Daniela Franco: Miami as Text 2023

Photo by Daniela Franco / CC BY 4.0

Daniela Franco is a junior at the Honors College in FIU majoring in Finance. She was born in Isla Margarita, Venezuela but was raised in Miami with a fully Cuban family. Daniela aspires to work in the finance industry and explore the wealth management or private banking areas. Her long term goal is to work for an international banking institution that will allow for frequent travel. She currently works as an administrative assistant at a real estate attorney’s office and plans to intern with BNY Mellon over the summer. Her hobbies include reading, travel, and finding new places to eat.

Encounter as Text

“Finding Balance”

by Daniela Franco of FIU, January 27, 2023

Photo by Daniela Franco / CC BY 4.0

Studying abroad is a unique opportunity that offers the potential to gain a new perspective and understanding of a foreign environment. It is a goal that I set for myself in high school and one of the main reasons I decided to pursue my bachelor’s at FIU. I feel that traveling is a thoroughly enriching experience that adds so much value and character to your daily life. The memories created while traveling will stay with you forever and continue to mold your personal growth as life progresses. As a finance major, I am heading into a competitive and time-consuming field. It is unlikely that I will get another chance to travel and learn so freely in the near future. This is why I have made it my career to goal to work for an international bank such as Santander or Banco Sabadell to have the opportunity to travel into Europe, even if it is just for work. I am in love with the European lifestyle, but also the American economics, so I am trying to find a balance between both aspects of my life.

I am motivated and ready to take advantages of all the possibilities that arise from this course. I love to travel and have been to Europe a couple of times before. I have visited Italia once on a cruise which had stops in Rome, Florence, and Naples. However, this experience felt rushed and superficial. For example, everyone that I have met loves Florence. In my experience, Florence consisted of rain, foul smelling streets, crazy drivers, and a very salty sandwich. A couple of hours is simply not enough time to enjoy a city, especially on a bad day. Since then, I have been waiting to be able to go back to Italia and truly immerse myself in the culture and way of life. 

In my mind, Italia exists as I saw in the Amalfi Coast; under the shade of lemon trees surrounded by flowers. Winding and narrow streets packed with people and small cars. Colorful kayaks laid out to dry on the shore of a pebbled beach with icy cold water. It is an almost utopian society where life is simple and happy. I am fully aware that this is not the case, and it is simply the amalgamation of the result of various touristic marketing strategies. Yet I still like to imagine it this way. Everybody needs an escape every now and then, so this is mine. Picture perfect images of beautiful landscapes and the lifestyle to match. 

From this program I expect to develop my confidence, expand my knowledge, and explore the connections between Italia’s history and U.S. society today. I would love to learn how the ancient Roman economic methods have translated into capitalism today. I am looking forward to visiting Cinque Terre as I have never been there before but always wanted to go. The housing inside a sanctuary is definitely interesting and I am excited to get to know the surrounding villages. Overall, I want to end the study abroad class and be a completely different person than who I was before starting. I am not sure which specific changes I would like to see, but as long as my life will have been transformed for the better then I will consider the experience fundamentally beneficial.

Deering as Text

“A Fine Line”

By Daniela Franco of FIU at The Deering Estate, January 27th, 2023

Photo by Daniela Franco / CC BY 4.0

The Deering Estate exists partially suspended in time. Half open to the public and all visitors willing to pay a small fee, and the other half tucked away from most for the preservation of Miami as it once was. I have never been one to appreciate history, I will not lie. Mostly out of spite since it was always my wort-performing class grade as a first-born straight A student. Yet I experienced a strange, unfamiliar sense of pride and culture while learning about the estate’s past. I finally realized the importance of understanding history to form connections within a community. A common background of knowledge facilitates the formation of these relationships since everybody has something to relate with each other, even if it does not appear so at a surface level. As my appreciation for history increased during the hike, I began to notice connections between ecological nature and human nature; how our tendencies reflect the way nature interacts with itself. 

