Maria Mercedes is a 25 year old biology student. Her dream is to go to med-school. She moved to Miami in 2019 but she was born and raised in Venezuela, that is the place she feels most at home in. She likes to paint and spend time with her dog. And she loves to study! Any new information that you give her she will be happy to hear it and make it her own.
Encounter as text
“Different Type Of Planning”
By Maria Mercedes Corredor of FIU – January 2023
For me, planning a trip is half the fun. I do research on the sites and the people I may find. I look up good restaurants and things to do that will scratch the nerdy itch to know everything. However, this trip to Italy is different. Everything has already been planned by the professor and faculty. But that does not mean that I cannot have fun with planning, it just means that the planning will look different for me. Instead to looking for places to visit and planning tours, I get to comfortably sit back and read books and watch movies about what I will see in Italy. It is awesome!
Before going into the first official class for Italia study abroad, I was already excited! After the class I was what come after excitement. When I think of Italy, I think mostly about the people I know from there. My best friend in high school came from Italy and traveled to Milan and Rome a lot. She aways came back with stories that fascinated me. We became so obsessed with the country that we forced our parents to enroll us in Italian classes. We would also sit in her room and listen to Italian opera (cannot say why but it made sense at the time). My friend, her name is Laura, used to tell me about the places she would visit with her family and the food she would eat (I am extremely excited about the food); but mostly she talked about how everything had a history. How she walked the streets of Rome, and her dad (a historian) would tell her who walked those same streets hundreds of years before.
I cannot believe that now it is me who will make those walks! When I think about Italy I inevitable think of Laura and I recall how it felt, being 6-7 years old, hearing her stories and wishing I could go there. It is almost 20 years later, but I am doing it!
Photos by: Laura De La Cruz
Mostly, what I expect from the program is to be able to immerse myself in Italian culture. To practice the language and learn a lot of new stuff! The place I am most interested in visiting is Pompeii because of its uniqueness. I know truly little about their story, but I do know that when Mount Vesuvius exploded, the whole city was buried in lava and hence preserved like it was for the rest of time. That is amazing. I am sure that seeing the people that died there will be very emotional and shocking. However, I am also excited to see the way they lived all those years ago. The houses and brick roads. And learn more about the history of Pompeii.
In preparation for our trip, I am reading the books assigned and doing my own research on questions that come to mind like: “Was Pompeii Magnus named after Pompeii the city? Or was it the other way around?” (Turns out they have nothing to do with each other). The planning for this trip is nothing like any of the planning I have done before. But it is because of its uniqueness that I am enjoying it so much.
Ancient Rome As Text
“Am I american Or Roman?”
By Maria Mercedes Corredor of FIU – February 2023
As an immigrant, I struggle to find my place in this society. I have realized that I cannot do that without first reflecting on who I am and who I want to become. The only way I know how to do that is to look back in history and ask myself: where do I come from? For me that question has several answers. My dad is half Colombian and half Dominican, but he was born and raised in Venezuela and considers himself criollo (Venezuelan term for people that grew up in small town or close to the beach). My mom is 100% Venezuelan and a specific type of Venezuelan. Both her parents are from cities close to the Andes Mountains in west Venezuela. They speak, dress, and eat differently. But it is necessary to note that my maternal grandfater grew up in Mexico and my materal grandmother was raised in London. What a mess right? I, on the other hand, was born in Caracas, raised on a dairy farm in the mountains and now I live in Miami, and I am currently wondering: “My blood is already a mixture of nationalities, and, now am I also Roman?”
My whole life has been a melting pot of cultures and I love it. But that did make it a little bit difficult to define my identity. During my time in Venezuela, (I lived there since I born until 22 years old) I studied my country’s history. In school I learned that in the 1800’s Venezuela fought an independence war with Spain and won. I spent all my childhood learning our shared history with the Iberic peninsula and how the story of my country is intricately linked to the story of Spain. I was also lucky to learn details from my grandparent’s culture since I spent a lot of time with them, and I have even had the opportunity to travel to Colombia, Dominican Republic and Mexico. I also used to spend summers in “Los Andes”, my maternal grandparents’ land and got to experience first had their culture and how I fit in it. I always considered myself American. But by I do not mean that I considered myself from the US. I do not think the term “American” is a good term to refer to people that are ONLY from the United States. America is a big continent that goes from Alaska to Patagonia and sometimes people forget that. I am American because I have blood from so many countries in America, not because of a US passport. So, by the time I turned 20 I thought I had myself pretty figured out. Who I was and most importantly, who I wanted to be.
