Lis Delvalle is a student at FIU’s Honors College. She is majoring in Communications with a minor in Psychology and aspires to continue her education in law school. Although she has many legal passions –and wants to tackle a different issue every week– she is especially invested in women’s rights and medical malpractice. Aside from law, she loves art, the ocean, travelling, and her dog, Kali.
Professionally, she has had the opportunity to work with the non-profit Ronald McDonald House charity and the hispanic media network Telemundo. She hopes to continue her professional and personal endeavors through the Honors College Study Abroad program.
“History at Home” by Lis Delvalle of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
Vizcaya, the waterfront estate, is a tangible piece of history sitting in the center of Miami. It has been around since its extravagant opening in 1916, and still does not feel old. The Vizcaya property has Islamic fountains that reflect the heavens with their stillness, spanish caravels hanging from its ceilings, and the greek god Dionysis front and center. As soon as you walk in, there is a multitude of different cultural influences all in one place. Vizcaya still fits into what Miami is today.
The main house with all its guest rooms, the secret garden, and the barge were built to party and socialize. As you walk onto the property, there is a sense of grandeur. This reflects Vizcaya’s owner, James Deering, who saw himself as a modern-day Ponce de Leon. James Deering traveled Europe with his father’s fortune and then brought his influence and perspective to Miami.
Vizcaya must be appreciated as is, with its virtues and flaws. As it is a reflection of Miami, it is important to not leave out the ugly. The driveway, gardens, and every aspect of the house were made to impress, even if some features had to be faked. The granite, for example, was too expensive at the time so Vizcaya has hand-painted marble on its walls. Vizcaya’s moat was made to keep out any poor, dirty outsiders. This is somewhat ironic because the estate was built with influences from a mixture of different cultures. James Deering chose Miami as the location for his estate, but disregarded ‘Miamians’ and their culture at the time. He shaped us to be what we are, but gives no credit to who we were.
Vizcaya is a timeless treasure in Miami. With its irony, luxury, and history, Vizcaya encapsulates Miami, flaws and all.
“History as We Know It” by Lis Delvalle of FIU at MOAD
MOAD, the Museum of Art and Design, is located inside Miami’s Freedom Tower- better known as the Statue of Liberty of the south.
The Freedom Tower didn’t feel extraordinary, it felt familiar. There are portraits of young Cuban immigrants who look much like I do. Like Vizcaya, it puts our Spanish heritage on display with the Spanish galleon. I craved some more history on Cuban heritage and the peter pan movement, but the museum focuses on the Spanish encounter with Native Americans. The New World Mural that adorns the Freedom Tower’s walls, painted in 1987, displays a poem that romanticizes Ponce de Leon’s arrival. The mural portrays both Ponce de Leon and the Tequesta Chief together as equals giving the illusion of inclusion. Although some tragedies were byproducts of conquering, such as the unintentional genocide of the Tequesta, it is evident that the Native Americans were enslaved, raped, and ultimately decimated. Nonetheless, because the Spanish had the power of the pen, history tends to side with the Spanish.
There is a clear attempt throughout the museum to recognize the Native Americans. There are many figurative objects like the hunchback, Mayan writing, and the golden accessories many Natives would wear. The most memorable display is a book that has portraits of different Native Americans, along with a description of who they were. Finally, a look into who the Natives were, I thought; then, I was informed the book was painted and written by the Spanish.
The Native American characters were made up. The Spanish manipulated who the Natives were in every sense.
This spiraled my thoughts: what else in history is made up? What else is falsified? Is my reality only a victim of a stranger’s agenda?
