Kathalinna Zuniga: Miami as Text 2020-2021

Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, 2019. Photo by Pamela Zuniga.

Hello everyone! Welcome to my Miami in Miami blog! My name is Kathalinna Zuniga, I was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia and I moved to Florida almost five years ago. I am a senior, double majoring in International Relations and Political Science at Florida International University. Before moving to Florida, I lived in Ottawa, Canada for about a year. Canada’s demographic diversity awakened my passion about different cultures, languages, religions and customs, reason why I have decided to take the Miami in Miami class because I want to learn more about this beautiful city.

Deering as Text

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0
“A Hike to the Past”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Deering Estate, 2 September 2020.

    I found the Deering Estate a fascinating place to visit! When thinking about Miami people usually imagine stunning infrastructures, beautiful beaches, fashion, culture, and art. Indeed, Miami is all that, however, on my visit to the Deering Estate I found a side of the city that I have never known. In fact, I was amazed by the incredible ecosystem that resides there; the marine life, migratory birds, coyotes, racoons, tortoise, snakes, frogs, and the incredible variety of plants and trees. On our hike I even got to see a Pomacea, also known as apple snail, which is considered an invasive species (see photo attached).

However, what stood to me the most was the history that we found there. For once, I felt connected to this country. The Tequestas were a Native American Indian tribe that occupied this area of Florida. In fact, there is evidence of their presence at the Deering Estate grounds. On our hike, we saw their burial mound, where a massive tree has grown and will forever be the undeniable memory of the past and the ancestors that were once living in this territory. Surely, the Deering Estate is the perfect place to connect with nature and Miami’s ancestors. 

South Beach as Text

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0
“South Beach: History, Architecture and Art”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at South Beach, 16 September 2020.

The class at South Beach was an incredible combination of history, architecture and art. I felt for a moment that I was living again the time of segregation, when Carl Fisher was refusing to sell property to Jews, and darker skin Americans and Bahamians could not live anymore on the island they have built with so much effort. It is simply horrible to think that human beings were treated that way, but have things really changed? have we learned from our history? Those were the questions that were stuck in my head after hearing the history of Fisher Island.

     Nonetheless, South Beach is a now a place where people enjoy the freedom of expressing themselves without being judged, regardless of their race, ethnicity or sexuality, in fact, this neighborhood of Miami is a magnet for tourists. Therefore, this all ends up adding more to the culture, traditions and uniqueness of the area. 

     On the other hand, as we continued our walk, I was amazed by the beautiful architecture that characterizes South Beach. For example, Art Deco is a neoclassical type of architecture with rounded corners, pastel colors, “eyebrows shades” and neon lighting. Additionally, we were able to see Miami Modern/MIMO infrastructures, which are characterized for having geometric and marine designs, different textures and open spaces. 

     Finally, to conclude this post, I had to comment on how COVID has affected South Beach. While we walked through this beautiful area of Miami, we saw empty and isolated restaurants, and desperate employees that were even offering free stuff just to attracted customers. Sadly, this panorama is seen in many more places, where multiple sectors of the economy are suffering.

Downtown Miami as Text

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0
“(Un)Forgotten Past”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Downtown Miami.

Downtown Miami has an interesting and contrasting unforgotten but forgotten past. In places such as the Lummus Park, the William Wagner House reminded us of one of the first permanent residents of South Florida, a US veteran, who was originally from Germany and was married to a Creole lady. In fact, this couple is a clear example of the cultural diversity that characterizes Miami today. On the other hand, in this location, we could also find the Fort Dallas, which went from slave quarters to soldier barracks and finally to a post office, a courthouse, and a tea restaurant.

Additionally, Miami has monuments such as the one of Henry Morrison Flagler that exalts his ambition and effort to build what is now Downtown Miami. In fact, he gave birth to the new identity of the city with the tourism industry. However, many people forget at what cost this urban city was built. Indeed, Flagler contributed to the segregation of that time while pushing black communities to live in a set-aside town. Not only that, but Flagler decided to build his luxurious hotel on a Tequesta burial mound, erasing part of Miami’s history.

Even though it seems that the legacy and history of our ancestors have been wanted to be erased by many, it is our duty to protect these places, and give them the significance they hold. Undeniably, we have to make sure that these treasures survive development as they are an important piece of the essence of this city.

Other than that, downtown Miami preserves well portions of history with part of the Berlin Wall, the Gesu Catholic Church, the monument of a walking immigrant located next to the Museum of Art and Design, among many others. Certainly, Miami is a beautiful and unstoppable city that holds much more history than what we can imagine.

Chicken Key as Text

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0
“Canoes and Cleanups”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Chicken Key, 14 October 2020.