However, that drastically changed when I moved to the US. Here, in Miami, I found myself very confused. Speaking another language and trying to fit into society without losing my roots and identity proved to be an exceedingly challenging task that I am still trying to manage. Nonetheless, history has once more proven useful to me. After arriving to the United States, I made it my mission to learn as much as I could from its history, after all; this is my new home. Recently I found out that everywhere in US history there are odes to Italy and specially Rome. The way the founding fathers are portrayed in paintings and sculptures is the same as Roman Emperors. Tall and powerful on the back of a horse. Our form of government, the division of powers and a Senate were first born in Rome! The way we design our important buildings like the Supreme Court and the Capitol, also Roman!
I have also done research on the other countries that form my identity, and they too have similarities with Ancient Rome. The coat of arms of The Great Colombia (a country that used to include the territory that today is Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama) has roman fasces in them. All these countries also have Congress and Senate and sculptures of leaders on horseback saluting their people. There is a statue of Simon Bolivar (the Liberator of South America) portrayed exactly like a Roman Emperor and it stands in Central Park, New York City and I found another one in Washington D.C.!
I have noticed details like this everywhere and it is extremely interesting to me how all these cultures are intricately linked. I want to keep studying Ancient Rome so I can get closer to the culture that had such an enormous influence in the Western world. I want to understand their purpose and hopefully get closer to mine.
Moreover, watching the HBO Rome show and reading “Julius Caesar” by Shakespeare introduced me to a whole new world of Ancient Roman culture. Since I have always been fascinated with history, I had already watched this show on my own a while ago. Watching it for the second time made it easier for me to notice more details and pay attention to things I had overlooked the first time around. Like the complicated social structure in which some slaves had better social standing than other slaves and could even earn money and buy land. How Romans had propaganda like: “True Roman bread for True Romans.” How open their sexuality was and how easy it was for nobles to get divorced and remarried. The close relationship citizens felt to their Republic is also something I notice in both U.S. and Venezuela (sure it looks different but it is the same concept). In conclusion, I will continue to study Roman culture so I can keep looking for similarities of culture between them and America (The continent of America). And hopefully keep defining who I am and how I fit into this world.
Historic Miami As Text
“MIAMI: PARTY OR LOVE?”
By: Maria Mercedes Corredor of FIU. February 2023.
Miami is a party city. It is filled with famous people and there is a vibrant nightlife that attracts young people. However, few of us stop to think about the historical significance of Miami. This Friday we got to walk around downtown Miami and learn about many interesting facts about its history.
Turns out that Miami has a rich history that dates to the Tequesta, the native tribe that walked this land approximately 500 BCE (way before any famous person). And this was not the only native tribe that lived here, so did the Miccosukee and the Seminoles. These last two were chased south during the Seminole wars that ended in 1835. But in between natives, there were so many people that inhabited Miami. There were the Spaniards, the English and then the Spaniards again. Finally, Florida became part of the United States in 1845 when the land was bought by the Union.
Consequently, we saw people like Charles Deering, Julia Tuttle and Henry Flagler make their way down to this peninsula that was attractive due to the weather not found in the north. The story that I found most surprising was that of William Wagner. During the walk we got to visit his old homestead and I learned about his life. As a German immigrant, William enrolled in the US Army to try and make something out of his life. However, he was soon hurt and got an honorable discharge. Without much else in the country, he decided to stick with the troops but as a supplier. He went into the trade business and became so successful that he even followed the Army from New York to Miami when the Seminoles Wars started. Nonetheless, this was not the part of his story that I found fascinating; Wagner was in love with an older lady that had African descent and two children from a previous marriage. During that time, inter-racial marriages were absolutely prohibited, and Wagner was not able to marry his love, Eveline. However, this did not stop them. They moved down to Florida and settled in Miami in a house (that I had the pleasure of seeing!) by the river. There, they made a life and lived together for years. But their love story doesn’t end there. After encountering a Seminole troop -mind you, it’s the middle of the war and the Wagners are on the US side of the conflict- Willian offers them food and shelter and so they begin a relationship of peace and understanding. They had their own dinner which reminded me a lot about Thanksgiving, and I wondered why we don’t celebrate something so beautiful like this Wagner-Seminole night of peace. Being as it may, that gesture marked a new beginning in the conflict. From then on, the Wagners became the midpoint between both sides. I think that locally, at least in Miami, we should be celebrating this wonderful gesture that goes to show how much of an influence love can make.
