Jesus Gentil is a Cuban Immigrant who came to the U.S. in December 2015. Jesus went to Middle School and High School in the U.S. While in High School, Jesus completed his Associate Degree in Arts. Jesus now studies at FIU where he is majoring in Nursing with a Pre-Med track and is planning to go to medical school and become a Neurologist.
Spring Encounter As Text
“The Beginning of a New Era.”
By Jesus Gentil from FIU at Florida International University, January 27, 2023.
España is a country very rich in history. Something that makes España stand out, for me, is its architecture; it is very well preserved while giving a sense of the past. I have never been to España or even learned about its history. In order to accomplish this, I have decided to join the Spain Traveling abroad class offered by the Honors College at Florida International University during this upcoming summer. One of the reasons that I decided to embark on this adventure was because I wanted to learn about España history through live visualization; I wanted to be able to walk through avenues and streets full of history and not by just reading a book or watching a movie.
I am very enthusiastic about this class and what I will be learning. This spring class will serve as the starting point of a journey through history as we discover and live it. I am very nervous, because I have never been to España or any other country outside the USA or my country of birth, Cuba. This will be my first time traveling without my family, but they are happy that I will get to know another part of my culture. When I told my grandpa, he was happy about the idea. He told me that I would love España, the country where his father was born. And yes, part of my culture is Spanish. That’s another reason as to why I decided to go abroad on this journey.
What I know about España is what I have learned in my history classes or the places that I have been to, that have some history related to España. Recently, my family and I traveled to St. Augustine, a place here in Florida. In this region, which was colonized by Spanish conquistadors, you can still see most of the structures that were built by them, which are well preserved. One of the structures that caught my eye was El Castillo de San Marcos. It is the oldest fort in the United States, where the Spanish fought distant pirates and provided protection and lodging for the Spanish (Hart, n.d.).
Spain evokes images of the past for me. I think of España as a city that has stayed in the past but with technology. I’m referring to the fact that Spain still has iconic buildings such as La Sagrada Familia, a church with complex and detailed architecture. Its construction hasn’t been finished yet, but it still looks stunning.
I expect a lot from this spring and summer program in the sense of gaining new experiences, knowledge of history, and traveling experience. I’m looking forward to reading all the books assigned and visiting all these amazing and history rich places that España has. I think that when you learn by visiting those places, you tend to catch the information more easily than by only reading a history book. Moreover, I want to be able to tell my family about the spectacular experience I had in a not so strange land.
Hart, B. (n.d.). Safari. Retrieved from Visit St. Agustine: https://www.visitstaugustine.com/contact-us
Deering Estate As Text
“A City Lost In Time.”
By Jesus Gentil from FIU at Florida International University, January 2023.
The morning I was driving to Deering Estate, for a moment, I thought I was leaving Miami. As I got closer to this place, I noticed that the environment changed from having tall buildings and little nature as in Downtown Miami to having very few or no tall buildings plus a lot of nature as in the Deering Estate. This place is a whole new world. I would describe it as the lost city, a place in time that was barely touched by “modern humans.”
It was amazing to see so much beautiful and rare nature as soon as I entered through the gates. Then we kept walking and stopped at the house of Charles Deering. This house is built with limestone rocks on the outside and part of its architecture has cultural connections with other countries. For example, the shape of the windows has Islamic architecture, as do the doors. The house is surrounded by nature and has a spacious backyard. Many years before this house existed, the Tequesta people lived here. I had the privilege of touching some of their instruments constructed from shells.
One of the areas that I loved most about this place was the nature preserve that not everyone has access to. We were guided through this hidden gem by our professor. This place is like no other. You can encounter tons of animals and plants while walking. I was able to see snakes, spiders, birds, frogs, fish, and countless other animals that you can imagine. The natural preserve houses many species in danger of extinction. It is restricted because many people come to this place and steal species of trees and animals and sell them illegally.
Inside this preserve there is a bridge that connects the mangroves and the Everglades waters. This bridge look like as if it was taken from a movie. It is green due to overgrown vegetation. Down, to the left of the bridge, there is a door-like structure that separates the waters of the Everglades and Biscayne Bay. This is an effort to restore the nature of this place.
