Kathalinna Zuniga: Miami as Text

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

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0

“Ocean Gems”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Bakehouse, 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

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0

“Filling my Cup”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Rubell Family Collection, 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. 

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