Isabella Garcia : Miami as Text 2022

Photo taken by Victoria Garcia (CC by 4.0)

Isabella Garcia is a sophomore receiving a Bachelors of Science in Biology on a Pre-PA track at Florida International University. She has a passion for being outdoors and exploring, mainly for the ocean and is a Cuban-American.

Deering Estate as Text

Photo taken by Isabella Garcia (CC by 4.0), Cutler Creek Bridge.

Refreshing Old Miami

By Isabella Garcia of FIU at Deering Estate, 28 January 2022.

The Deering Estate is a glimpse of what Miami looked like before the population surge and tourism blew up. Located in Palmetto Bay in South Miami, this vast land encompasses the original ecosystems of Miami, Florida. Charles Deering bought the estate early in the 1900s and renovated the Richmond Cottage, which was initially an inn for people traveling up and down to the keys. Then, a couple years later, the three story Stone House was built, with his massive art collection and the basement having a hidden wine cellar. The building of this estate have several European aesthetic touches. He had a great love for European culture, but because of WW1, he was unable to travel as much as he wanted to, so he brought European architecture and alcohol to Florida.

An incredibly unique part of this estate is that it contains 8 different native ecosystems consisting of mangroves, sea grass beds, salt marsh, remnant slough, pine rock land, flow way, beach dune in chicken key, and tropical hardwood hammock. The important part of these ecosystems is that they aren’t seen around Miami very often. Thinking of Miami, when it comes to landscape, the initial thought is the stereotypical coconut palms, but these actually aren’t native at all. The most amazing thing to think about was how only half a century ago, a whole Tequesta tribe lived right on that land and left their mark. They left massive burial mounds, tools made from shells and rocks, and hundreds of perfectly buried bodies all close together.

The racial history of the Deering Estate was shocking to me, considering that it’s in Miami, FL. In regards to racism, Miami now has people from all over the world that are being treated equally and aren’t given weird faces for speaking a completely different language. Here, there are restaurants from all 7 continents and Miami takes pride in being so racially diverse, but the Deering Estate shows us that it wasn’t always like that. Building the estate were many Bahamians and Blacks. They were treated like absolute garbage and were put to build large buildings and roads and were put to build the People’s dock. Doing this work, there were incidents of people dying and getting seriously injured while also being treated poorly.

Vizcaya as Text

Photo taken by Isabella Garcia (CC by 4.0), Ponce De Leon statue.

Gilded Age Estate

By Isabella Garcia at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, 18 February 2022.

To walk into a hidden, tranquil beauty that’s in a city that doesn’t seem to take a break is the most refreshing part of this estate. Finished in 1916 by James Deering, this villa was a modern day tropical castle. Being brothers with Charles Deering, who built the Deering estate, Vizcaya took a step forward towards wealth and luxury. After going through tight roads with towering trees, a mansion is revealed through a canopy of large oak trees lined with fountains. At the beginning of that canopy, there are two statues, one being Ponce De Leon (pictured above). At his feet is a globe that conveniently has Florida facing right towards the sun which shows the incredible attention to detail. As you walk through the glimpse of the impressive gardens, you enter the house through the back doors, as the front doors and main entrance are actually facing the ocean. Along the outer rim of the house is a moat which was used to keep any unwanted guests away which was something that I had never seen. Upon walking into the house, you are greeted by a Dionysus statue, which is the God of wine and ecstasy to elude to partying and letting loose in Miami.

After passing the Dionysus statue and entering the courtyard, you’re stepping into this incredibly welcoming house. All of the colors, plants, and floor plans make it so that you feel welcomed and relaxed. The floor’s marble is laid out in a way that is inviting by having rays moving into the house almost assisting you as you walk in. When walking through the rooms, I loved the flowy feeling that the connected rooms give off instead of each of them having their own doors. Even though each room is physically connected, the art influence in each room couldn’t be more different. Each room impressively had artwork from all over the world with different wallpapers, chandeliers, and furniture to make you feel as if each room were a different country at a different time period. A statue that gave me a mini culture shock was that of the Boy with Thorn. This Greco-Roman sculpture made me think of the societal advancements that we have gone through and how long ago this time period really was. It’s also crazy to think how this one statue has so many different stories surrounding it and how it’s been changed and sculpted again in different cities throughout the years. Some aspects of this house that were certainly ahead of their time were the vacuum cleaner, the food elevator, and the bell system. Being an area of the house that was mainly only seen by workers, the kitchen had many cool little gadgets. The vacuum was on the floor coming out of the wall to be able to sweep any dirt into it and leave the floor clean. The food elevator was from the first floor to the second and functioned to get the food and drinks to the guests or owners as fast as possible. The bell system was even more impressive than those two. With the ability to trace the room the bell came from, this was a great showcase of wealth and comfort.

