My name is Hebah Bushra and I am an undergraduate student at the Honors College at Florida International University. I am majoring in Biological Sciences and Natural and Applied Sciences as well minoring in Chemistry. Some of my aims are to pursue a career in the medical field and travel to all 7 continents whilst trying different cuisines, volunteering, exploring cultures and religions, and meeting new people. I find gardening and painting to be my therapy in this chaotic world of ours. Although I have lived 3o minutes north of Miami my entire life and have most likely visited all of the beaches in South Florida, I have yet to experience the hidden treasures Miami encompasses. By taking the Discover Miami class with Professor John W Bailly, I have gained knowledge about Miami’s concealed stories, diverse culture, and rich environment through numerous destinations.
Miami Beach is a city in Miami-Dade county, Florida and is an island located between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean being its own municipality with a connection to the mainland through several bridges. According to the US Census Bureau, Miami Beach has a total area of 18.7 square miles from which 7 square miles is land and 11.7 square miles is water. Miami Beach consists of three districts: South Beach, Mid Beach, and North beach. This subtropical tourist magnet is made up of businesses, residential communities, beach resorts, and more while holding the largest Art Deco architectural collection in the world in Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue, and Washington Avenue, etc due to preservation activists. Although this highly developed city is very urbanized, it has around 20 green spaces or parks, 3 large golf courses, and of course miles of beaches. Miami Beach experiences tidal flooding on some streets and this has become more common since the mid 2000s. Methods to combat sea level rise and storms have had difficulty in success due to the limestone’s porosity.
Although current day Miami Beach is known for its inclusivity and welcoming atmosphere, it’s history encompasses wealth disparity, racial and ethnic segregation, environmental degradation, and lots more. Miami beach was originally occupied by the Tequesta tribe and then by Seminoles where until 1912, the land was flourishing mangrove forests much like the rest of Miami. Henry Lum and his son were the first people to buy this land for 25 cents an acre. The aim of utilizing this land for agriculture like creating coconut plantations was quite unsuccessful even though there was some prosperity with avocado groves.
The development of Miami by Henry Flagler, Julia Tuttle, and others brought about wealthy northerners as well as segregation and class disparity. The arrival of John S. Collins, Carl G. Fisher, and Johan and James Lummus was the start of real estate development in Miami Beach. Before their presence, African American, whites, Native Americans, Jews, and more lived harmoniously together. The Collins began the development of the largest wooden bridge at that time which was about 2 ½ miles long to connect the mainland Miami to the island. With the financial aid of Fisher, the bridge was open for public use in 1913. The degradation of land and clearing of the vast mangrove forests was done by Black Americans and Bahamians. Even though draining the swampland increased the land area of the island, it has detrimental impacts as mangroves were the main defense element against flooding and erosion. The city was known as Ocean Beach in 1915 and was named Miami Beach a year later. When Carl Fisher started his massive impact on the island, segregation occurred. After their forced hard work, the people of color were segregated and had to stay in an area called Virginia Beach depicting that as the town developed, lines were drawn. Although at one point Miami’s first black millionaire named Dorsey bought an island and people of color resided there, the Great Depression made him sell it to Carl Fisher (Fisher Island) forcing the colored community out.
There was little growth of the city due to the Great Depression and the hurricane in 1926; however, around the 1930, the city began to thrive with the addition of several Art Deco architectural style buildings. After World War II, the popularity of the land increased and became a tourist and retirement destination. In 1959 when Fidel Castro started his rule of Cuba, around half a million Cubans migrated to Miami, building the foundation for the Latin South Florida Community. Throughout the years, there has been a cultural and economic growth in Miami Beach. Many important people like Gianni Versace and Barbara Capitan who saved the Miami Beach Art Deco world have shaped and defined this island. As of today, there is a great amount of inclusivity and acceptance that was completely gone in the past. Although Miami Beach is incredibly unique and a major part of Miami’s cultural identity, it is important to understand and remember the negative aspects of its history.
As of July 1, 2019, according to the United States Census Bureau, Miami Beach population estimates are 88,885 people with the highest percentage of people being 65 years or older and about 2 people per household. For the population characteristics, 55.8% are foreign born people, majority from Cuba, Haiti, and Colombia, and there are 1,634 veterans. Likewise to other cities in Miami-Dade County, the two highest race populations are Hispanic and White. There are slightly more males (51.7%) than females (48.3%) in Miami Beach. The median value of owner-occupied housing units is $459,000 and property size is much smaller than other parts of Miami due to having beaches in walkable distances.
According to Data USA, the median age of Miami Beach residents is 42.4 with a median household income of $55,348. The major ethnic groups in Miami Beach are White (Non-Hispanic), White (Hispanic), Other Hispanic, African American, and Asian. The largest ethnic group is Hispanics with 53.1%, followed by White with 37.6%, then Black with 3.01%, and the smallest is Asian with 1.55%. This is a change from the beginning of Miami Beach’s development as the majority were African African and Bahamian/Caribbean people.
