George Coba: Miami as Text 2022-2023

PHOTO DATE: 7/14/2022 LOCATION: Bldg. 8 Rm. 183. SUBJECT: Official NASA Portrait of George Coba. PHOTOGRAPHER: Norah Moran

George Coba has been a native Miamian all his life. He currently lives in Little Havana with his parents who are Cuban immigrants. He is currently an FIU student that is a part of the Honors College and has an internship with NASA. He loves to rock climb, hike and go on new adventures. He finds the most fascination and peace in nature’s impossible and chaotic beauty.


“Paradise Destroyed” by George Coba at Downtown Miami

What an incredible history of humanity Miami holds. There is evidence of humanity in the Miami area as long as 10,000 years ago. The first civilization, the Tequesta, lived in the Miami area in 300 BCE. They lived in the area for approximately 2,000 years. New evidence of their villages has been found in the center of Downtown Miami as recently as 2005. The Tequesta lived in Miami’s now prime real estate, at the mouth of the Miami river into the beautiful Biscayne Bay. They had large and complex trade networks that reached as far as Mexico, ritual sites, and held relationships with the Spanish when they arrived in the 1500s.The Tequesta lived in paradise, the Miami river was a crystal-clear freshwater marvel, the open ocean held an abundance of seafood, and the nearby Everglades held many deer and wildlife to hunt. There are few locations in the world this perfect for civilization, but Miami was lucky enough to be one of them.

(Photograph by George Coba / CC by 4.0)
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Nowadays, the Miami river is so polluted it would be unadvisable to swim in it and irresponsible to drink from it. What happened to this wonderful paradise? Given such a unique and beautiful location how could humanity have let such a place slip through its fingers? The destruction of the Miami river began long after the Tequesta’s enjoyed this paradise. Its modification began at the very end of the 19th century. As modern industrialists moved in with railroads the natural rapids of the river were destroyed to build a canal. This environmental destruction led to the water becoming undrinkable due to saltwater intrusion. To finish off whatever life the river still had Miami’s sewer began dumping raw sewage into the river making it far too polluted to ever become its beautiful self again. Learning about the destruction of this river breaks my heart and it’s sad to think that I am watching humanity continue to do the same thing still, so many years later. As close as the Everglades there are currently huge sections being destroyed to make suburban homes. Like the Miami river the Everglades is a world unique site and it is impossible to find something similar anywhere in the world. The redirecting and misuse of the Everglades resources has been killing it for as many years as the Miami river.

We have attempted to build against nature for a long time and have continuously destroyed things so badly that we must try and rebuild. Currently we spend billons of dollars attempting to repair the damage we have done to the Everglades as a whole. Humanity does not seem to learn the lesson that destroying these beautiful ecosystems always leads to us having to replace what it provided for us. The Miami River, once a pristine source of fresh drinking water is gone as fresh water becomes one of the world’s most scarce resources. Destruction like that of the Miami river around the world has led to what we now call climate change.


“Money for Culture” by George Coba at Overtown Miami

Miami’s Overtown has been the center of incredible change over the last few years. Great economic growth, buildings rising everywhere, people and businesses moving in. All this sounds like positive progress but that is a matter of perspective. I was shown a new perspective I had never seen before while exploring Overtown. These heaps of economic progress come at the cost of a cultural decline. Is the coliseum bulldozed to make space for high-rises? Is the globe theater replaced with a supermarket? No, these places are far too culturally valuable to be replaced with something so meaningless. Yet here in Overtown something similar has happened and continues to happen.

