Annika Castellanos: Miami as Text 2023

Photograph taken on June 30, 2022, at Villa de Leyva by David Garcia/CC by 4.0

Annika Castellanos is a 19 year old student majoring in International Business at Florida International University. She plays on the Division 1 Beach Volleyball Team at FIU. Father from Colombia and Mother from Venezuela. Annika was born and raised in South Florida. She is excited to graduate from the honors college and achieve her dreams in life!


“Why Spain?”

By Annika Castellanos of FIU at Deering Estate, January 27, 2023

Photograph taken on January 27, 2023, at the Deering Estate by Sofia Meyer/CC by 4.0

Why Spain? Studying abroad has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. My mom shared her amazing memories from studying abroad in college and I really wanted to experience that as well. With my dad being Colombian and my mom Venezuelan, the hispanic culture has always been a huge component of my life. I am very passionate about learning the histories of our cultures and how they have mixed throughout time. I have never been to Europe and I am slightly nervous to travel on my own. However, my excitement and motivation are overtaking this feeling as I get more comfortable with the class. It is very comforting how well the class students get along. Everyone seems very friendly and welcoming. The inclusivity and unity amongst the class promotes a very healthy and conducive learning environment. 

My family has distant relatives in Spain and I am looking forward to visiting them. Not only am I excited to visit them, but I am looking forward to seeing new places and learning new things about the Spanish culture. I am a huge fan of Spanish food and music. Paellas are a traditional Spanish dish that is extremely delicious. I can not wait to try paellas and many more authentic dishes while traveling across Spain. Furthermore, Spanish music and dance is absolutely beautiful. One of my favorite Spanish singers called C. Tangana composes and performs a modern twist on traditional flamenco music. In fact, my cousin took many flamenco dance lessons growing up. She shared the basic moves with me. I really hope we are able to see traditional flamenco dancers perform live when we visit Spain. 

I picture Spain to be a peaceful and elegant wonderland. I know it sounds cheesy and cliche but it seems a like a beautiful country filled with so much culture and history. Although the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Spain is the traditional architecture and majestic scenery, I am very excited to witness the modern technology and economy taking place in Spain today. My cousin recently travelled to Spain and was mesmerized by the incredible public transportation systems available in Europe. Although the countries in Europe are smaller in size and can develop train rail roads more easily, I believe it is something the United States could invest in. 

I am expecting this once in a life time program to be challenging yet very fun. The fact that we are traveling with a group of peers my age experiencing the same things for the first time will be unique and not replicable. I expect this program to help me learn much more about history not only in Spain but Spanish influence throughout the americas. We have only had two classes with Professor Bailly and I already feel that I have learned so much. Sometimes I feel that the American education system overlooks various moments in history. Thus, I am very pleased to have a knowledgeable professor that will help guide us in Miami and Spain.


How the Columbian Exchange Affected Me?

By Annika Castellanos of FIU, February 12, 2023

Photograph taken on January 27, 2023, at the Deering Estate by Annika Castellanos/CC by 4.0

The transatlantic exchange in 1492 is a monumental moment in history and it still impacts many individuals around the world today. To begin, I think it is quite an incredible feat to be able to travel from Europe to the Americas in a ship in that day and age. Although, the ships were powerful inventions, at that time they did not possess the safer technology we have today. The fact that the Spaniards were so determined to discover the americas and conquer them is very impressive to this day. 

The transatlantic exchange brought many things to the Americas. In 1492, the Americas was run by natives and lacked modern technology. Although they lacked European technology, they were surviving and even thriving within their communities. The movie Apocalypto gives a great inside view of how communities were organized. There were different tribes with different traditions. In the film, they idolize the Gods and require hundreds of human sacrifices. This may seem quite gruesome but the Spaniards acted quite similarly. As the Spaniards arrived in the Americas, they demanded the natives to convert to Catholicism. First of all, they are introducing a new religion in a different language. The natives may have not understood the majority of what the Spaniards were trying to communicate. Furthermore, it is quite cruel to try to impose a religion on a group of people. It is an individual’s free right to practice their religion of choice. The Spaniards would turn to slavery and even murder if the natives would refuse to practice Catholicism. Not only do I find this unjust, but I try to put it into perspective. If an alien from outer space came to my community today and asked me in a language I do not understand to do whatever they ask, my life would be ruined. I would feel controlled, vulnerable, and defeated. I think many times in history classes or stories discussing the Columbian change, they exclude the emotions of the natives removing their humanity. Dehumanizing the natives allows people to perceive the Spaniards behavior to be acceptable for the time. 

