Sofia Natalia Meyer: Miami as Text 2023

(Selfie by Sofia Meyer/ CC by 4.0)

About Me!

Sofia Natalia Meyer is currently a second year Honors Student pursuing a degree in both Psychology and Natural and Applied Sciences on the Pre-Med track with a certificate in Health Humanities. Sofia enjoys her time helping others by volunteering and fueling her passion for medicine. Despite her pale exterior, her family is actually from Puerto Rico and further back from España and Las Islas Canarias. She also enjoys learning about crystals, reading, and spending time with people she loves love. During her study abroad experience, she hopes to learn about a country that has given her a family history.

Encounter as Text

“Las Conexiones” by Sofia Meyer of FIU on Jan. 27, 2023

(Mi Familia, Collage by Sofia Meyer/ CC by 4.0)

From a very young age, I have been drawn to España and all it has to offer. This varies from the culture, food, people, and environment. My family is from Puerto Rico and have ancestors that come from España and Las Islas Canarias. My grandparents, particularly my paternal grandmother, have always been a driving force in my life and going to España feels like another way I can connect with them now that they have passed. My grandmother Silda Meyer, who I will refer to as Mama for the rest of this entry, always spoke about the country with such a love and reverence that only makes me want to visit it more. I hope when I am there, I can honor my grandmother by buying a keepsake I can have with me for the rest of my life.

This is not the only reason why I want to travel to España. I also adore food, and as a Hispanic person this is a major part of my culture. My parents and I love trying new places and ordering tapas style. It is exciting to go somewhere where the food scene is nothing short of incredible. I also love to cook. Mama and my other grandmother, Isabel, were some of the best cooks I will ever meet. Their food brought me comfort and they taught so many important and valuable lessons while cooking. Food is a central part of my family and I look forward to learning more about Spanish food while in España.

There is a mixture of fear and motivation when it comes to visiting a new country on an entirely different continent. I have been fortunate enough to have visited numerous countries in Europe, the Americas, and the Caribbean. However, I have never been to España which is yet another reason for selecting this program. It is a bit nerve racking because I have never traveled this far without my parents before, so it is definitely something outside of my comfort zone. But I am a firm believer that comfort zones were designed to keep changing throughout someone’s life.

I don’t know much about España other than some general history. I am excited to learn more about this country that contains so many roots in my life, like my family and my birthplace Miami. Like I mentioned above, I also have never had the opportunity to visit España, so I am really looking forward to discovering a completely new country. España brings an image of the old meeting with the new. Its long history has long influenced many societies and cultures in the world, but it also has moved forward into the modern century. It seems like it was able to keep its historical beauty while integrating modern influences.

My expectations of this program are primarily to learn and enjoy myself. I expect to gain knowledge and a new perspective on a country I know very little about. The priority of this course is to learn, but I am also looking forward to enjoying myself. I have already started making connections with my fellow travelers and I can’t wait to travel with them. I am most looking forward to visiting Barcelona. From what I have seen and read about the city, I feel like I would really enjoy all it has to offer when it comes to food and culture. I am excited to see the Park Guell and the Earth Fair. It seems like a city that incorporates the old with the new, which is one of the main components of the course. It is as if Barcelona culminates the course as both an Ida and Vuelta.

Deering Estate as Text

“descubrir” by sofia meyer of fiu on apr. 16, 2023

The Deering Estate Trip (Collage by Sofia Meyer, CC by 4.0)

Our class’s first excursion together was to the Deering Estate. Here we took a nature hike and discovered that the Estate is more than just an older home. It holds the site to one of the most unique places to visit in Miami. There is an impressive estate that contains architecture styles from numerous cultures, like Bahamian, Spanish, and Islamic. The house was created to be a retreat for Charles Deering, a man of immense culture, and it became much more than that. The house itself as architecture from Bahamians. I had very little knowledge of the importance Bahamians had on the building of Miami. Slaves were brought to build impressive homes, estates, and even the infrastructure of Miami, to receive next to nothing in recognition. They were wonderful craftsman, even with the smallest of details. My favorite detail were the columns of the home and the cravings of different animals they had on them. The columns had everything from fruits to even a craving of a Bahamian. These details are so small and intricate but hold so much power in order to remember those who truly deserve credit. As we moved on from the home, we walked towards the back and encountered pure beauty. A man made waterway welcomed us to a stunning view. Here Charles Deering welcomed a number of guests, while also enjoying waking up to watch the sunrise. The water looked so fresh and clear; our class even had a manatee spotting. One cannot help but wonder what sea life Charles Deering would encounter during his time at the estate. Visiting places like the Deering Estate truly put time in a perspective and give you a newfound appreciation for what you have.

