Rafael Vasquez: Neighborhood 2022 South Beach

South Beach

Photo By (Vasquez Industries) – Film Nikon EM

            Driving down 1-95 the cool morning air fills the car, as the moon brightly lights the sky. Before the rush and morning traffic, I drive by cruise ships at port like towering skyscrapers cruising along the shore. I stop by the side of the road, in amazement of their size and beauty in the moonlit sky. Hues of purple, red, and oranges reflect from their bright white hulls, their sheer size and capacity are those of a small island cruising along the Atlantic coast. A staple in the port of Miami beach, are these cruising metropolises enter and exit the city daily. 

            Photo By Vasquez Industries

Now walking onto the ocean shore, I feel the cool sand beneath my feet. The sun slowly reveals its pale orange hues against the waking light blue sky. Walking onto a spot by the water, it’s quite as small groups of teens and locals await the golden hour. Noticing the sea gulls being chased up and down the coastline, by the great German shepherds and bulldogs chasing their tennis balls. It’s during this time that all the worries, stresses, and busting of Miami that seems to pause. It’s now 5 past 7 as the gleaming rays pass their way through the pale blue clouds and the infinite shoreline, bathing the small group of on lookers in its restorative shine. The warm radiating sun is contrasted with the crystal-clear cool water hitting the sandy shores. I plunge in to feel the ice old water rush through, temporally disrupting the calm empty shores. As I lay within, I can see the sun perfectly reflected on the mirror that’s the Miami shoreline. Looking down I notice my foot, in the transparency of the perfectly calm shores. Looking around I spot what seems to be a dark rock to my far left, intrigued I follow closer to investigate. Slowey as to not kick up the sand I glide over, it’s a turtle! I squint my eyes in disbelief, thinking that I’m simply dreaming as the turtle remains stills. 

Photo By (Vasquez Industries)- Film Nikon EM

I feel the immensity of the great coast, feeling small and indefensible although I’m simple looking at a turtle. How graceful, natural, in tune with its environment it looked not needing to be fed, cared after, or defended this was her home. A town where she can freely roam not confined to cages, or man-made structures I was the one that felt out of place and in need of care. I felt a sudden rush of fear knowing the magnitude of the oceans power, a shark, whale, dolphin all freely roam this landscape. However, I can barely hold my breath for 80 seconds. As I near closer to her, I see the gleaming brown and diamond shell its true! As suddenly as I take it in, I blink to find her vanished. Like a ghost, I now knew it wasn’t a simple rock.

            Although Miami beach has a beautiful art deco district, with shops, food, and fancy hotels. I believe her charm is a byproduct of the natural beauty of the ocean. As a local I’ve seen the rowdy crowds, and a deterioration in quality service and affordable pricing in recent years. However, the reason I make the weekly early morning pilgrimage to this district its in its hidden gems and beauties. One such hidden gen is the historic Joe’s stone crab shack, which is a Jewish owned staple in the city since 1913. Located south of fifth street It was built during a time were, the Jewish community faced discrimination and was not legally nor socially allowed to visit, live, or work north of fifth street. However not forgetting the dark past, a couple blocks up from Joes is Jewish Museum of Florida that housed in a beautifully preserved art deco styled synagogue.

However, going back to Joe’s it beautiful antique interior is a place when seated your transported back In time. Beautiful, tiled floors, gilded ceilings, and incandescent yellow lights the atmosphere is a great break from the sunny shores. I personally loved the cheesecake, which is a staple in their menu, and for lunch they have a great affordable section next to the main restaurant where you can get quick high quality food such as a wagyu hotdog, a variety of fresh salads, and friend chicken for a quick on the go meal. 

Following the meal, I would recommend heading up to the museum which is partly run and funded by FIU. Where you can further learn about the history of the Jewish community in south Florida, while experiencing their beautiful rotating collections. A beautiful constant, however, was their candy-colored stain glass made in Hialeah, with the original names of their donors. Showing the love and work that the Jewish community put into their neighborhood place of worship. Not to mention the beautiful original altar hand designed by the original Rabbi that was both a man of faith and carpentry. The experience at these two staple places right next to south point pier are hidden gems away from the bustle and craziness of Miami. Giving you an authentic experience of what south of fifth street has and currently is. 

Moreover, although Miami beach is world famous for its artists, designers, and architecture I wanted to touch upon the reality of the people that make up this neighborhood. Many of the friends, family, and people I’ve meet from the beach live near by and commute there for work. From police officers, restaurant staff, and beach goers usually live in the neighboring part such as west Kendall and other neighboring neighborhoods. The reality Is that Miami Beach is a very expensive and exclusive area to rent or buy property. As mentioned earlier crowds are rude and rowdy when people come down from spring break or festival events in south beach make even the nicest parts unbearable to be in with loud music, smoking, and drinking in the streets. However, it’s the very tourism that feeds the many jobs and businesses that many people need to work and sustain their lives. A dynamic that recently has been the center for new noise laws and stronger enforcement of the peace within these neighborhoods. As we move into the future it’s a constant dynamic that we must come to terms with, increasing tourism and the vitality and economy of the city hopefully finding a good middle term. 

However as for me sticking to the morning hours and the hidden beauties of the beach makes it all worthwhile to visit and be in for the rest of my life in Miami.

Sunset Shot by Vasquez Industires

Author: Rafael Vasquez

Rafael vasquez, I'm a current Senior at Florida International University majoring in Psychology. I seek to explore the cultural, social, and political roots that influence the current city of Miami. Looking beneath the surface I seek to bring to light the stories, of the people and culture that have shaped this modern day metropolis. Being born and raised in Miami there is much history and culture I wasn't aware was an integral part of my city. My aim is for you to follow me along this journey of discovery as I share with you my experience in learning about the authentic and real part of Miami. My stories will cover a range from philosophy, psychology,and history that combines all my fovorite academic disciplines into the art of education and story telling.

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