Nakeia Martin: Miami as Text 2023

Photograph taken and edited by Nakeia Martin/ CC by 4.0

Nakeia Martin is a junior majoring in architecture at Florida International University. She wants to be an international architect within one of many fields of the industry. Nakeia has many hobbies, including roller skating and crocheting, which are her main consistent efforts currently. Learning the history of Miami is very interesting to her because of the unique architectural styles that each relate to culture or time periods of the city which is a sight to behold.

“Encounter as Text”

Nakeia Martin of FIU at Florida International University, January 27, 2023

Coral Gables/ Photograph
taken and edited by Nakeia Martin/ CC by 4.0

Miami is a new city that is still growing, and many different cultures and niche groups can only thrive in this unique environment. As a new resident of the city, I sometimes have a different view of Miami as a whole than many of the people who have lived here for a long time. This is especially true when it comes to how the chaos really helps the city grow. Most of what I know about the culture is also strongly connected to the architecture of the neighborhood. The various sorts of design in Miami are what attracted me to the city, and vice versa for Spain when I visit there in June. I think Miami is the best city in the world to learn about architecture because there are so many different ways to design things in the city.

There are many different architectural styles in different parts of the city, including:

Vizcaya Museum is an example of Italianate architecture, Coral Gables has a Spanish style, Coconut Grove has Caribbean design,  Brickell has modern skyscrapers and walkability, Opa Locka has Arabic architecture, Miami Beach has the highest collection of Art Deco in the world, and lastly, there is the architectural attraction of abstract art in the Design District. While the art on the walls of Wynwood is impressive, the buildings themselves are more of a canvas than a design attraction.

With all these design factors in the radius of Vice City, what more can you want as a student, especially one that can relate these experiences back to the country, Spain, that has heavily influenced the city. The reasoning behind my travels to Spain isn’t because of a generational connection to their culture, as my country, Guyana, is the only English-speaking country in South America. Spain’s influence hasn’t spread everywhere, but I still love their unique style of architecture, especially in Andalusia, where many buildings have elements of Islamic architecture. While I don’t have a blood tie to Spain like many of the other students do, the research and passion I have for my upcoming profession have allowed me to become more versed in the impact of architecture on the skies, people, land, and trees of Spain.

The connection between Coral Gables and Spain is not only visible in their architectural styles, but also in the road names, which include Spanish cities such as Segovia. Initially, I was going to attend the IE University campus in Segovia to study the buildings firsthand; however, I ended up at the next best thing, Miami. The significance of this relationship stems from the fact that, for the past year, Coral Gables has served as an odd oasis to my dream of traveling the world, beginning with Spain.

Design is not limited to just architecture for me; it also includes fashion, which is why the wardrobe shortage may be the hardest factor about going on an adventure in Europe. While dressing up is another strong interest of mine, finding niche stores within Spain will be a major goal, in particular finding jewelry thrift shops. Everything with good design should follow a function, and the exploration of witnessing a new culture in Spain will definitely inspire me going forward on many fronts.

Transatlantic as Text

Nakeia Martin of FIU at Florida International University, February 12, 2023

Veronica during the 1960s in Antigua/ CC by 4.0

It is vital to have an understanding of the depth of the impact the Columbian Exchange had on the United States of America, not just Florida or even our city of Miami, in order to comprehend how these little impacts combine with a variety of civilizations to form a new culture. Potatoes are one example of a crop that is commonly considered to have originated in Europe due to the worldwide reputation that potatoes have, despite the fact that their origins actually lie in the Americas. The misunderstandings begin with the more insignificant components of these interactions, and they are clarified when more history is revealed. The fact that the majority of the evidence and information comes from the perspectives of the colonizers, documenting their views on the indigenous people and tribes, is one aspect of the topic that has really impacted my view on the history between the old and the new world. This has had a significant impact on my perspective because, because the written languages of natives were either lost from the beginning or may not have existed in their present form before the arrival of Europeans, a great number of native tongues are still spoken today, despite the fact that their frequency of use is decreasing over time. Oral history tracking, while ineffective, has the potential to unearth stories or recollections that certain individuals may have been told when they were children but have not yet found out about.

When I consider the historical artifacts that were used in this setting, a part of my mind also wanders to my own background and experiences. One of my numerous great-great-grandmothers was a member of a native community in the Amazon Rainforest known as the Auaké. This community is situated close to Venezuela, Brazil, and Guyana. The rest of my family came to Guyana and Antigua either as slaves or as indentured servants from India or Africa. According to my understanding, which is based on the more traditional method of keeping an oral record, that part of me is one location that the Spanish did not totally eradicate from our history. And this is discovered without the need for a DNA test to place numbers on who I am based on their data; we are able to keep our past alive thanks to the relationships that we have with our families.

