Adrian Mills: Miami as Text


Photos and Editing by Adrian Mills (CC by 4.0)

Hello! I am Adrian Mills. I am currently attending Florida International University, where I am majoring in Biomedical Engineering, however I am in the process of changing to Mechanical Engineering with minors in Chemistry and Biology. It is my second year here, at FIU and in Miami and I have very much enjoyed every part of it.  I originally grew up in Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati, however I have family in Spain (mainly Madrid), Mexico/Texas, and throughout the US. including here in South Florida. I am currently working as a Student Assistant at StartUP FIU, and have been recently getting more involved with many of the clubs and organizations FIu has to offer.  My passions include a wide variety of things, ranging from  sustainability to soccer. I am always interested in learning new things, and up for  exploring new experiences.

Photos and Editing by Adrian Mills (CC by 4.0)

Downtown Miami as Text:

“Origins”  by Adrian Mills of FIU in Downtown Miami

All cities throughout the world have their own distinct culture, history, qualities, flaws, and in their own way are unique. Miami is certainly one with all of these characteristics. 

Downtown Miami is often seen as this diverse tropical city full of towering buildings, with beautiful beaches, plentiful palm trees, and exciting nightlife. While this may be true in some sense, Miami at its core, is so much more than just that. While the history of Miami is complex, and honestly not really that widely known, it gives a different perspective into the city that so many various people have called home. 

Not initially being from Miami, brings another interesting perspective on exploration of what Miami has to offer and the background of its complicated history. Miami is well known to be a mixing pot of many various cultures, peoples, and takes pride in its diversity. 

This diversity is a fundamental part of Miami’s identity.

While this is the case currently, it also traces its roots back to its foundations as a city and even before that. But there are some parts that aren’t as widely known. Mainly the events that occurred early on in the beginning of its history. 

Thousands of years even before the Europeans arrived, much of the greater Miami Dade County area was inhabited by natives, the earliest of which date back to more than 10,000 years ago. 

By the time The Europeans visited around the middle of the 16th century, this group of people eventually died off and disappeared due to European introduced diseases, and conflicts. 

Later in History, many of the newer inhabitants of the Miami area, were escaped slaves and the Seminole Native Americans who were forced to the Southern parts of Florida. Eventually they were once again forced out of their homes, as the Second Seminole War took place,  the most devastating war in Native American history, which practically completely killed the entire population of Seminoles. This also  involved Fort Dallas, a former plantation slave quarters, which still exists in Miami today. Much of this history is not taught or explained, at first I thought it might be as I did not grow up around here, but what I quickly realized, that many people who grew up here were not taught of the terrible events that had taken place. 

Furthermore, another widely unknown part of Miami history, are a group of people who much of  their history is gone and forgotten, are the original people of Miami, the people who first called Miami, and all its natural beauty, their home, the Tequesta.

The Tequesta were a native american people that lived throughout most of the Southeastern parts of Florida, mainly Biscayne Bay, much of what is now Miami Dade County, to the Florida Keys,  from 3rd century BCE to the  mid-18th century. What little is known about the Tequesta includes that they hunted, fished, and gathered various parts of plants, but had not developed or practiced any agriculture. This unique group of people had their own developed language, way of life, and had lived that way for hundreds of years before being disrupted by the European settlements. They did make contact with the Europeans as mentioned earlier but the Tequesta and their descendants met the similar fate as most other Natives throughout the Americas. 

However, something that genuinely surprised me was the lack of recognition that Miami had for its original inhabitants, the Tequesta.  What was most surprising to me, no one knows a lot about the Tequesta, what they looked like, how they spoke, or how they lived. How had an entire group of people who lived in this prominent area for thousands of years, exist, and vanish, with not much mentioned, or known? A single plaque at the entrance of a church in downtown Miami, was the only true mention I had ever seen throughout all of Miami. I have only heard of the Tequesta a few times before, and it amazed me that despite this being Miami’s original people, they receive almost no recognition, and so little is really known about them. 

Diversity is a key part of Miami, and it can still be seen today, with its mixing of cultures, wonderful foods,  interesting architecture, and various languages, all of which are constant reminders of Miami’s true potential. But the underlying existence of its true history and darker past, should be more widely recognized within its foundations.

The Tequesta are a fascinating part of Miami’s history and it is truly a shame that more people don’t know about them, and that such little of their intriguing existence remains. 

