Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova: Miami as Text 2023

Photograph taken by Pepe Carmona/CC by 4.0

Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova is a sophomore majoring in Health Service Administration and minoring in biology at Florida International University. She is very passionate about art, painting, cooking and learning new languages. Growing up in Kazakhstan, she always had the inclination to help others as a result of her family who is greatly involved in the medical field. There she was able to participate in various volunteer opportunities that inspired her to choose her profession. Now her goal is to change the world of medicine and raise it to a become a better one.

Encounter as Text

“Spanish Dream” by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova of FIU

January 27. 2023

I am very thankful to my parents for instilling in me at an early age the value of traveling and exploring the world. By the time I turned 18, I have been to 6 of the 7 world continents. However, I haven’t had a chance to travel to Spain. The moment I saw Spain study abroad program announcement through honors college, I decided to seize this opportunity. I am so enthusiastic to travel all over Spain, explore every corner of it, taste real Spanish Gazpacho and Salmorejo, listen to the traditional flamenco, explore its unique culture that experienced 800 years of Arabic influence beginning the 8th century, and practice my broken Spanish.

Also, I like the way this program is structured. I am truly fascinated to take the class before going to Spain, prepare for the trip in advance. Throughout the semester, we have field trips,  talk about important aspects of Spain and its history, things we should be aware of upon arrival.  And in my opinion, in order for the trip to be perfectly successful, you need to prepare very well for it – learn about the best places and historically understand where you are, because when you know you already have a store of knowledge about a certain place, then studying it is much more informative. Also, I enjoy working with our Professor, who truly cares about us, the students and makes me so passionate about coming into class every Friday.

I am extremely motivated for this class and for our trip. Although, I am not going to lie – I’m a little worried about class tests and quizzes. For me, tests for certain books have always been a little difficult. But I also know that I have a strong work ethics and that I am hardworking and it is not in my nature to give up. I am here to work on my weak points and change them. That is the part of learning, after all, isn’t it?

Usually, flamenco and bullfighting come to mind when people hear the word “Spain”. But I have studied a lot about Spain all my life and have always been interested in it, for example, I am very fascinated by tapas, paella, gazpacho, the Prado Museum or the Sagrada Familia. According to one version, the name of the country (España) goes back to the word Hispania, which in Phoenician meant “land of rabbits”. Which is really a very interesting fact. Also I am madly interested in the art of Picasso and I know that one of his paintings “Guernica”, painted in 1937, can be seen in the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid. This picture is very rare because it speaks of the horrors of war and its length is almost eight meters. I have never been to Spain but I cant wait to explore it and learn about some other aspects of it that ordinary tourists don’t know about i really want to meet the locals.

Being born in Kazakhstan, I am Muslim. I am thrilled to explore Arabic influence on Spanish culture. As Syllabus states, we are going to visit Cordoba, the city where the Great Mosque is located.

I often like to look at different landscape photos and one day I came across a beautiful landscape with beautiful water and beautiful houses. Later I found out that this is the Costa Brava in Catalonia. And this place seemed so unusual to me. Nature has created a true paradise here. The coastline is generously indented with small bays, and the economic unattractiveness of the area has left intact the pristine landscapes, preventing ports and moorings from forming there. There are many cozy small towns on the territory of the resort, which are smoothly located one after another. And I have a great desire to see this beauty in real life.

Transatlantic Exchange as Text

“I am, indeed, the product of transatlantic exchange.” Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova of FIU

February 14. 2023

All the material I have read and mastered so far was extremely soul-touching and tremendously impressive. I would like to first mention the Colombian exchange: the greatest era of exploration, change and intercontinental exchange in culture, faith, food, language, flora and fauna, customs and traditions the world has ever seen. It all started with the people from the Old World embarking on a journey to the New world, which brought the discovery of potatoes, tomatoes, cocoa etc. Presently, these are the foods we use on every day basis, thanks to the Columbian exchange. However, the cultures got destroyed and violated as much as they got enriched.

The past beats inside me like a second heart.

