Alexandra Fiedler: Wynwood 2022

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

Student Bio

Alexandra Fiedler is a second-year student at Florida International University who is majoring in Psychology and minoring in Spanish. Since moving to Miami from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Alexandra has been fascinated with the cultural, historical, and geographical differences between the place she grew up and the place she now calls home. Alexandra passionately strives to learn and help others, while expanding her knowledge about what makes Miami an especially unique and vibrant cultural setting.


Photograph retrieved from Google Maps

Iconic graffiti and street art decorating its walls has made Wynwood an especially unique and popular neighborhood in Miami. Known for its artistic atmosphere, the neighborhood is filled with art galleries, studios, restaurants and cafes, club and dancing venues, boutiques, and other retailers. Its unique charm has attracted artists and tourists alike, solidifying Wynwood as an essential stop in Miami. Right in the heart of the city, Wynwood is just south of the Design District, north of Downtown Miami and Overtown, and just west of Edgewater. It has roughly been divided by I-95 to the west, the Florida East Coast Railway to the east, I-195 to the north, and North 20th Street to the south. Due to its high artist population, Wynwood has been transformed into a sensational and thrilling hipster dream. For blocks on end, all the walls have been absolutely covered in stirring and impressive artwork. Artists from all around the world come to Wynwood for the opportunity to paint one of the walls. The staggering range of art features everything from silly cartoon figures to meticulously detailed murals featuring ultra-realistic portraits and everything in between. Many artists make statements about political, social, and environmental issues. Bright colors and busy imagery truly bring Wynwood’s energized spirit to life. The atmosphere created in the neighborhood is unparalleled–unlike anything one can find anywhere else. The breathtaking works create the perfect backdrop for a booming scene filled with aesthetic small businesses scattered between the hip nightclubs and classy galleries. Wynwood features two booming sub-districts: Wynwood Art District in the north and Wynwood Fashion District in the south. The Art District hosts Wynwood’s iconic street murals, art galleries, outdoor art installations, and private art collections. NW Second Street is right at the heart of Wynwood, boasting a plethora of iconic murals, restaurants, and galleries. Wynwood Walls is one of the most prominent features of the district, as people travel far and wide to view the world-renowned outdoor murals. The Fashion District is home to many of the majority clothing distributors and retailers in the neighborhood, also featuring boutiques and clothing shoppettes. Travelers venture to Wynwood to experience both the eccentric art scene and the amenities that come with; including the appetizing eateries and quirky retailers. Unfortunately, due to its location in the bustling center of the city, Wynwood does not feature much in terms of natural landscape. Almost every square inch available for development has been transformed into some swanky business striving to find its place in Wynwood’s captivating atmosphere. 


Josiah Chaille and Hugh Anderson purchased the land that now makes up Wynwood from a law firm in 1917. Originally naming the area “Wyndwood,” the City of Miami built a park in the northern area of their land, which they named Wynwood Park, and people eventually dropped the “Park” much later (History of Wynwood). When I-95 was built through Wynwood in the 1960s, the neighborhood’s borders unofficially shifted to exclude a small set of residential blocks, isolating residents from their former neighborhood. Wynwood quickly became home to many commercial residents, such as large-scale retailers and manufacturers, mainly for garments, among other commodities. The neighborhood was packed with massive factories and warehouses to keep up with the garment district’s demands. As the retailers became more profitable and numerous, many of the manufacturers began relocating to make room for growing retail demand and to be closer to their workforce–mainly Cubans living in areas such as Hialeah (History of Wynwood). 

By the mid-1950s, the area saw a huge influx of Puerto Rican immigrants, as both the elderly and younger generations moved away from the area. Wynwood was referred to as “Little San Juan,” and the neighborhood saw many names of schools, parks, and centers changed to those of Puerto Rican significance (Pasols). However, throughout the beginning of the 1970s, the population had greatly diversified to include Blacks, Cubans, Dominicans, Haitians, and Colombians. By the late 70s, Wynwood was viewed as a springboard neighborhood, where people worked to leave as they increased their economic standings. The neighborhood itself was lower-middle class at this time with a 55% unemployment rate and high levels of drug trafficking (History of Wynwood). Moving into the 1980s, Wynwood fell into a period of extreme violence, crime, and drugs in addition to the staggering poverty rates. It was regarded as one of the most dangerous places to be in Miami during the 1980s. Racial tensions and social unease culminated in riots that damaged Wynwood businesses on multiple occasions, solidifying the notion that Wynwood was an unsafe area (A Brief History). Known as a place where lost tourists would be robbed and killed in broad daylight frequently destroyed any sense of good reputation. As more people and businesses vacated the area, the once booming garment district was reduced to abandoned and rundown warehouses. 

Eventually in 1987, a group of artists from the South Florida Art Center purchased a 2.2 acre facility that they converted into an enormous artist space (History of Wynwood). Due to the neighborhood’s dangerous environment, buildings were able to be purchased at an extremely low rate. Soon, other creatives, artists, and visionary minds began purchasing the abandoned buildings scattered around the neighborhood. Famously, in 1993, the Rubells opened their Rubell Family Collection with massive paintings, sculptures, and other art pieces in a 40,000 square foot warehouse (Rubell Museum). Many other gallerists, collectors, and art appreciators moved into the area as it slowly developed into a haven for the arts. With the debut of the Art Basel Art Fair in Miami, Wynwood was officially on the map in the art world, showcasing its monumental contemporary works and highlighting the artistic geniuses that made Wynwood their home (History of Wynwood). The neighborhood itself created a uniquely free-spirited vibe in tune with its imaginative and artistic residents. Artists began painting street art on the walls of the vacant warehouse, creating all sorts of vibrant, unique, and creative works. There was a care-free attitude at the time, one where no one cared who painted what–they saw the art in everything. 

In the mid-2000s, Wynwood underwent yet another transformation when it caught the eye of Tony Goldman from Goldman Properties. Goldman and his two children began purchasing large sections of Wynwood’s warehouse district (Pasols). Unfortunately, more and more artists and gallerists were forced to leave Wynwood as they were priced-out to create the new vision of Wynwood. Goldman imagined Wynwood as a swanky, artsy neighborhood covered in street art, although many in the art community could no longer even afford to live in the neighborhood any longer. 

The special charm of Wynwood attracted restaurants, nightclubs, retailers, bars, cafes, galleries, and other installations, who now populate every square inch of NW Second Street. Wynwood Walls has become a world renowned contemporary art display that attracts immense amounts of attention and visitors. Large-scale developers hope to construct high rise condominiums and a hotel in the area, with more restaurants and retailers sure to follow (Pasols). 


