Tammy Gomez: Miami as Text 2021-2022

Photograph by Tammy Gomez // CC by 4.0

Tammy is a Junior at Florida International University and is part of the Honors College. Tammy was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and just moved to Miami for Fall 2021. Tammy’s favorite hobby is playing tennis and she also loves to hang out with friends. She is majoring in International Business and once Tammy finishes her Bachelor’s degree she is planning to start her Masters.

Downtown as Text

A Little Glance of Miami’s History

By Tammy Gomez of FIU at Downtown Miami, 1 September 2021.

Miami is a very touristic city as we all know. This magic city is famous for its night life, white-sand beaches, warm climate and its inclination for the Latin American culture. However, no one really knows about Miami’s history. Not even the people who lives here knows what happened a hundred years ago and how it became to the city it is nowadays.

One of the historic places that caught my attention the most was “The Longhouse in downtown Miami’s Lummus Park”. This house was built in the 1840s by Bohemians and African American slaves. The Senator William F. English came to Florida from the Carolinas in order to use the fertile soil to cultivate in Miami. And to make agriculture possible he needed people working in the soil, so he got that free labor from the Bohemians and African American people who were already in Miami. Therefore, this man was the one who started slavery in Miami in order to make Miami a place for agriculture.

Even though Miami was built by African American and Bohemians, these people were segregated from the city they built. Henry Flagger is the founder of the Florida East Coast railway which allowed the segregation to happen in Miami creating “Colored town” in the northwest downtown Miami which is nowadays called Overtown. This neighborhood was designated for black people.

It is shocking how these happened in 1896 and how much Miami has changed since then. That is why most people cannot even imagine that any of this happened in the first place, especially somewhere so diverse as Miami where you find people from all over the world and is specifically known for having so many Latin American influences. Subsequently, it is important to be aware where we are and the history of the Magic city we are living in.

Overtown as text

An unnoticed neighborhood

By Tammy Gomez of FIU at Overtown Miami, 15 September 2021.

Overtown is the last place people mention when talking about Miami. Nevertheless, Overtown is very important to understand Miami’s culture. This neighborhood was created for black people only and it was named “Colored town”. They could only get out of the neighborhood when they had to work. However, they could not stay overnight, they always had to go back to Overtown. The segregation in South Florida got to the point in which black artists weren’t allowed to stay in the hotels outside Overtown where they were performing just because of the color of their skin. Nowadays, this would never happen because of the laws that were implemented due to the civil rights movement.

Indeed, one of the leaders of the civil rights movement was Martin Luther King Jr., and he visited Overtown to defend black people’s rights and gave speeches in two of the churches that we visited: Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal and Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist. Not only did Martin Luther King Jr. visited Overtown and these churches, but many other historic figures like Elijah Mohammed, Mohammed Ali and Malcom X visited Overtown as well. That’s why these churches are protected on the National Register of Historic Places. And therefore, the churches have remained intact throughout decades and are still active giving masses.

Overtown is a very welcoming neighborhood, even though most people think the contrary. In fact, people from this neighborhood like it when others are aware of what really happened to their ancestors decades ago, and what is currently happening. Nowadays, the essence of Overtown is being lost because of the new constructions and buildings that have appeared in recent years. Clearly, people from Overtown do not like the changes that have been made here, and that’s why they felt the need to tell us what is going on in the neighborhood. Hence, they are doing what they can to avoid it, like telling us these types of issues. Overtown is a place that has plenty of history and it goes unnoticed, that is why people should take in consideration Overtown when explaining Miami’s history.

Vizcaya as text

By Tammy Gomez of FIU at Vizcaya Miami, 13 October 2021.

  • Tammy

A piece of Italy in Miami

By Tammy Gomez of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, 13 October 2021.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It was built during World War I, between 1914 and 1916, by the International Harvester vice president James Deering. However, Deering did not build this 43-acre museum and garden by himself, he had the help of F. Burral Hoffmam, Diego Suarez, and Paul Chalfin to design the mansion and the gardens. Vizcaya was created by the inspiration of the Italian Renaissance and Baroque villas adjusted to the subtropical climate of Miami.

James Deering was the wealthiest man of Miami and employed over a thousand people to build Vizcaya. It was built by 10% of Miami’s population who were either bohemians or Afro-Americans. They were segregated and underpaid. However, they were not considered slaves because they received wages, unlike most bohemians or Afro-Americans who worked in the 20th century in Miami.

