Francisco Fuertes: Miami as Text 2022

Photograph taken by J.C. Diaz/CC by 4.0

Francisco Fuertes is currently a junior in FIU majoring in chemistry. Always having a curiosity for the human body, he plans to attend medical school after obtaining his degree. He was born in Miami, Florida, and has a strong connection to the Dominican Republic where his family moved from. On his free time, Francisco likes to learn and experience new things, such as different cultures, languages, cuisines, and many more.

Deering as Text

Digging for Lost Roots

By: Francisco Fuertes of FIU at Deering Estate, January 28, 2022

Photograph taken on January 28, 2022, at Deering Estate by Francisco Fuertes/CC by 4.0

For the New Year, my family and I took a trip to Boston. It was a whimsical idea I had one day that I honestly didn’t give much thought to, but as I was there, I knew I made the right decision. What my biggest takeaway from that trip was the unfortunate realization that I know nothing about the history of my Miamian and Floridian ancestors. Especially coming back from a place like Boston with such a rich history, this saddened me. The answer to my discontent was the Deering Estates. This place serves as a relic for forgotten times here in South Florida. Prohibition, for example, was something I never thought of being an issue here in our city. It was fascinating to walk into Charles Deering’s wine cellar and discover this piece of lost history. It also showed me how much history I walk and drive past without even knowing it, and how much influence it has on what I see.

Taking the nature walk with Professor Bailly was a delightful experience. We walked on the same trails as the Tequesta, admired the same trees as them, and basked in the same sunlight. We were even lucky enough to find the same tools they used to hunt and eat with. For me, an important part of this hike was seeing the Tequesta burial site. This puts into perspective how little we know of where life will take us. To these people, life was about the ability to survive. Especially here in Miami, survival in that sense is the least of our worries. It also makes me ponder how our world today will be different. Will we meet an unfortunate demise like the Tequesta, or can we find solutions to our current and future problems? 

Vizcaya as Text

James Deering or Jay Gatsby?

By: Francisco Fuertes of FIU at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, February 18, 2022

Photographs taken on February 18, 2022, at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens by Francisco Fuertes/CC by 4.0

Upon my arrival to the hidden mansion of James Deering, I had no idea of what I was to discover. Having never been, I presumed that it was simply a garden, but it was much more than that. Although I was enchanted by the garden and the luscious forest that surrounds the property, I could not help but ponder on the life of the late owner. What would lead someone to create such a property? Reading about him on Vizcaya’s website, I found out that it was actually a decision due to his condition of pernicious anemia (for more information, visit Who was James Deering? – Vizcaya). During our tour, Professor Bailly made the comparison of James Deering to Jay Gatsby. At the time, I brushed it aside, but looking back now, I could not agree anymore. I found the design of the whole place to be very “new rich”. Much like Gatsby, I feel like James Deering made many decisions on the layout and design of his property based on others and not himself. To the extravagant painting, to the sculptors of conquistadors and Greeks deities, and to the luminous chandeliers that gave life to the tiles we stepped on, everything to me seemed too much. Going from room to room, we talked about how this was imported from Italy, and this was handcrafted by an Italian artist that Deering sailed with to his mansion. All of it to me seemed very flashy; it reminds me of a specific part of the novel where Gatsby begins throwing all of his clothes in the air to Daisy while feverishly naming all the places and materials they were made out of. 

The entire experience makes me wonder whether I would do the same if I were in the position that Gatsby and Deering were in. I would like to think I wouldn’t, but I cannot say for sure. I believe that once a man/woman achieves such a level of wealth and monetary status, there is no telling what he or she will do with it. With so many issues today regarding financial sustainability, having the luxury of not worrying about it must change someone, for better or for worse.

Miami as Text

Fear the Pioneer

By: Francisco Fuertes of FIU in Downtown Miami, March 11, 2022

Photographs taken on March 11, 2022, in Downtown Miami by Francisco Fuertes/CC by 4.0

With my progress through the curriculum of this class, I have come to understand that there is an issue with the teaching of Miami history. Although this makes for an amazing class experience now, it saddens me that I do not know much about what we are learning. Why couldn’t the schools I went to teach more about the history of Miami. Who is Henry Flagler, James Deering, and other prominent figures that had a big impact on our city? I believe that this should be taught in schools all over Miami but done correctly. Professor Bailly brought up a great point in the lecture: Henry Flagler was not a pioneer. How can you be a pioneer of something that has already been found? Henry Flagler was not the first to settle on our lands. What about the natives who settled here before Europe’s arrival in Florida? Wouldn’t they be considered pioneers? I also think it is important to realize that people like Flagler did not build this city all by themselves. He and many others had the unappreciated help of the Bahamians and other groups of workers. If Flagler should be praised as a pioneer, it should be those workers who this honor is bestowed to, as they worked long and hard to create the foundation of our beautiful city. 

Reflecting on this, the word pioneer does not seem to hold any value to me either way. What I find interesting about all of this is that we love to believe that humans are pioneers. Technically, any animal could pioneer a land, but we as humans choose to make ourselves the sole beneficiary of it. Animals and their habitats were mostly likely there long before we stepped foot on any type of land, and especially now, to destroy these lands in the name of pioneering is not just.

SoBe as Text

Say Hello to My Long-Lost Friend

By: Francisco Fuertes of FIU at South Beach, April 1, 2022

Photographs taken on April 10, 2022, in South Beach by Francisco Fuertes/CC by 4.0

South Beach: known to me for many things such as South Pointe, Scarface’s chainsaw scene, and the massive traffic to get there. I’ve been to South Beach numerous times with friends and family, but never have I taken time to admire its uniqueness. South Beach for me is one of those areas in Miami that I do not hold much awe for anymore. When my friends from different states or countries come to visit, they always ask to go to the beach, and I am hesitant to say yes. Are you seriously going to drive and waste 3 hours finding parking, Franco? However, this trip to South Beach was different. Learning about the history and culture of this area of my city has made me feel proud of what we have, as I have never truly made sense of what was around me.

Among the many things I learned, what fascinated me the most was the architecture. We talked about three different types of buildings as my class and I explored the catacombs of knowledge that South Beach had to offer: Art deco, Mimo, and Mediterranean Revival. The many things that make Miami “Miami” are displayed on these structures. The color palette, the themed designs, even the style of windows all tell a story of our culture and what makes our city distinct. My favorite aspect about these architectural designs is the fact that they are dispersed across South Beach. On one side of the street, you can see various examples of Mimo buildings, but behind you stands a Mediterranean revival building. To me, this symbolizes the diversity of Miami. We are not a city of uniformity, but one of dizzying complexity. That in itself is displayed in each glance you take. One building drips a flashing yellow that pierces one’s eyes like the juice of a lemon, while the one next to it is painted a simple white with a bold roof. Like these styles of architecture, Miami is home to countless people with countless stories and experiences that all mesh into one beautiful consciousness that makes this city ours. 

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