In conclusion, it was impressive to learn how the Wagners managed to keep an atmosphere of love and peace around them even against all odds. They even lost a child to conflict! A murder that never saw justice due to racial injustice. But William and Eveline, faithful to love, managed to get their family through such hardships. After Friday, I will be telling this love story to all my friends. To show them that Miami is not just a “party city” but a city of history and love.
Italia America as Text
“MULTiCULTURALISM IN ITALIA REFLECTED IN THE U.S.”
By: Maria Mercedes Corredor of FIU. March 2023.
Multiculturalism is a variety of two or more societies in some area or nation. U.S. is the immigrant nation since most people in the U.S. are immigrants or descendants of immigrants. They come from various countries and cultural groups. They have different languages, educational backgrounds, traditions, beliefs and faiths. This melting pot of cultures reminds me of Classical Rome. For a long period of time, Rome was open to immigrants and workers from other places. This set the circumstances so people from all over Italy and Europe and even Africa! came to this wonderful city. These people came from different tribes and cities and brought unique cultures and languages with them that made Rome the hub of multiculturalism. Just like the U.S. is today.
Years after Rome fell, the Renaissance appeared as a movement that swept through Europe and the world. And with it, the importance of multiculturalism. When you hear the term “Renaissance” and you picture a piece of art, you are probably picturing the Renaissance style that was developed in Florence. This style became the dominant art style during this period. It is important to note that at this time, Italy was divided into several different city states. Each one with its own government, culture, economy and artistic style. Like what we have in the U.S. today. Granted, we are not “different city states” but we do have states organized into a federal system in which each region is responsible for certain laws and regulations. Moreover, each state had its own particularities. If we think about it, there are even local traditions that some cities celebrate that others don’t. Like for example Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Groundhog Day in Pennsylvania and Chery Pit spitting in Michigan. Additionally, we have different artistic styles and sometimes even different languages! Miami is a Spanish Language predominant city, there are several towns in Maine where French is the predominant Language and communities all over the U.S. that still speak Apalachee or Navajo.
Just like in Renaissance Italy, the current United States society is divided into groups that somehow are all linked together. People that share a distinctive ethic or national background group together and tend to have a correspondingly distinctive worldview. Consequently, each group expresses themselves in their own way, ranging from terms of a relationship, customs, gestures used, house design, attitudes and cuisine. Nonetheless, when all those elements come together is when we form the United States if America. Since we are not just one culture anymore, we are a mixture of different parts of the world that have become our own. This is the same phenomenon that happened during Renaissance in Italy when cultures merged together in art till the point that new styles were created just to meet the explosion and mix of cultures that emerged.
Nonetheless, there are some remarkable differences between Roman culture and us. There is the obvious polytheism distinction in which Romans believed in different deities and the average U.S. citizen believes in one or none. This religious difference is maintained with Renaissance Italy, since this was the age of Roman Catholicism characterized by the belief in the oneness of God and the Trinity and the incarnation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God but mainly, it was linked to government and power. This last part is where the key difference is found between Roman Catholics and U.S. religion. In the U.S. religion is not linked to government, in fact, there is a clear distinction between church and state. Moreover, there is not a single religion to rule over the land, there are various beliefs and branches or religions that vary depending on the person practicing it.
Multiculturalism is not only important to have a diverse society that progresses, but it is necessary. Without it, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes and be stuck in a pattern without seeing the wonders of those around us and possibly adapting them and using them to our favor.
History Channel. (n.d.). Ancient Rome – Facts, Location, & Timeline – HISTORY. Retrieved March 11, 2023, from https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-rome/ancient-rome
Is American culture “just” a melting pot? – Youth Voices. (2017, October 4). Youth Voices. Retrieved March 11, 2023, from https://www.youthvoices.live/is-american-culture-just-a-melting-pot/
Volokh, E. (2015, January 27). The American tradition of multiculturalism. The Washington Post. Retrieved March 11, 2023, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/01/27/the-american-tradition-of-multiculturalism/
Vizcaya as Text
“I WISH I WAS AS RICH AS JAMES DEERING”
By: Maria Mercedes Corredor of FIU. March 2023.
Walking the halls of Villa Vizcaya, I can only think of one thing: “Man I wish I was a millionaire!”. This imponent villa with all its showmanship of wealth makes me wish I could participate. Last Friday I had the opportunity to visit the house of James Deering in Miami. It is a big villa that is arguably the birthplace of Miami as we know it.
The city of Miami has unique architecture, yet there is only one building that is an authentic Mediterranean revival structure. Everything that resembles Europe or Mediterranean architecture in Miami, was first done in Vizcaya. In the 1900’s landowner and businesswoman Mary Brickel owned most on the land in Miami. To bring millionaires into the area, she sold 140 acres to narcissistic and egotistic James Deering who along with his project manager Paul Chalfin set out to build the grandest display of wealth the area had ever seen.
