Christian Gonzalez: Miami as Text 2023

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Christian Gonzalez is an FIU student and active member of the FIU Honors College. Born and raised in Miami, his passions lie at the intersections of art, nature, and technology. Christian is a senior seeking a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and is currently majoring in Finance.

Encounter as Text

“Cuando me vaya”
by Christian Gonzalez
January 22nd, 2023

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Last year Gisela Teresa Layuno passed away. To her friends, she was Teresita. To my sister and I, she was our abuelita Nani. When we were kids, Friday was unequivocally our favorite day of the week because that was the day we knew Nani would pick us up from school. We would typically be stuck for several agonizing hours after class was over, long after all the other kids had been picked up. But not on Fridays. On Fridays, without fail, Nani would be there as soon as that last bell rang, waiting first in the carpool line outside of school in her 2002 Honda Accord with some snacks, some stories, prepared to cook us our favorite meals for Friday dinner. Never once did she fail to pick us up on time. Everyone loved Nani.

Ever since Luli Szeinblum’s orientation presentation, I have wanted to participate in the travel abroad program but I was never sure that I would have the opportunity to go. Ultimately, I was convinced to apply for España after receiving secondhand exposure to the program through Professor Bailly’s Miami in Miami class and learning that I would have a couple free months this upcoming Summer before starting full-time work. Although, this would not be my first time traveling abroad. 

I went backpacking around Europe once before, after finding myself with a free month at the end of the Summer and some leftover income from my NVIDIA internship. Looking up the cheapest ticket to Europe I could find took me direct to Lisbon. From there I traveled from country to country, city to city, hostel to hostel on roughly $30 per day. It was incredible. 

Before I left for Lisbon, I told Nani about my plan. I can still remember how enthusiastic she was. She asked where else I’d be going. I told her I had no idea. She told me to visit España. It’s the most beautiful country, she said, and her favorite place in the world aside from her home where she grew up in Cárdenas. So I told her that I’d go.

And I did. After Lisbon, I went to Barcelona and telephoned Nani shortly after I arrived to tell her about it. She told me how excited she was, she told me I should go see the Alhambra, and she had something else she wanted to tell me. After traveling all over España when she was much younger, she discovered a secret. 

On the Southern coast of Spain there is a beach, along a gorgeous seaside town with a small port. From this small town she took a boat, an excursion to an island off the coast, a nearly uninhabited unspoiled little island, immeasurably enchanting. She told me that I had to go there, and I told her that I would. But I never did.

I left Barcelona sooner than anticipated. After making some friends at the Hostel Kabul, they convinced me to travel with them to Milan. And so I went, forgetting about the beach, about the seaside town, about the island. 

Thinking about Spain, a few images come to mind: the view of Barcelona from Parc Güell, Miles Davis playing the flugelhorn in Concierto de Aranjuez, the spectacular expansive vistas captured by the films of Corbucci and Sergio Leone. However, I cannot think about Spain without also thinking about Nani, about the time she spent there when she was young, about the things she wanted me to see. She was never the same after Covid. Permanently attached to an oxygen tank for over a year and suffering from dementia praecox, she was hospitalized shortly before Hurricane Alex struck Miami. Alex was downgraded to a tropical storm shortly before it hit, and we survived just fine. Nani did not. I know she would have wanted me to take this trip. I know that she would have been happy for me now that I’ll get to see Madrid, Sevilla, and the Alhambra. I just wish I could remember the name of that island. 

Author: Christian Gonzalez

FIU Class of 2023, Finance Major

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