John Banville

In this blog, I find it essential to talk about the book I have read recently, “Chronicle of the Narvarez Expedition,” which showcases the cultural exchange. In order to travel to and conquer the region known in Spanish as La Florida, Pánfilo de Narváez gathers an expedition in Spain. In the book, you can often notice how Cabeza de Vaca describes the innovations seen in the New World. He was mind-blown: being there for 6 years, he was surprised by everything he learned from there. I was also really struck by the moment that indigenous people made him a doctor, and showed the different kind of medicine they used. It was interesting the way they cut around the wound and breathed there. I also observed a similar scene in the movie “Apocalypto”: one of the Indians had a swelling bruise under his eye, which affected his vision. His father made an incision, which facilitated in clearing the swelling. This movie left a great impression on me: the struggle for your child, the desire to save for your people, and how the war changed the regular Jaguar Paw hunters.

Nevertheless, I also can see the angle the director, Gibson, of this film wanted to produce it. He created in a way that enabled horror in the watcher’s mind through the various shots of the Mayan civilization. One can see how the director pictured a form of narcissism with the way in which the natives like the modern Western civilization, would leave their victim’s corpses out on the field. From the way they spoke to the actions the natives’ displayed, on can see that like the Spainards they felt invincible. One of the writers of the movie, F.

Safina, says that the dilemmas that the natives seen in the film, the Mayas, are present in today’s society. So, when one looks at the fall of the Mayans, their cause of death, it is remarkably like many of the problems in today’s culture surrounding the idea of arrogance.

Photograph taken by Aruzhan Tleuva in Kazakhstan, Almaty /CC by 4.0

Speaking of myself, I am an international student. I, myself am an exchange of cultures. I often tell local people from Miami about my customs and traditions. For example, eating horse meat is a completely normal thing to me, but when I tell my American friends about it, they find it jaw-dropping. I moved from Kazakhstan first to New York, then to Miami. One thing that struck me immediately after I got out of the airport and sat in my Uber, is the strength of Spanish influence. My driver was a great example of that. Spanish language and culture found a sanctuary, home away from home here in Miami. As a person, who was always fascinated by Spanish culture and language, I found the best city in the United States to live in!

Moving a thousand miles away from my home in Central Asia, here I am, five centuries after this monumental historical event occurred, in Miami, writing an essay about it. I am, indeed, the product of transatlantic exchange.

Deering Estate as Text

“Diving in to the past” Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova of FIU

February 14. 2023

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova of Deering Estate /CC by 4.0

With great fascination and tremendous awe, I walked onto the grounds of the Deering Estate and Stone House. As soon as we entered the premises and observed its beautiful nature, the path with tall trees greeted me and lured me into the sumptuous estate. The house we toured took my breath away: vintage yet chic design with exquisite and rich colors that illustrates the magic of the 20th century. Arches, crafted in Islamic architectural style that circumvent the windows, drew my attention. I have always been very interested in Eastern architecture. It is so interesting to see these motifs being used in American architecture of the 20th century, which speaks for itself to how people exchange cultures all around the world. Moreover, the fact that American people were inspired by Moorish Architecture serves as proof of Americans being developed, creative, and inspired by the Islamic World. Also, after visiting Deering Estate, I began to study similar architectural features in Spain: it was intriguing to find out that the mosque of Ibn Adabbas in Seville has a lot of similar arches, all enticingly beautiful and neat. 

Another thing that made an unforgettable impression on me is the underground wine cellar, which was precisely hidden and carefully locked by a large and heavy door with tricky locks as if it was made for a bank vault. This part of the Stone House looked very mysterious, and to be honest, it gave me goosebumps as I walked down the stairs. Turns out Charles Deering was a fine wine collector during the Prohibition Era on wine and liquor. According to Deering Estate Sign, he had many connections that allowed him to keep such alcohol in his home. On the tour I learned that when the archaeologists found this wine cellar, they had a problem opening the locks for several days. Well… after contemplating these locks in person, I am not surprised. However, as soon as they succeeded, it was discovered that all the alcohol was destroyed, with not a single bottle surviving after all these years of Deering meticulously collecting his alcohol. This wine cellar was immense and vast. It is mind-blowing to realize how much quality wine was carefully hidden in the basement of this house during the Era of Prohibition and its strictly enforced laws.

In conclusion, I would like to mention that it is with great enjoyment and sincere interest that I attended this field trip, learning so many exciting new facts about Florida and how it was influenced by Spanish culture. There are so many hidden gems that not even locals know of. Even though I am an international student that moved here only a year ago, I want to explore every corner of this state in connection to this class and Spanish culture. This being my first field trip, I am thrilled for the ones upcoming!

