Elizabeth Pella: Miami as Text 2023

Photograph by Elizabeth Pella / CC by 4.0

Elizabeth Pella is an FIU honors college student. She is a sophomore pursuing her Bachelor’s degree of Business Administration in Human Resource Management. She was born and raised in Miami with a prominent Hispanic heritage on her dad’s side of the family. She enjoys traveling, meeting people, and taking photos.

Encounter as Text

by Elizabeth Pella of FIU at Deering Estate on January 27, 2023

Photograph by John Bailly at the Deering Estate / CC by 4.0

Coming into this study abroad program was unexpected but exciting for me. Growing up I have been blessed enough to go on many vacations around the United States with my family, but I have not had much exposure to Europe. My grandparents on my dad’s side have traveled all around the world and encouraged and inspired me to take this trip. When I was 14, they took me on my first trip to Europe to places in France, Italy, and Spain. That trip was amazing and I learned so much, but I was also very young. I have always looked forward to the day I would be able to travel to Europe again as an adult. I never looked into study abroad assuming it would be too difficult to take core classes in another country. This program is a perfect mix where we are learning and part of the university, but also part of a flexible class that allows us to not be stressed with school while away and in turn really focus on taking in the history and culture of Spain. I am so excited also that this trip is 3 weeks giving us so much time to really understand the area and the culture.

My dad when he was in college participated in a study abroad to Spain as well. His grandfather was a college professor in Virginia and was able to take him along on one of his study abroad trips. They stayed at the University of Salamanca dorms and would take weekend trips to different parts of Spain. I grew up hearing stories of my dad from this trip and the fun he had there. This is proof that the memories do last and do create good stories to tell in the future.

I am very excited for this trip especially after meeting the other students going. Learning hands on and outside the classroom is a great experience and I know will provide memories that will last forever. I am most looking forward to the walking tours and learning. I enjoy hearing guides talk and their knowledge and insight into these beautiful and historical places. I also look forward to the little moments outside of class where we will all laugh and adventure and make memories. I am looking forward to visiting the Alhambra again as well as the Sagrada Familia.

One of my favorite places I visited in Spain in the past was Casa Mila and Casa Batlló. The architecture by Gaudi especially in Casa Mila really caught my eye. The house has so many curves and windows and the interior has shapes that reflect the ocean and sea life which is so cool and unique. I hope to visit there again during free time if possible. One of my fears for the trip is seeing monkeys. When I visited Spain in the past, we did an excursion in Grenada where we were surrounded by monkeys running free on the ground and I was very very scared. However, I am mostly excited for the trip especially the pictures we will be able to take in the cities and on the hikes.

Transatlantic Exchange as Text

by: Elizabeth Pella of FIU on February 12, 2023

www.tomascastelazo.com / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

In this class I have learned a lot about the past and how foods came to the Old and New world. I particularly find it interesting that some of the foods grown in the old world grew better in the new world. The soil in the Americas was different with different nutrients and the pests from the new world that threatened the crops there did not exist in the new world. Because of this, crops like sugar cane could thrive and grow better in the new world than in the old. Crops like corn and potatoes from the new world also made their way to the old world and revolutionized recipes and allow so much of the food in culture we know today to exist.

In my family corn casserole is a staple. From as long as a can remember we have had corn casserole as well as corn bread at our family Thanksgiving. My mom got her recipe from her mom and it was passed down through the generations. My mom’s great grandmother came from Cuba and before that from somewhere in Europe, perhaps Spain. Corn originates in the Americas and was brought to Europe through the Transatlantic Exchange. From that exchange many recipes in our modern world are possible.

Growing up in Miami in a melting pot of cultures and people groups, many of our culture and modern world comes from the transatlantic exchange. Vanilla was one of the things transferred that really surprised me and interested me. As someone who does not like chocolate, I grew up always with the vanilla flavored version of things. To this day I love vanilla flavoring and it is interesting to learn its origin and that it came from the new world.

I am not someone who likes spicy foods, but I know many people that are and learning of the origin of peppers was interesting. See that peppers originated in what is now South America makes sense since so many of those Hispanic cultures incorporate many spices into their dishes. It is also interesting that with this crop being brought to the new world that it was a success. I have always wondered if liking spicy food was centered around being exposed to it from a young age and building up a tolerance to that hot spicy taste. I was not raised with spicy food, so I assumed this may be true. However, if these spicy spices were a success in the new world, this challenges what I assumed to be true and taught me something new.

