south and tolerant north is an illusion. No where in America was a haven for Black people.
This discrimination only expands when you look at her full identity: a Black, lesbian, woman.
So, what does she and her sacrifice mean to me? Of course, like any soldier who dies in war, they are doing so for our freedoms and to (hopefully) preserve what is “good”. But for Browne in particular I feel more than the normal respect that is due. I feel seen – reflected. As a fellow queer black woman, she lived the life I am living against way more odds. Only a few years my senior I can’t help but wonder if we could have been friends. If I lived then or her now. A comrade to discuss the shared experiences our niche identity gives us. Laugh at the trials life has to offer us as often as possible, cry when it becomes too much.
A question we are all given and often deliberate is “Who are you?” This is layered, and for everyone can be interpreted or answered in various ways. This is something I myself have thought about a lot. What are my identities within society and what does this mean for me? I have found it important for me to acknowledge these parts of myself to better face all that is to come. A war on the homefront. Me vs. Society. Separately: I am queer. With this I know I will face homophobia. Those that see love and decide to hate. Damning me for something as beautiful and pure as living my truth. I am a woman so I will experience sexism. This is often in small ways, set up by our patriarchal society, that leads to giant setbacks and governments governing my body. Lastly, but oh so importantly: I am Black, so racism is expected. Being Black in America is a life sentence, where the punishments include blatant discrimination and/or microagressions on a daily basis.
Intersected all together, it’s a minority cocktail. An inferior to the inferior.
She, like me, faced these struggles – only ten fold, existing as she did in the early 20th century.
This, to me, makes her sacrifice even greater. I am in awe of her bravery. Not only did she voluntarily enlist and was deployed to foreign lands amongst a dangerous enemy, she did so for a country and society that tries to tell you in every single way they can – you are less than. This moves me. She wasn’t fighting only against the horrors that were occurring at that time, but for a better future. Showing up, working hard, and making a place for herself – regardless of whether she was wanted or not. She did this for future little queer black girls, so they would have to fight against lesser odds and a place would be made and ready for them.
Oftentimes wars and misfortunes from before our time can feel distant in a way that’s outside of just how long ago it happened. We almost become desensitized. But when you are able to put a name, face, or life to the tragedies of the past they become more real, especially when you reflect them onto your own life. Standing here today it is all
very real, very heavy. The weight of her sacrifice is on my shoulders, a weight I am proud to carry. Words don’t seem enough, but all I really want to say is thank you, you will be remembered.
Père Lachaise As Text: A Black Man’s World, Richard Wright
Born in Natchez, Mississippi September 4th, 1908, Richard Wright was a renowned 20th century author and poet. He wrote about the Black experience in America and the racial horrors that existed at the time. He was the grandchild to slaves freed through the civil war and was raised by a single mother, his dad MIA. He had a turbulent childhood, constantly moving from one house to another, he spent time in an orphanage and various family homes. By the time he was 12 he had yet to complete a full year of schooling.
He moved in with his grandparents where he was able to start getting an education, though he was physically abused by them. At 15 he wrote his first short story, “The Voodooof Hell’s Half Acre” in the local Black Newspaper.
Growing up in Jim Crow states (Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansa) he was subjected to laws that enforced segregation and banned interracial marriage. Every day, in every way, he was reminded he was less than. Signs outside of business establishments such as “no niggers, no jews, no dogs” were used to reinforce this.
Those laws and banners were a tool used to perpetuate white fear. White fear is a concept explored in depth within Wright’s writing. Beyond the written laws on what Black people could and couldn’t do, there were the social laws – almost more important – that dictated Black people’s every move. With lynchings and harassment of all kinds common, Black people had to be aware and be afraid of the white people around them; scared to be beaten or killed for simply walking past or looking at the wrong person.
White people during the early 20th century (whilst Wright was alive and writing) didn’t care or think about black people. The black experience in America only mattered to other black people in America. The image that came to mind for white people when they thought about Black people was either as their maid or (after the Harlem Renaissance in the 20s) a jazz performer. One dimensional figures, limited, and for personal use – either entertainment or help. Richard Wright tried to expand this.
