Maya Rylke-Friedman is a sophomore at Florida International University. She is studying Social Work and International Relations. With a passion for advocacy, she hopes to work for various non-profits and the government to achieve her vision of universal basic needs coverage. She seeks to implement policies that foster happy, productive, affordable, and sustainable communities. As a hobby, she loves film and making some of her own. Perhaps one day she will combine both passions to document the process of establishing and living in sustainable communities as climate change becomes an ever-increasing crisis.
Maya Rylke-Friedman: Deering as Text 2022
“Let Them Rest in Peace” by Maya Rylke-Friedman of FIU at the Deering Estate on January 28, 2022.
A Historical Conservatory
The Deering Estate is a beautiful place with rich history and respect for nature. Visiting this place was enlightening, as I had not known that much about it at all. It was interesting to see that the Deering family had such a large influence on Miami from the 1920s to now. This family was white and wealthy, made rich by the industrial revolution and machinery manufacturing business. Both James Deering and Charles Deering were highly educated. Charles Deering had estates in France and Spain, and he knew both French and Spanish. Deering wanted to recreate the villas he had in Europe in Miami due to his inability to safely travel to Europe because of World War I.
During my visit to the Deering Estate, Professor Bailly highlighted a theme that is deeply rooted in the history of the Deering Estate: erasing the people who lived and worked on that site. Archeologists found the oldest human remains in all of Southeast Florida there at the Deering Estate. These were prehistoric people from 10,000 years ago, who have no name from historians. Then, still, hundreds of years ago, an indigenous tribe called the Tequesta lived in what is now Miami-Dade county.
The Deering Estate was built during a period of intense racial segregation. Most of the workers who built the Deering Estate were black Bahamians, and the working conditions were abysmal. Five Bahamian workers died in a dynamite explosion while trying to blow out the water basin that leads to Biscayne Bay. The deaths of these men have no memorial at the estate. While slavery was illegal at that time, the policies of segregation kept much of the abuse and poor working conditions very much alive. It seems that most of Miami was built on exploitation for the white and wealthy to enjoy.
The Tequesta and other tribes would walk along old Cutler road, which is located on the Deering Estate, to trade and travel. They would drink from the freshwater mangrove forests and care for the land. This tribe along with others had vibrant communities in not just the Miami area, but all throughout America, and they should not be erased or forgotten. Due to American capitalism and development, Americans bulldoze over our geographic ancestors. Conversely, in France, they pride themselves on their geographic ancestors. They recognize and appreciate that the people there before them were the guardians of the same land.
The irony of the Deering Estate is that this highly educated and wealthy white man lived in luxury in Miami, where the town was primarily made up of people of color. Additionally, his home was built on the backs of Bahamians, that have received very little recognition for their labor. Not to mention, they could not enjoy that same type of luxury themselves. While the Deering Estate is a beautiful conservatory mixed with luxury, to me, it is tainted by the erasure of the people who lived on that property first and the people who built the estate.
I Love My Country
I found it compelling that Professor Bailly had to preface that he loved his country, America, before pointing out the injustices that have not been remedied here. It should be justifiable to hold everyone accountable without it being seen as unappreciative or hateful. Many conservatives like to perpetuate the myth that no one lived in America before the English and Spanish colonized it by excluding them from any kind of recognition. Though the Deering Estate is grand and luxurious, it is not representative of Miami.
Nature Remembers Them
In the wood of the Deering Estate lies a massive tree. 450 years ago, the Tequesta lay their dead in a circle and covered them with sand as they could not dig their graves. It is said that this burial led to the birth of this magnificent tree, as the soil had an abundance of nutrients. Their deaths brought beauty and life, and the tree commemorates their souls. Though people come and go, live and die, we should take it upon ourselves to remember them and honor their legacy. Let them rest in peace.
Maya Rylke-Friedman: Vizcaya as Text 2022
“Vizcaya and The Sun King” by Maya Rylke-Friedman of FIU at Vizcaya on February 18, 2022.
The Architecture of Vizcaya
The architecture of a building, estate, or city indicates much about the character of the people who designed them and the people who live there. Though James Deering is of Northern European descent, his estate is in the Mediterranean revival style, incorporating Italian, French, and Spanish influences. It seems perfect that such a villa would exist here, as the Mediterranean climate is similar to the tropical climate of Miami. Like his brother, Charles Deering, James Deering was a nature conservationist. The way the estate sits on the land alongside the brush is intentional as natural curtains, meant to frame the main house. The true front entrance of the estate faces Biscayne Bay, welcoming the ships that would dock there. The flooring in the front entrance and the side room leading to the gardens has intricate flooring with geometric circles that guide your feet and eyes inwards to the courtyard. As architecture has grown modern, there seems to have been a loss of character, of a symbiotic relationship with nature. Typically, the wealthy enjoy natural beauty even in the most artificial of environments, cities, while the poor are pushed out further from it. Not to mention, the poor and non-white would work tirelessly to create these grand structures, just to be unwelcome after completion.
The Sun King
During our tour, family and friends of the bride and groom exited the bus. They passed us by, chanting and celebrating. While taking in the splendor, I could not help but feel guilty, given the history of racial segregation behind Vizcaya. Seeing the bride and groom photographed in the gardens and the whimsical alter surrounded by massive oak trees astonished me. I thought, “I would like that too,” though I think it would feel wrong to celebrate in such a place. However, James Deering would most certainly disagree. Vizcaya was his palace of pleasure. He emphasized leisure, art, and wine. The back entrance of the home is still immensely grand, and a sculpture of Bacchus, the Roman God of ecstasy and wine, stands in the entry. He adopted a carefree lifestyle with a glass of wine in hand and a cigarette in the other, all the while people were suffering outside the palace walls. James Deering thought of himself as an explorer and discoverer of the new world. Not only this, but he almost thought himself a king, a deity as he had “J’ai dit,” engraved in a stained glass window, essentially stating “Let there be Vizcaya.” James Deering seemingly emulated Versailles and King Louis XIV, not just through behavior, but through the rococo features and maze-like gardens of the estate.