I wonder how different things in our modern world would be if the transatlantic exchange had not occurred when and how it did. I wonder if we would still have the variety in recipes we have today. I wonder if one of the many other expeditions would have brought over the same crops. I am glad this exchange occurred the way it did because it bring us what we have today with our variety of foods from different cultures and areas.

Historic Miami as Text

by: Elizabeth Pella of FIU at Historic Miami Walk on February 24, 2023

Photograph of the Miami River by Elizabeth Pella / CC by 4.0

I have always grown up in Miami. I, however, have not spent much time downtown nor exploring the history of Miami. This walking tour was one of the few times I have been downtown in general. This walking tour was something I really enjoyed because I got to walk around my city, learn about a deeper history that many do not know and go to places that I never would have known about. I learned a lot on this excursion.

To begin, I did not know we had a river called the Miami river or the history of it. It was sad to hear that the Miami river was once very clean and kids and families would swim in it until the rise of the hotel industry. The hotel industry brought pollution into the water making it today not safe to swim in.

I found it interesting also how the hotel industry made its way down to Miami in the first place. Henry Flagler’s famous railroad I have heard much about, but I did not know the reason it made its way down to Miami. In the winter of 1894 and 1895, “the great freeze” occurred destroying acres and acres of orange trees became sick and died from the cold weather. Flagler made profit off of the transportation of these oranges from Florida into the north and this freeze changed everything for him. Amidst his plight, Julia Tuttle, a woman from Miami reached out to him offering him half of her healthy orange tree land if he brought his railroad down further to Miami. Before this walking tour I had never heard of Julia Tuttle and now I was learning she was the founder of Miami. Miami was founded by a woman!

Not only have I grown up in Miami, but I have grown up in the county of Miami-Dade and I learned where that name came from. General Francis Dade was a general during the Seminole wars who led his men into a a death trap ending in a massacre of the army by the Seminoles. In honesty, it does not make sense that would county is named after this general. This may only be one battle in his life story but he was leading a battle to displace natives from their lands which is wrong and he died in the process because he foolishly led his men. I may not know much about this man, but those facts paint a picture of him that confuses me as to why a large county was named after him and why a plaque dedicated to him remains on our court house.

It is surprising but sad to me that I have been in Miami my whole life and so have both of my parents and we all went through the schooling system here and none of us in my close family know this history. The school systems I believe need to incorporate this history into required education. We learn about the founding of America and the wars with England and the slavery that existed here and many other things, but all that history and the way it is taught leaves us feeling distant from it and very much in the past and with no personal connection to us. In Miami, however, there is so much more history and especially with the melting pot that Miami is there is so much more to know and learn.

Magic Realism as Text

By: Elizabeth Pella of FIU on March 12, 2023

Abhi Sharma from India, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Magic Realism. This is a topic I had never heard of until taking this class. I very much enjoy fantasy and mystical stories so it is interesting to know that combining those elements into the real world both in movies and shows and books has a name and whole idea and thought process behind it known as magic realism. 

The series of harry potter was the first thing that came to mind when I thought of magic realism. Those movies and books take place with scenes in both the real world as well as the wizard world which exists unbeknownst to the humans or muggles. Scenes such as running through a brick wall in a real world train station which was a portal to the wizard world that only wizards could access and go through really mixes that magical element with the real world.

Another movie that comes to mind as having these 2 worlds and bringing magic into the human world is Enchanted. Giselle begins in the story book princess world and then falls into a magic well and lands in the human world in New York. Throughout the movie magic elements are a part of the human world along with her such as magic apples, the birds and animals singing and helping her with her chores. Really brings the magical elements into the real world. 

When it comes to the book “100 years of solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez an example of the element of fantasy being shown in the real world is through an incestuous marriage. The child of this incest was born with a pig’s tail which of course would not happen in the real world but that element of fantasy for visuals and symbolism was thrown in through through magic realism.

