Carolina Echeverri Valle: Miami As Text 2021-2022

Carolina Echeverri Valle is a senior pursuing a double degree in International Relations and PRAAC, with a minor in Political Science and a certificate in Human Rights and Political Transition at Florida International University. Being a passionate advocate for human rights, she aspires to work in a non-profit aimed at helping children and/or women. After graduating from her two majors, she plans on attending graduate school. She has had the privilege of working the Spanish Ministry of Education, the German American Business Chamberof Commerce, UNICEF, Hillel at FIU, CARTA in DC at FIU, Broward County and is currently working in the Live Like Bella Foundation. She’s been a peer advisor at FIU, served in many leadership positions within her sorority of Alpha Omicron PI and created a project for the Millennium Fellowship. As a student who grew up in Colombia, she desires to learn more about the culture and history of one of the most diverse cities in Florida: Miami.

Downtown As Text

Downtown Miami Photography. Photographs taken by Carolina Echeverri Valle/CC by 4.0

“Multiculturalism”

By Carolina Echeverri Valle of FIU at Downtown Miami on September 8, 2021.

When we started the walk around Downtown, I didn’t really know what to expect. Downtown Miami holds so much history, art and culture that it was hard to determine what we would focus on. However, I was amazed at what I saw. 

As young adults who live in Miami, we are surrounded with people who come from diverse places, who have generational varying ethnicities, people who have been brought up in different ways. What unites us? Our lovely Miami. As we walked through historic buildings, such as The Wagner House and Fort Dallas which were located one in front of the other, we truly grasped what Miami is all about. This city has seen indigenous tribes getting kicked out of the land, slavery, and the division of colored people; however, it has also seen the growth of multiculturalism that happens on a day to day basis. People from all over the world move to Miami in hopes of getting a better life. We can see it through Coosje Van Bruggen’s and Claes Oldenburg’s ‘Dropped Bowl with Scattered Slices and Peels’, a massive public artwork. 

Personally, I saw this art piece as a representation of the diversity that Miami has. Miami grows everyday. Currently people from Venezuela are coming over to flee their political, social and economic situation. Nonetheless, Cubans, Haitians and people from other countries in South and Central America have come to Miami in hopes of having a life with better opportunities and a freer life. Miami has been the home of many immigrants, including myself. I came here looking for better educational opportunities, and my parents also lived here in the past due to work openings. The scattered oranges and peels represent the continuous increase of people in Miami. It’s like a mandarin was thrown to the floor and it exploded.

When I first saw this piece of art, it appeared very colorful and full of life, each part of it being different and separated. Miami has neighborhoods that are all so distinct from each other. For instance, Brickell is known for its fancy restaurants and beautiful tall buildings, while Little Havana is known for its people and vibrant environment. This fusion of places and cultures are what make Miami what it is: a city full of life, diversity, a variety of places to eat and activities to do and a place where people want to be. Especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, many decided to move to Miami and be by the beach, in a place with a warm and dreamy weather, where life is like we’re on vacation. The scattered slices and peels are all those distinct pieces that make up Miami: the neighborhoods, people, food, cultures, activities, weather, etc. 

At the end of the day, the past and present of Miami can be summed up by Van Bruggen and Oldenburg’s artwork. Will the future of Miami keep being this multicultural land?

Overtown As Text

Overtown, Allapattah, and Hialeah Photography. Photographs taken by Carolina Echeverri Valle/CC by 4.0

“Diversity As We Know It”

By Carolina Echeverri Valle of FIU at Downtown Miami on September 8, 2021.

It all started in Allapattah on a rainy morning. As I walked through the city something stood out. It was the differences that surrounded this place vs other more touristic places of Miami. What happened here? What led to this clear division? I questioned myself. Inequality has always been an enormous issue everywhere in the world, but isn’t the United States supposed to be developed?

When I walked into the Metrorail, I learned that Miami has this amazing public transportation that we take for granted. Some people who’ve lived here all their lives haven’t even utilized it once. Why? All these questions just filled my head, I was eager to learn more.