However, Miami is a big product of the Columbian exchange. A majority of people in Miami practice Christianity or Catholicism. These are the central pieces of the Spaniards conquests. As a Catholic, it hurts to learn about the awful things my ancestors would do to concert people to Catholicism. Now in the modern world, it is important to accept others religions and practices. There is nothing wrong with believing in different gods and religions. For example, there are certain aspects of the Catholic church that I personally disagree with. I believe it is important for religion to adjust to those around in the community. 

To continue, the transatlantic exchange allowed for the introduction of new medications in the Americas. This is a huge impact for technology in the Americas. Unfortunately, along with medication, the transatlantic exchange also caused the spread of many diseases including small pox, typhus, and malaria. 

Lastly, the Columbian exchange created many foods to be shared between the americas and Europe. Some included tomatoes, corn, potatoes, and cacao. Something I thought was interesting was how certain foods from the Americas would grow better in Europe and vise versa. 


How is Miami, Miami?

By Annika Castellanos of FIU, February 26, 2023

Photograph taken on February 17, 2023, at the Miami Date Courthouse by Annika Castellanos/CC by 4.0

The history of Henry Flagler really surprised me in this walking lecture throughout Miami. Although I am not proud to say this, I had never actually heard of Henry Flagler. The only time I had recognized his name was on the name of the street in Miami. However, I had never thought twice about who the street was named after. For that reason, when Professor Bailly walked the class to the Miami Dade Court House and showed us a monument dedicated to Henry Flagler, I was able to make the connection to the street name.

The monument is a slightly larger than human sized statue of Henry Flagler. It stands just in front of the entrance of the court house. On the monument, there is a very brief description of Henry Flagler. It simply states his date of birth and death. However, after researching Flagler I learned more about how he became who he is remembered as today. He made his fortune in Standard Oil and was the primary backbone of the railroad. Julia Tuttle is called the Mother of Miami because she owned property in Miami and was one of the founders of Miami because she aided the railroad to be brought to Miami.

From eighteen ninety four to eighteen ninety five there was a great freeze in the north of florida. However, in the south of Florida, near the Biscayne area and Miami, the weather was still great for crops and other daily and vital activities. Thus, Julia Tuttle, on of the first founders of Miami, offered to sell a portion of her unfrozen land to Flagler in exchange for him to bring the railroad down to Miami.

Despite, Henry Flagler’s positive impact and crucial investments in Miami, abused and used black slaves. He also is responsible for segregation being incorporated in Miami. Furthermore, he destroyed a Tequestan burial mound and released hotel waste into the Miami River causing the river to be environmentally damaged.

This walk impacted me and my life growing up in Miami because I learned about the history of Miami. I had never really thought about how Miami came to be. Learning about how a woman was the primary founder of Miami was a very inspiring notion. Although in today’s day and age, women are respected more than they were back then. There is still so much room to grow for women in society. Many times there are salary in balances and other forms of sexism. It is also important to recognize the racial segregation still present today due to the consequences of Flagler and other figures of the time. I learned so much not only about the history in Miami but how prominent many of the actions of the past are still present today. After having learned the history of Miami and the many individuals involved in forming it, I think it is very important for all citizens of Miami to learn about their history and recognize the consequences caused by mistakes of the leaders of Miami in the past.


Incorporating Magic Helps Communicate a Feeling

By Annika Castellanos of FIU, March 12, 2023

Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait on the Borderline between Mexico and the United States, 1932.