The first blow of “economic growth” that Overtown took was the building of I-95. This interstate highway ripped straight through the neighborhood. The building of I-95 didn’t only displace residents by physically demolishing homes and building right over them but also by its long-term effects of noise and pollution. An unfortunately perfect example of this is the Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church. The church is only 20 feet from the roar of the cars and trucks off the highway. Inside of the church you still hear each vehicle even from the nave. Although I-95 was Overtown’s first blow for the economic growth of others it wasn’t its last. Today, high-rises, supermarkets and an incredibly high cost of living continues to batter down the town. As Miami’s developers run out of space, they are beginning to move into Overtown. Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church is a victim of this second blow. Its congregation has been reduced from a church that was bursting open to barely filling its seats. Alberta Godfrey of Greater Bethel described the effect of the new cost of living tragically, speaking about her friends and fellow church members having to move away and it being completely unrealistic to come back to the church. Without its people a church is no longer a place of community or worship but just a building.

(Photograph by George Coba / CC by 4.0)
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Although this all sounds terrible and it is, people still live in Overtown, what are they doing now? Well, adapting. The incredible and adaptive nature of Overtown’s population piqued my interest as I saw it at every turn. Greater Bethel was nearly shut down during the pandemic, but they began to have Zoom masses and gained members from all around the world. The Ward Rooming House lost its usefulness as a quarter and has been turned into an art gallery. The lyric theatre is still a theatre but has also become a museum to preserve its history. The historic home of Alex Lightburn is preserved by being rented out to groups. Through the most terrible of times these residents have found a way to continue surviving where they are. I hope to continue being able to visit these historic sites in the future even if the pressure of gentrification does not let up on the neighborhood.

I would like to say a special thank you to Alberta Godfrey for telling us her unbelievable stories of Overtown and the Greater Bethel church. There are few people in this world with the history that she holds so willing and able to share it. I hope to see great success for Mrs. Godfrey and the Greater Bethel church in the future.


“Our mother, Earth” by George Coba at Chicken Key

The entrance to the Deering Estate opens its royal wooden gates to massive trees, limestone walls, and its beautiful bay. Walking in, I could see the professor with a group of students sitting at the edge of the water observing native manatees swimming around the concrete circle created for the estate. I sat to join them; we counted about five being present and this included a baby manatee swimming besides the mother. As we saw some commotion in the water the professor calmly explained we were watching them mating as it was the prime season for it. With a laugh, we walked over to our large collection of kayaks and canoes. I knew ahead of time that we would be kayaking about a mile to Chicken Key; a little uninhabited island off the coast of the Deering Estate waters. We were also told to prepare to pick up plenty of trash as it collects on the island, and we would be performing a cleanup.

After grabbing our life jackets and picking partners to kayak or canoe with, we loaded onto the boats and headed off to the island. Along the way we stopped at a beautiful mangrove tunnel completely unique to Florida’s incredible brackish water areas. The mangroves of the area are an incredible sight in stark contrast to the deforested coasts along plenty of Miami’s coastline. Mangroves not only provide a beautiful sight but also protect our coast from erosion and flood damage especially during great storms or hurricanes. The unique ecosystem left me feeling freshly human as a simple hunter and gatherer navigating the deep mangrove forest.

We continued our journey without breaks after that, to the island where me and my partner were the first to dock. We uncomfortably squeezed our way through the trees and bushes onto the island itself. Our peers docked alongside for the next few minutes as I took in deep breaths of the ocean breeze. Pristine. Everything felt as if it was right where it was supposed to be in the world. Every part of this trip had felt like a dive into the past where nature and man weren’t in disagreement and simply co-existed. Then our large group of students began to gather at a little picnic site and as I treaded the water to arrive there, I began to see the trash.

There was trash everywhere on this little spot of nature, an unmeasurable number of small caps, plastics and degraded foam filled the same sand the hermit crabs crawled in. Massive pieces of heavy foams and plastics were caught along the treeline as far as my vision could see through the forest. The betrayal of nature was on a level I had never experienced before. I’ve never littered yet I felt an overwhelming feeling of responsibility for the actions of my species. My mind raced as I imagined how tiny this island is, how insignificant the trash we pick up today will be in comparison to the millions, no, billions of pounds of trash produced by humanity and disposed into its oceans, rivers, and land. Nevertheless, me, my partner and out thirty peers along with the professor began to pick up each piece we could find.

