Leonella Santillan: Miami as Text 2020-2021

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Hello everyone! My name is Leonella Santillan and I was born and raised in Ecuador, I moved to Miami, Florida 6 years ago. I am an international student at Florida International University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in International Business. After I graduate I will be going to Law school since I want to become an attorney of the state of Florida, since I was little I always tried to argue my way out of things and defend my point of view. I am so blessed to be in this country and try to obtain as many as opportunities I could obtain. One of my desires is to become a professional and be able to help those who need starting a foundation. One of the reasons I took this class is because I would like to learn more about Miami since I love where I live.

Deering Estate as Text 

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The Deering Estate is a protected environmental and historical preserve located on the edge of Biscayne which you have the everglades on your left side and on your right side the Atlantic Ocean merged with the Caribbean Sea. Visiting this environmental preserve, I felt very relaxed and connected with nature something I haven’t felt for a while due to the pandemic going on. This treasure of land has a different type of ecosystems around which you felt like you were in three or four different places as the walk goes by, my favorite parts during this amazing trip were when crossed over the water to go back to the entrance, the water felt so refreshing and pure. Another favorite moment was that we got to see the cultivation of each tree such as pinecones, avocados, and many more. One of the moments I also enjoyed it was when we got to see wildlife species such as birds, butterflies, and spiders. This rich land also has a history behind it I remember the professor talking about an ancient burial that on top of it there was an oak white tree. I enjoyed visiting this place I got to experience the wonderful things that the world provides.

South Beach as Text

Rooms full of neon lights

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at South Beach, 16th September 2020

When most people come to Miami, they want to go to South Beach because of its beautiful sand, water, views, architecture, and museums, etc.  Choosing Miami In Miami honors class was the best decision of my life since I have been living in Miami for six years and I have never visited or got to experience knowing South Beach. Professor John Bailly taught us everything that we could obtain knowledge from the beautiful place called South Beach that is located due east of Miami city proper between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Visiting this part of Miami felt kind of strange like if something was missing and what it was missing is that south beach was empty, usually is always packed with full of tourists but this time was empty and the reason why this beautiful place that is always has been full of tourists or residents is that due to the coronavirus. A lot of restaurants were either closed down, out of business, or desperate for clients to come in and enjoy a tasty plate of food, and even giving discounts or promotions for people to come in. 

During this excursion, I learned how Miami Beach or South Beach holds such an amazing culture, history, and architecture. As we were walking professor Bailly explained to us what type of architecture ocean drive or south beach holds, this beautiful two-way street it obtains one of the largest Art Deco collection in the world, and is easily identifiable by its bright, retro color schemes and Egyptian influence. Hotels are inspired by MiMo and Mediterranean Revival. I fell in love with South Beach since is such a magnificent place where you could enjoy the architecture and have the beach next to it. During this excursion, I also felt like if I was in a movie since some movies are filmed in South Beach.

Downtown Miami as Text

Area full of long tall buildings

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at Downtown Miami, 30th September 2020

Downtown Miami is an area full of skyscrapers, malls, cultural institutions, sweeping bay views, and hidden places that tourists or residents could explore. Downtown Miami is Miami’s epicenter since you have access to the beach, airport, malls, and many more. Tourists all over the world come to Miami Downtown since is rich in a diverse and variety of cultures. Downtown Miami consisted of the middle class, and wealthy neighborhoods. This area of Miami is a mix between luxury and urban architecture and that is the reason why a lot of people are interested. 

Downtown Miami is always going to be full of residents and tourists since it is a place where people work, visit, or plan activities. This area of Miami is full of buildings where you can be impacted through their history, architecture, food, recitals, concerts, and many more. Professor Bailly took us to see the Adrienne Arsht Center, which is a performing arts center that hosts concerts, recitals, operas, and shows. Another location that we were able to experience was Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum, this is a science museum with an observatory and planetarium. The last place that I fell in love with was the History Miami this is a museum where it has a huge collection full of exhibits of art. 