In accordance with many of Miami’s unique neighborhoods, Wynwood is a diverse location, home to people of all races, ages, socioeconomic statuses, and backgrounds. As of 2019, the reported population of Wynwood was 14,886, although that number fluctuates over time–especially in these unprecedented circumstances with the pandemic. Wynwood is becoming an increasingly popular residential area, as in 2010, the population was numbered at 7,277 people; meaning the population has doubled in the past ten years (Wynwood Demographics). It is no secret that Florida has seen a huge influx of residents throughout the pandemic, which may not be accurately reflected in data collected before March 2020. 67.6% of Wynwood’s population is Hispanic or Latino, making up the majority of the residents. 15.9% are Black, 10.7% are White, and 2.6% of people are Asian. The remaining population (3.1%) identifies as multiracial or another race (Wynwood Art District). 56.1% of residents are citizens born in the United States, while 23.7% are citizens that were not born in this country (Wynwood Demographics).The neighborhood’s population features 52.8% females and 47.2% males, with the median age being 37 years. In 2019, the median income was determined to be $37,470, while the median rent was valued at $1,205. Meanwhile, the median estimated house value in the neighborhood was $298,273. 1,356 homes have been built in Wynwood in 2014 or later, compared to the 548 homes built from 2010 to 2013. Returning to the pandemic’s possible effect on demographics, as of April 2022, Zumper values the average rent for a 1-bedroom condo in Wynwood to be $2,935–a starting 30% increase from the previous year (Wynwood, Rent Prices). Compared to the national 13% increase in rent from the previous year, Wynwood far exceeds the majority of the nation in rising rent prices. Other sources assert that Miami, in addition to West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, has seen median rents rise an alarming 36%, well over double the national average (Walter-Warner). Based on the income levels of many current residents and the rent’s steep incline, it is not entirely unfounded to assume that many residents will be forced to leave Wynwood if they cannot find supplemental income to afford the high rent demands. These demographics are bound to change, as they do in many places, but it seems clear that Wynwood may see a rapid transition, as soon only those who can afford the more demanding rent prices will be able to populate the neighborhood. 


I was able to speak to Harold Golen of the Harold Golen Gallery. He has been living and working in Wynwood for 14 years, first opening his gallery in 2007. 

Q: What has been the biggest change you’ve seen in Wynwood since first moving here 14 years ago?

A: The biggest one would definitely be seeing Wynwood turning into such a residential area. When I first got here, almost no one lived here, but one day I realized I saw someone walking their dog and it occurred to me that people must be moving to the area. Now we have all these huge condos being built for all the people that want to live here now.

Q; How has the crowd of customers changed since you started business here?

A: Well when I first opened, this was just a gallery, and I would have monthly art exhibitions. The people visiting were those who seriously appreciated and understood art. Now the majority of people are tourists, or people just poking around. The quality of people has changed, they definitely used to be more serious and now people almost don’t care about the art. They come to take photos in front of some cool walls and then go home. 

Q: How have you had to change your business structure with the new crowd?

A: I went from monthly art shows to relying more heavily on selling merchandise. The casual visitors have actually been very good for business.

Q: Could you have ever predicted Wynwood looking the way it does today when you first moved here?

A: Absolutely not. It has changed so dramatically and quickly. It went from being much more art focused to the latest neighborhood the developers are set on turning into expensive condos since it got so popular. 

Q: Going into the future, do you think Wynwood can keep the same energy and atmosphere if it continues to be developed like now?

A: Unfortunately no. Some residential developers are trying to eliminate the nightlife in Wynwood because they’re trying to turn it into this nice fancy neighborhood. For example, there’s a Footlocker here in Wynwood now. That simply would not be the case 10 years ago. If more generic retailers come in, the commercialization will get rid of what initially made Wynwood such a cool place. But don’t get me wrong, people come in here with Footlocker bags–these big retailers also bring me more business. Since being here is so sought after, the rent increases like crazy these days. If people can’t afford to keep up, they won’t be able to stay in Wynwood any longer. 

Harold also shared lots of the neighborhood’s turbulent and violent history with me, really emphasizing that the very street we were at was the most dangerous place in Miami at one point. When I asked how the crime changed after the initial gallerists and artists moved into Wynwood, he shared that gradually the rates lowered as gallerists grouped together to report crime, communicate with police, and they eventually established a law enforcement’s presence in the area. However, even the first five or so years he was in Wynwood, Harold informed me that Wynwood was still a generally rough area of town; someplace you knew to never leave anything in your car, know where you’re going, and get there quickly. After an enlightening and enthralling conversation, Harold wished me the best of luck in my studies. He declined to take a photograph, but Harold gave me his business card and I even purchased a reusable sticker for myself from the gallery. 


Wynwood is home to a vast array of museums, collections, and galleries that make the neighborhood a particularly fascinating place to explore. Traversing through the various institutions throughout Wynwood allows one to learn about a vast amount of history, art, and culture spanning history and cultures. 

Rubell Museum 

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

Don and Mera Rubell turned their passion for art into something more in 1993 when they first opened the Rubell Family Collection/Contemporary Art Foundation (Rubell Museum) in a 53,000 square foot warehouse. Considered a true pioneer of establishing a strong art presence in the neighborhood, the Rubells were among the first to open a private collection in Wynwood to share their love for art with the public. The museum features an impressive collection of contemporary art from many different world renowned artists from across the globe. The museum also hosts events and exhibitions where more art can be presented in exciting ways, in addition to internships, trainings, and artist residencies, providing exceptional opportunities for all kinds of people to develop their interests and passions. The family’s collection has greatly expanded in the 26 years since their first opening, and the former warehouse that started their journey is now just one piece of their expansive art collection. 

Margulies Collection

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

Located in a 50,000 square foot, retro-fitted warehouse, The Margulies Contemporary Art Collection has a wide array of visual art exhibits, video and photograph installations, sculptures, and special immersive exhibitions for the public to enjoy. Similar to Rubell Museum, the collection boasts art from world-class contemporary artists such as Anslem Kiefer and Amar Kanwar. First opened in 1999, the Margulies Collection is another trailblazer for developing Wynwood into the beloved art district that is known today (Margulies Collection). The collection closes from May through September during which the staff completely transforms which pieces will be featured in the next season’s opening, creating a completely new experience for visitors each year–making it an excellent place to visit time and time again.

Museum of Graffiti 

Known as the first museum to be exclusively dedicated to the evolution and celebration of graffiti as an art form. Featuring everything from a detailed history of perceptions and legislations to descriptions of styles and signifiers, the museum explores graffiti’s rise in design, advertising, and fashion (Museum of Graffiti). Having immersive experiences such as an indoor art showcase, eleven outdoor murals, a fine art gallery and a special gift shop featuring limited edition world renowned graffiti artists’ special items and merchandise. It highlights a position on graffiti and street art that is not typically presented in society. The museum delves into the true art form of graffiti, shifting perspectives by showcasing how graffiti can be manifested in society in positive and meaningful ways. 


