Alexandra Fiedler: Miami as Text 2021-2022

Photograph taken by Milton Lau/ CC by 4.o

Alexandra Fiedler is a second-year student at Florida International University who is majoring in Psychology and minoring in Spanish. After moving to Miami from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Alexandra is fascinated by the cultural, historical, and geographical differences between the place she grew up and the place she now calls home. Alexandra passionately strives to learn and help others, while expanding her knowledge about what makes Miami an especially unique and vibrant cultural setting.

Downtown as Text

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/ CC by 4.0

“Behind the Ideal”

By Alexandra Fiedler of FIU at Downtown Miami on 1 September, 2021.

Known for its stunning blue waters, vibrant nightlife, perfect weather, and cultural diversity, it’s no wonder that Miami is often idealized as a uniquely magical place. In many ways, it is true. Miami is a special place, full of many different cultures that creates an environment like no other. However, because of all the wonderful things the city has to offer, Miami’s painful and often dark past gets forgotten too easily.

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/ CC by 4.0

People often regard Miami as a cultural mixing pot, where many cultures blend and all are accepted. I know that growing up, I was always amazed at how people from all different countries would come to Miami. I loved how so many people had unique and wild experiences that varied from person to person. As a child, I never associated Miami with the brutal history representative of many places in the United States. But throughout the day, we learned about Henry Flagler, a man often regarded as helping establish Miami as the place it is today was crucial in the creation of Overtown, a segregated neighborhood that was cruelly referred to as “Colored Town.” By segregating black people in the city, Flagler successfully convinced rich white people to move down South to Miami. The painful reality is that even in a city glamorized for being a cultural epicenter, Miami has been built on a foundation of racism and ignorance. Far too often, people embrace what Miami is meant to be, rather than acknowledging many of the painful and unjust things that have occurred here in the past.

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

While it may initially seem beneficial to leave Miami’s past in the past, it unfortunately creates a large problem: ignorance. When people do not know about the past, they can never learn from it. Without acknowledging that painful reality of the city, the idealistic vision of Miami is merely a facade. In order to truly appreciate the place Miami has become, it really requires seeing the strength of this city and its people. The people who overcame years of malicious treatment and unfair judgements still shared their traditions, culture, experiences, and much more in order to create the amazing home that many of us get to enjoy today. While things are still not perfect today, we can continuously learn about the foundation of Miami, and work to share the wonderful things that it truly has to offer.

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/ CC by 4.0

Even though Miami has more than enough turbulent history, its past is rich with powerfully progressive stories. Anecdotes of Seminoles entrusting white settlers, a white man marrying a black woman, and so much more truly highlighted how Miami is a place that defies the odds. Although many terrible things have happened here, there truly is a spirit to this city that is worth idealizing. Although when done without moderation, ignorance creeps in, but when appreciated wholly and acknowledging the regrettable past, Miami continues to be a place like no other with potential for an even more exciting future.

Overtown as Text

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler/CC by 4.0

“History or Highways”

By Alexandra Fiedler of FIU at Overtown on 15 September, 2021.

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler/ CC by 4.0
Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler/ CC by 4.0

Mt. Zion Baptist Church has a significant, yet often unheard history. Located in Miami’s Overtown, the church was once home to over 2,000 members, while the current membership stands at around 250 parishioners. In speaking with a local member of the church, Linda Rodgers, we were able to learn the true significance of being in the church building. Shortly after arriving at the altar, Linda informed us that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once stood at the podium and spoke there shortly before his untimely death. The church signifies such a dark yet powerful part of our history, not only as a city, but as a nation. The church has thankfully been added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Buildings meaning it will continue to be preserved. 

It really impacted me to be in a place of such historical significance. One could feel just how much power the room held. It was important. It was historical. It was critical in igniting the change so desperately needed in this country so that all people could truly be regarded as equal. To be in that room, to hear the part it played, was to take part in that history. To acknowledge its significance, to appreciate its strength was to feel what it meant to take part in something so meaningful. The people who once filled that room were change-makers, people who didn’t live through history–people who created it. 

