Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen: Miami as Text 2022-2023

Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

August 24, 2022

Education

Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen is a sophomore at Florida International University majoring in International Business. Marco has lived in Denmark, Venezuela and New York before coming to Miami in 2011. Raised by his Danish father and Venezuelan mother is what makes him fluent in both languages. His passions are playing sports (especially soccer), travelling, creating content on social media and spending time with his family and friends.

Downtown Miami as Text:

“Miami: A Work In Progress” by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen of FIU in Downtown Miami on August 31st, 2022

Kilometer Zero and Julia Tuttle Tribute. Photographs by John William Bailly and Rafael Vazquez

Miami has been my home for 11 years now and I have experienced the Latino culture, incredible diversity, amazing beaches, nature, and climate. However, my knowledge was very limited in how Miami became the city it is today. This all changed on August 31st when we took the trip to Downtown Miami.

William F. English Plantation Slave Quarters. Photographs by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

One of our initial stops was Lummus Park. The first of many places we would go to that revealed the dark side leading up to the foundation of Miami in 1896. The William F. English Plantation Slave Quarters served as a reminder of the enslaved African people that resided in Miami. Touching the wall of the structure made me visualize the horrors of what the enslaved people had to go through. I felt sad and quite disappointed that I lived in Miami for so long yet have never learned about this place. These feelings were replaced later by gratitude for the chance to be able to be educated about something historically significant that is usually ignored.

Wagner Homestead. Photograph by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

However, the Wagner Homestead (the oldest known house in Miami) right next to the slave quarters was the light at the end of the tunnel. Professor Bailly went on to tell us about William Wagner, a German immigrant who came to Miami as he loved a Creole woman named Everline. As interracial marriages were not legal, Miami was the ideal place to be to start a family of 15 children.

A beautiful and touching part of the Wagner story was when his family encountered a group of Seminoles. This encounter was historic as in contrast to the typical violent encounters, William Wagner invited them for a meal together and the Seminoles played with their children. As a result, the Seminole Wars ended, and peace was made thanks to the simple act of human kindness. His level of tolerance, acceptance, open-mindedness and how he treated people as equals no matter the circumstances is truly incredible. It was enlightening to learn about how the Wagner family made a positive impact in a time that was filled with hatred and division. William Wagner earned my respect and led me to reflect about how this contributed to how Miami is today.

Miami is a place where everyone is welcome and fortunately, I have met and become friends with many people from different cultures and backgrounds. That is what makes Miami unique and like no other city in the world. William Wagner showed everybody that peace and joy can be achieved when people accept each other for who they are. Unfortunately, I learned that African and Bahamian slaves were exploited by Henry Flagler who in addition to being racist was also an anti-Semite. Professor Bailly told us how he convinced black people to vote for the establishment of Miami in 1896 to then betray them by spreading segregation and segregated towns in South Florida. It was shocking and very embarrassing to see the statue of Henry Flagler by the Miami Dade Courthouse. Yet another reminder of the dark side of Miami’s history which remains in the city. However, the places we visited also serve as a reminder of how far Miami has come as a city filled with a diversity, culture, nature, architecture, and cuisine like no other. The history of Miami must not be forgotten and what I learned on that amazing day is an example of why we should continue to educate ourselves and others on the history of the place we call home.

Overtown as Text:

“Little Broadway” by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen of FIU in Overtown on September 14th, 2022

Overtown. Photograph by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

Since moving to Miami, I have driven through Overtown a few times and walked around for a little once. With Overtown being on the news usually for negative reasons such as shootings, I was not around Overtown much in the 11 years I have lived in Miami. So, when Professor Bailly announced, we were going to Overtown, I was excited and curious to see what Overtown had to offer.

To be honest, I was astonished of how beautiful Overtown is. I had never walked through a town in Miami with so many places of historical and cultural significance around every block. It was gratifying to see that there still are places like these that serve as a reminder of Overtown’s prosperity from the 1930s until the 1960s. This trip reaffirmed my belief that there is beauty everywhere we go. I believe that Overtown’s reputation throughout the years has scared people away from discovering the rich history of the town.