Downtown Miami is one the places which I fell in love with the first time I came to Miami, I remember the lights of the buildings, the bridges of the turnpike, and those enormous skyscrapers. Living in Miami has been an amazing experience because there still too much history, activities, architecture, gallery exhibitions where you could learn from or feel inspired.

Deering Estate – Chicken Key as Text

Living Waters

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at Deering Estate, 14th October 2020

Living all these six years in Miami I have felt like an unknown resident of this wonderful land, today I have experienced something magical and special during this cleanup I had time to connect with my wonderful classmates and make memorable experiences for life. By being on this island it made me reflect on how one should be able to enjoy life, I felt so connected with nature and got over my fears of something that I have never experienced in my life. This magical land full of mangroves and species was so wonderful, one of my favorite moments was when all of my classmates were swimming and connecting. I got to experience and to see a hermit crab for the first time in my whole life, I felt so grateful to be alive by being on this island the waters were full of life, peace, and love.

This cleanup made me realize how nature is so important and to take care of it, to try not to contaminate since that is a gift that has been given to us but for us to enjoy it, we must take care of it before it is too late. Humans have been come so careless when it comes to nature when it should be the opposite, this land was full of plastic and trash because we humans contaminate the earth instead of recycling or reuse the plastic or glass, this little excursion opened my eyes to how we should care about the earth and take care of it so our future generations could experience these moments that I got to experience or witnessed.  

Bakehouse as Text

“Body of clay mold of life”

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at Bakehouse, 28th October 2020

The Bakehouse Art Complex is a nonprofit organization that supports and values the artist’s perspectives on how to perceive, reflect, and make an impact on the community. Being in the complex inspired, encouraged, and taught me how the world can be united by art. This project of art made of clay was meant for people to support, help each other, and to bring awareness to the destruction of the coral reefs life on the sea. This art project is conducted by Lauren Shapiro a local artist and was funded by grants or organizations.

This art consisted of putting a layer of clay into molds made of coral reefs such as shells, clams, or snails but before inputting the lay of clay into the mold we would have to spray some vegetable oil into the mold for the clay not to stick into the coral mold. After, when we have a bunch of models, we will have to paste it in the shape surface, and we will have a piece of art.

In my opinion towards this project, I felt very connected to mother earth meanwhile molding the clay since the clay comes directly from the earth. Molding these pieces of clay felt peaceful and distracted from the noisy world, I am grateful that I had to be a part of an amazing project that is going to make a positive impact on the world or the community.

Rubell as Text

 “The way to the heart is with art”

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at Rubell Museum, 18th November 2020

 Rubell Museum is one of the biggest private contemporary art collections in North America located in Miami, Florida. These magnificent pieces are full of history, meaning, and emotions. Visiting this museum, I felt as I was back in time experiencing and reliving those periods of moments, these arts make you feel that you are in a travel machine going back through time and you try to understand how was the artist feeling, concerned, or going through.  This museum holds famous pieces because the Rubell’s were scooping pioneering works from the likes of Keith Haring, Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, and Jeff Koons.  The Rubell Museum exhibits paintings, sculptures, photographs, videos, and rooms that have an environment full of art such as The Infinity Room which is one of the many Yayoi Kusama’s works.

            I admire the work of these artists that made such delightful and meaningful pieces, some of them were even restricted from doing art, other needed to show the pain or the feelings that they were going through and some of them also felt the need to express how some races were perceived or portrayed in society. With some pieces, I felt connected or inspire but in others it just made me feel sadness or pain. One of the works that inspired me and made feel connected was the Infinity Room by Yayoi Kusama, this piece of work amazed me by how the mirrors and the balls can make you see through another dimension. Since because of the pandemic situation we could only admire the room for 30 seconds and then exit, I desired that I would have stayed longer for me to experience the meaning of the artist and what she was thinking when she created this marvelous art.

Everglades as Text

The Everglades the Abundant Wildlife

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at the Everglades National Park, 20th January 2021.

The Everglades is one of the largest remaining subtropical wildernesses and is also a unique natural region treasure located in the southern portion of the United States of Florida.  This ecosystem is preserved and protected by the U.S Congress since 1934, when this was authorized Congress stated to preserve this tropical ecosystem and that includes everything that lives within it. 