When I found out that FIU, my university, was one of the places that refused to have the Metrorail add a stop there, I was shocked. As young adults who grew up in the XXI century as millennials, we were brought up to be open minded, caring, and most of all, accepting of diversity and inclusion. Isn’t that what schools and universities teaching us? It was hypocritical of me to learn that places, such as FIU, didn’t want to bring public transportation, such a necessity to many, into their university. FIU literally has the word “international” in the name. The university prides itself on having multiculturalism within, even though most of the student body is composed of commuters. These commuters have international parents, coming from different parts of the world, and their socioeconomic background, ethnicities, beliefs, way of living, etc are all different. We are in a globalized and interconnected world. That’s why it was shocking for me to see that FIU didn’t allow for a Metrorail to pass through there. Not only is it FIU, but many different neighborhoods around Miami haven’t permitted the Metrorail.

Public transportation is essential for people from all over the world. Many don’t have cars and having to walk or order an Uber isn’t sustainable. Therefore, I believe Miami should open stops in every crucial part of Miami and connect the city, people, and cultures.

Vizcaya As Text

Vizcaya Museum Photography. Photographs taken by Carolina Echeverri, Oscar Roa and Ashley Sanchez/CC by 4.0

“Love is Everywhere”

When we look at our surroundings, we can see that there’s love everywhere. What does this mean? We love our friends, family, animals, plants, cities, countries, world, foods, etc. It’s a natural feeling that we feel for someone and/or something and it’s inevitable.

When I went to Vizcaya, I noticed the various love benches located around the gardens. There were even closed areas of the gardens, that allowed lovers to meet up. As we look through the generations, I notice that this hasn’t changed. We go through the world trying to be with our loved ones, trying to pursue the things we love and to be happy overall. The Vizcaya Mansion started being built in 1912, so it’s been over a century since. To see these trends still happening is shocking.

James Deering didn’t get married or have children that are known to us. There are myths and legends stating that he was homosexual. No one knows for sure if this is true. If this was the case, it resembles the LGBTQ+ fight for equality that is taking place in the recent years. If he wasn’t, but just didn’t find someone to marry and have children, he felt love for other things. Either this be keeping his garden beautiful, decorating his home with valuable pantings and/or furniture.

Be whatever it may be, love was seen through this mansion. Even though Deering wasn’t married or have a family live here, love was seen in other ways. The beauty and light coming from all these rooms and gardens was prevalent, and it made me feel love towards it.

South Beach as Text

South Beach Photography. Photographs taken by Oscar Roa/CC by 4.0

“Progress vs. Historical Value”

When we think of Miami Beach, we tend to relate it to tourism, beautiful beaches, luxurious cars, among others. In the present day, there are a variety of events, economic growth and people visiting on a day to day basis. However, even though this is currently the case, it was not always like this. There was an intense period where there was economic decline in the area.

Miami Beach had a great architectural value, consisting of smaller hotels with certain characteristics. Some of these included having ABA types, where the sides of the hotel looked the same, whilst the middle was different. Nonetheless, the Art Deco started to decline value as resorts started to appear around the world. Naturally, people would think that getting rid of these historical hotels, and bringing in modern looking ones would bring an economic boost. There were advocates, such as Barbara Baer who made sure to preserve these older hotels. Miami keeps on developing, but this area remains with these beautiful hotels.

The City of Miami Beach is a vivid example of a place that was able to sustain their Art Deco, whilst also bringing progress through other types of hotels, such as those that are all glass and look like ships. Its historic infrastructure has brought many tourists, and ultimately jobs and money into this city. It’s important to not forget the history of a city and to try and preserve it, as people from all over the world love to learn about it and see it in person. Likewise, when we maintain these places, we are commemorating all those who designed and built them.

The Deering Estate As Text

The Deering Estate Photography. Photographs taken by Carolina Echeverri/CC by 4.0

“Are We In Miami?”

As I arrived back at the Deering Estate for the second time in my life, I had a feeling of concern. I was a bit preoccupied for our walking tour, as I knew we’d walk a long way. What were we going to see? What animals and nature would we encounter? It was a bittersweet feeling, because I wanted to start the day but I was also nervous. 

Once we started the walk – covering our ankles and moving the trees with our protected arms – the fauna and flora that was located around us seemed untouched. How is it possible that there were houses just a couple of miles away? It seemed like I was going back in time to a time where we were one with nature. We were able to learn about eight different ecosystems present: Pine Rockland, Salt Marsh, Mangroves, Submerged Sea Grass Beds, Deering Estate Flow-Way, Remnant Slough, Tropical Hardwood Hammock, and Beach Dune Chicken Key. Something that stood out for me was the need to create predicted fires for the ecosystem in the area, which occurs every 5 years. How difficult must it be to have to coordinate with inhabitants of the Village of Palmetto Bay? It’s important to understand that people live there and it’s dangerous to light fires, but we also need to preserve and conserve our environment. It’s hard to decide what’s correct, or what’s more important; if people or nature. Nonetheless, we can make sure people as well as the environment are both healthy and happy. 

