Stephanie Gudiel: Miami as Text 2021

Stephanie Gudiel/CC by 4.0

Hi! My name is Stephanie Gudiel, I am currently a junior in the FIU Honors college majoring in Psychology with a minor in Business. I’m currently 20 years old and love to travel, however due to covid I have slowed down on the travel aspect. Aside from that, I enjoy working out as a way to destress, I have been teaching myself how to cook a little bit, and I enjoy being outdoors trying new things. I decided to take this class because even though I was born and raised in Miami I feel as if there is still so much I don’t know about Miami, from its history to hidden gems, so I hope to gain more insight and a deeper understanding on how Miami came to be what we know it to be today.

Downtown Miami as Text

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“Unspoken Past” by Stephanie Gudiel of FIU at Downtown Miami

Growing up in Miami I learned about the side of history educators wanted us to be proud of. I was taught that Henry Flagler was a founding father of south Florida, and most of what is around us today is thanks to his hard work. I was also taught about the history of slaves in the America as a whole. But it wasn’t until a couple weeks ago that professor Bailly took our class to Lummus Park, that I was able to have a deeper understanding about the history of Miami, and realized our history isn’t as clean or simple as the textbooks put out to be.

In the 1840’s the Longhouse in the picture above was constructed by one hundred enslaved Africans that belonged to Colonel William F. English and it was part of a slave plantation here in Miami. English had obtained the title of the 640 acres that belonged to his uncle, who had already been running the slave plantation about a decade before. The current location of the Longhouse is not where it had always been, the slave plantation houses were originally constructed on the north bank of the Miami River. English left Miami for the California Gold rush leaving the Longhouse and all the land to be requisitioned by the Army in 1849 who decided to call it Fort Dallas.

Fort Dallas was used as barracks for soldiers during the Seminole Wars to push the Seminoles further out west by blocking their trade and isolating them. Once the army was satisfied with the land they took from the Seminoles they left. By 1889, Julia Tuttle was acquiring properties of the Biscayne Bay Company, and in 1891, she and her children moved into English’s former Slave Plantation.

This is when Julia Tuttle lured Henry Flagler down to South Florida, she gave him prime land on the mouth of the Miami River while she kept English’s properties for herself, in return he built his famous railroad all the way down to Miami. This is how Julia Tuttle became the Mother of Miami, she single handedly transformed a former slave plantation into a city, she is the only woman to have founded a major American city. After Julia Tuttle passed away, the Longhouse was shortly transformed into a gambling club and then into a Tea room in 1923.

In 1925, more than 75 years after the Longhouse had been built, it was moved from its original location to Lummus Park and this was the first time in Miami history that a building had been preserved for historical significance. This one building has been part of so many significant events that transformed Miami into what we know it to be. I never knew this building existed, much less that there was once a slave plantation where Downtown is today. This is to prove that although the building is standing in Lummus Park today with a summary of events in front of it, there is much of Miami’s past that is unspoken of.

Everglades as Text

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“Uncharted Territory” by Stephanie Gudiel of FIU at the Everglades

As I walked into the cold murky water I thought, to myself “What could I possibly see here? What could I learn from walking through this dome?” I came to the realization, it’s not about learning, it’s about being able to experience and be one with nature. Being able to know and see a different side of the world, a side that has not been touched or changed by humanity. A place so self-contained with no trace of society, that it has its own sound, its own system and way of living that depends on no one and nothing but itself.

Walking deeper into the dome I saw fallen cypress trees, its roots lifted from the ground due to natural disasters, one would think that is how this cypress dome would slowly be destroyed, through natural disasters, or at least I did. Only to find out that from the roots began to grow more flora, life did not end there, from the fallen tree rose beautiful greenery to continue the cycle that is life. This ecosystem had the perfect balance as it was so pure and self-sufficient.

At one point we stopped, a safe distance from the road, completely immersed in the dome that I was able to hear the chime the wind created as it stirred within the trees, the birds chirping and gliding between trees even the flow of the water. It was something I had never experienced before. There was so much life, so many things going on in this one place that wasn’t undisclosed, simply unexplored, it was so easy to pass by on the road and not think anything of it.

To think that once upon a time this land was once home to the Tequestas, these grounds were walked by them everyday to the extent that they were just like our modern-day drive to our nearest publix to them, yet to us it is mysterious uncharted territory. I was simply a guest along with the rest of my class, wandering through this mesmerizing dome. And there will continue to be more just like me in the future, hundreds of years from now this dome will still contain its beauty and its distinctive qualities and will continue to captivate others.