I think Magic Realism exists in the roots and history of our world through legends and myths and mythology. For instance, back before science rationally explained how lightning came to be, people would believe lightning came from the wrath and anger of god or the gods. Many of the stories in Greek mythology that combine mythical or magical elements into the human world. For instance Medusa is a story of a human woman that was punished for being raped by a god by having her hair turned to snakes which would turn anyone who looked her way into stone. This could never happen in reality and in my mind I see all of these stories that begin as myths and legends to be a part of magic realism as well. The Greek myth of a human girl, Arachne being turned into a spider by Athena for being able to weave better cloth than the goddess is another example.

Magic realism is a cool concept just like many of the other ones used in television and literature over the years. Being able to now identify where and when it is being used because I know more about it is cool and will help me have a different perspective.

Vizcaya as Text

By: Elizabeth Pella of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens on March 19, 2023

Photograph at Vizcaya by Annika Castellanos / CC by 4.0

Visiting Vizcaya was an eye opening experience for me. I have grown up in Miami my whole life and in this class my eyes have been opened to just how little I know about the history of this city. At Vizcaya in specific it was interesting to travel around with the professor and hear his knowledge on the house and gardens and workers and history and so much more. This house has great ties to the history of Miami and if I were to have visited on my own I would have walked past and not ever known the significance of much of the villa. For starters, the statues at the entrance of Ponce de Leon and Bel Vizcaya, I would never have known the history and story behind those characters had I gone on my own. Bel Vizcaya is a mythical explorer who accompanied Ponce de Leon on his travels that was created by the James Deering, the house owner. I had heard of Vizcaya but never did I know any of it’s history or ties to Miami and Miami’s history and I found similar to be true amongst my classmates.

One of the biggest things I thought over and over during my trip to Vizcaya was how big of an ego James Deering had. One of the things I learned on this trip was that Vizcaya was once surrounded by a moat filled with cactus because Deering feared his poorer neighbors would want to steal from him. He also erected an archway into one of his gardens which resembled those in Europe for winning battles and wars as a sign of victory. The way I see it, you have to have a big ego to think of and build a European victory arch on your property. He also flew in craftsmen from Florence, Italy to hand carve some of his statues. Furthermore, Deering did not like that the waves were rough and that he could not park his yacht on the edge of his property so he built a fake ship wreck in his backyard to have tea on and to block the waves. He also complained that the mermaid on the ship wreck had breasts that were too large and created a new building contract to have them fixed. In reality if we all had this type of money, we would do the same and build our perfect oasis of a home with all the luxuries of life, but at the same time it is not hard to see that James Deering had a large ego.

Overall, one of my favorite things about Vizcaya is that being there felt like a vacation. It truly felt like I left Miami and was transported to another world. The architecture is so different from Miami and the gardens are beautiful and designed so well. The stain glass windows with the gardens behind them are amazing and I am so glad that Vizcaya is still around today and open for the public to see and learn about the history of Miami.

Miami España Ida as Text

By: Elizabeth Pella of FIU on April 16, 2023

Photo by Ingo Joseph from Pexels.com (Free To Use)

Family structure, is defined as “the configuration of people who live together and make up a family“. There are many types of family structures around the world stemming from different cultures and beliefs. When it comes to the Americas though, many cultures and people have roots from Spain and their family structure was formed or influenced from Spain and their family structure. As humans, we are creatures of habit and when spreading out into new countries over time it makes sense that our traditions and culture would travel with us which is what leads to the many diverse and unique cultures and ways of life around the world including family structures.

In Spain family is very important, tight knit, and cherished. Family is said to be the most important component of life by Spanish people. Traditional Spanish family structure includes 2 parents, a mother and father where the mother would run the house while the father went out to work. Typically, these families had one or two children as it is not common to see large families in Spain as in other cultures. When it comes to the children, it is common as well for them to have dual names taking on both their father and mother’s surnames. Grandparent have a very important role in Spanish families and often will live in the same house as the parents and children to help out with the children and be taken care of. Being close by to relatives is very important in Spanish families. It is not likely for the elderly family to put into retirement homes as we see in western culture, but rather they will move in with relatives. It is also common for the children in Spanish families to remain living in their parents’ home into their 20s and even 30s. It is not uncommon to see three generations of a family living together and this goes to show how close family is and how much family is valued.