We arrived at a site that had human and animal remains. It transported me back over 10,000 years. It’s been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I remember going to an archeological site in my hometown, Colombia as well. Nevertheless, I really didn’t think Miami had this. The Tequesta Burial Site was also a part of the tour that dates back years ago, and that shockingly reveals hundreds of shell tools. To think that there’s people who have found this and that we can learn from prehistoric times is truly inspirational. I hope we can keep on preserving these findings and expanding our horizons to find more, because it’s always interesting and informational to physically see, touch and feel a little bit of how life was like years back. 

I questioned it. I felt like I wasn’t in Miami anymore, because we tend to associate it with beaches, night life, tourism, palm trees, shopping, etc. However, Miami has so much more to offer. This can also be seen through the astounding wine cellar located in the bottom of the Stone House, reminding us that the Prohibition Era was a completely different time. Likewise, even though the Boat Basin was built mostly by Afro-Bohamians, there’s no remembrance or gratitude shown towards them (even more so, since they suffered a tragic accident when dynamite exploded beneath them). This reflects the sad truth that happens in Miami, where a lot of places don’t give credit to the Afro-Bohemians, even though they were a huge part when it comes to building this city. 

Overall, an eye-opening experience of what Miami has to offer. I hope I can keep being a part of these activities and truly learning, growing and inspiring people.

Rubell As Text

Rubell Museum Photography. Photographs taken by Carolina Echeverri/CC by 4.0

“21st Century Art?”

When we think of art, we normally associate it with perfectly drawn or painted people, animals or landscapes. These are more classical forms of art, where things were made as they looked. However, as time has gone by, there has been a shift in the way art is made. Artists use art as a way of expressing what they feel, what they see in society, and what they want the world to see. That’s the case for The Rubell Museum, which shows mostly contemporary art from all over the world. It’s located in Allapattah, Florida and was started by Don and Mere Rubbell, and their son, Jason Rubbell. It’s a relatively new museum, opening its doors on December 4th, 2019. 

My favorite art piece was that of Cajsa Von Zeipel, who’s a Swedish sculptor, who now lives and works in New York. As soon as I walked into that room of the museum, I instantly thought of barbies. However, as I listened to Professor Bailly’s explanation, I started to notice all the details of what these really meant. These are influencers of the 21st century, who are made out of colorful plastic, and have with them little dogs, phones, long nails, big brands clothing, colorful hair and are posing in Instagram popular poses. To me, it was so interesting to detail every part of each of these “doll” looking sculptures. As a millennial, I understand how influencers make their living, and I completely respect them and look up to them for their hard work and dedication. Nonetheless, after analyzing this sculpture, it was eye-opening to notice how similar all these people are. Cajsa Von Zeipel exaggerates them, where even a dog has lashes on its eyes, but in reality we do see this. More than ever, in Miami, where there’s so many opportunities to become social media famous. As someone who’s from Sweden and lives in New York, she depicted the reality of Miami and other cities everywhere in such a precise and clear way.

Apart from this, we also had the privilege – thanks to Professor Bailly and the Rubell Museum’s staff –  to visit three of Yayoi Kusama’s interactive installations. She’s a Japanese contemporary artist who primarily focuses on sculptures, but also works in painting, film, fashion, among others. The first thing that caught my attention when I walked into the museum was the “Narcissus Garden”, which has 700 stainless steel spheres that would lead the way for us through the main entrance of the museum. It was a significant part to see, where my first thought was: How heavy are they?. The second installation was “Mirrored Room-Let’s Survive Forever”, which was another favorite of mine. As soon as I walked in, it felt so light and airy, I wanted to continue to explore the place. They only allowed one person at a time, so it was like my time to look around. It also had so many stainless steel spheres. There were spheres on the floor, hanging, and reflected inside of a middle piece. It was a happy time for me. The last installation was “Where the Lights in My Heart Go”, composed of a dark room filled with little lights all over. It resembled a starry night sky, as there were mirrored walls that created an illusion showing an infinite amount of lights all throughout the room. I enjoyed being in here, as it was like I was part of a painting. 

