Angelo Gomez: Miami as Text 2021


Hello everyone, my name is Angelo Gomez. I’m currently a junior at Florida International University majoring in Political Science and Journalism. I’m nineteen years old and I enjoy learning new things and concepts. I’m a huge Marvel and Star Wars geek, a history nerd, and a soccer superfan. That’s about everything you could wish to know about me.

Downtown Miami as Text

“Subtle Nods”  by Angelo Gomez of FIU at Downtown Miami, January 29 2021

Commonly referred to as a “melting pot” of different nationalities, Miami is the intersection of different worlds. In this sunny metropolis, several different races, ethnic groups, and nationalities all come together to form a colorful painting on a city-wide canvas. From its indigenous roots to its colonial experiences, and then fast-forwarding to its inception in 1896, many different hands and feet have passed through our home, each group leaving its influence in this ever-growing cultural landscape.

Downtown Miami subtly nods at its long and complicated history, while proudly and boldly embracing the beauty of its diversity. Merely a few blocks away from Government Center lie remnants of horrors of slavery; a few blocks further ahead, stands the Overtown district, with its own unfortunate racial history and troubled past.

Beyond the shiny skyscrapers adorning Brickell’s skyline are clues scattered across reminding its own people of its rich past. A small memorial testament to Mary Brickell reminds us of the women that brought us to this day.  The towering indigenous warriors fire arrows to the sky above the same river where indigenous Tequestas roamed their land.

Yet, among skyscrapers and boat tours, merely plaques subtly nod to the importance of these landmarks at one point in history.

Behind the Liberty Tower, stands a piece from the Berlin Wall. Yet, underground rest the corpses of black slaves and African American workers that built up the city that never got to experience the promise of freedom for themselves. How does this make sense? It doesn’t, but few things in Miami make sense.

These subtle nods are pieces of a puzzle; a scavenger hunt map that allow us to reflect and piece together an appreciation of what came before to improve on what is to come.

Everglades as Text

“Legacy” by Angelo Gomez of FIU at Everglades National Park, February 5 2021

A vibrant and buzzing ecosystem. As a small group of students carefully treaded the waters, nature warmly embraced its own. Miles of land stretched out beyond the eye could see. At the exit of the dome, the river grassland greeted us as it stretched out until the horizon line. Lying ahead, an entire world untouched. Untouched by humanity and development. A peaceful landscape. In that moment, I thought of every indigenous native, slave, and settler that stepped through these lands at some point or another in our history. For the Tequestas, the original founders of this beautiful landscape, we honor their legacy by preserving the land they owned and cared for. Carefully walking beside them, we honor the cypress trees, the waters, every plant, animal, and microscopic species that roam and own this territory, their territory. These lands have existed long before us. They will be around much long after me. We are just co-inhabitants of their world. In the grand scheme of things, we are just minor characters in an overarching narrative surrounding us.

South Beach as Text

“Distinctiveness” by Angelo Gomez of FIU at South Beach, February 19 2021

Sandwiched between the beach and the city, the walk along Ocean Drive was an inspiring sight of beautiful and unique architectural styles coming together. As the roadblocks opened the street for pedestrians and restaurants extended onto the road, the convergence of strangers along the famed Ocean Drive was a pleasant sight to see amid the coronavirus pandemic.

South Beach offered an eclectic mix of colorful buildings and innovative architecture and design. It offered a distinct blend of architectures such as Mediterranean-inspired architecture, modern MiMo architecture, and the iconic Deco style. These three styles blended to create an eye-popping and creative panorama. The contrast between the designs plays off each other and their distinctiveness are the center of South Beach’s creative spirit.

Walking through South Beach feels like a rewind through time, an appreciation for the innovative and creative spirit of man. As modern architecture favors geometrically shaped homes and neutral color palettes are the rave, bright neon colors light up the South Beach night sky. Bright yellow and pink and green hotels attract the eye with their bizarre and exuberant displays. These buildings could have been demolished to make room for oceanside skyscrapers. Heavy traffic could have crowded the street from pedestrians and closed the restaurants.

However, amid the humid and sunny Miami weather, we enjoyed a travel forward into the future and simultaneously walked through history.