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova /CC by 4.0

History that we need to know

That day I found out about Miami, and its art scene was the best one in my life. The very first day I discovered it was when my parents brought me to Art Basel after graduating high school. As a person who used to go to art school and work at an art gallery in my hometown in Kazakhstan, I genuinely appreciate art and artistic expression. Therefore, this time that we went to downtown Miami, it was breathtaking to me to see the art and the history of Miami.

 What I noticed during my life in Miami, people have yet to talk about what kind of history it has. But everyone says what a crazy life this city can give you. Just a few hours during the walk through downtown Miami during Espana Study Abroad class gave me more historical Florida than I have gotten in two years of living here. The following paragraphs will outline three landmarks of Miami that impressed me the most. 

 I want to start with the fact that there are many beautiful places around downtown Miami where you can have breakfast. A lot of them are at affordable prices as well. Our walk started at the GOVERNMENT CENTER. And of course, the first thing you can pay attention to is how enormous this building is. Which in my opinion, speaks of its greatness and power. Then we went through and saw a fascinating installation, “DROPPED BOWL WITH SCATTERED SLICES AND PEELS”, created by Pop Art collaborators Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. I believe this installation represents two Florida symbols: oranges and chaos. 

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova /CC by 4.0

I appreciate it with all my heart that I have an opportunity to live and study in Miami meanwhile exploring its beautiful art scene during one of my favorite classes at FIU. For me, Miami is always associated with modern art. And in the scattered oranges, I saw.  

The next part of our walking class was this charming WAGNER FAMILY HOMESTEAD house that represents a long and fascinating history of discrimination that took place in the 19th century. It was built by the mixed couple William Wagner, a German immigrant, and Eveline Aimar, a French-Creole immigrant. During the downtown walking class last week, the Professor mentioned that the son of this couple was killed on racial grounds. Being a minority race in America and sometimes facing discrimination myself, it was heartbreaking to hear this story because I can relate to it myself. 

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova /CC by 4.0

Another place that impressed me during our walking class is Henry Flagler Monument. I am not going to lie. I have heard this name every time I go back to my apartment after visiting my friends in downtown Miami: there is a road named after him. During the class, I learned both amazing and horrible things about this person. As much of the positive impact he had on Miami with bringing the first railroad, it is tremendously important to recognize his negative influence in creating a segregated colored town. In conclusion, the walking class made me value the freedom and liberty of the current time. I am incredibly thankful to this class and my Professor for making me realize the deep and meaningful history of such a fantastic town as Miami.

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova /CC by 4.0

Magical Realism

Magic Realism is a genre in literature and art, which integrates supernatural details as well as sensational events into otherwise realistic narratives, blurring the line between the two worlds. After reading a few books of this genre during this class, I outlined two essential and definitive elements from similar genres like fantasy: realistic setting and magical elements. Concerns related to cultural identity, egalitarianism, and the spiritual world are commonly addressed in these books. Several well-known writers, including Salman Rushdie, Isabel Allende, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, have incorporated magic Realism into their writing. Magic Realism is a popular and thought-provoking art form among readers and critics. 

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova /CC by 4.0

Going back to its origins in the Americas, particularly in Latin America, Magic Realism emerged as a significant literary movement in the 1940s and 1950s. Latin America’s cultural, religious, and social traditions have resulted in a distinct blend of reality and fantasy, as evidenced by the region’s literature. Such genre has been frequently created to make a political or socioeconomic point. Many Latin American novelists have used this literary technique to discover the aspects of their societies, such as economic hardship, unequal distribution, and political persecution.

There are many unique works of literature where we can easily recognize Magic Realism, such as “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” by Haruki Murakami and “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz, or world-renowned “Harry Potter” by

Funny enough, since my early childhood, I have been a huge fan of Harry Potter, yet to be honest, I have never thought that this is an example of magic Realism as well: Muggles live a normal life, but their world is connected to the one of Wizards. I haven’t known about the existence of such a genre before reading the book “100 Years Of Solitude,” written by Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This book is a real masterpiece, which immersed me in a special magical world, developing my imagination. The novel does an exceptional job of blurring the boundaries between the real and magical, frequently employing richly imaginative and artistic language with the purpose of depicting a surreal world that is both knowledgeable and dreamy. I devoured this book in a heartbeat: a world that is so familiar yet so strange with the presence of ghosts (Buendía family’s ancestors), prophetic dreams that foresee the future (we see it when Remedios the Beauty dreams about a white moth, which symbolically represents her own death), levitation, time travel, and telekinesis. All these elements are a part of normal life in the city of Macondo, which is both tremendously fascinating and extremely spine-chilling at the same time. Magic Realism may be enchanting and strongly innovative for some readers, but it may be concerting or disorienting for others. It is eventually up to the reader to decide how they feel about Magic Realism, but genuinely speaking, I have had a great time exploring this genre.

