Brittney Sanchez: Miami as Text 2020-2021

Photo taken of Brittney Sanchez in 2019. Photo by Cristina Martinez/ CC BY 4.0

Hello! My name is Brittney Sanchez and I was born and raised in the beautiful city of Miami, Florida. I was homeschooled all throughout my life until I graduated high school and attended Miami Dade College to obtain my AA degree in Pre-Recreational Therapy. This year I transferred into the Honors program at Florida International University to pursue a bachelors degree in Physical Education: Sports and Fitness. I am passionate about helping people with disabilities, and want to pursue a career that allows me to combine my passion of helping others and my love of fitness and nutrition. I love finding joy in the little things in life like dancing, listening to music, getting to know new people, seeing people smile, learning unique hobbies, and watching the sunset.

Deering as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Deering Estate. Photo by Brittney Sanchez/ CC BY 4.0

“A Blast into our Geographic Past”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Deering Estate, 2 September 2020

On September 2nd, we immersed ourselves into an unforgettable hike surrounded by awe-inspiring oak trees and chilling spider webs. We were no longer staring at the busy streets of Miami. Instead, our class took place in the serenity of the Deering Estate. It was not just a lovely sight to see; it was the melting pot of many diverse cultures, an archeological wonderland, a wide array of unique plants, and a wildlife environment which one cannot experience on a typical day in Miami. As I embarked on this journey, I was welcomed by coffee plants, oak trees, strangler figs, and most importantly the untouchable poison ivy.  
The most fascinating part of the Deering Estate, in my opinion, was the influence of the Tequestas. Although the Tequestas inhabited Miami in the 1500’s and are now extinct, I could just imagine them using their shell tools and intermingling with each other as I stood in the Tequesta Cutler Burial Mound. I personally had not heard of the Tequestas until Professor Bailly introduced me to their rich past and unique tools. As I examined the shells which the Tequestas used as tools in the palm of my hand, I could see that each shell served a different purpose. For example, I personally held one that was used as a drill to dig into the dirt. The history that surrounded me in Deering Estate’s nature preserve was an unforgettable experience. Something as simple as holding a tiny tool in my hand, made me feel connected to my geographic past.

South Beach as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in South Beach. Photo by Brittney Sanchez/ CC BY 4.0

“Not Your Typical Eyebrows”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at South Beach, 16 September 2020

On September 16th, we walked down Ocean Drive with a completely different outlook. Although I had been to South Beach’s Art Deco neighborhood countless times, for the first time ever, I got to walk down Ocean Drive without the tourist filled sidewalks and crowded streets. Because of the pandemic, this usually highly populated road was completely empty. This allowed us to have a new sense of appreciation for the architectural history and cultural heritage which makes Ocean Drive such a popular tourist attraction today. In fact, buildings in the Art Deco play such a significant role in our cultural history, that they are not allowed to be destroyed or significantly modified.
South Beach is known for being a prime location for music videos, delicious restaurants, and beautiful sandy beaches. However, most people do not know that the buildings surrounding Ocean Drive encompass a wide variety of aesthetic characteristics and architectural styles that date back to the early twentieth century and the influence of machines and appliances. As I made my way down the street, I looked up at these fascinating structures with their futuristic styles and linear components, and I immediately pictured myself in the Jetsons cartoon. The most fascinating qualities shared by these buildings are the “eyebrows.” Although it might seem like the architect may have forgotten to finish the balcony, these ledges immediately draw you in with their perplexity. Speaking of perplexing forms of art, many of these buildings also display a variety of contrasting relief art. These art pieces can range anywhere from natural elements to erotic displays. I believe each work of art perfectly accentuates the architectural characteristics and cultural heritage displayed throughout the buildings and they each play a vital role in telling their own story.

Downtown as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Downtown. Photo by Brittney Sanchez/ CC BY 4.0

“The Influence of the Catholic Church”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Downtown, 30 September 2020

On September 30th, we walked around Downtown Miami and learned about the spread of Catholicism and the substantial influence the Catholic church has had on the world. It is crazy to think that there were no Catholics in the western hemisphere in 1492 and, according to Will Worley, Christianity is the most popular religion in the western hemisphere today. As we ended our walk down 2nd Street, we climbed the steps to what seemed like an ordinary, peach building. Although it might look like a simple building to passersby, once I stepped into Gesu Catholic Church, I was reminded of its beauty. There was a high domed ceiling, countless pews, tall stained glass windows, gold accents adorning the altar, and many saint sculptures around the church. Although many different people from around the world came to America with new religions and ideologies, the Catholic faith remained and flourished quickly.