The everglades are very well known because of their biodiversity that contains the nine distinct types of ecosystems that have been identified within the park such as cypress, freshwater slough, and marl prairie, coastal lowlands, mangrove, hardwood hammock, pinelands, estuarine and marine. On the Everglades, 39 native Florida species are in extinction, which is protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973.

Visiting the Everglades has made me questioned how this ecosystem full of life is still being kept alive? Since the majority of Miami is crowded filled up with buildings, residencies, parks, parking lots, etc. Going to the everglades has been a unique experience, when I stepped on those rich wetlands, I felt a weird sensation of fear since I used to think an alligator or a snake would come or attack me but actually, it was the complete opposite of these species are very unbothered, and friendly. Stepping into mold water I saw how much wildlife is alive, seeing the cypress trees and the flowers that would grow around it, I felt amazed at how there is still life in our world and that we should protect it at any cost. Another fun fact I learned from ranger Dylan is that the everglades are responsible for supplying drinking water for more than 8 million people. Now, I could say that the Everglades is an amazing ecosystem that is going to blow your mind with the variety and diversity that this place has. I would advise anyone to visit this unique beautiful ecosystem, it is such as unique blow minding experience.

Wynwood as Text

Art that is full of Gold

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at Wynwood, 3rd February 2020.

Wynwood is a trendy, free, and artistic neighborhood located in Miami, Florida. Wynwood is most known for being an entertainment district, with artwork, restaurants, bars, clothing stores, dance venues, among other retail options. This neighborhood of Miami welcomes people from all ages, classes and races.  It was once dominated by the garment district and crime in the 80’s, but remerge into an oasis for the young, creative, and innovative minds of tomorrow. All residents, tourists can enjoy some of the best bites at the wonderful restaurants in the Wynwood Art District like Wynwood Diner. There are also tons of art galleries and street art to admire and photograph to capture memories of your visit.

Professor John Bailey took us to Mette and Locus Projects this localization is a sanctuary for artist to develop ideas freely and give them the time and the space and funds to push their idea to their fullest capacity. In this sanctuary the artist Mette Tommerup spoke about her new large-scale installations, made by dusk that she felt inspired by the Nordic Goddess, Freya, the untamed goddess of love, war, beauty, gold and transformation. These exhibitions reflect an atmosphere of warm glittering golds evoking diminishing rays of sunlight and smoky grays as the infiltrating night. The artist was trying to provide experiences of reflection, connection, and restoration where visitors can avail themselves of the healing potential. 

Bill Baggs as Text

Land filled with histories

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, 17th February 2021

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is an important beautiful historical land that is located in Key Biscayne, Florida. This park was designated as a National Underground Railroad Network Freedom Site, as runaway slaves within the 1800s met on the confidential island waiting to board ships to require them to safety within the British Bahamas. In 1825, a lighthouse was built, today the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County. This lighthouse’s purpose was to serve as a navigational aid. To arrive at the top of this lighthouse you will need to take 109 steps, but this is a climb that is worthy of your time since it will reward you with a beautiful breathtaking view. This park was named after the nominated Novel Prize, an advocator for the preservation of natural landscapes which is Bill Baggs. This powerful citizen left a mark by becoming an early opponent of the Vietnam War, by restoring many landscapes, and by being one of the newspaper editors who campaigned for civil rights for African Americans during the 1950s to 1960s. 

 Bill Baggs State Park contains a lot of recreational activities that tourists and residents can do such as snorkeling, fishing, swimming, hiking, kayaking, bicycling, boating, and wildlife viewing. I enjoyed visiting this park and one of my favorite moments was when my classmates and I sat down on the concrete by the ocean to enjoy and eat our lunch. The ocean breeze immersed me with its purity, relaxed, calm atmosphere which was something unexpected but very much needed it. I also got the opportunity to connect with the wildlife, there were raccoons and we got the chance to feed them. My classmates and I also connected with the rangers that preserve the park, the rangers told us how they love to work in this preserved land and how it has allowed them to work with something they love which is nature. 