When people first enter Vizcaya” they see a statue of Bacchus, the ancient Roman god of wine, in the “Entrance Loggia”. They can also notice the marble floor which is very expensive to get nowadays and even more expensive to get when the mansion was built. Throughout the entire museum, you can see European art and architectural fragments which were linked with wealth and high social status. For example, the organ located in the living room of the second floor was placed there because it was associated with wealth. Another example would be the music room on the ground floor of Vizcaya; the instruments located in that room were never played, they were just bought and placed there because of their historical value.

The other part that Vizcaya is famous for is its garden. Diego Suarez was in charge of the gardens and designed them in an Italian style same as the museum. The garden had Italian architecture, however, he had to choose plants and flowers that could survive the subtropical climate of Miami. The gardens were divided into many sections: South Terrace, Center Island, The Garden Mound, The Casino, and many more, but my favorite section of the garden is the Secret Garden which was originally named “The Orchid Garden”, but they changed the name because orchids did not grow in Miami’s weather.

In conclusion, Vizcaya is a beautiful museum and garden which was inspired by Italian architecture. Vizcaya is an important part of Miami’s history of the early 20th century and that’s why it is considered a National Historic Landmark.

Sobe as Text

A main touristic place in Miami

By Tammy Gomez of FIU at South Beach, 27 October 2021.

South beach is a very well-known place all around the world. Tourists when coming to Miami are one of the first places they want to visit because of the beach and architecture. South Beach and Miami Beach are not the same, most people confuse these two beaches and think they are the same beach. Miami Beach is on a barrier island lying in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay. On the other hand, South Beach is a portion of Miami Beach, indeed is part of Miami.

Carl Fisher was the man responsible for transforming Miami Beach into what it is today. Before the transformation, Miami Beach was called Ocean Beach and it was a place full of mangroves and palmettos forest. Most people think it was a swamp, but it wasn’t. In 1910 Fisher discovered what is nowadays called Miami Beach while on vacation. In 1912, he bought a house in the area, and right after that, he bought the land. In 1913, John Collins built the first bridge to Miami beach, and that’s when Carl Fisher began the transformation of what is now the tourist place of South Florida.

Before Fisher’s transformation, Miami Beach used to be a place where everyone could live. It didn’t matter your race or ethnicity. However, after Fisher converted it to a resort, black people were not allowed in Miami Beach anymore; this included Afro-American, Afro-Bahamian, and Seminoles who were living in the area at the time. That’s why Dana Albert Dorsey bought Fisher Island in 1918, to have a beach where black people could go.

Another popular characteristic about South Beach is its architecture. The architecture of South Beach is very striking. It has three types of architecture: memo, Mediterranean, and art deco. Indeed, you can find here the world’s largest art deco decoration. It is located on 5th street and 27th street, along ocean drive. Art deco is characterized for having heavy geometric influences and shapes, and either vibrant and shine (yellow, red, green, or blue) or pastel colors.

Deering as text

Miami’s astonishing nature

By Tammy Gomez of FIU at Deering Estate, 10 November 2021.

Deering Estate is located in the Village of Palmetto Bay in South Miami – Dade. This place is very different from what people think of Miami. There is so much nature that hasn’t been destroyed by humans (because it is protected by the state) that it is difficult to believe that this is part of Miami. This cultural asset has different types of ecosystems including mangrove forests, tropical hardwood hammock, and pine rock land. Deering estate is determined to protect their natural habitats, wildlife, and native species. For example, they perform controlled burns in the pine rock land and salt marshes habitats in order to prevent them from becoming fuel in a larger size. This is fundamental to maintain these wildlands in the long term. And without a doubt, animals do not suffer any type of consequences from the prescribed burns.

Inside the tropical hardwood hammocks in the forest are solution holes. So, people have to be very careful while they are walking in order to avoid falling into one. Besides, people also need to be careful with the plants they can touch because the forest has many poison ivy plants and poisonwood trees. That’s why it is highly recommended that if you are going into the forest you go fully covered without showing skin. Here, you can also find the famous Cutler Creek bridge where the freshwater of the Everglades and Biscayne Bay meets.