With his books such as Uncle Tom’s Children, Native Son, and Black Boy he took stories about the Black experience (whether fictionalized or his own) and amplified them. Native Son, his most acclaimed novel, follows a young Black man who accidentally kills a white woman and the emotional and mental turmoil that comes from it, as well as the societal situations that caused it.
The Black man in America had to live through horrific circumstances on the daily that no one could understand. Through his writings, with graphic detail and horror, he tried to shock the reader into this reality.
Slavery ended, but black people did not gain full independence. Black people went on to work for the white man and live surrounded by hate and full of fear. The deep-grown roots of the prejudices and injustices of America then still live in America today with racial disparities in health, wealth, land ownership, and representation abundant.
Of course, I will never know his pain or the pain of any Black person living during this time. To compare the racial environment of modern day America to that of segregated times is to do a disservice and diminish the everyday trauma of Black people who endured during those periods.
But better doesn’t always mean great.
What Does White Fear Mean to Me
I don’t fear the white man.
I don’t feel lesser because I am not a man nor am I white.
But when coupled with a badge and a gun I am given a physical demonstration on our power differences – that already exist.
With these objects I know we are not the same.
When I was nine driving in the backseat of my big brother’s Jeep Cherokee, laughing and giggling with childhood glee down our Georgia towns streets, I was taught this for the first time – though not the last.
A car bumped into my brothers while stopped at a light, my first car accident, a simple fender bender, “Nothing to be scared of.”, he told me, “Everything is ok.”
The cops were called, as is routine. Red and Blue lights flickering in the background, a cop walked up – white skin, black uniform.
The window rolled down. every order followed by an immediate action. My brother, stiff, anxiety on high. Conversations my mother had with him on what to do when you encounter the cops on replay in his head. His anxiety made me anxious. My big brother, my best friend. Coming in at six feet tall, over 200 pounds, my brother is intimidating though a big teddy bear.
I don’t remember exactly what was said and done. I’m sure a report was made, insurance exchanged.
Nothing happened. My brother wasn’t shot or beaten. Not every campfire tale has a horror ending, but it’s still scary nonetheless.
This is my first memory of a cop, not my first memory of racism, I have many from before this time, but my first memory of fear of a race. I didn’t know what I feared, too young to understand – but I knew to fear, that it was a circumstance not for my always smiling brother to joke with a stranger, but of a seriousness, a “yes sir” to every command.
In 2020 this fear was made light to those who had not experienced it before. The world watched as George Floyd died by the knee of a cop. Nine minutes, 29 seconds nonstop.
This is the reality we all live in. I don’t know when it will change, if it ever will.
I can hope, but that feels foolish. The comfort pessimism has to offer more appealing.
Between the world and mePoem by Richard Wright describing a Black man walking upon a lynched body of a Black person
And one morning while in the woods I stumbled
suddenly upon the thing,
Stumbled upon it in a grassy clearing guarded by scaly
oaks and elms
And the sooty details of the scene rose, thrusting
themselves between the world and me….
There was a design of white bones slumbering forgottenly
upon a cushion of ashes.
There was a charred stump of a sapling pointing a blunt
finger accusingly at the sky.
There were torn tree limbs, tiny veins of burnt leaves, and
a scorched coil of greasy hemp;
A vacant shoe, an empty tie, a ripped shirt, a lonely hat,
and a pair of trousers stiff with black blood.
And upon the trampled grass were buttons, dead matches,
butt-ends of cigars and cigarettes, peanut shells, a
drained gin-flask, and a whore’s lipstick;
Scattered traces of tar, restless arrays of feathers, and the
lingering smell of gasoline.
And through the morning air the sun poured yellow
surprise into the eye sockets of the stony skull….
And while I stood my mind was frozen within cold pity
for the life that was gone.
The ground gripped my feet and my heart was circled by
icy walls of fear–
The sun died in the sky; a night wind muttered in the
grass and fumbled the leaves in the trees; the woods
poured forth the hungry yelping of hounds; the
darkness screamed with thirsty voices; and the witnesses rose and lived:
The dry bones stirred, rattled, lifted, melting themselves
into my bones.
