Alfredo Bidopia: Miami as Text 2021

Photo by Alfredo Bidopia/ CC by 4.0

Hi there! My name is Alfredo Bidopia and I am a junior studying Marketing with a certificate in Import and Export at Florida International University. I was born in Cuba, raised in Panama, and I have lived in the United States for five years. Something curious is that the three countries that I mentioned share the same colors on their flag. In my spare time I like to paint, ride bicycle, and play guitar. I also love traveling and discovering new places. That is what motivated me to select the “Finding Miami” class. I hope that after taking this class I can see Miami with a wider perspective and I can learn more about its history.

Downtown as Text

Photo by Alfredo Bidopia/ CC by 4.0

“Tequesta County”

By Alfredo Bidopia of FIU at Downtown Miami, 22 January 2021.

For the five years I have been living in the United States I don’t think I have ever thought about the history of Miami. This realization came to my mind when professor Bailly showed us the interesting and mysterious downtown this city offers. We started our journey at the Government Center and finished it at the Freedom Tower. However, in the middle of these two destinations we stopped at the Dade County Courthouse to appreciate the origin of the name of our county. To my surprise “Miami-Dade County” originates from the name of the Major Francis Langhorne Dade. This Major was sent to Florida to fight the Seminoles and force them to relocate to the west. History is not black or white, it is gray and that is why I understand that if situations like this never happened maybe we wouldn’t be here today. However, that doesn’t mean I agree that our city should be called after a Major that came to fight the already suffering tribe of Seminoles. Instead, we could use a different name that represents more the city and its origins. For example, “Tequesta County”. I think this could be a great name for our county because it demonstrates that we respect our past and the people that was here before us.

My thoughts about the name of our county became stronger when we visited the Miami Circle. At first glance I thought this was just a normal dog park, but when professor Bailly started explaining that in that circle there used to be a Tequesta structure I was shocked. It is a disrespect to the origins of our city and to the extinct Tequesta tribe. I don’t blame the people that was there because they were probably misinform like I was. But I don’t understand how the city can allow something like this. In my opinion, schools should focus more on teaching about Miami history and perhaps by doing this we can show the respect the Tequesta deserve.

Everglades as Text

Photo by Alfredo Bidopia/ CC by 4.0

“Miami’s Hidden Paradise”

By Alfredo Bidopia of FIU at Everglades National Park, 05 February 2021.

Fifty minutes away from my house I found myself in a place like no other. I remember thinking, “This doesn’t look like South Florida”. The reality was that for the first time I was witnessing the real South Florida.

The idea of just going to the Everglades would have sound boring and crazy to me around seven months ago. Covid-19 has impacted us in many different ways, but the aspect that shocked me the most from this pandemic was not been able to go to my usual places. This provoked a new flame in me to discover new places and connect more with nature.

Our adventure at the Everglades started when Ranger Dylan arrived and explained to the class how we were going to proceed in the slough and some past experiences she had. She even told us about another Ranger that almost stepped on top of a venomous snake. Let’s just say that snakes are not my favorite animals. When we finally parked the cars on side of the road to enter the jungle of the cypress trees, I didn’t know what to expect. I was afraid, but at the same time, I was excited because this was my first time visiting the Everglades.

As we entered the cold waters of the slough, I only thought about the possibilities of having alligators or snakes near me. It was when I allowed myself to be one with the present that I got to enjoy the real experience. Ranger Dylan was incredible, she guided us through the slough and shared with us important information regarding biodiversity. Suddenly she took a book out of her backpack and read the class a poem in the middle of the cypress forest. At that moment I felt connected for the first time with nature. It was something unexpected, but necessary.

As Ranger Dylan suggested I decided to separate from the group and explore the area by myself. The air running between the trees and the water moving between my legs brought me inspiration. I was inspired to create, to conserve, to show this paradise to others. I couldn’t understand how a place like this could bring such types of emotions. It was at that moment that I felt I was truly getting to know my home.

South Beach as Text

Photo by Alfredo Bidopia/ CC by 4.0

“South Beach Reality”

By Alfredo Bidopia of FIU at South Beach, 19 February 2021.

Like many other places around the world, Miami Beach has some good and bad sides to its history. Usually, people tend to only know the good aspects because that’s what the city tries to highlight. When Carl G. Fisher arrived at South Beach, he saw the potential of what this place could become. With the growth of the city, mangroves were removed. Ironically, what we know today as Fisher Island used to be the place African-Americans were allowed to attend the beach. Segregation was not only suffered by African-Americans. Jews were only allowed to live south of the fifth street. Carl G. Fisher bought the island from Dana A. Dorsey, one of the first African-American millionaires in Florida. Ironically, Fisher Island is one of the most expensive zip codes in the United States. Another interesting fact about this island is that it used to be connected to South Beach. The separation came with the government cut to allow better access to the port of Miami.

One of the most attractive features of South Beach is its diversity in architecture. We can find buildings with completely different styles, but the most common ones are Mimo and Art Deco. What characterizes Mimo buildings are the roundness of their shapes, open courts, and contrasting textures. On the other side, Art Deco is more focused on creating lines and symmetric separations between the buildings. These lines make eyes go crazy. Almost every building has three floors and three main sections marked with lines that separate the aesthetic of the construction. These types of buildings also include lines that stick out, providing shadow for pedestrians or in some cases their only purpose is to follow the aesthetics with lines. South Miami has become one of the favorite places for tourists to see the Art Deco design because of how well buildings are preserved.

