Ahdriana Amandi: Miami as Text

Ahdri at Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois, 2019

Ahdriana Amandi is a junior at the honors college at Florida International University and is majoring in Psychology. As a newly transferred student from Miami Dade College, Ahdri is excited to finish her last two years at FIU and is hoping to attend graduate school to become a college professor. Outside of academics, she enjoys roller skating, reading, and traveling.  Although she has spent most of her life in Miami, Ahdri is excited to learn more about her beautiful and historic city through this course.

Deering as Text

Images Taken and Edited by Ahdriana Amandi (CC by 4.0)

“This Is Not Miami

By Ahdriana Amandi of FIU at The Deering Estate, 2nd September 2020

The words “This is Miami” stayed imprinted in my mind as professor Bailly led us through the Tropical Hardwood Hammocks and the Pineland Rocklands- two massively different ecosystems that thrive in Deering Estate’s Nature Preserve. Oolite paved the path we followed, and Gumbo Limbo, the copper trees that seemed to glisten in the sunlight, provided shade as well as a potential remedy for poison wood, which was never too far away.

On the other side of the Hardwood Hammocks were the Rocklands, an area that flourishes in fire. The sharp protrusions of the Miami Rock ridge often peaked through and the sinewy Florida Pine that creates flammable resin welcomes brush fires and suffocates any other plants that aren’t Poison Ivy or Saw Palmetto.

In between avoiding spiderwebs, solution holes, the poisonous plants, and the swarms of mosquitoes that laugh at visitor’s futile attempts to avoid getting bitten, it is hard to imagine that this area was before Henry Flagler, Julia Tuttle, William Brickell, Ponce de Leon, or even the Tequesta. I remember driving home after hiking nearly four miles and feeling absolute disbelief of what I had just experienced, and how our past remains only in small pockets of protected areas such as these.

I do not believe that what I experienced was Miami. What I experienced was something nameless and timeless, something ancient, something before and with the time of man. A relic that has survived our geological ancestors, the founders of our home, and will, in the right hands, outlive ourselves.  

South Beach as Text

Images Taken and Edited by Ahdriana Amandi (CC by 4.0)

“Untitled”

By Ahdriana Amandi of FIU at South Beach, 16th September 2020

When most people think of Miami, they picture Miami Beach; with its beautiful waters and incredible architecture, it isn’t hard to understand why. Our classroom for the day was here, and I couldn’t help but feel grateful for the sun I felt against my skin, the clear blue skies, and the salty breeze in the air that reminds me of my most precious memories of this place. This visit to South Beach, however, felt strange. Ocean Drive, a place that is always filled with music and laughter, was a ghost town. COVID-19 Lockdown and restrictions are still heavily set in place here, and Locations such as Mango’s, Havana 1957, and News Café were empty and/or temporarily closed. The tourists who used to flood these areas are no longer here and throughout our excursion, multiple hosts hawked our group down, offering us wildly low prices in order to get some business. Later, we visited Española Way and Lincoln Road Mall; the only sounds were those of our footsteps. Although the people who make this neighborhood come to life were not here during my visit, I look forward to seeing the people that make this place so vibrant again soon.

As we walked through the streets, Professor Bailly’s comments brimmed with insight of the architecture and the communities who have made south beach what it is. South Beach is home to the largest Art Deco collection in the world, and is easily identifiable by its bright, retro color schemes and Egyptian influence. Alongside Art Deco is MiMo and Mediterranean Revival.  The three designs differ wildly, yet all exist in harmony here. The existence of these three styles is representative of the cultural mosaic that is south beach.

Downtown as Text

Images Taken and Edited by Ahdriana Amandi (CC by 4.0)

“Visions”

By Ahdriana Amandi of FIU at Downtown Miami, 30th September 2020

It is difficult to imagine what stood before Downtown Miami’s iconic skyline and to fathom the amount of history a single place can carry. When thinking about it, the visions appear in my mind, and slowly disappear into the next. When arriving in front of the freedom tower, I can envision the Cuban exiles entering the port of Miami, escaping Castro’s wrath and lost everything. In front of the Brickell mausoleum, I see William and Mary Brickell, trading with the Seminole who had arrived and settled in the land years before their arrival, and ambitious Mary buying real estate and making plans to further the growth of their town. Entering Gesu Church, I remember the story of Don Pedro Menendez and his men forming a mission, Imposing their religion to a sickened Tequesta. When standing on the Miami Circle, I can see the capital of the Tequesta and its people, living and laughing, and the confusion that occurs when Ponce De Leon’s ships become within view, unaware of the impact that this encounter would have on this land.

Before showing us the untouched Tequesta burial site at the Deering Estate, Professor Bailly talked to us about our geographical ancestors and their importance. My mother is a Venezuelan first-generation immigrant, and my father is a second-generation Cuban. Never visiting either home country and never feeling “American” enough, I’ve always felt lost when it came to my cultural Identity. After viewing the fragments of history in downtown Miami, it is easy to understand why I feel unique in my cultural identity. We are a result of the geographical ancestry of this land: we are Miami.

Chicken Key as Text

Images Taken and Edited by Ahdriana Amandi (CC by 4.0)

“Canoes and Chicken Key”

By Ahdriana Amandi of FIU at Downtown Miami, 30th September 2020

There are memories that stay with us for our entire lives and visiting chicken key was one of those moments. Autumn is beginning to start in Miami and although the leaves don’t fall, the wind and cooler weather meant that the 14th of October was a perfect day to head into the water and begin our five-hour long class.

Our class arrived once again to Deering estate, only this time Professor Bailly told us that we must bring gloves and trash bags, and to prepare to row a mile to and from the unpopulated island of chicken key. The class was divided into groups of two, and classmate Claudia and I quickly worked together to row against the current and reach the island.

As we got closer, we began to see that this “unpopulated island” was beaming with life. We watched as pods of pelicans would fly up into the air and swoop back into the water and swallow a mouthful of fish. Fish would occasionally jump up into the air, almost as if they were giving us a show. after tying our canoes up, professor Bailly quickly ran towards the water, and soon after everyone followed.

This feeling of euphoria slowly diminished as I walked along the south side of the island and began picking up old shoes, plastic bags, and shards of glass. We were then told that the trash that ended up here was often debris that floated from Miami beach, an area that was 20 miles away.

I felt a connection to Deering Estate during our first excursion and this second visit only made my love for it grow even more. I’m so grateful that we were able to visit and help clean the island. This trip reminded me that my generation has our future in our hands, and I want to make sure that when I pass it along to the next generation, it will be better than when it was given to me.

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