Grandeur and the People
I feel that James Deering’s overly-indulgent grandeur would have been better served and more enjoyable if all types of people could have part-taken in it. There has been a longstanding theme of the wealthy not wanting to share any of their wonders, but I believe that one of the parts of achieving an authentic and fulfilling life is through breaking bread with those with backgrounds different from yourself. Aime ton prochain.
Maya Rylke-Friedman: Miami as Text 2022
“Pioneers and the Forgotten” by Maya Rylke-Friedman of FIU in Downtown Miami on March 11, 2022.
Miami’s history contains a diversity of people, cultures, and architecture. Julia Tuttle owned land in present-day Miami and forged a deal with Henry Flagler to build a railroad that would connect Miami to the rest of the country. She conceived the initiative to incorporate and develop the areas surrounding the Miami River, making her the first woman to found a city.
Henry Flagler helped incorporate the city of Miami with his railroads and hotels. The men that essentially built Miami were Black laborers, and they could not enjoy the fruits of their creation as Flagler segregated them to “Colored Town”, though the first registered citizen of Miami was a person of color, Silas Austin.
There is the beautiful story of William Wagner’s homestead. Wagner fell in love with Eveline Aimar, a Haitian-Creole immigrant during a time of deep racial bigotry. He settled along the Miami River with his family and established friendships with the Seminoles. Near the relocated homestead, there are former slave quarters turned army barracks called Fort Dallas. Despite the story of Wagner, racial injustice has been a reoccurring theme throughout the pioneer and modern age of Miami history.
Henry Flagler initiated the pollution of the Miami River with waste from the Royal Palm Hotel. The Miami River used to thrive with fresh and clean water, which has since become dark and dirty. Miami has been faced with serious water consequences from not only the river, but also rising sea levels as industries, governments, and people disregard the need to protect our environment.
As various peoples have gained and lost control of Miami, the architecture has morphed. Once a beautiful natural landscape, industrial development brought domineering, phallic buildings. The Government Center, the Miami-Dade Courthouse, and even the Freedom Tower (formerly The Miami News Office) are tall, rectangular structures that I feel reinforce a patriarchal and industrial atmosphere.
A former Tequesta village is now a dog park in Miami. While it is fascinating that their artifacts such as ceramics, home foundations, and tools have been recovered here, there is no plaque to remember them. There is a statue that is supposed to emulate a Tequesta, but it has no mark explaining what it is.
Flagler knowingly destroyed a Tequesta burial mound but is honored in various ways in Miami via statues and street names. Similarly, Miami-Dade County was named after the defeated military commander, Major Francis Langhorne Dade, who led his men into an ambush from the Seminoles. A plaque on the Miami-Dade Courthouse contains offensive language as it frames the ambush as a massacre by the “Indians” and “Negroes”. With that, Miami is still glorifying bigoted men, with no movement to denounce their beliefs, and forgetting those that were here first.
Modern Day People of Miami
Do we remember the women who established modern Miami? Do we remember the people of color who built Miami from the ground up? Do we remember the Tequesta and Seminoles who lived here before us? Do we honor each and every one of their legacies?
If it were not for this class, I am not sure I would know the true history of Miami. I do not think that the people of Miami know it either, and that is partly because the city does not do enough to commemorate the lives of those who made Miami their own. This was not our land, the least we can do is honor those that came before us, and not shut out Miami’s rich history.
Maya Rylke-Friedman: SoBe as Text 2022
“A Vibrant Miami Beach” by Maya Rylke-Friedman of FIU in South Beach on April 1, 2022.
I am fascinated with the architectural character and planning of cities. I find it a shame that the Art Deco style did not continue to be developed, though I know some find it impractical. People can simply make more money by building bigger and taller units, not the quaint 3 story buildings that are characteristic of Miami Beach. But I feel that the walkability, bike-ability, and the balance of nature and city are important characteristics of a good city to take away from Miami Beach. Its Art Deco architecture makes Miami Beach almost more quaint than downtown Miami. I like the simplicity and squareness of Art Deco. Though it is angular, it features fun, round accents. We must thank Barbara Baer, another remarkable woman of Miami history, as she conserved Miami Beach’s historic architecture and saved it from the unremarkable Condo Canyon.
History and Identity
To say that Miami Beach perfectly preserves nature alongside a city environment would be incorrect, however, because Miami Beach developers, one being Carl Fisher, destroyed vital mangrove forests that were naturally located there. Historians stated that Miami Beach was a wasteland, though it most definitely was not. To say this is irresponsible and ignorant because many different types of people lived here including Africans, Afro-Bahamians, The Tequesta, and Seminoles. Jewish people also came to inhabit Miami Beach, but like many of the Africans, Afro-Bahamians, and indigenous population, they too were discriminated against. Homosexuals later came to Miami Beach as well and created a prominent community there.
Respect and Remembrance
After reading, listening, and watching so many stories of hatred and loss for this class, we must acknowledge that so many different groups in Miami and globally have suffered and continue to suffer. We must remember their presence and their struggles, and act against the suffering that is being inflicted upon them.