Besides the tropical hardwood hammock, another important ecosystem that Deering Estate has is the mangroves. People can access the mangroves through the Boat Basin area with a canopy and go inside the mangroves. Here you can find different types of species like sharks, manatees, and turtles. Another way to access the mangroves is through the forest. You can go inside the mangroves by walking into them and here you can even get the chance to see a crashed plane from the 1990s. This plane is called the “Cocaine Cowboys Plane”.

Rubell as text

A Special Contemporary Museum in Miami

By Tammy Gomez of FIU at Rubell Museum, 24 November 2021.

The Rubell Museum is a museum with a big contemporary art collection that opened in 2019 and is located in the Allapattah neighborhood of Miami. This museum is owned by the Rubell family. It has art pieces of very famous artists like Yayoi Kusama. Here you can find two famous galleries of Kusama the first one is named “Where the Lights in My Heart Go, 2016”, and the second one is the “Infinity room – Let’s Survive Forever, 2017”. People who want to see these galleries have to wait for their turn and will only have 30 seconds to appreciate the art. Also, it is only allowed to go one person at a time. After 30 seconds the person who is in charge will knock on the door for you to come out and the next person can go, and so on. People in other museums have to wait hours to be able to see these galleries and only for 30 seconds, so we were very lucky to be able to see these galleries.

Besides the galleries of Yayoi Kusama, there were two artworks that caught my attention. The first one is a painting with a black man almost naked, which at the time that the painting was made, it was something very rare and not approved by society. An interesting fact about this painting is that the painter, Kehinde Wiley, who painted this artwork, was the same one Obama chose to paint his official portrait.

The second artwork that caught my attention was a sculpture of two black parents sending their kid to school, and they are holding him and look a little sad. The three of them also have horns in their heads, and this is because these people felt like they were going to be haunted, and one of their fears was to send their kids to school. This museum is very interesting and people who like contemporary art should definitely go to visit and see the inside of the galleries of Yayoi Kusama.

Untitled as text

Untitled in Miami’s Art week

By Tammy Gomez of FIU at Untitled, 01 December 2021.

Untitled is an art fair that took place in Miami Beach during Miami’s Art Week. At this fair, artists from all over the world come to exhibit their art. There are more than 100 galleries of contemporary art. Each artist is in charge to take their art from wherever they have it and bring it to the fair. Not everyone can get into the fair, artists need to be chosen, and afterward, they have the opportunity to purchase a booth for the event. When artists are chosen, they need to have a budget of approximately fifty thousand dollars because not only do they need to buy a booth which is twenty thousand dollars, but they also need to pay for other expenses like the hotel they will be staying in for the week, bringing the paintings, uber, food, and more.

Some artists consider Untitled more for marketing than to actually sell the paintings, and if they do sell them, is a plus, but the main idea is to make themselves known. Here they have the opportunity to show their artwork to people from other parts of the world. Therefore, if people like a painting, they will talk about it with others and the painting will gain prestige.

One specific artist that we had the opportunity to talk to was Arleene Correa who is a Mexican artist. Her life story is very inspiring and that is what she conveys through her artwork. Correa is a recipient of DACA, she came to the United States when she was three and by this same age, she was taken away from her father, and that destroyed her emotionally. She believes so much in family and the power of love, and that is what her portraits are about. All of her portraits show the social, political, and ethical environment that undocumented families like hers have to go through when they migrate to the United States. In my opinion, Correa’s artwork was the best of the entire fair, people could feel what her portraits transmitted and the message inside of it.

Everglades as text

All photographs taken and edited by Tammy Gomez // CC by 4.0

The real Everglades

By Tammy Gomez of FIU at Everglades National Park, 19 January 2022.

The Everglades National Park is a wetland preserved by The Everglades Conservation Act (EFA) which requires that the state of Florida protect and restore Everglade’s endangered ecosystem. This national Park is mostly constituted by mangroves, sawgrass marshes, and Pine Flatwoods. It also has hundreds of different species of animals. In the trip that our class of Miami in Miami took we were able to see alligators, turtles, fishes, one owl, and one eagle. This trip was led by Ranger Jennifer, Ranger Dylann, and our Professor John Bailly.

Both Rangers went inside the wetland with us and showed us two alligator holes. The first one was empty, meaning there were no alligators there. However, in the second alligator hole, we were very lucky to see one alligator from very close in its natural state. From our point of view, the alligator was not big, but the rangers told us that in this area of the Everglades lives one female and one male alligator and that they thought it was the male because he was big and about 5 to 6 feet, unlike female alligators that are smaller.

