Stephanie Gudiel: Miami as Text

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

Photo by Stephanie Gudiel (CC by 4.0)

“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

Photo by Stephanie Gudiel (CC by 4.0)

“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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s