While exploring the parks of Miami Beach, I knew it was important to obtain knowledge about the experiences and opinions of local residents. In Collins Park, I had the opportunity to learn about Miami Beach from a personal point of view by resident Nicole Castillo. Although she asked not have her photo taken, her puppy was ready to strike a pose!
Interview with Nicole Castillo on April 23, 2021
Hebah: Please introduce yourself and your relation to Miami Beach.
Nicole: My name is Nicole Castillo and I lived here for 8 years in South Beach. I am a real estate agent and I used to teach yoga.
Hebah: What is your favorite thing about Miami Beach?
Nicole: I didn’t like Miami Beach before but I love it now. I found my own community with the hotel residents. It did take some time for me to know the day time community but I found a group of people with similar interests. I enjoy working out at the beach or park like this one (Collins Park).
Hebah: What is your least favorite thing about Miami Beach?
Nicole: At first, I did not like that it was so touristy and the people who came to Miami Beach would just destroy the city because to them it’s like Vegas. This makes it dangerous for the residents on bikes and scooters. I got hit by a rented scooter by tourists so I would like more rules implemented to control tourists, specifically Ocean Drive on Memorial weekend and the Fourth of July. After living in California, New York, and North Carolina, I wish this city provided a better Healthcare system as it doesn’t help those who need it the most and had more libraries, schools, and churches.
Hebah: How would you describe the residents of Miami Beach?
The true residents that I know live at the hotels and are very friendly however, the young people who arrived recently are not my favorite.
Hebah: How would you say Miami Beach changed with the Pandemic?
Nicole: With the pandemic, a lot more people from New York or big cities are moving here which is good for the economy. I am happy that they slowed down the roads between 17th and 5th street due to the Pandemic which is better for bikers and pedestrians. Personally, the pandemic made me more independent and I utilized outdoor areas like this park instead of the gym. I became closer with my neighbors and grew a sense of community due to the simplicity.
Hebah: How has Miami Beach changed since you arrived 8 years ago?
Nicole: It has definitely changed and grown for the better and they are still adding new components like a mall and park. It is much busier with many entrepreneurs opening up unique businesses, hotels, and restaurants.
The Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach was started by a group of Holocaust survivors in order to create a permanent memorial for the six million Jews who died from the Nazis during World War II. The location of Miami Beach was perfect due to South Florida having one of the highest survivor populations and according to Abe Resnick, there were about 20-25,000 survivors in this area.
Architect Kenneth Treister designed and created this memorial landmark with a large arm having a tattooed number stretching out to the sky with numerous thin, naked people grabbing onto each in the middle of a still and reflective pond. This center piece is called Sculpture of Love and Anguish and represents the dehumanization and torture faced my Jews. There were several human figures scattered around the hand holding each other with saddened face expressions including children crying. The memorial also has several black granite walls with images and information about the Holocaust called Arbor of History.
The Bass Museum is a contemporary art museum that aims to excite, break boundaries, and inform the community. The museum became public in 1964 by donations to Miami Beach by John and Johanna Bass. The exhibition focuses on international contemporary art and artists focus on the spirit and international elements of Miami Beach with the inclusion of design, fashion, and architecture. The museum also contains educational programs for people of all ages and backgrounds and promotes creativity in early childhood education with Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
THE FILLMORE MIAMI BEACH AT THE JACKIE GLEASON THEATER
The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater has a good stage presence, with audio and visual lighting to match the strength of the visiting artists. It originated in the 1950s. People from all around the world flock in to view performances which include dance, songs, comedy, and even boxing. Some well-known, regular visitors included Aretha Franklin, The Grateful Dead, and Miles Davis which brought even more attention to the place.
MIAMI BEACH BOTANICAL GARDEN
Miami Beach Botanical Garden highlights many of Florida’s plant attractions such as palm species, orchids, and native plants. While strolling through the tropical garden, several state butterflies can be spotted as well as limestone water fountains. This beautiful attraction contains a Japanese Garden alongside a koi pond as well as many other unique garden sections. Different activities and events take place in this area like parties, yoga classes, cultural events, workshops, and more. With the boutique center, visitors can take home and grow their own souvenirs with seeds of the various plants shown in the garden. With Miami’s year-round tropical climate, this garden stays open throughout all four seasons.
Collins Park is known as a relaxing green space with several collection pieces from the Bass Museum in the middle of this busy city. John A. Collins designed this park with clean lawns and sidewalks and towering Baobab and palm trees. One side faces the Bass Museum while the other faces the beach and along the sides are apartments and restaurants. Many gatherings are hosted in this park such as weddings, cocktail parties, and picnics.