The good and the bad will always be present in the history of Miami. It is our choice to decide which of the three sides of history we will remember. The good, the bad, or both.

Deering Estate as Text

Photo by Alfredo Bidopia/ CC by 4.0

“The Shadow of Vizcaya”

By Alfredo Bidopia of FIU at Deering Estate, 5 March 2021.

From the moment I entered the gates at Deering Estate, I asked myself why I hadn’t been here before. The best way I can describe Deering Estate is like traveling  to the past and seeing how Miami used to look before.

At Deering Estate, we can find 8 types of ecosystems and more than 100 acres of pine rocklands. Within the Deering Estate’s protected areas, there is evidence that the Tequesta occupied this zone by finding different types of their tools including shells and pottery. We can even find a burial mound.

Another significant aspect about this place is its historical structures. We have the Richmond Cottage, a hotel that was famous because visitors came to do business related to Flagler’s railroad. This is one of the oldest wooden structures in Miami Dade County. This place was later bought by Charles Deering. To the property, Charles decided to add the Stone House. This house was inspired by another property Charles owned in Spain. An additional interesting fact is that inside the Stone House we can find a secret wine cellar.

At Deering Estate, we can also find the Miami Rock Ridge. According to the website “The sedimentary ridge was formed more than 120,000 years ago, has elevations up to 25 feet above sea level, and serves as a topographical barrier between Biscayne Bay and the interior basin of the southern Florida peninsula”. What amazes me the most is how I didn’t know about this place before. It makes me wonder how places like this one don’t get the attention they deserve.

From different ecosystems to a house that used to function as a hotel for travelers, to Charles Deering and the incredible Stone House. This is all included in one place. I think Miami has great historic places that represent the origins of the city, but the same city is doing a bad job representing and showing these places that would only make their people feel more represented and prouder of their land.

Vizcaya as Text

Photo by Alfredo Bidopia/ CC by 4.0

“Vizcaya Museum, Gardens, and More”

By Alfredo Bidopia of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, 19 March 2021.

Going from Deering Estate to Vizcaya was the best possible way for me to understand this place. By doing this we can comprehend the different types of personalities Charles Deering and James Deering had. The construction of Vizcaya began in 1914. Two years after, James Deering moved to the property. The first thing I noticed when I entered the house in Vizcaya was a sculpture of Dionysus. I understood from this that James Deering was trying to tell his visitors this was the type of life he lived, he bathed with wine. Going to the middle of the house we can appreciate this space used to be open, representing a Spanish and Italian type of architecture. Throughout the house, there was a recurring theme, caravels. Instantly I associated the ships to Cristobal Colon. In my opinion, James Deering wanted to demonstrate how he came to conquer or make this place his own. He definitely made the house different, combining distinctive styles that to some might look weird or out of place, but I think they represent what Miami is today. A mix of everything. As we head out of the house, we enter the famous gardens of Vizcaya. According to the website The Cultural Landscape Foundation, “The ten-acre gardens at this private estate were designed for James Deering by Colombian-born landscape architect Diego Suarez, who worked on the project between 1914 and 1917. Suarez, who had studied at Villa la Pietra outside Florence, Italy, adapted classical European Renaissance and Baroque landscape design to Miami’s subtropical climate and terrain, using native soil and plant materials in an aesthetic arrangement that evokes sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Italian and French gardens”. In the gardens there is a sense of symmetry and organization, to give the impression that nature can be controlled. Vizcaya is a place that will be remembered for its extravagance, but it should also be remembered for its representation of the culture of Miami.

Margulies Collection as Text

Photo by Alfredo Bidopia/ CC by 4.0

“The Heart of Wynwood”

By Alfredo Bidopia of FIU at the Margulies Collection at the WAREhOUSE, 16 April 2021.

Wynwood has become a representative side of the art in Miami. You can even appreciate murals when traveling up North in the I-95. This district attracts art lovers because of its unusual way of showcasing art, which ironically represents the city of Miami. Many cool places can be found at Wynwood, you just need to look for them. One place that surprised me recently was the Margulies Collection at the WAREhOUSE. If I was excited before going to this place, I was way happier when I find out our tour guide was going to be the collector itself, Martin Z. Margulies. A unique experience that I didn’t see coming. Mr. Margulies is a collector of contemporary art, but he first started collecting pictures. It was 1999 when he decided to find a place in Wynwood that he could show his extensive collection of pictures, videos, and sculptures. This place has grown over the years and currently it is over 50000 square feet. Inside the WAREhOUSE every piece has its space and something to tell. In his collection, we can find pieces from incredible artists like Michael Heizer, Willem de Kooning, Olafur Eliasson, George Segal, Ernesto Neto, and many more. However, something that caught my attention is the incredible amount of pieces Mr. Margulies has from the artist Anselm Kiefer. There is a room dedicated only for this artist and his pieces. Mr. Margulies was so passionate when showing his collection that he explained every little detail behind each piece. The way he collects his pieces is admirable, he explained to the class he only collects pieces that he can connect with. This is a place more people should of, usually when we think about Wynwood what comes to mind are big murals, but there is much more. The Margulies Collection at the WAREhOUSE it’s the heart of Wynwood, and it helps a good cause. Students enter for free and non-students pay a low fee that is directed to a foundation called Lotus House created to help homeless women and children.

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