Lemuel Fernandez: Miami As Text 2021

Photo by Annette Cruz/ CC by 4.0

Hi! My name is Lemuel Fernandez, and I am a Junior at Florida International University studying Biological Sciences. I was born in Cuba but raised in Miami.  My goal in life is to become a Physician Assistant and give back to a community that has given me so much. Through Finding Miami, I hope further to understand the history of this extremely diverse city in order to adequately provide quality healthcare to its residents in the future.

Downtown as Text

Photo by Lemuel Fernandez/ CC by 4.0

“More than Meets the Eye”

By Lemuel Fernandez of FIU at Downtown Miami, 22 January 2021.

For many people, when they hear the word Miami they automatically think about the beach, spring break, unpredictable weather patterns, and luxury. Few people actually take the time to learn the history of this cultural melting pot, to walk through its streets and experience the real Miami. Being nicknamed “the mother of Miami”, Julia Tuttle was one of the biggest advocates for the incorporation of the City of Miami. Tuttle was the one that got Henry Flagler to extend his railroad down to Miami which catalyzed the development of Miami from a desolate area to the major city that it is today. The diversity and versatility of Miami can be seen in the Plantation Slave Quarters found in Lummus Park. Termed the “Long Building”, it served as slave quarters, army barracks, a post office, a courthouse, and a tea room/social club.

As a common theme throughout the United States, Miami features a past which has been “white washed”. Unknown to most, Henry Flagler did not just bring a railroad to Miami. Once he successfully got the city to be incorporated, largely thanks to his male employees, Flagler segregated his African American employees to “Colored Town”, what is now known as Overtown. Part of Miami`s problematic past also involves the Tequesta people. What is now known as the “Miami Circle” was previously known as the hub of their city. This is where they congregated on a daily basis and where they first saw Ponce De Leon sail in through Biscayne Bay, we now use it as a dog park. On the north side of the Miami River, we constructed a hotel where the Tequesta used to bury their loved ones. By keeping all of this history hidden, we are bound to relive it. History is meant for us to learn from our mistakes so that they do not happen again.

Everglades As Text

Photo by Lemuel Fernandez/ CC by 4.0


By Lemuel Fernandez of FIU at Everglades National Park, 05 February, 2021

Although it is in their own backyards, most Miami residents have never been to Everglades National Park. Personally, after living here for over 15 years I have only visited the national park three times. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, Everglades National Parks offers countless activities to spend your day interacting with nature and appreciating the natural world. Slough Slogging in particular allows you to walk through the River of Grass and experience something that not many people do in their lifetime. When you first begin slogging, you quickly notice that the water is colder than you expect. Your attention then shifts to the fact that while the water is clear, it is murky in the path that you are walking. This may terrify you because at first you do not know if you are stepping on a log or on a snake. However, as you spend more time in the water, you become more comfortable moving around as you realize that animals really do not want to be near humans and just want to be left alone. One piece of information that I will share with you based on personal experience, try walking as close as possible to the tree trunks as the farther you are from the trees, the deeper the water is.

One of the more popular trails in the national park is the Anhinga Trail. The trail allows you to walk through a sawgrass marsh in wish you can see alligators, turtles, and many different types of birds. The trail starts at the Royal Palm Visitor Center and is a little under 1 mile long. Fun fact, the trail actually sits on what was the main road of the Royal Palm State Park. Before Everglades National Park and Royal Park State Park, the land was owned by Henry Flagler in hopes of building his railroad through the Everglades and out to Cape Sable. Once people became aware of the countless benefits that the natural ecosystem of the Everglades provides the people of Miami, the land was given to the government for the inception of Royal Palm State Park after push from Mary Mann Jennings and the Florida Federation of Women’s club. Just another example of how women shaped Miami and its surroundings into what it is today.