            It is tremendously important to mention that Magic Realism can be observed not only in literature but also in art as a style that juxtaposes realistic and fantastic elements. Leonora Carrington’s paintings also implement Magical Realism. Carrington was a British-Mexican surrealist artist who was famous for combining illusion, fairytales, and personal imagery in her work. Her work frequently incorporates mythical creatures and vivid natural landscapes, which easily grab a viewer’s attention and put one in complete enchantment.

            As a matter of fact, this genre is very varied and can be seen in many ways. However, I understand it as a symbol of life in which the material world, objective reality, retains its specific real appearance while acquiring some otherworldly, transcendental meaning that lies beyond every day, a rationally comprehensible system of measures.

In conclusion, I am thankful to the people of Latin America for creating such a special genre as Magical Realism in literature and art. I am thankful to this class for introducing me to it as well. By nature, I love the challenge, so exploring perceptions of reality through the lens of ambiguity, allegory, and symbolism allows me to engage with these texts on a deeper level of understanding. This, in turn, pushes me to the world in a completely new and surprisingly different way. My adventurous nature as an explorer inspired me to take this study abroad class and go to Spain and explore a foreign country. This exact same nature inspires me to explore the foreign world of Magic Realism.


“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”

Edgar Degas

Vizcaya Miami is a historic estate located in Miami, Florida, and is one of the most famous landmarks in the city. 

Vizcaya is a unique and intriguing name,  which I’m not used to hearing all quite often. The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear it is a city of great beauty – Venice. Speaking by my first impression, it will be something from Europe.  The stunning Italian Renaissance-style mansion, with its ornate architecture and elaborate gardens, is a testament to the grandeur and luxury of the Gilded Age. As soon as I stepped my foot on the premises, I immediately felt tremendous fascination by the trees around, which lure you to see a pure hidden gem behind them. 

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova /CC by 4.0

James Deering definitely knew how to attract attention to this villa. Back in 1912, he began building this beautiful villa, which completely allows you to immerse yourself in a special luxury, exquisite design and construction, and wealth that says how he wanted to showcase. Interestingly enough, he acquired this area from Mary Brickell. He hired Paul Chalfin, whose artistic talent quickness turned such an area into Europe far from Europe. Even the fact that he arranged an opening party in the theme of Italian peasants tells me how much he wanted to demonstrate the guests the European style. It is mind – blowing to realize how much he cared for this house that he was willing to fly people in to work on it, bring unique and antique pieces of art all the way across the ocean to have it in his collection. His passion for art and architecture, which is represented by Vizcaya, is definitely seen now over the years. One can only imagine what it was like for the attendees to see this for the first time: Italy and the Mediterranean style. There are so many aesthetic statues throughout the villa personifying how well versed Deering was a big fan of mythology and history. Each part of this beautiful estate seems to speak about the character of the owner. I remember on the window glass it was written “J’at dit” which means “I have spoken” which just screams for me – I did it.  

As a person with a big appreciation for art, I have noticed several pieces of Italian Renaissance era. Some of the most notable pieces in the collection include a bronze statue of Hercules, an 18th-century Italian secretary, and a pair of 17th-century Venetian mirrors.

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova /CC by 4.0

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Vizcaya estate is the attention to detail that went into every aspect of its design. The appearance of every room, every piece of furniture and musical instruments was so antique. Although the garden, which seemed like everyone’s secret love place, was my favorite. Every little component is thought out by architects. Looking at the garden, I can only imagine how magical it was to walk through it in the 20th century. 

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova /CC by 4.0

In conclusion, the Vizcaya Miami is a remarkable testament to the grandeur and luxury of the Gilded Age. Its stunning architecture, elaborate gardens, and impressive collection of art and decorative objects make it one of the most significant cultural landmarks in Miami. Overall, Vizcaya visit was an out of this world experience, which will always stay in my heart.

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