Daniela Canizares: Miami as Text 2021-2022

Daniela Canizares at History Miami Museum, September 2021, taken by Paola Castro (CC by 4.0)

Daniela is a Junior at Florida International University Honor College. Daniela was born and raised in Havana, Cuba and came to Miami when she was 15 years old. Having spent most of her life as a flamenco dancer, Daniela is really passionate about the influence Spain has in the American culture in general. She is currently majoring in Psychology and once she finishes her bachelors degree, she would like to further her studies and pursue a Masters in Science in Professional Counseling.

Downtown as text

Images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)

“Unspoken History”

By Daniela Canizares of FIU at HistoryMiami Museum,1st August 2021

Miami: the center of festivities, party, and just in general a whole inclusive mix of people from all races and ethnicities, but, was it always like that? This question usually goes past the people’s heads as all they think about is how inclusive this city is. This question takes us to the History Miami Museum to take a closer look at history.

If we trace it back to its beginnings, Miami was the land of the Tequestas. They lived by the Miami River, where they had the perfect mix of saltwater and drinkable water. Unfortunately, the remains we have of these people are vague because they got dispersed all over Miami to develop the city.

Moving a couple of years further, we encounter Henry Flagler. He was great for the development of Miami as a city and the idea of bringing people to Miami. However, he was also one of the reasons for segregation in Miami and the creation of Overtown (formerly Colortown). His statue in front of the Courthouse can either represent a “thank you” for the creation of the city we live in today, or a mock to justice because in the first place he was not the best one at practicing it. In the HistoryMiami Museum, we had the opportunity to get on an original, functional Trolley. The “white people sit front” sign was still in there, and being able to see how the seats moved from one side to the other, was just an unforgettable experience. Having that personal contact with history is a unique thing.

Moving on to the present years, we see how Miami founds itself with that mix of ethnicities, even though it was not always accepted. People escaping from their own countries for political or economic reasons is just the hardest side of a country. Me as a Cuban born and raised, I always heard the stories of people coming in rafts escaping the political situation in Cuba but never had the experience of seeing one of these rafts in front of me. Seeing it there gave me chills of how people risk their lives to give themselves and their families a better future. It might seem like a short distance for some, but being in the Ocean for days without any signal or GPS is by large, one of the scariest things to think about. And what is even sadder is hearing the stories of people coming from all over the world and some of them, not even making it alive.

We love our mix of cultures in Miami, and having the cafecito every morning with the empanada, but do we even sit down to think how was it that we incorporated those things into our culture? Looking back to that unspoken history, we should be grateful for the things we have.

Overtown as a text

Images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)

“Warmest of the welcomes”

By Daniela Canizares of FIU at Overtown Miami, 15 September 2021

“Are you going to Overtown? Is not that dangerous?” That was the way my friend came to me when I told her where my next visit was going to be. To her surprise, she could not be more wrong about it.

For many years Overtown has been looked like the dangerous side of Miami. This dates back to segregation, and this stereotype was given to this part of town because it was the area designated for African Americans to live in. At that time, being of another race but white would title someone as a criminal automatically.

A big part of the greatest artists of Miami came from Overtown, however, they will give presentations outside Overtown, but would have to return here to spend the night. They had been completely segregated from the rest of Miami. This is unspoken in schools and history, but it did happen in real life, and not so long ago. These archives are only in this part of town, as back in the days, being part of this community was not important to the rest of Miami.

Many of the plans to end segregation took place here, and important people on history as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in Mount Zion Baptist Church. What an experience was to hear from someone who was there at that moment!

Such a rich place in history, yet so forgotten by many. The people in Overtown are still mainly African Americans and they come from low-income families. Many of these historic places have needed to be protected, however, many did not have this luck and now are just part of history that can not even be seen. Not only this, but these people, who were already moved to this part of town only, are now starting to be forced out of here as well. Of course, they have to be defensive when an outsider comes! Big companies are buying lots (that are supposed to be cheap) at prices owners cannot deny. Once they buy it, they start building these apartment complexes where rent starts at $2,500/month and only 10% of these apartments are for low-income families. “I used to live in that corner over there, now, it is just history” yelled a local at us, signaling the big apartment complex. Locals want to defend the little they have. Once they knew we were there just to embrace their culture and learn more about it, their eyes lit up and opened their sources for all of us, thanking us for taking the class over there.