This is not surprising, as our behaviors are rooted in evolutionary history and our survival is dependent on that of the Earth’s. During the hike we reached a pronounced demarcation where the tropical hardwood hammock met the mangroves. There was an abrupt stop to the intense greenery as you looked out towards the spidery mangrove roots. This immediately reminded me of many neighborhoods in Miami which are divided by a street into a wealthier side, and a poorer side. Driving east on 216th Street I noticed this divide as the houses on the right were brand new constructions and to my left were much older properties. In Brickell as well, where few buildings exist west of the I-95. The division between Palmetto Bay and Richmond Heights just west of US-1. The Miami Design District which is a highlighted oasis against Wynwood. Miami Shores is positioned just above Little Haiti. Our human behavior mimics that of the ecosystems. The contrast between neighborhoods accentuates the disparities between economic levels. In nature, the defining characteristics of each type of ecosystem are brought out. Despite the visual similarities between these views, completely different emotions are elicited from each site. The beauty of nature evokes awe and wonder. As opposed to the pity and hopelessness from driving through a city bisected by greed and opportunity.

Another anthropogenic yet pleasing divergence was the difference between Richmond Cottage and the Stone House. They are positioned so close in proximity yet portray totally unrelated styles of architecture that allude to the time in which they were built. The wooden cottage, after being renovated by Charles Deering, follows traditional American colonial architecture. Deering later on continued to construct the Stone House to his liking and imitated a Mediterranean style house modeled after his time in Spain. He allows his past experiences to influence his style and did not preoccupy himself with the details of synchrony. He even built a Chinese bridge on the property. Charles Deering allowed himself to be led by his desires and surrounded himself with images and structures that brought him joy. He had a very different reason for creating a contrasting environment when compared to nature or modern society.  Those that visit the estate will feel a sense of curiosity and appreciation when observing the layout.

There exists a fine line that balances the polarity of a certain setting. A line that allows these conditions to take place and coexist in harmony. This state of equilibrium is perpetuated by the forces of nature that continue to drive human behavior. I can appreciate the history, culture, and art I witnessed during the Deering Estate Hike because of the connections I was able to make into my daily life. 

Ancient Rome as Text

“An Unlikely Match”

By Daniela Franco of FIU, February 12, 2023

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

The societal and general governmental structure of Ancient Rome has served as the foundation for subsequent civilizations worldwide. It is arguably one of the most influential periods in human history as the Romans progressed from a monarchy to an empire. The HBO series, Rome, weaves through the daily lives of distinguished Roman leaders. Through their interactions it becomes apparent that life in Ancient Rome is not so different from life today. The people value many of the same standards we now abide by. Almost everyone in the show is motivated by their desire for money, power, lust, etc. American political figures are just as power-hungry as Caesar and Pompey but enough of their true lives remain shrouded in mystery to truly know the extent to which they can relate to Ancient Roman tactics. Immigrants arrive with a goal set to achieve the American Dream, motivated by money and opportunity just to realize that when you have it all you have lost everything you had on the way up. Despite the Romans’ violent and barbaric tendencies, human behavior has not changed much since then. 

We pride ourselves on our “superior” set of beliefs, accomplishments, and opportunities. We take pride in innovation, diversity, capitalism, our military. The Romans also believed they were better than the surrounding civilizations but that did not get them far. In episode ten of the show Caesar is finally proclaimed Dictator and he has some interesting ideas for the future of Rome. He announces he will grant 100 Denari for all citizens, farms for 20,000 families, and free rent for all low dwellings. This is the exact same approach modern politicians take when given a position of power in office. There is always a promise of “free” money without full transparency for the public. Specifically in the United States when President Joe Biden declared the student loan forgiveness plans without making it known that this money would have to be accounted for as extra income during tax season, pushing many individuals up another bracket. In the show, there is talk about taking jobs from the slaves and giving them to free men to solve unemployment even though this is a costly endeavor. I am not defending their use of slavery, merely pointing out the lack of economic research and predictive analysis before making such decisions. Caesar promised many things to the Romans but was ultimately unable to deliver. Unemployment is an issue for the United States today, but at least we have other methods to combat it. We focus on the creation of jobs through the expansion of new industries and companies. The degree to which the Ancient Roman political atmosphere is comparable to that of today is slightly disturbing but remarkably interesting.

