Joshua Villamizar: Miami as Text 2023

Photograph taken by Alexa Villamizar/CC by 4.0

Meet Joshua Villamizar, a sophomore at Florida International University pursuing his passion for biomedical engineering. Although the field is heavily steeped in STEM, he relishes the opportunity to explore diverse interests outside of his academic discipline during his leisure time.

With an insatiable thirst for new experiences, Joshua ardently seeks enrichment in all aspects of his life. He delves into culinary arts, painting, water sports, ceramics, and art appreciation, among others, with great fervor. His definition of success is not confined to the traditional engineering standards but instead is centered around being fully present and engaged in all of life’s moments.

Encounter as Text

Joshua in Europe appreciating world-renowned museums in 2022 ( Photo By Joshua Villamizar/CC By 4.0)

A New Beginning

By: Joshua Villamizar on January 29th,2023

“To realize one’s personal legend is a person’s only real obligation. All things are one. And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it”

Paolo Coelho

Every personal legend begins with an omen. My first omen, though short-lived was presented to me in my French language class in 7th grade. At the time, I had recently visited Paris for the first time and was curious to learn more about the French language. Little did I know this minute decision would influence the decisions I would make for years to come.

Fast forward a few years and here I am enrolled in this class that will open a new chapter in my life. For many people studying abroad is just a way of having a more competitive resume, having a fun new experience, or traveling with friends. Whilst being very reasonable reasons, to me, studying abroad meant more than just these reasons. When I heard about the opportunity to study abroad, I saw it as an opportunity to transcend as a human. Studying abroad meant abandoning everything at home for some time, it meant leaving everything behind, it meant challenging my set of beliefs and opinions, it meant developing a profound relationship with life and experiences. This opportunity would give way for the chance to mature as a person.

To finally be able to accept the reality that I’m completing my personal legend has made me feel all but anxious or nervous. In fact, my excitement and desire to already board a plane and fly over there has time feeling like it’s going slower than ever.

While I have been to Paris in the past, that visit was also over 8 years ago so my memory of what I saw and what I knew about French culture has sort of faded. However, having studied AP French though has granted me some general knowledge that I can hopefully still put to use to try to blend in with the local Parisians. Some of those things being to never reveal I’m an American, always try to speak French, and always watch for pickpocketers. While there are so many other things to know about France these are just the ones that stuck with me-especially as an American.

When I think about France, all I can think about is the arts. France is the land where every artist of their craft goes to thrive. Modern high-level cooking originated in France, Fashion design has deep roots in France, and certain art movements like Gothic art was practically born in France.

While I do have a good amount of expectations for this class one of the most important for me is to understand why and how France became the world epicenter for human rights. I also want to learn the historical significance of the French Revolution and how it altered the course of art for eternity.

Out of all the locations we are scheduled to visit, the one that I’m most looking forward to is Normandie. After all, without the sacrifice of all those people that we are going to see, we would not be living in the same world we are living in today. For me, this place is also going to be the most impactful location visited. It’s presence is a reminder of the fact that life has two sides to it. For there to be light, darkness has to exist.

Enlightenment as Text

By: Joshua Villamizar of FIU on February 10th, 2023

Religion VS. Reason

Voltaire- Author of Candide and one of the leading figures during the Enlightenment Era

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Thomas Jefferson

In a world where people can freely voice their opinion and have controversial viewpoints, sometimes people forget that the world used to be a very different place. Many people to this day oftentimes never think about what liberties would have been stripped from them had we been living a few centuries ago. Pre -enlightenment, the world was ruled by the Catholic Church. All sources of politics ran through the Catholic Church. There was no checks and balances, no due process, no form of democracy, no anything. There was no one to question the catholic church during their reign. People who voiced an opposing opinion to the Catholic church were sometimes killed, women who knew too much were burned at the stake, people accused of heresay were whipped. Fear was their primary tool to remain in power. Through fear of hell and particular punishments the Catholic Church was able to remain in power for centuries. This all changed when Enlightenment ideals began to spread through Europe.