The nature preserve consists of different groves. For example, there is an avocado grove when you enter the preserve and a mango grove at the entrance of the Deering Estate. This place was intended to be a self-sustaining home by Charles Deering (Bailly, 2022). While walking through the trails I was surrounded by plants similar to those of my home country Cuba. I saw a lot of coffee plants, the tree that shreds its bark constantly, and many others.
I had the privilege of visiting a place that seems to have frozen in time, and it was an incredible experience. By visiting this “old city,” I was able to connect with the past and gain a better understanding of Miami and its history. This was a place that was previously unknown to me, and I was happy to discover more about it. There was a time when I thought of Miami as how it is now, a place of tall buildings with little nature, but the old Miami is more than that, it is a place lost in time, a place that appears to be untouched by “modern humans.”
Bailly, J. (2022). Safari. Retrieved from Bailly Lectures : https://baillylectures.com/miami/deering-estate/
Transatlantic Exchange As Text
“The Unforgettable Exchange.”
By Jesus Gentil from FIU at Florida International University, February 12, 2023.
The discovery of the Americas in 1492 marked the beginning of many historical events, such as the trade of diseases, foods, and religion. I think that these events were necessary to happen. This was to enable both worlds, the New World and the Old World, to progress and influence each other in the exchange of foods, religion, technology, and many other ideas. The way that some situations happened or how they were handled is something I disagree with. This composition will address how food, disease, religion changed both worlds, Miami, and myself.
The exchange of foods between both worlds changed dynamically many aspects of both places. For example, the introduction of potatoes, maize, cassava, and other foods to the Old World created a boom in the population while also influencing the future Industrial Revolution (Qian, 2010). Many crops that were brought from the Old World to the New World such as coffee, oranges, sugar cane, and others were better grown in this soil due to climate conditions. This was one of the principal drives of slavery that I will address later in the text. Tobacco was another food in the Americas that was consumed for fun and sometimes it was also used as currency. Europeans adopted the use of Tobacco as medicine (Qian, 2010).
Diseases were another influential factor on both continents. A number of diseases were brought to the United States by the Europeans, including smallpox and measles. These diseases caused the death of many Native Americans that were not immune to these types of diseases. During the first 100-150 years following 1492, 80-95% of the Native American population disappeared (Qian, 2010). The death of these Native Americans was another factor that influenced the slave trade because they needed people to work on the land. The Spanish were also affected by syphilis, a disease that created public chaos in Europe. Both worlds were affected by diseases, but the Americans took a greater toll.
Religion was another factor that caused a lot of chaos between the Native Americans and the Spanish. The Spanish wanted to convert Native Americans to Christianity. I watched a movie called “The Mission” in which the Spanish evangelized Native Americans to Christianity to prevent them from being traded as slaves or to protect them from enslavement. I think that the Spanish always took the opportunity when something bad was happening to convert the natives to Christians. The book “Chronicles of the Narvaez Expedition” talks a lot about this topic. In one of the chapters, the Native Americans mentioned to the Spanish that they wanted protection from the other group of Spanish that were attacking them. Their response was to put crosses throughout the village and welcome them. Spanish explorers also became famous throughout the country for healing people with the cross sign on their heads, making Native Americans trust them more, and giving them a reason to believe in God (Vaca, 2002).
This trade also influenced many aspects of Miami and me. The Deering State is a vivid example of how the Spanish influenced this country and its culture. When I visited this place, I felt like I had been transported back in time. This place still conserves many natural habitats for plants such as coffee plants, avocado trees, pine trees, and more. Moreover, you can appreciate the house of Charles Deering that was built with rocks on the outside and with a secret wine cellar, which was prohibited during his time. The city of Coral Gables located in Miami Florida, was also a Spanish settlement. Names such as Madeira, Salamanca, Alhambra, and others are found on many streets.
This trade has also influenced my family and me. As an example, my name is Jesus. It is both Spanish and Christian in origin. My grandpa’s dad was Spanish, so I have Spanish blood in me or better said, I have Spanish roots. Overall, I think that the transatlantic exchange was the starting point for many cultural and religious ideas that influenced not only the Americas but the entire world.