The people of Overtown have been through a lot and it was sad to learn about the many issues including segregation, gentrification, the building of the I-95 highway which shaped Overtown into what it is today. Through our previous trip to Downtown, Professor Bailly taught us how Overtown became segregated after Henry Flagler convinced black voters to vote for the establishment of Miami, to only turn their backs on them. This in addition to Jim Crow laws during the early 1900s made Overtown become a neighborhood where blacks were forced to live in.

Lyric Theatre. Photographs by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

What stood out to me was that every place we visited had such a deep historical and cultural significance. Starting off with the Lyric Theatre on NW 2nd Ave which back in the 1940s hosted shows featuring people like Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Nat King Cole, and Bessie Smith. The Lyric Theatre contributed to the nickname “Little Broadway” as NW 2nd Ave was always filled with people, food, cars, and lights. This is something you never hear on the news or hear from anybody that is not from Overtown. It made me feel disappointment that I was not knowledgeable about such a place before with all my time in Miami.

Mount Zion Baptist Church and Greater Bethel Church. Photographs by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

One of the most interesting parts of the trip was being able to go inside the Greater Bethel Church and be able to see Mount Zion Baptist Church. These are the two oldest black churches in Miami and played an extremely important role in the Civil Rights Movements and the community. We were able to stand in the place in Greater Bethel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech on February 12, 1958, for the SCLC Crusade for Citizenship. Knowing how important of a person he was, it was incredible to hear about his speech and visualize how it must have been like in 1958 in a packed church to hear him speak. Mount Zion Baptist Church serves as a reminder of one of the three historical events that negatively impacted Overtown. Professor Bailly told us about how the building of the I-95 highway forced the pastor’s house to be demolished. It was sad to learn how the interstate highways are built through black neighborhoods ultimately destroying the community. As a result of the highway congregation numbers dropped significantly from 2,000 to 200 members.

Dorsey House and Jackson Soul Food. Photographs by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen and John William Bailly

Places such as the Dorsey House (home of the first black millionaire Dana Dorsey in Miami), the home of Alex Lightburn (founder of Greater Bethel Church and crucial in Miami’s establishment), the Ward Rooming House (accommodated black and native Americans that traveled to Miami), Jackson Soul Food (a restaurant open since 1946) showed what Overtown is all about. Overtown has so many misconceptions and I am grateful to be able to learn about how special this place is. The people of Overtown were very welcoming and happy to see us visiting. The assumptions made by people who have not been to Overtown, and their ignorance has contributed to Overtown’s reputation. By being able to learn about all the historical places and how Overtown was impacted by the hurricane, gentrification, and the building of the I-95 highway it made me disappointed in our education system in Miami. How in all my years in Miami were we not taken on a field trip to Overtown? There needs to be change and this can start by educating people on the places that are misinterpreted.

Biscayne Bay as Text:

“Extraordinary Adventure” by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen of FIU in Biscayne Bay on October 5th, 2022

“Miami in Miami” 2022 Chicken Key Clean-Up. Photograph by Deering Estate Employee

On October 5th we went canoeing and kayaking in the beautiful Biscayne Bay. This was truly an experience like no other where both “Miami in Miami” classes came together to make a positive impact on the community. When arriving at the Deering Estate and walking through the entrance I could tell we were in for an amazing experience in nature.

Canoeing in Biscayne Bay. Photographs by Jane Osowski and Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

Starting off in canoes my twin brother Nikolas and I set sail for Chicken Key. The first stop we made was in this trail where we were completely surrounded by mangroves. I later learned how mangroves play such an important role in keeping park waters clean. Their impenetrable root systems are home to marine organisms as well as slowing water flow down allowing sediment to settle. After successfully getting out of the mangrove trail, we made our way one mile down to Chicken Key. The skies were clear, and the weather was perfect for being outdoors and taking full advantage of the nature. The mangroves were also useful to be able to dock the canoes and kayaks when arriving to the island.