(Photograph by George Coba / CC by 4.0)
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The cleanup was slow, tedious and at times grueling as we hiked and balanced through the island’s thick forest. We found all kinds of trash: flip flops, propane canisters, foam packaging, planting pots and some peers even found a liquid gas canister. Picking up the trash reminded me of humanities’ vice of consumerism. Each bottle of soda or water, each laundry detergent, each plastic bag we had used resources to make, was used once then disposed of somewhere into the ocean to land once again on this small piece of nature as fragile as glass. We would go on to spend hours to collect it and to send it to finally be processed likely into a landfill or incinerator: our humanly designated locations for destroying the environment.

I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t discouraging but the little, so very tiny amount of work that we did matter as much as our mother nature matters in the context of the universe. It may not be significant, and it may never ever be noticed by anyone but the people that were on that island. But because we chose that this matters, it simply does. Like I choose to care for the world around me, I hope that others will begin to make the same choice as I do to keep our little blue marble out of harm’s way for just a little longer. Earth will be able to survive without us if we don’t change our habits, but I don’t think humanity is quite ready, or wants to leave our beautiful, colorful, and lively piece of space rock just yet.


“Culture for Money” by George Coba at Vizcaya

Vizcaya is an architectural masterpiece full of amazing wonders hidden in its walls. The grand entrances, the incredible gardens and the secret passageways make this place truly unique.  Vizcaya was built by James Deering and Paul Chalfin. Vizcaya holds incredible European wonders dating back millennia and yet has nothing that tells the stories of the very place that it was built. A lack of culture may be forgivable but the robbing of culture less so. James Deering was a very powerful person with almost endless amounts of money at his disposable. With that power came great responsibility which James did not use with wisdom.

The incredible European wonders of Vizcaya were robbed in many ways. There are two items which I felt were particularly wrong the first of which being the Arc de Triomphe that leads you into the gardens. A triumphal arch is something that dates to the Roman’s victories between 20AD to 300AD. These arches were built to honour generals after great hard-fought victories and we’re very exclusive. James decided he wanted one and against the advice of his peers he chose to build the arch. The arch is decorated with spoils of war to make the message even more clear than it already was. James viewed himself as the general of a great army and yet all he had done was dilute the powerful symbol. The second item I felt pity to find was the great Italian fountain in the Rose Garden. The fountain’s origin is of Bassano di Sutri in Italy. The fountain served a much grander purpose in Italy as the town’s square. Here in Vizcaya, it served only to feed the ego of an already burly man. Italy at the time was very poor and welcomed any cash it could find and although this money may have provided some temporary relief to the town a centre piece of it was lost forever.

Vizcaya is not all bad though. I love nature and its preservation is something that I value and seek out. To create this beautiful place there is one thing that can never be simply bought and left to collect dust and that is the nature around the villa. There is a mature forest all around the property that has remained untouched by humanity even still. These forests would surely be gone were it not for the Vizcaya property being what it is. The gardens are taken care of and although it is in a very human design maintain the beautiful life in them from rare plant and trees to reptiles and butterflies. Before my visit to Vizcaya, I had never had the pleasure of exploring a mature hardwood forest in South Florida. This incredible location has the life of trees around it much older than any structure inside of it.

(Photograph by George Coba / CC by 4.0)
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Vizcaya like Miami is full of facades to appear grander than oneself. Hidden deep under the unfortunately bad taste of unearned victory arches or in Miami’s case the newest luxury condos is a real beauty that is impossible to fake. The gardens of Vizcaya or the diversity of Miami push these places to one of the most unique in the world.


“A place protected” by George Coba at South Beach

Miami Beach is built on a barrier island that was once a forest of mangroves. Like the mouth of the Miami river and far along the Florida coast people decided to destroy mangroves for beautiful waterfront property. These mangroves of course provided storm protections to the entire coast and now that they’re gone were spending billions of dollars trying to recreate them artificially. So, is it worth it? Keeping this Miami Beach open and continuing to repair it over and over? Well, economically it is! Miami Beach brings in many billions of dollars in tourism yearly. Why?

