Emma Cairo-Benoit: Miami as Text 2022

Hello everyone! My name is Emma Cairo-Benoit, and I am currently a junior at Florida International University. I am majoring in Public Relations Advertising and Applied Communications. I truly don’t know what specific career path I will choose, but the one thing I did know when I came to college, was that I wanted to Study Abroad. I never thought it would actually become a reality because of the state of the world, but I look forward to finally achieving my dream in May. I can’t wait to learn about the Italian culture and lifestyle as we prepare to travel, and live the Italian way once we reach Italy. Ciao for now!

Deering As Text

Images taken by Emma Cairo-Benoit/ CC by 4.0

Knowing Your Roots

By Emma Cairo-Benoit of FIU at the Deering Estate, 6 February 2022

I am a second generation American born member of my family and I was born and raised in Miami, Florida. The truth is I have never felt truly proud to be born in Miami because I never had that sense of unity with my city. Living in Miami my entire life, I have been accustomed to this mentality that Miami is a melting pot filled with people of different backgrounds and cultures, and this is true. I drive to school everyday and I look around and see my classmates that come from entirely different cultures, and I cant help but think that there is no one common theme that brings us all together. 

Before visiting the Deering Estate, I truly did not know how impactful the history of Miami truly is. What was once a home to Charles Deering, is 444 acres of history and culture that is rooted through all of Miami. The estate has preserved what Miami was like in its raw form, the Miami that was inhabited by Paleo-Americans and the Tequesta. Walking through the pure form of nature, untouched by the industrial world, puts into perspective just how lucky we are to live in a city so deeply rooted in history. 

Many people like myself who have grown up in Miami, driven down the same streets, and lived in the same neighborhoods their whole lives don’t know the importance of the Deering Estate. The city we know today was built on so much culture and history that people are not aware of. Looking at the channel dredged by Bahamian workers, admiring the hand carved arches, walking on the Miami rock ridge, hiking past solution holes, and standing at a Tequestal burial site allowed me to appreciate my city for all that it stems from. 

Miami will always be a city where people of different backgrounds and cultures come together, and many of these people won’t know the history behind the beautiful city we live in. But it’s the history found at the Deering Estate that unites us all as one.

Vizcaya As Text

Images taken by Emma Cairo-Benoit/ CC by 4.0

Miami’s European Hideaway

By Emma Cairo-Benoit of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, 6 March 2022

As you drive along the long road surrounded by trees and greenery that line the path to Vizcaya, you are transported to a European countryside and grow in awe of the beauty of the estate. In 1912, James Deering, the wealthiest man in Miami, began the construction of the Vizcaya mansion and its garden. Deering along with his artistic director, Paul Chalfin, designed the house and garden with heavy inspiration from Spanish culture. Deering spared no expense with the decor and curation of the home. He imported arches, painting, furniture, and statues from different countries in Europe to authentically show the European influence he wanted to portray. Today, the estate has become a defining piece that makes Miami what it is, and the culture behind it tells an even more incredible story. Key moments such as when Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Regan met in Miami occurred at the doors of Vizcaya.

A few years ago I had the incredible opportunity to visit the palace of Versailles in France, and while walking through Vizcaya it was as if I had been transported back to the castle in France. The inspiration taken from such an important location in history was uncanny. The extravagant touches of gold in the rooms, the stained glass windows, the gardens, and the artwork took me back to that place as a young girl completely in awe of the French palace. That feeling of wonder and excitement was not something I was expecting to feel when I walked through the entrance of Vizcaya, a place that every Miami native visits at least once. Vizcaya, hidden by trees and forest on the edge of Biscayne Bay, is built with breathtaking architecture and rich in European culture that has influenced most of Miami for what it is today. 

Miami as Text

Images taken by Emma Cairo-Benoit/ CC by 4.0

Concrete Jungle

By Emma Cairo-Benoit of FIU in Downtown Miami, 26 March 2022

Ever since I was younger driving along the Julia Tuttle Causeway in downtown Miami and seeing all the buildings along bayside and downtown. To me, there was a sense of magic in the city life because growing up in the suburbs of Miami, downtown was a completely different world. This time as I walked through downtown I was reminiscent on that feeling I always had, but it found a way to take on a new form. The buildings and views that I have admired my whole life have such a deep history. The very name of the Julia Tuttle causeway is after the woman who founded the city.

There is so much history that as Miami natives we aren’t taught in school and it is hidden by the materialistic world we live in. The story of the Wagner house or even Fort Dallas during the Seminole Wars is something that isn’t taught in the history classes. The controversy in monumenting Henry Flagler is something that isn’t discussed as often as it should be. The one thing that continues to surprise me throughout the semester is the impact of the Tequesta on the foundation of Miami. Seeing the Miami Circle and what they have done to commemorate the Tequesta site was extremely moving. Even though it was a small commemoration and there is still so much that can be done to educate people on the Tequesta and memorialize them, it was a special feeling standing where they stood at one point.

The one stop on the tour that meant the most to me was the Freedom Tower. My grandparents on both sides of my family left their countries in order to build better lives for themselves and their families. They made the utmost sacrifice of leaving everything behind for a small chance at a better future. The Freedom Tower is a symbol of all that they went through to get to where they are now, and seeing the photos of all the families who have the same story was extremely heartwarming. Finally, the artwork we saw at the Government Center that was made up of a broken bowl and orange slices and peels is the perfect representation of Miami, the order in disorder and the beauty in chaos. 

SoBe as Text

Images taken by Emma Cairo-Benoit/ CC by 4.0

No Place Like South Beach

By Emma Cairo-Benoit of FIU in South Beach, 08 April 2022

South Beach, known for its clear waters, powdery sand, impeccable fashion, and electric nightlife, is one of the most unique locations in the world. It’s Art Deco buildings are distinctive to Miami, and hold true to what the original architects of Miami set out to do. Miami Beach was intended to be a welcoming space where everyone can relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the island. Miami Beach became segregated and staying overnight on the island became exclusive to whites. Today, it is celebrated for being welcoming to people of all backgrounds as people from around the world vacation on Miami Beach daily. 

The eccentric architecture on Miami Beach, which has been preserved for so long due to the activism of Barbara Baer Capitman, is one that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The colors, shapes, edges, windows, decks, and neon signs create some of the most iconic buildings on Ocean Drive. There’s an aspect to every major city that makes it unique and its own, for Miami, it’s Ocean Drive. No where else in the world can you find a street with buildings and architecture as diverse, with inspiration from so many different cultures, as Miami. 

Gianni Versace, designer and former resident of Miami Beach, once said that designers must help others to be “glamorous, happy, and alive,” and there are truly no better words to describe Miami Beach and the feeling it gives its patrons.

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