The park located next to the New World Center is called New World Symphony park or Soundscape park. It is described as a typical park with attractive nature and pleasing trails. My favorite part was the aluminum structures that held the blooms of bougainvillea vines as seen in the image as well as the provided shade. What makes it such a world-class destination is its concert hall programs. It provides live performances and cultural events with its design and music. This area also serves for film-screenings, community events, and art galleries. Excluding all its events, the park offers beautiful sculptures and relaxing gardens. With a variety of restaurants and food stations this park presents, it’s a great place to spend a nice, stress relief day.
Transportation in Miami can be achieved with a CitiBike. This bike share system is placed around various areas of the city. Whether it’s commuting to work or discovering the beauty of Miami, this system gives an environmentally friendly, amusing, and effective way to travel around Miami. These bikes are affordable and its stations provide an easy lock and unlock feature. Riders have access to these bikes at any given time.
MIAMI BEACH TROLLEY
The trolleys in Miami provide an easy and affordable means of transportation from most one place to another. It typically serves around 15 hours a day and most importantly, it’s free for the public! It’s a fun and exciting way to travel and explore the depths of Miami. The routes consists of beaches like South Beach, Mid-Beach, and North Beach. It also makes several stops on roads like Lincoln Road, 5th Street, and Collins Avenue. This transportation system enables passengers to shop, visit, and explore various places located in Miami.
MIAMI-DADE TRANSIT METROBUS
The Miami Beach Bus Route 150 gives passengers an easy route to and from places like Miami International Airport Metrorail Station and Julia Tuttle Causeway. It also travels to beaches like MidBeach and South Beach and goes along streets like Collins Ave, Indian Creek Dr, and Washington Ave. It gives customers an affordable and accessible way to go around Miami. It is available all seven days of the week.
Havana 1957 Cuban Cuisine located in Espanola Way which was established in 1925 and gives visitors a traditional Cuban cuisine with the hint of Havana in the 1950s. With its authentic, flavorful food, classical Cuban music like Celia Cruz, and scenic decorations from bottom to top, it gives customers a glimpse of Cuba in the 1950s and its alluring culture. The menu contains Cuban dishes by Chef Juan Luis Rosales and there are over 120 types of rum from across the world.
iL Pastaiolo is an authentic Italian restaurant that serves trattoria Neapolitan style, handmade pasta and is located in Collins Ave. This restaurant originated with Mirko Cipriano from Napoli, Italy who came in 1999 and trusted the old fashioned way of creating iL Pastaiolo. This hand tossed pasta contains the illustrious past down traditions of Italian food.
Joe’s Stone Crab was created in 1913 by Joe Weiss who had a little lunch counter serving fish sandwiches on Miami Beach. It is the most historic restaurant in South Beach and located in South of Fifth. The restaurant was established even before Miami Beach became the city it is today. This over 100 years old restaurant is visited by actors, athletes, and politicians and was in the film The Mean Season in 1985 as well as many television shows.
Lincoln Road Antique & Collectible Market is a major social event on Sundays in Miami Beach. This is located on Lincoln Road which highlight several shops and restaurants and is in the Art Deco district. This market presents numerous vintage goods such as clothing, furniture, jewelry, and art. Featuring over 100 vendors, the market occurs from October to May at 9 am to 5 pm between 800 and 100 blocks of Lincoln Road. This enables the interaction between artists and collectors as well as supports small businesses.
Consign of the Times was created by Carin Kirby in 2001. It is Miami’s first luxury and designer resale boutiques and a widely known retail landmark in Lincoln Road on Miami Beach for over a decade. This business focuses on luxury at affordable prices, personalized services, and quality and righteousness.
DLB Vintage & Antique Rugs is located in Miami Beach and offers trusted antique rugs from Doris Leslie Blau for more than 45 years. The custom and vintage Persian carpet and rug collection has had a large fondness by Floridians for many years due to its botanical elements.
From the efforts to maintain Art Deco structures to segregation of colored individuals, Miami Beach has a deep history and culture. This neighborhood has several eye catching and unique elements such as authentic restaurants, vintage shops, Art Deco, Mimo, and Mediterranean Revival architecture, and long beaches. This glammed vacation spot also deals with negative consequences. The homelessness rate and poverty has had a drastic increase in recent years as well as holding a dark hidden past. The discrimination of ethnics groups like Jews and African Americans was very prominent in the beginning of the city’s formation. Miami has suffered from the decision of destroying its nature state of thick mangrove forests with large flooding from storms and hurricanes as will as erosion. In order to continue enjoying this unique treasure, environmental polices need to be placed as well as stricter rules for tourists destroying and polluting beaches. The busy city of Miami Beach holds several distinct elements that anyone can enjoy during the hot day and neon sign lit night.
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