While I was driving into Miami Beach, I saw the postcard photos of that Miami is known for. The bridge to cross onto the island had Downtown Miami behind me, massive ports to my right, multibillion dollar neighbourhoods to my left and finally famous Miami Beach right ahead. I lowered my windows and experienced the amazing sea breeze and finally felt what people talked about when they romanticised Miami in movies and tv shows across the world. I had previously found which parking garage I had to drive into to not get overcharged and once I arrived, I found a massive building with a beautiful grassy roof. As I walked along the beach, I saw an endless amount of similarly amazing buildings.

Architecture is one of Miami Beach’s greatest assets. The famous Ocean Drive is filled with unique buildings that tell a rich story of what Miami once was and still is. In fact, you can still find Browns Hotel, the oldest hotel in Miami which has now been turned into a luxurious steak house. You’ll find three main types of architecture, Mediterranean Revival, Art Deco and MiMo. The Mediterranean revival in the area was inspired by the nearby Vizcaya mansion which was a massive turning point in the history of Miami. The best example of this architecture would be from Prime Private a sophisticated restaurant located at 36 Ocean Dr, Miami Beach. It’s a small single floor Mediterranean revival building surrounded by massive eight floor art deco modern architectural beauties. The large buildings are strongly curved and found themselves attempting to reflect the waves of the ocean. This is a common theme in the architecture, many buildings will have wavy designs on their accents, walls, or the whole building itself to bring nature to the buildings. Lastly MiMo is still found to be like Art Deco but is characterized by having taken place after World War II where artists found themselves more likely creating simply for visual interest. These buildings are filled with interesting cheese holes or murals showing the carefree 50s and 60s.


(Photograph by George Coba / CC by 4.0)
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There has been great protection placed upon the area of South Beach by the Miami Design Preservation founded by Barbara Capitman. All of Miami beach is very easily recognized as a long drive with small architecturally significant buildings with a green park and beach in front of it. The protection on this area is stark on Ocean drive and 14th Place where it ends and this wonderous neighbourhood becomes modern condo central. Called condo canyon it shows what could happen to Miami beach were it not protected. Miami beach is an incredible location to visit that is worth so much more than just its pristine blue waters. The cultural richness of the area is felt all around you from the people and buildings irreplaceable by any postcard or photo.


“Conservation success” by George Coba at Deering Estate

Deering Estate is the embodiment of a perfect nature conservation project. Its location’s rich ecosystems were everything I could have ever asked for from any location. It’s preservation of unique and endangered species is so successful I got to see plants that grow nowhere else in the world after a five-minute walk. Calling this location my favourite in Miami would be an understatement. I’ve never felt so close and connected to nature as I did while I was knee deep in murky waters trying not to get cut by the uniquely shaped and sharp limestone. Throughout the day there were three ecosystems we explored all within a 10-minute walk of each other.

The first was the Tropical Hardwood Hammock this ecosystem began on a very light trail filled with incredibly deep solution holes formed naturally by the weak acids formed from decaying leaves and rain eroding limestone. There was wildlife and unique plants everywhere and this is where the naturalist Ana pointed out the beautiful Atala butterfly that was a quote “Conservation success” this butterfly had nearly disappeared but with the naturalists’ efforts they were able to save it and find it on its preferred plant the Coontie once again. Deeper into the trail we turned off and began trekking through the extremely dense forest. While dodging poison wood and ivy we followed our naturalist for what seemed forever as the trail disappeared behind us. We arrived at a massive solution hole that is about 25-30 ft in diameter and 15ft or deeper. This seemed so surreal for the Florida landscape that I was used to that I was the first one to volunteer to head into the hole and the last to leave. The hole is an incredibly important archaeological site and has the remains of many unique creatures including dire wolves which made the hole their home approximately 10,000 years ago. The trek back was not as gruelling now that I learned to navigate through the forests, it’s poisons and its endlessly deep holes.