The grey ashes formed flesh firm and black, entering into
The gin-flask passed from mouth to mouth, cigars and
cigarettes glowed, the whore smeared lipstick red
upon her lips,
And a thousand faces swirled around me, clamoring that
my life be burned….
And then they had me, stripped me, battering my teeth
into my throat till I swallowed my own blood.
My voice was drowned in the roar of their voices, and my
black wet body slipped and rolled in their hands as
they bound me to the sapling.
And my skin clung to the bubbling hot tar, falling from
me in limp patches.
And the down and quills of the white feathers sank into
my raw flesh, and I moaned in my agony.
Then my blood was cooled mercifully, cooled by a
baptism of gasoline.
And in a blaze of red I leaped to the sky as pain rose like water, boiling my limbs
Panting, begging I clutched childlike, clutched to the hot
sides of death.
Now I am dry bones and my face a stony skull staring in
The Woman, the Myth, the Legend: Julie d’Aubigny – La Maupin
Julie d’Aubigny. A name you have probably never heard of, but one you are not soon to forget. Known as La Maupin, she was a woman ahead of her time. A bisexual, crossdressing, dueling opera singer – In her short life she was able to create quite a stir. Living life to the fullest, enjoying the pleasures it has to give, and taking no shit along the way – she is an icon of which we all should know.
Born around 1970 (the exact date unknown, to her liking) she was the only child of the secretary to Count d’Armagnac, King Louis XIV’s master of horses. Also titled the Grand Squire of France, he oversaw the massive stables the King had. Being a child of an important worker, she grew up in the aurora of the court. First in Paris, then in Versailles when the court moved by order of the king in 1682. In this environment she had access to learn many courtly talents such as: reading, horseback riding, dancing, drawing, and very important for her story – swordsmanship, and she was a fine one at that.
She became a mistress to the Count at the young age of 14. Married off to a clerk of the name Sieur Jean de Maupins (why she is known as La Maupin) for appearances. She ran away after finding out that her husband was to be stationed off somewhere far, and she was to follow. This began the common theme in her life of making a mad dash, with only a horse beneath her and a sword in her hand.
Her life is riddled with love stories for the books. After leaving her husband and the Count, she fell in love with a fencer. The fencer killed a man in a duel (very much so illegal, even in more primitive times) and the two went on the run. Here is where she began to wear men’s clothes and also started to sing on the road as a way to earn money.
Their love story was short, as she left him for a woman she met at one such performance. The two fell fast and hard. Naturally, once the parents of the girl caught word of their love affair, they were less than pleased. France at this time was not a tolerant place. The fact that they were two girls in love, alongside Julie’s reputation as a girl who threw fists first and asked questions later, made the girl’s parents act extreme. They sent her to a convent to keep her away from Julie, and (I am assuming) fix her unacceptable tendencies. Julie saw this only as a challenge, a test to their love. She devised a plan to get her back. Julie posed as a nun in order to enter the convent and continue the affair. Once inside, she took the body of a recently deceased nun and placed her in her lover’s room. She then set the room on fire and ran away with the girl, leading people to believe the girl died in the fire.
As young passionate love does, it died out fast. The girl returned back to her parents (to their great relief I am sure) and together they went to the courts and told the tale of what Julie had done. Julie was charged and convicted with body snatching, kidnapping, and arson. Her sentence was death by burning – she was to be burnt at the stake. All of this was done without her ever being present at the trial. She was now a fugitive on the run.
She received a pardon from the Sun King himself when her old lover (Count d’Armagnac) pleaded her case to the king. The king found it all very amusing. During this time she was also able to secure an audition for the Paris Opera. At the miraculously young age of 17 she got the opportunity of a lifetime when she was accepted as a member
She sang as a star for years in the Paris Opera garnering massive fame, a movie star of the time. Here the name La Maupin came center stage and was the title she was known by. The Opera house is the baby of King Louis XIV. As a lover of the arts, in 1669 he opened the first opera, making such entertainment no longer limited to just the court elite, but anyone who can afford to buy a ticket. He was even said to have performed there a number of times – acting and dancing.