While we were walking inside the wetland, we were able to see periphytons throughout the whole trip. This is not an alga, but a mixture or combination of algae, bacteria, and microbes. It’s not very striking to look at because it’s formed by long filaments, however, it plays a very important role in the Everglades ecosystem. Periphytons filter the water providing oxygen through photosynthesis which makes life in the Everglade’s freshwater possible.

The Everglades National Park is very famous worldwide because of all the different species of plants and animals you can find here. If you ever visit South Florida and like nature, you should definitely visit Everglades!

Coral Gables as text

All photographs taken and edited by Tammy Gomez // CC by 4.0

The beauty behind Coral Gables

By Tammy Gomez of FIU at Coral Gables, 02 February 2022.

Coral Gables is a beautiful city in Miami-Dade County, southwest of downtown Miami. It was founded in 1925 and created by Bahamians. The father of Coral Gables was George Merrick. He was the one who designed Coral Gables and the person in charge of the façade. Merrick was influenced by Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, and by the Stone House. Even though Merrick had never visited Spain before, he focused Coral Gables’ architecture like the Spanish architecture.

One of the places that we visited in Coral Gables was The Coral Gables Museum. The museum was created in 1939, many years after Coral Gables was founded, and it was originally a police and fire station created during the Depression by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Another place that we visited in Coral Gables was the Coral Gables Elementary School. This school had a Mediterranean revival style of architecture which allowed air to come in and out from the classrooms. This style of architecture became very popular for schools in South Florida because of the hot weather and it didn’t exist air conditioning back then.

And finally, the two most interesting places that we visited in Coral Gables were the Biltmore Hotel and the Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ. The Biltmore Hotel is a luxury resort that has 350 rooms, a golf course, a pool, and many event rooms. It was open to the public in 1926. However, the church was built before the hotel. They started the construction of the church in 1923. This is the oldest church in Coral Gables. The Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ is not a catholic church, it is a Christian church. Therefore, catholic people can come to this church if they want, any religion is welcome. That is in fact, what I liked about this church, that is inclusive. This church does not care about the sexual preference of their community, they even have a gay pastor which I find amazing because I didn’t know of any church that had a gay pastor before this one.

River of the grass as text

All photographs taken and edited by Tammy Gomez // CC by 4.0

The Everglades’ Experience

By Tammy Gomez of FIU at Everglades National Park, 16 February 2022.

The everglades are a very popular place because of its nature. Many people know about it, but not everyone is lucky enough to have the experience of going into the everglades. I have gone multiple times before with my family when we came to visit Miami. However, it was nowhere near the experience that I had when I took the trip in this class.

We went into the everglades, we hiked, and we even got inside the water and had it at the waist level. This is not something I would normally do, but I’m so glad I was able to go and experience this part of the everglades. Silence is underrated and this is what we could experience, the peace of being in the middle of nowhere because if we had been without guidance, we wouldn’t have known what direction to go.

When we were inside the everglades, we had the opportunity to visit two old structures. These structures were hundreds of years old. One of them was like a little house and was finished, and the other one was in gray work. In the second one, we were able to climb and get on top of it. When we were at the top, it felt very peaceful and as if we could see miles of land from where we were. The view was amazing and very different from what people often think Miami is.

This is an experience that I recommend everyone should go to at least once in their life if they visit Miami and especially if you are from Miami. It’s very difficult to find a place with the peace and silence of being far away from the city and people.

Wynwood as text

All photographs taken and edited by Tammy Gomez // CC by 4.0

The artistic Wynwood

By Tammy Gomez of FIU at Wynwood, 09 March 2022.

The Margulies Collection is a place in Miami where people can go to visit and appreciate some exceptional artwork. In the pictures that I shared, we can see that it is not a traditional painting or artwork as people may think, but that’s what makes it different and why it stands out. It’s contemporary art and in the first picture we are looking at this artwork and we can see the sky and we can also feel the wind from the sky because this artwork is open to the outside and was added to the collection in the year 2000. In the second picture, we are looking at one of the most famous artworks of the 21st century. The name of the artist is Anselm Kiefer and made this work by artwork that he didn’t find successful and put them all together. To bring it to the collection in Wynwood they had to bring piece by piece separately and then put it all together.