Qian, N. N. (2010). Google. Retrieved from Jurnal of Economic Perspectives : https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/nunn/files/nunn_qian_jep_2010.pdf
Vaca, A. N. (2002). Chronicles of Narvaez Expediton . Pinguin Classic .
Historic Miami As Text
“A Deep Diving Into the Past.”
By Jesus Gentil from FIU at Florida International University, February 26, 2023.
When I lived in Cuba, I remember my dad used to travel back and forth from Cuba to Miami and each time he went back to Cuba, he would talk to me about how Miami was a huge city with many tall buildings, a great advance in technology, with cars everywhere, and many other foreign artifacts. I always thought of Miami City as a place with only “Americanos” that had their own culture and religion. But my perspective changed when I moved to Miami.
I remember my first day in Miami. My family took me to a restaurant near the house. I was afraid of ordering food because I thought I needed to speak English to order. However, it turned out that the server spoke Spanish and that he was Cuban like me. Since that day, I have noticed that Miami is not only a place where “Americanos” live but a melting pot of cultures and religions. It is a place where people like me come to take refuge from an oppressive government.
Taking part in the “Historic Miami Lecture” was an excellent way to get a better understanding of the history of Miami. It was fascinating to me why “Flagler” street has that name. It dates back to 1878 when Henry Flagler came to Florida and brought the railroad to Miami (Bailly, 2022). It was a way to help the city grow and facilitate the exchange of goods with other places in the country (Miami, 2019). Flagler was a significant contributor to the growth of the city of Miami. It wouldn’t be what it is today if it wasn’t for him. But he also had a negative impact. Flagler segregated part of Miami by creating the Colored Town. He demolished the Tequesta burial site near the Miami River (Bailly, 2022). Flagler also had a hotel “Royal Palm Hotel” with a sewage system that would drain into the Miami River causing a great deal of contamination that can still be seen today.
Another part of the walking lecture that caught my attention was the “Miami River.” It is surrounded by many tall and imposing buildings. It has many species in its water such as the one my group and I saw, a manatee. Originally, I thought the Miami River was solely salt water, but it connects with the Everglades and the Atlantic. You can also see how it is contaminated by plastic pollution, but I have hope that in the future the city will take more action towards this issue.
As a Cuban immigrant, I place myself in many parts of the history of Miami. However, I place myself more specifically with those who came to Miami looking for a safer place to live. The Freedom Tower, located in Brickell, is a building whose architecture is inspired by the Giralda Tower in Seville, Spain (Bailly, 2022). In the 1960’s it served as a refuge for those Cuban immigrants that were fleeing from the government and poor living conditions. I say I am connected to it because when I visited it for the first time, its architecture looked very similar to that of many preserved historical buildings in the town where I grew up in Cuba. During this walking lecture, I learned about its history and how it relates to Spain. This made me realize that Miami is not just a home for “Americanos”, but also a sanctuary where immigrants can live a better live.
Bailly, J. W. (2022). Bailly Lectures . Retrieved from https://baillylectures.com/miami/miami/
Miami, U. o. (2019). Retrieved from https://features.miami.edu/2019/flagler-blueprints/flagler-journey-to-florida.html
Magic Realism As Text
By Jesus Gentil from FIU at Florida International University, March 12, 2023.
The book “One Hundred Years of Solitude” depicts history through magic realism. It is an artistic style that interconnects historical fiction with an undercurrent of magic or fantasy (Bailly, n.d.). Personally, I have never read a book from this genre; I was amazed and very interested by it. This book features a seven-generation family in which all of them had the same destiny, which was to “die of solitude.” In this blog, I will be discussing how the story told in the book relates to historical events around the time that Garcia Marquez wrote the book. I will also discuss how the ending sentences of this book can be controversial in today’s society and I will provide more examples of magic realism.
First, as a preview of his life and some of the events that led him to write this book, Gabriel García Márquez was born in Aracataca, Colombia. He lived with his grandparents, Colonel Nicolas Márquez and Tranquilina Iguaran Cotes de Márquez (Echeverria, 2023). Gabriel grew up hearing stories from his grandparents about how foreign companies had controlled banana production in the region where he grew up. He also grew up hearing about the living conditions of the workers in the banana company (Echeverria, 2023).