Something that stood out to me throughout my time in the museum is that contemporary art is art that probably most of us could do. However, as the professor said, “epeople say that anyone could have done that, but my response to them is, “but they didn’t””.

Untitled As Text

Untitled Fair Photography. Photographs taken by Carolina Echeverri/CC by 4.0

“Diverse and Contemporary Art”

As someone who had never gone to an art fair this large, this class was extremely eye-opening. None of us were art students, but we were all truly engaged in all the artwork, the stories behind it and the artists and people we met. Untitled Art Fair was founded in 2012 by Jeff Lawson, which is amazing to think about, because this year, it’s celebrating its 10th edition. To have this opportunity is amazing, so I appreciate our Professor John Bailly and all the staff from the fair. 

As I walked in, I noticed the large art piece by Colombian artist Camilo Restrepo. As I read what the art piece was about, I completely felt identified with the subject. I grew up in Colombia until I graduated high school in 2018, so I have a clear understanding of the different crimes that took place in the country. I love my country, but it’s crucial to look back at our history and reflect on it. We can’t forget about what happened. The Other News by Camilo Restrepo portrays portrait drawings of people who were mentioned by their other names or “alias” in El Tiempo (which is one of the largest Colombian newspapers). It showcases guerrilla group members, paramilitaries, hitmen, corrupt politicians, among others. It’s impressive to see such a large art piece at the entrance of the fair, with such a violent and tragic meaning and past for my country. 

As I walked into the fair, I noticed the top of each cubicle, where there was the name of the art piece or gallery, followed by the city and country where it’s from. The diversity in the room was extensive. We learned about many cultures, including the Nigerian, French and Miami culture. It was mind blowing to learn about the trouble that artists and galleries go through, not only financially but also physically to get these art pieces here. Something that stood out was the pieces from Gallery 1957, where all the paintings had been sold between the first three hours of launching. These artists are from across West Africa and the Diaspora, and the paintings that I was glad to learn about were the ones made with duct tape and cork. We learned that there’s paintings that range in price from thousands of dollars. As someone who currently can’t afford that, I somewhat felt out of place. However, after speaking with someone from Emerson Dorsch Exhibition (who also played a large role in the creation of what Wynwood is now), it was evident to me that coming to fairs and exhibits is more than just buying, it’s about learning and exploring the art work and what artists have to say. 

Overall, a great and really fun experience, where I learned more about the art world and really got to appreciate not only the pieces, but also the artists. 

Everglades As Text

The Everglades Photography. Photographs taken by Afifa Fiaz/CC by 4.0

“Home Away From Home”

When we were driving towards The Everglades, I was a little nervous. I really didn’t know what to expect. In a sense, I had experienced getting out of my comfort zone when I went to the Amazon in Colombia and immersed myself in the culture. I stayed 5 days; one with an indigenous tribe, one in the middle of the forest and 3 in a house by the Amazon River. It truly was a different experience that I’m thankful to have lived, because it opened my eyes to how people live in other places, how crucial flora and fauna are and how to connect with our past. Our guide (park ranger) at The Everglades was explaining to us how we could think about The Everglades as our “home”. At the beginning of our walk and slog, I was questioning what this meant. 

As we started our walk, we met up in the Ernest F. Coe Center, where we could already visibly see the nature, peace and diversity that The Everglades has. There’s a deck positioned above an artificial pond that often has loitering alligators. As people who live in the city, we tend to forget that there’s so much to see around us, that our city was built on a plot of land with so much history and space to explore. We went to the “Hole in the Donut”, where we learned about these holes that animals use to drink water, the importance of limestone, how water travelled to this area, what an invasive species is, and what The Everglades basically is. It was very enlightening to learn about this National Park, as it’s a crucial habitat for many endangered species and a World Heritage Site with great importance and protection. It’s not only a place that’s beautiful to the eye, but this park helps conserve the natural landscape and prevent further degradation of its plants, land and animals. 

As we drove, walked and slogged, we could see the it’s diverse ecosystem, consisting of dense mangroves, palms, alligator holes, and tropical fauna. We were able to see a Banded Water Snake, a Wood Stork, and even a fish that swam up the professor’s pants! We were able to see an “alligator hole”, which is amazing to think about because I would’ve never thought I’d be so close to an alligator. As we kept on walking with our walking sticks, we saw and touched the “slimy feeling” Periphyton, which is immensely important for the food web. They provide community structure and primary productivity that supports many aquatic organisms. It also cleans the water to a point where it would be safe to drink it. 

