Lorena Bravo: Miami as Text 2020

(CC by 4.0)

Lorena Bravo is a junior at the Honors College at Florida International University double majoring in Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies, as well as minoring in Biology while following a pre-med track. She hopes to graduate in the Fall of 2020 and then apply for medical school to become a pediatrician. This upcoming summer she will study abroad in Spain along with her classmates and Professor Bailly. Following are her reflections of the Honors College class Miami Espana, Ida y Vuelta.

Vizcaya as Text

Collage made by Lorena Bravo (CC by 4.0)

“A New Perspective of Vizcaya,” by Lorena Bravo of FIU in Miami’s Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Before this short trip on a Friday morning, I had only been to Vizcaya once before. I remember that it was a last minute trip about two years ago with friends from high school. I recall being so enchanted by the outside gardens, the pretty walls and the insane amount of detail in every room. I had always heard of Vizcaya as being a beautiful place to go take your Quinceañera pictures or a very aesthetically pleasing location to take pictures for social media. But before this second trip with my classmates and professor, I never could have imagined just how truly rich in culture and stories Vizcaya is.

We had barely walked on site when we stopped by to observe one of the fountains that had Islamic influences with its almost still like yet flowing water. Where if it were just me I probably would have just walked by the worn looking fountain instead of stopping and taking a minute to appreciate one of the many products of cultural appropriation and multiculturalism. And there were many other phenomena like this throughout the museum and gardens. From the carabelas to the Roman/Greek statues to the Spanish moss to the Rococo rooms and to the phrase J’ai Dit at the top of the stairs, I was captivated.

Not only did I want to stay just a little longer in each room, but I also found myself imagining how life used to be here when Vizcaya was first built. How different the lives of James Deering and his friends were compared to the individuals that helped build and maintain this estate so that it could be the iconic structure it is today. For certain I know that visiting Vizcaya and seeing it through a more informed and unbiased perspective has made me even more excited for the awaiting adventures of this class.


Photo by Lorena Bravo (CC by 4.0)

“The MOAD in the Torre de la Libertad,” by Lorena Bravo of FIU in the MOAD Freedom Tower

The iconic Freedom Tower in Downtown Miami has always been one of the many structures that I’ve admired whenever visiting the area. Not only does it stand tall with its unique architectural characteristics-having both Neoclassical and Baroque influences- but it is a strong symbol of hope and new beginnings. This building served as the location for access to freedom for many immigrants back in the 70’s and even today still continues to be a beam of light during the nighttime and even the day with its golden hue.

The MOAD is actually located inside the tower, specifically on the second floor. And one of the main attractions is situated right at the beginning of the tour inside, it being “The New World” mural. This huge painting tells a story and at the center is Ponce de Leon and a Native American Chief. Both individuals seem to be working together as they meet in the middle, just like the New World and the Old World were introduced to each other at this time. Where the mural shows ships going towards the direction of the New World, as well as other symbols like the tropical fruits and the mermaids. And of course at the center is also a poem that depicts Spain’s colonization as the best thing that could have ever happened for the then Tequesta tribe.

This mural was so impressive and not just because of its size and the fact that it was but one of the few artworks in that room filled with so many columns. It’s truly ironic how the artwork shows the Spanish colonization of the Americas as being such a harmonious coming together when it really was not. And yet, this mural paints the start of a “civilized” America, specifically the Miami we know today.

deering estate as text

Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0

“The Deering Estate and the many individuals that have walked it,” by Lorena Bravo of FIU in Miami’s Deering Estate

Many would agree that the Deering Estate was a unique structure when it first started as an inn back in 1899 in what is now known today as part of South Dade. And today it still remains special as one of the only Mediterranean Revival inspired stone houses here in the area. Certainly this estate has had many individuals walk through it, from individuals working in the Railroad business to Charles Deering himself and his friends, and finally, to the individuals that visit this historic site today.

Most notably, however, are the individuals that didn’t get to inhabit this structure but instead walked and lived on the lands for many years where the Deering Estate stands today.  These individuals were the Tequesta, a civilization that is arguably for the most part forgotten. In fact, before this class I too didn’t know much about the civilization that first occupied the city that I call my home. Fortunately, the few remaining proof of the Tequesta (like the shell bit tools and the burial mound) is preserved today and is a large part of the history of the estate. There is also another group of individuals that are often forgotten despite all of their hard work to build this grand estate, and they are the Afro-Bahamian and African-American workers. Without them Charles Deering’s vision of the estate never would have come true and unfortunately these workers had to work under very harsh conditions without really receiving any credit- both in the past and even today.

There is no doubt that the Estate was like a source of light for a growing Miami back in the day, just like undoubtedly the Estate still holds the same amount of life for the community today. A great example being the Artist in Residence Program, as well as the tons of other events that are hosted here. The Deering Estate has many qualities that make it so distinct – from all sorts of standpoints like its architecture, archaeology, unique natural environment and of course, the many memories that it holds.


Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0

“South Beach and its many parts,” by Lorena Bravo of FIU in Miami’s South Beach

Dear South Beach,

You have always been an exciting enigma to me.

Only about 20 minutes away from me on a good day of traffic and yet

the most I have seen of you has been through a car window while on

the way to the beach.

You are undeniably glamorous with your 3 story buildings and pastel


With your Tiffany and Park Central Hotel,

And with your perfectly square like structures.

Some even say that your buildings look like spaceships.

Some even say that your buildings look like refrigerators and

microwaves. I don’t see it.

If only it were more obvious how beneath all of this glamor is a deep

history that shows how you were made. 

You were built on the backs of destruction and all things that are


Built on injustices and segregation that are unfortunately often


If only more people could see past you, 

They would see the insightful Jewish Museum and the history that it


They would see how one day you will no longer exist because of the

inevitable effects of

climate change.

They would see that you are much more than just a tourist attraction

and a pretty beach.

They would see the many parts of you.


Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0 // Photo showing one of the HistoryMiami murals of Paleo-Indians

“HistoryMiami Museum,” by Lorena Bravo of FIU in the HistoryMiami Museum

As promised by the title of the museum, the HistoryMiami gives its viewers a thorough and eye opening depiction of Miami’s history. Where in nearly chronological order visitors can read about, examine artifacts and observe photographs that correspond to the significant moments that helped shape this wonderful city. The museum proudly displays several exhibitions, from” Tropical dreams: a people’s history of S. Florida” to “Miami Circle” to “International Rivalry” and many more.

Most of these exhibitions would even be considered to be controversial because of their brutal truth. For instance, “The Creek Migration” exhibition reminds us of how some of the Creek tribes were forced to leave their homes and find new land in Florida. Unfortunately, these lands were also taken away from them later on once again. Another injustice that the museum highlights is in the exhibition “New Peoples/New Technologies” where there are several photographs of workers during the Second Industrial Revolution. These workers worked tirelessly for years, however, they were not all treated with the same respect that they deserved. Instead after they were used for their labor and votes, some of them had to go back to being the oppressed just because of how they looked.  

The section “The Pioneer Life” also evoked strong feelings because it focused on the first civilian settlers in Miami and the many struggles that they went through just to survive. Often times we don’t give much thought to the difficulties that these settlers must have faced, moving to a new land that they knew absolutely nothing about for a chance at a better life. Perhaps I can most relate to this as an immigrant myself, just like the immigrants in the exhibition “Gateway to the Americas” who risked their lives and left their past behind for an opportunity at a better future.

Author: miamiastext

Admin Account for Miami in Miami

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