(Photograph by George Coba / CC by 4.0)
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The next ecosystem we found ourselves in were deep Mangrove Forests. This forest went as far as the eye could see. When we came to the edge of the dry Miami Rock Ridge and stepped off it with our water shoes, we entered the forest. The water was only ankle deep until you accidentally stepped into even more holes that went many feet deep. Careful to not damage the roots of the mangroves we trekked through quickly as we followed our professor to what is still an incredible sight to see. A crashed small four-person plane. The sight was such an oddity that was left without much explanation and mostly speculation. Though it was incredible and intriguing I was happy to see nature slowly reclaiming the plane and its parts back to her. The plane was trash left there in the forest just like the endless plastic bottles and other plastics I had been stepping over before. Although this location felt nothing like Chicken Key in terms of waste it was still heart-breaking as I trekked deeper and deeper into the forest and began to get lost in its beauty, I would find trash and be reminded that no matter where I go on this Earth humanity’s toxic touch has reached it. The trek back was spectacular as I rushed back to the catch up with the class through a new path and learning to trust only my hearing and natural instincts as I couldn’t clearly see the class.

The final ecosystems were the refreshingly dry Pine Rocklands this is the area most like hikes I had done before. It was an incredible transition from the swampy mangroves to avoiding the dry and spiky cacti at my ankle height. This mostly unmarked trail needed clearing as we walked through it since we were hiking through restricted areas accessible only to the estate’s naturalists to preserve its pristineness. Walking through the forest we found incredible outcroppings and absolutely no trash. This was such a beacon of hope for me as I found a place where the hard work of these conservationists was paying off. The dry land seemed endless when I looked north and could only see the small silhouettes of the Miami skyscrapers many miles away. This place seemed to be completely separated from the entire world and I had not felt that much peace anywhere else in Miami before.

The effort of the team behind the beautiful estate should not go understated when I tell the story of this place. I count myself incredibly lucky to have experienced this unforgettable place. This estate is an example of what can happen when humans use our powers to the very best that we can to protect the natural beauty of the world around us. Thank you to the team behind this, I wish you the very best.


“Is that art?” by George Coba at Rubell Museum

Visiting the Rubell museum was my first introduction to contemporary art; I couldn’t have asked for a more mind opening experience. The Rubell is filled corner to corner over 50,000 sq ft of incredible works of art. The great concepts and questions on the walls and floor are beautifully represented onto a piece of canvas, structure, figure or so many other things. Art as something other than paintings or sculptures is something new to me and for my life till now, I did not understand contemporary works. Then I walked into the Rubell museum and there were just a handful of works that connected with me so deeply they changed my perspective on art and life permanently.

One of these pieces was the La Rivoluzione siamo noi by Maurizio Cattelan. This piece was one that many in the class found to be funny looking or surface level work but when I saw it, I felt feeling so strong I broke down. This simple looking work helped me process and understand my own frustrations and helped me find the words to communicate those complex feelings freely with my classmates and a stranger I had never met before. This work was the little click in my mind that allowed me to truly enjoy contemporary art. Seeing how little reaction most people had to the work and the intensity with which I felt it let me see art as a subjective experience that didn’t need to be as objective as I had thought of it for so long. Thanks to the Rubell museum’s massive collection of diverse pieces I felt and thought these ideas I could have never been able to find without it. The collection and protection of contemporary art is an endeavor that is expensive mentally and financially, but its emotional and intellectual value for those lucky enough to experience is so powerful it must be protected.

There were themes for each room in the Rubell and there was one where the idea was the questioning of contemporary art. These pieces connected with me not emotionally but intellectually, they have sent me down a rabbit hole for weeks now of questioning all the things that I see, feel and do. These pieces have inspired me to create some of my own art to process and communicate my ideas and feelings into the world.