After having lunch together, both classes were ready and set out to collect as much trash as possible on Chicken Key. Professor Bailly had told us that this was the first clean-up since hurricane Ian, and it was quite evident to see how devasting the hurricane was with the amount of trash we came across. It seemed like there was an infinite amount of plastic bottle caps scattered everywhere and all sorts of marine debris ranging from car keys to floaties and fishnets. In the beginning, our group started in a part of the island where the most we found was minor pieces of trash. So, after we filled our bags with trash, we put them in the canoes and moved them over to another part of the island. There was such an abundance of trash and filth that we were quickly able to fill many bags in no time. Wildlife was also present as many hermit crabs crawled around us and spiders were perched above in their webs. It was sad to think about how the marine debris affects these animals as well as being one biggest global pollution problems that negatively impacts the world’s oceans and waterways.

Trash at Chicken Key. Photographs by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen and John Bailly

When there were 10 minutes left before departing Chicken Key, our group wrapped up with the last trash bags and took the remaining team to swim in the water. The trip back started off smoothly as we slowly made our way back. However, things took a turn when Nikolas and I had to help two classmates make it back as one of the canoes was not functioning properly due to there being too much weight on it. Nevertheless, we all made it back safely and were able to celebrate the work we had done. I felt privileged to have been able to make a positive impact and it was gratifying to hear from Professor Bailly that we had the record for the most trash collected out of all the years he had taught our class. It was also a happy feeling to hear from one of the park employees who got emotional as we had collected so much trash before the turtle hatching season. This was truly a rewarding and beautiful experience which made me want to get more involved in the future clean-ups at Chicken Key and in places close to my neighborhood.

Vizcaya as Text:

“Dark Beauty” by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen of FIU in Vizcaya Museum and Gardens on October 12th, 2022

Villa Vizcaya. Photograph by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

I have been to Vizcaya a few times when I was younger, but our trip on October 12th, truly opened my eyes to the history and the people behind Vizcaya. In the 1500s Spaniards from the Province of Vizcaya settled on the Tequesta Bay changing its name to Biscayne Bay. James Deering was a retired millionaire who previously was the Vice President of the International Harvester Company was inspired by these historical events. So, when he decided to build his villa in the Biscayne Bay area, he named it Vizcaya after the European settlers.

Beginning construction in 1912, James Deering bought 100 acres and 1,000 feet of shoreline from Mary Brickell. He employed over 1,000 people to build Villa Vizcaya and Vizcaya Village. This tied into what we learned in our previous trips on how Bahamian people were taken advantage of to essentially build Miami. It only took four years for Vizcaya to be built because of the brutal working conditions and poor pay. Sadly, these people were also forced to live in segregated parts of Miami. I felt disappointed that even though I have not been to Vizcaya many times, that I had been taught about this.

James Deering was very inspired by the European settlers and shows this by the statues of Ponce De Leon and Bel Viscaya (a fictional explorer) by the entrance of Vizcaya. This again shows his ignorance to the people that resided their first, the Tequesta. There are no statues or sculptures that honor the true first citizens of Miami. The Tequesta, Seminole and Bahamians and their culture is completely excluded from the villa which is shameful to me. There should be statues honoring these people, instead their presence is hidden in Vizcaya.

Bacchus and Hercules tapestry. Photographs by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

James Deering hired Paul Chalfin as an artistic director and Diego Suarez as a landscape architect. They all spent a lot of time in Europe for education and inspiration and this is clearly reflected in Vizcaya. Inspired by traditional European castles, Deering had a moat built in front surrounding the villa. Once inside the villa at the back entrance, you are greeted by a statue of Bacchus, a Roman god which represents wine, ecstasy, and pleasure. It is ironic that even before Miami developing into the place it is today, James Deering had this vision that Miami was the capital of self-pleasure and enjoyment, which could be achieved when visiting Villa Vizcaya. In the patio located centrally in Vizcaya, James Deering’s fascination for the Spanish settlers is evident, through his different designs of Spanish caravels located in all directions in the patio. It is important to note that in that time the European settlers were seen as glorious as they came to “enlighten” others. Their horrific treatment of indigenous communities is completely disregarded in this villa, James Deering’s troubling ignorance is clear through these designs.

