Sebastian Calonge: Miami as Text 2022

Pictured: Sebastian Calonge. Photograph taken by Ricardo Calonge (Canon EOS Rebel T3i) /
CC by 4.0

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Deering as Text

Photograph taken by Sebastian Calonge (Canon EOS Rebel T3i) / CC by 4.0

Situated off Biscayne Bay, The Deering Estate is one of the oldest Floridian landmarks with geological footprints tracing back to the Tequesta.

The Unknown Miami

By Sebastian Calonge of FIU at Deering Estate, 28 January 2022.

As our first excursion, our Honors class visited the Deering Estate located in Palmetto Bay, Florida. For many local residents, this tour was extremely impressive and insightful as we were unaware of the historical site. Established in the early 1920’s, the estate was built by Bohemian slaves upon the request of Charles Deering. As a wealthy industrialist from Chicago, he sought to settle down in Miami during the latter years of his lifetime. He lived there until his very last moments as he passed in 1927.

Photographs taken by Sebastian Calonge (Canon EOS Rebel T3i) / CC by 4.0

Home to eight different ecosystems, our class was able to experience the diversity of the property hands on. From interacting with ancient Tequesta remains to the manatees in the Boat Basin, the experience was one of a kind. Visiting the burial grounds and remains site was extremely interesting because we were able to visualize the extent of the history that exists in our very own backyards. Analyzing tools such as the ones pictured below was incredible.

Photographs taken by Sebastian Calonge (Canon EOS Rebel T3i) / CC by 4.0

Along with the nature aspect of the estate, we also encountered the marvelous architectural influence Deering included in the construction of his Spanish villa. With different arches and details, it was astonishing to see the resemblance that the Floridian property had with those in Spain.

Photographs taken by Sebastian Calonge (Canon EOS Rebel T3i) / CC by 4.0

All in all the experience was unmatched. Having been our first excursion together as a group, we were able to observe history, interact and engage with our environment, and explore parts of Miami I did not even knew existed.

Vizcaya as Text

By Sebastian Calonge of FIU at Deering Estate, 18 February 2022.

Photograph taken by Sebastian Calonge (Canon EOS Rebel T3i) / CC by 4.0

Miami, home to many historical amusements, recognized for its beautiful mangroves and historic towns. However, one of its most important landmarks is often overlooked. Vizcaya, built in the early 1910’s, is the villa that belonged to James Deering, brother of Charles Deering. This architectural gem was a symbol of extreme wealth as they arrived in the New World since no one had established this kind of luxury in the Americas at this point in time. His decision to situate this villa in the heart of several ecosystems was not coincidental. The land’s exclusivity allowed for entrance only by boat as means to prevent peasants from entering.

Photograph taken by Sebastian Calonge (Canon EOS Rebel T3i) / CC by 4.0

Upon arrival, guests are met with a long-stretched road leading to the villa. On both sides there are narrow gardens with large vase-like fountains which have a deeper meaning than one’s initial glance. In Islamic culture, these jet features are used for pondering and meditation with oneself. They are meant to strike thought and reflection. Deering’s implementation of these fountains just goes to show the kind of Western influence he so dearly wished to include in his villa.

Photograph taken by Sebastian Calonge (Canon EOS Rebel T3i) / CC by 4.0

As one enters the main room, they are presented with a statue of Bacchus the Roman God of wine and ecstasy. This statue of Bacchus holding a jar of grapes and indulging in his possessions is almost inviting the guests to do the same. In this manner, Deering was very ahead of his time as Miami is now one of the American staples of social gatherings and relaxation. By including this statue, he makes sure that his guests know they are at home and can enjoy themselves just like they would in Europe.

Photograph taken by Sebastian Calonge (Canon EOS Rebel T3i) / CC by 4.0

Photographed above is Professor Bailly with our Honors Study Abroad class as we discuss the history of the museum and its cultural impact on Miami. Do you know where Pope John Paul II met with President Ronald Reagan when he visited Miami in the late 1980’s? Officials were thinking about where they should hold the meeting and ended up choosing Vizcaya as the place to host this historic moment because of the importance the villa (now museum) had in the past and continues to hold till this day.

Photograph taken by Sebastian Calonge (Canon EOS Rebel T3i) / CC by 4.0

Walking through the villa, I was amused by the depictions on the ceiling and their resemblance to those of mansions and estates in Europe. Deering made sure he brought these kinds of European influences to his home as to emulate the ambiance he knew his entire life.

Downtown Miami as Text

By Sebastian Calonge of FIU at Downtown Miami, 11 March 2022.

Photographs taken by Sebastian Calonge (iPhone 11) / CC by 4.0

Miami is an almost fully modernized city with the exception of certain historic pockets located throughout downtown. Fort Dallas, pictured on the right, is a oolite souvenir of the pioneer era. Built in 1844, this structure housed the hardworking slaves who constructed the very first parts of the city we know today.

Photographs taken by Sebastian Calonge (iPhone 11) / CC by 4.0

Walking around the area where some of the first buildings of the city exist was an incredibly humbling and surreal experience. Lummus Park is now a recognized spot in the National Register of Historic Places.

Photograph taken by Sebastian Calonge (iPhone 11) / CC by 4.0

At first glance, this circular area appears just as any other park would. Reality is this spot is considerably one of the most historic places in Florida. The Miami Circle was home to one of the first Tequesta villages in the 18th century. Due to its sacredness, this circle has been guarded by rails and is protected from future construction.

Photograph provided by Professor J.W. Bailly / CC by 4.0

The photo above was truly shocking to view as an individual born and raised in Miami. As part of the Spain Study Abroad class, I was already made aware of the similarities between Miami and the country of Spain, however, seeing this image truly spoke to the influence of Spanish architecture in Miami’s development. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to see this building in Spain this summer.

South Beach as Text

By Sebastian Calonge of FIU at Miami Beach, 1 April 2022.

Photograph taken by Sebastian Calonge (iPhone 11) / CC by 4.0

During our walking lecture in South Beach, I came to learn a great deal about the roots of the Miami we know today. This historic area was once known as Ocean Beach for its location and subsequent contrast from Downtown Miami and Key Biscayne. With its unique architecture, style, and culture, this neighborhood of Miami attracts thousands of tourists year-round.

Photographs taken by Sebastian Calonge (iPhone 11) / CC by 4.0

Throughout the lecture, one recurring theme that caught my interest was South Beach’s marvelous architecture. Not only does the city excel in demonstrating beautiful design, but it cohesively mixes various kinds of styles. Throughout SoBe, we encountered three different styles of architecture: Art Deco, MiMo, and Mediterranean revival. To see these unique buildings working together in the same space was extremely interesting and speaks volumes of the diversity Miami has to offer.

Photographs taken by Sebastian Calonge (iPhone 11) / CC by 4.0

On the picture to the right, our class is situated in front of the Barbara Baer Capitman Memorial, which is a commemoration to the woman who built and lead the very beginnings of Miami. Overall, we found great pleasure in learning South Beach and its rich history. Our class ended by walking back to South Pointe Pier and enjoying the cool water!

Author: sebastiancalonge

Sebastian Calonge is a second-year student of the Honors College at Florida International University working toward a Bachelors of Business Administration in Marketing. Born and raised in Miami, he enjoys travel, photography, and design. This upcoming summer, he will be traveling to Spain as part of the Honors College Study Abroad program. Given his Spanish background, specifically from Pais Vasco which is located in the northern part of Spain, he is hoping to further immerse himself in the culture, language, and life of the beautiful country.

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