Katherine Mesa: Miami as Text 2023

Katherine Mesa is a second-year student at Florida International University studying Political Science with concentrations in Civic Leadership and Human Rights. She is interested in pursuing a career in the non-profit sector working on community outreach and engagement.

Photo by Katherine Mesa CC/4.0


Encounter As Text: Katherine Mesa of FIU, January 27th, 2023

By: Katherine Mesa

France can be considered the cornerstone of human rights and the historical hub for political and cultural revelations. This once in a lifetime opportunity to travel to France will not only be a culturally enriching experience, but will also be intellectually enlightening. When I was first accepted into the Honors College at FIU, I was immediately drawn to their unique study abroad program, so to see this dream finally embarking is very exciting. However, while thrilled to partake in this journey, I am also filled with much apprehension and nervousness, which is expected with spending a month in another country on a study abroad trip. However, despite the nerves, I anticipate this experience to be very rewarding in terms of my personal growth as it is pushing me out of my comfort zone. In addition, this will allow me to broaden and deepen my knowledge in the field of human rights.

In terms of my current knowledge about France, it is very surface level, which makes me excited to engage in this opportunity. With regard to its historical significance, France played a crucial role during World War II, and I look forward to diving in depth to gain a better understanding of its relevance during the war. In addition, in reference to France’s position in the field of art, I look forward to visiting the Louvre to gain a deeper appreciation of art’s role in cultural immersion.

France is a true juxtaposition of a history of hardship with growth and beauty. I believe the flower above truly symbolizes the multidimensional growth that comes from France’s dark past, yet expansion towards a hopeful future. I also believe that this can be applied to the significance of human rights education and its application to where we as a society, can prevent further atrocities and human rights violations. This flower can also be manifested through a different lens, as I view it to symbolize my own personal growth as I embark on this journey.

Given that my academic concentration is in Civic Leadership and Human Rights, I am interested in seeing the intersection of how human rights are manifested in policy, and how this has evolved over time. In particular, how the end of World War II led to the monumental establishment of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In terms of my career aspirations, I want to work in the non-profit sector focusing on issues such as human rights, so I look forward to this experience being very rewarding as I will be able to directly apply my knowledge and experiences into the real world.

Growing up, my family has placed great emphasis on the value of traveling, and I have always been grateful and blessed to have the privilege to do so. However, this particular trip will be a unique experience for me as it is like nothing I have participated in before. While the transition into the trip might be challenging at first, I can stay grounded, knowing how much I will gain from this experience with my peers.

Katherine Mesa: Enlightenment as Text 2023

Photo by Katherine Mesa CC/4.0

“The Art of Enlightenment”

Encounter As Text: Katherine Mesa of FIU, February 12th, 2023

By: Katherine Mesa
The Enlightenment was a time period and movement characterized by its philosophical and intellectual influences on society. There was also debate amongst academics and philosophers in regard to the theories of life in relation to religion and science, and the role they play in the government, such as through the separation of church and state. This was a period of innovation and growth, where creativity was at the forefront of the movement. France played a crucial role during the Enlightenment, and it can even be claimed that the French Revolution was a source of its inspiration, and its influences can even be seen today. One influential piece that ties to The Enlightenment was the book, C

andide, which is a satirical novel that highlights different aspects of enlightenment ideals, ranging from social and class hierarchies to the political and power dynamics of its time. 

Political and revolutionary ideals were also transformed during this time, and their influences on government are still taken into account today. This is relevant in terms of the ideals of democratization and liberalization of power structures.

Some prominent philosopher thinkers of this time included Locke, Montesquieu, and Rousseau, and were heavily centered around the ideals of government. For example, John Locke concentrated his theories around the modern republican government, the social contract theory, and individual rights. On the other hand, Baron de Montesquieu focused his intellectual ideals on the separation of church and state and checks and balances. Lastly, Jean Jacques Rousseau deconstructed the philosophical ideals of human nature in relation to civil society. 

However, while male political figures like the ones mentioned above were highly idolized for their work, it is important not to undermine the strong feminist leaders and philosophers who are continuously pushed under the rug. For example, Mary Wollstonecraft was a champion for women’s rights and published two novels, “A Vindication of the Rights of Man” and “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.” She also advocated for equal access to education for women as well as implemented mixed gendered schools to ensure equity in the quality of education.  