In the corner of this questioning room there was a window covered by a shade that was blocking out the sun. The window had some plants right outside of it that were placed perfectly to create a beautiful silhouette of them on our side of the gallery. To be clear this was not a piece of the gallery but within the context of the room I felt a strong compulsion to call it art. This random silhouette created by the shade in this exact configuration created intellectual questions in my mind that I still can’t answer. Not many would consider this random silhouette that no artist created or intended a piece of art. It was an accident, no one put this work into the world on purpose at all, but it’s connection to me and the feelings it created made it art.

(Photograph by George Coba / CC by 4.0)
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“That’s art and this is too.” by George Coba at UNTITLED

UNTITLED Art Fair takes place inside of a massive, air-conditioned tent built over the course of a few weeks on the sand at Miami Beach. It houses all types of contemporary art that has been created in the last two to three years or less. The fair provided me with a great opportunity to get up close and personal with some world class works and their artists. I was lucky enough to meet and talk to Tyler Emerson. She is an Art Archivist that interprets and writes down artist’s intentions and inspirations for their work. Without people like her it would be much harder to understand arts without the artist themselves present. This work is something that I had never heard of before, but its function was so necessary at a place like UNTITLED. Many of the works used imagery and symbolism that was simply too difficult to connect without some type of explanation from the gallerist or a text box like the ones that Tyler makes.

We also met Natalie Fates she was a gallerist representing three artists and had three works on the wall. Each work did not seem chiefly impactful on their own but when she began to explain the works, they permanently became powerful commentaries on society and the values of the work grew tenfold. Both women instilled a new idea about art that had not been introduced to me at the Rubell. That is the story of the work. All my life I had the idea that if the work had to be explained to me it probably wasn’t that good and the explanation simply justified its existence. Now thanks to both women explaining works I found real value in them I would not have otherwise. Hearing the story wasn’t cheating it was simply the graphics processor with which zeros and ones turn into beautiful images on my screen.

With this new idea in mind my definition of art continued to include more and more items without a limit in sight. Thanks to the works, people, and galleries I’ve visited my preconceptions have been turned upside down. The value of this eye-opening experience is hard to value and yet that is exactly what must be done to keep these works alive.

(Photograph by George Coba / CC by 4.0)
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The creating and displaying of art to sell is a beast that was always felt throughout UNTITLED. Thanks to the professor we had been able to hear some great gallerists speak about the art but once we had broken off the class and went to explore the art ourselves no one spoke to us. I was in a small group with my two friends, and we all looked like young broke college kids. None of the gallerists had the effort left in them to speak about the works we obviously could not buy. This inadvertently alienated many of the works in the building to us. The very fact we couldn’t hear the stories of the work meant that we couldn’t enjoy them. A sort of filter so that only people of a certain income or profession could enjoy the art. This filter isn’t purposeful or malicious, but it is there and it screams to me the importance of museums and their keepers that allow students like me across the world to feel and enjoy art everywhere.


“Home” by George Coba at Little Havana

I’m Cuban. My mom and dad flew into the United States December 18, 1998. Little Havana hasn’t been my home my whole life but since I was about ten years old, we moved here. Little Havana is the “authentic” Cuban experience people will look for when touring Miami. Calle Ocho is its most popular area with 1000s of tourists every single day. It’s weird when I’m driving to work, I sometimes see a large group of people following a tour guide around as they tell people about Ball and Chain, Domino Park and the ventanitas.

With so many tourists the economy must be thriving here in Little Havana, right? Well while Calle Ocho sure has a lot of activity just a few blocks down from the tourist area it becomes a different story. Homelessness, drug dealing and shut down businesses is what you’ll find here. Like Miami in general, while housing, food, insurance, gas, phone, and other living costs rise wages aren’t following. I met an incredibly nice and older woman that shared with me that the landlord of a house she had been renting for about 12 years politely asked her to please leave while they renovated the home and that the rent would be rising. A lot. She could not afford that increase and has since moved away from Miami entirely.

