Aimee Zuniga: Miami as Text 2020-2021

Aimee taking a mirror selfie. Photo taken by Aimee Zuniga

Hello peers, My name is Aimee Zuniga . I am a junior hoping to graduate by spring 2021 or summer 2021. I am an organizational communications student. Once I get my bachelors in communications I plan on continuing my education and getting a masters in International Business. My hobbies consist of film photography, music, and nature. I shoot 35 mm film, develop, and scan my own photos at home. My favorite thing to capture is the local music scene of Miami. Before the pandemic, I was going to shows every week capturing and fully immersing myself in the local music scene. Another one of my favorite things to capture are nature spots. I love nature and I try to spend most of my time outdoors. That is one reason I chose this class. I also chose this class because I was born and raised in Miami and I want to learn about the real culture and history of my city.

Deering as text

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Deering Estate , 2 September 2020

Aimee Holding Tequesta tools at Deering Estate. Photo taken by Aimee Zuniga

The hike at Deering Estate was a journey through the past. The area where Deering Estate is located was the land of the Tequesta’s which were a group of Native Americans that lived in the area that we know as Miami. I was astonished while hiking because I was walking through the land the Tequestas once roamed.  While walking through the trail I was picturing the life of the Tequesta’s. The history and the story of the Tequestas was my favorite thing about this Deering estate trip. Finding tools left behind by the Tequestas blew my mind, I never thought I would come across tools left behind by my geographical ancestors. When I picked up the tools from the ground I couldn’t believe what I was doing. Professor Bailly showed us how a specific tool was used, it was very interesting. We also came across Tequesta burial grounds that were surrounded by the tree of life. The tree was large and beautiful.  This was a spiritual experience for me. Professor Bailey told us the stories of the burials while I was mesmerized by the beauty of the tree. It felt like I was being fully immersed into the life of the Tequestas. I chose this photo because holding those tools made me feel like I was holding a piece of real Miami and this was an experience I am truly grateful for. 

South Beach as Text

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at South Beach , 16 September 2020

Art Deco building on South Beach. Photo taken by Aimee Zuniga

South Beach is one of the most visited places in the world. People from all over the world come and visit South Beach for the culture. There is a lot history and culture in South Beach. What really interested me about our class at South beach was the architecture. The architecture of South Beach has always interested me, but I learned so much about it during this class. I learned that there are three forms of architecture in the buildings you see on South Beach. Neo Mediterranean, Art Deco and Mimo. My favorite of the three is art deco. Art deco consist of pastel colors that blend into the environment, rounded corners, and neon lights at night.  It is my favorite because the pastel colors have always caught my attention ever since I was a little kid.  I find the pastel art deco buildings of South beach aesthetically pleasing. During our South Beach walk we passed by the building where one of the most famous Miami movies was filmed, Scarface. The building where the chainsaw massacre scene takes place was shot on Ocean Drive. The building is located next to the Colony hotel and it is now a CVS. This was a very cool aspect of the class because Scarface is one of my favorite movies. The entire time during our walk I was in awe of the beauty on South Beach , I’m grateful I got to see and learn about the culture of this part of Miami. 

Downtown Miami as text

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Downtown Miami , 30 September 2020

Piece of the Berlin Wall. Photo taken by Aimee Zuniga
Photo taken by Aimee Zuniga

Downtown Miami is full of so much culture and history. Before our class in Downtown I wasn’t aware of all the history that is in Downtown. I have been coming to Downtown my entire life and I wasn’t aware of any of the history I learned during class. I learned about Fort Dallas and the plantation slave quarters, Major Dade, Henry Flagler, The Tequestas , the Brickells and the freedom tower.  There is so much history behind Miami, all the information that I learned in this class blew my mind. Something that really stuck with me was the Miami Circle. While standing on the circle I felt the same feelings I felt while at Deering estate. I felt the same spiritual feeling I felt at the burial grounds at Deering estate. While standing on the Miami circle and looking out to the water I felt myself being immersed into the life of the Tequestas once again. 

Another real cool aspect of the class at downtown was looking at a piece of the Berlin wall. The history of the Berlin wall and Ronald Reagan’s presidency has always been one of my favorite things to learn about. I had no idea there was a piece of it here in my city, when I saw the piece, I felt the urge to touch it (but I didn’t)because I was in awe of the history I was looking at. 

