Angela Sofia Stea: Miami as Text 2023

(Selfie by Angela Stea/ CC/4.0)


Hi, my name is Angela Stea and I am currently a junior at FIU majoring in accounting. Currently, I am a tax intern at an accounting firm and having my first real experience with my career. This is my last summer before I graduate, so I am excited to take this class and experience a summer in Europe and make memories of a lifetime. Learning more about Spain is something that will help me connect to my ancestors as well as my extended family as I have family in Toledo (a city we are visiting). This class and Spain are going to truly impact my life and make me view life and my surroundings differently.


“Mi viajecito a España” By Angela Sofia Stea of FIU on Jan. 27, 2023

After experiencing the first day of class and officially seeing everyone that is going to travel with me in my first trip to España I felt a sense of relief, because everyone genuinely seems like great people, and a buzz of excitement to be able to experience this travel experience with others who seem to have the same excitement as me. I was happy to see how many other women were going to be on this trip because I genuinely believe that I can create some long-lasting friendships because of it. Continuing with the questions laid out I will explain why I am even in this class. If I am being completely honest ever since I was little, I have loved traveling and wanted to go to Spain, my first and only other time in Europe was in Paris and I truly cherish that trip and all its memories as I was only eight, so I had a very childlike view of the trip. To give you a view into me as a person, I have always loved food and many of my memories are attached to a meal I have had that altered my brain chemistry, one of those meals being a baguette sandwich that we found in a sandwich cart in the underground subway in Paris. All these little details do have a point as España is known for having an amazing cuisine, from their tapas to the delicious Gallego paella.

Me at 8 years old in front of the Palais Garnier (Photo by Giovanni Stea/ CC/4.0)

Continuing, in 2020 my family and I planned a trip to Spain where we were going to visit multiple cities and I was going to experience watching one of my favorite soccer teams FC Barcelona. However, as we all know, the Covid-19 pandemic hit at that time, so we were not able to go.  Ever since then, I’ve felt at a loss of not being able to visit, because it has been one of my dreams for as a long as I can remember. Throughout my life my mother has always talked about studying abroad in college and that it is an opportunity that I must take when it is presented to me. When I saw that FIU Honors offered this program I immediately jumped at the opportunity. 

Another influencing factor for choosing Spain specifically to do this program is my ethic background. I am Cuban and Venezuelan from my parents, however my grandparents are Italian and Spanish, and we are visiting my family’s hometown, Toledo. I really believe that traveling to Spain will help me connect to my roots and learn more about my heritage. I also believe that this class that Professor Bailey teaches will help me see the Spanish influence in my parents’ cultures as well as the influences that the Americas have given to Spain. Finally, I just really hope to gain a better understanding of the European culture and see what it would look like to live in Spain, even if it is just for a few weeks. I am really excited to visit Barcelona specifically because of all the history and architectural significance.

Deering Estate as Text

“Secret Wine Cellar” By Angela Sofia Stea of FIU on April 16, 2023

When I looked at the Syllabus and saw we were going to visit the Deering Estate I was confused because I have never heard of it. However, Bailly gave us a great background to who the owner was and the significance of the house in Miami’s history as well as the lands history. When we arrived and saw the two different buildings, the disconnect between them had me wondering if they were built to be like that, Bailly then explained how the red wood paneled house was built as a home for S. H. Richmond and his family but became the areas only inn in 1899. Charles Flagler was the one who built the stone house next to the wooden house. His intent was to base it off his house in Sitges, Spain. However, if you examine features of the house, you will see how there are arched doorways and windows which showcase Islamic influence. There were also carvings made on the top of the pillars which were carved by the Bahamians who built the house, and you could see their influence on some of the carvings. This class has taught me that Bahamians built Miami, which is something that as a native Miamian should be taught outside of a study abroad class. 

When we moved on to the backyard, I was enthralled by its vast amount of yard, which was full of green grass. To add on to the beautiful yard there was a magnificent view of the Biscayne Bay. Bailly stated that Charles had built a boat basin at the edge of where his backyard met with the bay to safe harbor his boats. This harbor could also have been used to receive shipments such as alcohol because he lived in the house during the Prohibition Era. This fact is furthered proved with the secret wine cellar he had covered with a door that appeared to be a bookshelf. 

