Lily Duke: Miami as Text 2022

Film Photography taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

Lily Duke is a Senior at Florida International University pursing a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice with a certificate in Human Rights and Political Transitions. With a forever growing interesting in Global Affairs and Human Rights, Lily plans on earning her master’s in International Relations, ultimately aiming to work for an Intergovernmental Organization and travel the world! Beyond academics, Lily spends an inordinate amount of time reading and listening to music.

The Deering Estate as Text

By Lily Duke of FIU at the Deering Estate on January 28th, 2022

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

Miami: a city known for its diverse cultures, beaches, and weather. Beyond the hustle and bustle of the city (and ridiculously awful driving) lies an immersive opportunity for historical enrichment, available to anyone willing to look. The Deering Estate serves to be an interesting overlap of ecological wonder and historical significance, with eight different ecosystems and multiple sites and houses preserved to remember specific moments in time. 

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

The presence of the Stone House within such a beautiful, natural environment highlights an important dynamic that must be addressed. The ornate furnishing and dedication to a glamorous understanding of self-sufficiency emphasizes the immense wealth of the Deering family. With human rights at the forefront of this class, it is important to be consistently aware of one’s privilege (or disadvantage by comparison) and how that may interact with the law and execution of justice. As pointed out by Professor Bailly and the mere existence of the hidden wine cellar in the Stone House, money provides individuals with a level of freedom which significantly alleviates the burden of law. Illegal practices, such as smuggling copious amounts of alcohol during Prohibition (as seen in the case of Charles Deering), become more accessible. Immoral pursuits are that much more jarring when occurring a path away from a Tequesta Burial Mound.

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

As Professor Bailly acknowledged, we cannot change the past, and we render ourselves complicit through pretending it did not occur. We must honor those who were victimized and acknowledge the painful truth of history. We are living on stolen ground. This fact is consistently ignored, with education widely disregarding the importance of teaching Native American history. The Tequesta were a tribe located in South Florida, with strong ties to the Deering Estate land being found. However, as colonization began, the Tequesta could not withstand the conflict, slavery, and disease, subsequently resulting in their extinction. The Deering Estate provides a unique opportunity to explore and pay respects to the Tequesta. I am grateful that I got a chance to experience Miami in its most raw form, untainted by modern interference, and remember our true geological ancestors. 

Vizcaya as Text

By Lily Duke of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens on February 18th, 2022

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

When one strolls through the intricate and extravagant halls of Vizcaya, or meanders through the lush and picturesque gardens, the chaos of Miami dissipates, and the glamour of court life feels within reach. The almost ethereal estate, created by F. Burrall Hoffman (architect), Paul Chalfin (interior designer), and Diego Suarez (landscaper), possesses the dreamlike ability to transports its visitors to a European villa fit for royalty. 

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

However, as beautiful as the estate is, walking around Vizcaya allowed me to truly appreciate Miami as a whole. Like Vizcaya, many culture and countries serve to be the foundation of Miami. But, where Vizcaya has halted, Miami perpetually evolves, becoming its own growing community which welcomes and celebrates diversity. Vizcaya carefully selected its basis for inspiration, and actively prevented outside influence through limiting who had access to the estate. Therefore, an anomaly had been built within Miami. 

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

While preservation is crucial to ensuring historical documentation and artistry, Miami is beautiful because of its persistent growth which still honors the cultural basis of the various communities. Vizcaya feels as though it was built to be a display of wealth and superiority, consistently demonstrating a high commitment to ostentation living. This physically manifested within the beautiful salon that displayed the ornate instruments. As mentioned by Professor Bailly, these instruments were never played, simply becoming tools to emphasize wealth and a façade of sophistication, resulting in an almost hollow atmosphere. 

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

I by no means intend to criticize the active preservation of the estate, as, like any museum or site of significance, it is crucial to protect historical integrity. However, I do suggest scrutiny be directed at those who built Vizcaya and subsequently inhabited the estate. It is impossible to ignore how this estate reflect the historical tendency of colonizers, or in this case, the wealthy, to impose their culture, and completely neglect preexisting practices. Furthermore, original communities were merely acknowledged when it was deemed beneficial to the wealthy party’s interests. This is shown through the Bahamians tasked with building portions of Vizcaya, then being ultimately neglected and unrepresented in the final outcome. 