Yet these people were challenged, defined, and denied at every step of the journey. At its foundation, Overtown was meant to be a segregated neighborhood in Miami; a place to put black people so the rich white people could have a better chance of popularizing Miami. Despite its cruel beginnings, Overtown managed to flourish into a cultural hotspot, where famous musicians and powerful civil rights leaders would convene. However, when it came time to build I-95 through Miami, developers quickly settled on building right through the heart of Overtown. Thousands of residents would be displaced with the construction of the interstate, many of whom had short notice and were not financially compensated. But their unacceptable treatment was permissible because of the racial biases of the people in charge. 

This rich culture is worth protecting, and although many people remain ignorant of the importance that Overtown and Mt. Zion possess, and it is our job to inform and to educate, and to make sure that this precious and monumental history is not lost. One startling sight to me was seeing just how close I-95 is to the Church. They practically built up to the side of the building. It is a perfect yet heart-wrenching example of how little thought or compassion was shown to this great historical landmark. The essence of Overtown needs to be fought for and protected before it is lost to all of us forever. Although many people have already vacated, there is still a chance to bring back that vibrancy and energy that once made Overtown such a uniquely powerful place.

Vizcaya as Text

Photograph taken by Alexandra Fiedler/CC by 4.0

“The Loneliness of his Luxury”

By Alexandra Fiedler of FIU at Vizcaya on 13 October, 2021.

Photograph taken by Alexandra Fiedler/ CC by 4.0
Photograph taken by Alexandra Fiedler/ CC by 4.0

Vizcaya is an extraordinarily decadent estate located in Miami, Florida. Owned by James Deering and created through the work of himself, fellow friends and architects, and built by mostly black Bahamian workers, it is still a highly ornate and beautiful estate to witness. Completed in 1916, the mansion was soon surrounded by sprawling lawns, impressive gardens, and immaculate statues. Yet the grandeur of it all begs the question, was Deering’s obsession with the fanciful merely a form of overcompensation for some other aching emptiness in his life?

James Deering was famously coined a “life-long bachelor” who never married or was even seriously linked to any females in his years. Known as a man who enjoyed wild parties and especially bourbon, James Deering enjoyed an especially lavish lifestyle. But as history shows humanity time and time again, material possessions will always pale in comparison to genuine human connection. It leaves one to wonder how fulfilled Deering could truly be when he was famously alone. Even the architecture of his home lends itself to this painful realization. Deering’s bedroom was located on the second floor, with a guest room right next to it. However, unlike the other rooms on the floor, the guest room has a secret door connecting it to the master bedroom through the bathrooms. This connection between the rooms is not visible from the hall, meaning that whoever stayed in the guest room could easily make their way to Deering’s bedroom without being detected by anyone else in the home. Now, I would like to preface what I am about to describe with the fact that none of it has been proven as historically accurate and is merely heresy at the end of the day. But throughout his life and even today, many rumors surrounding James Deering’s sexuality have persisted. Many people think that his extravagant tastes coupled with his lack of female company could mean that James Deering was gay. When someone is as successful, rich, and iconic as James Deering, many wild sexual escapades are almost to be expected. Yet, there is little to no evidence of Deering having lovers, even female ones. In addition, Paul Chalfin, the main architect and decorator for Vizcaya was an openly gay man, who was good friends with James Deering. The two spent a multitude of time together, even traversing Europe searching for pieces to add to Vizcaya’s impressive collection. Chalfin had a known romantic partner throughout the 1920s, which is something that is almost unheard of for that historical time. But could having another openly gay man thrive and lead a successful life have inspired James Deering to want the same for himself?

