Roger Masson: Miami as Text

Robert is Here, Homestead, FL. Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.

Hi classmates! I am excited to share a little about me with you all. I was born in Miami, Florida to Cuban parents and I moved to Gainesville at the age of four. I moved back to Miami in 8th grade and the only thing I can remember about my time up in North Florida is the countless prayers at night to move back home- that just goes to show how special this city is to me. 

I am currently a senior studying International Relations with a minor in Political Science. I look forward to getting to know the city I love and create lasting memories with my classmates.

Deering as Text

Deering Estate, Miami, FL. Photo by Roger Masson/ CC 4.0

“A Day to Remember”

by Roger Masson of FIU at Deering Estate, 2 September 2020.

A visit to the Deering Estate is much more than just a beautiful day in the park—it’s a journey to a million places at once. To say that this destination is magical is an understatement; there was something special about the ambiance of the Deering Estate that took my breath away, more so than the hike. 

During my time at the Deering Estate, I remember commenting that I felt everywhere but in Miami. In certain instances, it seemed as if I were in the rural regions of Colombia. In particular, the first picture that I attached below transported me back to the road trip I went on with my best friend, Laura, and her dad, who happens to be a truck driver in Colombia. On our way to Bogotá from Cali, I recall seeing acres full of banana trees just as the one located in the Deering Estate. Later on, when we were exploring the Miami-Dade County Pine section, immediately, I was back on the expressway near my childhood home in Alachua—an area with an abundance of pine trees. It is remarkable just how certain details can trigger so many lovely memories at once. 

Throughout the course of this tour, I took the time to reflect and appreciate the special connection I have with my environment. Our brief stop by the Tequesta burial site, gifted me the opportunity to view my identity through a different lens, along with our unique relationship to the city of Miami. Although my parents are from Cuba and my great-grandparents came from the Canary Islands and France, I was born in Miami and my geographic ancestors are, in fact, the Tequesta—a group that I had never heard of before this excursion. It is quite unfortunate that a great portion of our background and history has been washed in such a way that does not allow for us to find unity through this shared identity and ancestor.

There is no doubt left in my mind that a trip to the Deering Estate is both worthwhile and memorable.

South Beach as Text

South Beach, Miami Beach, FL. Photo by Roger Masson/ CC 4.0

“Not Your Average Beach Day”

By Roger Masson of FIU at South Beach, 16 September 2020

For eleven years of my life, I dreamed of the day I moved back to Miami for many reasons, but living close to the beach was among the top three reasons. South Beach had always been my ultimate favorite place to go, there was always something unique about this area. Undoubtedly, there is a whole lot more to South Beach than picturesque views and world-renowned restaurants– a significant portion of its uncomfortable history has been silenced and pushed under the rug. After our class on Wednesday, I have a more profound appreciation for South Beach, along with a clearer picture of its history and culture. There is so much to be gained from properly assessing and discussing the extent that we have progressed from the past.

It would not be fair to enjoy the lovely aspects of South Beach without honoring the individuals who built it and, for so long, did not get to take advantage of the fruits of their arduous labor. Great detail went into the construction of this area, but both the Bahamian and African Americans were given a check with insufficient funds as Martin Luther King Jr. once described. As a city, Miami has made indispensable strides towards ensuring racial justice and inclusivity; however, there are countless examples of systematic disparities that demonstrate that we are far from where we should be. I took the time to analyze the population of Miami Beach and only four percent of the population is Black or African American; there is something to be said about the cyclic nature of history.

With regards to the LGBTQ+ community, the neighborhood of South Beach represents freedom of expression and to love the person of one’s choice– which is quite remarkable.  South Beach has always been a safe place for me. Growing up in a Hispanic household with strong Catholic values, going to South Beach was always a memorable experience since it served as a beacon of hope; a place 45 minutes away from where I would be able to express myself without that overwhelming judgment. I know that sooner than later, this will be the case for all of Miami. Love is love, it deserves to be out and professed without the fear of facing discrimination or intolerance.

Work Cited:

Downtown Miami as Text

Downtown Miami, FL. Photo by Roger Masson/ CC 4.0

“Two Worlds in One”

By Roger Masson of FIU at Downtown Miami, 30 September 2020

Spending the day in the Downtown sector of Miami is akin to stepping into two distinct worlds— a divide entrenched in its historical foundation. While it is easy to fall in love with the glamour of Brickell, it is indifferent to overlook the evident socioeconomic gap that characterizes the Downtown of Miami.

It could be said that Henry Flagler and Major Francis Langhorne Dade laid the blueprints for the city that we currently live in. They have been revered and esteemed for their contribution to Miami, yet there is little said about their racist nature that corrupted Miami’s potential to be a more welcoming city from its inception. 

Our tour of Miami began at the Government Centre Metro Station and we made our way to Lummus Park, on the other side of the 1-95. This park features great history, but so does the surrounding neighborhood. Henry Flagler designated this area to be referred to as “colored town,” which became the Overtown area of Downtown Miami throughout the years. To compare the infrastructures around Lummus Park to that of opulent Brickell Avenue, it is clear that the repercussions of the past are ever-present. It is surprising to see how much changes while walking a few blocks in this area. One moment you are walking by a popular shopping mall, like the Brickell City Centre, with stores like Saks 5thAvenue and Cartier, and the next you are in a working-class neighborhood with Section-8 housing. It is important to keep these social issues in mind while we appreciate the magic of Downtown Miami.

Chicken Key as Text

Chicken Key, Photo by Roger Masson/ CC 4.0

“A reflection of our impact”

By Roger Masson of FIU at Chicken Key, 14 October 2020

Our journey to Chicken Key was unforgettable, even so that it was worth the countless ant bites and sore arms that just happen to be part of this excursion. It was such a delightful experience to bond with the entire class for the first time this semester; it was also a true inspiration for us to make this one-time event a reoccurring trip and contribute our grain of sand to make this world a better place. 

In my other posts, I make mention of the need for reform and social change in Miami, but it was refreshing to finally have the opportunity to participate in this change. The environment is one of the few free things in life, unfortunately, we have not done our part to preserve it and care for it with sufficient effort. In the limited time that we spent picking up, there were uncountable items inappropriately placed—blemishing the ecosystem—where nature should instead flourish freely. Each time Brittany and I thought we were making a dent in the clean-up, we uncovered even more waste in the form of sandals, wheels, water bottles, beer cans, and a big blue banister trapped between two trees at the edge of the island. I kept remembering the times that people around me, carelessly, threw away water bottles with assurance that one bottle was not going to make a difference. It is evident that it does, in fact, make a tremendous impact. Each item that we do not make the conscious decision to recycle or discard of through the required means, we are augmenting this issue.

There is hope that the future holds a different fortune compared to the trends that have led to the current state of our environment. We are the future; we have the key to make the critical amends to rectify our past wrongdoings and provide the conditions for nature to thrive.  

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