The next part of the hike, the most challenging for me at least, was through the forest next to the estate. Here our class climbed through different areas of land to reach a lagoon. We discovered numerous artifacts from the Tequesta, an indigenous tribe that was completely wiped out. This was the very first time I had ever heard of this tribe, and I was completely shocked. Growing up in Miami, I would have expected to at least hear of this tribe once or twice, but I never did. Professor Bailly then showed us Tequesta artifacts that are right by the lagoon. These tools were used for a number of daily tasks, like eating, hunting, and building. It was surreal being able to hold tools that were used centuries upon centuries ago. Putting it in perspective that I was walking were the Tequesta, the Conquistadors, the Bahamians, and Charles Deering was incredibly impactful. It was also so impactful to discover this site was just a thirty minute drive from where I was born and raised.

This first excursion really opened my eyes to what is to come from the study abroad experience. I am going to be able to put myself in the shoes of others. I have the opportunity to truly learn, grow, and get outside my comfort zone. After the trip to the Deering Estate, I cannot wait to share with others what I have learned and hopefully encourage them to get out of their comfort zones too.

Transatlantic Exchange as Text

“Reconocer” by sofia n. meyer of fiu on feb. 12,2023

(An Old Spanish Church, Photo by John Tewell/ CC by 2.0)

The Transatlantic Exchange is a conflicting topic for me for numerous reasons. The largest reason, and arguably the most obvious, if it weren’t for the Transatlantic Exchange I would not be here today. My Puerto Rican heritage stems from Spanish ancestry, so it makes up a big part of why I am here. Not to mention the Transatlantic Exchange brought important food to and from España, it is hard to imagine what the world would look like today without this major event occurring.

There are major negatives when discussing the Transatlantic Exchange, and the biggest being the treatment of the Natives. When the Spanish arrived and conquered Native land, they did so in a harsh way. Mass genocides and atrocities, like rape and spreading of diseases, were committed. The Spanish were so determined in spreading what they felt was right, they seemed to have forgotten that actual human beings were part of the consequence. Referring back to the diseases, the Spanish spread so many different diseases and nearly wiped out civilizations because of this. On top of this the murder the Spanish committed is another reason why certain civilizations collapsed (Nunn & Qian, 2010).

This is why I enjoyed watching the movies a part of our curriculum. Each movie was unique in their own right, but a common thread was present through all three movies. The common thread was the destruction and pain the Spanish caused. What I also enjoyed from the movies were the different perspectives offered. We were able to see the perspective of the Natives, the Spanish against the atrocities, and the future generations. Seeing these different perspectives brings to light a new way of examining the Transatlantic Exchange.

The first movie I watched was También La Lluvia. This movie was a fictional documentary filming the creation of a film. Essentially, viewers were able to view a film crew interacting with the locals in filming about the Spanish Conquistadors. What I really loved about this movie were all the juxtapositions that were made. Throughout the course of the film, it was known that the film crew were reflecting the Spanish and the locals were reflecting the Natives. Throughout the making of their film, the film’s directors lost sight in making a movie and people’s livelihood. The priorities were all over the place, and ultimately people’s true colors were shown. The concept of greed will always shine through. Towards the end of the movie, the film crew felt such a desperation to leave. I felt like the film’s creators wanted to flip the tables and have the “Spanish” feel the fear that the “Natives” felt. It truly was a beautiful film that causes one to wonder if people have really changed (Bollaín, 2010). The last two films we were assigned to watch, Apocalypto and The Mission, were also good movies, but I did not feel as strong of a connection like with También La Lluvia.

