Grace King: Miami as Text 2022-2023

Grace King is a current sophomore studying Hospitality Management at FIU with a concentration in Event & Entertainment Management. As an avid lover of both travel and nature, in her future career Grace aspires to help bridge the gap between the hospitality industry and sustainability. Originally from New Jersey, Grace came to florida seeking sunshine, an education, and a space to enact change. Through Miami in Miami, she seeks to expand her knowledge on the history of the city she considers he future home.

Historic Miami as Text

digital collage by Grace King/ CC by 4.0
the fight to be Miami

by Grace McCullough of FIU at Downtown Miami, 18, September 2022

This is by no means a diary entry but rather a brief account of the events that started off our tour downtown that I feel should not be left out.

The governor’s center is huge. Huge. It stands at a humble 510 ft tall, towering over downtown Miami. However, the first thing you notice walking up to it is not the buildings height, but rather the dozens of people you’ll find sleeping around it on the street. You couldn’t ignore them if you walked in with your eyes closed, though I’m sure that, many have tried.

As our class stood in a circle in the governor centers courtyard, about to start our walk, I watched out of the corner of my eye as a man with a prosthetic leg and a walker struggled to get up into the building. The only means to enter in eyesight other than the steps was an escalator. As the walker hit the moving staircase it was whisked upwards by the belt dragging its owner and the old woman who accompanied him attempting to help upawrds behind it. The 3 of them crashed onto the floor at the top, a man in a blue shirt, an employee, and a third bystander all came rushing hesitantly to help. His metal leg was tangled within his cane. I wondered where the goddamn elevator was. I didn’t say anything. I still feel like I should’ve. Maybe a small piece of me will always be back at that staircase. Watching with horror, biting her tongue

Miami is a story of perseverance. A story of persistence. A story of community. You will see and hear this city talked about across the U.S as a place of beaches and palm trees and casinos, a tipsy clubbers dream, tourist central, and it is all of that. But before it is those things it is first home. To me, to the students of fiu, to the descendants of the railroad workers who connected Miami to the rest of the country, to the love of the Wagner’s, to the fight of the Seminoles, to the tents outside the History Museum, to the man and his walker. Without them, Miami would not be. Without the story of them. The story of Miami cannot be told.

If you were to tell the story of Miami. If you were ever asked to per se. You should start back far before the name Miami was even a thought, when the land was home to the Tequesta tribe. The Tequesta people occupied the land of present-day Miami for over 2,000 years. Biscayne Bay was even originally named Tequesta Bay after their presence. Their culture managed to survive for over 200 years after the Spanish arrived and colonization erupted until eventually the British displaced the last of them. Some left for Havana, others maybe into the everglades. The Tequesta would ritually bury their dead above ground (Florida is at sea level and you can’t exactly dig into limestone and water) and cover them with sand and shells. These burials also acted as a landmark for navigators looking to find their way back to camp. The lovely Royal Palm hotel now sits on top of one of these Tequesta burial grounds, after it was bulldozed the bones dug up were sold in the gift shop. And though their culture is proclaimed as vanished, their story lives on as the foundation (literally and metaphorically) for the city built on their remnants.

A little further down the line into Miami’s past, we run into the story of William Wagner and his wife Evelien. The first northern setters of Miami, who fittingly enough were a mixed race couple. Their story is another one of perseverance and also proof that Miami was a melting pot off the bat. William was German and Eveline was a French Creole. They built a home together to live with their sons in peace. Though the tale isn’t perfect and they were taken to court many times for their land, as their interracial marriage was not legally recognized, their home marks the start of ours. A small cabin were even at the height of the tensions of the Seminole wars they were able to feed and host 17 tribe members and form a small glimpse of harmony in the city’s wrath.

The city of Miami itself is a very recent arrival. Founded in 1896, birthed at the hands of Julia Tuttle. Julia is the only woman to have founded a major American city, and she did it all with a lot of willpower and a little box of oranges. Henry Flagler would find this box of oranges on his doorstep, a flag of hope amidst all of his own citrus crops that had been frozen in a frost. Julia offers Flagler half of her land and if he brings his railroad down to Miami. With proof that there was value and protection from the frost down south, he complied. And with the railroad and trains brought in, the city of Miami was finally established and incorporated.

These 3 stories though all from separate points in time, tell the same story. Of the fight that Miami took to become what it is. Of the people that pushed for it to become more than just a swampland and more than just another dot on the map. Without these stories, there would be no history of Miami and no History of Miami as text.

citations

Overtown as Text

digital collage by Grace King/ CC by 4.0

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