We arrived to the Cypress Dome, which is such a relaxing and magical part of The Everglades. The Cypress Trees are trees that can survive in standing water. Fun fact: we could see how high the water was because of the color of the trunks. If they were white, it meant the water hadn’t gotten that high. There was a clear sign. The “Dome” name was because of the cluster of trees growing in the shape of the dome, with larger trees in the middle and smaller trees all around. It was another world! We also encountered Bald Cypress, where Cypress Trees lose their leaves in winter (some may think they look “dead”). They can live for up to 600 years. These Cypress trees are important for wildlife, since they offer food and cover. 

Overall, apart from learning about how our “home” of Miami all came from this ecosystem, it was a very fun and bonding time with my classmates and professor. With most of us falling in holes, and taking a moment of silence to listen to our surroundings, we were able to grasp what the significance of this Park really is and why more people should learn about it. I hope to be able to visit again!

Periphyton. Science Direct. Retrieved 19 January 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/periphyton

Everglades Walking Tour. Bailly Lectures. Retrieved 19 January 2022, from https://baillylectures.com/miami/everglades-walking-tour/.

Coral Gables As Text

Coral Gables Photography. Photographs taken by Carolina Echeverri/CC by 4.0

“Inspirational Architecture”

When I think of Coral Gables, I tend to think of tall office buildings, or beautiful large houses. I was shocked to learn that this city has so much more to offer; vibrant and lively history. Although I do work in one of these newly incorporated buildings, I came to realize the Cuban, Mexican and Central American inspired buildings that represent ‘The Gables’ as we know it. We got the opportunity to walk to the Biltmore Hotel, the Collonade Building, the Giralda Plaza, Miracle Mile and the Coral Gables City Hall. A fun fact is that George Merrick’s statue is actually inspired by David by Michelangelo, I would’ve never guessed. 

This statue is inspired by George Merrick, a man with farming background with an inspiring developmental idea. He moved to Miami from Duxbury, MA in 1899 and used 3,000 acres of land to develop a Mediterranean Revival Style city. His project initiated in 1921, followed by the incorporation of The City of Coral Gables in 1925. It’s interesting to know that it was constructed on top of limestone, because it’s very hard to build on this. When we were looking at these Spanish inspired buildings, I really thought that I was in Europe, it’s a completely different part of Miami, that feels like another continent, whilst being so central to Miami Dade County and having access to all the amazing entertainment and amenities that Miami and Florida have to offer.  Even though Merrick is given all the credit for the development of the city, we can’t forget about all the hard work that the Bahamians put into building and maintaining it (including the beautiful golf course of the Biltmore). They aren’t recognized as they should because of the intense racial segregation at the time. 

Our first stop was the Coral Gables Museum, which was a police and fire station when it was first built. Even though it became a museum, the original structure is still there. I enjoyed seeing how the bottom part of the columns resemble firemen boots, and the doors on the west façade of the building were once used as doors for the firetrucks. We were able to visit the office of the old firefighter chief, and the “haunted” part of the building. It was very interesting to see how a police/firefighter station could become a museum. 

The Biltmore Hotel was our last stop. I had heard so much about it and had passed by but hadn’t had the opportunity to visit it inside. I felt like I was in a movie from the XVIII century, where I was inside of a palace or something. The building really was grand and impressive. It has high ceilings, with a ceiling that reminded me of a starry night. When the hotel was built, it had the largest pool in the US, hosting many competitions. Today it houses some of the most beautiful events. Not only this, but many couples and quinceañeras come to take pictures. I have a wedding here in May, and after seeing this beauty of a hotel, I will be purchasing a night in the hotel. It was also very eye opening to learn that in WWII, it had been used as an Army General Hospital. It’s very shocking to look at this beauty and imagine that at some point, there were injured soldiers and medical personnel running around. 

