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 / CC by 4.0

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. 

Chicken Key/Biscayne Bay As Text: October 5th, 2022

“Biscayne Bay Mangroves”, Picture taken by Beatriz Muelas / CC by 4.0

Chicken Key is a small deserted island located in Biscayne Bay, Miami, around a mile away from the mainland. This island has collected a very shockingly large amount of debris. Keeping in mind the fact that Hurricane Ian has dragged a lot of the debris from the south into Florida. The amount of waste founded in this small island was very traumatizing and really opened my eyes on the amount of pollution this Earth holds. A couple of the most random things I found in the island while gathering as much trash as I could was a light bulb, many used syringes, a used camping tent, and a lot of beer bottles and cans. I also found an area with crates of trash that consisted of food and what looked like materials somebody might’ve used to live in the island for a while, probably assuming a refugee from Cuba or the Bahamas traveled by boat and settled there for a while. I also found a cup that was brought from the Bahamas, either by the hurricane or people traveling from there. Ocean pollution is an insanely large threat to humanity and animals and I did not realize the great importance of this worldwide issue until I travelled there and saw it with my own eyes. Facing the truth of the situation, most people pollute every once in a while when there is no place to dispose trash nearby. However, after seeing the great amount of junk, it makes a difference to hold on to your own trash and dispose of it properly, since you never know where that piece of garbage could end up in and may possible wrap end up in the ocean, around an animal’s neck. Just to be exact, the amount of trash we gathered as a class consisted in at least twenty trash bags and probably more. 

The picture above demonstrates some of the mangroves in Biscayne Bay which demonstrates one of nature’s beauties. A small canal in between the mangroves in which a couple of the sun’s rays were hitting the water. However, it is miserable what humanity can do to ruin nature’s beauty by carelessly throwing trash around where it’s not supposed to be put in. Because of humanity’s irresponsibility and nature’s tragedies, many bodies of water, like Biscayne Bay, have been polluted and ruin the quality of the water, as well as killing many poor innocent animals. 

Biscayne Bay and other polluted bodies of water are in great danger and will increase in amount of danger until something can be done to restore the quality of the water. If the word on the dangers of pollution can be spread and actually impact people enough for them to stop littering, as well as a project in every city consisting of picking up waste spread around, the seriousness of pollution will be reduced in a small amount. In order to make a big change in the amounts of waste worldwide, a project would need to be implemented for many years. 

Vizcaya as Text: October 19, 2022

“Vizcaya Museum West Entrance”, Picture taken by Beatriz Muelas / CC by 4.0
“Ponce de Leon at Vizcaya Museum West Entrance”, Picture taken by Beatriz Muelas / CC by 4.0

The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is located in Coconut Grove, Miami and is a preserved piece of the history of Miami. James Deering created this beautiful mansion in 1912 when the Spaniards settlers came to Biscayne Bay. The first picture demonstrates the west entrance of the museum and as you make your way in you can see a statue of Ponce de Leon which is demonstrated in the second picture. Ponce de Leon is a spaniard who claimed Florida in 1513. He decided to begin the Grand Exchange, also known as the Columbian Exchange, of products between Europe and Florida in which things like tobacco, potato, and corn were sent to Europe and products like tea and silk were sent to Florida. This is a very powerful statue which holds great value and the efforts to preserve such structures are greatly appreciated and valued. 

As you can see in the statue of Ponce de Leon, there is a ball at his feet which represents the globe of the world. Even though the statue has deteriorated over the years, it is still greatly preserved and thankfully, we can see that the area of the globe that is facing upwards is the Americas and Florida is able to be seen clearly on the globe made of stone. I believe this statue and the maintenance of it should be greatly acknowledged by many, since most people living in Miami don’t truly have the knowledge of the importance of it. 

I find it interesting how the structure and architecture of the house resembles the Italian architecture when there is a statue of the spanish Ponce de Leon who firstly settled in Miami in front of the villa. I admire the architecture and landscape of this villa and how much effort people implemented into preserving the Italian resemblance. I wonder why there isn’t much architecture resembling the Spanish architecture and why the architect called Burrall Hoffman implemented more Italian structures than Spanish. However, there is a wide range of influence from the Mediterranean style of architecture that was taken into consideration when creating the fabulous museum. I wonder why at the moment they decided to add more Italian design and culture, when hosting the welcoming party on Christmas Day of 1916 where the theme was for the guests to dress like Italian peasants.

There once was also a moat surrounding this mansion as a form to protect their belongings. The moat was a deep excavated hole in the ground surrounding the house and was filled with water to prevent the enemies from accessing the house. This was the mansion’s primary form of defense as well as security guards. It is known that James Deering also added cacti once all the water was soaked up from the ground. Nowadays, the moat is still there but is now filled with plants and is not able to be seen unless looked upon specific points in the area. This piece from Europe located in the center of Miami is gracefully appreciated and admired from the citizens of Miami that contain the knowledge of the story behind the museum. 