Such a stereotype to break about Overtown. So much history related to this place, history that if business keeps growing is only going to be in the memories of many, and passed down to future generations as a tale of what one day, Overtown used to be.

vizcaya as a text

Images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)

“A house the size of an island”

By Daniela Canizares of FIU at Vizcaya Gardens and Museum, 13 October 2021

Growing up in another country, I always had the idea of these beautiful houses as something magical, out of this world. I never even imagined that a house as big as a small island could be possible; until I walked inside Villa Vizcaya.
From the very first moment you step inside the property, it completely blows your mind how different it is from the rest of Miami. The sculptures, the meaning behind it, everything being so harmonically synchronized takes your mind out of the craziness Miami has become.

Walking inside the house, you get an instant message about what James Deering considered important. For him, his house was all about having fun, and making his own house a place he would not need to go out for anything, more like people would come so that they could have the greatest of the times. Just walking inside you get the impression he had money, as the house is a two-storage property with plenty of rooms and at the time, this was considered a luxury. However, this house is much more than a two-storage property!

He had plenty of rooms for people who wanted to come and stay the night -mind me telling you he lived alone but had all of these rooms!. The house even has secret passages for the people he considered “special” to go inside and be part of his parties. As you step outside-or to what in those days would be the main entrance, you see s shipwreck to break the waves as the people would safely come to his house. Just the wave breaker is as beautiful as you can imagine it and as big as an apartment in Miami. But this is not all. As you keep walking you would find the most beautiful part of the house: the gardens. They are symmetrically decorated. He even had his secret garden inside the garden, not to mention his theater. What a man!

Unfortunately, now this part of the original Villa Vizcaya is not accessible to the public anymore, but he had a monkey island, all to himself. Can you even imagine that?

I feel like honestly if I would have lived in this mansion, I would not need to leave the house. It is like having your hotel.

South beach as a text

Images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)


By Daniela Canizares of FIU at South Beach, 27 October 2021

“There is no place like home”. Every time I see someone coming from the Northern states I keep asking them: “but why would you come to spend your weekend in 90 degrees weather?” to what they always reply “It is something about Miami”. After this visit to South Beach, I could see what they were talking about. Even though we live in Miami, we do not usually go and visit Miami Beach, either for the paid parking spots, for the heat of Miami, or just because we already know the traffic we are going to have on our way back, but from time to time it is good to see what our city has to offer.

Miami Beach’s architecture is something so unique to us that we tend to overlook it, and it is not until someone points it out that we start appreciating it. Miami Beach has the biggest and largest collection of architectural buildings in the world. This has been fought for the longest time in history. For some people, it was more productive just to tear down these beautiful buildings and build the typical 60-floor hotels. However, if the city of Miami Beach did not have the strict rules it has in protecting its buildings, we would not be such a unique city. As you walk by you can see a contrast between three different architectural styles: (1) MiMo-Miami Modern architecture, which gives you a sensation that you are boarding a shipping cruise, with all its curves and open spaces at the top of the building, (2) Mediterranean revival architecture, that gives you the impression of a 1600’s European villa, (3) art deco architecture, with its pastel colors and rules of three (three windows, three lines, three storages), and every other building that did not count on the regulations and look like every other building in every other city, unfortunately.

Not to talk about the colors they painted them, reflecting the magnificent water from the beach and the terrible but lovely sun of Miami. If beautiful in the morning, even better at night, when all the neon signs turn on, and the music gets its loudest.

To think about Miami is to think about all these colors we are going to see on their building’s facade, all the beautiful people dancing and singing around, and of course what gives it its essence, the well-conserved buildings. Not my birth country, but glad to call it my home.

Deering as a text

Images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)

“The real Miami”

By Daniela Canizares of FIU at Deering Estate, 17 November 2021

When we think about Miami, we always think about this scenery full of life and lights, but barely we think about its beginnings. The oldest track of the first road we find is at Deering Estate, and it would be crazy to think that this was considered, back in the days, like a mountain.

Fascinating about this place is the rest of the work tools we see all over the place, and it makes sense to see that it could date back to these times due to their shape. The fact that they fit into a person’s hand perfectly tells us the story of how the tequestas could have used it for daily purposes. The nature telling the story of our ancestors is something we would not find Downtown, let us say.

Not only story-wise but also, the things we find hidden between the mangroves is something so unique of this place, so “Miamian”. A masonry sign is hidden between rocks. How did it get there in the first place? To crave it, someone would have to have it done from the bottom, and of the whole, it is located at, and looking at it from up, it was pretty deep. Aliens? This question is one of the many that will never have an answer. A plane crashed in the middle of the mangroves. I do not think it gets more unique than this. It dates back to when Miami was one of the biggest cocaine trafficking cities in the late XX century. Getting to the plane is something people should not do on their own, but it is a magnificent experience.