South Beach As Text

Photo by Lemuel Fernandez/ CC by 4.0


By Lemuel Fernandez of FIU at South Beach, 19 February, 2021

Miami Beach has become one of the most sought-after vacations for people all around the world. When standing at South Point Pier and looking at down the beach, it is impossible to imagine how this land used to be full of mangroves and largely uninhabited. The Tequesta tribe would sail out to the island to escape the mosquitos in the mainland but kept they kept their primary residence at the mouth of the Miami River. While on his first trip to Miami Beach in 1910, Carl G. Fisher fell in love with the island and recognized its potential. He dreamed of making it a perfect vacation destination for his friends in the automobile industry.

With the development of South Beach came segregation. In order to increase the population of the now City of Miami Beach, Fisher worked to attract Jews to live on the island. The reason for this is because they were not black, and they had money to spend. Jews were only allowed to reside south of fifth street and many businesses used “Gentiles Clientele Only” in their marketing to attract white customers and assure them that no Jews would be there. Fifth street became the main road into south beach, serving as a physical divide between the white and Jewish population living on the island.

As a common theme throughout South Florida, Miami Beach would not be what it is today without women. Barbra Baer Capitman, founder of the Miami Design Preservation League, fought for the preservation of the historic Art Deco district and was a fierce activist in her community. Barbra began to campaign for the preservation of Art Deco district as many investors began to buy the long-neglected buildings and constructing buildings that had nothing to do with the history of Miami Beach. Barbra believed that if we did not protect those buildings, then the true history of Miami Beach would be lost. Because of her, Miami Beach has become one of the biggest travel destinations in the world as many tourists travel from all over the world to see the Art Deco buildings that Barbra fought so hard to protect. Yet again another example of how women (badass women as Professor Bailly says) shaped Miami into what it is today.

Deering As Text

Photo by Lemuel Fernandez/ CC by 4.0

“Hidden Gem”

By Lemuel Fernandez of FIU at Deering Estate, 05 March, 2021

As I walked into the nature preserve at Deering Estate, the first thing I thought was, this is not Florida. Everywhere you would turn, you would only see grass and trees. We have essentially wiped out most of the natural flora in South Florida in order to build our homes, schools, and shops and there are only a few places in which the naturally existing trees in this area have been protected. The Deering Estate contains around six ecosystems with over 120 acres of Pine Rocklands and is actively protecting and preserving other ecosystems that are vital to our survival in South Florida. Among its various ecosystems, the estate also features mangrove forests which serve as a barrier between hurricanes and our cities. When a hurricane hits South Florida, mangroves reduce the impacts of waves, storm surge, and winds. Mangroves also serve as a habitat for fish in Biscayne Bay and absorb toxins in the water which helps reduce the concentration of harmful chemicals in Biscayne Bay.

Alongside the natural beauty in the nature preserve, the Deering Estate also features two historic homes, the Richmond Cottage and the Stone House. The Richmond Cottage once served as a small inn south of the developing city of Miami. As an advertisement, a poster would hang on the wall of the Inn which read “Connected to Miami” which at the time was a special thing considering travel from Miami to Cutler (where Deering Estate is) was around two days due to the difficult topography. The Richmond Inn served as a place where people who were in the business of Henry Flagler Railroad could sleep while in town. Soon after the Inn closed, Charles Deering bought the property and used it as his winter home. While in Europe, Deering purchased a Spanish Villa named Maricel which was used as his main residence. During the war, Deering was not able to return to his Spanish retreat and decided to rebuild it on his winter estate in South Florida. Deering then built the Stone House, a three-story Mediterranean Revival overlooking Biscayne Bay. Interestingly enough, Deering never built a kitchen in the Stone House and only used the one found in the Richmond Cottage. Deering also built a boat turning basin so that he could park his boats (Barbee and May-y-cel). Both the boat basin and the stone house were constructed by Afro-Bahamian workers which were often injured on the job and would lay on the floor dying because there was no way too get them medical attention until the following day.

Vizcaya As Text

Photo by Lemuel Fernandez/ CC by 4.0

“A Palace in the Mangroves”

By Lemuel Fernandez of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, 19, March, 2021

As you begin to towards the main house at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, you are welcomed by a row of trees and beautiful fountains that are meant to mirror the heavens at night. From here, you can catch a glimpse of the North end of the house, through the courtyard, and out to Biscayne Bay. Despite being built many years ago, Vizcaya embodies Miami culture; luxury, and picture perfect. On a typical visit to Vizcaya, you can encounter at least one teenage girl taking her quinceanera photos, or a couple taking their engagement photos. In our own homes, it is customary to hang pictures of your family by the front door so that visitors can get a glimpse into the residents. For example, if you are Christian, you may have a cross by the door, letting visitors know that this is a Christian household. When you first walk into the main house, you are greeted by a sculpture of Dionysus, the god of wine and ecstasy. James Deering placed this sculpture at his front door so visitors would immediately know who he was and what his house was intended for.

In 1912, James Deering bought about 100 acres of land from Mary Brickell and began to design a villa which was to be built in the middle of the mangroves. In 1914, Deering began construction on the villa and celebrated its completion with a Christmas Day party in December of 1916. Since its completion, the villa has been known for its parties. Similar to Versailles Deering built small cavelike structures in the gardens where people could have secrete rendezvous. When Versailles was built, it was very restricted who you could interact with. You had to stay in your social class and could not interact with those above or below you. The gardens is how people would meet up in secret. James also incorporated the gardens at Versailles in his property. Gardens which were carefully manicured as to look unnatural and to give a sense that he could control nature.

Margulies at Text

Photo by Lemuel Fernandez/ CC by 4.0

“The Heart of Wynwood”

By Lemuel Fernandez of FIU at The Margulies Collection at the WAREhOUSE, 16, April, 2021.

Now known for culture and art, Wynwood was once a Miami inner city neighborhood built for the working class. In the early sixties, Cuban immigrants arriving to Miami were moving to Wynwood. This was at a time where it was safe enough for children to be carelessly playing on the street. Unfortunately, as we have seen across Miami, gentrification plays a big role into why an area is the way that it is today. When I-95 was proposed, the wealthy white neighborhoods did not want a big highway running next to their homes and I-95 was ultimately built through Wynwood and Overtown. Wynwood began to be neglected, until art moved in and revitalized the neighborhood. One of the pioneers of the Wynwood art scene was Martin Z. Margulies.

Before being one of ARTnews Top 200 Collectors, Martin Z. Margulies was previously a real estate developer. He began his collecting career by acquiring several Contemporary Art pieces, buying photography, video and installation art from the United States and Europe. In 1998, Mr. Margulies began to look for a place to house and exhibit his growing collection. In 1999, the Margulies Collection at the WAREhOUSE opened in Wynwood. The space comprises 50,000 square feet of contemporary art. The collection comprises well renowned artists such as Sol LeWitt, Willem de Kooning, George Segal, Anselm Kiefer, and several others. The Margulies Collection has donated several of its art pieces to several institutions in Florida such as Florida International University, University of Miami, the Lowe Arts Museum, and has multiple pieces on loan at museums around the world. In keeping with its commitment to education, admission to the warehouse is free for students of the state of Florida. As the warehouse is fully funded by the Martin Z Margulies Foundation, the admission fee charged to visitors is donated to the Lotus House, a shelter for homeless women and children in Miami. The Warehouse closes for the summer and cycles its display pieces before reopening. During Art Basel, admission to the warehouse is highly regarded as people in the art world come from all over the world to see the Margulies Collection and its priceless contemporary art pieces. One piece of art that stood out to me was “Hurma” by Magdalena Abakanowics. The piece includes 250 figures made out of burlap and resin. The 250 figures are all ambiguous in nature, this represents the crowds arriving at the death camps during the Holocaust. The figures are faceless, symbolizing the dehumanizing nature of the concentration camps.

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