Afifa Fiaz: Miami as Text 2021-2022

Photo taken by Hiza Riaz //CC by 4.0

Afifa Fiaz is currently a Junior in the Honors College and FIU School of Engineering. She is majoring in Biology and is currently a Medical Assistant at a surgical clinic. Her goal in life is to help people and give back to the community through medicine. She was born in Pakistan and loves to carry her culture in various ways. In her free time she likes to travel, cook, draw, and even host great events.


(Right) Taken by John Bailey //CC by 4.0 (Left) Taken by Afifa Fiaz //CC by 4.0

“History Walk of Miami”

By Afifa Fiaz of FIU at Downtown Miami, 8 September 2021

Walking down the street of Miami and going through the historical events that took place there can change your whole perspectives of things. From learning about the Tequesta’s, who lived here from the beginning to how oranges played a part in the past.

Miami was originally founded by a rich women named Juliet Tuttle who grew oranges on her lands and lived in the Miami area. The majority of the citrus in Florida was killed by a strong freeze in the 1890’s, but not in Miami. Henry Flagler was building his railroad to deliver citrus to the northern states at the same time, however the freeze had a significant influence on his business as well. Julia Tuttle saw this as an opportunity send him a few oranges along with an invitation to expand his railroad down to Miami. A smart women one would call it!

Lummus Park, known to be the oldest public park of Miami holds some of the oldest structures. The home of William Wagner was one that really caught my eye. Wagner married a women of color and one with kids, in that era that was seen as shock . Not only did Wagner lived in that house with his family, he also used it as a church and a place where him and the Seminoles had meals and peace making conversation together. Having a house that was so different, yet one that every person was welcomed in is a goal of mine to build in the future one day.


Photos taken by Afifa Fiaz //CC by 4.0

“Miami’s own New Orleans”

By Afifa of FIU at Overtown, September 22, 2021

Taking the Metrorail as a form of transportation taught me how to navigate around the city along with valuing my time. For someone who had a very negative perception of the Metrorail, it was quite surprising on my end to see how clean and efficient it was. In terms of energy usage, space occupancy, and number of passengers transported, the Metro Rail System has shown to be the most efficient. Some of the places we went to included Hialeah, Santa Clara, and my favorite Over town.

Many people living in Miami tend to forget about Over town, a Miami, Florida neighborhood located northwest of Downtown Miami. People’s stigmas and perceptions have caused them to be believe that taking I-95 while looking down at the town is better than driving through it. Over town also known as Colored Town during the Jim Crow era of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was once the preeminent and is still the historic center for black business in Miami and South Florida. The town was once alive with musicians like James Brown, Josephine Baker, Aretha Franklin, Muhmmad Ali and many more! People would travel all across the country to come just hang out with the known and have small talks for only a dime! The town became silence when I-95 and 395 freeways built through the town. The freeways destroyed hundreds of homes and properties. Many at that time believed that this was an act of racism and segregation to keep the blacks from booming.

Vizcaya as Text

Photos taken by Afifa Fiaz/ CC by 4.0
TOP: Biscayne Bay entrance of the house
BOTTOM: Back entrance of the house

“Originality Stolen?”

By Afifa Fiaz of FIU at Vizcaya on October 20, 2021

Vizcaya home and garden was once the home of rich James Deering. James Deering was millionaire who decided to build an estate in South Florida after being diagnosed with anemia. He loved sailing and boating, as well as landscaping and plant conservation. These hobbies played a significant role in the creation of Vizcaya. Deering began constructing on this 15-million-dollar home in 1912 officially initiating occupancy on Christmas Day 1916. The house’s architecture was influenced by Veneto and Tuscan Italian Renaissance with Baroque elements. Paul Chalfin, Burrall Hoffman, and Diego Suarez help build Vizcaya’s design, architecture, and landscape.

Photo taken by Afifa Fiaz/ CC by 4.0

 Vizcaya is displayed with artwork, furniture, and architecture from all over Europe and Asia. Deering imported pieces of all the places he visited to make Miami his home without keeping cultural appropriation in mind. For example, the statue of Bacchus, the god of wine and pleasure, had a leaf over the genitalia since it’s considered profane in American culture. This is considered very offensive in Rome culture as they do not have discomfort with human sexuality and bodies. Another fascinating thing in the house was Deering’s office which portrayed him as a very intellectual and busy man. However, when you take a closer look, the “books” in his office were nothing but a wall of illusion.        

Photo taken by Afifa Fiaz/ CC by 4.0

All in all, even with Vizcaya’s cultural appropriation and Deering’s ignorance to showing off his wealth in silly ways, Vizcaya has some of the most beautiful gardens. The Italian Renaissance gardens include some of the most breathe taking views and lovers’ spot. Gardens like these are what I aspire to include in my future homes one day

South Beach as Text

Photo taken by Afifa Fiaz/ CC by 4.0

Dive into Miami Beach’s History”

By Afifa Fiaz of FIU at South Beach on November 3rd, 2021

Miami Beach, a very well-known city worldwide, has some of the most unique views and architecture. South Beach is a neighborhood in Miami that has preserved most of the city’s historic architecture from when it was first developing. The pastel colors and the boat shaped structural designs take you back to the retro era.

Photo taken by John Bailey CC/ by 4.0

Miami beach is often associated with tourism and fun times. There is even an Orb in the middle of two buildings known as the Betsy Orb. The Betsy Orb is a giant ball representing a beach ball stuck between two buildings. Today, Miami Beach is a site where people can have a good time, but its past tells a different narrative. Henry Flagler used Black African American slave labor to build Miami from ground up long after the civil war. Using Bahamians to build on their own land and still having it improperly done is very ironic.

Miami Beach’s classic design used several optical illusions to make the city appear upscale despite the fact that it was a low-budget urban culture. Land in Miami Beach was cheap at the time it was bought, and the structures built on it were vertical to give them a higher look.

Photo taken by Afifa Fiaz/ CC by 4.0

 Even with all its dark history, South beach gave the Jewish community a lot of hope. The community held events, built synagogues, and even had kosher places to eat. Today, the city of Miami Beach is focusing on the preservation of its original beauty as well as innovative approaches to improve traffic flow, as it is a place where walking short distance is faster than driving.

Deering as Text

Photo taken by Afifa Fiaz// CC by 4.0

“Historic Legacy”

By Afifa Fiaz of FIU at Deering Estate on November 10th, 2021

Photo taken by Afifa Fiaz// CC by 4.0

On the grounds of what is now the Deering Estate, archaeologists discovered traces of human occupancy dating back 10,000 years! The Deering Estate, located in South Miami-Dade County in the Village of Palmetto Bay, holds some of the most historical sites to see. It is home to 8 different ecosystems: Pine Rockland, Salt Marsh, Mangroves, Submerged Sea Grass Beds, Deering Estate Flow-way, Remnant Slough, Tropical Hardwood Hammock, and Beach Dune Chicken Key.

Photo taken by Ashley Sanchez// CC by 4.0

On November 10th, our Miami in Miami class was fortunate enough to get a tour of the Deering Estate. Being able to walk on the same grounds as the Paleo-Indians helps you connect with history in ways you can’t experience sitting behind books. We had the opportunity to see remnants of a Tequesta habitation site and burial mound. According to Sheila Steiglitz, Cutler Bay News, there are thought to be 12 to 18 Native Americans buried there, including women and children, in a circular arrangement similar to the spokes of a wheel. A 400- to 600-year-old oak tree stands over the burial mound with its roots reaching out to embrace those buried underneath.

Top Left and Right: Screenshots of news article from that mentions Deering’s purchase of the cottage
Bottom Left: Photo taken by Afifa Fiaz// CC by 4.0

Richmond Cottage was one of the structures we toured during the Deering Estate walk that caught my attention. It is a two story balloon frame vernacular home built in 1896. It was originally built for S.H. Richmond and his family and is the oldest wooden structures in Miami-Dade County and the last remaining structure of the former town of Cutler today. The property was converted into the area’s only inn in 1899, when a three-story gabled structure was built, and it became an outpost for guests doing business with Henry Flagler’s East Coast Railroad. After the Richmond closed for business in 1915, Charles Deering bought it and restored it for use as a holiday residence. Deering Estate Historic Structures

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