In other words, this trip was an amazing opportunity for me since I got the opportunity to perform or do activities I have never done in my life. I felt like nature was fulfilling some empty spaces that needed to be filled inside my soul. This historic land tells you who are the real heroes, fighters, and survivors even though some of them have been forgotten but let’s remind one and another since they have given their whole life to protect one and another, and the ones that preserve this natural magical land.

River of Grass as Text

Carpe Diem

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at Everglades National Park, 4th March 2021

 The Everglades National Park welcomes us again to learn more about the history of the everglades, this will be the second time I have visited this rich land. Never in my life, I would think that I would be experiencing the everglades, these experiences that I have lived are memorable for the rest of my life. 

At the beginning of this field trip ranger Dillion and professor, John Bailly took my classmates and me to a solution hole. Solution holes are pits in karst that formed in the past when sea level and the water table were lower than present levels. Solutions holes provide winter dry-season refuge for aquatic animals and provide repopulation source for species upon reflooding of the marsh during the following summer wet season. In one solution hole, I saw a different kind of species of fishes and a diversity of animals. Ranger Dillion also explained how the everglades used to be an agricultural site that farmers would grow Brazilian pepper, tomatoes and how they used to struggle growing vegetables in that type of rocky soil. Brazilian pepper is one of the most widespread and powerful invasive species in the Florida everglades. On the everglades, there was also a military installation where the missiles would be kept for self-defense and emergency situations to protect our beautiful nation. At the end of our journey professor, Bailly took us to see Florida wetlands in the everglades, these wetlands felt like moist soil, slimy and gooey mud.

 This was such as scary experience but at the same time it was such an enjoyable moment, I have been living in Miami for six years and I never got the time to experience it. This class has taught me how Miami can have so much history, and how many activities you can do or go to. I have felt connected with nature since the beginning of this class, and it has made me be more “Carpe Diem” of how you only live once, how you should live life to the fullest, and try to enjoy it as much as you can.

Frost as Text

Inspirational Rooms

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at the Frost Art Museum FIU, 17th March 2021

 The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum is located at Florida International University on the Modesto Maidique Campus. This museum contains nine galleries which five of which has a natural light, an art storage, a lecture hall, and some public spaces. This museum exhibits work from the university’s permanent collection, temporary exhibitions, and current educational programs.

 The museum footprint and massing have a geometrical response to the L-shaped site. Framing the university’s Avenue of the humanities, the building is angled around a lake and preserves an oversized Ficus tree. The solid style of angles and curves is clad by very pink-gray Chinese granite that glistens within the Florida sunlight. A three-story glass atrium forms a transparent gate between the campus and the wonderful lake.

The galleries are grouped in threes, giving curators flexibility within the display, lighting, and scheduling. within the five galleries with skylights, the museum can exhibit works in UV-filtered daylight. An array of enormous, custom-designed “petals” control light levels and a spread of colors, preferentially scattering natural light to display walls. All exhibition spaces, archives, art storage, and mechanical equipment are above the underside floor, protected against flooding, and prepared to withstand hurricane-force winds.

 I am amazed at how FIU students have a museum within their campus, this university has given us many opportunities to grow as  opened many doors to students to become professional, and to be able toobtain a degree. I am proud to mention that I am a student at Florida International University, and it has been an honor to be able to study at this amazing, and flourishing university.

Coral Gables as Text

Miami's Iconic Biltmore Hotel - Clutch & Carry-On

The Hotel where legends stayed”

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at The Biltmore Hotel Miami, 31st March 2021