Miami Beach as Text: November 2nd, 2022

“Villa Casa Casuarina” (Versace Mansion), Picture taken by Beatriz Muelas / CC by 4.0

This mansion is located in Miami Beach in Ocean Drive. It is originally named the Villa Casa Casuarina but it is known as the house Gianni Versace lived in. This house is different in appearance to most of the buildings and architecture around Miami Beach. This is because the architecture of this specific house is Mediterranean, which is Versace’s nationality, more specifically from Italy. Most of the houses in the main street of Miami Beach have a couple characteristics that make them all look alike. For example, the buildings only have three floors, the pastel colors, and the curved edges. However, the Versace house does have three floors, but none of the other characteristics mentioned or the other characteristics that most of the other buildings carry. The characteristics also include something called eyebrows, which is when there is a structure sticking out of the building in a long rectangular shape and it creates some sort of eyebrows on top of the windows of the third floor of the buildings. These buildings also carry other characteristics that are distinct to the rest of architecture internationally. When I first passed by this house I wondered to myself why Versace did not want his house to have the cool architectural styles that Miami Beach had to offer. However, after gathering my knowledge about it, I assumed it was because Versace wanted his house to be different and accepted, much like the prohibition of homosexual marriage at that moment in time.

Gianni Versace was murdered in the steps of his front door by a random citizen and it is concluded that this occurred because of jealousy and hatred as well as the killer being a psychopath. He left to his nearby, around the corner cafe called News Cafe in the morning of hot summer day and all of a sudden that was his last activity. Versace was an icon and a person that influenced society as well as fashion and I find it amazing that his name and brand is still being talked about more than thirty years later and I can confidently say that Versace will continue to be talked about and remembered. 

The fact that his house is still being preserved is a great honor and remembrance of him and his influence in fashion around the world. Even though a couple things have been modified and turned a little more modern, the house still stands and that makes part of Miami Beach extremely special and unique. Nowadays, the place that was once the worldwide famous Versace’s home is now a hotel where anyone can go and stay there and walk the steps that he walked. At the time that Versace lived in this villa, Miami Beach was not as publicly advertised as it is nowadays, more than thirty years later. It is interesting to me that Miami Beach has slowly increased in ranking and I believe it has to do with the fact that Versace’s house is there as well as other memorable places and structures that are very interesting architecturally as well. 

Deering Estate as Text: November 16th, 2022

Laura Hernandez, Aleidy Encarnacion & Beatriz Muelas standing in front of Boat Basin“, Picture taken by Beatriz Muelas / CC by 4.0

The Deering Estate Boat Basin is formed in a circular shape in front of the Deering Estate Stone House. Chicken Key is located a mile away from the Boat Basin. There is a wide variety of ocean species located here such as: manatees, algae, fish, sharks, alligators, turtles, dolphins, etc. This area of freshwater is very sacred and no humans or any human-made transports are allowed to pass inside for preservation of these organisms. I feel gratitude and appreciation for those who kept this area and wildlife safe from outside factors that could’ve influenced the environment state. However, this Boat Basin was first constructed because of Charles Deering. His idea was to create a type of dock for his two boats called: the Barbee and Mar-y-cel. Thanks to his previous idea, there is now a safe home for wildlife. The first day I went to visit this fascinating place, I saw manatees and many fish as well as birds surrounding the area.

Before Charles Deering gained control over this piece of land, the Deering Estate first belonged to S. H. Richmond in which he constructed the Stone House which was first a two story hotel. Then, when Deering took over, he created a beautiful house with Mediterranean architecture, mostly focusing on architecture similar to the one in Sitges, Spain. Charles Deering also decided to add a Prohibition Era wine and liquor cellar in which he was not allowed to create any type of alcohol. This house is still standing and I feel extreme gratitude for the county to preserve these wonderful creations from history. As you walk through the Deering Estate, the Boat Basin is located right behind the house in which you are able to see marine wildlife from the windows of the house. I believe this was not a coincidence and this makes the Deering Estate even more gratefully admired. 

The People’s Dock is also located next to the Boat Basin. It is an area in which people can walk to and enjoy the fresh air doing whatever activity they enjoy. The People’s Dock as well as the majority of the Deering Estate was constructed by Afro-Bohemian and African-American workers. The Vizcaya Museum was also constructed by the same workers because of the intense racial segregation that once existed in Miami. I find it horrifying how not even one of the workers’ names who built this beautiful landmark are recognized or shared upon society. I find it even more horrifying that the working conditions for the builders were intense and dangerous in which many died to create this living space. Nowadays, this property belongs to the government as a historical landmark to visit and enjoy various activity such as kayaking or fishing for free. There are also public bathrooms and is very well constructed for all of society to enjoy. 