I feel with the connections I have made with the readings and movies, especially También La Lluvia, that I am a true product of the Transatlantic Exchange. My family’s roots stem from Spain and I was also born and raised in Miami. Though the Transatlantic Exchange caused so much hardship and turmoil, hopefully our generation can recognize this and strive to do better. To do better in terms of inclusivity and acceptance. If we can do better than our ancestors, then we can start to make up for the horrors committed. The biggest takeaway I have gained from learning about the Transatlantic Exchange is that we must learn about our past in order to improve our future.


Bollaín, Icíar, director. También La Lluvia = Even the Rain Película. También La Lluvia, 14 Oct. 2010,

Nunn, Nathan, Qian, Nancy. “The Columbian Exchange: A History of Disease, Food, and Ideas.” Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 24, no. 2, Mar. 2010, pp. 163–188.,

Historic Miami as Text


Brickell Bridge. (Photo by Sofia Meyer/ CC by 4.0)

Fear. The Unknown. Welcoming. Acceptance. Honor.

Throughout our lecture these five words swarmed my head as I dealt with hearing about Miami’s complicated beginnings. It is difficult to imagine that a city that contains so much culture and diversity can be traced back to extreme pain and suffering. There were numerous impactful moments of this Walking Lecture, and it really made me ponder how much of Miami do I really understand. As a self-proclaimed “Miamian,” I thought I knew more about the city I was born and raised in. But, oh how I was wrong.

I grew up thinking that the indigenous people that lived in Miami were the Miccosukee. My parents, grandparents, and I would drive around the reservation right off Krome avenue on Sundays after church. It was not until this course where I first heard of the Tequesta. Their history is quite impactful, and yet almost erased. They are the first true Miamians. I could not have imagined what it felt to be in my home and see Spanish ships wandering into Biscayne Bay. Not knowing what my future held. These are truly some of the bravest people in Miami’s history that need to be recognized so much more than they currently are. What really felt like a punch in the stomach is that a Whole Foods was built over a Tequesta Burial ground. There are numerous corpses, and all to commemorate them is a mural in the food market. To those who created the mural, it seems just. Yet, if we were in the same position as the Tequesta we would certainly think and feel differently.

The other most surprising aspect of Miami’s history were the driving forces of its founding: two women. Julia Tuttle and Mary Brickell. Julia Tuttle owned mass amounts of property in South Florida, and the majority of it would be soon known as Miami. After trying to convince railroads to extend their tracks into the South of Florida, it wasn’t until a freeze occurred and the only viable crops found were in Miami. Both Julia Tuttle and Mary Brickell were able to convince Henry Flagler to extend his railway system. It is disheartening that I had never heard those two names before this lecture. I had heard of Henry Flagler too many times to count, but the real difference was made by these two entrepreneurial women, whose names I will never forget.

I see myself in the History of Miami by honoring those who came before me. This lecture taught me so much about the home I love, and I will make sure that everyone around me knows of the Tequesta, Julia Tuttle, and Mary Brickell. Continuing and honoring their impact is how my Miami history will be seen. By learning, growing, and loving in Miami making it my home solidifies my future as part of Miami’s never-ending history. I hope that one day my grandchildren will remember my love of Miami, and that my education in this course will one day educate them. I am not sure where I’ll end up or who I’ll meet, but one thing is for sure: I will always be a Miami girl.

Magic Realism as Text

¿Que es la verdad?” by sofia meyer of fiu on mar.12, 2023

(Image by Garik Barseghyan from Pixabay/ CC by 2.0)

