Isabel Brime: Miami as Text 2021-2022

Isabel Brime is a sophomore majoring in Public Relations, Advertising, and Applied Communications (PRAAC) at the Florida International University’s Honors College. She hopes to pursue a career in travel or entertainment marketing. Coming from a Mexican background and culture, she was raised in a Spanish-speaking household along her two sisters. She loves to travel and add new adventures to her long list of hobbies: running, wakeboarding, paddle boarding, singing, writing, producing & editing videos, sewing and spending time with her family and friends.

Deering as Text

“Beauty, but at what price?” by Isabel Brime of FIU at Deering Estate on January 28, 2022.

Deering Estate Images Taken & Edited By Isabel Brime

The Deering Estate, located on Miami Dade’s south coast is a hidden wonder. The Deering Estate’s 444 acres leaves a lot of land and secrets to discover. I have lived in Miami for about 18 years now and not once had I heard about the Deering Estate, so I was excited to visit and explore Charles Deering’s estate. I put the coordinates on my GPS and it took me to the wrong place, TWICE. When I finally arrived at the right place, I had ran all over the place and had now lowered my expectations for this expedition. I was ready to expect a boring hike, get murdered by mosquitos and have a bad experience, but I was quickly proven wrong.

When we got to the center of the Richmond Cottage and Stone House, it really felt like I was not in Miami anymore. I got a glimpse of the future of our summer trip to France and got really excited. When Professor Bailey explained the architectural history of the different shapes that muslims and romans used, I started to think deeply and not just at the superficial beauty. When we made our way to the People’s Dock, I was captivated by its beauty. Even the quaking ducks who wanted to join our lecture added to the experience. I saw so much life in that water, thinking of the different life it held, like the manatees I hoped would pop out. However, that image was quickly altered when I was informed of the 5 Bahamians killed in the explosion. I looked around for a memorial or plaque and was very upset to see there was no such thing. As we kept walking, I kept thinking of the Bahamians that lost their lives and even said a quick prayer for them and their families. Hopefully the next time I visit, the documentary on them is finished or they receive some sort of honorary memorial.

When we got to the Prohibition-era Cellar, I felt a rush of excitement. I felt like we were walking into a movie with secret doors and safes. As I stood in the center of the room, I couldn’t help but think how determined Charles Deering was. His waterfront property was close to Cuba, so he had the money and resources to get all the liquor he wanted. I laughed when I heard how Charles Deering made his property into a lighthouse, because his permit to build a lighthouse was denied. It got me thinking of what Professor Bailey mentioned about how those with more money were able to get away with what they wanted and it made me relay it to our present day. Even though about 100 years have passed since the Prohibition-era, we still see a lot of money influencing power.

As we made our way to the final part of the expedition, the hike, I had a lot of thoughts on my mind- the Bahamians, the injustices, the mosquitos. I didn’t expect that another thought would appear on my mind, the Tequesta. They’re so forgotten that it’s even been marked as if it’s spelled wrong. I loved holding their shell tools in my hands, so that I don’t just visualize them, but I can feel them. As we walk through the trees and paths ahead of us, I’m surprised at this new Miami that I’m discovering. I had seen about a million mangrove trees and palm trees growing up, but something about all these trees and plant life made me awe in wonder, and also in fear of poison ivy and unknown plant life. When we made it to the Tequesta burial ground, I was finally able to resolve a portion of my conflicted feelings. Finally, Charles Deering had done something admirable-leaving the Tequesta alone. It was hard to see the mound, so I really had to use my imagination, but it gave me some sort of relief. If we cut off the trees, so that spectators can have a better view, that would be selfish. These poor Tequestians are at rest and we would just be disturbing them if we did.

In the walk back to the conclusion of the tour, I was trying to lay to rest all these thoughts in my mind, but, frankly, I just can’t. There was so much beauty in this estate, but it all came with a price. The fate of the Bahamians who died on the explosion building the beautiful People’s Dock, The fate of the Tequesta, and the injustices that many faced. Even though they’re building some awareness by making a documentary on the Bahamians and respecting the Tequesta burial mound, I think more can be done. The dock is now a home to manatees, fish, and other sea life. The burial mound is now fertilizer for trees that populate the forest. These people have brought life and beauty, so we need to fight for them.

Vizcaya as Text

“Is it a flower or do I have to use my imagination” by Isabel Brime of FIU at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens on February 18, 2022.