Vizcaya Gardens. Photographs by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

By getting the chance to tour other rooms in the villa and outside in the gardens I was able to better understand the dark side of the beauty of Vizcaya. James Deering was one of the wealthiest men in Miami, using his power and money to build something absolutely beautiful that still stands today. However, his ignorance and desire for more affected the thousands of Bahamian workers who were exposed to terrible working conditions all just to have Vizcaya done in four years. Also, how no recognition to these workers or the Tequesta and Seminoles shows how differently people thought in that time. One can say that many people suffered in exchange for what James Deering had in plan, a beautiful place in Miami designed for pleasure and enjoyment. After leaving Vizcaya, I felt grateful to have been educated on such a beautiful place and this trip truly made me reflect on how there are many places in Miami, which have a dark history behind it, that is unknown of to most people visiting. We have responsibility to educate ourselves and others on these places so that history is not forgotten.

South Beach as Text:

Avalon Hotel, South Beach. Photograph by John William Bailly

South Beach is an extremely popular place for tourists who visit Miami being one of the most visited destinations in the state. Even though I have lived in Miami for over 10 years now, I can count on one hand the times I have been to South Beach. So, when we went to South Beach on the 26th of October, I knew I was in for something special.

It was very interesting to learn how originally Miami Beach was a mangrove populated barrier island and in fact multiracial. As described by one of the early black residents in Miami, Miami Beach was a place where whites and blacks went on boat trips for picnics and baseball games. Yet, like most of the other places we visited Miami Beach has a dark history behind its rapid development. John Collins and Carl Fisher were responsible for this as Collins built the first bridge to Miami Beach in 1913 and Fisher started the development of Miami Beach as a tourist resort. This destroyed the mangrove forests and led to freshwater springs drowning. Not only did the development of Miami Beach have terrible environmental consequences, but now black people were not allowed to go on the public beaches there. Discrimination was also targeted towards Jews as Carl Fisher and John Collins refused to sell property to them, so they could not live north of 5th street.  

South Beach and Fisher Island. Photographs by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

Something shocking to me was when Professor Bailly read us an excerpt from an article written by Charlotte Luxford on her Culture Trip website. She goes on to describe Miami Beach as a “swampy, mosquito infested wasteland” when Carl Fisher first arrived in 1910. This is maddening to think about as I have learned that after the Tequesta, South Florida became inhabited by Seminoles, African Americans, and Bahamians. Miami Beach was never a wasteland, but a home for these people. It is frustrating to read Charlotte Luxford’s article as it was written in 2019, only a few years ago. This is a clear example of miseducating people and ignorance which contributes to people not knowing the truth about the origins of Miami Beach.

Fisher Island’s history also stuck out to me when on this trip on South Beach. As someone who has lived in Miami for a long time, Fisher Island has a reputation of being for the extremely wealthy with celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Jennifer Lopez having homes there. So, it was very interesting to learn that Dana Dorsey (the first black millionaire in Miami) actually owned Fisher Island. Under his ownership the black citizens of Miami could live there and have a beach to enjoy, now that they could not access the beaches of Miami Beach. It was eye-opening for me to learn about this, after all these years I had associated Fisher Island with Carl Fisher not knowing about Fisher Island’s early history. Also, another disappointing fact to learn was that black people were kicked off the island when Dorsey sold it to Carl Fisher. Black people ultimately were treated miserably because of the segregation, and they were essentially used as labor to rapidly develop cities, yet with no reward whatsoever.

Barbara Baer Capitman Memorial and Ocean Drive. Photographs by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

Even though there are many negatives in the development of Miami Beach, there were people like Barbara Baer Capitman which helped shape it into what it is today. Capitman’s passion and activism make her responsible for the largest Art Deco neighborhood in the world in South Beach. Together with Leonard Horowitz they formed the Miami Design Preservation League which succeeded in protecting and preserving the neighborhood. It was incredible to walk down Ocean Drive and look at the different structures with the Mesopotamian and Mesoamerican designs. South Beach is truly a unique neighborhood, and this trip truly opened my eyes to its history.