Also, when we think about Miami we think about pavements, almost no mangroves surrounding us, or barely any nature. Being in contact with the real Miami and just feeling nature, putting your feet in the water, and having to hold onto the mangroves to pass over a rock, just let us wonder what life was at the beginning when there was no cell phones or cars.

Being without a signal for a couple of hours and just breathing the fresh air, is something most people in Miami are not used to, however, if they could do it, I am pretty sure they would love the feeling of reconnecting to a healthier lifestyle.

Rubell as a text

Images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)

“Fake reality”

By Daniela Canizares of FIU at Rubell Museum, 24 November 2021

As much as we try to hide it, the world we live in right now is not the healthiest or the most real of them. Social media has been taken over everyone’s life, even if we do not want to accept it. An example of this is the collection by the artist Cajsa von Zeipel at the Rubell Museum. With her contemporary art, she wanted to give an example of the world we live in.

The sculptures are disintegrating, which could mean that people are slowly stopping being themselves to turn into nothing. Also, when you look into their eyes they seem empty as if they would have stopped caring for the longest. They seem pretty young, yet they look like if they were so tired. The need of being “influencers” is slowly making them be something they are not. The sculpture of the painter painting absolutely nothing, the traveler influencer carrying all the Louis Vuitton bags, the social media celebrity with the latest phone, the “party animal” with the latest trends, yet all of them disintegrating. The dog with fake eyelashes and clothing shows how far are we taking things and is more of a wake-up call to how wrong we are doing things.

My perspective of this collection is that the artist wants us to see how far we have taken things with social media. Not everything needs to be done for outside validation. I feel like these sculptures should not be on such a hidden gallery, if anything they should be rearranged to be one of the first ones we see when we walk inside Rubell museum due to the huge impact it has on today’s society.

untitled as a text

Images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)


By Daniela Canizares of FIU at Untitled Art, 1 December 2021.

Art Basel week in Miami is by far one of the most important weeks of the year. Numerable artists from all around the world come here to share their art with the world, and with hopes, they sell them and recover the money they invested. This being my first time in such an important event, I felt very overwhelmed, and it got to the point where most of the art stopped making sense for me. However, I guess professor Bailly saved the best for last.

It was Arleene Correa Valencia’s work that made me take the best out of the event home with me. Her art speaks volumes, and even though it was not the same story as mine, I felt extremely related to her. We are both immigrants, and listening to her story gave me shivers. Just like my parents, her parents sacrificed everything to give her a better future, and now she is here, showing her art in one of the most important events all over the world. The sentimental part to it, and feeling how much her family means for her, made me realize that even though “art is art” if artists were to put more feelings and personal stories to it, people would be more open to going to these type of events. Other artists throughout the gallery would speak in a professional, formal manner. However, Arleene came to us more in a friendly way and shared her whole life story. It takes a lot of courage to do that in front of strangers if I say so myself.

Not only the sentimental part, but the way she combines different styles made her artwork stand out from everyone else’s. During the daytime, you could mainly see one out of the two people in the picture, yet at night time (or when reflected with a flash), you could see the other one. Also, having two of her artwork dedicated to those who do not make it into the country, lets us realize what a heart she has and how a good person she is, and on top of that an excellent artist.

Her brother was also there in the exhibit. This shows us, that her art is not purely for sale, but how much the term “family” really means for them, since he was able to be there on one of her most important days.

Yes, sometimes art is abstract, however giving it this personal touch can catch everyone’s attention, even if you do not relate to her story. By far, this was my favorite exhibition in all the galleries.

everglades as text

Images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)

“The beauty of the untouched”

By Daniela Canizares of FIU at Everglades, 19 January 2022.

A definition of beauty might not always be the same for everybody. Some people find the gigantic skyscrapers in New York fascinating. However, for people in Miami, we have something I would call the prettiest, manly untouched most beautiful work ever made from nature: the Everglades.

It might sound unrealistic, but as you walk inside the Everglades, you completely forget about the disturbing real world. At first, I found it gross getting into the water, yet the nature surrounding you as you get deeper into the Everglades makes you forget about what is on your feet. I had never seen an owl before, yet I have had heard stories about how majestic they were. All I can say is that indeed they are! Standing right above me was this owl; so beautifully unbothered, knowing she was the main character on a movie where we were just the people wanting to see it.