This experience has made me appreciate the world from a new perspective, there is so much beauty I have yet to see, to feel, and encounter. So, we must appreciate each time we may face the untouched raw world and embrace it to preserve it, so future generations can relish and have this unique experience as I did and be one with nature.

South Beach as Text

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“Built History” by Stephanie Gudiel of FIU at South Beach

I was enjoying the sun on my skin as well as the light breeze as we were walking down Ocean drive. Looking left and right trying to take in all that is South beach, as I hadn’t been there in over a year due to the pandemic. It was like going there for the first time. The road was blocked to allow the restaurants to continue to operate with outdoor seating, I heard loud music playing in the background, the sound of people talking and laughing, simply enjoying their day. I thought to myself, this is Miami, this is what people from all over the world come to see and feel, this vibe that is unique to my hometown.

Music and culture aside, what really completes South Beach are the architectural styles we run into. It hadn’t been something I had thought about until Professor Bailly pointed it out. I had been to South beach countless times, however, this was the first time I realized there are three main architectural designs that give South Beach the ambiance we long for. They each serve their purpose and show a bit of the history of Miami through them.

The mediterranean revival style was most prominent in the early 1900’s, and this style reflects the influence of the mediterranean coast. These types of buildings mostly show the spanish baroque style with the columns and balconies, they also typically have the stucco walls and red tile roofs. In the old days, the red tile roofs were actually made by hand, the women would use their thighs to give the clay tile that curved shape. As we walked through South beach we saw a few buildings resembling this architectural style.

South Beach is most well known for its concentration on Art Deco style, it actually has the highest concentration of Art deco buildings making it the iconic style for Miami. From the pastel colors used, to the “eyebrow like” balconies and its unique curves, it’s everything that comes to mind when you think of Miami vice. It is typically easy to identify using the 3 by 3 rule, meaning they tend to be three floors, and its colors are split in three, they also try to reflect the ocean so they generally use blue when making these buildings. This design was meant to embrace the machine age and a perfect example of it would be the Ocean five hotel.

Lastly, we encountered Mimo, which is eclectic on its own and relatively new. Simply put, it takes Art deco and modernizes it, making it glamorous yet minimalist. Miami Modern style is easy to distinguish with its curves, bright colors, and walls with geometric shape cutouts.

All three of these styles are seen walking down Ocean drive, one building after another with its own unique twist on one of these styles are a typical example of them. Each one resembling a piece of history that made Miami what it is today, and reminding us what it once was. One would think all this variation of styles on one street would look off putting, but it’s quite the opposite, this is what attracts all kinds of people to Miami.

This class brought me to a different kind of awareness, when we go anywhere the first thing we acknowledge is the culture of the place which is normally noticeable through the music and people. But sometimes we need to step back and see the bigger picture, quite literally see where we are as each place tells a story of its own from our surroundings. The colors set the mood, the shapes built into the walls speak volumes, from glamour to tranquil. This will allow us to appreciate and understand the world as it is.

Deering Estate as Text

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“Sight to see” by Stephanie Gudiel of FIU at Deering Estate

It was a sunny day and I could feel the humidity as we walked into Deering Estate. As we walked through, the view was breathtaking, from the water to all the beautiful vegetation and flowers I encountered. At the dock, where the fresh water meets Biscayne Bay, we were able to see quite a few manatees, living in their own world they were turning on their backs, coming up for air every few minutes it was fascinating to see as I’d never seen them so up close.

After walking through six different ecosystems that were all found on the Deering Estate, we were able to walk through the Stone house and the Richmond Cottage. Charles Deering, an industrialist, environmentalist, and art collector bought the land that is now known as Deering Estate, and constructed the Stone House in the 1920’s. Deering bought the land and property from Samuel H. Richmond who constructed what is known as the Richmond Cottage, this was the first and only hotel between Coconut Grove and Key West during that time. Next to the cottage is where Deering built the Stone house, in which most of its architectural influences are from the mediterranean revival style but still reflects some islamic influences through the doors and windows. The Stone house was used more of a way to showcase his valuable art collection rather than a home. Aside from the aesthetically pleasing designs throughout the house as well as parts of his art collection displayed, the part that intrigued me was the hidden wine cellar. There was a wine cellar down in the basement hidden behind a vault and a bookshelf, all this secrecy was of course due to the fact that this was during the prohibition era. This cellar was only discovered after Hurricane Andrew flooded and damaged part of the property.