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

With that being said, public access now provided to those visiting Vizcaya highlights a subsequent dedication to inclusivity. I have merely fixated upon this concept of stagnation and exclusion to highlight the dichotomy I observed while exploring the estate. It is rare that one can go anywhere within Miami without feeling its unique presence, and I found it to be an immensely profound experience. 

Downtown as Text March 11th, 2022

By Lily Duke of FIU at Downtown Miami on March 11th, 2022

For two years, I lived and went to school in Downtown. My friends and I would explore the city in our free time; I liked to think I knew Downtown rather well. However, this was abruptly contradicted upon revisiting the area with Professor Bailly as a guide. 

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

Downtown is an unassuming yet poignant testament to how tainted and misconstrued American history has become. While the truth may be available to those willing and conscious of where to look, historical ignorance has become all too common. The privileged and victors (a word which I use in the loosest sense) have controlled the narrative and dictated what was subsequently celebrated and taught. This is seen directly through the history of the American military Major, Francis L. Dade. His legacy has become entrenched within South Florida, such as through his namesake county, Miami-Dade. During the Second Seminole War, he was killed in what was subsequently named the Dade Massacre.

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

Simply calling the battle the Dade Massacre highlights the gross reality of the situation; Dade led his army into native territory with the intention of essentially committing ethnic cleansing. When his ploy did not go as planned, resulting in his death, the narrative was spun, depicting the Native Americans as the aggressors and Dade as a war hero. 

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

Crimes against humanities were committed by the Germans during World War II. Unlike American history, Germany did not erect statues in their honor and name counties after them. I have heard firsthand from someone who grew up in Germany that the school system teaches the reality of what occurred, with no watered-down tails to preserve the honor of the nation (which America has similarly failed to achieve). While this could be easily attributed to the outcome of the war, I believe it is a matter of accountability. Occurring in an age where documentation and globalization was expanding, World War II crimes could not be easily swept under the rug. With the tarnished history of America having been ignored for so long, it is our duty to now acknowledge the truth and honor the victims of both the initial incident and history. 

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

South Beach, April 1st, 2022

By Lily Duke of FIU at South Beach on April 1st, 2022

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

It is easy to understand why South Beach attracts so many tourists yearly; the beautiful beach and active nightlife makes for an exciting vacation destination. However, South Beach is so much more than what is portrayed in the neon lit photos and film worthy visuals. From the unique architecture and the rich history to the inclusive community, South Beach is a testament to how multidimensional Miami is as a whole. 

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

As one traverses down South Beach, it is challenging to not get distracted by the atmospheric bars and well-dressed visitors. Home to many beautiful buildings (constructed in the style of art deco – a French form of art established in the 1920’s) and exciting restaurants, South Beach has proven itself to be a must-see location within Miami. While increasingly commercialized, the heart of the community remains, allowing South Beach to become a touchstone for inclusivity and the celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

With that being said, to fully appreciate the community and progress demonstrated, the tumultuous history must be acknowledged. South Beach is not immune to the inhumane targeting of LGBTQ+ individuals. While it has become known as a hub for the community over the last four decades, there have been a plethora of incidents which violate the values seen at the core of South Beach. Throughout the 1990’s, gay clubs were frequently raided, with many gay men being arrested under the guise of supposed drug use. As recently as 2009, incidents of law enforcement officials arresting individuals for simply being a part of the LGBTQ+ community have been reported. This demonstration of institutionalized homophobia was obviously met with backlash, prompting lawsuits and an increased interest in internal affairs and diversity training. With homophobic acts of violence and harassment occurring all too frequently in general, it is disturbing that the agency tasked with protecting the community actively perpetuated the issue.

In 1997, Gianni Versace was murdered on the steps of his mansion located on South Beach by an (allegedly) jilted admirer, who had previously killed four other gay men. Many have argued that homophobia contributed to the ineptitude of law enforcement when it came to arresting the murderer, as officers felt on urgency to protect the gay population. Versace was not only a revolutionary designer, but a symbol for progress and inclusivity, whether it be reflected through his sexuality or design choices (with the latter facilitating empowerment through undermining the restrictive notion of modesty). His presence in South Beach allowed the area to progress to what we see today.

Photo taken by Lily Duke / CC by 4.0

South Beach is so much more than a spring break hot spot. Walking down the beautiful strip simply provides a surface level insight into how extensive and complex the history of South Beach truly is, emphasizing the extent to which we have left to learn about the places we think we know. 

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