Moving outside, the beauty and elegance got even more impressive. With a direct outlet to the Atlantic ocean, this was an amazing location for any boats to go to and from Europe. Greeting any boats at the entrance of the house are a collection of statues in the water, one being the topless mermaid statue. This statue was initially made with extremely large breasts and a sculptor was re-hired to reduce her breast size. An interesting fact that I learned was that men and women weren’t allowed to be seen alone anywhere except for in gardens, so James Deering took that to another level. He made a “secret garden” with walls surrounding it with one main bench with a carving of Venus and sea shells. As you walk through these gardens, there are so many diverse plants, architecture, and sculptures that it makes you wonder how long this must’ve taken to plan out. Along the back of the property was another large bench with a statue of a woman and a swan. At first glance, it’s a statue that no one would think twice about, but with the attention to detail that James Deering put into every aspect of the house, there’s a story behind that statue too. The woman in the statue is Leda, which was extremely sought out by Zeus. She denied him so he decided to turn into a swan to win her over and the statue portrays them kissing intensely. Another funny aspect of this property is the maze made out of shrubs. Talking to my classmates about what must have gone through their heads while making this is how they probably acted while being drunk and trying to find a way out of it.

Miami as Text

Photo taken by Isabella Garcia (CC by 4.0), Miami Circle

In the 305

By Isabella Garcia at Downtown Miami, 11 March 2022.

Being a native in Miami, it was incredible how much I didn’t know about my own city. From the corruption of the memorials outside of the Miami-Dade county courthouse to the cultural significance of the Miami Circle, this city’s government can go either way. The one thing that did tie together throughout each destination was how diverse Miami really is. Slave quarters, courthouses, kilometer 0, Miami river, Roman Catholic church, Freedom tower, everything. 

What is viewed by many as a tranquil ocean front dog park to unwind from reality is actually an incredible Miami historical location. As pictured above, the Miami Circle was preserved because of the Tequesta findings on this land. In the late 1990s, archeologists found significant holes and basins that were remains of the wooden poles for tiki huts, buried animals, and human remains. Along with those, artifacts such as tools and ceramics add to the knowledge of Tequesta being a primary village with knowledge of great architecture and use of the rugged Miami land. One of the most interesting facts that Professor Bailly mentioned was that since the location of this village was at the mouth of the Miami River, the Tequesta’s would use the tides to travel up and down the river to the Everglades swampy water and back to the ocean front. This exhibits knowledge of the land and their sharp witted ways. Once the remains were discovered, the National Park Service took over the land and made sure to preserve this section of Miami history. 

Another incredibly unique section of Miami was the Dropped Bowl with Scattered Slices and Peels artwork. Being one of the first things seen during our walking lecture, this artwork made perfect sense. With the chaotic explosion of oranges, this embodies Miami in the way that oranges are the state’s fruit and the chaos shows the growth of Miami. The broken bowl is used to express the fast expansion of Miami, as it is a fast growing city and one of the most culturally diverse ones. It was interesting that whenever there was a grand, new building being constructed, 1.5% of the cost had to be put towards the commission or purchase of artworks, which was exactly how this artwork got commissioned.

SoBe as Text

Photo taken by Isabella Garcia (CC by 4.0), Ocean Drive

Neon Lights

By Isabella Garcia at South Beach, 1 April 2022.

Standing on the pier looking North wasn’t a new view for me, but exploring an area of Miami is always so different with Professor than it is with a group of friends. When thinking of Miami, the initial thought is always the beach and the liveliness of Ocean drive, but it’s fake. The sand isn’t even from here. Knowing about the everglades and the massive mangrove forests that rule Southern Florida, it shouldn’t be such a surprise that the beach initially has the same terrain, but it was bizarre to think about. Miami’s beach was once lined with towering mangroves that acted as barriers and maintained the shape of the coastal shores. These forests didn’t provide any entertainment so they were ripped out and replaced with sand from the Bahamas. The mere fact that the county has to import sand yearly to restock the shores goes to show how the tailored beaches aren’t native at all. Once things started getting a little more popular in this area is when the restaurants and hotels that lined it started to boom.

Like I said before, Bailly always brings out the most of an experience. Walking the same Ocean drive walk as always, but this time with a little spice: history. There’s meaning behind every little balcony or edge in the architecture which emphasizes how much time and thought was put into every building on this street. The Art Deco designs influenced by the desire for space travel and futuristic designs is what rules these buildings. The neon colors that light up at night, the eyebrows that are a subtle yet popular add-on seen in all the art deco themed buildings, and the circular windows to represent that of boats.

It was shocking to think about this grand Art Deco art collection that is in our backyard that is often overlooked. This is Miami’s identity and such a great factor in making this city unique.

Author: Isabella Garcia

I'm currently a Biology student at FIU's Honors College and am participating in the España Study Abroad 2022.

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