If we continued to compare these principles and expand on each topic individually, we would notice many similarities between both ways of life. But what about the differences? We certainly do not torture and murder people over infidelity as Pullo and Octavian did (well, some of us do but these are outliers in my analysis). Instead, we slash tires, break windows, gaslight, sue, or cheat out of spite. We might not often resort to extreme physical violence when seeking justice, but we achieve the same purpose. Cruelty still exists within socially acceptable boundaries, and many would argue that modern strategies to exact justice are just as barbaric as wishing the death of those that have wronged you.

I cannot say that I prefer any part of the life individuals carried in Ancient Rome. I am incredibly grateful to be alive within this time period and not one where disease and violence are normal. Yet it would be dishonest to claim that I wholly reject their philosophies when so many similarities exist between the two civilizations. Humans are selfish, dishonest, and power-driven. This will never change. The measure to which these emotions are expressed might vary, but the underlying desires will always remain. This will lead humanity to continue the repetition of these historical cycles in perpetuity. In essence, we are Rome because we were born from it. Our history and our culture stem from Ancient Rome just as future generations will be influenced as well.

Historic Miami As Text

“Miami is for the Girls”

By Daniela Franco of FIU, February 26, 2023

Photo by Daniela Franco / CC BY 4.0

The more I learn about Miami’s history, the more I realize the degree to which oppression has existed in a city that now embraces and empowers diversity in all forms. Our urban lecture encompassed historical anecdotes that highlighted instances of resilience and strength relating to locations across many popular destinations downtown. The Wagner Family Homestead housed an interracial couple and their family during a time when this was greatly stigmatized. Fort Dallas underwent many changes for its use, including the original slave quarters and later U.S. Army barracks. These examples reveal the extreme prejudice in Miami’s past and emphasize the difference in experience between social classes. As is the case in many American cities, the past almost entirely contradicts the present.

The most interesting fact I learned was how Miami’s founders were actually women, yet Henry Flagler ended up taking all the credit. I was not surprised to learn that a woman’s accomplishments were overshadowed by those of a man. Nevertheless, I was inspired by the efforts of Julia Tuttle and Mary Brickell. Through their innovation, these women brought the railroad down to Miami and promoted the incorporation of the area around the Miami River. They showed initiative and leadership through their actions and thus, Miami blossomed. We would not have the city we do today if it were not for them and they deserve more appreciation than they receive. Everyone seems to know Flagler’s story but never how Brickell got its name and it’s about time this changes. Our past has been tainted with negative biases towards minority groups and during this time of inclusivity and acceptance we should make a point to highlight their past success stories.

I am a finance major and through my experience I have become keenly aware of all the challenges women face in this field. I am currently evaluating multiple career options that are all dominated by men. Investment banking, wealth management, and other areas have always presented a difficult work environment for women and it is harder to achieve recognition for your accomplishments, as was the case with Tuttle and Brickell. It is intimidating participating in workshops, conferences, interviews, and events when you constantly feel under-qualified because of your gender. Granted, there are a lot of powerful women now that serve as wonderful role models, but except for a select few, historical women are not as well known. I increasingly relate to their story the further I advance in my career field. This is why it is so important to spread awareness about our city’s history and empower women. Mary Brickell is not just a shopping center and Julia Tuttle is not just a causeway.

If I were to place myself in the History of Miami I would say I feel most drawn to these women leaders and the Cuban migrations that hold heavy influence on today’s culture. I have traveled to many cities and not one has been able to compare to the eclectic and diverse lifestyle here. After growing up in Miami my whole life, I now feel very identified by the city. So much so that I have avoided job opportunities in other states (although I have recently accepted leaving Miami as unavoidable). Finding out that the foundation of this city I love so much was created by women deepened my appreciation for everything Miami has to offer.