Magic realism is a very unique, interesting literary and artistic style. Personally, I really enjoy the idea of mixing magical features to a realistic world to add depth and excitement to a story. In my opinion, writers write to change the world. Similarly, artists create pieces highlighting a piece of society and their opinion on it. The ability to add magic and fantasy to a reality can bring forth many ideas that may not be feasible in the real world. Often times, non fiction stories about real life can become quite monotonous and difficult to see a future without a magical component. On the other extreme, many times fiction literary and art pieces can see too far fetched and unachievable in the modern world. For that reason, I really  enjoy reading and learning more about Magical Realism.

Furthermore, I really enjoy how Magical Realism is primarily a Latin American artistic style. Many historical elements of the Americas root in Spain, for example the Catholic Church. However, Magical realism truly takes a turn on this tradition and creates its own traditions. Some elements of Magical Realism seen today are the division of countries and the pollution of industrial establishments. 

For example, Frida Kahlo, is a very famous Mexican artist that uses Magic Realism in her paintings to further express her feelings. A painting that really stood out to me was the “Self-Portrait on the Borderline between Mexico and the United States” . At first glance, the painting is a self portrait of Frida Kahlo. However, taking a closer look, Frida Kahlo is standing in between the United States on the right and Mexico on the left. Frida Kahlo paints the United States as a very industrial place filled with lots of fog and buildings. The United States’ side of the painting has no green or natural colors of any kind symbolizing its lack of life in her eyes. On the other hand, Mexico has a few artistic sculptures on the floor near crops and flowers growing. Although the Mexican side seems brighter, there seems to be tension and a sense of a disorganized society. This could be symbolizing Mexico’s lack of political stability. However, compared to the United States, Mexico’s elements seem to show a better future as opposed to the United States that looks more gloom and grey. This shows Frida Kahlo’s connection to her country and longing for her home. She is even holding a Mexican flag in her hand to further emphasize her dedication and connection to her country and roots. 

This painting is an example of Magic Realism because many elements of the painting are magical or fantastical. For example, in the sky, there is a sun and moon with faces on a pair of clouds. Although these elements are not necessarily seen in real life, the viewer can interpret these artistic elements as a form of feeling and emotion that could not have been interpreted before. I really enjoy Magic Realism because it adds subtle magical elements to the real world in hopes of a better world. 


The History of Vizcaya? Miami? Not Acknowledged

By Annika Castellanos of FIU, March 19, 2023

Photograph taken on March 10, 2023, at Vizcaya by Elizabeth Pella/CC by 4.0

As beautiful as the Villa Vizcaya is, I had never taken the time to learn about the history of the building. At first glance, the Vizcaya structure just looks very elegant and traditional. However, it has a very European influenced design. James Deering was very inspired by the European architecture and thus, wanted to bring the European building styles to Miami. However, the Vizcaya mansion was built by the hands of Bahamian workers. In the 1900’s, there was a lot of racial segregation and poor working conditions for black workers. It is very unfortunate and quite disappointing how the history of Vizcaya and Miami’s origins are clouded. 

It is very frustrating that the majority of Miami’s citizens do not know about the history of Miami due to lack of inclusivity and education. I am lucky to be partaking in this course and taking the time to learn about my roots and the roots of my home city, Miami. It is extremely important to recognize the racial segregation and lack of inclusion towards native tribes of Miami. It is important to acknowledge the struggles those before us went through and learn to not repeat similar mistakes of those from the past. Although it may have been legal for James Deering at the time to hire Bahamian workers with poor working conditions and not credit them, it does not mean it was the right thing to do. With age, I have come to learn that the law is not always what is right and just. For example, slavery used to be legal and very common in practice.

Vizcaya is a great symbol of Miami. It showcases the beauty, nature, and size of Miami. Vizcaya is a very elegant mansion that incorporates traditional European influence in its architecture. Vizcaya also cares for the gardens that grow many plants of Floridian origin. Similarly, Miami is a beautiful city filled with many European traditions including Catholicism, European art design, and foods. Miami’s grand size and population showcases its impact and strong position in the world. Just as Vizcaya as a structure impacted me with its size, Miami is a city that impacts the world with its prominence. 