Deering Estate as Text:

“Original Miami” by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen of FIU in Deering Estate on November 16, 2022

Class Picture at Deering Estate. Photograph by John William Bailly

We made our return to the Deering Estate on November 16th, but this time a new challenge awaited us. Instead of canoeing to Chicken Key, we would be hiking 5 miles through the Deering Estate’s various ecosystems. My twin brother Nikolas and I made sure to come early as we did not want to miss a minute of this.

Before embarking on our hike, we went to use the bathroom in the Mediterranean Revival Stone House. Something that stuck out already was that there was a wine cellar from the Prohibition Era which allowed Charles Deering’s collection to be a secret. We finally got to the trail where I experienced a feeling of excitement when we passed the “No Trespassing, Restricted Access” sign. It was unbelievable to think that I was stepping into the original Miami, no roads, no buildings, no cars, no houses, just pure nature.

The Cutler Fossil site is a watering hole that really embodies how Miami was 10,000 years ago and indicates which animals called Miami home at that time. I got the privilege to step into the watering hole and touch the remains of the teeth of a dire wolf. Holding the dire wolf remains helped me visualize better the ancient prehistoric fauna that were around at the time. I learned that bones of mastodons, camels, llamas, saber-toothed tigers, and the American Lion have also been found. This was mind-blowing to me so when Professor Bailly asked if anyone wanted to come back down for the last time, I took my chance.

On this hike, I also encountered solution holes for the first time. It was fascinating to learn about their role in protecting the hardwood hammocks. When the wet season arrives, water fills these solution holes and protects the hardwood hammocks from potential fires. Additionally, solution holes play a role in providing a home to animals such as the American alligator. As we continued making our way in the preserve, I kept my eyes wide open for solution holes.

After lunch, I was fueled up and excited for the second part of our hike which would include walking in water. But before we made our way down to the Tequesta Midden. This was very eye-opening and gave a lot of insight into how people lived in this environment. Professor Bailly showed us different shells which appeared to be essential tools that the Tequesta used. These shells allowed them to drill, shuck shellfish, complete daily tasks and could also be used as weapons. Holding these shells allowed me to think and reflect about how little the Tequesta needed to thrive and survive.

Cocaine Plane and Walking in Water. Photograhs by Julianna Rendon and Nico Fajardo Vasquez

Finally, we made it to some water we could actually walk in. I was very excited, slipped on my water shoes and headed out into the mangroves. In the mangroves to my surprise was a small broken-down plane. Professor Bailly indicated that the plane is referred to as the Cocaine Cowboys plane which crashed in the 90s. There are many mysteries and myths surrounding this plane and it was interesting to see part of Miami’s modern history merged with the original Miami.

Different ecosystems. Photographs by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

Our trip concluded after having walked in many different ecosystems and getting the chance to walk in even deeper water to see some cave tunnels. This trip was truly a privilege and made for a lot of fun memories in nature. At the same time, I became educated on how Miami’s authentic original state from over 10,000 years ago. The nature preserve tour is something everyone who lives in Miami must experience. Again, this is another place, very few people in Miami know about and you only get benefits by educating yourself on the original history of the land you live on.

Rubell Museum as Text:

“Contemporary Art: To Infinity and Beyond” by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen of FIU in Rubell Museum on November 16, 2022

I was very excited to visit the Rubell Museum on November 23, 2022 as in all my years in Miami I had never heard about the museum. We had learned so much about different art styles (MIMO, Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival, Baroque) so I was intrigued to see some contemporary art. I must say I did not really know what to expect about contemporary art as there have been examples such as the famous banana taped to the wall which make you question: is this really art?