Some of the films about these interactions, in particular, piqued my interest. In También la lluvia, the movie continuously contrasts how things didn’t change from 1492 to the 21st century. The history of comparing two horrific true pieces of history and how some of the characters that were trying to take advantage of the Bolivian natives had character development and understood they did not have a place to influence with money or even any power to help them The system can only be improved with a revolution or a good person from within, and unlike here in America, their choices are very limited. This contrast reminded me of one of my favorite bands that makes music to end division and showcase political issues, The Specials. The song “Vote for Me” was made 40 years after their disbandment, and it relates to the movie about how nothing changed and history repeats itself. The sad truth of how negative impact is a slow burner, even over decades.

“Historic Miami Walk as Text”

Nakeia Martin of FIU at Florida International University, March 11, 2023

Many cities are known for being “melting pots” of culture and history, but Miami takes this to a whole new level by making it more important for different groups to work together or even sometimes compete with each other in interesting ways. What surprised me the most was not the vast group of ethnicities and groups that migrate to Miami, which include the Tequesta, Spanish, Seminoles, Miccosukee, Bahamians, escaped slaves, British, Northern US settlers, Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and currently a large wave of Venezuelans. But how do the history, culture, and traditions of different ethnic groups live together in the same city? As a new resident, I view Miami with fresh eyes. Finding the city lines and how the residents may even speak different languages (Creole, English, and Spanish, including all the dialect distinctions as well) all within South Florida is a wonder to me compared to many other cities within the United States of America. The surprising aspect of the intertwined relationships of people from around the world mingling in Miami started over a hundred years ago. The oldest structure within the city, built in 1855, was owned by an interracial couple that migrated together from Georgia to Miami while the Seminole Wars were in action. William Wagner and his wife, Eveline Aimar, who was a Haitian widow with three sons before she married Wagner, were the first people to try to make peace between the Seminoles and the US soldiers. Their efforts were so successful that a third Seminole war in South Florida was stopped because of the relationships between the two sides. William was born in Germany and moved to the United States. He joined the army but got hurt and had to leave. Having strong connections with the army, he continued his travels with them to start a new life with his wife and kids. Americans wanted to arrest and harass their family because of racial tension and prejudice against people of color. This was a horrible situation, but they found peace in mixing cultures, both inside and outside their family. I never expected an interracial couple in the 1800s, and the fact they prevented a war from happening because of their kindness gives me a strange sense of hope in people. If everyone was able to welcome others regardless of culture and try to be similar to the Wagner family, there would be fewer issues and hatred in this world. Having lived in Miami for a year and a half, placing myself and finding my community was a struggle. although through the lens of a historian. My move to Miami is only temporary for the remainder of my university days; it has a small impact outside of the tourist horde during Spring Break. However, in terms of my connection to the city, food and exploring the city’s art and architecture have led me to meet and learn about so many things within the short period I have lived here. This class has taught me that history is continuous and moves at times; it can show you the paradox and irony of our present day, especially when referring to the past for answers. Miami is a city full of people who moved there from other places. It is diverse and has a different culture from the rest of the country, but that is also part of its beauty.

“Magic Realism as Text”

Nakeia Martin of FIU at Florida International University, March 12, 2023

The novel 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967) had an upcoming sense of understanding yet unfamiliarity throughout the entire text. One of my favorite aspects and examples of magic realism is when Rebecca, a woman who appears without origin or reason, enters town and gives the entire population a sickness with her premonition of insomnia which includes amnesia. In our reality, the relationship between the two has a connection to the resting state of the mind, which allows the reader to create a sense of understanding of the dramatic effect she has on the residents. Insomnia is an illness that seems mystical all by itself, as there are moments when no one can fully cure it, and one day the illness is gone entirely. Exactly how the gypsy cured the illness out of the blue with their antidote for the town The unexplainable illness in the real world is described in this twisted fantasy version of the world we live in as being caused by a magic-related aspect. I believe magic realism is like a film covering the reality we know, and when trying to peer in, at times it’s clear and other times it’s not, which is a literary aspect of dimension and applies to an amazing read. In my everyday life, I don’t believe I see the roots of magic realism at all; however, this could also be because I don’t know the tiny details of Latin American culture to understand whether what I am viewing is actually influenced by magic realism. I believe the only details I can view as having magic realism are articles of culture, whether pop culture or even traditional aspects. It could be a painting on a wall filled with symbolic images I do not understand because it is not my culture. And I believe that, at most, the only ones I may be able to recognize are the symbolic items devoid of folk tales. As folk tales were possibly the embodiment of magic realism before the phrase was coined to a certain degree, they were filled with unexplainable aspects to teach a real lesson at the end. Upon researching more magic realism novels, I came across the novel Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (1989). Reading the description was very interesting to me because of how the energy we give out can be placed on other people. I believe this is true, which is why I try to be positive or even neutral if I can. The short summary of the novel is about a woman who cooks for others; however, the fluctuations of her emotions are infused within her food, leaving an effect on the people she’s serving. A simple concept with a deep involvement of culture, relationships, and emotions is what magic realism is to me, with the twist of not explaining certain unnatural aspects because in this novel it’s their everyday life and there’s no need to explain what is normal. Because of 100 years of solitude, the novel has influenced me to explore this genre for myself.