The reason for the vast spread of the Catholic faith can be accredited to the missionaries in the late 1500s. Catholics believe they are called to spread the good news of Christ and these missionaries did exactly that. They went around towns and started converting the slaves and indigenous people living throughout the area. Jesus’ call to missionaries is presented many times throughout the Bible, which is the sacred scripture in the Catholic faith, for example in Luke 10:1-2 where it states, “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go” (“Jesus Sends out the Seventy-Two”). Although “the first Catholic presence in Miami was in 1567 when Jesuit missionaries arrived with the Spanish settlement founded by Don Pedro Menendez de Avila at the mouth of the Miami River,” (“History”) this church continues to have multiple Masses on the weekends and confessions held throughout the week. It is evident that the Catholic Church has made a significant impact on today’s world, and Gesu is a great reminder of that.

Works Cited

Biblegateway. “Jesus Sends out the Seventy-Two.” 2011.
ECatholic. “History.” GESÙ CATHOLIC CHURCH was founded as a Church in 1896.
Worley, Will. “What are the largest religious groups around the world, and where are they?” The distribution of religions across the world, 13 April 2016.

Chicken Key as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Chicken Key. Photo by Brittney Sanchez/ CC BY 4.0

“We are the World”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Chicken Key, 14 October 2020

On October 14th, we made a difference. “The numbers are staggering: There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. Of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer litter the deep sea” (Parker, 2015). It is no secret that our earth is filled with marine debris; however, there are moments like these that make the unthinkable facts come to life right in front of your eyes. This opportunity let me take part in making our earth a safer place for wildlife and marine animals so they could live peacefully without being threatened by trash in the bay. You might think to yourself, what difference can one person really make on such an expansive earth like this? Well, on October 14th I learned that a small group of us from the Honors College can make a major difference in just a matter of hours.

It was a bright and windy day in Biscayne Bay. We packed up our lunch, prepared the canoes, grabbed some paddles and life vests, and finally distributed sand bags to collect the debris. Although the water had been completely serene in the morning, by the time we set out to Chicken Key, the water hit the sides of our canoes, furiously dragging us further away as we tried to paddle to the island. To our surprise, our cleanup started even before landing on the designated area on the island when we found a huge barrel which we mounted onto our canoe. Once we landed, we found debris laying near the coastline and on the island. These pieces varied anywhere from hundreds of bottle caps, to large gasoline tanks. After a long day, we collected 6 canoes worth of marine debris. Learning about the effects of trash on the environment and the creatures abiding in it should be important to everyone. We must make a conscious effort to clean up and reserve these beautiful habitats for years to come.

Works Cited

Parker, Laura. “Ocean Trash: 5.25 Trillion Pieces and Counting, but Big Questions Remain.” The numbers add up to trouble for the oceans, wildlife, and us, but scientists are struggling to understand how. National Geographic, 2015.

Bakehouse as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Bakehouse Art Complex. The “Future Pacific” by Lauren Shapiro. Photo by Komila Kholmatova/ CC BY 4.0

“Combining Science and Art”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Bakehouse Art Complex, 28 October 2020

On October 28th, we took part in the creation of a contemporary art piece to bring awareness to such an eye opening installation made by artist Lauren Shapiro and marine ecologist Dr. Nyssa Silbiger. They’re combined knowledge and creativity made this engaging environmental art installation possible. Yet simple in nature, this work of art mixes technology, reusable resources, ceramics, and scientific research to bring attention to the coral reefs like I have never seen before. These large wooden structures are covered by many hundreds of intricate coral ceramics that have been installed by the local community alongside the artists in the Bakehouse. These eye catching structures showcase a wide range of different textures, colors, and intricate details.

Although there is many distinct details in each and every structure, there is something they all have in common. They each take part in a grander project, to bring awareness to the frailty of coral reefs all over the worlds oceans. The room is filled with some bright and colorful shells, while other shells are faded, dried, and cracked. This shift is made possible because of the way these corals were made with unfired clay material. This material is used to demonstrate the decay of the coral reefs and the affect we have on them. Shapiro does an excellent job in creating a contemporary work of art while engaging the local community in a unique artistic experience. This abstract art installation is an important representation of engagement, community, involvement, and awareness.