Deering Estate as Text

“Time stands still” by Angelo Gomez of FIU at Deering Estate, March 5 2021

Under the cool, quiet shade of the trees, we traveled along the nature preservation of the Deering Estate. As we journeyed through the same grounds that the tribal Tequestas, James Deering, and Charles Flagler once walked on, we experienced the feeling of traveling through time itself. We caught glimpses of our land in its original state, where time stands still, and the land remains intact and untouched. However, debris and ocean garbage line the deep mangrove shores. The decaying corpse of a small plane lies still. Hundreds of caves decorate the landscape. Mosquitoes own the land. The Tequesta “tree of life” is the center of it all.

A couple miles ahead, a Spanish-esque mansion and a preserved old town stood tall at the frontier of the Atlantic Ocean. As far as the eye could see, the ocean and the sky blended into one blue canvas as the sun stood high in the noon sky. Where a man-made row of palm trees lined up the blue sea, manatees floated and greeted us as we begun our journey.

As for the estate itself, I learnt a lot about James Deering. He was a complex man, one with many accomplishments but also many faults. Much like Henry Flagler and Carl Fisher, our city shares an equally beautiful and turbulent past. Much like Deering’s Spanish villa home, Miami offers a distinctively colorful blend of cultures and inspirations from across the globe.

Vizcaya as Text

“Exuberant” by Angelo Gomez of FIU at Vizcaya, March 19 2021

Standing in Miami’s own luxurious Vizcaya mansion, it feels like being transported to a different world in the distant past. The same hedonistic desire that led the creation of Louis XIV’s grand Versailles palace in France also inspired Vizcaya mansion, a towering and shiny palace right in front of the ocean with colorful gardens and gorgeous views. Large rooms filled with artwork detail in the interior of the mansion. Large banquet halls and ballrooms were once home to lavish parties and exuberant events. The expensive decorations inside the mansion reflect a life of charm and plentiful spending. The colorful gardens are a treat with gardens, mazes, fountains, and statues.

Built in the middle of a up-and-coming, swampy and rural Miami, a vast party house invaded the scene. However, one must also remember the complicated past that Vizcaya represents. Vizcaya was built off the hands and labor of slaves or black workers, who worked under unpleasant conditions, to say the least. Vizcaya’s lavish lifestyle was not accessible to these folks, the poor and underrepresented communities that were often set aside and forgotten in history. Much like the rest of the monuments explored in this course, the memories and legacies of many are often neglected for the sake of the few, those rich and powerful, and often white.

To this day, Vizcaya remains a popular tourist destination as the city lives up to Deering’s complicated, but exuberant legacy. There is nothing better that can describe Miami’s culture, a city known for its beaches, parties, and rowdy night life.

Margulies as Text

“Life” by Angelo Gomez of FIU at Margulies, April 16 2021

Inside the Margulies Collection at The Warehouse nestled within Wynwood, I discovered a new world completely unknown to me. Roaming around the hallways and the exhibits, Martin Margulies’s collections of artworks dazzled the entire environment with attractive and though-provoking artworks. Each room presented its own offerings of artwork with unique messages and themes.

Listening to Martin Margulies, he was a very interesting man with a passion for artwork. In his collection, there was a large variety of contemporary artworks that were all unique and clever. Rather than traditional artwork, such as paintings on canvases or model sculptures, the artworks on display were wildly creative and abstract. Artworks were made from rocks, briefcases, and old canvases. An old truck was used for a project containing television screens and graffiti. Each project was fascinating to inspect, examine, and analyze. The combination of vastly different art styles made for a great experience as each room and section of the warehouse presented visually captivating pieces.

Learning about Margulies’ influence and effect on Miami’s art history was a fascinating part of the experience. Miami is known for its nightlife, beaches, and architecture, as well as being a hub for art. Wynwood is one of the best examples of that. Without Margulies’ contributions, Wynwood may have never developed at all. Now, Miami is a trendy hub for artwork and colorful personalities. Just like Vizcaya and James and Charles Deering, Miami continues to build upon their legacies as a fun and colorful city.

Art is in the eye of the beholder. For much of these artists, their wonky and unorthodox creations present beautiful messages and spoke to me deeply. Other works were simply fun to admire. Overall, this entire experience was breath-taking.

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