Deeper in was this alligator, unbothered as well, allowing us to see him from a so close point, yet knowing that if he wanted to, he could make us run as fast as we possibly could.

These beautiful creatures, blessing us with their presence is most definitely one of the things I was not expecting to see ever in my life, and having this opportunity is a very unique one most people never get to experience. We tend to underestimate nature when it comes to the standards of beauty in a city that is pretty much completely developed when in reality the most beautiful places are those where the man has not done any plans over it.

Coral Gables as text

Images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)

“Erasing History”

By Daniela Canizares of FIU at Coral Gables, February 2nd, 2022.

As Coral Gables rises as one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Miami Dade County, the efforts to erase important figures out of the history of this city are innumerable. Just like many people around the time Coral Gables was founded, the planner of this city, George Merrick, had some ideas that were just despicable for other people. However, the sensitivity in which we are living makes it harder to acknowledge that he was the headmaster behind one of the most developed cities around the world.

Even though people were skeptical about buying the land around Coral Gables because they would not see their business growth in this area, Merrick had a vision and he was able to make it through, making Coral Gables one of the most thriving cities.

At first, he knew he needed the basics to make deals with the buyers, so he built the Biltmore Hotel, which became, and it is still up to this day, one of the most recognized hotels all around the world. It was so recognized that all the famous people at the time needed to stay there if they were coming to Miami. He also knew he needed a church, for Sunday mass, so right in front of the Biltmore Hotel, he built an inclusive church, which still functions up to this day. Then he went and created a school for grammar, reading, and spelling. With this, it was a boom to society. Faster than the whole world thought, Coral Gables became a party scene. Everyone wanted to be part of Coral Gables, or at least experience it.

Now, it is also to be said, that Mr. Merrick was not the best one when it comes to his labor workers. Anywhere, but in some books, there is enough recognition to the Bahamians behind the rising of this city. After they finished working, they were completely segregated from this exclusive city. Just as Merrick needs recognition for his job, so do these workers, which we do not even know their names.

In my opinion, erasing the name of the person building the University of Miami from one of their buildings is something to the extreme, as well as taking his name off some places that do need his recognition. I feel like erasing history should never be the right thing to do, but to recognize everyone for their efforts.

river of the grass as a text

Images taken Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)

“Luckiest? Unluckiest?”

By Daniela Canizares of FIU at the Everglades, February 27, 2022

More often than we think, we tend to overestimate the value behind the quiet silence of the Everglades. Coming for the fourth time here still does not stop to amaze me how peaceful it can be to walk through this scenery, with just nature surrounding you.

When we say, I am going to the Everglades for a class project some people might call you unlucky, however to me, every time I go I feel the luckiest person in Miami. I get to just get off my phone for a couple of hours since there is no service and interact face to face with my classmates. This feeling is getting lost, as we spend most of our time glued to our phones. Getting away from the road, and slowly becoming one with the birds, expecting the best yet the worst things to happen at the same time, hoping to see some spectacular animal out of the sudden, yet almost drowning because of the natural holes in the floor is a unique experience, that I am lucky enough to say I experienced it.

I would have never probably done this without this class, as I always complain to get myself wet up to my waist, however, once I am there, I enjoy it like I never thought of doing. When the water is calmed, you can see your reflection, the clearest water you would ever find, purest as it gets. Only the luckiest people can say they were able to spend the day walking through what could have been, Miami as a whole.

wynwood as a text

Images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)

“More valuable than money itself”

By Daniela Canizares of FIU at the Margulies Collection, March 9, 2022

Wynwood as we know it nowadays is greatly influenced by the arts in every single of its manifestations. As we walk through it, we find one of the pioneers of Wynwood as the Wynwood we are used to The Margulies Collection. 

Holding a very vast art collection, this nonprofit organization stands out from the rest. It shows different collections at a time, very different in a sense, yet with a similarity: the meaning behind them. The touchiest part for me was the exhibition by the artist Anselm Kiefer. From my interpretation, his work can be very dark, as he does not use as much color, yet this is also what makes it more powerful. It lets the other person find the own meaning behind his work. The gigantic sculpture named The Ages of The World makes me think of how difficult it might have been to be in war. The canvas was thrown randomly, surrounded by camera films of what used to be a house, and dead flowers make me think that maybe he lived there, and all that is left was dead and destruction and maybe every other memory. This one is a permanent exhibition, and one of the most powerful ones. 