The class spent at Chicken Key was a blast. I think it was a gratifying and amazing opportunity to learn and discover new places, connect with people, overcome fears, and help the ecosystem. It was nice to have once again a different perceptive of Miami while having the chance to see the beauties of the city from a canoe. This class had something special, not only because we were engaging in a new activity in which we were all stepping out of our comfort zone during a pandemic, but also because we were meeting as a whole group for the first time. I am glad we got to meet each other and explore Chicken Key together. 

It was fascinating to see all the marine life; the small fishes, crabs, and stingrays. Nonetheless, at the same time, it was sad to see all the trash that opaque this “isolated” island. All the plastic bottles and bags, glass, shoes, and even containers were an eye-opening that let us realize that we have a long way to go in terms of preserving the ecosystem. I believe is extremely important to teach society the value of these places; habitats that are being constantly affected by our pollution. Thus, in my opinion, by doing these cleanups we are setting an example to future generations, while also motivating others to do similar activities. 

In conclusion, this has been one of the most amazing and unique experiences I have lived since I moved to Florida. Nonetheless, what paid off the mile canoeing was not only the fact that we filled six canoes with trash but, also, I was able to go with Esmeralda, Nicole, and Komila to a beautiful hided passage were freshwater combines with salt-water and creates a unique and beautiful environment where the water looked clean and clear.

Bakehouse as Text

The “Future Pacific” by Lauren Shapiro. Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0.

“Ocean Gems”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Bakehouse Art Complex, 1 November 2020.

Last class we had the opportunity to help Lauren Shapiro with her project called “Future Pacific”, this exhibition seeks to raise awareness about endangered marine ecosystems while encouraging and providing researches with a platform to work with. Additionally, Shapiro is motivating the community to help and be part of her project. Therefore, during our class, we worked with unfired clay and molds that resemble coral reefs. 

     I have never worked with clay before and it was an amazing and enriching experience, not only because I got to learn new things but because I actually realized the vital role that coral reefs play in our ecosystem. Indeed, coral reefs provide habitats for multiple marine species, nonetheless, pollution, climate change, and overfishing are killing these ocean gems. As an example, the Great Barrier Reef located on the northeast coast of Australia has lost over half of its coral, and this is by no doubt an alarming situation that should concern us all! 

     On the other hand, I really like the metaphor of the unfired clay, which at the end of the exhibition will dry, lose its color, and crack, creating then the effect of a real coral reef that loses its bright colors, turns pale and dies. Thus, I hope this project will not only incentivize people to learn more about art but also to appreciate the hard work that undergoes these projects and the message it wants to send to the community.

Rubell as Text

 LET’S SURVIVE FOREVER, Yayoi Kusama. Against All Odds, Keith Haring. Sleep, Kehinde Wiley. Untitled, Anselm Kiefer. Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0

“Filling my Cup”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Rubell Museum, 18 November 2020.

This class along with places such as the Rubell Museum have awakened a side of me that loves art and appreciates the story, beauty, and details behind every artwork. I have discovered that this class is what “fills my cup”, what gives me energy, and what I enjoy doing. After going to the museum, I was amazed by the art of Yayoi Kusama, Kehinde Wiley, Keith Haring, Anselm Kiefer, Liu Wei among many others. I was so intrigued by everything I saw that when the class finished I did some research on the museum because I wanted to learn more about the exhibitions and the artists. 

     Thus, I learned that Yayoi Kusama’s art involves dots because the hallucinations she had when she was a child were about fields of dots. Also, now I understand more the work of Kehinde Wiley and how he wants to portray or challenge the concept of masculinity, especially among black and brown men. Besides, I now pay more attention to the visual language that is behind art pieces such as the ones of Keith Haring. On the other hand, I have learned the importance of history when dealing with the past, and how an artwork might bring awareness of what once happened in the world and what those events represent in the present, as it is the case of the powerful art of Anselm Kiefer. 

     To conclude, I enjoyed our visit to the museum, and I hope to find more spaces where I can feel connected, recharged, and happy. I am sure my visits to the museum will become a regular routine. Finally, I am excited to learn more and explore that side of me that loves art, appreciate outdoor activities, and enjoy new adventures. 

Everglades as Text

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0

“A Subtropical Wilderness”

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

Last Wednesday we had an amazing experience going to the Everglades. I have been living in Florida for almost five years and I have never been there, all this time without knowing the beauty that this place holds. When telling people, I went slough slogging in the Everglades they reaction is surprising. Most of them are just scared of the “stories”, “the things that have happened” or simply the things they imagined could happen, but nobody really knows what it is like to experience it.