Chicken Key as Text

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Chicken Key , 14 October 2020

Photo of trash collected , taken by Aimee Zuniga

Chicken Key is an island a mile from Deering estate. We canoed a mile over there on a beautiful sunny Florida day. We paddled all the way to this island to clean up trash on the Island. Doing beach clean ups has always been one of my favorite things to do. It upsets me to see trash in nature. Cleaning up trash at chicken key was my favorite thing we did as a class. It feels good to clean up trash and it feels good to help your environment. I ended up collecting three whole bags worth of trash. While picking up trash, it made me sad to look at all the trash that was scattered on the island. I saw and collected things like shoes, glass bottles, plastic spoons, plastic bottles and much more. Most of it was plastic.  This overall experience will stay in my brain forever, it was such a perfect day. While canoeing to the island the view was spectacular, I couldn’t get over the beauty of our view.  Paddling to and from the island was a great workout, I was sore the next day. I’m very grateful I had the opportunity to see this side of Miami. I never would have thought I’d ever canoe to an island to pick up trash, but this class made that possible. I chose the photo of all the trash we collected because it is something we accomplished after a whole day of hard work and fun. Seeing the pile of trash at the end of the day put a smile on my face. 

Bakehouse As Text

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Bakehouse Art Complex , 28 October 2020

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Photo taken by Aimee Zuniga at Bakehouse

My first experience at the Bakehouse art complex in Wynwood was spectacular. I had a great time contributing to my community by helping out a local artist with an important project. Lauren Shapiro, a local artist whom I met at the Bakehouse art complex is working on a project called Future pacific. The project is about coral reefs and how they are dying. Lauren uses clay and lets it air dry instead of cooking it inside a kiln. The purpose of this is so that the clay deteriorates and represents how our coral reefs are dying.  I walked into this art complex not knowing what exactly I will be working on but when I was told about Lauren’s project, I was amazed and fell in love with it. An environmental project like this one has the potential to impact the community which is why this is an important project; it addresses a very important environmental issue. This project can teach the community about this environmental issue through art, this aspect made me fall in love with it.  

 Lauren Shapiro’s project made me want to start volunteering at these workshops to help out local artist. Art projects like hers are a great way to spread awareness about an issue that affects our oceans while at the same time enjoying the art culture. I look forward to seeing the finished project and I will be back to the Bakehouse to see the exhibit once it is finished. Thanks to this experience I will now look for more similar opportunities to volunteer in the art community as well as being more aware of what is happening in our oceans. 

Rubell As Text

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Rubell Museum , 18 November 2020

Photo of Infinity mirrored room taken by Aimee Zuniga
Photo of Keith Haring Painting taken by Aimee Zuniga

The class at the Rubell Museum really took me by surprise. Prior to this class I did not do any research on the Rubell Museum . So I showed up to class not knowing what to expect. This class was full of surprises for me. First thing we saw as a class was the Infinity Mirrored room by Japanese Artist Yahoo Kusama. This room was absolutely beautiful . It was a room full of mirrors and mirrored balls. Before walking in I didn’t know what I was about to walk into , once I did I was mind blown. This room was my favorite thing about the the Rubell Museum. I have never seen anything like that room and the memory I have of being in there will stay with me forever. As we kept walking as a class , we walked into a Keith Haring exhibit. This is something else I was not expecting. Keith Haring is one of my favorite artist and has been since I was in high school. I have never seen his artwork in person before so this was very cool. I have shirts and books of his art but to see an exhibit with his art here in my hometown of Miami blew my mind. This exhibit made me incredibly happy , looking at Haring’s art in person put a smile on my face. After class , I went back to the exhibit alone to fully immerse myself into his art. After these overwhelming surprises , I thought that was it but it wasn’t . We also came across a piece by Jean Michell Basquiat , another one of my favorite artist. It was very crazy to me that I saw art from two very important artist of the 1980s in one day here in Miami. I left the museum feeling very refreshed , that is what this class always makes me feel. You never know what you are going to experience in a Miami in Miami class. That is what I love about this class, it is full of surprises and full of learning.

Everglades as Text

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Everglades National Park, 20 January 2021

Photo of Alligator hole taken by Aimee Zuniga

“Slogging through the swamp”

I like to say I was raised in the swamp and I joke to my friends explaining to them that I live that “swamp life”. Being born and raised in Dade – county, I grew up going to the Everglades. I spend a lot of my free time exploring the Everglades whether it’d be kayaking Hell’s bay, fishing in Tamiami Trail, biking 15 miles in Shark Valley or my favorite Everglades activity driving down loop road. I consider the Everglades my backyard, because of this class I was able to experience slough slogging. An activity I never saw myself doing, but this class made that possible. Slogging through the Everglades with my class and a very kind park ranger was a one of a kind life experience.  I learned so much about the living organisms in this ecosystem. The photo I chose is of an alligator hole. An alligator hole is a hole formed by alligators by digging substrate and vegetation. During our slough slogging adventure, we came across alligator holes. When I took this photo, I was with our professor and some of my peers, we went out to look for the alligator hole and some gators. Although we didn’t find any gators on that little adventure, it was very memorable. I was terrified of being attacked by a gator but the peaceful environment and the people I was surrounded by allowed me to stay brave. I am very grateful I got to experience this side of the Everglades while having half my body underwater. This was truly an experience, the information gathered, and the memories made will stay with me forever. 

