Mariano Mendez: Miami as Text 2022-2023

Mariano S. Mendez Perez is a junior majoring in Biological Sciences at FIU’s Honors College. Cuban-born and raised, he strives to achieve excellence and bypass the standard set by communist regimes now in the land of the free. His ultimate goal is to help others’ oral health by becoming a doctor in dental sciences. As a passionate tourist, he looks forward to exploring and creating memorable experiences. His hobbies include practicing martial arts, exercising, and playing video games.

Downtown Miami as Text

“Lands of riches” by Mariano S. Mendez Perez of FIU in Downtown Miami on September 7, 2022

All photos taken and edited by Mariano S. Mendez Perez/ CC by 4.0

As time progresses, it is human nature to slowly lose interest, and perhaps forget, about the upbringings of the land they step on. However, in most cases, the very soil that one takes for granted is filled with major cultural and historical events worth knowing. Downtown Miami is internationally recognized for its impressive skyscrapers and coastal infrastructure, yet most never get to know the historical artifacts laid around, or beneath. Hidden, yet present within your surrounding. As the city keeps evolving into an ever-growing Metropolis, it is important to revisit its past and gather its fruitful antiquity to feel connected and appreciate the beauty of it all.

Ever since immigrating from Cuba, I have always resided in Miami. Downtown has always been a special place for me, the atmosphere and views are something amazing to be a part of. However, I never once thought about how Miami came to be, and the history that led to today. The timestamp ranging from the Tequestas to the Spaniards, to the British, and so on is interesting. As I explored the culture and buildings with my classmates, I realized how much I was missing from what makes Miami what it is today.

The Tequestas thrived for around 2000 years before colonialism ultimately took over. They used shells and shark teeth to make powerful hammers and knives, among other things such as cups or horns. These helped them hunt for food, gather water, or even communicate. Having coasts all along your land made it easy for them to hunt fish from the ocean and rivers. All of this was essentially ruined by the arrival of Spaniards, or specifically, a man named “Ponce De Leon” and his crew, in 1513. The old native tribes were easily outgunned and out armored by them and over time would be affected by battles among other things like disease and enslavement. Some of the Tequesta remains were found in what is now known as the Tequestan Circle in Downtown.

Another powerful landmark is the William Wagner and Eveline Aimar house. This is now the oldest house structure in the city of Miami, and one which contains a broad past. They were a mixed couple in a time when segregation was dangerous and still used. When they had children, because of their dark-colored skin, they were also harshly discriminated in their upbringing. Mrs. Wager came upon a group of Seminoles at the end of the Seminole wars, it being a dangerous altercation, he used his ingenuity to invite them for a meal, which they accepted. It is said that the group of Seminoles, and the racially mixed couple, dinned in their humble little house. The property still stands, but it has been heavily renovated because of Florida’s challenging weather.

To conclude, this class exploration of Downtown Miami has made me more aware of the extensive history it has. It seems like the lands of Miami are full of rich antiquity, from the Tequesta people to the colonization ages, to today, learning it makes you appreciate your surroundings and actually feel a sense of connection to those times. It is beautiful how Miami has evolved to be a city of broad cultural beliefs and practices, all living and coexisting with one another.

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