Ashley Sanchez: Miami as Text 2021-2022

Photo by Brittney Sanchez (CC BY 4.0)

Photo by Brittney Sanchez // CC by 4.0

Ashley Sanchez graduated with an Associates in Arts degree from Miami Dade College in 2018. After receiving her AA degree, she transferred to Florida International University in pursuit of a Bachelor of Science degree in Rehabilitation and Recreational Therapy. She will begin applying to different graduate programs in the upcoming year to further her education in pursuit of becoming an Occupational Therapist. Ashley has a passion for adventure, sports, dancing and loves to spend quality time with others. Although she was born and raised in Miami, Florida, she is eager to become a tourist in the city she has grown to love and be able to see it from a different perspective. She is ready for all the adventures that are yet to come. This is her Miami as Text.

Downtown as Text

Photo taken by Ashley Sanchez // CC by 4.0

“Modernization or Culture Loss?”

by Ashley Sanchez of FIU at Downtown Miami, 08 September, 2021

Miami is such a unique city with an incredible history, yet, not a lot of people know much about it-not even locals who were born and raised in the city. I am one of those locals who was born and raised in this urban center that many individuals from all kinds of cultures call home. In order to get to know Miami’s roots, Downtown Miami is a great way to start since it is considered the “…history center of Miami”(“Greater Downtown Miami”).

It comes as no surprise that, since it is coined the “history center” of Miami, there are many well-preserved historic buildings and sites that are accessible to the public; some of which include the Freedom Tower, the Miami Circle, Miami Dade County Courthouse, English Plantation Quarters, and many more. These sites all represent a different part of Miami’s intriguing history and deserve to be preserved for generations to come. However, there are several sites that have been transformed, modernized, or even wiped out.

The city’s developers have been so preoccupied with the modernization of the city, that they have turned their backs on the different places and treasures that made a huge impact on making Miami what it is today. An example of this is the trolley service. The trolley played an integral part in Miami’s transit system history. The trolley era unfortunately came to an end in 1940 when “…the last Trolley Car entered its barn at Southwest Second Street and Second Avenue for the last time” (“History of the Trolley in Miami”). Although we have a modernized version of the trolley system today, it does not compare to the streetcars that once busied the streets of Miami benefitting communities, tourism, and preventing urban congestion.

Works Cited

Admin, P. B. (2020, September 29). History of the trolley in Miami. Miami History Blog. Retrieved September 17, 2021, from https://miami-history.com/history-of-the-trolley-in-miami/.

Wikimedia Foundation. (2021, June 20). Greater downtown Miami. Wikipedia. Retrieved September 17, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_Downtown_Miami.

Overtown as Text

Photos taken by Ashley Sanchez // CC by 4.0

“On Wednesdays, We Wear Pink”

by Ashley Sanchez of FIU at Downtown Miami, 22 September, 2021

On a gloomy Wednesday afternoon, I had the privilege of visiting Hialeah Park along with my other classmates and Professor Bailly. It was our last stop of the day. We had been getting off and on the Miami-Dade County Metrobus all morning walking through the streets of Overtown and visiting historic churches. However, visiting the historic racetrack in Hialeah was what really stood out to me.

I had never heard of Hialeah Park before Wednesday’s class. I have always thought of Hialeah as just the place where most of my friend’s grandparents live, including mine. I would have never guessed that such a historic gem known for its wide variety of entertainment options was located in such a secluded area in the center of Hialeah, Florida. As I walked through the property, I couldn’t help but feel like I was transported back to the 1920’s, visiting the racetrack alongside my wealthy family. Sitting in the stadium seats that looked out into the racetrack where horses once competed, I felt as if I could hear crowds of people chattering and passionately yelling to show their support for the horse they had placed their bets on. Climbing the steps that led out unto the balcony with the arches seemed like I was walking into a movie set. It overlooked the beautiful gardens and the stables which were located towards the back of the property. 

Although the gloomy clouds made the picturesque gardens look almost colorless, there was one color that could not be missed. The pink accents that were visible all throughout the property—on paintings, tarps, railings, and on the color of the flowers. Almost every time I would look in a different direction, the pink color would catch my attention. I figured the significance of the pink color was to represent the flamingos which were kept in the infield of the racetrack. However, I tied it into another significant part of the history of Hialeah Park. 

Diane Crump was the first woman jockey to compete against men in a horse race. As anyone could imagine, this caused a lot of turmoil and many of the male competitors were opting out of the race hoping that she would no longer want to race. This, however, did not stop her from wanting to compete. It must have been incredibly hard for her to stay in the competition since many people would yell things like, “Go back to the kitchen and make dinner!” and “You’re never going to win!” They would also throw items at her which caused her to need a police escort for the race and even while she competed, the men would try to drag her back. She is a great example of a strong female that did not stoop down to the societal expectations of a woman. She fought to be heard, seen, and compete.  

Vizcaya as Text

Photos taken by Ashley Sanchez and Afifa Fiaz // CC by 4.0

“Dona Præsentis Cape Lætus Horæ, et Linque Severa”

by Ashley Sanchez of FIU at Vizcaya, 24 October, 2021

A Roman poet once said “Dona præsentis cape lætus horæ, et linque severa” which translates to “Gladly enjoy the gifts of the present hour, and banish serious thoughts”. I believe this quote perfectly encompasses the ambiance and spirit of the Vizcaya estate on Biscayne Bay. The Vizcaya property is now owned by Miami-Dade County and used as a museum which also showcases its alluring gardens behind the estate. The estate had once belonged to a wealthy man by the name of James Deering. Mr. Deering’s character was anything but ordinary and his taste in architecture very distinct. There were no two rooms alike and his tendency to showcase his wealth was a common trend throughout the main house. 

Mr. Deering only wanted the finest home features and appliances to impress his guests. For example, the main houses’ kitchen, which is located on the second floor, is equipped with one of the earliest “ice boxes” which today would be considered a refrigerator. The kitchen also features a dumbwaiter which functions as a food elevator. He commissioned some of the most prominent artists around the world to create works for his villa including statues and murals located throughout the property. Lastly, he made sure to have one of the first in-home electric telephones that was held in its own private room. 

As previously mentioned, the recurring theme of the property pays tribute to the location of the villa, that is, Miami, Florida. Miami is known for its parties and entertainment and Mr. Deering really incorporated that into the landscape and architecture of the villa. For example, the property features a beautiful pool grotto and a music room. The stunning garden in the back also features a section where there is a maze and a small theatre that was used for entertainment. Lastly, towards the back of the garden, atop the garden mound sits the casino, or “little house”, which was used for parties.

South Beach as Text

Photos taken by Ashley Sanchez // CC by 4.0

“Toaster Ovens and Rocket Ships”

by Ashley Sanchez of FIU at South Beach, 3 November, 2021

Miami’s Art Deco History District is one of Miami’s most visited locations by tourists all over the world. This famed district which runs alongside the beach is home to several restaurants, boutiques, hotels, and night clubs. The streets are lined with iconic buildings that have incredible and unique architectural designs some of which include the Versace Mansion, The Clevelander, and News Café. The buildings located on Miami Beach along Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue and Washington Avenue, will transport you back to the retro era with their bright pastel colors and neon lights-not to mention, if you look hard enough, they look like toaster ovens and rocket ships. Although we walked the streets of this beautiful area in the morning when it was less crowded, you can still feel the sense of high energy and good spirits from the individuals walking or biking past us blasting their feel-good music. No matter the time of day, this district epitomizes Miami’s lifestyle which is one of its most attractive features. 

The history of South Beach is not as lively and welcoming as the ambiance of this district, however. Although it is not commonly talked about or even mentioned, its important to mention how the origins of what we now call South Beach should be attributed to the Bahamians who built it. These African American individuals were treated like they were barely human beings only because of the color of their skin. The way that they were dehumanized and segregated was something that was unfortunately very common at the time. Over the years, South Beach has actually transformed itself into a place where individuality and differences are celebrated. I wish that this was the case back then when those individuals were treated unjustly, but, that goes to show how much we have grown as a society and we have been able to look past our physical differences.

The Deering Estate as Text

Photo by Professor John Bailly // CC by 4.0

“Put on Your Water Shoes”

by Ashley Sanchez of FIU at The Deering Estate, 17 November, 2021

This past week we were transported back in time—back to the 1800’s, 1900’s and as far back as the 1400’s. The Deering Estate is home to one of the richest and extensive history in all of Miami that dates back as far as 10,000 years ago. Not only were we transported to another era, my classmates and I kept mentioning how we felt almost as if we had used a teleport to travel to another part of the world. We were no longer in the Miami we knew for its beaches, palm trees, and night life. It was interesting and ironic, though, because as we walked through the Deering Estate Nature Preserve, you could see houses a few miles away and hear the busy streets nearby. 

The Deering Estate is located in the Village of Palmetto Bay and is on the shores of Biscayne Bay. This place was already familiar to my classmates and I since we visited the Deering Estate when we did the Chicken Key Cleanup. However, we had no idea back then that we would come back and experience the Estate in a totally different way. The Richmond Cottage, which is located in the grounds of the Estate, was the home where S. H. Richmond and his family lived and a few years later, it was transformed to one of the first inns in Miami. Individuals who worked on Flagler’s railroad would stay there. Soon after, Charles Deering purchased the property to use as a winter home. 

It was incredible to be transported back in time to the Prohibition Era and walk into the hidden wine cellar Mr. Deering kept hidden. From the front porch of the Stone House, you can get a clear view of the Boat Basin that has a bitter history. The Boat Basin was built by Afro-Bahamians who lost their lives building it in a tragic accident that occurred in 1916. As they were drilling the rock, dynamite exploded beneath them killing 4 and severely injuring 5. Although this was a disheartening accident, there is no plaque or remembrance of any kind on behalf of the Afro-Bahamian workers who lost their lives. This is the sad truth in many cases throughout Miami where Afro-Bahamians are not given credit or even mentioned at all for the immense work they did to build this city.

Lastly, my favorite part of the day was when Professor Bailly said, “Put on your water shoes”. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it definitely was not to be walking in waist-deep water slough slogging. We got to walk through the mangroves while trying not to trip over the branches or twist an ankle with the many holes. It was exciting to experience this and we even got to see a plane (called the Cocaine Cowboys Plane) that crashed into the mangroves in the 1990’s. 

Again, I was taken back when I realized that I have been living in Miami all my life and I had never known that I was just minutes away from one of the coolest archeological preserves Miami has to offer. I have come to the conclusion that this is a recurring theme with this class and I’m eager to see what else Miami has to offer and surprise me with. 

The Rubell Museum as Text

Photos taken by Ashley Sanchez // CC by 4.0

“Contemporary Art: pushing the boundaries of traditional art forms and redefining what art is”

by Ashley Sanchez of FIU at The Rubbell Museum, 24 November, 2021

The Rubell Museum is an art museum located in Miami, Florida in the Allapattah neighborhood. The museum is home to a wide range of contemporary art pieces from artists all around the world. The museum was started by Don and Mera Rubell and their son, Jason Rubell, recently joined the team. The public museum opened its doors fairly recently on December 4th, 2019. The museum features 53,000-square-feet of galleries, with 65% dedicated to long-term installations and 35% to special exhibitions (About Rubell Museum).

Thanks to The Rubell Museum staff, my classmates and I had the special privilege of visiting three of Yayoi Kusama’s interactive installations. All three installations provide the viewer with a transformative experience and allow them to view art from a totally different perspective. The first installation that is accessible to the museum’s guests at no extra charge is the Narcissus Garden. This installation is composed of 700 stainless steel spheres that create a route for museum guests to travel through the main entrance of the museum. The second installation we visited is called Infinity Mirrored Room—Let’s Survive Forever. Only one guest at a time is allowed to experience the room that is filled with more stainless steel spheres and mirrored walls. I felt like I was in a house of mirrors, the traditional attraction at carnivals, yet, this time I wasn’t looking for the way out. On the contrary, I wanted to stay in the interactive art room for as long as possible, enjoying the moment. Lastly, we visited Kusama’s last installation in the museum named Where the Lights in My Heart Go. This room also only allowed one guest at a time and was completely dark except for little lights that resembled a starry night sky. The mirrored walls in this installation also created an illusion that there were an infinity amount of mirrors all throughout the room (Yayoi Kusama).

One artist I found particularly interesting was Jeff Koons. Over the years, Koons has been able to be recognized as a successful artist in the contemporary art world. His work has brought about criticism and controversy because of their uniqueness and obscurity. My personal favorite of his works is the piece called New Hoover Convertible. Koons transformed an ordinary household appliance into a work of art exhibited in a world-renowned museum. The New Hoover Convertible consists of an out-dated vacuum cleaner in an illuminated plexiglass. That’s it. Yet, it makes the viewer recognize that: 1) anything can be considered “art” and, 2) sometime in the future, people will see that vacuum cleaner and think it’s an interesting artwork of the past—just like we thought that of the Tequesta tools.

What qualifies as “art”? Is there a standard to what is beautiful? Who establishes what can and cannot be considered “art”? How can Leonardo de Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night be compared to the artworks that are considered “masterpieces” today in the contemporary art world? All these questions rushed through my mind as I walked through the many different exhibits The Rubell Museum has to offer. The museum made me realize, like Professor Bailly said, that if anyone ever criticizes contemporary art for not qualifying as “art” because “Anyone could have done that”, the response they should receive is that “But, they didn’t”.

Works Cited

About Rubell Museum. Rubell Museum. (n.d.). Retrieved November 28, 2021, from https://rubellmuseum.org/about-us/about-rubell-museum.

Yayoi Kusama. Rubell Museum. (n.d.). Retrieved November 28, 2021, from https://rubellmuseum.org/exhibitions/2021-22/2021-yayoi-kusama.

Untitled Art as Text

Photos taken by Ashley Sanchez // CC by 4.0

“Living an Art Major’s Life in a STEM Major’s World”

by Ashley Sanchez of FIU at Untitled Art Miami, 01 December, 2021

Untitled Art is an incredible innovative art experience from the minute you set foot on the sandy sidewalks that border Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Florida. If you have a passion for contemporary art, this is the perfect event to visit. Coming from a STEM major who is not well-versed in the history and culture of the art world, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the experience and learned so much about this new modern-day art genre.

Untitled Art was founded almost 10 years ago by Jeff Lawson and is comprised of over 145 international contemporary galleries. “The fair connects the best of contemporary art, live events, artist performances and other activations to keep more than 40,000 attendees captive and entertained during Miami Art Week” (Untitled Art). Untitled Art is only one of the many satellite fairs that are considered to be part of “Art Basel Miami 2021”. Art Basel is an annual event that is hosted in 3 different locations around the world: Switzerland, Miami, and Hong Kong. The major event attracts individuals from all over the world and “…brings the international art world together” (Art Basel).

Contemporary art is unlike any other since it really challenges any conceptualization of the meaning of “art”. In my opinion, it’s the best type of art since it gives the art world a refreshing, 20th/21st century taste. That being said, there were two art pieces that caught my attention throughout the art fair.

Camilo Restrepo: The Other Names is one of the first artworks that guests get to see from the entrance. Camilo does an incredible job of using the large white space to display his creative artwork in a way that draws museum goers to his piece. At first glance, anyone would be inclined to believe that all 500+ paintings came directly out of a children’s book because Camilo “…combined and modified Google images along with common knowledge and myth, creating a vast array of the avatars of Columbia’s pop-culture criminal underworld”(Galleries Now). The creativity and story behind his artwork is unimaginable making it clear that the paintings are not simply illustrations from children’s books. Each painting is a portrait drawing of narcos, blackmailers, hitmen, etc. who were all mentioned by their “other names” in Colombia’s largest newspaper (Galleries Now).

Juan Pablo Echeverri is another Colombian artist whose artwork really caught my attention, specifically, his Miss Fotojapón piece. Although this artwork is also around the entrance of the art fair, it did not catch my attention until I was walking back towards the exit. As I was admiring this artwork, I was asking myself the meaning behind it. At first glance, you would think that he simply combined passport pictures of different people and compiled them together. However, as you look closer, you can see that all the pictures are of the same person. My curiosity propelled me to research the meaning behind his artwork and I later found out that he created the piece to resemble stereotypes and how individuals are judged based solely on their appearance. Each picture is a passport picture taken of Juan Pablo for the past 16 years dressed as somebody different each time (Artsy).

As I reflect on the amazing experiences I have had thus-far this semester-thanks to the Honors College and Professor Bailly-I have come to realize how important it is for students to get out of their comfort zones and educate themselves on topics that aren’t necessarily major-specific. That’s a huge benefit the Honors College has to offer. It allows us to grow into well-rounded individuals that are ready to educate others and make a difference, not only in our career paths, but in almost all aspects of life.

Works Cited

“Art Basel.” Art Basel, https://artbasel.com/.

“Camilo Restrepo: The Other Names at Steve Turner, Los Angeles.” GalleriesNow.net, 1 July 2021, https://www.galleriesnow.net/shows/camilo-restrepo-the-other-names/.

“Juan Pablo Echeverri: Miss Fotojapon (1998-2021): Available for Sale.” Artsy, https://www.artsy.net/artwork/juan-pablo-echeverri-miss-fotojapon-1.

“Untitled Art.” Untitled Art, https://untitledartfairs.com/about/.

Everglades as Text

Photos taken by Afifa Fiaz // CC by 4.0

“Breathe”

by Ashley Sanchez of FIU at Florida Everglades, 19 January, 2022

The Florida Everglades is just one of Miami’s beautiful natural treasures that we, especially as South Floridians, should take full advantage of. “It protects an unparalleled landscape that provides important habitat for numerous rare and endangered species like the manatee,  American crocodile, and the elusive Florida panther” Everglades National Park. We were privileged enough to experience the National Park in the most immersive way possible, which is, by slough slogging. We were lucky to encounter a snake, crocodile, wood storks, and fish (who were exceptionally fond of Professor Bailly).

Before we entered into the cypress dome and submerged ourselves into the ice cold Everglades freshwater, Professor Bailly mentioned how a Jesuit priest friend of his told him that he would someday like to visit Miami in order to experience God’s creation in its purest form (referring to the Florida Everglades). Being that the land beneath our feet where we were slough slogging through had never been altered by mankind, made me realize just how perfect the world was made for all of its inhabitants. Everything plays an important role, from the periphyton growing on plants that help filter the freshwater and provide shelter for small insects to the natural resource of freshwater that flows through the Everglades and supplies drinking water to all of Miami-Dade County. 

The strong winds that made their way through the cypress trees as we stood beneath them did not stand a chance against the massive roots that gave the cypress trees the foundation they needed to withstand the impact. The trees are “…valuable to wildlife for food and cover” and “…grow in an elongate, linear shape, parallel with the flow of water” National Park Service. Collectively, the trees form a cypress dome with most of the taller trees growing towards the middle and the shorter ones growing towards the perimeter. 

I started off the new year by using a word of the year generator to see what word I would get. I have been trying to keep this tradition for a few years now and use the word to serve as a mental mentor for the year. The word I got was “breathe”.  We are now 19 days into the first month of the year and I have already seen how this word has been incorporated into my life on a few occasions, one of them being this class. Although one might be thinking how this story about my word of the year correlates to my experience in the Everglades, I promise, it will all make sense.

Coming from someone who is always trying to be productive, my word for this year has served as a reminder that I deserve to pause, take a few minutes—or in this case, one minute—and just breathe. The transition from slough slogging inside the dome to admiring the dome’s beauty from outside of it left me in awe. The class and I were asked to silent our minds and enjoy 1 minute of nature’s pure beauty and sounds. With every breath, I was able to realize that we have the ability to experience God’s creation at its most raw form right in our backyard, yet, we don’t take advantage of it as much as we should. People around the world, like the Jesuit priest, may never come to experience the Everglades and everything it has to offer, so I came to realize how privileged I was in that moment that before me stood the “Largest subtropical wilderness in the United States” Everglades National Park

Works Cited

U.S. Department of the Interior. (n.d.). Everglades National Park (U.S. National Park Service). National Parks Service. Retrieved January 19, 2022, from https://www.nps.gov/ever/index.htm

U.S. Department of the Interior. (n.d.). Ecosystems: Cypress. National Parks Service. Retrieved January 19, 2022, from https://www.nps.gov/ever/learn/nature/cypress.htm

Author: Ashley Sanchez

Ashley Sanchez graduated with an Associates in Arts degree from Miami Dade College in 2018. After receiving her AA degree, she transferred to Florida International University in pursuit of a Bachelor of Science degree in Rehabilitation and Recreational Therapy. She will begin applying to different graduate programs in the upcoming year to further her education in pursuit of becoming an Occupational Therapist. Ashley has a passion for adventure, sports, dancing and loves to spend quality time with others. Although she was born and raised in Miami, Florida, she is eager to become a tourist in the city she has grown to love and be able to see it from a different perspective. She is ready for all the adventures that are yet to come. This is her Miami as Text.

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