Being one of the trendiest, most popular neighborhoods in Miami means that Wynwood hardly has any naturalistic areas left untouched from its rapid development. There are only two parks within Wynwood’s boundaries. The neighborhood’s focus has clearly been on developing it into an urban dream, leaving the parks appearing less than spectacular. Contrarily, many parts of Wynwood filled with outdoor bars, shoppettes, cafes, and seating areas are decorated with vibrant plants, trees, flowerbeds, and even turf–all of which enhance the freshly appealing atmosphere. 

Roberto Clemente Park

The park’s main feature is a baseball diamond, but has a large grassy area beyond the outfield and even bleachers for spectators to enjoy baseball games. The park also has basketball courts, a small playground, and in typical Wynwood fashion–a mural of the namesake Roberto Clemente the baseball player. The park was renamed to honor the Puerto Rican player after he was killed in a plane crash. Fittingly, people can enjoy baseball for years to come. 

Rainbow Village Park 

The park features a grassy green area, great for enjoying a picnic or playing a game of soccer or football with friends. Having trees and shaded areas with seating areas and outdoor barbecues, the park makes a great space to simply enjoy the time outdoors. 


The Wynwood Walls

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

Perhaps one of the most iconic businesses to come to fruition from that artist-centered neighborhood, the Wynwood Walls is a collection of outdoor murals completed by some of the world’s most acclaimed artists throughout the years. The works have been marveled at by artists, art enthusiasts, travelers and tourists, and of course, locals since its launch in 2009. The Wynwood Walls are so popular that a recorded 2.9 million people visited in 2018 (Wynwood Business Improvement District). In addition to the sensational outdoor art, the Walls have also introduced an indoor gallery, a cafe, and a gift shop. They host tours, art exhibitions, and public events, such as Art Week. Although it used to be free, admission to the Walls is $12.

Harold Golen Gallery

This Pop Surrealism gallery opened in 2007, focusing on the depiction of ‘disposable art’ on a ‘Fine Art’ level, using technical skills such as oil painting. Although originally a dedicated gallery, it now operates with far more merchandising accompanying the art, all of which are made by in-resident artists. They occasionally have art exhibitions, but they welcome anyone to stop in to enjoy items such as posters, interior decor, stickers, prints of paintings, shirts, and more still designed and handmade by real artists in Wynwood.

Panther Coffee

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

Panther Coffee establishes the absolutely perfect vibe in the heart of the neighborhood, offering reprieve from the powerful sun under the cool shade of its vibrant trees. There is ample space to lounge with an iced coffee, get school or work done with a snack, or to relax with friends amidst the bustling streets around the cafe. The fresh ambiance truly pulls one in to enjoy quality time with an equally quality coffee.


Cars are the main mode of transportation for residents, with 57.2% of people taking a car alone to work (Wynwood Art District). There is no metro rail line that goes directly through Wynwood, although the Orange Line runs through Downtown Miami, which borders Wynwood. People can take the metro to get close to Wynwood, but it does not provide access directly into the neighborhood. Buses are another method of transportation that people frequently use in the neighborhood, although its usage pales in comparison to that of cars and other private vehicles. Wynwood hosts multiple CitiBike stations, meaning it is possible for people to ride bikes throughout the neighborhood which is certainly a more environmentally and economically feasible method of transportation. Traffic is the main result of cars being the obvious most popular transportation method in and around Wynwood. As the neighborhood’s party scene becomes even more established, traffic is only doomed to get worse, especially in the later hours of the night. Not only are people driving themselves and parking to get food, drinks, or go dancing; multitudes of people also take ride services such as Lyft, Uber, and taxis to get a ride into the neighborhood’s night scene.


Fireman Derek’s Bake Shop

Started by Derek Kaplan, a former fireman who loves desserts, this bakery specializes in pies, cakes, cheesecakes, cookies, and unique desserts. All the deserts are freshly homemade, with high quality ingredients. Stopping in for dessert is the perfect way to take a sweet break from the Miami sun. 


Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

This pizza place is the perfect place to stop for some thrilling entertainment. While enjoying great pizza with some cold beer or cocktails, one can enjoy shows from DJs, drag queens, and other live entertainment. 

Coyo Taco

Compared to the older, more well established restaurants discussed, Coyo Taco is an exciting restaurant that exemplifies the latest changes Wynwood has been seeing. Serving delicious street tacos, along with quesadillas, burritos, and other Mexican street foods, the restaurant blends Mexican cuisine with Miami’s multi-cultural influences. What makes Coyo Taco so special and fitting in the trendy Wynwood is its secret bar and lounge hidden behind the back wall. People line outside the door to get into both the eating space and bar areas of the restaurant. Coyo Taco freshly creates an experience that anyone can enjoy, both those simply looking to eat and the newer night crowd that wants to keep the Wynwood experience going all night long. 


Wynwood is such an enchanting neighborhood. The energy on those streets is almost tangible. I think the atmosphere is just so exciting, in addition to being extremely aesthetically pleasing everywhere you look. The wide variety of places to eat, museums to explore, galleries to stop in, bars to try, and clubs to enjoy create the perfect location for an exciting day or night. Wynwood brings creative minds together in a place where they flourish and their talents can shine. Everything is so colorful and bright, it truly is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. 

Unfortunately, as with many things that people enjoy, powerful corporations have targeted Wynwood as the latest destination that needs a modern and gentrified makeover. Miami seems to be set on constantly building new things then knocking them down to build newer things. The fact that the collectors, artists, and gallerists who made Wynwood into something worth talking about, worth celebrating even, had to relocate because of the sudden rise in commercial value. If everyone creating the Wynwood magic leaves Wynwood, we will be left with another sleek city neighborhood–devoid of charm and originality. It seems like people are in such a rush to move into the trendiest zone right now, they haven’t stopped to think about what happens when those nightclubs cannot operate any longer once they receive too many noise disturbance warnings, as they already have started to (Pasols). Wynwood needs its space to continue thriving and growing in a meaningful way. It is not destined to be just another scattering of high rises. 

Currently, Wynwood is progressing into this high-end, expensive residential zone. Because its eccentric nightlife and beautiful decorum attract such high volumes of people, it is natural that people want to move closer to the action. Regrettably, this means that Wynwood has started to lose the beautiful spirit that it is founded upon. Of the 70 art galleries, museums, and collections that were once located within the neighborhood, only 15 remain open, shocking considering those were the very places responsible for Wynwood’s eventual flourishing (Pasols). These days, people are coming to Wynwood to shop at boutiques, eat and drink out at restaurants, and party at nightclubs rather than to appreciate or even purchase art. 