Visiting Coral Gables was so beautiful since it is full of boulevards, mansions, hotels, museums, buildings, romantic parks, little boutique stores, stores full of art, wedding stores, and many historic landmarks. I do not go to Coral Gables because I am from Kendall but every time, I would visit it, it was because of a brunch, to eat in a restaurant with my friends, or other reasons. My favorite thing about going to Coral Gables is when I go to the parks, or when I walk by the boulevard and see those little cute stores and boutiques that are either selling art, wedding dresses, or handicrafts. Once I had a really bad experience visiting this neighborhood of Miami, and why you may ask? It is because one day my best friend and I  were at Coral Gables eating some ice cream and walking down the main avenue and when we were going back home my best friend made almost an illegal turn and immediately three cops came at us thinking we were drunk and that we almost could have caused an accident but we didn’t. I thought the cop was going to give us a ticket, but he didn’t he understood we weren’t from the neighborhood and that it was an honest mistake that we were not trying to cause a crash. Coral Gables can have many pros than cons and one of the cons is that there are cops everywhere and for that reason, you have to be careful paying attention  Even if you make the smallest mistake you could get a ticket but what I learned from it is to make sure where you turn right or left since in most of the streets you can’t turn right or left but Coral Gables has given me so many happy moments and going with my classmates and professor Bailly was one of my favorite moments to be more specific one of the most things that caught my attention and that I enjoyed was when we visited The Biltmore Hotel. I learned many fun facts or information about this hotel during our field trip. The history that his hotel has is very interesting such as what is most famous for, who built it, what type of architectural style has, and more information. 

The Biltmore Hotel is a National Historic Landmark and one of the most luxurious hotels in Coral Gables, this hotel is located at 1200 Anastasia Ave, Coral Gables Florida. The Biltmore Hotel was designed by Weaver and Schultze, this historical landmark was built in 1926 by George Merrick and John McEntee Bowman.  The architectural style of this hotel has a Mission, Spanish, Revival, Italian, and Renaissance structure. One of the most remarkable structures from this hotel is the tower since it was inspired by the Giralda, the Giralda is a medieval tower of the cathedral of Seville.

The Biltmore Hotel is well known because the person who built it is the founder of Coral Gables which is George Merrick. This hotel is famous because it hosted and still hosts the most elegant and luxurious charity events, galas, fashion shows, presidents and famous people have stayed at the hotel, for its golf tournaments, it also has been used as a background in many movies or television, and the last reason is that it has an enormous and the largest pool. 

Learning history about this hotel was very interesting especially since the one who built it was the founder of Coral Gables, and how he made an amazing impact on this neighborhood in Miami Florida. I just enjoyed learning about this hotel because I saw the meaning that has behind it, I told myself that one day I might stay at the presidential suite since it is one of the most prestigious rooms that this amazing hotel has.

Vizcaya as Text

Pursuit of Pleasure”

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, 14th April 2021

The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens was the residency of a businessman named James Deering, the Villa Viscaya is located in a neighborhood in Miami – Florida, the address is 3251 South Miami Ave in Coconut Grove. This National Historic Landmark has an Italian Renaissance garden, native woodland landscape, and a historic village filled with original furnishings, and artwork.  This villa was constructed in 1914, the design partner was Paul Chalfin. Paul Chalfin was commissioned by James Deering, his mission was to scour all over Europe to find the finest furnishings, antiques, and paintings for this hedonist villa.

Inside this villa is decorated by carved mantels, fresco ceilings from Tuscany and France, marble floors, stained glass doors, gold objects, paintings, gold mirrors, sculptures, and many more European antiques. Outside this villa contains the Italian Renaissance formal gardens, a pool, and a stone breakwater barge that was constructed over 100 years ago. This breakwater barge has a purpose to break the ocean water and for the protection of the mansion, this stone barge is a piece of work art since it is filled with mermaids in the shape of stones at the bow, on top and stern of the barge. 

Visiting this museum was magnificent since I step into the location I was amazed by the landscape, sculptures, and waterfalls around it. This villa made me realized how hard James Deering worked for him to want that lifestyle, he was a very hedonistic person since he believed happiness can be found in pleasure. In the majority of the sculptures you could interpret that he was a very sexual human some people believe that he was a homosexual since he never got married, or dated a woman, he indeed loved kids but he didn’t have any. 

This was one of my last field trips from this class, and I could state that this class has been one of the most wonderful, inspirational, educational class I have taken at Florida International University. I am completely grateful to our dear professor John Bailly and our teaching assistant Nicole Patrick. Taking this class would make you fall in love and connect with nature, your background roots, architecture, museums, and art like the same way I did.  

Author: LeonellaSantillan

I am an international student, I am from Ecuador. I am a senior student at Florida International University.

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