In his book “One Hundred Years of Solitude” he calls the fictional town Macondo, a town built from bricks by Ursula Iguaran and Jose Arcadio Buendia. He talks about the events of the banana company and the conditions of the workers and how they ended up. One of the seventeen sons of Colonel Aureliano Buendia was the one who had the idea to build the train that connected Macondo to other parts of the world. The train was the motor that started the banana company by Mr. Herbert and Mr. Brown. They came to Macondo and tried bananas, a fruit that was strange to their land, and they liked them. Since then, the banana company was established but exploitation of workers in the field was a problem until many years later that the workers struck the company, and it eventually shut down. Workers were called by the local government to a meeting, but more than three thousand workers were killed at the meeting because the government didn’t want to deal with them.
Furthermore, Garcia Marquez closes the book by stating the following: “Before reaching the final line, he understood that he would never leave the room… Because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second chance on earth.” This is the scene where Aureliano II deciphers the parchment that Malquiades had written many years ago in a different language. He found out that the parchment was telling the story of his family one hundred years before it happened. Therefore, he knew what was coming for him, the same destiny, or better said, death. I personally think that this final sentence can be controversial because when Gabriel says that “all races don’t have a second chance” he is saying that what your family did is what you will do and that you cannot break that generational chain, but I think you can, by following your own path, by doing what makes you happy, by respecting others, and learning from your mistakes instead of making it a burden for life like many characters in his novel did.
Finally, Magic Realism is seen in many novels by Latin American authors. Another magic realism author, Isabel Allende, wrote “The House of the Spirits,” which tells the story of the Trueba family’s passions, struggles, and secrets over three generations (Allende). As you can read, Garcia Marquez wrote his books as a way of telling a story that otherwise would not have been told. Having won the Nobel Prize, he was able to give the world a better understanding of his side of history. Overall, One Hundred Years of Solitude was the starting point for me to start reading about magic realism. I found it very interesting and now I would love to read more books by Gabriel Garcia Marquez or any other author from this genre.
Allende, I. (n.d.). The House of the Spirits .
Bailly, J. (n.d.). Google. Retrieved from Bailly Lectures : https://baillylectures.com/fiu/espana/context/
Echeverria, R. G. (2023, March 2). Google. Retrieved from Britanica : https://www.britannica.com/biography/Gabriel-Garcia-Marquez
Vizcaya As Text
“A Piece of Europe.”
By Jesus Gentil from FIU at Florida International University, March 19, 2023.
Driving into Vizcaya, I felt as if I was entering another dimension. Entering through the gates of US-1 commonly known as Dixie Highway, I felt that I was stepping into one of those Spanish history movies, where you see those buildings of early architecture of that of Spain with windows secured with strong iron bars and walls not as straight as those of today. You can also view many sculptures and paintings all over the property. In my blog I will be discussing the different styles of architecture used in the house. I will also be discussing the meaning of some of the status, and other features of the house that I think will blow your mind.
To begin with, let’s talk about Rococo, one of the styles of architecture that caught my attention. This type of architecture originated in France around the 18th century. It is inspired by nature and the difficulty and precision of its design makes it stand out. The music room at Vizcaya has this style. In the ceiling there is a gold-colored chandelier with flowers like roses, some of them white and some others pink, wrapped around the metal skeleton of the chandelier. Despite its complexity, it conveys a feeling of calm and beauty. In that room, there are also mirrors and couches that have the same border design with flowers and leaves. The wallpaper and celling follow the same design of floral elements. The instruments in this room were never used by James Deering because they were valued for their historical significance.
Next, let’s talk about the statues, who constructed them, and their meaning. Many of the monuments around the property where not even constructed by professionals. Many of them were made by Bahamians and other workers who were given classes on how to carve them. However, most of the time this part of history is not presented to us. One of my favorite statues is the one located in the west loggia called Bacchus, the Roman God of wine (Bailly, 2023). I say this is my favorite statue because is it similar to those that I studied in my humanity class, so seeing them in person was fascinating. This statue holds a pot-like structure with grapes on it representing wine. On his head he has a crown-like structure with grapes. At his side he has two small statues called Putty inspired by Cupid (Bailly, 2023). In the lecture we learn that James Deering was always holding a whisky glass in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
Now, one of the most interesting structures in the house, the one you were waiting for, is the pantry. This room in the house was advanced in technology if we put it that way. The room had a rectangular structure in the wall with different room numbers. These numbers were connected to cables to each bedroom of house that when they rang, a household employee would go and assist the person. The pantry also had a floor made from cork to absorb the footsteps of workers. There was a hole in one of the walls that was used to connect one of the early vacuums. Last but not least, there was a mini elevator used to carry food to other floors. Something very interesting is that the kitchen was on the second floor. It was for reasons of fire safety and temperature control reasons (Bailly, 2023).