It is sad to see the walls that once attracted tour buses full of art devotees, eager to take in and learn about the murals and street art now merely serve as a colorful backdrop for social media posts. People are more invested in the quality of photo than quality of experience, and nothing suggests that the current mindset is bound to change soon. As the rise of digital art continues, it feels like physical art has lost meaning in the minds of many. The absurd amount of construction alone damages the energy as music and conversations are hard to hear over the never ending industrial clanging that comes with assembling over a dozen high rise buildings at the same time. It makes driving and navigating the streets much more difficult, as pedestrians are rerouted along the edges of multiple massive construction sites. 

Hopefully enough people will advocate for the preservation of Wynwood and the special quirks that make it so necessary to save from development. The fun part of Wynwood’s culture is its high sociability; it is certainly not destined to become yet another sleek city neighborhood. Wynwood’s true beauty comes from its designation as a safe space for art, innovation, and creativity from all walks of life and forms of expression. 

I love how nothing is off limits in Wynwood. Anything can be turned into art. I remember from talking to Harold that “no one cares if you paint on that.” Beyond the walls, graffiti covers the sidewalks throughout the neighborhood. Stickers have been slapped on just about every inch of every telephone pole and utility box. Even the cop cars I saw had blue spray painted camouflage designs on them. I really enjoyed walking down side streets and finding smaller pieces of art that were incredibly impressive, just a bit out of the way. It’s just as if everywhere you turn, there is something worth discovering. It inspires you to keep exploring, keep searching out more art, and finding something special.

Photos by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

Works Cited

“A Brief History of Wynwood.” Wynwood Art Walk, 1 September, 2013,

“About the Margulies Collection.” The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse,

“About the Museum.” Museum of Graffiti,

“About the Rubell Museum and Collection.” Rubell Museum,

“About Us.” Panther Coffee,

“Coyo Taco Wynwood.” Coyo Taco,

“Harold Golen Gallery.” Wynwood Miami,

Pasols, Aaliyah. “Gentrification Complete: Will Wynwood’s Progress be its Downfall?” Miami New Times, 5 October, 2021,

Pfeffer, Ryan. “Gramps.” The Infatuation,

Piket, Casey. “History of Wynwood Miami.” Miami History, 27 August, 2014,

“Rainbow Village Park.” The City of Miami,

“Roberto Clemente Park.” The City of Miami,

“The Man Behind the Pie.” Fireman Derek’s,

“Visit the Wynwood Walls.” Wynwood Walls,

Walter-Warner, Holden. “Rents in New York and South Florida Metros Surged More than 30%.” The Real Deal, 24 November, 2021,

“Wynwood Art District Neighborhood in Miami, Florida, Detailed Profile.” City Data,

“Wynwood Demographics.” Point2Homes,,born%20citizens%20account%20for%2023.74%25

“Wynwood, Miami, FL Rent Prices.” Zumper, 24 April, 2022,

Alexandra Fiedler: Miami Service 2022

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0


Alexandra Fiedler is a second-year student at Florida International University, seeking her BA in Psychology with a minor in Spanish. Alexandra enjoys the multitude of unique and captivating things Miami has to offer as both a city and a classroom to expand her knowledge and discover new enchanting things about this place she now calls home.


Roarthon is a student-run organization that raises funds for Nicklaus Children’s Hospital through the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMNH). The Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals is a non-profit organization that raises money for 170 different children’s hospitals all around the country, mainly one dollar at a time to help one child at a time (Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals). Nicklaus Children’s Hospital has over 40 pediatric specialties with over 800 physicians on staff, and performs comprehensive care for infants, children, and young adults (Nicklaus Children). The FIU Roarthon committee is an incredibly dedicated group of students that work for months in preparation for the actual dance marathon. Starting in the fall semester, they begin a year-long fundraising campaign that continues up until the culmination of it all in April. Roarthon is FIU’s way of giving back and helping CMNH with their impactful cause, through a challenging and fun dance marathon that lasts 17 hours each year. Since its inception 25 years ago, Roarthon has raised over 1.5 million dollars for the kids (FIU-Roarthon 2022). 


I did not understand the true impact that Roarthon has until the actual day of the marathon. As much as I would love to say that I was incredibly engaged and involved during the months leading up to the event, I didn’t quite grasp what I had gotten myself into. But as the day got closer and I listened to my roommate (a committee member/morale captain) talk about the children with cancer, their ‘miracle’ families, how exciting and exhausting the preparation had become, I started to get both more anxious and thrilled. One of the event’s main sayings is “We stand for those who can’t”  which was a really powerful way of keeping our dance marathon in perspective. We weren’t there just to challenge ourselves and have fun. We were there to really make a difference; through our dedication to this cause, we were able to raise crucial funds for children battling cancer and other equally frightening diseases. Roarthon did not necessarily align with my major or any of my particular passions, except for the fact that it reminded me of the service work that I used to do, and really missed being involved in. Before coming to college and before the COVID-19 pandemic started in March of 2020, I was heavily involved in community service, through my school, my church, and my family. So having the opportunity to do something that would benefit others was really meaningful to me. I have been slow to get back into service, which is my fault, but Roarthon just made me that much more driven to be able to start giving back once again. Hearing the families’ testimonials throughout the marathon about how much the money was helping their children go through these unimaginably difficult treatments for months on end really made it hit home for me why we needed to continue doing what we were doing. I really could not think of a better service opportunity for me to complete this semester–I had a great time doing great things for a great cause. 


My roommate, one of my closest friends, was a morale captain for Roarthon and convinced me to sign up back in August of 2021. At the time, I did not realize how intensive the commitment that I was making would be. She told me I should sign up for this funky event she was working and that if I joined, I would get a fanny pack. At the time, it seemed like a good idea and a cute fanny pack, so I decided to be a dancer for Roarthon. Since I signed up many months before the event, I did not give it much thought until much closer to the marathon and I realized that I had made a very large commitment that I needed to prepare for. As we got closer to the event, I began seeing more things about it all over social media and realized that it was actually a very large production that many people had been preparing for for a considerable amount of time. 


After packing my duffel bag with approximately a week’s worth of clothing, I walked over to the FIU gym where I knew I would be staying until the next day. I checked in at 4:30 p.m. on April 9th and attempted to mentally prepare myself for the next 17 hours. 17 hours. That’s how long I would be in the gym with no sitting, laying down, sleeping, showering, or just resting. As I made my way from the locker room to the gym, I realized that I did not know any other dancers for the marathon–just committee members that would undoubtedly be busy running the event. Being a relatively anxious person, I started to contemplate who I would even spend my time with over the course of the night. Opening the gym doors, I immediately forgot about my previous preoccupations as I took in the scene in front of me. Tape ran along the floor creating a winding path from the back entrance to the main stage with the words “Miracle Path” inscribed through the path. In the far corner, a Nintendo Switch station was set up and a group of people were already playing Mario Kart. In the opposite corner, the organizers had card and board games filling the top of a table, on the ground next to it was a life size Jenga game. Past that, they had inflatable basketball hoops and holes for football throwing. Along the back wall by the door, tables were set up with coloring books and other arts and crafts. And all throughout the center of the gym, space was left open for people to play games such as four square, volleyball, soccer, football, or even just a game of catch. And of course, the room was filled with music–it wouldn’t really be a dance marathon without it. People already in the gym were laughing, talking, playing games, and meeting new people. It genuinely felt like I had been transported back to elementary school with all the childhood games and animated energy in the room. I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into, but I finally felt more excited than nervous about the entire event.