As the Spanish spread out over time into the Americas, including the United States, Mexico, and many countries in South America, these traditions and family values and structure traveled with them. We see today in Colombia and Mexico and Venezuela this same very tight knit family structure with children living with their parents into their 20s and relatives moving in with family to help out. We see children with 2 surnames as well and taking care of and being there for family has a high emphasis even when individuals from these countries immigrate to the United States you can see these traditional family structures migrate over as well.

Miami is a major melting pot of cultures, many of them being Hispanic and Latin. One of the largest group of Hispanics in Miami is Cubans. During the 1950s and 1960s, mass amounts of Cubans immigrated into the Unites States and into Miami with it being only 90 miles from Cuba. My grandparents were some of those that immigrated to America from Cuba and untimely settled in Miami.

In my family I see this family structure of closeness amongst family and family helping one another out. My grandparents were very involved and taking care of my brother and I growing up. They always lived close by; they encouraged me to stay in Miami for college so that if I ever needed anything I would have family close by. I see this traditional Spanish family structure in my grandparents on my dad’s side. However, I see a shift in the more recent part of my family. My dad married a more American woman and I was raised very American and wasn’t even taught Spanish. I see this happening in many families in the Unites States with origins in Hispanic countries whose origins come from Spain. I think it is very interesting that going from Spain to Mexico or Spain to Colombia, this family structure survived and became part of their culture and continued for generations, but when coming to the United States, it is lost so much easier. Growing up in America I think really changes family structure and values and culture. Even if one was raised in their culture and with the family structure mentioned above, if they were raised in America, it is a completely different surrounding world and culture and structure around and it changes us over time. For example, placing grandparents and even parents into nursing homes, retirement homes, and care facilities is very common in the Unites States. Whereas in Spain and places with Spanish origin, family is seen as the most important element, the Unites States places high value on work. So, it has become common to place family in these places so they are taken care of because Americans have less time to devote to the care of their family because of the work work work mentality of America. In America as well as in many other places in the world including Spain, women now work, whereas traditionally the role of a mother in the family was to remain at home, now she goes out and works. Also, the family structure of mother and father has also shifted in our modern world especially in America with many families having only one parent or two moms or two dads or divorce and remarriage and this being accepted as normal. What is normal in terms of family structure is changing world wide in our modern world, but especially and most of all in the United States. The United States also makes it hard to keep certain traditions alive such as the dual surnames. American documents only leave a space for one surname forcing individuals to let go of a part of their names and identity to conform to American traditions and standards.

I think that beyond Miami, the influence of Spanish family culture is very limited. I see where it traveled and remained in many countries in South America and remained in Mexico and Panama, but the Unites States is an entirely different world with a different culture and family structure making it hard to hold on to what was traditional in past generations before migration to the Unites States. America was settled originally in many areas by the Spanish, but as the generations and decades have passed, the Unites States has become a world of its own and unfortunately the cost of coming to this land of the free has led many foreigners to let go of and move away from their culture and traditions and family structure.

“Home.” Evolving Family Models in Spain : A New National Framework for Improved Support and Protection for Families | OECD ILibrary, https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/527d563b-en/index.html?itemId=%2Fcontent%2Fcomponent%2F527d563b-en.

McCarthy, Kristin. “Family Life in Spain: Unique Values and Traditions.” LoveToKnow, LoveToKnow, 26 June 2022, https://family.lovetoknow.com/cultural-heritage-symbols/family-life-spain-unique-values-traditions.

Pier. “Spanish Culture – Family.” Cultural Atlas, https://culturalatlas.sbs.com.au/spanish-culture/spanish-culture-family.

Spain: Exploring Spanish Culture | Learn with AFS-USA. https://www.afsusa.org/countries/spain/.

“Take Online Courses. Earn College Credit. Research Schools, Degrees & Careers.” Study.com | Take Online Courses. Earn College Credit. Research Schools, Degrees & Careers, https://study.com/learn/lesson/family-structure-different-types-of-family-us.html.