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens Images Taken & Edited By Isabel Brime

Living in Miami, I expected to know the ins and outs of this beautiful city, but my visit to Vizcaya Museum and Gardens proved me wrong. Vizcaya, located in Biscayne Bay by Coconut grove, is a wonderful villa with magnificent gardens and stunning architecture that belonged to the late James Deering. Contrary to his brother Charles Deering, his estate gives a more elegant rather than rural vibe. As we stood in the entrance to the gardens while we heard professor Bailly’s lecture, I remember eagerly waiting to go in and see the villa already. I could see the villa in the distance with the ocean background and couldn’t wait to go inside. 

When we finally entered the villa, I was amazed to learn that we were entering through the back entrance. I was thinking of the grandeur of the entrance and remembering the picture of Pope John Paul II and President Reagen standing in the same door I was walking into. It caught my attention, because if I found the service entrance great, I couldn’t wait to see the rest of it. As we walked through the different rooms, I loved hearing about the little details that I would have overlooked if I visited Vizcaya without a tour guide. Looking at the lion statues and images, I was not just looking at cool art, it was art created by artists who had never seen what they were creating. The telephone room was not just an antique, I was now “a guest from Missouri who longed to contact home after a long week of travel.” I wasn’t just looking at the antique fridge, I was now a “poor person who was too poor to even know about such technology.” Each room we passed by had a story, which paired up with the history lessons from Professor Bailly to create an immersive experience. 

One of my favorite parts of the villa was the stained glass and attention to detail. I found myself looking for seahorses and ships across the ceilings and windows. I found myself trying to “pervert” my mind and try not to just see a flower painting, rather understand the Rococo painting’s true intention and double meaning. However, when we left the building and reached the gardens, I was surprised to actually enjoy the greenery of the landscape. I had expected to find just a couple of trimmed trees and mazes, but I found myself actually enjoying the nature’s beauty without the worry of mosquitos, like in the Deering Estate hike. As we walked through the gardens, I liked to imagine how it must have been living in this era. Walking through the mazes I felt like a noble in Versailles taking an afternoon stroll. 

I liked the ship bow and was interested in hearing that J.D insisted on giving the mermaid a “breast reduction.” Someone behind me conspired that since he didn’t give the mermaid a “breast augmentation” it fed into the theory of James Deering’s sexual orientation. It got me thinking of the secret doors that led to his bedroom, the way he decorated his villa and the sexual innuendo throughout Vizcaya’s art. The “J’ai Dit” door caught my attention, because it made me put everything together. Sure, there is a ton of attention to detail and a lot of mystery that we can try to uncover, but maybe some things were just not that deep. For example, James Deering added an arch because he simply said so, instead of because he won the victory. On the other hand, if James Deering was clever enough to secretly write his initials “J.D.” into a window by saying “J’ai Dit” (meaning “I said” in french), then maybe some things are deeper, so for now I’ll keep examining and wondering.  

Downton Miami as Text

“Is this really the best we can do, Miami?” by Isabel Brime of FIU at Downton Miami on March 11, 2022.

Downtown Miami Images Taken & Edited By Isabel Brime

I’ve lived in Miami for 18 years and gone Downtown lots of times so I knew this lecture wasn’t going to be new, or so I thought. When I got to Downtown Miami for class that day, I felt like a tourist that had just gotten to Miami the day before. I had no idea where I was going or recognized any of the buildings I was in.  I’ve passed by Downtown Miami numerous amount of times, but out of all the stops we made that day, I had really only gone to one: the Miami River. I had also passed the Miami Circle National Historic Landmark, but I only knew that spot as “another dog park.” 

Visiting the Miami River was the first time I felt some sort of relief as a miamian, because I had been there before quite a couple of times. I thought I recognized that view very well, but I was surprised to hear that some years ago it had waterfalls and clear water, which made me wish that we would have done a better job at protecting the water. When we got to the Miami Circle, I felt that familiar feeling again, because I had spent my birthday (which was a couple weeks before the lecture) in the restaurant right next to the Miami Circle. I was so conflicted, because I thought it was just a dog park with a random plaque that was going to talk about flowers, but knowing it was a structure built by the Tequesta really confused me. If this limestone bedrock really belonged to them, the least we could do is respect it, but instead it just got a small plaque and dog poop. 

Going to school in Miami, I expected to remember some of the historical landmarks we were visiting from history lessons, but I actually hadn’t heard about anything at all. Visiting William Wagner’s home was awesome, because I got to get a little historical perspective. This german man marrying a creole woman and having kids was redefining the norms. I had never heard of his name, yet he was an important part of Miami’s History. Two name I had heard over and over again were Flagler and Dade. So, I was surprised and angered to learn that his place in history was bringing in segregation to Miami. He’s celebrated and praised for his role in shaping Miami, but he also brought in suffering by bringing segregation to Miami. Our county is literally named after Dade and finding out he wasn’t even that great of a major was anticlimactic.  His plaque makes their loss in the battlefield seem devastating, but when they killed those defending their land, it was a victory. 

