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