The Mattress. Photography by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

Our visit started off by actually getting to talk to Mera Rubell who owns the Rubell Museum along with her husband Don Rubell. She told us about how they have managed to collect art throughout the years and compared finding art to finding a best friend, you never know how you are going to meet. Already from the beginning we were given her perspective on contemporary art. Mera told us about requesting an artist to paint a portrait of her and Don. The artist told her to send a picture of her mattress and the artist herself took a mattress and painted on it. Mera made the point that the mattress can represent a portrait of life. The day starts and finishes on the mattress and for other activities as Mera chuckled while she told us this.

Narcissus Garden. Photograph by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

Something that immediately stuck out to me was when first entering the museum we were greeted by a hallway completely covered in stainless steel balls. The work is called the Narcissus Garden by Yayoi Kusama and was controversial as it was interpreted as a protest against the commercialization of art. This work made me reflect on the name Narcissus Garden as narcissism is having an unreasonably high admiration of themselves. The story behind the artwork is from a myth, “Echo and Narcissus” and in the myth Narcissus escapes to a lake where he sees his own reflection, falls in love with it and never leaves. By walking through the Narcissus Garden, we can play the role of Narcissus. This was a recurring theme in the museum, there is a story behind each artwork and this story can be interpreted differently by people viewing the artwork.

Infinity rooms. Photographs by Jane Osowski

My favorite part of the visit was getting to be inside two of Yayoi Kusama’s infinity rooms. The first infinity room called “Where the Lights in My Heart Go” was like being in a universe surrounded by stars. It felt like it was never ending, and I got a peaceful feeling from this room, it felt like the room represented creation, life, and creativity. The second infinity room called “INFINITY MIRRORED ROOM – LET’S SURVIVE FOREVER” was like a mini–Narcissus Garden. These rooms gave us an interactive transformative experience which is unique to contemporary art. I later learned that the Rubell Museum is the only museum in the United States that features three of Yayoi Kusama’s major interactive works. I felt privileged to have been able to experience her works, it really gave me a new perspective on contemporary art and inspired me to use my creativity in possibly creating a contemporary artwork of my own one day.

Untitled Art Fair as Text:

“Modern Art” by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen of FIU in Untitled Art Fair on November 30, 2022

Twin Reflection. Photograph by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

After having the privilege to spend some hours in the Rubell Museum last week and really opening my eyes to contemporary art, I was looking very much forward in going to the Untitled Art Fair in Miami Beach. I had been exposed to different types of contemporary art at the Rubell Museum and if there is one thing about contemporary art is that you never know what you are going to get. So, on November 30th, I came into the Untitled Art Fair with an open mind and eagerness to learn more about contemporary art.

We were first greeted by Omar Lopez Chahoud, the artistic director and curator for the Untitled Art Fair. It was impressive to hear about the immense amount of work it takes to organize such a fair. Additionally, it was interesting to hear and learn about the perspective of an artist going into the Untitled Art Fair. The cost of having a booth is $40,000 plus shipping expenses and everything on top of that. The artists are under a lot of pressure to not only sell their pieces, but to make a profit. This helped into perspective how not only the competition the artists face but also how expensive it can be to be successful as an artist.

We were also lucky to be able to talk with Tyler Emerson Dorsch and her husband Brook Dorsch. Brook founded the Emerson Dorsch Gallery in 1991 to showcase local contemporary art. First, Brook started his gallery in the 2nd story of his apartment and told us that even though it was quite packed it was a very engaging and interactive experience for the people at the gallery. He was one of the first movers in Wynwood which is where he later moved the gallery to, and it was amazing to hear about how he described Wynwood to be “empty” in comparison to what it is today. It was also interesting to talk with Tyler Emerson Dorsch who is an art archivist, curator, and gallerist. She is in charge of the artists’ intentions for their work so that she can showcase their works in the best way possible. Tyler explained the meaning behind some of the works displayed and it was cool to see how she pays attention to the smallest details in the artworks yet the most revealing.