As commonly known, magic realism is a genre all its own with background stemming from España. This genre came to be in Latin America and has become the driving force behind some of its most influential writers, like Gabriel García Márquez. Though many may not understand magic realism, the main point is to look beyond the real and incorporate what the magical element represents. Magic realism can truly be enjoyed if one reads it understanding there is a meaning behind what is created. If done correctly, magic realism can really evoke many emotions and create connections. I personally am impartial to magic realism. Like with other works, if there is a relatability to the work then I can really enjoy it. However, sometimes it can read as too hard to interpret and I can miss the entire message completely. Some may read about Remedios the Beauty ascending into heaven and may just read it plainly. Instead, it should be understood with a religious context, as Jesus’ ascension for being too good for this world. Another excellent magic realism choice in this novel where the pig tails. There was a myth that an incestuous relationship would give birth to a child who would have a pig tails, from decades prior. And later on, in the novel the incestuous relationship of Amaranta Ursula and Aureliano III gives birth to a son born with a pig tails. This obviously provides an example of why an incestuous relationship is bad and can affect the offspring. Though these two examples were nothing short of great, there were some magic realism examples in this novel that did not have the same effect. An example of this is the Gypsy’s presenting the people of Macondo with a magic carpet. It did not contribute to the overall story line. Yes, it did reinforce the magic realism theme of the novel, but there were already so many other elements it did not feel needed. Magic realism is a delicate theme where it could go either way, but in the hands of Gabriel García Márquez it will almost always go the right way.

Magic realism as a whole is very much seen in everyday life in the Americas. More than the Americas, in my everyday life. When I was younger, my grandmother would always make sure I would not “give” myself bad luck through superstitions. These included not wearing a hat inside, not crossing a road that a black cat just walked across, and not picking up a coin that was tails up. I could keep going about all the superstitions I was taught, but I would go on forever. Essentially, if I did one of the superstitions, I was putting myself in harm’s way for bad luck. To do this day, I still practice those superstitions. And let’s say I was having a bad week; my grandmother would fasten a necklace of crystalized camphor to ward off bad spirits and energy.  This all contributes to the magic realism that is present in Latin America. I know so many of my friends who grew up with this thinking as well, and now it is engrained in us. And it is a very Latin American cultural identification because other cultures do have their magic realism elements, but none like ours.

One of my favorite artists is also associated with magic realism: Frida Kahlo. For years I have admired her work and her story. Despite being differently abled, she was able to find beauty in her heartache. The paintings she created while bed ridden are nothing short of spectacular. She had the ability to incorporate wonder, sexuality, and realism in such a wonderful way. Her artwork truly embodies the female Latin American experience displaying themes of beauty, sex, and acceptance. She is the artist that exemplifies magic realism, as Gabriel García Márquez is the writer.   

Vizcaya as Text

“Aprendiendo” BY sofia meyer of fiu on mar. 17, 2023

Collage of Vizcaya (Photos by Sofia Meyer and Elizabeth Pella / CC by 4.0)

Recently, we visited Villa Vizcaya and ironically, I have never been. Of course, growing up in Miami, I knew about Vizcaya but never made the time to actually visit. Most of my friends took their Quince pictures there, but I chose another location. It seemed that everything that lined up for my first visit to Vizcaya to be with my fellow travelers.

As I walked up the entrance road, I was already in awe. It felt like I had been transported to somewhere in Europe, even though I had to drive by a Palacio de los Jugos to arrive. It was quiet and peaceful, a true oasis in the middle of a bustling city. As we walked towards the main house, I really loved the water features. I was also excited to learn about these types of fountains’ Islamic origins and that we will be seeing more when we visit España. As we arrived at the main house, I couldn’t believe that this was not the main entrance because it was absolutely breathtaking.

As a class made our way to the back, or actually the front of the house, my jaw dropped. The Venetian influences were quite clear. From the bridges to the architecture, I thought I was going see gondoliers singing in the bay. One of my favorite anecdotes of the day actually occurred here. On the barge, there is a mermaid sculpture and she originally had much larger breasts. When James Deering saw this, he immediately demanded for the sculptor to reduce the size citing it was distasteful. This plays into the rumors that James Deering was gay.

After learning about this amusing story and taking Instagram-worthy pictures, we made our way into the gardens. Professor Bailly began lecturing about the secret gardens, I took a rest on a bench. It turns out this bench was actually an ode to the goddess Venus and modeled after Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. Villa Vizcaya’s gardens are full of benches in secluded areas. Here secret rendezvous were had by guests. Listening to these stories really let me live out my Regency era dreams. I felt like I was on set of Pride and Prejudice. I also loved the French influences of the gardens.

