Martyna Kwiatkowska : Miami as Text
My name is Martyna Kwiatkowska and I am Junior studying Economics in the Honors College at FIU. I have also completed my German language and culture certificate in the past year, I’m fluent in Polish and English and proficient in German. I am originally from Poland; however, I moved to the US in 2015. I love to explore, travel, and learn about anything and everything. Since I’m relatively new to Miami, I’ve always wanted to learn about its culture and history, when I moved here, the first thing that I felt was a lack in the amount of history I was surrounded with. Warsaw, the city where I’m from has hundreds of years of history and I remembered all the school field trips I’d take to museums and places of great historical importance. Through this course, I hope to learn about the history and culture of this city, that I now call home and I hope to be positively surprised throughout this course.
Downtown as Text
Diversity? No diversity?
On September 1st, we took a trip to downtown Miami, a quite mysterious place, that I have indeed visited a few times in the past, but I honestly did not know how we would fill the 5 hours we had allocated for this class. I came in completely blind and left intrigued by the rich history and culture that these square blocks entail.
With my cultural background, I always saw Miami as an extremely diverse mix of people from all parts of the world. When we met up at government center, in the middle of the chaos, that is exactly what I saw. The combination of people in poverty, the government officials entering and exiting the buildings, a vaccination center right in the middle and chickens running all around was just that; chaos and diversity. I was surprised to find out that the first Jewish and female mayor of Miami Dade was currently serving in office. It made me feel empowered and happy that a person from a minority background was elected to high office.
The whole perception of Miami being inclusive of diversity was undermined when we went to our next destination, an old slave house, right in the middle of the city. First, I was surprised that an old building like that even stood here, and the history behind it made it so much more intriguing, but it left me a bit confused about my view of Miami from 20 minutes ago. I hoped for horrible things that occurred in this house to be part of the times, in which the home was constructed. And that this part of both American and potentially Miami history was long gone. I gained some hope, when we learned about William Wagner, an immigrant who built a house for the family he formed with his French creole wife. But this was a story like not many. Although heart warming, Julia Tuttle, also a very powerful women of her time, created modern Miami, with the help of no other than Henry Flagler.
A big statue was constructed right in front of the courthouse to commemorate a man who historically built the railroad to make Miami a part the country. This man has done a lot for Miami, perhaps this city wouldn’t be what we know it as today without him, but he also brought quite a bit of segregation to the city. He was the creator of what we know as over town, an impoverished community, predominantly black that faces oppression and isolation from the rest of the city in part because of this man. He created this neighborhood to separate the African Americans in the community, so more white people would feel comfortable coming down. Putting a big hurdle on the diversity of the city, or at least how visitors perceived it.
With the times changing, this social oppression of minorities slowed down a bit. In the future generations, Miami became an even more diverse city as Cubans would flee the crisis going on in their home country and inhabited Miami. This city has become a hub for many south and central Americans who fled their countries in search of freedom and prosperity. However, equality and diversity are two different things, and unless every community feels empowered to prosper in a city, they will not work to further expand this diversity.
The rollercoaster of deep contemplation I was taken on during this trip was a very impactful one, we finished the trip in the history Miami museum, that further explained typically Miami instances, like the boats of migrants from Cuba or typical instances that were happening all around d the country, at the time being like an old train cart, that only allowed the colored people to ride in the back. I concluded that all of this diversity vs no diversity was a matter of individuals. It all depends on the individuals that live and lead the city. But it also is important for us to realize this gift and charm that this city has and work hard to support the minorities that need our support to grow and further diversify our Miami. The imagine of Miami is different in everyone’s eyes, mine was completely different back in Poland, but it also changed the more acquainted I got with the city, this trip around downtown changed it once again. I can only imagine that people from different parts of the city or different time periods in the city’s history perceive it, but I for sure want to learn at least a bit about their points of views.