I wanted to conclude by saying that visiting Vizcaya for the first time was an unforgettable experience. This makes me more excited about my trip to Spain. I feel that I will be able to experience Vizcaya in a more comprehensive manner since this visit was just a piece of Europe.
Bailly, J. (2023). Safari. Retrieved from Bailly Lectures: https://baillylectures.com/miami/vizcaya/
Miami España Ida As Text
“España en La Casa.”
By Jesus Gentil from FIU at Florida International University, April16, 2023.
1492, what a year for Christopher Columbus and the history of the Americas! A year that we never imagined would still be impacting us today. The Columbian Exchange began after Christopher Columbus started the exchange between the Old World, Europe, and the New World, America. This exchange influenced many aspects of the Americas such as culture, agriculture, gastronomy, and many others. Today, we can see many of these influences in Miami’s gastronomical world.
Gastronomy is an essential part of every culture. For me, it is how I connect with others and their cultures. Being a Cuban in Miami has made it easy to make connections with everyone. Miami is a multicultural city where Cuban culture predominates but doesn’t eradicate other cultures such as Venezuela, Colombia, España, and many others. Cuban restaurants, or at least those that I have visited, include some food from distinct cultures, that to me, were interesting when I saw them on the menu. For example, Florida International University, the school that I attend, has two mains Cuban Cafecito stores: Café Bustelo and Vicky’s Bakery. When I first bought Cafecito at these places, I noticed they had Tequeños, as shown in the picture above; they are like mozzarella sticks wrapped in bread dough and originally from Venezuela, Pan de Bono, a very soft bread with cheese, originally from Colombia,and other non-recognizable Cuban food, or at least non-recognizable to me.
But, what about La Comida Española? Going down Calle Ocho from Florida International University, near the Coral Gables area, you will find a Cuban restaurant named Versailles. This is one of the most famous Cuban restaurants in Miami, and probably in the world. At Versailles, they sell their famous Paella Valenciana, a culinary delicacy originally from España. According to some TripAdvisor reviews, people said the following about the Paella dish: “Paella is out of this world,” “Bountiful seafood paella,” and many other positive reviews (TripAdvisor, n.d.).
Next, heading towards US-1, near Vizcaya Museums and Gardens, you can find a famous Spanish restaurant called El Carajo. It is named after the upper part of the masts of the old Spanish caravels (Safari , n.d.). This restaurant brings España to Miami by providing their customers with a variety of Spanish wines to choose from and most importantly to me, of course, food. My family and I once visited this restaurant, and we ordered their famous Paella. Personally, I am not a lover of seafood. It started when I was at a daycare in Cuba. The economic situation at the time was not better than that of today and we had to eat the food that was available for that day. Most of the time we had rice and beans, fish, and sweet potatoes. I never liked the taste or smell of the fish and the sweet potato. However, if I said “No, I don’t want it,” they would make me eat it anyways. It was del carajo – awful. Well, getting back to the present, we ordered the paella and I order a side plate of lechon asado – roasted pork meat. When the server came with the Paella, my mom told me to taste it. It took time to convince me until I finally tried it. My reaction to it wasn’t as bad as I thought, but I didn’t love it, so I started eating my lechon asado, which was absolutely delicious. Now I can’t wait for Spain to try the real Paella made on Spanish soil.