Another building that was beautiful was the John M. Stabile Building, which was one of the earliest commercial structures in Coral Gables. It has elaborate fish and birds in the doorway. Apart from this, the Coral Gables Elementary School is an astonishing Mediterranean-style elementary school with arcaded loggias that later became a distinguishing feature of Florida schools.  The Colonnade Building in Miracle Mile is a mixture of Spanish Colonial and Baroque, which make it a must to visit in the Gables. Finally, the City Hall is made up of quarry keystone rock, and it’s an exemplary Spanish Renaissance style architecture, which is a vivid representation of what George Merrick’s dream was for Coral Gables.

My view on Coral Gables changed after this class, because I was able to understand why these older style buildings bring value to the city. Coral Gables is an incredibly romantic, beautiful, and tranquil place. Whether you’re walking, eating, working, driving, or enjoying any of its activities, it’s difficult to not be amazed by its beauty and history. It has many businesses to offer, as well as residential areas that are always valued at a high rate. As George Merrick said, “What you are really selling is romance, the stars, the moon, the tropics, the wind off the blue water and the perfume of flowers that never grew in northern climes.” Keep that in mind when visiting!

Works Cited

Stepulveda, S., & Bailly, J. (2022, January 28). Coral Gables Walking Tour. Bailly Lectures. Retrieved January 31, 2022, from https://baillylectures.com/miami/coral-gables-walking-tour/  

River of Grass As Text

The Everglades Photography. Photographs taken by John Bailly/CC by 4.0

“A True Natural Paradise”

The Florida Everglades is a true paradise. When I visit, I feel like it’s a whole different world where I can analyze my life while connecting with the truest form of nature. There’s no place on earth that compares to the Everglades. How would I know this? Nowhere else is “slough slogging” used! There are many random facts that make it such a special place, such as the fact that you can find a missile base that was used during the Cold War. It’s like walking into nature and finding an artifact that marked our history so much and that clashes into this truly untouched part of the city. Apart from this, there were two houses; one was a farmer’s house, and the other was used to put deer food in order to attract them. Likewise, it’s the one place where both crocodiles and alligators live! 

When hiking through the Everglades, it’s very shocking to have water reaching your waist, fauna and flora surrounding you and hearing no noise pollution. Throughout this hike, we visited places where the normal public has barely seen, while we immersed in the national park. Seeing the farmer’s house was something surreal, because it was such a small house (well, only some walls were still standing, but we could still see the form) with only the essentials. I imagined being that farmer, and living a happy simple life submersed into nature, with a house big enough to hold everything I need. Nowadays, people would think it’s impossible to live like that, but many before us did and that was their “normal”, they didn’t need more to live a content life.

The Nike Missile Base was another stop made during the day. This base was made with the intentions of protecting against a possible air attack from Cuba. However, it’s not active anymore. It’s very eye opening to see what we learn about through textbooks in person and comprehend those theories deeper. It was fascinating to see the data equipment used at the time.

Overall, The Everglades will always hold a place in my heart as these experiences have opened my horizons to such a beautifully untouched place on earth that holds so much history within.

Wynwood As Text

The Margulies Collection Photography. Photographs taken by Carolina Echeverri/CC by 4.0

“The Significance of Art”

When we think of art, we sometimes associate it to its beauty and appearance, but rarely stop to question what the meaning behind it is. Art shouldn’t be either an “I like it” or “I don’t like it”, because beauty is subjective to each person. Instead, we should analyze the piece of art, just like we do with literature because most of the times, the artist is trying to evoke a feeling/ transmit an event. We were able to go to the Margulies Collection located in Wynwood. I had never heard of this place, and was shocked to see how many hidden gems it has. Among these, we encountered Olaf Eliasson’s “Your now is my Surroundings” from 2000, where there’s an outdoor installation with mirrors and parallel glasses in the top that makes it kind of look infinite. This made me question the many art exhibits around Miami, like for instance Superblue which charges for guests to go and walk around a mirrored exhibit and it has become a trend for people to go take pictures. However, Eliasson’s art doesn’t cost for us and includes other art forms that aren’t meant to be made in order to create business, but more of a way of expression.

Another piece of art that I enjoyed seeing was “Llomo che sale la scala a pioli” (Man Climbing the Ladder) by Michelangelo Pistoletto in 2008. As Michelangelo expresses, “one can bring art to life (…) or one can choose to being art into life”, meaning that as we look at the fixed time photo-sourced image, we are also incorporated into it. This being said, I appreciated the fact that it almost seemed like we were the art. Likewise, in the De La Cruz Collection, we saw Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ “Untitled” (Portrait of Dad), which was an endless supply of white mini candies, and an endless supply of two stacks of printed paper. When I first saw these, I questioned them: “How is this art?” But as I understood that they were supposed to have viewers interact with the art itself, making them part of it, I was mind blown. This is very clever, as it entices us to take it and have this art piece in a sense be dynamic and decisive on the audience itself. I also enjoyed learning that the candies were the artist’s dad’s favorite candy and that in total the ideal weight should be 175 lbs. It’s a way of keeping his dad’s memory alive and of sharing it with the world.