It is highly unlikely that people will ever conclusively say whether Deering was gay or not. But regardless, the statement still stands that all his luxury and nearly priceless belongings are just that–belongings. And although Deering was a man who enjoyed many riches, friends, and things most people could hardly dream of, it is hard to say that those carry the same meaning as genuine human connection. How lonely it must have been to create such an immaculate space and not have someone to truly share it with. The excitement of partying, drinking, and unlimited luxury can only fade with time. Immortalizing himself through his estate could have been James’s way of ensuring his legacy got passed on, since most people depend on their memories being carried on through the people they were closest to. He had no partner, no children, nobody to speak to his truest character. I believe Vizcaya is a tool: a way for people to experience and remember James Deering and the iconic luxury that will always be tied to his name.

South Beach as Text

Photograph taken by Alexandra Fiedler/CC by 4.0

“Glamorous, Happy, and Alive”

By Alexandra Fiedler of FIU at Downtown Miami on 27 October, 2021.

I have long been captivated by Miami Beach’s captivating and unique architecture. Even before I moved to Miami, there had always been something special about South Beach. Something about its vibrancy, eccentric designs, and palpable energy always had me captivated. But lacking the proper knowledge about Miami’s special architecture, I was left unable to describe or even truly understand what made this place so remarkable. Then I recently had the opportunity to learn about Art Deco and how it has truly shaped South Beach into the place we know today. Art Deco is a style of architecture that has many distinct characteristics. Building in this style typically follows the rule of three–a principle that suggests that a grouping of three is more memorable, satisfying, and effective to the eye. This is highlighted by Art Deco’s usage of three sets of windows, three stories, three markings on the building etc. Art Deco is also known for its pastel and bright colors, with blues, pinks, and yellows being especially popular on the strip. These buildings also have ‘eyebrows,’ elevated strips along the building used for blocking the sun, but also add an aesthetic flair. They make use of neon lights and signs, as well as glass bricks and porthole windows. The masonry is comprised of cement and bricks, a simple base for the eccentric and stylish architecture. South Beach and Ocean Drive in particular have the ability to take one back in time, as the street is lined with these historic Art Deco buildings. It is easy to imagine being back decades ago when the hotels were the absolute prime real estate of the area. The beautiful water, pristine beaches, and high energy create such an immaculate atmosphere it’s no wonder Gianni Versace chose to make this place his home. Historic South Beach has touched me and countless others, as hundreds of thousands of people still travel to it each year. As Miami Beach is the home to the largest collection of Art Deco buildings in the world, its captivating and stylistic architecture will hopefully be marveled at for years to come. 

Deering Estate as Text

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler/CC by 4.0

“More than a Hike”

By Alexandra Fiedler of FIU at Deering Estate on 10 November, 2021.

Warm sun, green foliage, fresh breeze, and cool water greet us as we enter the Deering Estate. Its natural beauty is captivating, and begs to be explored, even before one uncovers the rich history that surrounds the Deering Estate. Charles Deering constructed his enchanting estate in 1922 and only spent a few years there before passing away. But Deering’s time there barely scratches the surface of the human usage of the estate’s surrounding lands. Evidence even indicates the presence of Paleo Indians, dating back 10,000 years. More recently, there is a multitude of evidence showing the Tequesta presence in the Deering Estate. Records from Ponce de Leon in the early 1500s reveal a strong Tequesta presence in the area. Remains of this ancient Tequesta community can still be found to this day, including shell tools the Tequesta would use for various purposes. One particularly fascinating site that was uncovered tucked deep in the hardwood hammocks in the 1980s is the Tequesta Cutler Burial Mound. The mound is located under a massive oak tree that is estimated to be between 400 and 600 years old. There are between 12 to 18 bodies buried in the mound in a circular fashion, with their heads pointing towards the center of the mound. The mound remains undisturbed as is the wishes of the current Indigenous community in the area. 