“Vizcaya as Text”

Nakeia Martin of FIU at Florida International University, March 19, 2023

In my opinion, the Vizcaya Villa was a conjunction of art and prestige that a diverse group of people from a variety of different walks of life. During the construction of the villa, it was abundantly clear that no consideration was given to the lifestyle or the dynamics of the original history of Miami. The estate’s owner, James Deering, romanticized European ideals with victory triumphs, Greek methodology, and Parisian gardens to his liking, which included his hidden prohibition wine cellar within the outdoor stairway. The villa is brimming with art, the culture of history’s masterpieces that would be rare to see even in a museum behind a glass wall, but here it’s within a couple of feet of us, surrounding us with walls, paint, statues, and glory. Every time I look at Vizcaya and wish I could enamor this amount of detail in every corner of the walls like James Deering, I remember all the mistrust, crudeness, and possibly obscene personality James Deering most likely possessed in order to amass all this wealth. Not because of his achievements, but because of how he attempted to construct a moat to keep the locals surrounding his property out, as well as the disrespect of cultural symbols plastered on walls and used as decorations because he “just liked it.” Here are a couple of examples: Ancient Roman infant sarcophagi, the base of an Egyptian podium, a copy of a victory war triumph, and Paline de Casada at the dock. The amount of money it took to design and construct this villa is more than I can imagine at a time when most houses were simple, possibly with a farm nearby within Miami during this period. The fantasy of bringing European architecture and a distorted version of their culture to the other side of the globe was so far removed from ancient buildings that weren’t Tequesta monuments, that the need for aging was created just for his house. This technique was later used to inspire “The City Beautiful,” Coral Gables, and the small Spanish-inspired cityscape using these techniques of artificial aging on buildings and paint. The romance of Europe can never leave the hearts of those that visit, yet that does not mean it needs to overtake and erase the originality of the city itself. Miami has one of the oldest cities, Coconut Grove, which maintains a structure with the true history of different people settling in the city. However, because Miami is a city of migrants, it has created its own unique blend, which has continued over time. The only downside is how much is going to twist into “I like it, I want it, and I don’t need to understand the significance of it” in Miami before it’s enough. As a new resident within the city, I never heard of the Tequestas, but it seems even in the local schools within Miami-Dade County, it’s not taught at all. The connection between learning more about outside wars and the history of wars against Native Americans in the United States and not knowing about the ones that originated in your local area is somewhat symbolized in the Vizcaya Villa. The Villa is using money to cover up history, and they only understand the world they want to live in, not the reality.

“Deering Estate as Text”

Nakeia Martin of FIU at Florida International University, April 16, 2023

The order in which the analysis of the Deering Brothers’ influence on the estates was presented compared the two homes and displayed what each of them liked and what kind of person they were based on their previous houses. This comparison between the estates displayed the differences and similarities between the brothers. The experience of displaying such a strong perspective of yourself within a structure stirred up my fire for becoming an architect and fueled my desire to one day end up living in a home that is unmistakably mine. The Deering Estate is much smaller than Vizcaya, but I still think of it as a large home because of how much land it has compared to the size of the house. This gives the scene a different energy than the larger, more beautiful houses in Coral Gables. An aspect of the estate that truly interested me is the hand-carved sculptures above each column lining the exterior part of the estate. each with an animal that can relate to the culture and territory of Miami and the Caribbean. An island in question whose residents have greatly contributed to both Vizcaya and the Deering Estate is the Bahamians, who resided in the area before the Deering Brothers designed their homes there. The majority of the building’s workers were Bahamians, and as a result, each sculpture and stone had Caribbean influences due to their creation by Bahamians. Regardless of whether the owners wanted to “bring Europe” to Miami, the effect of the craftsmen is still shown in the art itself. Each pillar was decorated with parrots, peacocks, monkeys, eagles, lizards, and maybe even more animals I didn’t know. The animals reflected in the carvings are also found in the environment of Miami itself, although I don’t know if there are any native monkeys in the city. James Deering had a monkey island just for showing off on his boat rides through his property. The Deering Estate was essentially one of true understanding of collections of art, to the point where it is currently used as a gallery for many artists’ exhibits today. The gathering room on the left side of the entrance possibly called a salon, was to welcome the guest and view all the art that cluttered the wall from ceiling to floor; however, all of his original pieces have been sold off since he died. His respect for art helps us understand how the Moors, who took over Spain, influenced the sculptures and arches that Charles Deering used to copy a villa. Cultures always mix and change over time, and the political and racial discrimination of the original owners was not well reflected in their morals. In an architectural sense, the merging of cultures never overwhelms one or the other because they are always a blend of so much more history that has come before them. Even the pillars as they were first seen in Egypt, the onion arches of Islamic art, sculptures, and Spanish architecture create the beauty of the Deering Estate.

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