Contemporary Art. Photography by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

Visiting other exhibits and talking to other artists was really inspiring and interesting to hear their thought process behind the different works. A recurring theme that was present since our visit to the Rubell Museum was that each artwork had a story. For many of the artworks it was up for our own interpretation, but we got to know the true intentions of some of the artworks by talking with curators or the artists themselves. After class was over, my twin brother Nikolas and I made it a goal to take a picture at each exhibit at the Untitled Art Fair. As the gallerists did not take us seriously as buyers as we are two college students, it was fun to try interpreting what each work meant. It was the perfect way to end the semester in which we had created special memories while searching for the authentic Miami.

Everglades as Text:

Inside the Cypress Dome. Photography by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

“In the Wild” by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen of FIU in Everglades National Park on January 18th, 2022

Having lived in Miami since 2011, I have always known about the Everglades and have driven through the “Alligator Alley” many times. However, there was always that thought that came about while driving through: what exists behind the roadside which is fenced off. On January 18th, I was finally going to get that experience that would have the answer to my thoughts. We made our way to the Everglades National Park and by looking at the amazing scenery of isolated nature all around us, I knew we were in for a ride.

The Everglades is the largest sub-tropical wilderness reserve in North America and contains the largest mangrove ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere. This I learned in our introduction talk with Park Ranger Dylann Turffs at the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center. It was fascinating and surprising that I did not know that the Everglades is actually one of the only 24 UNESCO Heritage sites in the United States. This set the tone for the trip and excitement built up as we all got ready to immerse ourselves in nature.

The Walk. Photographs by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen and Letizia

We then put on our water shoes and got ready for the most exciting part of the trip: the Slough Slog through the Everglades River. As I stepped into the water for the first time, I promised myself to take in everything on this trip, each and every second as I knew that I was stepping into the original unchanged South Florida. It felt truly amazing to be able to experience and walk around in what over 750 species of animals call home.

As everyone got more used to walking with the stick and watching their footing, we powered through the Cypress Dome and made it to a point where we could step out and get the opportunity to wander a little further. The Cypress Dome is a beautiful formation of Cypress trees which is very important and plays a key role in the Everglades. As Cypress trees can survive in standing water they are prime areas for fish, orchids, feeding and nesting birds as well as alligator holes. It was interesting about their formation from Park Ranger Dylann who explained that in the middle of the Cypress Dome where the water is deepest, these Cypress trees begin to die off as the ground starts giving away. Alligator holes are formed and not only provide homes for the American Alligator but for other birds and fish during dry season as it is one of the only places where water can be found.

The Anhinga Trail. Photographs by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

On our way back I encountered an Everglades rat snake which reminded me of the enormous diversity of animal species in the Everglades. Feeling accomplished after not only walking through the Everglades in its original state and gaining knowledge on the flora and fauna of the Everglades and their importance, we headed to the Anhinga trail for lunch. After lunch, we were able to encounter more wildlife as we saw many alligators, birds and fish up close. Our trip concluded after finishing the trail and I felt privileged and honored to have spent the day at the Everglades National Park. This trip brought me back to the lack of education and knowledge of knowing the roots of the place where you live in, which was a recurring theme of last semester’s classes. I believe that everyone in Miami should be able to experience either a Slough Slog or walk the Anhinga Trail. It is so important to be knowledgeable about the place you live in and it is our responsibility to continue to educate more people so that they can experience the authentic Miami.

Miami Encounter as Text:

Part of Miami’s Skyline. Photography by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

Miami also known as the Magic City is perceived by many as the hotspot for non-stop night life, it’s luxurious shopping malls, hotels and high rises that form part of the skyline. However, there is so much more to Miami than that. Many so-called “Miamians” who have been here for a long time, still do not know the roots of the place they live in. Ignorance is prevalent among not only people visiting Miami, but also by the people of Miami.

When visiting Miami for the first time, you immediately notice the immense Latino influence on the city and in certain areas a big Caribbean influence. This brings me to the point of knowing about the people responsible for the city. In fact, Miami’s first citizen was a Bahamian man by the name of Silas Austin. Bahamian workers were exploited by Henry Flagler to essentially build the city, his hotel and railroad. While Henry Flagler is a name that is well-recognized by people in Miami, many people do not know the negative impact he had. He was responsible for segregating the city of Miami, exploited workers for brutal labor, initiated the environmental degradation of Miami and was antisemitic. It is important to recognize that Miami would not be the Miami it is today without Henry Flager, but it is just as important to be aware about his negative actions in the process.