In terms of the intersection between faith and reason, this is a very controversial topic that was not only concentrated during the period of The Enlightenment, but also is even seen today. When analyzed through the lens of this being reconciled, it is essential to acknowledge the historical impact of this ideological conflict, as well as its complexity. For example, religious faiths are not one-dimensional, and are very diverse among different populations, where addressing the issue of reason and faith being reconciled is not a straightforward approach. In addition, when defining what encompasses the rationale behind reason and faith, it is also essential to recognize varying interpretations and perspectives of what encompasses rationale. For example, some may claim that faith and religion are rational approaches to life, while others may claim that scientific objections are the true rationale. This conflict will continue to progress and will never be resolved as long as individual and philosophical perceptions dictate the conflict.

Work Cited:

“Enlightenment Thinkers and Democratic Government.” Building Democracy for All, EdTech Books, 1 Jan. 1970, https://edtechbooks.org/democracy/enlightenment.

Voltaire, et al. Candide. Chivers, 2008.

Katherine Mesa: History Miami as Text 2023

Photo by Katherine Mesa CC/4.0

“Miami’s Evolution”

History Miami As Text: Katherine Mesa of FIU, March 12th, 2023

By: Katherine Mesa

This walking lecture was one of the most eye-opening thus far. Miami is known worldwide for its eccentric energy and culture, but is often overlooked for its unique yet shady history. Being a Miami-native, I expected Miami to have a history of racism and oppression, like almost any historic city, especially in the United States, but was never formally educated on its history. As a product of Miami’s public school system, I can attest that the public education system has failed at educating students on the true history of Miami. In return, I believe it is failing society’s progression by not acknowledging the continuous past and present acts of racism, bigotry and oppression. For example, when taking into account the recent Florida book bans, I believe that we as a society are only regressing. As a result of our walking tour, I really appreciate being able to engage and learn about Miami’s past through this lecture

We started our tour at the Government Center which is oftentimes considered the “hub” of Miami, and rightfully so. The Government Center is where government offices are housed, as well as the central location for public transportation. Given the urban nature of Miami, having a “hub” for public transportation is a great resource to utilize not only for the benefit of tourists and Miamians, but also a great way to help the environment and mitigate carbon emissions. As someone who is an advocate for the expansion of public transportation, I believe Miami needs to expand their scope of access in order for tourists and Miamians to become interconnected with the rest of the city. This will thus create a stronger sense of unity seen in many other cities around the world, allowing for a greater sense of humanity and interconnectedness, that is so characterized by Miami’s melting pot of cultures and people. 

The United States has had a negative track record in regards to their treatment towards indigenous tribes throughout history, so it was no surprise that the history of the Tequestas was also, for the most part, suppressed from society. I was intrigued, while at the same time frustrated, by the fact that archeologists discovered Tequesta burial sites and archaeological materials throughout the downtown Miami region, yet it is practically suppressed from the public, as towering skyscrapers continue to take over. In addition, instead of further recognizing Miami’s indigenous history, a local Whole Foods remedied the situation by having a Tequesta mural in its store, which, in my opinion, is only the bare minimum that can be done to acknowledge the Tequestan history of Miami. The dystopia of having Whole Foods built on an indigenous burial site is only characteristic of the capitalistic culture of the United States, continuously disregarding its past.

It was only characteristic to have the History Miami tour conclude on an optimistic note with the Freedom Tower. This staple of Miami highlights the diversity of our beautiful city, and despite its questionable past, there is still hope. As the daughter of Cuban immigrants, the Freedom Tower is a symbol of power and hope for my family as it was the first place my parents came to when they entered the United States. Our own Statue of Liberty in Miami. Whenever we drive by this tower, my parents make a point to acknowledge it as the symbol of a hopeful future, and I am grateful and blessed for the opportunities that have arisen from their immigration to the United States and to see it highlighted in such beauty. 

Work Cited:

Florida Bill Makes It Easier to Ban School Books | Miami Herald. https://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/editorials/article259300399.html.

Press, The Associated. “Indian Burial Ground Excavated in Miami.” Gainesville Sun, The Gainesville Sun, 13 Jan. 2006, https://www.gainesville.com/story/news/2006/01/13/indian-burial-ground-excavated-in-miami/31471761007/.