After traveling around Europe for about three years, these two men had bought countless of artifacts and shipped them to South Florida. Their purchases ranged from rugs and trinkets to an entire fountain from a town square and 2,000-year-old table stands from Pompei. After their return, they started building a mansion and employed 1/10th of the population of Miami at the time. It is important to note that this working population was conformed mainly of Bahamians. Those are the workers that should be accredited to all the greatness of Vizcaya, after all, they are the ones that laid the rocks and planted the seeds day after day under the unforgiving sun. But, as history would have it, I was not able to find a single tribute to these people. Not a single part of Vizcaya refers to the history of the workers that built it. Part of my desire to become a millionaire is so I can change things like this. Seeing as the world (specifically Miami as an important part of a Capitalistic state) revolves around money; I am sure that the people that make decisions on this land today could be easily swayed with a sizable donation, to include Bahamians on the property and help up at least a plaque to them. Alas, I am not rich. However, I can’t really blame contemporary owners for this since the mansion was built to keep lower class people out! James Deering, in his ever growing complex of greatness, built a moat around his house that he filled with cacti to keep intruders out. So, basically, to keep lower class people out. People that didn’t deserve to share his greatness. Unbelievable right?
Nonetheless, depending on how we see it, the legacy of Deering is not only bad. It is also filled with joy, happiness and partying. One could even argue that the fame of Miami as a “party city” comes from Vizcaya Villa. This was one of the parts that enchanted me most on this day trip. On every hallway and room, I could see myself wearing a grand and puffy dress attending a grand and puffy party. Indulging in gossip and enjoying the pleasures of the world. And for a millisecond that life sounds better than going over books and assignments and continually worrying about grades and GPA. But then I remember that there is a big chance that I was not the fancy lady wearing the fancy dress but instead the servant that goes unseen and is mistreated daily. And then I can appreciate the beauty and freedom of being a college student in the 21st century. Nevertheless, when I think of myself as a college student or as a fancy party woman or even as a servant; one constant remains. In all those scenarios I am always thinking: “Damn, I wish I was as rich as James Deering”.
Renaissance as Text
“ThE RENAISSANCE MAN IS A WOMAN NOW”
By: Maria Mercedes Corredor of FIU. April 2023.
Coming from a family rooted in academia, I can say that my life has been deeply influenced by the Renaissance. Since I can remember I have been told about the “Renaissance man”, an educated person that has many interests and is an expert on many subjects. My dad always told me that whatever I did in life, I should always aim for happiness and balance. Homework and school activities are important but so are friends and family. When I was little, he used to explain it to me in terms of the Renaissance and the highly coveted “Renaissance man”. I was told to read as much as I could and be charismatic while also maintaining my roots and remaining humble. To reach as high as I wanted in the science world and learn all the intricate details of biochemistry cycles but to never forget the arts and overall wellness of my body. All my life I’ve tried to find that balance, to reach closer to the idea of a “Renaissance man”. But imagining the “perfect human” as a man always made me uncomfortable, maybe it is because I am a girl and I identify as one, but I started to think of it as a woman. An imaginary Renaissance woman that had found the perfect balance in her life. She knew science and was captivating, she could paint or sculp and even sing! She had perfect physical form and could run a three-minute mile. And so, I have spent my life in search of that balance.
When I was in high school, all my favorite subjects were science courses. I was in the math club and taking AP Chemistry. But in an attempt to be more artistic and balanced, I also took guitar lessons, practiced gymnastics and took part in the school newspaper. This science/arts balance became more difficult when I started medical school in Venezuela since I became absolutely consumed by medicine and did nothing else but study the books and pass the exams. Nonetheless, once I got accustomed to the rhythm of medical school, I tried to regain the balance. The school I was enrolled in is named after Dr. Jose Maria Vargas, a medical doctor that was also the president of Venezuela in 1835. And he had a famous saying that is engraved on the entrance of my school: “El que solo de medicina sabe, ni de medicina sabe”. Roughly translated this means “He who only knows of medicine, not even of medicine knows”. I remember walking through those words every day and feeling like I had to do more. I started looking up to Dr. Vargas as the embodiment of the “Renaissance man” and as a role model. So, trying to make him proud, I joined the universities debate team and started learning laws and how to apply them in debate settings. And thanks to Dr. Vargas and his words, I started a path that led me to the World University Debating Championship in Den Hague. The first time I traveled to Europe was to represent Venezuela in a debate championship as a medical student. And it felt great! It also pushed me to give back to my community and I volunteered at children’s hospitals for years. Now that I am in the US, I try to encompass the idea of the “Renaissance woman” on my everyday life. In college I got my AS in engineering and participated in debate and won statewide competitions. And now that I am in FIU, I am part of the honors college that guides me take classes outside of my major and become more and more cultured. I have also started training for marathons and working out more because there is no way I can talk about the “Rennaissance woman” without including fitness and health.