As we made our way back inside, we toured many of the rooms on the first floor that featured the Rocco style that was widely used by Marie Antoinette. The rooms are still spectacular and hold a reverence for the mixtures of styles that make up Vizcaya. Next, I would like to talk about my favorite room of the entire Villa, the South Loggia. The stained glass windows were absolutely stunning. The time of day allowed the sun to encapsulate the room and fill it with vibrant colors. I could stay in this room and read for hours on end.

There are two concepts left about Vizcaya that impacted me the most: its mixing of styles and how it came to be. Villa Vizcaya is a culmination of numerous different styles, and it works. So many influences can be found, and yet it does not look like it was thrown together. I feel like this speaks to how Miami is as a city. There are so many cultures and backgrounds in Miami, and yet it all works. It is truly the home that represents a collage that is Miami. The next aspect I would like to recognize is how Villa Vizcaya, and really Miami as a whole, came to be. Bahamians were responsible for how this Villa came to be. There is no recognition of their hard work, and this needs to be corrected. How is it that a person born and raised in Miami had zero knowledge, until this course, of the impact Bahamians had on the founding of Miami? I have enjoyed learning about this in order to further spread awareness of the hands that made Miami.

Miami Ida as Text

“La belleza” by sofia meyer of fiu on apr. 16,2023

Collage of Spanish and American Celebrities (By Sofia Meyer, CC by 2.0)

Though it may not evident, the American beauty standard is far from the norm. Americans have set up such a pretentious beauty industry, it is hard to differentiate from true beauty. In America, what is considered beautiful tends to be incredibly superficial. Plastic surgery reigns supreme in the United States. Every year a new cosmetic procedure becomes the new fad, and right now it is the buccal fat removal. Celebrities are removing their buccal fat, essentially their cheek fat, to have the long lasting appearance of defined cheek bones. Not only this, but common cosmetic procedures also include lip fillers, breast enhancements, and buttock augmentation. It seems as if the faker you present yourself, the more “accepted” you will be in the United States. There are also racist undertones with American beauty standards. Donnella states, “to begin with, a lot of current Western beauty standards celebrate whiteness — not some objective, biological, evolutionary thing, but literally just being a white person.” For decades, women who were blonde, blue eyed, skinny, and “just the right” height were seen as the epitome of beautiful. The idea of beauty the United States had, and many still have, has caused women is reevaluate what beauty is to them. This means looking to other cultures to provide guidance in such a notorious American industry.

            Spanish beauty is vastly different from American beauty because it highlights the female face as is. A beautiful woman in Spain celebrates her natural beauty. Plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures are very uncommon in Spain. The Spanish woman is seen as sultry and laidback. In a report done by Kantar, “… reveals that 72% of Spanish women claim to use little make-up and prefer a more natural look, as opposed to 62% of women worldwide.” No matter the age, Spanish women prefer to focus on taking care of their skin than the superficiality of makeup. And if they do decide to wear makeup, they focus more on highlighting their features instead of covering themselves up. Spanish skin care has always been well known for its natural simplicity. I can remember my grandmother always giving me advice on my skin and face because of the times she visited Spain. I have now ingrained those habits in my everyday life by making sure the products I use are as natural as possible.

It is also important to recognize the influence Spanish culture has had on this idea of beauty. Spanish dances “rang[e] from energetic to passionate in nature, these traditional dances lend elegance to Spanish culture. Not only that, the associated costumes emphasize passion with their cheerful and vibrant colors” (Mastrine, 2021). The dance symbolizes strength and power coming from a feminine source and has been a traditional Spanish dance for centuries. This has given Spanish women a sense of empowerment and expression for a significant amount of time more than American women have been able to. Being given this opportunity to be strong, their looks have followed this. Spanish women have set the beauty standard in Spain, while in contrast American men have set the beauty standard in the United States.