Completely different from this one, we find the Truck Installation by Barry McGee. This exhibition displays a truck filled with TVs that keep on playing throughout the day. Maybe this piece is not as valuable in the market right now, yet fixing one of these TVs can cost the Margulies Warehouse so much money, yet they decide to keep it as a permanent exhibition. To me, I love it because it made the perfect spot to remember how the old school TVs were not that long ago and to see how ahead technology is. 

Lastly, there is this current exhibition that holds a special memory on every American. The piece I am talking about is “The Situation Room” by Will Ryan. This piece, made of charcoal figures displays an iconic moment when under President Obama’s presidency, the mind behind the 9/11 attacks was murdered. This battle scene shows how battles are fought now, in front of a computer, showing no feelings towards what is going on the other side of the screen, yet at the same time, marking the life of future generations. For these sculptures, the details are extremely accented, almost as if the artist has had a real-life person under the charcoal. 

Not the value these exhibitions have, but the power behind it is what makes the Margulies collection one of the most valuable places in Wynwood. Most definitely a must-visit place if somebody is around the area. 

coconut grove as a text

Images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)

“Reality check”

By Daniela Canizares of FIU at Coconut Grove, March 23, 2022

When people come to Coconut Grove, they expect to see the beautiful boulevards, or the overpriced dinners and trendy retail stores, yet they never stop to learn about the reality of Coconut Grove.

Originally a Bahamian neighborhood, Coconut Grove preserves very little of its history up to date. We do have to recognize that they have done a magnificent job keeping the Stirrup house painted and renovated, however, we can not say the same thing about the other historic places around the area. Hidden within the other houses, we find a house with a beautiful history. A single mother decided to save up and buy this property in Coconut Grove to raise her family, yet we only see a sign in front of her house. The walls of such an important place for women’s history are tearing apart, and so is the history of the place, since no one cares enough to preserve it. So is the case of the old Playhouse. Pictures of the place show how important it was for the growth of the neighborhood, and that now is simply closed is devastating. Not to compare, but they have given more attention to a coffee shop than to this cultural space that in its peak times was one of the more important around the area. Sad enough!

What is more alarming is that even the people living there do not know of the beautiful history behind this neighborhood. “All you will find around here is the Playhouse and the Stirrup House”, yelled a guy from across the street when we were doing our walking lecture. What about the cemetery? Is not important that veterans rest on this ground? Or if they are not historically cultured enough but follow the music, is not important that Michael Jackson was inspired by this cemetery for his hit thriller?

And to think this will be the mentality of all of Miami in a couple of years is just a reality that unfortunately we have to slowly swallow. It is a pill we take without wanting it and knowing it will be more harmful than the benefits it will bring.

key Biscayne as text

Images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)

“El farito”

Known by many tourists and locals because of its beautiful beach, Bill Baggs state park is much more than just that. Fairly known as “el farito” by visitors, the history behind this lighthouse dates back to even Seminole Wars. Some people just pass by to go up the lighthouse and see Miami from a sky view, but not many put themselves in the position of the lighthouse keepers, who died in this place.

As someone terrified of heights, this experience is one that I would always carry with me everywhere I go. While going up those spiral stairs, they seem like they are never going to finish, and the higher it gets the narrower their steps are (a complete nightmare for someone claustrophobic, I might say). Once up there, there is a tiny door that lets you go outside and supervise Miami from 95 ft up in the air. With only enough space for one visitor at a time, you can walk around the top part of the lighthouse, but always keep all of your accessories safe with you, because once the wind from Key Biscayne takes it away from you, that would be the last time you will be able to see it. Yet what amazes me, even more, is that once up there there is a higher stair, closed as of right now, that will take you to the higher part of the lighthouse. When I saw this I was wondering if they had ever actually used it (of course they did, but I just could not picture anybody going up there with no safety and strong wind). And that now they had to put a lock to it because tourists will go up there? Just to think about it I would get very nauseous.

The view from up there was amazing. ou could divide Key Biscayne, Miami Downtown, and the beautiful beach, not in vain ranked as the top 5 most beautiful beaches in the world. If ever have the chance of going up to the Bill Baggs Lighthouse, I would recommend it, even if you are scared of heights, because I am, and would love to tell everyone how I went 95ft up in the air and saw my beautiful city from up there.

Author: Daniela Canizares: Miami as Text

Daniela Canizares was born and raised in Cuba and moved to Miami when she was 15 years old. She is currently working towards her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Florida International University, planning on graduating in May 2023.

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