Andrew Vazquez: Miami as Text 2022

Photo Taken by Manuel V./ CC by 4.0

Andrew Vazquez is a 20-year-old Junior at Florida International University. He is studying History. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree, he wants to continue his education by attending Law School.

Deering Estate As Text

“The First Miami”

by Andrew Vazquez of FIU at Deering Estate 28 January 2022

The Deering Estate is a roughly 400 Acre plot of land in Palmetto Bay, Florida. While a piece of land that size in Miami-Dade is impressive, that alone is not enough to warrant a trip. So what makes The Deering Estate important?

History of the Deering Estate

The Deering Estate has an incredible history from its eccentric founder to the people who lived on the land long before the founding of America. Starting with Charles Deering, the namesake of this estate, he was a very wealthy businessman based in Chicago in the early 20th century. Following his successful career near the end of his life, Charles Deering purchased this large swath of land and built a Spanish-style villa where he would live with his family until his death in 1925. One of the most interesting aspects of this villa comes from the fact that it was built in the 1920s, in America, meaning the prohibition was in full swing. While that may have stopped some from having alcohol Charles Deering was not one of those people, and his house was fitted with a secret cellar filled with bottles of various drinks.

Charles Deering was also something of a preservationist and because of this, the Deering Estate is a pristine landscape that shows off many Florida ecosystems. Walking through the Deering Estate you will see parts of Florida that can be found nowhere else. Perhaps the most important aspect of Deering’s preservation is the remnants of the Tequesta people. The Tequesta people were the group of Native Americans who lived in the Miami area prior to colonization.

The Tequesta were truly incredible and ingenious, the Floridian landscape provided many things such as ample hunting and freshwater but it does have its drawbacks. Southern Florida is not known for its hard rocks and because of this, the Tequesta were unable to make stone tools like other societies, however, that did not stop them as they used shells as an alternative. These shell tools can still be found in the Deering Estate, these tools are easy to find as they fit perfectly in your hand. Another important remnant of the Tequesta people is the burial ground that is located inside the Deering Estate. The Tequesta burial mound contains the remains of roughly 15 people and is easily spotted by the giant tree on its peak.

So why is the Deering Estate important? It is an incredible look into how Miami looked before it was covered in skyscrapers and cement. This is also one of the few places where the Tequesta people and society are preserved, in contrast to this preservation other Tequesta sites have been incredibly disrespected with a large burial site being covered by Whole Foods. The Historical and Ecological significance of the Deering Estate provides more than enough reason to visit the Deering Estate and experience it yourself.

Vizcaya As Text

“An Indecisive Mansion”

By Andrew Vazquez of FIU at Vizcaya 18 February 2022

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is the former home of James Deering. James Deering is in many ways similar to his brother, and former owner of the Deering Estate, Charles Deering. Both of these men were made rich by the Deering Harvester Company and chose to invest large sums and spend their golden years in Miami.

Despite obvious similarities between the two brothers, their “projects” in Miami are vastly different. The Deering Estate is by no means a small property and the villa is beautiful, but James Deering and Vizcaya had me thinking Charles was modest! Vizcaya is one of the most extravagant pieces of architecture I have ever seen and it is truly stunning. When viewing Vizcaya Museum and Gardens you wouldn’t be remiss to think you were looking at an Early Modern European Palace, but in reality, it was built in 1916. The classic European style this mansion invokes is not a coincidence James Deering, like many other of the wealthy elite of his time, spent a lot of time abroad and brought those influences back to America.

As I have already mentioned and is made evident by the photos above Vizcaya is beautiful, perhaps the most striking aspect of its beauty comes from its lack of a singular identity. The style of Vizcaya seems to almost alternate from room to room, some being very symmetrical and linear while others are free-flowing and natural. The disunity of Vizcaya complements its extravagance to highlight the eccentric nature of its creator.

James Deering perfectly embodied the eccentric millionaire and Vizcaya was his outlet. Roman Triumphal Arches were constructed to simply mark the entrances to his garden. This garden is also very reminiscent of great French gardens such as the one in Versailles. Moorish rugs are beautifully draped along some walls. To bring this European tour to a close, Deering used a Spanish Caravel to symbolize Vizcaya and even created a Conquistador to invent a legend for Vizcaya. His eccentric personality is also displayed by pictures of random children hung in his study as he had no children of his own to display.

James Deering was without a doubt a unique personality as one would need to be to create a building such as Vizcaya. Vizcaya perfectly showcases this unique personality in the many different ideas and styles utilized in its design.

Downtown As Text

“A City Like No Other”

By Andrew Vazquez of FIU at Downtown Miami 11 March 2022

When asking about Miami one of the most common words you hear is unique. This city truly is like no other, but what makes it different, and what separates it from other cities? In 1896 Julia Tuttle founded the city of Miami. Miami is the only major city in the United States founded by a woman. On top of being founded by a woman, the first registered citizen of Miami was Silas Austin, a Black man. The diversity of Miami does not end there, the oldest building still standing in Miami is the Wagner House. This house was built by William Wagner a German-American with his Creole wife in 1855. Wagner later became a sort of ambassador between the Seminoles and the Americans during the Seminoles wars. These examples show how Miami was already expressing itself in a way that was entirely different from the rest of the world.

People have seen Miami’s unique personality for a long time and have been able to express it beautifully. The city itself has encouraged this expression, giving 1.5% of costs for county buildings to art projects. Above is a picture of a sculpture called “Dropped Bowl with Scattered Slices and Peels” by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. This piece truly expresses Miami in a way words cannot, it shows a city that is bursting at its seams, exploding outward and expanding.

Miami is a beautiful place full of various personalities that have come together to create something that I have never seen before anywhere around the world.

SOBE As Text

“A Hidden Dark Past”

By Andrew Vazquez of FIU at SOBE 1 April 2022

South Beach is one of the most beautiful parts of Miami-Dade County. Ocean Drive is a street full of character, on one side you have a beautiful view of the ocean and on the other, you have the largest Art Deco district in the entire world. My personal favorite Art Deco building is shown above and exhibits many of the hallmarks of the Art Deco style. Similar to other Art Deco buildings it is segmented into thirds and is only three stories tall, to avoid paying for an elevator. This particular building also has eyebrows, “portholes”, and a ziggurat roofline. While I personally do not feel any other building on Ocean Drive is as spectacular, they are beautiful in their own way. Another impressive building on Ocean Drive is the Versace Mansion. While it is not an Art Deco building it is stunning. The Mansion itself has some aspects such as the Apollo symbolism that is reminiscent of Versailles. The Versace Mansion is the scene of a tragedy however as  Gianni Versace himself was assassinated right on his doorsteps.

The tragic or dark part of South Beach did not begin with Versace’s assassination. The beauty of what we now call Miami Beach is simply lipstick on a pig. Ocean Beach as it was previously called as a place where segregation was halted and families of all races would gather and play baseball and enjoy picnics. This place of peace was destroyed when it was purchased by Carl Fisher, after this, he renamed Ocean Beach Miami Beach and implemented segregation. Any Black workers would require identification cards to go to the island for their jobs. Dana Dorsey, the first black millionaire in Miami owned what is now Fisher Island, wished to create a “colored” resort where the black community could enjoy the beach once again. This dream was dashed when the depression hit, and Dorsey was forced to sell the island to Fisher himself and it too became segregated. Fisher did not only discriminate against the Black community but the Jewish community as well. The Jewish community was allowed on Miami Beach but only below 5th and Fisher only allowed this because of the money they brought, but clearly anti-Semitic signs were common across the island.

Sure South Beach is a beautiful place but it is and will remain plagued by its past.

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