A very important influencer that has helped merge this beauty gap is Rosalia. Rosalia is a Spanish singer and classically trained dancer. She has created a new genre of song that contains both American and Spanish influences. Her beauty style has also been popularized because of her unique ability to combine the different cultures. She incorporates traditional Spanish patterns and styles, like polka dots and flamenco ruffles, with modern and sleek silhouettes; “…its contrasting polka dots pointing to those which adorn the dresses of southern Spain, which are believed to have originated in India via the nomadic gypsies from whom the culture of flamenco originates” (Nast, 2020). Her makeup is also still very Spanish by highlighting her natural features. Rosalia, amongst other Spanish celebrities, have created this unique beauty trend that allows others to embrace their natural beauty.

Rosalia at the MTV European Music Awards (Photos by Getty Images, CC by 2.0)

The fusion of these two beauty standards has been quite up and coming within the last decade. More and more American women are turning towards acceptance of their natural beauty, which has its roots in Europe. Spain has been one of the first countries to emphasize the strong female essence without the need of excess makeup or procedures. Beauty is about empowerment and encouraging women to stay true to themselves. In this day and age, there has been a sense of female empowerment and with examples like Spain, growth can truly be had.

Rosalia performing at the 2020 Grammy Awards (By Getty Images, CC by 2.0)

Works Cited

Donnella, Leah. “Is Beauty in the Eyes of the Colonizer?”, 6 Feb. 2019,

Mastrine, Julie. “Beauty Standards around the World: Spain.”, 18 Mar. 2021,

Nast, Condé. “The Evolution of Rosalía’s Showstopping Style.” Vogue, 15 Dec. 2020, Accessed 17 Apr. 2023.

Valencia, Veronica. “Its All about Natural Beauty for the Spanish.”, 3 Dec. 2019, Accessed 17 Apr. 2023.

España Spring Departure as Text

“adios” by sofia meyer of fiu on apr. 23, 2023

Our Last Miami Excursion (Mirror Selfie by Sofia Meyer/ CC by 4.0)

As the Spring semester comes to a close, I cannot believe how quickly the trip is approaching. It seems like I was just making my decision of selecting which study abroad program worked best for me. Now, I feel ready to take the next step of my journey. Throughout the semester, I have been able to make connections with my fellow travelers and genuinely feel even better for the trip. I was nervous because the people who you travel with can influence the type of experience one may have, but I consider myself very lucky to have met such great people.

Reading my Encounter as Text post, I realized how I have already grown throughout the semester. The biggest change from then versus now is the knowledge I have gained about Spain. I had previously mentioned that my knowledge base, about Spain, was very basic and limited. Now, throughout the course readings and excursions, I feel like when I visit Spain, I will be able to understand and enjoy all the much more. I am most looking forward to seeing the resemblance in Spain in order to compare it to Miami. This includes the architecture, food, and overall lifestyle. I am excited to see Charles Deering’s Home in Sitges and compare and contrast it to the Deering Estate in Miami. The Deering Estate has Bahamian influences, so I am very curious to see what influences are found in his home in Sitges. We have spent an entire semester learning about the major influences of the Spanish on Miami, now we get the unique experience to see the origins of these influences in real time, and possibly see Miami influence Spain.

Another change I have seen for myself is that this combination of fear and excitement has become something new. The fear I had for taking this trip has reduce tremendously and has been replaced with this newfound excitement. A major reason that this fear has reduced is because of the knowledge I have gained. I have never visited Spain, so it is a completely new world to me. Now, it feels somewhat familiar which makes me all the more comfortable. I was already excited before, but every time our class met these past couple of months, I could not help but get even more and more excited. What I am about to experience is life changing and I really do hope to take full advantage of it.

That is my new apprehension going forward. I really do hope I take full advantage of my study abroad experience. I know it is going to go by so quickly, and I don’t want to miss any experiences. The lack of sleep will be there, but I will have time to sleep after my trip. I want to see everything and truly learn. My roommate had the great idea of keep track of my travels by journaling. She gifted me this beautiful journal to write about all my experiences to make sure I remember everything. This is a once in a lifetime experience and I truly cannot wait.

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