Deering Estate Boat Basin & Cellar. (Photo by Angela Stea/ CC/4.0)

As we came back around to the front of the house, we started on a path which seemed like we were going into the forest which surrounded the Estate. During the hike we saw many native plants that showed how Florida looked before anyone had ever discovered the land. What I saw was not what I expected as I’ve always known Miami for its palm trees, I learned the Spaniards were the ones to bring them over, and mangroves. This view into the past made me learn so much more of the place I live than any other nature walk I have taken before. Continuing into the hike we were shown artifacts, shells that fit perfectly in the hands of a human that could be used to cut things, that belonged to the Tequesta. Seeing artifacts that are so old is mind-blowing because you don’t think about how old the world is and how many different people have lived and died in one place throughout the decades. 

My favorite part of the entire hike was walking across the bridge above the creek and seeing all the nature that surrounds the creeks pathway. Overall, visiting the Deering estate gave me a great foundation for the class and what we will learn throughout the semester as well as give me insight into the very place I am from. 

Transatlantic Exchange as Text

“Raizes” By Angela Sofia Stea of FIU on Feb. 12, 2023

Ever since starting this class, I have learned facts and details of the transatlantic exchange that I didn’t know of before. I had always known about the whole colonization process and how most of the Americas were colonized specifically by Spain, but a fact that really surprised me was the origin of coffee as I always assumed it to have been from the Americas considering the popularity of the bean in Latino culture. I’m Cuban so coffee is huge in my culture and I drink it more than I should, so learning of the origin made me realize how many other things could be from the old world as well as what I might assume is from the old world is actually from the Americas. 

A Colada I had on Noche Buena (Photo by Angela Stea/ CC/4.0)

Being Cuban I knew how ruthless the Spaniards were with the natives as we have no pure Taínos like you might see in Puerto Rico. There are many Cubans who have the Taíno bloodline within them, but many of them were told not to speak of it because during the Cuban Revolution the communist government dissuaded distinct racial identification and instilled a singular mind set of ‘Cubanness’, in order to make everyone equal. This caused the already small percentage of people connected to their Taíno roots to become extremely small, however, there is still a few areas in rural Cuba where you can find people who try to keep whatever traditions they know of alive. If we compare the situation in Cuba and Florida, there would be clear differences as we have a higher percentage of natives, even though the oldest remains we have of humans in Florida are not a part of the tribes we have currently.  Visiting the Deering Estate and the discussions we had in class on the different films and books we had to read really educated me on what went on in Florida during the Columbian exchange era and how you can see the ruthlessness on what I thought was only the Spaniard side but as well as the natives. Obviously, the Natives showed aggression to the Spaniards because of how the Spaniards came in and acted as if they owned the place and could just treat them how ever they wanted as well as completely force the natives to change their whole identity in order to not be killed. You can really see this in the “Chronicle of the Narvaez Expedition”, where Narvaez shows his lack of social awareness when he would complain about how tribes that he had tried to enforce his religion as well as kill some of their people would then try and hunt him down as well as his comrades. 

 I believe that what happened to the Americas would’ve happened no matter what because as humans we are curious and the governments of the time wanted to see if there was more out in the world, however, I believe that the way the Europeans went about it was cruel and dictatorlike. However, I believe that the world now is more understanding of other cultures as well as representing your background and that in the time of the Columbian exchange this way of thinking was not common. I also know I am part of the Exchange just because I my mother is from Cuba and father is from Venezuela and they experienced living in those countries in a way that would’ve been very different if the Exchange were to not have happened. However, I do not have any native in my blood as my Abuelos on my dad’s side are from Spain and Italy and my mom’s ancestors are from France and Spain, but not far back enough to be existent in the Exchange era. 

Historic Miami as Text

“Origins of my City” By Angela Sofia Stea of FIU on Feb. 26, 2023

Walking through downtown Miami the way we did for this class was an experience I had never had nor ever thought about. Growing up in Miami and then moving away I never saw some parts that I did in this course, the Miami I know of is the Westchester and Kendall area, obviously I had visited the more touristic spot such as Lincoln Road, Brickell, Wynwood, Biscayne Bay area, as well as Coral Gables; but I had never honestly walked through the historic and governing building section of downtown Miami. Which consequently made the walk through these historic sites in Miami, which is known for being more modern in architecture than a city like New York, a surprising experience. As we continued our walk Bailly showed us the oldest structure in Miami to date, which was the home of the Wagner family, hearing how mixed the cultures in Miami have been since the beginning gave me a pleasant surprise as it further proves how different Miami is from some other cities and how diverse the people that have traveled through and lived in Miami throughout the years have been.