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler/CC by 4.0

It is no wonder to see why the Paleo Indians, Tequestas, and Charles Deering among others throughout history chose this particular location to settle. Harboring multiple unique and fascinating ecosystems in a relatively compact amount of space lends itself to incredible natural formations and examples of true naturalistic beauty. Through hardwood hammocks, to pine rocklands, and mangrove forests, one travels through vastly different areas that show off different attributes of the areas. Limestone getting uncovered under the first and mangrove roots weaving throughout the shallows can all be explored. I can only imagine how throughout history different peoples and communities have likely marveled at the alluring vegetation, wildlife, and views they witnessed. Experiencing its natural beauty firsthand is truly the only way to actually understand and appreciate both the fascinating ecosystems and the deep history that encompasses the Deering Estate.

UNTITLED as Text

Photo by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

“The Light in the Dark”

By Alexandra Fiedler of FIU at UNTITLED Art Fair on 1 December, 2021.

The UNTITLED Art Fair is a truly enchanting event that highlights the talent and hard work of incredible artists from all around the globe. Art from all different countries and in all different styles are presented side by side in a magnificent show. However one artist in particular, Arleene Correa Valencia, stands out among the rest. The class had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Arleene, who shared her inspiration and thought process behind her work. Pictured above is Reunited (Por favor No Te Olvides De Mi), which translates to (Please Don’t Forget about Me) and is made from embroidered fabric. In order to truly help us fully understand the gravity of her work, Arleene shared her very moving story of being a DACA recipient and family to undocumented immigrants. Her art depicts scenes of parents interacting with their children in loving ways, and a few frames feature parents standing alone.

The most impactful part of the piece, however, can only be seen when photographed with flash. When the picture is caught, one sees that the parents are illuminated, hiding the children. When I first looked at my photo, I got instant goosebumps. Her art is an extraordinarily powerful representation of a parent’s undying and unconditional love for their children. The piece paints a scene of a mother or a father who would do anything for their baby. It demonstrates how in a dangerous situation, they will always try to put themselves between harm and their children. These mothers and fathers risk their lives to save their children’s. They put their lives in danger, they cross borders, they accomplish the most challenging feats and go to indescribable lengths to provide for their children. Their own flesh and blood. And in the particular case of crossing the border illegally, parents put everything they have on the line just for a chance that their kids can have a better future. It is an incredibly powerful message and the artist’s use of lighting and flash create such a masterful depiction of what it must feel like to be those parents. The amount of fear, doubt, and pressure are simply unimaginable. The captivating story that Arleene masterfully weaves is deeply touching and extremely compelling. It pushes people to think, to reevaluate their ideas of what it must feel like to be in that precarious position. But those parents have done it and they will continue to cross any border imaginable to give their children a good life, one that is full of opportunity and promise. 

Everglades as Text

Photo by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

“A Quiet Wonder”

By Alexandra of FIU at Everglades National Park on 19 January, 2022.

There is something so powerful about being in untouched nature, surrounded solely by the natural terrain unmarred by human interaction. Seeing the habitats in their natural state of existence where they have been preserved to flourish without exception is truly the best way to understand and value the essential pieces of our planet. On our hike led by two delightful and incredibly knowledgeable rangers, the class was able to experience the essence of the Everglades first hand and knee deep. While at times it was cold or slightly uncomfortable, this experience was undeniably meaningful. Located near a city known for its luxurious and hedonistic way of life, it was a refreshing moment to take a step back from the concrete highways and industrial high rises. We witnessed a much different side of Miami. A gentle one, one that doesn’t have flashy lights and blaring music around every turn. One that doesn’t beg for attention, one that quietly exists the way it has for thousands of years. It was amazing to learn the detailed intricacies of the environment, how its carefully crafted system continuously functions without fail. We got chances to witness firsthand the fascinating creatures that call the Everglades home, like owls and alligators. We got the opportunity to learn about cypress trees, how they form in these perfect dome shapes and how their unique ‘knees’ are still technically viewed as a mystery to scientists who can only make guesses about their purpose. We got to listen to a poem written by an artist who also personally experienced the magnitude of the Everglades and used it as inspiration for her work. We found plants that have been long used for their medicinal purposes, or more recently, their captivating natural fragrances. We found periphyton–and even got the chance to hold and learn about the base of the food chains. It bewildered me that a clump of algae-looking matter floating on the water is the basis of a multitude of life forms within the park. The experience only solidified my resolve that The Everglades is worth protecting, worth fighting for, worth defending from people who have yet to recognize the utmost importance that it holds. Cities will come and go, just as people do, but when the Everglades is gone, it will be gone forever and the consequences of that will likely scar this planet in ways that we can’t quite comprehend, making it even more worthy of our admiration, respect, and protection. 