The reason the Enlightenment was such a powerful time period was because this philosophical revolution changed the course of history. It dismantled all forms of regimes and all forms of religious ruling. People were no longer allowing themselves to be ruled over by faith and Gods word. Philosophers were influencing people to live life with Reason and Science and to no longer blindly live by faith. This revolution snowballed into a much more significant set of events that influenced the way democracies are implemented to this day.

In my opinion, I don’t think reason and faith can ever be reconciled in the future. Everyday, more and more information comes out that directly disproves religious stories and religious texts. This rise in reason and education has always directly competed against religion and has always been a source of conflict between followers of both ideas. I believe it’s best for these two schools of belief to exist in their respective states but remain separated. I think these two schools of belief should have never been compared to begin with. Faith has always been a source of comfort for people about the unknown in life. Like what happens after death. Reason on the other hand has always been about understanding and proving what is unknown. Reason looks for answers in what faith blindly explains. They were never meant to be mixed. They should continue to remain separate.

Organized life within large countries requires an objective form of codes and laws to keep life structured correctly. Life should be governed through reason and not through faith. Governing bodies should aspire to remain secular in order to be able to rule over everyone regardless of their religious beliefs. Moreover, if one is a believer of faith, I believe someone of faith should have every right to live their live with their own set of rules on top of those dedicated by a secular government. Everyone should have access to practice their own faith so long as they do not force it on anyone like the Catholic church did several centuries ago.

Overall, I think the enlightenment was one of the most important stepping stones taken by mankind. It allowed people to work their way up the ladder in life rather than be assigned a social status at birth. It also gave a more even playing field for everyone to be great by removing systems of dynasties and ancient regimes. Most importantly, this mass abandonment of faith allowed science, arts, and many other fields of education to flourish without fear of punishment or persecution from a dictating source of power.

Historic Miami as Text

Twisted Times

By: Joshua Villamizar of FIU on March 8th, 2023

Picture of the Miami Skyline- the place many of us call home. ( Photo By Joshua Villamizar/CC By 4.0)

Miami, the land created by all and owned by none. Throughout the course of history, Miami has had its rich history of inhabitants including but not limited to Indigenous people, Spanish, and British. This everchanging land claim over time has managed to leave its mark throughout Miami’s relatively recent urban sprawl. A prime example of such history that surprised me during this walking lecture was the still-standing slave quarters, otherwise known as Fort Dallas, in Lummus park. When I first heard professor Bailly mention that that building used to be a slave quarters building, I was shocked. Such a significant artifact of history just standing out in the open in the park. One of the first things I thought of was the education system. Miami Dade County Public Schools(MDCPS) has failed the future of generations. For such a precious historical landmark to just exist in Miami and no one to know about is just evidence of this systematic failure. This is not the only example of this either. These days it seems like Miami is trying to hide all of its history and erase evidence of historic Miami. 

As stated countless times throughout world history, history always repeats itself. One of the only ways to prevent the repetition of things like inequality and historical neglect is to teach future generations about Miami’s History.

To want change, you have to be bold. Whether that means being stood up or disagreed with, these are the things that come with voicing a controversial opinion. being bold means acknowledging the injustice that Cuban immigrants have perpetrated by denying others the same freedoms they have enjoyed and failing to teach the real history of Miami. Just recently Cuban Governor of Florida, Ron Desantis, ruled that the AP African American studies would no longer be taught in Florida Public schools citing alleged political bias. The same factual history present in that textbook most likely mirrors some of the history of Miami and its upbringing. Truth be told, Slaves who built such wonders like the Deering estate and other parts of Miami have been erased from the history taught in schools. To deny these people, their place in history is to believe that their presence was insignificant anyways. This thinking is completely outrageous. People need to know the truth about how harsh and cruel the world used to be. We need to teach students these ugly hard truths to ensure such atrocities never happen again. The history of slavery in Miami is  still evident in some landmarks, like the arching columns of the Deering Estate or slave quarters in Lummus Park. Slavery was a real thing, it did happen, after all its history is still engraved in various landmarks in Miami (Deering estate architecture, Fort Dallas). 

Moreover, in personal interviews I have conducted with members of African descent, I have heard about the unjust treatment of black immigrants’ immigration process here to Miami. Attached below is the interview. 