I would like to break that misconception they have of this place because it is beautiful. We should instead appreciate the fascinating ecosystem we have in our backyards while taking full advantage of it. The connection we felt; hearing the birds and animals, watching the little fishes and plants, exploring the alligator hole, and not having signal, make this an unforgettable trip. Stepping out of the comfort zone and forgetting about the monotony that sometimes overwhelms us is amazing and this is the perfect place to do that.

It was really nice understanding more the ecosystem while listening to Ranger Dylann telling us about this awesome place. She said that there is a female and a male alligator that live there, as well as multiple snakes and different types of animals, sadly or luckily, we did not get to see any, but we did have the chance to see two gators while walking along one of the trails. Something that also caught my attention is the fact that the Everglades is an untouched world treasure as it is the largest subtropical ecosystem in the United States.

I wish more people would take the time to go out and explore the Everglades!

Wynwood as Text

Made by Dusk, Mette Tommerup. Photo by Roger Masson/CC BY 4.0

“What is art?”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Locust Projects , 3 February 2021.

I was never a person that knew much about art before taking Professor Bailly’s class. However, now it is something I like and appreciate. This class has awaken that side of me, the one that enjoys going to museums and art installations, the one that stares a little longer to “understand” the idea, the one that tries to look at it with a different perspective. When we went to Mette’s art exhibition called Made by Dusk this is what I felt. I was amazed by everything, and then I understood that art is not only for the ones that know about it, neither it is a traditional painting or the object that is being displayed. Art is an experience, an idea, it has the magic to transport you to a different environment, it is interacting with the space and things. 

It was really nice knowing more about Mette’s art, about Freyja, goddess of love, fertility, battle and death. I enjoyed watching the video that shows the process of her art. I like how everything was displayed, and I could not stop thinking about how big those canvases where, and how long it took her to finish the installation. I also enjoyed how she was explaining the idea and concepts of her artwork and the gold shower we had afterwards. I was wrong because I thought that by not having enough context or knowledge, I was not going to enjoy this class, but it was quite the opposite.

Bill Baggs as Text

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga CC/BY 4.0

“Back Then”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, 17 February 2021.

When thinking about Key Biscayne I used to only imagine the lighthouse and the beautiful, clear beach. However, the history that this place holds is simply incredible, and it is sad that not too many people know about it. Key Biscayne is the perfect spot to relax, have a date, bring family from overseas and show them how beautiful Miami is. Nonetheless, this has not always been like that, in the time of the Tequesta, mosquitos would have made these activities of relaxation almost impossible. 

While we were there, I was trying to picture how life was at that time, was it difficult to have people coming to your land trying to impose their beliefs and rules? Indeed, the first legal claim of this land was made by Ponce DeLeon, who first called Key Biscayne Santa Marta. Yet, it is fascinating to imagine the life of the Tequesta, how they would catch whales and collect wood using their “boats”, how they would trade with the Spaniards, how some member of the Tequesta would travel to Spain, or how some Spaniards would learn Tequesta to be able to communicate. So many questions that could only be answered with imagination. Indeed, I felt transported to a different place that day, while trying to imagine life at that time. 

On the other hand, the lighthouse is also a very important structure that has “survived” multiple events throughout history. In fact, the lighthouse has recovered from attacks by the Seminoles, who assassinated Carter, one of the lighthouse keepers, and left John Thompson badly injured. It has also resisted the Confederate attacks and dangerous tropical storms. After our visit to the Big Baggs Cape Florida State Park, next time somebody mentions Key Biscayne I will definitely think about the unforgettable history that surrounds this place and not only about its beautiful beach.

River of Grass as Text

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga CC/BY 4.0

“Our Soldiers”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Everglades National Park, 7 March 2021

The Everglades is such an amazing place that few people visit, yet it holds the most amazing ecosystem and history relics. Every visit to the Everglades is memorable, however, I felt the most connected last time we were there. When we were visiting the Nike Missile Base, I could not stop thinking about the soldiers that once stood to fight for their country in that same place. I could not stop thinking about my father and how a few years back he fought for his country, Colombia, ending with a broken spine, and with almost no chances to walk again. I could not stop thinking about Rahjanni’s husband, a friend of mine, who committed suicide after being deployed in the Middle East multiple times. He could not deal with the traumas that those places have left. It is sad how we sometimes take for granted the sacrifices that others have made for our freedom and peace.

I hope that visit reminded us of the 200 million people that lost their lives during that war. I hope it remined us of their hours of trainings, their uncertainty, fear, pain, all the difficulties they lived, their families, and the heartbreaking moment of receiving the flag of the country, as a sign that you loved one have died defending the country. I hope after that visit we take a minute to think about them, and how they put at risk their lives and health for us. I hope after that visit we think about the millions of soldiers that are far from home, fighting for this country.