Coral Gables as Text

Photo by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

“The City Beautiful”

By Alexandra Fiedler of Florida International University at Coral Gables on February 2, 2022

Coral Gables is undeniably one of the most picturesque and beautiful cities found in the Miami area today. This is sensible considering the main intention of the original designer, George Merrick intentionally created the city to be “The City Beautiful.” Merrick pulled inspiration from multiple different unique architectural styles, such as Mediterranean and Spanish styles, among many others. He intentionally created an exceptionally pleasant atmosphere in Coral Gables, specifically designing beautiful walkways, incorporations of greenery, majestically styled buildings, and plenty of natural areas for people to both enjoy looking at and walking through. He also designed Coral Gables to be a walkable and easily accessible destination, adding to the ambiance and further solidifying the beautiful city as a necessary destination for the affluent and successful alike. Impressive locations such as the Biltmore Hotel, the Colonnade Building, Miracle Mile, and the Miracle Theater/Actors’ Playhouse proved to be beautiful staples of the city that drew in loads of people. In addition to the more entrepreneurial side of the city, Merrick also dedicated plentiful space to creating neighborhoods, meaning that the city would be an incorporation of their daily lives instead of just an isolated city location. The residential area allowed the city to grow in size, popularity, and wealth. 

As with most products of the early 20th century, the beauty of the city can also be seen as an elaborate facade covering up the turbulent and dark history that led to the creation of the city beautiful. Built by Bahamian workers in terrible working conditions, these people would never be able to experience and enjoy the fruits of their labor. As Jim Crowe laws were still strictly enforced, segregation was rampant throughout these times. Black people were not allowed to live in the city’s residential area, nor were they allowed to stay at the impressive hotels. They could not go enjoy shows at the theater or dine at the plentiful amount of restaurants. It is an unfortunate but true reality of the time. Merrick’s target demographics for the area were affluent members of society and successful businessmen. Because they were allowed to prosper and execute all sorts of business ventures while the Black people of the area were extensively denied the same opportunities, the wealth disparity of the area grew exponentially. An example of segregation was present in the city’s very first courthouse and jail, having four different cells–one for White men, one for Black men, one for White women, and one for Black women. People’s racist attitudes were highly prevalent as they endlessly tried to ensure that they would not be forced to coexist with those they deemed to be lesser members of society. The city now works to recognize these wrongs, instead of sweeping them under the rug and pretending that Coral Gables has a history as beautiful as its buildings, which is a small step in the right direction for amending these atrocious wrongs. They will never be able to undo the past, but it is certainly worth the effort to acknowledge the dark past and do better in the future. The city and its story and not merely black and white, having a convoluted and nonsensical history that people should strive to not only recognize but to correct moving forward. 

River of Grass as Text

Photo by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

“As History Repeats”

By Alexandra Fiedler of Florida International University at Everglades National Park on February 16, 2022

Located in a secluded area of the Everglades National Park, the Nike Missile Site is a registered historic place. The missile site was completed in 1965, just a few years after the conclusion of the Cuban Missile Crisis, an event that lasted 13 days in which the United States got the closest it has ever gotten to engaging in nuclear war. The Cuban Missile Crisis was one of the most extreme points of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, when both countries were striving to be the singular most powerful country in the world. Although the missile crisis was eventually avoided through diplomacy, the fear it created was very real. 

The purpose of the Nike Missile Site was to provide defensive support against potential attacks coming from Cuba. Truthfully, when the class was learning about the missile site, I did not understand the true weight of what the situation must have felt like. To be a young American in the 1960s and not knowing whether or not nuclear weapons would be detonated and life would be forever changed. The uncertainty and fear must have been overwhelming at times. But after very recent events in Ukraine, as Russia is actively trying to take over the country, I have gotten much closer to understanding the helplessness and confusion that people must have been experiencing during the Cold War. While I admit that we are not as close to a full on world war as many people think, it has been truly heartbreaking to learn about the destruction and violence overtaking the Ukraine. Regular individuals just like me are watching their normal lives shatter as war and invasion become a new reality. It really forces us as humans to think about the power we possess and how genuinely detrimental our violence-inducing behaviors have come. Wars can now be waged on unimaginable scales with equally as unimaginable consequences. The Nike Missile Site and what it has come to represent have taken a place in the front of my mind as I consider how these once desolate sites become culturally relevant yet again. While that particular site will not be used, I still wonder what sites are currently being developed, and how war will continue to shape our country and attitudes surrounding what it means to not only be alive, but free. 

Wynwood as Text

“What is Art?”

Miami is many, many different things–but at its core, it is a city of passion, excitement, diversity, modernity, and creativity. The Margulies and de la Cruz collections are both fantastic manifestations of these ideas of what Miami truly is. They are representative of Miami’s unique approach to art in that they focus on plenty of modern and contemporary pieces of work. The collections showcase amazing artists from all across the globe who have presented their art in a wide variety of mediums. They are truly redefining what art means by shifting away from the classic European standard of ‘good’ art. Instead of classically training and focusing on making art look pristinely technical and objectively impressive, the artists featured in the collections exhibit their skills and talents in a multitude of different ways. One gets a chance to truly experience the art, as it forces the observer to interact and think about the piece in an entirely new way. There were interactive pieces of art, such as one that simply lit up a wall for people to immerse themselves in the piece and actually become a part of the artwork. Entire rooms would be turned into art, including an old bus that was redesigned to be an eccelpric and captivating work of art.  

The one thing that kind of stuck with me in a not entirely positive way is how these high end collections are almost taking away the original intent of contemporary art. As the guides explained it to the class, contemporary art focuses on making art accessible to everyone–the intense level of professional training to be considered an ‘artist’ was removed from the equation as incredibly talented people found new and creative ways to express themselves and share meaning with the world. However, as time has gone on, contemporary art now captures the attention of an incredibly wealthy and privileged population. I remember being in the Margulies collection and not being able to hear an honest answer about the price of a particularly massive and impressive work of art by Anslem Kiefer. It kind of confused and bothered me that this art that was once intended to be shared and appreciated by everyone equally has now been almost monopolized by the wealthy. They are now the only ones that can afford to have this art, especially that of the most esteemed artists of our time right now. The positive of all of this is that incredibly generous people such as those that run the Margulies and de la Cruz collections allow people to view their private collections for free or almost free. They may be the only ones that can ever afford these works of art, but they choose to share their prized possessions with the public, ensuring that the art can still be appreciated by anyone that cares to. 

Coconut Grove as Text

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

“When Art Imitates Life”

By Alexandra Fiedler of Florida International University on 23 March, 2022.

Being older than the city of Miami itself, Coconut Grove has truly earned the title of “historic neighborhood.” Established in 1873, Coconut Grove is the oldest continuously inhabited neighborhood in Miami-Dade county. The inhabitants of Coconut Grove have faced many of the same issues as those located in other parts of the city, such as Overtown. Gentrification, forced removal, and quickly rising cost of living have made it all but impossible for these long term residents to stay in their homes. Although I personally am new to Miami, some long-term residents could easily attest to the fact that the original Coconut Grove is all but gone now. Trendy cafes, chic boutiques, and expensive restaurants line the main streets of the Grove. Young, fashionable people explore the area looking for the best place to take an instagram photo. Yet if one travels past the main avenues that make up the Grove, there is still much history to uncover. For example, walking down Charles Avenue, one quickly comes across a particularly unique cemetery. Not only did it inspire Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video, it also is the resting place of many generations of Bahamian immigrants that originally settled in the Grove. The cemetery looks especially interesting as the sarcophaguses are laid above ground, instead of the typical underground fashion.This is due to the high water levels beneath the ground, making it an unstable place to place the dead. 

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

Crossing from Charles Avenue to William Avenue, one can then come across Christ Episcopal Church. This church is especially fascinating because of the artwork inside. The walls are covered in stained glass, which may be typical for many churches. However, the people depicted in the glass art are Black–something I have never seen before even though I have been going into churches for my entire life. It was so refreshing to see the art reflecting the people who made the art, who go into that place of worship, who founded that particular community, and who all too often get left out of history. I was so touched to see Jesus, John the Baptist, nuns, children, and many other important figures depicted in a way that I have never seen before in church. I can only imagine how a black person would feel finally seeing themselves reflected back in art. All too often, religious depictions are painted to look like white people, which doesn’t even make sense on a historical level. So seeing a predominantly black community have the artwork inside their place of worship  match those who worship there every week was really cool. Furthermore, the church also had far more depictions of women than I am used to seeing inside churches. It was incredibly meaningful to see these traditionally underrepresented groups being showcased and highlighted in the church. It made me question why that is such an abnormality–why is it so uncommon to highlight different genders, different races, different ways of life? I think that church could become an even more meaningful place if people could find something to relate to within their place of worship. Instead of possibly feeling detached from these incredibly old stories and rituals, they could see themselves as an important part of their own faith. The honest representation was incredibly refreshing and I hope that church and the rest of the community hold on to their sense of spirit and identity. 

Key Biscayne as Text

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

“The Light”

Getting to Bill Baggs State Park is no easy task at 10am on a Wednesday morning. But fighting through an hour and a half of traffic is well worth it once one takes in the spectacular view only possible from the top of the lighthouse located within the park. From the bird’s eye view 30 meters above the ground, one can see the vast Atlantic ocean, Key Biscayne, downtown Miami, Cape Florida, and Miami Beach. In the foreground, the dunes and preserved nature of the park provide ample scenery to create one of the most picturesque views of the entire city.

But just seeing the Cape Florida Light does not even begin to shed enough light on the massive amount of history that the lighthouse has been through. First built in 1825, the lighthouse has been through decades of harsh weather including hurricanes, natural erosion, and even a Native American offensive attack as part of the greater Seminole Wars that once took place throughout Florida. The Seminoles knew that the lighthouse had great strategic value to the US military and anyone else that needed to safely navigate the Florida coast at night. On one fateful night in 1836, a group of Seminoles attacked the lighthouse. Only one of the two men tending to the light survived the attack, which becomes even more impressive when one considers the facts that there was actually an explosion on the lighthouse during the attack due to oil, fire, and gunpowder mixing into an unfortunately deadly concoction. The Seminoles were successful in disarming the lighthouse, and it became inoperational in the coming years. After 10 years of having its light out, the lighthouse was fixed and relit in 1847, 11 years after it was first destroyed. Today, the lighthouse has earned its spot on the National Register of Historic Places, due to its impressive survival throughout a taxing history. It now stands as a proud reminder of what South Florida has developed into from its first days of being explored by various countries in their various sea-faring vessels. 

Photograph by Claudia Martinez//CC by 4.0

Having the opportunity as a class to do maintenance work on the surrounding area was both taxing and rewarding. It felt good to be putting in the actual work to maintain the area, both on a practical and aesthetic level. We got to ensure that Bill Baggs can be enjoyed in the present and the future, which becomes increasingly important to do as more land gets developed to turn Miami into a booming urban center. Any work that can be done to maintain the natural beauty of our area is meaningful and its importance should never be discredited. I love this city as much as the next person, but there is just something so special about being surrounded by absolutely pristine nature–something I am so thankful for Bill Baggs for protecting. 

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