Ashley Lopez: Miami as Text 2023


by Ashley Lopez from Florida International University, 01/27/2023

My name is Ashley Lopez and I am 18 year’s old. I am currently a Junior at FIU Honor’s College pursuing a Biochemistry degree with a nutrition minor. I have always been interested in achieving a position in healthcare and recently I discovered my true passion in the field. After working as a medical assistant in dermatology, it cultivated my interest in the specialty and my overarching career goal is to become a Physician Assistant in Dermatology. In my free time, I enjoy cooking, baking, and spending time with friends and family. I also love traveling and taking photographs to capture special moments!

Encounter as Text

“Italia Quanto mi Manchi”

by Ashley Lopez from Florida International University, 01/27/2023

“You may have the universe if I may have Italy”- Giuseppe Verdi

To me, Italia is more than just the “boot-shaped “country in Western Europe. In my life, Italia in it of itself encompasses warmth, family, friends, food, architecture, fashion, language, soccer, and lots and lots of gelato. For four years, I studied Italian in high school and was able to learn about its culture, history, art, people, politics, sports, foods, and etc. I was able to learn how to speak the language, and my sophomore year of high-school, I spent two weeks with an Italian Foreign exchange student who helped me practice the language. In simple words, Italia “grew” on me, and I have had the privilege of traveling to Italia twice.

I was learning about everything I had seen on my first trip and it cemented the idea in my head that I needed to return someday, because now I could fully appreciate and enjoy the country’s beauty. In June 2022, when COVID-19 regulations lifted and traveling became much safer, I returned with my family. That second trip truly sprouted my inner Italian love that had been in the making since my first middle school Italian class. I visited Milan, Rome, Florence, Pompeii, Sorrento, Positano, Capri, Amalfi, Vatican City, and Siena. I had the opportunity to visit several landmarks and points of interest, including art galleries, museums, and Catholic churches. Among my favorite sites to see were Il Duomo di Milano, Il Ponte Vecchio, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Roman Forum.

When the pandemic began, I was in the midst of preparing for a studying abroad trip to Italia that had been planned by my high school’s CAP advisor. For that long-awaited trip, I also took a dual enrollment course that spring, but unfortunately, the trip had to be cancelled and I was never able to travel there with that group of 15 students and live there for the month. I will never forget the anticipation I felt for that high school studying abroad program, and now that it has been roughly three years, I was presented the opportunity once again from the Honor’s College. To sum up, I am in this class because I lost that amazing opportunity in 2020 to truly study and live in Italia, and I want to immerse myself in the Italian lifestyle. I am very much excited, motivated, and anxious to arrive in Italia, and I am looking forward to exploring all the beautiful sites there. I am most excited to visit Napoli to try the original Italian pizza, to stay in the monastery in Cinque Terre, and to take a classic picture next to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. My expectations of this program are high in the sense that I am looking to grasp the most information possible about Italia, while enjoying this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to its fullest potential.

Ancient Rome as Text

“Americans as Romans”

by Ashley Lopez from Florida International University, 02/05/2023

Prior to watching the TV show HBO Rome and reading Julius Caesar, I had not truly realized the similarities that exist between Ancient Rome and the modern-day United States. Throughout history, political leaders of the U.S. have implemented several aspects of Ancient Rome’s government structure into our own. For starters, in 1787, the United States established the division of powers in Congress by creating the Senate and the House of Representatives. The formation of two separate houses integrated a concept directly derived from Ancient Rome’s governmental structure. Before becoming the Roman Empire, Rome was considered a Republic with a Senate as its primary governing body. The Senate was composed of aristocrats, and the highest positions held within the group were two consuls that were elected by senators. However, one important distinction between Ancient Rome’s Senate and the U.S. Senate is that the Roman senators were not directly appointed by citizens’ popular votes.It should be noted that this concept of elected officials running a country’s government still exists in many parts of the world, and it was one of the most foundational moments in history for our country. Another significant parallel between the United States and Ancient Rome is the use of symbols, such as togas, eagles, and fasces. In Ancient Rome, togas were a part of their everyday fashion and this piece of clothing can be seen in various sculptures and paintings of the founding fathers and historical figures, including Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.  The United States emblem is the Bald Eagle, an animal prominently used by the Ancient Roman armies as a symbol of power. The fasces refers to a bundle of wood with an axe and it was a representation of authority figures and power in Ancient Rome. This Roman symbol is present in many historical paintings, right beside Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial, and on the back of the dime. 