Joshua conducting an interview with ‘Face’ who speaks out about injustice

My goal in this reflection is to highlight that historically, Miami has never been any single group’s land. Anyone who attempts to distort this fact by manipulating the law is an enemy of humanity. I will stand by my belief that Miami is anyone’s to claim. Many of our parents came here for a greater life. Many of us call this place Home. Therefore, my mission is to ensure that every future generation is taught the genuine history of Miami and acknowledge that they all have equal rights to claim Miami as their home. This is where I place myself in the history of Miami.

Revolution As Text

The Power of the People

By: Joshua Villamizar of FIU on April 23rd, 2023

As a person living in a first-world country, I sometimes take for granted how easy it is to obtain change without violence. I live in a country where if I don’t like something, I can speak against it and be protected, I can vote against it, I can sign petitions, etc. I have many outlets to speak and act on my mind without risking my safety or security. Unfortunately, that is not the case in the majority of the world. For example, right now in Israel, Palestinians die every day for a cause related to human rights. Sometimes the cold truth about human rights is that to achieve them, we have to sometimes perform violent acts.

Take the French Revolution for example. The French Revolution, which put an end to the Ancien Régime and ushered in the modern period, was a turning point in European history. From 1789 until 1799, France saw a period of severe social and political upheaval in which the populace ousted the monarchy, founded a republic, and fundamentally altered French society. The French Revolution had an influence not only on France but on all of Europe and the rest of the world, encouraging other countries to fight for their own liberties and rights. It is among the most important occasions in global history since its effects may still be felt today.

During this entire revolution, the first decriminalization of homosexuality was instituted, slavery was abolished, secularistic ideals were introduced, modern feminism was born and so many other things happened. I mean to actually acknowledge that the secular society we live in came as a product of the French Revolution is absolutely shocking. The French were genius to understand that mixing religion and government was a recipe for disaster. Furthermore, to top, that, they also understood the importance of rising women up as equals in a functioning society. The French Revolution as a whole was completely ahead of its time. From an objective standpoint, most people would agree that these outcomes are truly progressive in nature. But if you told the common man what went into kickstarting such drastic change, most people would be taken aback.

In my personal opinion, I believe that all of the monstrosities that were committed in the name of the French Revolution were justified. After all, the people of France before the revolution were living in a nightmare of a society. They had to endure a feudal system, a nonsecular government, corrupt officials, and absolute power from a monarchy. And while the common man got poorer, the rich got richer. Given the unjust society and living conditions they were forced to endure, it is understandable that they had a strong motivation to resist and overthrow the existing system.

I do not believe violence should be the answer right away for trying to instill change. But I do believe that in a human rights battle, once you’ve exhausted all peaceful methods, there comes a point where there’s no more to lose and people will fight with everything. All methods of violence are on the table now.

Ultimately, while human rights still exist as a worldwide issue, there certainly are much better methods of fighting for what’s right especially with a rise in social media and methods of communication. Nonetheless, the French Revolution, no matter how ruthless, should never be forgotten. What was done by the people is a true testament to what humans are capable of in the name of a better life. Those scary stories should continue to be told to instill fear in any supreme leader who subjugates his people and restricts their freedom. It’s important to remind the people that as a whole, they’ll always be more powerful than any iron fist.

Vizcaya As Text

The real cost of luxury

By: Joshua Villamizar of FIU on March 19th, 2023

Throughout History, Miami has always been a luxurious getaway spot. It’s where people would go to enjoy the best clubs, spectacular beaches, stunning skyline views, and amazing food. And to this day, Miami, to outsiders, is still marketed in this same fashion. It’s a place naturally good at flaunting its wealth with million-dollar beach apartments, ridiculously expensive cars, the best of the best hotels, and much more. To a certain degree, it can almost be said that Miami’s face to the world is one of hedonism and perfection. A face not too dissimilar to that of James Deering. 