Freedom Tower. (Photo by Angela Stea/ CC/4.0)

There were a couple aspects that connected me to my parents and their youth here in Miami. The first one being Freedom Tower as it was the place that my mom had to go to with my grandparents when they arrived from Cuba in the early 70’s, even though they wouldn’t be moving to Miami until a couple years later, due to them being claimed by some distant family members in New York. Seeing this building in person and making the connection to the the stories from my mom and grandparents throughout the years made me feel as though I was getting an insight to my family’s beginnings in the city of Miami. Moving on to one of the main forms of public transportation available in downtown Miami, is the Metrorail, this has existed for so many years and my parents have always told me how they would always take it to work when they used to work in banks in downtown and how they would even take it together once they met and started dating, so actually riding the same Metrorail system that they would take is a full circle for me. I felt as if I was receiving a snippet into my parent’s lives knowing the stories and connecting it with the experience of riding the Metrorail. If I were to place myself into the different migration groups it would be with the Cubans because my family came to the United States because it was what was best for their future as Cuba has been in a dictatorship for so many decades and still hasn’t gotten better, whereas my father although he migrated from Venezuela he did not see the country when it got bad because they left in the 80’s. There was a different sense of urgency with my parent’s migration stories that impacts my decision in choosing a migration group. 

Magic Realism as Text

“La Casa de los Espiritus” By Angela Sofia Stea of FIU on March 12, 2023

La Casa de los Espiritus, 2017 Paperback Edition

Magic realism refers to a style of literature or art that arose in the early twentieth century. It is characterized by its specific look at the world, focusing more on the strangeness and incongruousness meshed with completely regular aspects of life.

Magic Realism is a genre that combines magical subjects, surrealist elements, and realistic representations of the world around us. In fact, the fundamental objective of this artistic-literary strand is to illustrate reality in a way that seems accurate and true, and then to generate an effect of “dissociation” in the reader through the display of magical elements told with equal accuracy in a realistic manner, just as if they were the same as the normal reality.

As described above magic realism stories as well as artwork is usually characterized by the presence of magical and supernatural elements bordering on the paranormal. These themes are not always fully described and explained, and everything remains mysterious. Moments like those are when this genre makes it hard for me to enjoy, due to the complexity that goes behind the magical elements and the ambiguity of the message behind its existence in the story. However, if the combination of obscurity and realism are done in a way where they complement each other, or flow well is when I enjoy the genre for its uniqueness.  

Latin America, with its long and rich folkloric tradition, has always lent itself particularly well to incorporating elements that are not entirely conventional within narratives, and it is for this reason that magical realism has naturally settled into the style of local writers, among whom we recall in great prominence Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a great exponent of the genre and of literature in general. We read one of his books for class, “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” in which Gabriel did a wonderful expression of magic realism. In fact, I had read excerpts of the book in AP Spanish in high school, however, reading the book now reminded me about the story of the child who brings insomnia to a whole village and how that story impacted my view on the genre and overall understanding of the concept of magic realism. 

Another work of magic realism I have read is, “The House of the Spirits,” where another well-known Latin American author, Isabel Allende, establishes her as one of the world’s most gifted and imaginative storytellers as well as a top magic realism Latin American artist. She is often compared to Gabriel; however, her writing is not strictly magic realism where she incorporates strong female empowerment into her female characters, which can be seen in all her writings including the book we read in class, “A Long Petal of the Sea.” The character Ofelia wishes “she could be worthy, strong, and brave…[but] because she had the misfortunate of being a woman, a prisoner of her family and social convention,” she would not be able to. Isabel showcases here the inequalities women face now and in the past. 

Overall, magic realism is a popular genre due to the wonderful Latin American artists such as the Gabriel and Isabel. This shows the impact that the Americas had on the artistic world and its perception on fiction and nonfiction, and how the two can be meshed to create a completely unique genre.

Vizcaya as Text

“Don’t Trust Swans” By Angela Sofia Stea of FIU on March 17, 2023

Driving up to Vizcaya I was astonished by the tight winding road that was placed within the Florida forest greenery. As per usual I was running late so I didn’t get to fully appreciate the beauty of the entrance to Vizcaya when I was driving until I walked over to the group. However, the true beauty of Vizcaya is seen when you walk through the leading path to the house which has these large trees following the sides of the path.

As we were walking through the path, we saw a quinceañera with her parents also walking to the Vizcaya house, which is a huge tradition for many people that live and grow up in Miami as there are many scenic natural views which make for a perfect background to the glamorous dresses many quiceañeras use.

