Beatriz Muelas: Miami as Text 2022-2023

Beatriz Muelas is currently a sophomore attending Florida International University. She is studying psychology and aspires to learn about how different cultures and environments affect people’s mindsets and to help them overcome any societal issues they may be experiencing. She was born in Chile but is originally from Spain and has lived in Costa Rica for three years until she came to Miami as a child. She also enjoys being outdoors and experiencing new things.

Downtown Miami as Text: September 7th, 2022

The Miami River runs through Downtown Miami as well as Little Havana and Allapattah. It is approximately 6 miles long and its main uses are hydraulic on one hand, as part of the network of canals through South Florida which drain out the Everglades, and as a navigation waterway, both for commercial and leisure purposes. In the 1800s, this river was made up of fresh water and was available as a human resource. Miami was one of the cities with the best water supply thanks to this river. However, when the city of Miami came into construction and urbanization developed massively in the early 1900s, there was a lot of dredging and filling in the river, which caused significant contamination, debris, and deposits of mud and muck at the bottom. One of those developments was the hotel that Henry Flager built next to the river, called the “Royal Palm Hotel.” Sadly, this hotel released all of its pollution and garbage into the river, contributing to the destruction of the precious value it once had. These kinds of  actions are still taking place nowadays, and despite the sewage treatment plan that the City of Miami built in the 1950s, the water is still quite polluted and the quality of the water supply has decreased dramatically. Nowadays, Miami is one of the most populated cities in the whole United States and there is a higher demand for water supply in this city than any other less populated cities. There have been some initiatives to try and restore the water, but none that have truly restored the beautiful Miami River we once had. Of course, the sewage needs to be drained out in every city, which is why there is more pollution now than centuries of years ago, but more stringent environmental restrictions and laws should be put in place in order to protect the living organisms that exist in the river and eliminate the current pollution. It is known that there are alligators and manatees that swim in the river. However, not enough is being done to ensure that the living conditions in the river are adequate from an environmental point of view. Also, there are people that travel through the river in boats, jet skis, etc. If anybody falls into the river water, it is not deadly, but accidentally swallowing it may cause you to be incredibly sick. Considering that Miami is an important international reference for development, art, design and modern lifestyle, resources should be allocated to develop special projects dedicated to ensure environmental sustainability of the river, so that it can become a significant landmark in this great city. However, such implementation of environmental measures or projects should also be accompanied by an increasing social education and concern to stop littering and consider the river as a key and necessary part of our lives. Also, if enough effort and concern is put into the importance of water supply for the Miami River to restore this once exquisite river might even save many people’s lives that are deprived of water and don’t have an easy access to clean and healthy drinkable water. 

Overtown as Text: September 21st, 2022

“The Historic Lyric Theatre”, Picture taken by Beatriz Muelas

Overtown is an area in Miami located northwest from Downtown Miami. This area was majorly populated by blacks, which is why in the 1890s people would call it the “Colored Town.” This Lyric Theatre was built in 1913 and was a very successful building where many would gather around and there would be many shows and events going on, and there still are some shows going on nowadays. In the late 1940s, this theatre was known as Miami’s Little Broadway and where this picture was taken was where many famous and talented blacks were standing and gathering around. I can imagine that this theatre was the place of happiness and celebration for the neighborhood of Overtown, considering that the performers could spend the night anywhere nearby.

During the time where the Jim Crow Was were implemented in the United States, many performers preferred to have their show at this lyric theatre than in other places because it was more comfortable. However, it is a shame that these laws were implemented and limited people’s abilities of spending the night wherever they wanted to. Those famous black performers, such as Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, and Josephine Baker, who were given the opportunity to perform in Miami Beach or any other area they have never performed at, had to perform far away from home and travel back to Overtown to spend the night and sometimes perform for a second time that night at this flourishing Lyric Theatre. Even under the unfortunate circumstances during these times, this lyric theatre provided happiness for them and is a nice place for them to enjoy themselves at. I can just imagine all the friends and families gathered around outside the theatre waiting to watch a fabulous show or event they were having.

People all over Miami wanted to travel to Overtown to make it to the shows at this specific theatre because of the spark and outstanding success this theatre had during that era. There were also political meetings withheld within this theatre, which was also the center for political matters during the Civil Rights in Miami. There were discussions about the racial segregation and sometimes action against segregation would be taken into place as well as speeches and voting sessions. Because of the miserable way that the Civil Rights Movement in Miami affected the people in the area of Overtown, they had to rely on the joyful aspects of life and take advantage of the positive energy and spaces that the neighborhood had. This included the churches and the lyric theatre, as well as other buildings that have been taken down and substituted with other buildings. Also, the historical lyric theatre was not only used for political meetings, concerts, and shows, but there were also beauty pageants and it was a place that held activities for the clubs in the neighborhood. There was once a lot of spirit in this town and it’s lamentable that I have been living in Miami for more than ten years and just recently found out what Overtown was and where it was located and the history and significance it carries in the city of Miami. 

Author: beamuelas

I am currently a sophomore attending Florida International University. I am studying psychology and I aspire to learn about how different cultures and environments affect people's mindsets and to help them overcome any societal issues they may be experiencing. I was born in Chile but I am originally from Spain. I have lived in Costa Rica for three years of my life and came to Miami with my family as a child. I also enjoy being outdoors and experiencing new things.

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