Katherine Mesa: Vizcaya as Text 2023

Photo by Katherine Mesa CC/4.0

“A Paradoxical Society”

Vizcaya As Text: Katherine Mesa of FIU, March 19th, 2023

By: Katherine Mesa

Vizcaya’s architectural beauty and astounding views are one that captivates the attention of any guest.  Its architectural relevance resembles that of Europe, making Vizcaya a pocket of European civilization in the heart of multicultural Miami.  James Deering, the wealthiest man in Miami at the time, purchased this land as a way to bring this way of life to the United States.  Its European architecture is juxtaposed with that of the surrounding Miami greenery making it an ostentatious glorification of wealth breaking through a once untouched environment. 

While beautiful in appearance, Vizcaya also has a very controversial, yet not necessarily orthodox, past, ranging from the use of slave labor and hostile race relations to the disregard of South Florida’s indigenous culture and history.  It is also, of course, only fitting that Vizcaya be named after Spanish settlers.  In addition, this imperialistic history can also be manifested through the transition of Tequesta Bay being renamed to Biscayne Bay.  While it may appear that this historical disregard towards minorities is only a thing of the past, this is not necessarily the case.  Systemic racism and worker exploitation are concepts that persist to the present day.  While it is still not to the same extent in present-day Western civilization, we are currently seeing a regression in our society to its historically racist roots of injustice, through the lens of systemic racism, voter suppression, and efforts of union busting. 

While walking through the halls of Vizcaya, I could not help but notice the aggrandizement of wealth and pretentiousness at the expense of the exploitation and abuse of these workers and its mirror on present societal issues.  As the wage gap in the United States becomes starker, the rich continue developing their wealth, and the poor continue to suffer at this expense; it is interesting to see how the same societal issues are manifested differently throughout time. 

For example, in the case of Amazon, founder Jeff Bezos has a net worth of over $122 billion.  However, this wealth comes at the expense of employees dealing with unfair working conditions.  This has led to a three year period of unionization within the company to ensure workers were not only being paid fairly, but their concerns regarding harassment, workplace injuries, and legal representation were being respected and addressed.  This could be mirrored to a similar, but clearly less extent, as millionaire James Deering furthered his acquisition of wealth.  At the same time, Afro-Caribbean workers were being treated terribly under his power, all at the expense of creating a gaudy mansion for a man to assert his wealth. 

While Vizcaya’s beauty was truly breathtaking and admirable, it is important to acknowledge not only the worker exploitation that went into its creation, but also how it can be used as a form of education to analyze the trends of how worker rights have evolved and continue to progress to the present day.  In other words, while places like Vizcaya can be admired for their beauty, the history of these establishments and forms of art should never be dismissed for their problematic pasts.

Work Cited:

Amazon Labor Union, https://www.amazonlaborunion.org/.

“Jeff Bezos.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, https://www.forbes.com/profile/jeff-bezos/?sh=3d03feb1b238.

“Vizcaya Museum and Gardensh;” Bailly Lectures, 15 Jan. 2023, https://baillylectures.com/miami/vizcaya/.

Katherine Mesa: Revolution as Text 2023

Photo by Katherine Mesa CC/4.0


Revolution As Text: Katherine Mesa of FIU, April 9th, 2023

By: Katherine Mesa

The French Revolution was a turning point in history where societal norms were being challenged, leading to the new conventions of society. One of the most prominent aspects of this revolution was the transformation on the topic of human rights and democracy. This renaissance of ideals resembles that of a sunrise, as pictured above. Violence and chaos always have a positive light that shines in the end with the start of a new beginning.  

Some aspects of the French Revolution can be synonymous with social and political movements in the United States today. For example, pre-revolution France consisted of society being confined into three social classes and the eventual overrule of hierarchical power. We are currently seeing challenges in societal norms in the United States, especially in regard to economic inequality and the disproportionate advances of power at the expense of the less fortunate. Some progressives, such as Bernie Sanders, are calling for a political revolution of the 21st century. Both the French and current-day advancements of political revolution are dealing with issues ranging from human rights, income inequality, social justice, feminism, and LGBTQ+ rights. While both deal with similar issues, the approaches and extent of issues are the main differentiating factors.    

When analyzing the ethics of violence being a justifiable approach to advancing human rights, it is a very difficult and controversial concept. I am a pacifist and do not believe war, murder, or violence are viable approaches to dealing with conflict. I believe Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous quote is an accurate reflection of this ideology: “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Violating human rights in order to further advance human rights is a hypocritical approach. I believe violence should be denounced in any shape or form.