“Is this really the best we can do, Miami?” Images Taken and Edited by Isabel Brime

I thought that my visit to Downtown Miami would make me appreciate the history behind this beautiful city I get to call home, but instead I was left in a conflicted state. I know that we can’t go back into the past and change things, but I do think we can make present decisions to pay our respects. Although some attempts have been made, I don’t see any real change. Flagler is highly celebrated, while Wagner and the Tequesta are left behind in history.  A hidden  statue of a Tequesta created by someone who doesn’t even know what they really looked like is not enough. A plaque in an archeological site, where dogs get to poop all day is not enough. Adding a plaque that makes the Building a Whole Foods on top of a huge, important archeological burial site is not even close to enough!

A highlight of this Day was definitely visiting Naomi’s Ave (Ave 0) and running to the middle of the intersection just to take a picture and run back.
Image Taken By Isabel Brime

South Beach as Text

“Thank you, Barbara Baer Capitman” by Isabel Brime of FIU at South Beach on April 1, 2022.

South Beach Images Takes & Edited By Isabel Brime

South Beach was the only location out of all our excursions that I’ve visited before. So, I was excited to finally not have to worry about where I was going and how to get there. I thought this excursion would be easy peasy and something I’ve heard about a million times from when my parents toured our guests. I don’t know why I haven’t noticed the pattern yet, but, obviously, I was proven wrong. First of all, I accidentally got off on the port and added about 10 minutes to the GPS. Also, I had heard about art deco a bunch of times, but I didn’t even know what it meant or how to categorize it.  

I’ve always known Fisher Island as an elusive, exclusive community, so it was so interesting to find out that originally it was the only place that Black workers and families were allowed on the beach. I had no idea that Dorsy, the first black millionaire in Miami, had to buy an island or else they weren’t even allowed to cross by that area, much less stay there. Since we began the day with a dreary tone, I thought it was going to mean that the rest of the tour would have a negative tone. However, after we acknowledged the history we got to learn about a bit more positive and vibrant side of Miami Beach. Although learning that Miami started flourishing because money was coming in from the cocaine industry in the 80s and 90s, it wasn’t necessarily such a depressing topic that we heavily discussed. I think this excursion was a great refresh to focus on the liveliness of Miami, rather than just reprimand it for its mistakes in the past. 

As we walked past ocean drive, I liked looking at all the buildings and trying to recognize what type of building it was. I was quick to recognize Art Deco and Mediterranean Revival, but I was not able to recognize Miami Modern as easily. I am a big fan of the number 3 so finding out that these buildings used the rule of 3 really called out to me. I am not the biggest architecture connoisseur, but I really appreciated the art deco buildings. As silly as it sounds, I really felt identified with the art deco buildings. My life is like the three floors and neon colors that characterize these structures. I think it speaks perfectly to what Miami is. It’s vibrant and full of light, like the pastel, neon lights that characterize art deco architecture. The three sea port windows are an homage to boats, because we are on the waterfront. The buildings are quite flat, like Miami’s geography, yet still have life and manage to avoid being dull. Just like art deco buildings borrowed Egyptian design ideas like the ziggurat roof lines, Miami borrows the cultures of the many immigrants that inhabit the city. At first I didn’t get why art deco architecture attempted to imitate a washing machine, but I kind of understand. Technology represents the latest innovations and it shows creativity, hard work, energy and power. These traits are desirable, so it makes sense to try to replicate them. Miami really is like these buildings, because all the traits we can use to describe the architecture style can apply to the people of Miami. Miamias are vibrant, energetic, and hard-working people that come from many cultures and countries, but come together as one. So, thank you, Barbara Baer Capitman, for preserving a piece of what makes Miami, Miami.

Author: Isabel Brime

Isabel Brime is a junior majoring in Public Relations, Advertising, and Applied Communications (PRAAC) at the Florida International University's Honors College. She hopes to pursue a career in travel or entertainment marketing. Coming from a Mexican background and culture, she was raised in a Spanish-speaking household along her two sisters. She loves to travel and add new adventures to her long list of hobbies: running, wakeboarding, paddle boarding, singing, writing, producing & editing videos, sewing and spending time with her family and friends.

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