Photograph by Georgia Rosen//CC by 4.0

Shortly after 5 p.m., the opening ceremony began. The overall director introduced herself to all the dancers, the Interim President spoke to us, then they had us all line the Miracle Path to welcome in the Miracle families–families that were actually benefiting from the money we were raising for their children’s cancer treatments at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. It was both sweet and sad to see such young kids coming into the gym and making their way to the stage through all our cheers and applause. They each had a chance to introduce themselves to us before one of the Miracle parents took some time to speak to us about how meaningful this charity event has always been for him. His young daughter had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and they trusted Nicklaus Children’s Hospital for their intensive treatment. The hospital is especially necessary as they help families that cannot afford the treatment all on their own. He thanked us for our dedication to this cause, which honestly didn’t feel quite right, because it seemed like he was the only one deserving thanks for his dedication to his family and their health. We were just a group of college students who hadn’t even begun the main event yet. After hearing from the Miracle families, committee members explained how we would continue fundraising throughout the night. Before even walking into the gym, I had fundraised $125 through the support of my friends and family, but as the marathon continued, we would be able to raise more money in order to sit down, take a shower, or take a nap. With that, the marathon officially began. I started meeting new people, learning why others had joined Roarthon, and playing games. The morale captains taught all the dancers a line dance they had been creating over the past several months. The first few hours went by easily, as the adrenaline and excitement of it all made me forget how apprehensive and tired I was before walking into the gym at 4:30. 

Photograph by Letizia D’Avenia//CC by 4.0

8:30 p.m. eventually rolled around, providing us with our first opportunity to sit down while we ate (a pleasant surprise for me, who thought we had to stand even while we were eating). Dinner was more time to continue getting to know the other dancers and socialize with lots of new people. After eating, we went back to the locker rooms to make our first outfit changes in preparation for the rest of our night.

Another really entertaining and unique part of Roarthon is that there were theme hours throughout the night where dancers could dress up. The themes for this year started from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. with Back to the Future, then Rave/Lights Out, Camouflage, 305 Hour, Pajama Party, Superheroes, and finally Color Wars from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. The theme changes helped keep us engaged throughout the night. Truthfully, as the night went on my memories of it all began to blend together, as the excitement wore off and the exhaustion set in. The Rave hour was a two-hour glow in the dark party that winded down at 1 a.m. After jumping around and screaming along to songs with my new friends, I realized that I was a little tired and I still had ten hours to go. One of the greatest sayings from the weekend became “For the Kids!” as we had to keep reminding ourselves what we were doing this for. We were sweaty, our feet hurt, our legs were starting to ache, but we knew that this night had a purpose, and that was why we had to keep pushing through. Certainly nothing we were experiencing could even come close to the pains associated with cancer treatment. Above all else, Roarthon was putting my perception of life and difficulties into perspective. 

I ended up raising $301 by the end of the night, as family members donated throughout the night to give me chances to sit down and even go get a nap. As it turned out, I was wide awake from 4 a.m. to 5 a.m. when I should have been sleeping and instead watched the Pitbull lip sync battle that was happening at the time. To me, the new connections I was building were far more valuable than a nap when I really took time to think about it. I did go lay down for about 25 minutes at one point, but I think my body was more confused than anything, and I could not actually fall asleep. There was something about being surrounded by everyone else’s energy that helped me stay awake and motivated. It wasn’t as easy to feel tired when you’re singing with all your friends, playing volleyball, learning new dances, watching others do karaoke, and learning to throw a football with perfect spin. 

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

8 a.m. That is the time where I really hit the wall. At 8 a.m., nothing was funny anymore. The music was too loud. My feet hurt. My back hurt. My legs definitely hurt. Breakfast was not good. These statements are all pretty representative of my internal dialogue around this time. It took a lot of willpower to not be grouchy with all my fellow dancers around me. After all, they were going through the exact same thing that I was. But by 8 a.m., I had been up and spending all sorts of energy for 15 consecutive hours just at the marathon. It was definitely hard to motivate myself to keep pushing through the last few hours.

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

Throughout the morning of April 10th, we were able to meet a few new people that helped truly bring the entirety of the dance marathon into perspective. We listened to one woman who shared with us how she battled stage 4 brain cancer while being an undergraduate student at FIU. She shared how Nicklaus Children’s Hospital provided her with so much more than treatment–they gave her support, love, and true compassion when she needed it the most. A mother spoke to us about her son’s aggressive form of bone cancer and how crushing it is to watch something like cancer tear through your very own child. She even shared how devastated her son was after arm surgery that prevented him from playing his favorite sport, baseball. The mother then shared with us that the hospital was able to treat her son with the absolute best type of care with the highest quality of doctors and staff in order to make sure he would make a recovery that other hospitals told her would never be possible. Those words were exactly what I needed to hear as I got goosebumps while listening to their powerful messages. They were why we were doing what we were doing. They were the reason we did not sit down. They were the reason we were challenging ourselves to do something so intense. They were the reason we needed to work so hard to make sure we raised as much money as absolutely possible. They were the ones we stood for when they could not. After their impactful testimonials, the dancers were then able to actually go outside to see a LifeFlight ambulance, one of the iconic blue ambulances with teddy bears on the sides from Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. We had the chance to meet the EMTs working inside and even went inside the ambulance. It was chilling to see Moana playing on a tiny screen–a harsh reminder that these intensive care units on wheels were made for helping children.

After what seemed like years but was only 17 hours, it was time for Roarthon’s closing ceremony. We all got a chance to perform the dance we had been attempting to learn throughout the course of the night. I honestly think my partner and I did pretty good in the end, even though I’m certainly not a skilled dancer. After the awards were given to those who raised the most money, and the committee members were recognized for their intense work over the past several months, it was finally time to learn how much money we raised in the end. After much anticipation, hard work, standing, and dancing of course, Roarthon raised… $59,190.10!!! Almost sixty thousand dollars! I was blown away when I saw the total. I never dreamed the group of exhausted (and probably stinky) college kids surrounding me would be capable of raising money like that. Because although it might’ve been hard to see how dancing made a difference, it’s not hard at all to see how 59k will help a cause as invaluable as a children’s hospital.

