Hi, I’m Sofia De La Torre! I am junior at Florida International University studying Biological Sciences. I hope to attend medical school in the future to pursue a career as a surgeon. In my free time, I love going on spontaneous sunset drives, making jewelry, or just hanging out with my friends! I am originally from Miami and love learning about the history of the places I travel to or visit; however, I don’t even know the history of my own city. My motivation for taking this class is to learn about the hidden truths that Miami holds and the foundation that built this city to be what it is today.
Downtown as Text
“The Hidden Past of Miami” by Sofia De La Torre of FIU at Downtown Miami
I am a person who hates doing things by myself. My overprotective mother doesn’t help situations when all she does is call me every 10 minutes to find out if I’m still alive. So, when I found out that I would be traveling into the heart of Miami alone, I may have had a mini freakout. Here’s a random fact about me: I don’t like driving on the highway. Therefore, the drive to get to the Government Center was an interesting one to say the least. When I arrived, I was met with creepy stares from old men and the smell of gas powered cars, which for me is not the best way to start out the first honors class of the semester.
When we began to walk to the different locations we’d be visiting that day, I recognized many buildings from trips to downtown with my family when I was younger. Downtown Miami is like a foreign world to me. Growing up in residential Miami, life is laid back, slow even. However, Downtown is lively and energetic, like a beehive where everyone has a place to be and a job to do. Walking around, seeing these places that I have seen hundreds of times in my life was fairly normal, until the history behind them came undone.
Miami was a city that belonged to the native Tequesta people, but their land was stolen from them just like many other Native American groups residing in Florida. This overtake of land was anything but peaceful and war quickly ensued. Eventually, the natives were forced from their land and are now practically forgotten. Living in Miami for my whole life, hearing these hidden truths for the first time is shocking. Never in my 13 years of public schooling in Florida, Floridian history was never taught to us. These violent truths are buried under our own feet and have yet to be unearthed to many people who reside in this beautiful city.
Although the Tequesta’s resided in Miami long ago, other minority groups have been oppressed throughout Miami’s history. Henry Flagler, for example, is highly regarded as the “Founder of Miami,” but he abused his power by using the color of his skin against others. The low income populations in Miami have also been mistreated for decades. We talked about the freeway that goes directly through a predominantly African-American neighborhood because the legislative authorities had a large pushback from the wealthy families who did not want a highway next to their homes. These minority groups are constantly taken advantage of and stripped of their voices because others speak louder, have more political pull, or have more money.
Another minority group who resides in Miami are the hispanics, primarily the Cuban population. As a Cuban myself, I have heard the hardships that my own grandparents went through in their home country , but even more in America. Coming into the U.S. with one single suitcase and $100, they had to make a living for themselves and their 4 children. The Freedom Tower is a huge part of Cuban history. It was the immigration central for all the children, and adults, who came into the U.S. in the 1950s, fleeing from their communist government. Today, the Cuban people make up approximately 25% of Miami-Dade’s total population and 50% of Miami-Dade’s foreign population.
Overall, Miami is one of the most, if not the most, diverse cities in the U.S. People of every race, religion, color, background etc. can be found here and that is what I love most about my city. Conversations need to be had and action needs to be taken to remedy the lies that have been told to cover up the ugly truth about Miami’s history. We may not be able to change the past, but we have complete control of our future.
Everglades as Text
“The Marvels of Pond Life” by Sofia De La Torre of FIU at The Florida Everglades
Growing up in Miami, being around water is not unusual to you. Residents of Miami live right next to the beach and the Everglades is basically our backyard. However, not enough people know of the beauty and life that the Everglades holds. This was my very first experience going “slough slogging.” My last experience in the Everglades was a field trip to the Anhinga trail in 5th grade, so it’s been a while. I was thrilled to be getting the opportunity to do this and had convinced myself that my fear of murky water wouldn’t be a problem (it definitely was).
Walking into the water was a bit nerve-racking because you never know what could be under your feet. The first five or ten minutes I was panic-stricken and paranoid about every sound and movement. As time went on, however, I became more comfortable in this foreign environment. My first thought was that it looked like I had just walked on to the set of Star Wars. It felt very surreal to be walking through the water.
The Everglades encompasses 1.5 million acres of tropical wetland. It is a lush environment is home to many species of animals and plants. The ecosystem in the Everglades is struggling to survive right now though. Invasive species have taken over and are dominating the native species. For example, the Burmese python has made its way into the Everglades and has no predators, in fact they have been seen eating full grown alligators before. Many people associate alligators with the everglades, and while that is true, there is also human evidence in the everglades. The Seminole Indians and other Indian tribes were pushed from their land and into the Everglades where they had to find a way to survive.
At the end of our slough slogging adventure, we drove to a solution hole in the middle of nowhere. The plain was absolutely flat, a rare sight in the everglades because there are trees everywhere you look. This is due to an invasive tree, the Australian pine. This tree had taken over the area and was causing major damage to the ecosystem by taking resources from the native plants. The area was excavated to prevent further growth of the invasive species.
My favorite part of the day was when we all stopped and had a moment of silence to take in the scenery around us. It was so serene, and, in that moment, you could hear every sound. Every bird chirping. Every tree squeaking as the wind blew through. However, in this tranquil moment, a sign of human presence, an airplane, flew above and reminded us of the impact humans can and have had on ecosystems across the world.