The third picture is showing us another artwork named “Secret of the Ferns” and was made by Anselm Kiefer and Geheimnis der Farne. The fourth picture I found to be one of my favorites of the collection because in my opinion is different and I would’ve never thought that someone would do something like this. This artwork is made of spices. This artwork is basically a room full of fabric hanging with different spices on the bottom as you can see in the picture, and when you step closer you can smell it. I found it very interesting and different.

In the fifth picture, we can get closer and now we are part of the artwork, the leaves and branches will be seen in the body moving. In my opinion, seeing the leaves and branches moving slowly is relaxing, I could stay there for a while and I would feel very peaceful. And last but not least, the last artwork is recreating a moment of the U.S. government and many officials, in which we can recognize Barack Obama and Joe Biden when they had an ongoing operation to kill Osama bin Laden. All of these artworks were exceptional and are amazing to visit, so if someone likes art and is in Miami, this is a place they should come visit.

Coconut Grove as text

All photographs taken and edited by Tammy Gomez // CC by 4.0

A unique place in Miami

By Tammy Gomez of FIU at Coconut Grove, 23 March 2022.

Coconut Grove is an excellent place to walk and visit. I find that this neighborhood is very peaceful and relaxing, as there are not many people as there are in other neighborhoods like Brickell, Wynwood, or Coral Gables. Coconut Grove is also very accessible from the point of view that it has two metro stations, or the other option is to go by car which is also very affordable too if you choose the right spot. The parking lot next to Coconut Grove Playhouse is $8 for the whole day, so people don’t have to worry about the number of hours they will be staying in the neighborhood.

There are many different places to visit in Coconut Grove and one of these places is the cemetery of the Bahamian back in 1906. The cemetery was first located in 3500 block of Charles Avenue, but then it was judged to be too small so it was moved to the current location. A fun fact about the cemetery is that the video of the famous song Thriller by Michael Jackson was inspired by this cemetery, they couldn’t film the video in the cemetery, however, it was reconstructed when filmed the video at the Palace Theatre in downtown Los Angeles.

The Plymouth Congregational Church was also moved from its original location on MacFarland Road. The architecture of the church is made of rocks and the whole church was built by a man and his assistant. This is something many people find really hard to believe and what makes this church even more interesting.

Other places tourists can visit in Coconut Grove are The Christ Episcopal Church, Housekeepers, Mariah Brown House, and The Barnacle.

Key Biscayne as text

A unique place in Miami

By Tammy Gomez of FIU at Key Biscayne, 06 April 2022.

Key Biscayne is a town in Florida on a barrier island between two parks: Crandon Park and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. The one we visited is the second one, Bill Baggs, which is at the end of Key Biscayne and is well known for its famous lighthouse. This lighthouse is the oldest standing building in the Miami-Dade County completed in 1825 but damaged due to the Second Seminole War and then, rebuilt in 1845; it is one of the many reasons why this beach is so special. The sand is white and the water of the ocean is very clear. This beach is considered to be of the top 10 best beaches in the U.S. and we were lucky to have the chance to spend the day at the beach for a class.

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Beach served as a refugee for Black people and Seminoles waiting to meet with sea captains for a “passage of safety in the British Bahamas” (Florida State Parks).

The entrance fee is $8 per vehicle (2-8 people), $4 if it is for a single-occupant in a vehicle, or $2 for pedestrians, bicyclists, or extra passengers. These rates are for the whole day unlike many other beaches in Miami like South Beach. The rates for other beaches in Key Biscayne are very similar to the ones that Bill Baggs has. For example, Crandon Beach costs $5 on weekdays, and $7 on weekends. Here people usually rent bikes, kayaks, canoes, or chairs to use at the beach.

The entrance that is at the end of the beach has a path that leads to the lighthouse and this is the path where our class volunteered to put mulch around the palm trees and bushes. This is a beautiful beach that everyone who visits Miami needs to visit!

Author: tammygomezro

Tammy is a Junior at Florida International University and is part of the Honors College. Tammy was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador and just moved to Miami for Fall 2021. Tammy's favorite hobby is to play tennis and she also loves to hang out with friends. She is majoring in International Business and once Tammy finishes her Bachelor's degree she is planning to start her Masters.

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