Whenever on stage, she dazzled crowds with her natural charisma and innate acting ability. People also marveled at her often androgynous characters. Her debut act was as Athena, Greek god of war. Fitting for her personality, but also ironic in the deeper meaning Athena holds. Though a goddess, she was anything but feminine and historically is portrayed as more masculine presenting, as well as her sister, Artemis the huntress.
Often getting in trouble behind the curtains, she had many rendezvous with fellow actors and actresses alike. Always there to defend those being picked on, she dueled any man who dared harass the women working at the Opera.
One of the most splendidly outrageous stories from her life comes from this time. Invited to a ball being put on by the King’s brother Phillipe d’Orleans, she came dressed as a man. The King’s brother was known to be gay, making the energy of the court more lenient to queer people and identities. This perhaps played a role in why that night she so proudly portrayed her queer side. In men’s clothes, though still letting it be known she was a woman, she flirted and danced with women throughout the night. She even went as far as to kiss one, for all to see. This particular woman was a desirable single marquis, and had many suitors pursuing her that evening, those of whom were not happy to see her lips on another, especially someone like La Maupin. Three men challenged her to a duel. She went outside and one after the other, she beat them!
Dueling was against the law at the time. Honor duels were illegal, and the king had done so to stop citizens from taking disputes into their own hands instead of working them out in more civilized ways or through the courts. Unlike her previous crime against the church, this crime was against him. Fearing punishment, she ran away to Brussels where she engaged in more rambunctious behavior. But, yet again (and not without persuasion from the King’s brother and her friends) she was pardoned for her crimes by Louis.
Back in Paris she continued her career as a singer, reaching its peak between the years 1698-1705. A huge moment came when she starred in an opera written specifically for her entitled, “Tancrede”. This was the first French opera in which the principal female was not a soprano. It was during this time that she fell the most deeply she ever had with Madame la Marquise de Florensac, said to have been the most beautiful woman in France. They lived together happily and in harmony, until the marquise’s untimely death. Devastated by the loss, La Maupin retired from the stage immediately. She entered a convent (for real this time) to live a calmer life with more solitude, away from the commotion of her past. It is here where her story comes to an end. She died at the age of 33 in this quiet, perhaps of heartbreak.
With a life full of facts so interesting they seem like fiction; these are just some of the harrowing tales from her life. A lover and a fighter in the truest sense.
Existence is Resistance: What She Means for Queer People, Then and Now
As an openly bisexual women whose gender expression step outside of the “norm” of the time, even for a more tolerant country, she was living radically. What does it mean to wake up every day and be unashamedly you, despite the backlash and danger that might come from it? It is important to honor those who came before us, who had to exist in a world filled with more hate than we can imagine. Although modern day America is not perfect, especially when it comes to protecting the rights of those within in LGBTQ community, we should not take for granted the life we are able to live now.
We stand on the shoulders of the queer people who walked so we can run. To live in an identity that puts you in danger (whether in relation to gender, sexuality, race, religion, or immigration status) is to be existing in resistance to bigotry. You do not need to march on the streets or put your life further on the line to be seen as a hero. Existence is resistance. And that is what she did, she existed so proudly and loudly.
A queer celebrity in her life, she must have meant a lot to the silently queer children of the time. To hear the stories of their beloved opera singer living the life they so desperately wanted to live themselves. Whether it be people whose gender did align with their sex or same gender loving folks, she was someone they could look up too. She unforgivingly loved who she loved, and defended those she loved against persecution of their love.
It’s Good to be Gay: A history on French Queer Rights – Pioneer of LGBTQ Rights
Up until the 18th century homosexuality was illegal and punishable by death across all of Europe, including France. The only persons allowed to engage in such behaviors (openly or in private) were royalty or those in the royal court/entourage. King Louis XIV’s brother, Phillipe d’Orleans, was notoriously queer openly having a male lover (the Knight of Lorraine) for decades, though he was still married to a woman for the formalities of the time. As a friend of the court, La Maupin certainly received some favors from the King as far as her own lifestyle choices. Still, many were killed during this period. Gay and trans people were subject to discrimination and harassment.
Until the French Revolution. In “The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen” (written in 1789) homosexuality was decriminalized. Here is the first time in modern history a law such as this was made. Monumental in the history and fight for gay rights.
Man, I Feel like a Woman: Her Female Impact and a French History on Women’s Rights
Her life cannot be over-expressed for her ability to live as she had in the body she was in. Of course, I do not want to assume gender, and given the fact that she liked to dress more masculine/androgynous at times, she could be gender queer. But from the research I conducted and everything I have read it seem she identified as a cis-female and will acknowledge her as such.
That being said, the rights of women have been limited for millennia. Even in France, a more progressive country, historically whose foundations stand on rights for all, lagged on this front. Within the “Declaration of the Rights of Man” (1789) women were given no liberty. A document praised for its controversial stance that “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights” women were not seen as a part of this equation.
Not until many years later (1791) did women try to render this omission. In “The Declaration of the Rights of Women” written by the brilliant Olympe De Gouges declaring “Woman is born free and remains equal to man in rights”. Ground shaking words La Maupin would surely agree with if her actions say anything.
A badass woman. Defender and protector. A fighter for her cause to whatever end. The “kill men meme” incarnate. La Maupin was a trailblazer in how she stuck up for herself and others in the face of men who believed they held power over women.
Julie and Me
So, what does this woman who lived a life so far removed from my own have anything to do with me? I am a Black American born in the twentieth century. I come from an immigrant low-income family. She lived centuries before me and was a white securely middle class woman. But, both her and I love whom we love, gender not important.
The queer community is one that transcends culture, race, place and even time. Her and I are sisters in this. It was amazing to learn about her story. Often, when looking at queer history you are bombarded with tragic story after tragic story. Although her story is not one of only happiness, it is refreshing to hear one that had so much unabashed joy.
Olivia Guthrie is a Sophomore at Florida International University currently studying Journalism. With a love for writing, she hopes to one day be living in New York City, creating media that helps better educate the public on the world they are living in, including the issues that are facing them and their loved ones. Her love of art and yearning to travel has landed her in Professor Bailly’s France study abroad class.
Deering as Text: Acknowledging Our Ancestors
We all feel connected to those who came before us. Whether it is your mom or great aunt, our ancestors don’t feel like strangers, not fully. Blood ancestors are often acknowledged and respected. Even if we have never met them, we hold an esteem and regard for them and their part in our family and how we eventually came to be. This is a good thing. It makes us feel more connected to our past.
Rarely are our geological ancestors given the same respect. My teacher, John Bailly, commented on this during his outdoor lecture at the Deering Estate in Miami, Fl, moments before walking to view a sacred burial ground for the Paleo-Natives who originally lived on this land hundreds of years ago, the Tequesta. He explained to us their history, the importance of learning it, and honoring them as our ancestor’s. I have never previously thought to view indigenous people this way, associated to me so intimately. It moved me, causing a paradigm shift in my thinking.
He explained to us how the burial we were about to see is one of the last of its kind. Previous grave sites had been found, but because of greed and the American need to cover the past, they are now built over. Businesses like Whole Foods now stand on top of massive grave sites of the Tequesta. As my teacher told us the horror and disrespect given to this day to the Tequesta, I felt angry and even more grateful for this opportunity to learn more about my secret ancestors and see an untouched holy place of rest.
As we walked the path to the sacred place, surrounded by a lush scenery, the beauty of nature all around us, I got chills. We came to a stop at a gorgeous huge tree (estimated to be around 500 years old) in the middle of the burial mound. It was moving to see life come up so prosperously from death.
Although there are no more living Tequesta direct decedents, they are not a forgotten people. These ancestors live on in each Miami Native who walks the same paths they did so many years ago. I am thankful that I got to learn more about them and am encouraged to learn more about the “ancestors” I previously did not know existed. Many people are a part of how you got to where you are today, more than just your blood relatives.