My family has also been influenced by Spain. My uncle loves cooking; he taught me how to make a cake from scratch, cook lechon asado to perfection, and many other Cuban dishes that you can think of. Back in March of this year, he invited my family and I to have dinner at his house; he never told us what he was cooking until we arrived at his house. He surprised us with a Cuban Paella, you heard it, a Cuban Paella! This Paella had a twist, instead of seafood it had pork, chicken, chorizo, and many other meats. I loved this new version, Paella without seafood! For me, it was more like a twisted version of the Cuban dish known as Arroz a la Chorrera. However, for him it was a Cuban Paella. For dessert, we had turron, a famous Spanish dessert, invented by the Moors in Jijona, a small town north of Alicante, south of Spain (Mallorca, n.d.). That night I felt like I had visited Spain for a few hours. Hopefully, the next visit to Spain comes true and not just for hours but weeks.
As this blog comes to an end, I wanted to put everything into perspective. Throughout the blog I have talked about Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia, and mostly about Spain. Miami has been influenced by Cuban culture that has been influenced by Venezuela and its Tequeños, Colombia and its Pan de Bono, and Spain with its Paella. We can see how Cubans restaurants have incorporated Spanish dishes in their food and how we also cook them with a twist. Today, I wouldn’t be telling this story if it hadn’t been for Christopher Columbus and his 1492 voyage. Spain will forever be part of everyone’s culture.
Mallorca, A. (n.d.). Retrieved from Magazine : https://www.affordablemallorca.com/insights/turrón-the-most-authentic-spanish-christmas-treat
Safari . (n.d.). Retrieved from El Carajo Restaurant : https://el-carajo.com/carajo-blog
TripAdvisor. (n.d.). Safari . Retrieved from TripAdvisor : https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34438-d431863-r577418997-Versailles_Restaurant-Miami_Florida.html
Spring Departure As Text
“Journey Across España History.”
By Jesus Gentil from FIU at Florida International University, April16, 2023.
Tempus fugit – time flies is how I describe this spectacular semester. Back in January when I started this class, España to me was just a country. However, I have come to understand that España is part of everyone’s identity. Throughout this semester I have been able to learn about the history of España, something that I never thought I would find interesting, because to me, learning about history is boring due to how school books approach history teachings. In this blog I would like to discuss the books, my favorite and least favorite, that I read for this class. I would like to discuss the history they taught me, and about my journey to España overall.
One of the books we read this semester is called Chronicle of the Narvaez Expedition, my least favorite book; however, it is the one that taught me the most about the early history of España exploration and how the journey towards the discovery of the Americas happened. This book talks about the expedition led by Panfilo de Narvaez. Throughout the book, they discuss the encounter with different Indian tribes and how each tribe treated them. The Spanish tried to spread their Catholic beliefs that sometimes Indians refused which then turned into massacres. Many Indians thought about them as powerful because they could “heal” many sick Indians by doing the cross sign on their heads. Overall, this book taught me about the early history of the Spanish conquistadors and how their interactions with the Indians changed our history.
A long petal of the Sea is my favorite book of the semester. This historical fiction book talks about the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939 and a little about Chile’s history. The way that Isabel Allende tells the story is beautiful if we can put it that way. There are two main characters in the story, Roser, a talented musician, and Victor, a medical student who served in many hospitals during the Civil War. They had to escape España due to the bad situation. They fled to France where they were separated into different concentration camps. At the time Roser was pregnant with Victor’s brother who died on the war front. Eventually, Victor and Roser found each other, married to immigrate, and moved to Chile where a fruitful life awaited them. Years later Roser dies of terminal cancer and Victor ends up living alone. Towards the end of the book, Victor says a phrase that I connected with. It says, “My life has been a series of journeys…I have been a foreigner without realizing I had deep roots…” Coming from Cuba, and escaping from economical situations, I also feel that my life has been a series of journeys, a journey that has taught me many lessons. Overall, the author tells us how a war or other hardship can change your life forever. However, the story also conveys that we should never give up on our dreams like Victor and Roser never did.
My journey is just starting. After learning about history through the lenses of different authors, now I would like to experience it through my own lenses. Learning about La Sagrada Familia in the book Origen, has made me very excited about this trip to España. Its organic architecture is so pretty that I don’t believe it exists until I see it. Casa Mila is another architectural structure that caught my attention when I read about it. Now when I think of España, I think of its rich history, architecture, gastronomy, and how all of this has impacted us. I think of how it has impacted our culture, customs, and the way that history has changed us forever.