However, that being said, some may argue that it is vital to acknowledge the instances where violence is deemed, to a certain extent, “appropriate.” A great example of this would be the French Revolution. Through all the violence and killing during this radical transition of humanity, there was light at the end of the tunnel, where the revolutionary changes that were enacted persist to the present day, which is also synonymous with World War II. In order to end the mass genocide of the Holocaust, war appeared to be the only feasible option, which in turn led to further death and atrocities. However, the end of World War II also led to transformational societal change, such as the creation of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

To conclude, while one may hope the progressions that have been made throughout history will bring violence and war to an end during the 21st century, this might not necessarily be the case as societal conflicts and hate appear only to be persisting. Therefore, I believe it is critical that we continue to denounce hate and violence to ensure the sacrifices and deaths of people in the past are respected to cultivate a more loving and peaceful society.

Work Cited:

“French Revolution .” History.com, A&E Television Networks, https://www.history.com/topics/european-history/french-revolution. 

Katherine Mesa: WWII As Text 2023

Photo by Katherine Mesa CC/4.0


WWII As Text: Katherine Mesa of FIU, April 9th, 2023

By: Katherine Mesa

War crashes like waves in the Atlantic, exposing humanity’s juxtaposition: heinous evil and unwavering compassion. While the lowest of waves may seem disheartening and hopeless, we can also see the best in humankind. 

While thousands of miles away, France and the United States have had a unique bond that has extended during their most adverse and horrid times. During the American Revolution and World War II, both countries have offered their support to one another through international collaboration and a unified goal for liberation, peace, democracy, and human rights.  

In times of conflict, it is imperative that there remains strong multinational ties amongst countries, not only from a governmental and international relations perspective, but also a humanitarian one. 

Having unified goals for the greater good has become such a crucial component of international and historical movements. It has highlighted the true testament of overcoming the adversaries associated with oppression. As governmental oppression, ethnic cleansing, human rights violations, and war continue to the present day, we need to be reminded of the goodness in the world and the role we play in advocating for the voiceless. In the end, by remaining silent in the light of oppression and injustices, we are taking the side of the oppressor. 

World War II spotlighted the horrors and evils society can endure while simultaneously shining a light on how humanity can come together. Sometimes the most tumultuous of times can bring out the best in people. For example, while people of the Jewish faith were heartlessly targeted and murdered, brave civilians used their privilege and risked their lives in order to shelter and protect these individuals. In the film, “Saving Private Ryan,” a bereaved mother loses three of her sons in battle, highlighting the hardships not only faced on a grand level, but also on a personal one. This highlights the human sacrifices made in the effort of liberation against evil Nazi totalitarianism. Despite the dangers of war, a group of soldiers sacrificed their own lives to save the remaining son and bring him home safely to his mother. 

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”

– G.K. Chesterton

Reflecting on the first half of this course, I cannot help but think about how far the world has come, yet how much more needs to be done in the name of human rights and peace. It is disheartening to see the current regression of policies in the United States, especially in Florida, towards a state of injustice. People tend to have a closed-minded view in the sense that governmental oppression only occurs in countries other than our own and fail to see all the horrors of our current state. Rather than allowing injustices to bring us down to a state of hopelessness, we need to use this to empower us to take action and prevent further atrocities from occurring. 

Do not underestimate the power a ripple can have in creating a tsunami of change in our world.

Work Cited:

Spielberg, Stephen, and Robert Rodat. Saving Private Ryan . DreamWorks Pictures, 1998. 

Katherine Mesa: Deering Estates As Text 2023

Photo by Katherine Mesa CC/4.0

“A Passageway to the Past”

Deering As Text: Katherine Mesa of FIU, April 16th, 2023

By: Katherine Mesa

Conservation. A passageway to the past that preserves and protects the delicate balance in our environment. A lens to how we view history in our ever changing world. The panoramic backdrop that shapes the minds of the future to gain a proper understanding of our history. Conservation is the source for which we can better prevent past mistakes of the world from recurring. We play an integral role in protecting and restoring our irreplaceable landmarks that are unique to our beautiful state.

When reading about the current initiatives and policies of Florida, which are attempting to erase or reform the way history is taught or viewed, I believe the idea of conservation becomes ever so important to ensure that our history is not suppressed. The Deering Estate is clearly an example of such preservation of history.

While one’s attention might immediately be drawn to Deering Estate and its anthropological history, I was more captivated by its surrounding features. As someone who has always had a love and passion for the environment and conservation, I found particular interest in the nature components of the estate. Walking through the hardwood hammock nature trail was a perfect vessel of reflection. I could not help but ponder how the environment is an ideal outlet to analyze history and its natural components.  

