Janessa Romero: Miami as Text 2023

Janessa Romero is a senior pursuing a degree in Criminal Justice and a minor in Social media and E-Marketing. She plans to continue her academic career by pursuing a master’s in marketing after graduation. She was the first one from her family born in the US and has paved the path for upcoming generations within her Cuban family to attend college and obtain a career. Janessa is also a business owner as she manages her own Makeup and Hair Artistry company “Glam Fairy MIA.”

Encounter as Text

Pictured: Janessa Romero Photograph taken by Sergio Prieto (Paris, France 2022) CC/4.0

France as a First Gen

The opportunity to travel the world is a dream that many have in mind but never get to accomplish. For some, those dreams are easier to accomplish than others. In my case, my dream of traveling the world is a non-negotiable concept.

In my family, I was the first one to have the privilege to be born in the United States of America. My parents came from Cuba at the ages of 21 & 33 years old. They came to the United States without having any family here, no plans as to where they would live, and basically no money to give them a head start. Despite these circumstances, my parents worked hard to purchase a home, launch their careers, and establish a stable life for our family. The hard work and determination my parents carry with them are traits I have always looked up to and instilled in my own life. Nonetheless, with hard work comes sacrifices and my parents had to put aside their dreams of traveling the world to secure a wonderful future for our family. Luckily, those dreams were naturally passed on to me, and the moment that we learned about my opportunity to study abroad with the Honors college, there was no second-guessing it.

Choosing to study abroad in France over Spain or Italy was a no-brainer for us. My parents and I had the opportunity to travel around Europe this past summer. We visited Madrid, Barcelona, France Rome, Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast. While each city was beautiful and unique in its own way, Paris was the one city that left me truly wanting to visit again. We were only there for three days and tried to fit in as much as we could but it felt as if we only caught a glimpse. We visited the main tourist spots but didn’t get the chance to truly learn more and Paris and its history. This is why I am extremely excited to visit France for a month and truly get to know its culture, history, and lifestyle.

The French lifestyle is an inspiring one. Their relaxed and laid-back culture is one that I try to implement in my day-to-day life. As a first-generation individual, I tend to overwork myself and always have too many things on my plate. However, after visiting France and other European countries I have been implementing truly enjoying every moment and not overworking myself. Life only comes around once and if we spend every single moment stressed and working, we won’t have any memories and nice experiences to look back at when we are older.

Studying abroad is an opportunity that no one in my family has ever had the chance to do as no one has ever gone to college in my family. I hope to set myself as an example for all the other children and teens in my family as they grow up that it is important to enjoy life while also working hard towards your goals. Teaching them that no dream is unattainable as long as they envision and work toward it.

Enlightenment As Text

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Photo by Janessa Romero CC/4.0

All is Best Through Reason and Faith

The Enlightenment was an intellectual and cultural movement that took place in Europe from the late 17th century to the late 18th century. It was characterized by a focus on reason, science, and individualism, as well as a rejection of traditional ideas and beliefs. The Enlightenment thinkers believed in the power of reason to improve society and bring about progress, and they emphasized the importance of individual liberty, tolerance, and equality. Some of the most famous figures of the Enlightenment include Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, and Voltaire. The ideas of the Enlightenment laid the foundation for the American Revolution and the French Revolution, and continue to influence modern political and intellectual thought. Immanuel Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “Social Contract” are two of the most famous philosophical works of the Enlightenment. These works helped to shape the intellectual landscape of the era by promoting the importance of reason, individualism, and freedom.

The Enlightenment was a pivotal time in the history of Western civilization, and it had a profound impact on the world. The thinkers of the Enlightenment challenged traditional ideas and beliefs and encouraged people to question authority and think for themselves. This led to increased freedom of thought, expression, and religion, and helped to lay the foundation for the scientific and technological advances of the modern era. “Candide,” an incisive novel, played a significant role in relation to the Enlightenment. It sheds light on various facets of Enlightenment principles, including class and social hierarchies, as well as the relationship between politics and power during that time.

The relationship between reason and faith has been a subject of debate for centuries, and opinions on whether or not they can be reconciled vary widely. Some people believe that reason and faith are complementary, and that they can support and enhance each other. They argue that reason can help to clarify and deepen one’s faith, while faith can provide a moral and spiritual framework that guides one’s reason. While others believe that reason and faith are incompatible and that one must choose between them.

The reconciliation of reason and faith is a complex issue, and there is no definitive answer. However, some people believe that reason and faith can complement each other and that they can coexist peacefully. One way to reconcile reason and faith is to see them as different but complementary ways of understanding the world. Reason can provide a logical and empirical framework for understanding the world, while faith can offer a moral and spiritual framework that provides meaning and purpose. By combining these two perspectives, one can gain a more complete and nuanced understanding of the world and one’s place in it.

One of the main messages of Candide that is repeated all throughout the novel is that “all is for the best.” This phrase was one that went hand in hand with the thoughts of enlightenment. Through this phrase, we can see a combination of both reason and faith. Through reason, we can use our “cause and effect” thinking and assume that every situation that occurs in our life either positive or negative is for the best in its effect as it will either teach us a lesson or serve us for the better. Through faith, we can believe that everything that occurs in our life is due to a God making the “best choices” for us. End of the day we can gather that all is for the best through reason and faith.