Italia America As Text

“Is a Capitalism Makeover Necessary?”

By Daniela Franco of FIU, March 12, 2023

Image by Maersk from Pixabay

Capitalism is a hot topic in the United States today as the political environment becomes continually more progressive throughout generations. Individuals often find themselves comparing the capitalistic nature that drives our society to different countries and questioning its supposed superiority over other forms of economic systems. By definition, capitalism is “an economic system in which private individuals or businesses own capital goods. At the same time, business owners (capitalists) employ workers (labor) who only receive wages; labor does not own the means of production but only uses them on behalf of the owners of capital,” (The Investopedia Team). Essentially, capitalism is a tiered system which favors private corporations with limited governmental regulations, thus promoting competition between businesses to increase choice for the consumer and competitive pricing. This is a very technical description and does not provide enough information to evaluate the pros and cons. To be able to understand capitalism and make judgements about its efficacy, we must first explore its early applications and how they have influenced our modern tendencies.  

Some of the earliest traces of capitalism lead back to Venice, Italy, where merchants dominated the economic atmosphere. The city’s strategic location created an accessible and prominent center for trading. Venice pioneered capitalist procedures such as the use of contracts, foreign exchange, credit, and bond markets, loans repaid with interest, general banking and accounting, as well as an overall system that favored the elite and their accumulation of capital (The Venetian Republic). These advancements contributed to the growth of capitalism not only in Italy but throughout Europe and beyond. The United States economy is currently modeled in a similar way but has expanded these practices and made them more accessible and advantageous when used correctly. A basic example would be the transformation from simple loans with interest for necessary large expenses, to the popular credit card industry now. It is easy and convenient to take out loans and interest is completely avoidable for financially responsible consumers. Moreover, consumers even see some gain with the reward programs offered by credit card providers. This is just one instance where the principles established in capitalist Venice have translated into our modern economy. Their legacy can be seen all over our financial institutions. 

Despite being an economic system that dates back centuries, capitalism continues to be widely used and influential in modern times. Perhaps in part because of its dated history, controversy surrounds the application of capitalism. How could a system that originated so long ago in such a different environment be the most optimal choice for us today? Critics argue that it perpetuates inequality, promotes harmful environmental actions, and prioritizes profits over people. Others believe that it drives innovation, creates wealth, and provides opportunities for individuals to improve their economic standing. It is hard to tell which side is correct but acknowledging the subject through a historical perspective creates an unbiased lens that allows you to appreciate the complexity of such an approach. The foundation of our country is heavily influenced by the politics of Ancient Rome, the art of Florence, and the economics of Venice. The deeper one dives into the intertwined history of our two countries, the more topics of similarities are discovered.  

 As society continues to evolve and faces new challenges, it is likely that the debate surrounding capitalism will continue. The future of capitalism will depend on how we choose to regulate it in the years to come but its Italian roots should always be kept in mind. It is the economic system that led us and the world, to where we are today. 

Works Cited 

Team, The Investopedia. “What Is Capitalism: Varieties, History, Pros & Cons, Socialism.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 9 Mar. 2023, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/capitalism.asp.  

“The Venetian Republic.” The World Economy by the OECD Development Centre, http://www.theworldeconomy.org/impact/The_Venetian_Republic.html

Vizcaya As Text

“The Evolution of Wealth in Miami”

By Daniela Franco of FIU, March 19, 2023

Image by Michelle Raponi from Pixabay

One visit to Villa Vizcaya makes it apparent that the wealthy in Miami have never been humble. It is as Miami as Miami gets. James Deering purchased 100 acres from Mary Brickell and within this space employed many laborers to construct the historic villa. Right upon entering the grounds one is struck by the intricacies of design and grand opening with a curtain of trees. The statue of Dionysius and the open plaza behind create an inviting atmosphere right inside the heart of the villa. Rooms are decorated with a variety of artistic styles pulling influence from French, Muslim, and Italian culture. The gardens are vast and perfectly shaded and the barge adds a whimsical air to the shoreline entrance of Vizcaya. It is amazing how the integrity of the grounds has been preserved over the years so that visitors may still enjoy Deerings’ grandeur over a century later.