Untouched by the greedy industrialization of man, nature becomes a perfect channel to view the evolution of the world over time. By contrasting a century old estate with archeological remains dating back nearly 10,000 years, truly highlights the timeless beauty of the estate.     

Having volunteered at ZooMiami in high school, confirmed my passion for environmental conservation. To see the cumulative work of conserving acres of nature preserves across the South Florida community, including Deering Estate and our very own MMC campus, brings a great deal of hope toward the future of our Earth.  

Deering Estate also is a space for cultural and artistic expression. Not only from a historical perspective, but also from a modern perspective as it creates a space for local artists to highlight their work. Artistic preservation can be conducted through programs such as the Artists in Residence Program.  This is just one of the ways in which Deering Estate continues to expand in its cultural and artistic expansion in our community.  

Conservation and preservation of archeological/historic sites and the environment are imperative to educational pursuits in the true history of Miami. Learning and engaging during this walking lecture expanded my view on how art, nature, and history all play out in cultural awareness.      

To conclude, conservation can be viewed in such a dynamic and exciting way. Not only can it be seen from a cultural standpoint but also a historical and environmental one. Conservation is the ultimate passageway to the path of preservation. The Deering Estate clearly highlights the overarching theme of conservation throughout its remarkable premises. It also underscores the history of Miami from its renowned estate and neighboring Biscayne Bay, to the endless environmental foliage and the vast amount of wildlife, to the world of art that feeds our culture. We are the ones responsible for controlling the passageway to the past and preserving our future.

Work Cited: 

“Deering Estate.” Bailly Lectures, 15 Jan. 2023, https://baillylectures.com/miami/deering-estate/. 

“Deering Estate.” Greater Miami & Miami Beach, https://www.miamiandbeaches.com/l/attractions/deering-estate/2121.

Katherine Mesa: Departure As Text 2023

Photo by Katherine Mesa CC/4.0


Departure As Text: Katherine Mesa of FIU, April 23rd, 2023

By: Katherine Mesa

Reflecting on my initial views entering the course, I have found that many of my philosophies remain the same, but I have also had a growth in mindset. The nervousness I felt walking into the first day of class pondering about the trip remains constant; however, I have a more grounded mentality that is transitioning towards excitement, especially as we enter the final stretch before we embark. It makes me feel at peace knowing I get to share this once-in-a-lifetime journey with many kind and incredible people. 

I believe that in order to grow, we need to push ourselves out of our comfort zone. Staying stagnant will only leave us being the same person we were before. As human beings, we are meant to evolve, change perspectives, make mistakes, learn, and expand our minds to become the best version of ourselves. Studying abroad grants us the opportunity to not only educate ourselves on different cultures and people, but also grow from a personal standpoint. We each have our own strengths and potentials we need to utilize in order to enable the greatest impact on society; however, this can only occur by looking within ourselves and striving toward self-awareness.  

Given the current state of the world, we are seeing social movements at their peak. We must continue coming together to take action against injustice and protect human rights. Human rights issues have extended all throughout history, which is why it is imperative to learn from our past in order to reform systems of oppression and prevent them from continuing. That is why I believe this particular trip will be a very meaningful experience, as we will be able to better understand one of the worst instances of human rights violations in history. This will be a time of reflection as we see the contrast in how human beings can be conduits of such evil, yet also be champions for change and humanity. We have two ways to view the world: through a lens of negativity or optimism. When injustice is apparent, we must utilize our power, privilege, and voice in order to create a lasting impact on the world. France is a perfect intersection of cultural enrichment and historical significance to expand on the contrasts within humanity.  

The picture above was taken on a recent trip I took to a conference. I believe it resembles a perfectly depicted sunset over the horizon, exemplifying not only growth, but resetting our minds and intentions toward something beyond ourselves. My intentions for this trip are to expand my mind on what it means to be human. Are we living our lives to the furthest of our potential? Are we being mindful of who we are and how we treat others? Are we utilizing our time and space to be purposeful in our mission to help the greater good of society? These are some of the questions I begin to ask myself when analyzing humanity and how we can be the change. I aspire that this trip will help me expand on these ideals and ensure I use my time on this Earth with the most meaning possible. 

Author: katiemesa

Katherine Mesa is a second-year student at Florida International University studying Political Science with concentrations in Civic Leadership and Human Rights. She is interested in pursuing a career in the non-profit sector working on community outreach and engagement.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: