Camilla Osorio: Miami as Text 2022

Camilla Osorio is a third-year student double majoring in Political Science and International Relations with two certificates in Human Rights & Political Transitions and European & Eurasian Studies. Born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, she has only recently reconnected with her Colombian heritage when she relocated to Miami. With a deep passion for justice and equity, she brings that perspective in her writing and in everything she does. During her free time, Camilla is an avid music listener, curating hyper-specific playlists for any situation.

Deering as Text

“Preserving the Forgotten,” by Camilla Osorio of FIU at Deering Estate on January 28, 2022.

Photographs taken and edited by Camilla Osorio/CC by 4.0

As someone who did not grow up in Miami, moving to this magical city meant coming into a culture that was unlike anything I had experienced in the United States. Being from Miami was something the people are extremely proud of, and for good reason. From the food, music, culture, and the notable Miami accent; this city stands alone from any in the nation. Never before coming here did I see so many people drinking un cafecito in the middle of an eighty degree afternoon, but in Miami, it is commonplace. Despite the amount of culture and Miami pride in its residents, there is a lack of a deeper connection to Miami and its long history.

There is a rich history in this city that many Miamians are not aware of. Until this class, myself and others had never heard of the Deering Estate or all it had to offer. Many had a shallow perspective on the place as one of the many homes owned by a wealthy industrialist where visitors can spend the afternoon enjoying a hike in Miami’s many ecosystems. Spending the day at the Deering Estate quickly proved this to be incorrect. Charles Deering bought the estate in the 1920’s and converted the Richmond Inn into a winter home for his family. In later years, he created the Stone House inspired by Spanish architecture, contracting Bahamian workers to build the House and the Boat Basin, which is now home to manatees and other sea-life.

Purchased in 1986 by the State of Florida, the Deering Estate became an addition to the National Registry of Historical Places. Stepping onto the estate felt like taking a trip back to what Miami used to be prior to the high-rises, highways, and bustling city life. Far from a main road, the lack of noise pollution felt euphoric and refreshing; the only sounds heard were ones that came from the nature reserve. It wasn’t until reflecting on the trip that I realized how privileged that silence was. Noise pollution has a plethora of adverse affects that, as city folk, we don’t realize. It can affect our sleep, increase blood pressure and advance hearing loss; so spending the afternoon in this environment was very beneficial for all of the students.

The nature reserve is home to eight different ecosystems and has been a home for humans for over 10,000 years. The native Tequesta were living in Miami at the time of Ponce De Leon’s arrival in 1513. There is a multitude of evidence that the Tequesta were living on the Deering Estate’s land, with their tools sprawled across certain areas, freshwater streams available, and a burial ground with an estimated 12-18 people. While walking through the reserve, Professor Bailly recounted the history of Rome and its namesake. He spoke about twin brothers named Romulus and Remus and how Romans to this day feel deeply connected to this lineage-despite most not actually being descendants-but the love for their city outweighs the science and logic. I wondered why Miamians don’t feel that deep rooted connection to this piece of land. The Tequestas are our Romulus and Remus yet since there is not much from them that was preserved (such as language and image), they have slipped through the cracks for the large majority of the population.

The Tequesta Culter Burial Mound is one of two unearthed Tequesta burial sites. One of the many unfortunate effects of urbanization is that we lose all the history behind the land, which plays into the disconnect between Old Miami and Modern Miami. There are countless examples of losing historical sites and burial mounds in favor of building an office building or a parking lot. In 2013, a native settlement was excavated that was over 1,500 years old. At least eight buildings were found as well as a burial site with remnants of over 500 people. Rather than halt construction, the bones were excavated and construction continued- the burial site is now a Whole Foods.

While Miami is not Rome, this city has a deep and layered history that needs to be given more attention. Perhaps with more visitors at the Deering Estate, it will open more people to the rich history that their city has to offer them and maybe the connection to Miami could be less superficial than spanglish and the mutual love for Bad Bunny (not that it’s a bad thing).

Vizcaya as Text

“Mediterranean Opulence in Biscayne Bay.” by Camilla Osorio of FIU at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens on February 18, 2022.

Photographs taken and edited by Camilla Osorio/CC by 4.0

Villa Vizcaya was designed to be the epitome of extravagance in Miami; the villa is a wonderful clash of European architecture, most notably Italian, Spanish, and French. Built and lived in by James Deering during the Gilded Age, Vizcaya solidified Miami as an Epicurean city in the United States and it only takes a minute upon arrival to confirm. The East Entrance shows two sculptures of Ponce de Leon (originally Italian sculptor Gian Lorenzo) and Bel Vizcaya, a made-up person meant to create a story and a legend for the villa. On the main entrance, arrival by boat is extraordinary. The barge is designed by Alexander S. Calder with sculptures of women on the sides. 

James Deering did not adhere to a rulebook when designing the villa with Paul Chalfin as the Artistic Director, Burrall Hoffman as Architect, and Diego Suarez as Landscape Architect. He lived a life of excess and wanted a house to reflect that. Paul Chalfin even said that Deering was always sipping on whisky and smoking from a cigarette, and who better to welcome Deering’s guest than Dionysus/Bacchus, the Roman God of Wine and Ecstasy. Inviting you in by standing in contrapposto with a jug of grapes in hand, the sculpture is there to greet you into the hedonistic lifestyle.

Walking through Vizcaya and learning about Deering and his life here reminded me of The Great Gatsby, known for its description of the Gilded Age of lavishness and the unrestrained lifestyle. Both Deering and Gatsby lived like the greatest thing in life is pleasure, with the house they lived in, the people they surrounded themselves with, and the parties they threw.

Each room of the villa is a culmination of Deering’s transatlantic Amazon wish-list. French Neoclassic in the entrance hall, Rococo in the reception room, Mudejar art in the living room; Deering saw what he wanted overseas and Amazon Prime’d it to Miami. This limitless ability to import paintings, carpets, fountains, ceilings, and even Italian sculptors shows Deering’s commitment to wanting the best of the best for his little slice of Mediterranean heaven. 

Villa Vizcaya perfectly showcases Deering’s vision of a Hedonistic Miami. However, behind this estate and the effort spent building this, Deering never married, had children, or had any close relationship. Many speculate that Deering was gay but reports were never confirmed. Similarly to Jay Gatsby, I wonder what Deering was hiding behind this life of opulence once the party was over.

Downtown Miami as Text

“Excluded History: The Mother of Miami” by Camilla Osorio of FIU at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens on February 18, 2022.

Photographs taken and edited by Camilla Osorio/CC by 4.0

Finding out that Miami is the only major American city that was founded by a woman took me aback. Julia Tuttle came to Fort Dallas, a military base during the Seminole Wars, and used her parents’ estate money to purchase the land that the city of Miami is located on. Back in the 1880’s, South Florida was not the same as what we know now. It was a bleak swamp land that people didn’t see potential in, but not Julia Tuttle. She saw a prosperous land with potential to be a beautiful home for many. To make her vision of Miami into a reality, she knew she had to get transportation into the area, which at the time was the railroad. She reached out to Henry Flagler for many years and it was not until the Great Freeze, when she gave him her own personal blossoming oranges to prove that Miami has viable land, that Flagler saw what Tuttle saw: warm weather and land for tourism and agriculture.

By the mid 1890’s, the first train arrived and the city of Miami was soon incorporated. But since it was still the 19th century, women could not vote. Tuttle could not even vote to make her own dream into a reality. It’s disappointing but not surprising that this is how history treats women, even founding mothers.

It was astounding to hear about the foundation of Miami that is never mentioned in the classroom. While I am not from Miami, I am from South Florida and to not hear about a female founder of one of the biggest cities in the United States is disappointing. The history of this city glazes over Tuttle and all her effort in creating the city of Miami. There are only two commemorations of Julia Tuttle: Julia Tuttle Causeway and the Julia Tuttle statue in Bayfront Park (which I would have loved to see during class time). However, her co-founder of Miami, William Brickell (nicknamed the Father of Miami) has an entire neighborhood named after him. As diverse as this city claims to be, it’s very telling in which stories of the past are told and which fade into obscurity. Miami might be a bit better than most cities when it comes to diversity and inclusion but it needs to acknowledge the lesser known stories, most of which include women and people of color.