Rubell as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Rubell Museum. Photo of Two Cells with Circulating Conduit by Peter Hall. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

“Think Outside the Box”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Rubell Museum, 18 November 2020

On November 18th, we were face to face with multicultural, contemporary works of art. These thought-provoking installations, sculptures, and paintings pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I saw myself examining and interpreting art in a completely new way. To be completely honest, I am guilty of going to contemporary art museums and thinking to myself, how is this in an art museum if I could easily do this at home? However, this experience was unlike any other, it compelled me to think unconventionally.

The painting above, Two Cells with Circulating Conduit by Peter Halley, might look simple by nature to many people, but I believe it is a minimalistic work of art which uniquely combines culture and art. It is also important to understand that this type of art is left completely to the interpretation of the spectator. Typically I would have quickly passed by this painting in a museum, but as I stood in front of this work of art, it transported me into a whirlwind of imagination.

Although this painting was made in 1987, it lead me to ponder our current situation in 2020. Many of us feel trapped in our homes because of this pandemic. We are told to stay 6 feet apart from each other, we are strongly encouraged to stay home, and constantly wear masks, while living in fear of contracting this virus. With all the restrictions and conditions, this virus has taken away our first form of communication, human touch. It has caused many people to feel as if they are reliving the same day over and over again. The painting is a reflection of society, the squares represent this constant routine we find ourselves in. However, this abstract painting of geometric squares connected within a larger square gives me a sense of hope. Although we may feel as if 2020 cannot get any better, I see the larger square as a sign that there is a grander plan, something greater to come.

Everglades as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU at the Everglades National Park. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

“Into the Unknown”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at the Everglades, 20 January 2021

On January 20th we got to explore one of the most unique wetlands in the world, the Florida Everglades. We experienced a different side of Miami that is not often seen by tourists or even locals. Although people might call the Florida Everglades a swamp, it is actually a slow moving river that covers millions of acres. We went slough slogging through the murky waters during the ‘dry season’ in the Everglades. Because of the dry season, there weren’t as many mosquitos and we weren’t suffering from the usual Miami heat. “South Florida’s subtropical to tropical climate has a seven month long “wet season” from April through October. Only a quarter of yearly rainfall takes place during the “dry season” (November-March)” (Field School, 2013). The park is widely recognized for being a Unesca World Heritage Site and Wetland of International Importance. It is also home to many different plant and animal species. Whether you are looking for a thrill-seeking adventure, or a relaxing escape from the busyness of everyday life, the Florida Everglades is a unique experience for all who are brave enough to step into the “River of Grass.”

One of my favorite parts of the experience was standing in the silence, completely surrounded by nature, consciously trying to listen to the sounds around us. It reminded me that we need to take time in our lives to truly be grateful for what is around us and view things with a different perspective. I truly hope that this subtropical wilderness will be protected and further researched for our future generations to enjoy as much as I did.

Works Cited

Field School. (2013). Everglades Seasons: Wet and Dry.

Wynwood as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in the Locust Projects. “Made by Dusk” by Mette Tommerup. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

“The Conversation Starter”

By Brittney Sanchez of FIU at the Locust Projects, 3 February 2021

On February 3rd, we were introduced to an inspiring female artist named, Mette Tommerup. Through her story, I grew a new sense of appreciation for the grit that artists embody throughout their professional careers. She is a painter and storyteller from Denmark who made a unique installation called, Made by Dusk. She challenges the art market by creating a space that perfectly combines mythology, modern topics, sounds, textures, interactive objects, tapestry, and more in an unimaginable way. It is immediately captivating from the moment you step into the gallery. Her message is not clearly written in black and white, instead, the audience is encouraged to reflect on the display and discuss their perspectives. This immersive installation gives society a platform to discuss pre-existing sensitive topics, such as feminism. She personally describes it as,”‘an opportunity to build a forum for a dialogue for how women can be the catalyst for transformative change in the world today'” (Mette Tommerup, 2020).

