Brenda Balcarcel

Where I'm from
truly doesn't reflect who I am
even though I am from these states that stand united
I have roots that reach central American country, Guatemala
I live in a city that represents our government
where laws are made
some live, some die
filled with different people
divided among neighborhoods
you cant call it a state
its a capitol of a powerful nation
this city is called the District of Colombia

by: Brenda Balcarcel

Brenda Balcarcel
DC History


Scenes Stand as Reminders

In creating the capital of the United States George Washington envisioned a city where Americans could feel united and proud of its government. Most importantly creating this capitol was “a desperate attempt-to create a massive symbol that embody the spirit of a nation.#” In this desperate attempt the capitol became a "city of magnificent intentions.#" This intentions are evident through the statues located around the city. We also see evidence of these intentions through the architecture of the government buildings and the art in them, such as the frieze in the Capitol.
In the Capitol's rotunda Americas history is painted in a beautiful frieze that goes around 360 degrees. This frieze is painted “in true fresco, a difficult and exacting technique in which the pigments are applied directly onto wet plaster.#” It took 75 years to paint the frieze from 1878 to 1953. There are 19 scenes painted in chronological order. It took three painters to complete the frieze, they were Constantino Brumidi, Filippo Costaggini, and Ally Cox painted this frieze#. Brumidi an Italian painter designed the first 16 scenes in the frieze, but only painted eight of his designs. Costaggini also an Italian painter finish painting the remaining designs of Brumidi. However when he finished there was still space left to paint. Cox, an American painter, finish painting the remaining space with scenes from the Civil War to the birth of aviation.
The time period in which the frieze was painted limited the amount of United States history that could be painted. When looking at the frieze the majority of scenes show European exploration. Scenes such as the landing of Columbus and Hernando Cortez encounter with the Aztecs. The scenes that show United States history are the battle of Lexington, Declaration of Independence, peace at the end of the civil war, and the birth of Aviation.

Battle of Lexington

Washington and Pierre L’Enfant hoped that a visit to the nation’s capital would convert citizens to a new national perspective#. They hoped that citizens would began to identify themselves nationally than from the state they were from. Washington overall wanted its citizens to feel pride in its national government at a national level.
Scenes that show the battle of Lexington, Declaration of Independence, and peace at the end of the civil war in the frieze stand as a reminder to citizens. When citizens would see these scenes they could remember the struggles in creating this nation. Citizens can then feel proud of being an American. Scenes like these are exactly what Washington and L’Enfant wanted in the capital. They are part of those “magnificent intentions” to make Americans feel proud.
During my visit to the capitol I asked the visitors their opinion on the frieze and if it represented American history. One visitor said that even though it was beautiful it did not represent all Americans. Being an African American, she felt that Benjamin Banneker could have been painted in the frieze. This is interesting because in the frieze no African Americans are shown even though many fought in the Civil war. When looking at the scene of the civil war there are two men shaking their hands, but no African American.

End of Civil War
Another visitor who seemed very happy said that they loved the frieze and that it definitely represented American history. If I had no knowledge of the frieze I could have very well reacted the same way the visitor did. In the rotunda room there are statues and paintings the beauty of room takes over you. This reaction is exactly what Washington wanted its citizens to feel and think of their capital.

The last visitor I asked said that the frieze did not represent American history well. The visitor said that no one wants to put up the ugliness of American history. The visitors reactions to the frieze were mixed with its beauty and content. Washington and L’Enfant vision of making an appealing capital was fulfilled. However their hopes that an appealing capital would change its citizens was some what achieved.

Declaration of Independence

The frieze is a work of art that is part of the many “intentions” created in building a national symbol of this nation. When designing the capital Washington and L’Enfant wanted it to look like the Constitution#. This helped in uniting its citizens to make the nation better. In doing this making a permanent capital was essential. Once built this city would show the world that the United States was here to stay#. Washington wanted to show the strength of the nation.
Showing other nations the strength of this nation, having a national symbol that united Americans made the capital a city of “magnificent intentions.” When walking through the mall the structure of the government buildings, its statues, and art really make this part of the city beautiful. This beauty shows that those “intentions” fulfilled.

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