Michelle Cilli: Miami as Text 2020

Photo by Michelle Cilli CC by 4.0
Michelle Cilli is a college junior at Florida International University. She is studying Biology with a minor in Chemistry on a pre-med track. She is involved in a few medical clubs at her University and is a part of the Honors College. Michelle has over 500 shadowing hours and one day hopes to pursue her passion as a family physician. She will be attending France Study Abroad 2020 and is very excited to learn more and embrace herself in French culture.

“Visiting Vizcaya” by Michelle Cilli of FIU at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

Photo by Michelle Cilli CC by 4.0
This is the ship located in the back of Vizcaya. If you look closely, you can see a mermaid on the front of it.

As I walked through the entrance of Vizcaya, a statue embodying a wise man greets me holding a globe. I come to find out it is the honorable Ponce de León, the first man to lead a European expedition to Florida. Behind him, I notice an empty moat that I learned was man made by the owner of the property, James Deering, to detour trespassers. He would demand that his workers place cacti in the moat to ensure no one who didn’t belong came onto his property. As I walked further, but not quite inside, there was what seemed to look like a replica of the Arc de Triomphe. The Arc de Triomphe was a symbol for all men who fought and lost their lives in the French Revolutionary War as well as any Napoleonic war.  As I finally arrive at the entrance of the house, the Greek god Dionysus is there to greet me. Dionysus is the god of wine making, which makes perfect sense when it comes to France since they are known for their astounding wine making.  James Deering used many caravel ships throughout his palace to dependent the age of exploration. 

J’ai dit is written at the top of the staircase, which translates to “I have said”. Also, when you say it out loud it sounds like Deering’s initials which are JD. after seeing this, I can tell that Deering is quite arrogant and conceited. As I enter his office, I notice that his books are all fake and he just likes to appear as though he is an intellectual. Everything is so materialistic and all of that can be seen through his choices of design throughout Vizcaya. The three architectural designs that are very prevalent throughout Vizcaya are Rococo, Neoclassical, and Baroque. They are all very different but beautiful in their own ways. So many different cultures are tied into Vizcaya such as Italian, French, Spanish, and Islam. That is what makes this palace so unique because it has a touch of so many places and it was tied together perfectly.

As I finally reached the outside I noticed a large ship outside just sitting on the water. I was told that the mermaid on the front of the ship was very controversial to Deering. He thought that the breasts on the ship were too large and demanded they be re-sculpted. The mermaid can be seen in my picture above. This was the fact that by far stood out to me most. The gardens were the last thing I walked through and everything looked so pristine. He had a secret garden and hedges trimmed in all different shapes. It was truly beautiful but may have been a bit over the top considering this was his home. I came to learn after that he had workers from the islands and didn’t treat them the best. Everything had to be his way or the high way. My over all opinion on this palace was that it was amazing and nothing could ever compare to it. It was my first time going and it is crazy how some place with this much history is right in my hometown. Visiting Vizcaya was breathtaking and I will hopefully be visiting again soon.

“The Pedro Pan Project” by Michelle Cilli of FIU at the Museum of Art and Design

Photo by Michelle Cilli CC by 4.0
This photo shows some real-life pictures of the children/ families scattered across the United States.


Operation Pedro Pan was an agreement between the United States State Department and Catholic charities located within Miami, Florida. The goal of this project was to move as many children as they could out of communist Cuba and relocate them across the United States. The United States hoped that this attempt would give opportunities to build better lives outside the communist country of Cuba. They were scattered all across the United States from California to New York. some children had pr-existing families already located in the United States and were able to rejoin them, however, others were not as fortunate and had to be enrolled into foster care programs. These children were constantly moved around with no permanent home most of the time. some children were reunited with their parent in just one short year, but others were reunited with their parents over the course of several years or sometimes not at all.

During the Cold War (1947-1991), the communist regime in America was seen as a cancer that would spread and take over capitalism. This posed a major threat in the mind of the United Sates. they saw the human rights crisis in Cuba as an opportunity to push against communism and influence the spread of capitalism on a global scale.

While visiting the Museum of Art and Design, I was able to see multiple photographs of the children that were a part of the Peter Pan project and the location in which they were sent. It was so interesting to learn about because it happened right here in my backyard. It must have been extremely hard for the children and parents who were separated from each other even if it was just for a short period of time. I found a great interest in learning about this period of history and hope to learn more during this class.