So who was James Deering? James Deering was the owner of the spectacular Villa Vizcaya, a Mediterranean-style mansion built as the perfect vacation spot with everything you could possibly need. So how is it that James Deering and his Villa Vizcaya appear so similar to that of Miami today? Just as Miami delivers the appearance of being incredibly lavish, James Deering made sure to not fall short of that when building this mansion. This lavishness can be seen in all the sculptures built all around the estate all the way from the main west entrance with the sculpture of Ponce de Leon, to Dionysius in the main entrance, all the way to the gardens where there are many other greek historical figures lined up side by side. This rich lifestyle is also evident when you notice all the randomly scattered artifacts imported from all around the world. A hobby only the rich can engage in. Deering had antiques that dated all the way back to the Pompeii era. He had entire rooms that he imported to his house. Entire fountains were brought to his house. And why? Because with his money and his ego, nothing could stop him.

So why am I trying to draw parallels between James Deering and Miami you may ask? Reason being that James Deering’s lifestyle represents the <1% of people the live in Miami. All this lavishness that James Deering indulged in was at the cost of slave labor forces, underpaid wages, and all of Miami’s history. Worst of all he was not even a local, he was a visitor who brought his riches with him from elsewhere. 

Right now in Miami, this facade of a hedonist lavish lifestyle is catering to the few at the top at the cost of everyone else. If you look around, there are lush apartments being built everywhere. Ads are being posted all over social media for new buildings being constructed in Wynwood, Brickell, Coral Gables, etc. All with outrageous prices that naturally filter out the real locals seeking homes. The middle/low-class people that work hard to live are being pushed away by the incredibly high cost of living. Fast forward a few decades down the road and Miami won’t have many locals left. All because greedy people at the top want more wealth and don’t appreciate the raw authenticity of Miami’s true people. James Deering brought his wealth to Miami and quite literally disrespected everything Miami stood for. He built his legacy and didn’t even bother to honor the people who built it or the people who lived there before him. Miami is on the same track. At this rate, while greedy businessmen try to ensure Miami keeps its luxurious lifestyle facade to the world, Miami locals will all pay the price for this greed. 

When will the roles reverse, when will the people of Miami become more important than the tourists? When will people learn to value what we already have instead of look out for more? This is the big question and if it is not taken seriously Miami’s fate could fall south very quickly.

World War II as Text

Image by Sandra Leidholdt from GettyImages

A Time to Reflect

By: Joshua Villamizar of FIU on April 13th, 2023

Whenever WWII history is taught in a history class it’s always taught as it being the turning point in modern history. It oftentimes is presented as America being powerful and almost the savior of the world. It likes to consider all the good that was done by America and the Allied powers in WWII, all the people saved, the post-war reconstruction, the influence of democracy, etc. While my intentions are not to undermine these positives, I think one of the most powerful ways for war history to touch someone and impact someone is to step out of your comfort zone and look at the horrors of it. 

When I was going through the WWII course content these past few weeks, I chose to drop all preformed opinions and biases about WWII. I wanted to see and read what WWII was like for some people without judging it. To my surprise, some of the things I saw and read about touched me significantly more than years of US history back in high school.

I always thought I knew how bad things really were during WWII. My previous history WWII lectures usually included a picture of Auschwitz, the mountain of bodies, and a starving person. I thought I saw the worst of it. But nothing compared to actually seeing historically accurate footage about it. Seeing dismembered bodies, dead children, starving humans, bloody faces, and people being tortured really got to me. Especially in Saving Private Ryan, there came a point during the Normandy landings that I actually didn’t want to watch anymore. During moments like that, I would always ask myself why people voluntarily want to watch this gory content. I felt uncomfortable seeing people die like it was nothing. Seeing humans kill like it meant nothing to them. 

It took me being 20 years old, to understand why this material is shown. Why it’s important to show the graphic visuals. You’re not supposed to be comfortable, it’s not supposed to be easy to see, and you aren’t supposed to like it. That’s the whole point. History isn’t for you to pick and choose what you like and don’t like. History just is. Now what’s so important about this? 