Frost as Text

Accumulate, Classify, Preserve, Display, Roberto Obregon. Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga CC/BY 4.0


By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, 17 March 2021

Obregon’s work has been one of my favorites, the delicacy and preservation of the rose petals is impressive. However, what I like the most is that his work touches upon multiple aspects such as scientific classification and human interaction. Hence, Obregon’s artwork could be interpreted in different ways.

When we first walked to the exhibition, I did not understand the purpose of Obregon’s work or what he wanted to portray in all those glued and watercolor petals arrangements. Nonetheless, as I immersed myself in the exhibition, thinking, touching, and watching everything, I started linking those things to my personal experiences. First, I started to look at the petals in a more geographical way, thus, to me, their shape resembles countries. Additionally, after watching the silhouettes of people and petals that are displayed in a wall that looks like a board game (see photo attached) I thought about politicians playing with the faith and welfare of each of those countries (the silhouettes of people being politicians, and the petals being countries). 

On the other hand, something that grabbed my attention was the sick rose. Petals that were eaten by bugs and look significantly different from the other ones. When I saw those petals, I thought about countries that are not in a good position right now and resemble that damaged petal. In addition, Obregon organized each one of the petals he collected by numbers, numbers in which we also classified countries, according to their economic, military, and political power. 

It is incredible how you can connect Obregon’s artwork with things that are of your interest. In my opinion that is the magic of his art. Obregon was able to dissect those roses and erase, at least for some time, the idea or connection we have created between roses and love, romanticism, feminism, and even death. Therefore, I was able to interpret his art in my own way, while thinking about world politics.

Coral Gables as Text

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga CC/BY 4.0


By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Coral Gables, 21 March 2021

Once again on our visit to Coral Gables we got to see a place that does not look anything like Miami, or at least to the idea that the media has created of this beautiful place. The misconception that often links Miami to beaches and nightclubs starts to shade away as we walk through the streets of Coral Gables.

When walking inside the Biltmore Hotel, for example, you feel like you are multiple years back in time when this historic gem was first built, or even better you feel as if you are in the Giralda. It is fascinating to think that the Biltmore hotel went from having the largest pool in the world and being the tallest building in Florida, to a World War II hospital, and finally, to the amazing place that welcomes tourists and locals today.

On the other hand, the architecture of the city is beautiful. The Mediterranean Revival style that predominates in the area is inspired by both Spain and the Mediterranean. Hence, the city has a cohesive identity that is related to its architecture. Nonetheless, we can now see how some enormous buildings start to overshadow the traditional ones. Despite that, places such as the Venetian Pool, the Miracle Theatre, among others make this city a historic relic.

In addition, all the pictures and images that we saw at the museum are amazing. It is hard to imagine that the city was once a subtropical hardwood forest that looked nothing like it does today. Oftentimes, when thinking about the construction of Coral Gables, the first name that comes to mind is George Merrick. However, as we have seen in past lectures, African Americans and Bahamians are the ones that have put in the hard work to build all those beautiful cities. Indeed, there is a lot of people that helped to build Coral Gables.

Vizcaya as Text

Collage by Kathalinna Zuniga CC/BY 4.0

“What Miami is today…” 

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, 14 April 2021

I could not imagine a better way to end this class than at Vizcaya. Something that Professor Bailly said during class and resonated with me was that so much of what Miami is today starts here, at this beautiful dream house. Indeed, everything about that construction and its architecture is fascinating. The contrast of the “mangroves” with the ocean view is nothing but peaceful. However, at the time of James Deering, there was nothing peaceful about that house, as the back entrance welcomes you with a sculpture of Bacchus, also called Dionysus, god of wine and ecstasy. 

     During our class I was trying to picture the life of James Deering with such a beautiful and enormous house, all to himself. In fact, there was so much work put into that property, every detail; the sculptures, the marble pieces around the house, the limestone used on the exterior, the paintings, the style that prevails in each room, everything is stunning. I wonder how he was able to convince and bring so many people to work in a remote place full of mosquitos, just to please his desires. How did he manage to import all the stuff from Europe during a World War War. How many workers were needed to build this amazing house… so many questions arise when you start thinking about all the work that was required to build this house.  

     Undoubtably, Vizcaya is one of my favorite places in Miami. The fact that James Deering purchased a 1,000 feet waterfront property, and built a European style house in the middle of the mangroves sounds even crazy, but it is such an elegant and stunning place. Nonetheless, I think James Deering was living a fantasy life, with paintings of kids that were not his, instruments that were never played, portrays of people that were not related to him. In my opinion, his house was a façade to the real James Deering. 

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