South Beach as Text

“Don’t Let Spring Breakers Stop You From Going to Ocean Drive” by Camilla Osorio of FIU at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens on February 18, 2022.

Art Deco, short for Arts Décoratifs, is unique to South Beach and is an easy aesthetic to spot. It highlights geometric shapes, strong lines, glass bricks, and of course eyebrows at the top of the buildings. 

Before we get into the tour of South Beach, let’s get into a bit of background first. Because how can we truly enjoy what we’re looking and learning about without knowing where it came from? Beginning in 1925, Art Nouveau was a popular art form in Europe (look at the Paris Metro) and Art Deco was founded off Art Nouveau. Art Deco took off and gained popularity in the United States. Buildings such as Radio City Music Hall and the Chrysler Building were made at that time and are in such style. The split of Art Deco was due to the Great Depression. The Great Gatsby vibes are officially over.

However, down in Miami, Carl Fisher created a popular beachfront using the Art Deco aesthetic with resorts like the Flamingo Hotel and thanks to the Miami Design Preservation League, we can still enjoy the Art Deco style that made South Beach such an internationally-recognized tourist attraction. Tourists who visit think of shows like Miami Vice, Dexter, and Ballers, who used South Beach and Miami as a whole as the background of their shows.

Walking the long stretch of South Beach, starting at South Pointe walking a mile and a half to Condo Canyon, we were walking past historical Art Deco buildings that have been preserved for almost a hundred years. These buildings stand out from anything in Florida, let alone the whole world. It’s very understandable why over 24 million people visit Miami every year. 

The buildings stand out and leave an impression on you while you’re walking down the street. The symmetry of the buildings, the rule of three, and the bright colors are unlike anything you’ll ever see worldwide. These buildings on Ocean Drive are one of the few examples of Art Deco left, like the buildings in Manhattan. It’s important as Miamians to appreciate the history and beauty that South Beach has to offer, despite most of us fervently avoiding the island, most especially around Springtime when the college students are on break.

6 thoughts on “Camilla Osorio: Miami as Text 2022”

  1. I have read and reread the writings of Camila Osorio, and I remembered John Williams, in his novel Stoner, for his argumentation and description. His critical stance demonstrates the level of training that Camila has acquired; in my capacity as a professor I will recommend the writings to my students of law and political science. And it is very important that a curtain is drawn and it is that Miami, FL, is not only beach, breeze, sea, rumba and mall. I have always wondered when I travel to Miami, where is the history of Miami? and Camila is revealing it in an assertive way in the writings, which she shares with us. Thus, it is evident that FIU-Miami trains professionals with sense and a critical and comprehensive mind. From now on you are cordially invited to share her thoughts and academic experience at the Faculty of Law and Political Science of the University of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. I extend this recognition to her parents and grandparents, congratulations CamilaY


  2. Hola Camila. Te felicito por tu interés en que la gente conozca y se enamore de sus raíces, algo que no solo debe pasar para los miameros sino para todos en general. Iniciativas como la tuya es la que nos debe hacer conciencia de lo importante que es saber de donde venimos. Sigue así.


  3. Camila, la verdad que lo que escribes está lleno de historias que muchos de nosotros no conocemos y que más allá del Miami turístico, hay otros aspectos no menos importantes que son dignos de conocer; espero no sea la primera vez que podamos aprender de tus lecturas. Felicitaciones. Un abrazo


  4. I enjoyed reading this article by Camilla, it makes me remember my birth country of Colombia and its similarities with Miami. It was amazing the way she described it.

    A HOORAY to you and the family of Camila Osorio.

    CONGRATS and continue with your éxitos!!!


  5. I was captivated by this article by Camilla Osorio. It is written in a way that engaged any reader and for me particularly was an eye opening about a different view we should give to Miami. I really loved it!! And I am looking forward to read more articles from Camilla!
    Way to go Camilla!!! Congrats!!!!


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