Deering as Text

By: Elizabeth Pella of FIU at The Deering Estate on April 16, 2023

Photograph at Deering Estate by Elizabeth Pella / CC by 4.0

The Deering estate is a beautiful place in Miami and I was very surprised to realize I had never heard of it when I had been in Miami my whole life. What specifically caught my attention was the history the museum building of the Deering estate has with the railroad. I have been to the Flagler Museum down in key west and so hearing that a building on the property of the Deering estate was once the only hotel between Coconut Grove and Key West caught my attention. The hotel was called the Richmond hotel and was 3 stories and those who did business with Henry Flagler’s railroad would stay there.

Coming into the years of Charles Deering owning the property, I was very shocked to see the wine cellar he had downstairs from during the prohibition. I found it interesting that he got away with it because with a room that large he must have had parties there but because he probably was ignored and allowed to do this because he was rich. In that cellar he had wines from all around the world and there were separated by what country they were from. The way the room was hidden was very smart as well. A bookcase was the covering to the hidden room which was downstairs from the main area of the house.

The overall design and architecture of the house is very cool. There are intricate carvings of birds and animals in the rock of the house as well as a lot of symmetry in the room that held art with the fireplace in the center and mirror above and light fixtures on either side. The ceiling has even gold squares and the floor has black and white evenly tiles floor. There are small square windows that line the base of the ceiling which add interesting dimension and depth to the room with the ceiling curving up to make way for these windows. I think these design elements make the room really appeal to the eye of those walking in and makes it more inviting. On the exterior of the house there is much symmetry as well with arches coming in pairs or rows of the same thing and same for the windows. There is symmetry also seen in the edge of the water and trees are shaped. The palm trees were planted in a row which is mirrored on the other side with a big round area between them.

This symmetry seen in the house and areas surrounding the house is contrasted with the forests that lie around the well-built and structured area. The forest is packed full of trees going in every direction and shells covering the ground and tiny holes in which crabs crawl in and out of the ground. There is both salt and fresh water in this forest and many different types of trees and plants. It really shows a contrast to the natural Miami vs the man-made Miami we see today. I think it is very special that there are still areas like this in Miami to remind us of what our city once looked like and its history. I have lived in Miami my whole life and never have I seen the raw land and world of Miami and what it looked like to the Indians who once inhabited that land and to the Spanish that landed there so many years ago. I can’t even imagine living the life that those who founded and started Miami did or the life of the Indians who inhabited the land far before the Spanish arrived. It is truly a very different world and so much has happened and changed since then and what we see today as Miami is a completely different world.

Departure as Text

By: Elizabeth Pella of FIU on April 23, 2023

Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric from Pexels.com (Free To Use)

I am very much looing forward to traveling to Spain in a month. This spring semester with this honors class has been amazing. I have learned so much and made friends in the class and bonded with them on the field trips and outside of class. I am so glad that we got to have a class with the students going on the trip before we go to Spain so that we know each other already when we get there and that awkwardness and getting to know one another is out of the way.

I am looking forward to vising the Sagrada Familia again. I visited many years ago when I traveled to Spain with my grandparents, but it has been a long time. I am most excited to be traveling with friends and people my age. I have been very blessed with the ability to go on many trips, but they have been within the US and with my parents and brother which is a different type of experience and trip than when you get to go with friends. I think the architecture in Europe is very beautiful and vastly different to what we see in Miami. I loved visiting Vizcaya because it was a little Europe inside Miami which was very cool.

My grandparents and parents have both done a lot of traveling around the world. From China to Egypt to Israel to Alaska to France to Ireland. They have done so much traveling and have inspired me so much. I have begun to love traveling because of their influence and I look forward to this trip to Spain because it will be my first real trip as an adult and especially getting to go in this way with study abroad and learn from a professor with so much knowledge and experience and be surrounded by other students is such a unique and special experience. I am so grateful I get to be a part of study abroad to Spain and also that it with the honors college which makes the experience even more unique.

I think this trip will really change me and my view on life. I have lived my life largely in a bubble here in Miami and this class has already opened my eyes to many things and in other areas of my life I am having my eyes more opened to the world and I am in a place where I want to learn more. The hiking is what I am most worried about because of how strenuous I can imagine it will the lack of sleep that will be happening at the same time from the early mornings and late nights. The lack of sleep that will come from this trip will be something for me to get used too because I am very used to getting enough sleep, but I think and hope the excitement and fun and adventure of it will keep me going and motivated. I think my comfort level will definitely be pushed on this trip and I think that will help me grow as a person.

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