Wynwood As Text

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Photo of Swing with gold flakes taken by Aimee Zuniga of FIU

“A Day Full of Gold”

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Locust Projects, 3 February 2021

 At Locust projects an instillation piece by Danish artist Mette Tommerup made me feel like I was in a different world. As I walked into her instillation, I see gold flakes on the floor that make my eyes glow with excitement. I continue walking and I see swings across the room. I come across this swing with gold flakes as shown in the photo above and I smile. The gold flakes and the swinging made me forget about the external world and its problem.  There was something about swinging from side to side while being surrounded by gold and paintings that makes you feel as though everything will be alright. When Mette Tommerup spoke about where her idea came from, she mentioned how she wanted people to come into her installation and feel a sense of hope after everything we as individuals have been through with the pandemic. Being in her instillation definitely gives you a sense of hope. As a class, we had the opportunity to be covered in gold flakes. This experience was definitely the highlight of my experience in Tommerup’s instillation. There were two other rooms in the space at Locust that were showcasing two different pieces. One of them showcased a video of a man covered in honey tumbling in circles. It was supposed to represent motion in utero. The other room showcased two videos, one showcased a confederate stature coming down and the other showcased an artist dancing on top of where the stature had been. Both rooms had powerful pieces of art. While being in Locust Projects you are engaging yourself with the local art community, an act that is very heartwarming and educational. 

Bill Baggs As Text

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Photo of Bill Baggs Lighthouse taken by Aimee Zuniga

“The Lighthouse” 

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Bill Baggs State Park

            Bill Baggs State Park is a staple in any Miami native’s memories coming to be known as the beach with “el farito”. Although my family and I have been coming to this beach since before I can even remember, never was I aware of the rich history surrounding the park and its lighthouse. Although I was aware of the history of slavery in Florida, I did not know that here in Cape Florida runaway slaves would be transported to the Bahamas to escape from their masters. While walking around anywhere rich in history, I like to meditate on my surroundings and entertain the idea of being where our ancestors were and what it must’ve been like at the time. While being in the park I could not help but think about the fear and tragedy of what happened here hundreds of years ago and how it became what it is today. Slaves were not the only ones to come onto this Island but also the Tequestas and Seminoles. Before Key Biscayne was even taken by the Spaniards, it was inhabited by early natives that were eventually driven out of the area. Fast forward a couple hundred years and it is now one of many of Florida’s State Parks which host’s thousands of people a year for its beautiful water, soft sand, and beautiful landscapes. 

Aside from learning the history of the park and lighthouse, another thing we did during the class was assist park rangers with shoveling sand and coquina. Coquina is a sedimentary rock which is made up of mostly sand and shells which if not attended to, can become a danger with the high tide. 

The trip to Bill Baggs State Park ended up being another fun experience to be shared with my class as it ended with us being able to stay for the rest of the day and soak up the sun and some ocean water. The information provided to us was not only interesting, but it helped to see the park in a new light and appreciate its beauty more. 

River of Grass as Text 

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Photo of solution hole taken by Aimee Zuniga

“The Hole”

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Everglades National Park ,3rd March 2021

As a class we had an excellent second trip to the Everglades and started off the day by going to the solution holes. These holes are filled with rainwater as well as water from underneath the limestone which is connected through channels spanning all over the Everglades. These solution holes are formed by the chemical erosion of carbonate rocks. After being told how these are formed by the Park Ranger, we went to something called the Nike Missile Site which is located within the Everglades National Park. This site was an old Army missile base dating back to the Cold War. It was completed in 1964 following the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was built here because it is approximately 160 miles from Cuba and its purpose was to be an anti-aircraft missile site. Walking around the missile was astonishing because of its size and comparing oneself to it. It was a great experience because although being a Miami native, I was not aware that there was an old Army base located within the park. 

            The second part of this Everglades trip was the wet hike deep in the river of grass where we looked for a species of bird called Wood Stork. They are large white wading birds. While walking really deep in the Everglades we came across a large flock of Wood Storks taking off. It was a really beautiful and peaceful experience to hear nothing but the sound of birds out in the middle of South Florida’s unique nature. I’m glad we got a chance to see the real South Florida for a second chance. These trips to the Everglades has definitely given me inspiration to visit it more on my own time.

Frost as Text

“A very artsy day at FIU”

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at the Frost Museum , 17 March 2021

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Photo of Carlos Alfonzo Mural at Fiu taken by Aimee Zuniga

Photo of Carlos Alfonzo mural at FIU taken by Aimee Zuniga

At Frost we came across an exhibition that contained some of Venezuelan artist Roberto Obregón’s archives. What you’re walking into when walking into this exhibition is an obsession. You are walking into Obregón’s obsession with rose pedals. His obsession was very scientific. He set up samples of rose pedals and observed their decay over time. So being in his exhibition almost feels like you are in some sort of scientific lab.  The exhibition consists of sketches, photographs, drawings and collages.  