It can thus be concluded that the wealthy back then behaved not so differently from those of today. Deering spent his money on unnecessary and frivolous matters for his own desires. There was no real need to display such opulence besides the fact that he simply could… so he did. Instead of traveling around Europe for three years buying ceilings, the wealthy now choose to show off with flashy vehicles and over-the-top luxuries. This is not to say that one method of spending is better than the other, merely to point out the difference. Although Deering used his wealth seeking personal pleasure, he built a permanent structure that was shared with many of his friends at the time and continues to be shared with the public today. His legacy will live on for many years to come through Vizcaya.

Miami wealth has always been ostentatious but there is an impermanent quality to the way wealth is displayed today. The money seems to disappear with the person or is passed on to their kids if there is any left, but no lasting legacy is left behind. Few individuals are able to say they made an impact in Miami’s art, culture, or lifestyle. During class we compared James Deering to Jay Gatsby for their love of parties and concluded there was a similarity of this aspect. However, I believe Gatsby resembles more the consumers of today. Spending all his money on elaborate parties to try and win over one girl. That sounds like a modern Miami love story to me. After his death, Gatsby did not leave behind a historic structure, only an empty mansion and green light to symbolize his broken heart. For this reason, I would say Deering resembles more the founders of our city and other historical figures that have been greatly influential during their city’s development. Compared to a modern counterpart Deering might be akin to Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos, two revolutionary individuals that will be remembered throughout history as long as they continue on their current path. Only time will tell their influence on technology and commercial industries.

Visiting Villa Vizcaya is a unique experience that encompasses historic art and culture in a manner that cannot otherwise be found in Miami. Even The Deering Estate falls short to the rich history of Vizcaya. The Deering family played a large role in the early foundation of Miami and their actions are still reflected in today’s society.

Renaissance As Text

“Reliving the Renaissance”

By Daniela Franco of FIU, April 9, 2023

Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

The Renaissance marked a pivotal moment in history that forever changed various aspects of life and professional fields. During this period there was great emphasis on philosophy, science, history, and literature which correlates with much of today’s educational curriculum. These ideas, as taught in classrooms, have shaped my knowledge of the world and how I view certain issues. Especially through the honors classes; I have been able to explore these topics more in depth compared to the base understanding that is provided in high school. The empowerment of the human being and its capacity for growth is a quality that I often find reflected in my personal life as I continue to pursue my goals. The value we currently place on the human experience would not be as high if the Renaissance had never occurred. This was a time of creativity and curiosity which led to innovation and scientific advancements.

The field of finance saw itself affected by the Renaissance period through the changes in the economy at this time.“Much of the increase in commercial activity… occurred in the area of international trade. This led the banking industry to expand to provide financial services that made it easier for merchants to conduct business far from home,” (Renaissance: An Encyclopedia for Students). Essentially, we owe our global economy today to the merchants that were conducting international business ventures in the 1400s. Although investment portfolios did not look quite like we have them set up now, they established their own methods for trading, lending and transferring funds at an international level. Finance was not the first field that came to mind when I thought of how the Renaissance impacted industries today but as it turns out, the foundations of the system were set in that very time period. 

There are many aspects of the Renaissance that have proven to be useful and relatable in modern society. I mostly appreciate how they highlighted individuality and the potential for personal development. I believe I am an introspective person as I constantly question my own motives, thoughts, and actions to find the real reason I behave in a certain way. This is done in an effort to enhance my personal growth and become more self-actualized. This perspective is also expressed in Renaissance ideals. I also admire the art of this time, which holds in high esteem standards for beauty and creativity. Contemporary art is more vague and requires certain background knowledge to fully understand the piece. As a self-proclaimed artistically challenged individual, I find Renaissance art much more pleasing and soothing with its storytelling capabilities, soft bodies, and lush landscapes. These art pieces praise aspects of life that are almost taboo today and exude feelings of freedom and openness. 