Tommerup explains that it is a liberating work of art, and I sensed this liberation through the videos projected onto the walls. To the left, she is seen picking up a large, heavy piece of tapestry which she pulls up into the roof. To the right, the video shows her dropping it from the roof. The video is perfectly laid on top of a textured style on the wall, which makes it an unique visual experience. Tommerup completely reimagined the world of art for me with this piece. I highly recommend it for anyone who would like to be blown away by her talent.

Works Cited

Mette Tommerup. (2020). New Major Immersive Installation by Mette Tommerup Creates an Otherworldly Luminous Space for Reflection and Transformation [Press Release]. From

Bill Baggs as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

“Searching for the Truth”

By Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, 17 February 2021

On February 17th, we explored a barrier island. Although it is commonly known for being part of the Florida Keys, Key Biscayne is geologically part of the coastline of Florida. It is home to the famous Cape Florida lighthouse, many land and sea animals, and an array of tropical foliage. The most fascinating aspect of Bill Baggs and the Cape Florida lighthouse, is the history that lies within the island. Whether it be that Marjory Stoneman Douglas skinny dipped with her friends on the island, or the importance of the lighthouse throughout the years. Through this class, I have learned that history needs to be well researched, because a good majority of it can be one-sided. We must acknowledge all the different stories that can be found in the history of Bill Baggs, especially the role that the lighthouse has played in it. For example, its relation with the underground railroads, its aid in navigation, and lastly its impact on the Seminole wars.

Among these stories is the spread of Christianity on the island through the Jesuit missionary, Francisco Villareal. He sought to convert the Tequestas, but the Tequestas did not appreciate these new religious teachings by the Jesuits. I found this interesting because of the way it showcases the difference between the inhabitants of the island and the mission of the Jesuits. They both had very different mindsets and motives. While the Tequestas just wanted to find ways to survive by simply converting to Christianity if it was to their convenience, Villareal vigorously sought to convert them into Christianity and was oblivious to their motives. He was so fascinated by the Tequestas eagerness to learn about the faith, that he even reported his situation in a letter that was later discovered and found in the Vatican Archives.

River of Grass as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU at the Everglades National Park. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0 

“Exploring the Everglades”

By Brittney Sanchez of FIU at the Everglades National Park, 5 March 2021

On March 5th, we learned about the biodiversity present in the Everglades. First, we explored it on a dry hike lead by ranger Dylann. We learned human’s effect on the Everglades and the history of the national park. The importance of the Everglades cannot go unmentioned. It is pivotal to the unique culture and heritage of South Florida. Also, the diversity among the animals makes it such a unique ecosystem. Although the land had been used for many different things, today it is covered by pine and rock lands, and it is home to extraordinary wildlife. You must live the Everglades to truly understand it – seeing it through pictures does not do it justice. Rare species like the Dinosaur Birds and Roseate Spoonbills can be seen here, among many others. Each animal serves a purpose – even predators. In fact, our class lecture started off by ranger Dylann speaking to us about a bird that flies up to 250 mph and eats other birds that can even be larger in size.

Next, we went to the Nike Missile Site. As I stood under the looming shadow of the Nike Hercules Missile, which dates back to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, it reminded me of my Cuban-American roots. Although it was renovated and inactive, I felt as if I was transported back in time to the Cold War and it was a completely eye opening experience. I stood in this missile site, absorbing all the information and imagining how different history would have been if the nuclear warheads killed millions of people in the United States. It blew my mind that I was only 160 miles from Cuba, and that I was standing amongst many historical relics of the Cold War.

Frost as Text


By Brittney Sanchez of FIU at the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, 17 March 2021

On March 17th, we toured many of the 6500 works at the Frost Museum. Among these works was the thought provoking exhibit by Roberto Obregón. He had an obsession with the dissection of the rose. He only worked with a certain number of roses, and everyone who has the opportunity to tour this exhibit can quickly sense his obsession with the uniqueness of the petals. As I toured Obregón’s exhibit, I was immediately captivated by a specific piece called the “Sick Rose,” or “Rosa Enferma” in Spanish. In the picture to the left, I noticed a rose which seemed to be untouched by humanity nor by harmful creatures. It was delicate, yet full of life. As I stood in front of this painting, I thought to myself, why is this beautiful flower named “the Sick Rose”? Then, I turned to my left and saw that this flower that was once so full of life, was taken apart petal by petal and laid out into a different frame with some writings on it. The very detailed note recounts the day that Obregón’s friend, Salmerón, gifted him this flower. This piece pays homage to Salmerón, who died a few years later from AIDS.