Speaking solely on my own experiences, throughout my life I have met countless people who cry out about America’s injustice, unfairness, terrible systems, rich people, and other endless complaints. I think the United States is still far from being a near-perfect country. There are many things we have to work on. But to be an American Citizen and bad-mouth this country truly shows that you failed your duty as a citizen. We live in a world where things are probably remarkably better than during the time of WWII. In fact, during COVID-19 there were people who couldn’t bear wearing a mask. People who did anything in their power to not wear a mask. Backtrack almost 70 years ago, their problems entailed going to war and potentially never coming back. It entailed praying that you don’t see your friend die in combat or risking your life to prevent living in a fascist world under a deranged, ruthless man like Hitler.

I wish most Americans could take some time to watch Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers to see what true proud Americans fought for. Perhaps reflecting on the atrocities of World War 2 and the privileges we now have could awaken a sense of shame in some of us for not being grateful for the blessings of living in this wonderful country. 

Moreover, a bigger issue that must be discussed is how the WWII war narrative focuses too much on America’s power and allied power’s heroism and needs to be adapted to shed more light on the dark side of war. When I say that I think war should be avoided as much as possible I would believe that many others agree with me. In order to evoke this mentality in the majority of people the narrative can not be too glorious. Future generations need to be taught about how other countries were affected by WWII not just America. More often than not, the stories of certain countries that had the worst of WWII are often sidelined in the mainstream war narrative. This approach is counterproductive and does more harm than good.

It is crucial to recognize and express thankfulness for the blessings we have as citizens of the United States. We must understand that the sacrifices made by innumerable heroic people during World War II led to our lives and liberties. However, we must equally recognize that the history of the conflict has a terrible side that we must never forget, as well as stories of American valor and might. Future generations must be taught about the atrocities of the war and its effects outside of America and the Allies. By doing this, we can make sure that we don’t make the same mistakes twice and work to create a better future. As we work to make the world a better and more peaceful place, let’s remember the past with empathy and gratitude.

Departure as Text

Turning Page

By: Joshua Villamizar of FIU on April 23th, 2023

To take the time to go back a read what January version of me thought about this opportunity really struck me emotionally. I was filled with so many aspirations, hopes, and wishes. And finally, I’m closer than ever to living out all of those dreams. 

As I write this what I feel most of all, is pure happiness. Happiness from the fact that I wanted something in my life and I made it happen. Happiness from knowing that I am one step closer to my personal legend.

This course from start to finish has opened my eyes immensely to the historical and cultural significance of France to the entire world. All the lectures and course material really put into perspective what France means to the world. I expanded my knowledge of a plethora of art movements, learned about the french revolution, and became more knowledgeable about what it means to be French. When I think of France now, with my new set of eyes, I see a culturally rich paradise. I see images of humans living simply yet joyfully. Living only with what’s necessary in life. A hedonistic lifestyle where the biggest issue is what cafe you’re gonna go to, or what museum you’re gonna visit today.  

Now I’m closer than ever to finally starting my study abroad, what I want most in this program is just time. I just want the time to be fully present. The time to be grateful for such an experience and to be able to truly appreciate the experience that I’ll be receiving.

While some of my answers to these questions have changed, the location that I am most interested in visiting has yet to change. I still am incredibly eager to visit Normandy. While I have multiple reasons for this, one of the more meaningful ones is that I get to connect with someone and temporarily bring them back to life with my presentation. The idea of making someone feel appreciated and valued makes me feel contentful. 

As I finished writing this, it really hit me that this is my reality. I really am gonna study abroad in France. The next chapter in my life is on its toes and with every passing second I can’t wait to leap forward into this new beginning.

Author: JVillamizarr

Meet Joshua Villamizar, a sophomore at Florida International University pursuing his passion for biomedical engineering. Although the field is heavily steeped in STEM, he relishes the opportunity to explore diverse interests outside of his academic discipline during his leisure time. With an insatiable thirst for new experiences, Joshua ardently seeks enrichment in all aspects of his life. He delves into culinary arts, painting, water sports, ceramics, and art appreciation, among others, with great fervor. His definition of success is not confined to the traditional engineering standards, but instead is centered around being fully present and engaged in all of life's moments. Joshua recognizes that life is precious, and he cherishes every experience that comes his way. His current aspiration is to inspire others to adopt a similar outlook and emphasize the significance of being present during all walks of life. He desires to spread this message far and wide, and encourage people to appreciate the simple yet profound pleasures that life has to offer.

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