Pathway to Vizcaya House. (Photo by Angela Stea/ CC/4.0)

I had been to Vizcaya before with my parents, however, I was a very young and don’t honestly remember any of it, so this was like a first-time experience. This made it a surprise for me when I was looking around because the landscaping isn’t your usual Miami Florida trees nor plants. The views and layout made it seem as if it were a European mansion somewhere in the countryside. However, a view that took my breath away more than anything else we saw was the view of the water from the terrace which was located near the water. It had a very picturesque feel to it with the view showing though the arched styled openings built all around the circular terrace. Those arches reminded me of the Deering estate we visited and how professor Bailly said that as actually Islamic influence even though the Deering brother’s intent was to make their homes look European. Moving back to the house’s leading pathway there was also fountains alongside the leading landscaping which also had Islamic origins. We were explained that the water’s weak upward shooting of water was to not disturb the still water below much. Bailly also explained that many of the fountains we will see in Spain itself will also show strong Islamic influence on their appearance as well as water pressure.

Continuing to the gardens, you could easily see the French influence with the design and layout of it all. I felt as if I was in the show of “Bridgerton” or “Pride and Prejudice” while I was walking through the large garden, especially when Bailly explained how many on the benches we saw were not really used for sitting but for secret rendezvous for James party guests. However, we passed a statute of a woman holding a swam that appeared as if it was trying to kiss her, I thought that was strange, so I asked our professor why James has something like that displayed. Bailly then explained that it depicted a story from Greek Mythology where a Queen named Leda was raped by a Zeus who had turned himself into a swan. Hearing this dark story made me uncomfortable as it is not a type of story you hear usually; however, it is Greek mythology and many of their stories are dark.

The interior of the actual house was beautifully designed with the bright atrium lighting up the idle of the house and making feel like something more than just a house. From the Rococo style rooms to the stained-glass windows everything was designed with so much intent. I did notice that there were many different cultural influences from the Islamic entryways shown by the arches, as well many different Asian artwork pieces found in one of the brightly sun-lit rooms.

Overall, this visit made me how luxurious James Deering lived and how his attention to detail, and love of art can influence so many people for over 100 years. It also shows how such different styles of architecture and art can mesh so well and create a spectacle that impact so many different generations of people all the way from the gilded age to the 21st century.

Miami Ida as Text

“La influencia de los Españoles” By Angela Sofia Stea of FIU on April 16, 2023

Relacion Geogra ca [Geographical relation of Atitlan] de Cholula, Tlaxcala, Mexico, manuscript, ink on paper, 1581.

Urban planning is the process of developing and designing urban areas to meet the needs of the community. The process requires preparation of the style of architecture, engineering, economics, sociology, public health, and finance of the preferred final goal of the city (Sailus). When you look at European countries and focus on the layout of many of their cities one notices the walkability they have. If you were to compare it different parts of the Americas, you will have differing results depending on the influence of the colonizing country, as well as the preexisting civilizations of the area.

Spain’s main cities are designed in a way that most everything is at a walkable distance as it has been around since before cars were even invented, making it a necessity for the residents to be able to either walk or take a horse and buggy to arrive timely to their destination. The cities are also more crowded as the boom in population throughout the years has left the antiquated cities small in comparison. Although the cities have been changed throughout the decades with there being different wars which have caused destruction to large parts of the country, some of the 18th and 19th century design features have remained prevalent in the current status of the urban designs. The reticular model was the main influence Spain provided to the America’s urban planning; even though some of the Pre-Colombian American cities were designed with a semi-reticular pattern. Even still, the Spanish Crown’s objective of having uniformed colonial cities was achieved despite the topographical differences as well as distinct environments that your find throughout the Americas (Rodriguez 48).

The style of the reticular model was a perfect example for Spain to base their urban designs for the Americas as it is adaptable to the different terrains that are located throughout, the adaptation of the design being named semi-reticular. Although the original idea of the model

didn’t come from the Spaniards, but from the Greeks which was later adopted by the romans which would then impact Spain’s ultimate model, its fluidity created a perfect base to create modern civilizations in the undiscovered regions of America. Reticular models had an agglomeration around squares where they would place significant building in the center conditioning the residents to them, where the Spanish crown was able to implement the catholic church, along in many of these significant buildings in order to enforce the religion onto to the native population that existed in the Americas (Rojas). An example that shows how the design agglomerated around squares can be shown in Mexico City’s urban planning ordinances. Ordinance 112 starts off the urban plan explaining that the starting point for the town would be the main plaza which would be situated in the center of the town for inland cities and on the landing place of the port for cities on the seacoast. The next few ordinances after explaining that the city will be built in blocks stretching out from the main plaza, where they said it would have room for expansion on the outside should there be growth in population. However, in ordinances 119 and 120 the religious impact in the urban planning can be seen as it specifically explains where the religious buildings should be placed and what is allowed to be built surrounding them. Moreover, ordinance 137 specifically states that “While the town is being completed, the settlers should try, as much as possible, to avoid communication and traffic with the Indians … until it is built, defenses ready, and houses built so that when the Indians see them, they will be struck with admiration and will understand that the Spaniards are there to settle permanently and not temporarily” (Rojas). This clearly shows how the Spaniards viewed the existing civilizations in the Americas and how even though many had a semi-reticular urban model they fully placed their ideas into the creation of the cities in the Americas.