Photograph by Molly Schantz//CC by 4.0

Hobbling out of the gym at 11:30 was bittersweet. The elation I anticipated feeling was nowhere to be found as I struggled to make the trek back to my dorm. My mind was flooding with memories I was attempting to process although my mind was rapidly losing its fight to exhaustion. I just remember feeling proud of myself for making it through the night and getting prepared to finally welcome the sleep I had been fighting off for far too many hours at that point. 

Photograph by Georgia Rosen//CC by 4.0


Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0


Looking back at the event as a whole, Roarthon left me completely conflicted. Between barely being able to walk back to my dorm and seeing the total amount of money we raised, I was almost too tired to comprehend what I just went through the day before. After the initial numbness, first shower, and divine nap, I finally took time to evaluate my experience. 

I truly love Roarthon and everything it works so hard to accomplish. It is beyond touching to see college students advocate for something as noble as a cause as Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. Watching the morale captains lead events, games, dances throughout the night, it was just so evident that they had poured their hearts into the marathon. The people I met throughout the experience are people I can now genuinely call friends. We went from total strangers to sharing an actual connection by the time 11 a.m. rolled around because we had been through something so uniquely challenging and rewarding together. I don’t think people can understand the range of emotions one goes through during an event like Roarthon unless they go through it themselves. Meeting alumni in the morning who had previously been part of Roarthon was so inspiring, and made me even more dedicated to continue being a part of this amazing organization. I can confidently say that being a dancer this year was only the beginning of my journey with Roarthon because I know in my heart that I just have to go back and do it all again. The discomfort and aching I went through was temporary, something I am reminded of now as I write this and the parts that I remember most are the positives instead of just how I was sleepy. 

It fascinates me how I can’t even consider the worst part of Roarthon as a negative. Truthfully, I am a person that loves to sleep–I require a lot of it and don’t function well without it. Before walking into Roarthon, I had just completed a 6-hour shift running around a restaurant and was genuinely worried about having some medical emergency due to pure exhaustion. As 7 a.m. came around on Sunday morning, it was almost bewildering to acknowledge that I had been awake for 24 hours, and that rest was not coming anytime soon. Yet I resolved to remember that my sore feet, stinging legs, tired eyes, greasy hair, and aching back were nothing compared to the struggles faced daily by those for whom we were raising money. The afternoon before I watched a 6-year-old girl proudly introduce herself to a gym full of strangers as she battled leukemia and I had the audacity to complain? It was very sobering to realize that I was blessed to have aching legs because it meant that I could stand. I was grateful to donate 20 extra dollars to lay down because it meant I had enough energy to expend in the first place to get tired. I was thankful for the effort it took to form an exhausted smile because it meant I was safe enough and healthy enough to make the friends that had me smiling in the first place. All the exhaustion and pain were blessings, they were testimonials to my health, which is something I take for granted. My struggles which feel monumental to me in the moment genuinely pale in comparison to those experiencing cancer and other equally dangerous and complex diseases. I even get emotional now reminiscing over my experience and recalling the gravity of it all. I’m so thankful to all the people I met, the friends I made, the money we raised, and the experience that Roarthon gave me. 

It feels so selfish to be so thankful because it’s almost as if I got more out of the experience than I gave. But I try to view it as a situation that I got so much out of because I gave so much. Although it might not have been the most traditional hands-on service experience I have ever completed, Roarthon was so special to me in its unique way. I’ve never attempted an event similar to this, and I am immensely appreciative of everyone who supported me and challenged me to give back to my community in a wild yet oddly enjoyable way. I never imagined I would have done something like Roarthon and my roommate pushing me to just try something new is something I am eternally grateful for. It’s simply not possible to say anything to ‘Roarthon’ because it’s an event and not a living entity, but if I could finish with anything it would simply be to say: “Roarthon: for all that you have given me, thank you.”


Alexandra Fiedler: Miami as Text 2022

Photo by Monica Schmitz//CC by 4.0

Alexandra Fiedler is a second-year student at Florida International University who is majoring in Psychology and minoring in Spanish. After moving to Miami from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Alexandra is fascinated by the cultural, historical, and geographical differences between the place she grew up and the places she is experiencing for the first time. Alexandra passionately strives to learn and help others, while expanding her knowledge about the exciting cultural phenomena not just here in Miami, but also abroad in exciting. new places like España!

Deering Estate as Text

Photo by Alexandra Fiedler// CC by 4.0

“Inspired by”

By Alexandra Fiedler of Fiu at The Deering Estate on 28 January, 2022

The Deering Estate, or the former home of Charles Deering has both a rich and fascinating history filled with his interesting inspirations for his Estate and his advanced attitudes surrounding conservation, among much more. The class was taken back in time on the hike, learning that the very ground we were walking on had been traversed by people thousands of years ago for very different purposes than that of our educational hike. The land has long been viewed as both a necessity and something of great value, which thankfully, Charles Deering sought to protect and conserve. Luckily for us in the present times, this means that we are now able to experience the natural beauty of many rare and endangered ecosystems such as the pine rocklands, that are scattered throughout the estate.

Traveling into the home itself, the class learned that Charles Deering was heavily inspired by Spanish architecture, art, and design when creating his Miami escape. He based the design of his Stone House off of his very own home in Spain. There are even elements of Moorish architecture that can be found throughout the house, truly illustrating how deep the Spanish inspiration for his home goes. The Moorish influence in Spain dates back several hundreds of years, yet is still portrayed in many prominent features, like their unique rendition of the ‘arch.’ It was intriguing to hear about how Charles Deering spent such an extravagant amount of time and resources to perfectly design his Spanish-inspired home. It was disheartening to hear that he was the original reason that international laws now protect sacred art from being removed from their home countries against the will of the people. Although many of the religious icons once displayed in his home were valued on a deeply spiritual level, Deering insisted on having them transported across the sea so his home in Miami would fit his particular aesthetic. Despite the controversies that surround Deering, his home and estate are truly something to be marveled at, even today. Looking out over the bay at the spectacular ocean view, it is no wonder that he deemed this place to be the perfect location for his fortune. There is something so mystifyingly beautiful about the natural landscape combined with his impressively constructed estate. Even many decades later, it is still certainly a site to not only educate oneself of the rich history but also to experience the incredible scenery and views that border his home. The Deering Estate will continue to be a legacy of his vision and design throughout the ages.