From left to right, top to bottom: my identification card in the 2017 World Universities Debating Championship, me volunteering at a children’s hospital, me at the finish line of my first marathon, me painting as a hobby, me graduating from college, me assisting in a C-section.
Moreover, I am now a biology major, but medical school has always been my goal. And the influence that the Rennaissance had on medicine is immeasurable. Starting with the big shift from studying nature to focusing on the human body. During the Rennaissance, the human body became the center of the arts and studies. We see this in Michaelangelo’s David that gives us the “ideal” male body, presenting it as powerful, fearless, and heroic; with the perfectly sculpted muscles and veins. We then have breakthroughs in anatomy and physiology. Before the Rennaissance people believed that the body was controlled by “humors” and that the imbalance of those “humors” meant disease. That is why they did crazy things like a blood drainage to treat a fever. But with the Rennaissance came an understanding of anatomy and scientist like Vesalius, Pare and Harvey with their discoveries of detailed anatomy, surgical techniques and circulatory systems respectively, reshaped medicine. Everything that came after was based on the new knowledge found during the Rennaissance. Medicine, as me know it today, would not have been possible without the Rennaissance. And my life, as I know it today, would not have been possible either.
So, the Renaissance has not only influenced history and medicine, but the individual life of people roughly 750 years into the future. If my parents hadn’t pushed me to find the balance that the idea of a “Renaissance man” embodies, then I would have never done half the things I’ve done. I would probably never have joined a debate team and I would be happy in the misery of not knowing anything outside the scope of medicine. I would not have learned by experience that such a balance is not something you reach or gain once and forever hold. It is something you fight for every day. And balance is not found at the end of the race, it’s found in the struggle. Being a “Renaissance woman” is in the choices you make every day and the happiness you find in the moments that morph into your everyday life.
Departure as Text
By: Maria Mercedes Corredor of FIU. April 2023.
Three months ago, when I was asked to write about my Italy trip, I wrote “Different Type of Planning”. Where I expressed how genuinely excited, I was to get to plan this trip and get ready for it. However, a week after I wrote that I found out that if I don’t want to take a gap year between graduation and starting medical school, I basically had to take the MCAT now. Like yesterday. Since I was not ready to take this big, scary test in January; and taking it when I came back home from Italy was too late in the cycle, I decided to give myself the entire Spring semester to study and I would take the exam the latest date I could before leaving for Italy.
At that point I had already bought my plane ticket, so the only problem was scheduling the exam before that. I am not sure yet if it was luck or madness, but I found a spot for the day before leaving. And I took it! This way I gave myself as much time as possible. Sadly, this meant that I spent the entire semester studying for the MCAT and worrying about it. I had no time or energy left to plan for the trip. I could not do all the things I set out to do during my Encounter as Text. The only times I would allow myself to get excited and think about the trip was during Friday classes. When we all got together and discussed what we were doing before or after classes, my classmates gave their ideas or sent videos they found of places they wanted to visit, and the professor spoke about the wonderful places and the interesting facts behind them. And so, Fridays from 12:30 to 3 pm, I let myself dream and make little plans with my classmates. I got to know them better and dare I say: even make friends! I am excited to solidify these friendships during the summer.
Selfie attendance: March 10, Vizcaya & Museum Gardens
Moreover, all my financial resources also went towards the MCAT. I could have never imagined how expensive it would be to study for this mandatory test (Outrageous!). Registering for the MCAT alone is around $300 and then you need books and maybe tutors. And since I needed a lot of help to get to my desired score, all my money went into that. Meaning to say that I had no money to purchase the things I needed for the trip. I had wanted to get a new bag and walking shoes, and maybe a FannyPack and clothes! I had to give all of that up to focus on my studies.
But not everything is bad and gray. After working extra hours at the office and cutting back on some things, I was able to purchase the essential things and I feel ready to take on this adventure! I am excited to take the MCAT (basically the culmination of my pre-med career) and leave for Italy THE NEXT DAY! It is going to be a fun and exciting week and I am looking forward to all of it. Turns out that, even with the minimum amount of planning, things can still work out.