Anna Buntova is an international student from Novosibirsk, Russia, pursuing her degree in Behavioral Neuroscience at Florida International University’23. As a child of the world, she has always been mesmerized by the dynamic culture of the U.S.A. which spurred her desire to study abroad. First, she received her high school diploma in Saint Johnsbury Academy located in VT. Anna’s passion for connecting and bonding with people of various cultures dictated her fate of studying in Miami, FL, to get her college degree in hopes of becoming an explorer of uncharted areas of human cognition. Through Miami in Miami Honors course she wants to get closer to the idea of the melting pot where many cultures embrace their unity despite of their differences as opposed to her homogenous birthplace.
“Downtown Miami as a Text”
“History in Modernity” by Anna Buntova of FIU at Downtown Miami, September 12, 2021
Miami is nothing like me, and that’s why I need to be here – it’s the opposite. I’m practical, where this place is moody, I’m stolid in my interior, where this place has a certain flair, and I’m materialistic in a sense that this place is fundamentally spiritual – there’s a quicksilver quality about this place.
Prior to Miami being a cultural landmark, a salad bowl of predominantly Latin/Hispanic backgrounds together with numerous other ethnicities inhabiting its distinct neighborhoods; way before it was teeming with luxurious hotels, lavish restaurants, and booming businesses Miami was a place deplete of today’s dazzling skyscrapers towering over the lands of Brickell and highly frequented touristic sites. It was completely incomparable to what the post-card image of Miami is typically imagined as. Yet, what is more serendipitous to me is how the route to create the Magic City began in the hands of white barons in the middle of 1800’s who exploited black labor to build the Florida railroad and its infrastructure.
Our meeting spot in the Downtown was Stephen P. Clark Government Center which appeared to me as architecturally boring in the context of Miami’s scintillating atmosphere. This building carries the name of the Miami-Dade mayor Stephen Clark who held his office in the 70’s.
Sauntering around the streets of Downtown Miami we encountered Mausoleum of Brickell’s family situated on top of the former cemetery of Tequesta people who were a Native American tribe. It sends me chills down my spine to have been able to walk over the underground remains of the original inhabitants who had lived here way before Miami became Miami. Miami-Dade Courthouse located on the NW 12 St has the statue of Henry Flagler, an industrialist and one of the founders of Florida. All of these aforementioned historic places create a dissonance for what we are used to perceiving as Miami – the hub of diversity – since all of them derive from white contributors who invested into the surgence of dynamic Miami observed nowadays.
The city of Miami was established in 1896, right after the main railroad running along the east coast of Florida was fully constructed. The population of Florida experienced a significant influx which primarily consisted of African-Americans who would come down to South Florida to complete the work that had to be done with the railroad and infrastructure. Julia Tuttle, who originally owned Miami lands convinced Flagler to continue the railroad towards Miami to plant orange groves for northern farmers. Moreover, she persuaded William Brickell to give up a part of his land to enable Flagler to build the railroad. Miami was rapidly growing in population making it a frequented vacation spot for tourists who would settle in lucrative hotels built by Flagler along the railroad.
The fact that parts of Florida have been owned by white American investors to reap financial benefits in the 1800’s makes me ponder how young the history of Miami is at the surface level. However, it is important to note that the lands of Florida were settled by natives, or so-called Tequesta tribe, which were decimated during the Seminole wars by Spaniards and further vanished when they were moved to Haiti. The slaves would travel down to south Florida to find the refuge and safe place enabling them to further settle in the Bahamas. The regions of Florida are saturated with history that has been buried for decades, and thus much of it is still unknown.
All in all, it is mind-boggling to think that it took wars, oppression, slavery, and decimation to make Miami blossom with diversity and prosperity which we can all witness in this moment.