Despite the beauty and growth of Miami, Miami has an extreme disconnect with its past. The history of Miami has been overlooked for years and is still overlooked today. The more I take the time to learn about Miami, the more my perspective changes. The Tequesta, Seminole, Miccosukee, and Bahamian roots are what allowed Miami to become what it is today. However, these origins are never appreciated and quite honestly, often omitted in history classes in South Florida. For the true natives of Miami to be overlooked is very unfortunate. Even when natives are mentioned, they are mentioned in a way that dehumanizes them and makes it difficult for current Miami citizens to connect with them. The lack of inclusivity and acknowledgement towards Miami’s roots is concerning, as it is information that could be overlooked and eventually, forgotten. 


Music. (M-usic, U-nited, S-ound, I-ntertwined, C-ommunity)

By Annika Castellanos of FIU, April 16, 2023

Album Cover, El Madrileño by the artist C. Tangana Sony Music Spain 2020

Music in the Americas, although unique and original, it has many commonalities due to the vast inspiration from Spain. Dating back to the beginning, when the Spanish conquests arrived in the Americas, the exchange of traditions and ideas has been unstoppable. It is a great quality that humans share the ability to grow and learn from each other. 

I decided to highlight the many similarities between Spanish music and music in the Americas. A very popular modern artist named C.Tangana is from Spain and his music is influential throughout the Americas. His music incorporates the traditional flamenco and tango rhythms from Spanish music. However, he adds a modern electronic aspect to his music that appeals to many other countries. Similarly, La Rosalia is a Spanish artist that initially began writing music with very traditional Spanish styles. As she grew as and artist, her music style started to change. As she started dating a Puerto Rican singer, Rauw Alejandro, she began to add typical Puerto Rican rhythms and beats to her music. 

Traditional Spanish chords and music is still very popular and influential today. The fast paced guitar and chord progressions that encourage the listener to dance, are very similar in the Americas. For example, in Colombia, many traditional boleros take influence from Spanish music. Bolero songs incorporate Spanish acoustic guitars and the use of many voices in harmony. In Spain, singing groups are called Tunas. Just as the tunas harmonize many voices, mariachi in Mexico and bolero groups have very similar components to their music. 

Despite the many similarities between music in Spain and music in the Americas, there are many unique qualities and differences to each style of music. In Spain, it is very common to scream “Ole” when performing different songs. The “ole” is simply an expressive word to show excitement for the song being performed. The Spanish also have very incredible clapping patterns to add rhythm to a song. While one clapper claps a certain beat, the other one claps in between the beats causing an incredible layered sound of claps. I have attempted to clap with the Spanish rhythms but it is very difficult to stay on time. I respect the performers even more the more I have researched the different components of a Spanish song. 

A famous group that has brought Spanish music throughout the world is the Gypsy Kings. Although they perform traditional Spanish flamenco, the group members were born in France. Just as these French men were willing to learn about Spanish music, when the Spanish arrived in the Americas, so did Africans. Thus, in the Americas, there was a combination of natives, Spaniards, Africans, and more. This mix of cultures and traditions is what makes music what it is today. There may be different genres, but I believe there is always a commonality in between them. The more open we are, as a society, to learn from each other’s traditions, the more we will grow as a community. Music brings people together and it has shown this throughout history. 


Hearing at the Deering

By Annika Castellanos of FIU, April 16, 2023

Photograph taken on January 27, 2023, by Nazerke at the Deering Estate / CC by 4.0

Our first excursion as a class was at the Deering Estate. The Deering Estate used to be a small hotel until the land and building was purchased by Charles Deering. Charles Deering was from Maine and bought the hotel shortly after the railroad was built in Miami. He then, built a beautiful stone house next to the hotel. The house is heavily inspired by Spanish architecture. The Spanish villa was built by Bahamians, paid by and American. This combines African origin, Spanish architecture, American-European man, and even Islamic architecture. The arches with a point at the top are a very iconic Islamic style. There is no such thing as an isolated culture. This is because over history and time, every culture mixes. 