Vizcaya as Text

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“Living Lavishly” by Stephanie Gudiel of FIU at Vizcaya

I made a sharp right turn as I almost missed the exit from US1 to head towards Vizcaya. Driving through the entrance I was surrounded by trees it felt like I was driving through a forest until I began to see statues to my left and right. After parking, I walked through heading towards the gates and the main entrance to this beautiful Italian inspired villa. The view of the walkway to go to the house was simply awe inspiring. The symmetry of flowers and a stream of water flowing in the middle of them on both sides of the walkway, with the Mediterranean revival style main house in the middle really set the tone for the rest of the estate.

From that moment it was clear that James Deering was not a fan of humility. This became more evident as I noticed the arches right outside of the entrance of his home. There were triumphal arches, which were known to be used by the Romans to commemorate victorious generals or as a symbol of founding new colonies. James Deering had no historical significance for them, simply wanted them to aesthetically enhance his estate and I believe it also suits his personality. He personalized these arches to fit his estate by adding seahorses throughout the arches.

Walking into the house the first object to catch your eye would be a statue of Bacchus, the god of wine and pleasure, on top of a tub with two children on each side. This fountain is a great representation of what James Deering had in mind for his villa, a place for entertainment and to showcase his wealth. Deering did not refrain from spending when it came to styling his home. Every room was designed around objects brought from Europe, more specifically the majority of the objects and style came from Italy. He put Paul Chalfin, an artistic director, in charge of assembling his rooms together, and Diego Suarez in charge of his landscape masterpiece.

John Deering’s architectural style and lavish life essentially influenced the whole city of Miami, as it is what Miami is known for to some extent, the lively entertainment and mediterranean revival style.

Margulies as Text

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“Up close and personal” by Stephanie Gudiel of FIU at Margulies Art Collection

The Margulies art collection at the warehouse is a nonprofit institution that is dedicated to sharing and educating the public on contemporary art. Martin Z Margulies has even donated some pieces to educational institutions, such as FIU and UM. His goal is to be able to share his appreciation for art which is why he presents seasonal exhibitions, he changes the works in his warehouse every year so people can keep experiencing new things. His passion to collect art is not simply to acquire works, it gives him the chance to learn and gain knowledge from colleagues, artists, and fellow gallerists.

I’ll be honest and say contemporary art is something I had never understood or at least understood the attraction to it. After visiting the Margulies art collection in Wynwood, I changed my mind, it opened my eyes to a different world of expression one that is so personal it tells a story through a series of images or sculptures.

When I first walked into the warehouse, to my right was a series of headless figures in a separate room. There were 250 hollow headless human figures, of varying sizes to represent different ages, all made of resin soaked burlap or cast bronze. This is a very well known work done by Magdalena Abakanowicz, who successfully portrayed human condition from her experience. She did this by making these headless figures lack any identifiers, whether it be race, ethnicity, or culture, they all look the same simply different sizes. The key to these figures is that they’re headless, meaning they don’t have a mind of their own, as if they don’t have emotions, thoughts, opinions. The reason her works tend to be headless is because she grew up during difficult times, she was only 9 years old when Nazi Germany invaded Poland, which is where she lived. She endured many years of war, which is why her works express loss and hardship. The headless figures represent people being stripped of their identity, a common occurrence in times of war, like the jews who weren’t seen as people to the Nazis in the Holocaust, they were all just a number despite their age, they all went through the same hardships.

The beauty of contemporary art is that it’s very personal, it does not have to make sense to everybody, as long as its creator understands it and the work holds meaning for them, that is what matters. What I love about it is, it makes you think outside the box, the creators break all boundaries and expectations when it comes to art. You can play with it, you can walk in it, feel it, even smell it. It’s like you’re walking into a personal story the artist is trying to express, or it can dig up certain memories you’ve forgotten of. My favorite piece from the warehouse was by Ernesto Neto, it was these sockets hanging from the ceiling filled with aromatic spices. The second you entered the warehouse you could catch a hint of the smell, what’s intriguing about this piece is it is not at all what you expect or what comes to mind when you think of art, yet it has an impact on anyone who approaches it. The sense of smell is one of the most important, many of our memories are connected to a certain smell and we may not even realize it. This work is very interactive as you’re meant to approach each socket as some have different spices, to me some smelled like pepper which easily reminded of my dad, others smelled like cinnamon and cloves, reminding me of my childhood and my grandma. Each of these memories that were triggered by these smells brought up different emotions, and what’s mesmerizing about this piece is that it affects everyone differently, we can be smelling the same socket, the same spices, yet it can produce very distinct reactions and emotions.

Every work in the warehouse was unique, some told similar stories or were in remembrance of a specific event, but no two were alike, it amazes me to this day. Having this be the last class held some significance, I feel as though I have gained a newfound interest and appreciation for art.

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