“Discovering Deering” by Michelle Cilli of FIU at the Deering Estate

Deering Estate
Photo provided by MiamiDade.gov, CC by 4.0

The Deering Estate is a historical site that was built and renovated by Charles Deering in the 1920s. The Richmond Cottage was originally built in 1896 and was sold to Charles Deering in 1915. He not only renovated the property but added the Stone House and Boat Basin in the years following. These structures are the staple of Deering Estate, but aren’t the only reasons to come by for a visit.

My best friend throughout my childhood lived on Old Cutler which was biking distance away from Deering Estate. We would often ride our bikes and explored the nearby bike paths to the left of the main entrance. Just behind the visitor center is another path the leads down to the water of Biscayne Bay, where we would sit on the concrete ledge and watch people fish. The sun also rises over the water of the concrete jetty, so we would spend our early mornings camped out watching the sunrise. We also kayaked with the hopes of making it to Chicken Key but didn’t make it all the way there. Instead, we decided to enjoy the view that this part of the bay had to offer. In sixth grade my class went on a “ghost tour” of the Estate, which taught us more about the history of buildings than it did ghosts. I also hope to go on another one of their tours such as the Nature preserve tour or visit the Tequesta Midden. I feel as though the Deering Estate is an essential piece of history here in Miami and would recommend everyone to go at least one time.

“Exploring Miami Beach” by Michelle Cilli of FIU at Miami Beach

Photo by John Bailly, CC by 4.0

South Beach is the southernmost section of Miami Beach. Those who wish to visit need to get to Miami Beach by going over bridges and on roads and is typically very crowded due to the tourists that are attracted to the legendary location. Miami beach was developed by Carl Fisher who wished the area to be a getaway for himself and business partners. The original location was a mangrove barrier protecting the freshwater springs from the saltwater of the Atlantic. After the mangroves were torn down this drastically changed the environment displacing and killing many of the native species of animals.

Now South Beach is a thriving tourist destination with one of the main attractions being its art. The art is the buildings in the area, which all are a reflection of the twentieth century. The South Beach Art Deco follows 10 rules when developing their art, these 10 rules being: the law of three, white facades with pastel highlights, ziggurat rooflines, curved edges, horizontal shades, porthole windows, relief art, neon, glass bricks, and terrazzo floors. I believe that these rules are very key to the appeal of South Beach, due to the fact that each is very “Miami”. This is most evident with the current “retro” colors that the Miami Heat are using. South beach was also the home to Gianni Versace, who is iconic for his fashion and his sudden tragic murder. Just like all things in South Beach it has become a tourist attraction, with people now being able to eat inside the Versace Mansion.

“HistoryMiami Museum” by Michelle Cilli of FIU at HistoryMiami Museum

Photo by John Bailly, CC by 4.0

The HistoryMiami Museum was founded in 1940 and is now associated with the Smithsonian Institution. This museum is the largest in Florida and the whole southeastern United States. Throughout this museum there are artifacts that date back to the prehistoric area, which is pretty incredible. Out of all the sections incorporated in his museum, I found the one titled “New peoples, New Technologies” the most remarkable. In this section of the museum, the impact of the second industrial revolution on Miami is portrayed. It shows the hardships that Miami had to face in order to become an official city and important historical figures who contributed to making it happen.

In the picture shown above there are some of the black workers who contributed to transforming Miami into what it is today. the photo shows the workers destroying a Tequesta burial ground in order to build the Royal Palm Hotel. These workers were able to vote in order to make Miami a city in 1896, however, they were still discriminated against. Out of the 367 men who voted, 162 of them were black. I found this part of history to be very interesting because the black workers are a big part what made Miami a city and they were still not treated with respect or equality. Another artifact in the museum shows a trolley bus that once roamed the roads of Miami in the 1920’s that has a sign stating, “State Law: White Passengers Seat from Front”. This was a horrible point in history, but the Civil Rights Movement happened in the 1950’s-1960’s where the black community finally received the respect and equality they always deserved. I am thankful that today we can a knowledge the part that the black workers played in building Miami what it is today at the HistoryMiami Museum.

Author: miamiastext

Admin Account for Miami in Miami

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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

%d bloggers like this: