Amanda is a junior at Florida International University and is majoring in Communications Performance and Arts. She loves her major because she learns a lot about people, their behaviors in the modern work place, culture, and how society has evolved. She has always been a people person and hopes to engage in a career where her daily duty is to help, guide, encourage, and inspire others.
Amanda adores reading and also considers herself to be a complete movie buff. Her two favorite novels are ”Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte and ”Call Me By Your Name” by Andre Acliman. Her preferred movie decade is the eighties.
She finds that there is beauty and romance in the art of traveling and her goal is to utilize her blog to ignite a cultural fire in those who view it. She also wants to motivate others to take a leap of faith like the one she is taking by participating in the Honors College France Study Abroad Program. Amanda believes that embracing and learning about other cultures can help society develop a deep and meaningful understanding for the way different cultures juggle universal systems, as well as gain insight into the way others handle issues and how it differs from our given culture.
Deering as Text
It was said by America’s sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln, that ”History is not history unless it is the truth”. I resonate deeply with this quote because for centuries aspects of history have always been tested and exposed for the greater good of society. For example, our current morals and beliefs may not have been what America approved of during the thirties or the fifties because knowledge overpowers ignorance. Obviously, this is a great thing for we as a society are constantly finding ways to enhance ourselves for the better. We evolve and learn from our history to make a brighter future for generations to come.
Unfortunately, due to COVID, I was unable to visit Deering Estate in person. However, I now have a location I can look forward to, to visit because of the deep and meaningful history that cocoons this significant area. The beauty that is Deering Estate doesn’t just stem from its luxurious architecture. Sure, the Richmond and Deering families took this land and transformed it into a lavish inn and then with Deerings passion for art it became a place for him to showcase his expensive collections and live peacefully for his remaining time. However, the Richmond Cottage, with its vintage wooden structures and two story frame, or even the Stone House, which consists of three stories, 18-inch poured concrete walls, and/or its modern Otis elevator are not what instantly captured my attention when reading about the estates history, it was the truth that had been lost and was then found. The reality of this lavish structure sprouted from a time of hardship and suffering for the minority group of Afro-American and Afro-Bahamian laborers because of the prominent racial segregation that occurred then. Credit was not given where it was due, because while Deering Estate wanted to display itself as a serene and peaceful sanction, its truth is its history lies in the fact that minority groups shed blood, sweat and tears for its development with little to no acknowledgement. One defining moment of Deering Estate history is when four members of this minority group died and another five were injured due to the lack of safety and precaution within the work environment and lack of urgency from rescuers. No recognition or proper memorialization occurred after this tragic event, leaving future generations unaware of everything that had happened. It is said that the future goals of Deering Estate is to finally honor those who sacrificed so much for this land and educate the public.
The Tequesta tribe were the original people who on Miami grounds hunted, made shell like tools, created ceramics, experienced blood shed, and witnessed the acquisition of European colonists such as Ponce de Leon who landed on Biscayne Bay in 1513. It is proven that an entire community of Tequesta people located themselves amongst Deering Estate, yet there is no existing image or documentation to further demonstrate they currently exist. However, the most interesting aspect of Deering Estate is The Tequesta Cutler Burial Mound, which is only one of two Tequesta burial sites which have been dug up. According to Sheila Steiglitz from Cutler Bay News, ”It is believed that 12 to 18 Native Americans, including women and children, are buried there in a circular placing, much like the spokes of a wheel”. Nature provides its condolences by stretching its branches through out the burial sites protecting the tribe like a mother who hovers over her new borns cradle. I could imagine how the wind feels like gliding through the leaves and branches playing like a soft prayer that whooshes past your ears. The sounds of nature remind you of what the Deering Estate and the Tequesta tribe have endured and experienced, making mother nature the only one to truly know the harsh realities of what occurred behind the mass extinction of the tribe. Overall, the truth will always be uncovered. We must embrace open minds and open hearts to fully understand the true origins of our history and our culture.
Bailly, J. W. B. (2021, April 25). Deering Estate Walking Tour. John William Bailly.
Retrieved February 3, 2022, from https://johnwbailly.com/lectures/deering-
Vizcaya as Text
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a national historic landmark located on Biscayne Bay in the present day Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, Florida. I had never visited this so called ”iconic landmark” and was grateful to experience it with a much more mature and analytical mindset. Forty three acres of luxury, history, and love is what Vizcaya has provided the city of Miami with since 1916. James Deering, brother of Charles Deering, was a man on a mission and with a vision. He and Paul Chalfin, architect of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, decided Miami needed a bit of an upgrade. Empty land that was just filled with mosquitos, palm trees and had a lack of excitement was completely transformed into the beginning of the exotic and lavish night life ambiance Miami is known for till this day.
In the famous 90’s movie titled ”Clueless”, the protagonist, Cher, refers to a girl as a ”…full-on Monet”. What she meant by this is from afar the girl is objectively good looking, however up close everything is just a hot mess. Personally, Vizcaya felt like a Monet to me. From afar Vizcaya is seen as this beautiful prospect of hope where thousandths of couples spend an absurd amount of money to get married at, young girls becoming women take their very meaningful and long lasting fifteen’s/sixteen’s pictures at, and overall is perceived as gorgeous because of how it faces the bay and relishes in the sunlight. However, on the contrary we have romanticized Vizcaya. Its history is not at all meaningful for it was built by Bahamians who endured terrible working conditions, received little to no pay, were not given any type of credit, and weren’t even allowed on the premises once construction was completed. James Deering even made sure that no one of lower stature could sneak into the area by creating a moat around his dear Vizcaya. Vizcaya was only to be associated with extravagant living and respectable reputation.
Deering also emphasized this through the interior and exterior design of the house. He makes a mess of meshing cultures together and interpreting them superficially. To begin with, the first thing visitors are welcomed with is this enormous statue of the well known conquistador, Ponce de Leon. Ponce de Leon arrived to the America’s and discovered Florida in 1513. I believe James Deering deeply resonated with Ponce de Leon because he also felt like it was his god given right to explore and take claim of land he did not have a moral right too. Both men did not realize the true suffering they caused minority cultures in exchange for power and wealth.
Within the Vizcaya house visitors are presented with a widespread of rooms and nature blending into one. One could tell James Deering did admire nature because the trees act as curtains showing off the house and water fountains guide visitors like a stream running along a river. Sincerely, nothing shows off his personality more than the Bacchus, god of wine and ecstasy, statue which is cocooned by plants. The statue further proved his motives for providing visitors with a good time and a good party. James valued beauty more than meaning and within the house you are presented with various versions of Rococo design style. Rococo is decorative and less intellectual. His plethora of books on his shelves served no purpose for he wasn’t much of a reader. Everything through out the house is meticulously placed to make James Deering seem like this well rounded individual, when in reality he was just showing off his wealth. James showers his house with cherub babies and random artwork, to compensate for the fact that he never had children or got married. He even has a Victorian styled portrait of a woman whose last name was also Deering, yet there is no relation between James and her. He just put the portrait there to make people think that there was.
As you make your way through the house you are also tricked into believing that genuine marble makes its way along the rims and columns, but in reality, Deering just hired a very detailed artist who painted portions of the house to look like marble.
Overall, I enjoyed learning about the history of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens because it is still a piece of the city that I was raised in and so deeply admire. On the bright side the garden aspect of Vizcaya felt more genuine to me because in some sections the Bahamians were able to use native shells from the ocean to create little love caves through out the grounds. It was also interesting to see the French influence he incorporated into his estate such as some of the bushes being molded to look rounded instead of sharp like and linear. Back then this concept represented royalty and wealth because you are adjusting nature to look the way you desire. He also included miniature mazes amongst the grounds, which is another French influence, since they used these mazes to create chance encounters amongst lovers. This was an enlightening experience and I can’t wait to share new found understanding of the place with anyone who wants to visit.
Downtown Miami Walking Tour as Text
Picture this: you’re in the middle of Downtown Miami with your classmates for a school lecture. The streets are raging with bumper-to-bumper traffic, the humidity makes your hair go all frizzy, and the sounds of construction are like music to your ears. You’re learning and embracing the true history behind this beautiful city that has raised you, and suddenly while you’re relishing in the exuberant energy radiating around you your professor screams ”RUN”, and there you are running after him towards the middle of an intersection laughing and taking selfies with your new family.
You may be thinking to yourself what makes this intersection so unique that you and your classmates had to dangerously run towards the center of it to take a whole bunch of pictures. Well, turns out it is a very special spot for the people of Miami because it is ”The Magic City’s Kilometer Zero” located at the junction of Miami Avenue and Flagler Street. There are no southwest, northwest, northeast, or southeast directions at this crossroads, but the sidewalks on each corner indicate the beginning of each of Miami’s divisions. For some background history, Josiah Chaille was the son of William Chaille, who, after migrating from Ocala to Miami, owned The Racket Store on Avenue D (later dubbed Miami Avenue). The Chaille family came in Miami around 1900, not long after the city was founded. Chaille and his business partner at the time, Hugh Anderson, greatly impacted Miami through the development and influence of the fabulous Wynwood we know and love today.
Before Chaille’s proposal, the city’s street names followed a pattern of letters for avenues and numbers for streets. As the city grew, the basic address system became obsolete. Recognizing this requirement, Chaille, who was on the Miami City Council, proposed a street name scheme based on a quadrangle system of naming and numbering streets. The historic Twelfth Street and Avenue D crossroads, or the more well-known Flagler Street and Miami Avenue intersection, was located at the quadrant’s center. Streets north of the center point were assigned numbers, starting with First, and directional designations dependent on whether they ran east or west of Miami Avenue. On October 6, 1920, the Miami City Council adopted the proposal and Chaille was forever remembered as the creator of the street naming system that Miamians utilize till this day.
Miami is a place of opportunity and hope, which is represented in ”Magic City’s Kilometer Zero”. It feels like the intersection is a metaphor for the plethora of choices people have when they arrive to Miami. The infamous freedom tower is another signature landmark for Miami that also symbolizes freedom and possibility. This 17-story tower use to be called the Miami Daily News Tower and is architecturally inspired by the Mediterranean Revival style Giralda Tower in Seville, Spain. The News Tower was sold to Irving Maidman, a New York realtor, for $1,250,000 in September 1957. The facility sat unused for the next 4-1/2 years, until the US General Services Administration leased four floors for use as the Cuban Refugee Emergency Center. Many Cuban exiles fled to Miami when Fidel Castro took power in Cuba in 1959. More than 80,000 refugees had arrived in Miami by 1961, and they continued to arrive at a pace of 2,000 per week. More than 450,000 Cuban migrants were registered through the Cuban Refugee Centers between February 1961 and October 1978. During the 1960s, when it functioned as the Cuban Refugee Emergency Center it became a symbol of liberation for Cuban refugees. Those who step foot on Miami are presented with a city that has a deep-rooted history. It has its strength and like everything else also has its weaknesses, but overall, it has saved the lives of those who were stuck at an intersection and chose freedom.
Chaille Street Naming Plan in 1920. (2022, March 12). Miami History Blog.
South Beach as Text
From Tony Montana cruising down the neon lit streets in his Porsche 928, to singer, Pitbull also known as Mr.305 rapping on top of an expensive yacht, is a place so majestic and filled with life everyone dreams of having the luxury of living here. Can you guess which place I’m talking about? Will Smith said it best ”Welcome to Miami, Bienvenidos a Miami”. Visitors come from all over the world to see South Beach’s iconic Art Deco neighborhood located on Ocean Drive.
Carl Fisher, a Miami pioneer, played a key role in the development of South Beach as a tourist destination in the 1910s. By 1920, South Beach’s reputation had begun, with hotels and mansions springing up left and right. The South Beach Art Deco era began two decades later, during which many of the area’s hotels were established in this style of architecture; several of these hotels also took their everlasting stance on Ocean Drive. There is a variety of cultures that influence these unique, renowned structures. Three styles that are predominantly utilized through out Ocean Drive include; Mediterranean Revival, Miami Modern (MIMO), and Art Deco. Each have their own distinctions and characteristics.
Mediterranean Revival was implemented in California in the 1920s and 1930s, when it was termed as “Spanish Colonial.” Its relations to Spain are significant since this architectural style was influenced by Spanish Renaissance, Spanish Colonial, and Venetian Gothic architecture in the nineteenth century. This rectangular-looking home design with tones of yellows, oranges, and lush gardens was passed down to Miami.
Miami Modern is futuristic and geometric, being influenced by Art Deco, but consists of glass bricks, port whole windows, white and pastel highlights, and resonate with boats or yachts. Curved and/or Sharp angles, trapezoidal shapes, Hollywood-style glass walls, and flat roofs characterize the architecture. Many momentous events occurred throughout the 1950s and 1960s, which fueled the change and hope expressed by this movement.
Art Deco was considered more bright and flashy. Art Deco, which blends Egyptian style and industrialization, follows the rule of three with its symmetrical lines, pyramid inspired steps on the roof, and ”eyebrow” looking shields above the windows. On November 4th, 1922, King Tut’s tomb was discovered, which impacted the revolution of rejecting traditional European styles because it was like nothing anyone had ever seen before. As you admire the buildings you begin to notice a lot of Mayan and Egyptian motifs, sharp lines, and geometric patterns as well as, aquatic and tropical themes which resonate with nature. The 1924 Paris Exposition des Arts Decoratifs and Industriels Modernes, a Paris design expo that promoted the decorative arts’ connection with technology, also impacted the Art Deco we experience today. Most if not all the buildings have neon signs, pastel colors, and quirky fonts which pay homage to the advanced tech that was booming at the time.
No matter where you walk on Ocean Drive, you are constantly being blessed by the presence of these beautiful structures that stand confidently over Miami’s beaches. Each building is a character of their own that exudes culture and history.