Vizcaya as Text

Photo by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

“Europe Meets Miami”

By Alexandra Fiedler of Florida International University on 18 February, 2022

Vizcaya is a breathtaking mansion and estate located here in Miami, Florida. Constructed in the early 1900s and completed in 1916, the artistic vision behind the estate has remained consistently revered throughout the ages for its masterful execution. The house is filled with decadent pieces of art and various artistic styles, such as featuring rooms dedicated to the Rococo style. The man behind the vision of it all is Paul Chaflin, a painter and designer who studied throughout Europe before partnering with James Deering to curate the Vizcaya that is known and loved by many in the present. The estate’s grandeur is evident before one even enters the house, as one must pass through a winding street and over a moat before entering the home. Chaflin’s European inspiration is highly evident when going through the mansion, as one can see how the various rooms are inspired by styles popular in France, Spain, and Italy, among other European places. The beautiful works of art surrounded by ornate furniture and decorative pieces create a truly special atmosphere that leaves one wishing to explore more and venture further into the home. 

It’s very fascinating to think about how Vizcaya has become such a clear example of European inspiration clashing with classic Miami hedonism to create a charming oasis by the sea. Both Deering and Chaflin spent extensive amounts of time in Europe, and brought a multitude of Vizcaya’s pieces directly from Europe. However, with the clear tropical infusion and notes of Miami’s pleasure-centric ideology, Vizcaya has a distinctly special charm that cannot be found anywhere else. Its beauty is timeless, and people can enjoy the many exciting facets the estate has to offer over 100 years after its initial creation. Its eccentric atmosphere invites people to gather, relax, and enjoy the true beauties of the world, all while being surrounded by a masterfully curated estate. 

Downtown Miami as Text

Photograph by Quynh Chung (Elsa)//CC by 4.0

“Where the World Ends and the City Begins”

By Alexandra Fiedler of Florida International University on March 11, 2022

Skyscrapers, neon lights, trendy shopping centers and hip city centers are all acutely representative of the Miami that exists today. But as we traversed through the concrete jungle– illegally crossing streets to avoid the seemingly endless construction, stopping under almost deafening overpasses, and maneuvering down concrete steps built through the scarce natural scenery– we came to understand that this booming metropolis is not the Miami that has always existed. Rather it is one that has been strategically created to increase idealizations of luxury and exclusivity, all while erasing the truly authentic Miami that has almost ceased to exist today. Looking out at the expansive mouth of the Miami River, we imagined how it would feel to be one of the Tequestas seeing Spanish ships approaching for the first time. We learned how although they were located in Miami first, they were quickly and forcefully removed from the pristine location as stronger and more forceful populations dominated the area. It was disheartening to learn at the Miami Circle that all other ceremonial circles had been destroyed to build yet another high rise. To me, seeing a Whole Foods on top of the remains of Tequesta society was the perfect representation of what Miami has become. The city has been increasingly commercialized, attracting rich and powerful people to the vibrant location, but at the cost of losing that unique authenticity. Miami has a fascinating yet turbulent history that is rapidly being forgotten in exchange for condominium complexes that touch the sky. People would rather enjoy the blue glass, neon lighting, and funky architecture instead of delving into the painful and honestly embarrassing history of displaced and marginalized populations. Miami did not rise out of dust–it was built on the razed lands and cultures of other peoples. Knowing this history is the first step to correcting the direction Miami is currently heading towards as it allows for honest insight and reflection into who we really want to be seen as by the rest of the world. Do we really just want to be another flashy city with exciting nightclubs by the beach? Or do we want to be recognized as a city of diverse cultures that celebrates differences across the age and exemplifies the past we came from and the future we aspire to be?

South Beach as Text

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

“Worth Fighting For”

By Alexandra Fiedler of Florida International University on April 1, 2022

It is often hard to imagine a time in which the Art Deco styled buildings that line Ocean Drive could be anything but the eccentric, bustling tourist destination that it is known as today. But the neighborhood has not always been viewed with such high regard, and in the 1950s the hotels had fallen into disrepair, the wealthy people that once traversed far and wide to South Beach found other places to visit on their destination vacations. The district became home to middle and lower classes, and had a large Jewish population following the second world war. The glamour and excitement that Art Deco once stirred up in people had fallen into the shadows of the newer ‘MiMo’ architectural style–Miami Modern designs. In fact, many developers sought to demolish the Art Deco district on South Beach to make way to newer, flashier condos and high rises. They may have been successful too, if it wasn’t for one dedicated woman named Barbara Baer Capitman. Barbara founded the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL) in 1976 with designer Leonard Horowitz with the intention of saving the Art Deco District from being entirely demolished. Capitman and her associates pushed for the one-mile stretch of hotels and other buildings to be recognized as a historic place. The MDPL succeeded in 1979 when Miami’s Art Deco District was named the first 20th century urban area to be placed on the National Registry of Historic Places, meaning it would be preserved and no one would be allowed to destroy it to build something else. 

However, Barbara had to struggle and really fight for what she wanted to accomplish. She was mocked and ridiculed by many wealthy and powerful people who saw her as a nuisance rather than an activist. Being in her 60s while she was fighting for South Beach, Barbara eventually had to slow down and pass the goals of the MDPL onto younger members. Even after her death, numerous colleagues acknowledged how strong of an impact Barbara had on the city of Miami with Judith Frankel, director of the MDPL even saying, “(Barbara) revived the buildings and by doing so, revived the city.” It is clear that while she disrupted the capitalistic plans of the ultra-wealthy developers Barbara touched the hearts of many more and it is only through her exceptionally hard work that we can still enjoy the truly unique Art Deco District on South Beach for the years to come. 

Alexandra Fiedler: Ida España 2022

Student Bio

Photograph by Monica Schmitz//CC by 4.0

Alexandra Fiedler is a second-year student at Florida International University who is majoring in Psychology and minoring in Spanish. After moving to Miami from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Alexandra is fascinated by the cultural, historical, and geographical differences between the place she grew up and the places she is experiencing for the first time. Alexandra passionately strives to learn and help others, while expanding her knowledge about the exciting cultural phenomena not just here in Miami, but also abroad in exciting, new places like España!


Beauty is an ambiguous, ever-changing concept that cannot be accurately quantified without creating some sort of standard to which things can be relatively compared. We perceive a person, place, or object to hold a subjective amount of beauty value relative to what the current societal ‘objective’ definition of beauty is. Beauty is especially difficult to quantify as what may be seen as desirable in one part of the world during a specific time will certainly not be viewed the same way in other cultures throughout different historical periods. Even once the time element has been eliminated, the various cultures spanning the globe currently all have their own personally relevant standards of beauty. An easily observable example of this phenomenon is how European cultures traditionally view thinner, more petite bodies as the highest standard for body shape, while many African cultures perceive larger, more curvy and full bodies as the ideal body. What each culture sets as their standard is influenced by a multitude of factors including societal attitudes towards women, family structure, class differences, and socioeconomic statuses (Marcos). For example, if a society has inconsistent nourishment, a body with more meat on it is viewed particularly positively due to its implications for that individual’s ability to safely produce children (Marcos). Similarly, in 16th century Parisian culture, pale skin was considered ideal, as it was a clear communicator that someone did not have to work outdoors with typically manual labor (Romm). Mainly women strived for pale skin as a symbol of class and status, indicating that they were able to remain indoors–as was typical for high society at the time.  Deeply tanned skin was indicative of country women, who had no other option but to be working outdoors.