The first room we entered was the art room. This room was beautiful. It had very tall ceilings and large windows to see both the front yard of the villa and the ocean. Although the artwork in the Deering Estate is currently modern, Deering used to hang his many owned art pieces in this room. We then, descended into the basement where we found a wine cellar behind a vast steel door. It was incredible to see how well preserved the cellar had been despite the years of wear and tear. Although, the original wine bottles were broken, they have added fake bottles for guests to experience. 

The class then went on a small hike on the lands of the Deering Estate. We even had to wear long sleeve shirts and long pants without exposure to skin due to the potential of running into poison ivy. As we walked through the typical Miami ecosystem, it was beautiful, but not what comes to mind when you think of Miami. When one thinks of Miami, one thinks of the pristine beaches and skylines in downtown. However, the true everglades and mangrove filled land is what truly makes up Miami. 

There was even a fresh water river that used to flow through the Deering Estate. In attempts to make it bigger, they destroyed it and ruined the flow of its water because there was an influx of salt water from the ocean. Thus, it killed any trees and animal life that was relying on it as a source of fresh water. However, on the bright side, the Florida government is making efforts to attempt to heal the damage. 

As we continued our hike, we found Tequestan tools. It was an inexplicable and surreal feeling to hold tools from our ancestors. We held very primal spoons, knives, and weapons in our hands. Although at first glance they looked like rocks, the more you looked at them, the more you could see the humanized aspect to them. Also rocks do not cluster together in one place. The fact that you find the tools clustered together means that a human placed them there. I really look forward to going back to the Deering Estate with my family to share with them what I learned and how it is connected to our past as Miamians.  


Next Stop… SPAIN!

By Annika Castellanos of FIU, April 21, 2023

Photograph taken on March 31, 2023, by Annika Castellanos at the Rubell Museum / CC by 4.0

As we conclude the Spring semester of the Spain Honors Study Abroad, I have learned and grown so much. My initial reason to study abroad and decide to partake in this class was my mom’s experience in studying abroad. I was also very interested in learning more about my past as a Hispanic and Latin American individual. Although these reasons are still true and important to me, I have learned so much about Spain and its influence in the Americas that I can not wait to see Spain in person. I have never even been to Europe, and I am excited to see the commonalities and differences between our two nations. I think the exchange of cultures is what makes humans the way we are today. The exchange of ideas, food, and art is what allows societies to learn and improve. In my initial encounter as text, I expressed my nerves for traveling alone. Now that I have gotten to know my class mates and the professor, I feel much more comfortable to travel with them as a group. Everyone is so kind and expresses the common interest in learning and respecting Spain. 

Now that we have studied the history and influence of Spain across the Americas, I feel much more confident in visiting Spain. We learned about the Spanish conquests in the Americas and how the Spanish brought many key ideas to the Americas. The Spanish brought Catholicism, foods, and music. In my Ida as Text, I researched Spanish musical influence in the Americas. Specifically, I focused on artists including C. Tangana and Rosalia. Both are popular modern artists with heavy traditional Spanish sounds in their music. I am excited to hear music in Spain, whether it be live on the street or blasting in a night club. 

When I picture Spain, I still imagine a beautiful land. I can see its environmental aspect of mountains and yet I can also appreciate its architecture. I can visualize Spain to be just as advanced in technology as the United States however, I think it will have more preserved older towns. I am also excited to see and use the public transportation. I believe public transport in the United States is still developing and not as well developed as that in Spain. Just as I said in my first text, I have not been to Spain. 

This semester, the class met with alumni from the program of last year. After speaking, we learned so much about how to prepare for the program. My expectations shifted from Spain being an easy walk in the park, to be prepared to hike a lot. I am most looking forward to visiting Madrid El Parque del Retiro because it looks like a beautiful park and garden. It reminds me a lot of the Vizcaya Museum and Garden we visited this semester. I am excited to make more connections with the class and professor as we visit, not only this site, but so many locations across Spain. 

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