It may be easy to blame the landlord and call them evil, but the reality is that there are many more people, much richer people, moving into Miami and they want a place to stay. Both international and national immigrants are piling into the city and Little Havana is a still far cheaper alternative than many other locations in Miami. This woman (or landlord) isn’t unique, run down and small apartments in the same area had an increase of $1000! People that we’re already struggling to make it are now finding themselves having to move away or accept worse living conditions with roommates or larger families.

(Photograph by George Coba / CC by 4.0)
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The businesses in the area are fighting for themselves as well. Pictured above is a wonderful old bakery filled with the Cafecito that runs in Little Havana being towered over by a luxury apartment building. In this building the single listing I found available had a price tag of $2,350 per month for a single bed and bathroom. Really, here it is https://www.apartments.com/900-sw-8th-st-miami-fl-unit-710/jvd37x4/ Just in front of that same condo building, there was a mechanic’s shop that had been open for about twenty or more years. This last year they had to shut down and move out because the property was bought, and they weren’t welcome anymore. Another condo building is going to be built there now.

The reality is that no one that Little Havana is known to represent will be able to afford living there soon. Directly from the same apartment’s website “close proximity to Downtown Miami, Brickell, Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, Wynwood, and Miami Beach.” That proximity was a death sentence to the Little Havana area. Not all is doom and gloom though, there are still amazing and fantastic festivals, carnivals and events held in the area often and people like my parents get to drive there from the further suburbs and enjoy their culture again. The reason they commute there is the same as the reason it was built up. Community. The community of Little Havana still is strong, and I hope they find a way to keep it strong given the adversity they are facing. Ahora voy a tomar un Cafecito.


“Our little beaitiful spot” by George Coba in Miami

Miami in Miami isn’t just a class, I would classify it more as a life changing experience. Every single location we’ve visited I’ve either known about by name or been to myself, yet I had never noticed or even thought to notice the history and the stories that were right in front of me. Kicking off the semester in the smack dab centre of it all Downtown Miami was the perfect start to the semester where we had a deep dive into the history of Miami as far back as the Tequesta roamed the lands. That day I found out what lit my heart on fire when I heard about the beautiful freshwater waterfalls that had been robbed from the world to make the Miami river accessible to boats. Many of our classes took place in locations where our Miami ancestors not only failed humanity but also mother nature all at once. Using unmentioned black labour Miami like many places was built up by oppressed people being forced to destroy and build on virgin lands.

As shameful as Miami’s growth is, Miami has become a city known around the world now for many reasons. First comes the art and museums. Miami’s culture is like no other and the art and history of Miami proves it. With incredible places filled with contemporary works like the Rubell and Perez Art Museum I have some of humanity’s greatest modern works a twenty-minute drive away. The HistoryMiami museum and Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU were both filled with stories told ages ago and told the history and culture of this town from countless perspectives. The diversity of the city shined the brightest when we walked through the neighbourhoods like Miami Beach, Little Havana and Overtown. We got to talk to all types of incredible people from backgrounds I had simply never heard of before.

Some of these amazing reasons Miami is awesome is also why the biggest challenge facing Miami today is happening. Growth. Unstoppable growth. No matter where we looked the never stopping, never slowing growth of Miami has encroached on every aspect of life here. Whether that be in Downtown where high rises rise with rents, Overtown and Little Havana where communities are being displaced by condos or even Chicken Key and Miami Beach having endless amounts of trash to pick up. The explosion of the city’s population has Miami bursting at it’s seams and soon enough it’ll erupt not with a bang but a whimper.

(Photograph by George Coba / CC by 4.0)
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A more positive note is that incredibly hard work by the likes of The Everglades’, Deering Estate’s, and Vizcaya’s naturalists, has payed off to save some of Miami’s biggest defining features. The locations here are indescribably beautiful. The land we have saved will be an image of the land before the concrete jungle for the next generations to come thanks to these incredible people. The hard work my peers put into cleaning Chicken Key also gave me hope that in the near future this generation that is rising now will save not only our world but also our little beautiful spot on it, Miami.

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