Vizcaya As Text: The Price that is Paid
History is made up of many silent participators. How we have what we have now is not magical and did not happen overnight. Miami is no exception. The long journey to what we now see Miami as has many parts, but starts here.
Vizcaya is a museum and garden located along the shores of the Biscayne Bay. Originally built in 1916 by James Deering (brother of Charles Deering, builder of previous post, Deering Estate) it was his “European” home in America. Paul Chalfin, head designer, and Deering collaborated to bring the love and passion Deering had for European culture to his now winter home in Miami. Gorgeous Mediterranean art and architecture are everywhere, every inch intricately detailed. The choice to incorporate such distinctly Spanish and Italian styles in this tropical climate is still seen today, as much of the stereotypical “Miami style” has those same elements. Even the lively culture of Miami got its start here, with Deering being an active lover of the more indulgent things in life.
Vizcaya wasn’t built in a day, and it wasn’t without a cost. This cost is felt on the backs of the Bahamian immigrants (numerous at the time in Miami) who were the labor behind much of Vizcaya. Art aside, most of Vizcaya was built through the cheap labor these immigrants brought. Working in horrendous conditions, with little pay, and no worker rights, Black Bahamians made the beauty that is Vizcaya, and much of Miami in fact.
My professor, John Bailly, made sure to reiterate to us, even before we set foot on the grounds, how everything we saw was made by them, and how much of Southern Miami was too. Places like Coconut grove were constructed by Bahamians. The fruits of their labor weren’t even enjoyed as Miami in the early 20th century was extremely segregated. Not allowed to live in the white neighborhoods they built, the black families were moved into northern Miami, a segregation that is still partly felt today.
The story behind a statue in Vizcaya reminded me of the Bahamians. Located in the north hall, the replica of the famous statue Spinario is proudly displayed. Spinario (or Boy with Thorn) is based off the ancient Greek boys who would run from city to city naked to tell urgent news. With no protection from the elements, pushing their bodies to their physical limits, these young men partook in this job because they knew the necessity of it. This wasn’t a simple task being handed to them, but one of great importance that they did because they knew they needed to help in any way they could to protect their people and their families.
Much in the same way, the Bahamian Immigrants worked in those horrible conditions for such little pay because they had to. They had families to feed and bills to pay. The sacrifices they made, coming to America, pursuing a better life for them and their loved ones, is the backbone of the “American Dream”. Their story is still felt today. Miami is still a hot spot for many Caribbean and Latinx immigrants who too are hoping to find a better life within these red, white, and blue walls.
Downtown as Text: Blood on the Ground We Walk On
America has a history, and it’s not always a pretty one – this we know. But to learn more deeply about the dark (sometimes sadly not too distant) past of the very city you live in is a horrifying, but necessary self-education.
On my lectured walk-through Downtown Miami with my professor John Bailly, I got to experience this again.
We began at the government center, a high-rise that houses all county level local governing. In the midst of downtown, and with a metro station right next to it. Here you can feel like you are in a true city.
Part of our walk was through Lummus Park, which is a historic district located near downtown. There we got to see both the Wagner Homestead and Fort Dallas, buildings that were both built in the 1800s. Wagner Homestead was home to an interracial family, who used it as a haven to live their lives without the racially motivated hate that ran through all of America (particularly the south) at the time. Fort Dallas’ building has been used for many things: a military dorm (as the name suggest), a lady’s tearoom, and most notably – a slave house. The entire area was once part of a large plantation owned by a man named William English. When I learned this, it was chilling. Of course, as Americans we all know of our horrific past, but to touch the building and walk on the ground I know slaved Black folks cried, bled, and died on was jarring.
My professor mentioned how most of us in the class had lived in Miami for years, and even attended part of our K-12 education in a Miami-Dade school, yet none of us knew of this place. It is a shame how the education system fails us. With critical race theory becoming more and more of a controversial topic, and even being outright banned, it’s only getting worse. Not the fault of the children the system let down, now as adults it is in our hands to fill in the gap our education made.