Yet not everything from the Renaissance is positive. It is important to keep in mind that it is still the 1400s and women, as well as people of color, were not viewed as equals. As someone that falls into both of these categories, I would have been greatly excluded from all the Renaissance had to offer. Historical injustices have limited opportunities for minority groups for years, and it is important to recognize and address these issues even if they have passed. This is one aspect that modern society definitely wins on. The levels of equality have improved much over time, even if they are not yet 100% perfect. 

The ideology that characterized the Renaissance period is still present today within many characteristics of life. Whether it is personal beliefs, a professional industry, or a scientific discovery, there is certainly a degree of influence from this time.

Works Cited

“.” Renaissance: An Encyclopedia for Students. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Mar. 2023 .” Encyclopedia.com, Encyclopedia.com, 4 Apr. 2023, https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/economy-and-trade#:~:text=Much%20of%20the%20increase%20in,conduct%20business%20far%20from%20home.

Departure As Text

“Ready, Set, Rome!”

By Daniela Franco of FIU, April 20, 2023

Image by Rene Rauschenberger from Pixabay

I am now officially two weeks out from boarding an international flight alone for the first time. It feels surreal to imagine myself landing in Madrid and checking into a hotel room on my own. Then again in Rome before meeting up with the class. Then once more in New York where I will room with complete strangers for ten weeks. There’s an overarching theme that is about to define my entire summer: independence. For twenty years I have lived with my parents and never left home for more than a couple days at a time. I passed up the opportunity to go to the University of Florida when I was accepted partly because I was afraid of moving out. Funny enough for me to realize now that moving out is currently my top priority. My summer experience will serve as a sort of test run for what it would be like to live without the support of my family, and I truly cannot wait. 

Looking back at my first entry for “Italia Spring Encounter as Text” I notice I have a different mindset. Although I did not want to admit it, I was scared of spending a whole month halfway across the world. I have been in many airports and traveled to many cities but never by myself and this terrified me. In my writing I described my excitement, motivation, and aspirations. A lot of this is true now but I am unsure of how true it was at the time of writing it. My life has undergone many changes from January to April that have helped develop me as an individual. I feel like I have finally reached the stage where I have to figure out who I am on my own, as cliché as it sounds. Am I the type of person that prefers to live in a small Italian town with leisurely lunches and a quaint lifestyle? Or do I follow in the cynical steps of New York City “finance bros” and hustle out 100+ hour work weeks? I think both are equally unlikely so I am hoping that maybe a balance between them can exist. 

After spending an entire semester studying the history of Italia, reading famous works, and watching some exciting films, I can say that my answers to many of the questions posed in the first Encounter as Text have changed. Firstly, I no longer see Italia as this idyllic, romanticized version where everyone eats gelato all day at the beach. It is a country that embraces and showcases its historical significance. As Miami tries to hide its controversial past, cities throughout Italy proudly display their important monuments. However, I am still mostly looking forward to visiting Cinque Terre for the same reason. I have never visited yet always wanted to. I am sure that not only will I be amazed by the beauty the villages have to offer, but also, I will appreciate the historical events that led to where they are today. Finally, my main goal during the trip remains the same: to fly back into the U.S. as a different, better person.

Author: francodaniela

Daniela Franco is a junior at the Honors College in FIU majoring in Finance. She was born in Isla Margarita, Venezuela but was raised in Miami with a fully Cuban family. Daniela aspires to work in the finance industry and explore the wealth management or private banking areas. Her long term goal is to work for an international banking institution that will allow for frequent travel. She currently works as an administrative assistant at a real estate attorney’s office and plans to intern with BNY Mellon over the summer. Her hobbies include reading, travel, and finding new places to eat.

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