Rubell Museum as Text: November 23, 2022

Yayoi Kusama, ‘Where the Lights in My Heart Go’, Rubell Museum“, Picture taken by Beatriz Muelas / CC by 4.0

The Rubell Museum is located in Allapattah, Miami. This museum belongs to the Rubell family. I believe they were always destined to become well-known artists and began their journey by creating art at home in their apartment. Once they decided to build this museum, they finally allowed society and art lovers to view their perspective and inspiration that led to the creation of these artworks. I truly did not know much about contemporary art before I arrived to this museum. When I first walked in, I saw many silver spheres on the floor and I wondered how strange yet interesting and beautiful this idea was. I immediately recognized these strange shapes on the floor and I am certain I have seen this museum advertised on social media. I realize now that contemporary art is a very important part of society and life overall. Art has been explored in the past and is still being taught to society, so it is crucial for us to also learn about the art being made in the present era we live in. 

The image above demonstrates one of the most famous artworks in the museum. It is one of the two “Yayoi Kusama” rooms in the museum in which you can experience the artwork. It can be described as a walk-in room, an experiential art piece. The fascination that entered my body as soon as I walked inside was majestic. I do not know how they made this art piece or how they came up with it but I am so grateful to experience one of the most famous artworks from this museum and to experience the contrast of the pieces of light reflecting on the mirrors creating a sense of infinity. This truly inspired me to believe that it is never too late to begin or even continue something you are destined to do. 

There were many strange, yet interesting pieces of work throughout the whole museum. For example, there was a very simple piece that interestingly, caught my attention. The best way I could describe it is that there were two squares, one of them colored orange and the other one black. These squares were separate yet next to each other on a blue background and were connected by a thinner black line at the top and the bottom. This piece seems very simple and may appear boring at first sight, yet the meaning behind it was truly encouraging. This artwork portrayed that us, as humans, sometimes rather stay in our comfort zone than leave it, yet, there is always a path that can lead you to step out of your comfort zone and return to it later. The artwork presents one of the squares as your comfort zone and the other square as what there will be once you step out of your comfort zone. The black lines connecting the two squares represent the action of stepping out and returning. 

At one point while walking and investigating the museum, I wondered how the Rubell family was able to make all of this happen and I wondered what type of issues they encountered during the process. This thought led to the inspiration that when you are destined to do what you know you love, the issues along the way may seem important but are not as important as the process of making it all happen. 

Untitled as Text: November 30th, 2022

“Yanira Collado, Emerson Dosch, Untitled Art Fair 2022”, Picture taken by Beatriz Muelas / CC by 4.0

The Untitled Art Fair is located on the beach and is held every year for one week during the end of November to the beginning of December. The Untitled Art Fair 2022 took place from November 29th until December 3rd. It is a covered built-in space where many artists from all around the world exhibit their paintings in. 

The painting demonstrated above is called “Penumbras para Apambiachao 5, 2022” and is made by Yanira Collado in which she works with the gallery called “Emerson Dosch.” When I first saw the painting I believed it was a mixture of different colors of paint together until I got closer and realized there were materials in the painting that consisted of cardboard, paper, and other textiles.     I felt connected with this piece of art since it appears to show many layers in the artwork which I related to people. Behind everyone’s appearance there are many layers to getting to know someone. The layers can be made of any color and/or any material which brings out a different layer, or perspective, of the painting. The layers, depending on the color and/or texture, can demonstrate a different part of a person’s personality. I admire the artist that created this because of her imagination and ability to create something so meaningful to people that don’t even know her. 

Another piece of art that I really caught my attention was one called “Miami” and it demonstrated a dolphin surrounded by black lines, as if the dolphin were in a cage. However, this piece of art was special because it was physically active. What I mean by this was that the artwork was moving on its own. The black lines surrounding the dolphin were moving in a downward diagonal direction. Since the artwork was hanging from the ceiling, you could tell that the artwork was moving along the x-axis and turning around slowly. I resonated with this piece because of the fact it was not a still painting and it was moving. I found it interesting when my classmate asked the painter what the name of the artwork was. Since the painter travels a lot, he decided to name this piece “Miami” since it represented a dolphin and he was selling it in Miami. 

The Untitled Art Fair really blew my mind because I did not expect the artworks I found there. There were so many different varieties of paintings and sculptures that were very interesting and was necessary to stop and take a good look to figure out it’s deeper meaning. Before attending this art fair, I did not know I enjoyed contemporary art as much as I did. Contemporary art can take any shape or form and create a beautiful masterpiece. Thanks to this experience, I will definitely be attending the Untitled Art Fair next year since it brought me so much joy and relaxation when I went for this first time this year. It is very interesting how art can shift your perspective in different ways. 

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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