Although the rose had many meanings throughout the exhibit, I felt as if this rose could connect to many of its viewers, especially now during the corona pandemic. For me, it was a reminder that life is fragile, but it is also worth living. We all experience birth, development, and death. We do not know when our time will come, and this pandemic has made this clear to everyone. We are susceptible to many types of external factors such as diseases, infections, and natural disasters, but instead of living in fear, this flower should remind us to care and love for one another in a deeper and meaningful way. 

Coral Gables as Text

“Be Our Guest”

By Brittney Sanchez of FIU at the Biltmore Hotel, 31 March 2021

On March 31st we explored many tourist attractions in Coral Gables, such as the Coral Gables museum, Miracle Mile, and the Biltmore Hotel. As we entered the Coral Gables museum we were quickly transported to the early 1900s and the Great Depression. The tour combined local history, architecture, segregation, visionaries, and the overall development of Coral Gables. The uprising can be accredited to the founder and developer, George Merrick. His success story started as a young boy who tended his family farm filled with guava trees. He worked tirelessly and had a vivid dream of creating a city based on Spaniard architectural styles. Our tour guide gave us a thorough depiction of the history that lies within the city and the role Merrick played in making it such a successful city. Although it’s rise to fame is worth noting, one cannot push aside the intense segregation that lie in Miami at the time. We saw this immediately as we walked into the first room, the court house and the jail cells. They were separated into four different cells. White men, black men, and white women, and black women. The white men and women had the nicer cells facing a window, while the others had the dark, cold rooms. Much like any museum you visit, you need to create your own opinion. Having a critical mindset is pivotal. There will always be great success stories, but one must look at all the angles to fully understand the complex history.

Shortly after visiting the Coral Gables museum, we drove to the Biltmore Hotel which had a success story of its own. Although it was a military hospital during WWII, architects Shultz and Weaver renovated it in only 11 months. It became a beautiful hotel that combined Mediterranean revival and Miami Mediterranean styles with many geometric patterns and building styles that resembled Cuba. It was a place where many famous people visited, such as Desi Arnaz, and many galas, golf tournaments, and water shows were held. Today, it is a beautiful vacation spot for many locals and tourists from around the world!

Vizcaya as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. Photo by John Bailly / CC BY 4.0

“La Fin”

By Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, 14 April 2021

On April 14th, we took part in an exclusive tour of the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. In a year full of uncertainties, this class quickly became one of my biggest blessings in 2020. We experienced Miami in a unique way and I could not have imagined ending such an unforgettable semester anywhere else but the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. This place is absolutely breathtaking. In 1912, James Deering undertook the construction of Vizcaya with Paul Chalfin as the artistic director. As you enter the gardens through the winding roads at the east entrance, you are welcomed by a Mediterranean architectural style embellished with tropical curtains. From the moment you enter the garden, you can see that hedonism, wealth, and self-glorification greatly influenced Deering’s design throughout Vizcaya.

As you walk through the back entrance, you are greeted by Bacchus, also called Dionysus, the Roman god of wine and ecstasy. He is depicted wearing minimal clothing and he is surrounded by little figures called putti. As you continue to walk through the house, you come across the patio that is lit up with natural light shining through the window ceiling. When this was built, it was completely open. I could just imagine the pure sunlight filling up the space with the fresh sea breeze circulating around it. Although you are surrounded by the Mediterranean architecture, you can also notice many other aspects that make this room so unique, such as the indoor/outdoor feel, the Cuban inspired roof, and the tropical flora throughout the room. This fresh air would have come straight from the east where you are face to face with the Boat Landing. This boat welcomed guests in the early 1900’s and served as a breakwater to protect the house and surrounding area from water. Although it was under construction, it quickly grasped your attention. Lastly, my favorite room in the South Loggia is enclosed by three pastel colored, arched, mosaic stained glass windows. This room is majestic. As the light from the setting sun fills the room with color through the stained glass windows, it instantly reminds you of a Disney movie. Life seems to simply stop for a moment as you stare into the endless garden through the stained glass windows. I cannot wait to go back to the museum for many years to come and show my family members the former home of James Deering.

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