Additionally, “Die Erdzeitalter” by Anselm Keifer was eye opening to learn about. At first I was a bit confused at how big (17 ft high) this art piece was and I felt overwhelmed, but then came to notice what it really meant. Keifer was a German artist who, like any other artist, created art that he didn’t like. He started staking it up and adding dead sunflowers all around it to symbolize how art can be reborn in a way. Since he was making art during WW2, this piece reminded me of when Jewish books were burned. Plus, Magdalena’s Abakanowicz’s “21 Backs” was another art piece that caught my attention. This sculpture focuses on the loss of individualism and how we become dehumanized within this society that we live in. The way I take it is that with this XXI century technology, we tend to become one more of the mass, as we all do the same and follow towards what others do. Following this, “The Situation Room” by Will Ryman is a clear representation of this as this massive coal sculpture indicates the moment when the killing of Osama bin Laden took place. We can see how battles have changed to the point where we just click a button and watch, instead of having to physically fight the battle. I would’ve never guessed what this sculpture was about, because we tend to associate battling with people physically moving and fighting someone else.

As we walked through these galleries and around Wynwood, I can tell how much Contemporary art means to the Miami people and how crucial it is to the rest of the world as well. Many artists do graffiti or come and visit in order to learn more. Tourists and visitors also visit and like to see the different exhibits. We were even able to see an artist creating faces on a pole in the middle of the street. Very fascinating day filled with a lot of growth and knowledge on art and how to view it!

Key Biscayne As Text

Key Biscayne Photography. Photographs taken by Carolina Echeverri/CC by 4.0

“The Importance of Unbiased History”

When we arrived at the Bills Baggs State Park, the beauty radiated from the crystal blue water and the white beaches. Not only did this stand out, but also we learned that the Tequesta’s (the first human inhabitants that settled in Miami) had been on Key Biscayne, camped, hunted, and lived there for centuries. However, we stand on a very different land than that of them, as we don’t have the number of mosquitos that they did, and we can rely on more food than just the fish being caught on a day-to-day basis. 

Since I went to school in Colombia, I really didn’t learn about the American history or government. It was very interesting to hear about the Southern Underground Railroad, which allowed thousands of slaves and Black Seminoles to escape Florida which after Spain sold Florida to the United States, had become a slave state (Tatro, 2021). Likewise, I gained knowledge about the Cape Florida Lighthouse that still stands today. Nonetheless, the one we see today is the reconstructed version. The lighthouse was built in 1825 with the purpose of blocking the escape route of the Southern Underground Railroad. Since Key Biscayne was so close to other countries that could serve as havens for fugitive slaves, there were many that would escape from there. In 1836, the Seminole Indians attacked the lighthouse, as a response of them being massacred all over the South. One of the four people who tried to protect the Lighthouse survived to say his story on what happened. The rest were killed in the attack.

We have been learning about events such as these from a biased perspective. A lot of the time, we learn what the white men did in American history and government. When it comes to this lighthouse event, the Seminole Indians were portrayed as vicious men that attacked the lighthouse with no important reason, but just to be cruel and evil. Nevertheless, the attack happened because the Seminole Indians wanted to prevent themselves from being pushed out of their land. That’s why I think it’s important to learn history from all perspectives so we can fully understand all sides and make our own opinion based on that.

Nowadays, Key Biscayne is known for its high socioeconomic status and beautiful beaches. When you compare the beaches here to those of for example Miami Beach, they’re much more tranquil and less people present overall. The Bills Baggs State Park has many activities that people tend to do, such as fishing, picnics, paddle boarding, biking, etc. They also have some restaurants, playgrounds, and kayak rentals. A place to visit!