A distinguishable parallel between the U.S. and Rome is the elements of architecture and culture. I believe the Roman styles of architecture, art, and fashion are absolutely beautiful. The extensive use of the color white and the form of columns and pillars seem so simple at first glance, but are actually so complex and elegant. Roman architecture is so classical and unique that it has been used as a template for many famous sites around the world. A few examples of Ancient Rome’s influence on architecture in the U.S. include the White House, Lincoln Memorial, and the United States Capitol Building. Regardless of the many similarities that exist between the United States and the Roman civilization, I find some of their ways of life to be very radical and ridiculous.  For instance, it astonishes me that in those times, people would put their money towards something as brutal as Gladiator fights for mere entertainment. I also do not find much humor in the type of comedic plays that would be held on the streets, and I think they are more attention-seeking than anything. Despite this, there are other aspects of Roman culture that I believe to be interesting and wished they were more widespread in modern society. Ancient Romans were more sexually liberated than we are, and this can be seen in their artworks. The majority of Roman sculptures and paintings contain subjects that have very little clothing on and are proudly standing. In modern-day society, it is not as common to see this style of art, but I feel that this aspect of the Romans should be more implemented in contemporary art pieces.

The Roman Forum. Photograph taken by Ashley Lopez (Roma, Italia) / CC by 4.0

Historic Miami as Text

“A Multicultural Miami”

by Ashley Lopez from Florida International University, 02/26/2023

The Historic Miami walking lecture encompassed several important destinations of contemporary Miami, including the Miami River, Miami’s Kilometer Zero, the Miami-Dade County Courthouse, the Government Center, etc. These places are representative of the diversity and culture of Miami as a contemporary city, but also as a city with an interesting and diverse history. Prior to Miami’s incorporation as a city in 1896, it was a city inhabited by the Tequesta people. Little by little, other settlers including Bahamians, British, Seminoles, Miccosukee, Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans, and many more have migrated to Miami and have enriched the city with aspects of each of their cultures. Miami has become home to many immigrants, and it now consists of a multilingual and multicultural population. Nowadays, the in habitation of several different Hispanic cultures has even caused Spanish to become a dominant language in Miami. Personally, I come from Cuban parents who immigrated to Miami, and I was born and raised here. When I was young, my first language was Spanish and once I entered elementary school, I was able to learn English. My Cuban family helped me preserve my Spanish and now, I can speak both English and Spanish in a city with both being the dominant languages.

Prior to the Historic Miami walking lecture, I had visited some of the destinations we encountered, including the Freedom tower and the Miami River. Despite being a native, I had never learned or read about most of the places we visited and having the opportunity to grasp the historical context of the places we went to was very eye-opening and intriguing. As a Cuban American, it was especially interesting to understand the meaning and purpose of the Freedom Tower. I remember briefly hearing about it from my parents when I was young, but being able to physically visit the building was incredibly special to me. It is a building that holds so much history and it is representative of the courage my family and many other Cubans had when they fled to this country in search for their liberty. What surprised me the most about the walking lecture were the words found on Major Dade’s Plaque and the Fort Dallas/ William English Plantation Slave Quarters. The use of the word “negroes” on this plaque astonished me because it has a very negative connotation, and the word “Indians” is also inappropriately used to describe the Seminoles. I would never have expected for these words to be utilized on a plaque that is found on the Miami-Dade County’s Courthouse. I had also never seen the slave quarters we visited, and I found it very thought-provoking that this building was used as a slave quarter and later as a military base. I did not expect to see a building that served this purpose in Miami, and I thought it was extremely interesting. In the history of Miami, I see myself as a part of the legacy of a large migration group of Cubans that along with several other groups, have transformed this city into the multicultural point it is now.

Italia America as Text

“Italian Influence on American Architecture “

by Ashley Lopez from Florida International University, 03/12/2023

Several building design elements in the United States have been heavily influenced by Italian architecture, including domes, arches, columns, pillars, and many more. I find that Italian elements of architecture including those previously mentioned, as well as the extensive use of the color white, are simplistic at first glance, but are elegant and a representation of complex beauty.  A few examples of Ancient Rome’s influence on architecture in the U.S. include the White House, Lincoln Memorial, and the United States Capitol Building. Although I see Italian architectural style to be very beautiful, I find that the constant implementation of these aspects into American buildings are somewhat offensive to Italian identity. Architecture is the art of constructing and designing buildings, but in other words, it is a representation of a culture’s complex identity and styles. I believe that the construction of monumental buildings and memorials in the U.S. that are entirely inspired by the designs of Italy demonstrates a lack of uniqueness. A country’s buildings must represent the culture of that country and although they may incorporate some elements of another country’s architecture, to emulate those foreign styles is to show a lack of national identity. In modern-day society, we may praise this because Italian architecture has been influential across the globe, but it is because of this that there is no set American style of architecture.