Another lesson never taught to us is about the Tequesta, the native people of South Florida. Part of our walk was through Brickell. Here we passed by a Tequesta memorial, which is also used as a dog park… and the Whole Foods in the area, home to a hidden crime. Beneath the Whole Foods, where hundreds of people get their groceries for their families every day, lay around 500 Tequesta bodies. We learned during a previous class how during the construction of this Whole Foods the largest Tequesta burial mound was found and instead of turning the area to a memorial they continued with construction, not even moving the bodies. You can’t help but feel sick to your stomach as you walk atop these neglected corpses. This building (recently made) is only one of such crimes against our indigenous Floridians.
Henry Flagler, a key person in the creation and development of early Miami, also had a part in Tequesta disrespect. The man behind the segregation of Miami and the beginning of the horrors mankind has laid upon the Florida environment, he also destroyed a Tequesta burial mound at the mouth of the Miami River, with no care given to the bodies found.
It is sad how so much of history gets washed away and quite literally built upon. Marginalized communities across this country know this to be true. It is important to be seen, to be heard, to know the past of your people – your past – is not forgotten. And it is not forgotten.
Poem written by me that feels fitting. Inspired by this quote from Audre Lorde, “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive”
Who Are You?
I am a black queer woman
A buy one get three free on oppressed groups
The beginning of a joke
I am a queer Christian
A traitor to those of my faith
A contradiction to those of my sexuality
If you think I am going to hell – I guess I’ll see you there
I am a woman
The giver of life
Though nothing in my life has been given to me
I am a Black American
Blood of my history soaked into the ground you walk on
Bloody footprints in your shadows, though you pretend not to see
Loyal to my country
Even if my country won’t be as loyal to me
I am a human
Made from the same flesh and bones as you
Feel pain and love just like you
You ask me to define myself, so I do
But know I am more than the labels society has put on me
I am more than the boxes you try to fit me into
I am me
SoBe as Text: History of an Island – Diversity All Around
South Beach (SoBe) is a worldwide known destination. The “Miami” people think of when they think of Miami. A beach with a past, and an interesting one at that.
For Miami natives, SoBe doesn’t have the sparkle it seems to have for outsiders, but a recent walking lesson with my Professor John Bailly re-opened my eyes to the marvel we have here.
Humans have inhabited the area dating back 10,000 years, but it became a more developed area, and began its progression to what we now know as SoBe, in the late 19th/early 20th century.
Originally an integrated city, the emergence of Carl Fischer and his development of the area in 1910 instituted a segregation banning Black people from the space. This segregation lasted decades. Present day the beaches host people of all races and ethnic backgrounds. People from around the world come to sit on the white sands and dip their toes into the blue Atlantic Ocean.
There is also a very large and prevalent Jewish community here. Though originally faced with much anti-Semitisms. Now it is home to one of the highest per capita Jewish populations in America. The Jewish Museum along with the Holocaust Memorial are both landmarks to stop by and learn more about the history of Jewish people.
Located at the southern point of the island Miami Beach, SoBe is a small neighborhood and huge tourism spot with over 20 million visitors passing through each year. Ocean Drive, with its famous name, is housed with the novel Art Deco buildings the area is known for. The origin of Art Deco, coincidentally enough, began in France shortly before the first World War. No longer seen there, the architectural style is alive and well here. Noted for its colorful geometric style. Walking the boardwalk is a treat for the eyes, particularly at night when the neon signs are bright.
Among the destinations to stop and marvel at along the strip is the infamous Versace Mansion. Gianni Versace, renowned Italian fashion designer, made SoBe his home. As a gay man, he helped create the culture South Beach is known for: open acceptance, a place where you can be shamelessly you. He was drawn to this place where, in the 90s, it was hard to live and be yourself (as a queer person) without hate being thrown at you. Particularly hard for gay men, with the aids epidemic adding increased fear and stigmatization to the community, SoBe was his haven. Tragically murdered on the footsteps to his house, Versace’s mansion has come to be a somber location on the lively strip.
To this day SoBe is a queer hot spot. An epicenter for inclusion, it is home to South Beach Pride (happening this week) and has many drag shows and gay clubs in the vicinity. The colorful buildings themselves reflect the rainbow associated with pride.