Miami is a place of unsung heroes who have made a positive and tremendous contribution to the city. Julia Tuttle is responsible for founding Miami and to this day is the only woman who founded what eventually would become a major American city. Yet, in contrast to Henry Flagler’s statue, Julia Tuttle gets a humble little plaque right by the Miami River. Another important person is Dana Dorsey who became the first black millionaire in Miami. He built and sold properties to many of Miami’s early black residents and along with his wife they developed financial dealings with the Brickell family. Other heroes include Barbara Capitman who is responsible for preserving South Beach’s Art Deco neighborhood and Marjory Stoneman Douglas who defended the Everglades against land developers and drainage efforts. It is frustrating to think about how people have misconceptions about Henry Flagler and Carl Fisher which is shown through statues and memorials. In contrast, other people who played a significant role in Miami’s early days are not recognized.

Having gone through Miami Dade’s school system since 3rd grade, this class has taught me more than I ever learned in any history or social studies classes about the place I call home. Hidden gems in Miami such as the Wagner Home and William English Slave Quarters are ideal places for class field trips. It is never too late to be educated, but the earlier the better. All of the places we have been to in this class are easily accessible to the public and are places where you can gain extensive amounts of knowledge. Miami Dade’s school system should definitely touch more upon Miami’s history and organize field trips to these historic places. Education as said by Oprah Winfrey is “the key to unlocking the world”.

Coconut Grove as Text:

Coconut Grove is a very familiar area to me as I go to church there, I play soccer at Peacock Park, eat in places like 8th Street Café and Harry’s and it is quite close to my old high school. However, as always there were lots of places that I had overlooked and lots to learn. Our trip to Coconut Grove (the oldest neighborhood in Miami, established in 1873) on January 25th was an eye opener in regards to the historical significance of places that I had passed by so many times but was not aware of their importance in Coconut Grove.

We met first at the Coconut Grove PlayHouse which I had driven and walked by many times but did not know what it was. I was surprised to learn that in the 1920s it was one of the most elaborate theaters with the largest capacity in Miami. My curiosity led me to ask Professor Bailly if we could go inside, however sadly by 2006 the PlayHouse was closed as it could not be sustained economically. It was also sad to hear that Miami Dade County requested a demolition permit for the PlayHouse just a few days ago. That such a historic venue from the earliest days of Miami still remains today is incredible and the demolition of it would be erasing its history.

The second place we encountered on our walk down Charles Avenue was the E.W.F Stirrup house. It was surreal to see his house first-hand as we learned last semester about the huge Bahamian influence in early Miami and how they were used to essentially build Miami. Stirrup’s story was also an amazing one to learn about. Moving from the Bahamas in 1888, he became one of the largest landowners in Coconut Grove. He went on to build over 100 homes for African Americans, providing them with opportunities to rent so that they would later be able to purchase and become homeowners. Stirrup also owned a grocery store, meat market, tailor shop, bicycle repair shop and dry goods store. To see the Stirrup House, which is one of the few 19th century wood frame houses left in Miami Dade and the house that belonged to one of Miami’s earliest influential pioneers was truly amazing.

The Mariah Brown House is also a historical landmark worth mentioning which is also on Charles Avenue. We learned that her house was built in 1890 and is the first house built on Evangelist Street which today is Charles Avenue. These two houses gave us a taste of Coconut Grove’s rich history and what was to come on the trip. The Bahamian Cemetery was a unique place which gave us the chance to pay respect to the many Bahamian pioneers and original settlers of Coconut Grove buried there. Stopping by the churches (Christ Episcopal Church and Plymouth Congregational Church) gave us an idea of the influence of religion in the early 1900s in Coconut Grove and what it took to build these unique places of worship.

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