In comparison, if you look at the urban planning of the United States you will not see as many similarities with Spain, or Europe in general, as you see in Latin America. The cities and towns in the US sprawl out farther than anywhere in Europe, this could be due to the three and a half million square miles of territory the US needs to spread its settlements. When you compare a country like Spain, which has 194,897 square miles, to the US the difference in the way the urban planning resulted makes much more sense. Even though some older cities that were established during the colonization period have more reticular model styles to them, the whole country cannot be based on the model due to the number of states and the vast differences between the cities and the countryside. The spatial differences between them makes it so they cannot implement the reticular model because on main square cannot cover as much space as the US towns contain. The percentage of motor vehicles located in the US was 78 percent, this was a leading factor as to why the US decided to create a different Urban plan that involved cars as a main form of travel for their citizens (Nivola). This is shown in newer cities, Miami being one of them, where the public transportation system is barely or not even developed forcing individuals to use cars as their only way of transportation, being that the cities are to spread out from the suburbs for people to walk or ride their bikes.

Overall, Spain had the biggest impact in the countries they fully colonized, which was the majority of Latin America besides Brazil and a couple other territories France and England Colonized around the Caribbean. The reticular model served as a template for the Spanish Crown to input their control over the towns and ways to create a Spanish America.

Works Cited

Nivola, Pietro S. “Are Europe’s Cities Better?” Brookings, 28 July 2016,

Rodriguez, Roberto. “The Foundational Process of Cities in Spanish America: The Law of Indies as a Planning Tool for Urbanization in Early Colonial Towns in Venezuela.” Focus, vol. 2, no. 1, 2005, pp. 47-58.

Rojas, Claudio N. “The City and the Spanish Colonial Project.” Architectural Association Postgraduate Programme,

Sailus, Marisa. “7 Types Of Urban Planning Concepts Explained.” ClearPoint Strategy | Automate Your Strategy,

Departure as Text

“Hasta la Proxima” By Angela Sofia Stea of FIU on April 16, 2023

Group Picture. (Photo by Annika Castellanos/ CC/4.0)

Now that I have gone through the entire spring semester class, I would like to reflect on my thoughts I wrote on my first excerpt, Encounter as Text.  Looking back, I can see how nervous I was for the class and the importance of the relationships with my fellow travelers was going to be for my enjoyment of the course. From the very first class I noticed that our group was going to be a dependable and friendly group where you could ask anyone for help and receive it. This bond has increased with each class, and I can only imagine how travelling together in Spain for a month will only strengthen it more.

My love for Spain’s culture and cuisine has remained the same as these were the leading factors in my decision to choose the Spain study abroad program. However, this class has taught me how some of Spain’s most popular dishes wouldn’t exist without the Columbian exchange, some examples are papas bravas and tortilla de patatas as potatoes originally come from the Americas. Palm trees were also a big shocker to me as I always thought they were a native Floridian and Caribbean tree, just for me to find out that the Spaniards just planted them in all these locations. There were many other foods and concepts that were exchanged that also surprised me as I never really thought about how plants of all kinds didn’t always exist in every country and that they are originally native to a specific continent or country. 

Digging deeper into the impact Spain had on the countries that my parents are from gave me a better overall background on how our culture was influenced to become what it is now. We spoke about Cuba a lot as Miami has a large Cuban community and many of my fellow classmates are also Cuban. We really dove into the impact the Spaniards had on the natives and the overall outcomes of natives in different countries. An example would be comparing Cuba’s native community, which is pretty much nonexistent, to a country like Peru, where almost half of their population is native. Why did Cuba have almost all their native community massacred where others still have many of their original native communities? 

Overall, I feel as though this class has given me a wonderful base for our classes in Spain and will help me make connections to the movies and books assigned when I see the different sites we will visit when in Spain. The history we learned will also impact the way I view the different locations and architecture styles that are present in the buildings we will see, like the Islamic influence all over Spain from before the Catholic Church kicked the Jews and Muslims out of Spain. I am just as excited if not more from the beginning of the course to visit Spain and finally complete my dream of going to Spain, after covid deterred the trip until this year.

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