Works Cited

Tatro, C. (2020, July 22). The Saltwater Underground Railroad moved slaves from Florida to freedom. HowStuffWorks. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://history.howstuffworks.com/historical-events/saltwater-underground-railroad.htm

Coconut Grove As Text

Coconut Grove Photography. Photographs taken by Carolina Echeverri/CC by 4.0

“An Architecture that Marks a Community”

I had been to Coconut Grove only to eat at one of the nice restaurants or to walk around the street filled with shops and other businesses. Nonetheless, when we arrived we were exposed to many different hidden treasures and architecture that has shaped Coconut Grove’s history leading up to now. This strip of businesses is only a small portion of what “The Grove” really is, as it has become very commercialized, sometimes even forgetting about its past, which makes it authentic.

We arrived and met up at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, a place I had never stopped by. Professor Bailly informed us that prior, this building was a movie theatre, and then an academy for pilots.. It is now the National Register of Historic Places. It’s eye opening to think about how beautiful architecture can serve so many different purposes.

As we proceeded into Charles Avenue, we learned that this is the first black community in all of South Florida. To stand on such a historical place and have the privilege to learn about it with an open mind was truly mind blowing. We began to walk into the Evangelist Street (new name for “Charles Avenue”), where we witnessed gentrification, especially with the mixture of architecture that we could see. It was very sad to see this gentrification and displacement that forced people who had lived there for generations to have to leave. For example, we met a volunteer at a church who drives all the way from Homestead to come to the place she grew up in to be able to volunteer at what she considers “her family’s” church.

Many houses look like they’re part of the Bahamas or the Keys, and that’s actually because they were built by Bahamians, and most Bahamians first arrived in the Keys. A house that stood out to me was the Mariah Brown House, which is the oldest house in Miami Dade County that still remains in the same place and hasn’t changed. We gained knowledge on the house and were even able to see a picture of Mariah Brown, a single mother of three daughters. She was one of the first Bahamians to settle in Coconut Grove, and this vibrant house built in 1890 was the first on Charles Avenue. Her house, along with those of other Bahamians such as E.W.F. Stirrup became the heart of the African-Bahamian community in Coconut Grove. It was very interesting to learn about the “Conch Houses” that are a Bahamian style of constructing houses. The colors and architecture are very unique with their large ceilings and front porches.

Another form of architecture that we encountered was the “shotgun” house, which is typical in the African American community. They were called like this, because people would say that if you stood in the front door and shot a fire gun, it would go directly to the back door without touching any part of the house. When I first saw them, I thought of little long boxes, but these typically had around 3 rooms. The architecture seen in our tour is very similar to that in Key West and Coconut Grove. They’re very particular and original structures and I enjoyed learning about them.

In addition to this architecture, we got to visit the Bahamian Cemetery (named after Stirrup’s wife) , that has gravestones of the people who built Miami. We must not forget that most of the labor that went into building Miami came from the Bahamians. There are also a lot of World War II soldiers buried here. Professor Bailly reminded us that Bahamians were one of the first countries to abolish slavery, and when they migrated to the U.S., they weren’t used to the segregation, which is why they started to build churches and homes instead of staying in “their area”. Hence, even though these World War II soldiers were fighting for a country with segregation, as Professor Bailly so perfectly said, these Bahamians were able to “love a country not for its reality, but for its aspirations”. A fun fact is that this cemetery was used in Michael Jackson’s Thriller Music video!

Nowadays, Coconut Grove is known for its food and wine businesses, as well as coffee shops and clothing shops. It’s also known for it’s upscale neighborhood surrounded by a lot of green. We mustn’t forget about the Banacle Historic State Park, which has Dade County’s first school house. I recommend visiting and learning about Coconut Grove’s rich experience!

Author: Carolina Echeverri Valle

Carolina Echeverri Valle is a senior pursuing a double degree in International Relations and PRAAC, with a minor in Political Science and a certificate in Human Rights and Political Transition at Florida International University. Being a passionate advocate for human rights, she aspires to work in a non-profit aimed at helping children and/or women. After graduating from her two majors, she plans on attending graduate school. She has had the privilege of working the Spanish Ministry of Education, the German American Business Chamberof Commerce, UNICEF, Hillel at FIU, CARTA in DC at FIU, Broward County and is currently working in the Live Like Bella Foundation. She’s been a peer advisor at FIU, served in many leadership positions within her sorority of Alpha Omicron PI and created a project for the Millennium Fellowship. As a student who grew up in Colombia, she desires to learn more about the culture and history of one of the most diverse cities in Florida: Miami.

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