The influence of these architectural elements primarily comes from classical Rome and Renaissance Florence. Roman architecture is so classical and unique that it has been used as a template for many famous sites worldwide. Other notable destinations in the U.S. inspired by Italian architecture include the Jefferson Memorial, Federal Hall, and Delaware County’s Courthouse (Marketing, 2020). Some commonalities between American and Italian architecture can be seen in commonly visited sites such as modern-day stadiums. Stadiums significantly resemble the classical Roman-style amphitheaters, which were designed as large venues that are open-aired and have raised seating. The Colosseum is an amphitheater constructed in Ancient Rome that was previously used for gladiator games and it is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in the center of Rome, Italy. This building served as an example for arenas and stadiums found all over the United States, including our very own Miami-Dade Arena and Hard Rock Stadium. Additionally, the structure of several cathedrals constructed around the United States, including St. Patrick’s were modeled after Roman Catholic churches, including St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. The Renaissance-style architectural elements of these two churches established a foundation for Catholic cathedrals and basilicas like the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C.

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. Photograph taken by Ashley Lopez / CC by 4.0

Although there are multiple similarities and examples of Italian influence, there are also differences between the architectural styles. For instance, in the U.S. there is a continuous building of modernized architecture but there is a grand mixture of contemporary and older elements seen in these constructions. In the United States, there is no specific architectural style and there is complexity because of the incorporation of various designs. For instance, in Miami, there really is no original or set style of architecture because of all the multicultural influences on architectural design. Italy’s architecture on the other hand spans over 3,000 years and most of the buildings are based on older styles such as Renaissance, Baroque, Gothic, and Neoclassical (Babida, 2023). The residential style of architecture is also very different because in the United States, most residences are separated by wider roads and apartment buildings and houses are not as close together as they are in Italy’s communities. In Italy, most residencies are closer to each other in proximity and are built in a more compact way, making streets and roads much smaller.

            Overall, all architecture from all over the world is influenced by structures that came before it so there truly is no original architecture anywhere in the world, but the commonalities between Italian architecture and American are very fascinating. Italy is a part of America’s churches, stadiums, residences, White House, Capitol, and so many more significant destinations that encompass our national and personal identities.

Vizcaya as Text

“European Roots in Coconut Grove”

by Ashley Lopez from Florida International University, 03/19/2023

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a historic estate located in present-day Coconut Grove. It was built in the twentieth century as the winter residence of James Deering. Deering hired two architects, Paul Chalfin, and Burrall Hoffman, to design and build the estate, as well as Diego Suarez, a landscape architect. Together, they created a unique and eclectic style that drew inspiration from Italian Renaissance villas and other European architectural styles. The estate features the main house, numerous gardens, and a large collection of art and furniture. It also includes a boathouse, casino, grotto, and several other outbuildings. After Deering’s death, the estate passed through several different owners and underwent significant changes and renovations. In 1952, it was purchased by Miami-Dade County and turned into a museum (Kidd, 2016). Today, Vizcaya is a popular cultural attraction that attracts visitors from all over the world.

At first glance, this historic site appears to be nothing more than a beautiful pink villa with several gardens. However, once I came to understand and view its incredible architectural styles and art pieces influenced by southern Europe, I was able to truly appreciate the beauty of this unique cultural structure. To many visitors, it likely appears as a tourist attraction filled with several young girls running around and taking their fifteens pictures. A few years ago, I was one of those girls taking her pictures, but back then I was not able to appreciate the sit and it wasn’t until the class visit that I was able to learn the European roots behind Vizcaya. I believe it is essential to first understand how the way the villa is structured and its components make Vizcaya unique and worth visiting.

For instance, the front entrance that leads to the main house was designed at an elevation to build up anticipation for visitors of what is truly to come at the bottom (the villa). The faint pink of the main house and the green color of the entrance trees are complimentary colors that produce a bold yet welcoming feeling for those walking down the entrance. The green trees also form an arch over the entrance of the villa to somewhat contrast the luxury of the estate with the jungle-like preserve that surrounds it. The water running down both sides of the entranceway invites visitors in and creates a calm sensation for them as they are nearing the front of the main house.  The Italian style of the villa is seen in the presence of marble sculptures at the main entrance which foreshadows the pieces found within the main house. The majority of the sculptures were imported themselves from Italy and Deering traveled for several months around Europe to bring back pieces of architecture for this villa  I found these aspects of Vizcaya very interesting and in the main house and gardens, there were many more components that left me in awe. For instance, the neoclassical-style rooms with several geometrical shapes, the stained-glass windows, the imported green ceiling from Italy, the geometric shapes of the shrubs, the secret garden with a representation of the birth of Venus, and the house of the faun of Pompeii sculpture. Individually, these aspects represent a part of Italy but when combined, they form the beautiful villa.