Learning more about the history of Miami while exploring the actual areas, was quite an interesting and extremely enjoyable experience. Being introduced to new information about the past of such a diverse historical city is truly an experience that more people should enjoy.

Downtown Miami as Text:

Photos and Editing by Adrian Mills (CC by 4.0)

“Natural World” by Adrian Mills

The Everglades have always been one of my favorite locations to visit whenever I travelled to South Florida, ever since I was a kid. I grew up visiting many different natural parks and reserves, and often they were the highlight of any road trip or vacation. This was particularly evident with the Everglades, as I visited any time I could. 

Being able to wade through the Everglades, exploring the cypress dome, the alligator hole and beyond, was a really enjoyable experience, that although I have done before, is always an adventure. There are always new things to learn, explore, and see. The Everglades are an incredible display of the complex relationship between nature and humans. But, there is something truly alluring about the expansive wetland, the interconnectedness of the various different types of ecosystems, and the abundance of biological diversity, both plants and animals, that each play a key role in the existence of their ecosystem. 

The Everglades, as most ecosystems do all have a certain balance, but there is an extent to which it exists.  This is evident in certain areas, as because as usual, humans have started a long list of various detrimental effects that have influenced the Natural Everglades habitat. Anything from the introduction of invasive species, to the clearing of land, to the pollution of the water with agricultural  runoff, or the ever growing accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere, and the global climate crisis,  the list goes on and on. 

But, Nature, as it always does, adapts and overcomes challenges to survive, and more notably it always returns. At least, it does to some extent, but in many cases today, it needs our help to recover more quickly and effectively. This is what we, as a group were able to observe in person. One of the more interesting sections of the day involved going to  land that had essentially been completely cleared and scraped down until only the coral remained. What initially seemed like the destruction of habitat, was actually an intricate part of a complex habitat restoration project that took over a decade in development.

This area is what is known as the Hole in the Donut Restoration Project. Restoration Projects are extremely important, as they allow us to restore the damage we have done on certain ecosystems, and when done on such as scale, it provide an incredible amount of data and information that can be used to better understand the restoration process and how it influences the surrounding ecosystems, making future project more effective. 

This land, over 6,300 acres was previously cleared and used as agricultural land years ago, but as there is not much soil naturally, the farmers brought a large amount of nutrient rich soil to grow on. But, after the Everglades was deemed a National Park and  the farm had to move they farmers left, leaving all the unnatural soil they had brought. Initially this might not seem like a large problem however, it has caused a series of lasting issues within this part of the Everglades.

This abundance of excess nutrients provided by the old farmland completely disrupts the normal ecosystem that used to exist in this land. This surplus of unnatural nutrients which resulted in an explosive growth of  many invasive species of plants. Over time, this unnatural area started to influence the surrounding area and cause more problems.  These invasive species start to spread, having no natural predators, and start to get out of control. 

But the National Park Service, in cooperation with a number of other organizations, were able to develop, plan, experiment, and ultimately complete a large scale restoration of this area. This restoration involved the removal of exotic plants, and the restoration of the natural wetland ecosystem, with the integration of monitoring and management. This process takes a substantial amount of time and as of 2020, over 6000 acres has been restored with less that 250 more to go. This project began in 1988 and over the past 30 years this project has been immensely successful. 

We were able to observe this progress in one of the areas that had most recently been cleared, as we visited several of the natural solution holes within the coral that had been revealed during  the process of removing the surface level of invasive plants and soil. In these areas it is interesting to observe the distinct reclamation that nature has on any part disrupted by humans. This area  started to see many of the native plants, such as sawgrass,  and other species return fairly quickly to reestablished themselves on the land. Seeing this in person allows for the better understanding of the interaction between ecosystems, and how important it is to protect  and restore the ecosystem that we still have left. 

Everything that we did that day, wading through the cypress dome, the flatter grass areas, walking along the boardwalk, and swimming in the solution holes, really allowed us to experience the natural side of Miami, as this is what the true native land of Miami would have looked like. It is interesting that most people think of the beaches and city of Miami whereas what truly is the area of Miami and most of South Florida and the vast expanse of Everglades, that continue to display their importance on the existence of this entire Floridian peninsula. 

Observing these natural landscapes, and seeing the important restoration of the extensive damage we have caused is extremely important. Being able to appreciate these areas and understand their importance is something that a lot more people should do, as maybe it will be one of many steps that will truly help humanity to finally put aside their differences and finally address and find easy to resolve and prevent  the many ways that we as a people have negatively affected the natural world we live in. 

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