“The Value of an Estate” by Lis Delvalle of FIU at Deering Estate
The Deering Estate does not fail to impress. As you walk into the estate you walk into a different world, one where nature governs. The Deering Estate Nature Preserve shows how Miami is untouched. This allows for the opportunity to see the Miami Rock Ridge, which separates Biscayne Bay and the southern Florida peninsula. It also inspires raw art as you are witnessing something that man has not touched, which is a rarity in our time. The estate feels wise; it is old, enriched in history, and looks stronger than some modern buildings. The spacious boat basin and the stone house are remarkable. They make up your picture-perfect ‘estate’, but this place is much more than that. Its grounds are home to a Tequesta burial mound, where some of the members from the extinct civilization are still buried. At the Tequesta Midden, there are shell tools that can be found from when the Tequesta populated the land. The estate also has a freshwater spring, an island only a mile offshore from the property, and the cutler bay bridge, which is home to local otters. Other than the beauty of nature and the weight of its history, the Deering Estate holds its bit of mystery. It is home to a plane crash site from the 1990’s. The plane, often referred to as the Cocaine Cowboys Plane, still resides on the property. The wholesome estate caters to a multitude of interests. The greatest asset is that it encapsulates harmony. It is home to many animals who are free to roam and local artists who have their own space to create. It is home to visitors who come to observe its beauty and absorb its peace.
I do not know the value of your average estate, but I do know that the Deering Estate is invaluable.
“Our Beach” by Lis Delvalle of FIU at South Beach
South beach is featured on celebrities Instagram, sung about to depict ‘the good life’, and millions travel across the globe every year to get a glimpse of the eccentric beach everyone talks about. What many don’t know is that it was man-made with incredible brutality. Miami beach was not the sandy paradise we enjoy today. It was a mangrove island with freshwater springs that were essential to marine life. As the land was manipulated, the freshwater springs were filled with saltwater and the mangroves were ripped from their homes. With them, the habitat of many animals was destroyed. Today, many South Beach residents complain about flooding and ask the government for a solution, but the reality is that this was only a consequence of our actions. Due to the distortion of the land, streets and buildings were built upon what used to be oceans. Years later, the environment is reclaiming its territory. Like the landscape, South Beach’s population was different back then. The Jews that are welcomed today, were banned in the era of Carl Fischer and Henry Flagler. They discriminated against Jews and many businesses did not offer any Jews their service. Today, many Jews own businesses in South Beach and the Jewish Museum of Florida stands to tell their story. On display today is the Tamim exhibition by Zachary Balber, who portrays an inclusive, unorthodox view of Jews. Our beach is a unique place, not just because of its Art Deco buildings, but because of its history and progression thanks to people like Versace, Barbara Baer Capitman, and the diverse people of Miami.
“Stolen Land” by Lis Delvalle of FIU at HistoryMiami Museum
Miami, like its people, has a rich history. From the Tequesta, to the Spanish conquistadors, pioneers, and El Mariel Cubans –many have stepped foot on this land, and all have made their mark. The HistoryMiami Museum in downtown tells the story of Miami through artifacts and artist’s rendering based on archaeological evidence. Many Americans can get the sense that they are righteously American and that their foreign-born neighbor isn’t. This museum portrays the history of Miami and shows us that we are all on stolen land. The Tequesta Indians were wiped out; there is a photograph in the museum where black pioneers, under strict orders, are destroying a Tequesta Indian burial mound to build the Royal Palm Hotel. Today, Seminoles are the only natives left and they live on reservations they secluded to after the US government took over (in other words, stole) their land. El Mariel survivors who found refuge in Miami are some of the many immigrants who make Miami what it is today. Hialeah is ‘la ciudad que progresa’ or ‘the city of progress’ for a reason. It was built by hard-working immigrants who came to rebuild their lives and create a better place for their children.
I’ve heard that Miami is a bubble within the United States –one where diversity is welcomed. I cannot vouch for the whole country, but I do know that Miami’s history shows that different worlds of knowledge yield better outcomes of progress in a society. The history of Miami shows we are all on stolen land. The HistoryMiami Museum reminds us of some mistakes we should never forget, and allows us to see a little bit of ourselves in past generations –regardless of how proud or ashamed we are of that reflection.