Although these aspects of Vizcaya mesmerized me and made me love the villa, there were other parts of it that I did not truly like. Vizcaya was built by Bahamians at a time when they weren’t properly paid, making Vizcaya a devastating symbol of the exploitation of labor. The mote surrounding the estate was once filled with cacti to prevent any outsiders from going into the property and I found this to be very unwelcoming. I also do not understand why the villa contains a collection of art, furniture, and tiles that resemble European cultures but overall overlook the Tequesta, Seminole, Miccosukee, and Bahamian roots in Miami. The villa does not feature nor include any aspects of those cultures and to me, this is very unjust.


Kidd, L. A brief and fascinating history of the Vizcaya Villas. (accessed Mar 19, 2023).

Renaissance as Text

“The Renaissance in 2023”

by Ashley Lopez from Florida International University, 04/08/2023

The Renaissance was a period of profound cultural, intellectual, and artistic awakening that spanned from the 14th century to the 17th century. This “rebirth” followed the period of the Dark Ages in Europe and primarily began with the cultural movement of Humanism and Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1436. Humanism promoted the value of being human and emphasized studies on classical literature and philosophy, rather than religion. Moreover, throughout this transformative era art, architecture, and science beheld several groundbreaking contributions that would have an everlasting influence. In fact, the Renaissance has shaped our modern society in several ways. My life has been heavily influenced by the Renaissance in ways I had not realized until recently and this is mainly because of the inventions. For example, in this time period, Leonardo Da Vinci conducted multiple studies of flying and sketched various drawings that illustrated the first flying machine. This concept was known as the “ornithopter flying machine” and it was a flying aircraft that took off with the help of attached wings (San Diego Air & Space Museum). It is because of this invention that the potential of flight was discovered, and the studies of aviation began. Without the concept of that flying machine, airplanes might not exist today, and I might not have been able to have the opportunity of traveling to destinations across seas. Additionally, as I mentioned above, the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg sparked the spread of information and discoveries all across Europe throughout that time and it is what moved people’s interest in writing and reading, which is still very much relevant to today (Jarus & Szalay, 2022). It is because of that Renaissance discovery that we have texts like books, newspapers, magazines, flyers, posters, pamphlets, and etc. It is also because of the printing press that people began to have books at home and began to read to increase their knowledge.

Apart from significant inventions like those described above, the Renaissance has influenced my Biochemistry major and my pre-medical track career. During the Renaissance, the study of human anatomy had several advancements that are still studied and utilized in today’s medical practices. For instance, body examinations and dissections were practices that began at this time and this transformed into what we currently call the “anatomical view” of the body. In addition to this, the study of the structure of the circulatory system, containing the heart, veins, and arteries, was first analyzed in the Renaissance and this was published in 1628 by William Harvey (McLean).  It is because of these medical advancements and several others in the Renaissance that our modern medical field encompasses so many different studies and is able to comprehend human anatomy as we do (McLean). This time set the foundation for many medical practices that I will in the future study further in my Anatomy and Physiology course and utilize to further my studies in the medical field. I found these advancements to be my favorite part of the Renaissance and I was truly fascinated to discover that human anatomy advanced so thoroughly in this time. I was also very happy to know that the Renaissance paved the way for science in so many ways, and I will definitely recall this as I am studying for my pre-medical examination.

Image by Ernst Zeeh from Pixabay

Works Cited

Jarus, O., & Szalay, J. (2022, January 11). The Renaissance: The ‘rebirth’ of science & culture. LiveScience. Retrieved April 8, 2023, from

San Diego Air & Space Museum. (n.d.). San Diego Air & Space Museum – Balboa Park, San Diego. San Diego Air & Space Museum – Historical Balboa Park, San Diego. Retrieved April 8, 2023, from,show%20how%20humans%20could%20fly.

McLean, J. (n.d.). History of Western Civilization II. The Medical Renaissance | History of Western Civilization II. Retrieved April 8, 2023, from,surgery%2C%20dentistry%2C%20and%20microbiology.

Deering Estate as Text

“The Complexity and Beauty of Deering Estate”

by Ashley Lopez from Florida International University, 04/11/2023

Deering Estate is a historic landmark located in Palmetto Bay, Florida This destination spans for more than 400 acres, and it is a beautiful ecological preserve that is home to several different habitats, including coastal mangroves, salt marshes, and tropical hardwood hammocks. Although 
in the early 1900s it first served as the estate of Charles Deering, a wealthy businessman, nowadays, the Deering Estate is now a state-protected park and a popular site for tourists and locals to visit. In my first visit to the Deering Estate, there were several aspects about it that fascinated me, and others that I personally disliked.