Historic Miami As Text

Photo by Janessa Romero CC/4.0

The City of Hope and Dreams

Upon completing our walk through historic downtown Miami, I feel closer to my roots and culture than before. Most students in this class were surprised and let down to come to terms with the amount of knowledge we know about Miami. To many of us, including myself, this is the city we were born and raised in. However, after 20 years of living in Miami and attending school here, it is clear that our city’s history has not been an important concept in our education. Having the opportunity to learn about our roots through this class has opened up my perspective on Miami. Truthfully, I always viewed Miami as a melting pot. I placed the history of Miami in the hands of Latin immigrants with no questions as to who, what, when, or why. Now, as a proud “Miamian” and even prouder Cuban, I am pleased to know about our Miami culture and how beautiful architecture such as the Freedom Tower and its accompanying monument came to be.

I was moved by the monument in front of the Freedom Tower that depicted an injured immigrant marching toward the Freedom Tower. The statute is seen with house-shaped luggage, crutches, and a tired appearance angled towards the tower. To me, this monument portrays all of the immigrants who left their lives behind in their native countries to come to the United States. These immigrants came empty-handed with nothing but hopes and dreams to attain a better future for themselves and their families. They went through difficult journeys and plenty of sacrifices in order to make it to the U.S. Many Cubans left their country illegally on a raft and risked their lives to make it to the United States. Among many of these individuals are my parents. They left their lives and families behind in order to construct a successful one in the future. Being the first U.S.-born child in a family full of Cuban Immigrants has been a key characteristic in my life. It has empowered me to achieve all my goals and always dream big. I owe these traits to my parents and their life-changing decision to come to the United States.

While the monument of the struggling immigrant symbolizes all the sacrifices and hardships that my parents had to go through in order to make it to this country, the Freedom Tower symbolizes the opposite of that. The Freedom Tower is a ray of sunshine in the middle of a storm for many immigrants. It is portrayed as the end of a long and difficult journey where freedom, hopes, and dreams lie. While being a new individual in this country with no money, no experience, and no knowledge of the English language is not an easy situation, it is much better than the communist lifestyle they were forced to live in Cuba.

After this class, I am even more grateful for the hardships my family went through for themselves and their children’s future. Every time that I have the opportunity to drive throughout downtown Miami, I feel blessed by the beautiful buildings and vibrant culture that we are surrounded by. Our rich history containing different cultures, races, and ethnicities makes all of us who we are today.

Vizcaya As Text

Photo by Janessa Romero CC/4.0

Disparities Reflected

The moment one drives into Vizcaya, they are greeted with beautiful greenery, cascading trees, and a peacock or two. It is a breathtaking difference as one gets off of I-95. For the last 30 minutes, all that one had been surrounded by was run-down impoverished areas such as Allapattah that later turned into tall buildings, modern architecture, and numerous cars as one kept driving into Coconut Grove. From one moment to the next, one is immersed into a different reality that is extremely distinct from the modern architecture we are used to seeing in our daily lives. Similarly, a comparative disparity can be seen once one steps inside of Vizcaya.

As one walks inside the Main House located in the heart of Vizcaya, they are greeted by Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and hospitality. Bacchus is constructed from Roman pieces dating back to the 1700s. Bacchus portrays an introduction to the historical pieces that are seen throughout the Vizcaya main house. These historical pieces are rich in history and were brought over from Europe as James Deering demanded so. Under Bacchus is a black marble basin that was added newly in 1916.

Nonetheless, the disparities are not between the historical pieces and the new ones, but between the rooms designated specifically for the employees of the Vizcaya Gardens. To the right of this grand entrance is a small staff room that was used for cutting and arranging flowers. The architecture of this room is much different from the others. It is plain and has no rich historical decor or any gold-encrusted pieces to flow with the wealth portrayed throughout the rest of the house. This disparity continues as we pass the stunning enclosed loggia and head into the serving pantry. As one walks into the loggia they are met with immense black and gold iron gates from a Venetian palace and introduced to a large room with stained glass doors. However, a few steps to the right and one is met with a wooden white serving pantry. There is a stark difference b entwine the locations where the wealthy would gather and the locations where the staff would work.

Image by Heather Clawson for Habitually Chic

The disparities between the areas where the wealthy would gather and the staff location portray the true characteristics of James Deering. It is clear that he cared about his wealth and how to portray it but did not care for those that worked for him. Deering could have easily continued the wealthy and historical theme of the house throughout the serving pantry and kitchen but chose to keep it plain and simple. Unfortunately, this disparity is still seen in our daily lives as we drive out of this beautiful mansion into a wealthy neighborhood in Coconut Grove, only to be met with impoverished cities such as Little Havana and Allapattah only a few blocks away. The differences seen between the wealthy and the working class are immense not just in our modern lives but throughout history. Whether it be between slaves and their “owners” or between our current working class and the wealthy, these differences are unreasonable.

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