Aside from having this wonderful Obregón exhibition, The Frost museum also currently has an instillation created by artist Pepe Mar that consist of the museum’s collection. This exhibition showcases all kinds of art. Pepe wanted to show people art from Africa, Asia, the Americas, Australia and Europe. The exhibition had a mixture of everything, it was so overwhelming.  Some pieces that stood out to me were two of Cuban Artist Carlos Alfonzo’s pieces. They were two untitled pieces that looked very similar to each other. We were told the story of how he came to America in the Mariel boatlift and how he passed away of aids in Miami. Learning this information while being a Miami native was emotionally touching. It was very refreshing walking out of this exhibit because of all the culture that we were surrounded by as a class.  Leaving the museum, we walked across the campus to go see a mural made by Alfonzo. This shocked me because I have been walking past that mural for three years as an FIU student without even knowing what it was or who painted it. Going in depth with the history of this mural made me feel like I was connected to Carlos Alfonzo. Knowing that this mural went through hurricane Andrew and knowing that people put back the pieces together shows me that Alfonzo was a significant Miami artist who will never be forgotten. As an FIU student, I am very grateful that we have a huge Alfonzo piece on campus that I can casually appreciate whenever I am on campus. 

Coral Gables as text 

“The Gables”

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Coral Gables, 31st March 2021

Photo of the Biltmore hotel taken by Aimee Zuniga

 The city of Coral Gables is an area of Miami with rich history dating all the way back to the Great Depression. The founder of the city is named George Merrick, who was raised in a family of farmers and grew up to become a real estate developer. As a child, it is said that he had envisioned building a city that would become a great American suburb. Along with being responsible for the city itself, he was partly responsible for the construction of the Tamiami trail, US-1, and the University of Miami. The museum also had an in-depth explanation of how Coral Gables grew to be the city it is now and mentioned how George Merrick held auctions for the housing in the area.

            During our trip we also explored Miracle Mile which is now a hub for shopping, restaurants, and entertainment. Today, it contains approximately 150 ground floor shopping stores. After WWII, the economy was doing well enough to where most people had money to spend and thus the business on Miracle Mile was booming. While walking down the strip, we entered a historic hotel named Hotel Colonnade. It was extremely elegant with its large staircase, marble floors, detailed walls, and large fountain under a dome painted as the sky. Shortly after we drove to the Biltmore which is a very famous and fancy hotel with a structure inspired by the Giralda Tower in Spain. The architectural team was the same as the ones responsible for constructing the Freedom Tower in Downtown Miami, which explains why they look so similar. The hotel was constructed 95 years ago and when it was completed, it held the title of being the tallest building in Florida.  As we continue to progress as a society, Coral Gables has kept much of its rich history intact. Thanks to the museum, tourists and locals can learn more about the city to truly appreciate its beauty and elegancy. George Merrick will always be remembered as the founder of one of Miami’s most up-scale and historic cities.

Vizcaya as text 

“Mediterranean revival with a hint of baroque”

 By Aimee Zuniga of FIU,18 April 2021

Photo of the Vizcaya mansion and garden taken by Songquan Deng

Miami’s largest and most beautiful mansion, architecturally designed in a Mediterranean-revival style mixed with a hint of baroque elements. Vizcaya Museum & Gardens was originally home to James Deering, who began constructing the building in 1914. The mansion was constructed in the early days of Miami, back when most of the city south of the Miami River remained ruled by nature. When approaching Vizcaya from the surrounding neighborhoods, one can feel the difference in ambience primarily caused by the amount of trees and nature it has. One of the most astounding things about the mansion is the many different rooms you encounter while touring the area; Each of them bringing their own style and personality. One of the most beautiful areas in my opinion is the patio. This area has such a beautiful atmosphere with its large glass ceiling which lets in so much sunlight that it appears to be outdoors, when in reality it is an indoor patio. With so many trees and plants all over the patio and the mansion, one gets an image of what life must have been like in the early days of Miami. 

Outside of the museum is also an amazing view. Looking out into the ocean and the barge on the shoreline, reminds me of something I would find in Venice, Italy. The entire house and the outdoors gives a feeling of being in a European country, when in reality you are still in Miami. One thing that is interesting about the barge and most of the house, is that the designer and architect were really big on symmetry. All around the museum you see the amount of detail that was put into the walls, the furniture, the sculptures, even the placement of the plants.The Vizcaya museum & garden is definitely one of the most beautiful places to see in Miami, even for locals. If you are into the arts, architecture, nature, and history, this place is definitely must-see.

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