I was captivated by the estate’s stunning landscapes, diverse species, various structures, and its rich history. For me, the estate created a sense of serenity and peace through its nature trails, towering trees, and colorful flowers. This location consists of several different plant and animal species as well as eight different types of ecosystems. These elements truly took my breathe away and reminded me of the importance of conservation efforts to preserve such biodiverse ecosystems. One of the most interesting features of the Deering Estate that stood out to me was the presence of manatees in the boat basin. Manatees are very large, grey marine animals that because of the fresh water supply available, they often mate in the boat basin area of the estate. Being able to see this aquatic species for the very first time was rather exciting for me and I was able to witness how the Deering Estate provides important habitats for them. Apart from the environmental aspect of this location, the architectural structures were also very impressive and mesmerizing to me. The complexity of the Richmond Cottage and the Stone House allowed me to witness the European influence in architecture. I also found the wine cellar in the stone house to be very interesting, as the estate was constructed during the prohibition era. When I learned that the Richmond Cottage was previously a hotel, I was very surprised but it made me realize how much of a rich history the Deering Estate really has. For instance, despite being constructed in the early 1900s, the estate was first inhabited by the Tequesta people hundreds of years prior to that.

Regardless of all the wonderful aspects of the Deering Estate, I did not personally enjoy hearing about the harsh conditions the laborers who built the complexes of the Deering Estate had to endure at that time. The estate was primarily constructed by Afro-Bahamian and Afro-American workers who endured poor working conditions, such as low salaries. These workers faced hardships during times of racial segregation and in the construction process, there was an accident that resulted in the deaths and injuries of some of them. Their diligent work did, however, result in the completion of the state and it is what made the architecture so beautiful. To this day, those workers have left a lasting impact on the site and their buildings made the visit very worthwhile.

Overall, after reflecting on my visit to the Deering Estate, I realized how deeply appreciative I am to have been able to witness its ecological treasures and its unique history. 

Photograph taken by Ashley Lopez / CC by 4.0

Spring Departure as Text

“A New Perspective of Italia”

by Ashley Lopez from Florida International University, 04/11/2023

Since the beginning of the semester, a lot has changed for me, however, my excitement to be in Italia has only developed even further when compared to how it was after that first official class meeting in January. I am in this class because in 2020, I, unfortunately, lost the opportunity to study abroad and live in Italia for a month through a program in my high school and I want to fully immerse myself in the Italian way of life. For years, I studied the language and culture of the wonderful country and I have had the opportunity to visit Italia twice, but I realize now that I have not truly grasped the beauty of the artworks and historic sites I saw and visited. I now also realize that I am in this class because I wanted to further my studies of Italia and learn more about its history, art, architecture, and culture. Through the lectures, readings, and class visits, I was able to learn so much about paintings I had seen, such as Botticelli’s Primavera and The Birth of Venus, as well as Brunelleschi’s Dome. After reading the stories behind Brunelleschi’s Dome, I feel more motivated to visit the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore for the second time to truly pay attention to the structure constructed.  After watching Angels and Demons, I am feeling so ready visit the locations seen in the film. Although my two visits to Italia encompassed visiting several landmarks, including the Roman Forum, the Uffizi Gallery, and St. Peter’s Basilica, what I learned from the tour guides did not truly stick with me, but after this semester, I am certain everything I learn on this trip will stay with me always. Now I will be able to fully appreciate the artworks in the museums and the points of interest we will visit.  

Towards the beginning of this course, it felt very surreal to say the least that I would be spending a month studying abroad in Italia with my significant other and best friend. I have spent the past couple of months planning outfits, buying plane tickets, and setting everything up with them for our summer in Europe together. However, now that the trip is only a few weeks away, I am very nervous and anxious to be there already. I have never traveled alone without my family, and this will definitely be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but I can’t help but think about something going wrong. I am hoping that once I have some gelato when I land in Rome and settle in, the nervousness will go away. I am very much excited and motivated to arrive in Italia and although I have been there before, I think this will be the best trip yet! I am looking forward to visiting every city with the class and experiencing Italia through a new perspective, not just as a tourist, but as a student studying abroad. Initially, I was most excited to visit Napoli because I wanted to try the most original form of pizza and to visit Pisa and take an iconic picture next to it. However, now I am most excited to revisit Vatican City and the Uffizi to pay more attention to what I did not learn the last time I was in Italia.

Photograph taken by Ashley Lopez / CC by 4.0

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