Spanish Beauty Standards

Similar to many European countries, Spanish beauty standards are high, and difficult to achieve, let alone maintain, due to their often unrealistic standard. Hair is important in Spain; long, thick brunette hair is highly desirable. Women are considered attractive when they have a slim figure with light complexions (Kasbee). Dressing well is another must when it comes to beauty in Spain. While in other countries it may be perfectly normal to go out in sweatpants, Spanish culture typically expects that people are well dressed in classic and chic looking clothes. Dark colors, especially black are common in Spain, as neutral tones are implemented to create effortlessly stylish looks. Natural and subtle makeup looks are the go-to in Spain, being that naturally clear, beautiful, glowing skin is one of the most desirable and sought after qualities. Spanish women take great care of their skin, they use makeup to accentuate their natural beauty while not doing so much that it is clear they are wearing makeup. According to data collected in Spain, women there strive to create a well-groomed, yet studied look through minimal makeup usage. In fact, 72% of Spanish women say they use little makeup and they prefer a more natural look. Powders, concealers, and foundations are the most popular products used, in conjunction to create a healthy, glowing, and youthful look (Valencia). 

Even the men in Spain take great effort with their self-care, evident by the quick growth in men’s beauty and hygiene products. As a whole, Spain views beauty as something more natural, high quality skincare is preferred over heavy makeup (Sydel). Hair that has been groomed and styled well is also an important factor when determining what fits the standard. These standards have been evolving and developing throughout the ages in Spain, similar to how standards change across the globe over time. 


What humans have determined to be “beautiful” has been constantly evolving since the Romans first conquered Germania two millennia ago, when blond hair was cut off of slaves and captured populations to make wigs for Roman women (Marcos). As Romanticism flourished in Europe, the standard morphed from celebrating full figured to expecting a delicate, petite physique that was nearly unattainable for women to keep up with without taking dangerously drastic measures. 

Photograph retrieved from Fashion Today// CC by 4.0

Women would wear decadent black clothing that people marveled at from other parts of the world. Historically, Spanish beauty has been highlighted through the highest parts of society, as the wealthy could afford to keep up with the most luxurious materials and trends at different times. With growing industrialization, Spain’s standards for fashion and beauty were able to expand its global reach, meaning its influence grew as other parts of the world were striving to achieve the ultimate European definition of beauty (Miller). 
Historically, Spain’s Golden Age of fashion occurred in the 14th century, and clothing was used more as a means of expressing wealth and status rather than the fashionable purpose it mainly serves today. Back then, the wealthiest members of society could wear extremely lavish and quality clothing, imported from places like Burgundy and Italy (Miller). The iconic formal dress (gala negra) with its black and white design was accompanied with lavish gold chains and precious jewelry. Fashion was a means for Spain to show off how wealthy and powerful the country was. 

Humans have always been trying to enhance their natural beauty. The effort serves a clear, yet admittedly crude purpose–reproduction. Similar to the behaviors and rituals seen in other animal species, humans set themselves up to either choose or be chosen as a mate. Yet if one is not satisfied with simply reducing humans to biology, there is another reason as to why people work so hard to be perceived as beautiful: social acceptance. Humans have always been drawn to beautiful things; we even lose track of time just observing something beautiful (Perry). Throughout history, people have been influenced by the highest, most esteemed members of their society at the time. Back in Victorian times, individuals would mimic their pinnacle of beauty: Queen Elizabeth with her heavily powdered face and very tall wigs. Even when applied to society today, the comparison can be drawn to a family like the Kardshians. While they may not have the political or economical powers that other historical figures possessed, they have hundreds of millions of people watching almost every move through multiple different social media platforms. Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner start new fashion trends yearly, with American women copying their hairstyles, nail designs, fashion trends, and even attempting to recreate their infamous curvy body types, whether it be through exercise and waist training or through more drastic measures like cosmetic procedures, such as lip fillers and liposuctions. But as these cultural figureheads are well regarded and praised by vast amounts of people, it is perfectly sensible that ordinary people would attempt to recreate their styles and looks. If they want to be viewed in the same light as one of these cultural icons, people have to conform to what their society is praising as beautiful at the time. 

Often viewed as a place of excess, the United States has a way of taking something inspired by a certain place or culture, and evolving it into a more extreme version that fits more applicably into their society. As previously mentioned, Spanish women are renowned for their impeccable skin care, skilled makeup usage, and refreshing beauty routines. The women in the United States have certainly adopted many of these practices from Spanish and European influence and have since added their own culture’s influence as well to create current standards and preferences for our particular society. Americans typically fake tan more than Spanish women, as in Spain, women prefer to either tan naturally by going outside or they simply maintain a lighter complexion. In the States, women will artificially generate the perfect glowing skin tone, regardless of whether they could naturally achieve the same results. Plastic surgery rates in the United States are much higher than those in Spain, and Americans are known for their excessive implementation of plastic surgery for correcting or removing imperfections (Sydel). In Spain, the most common plastic surgery operations are breast augmentations and liposuction (Kasbee). These procedures are intended to enhance one’s appearance without necessarily creating something artificial for the sake of changing one’s appearance entirely. Liposuction is also done to maintain the current beauty standard in Spain. Similarly, breast augmentations, liposuctions, and rhinoplasties are some of the most popular surgical procedures for women to get in America, all of which are done in significantly higher quantities than they are in Spain. While Spanish women may want to get a small amount of plastic surgery done to enhance a natural appearance, it is much more widely accepted to drastically change one’s natural features in order to get a desired look in America. Even in regards to the far less invasive non-surgical procedure, such as Botox and dermal fillers, are much more popular in the United States when compared to the rates of procedures completed by Spanish people (Sydel). 

Another fascinating difference between Spanish and American attitudes to beauty related manners is the countries’ respective approaches towards treating and managing skin concerns. As discussed, clear and beautiful skin is important in Spanish culture and the same can be said about the United States today. However, while in Spain they take a much more holistic approach to fix skin concerns, Americans are much more likely to turn to prescription medications to amend whatever problems they are having. In Spain, it would be quite customary for a doctor to suggest lifestyle changes to achieve results. Suggestions such as eating healthier, drinking more water, sleeping more, and smoking less are generally accepted as the first method of defense against pesky skin concerns, such as acne (Sydel). Americans have mastered identifying a problem they would like to see corrected and immediately attempting to find a medicinal solution. It requires less effort on the individual to take a pill than to make some arguably very large and difficult lifestyle choices without even being guaranteed of their success.

Harm of Beauty Standards

Although Spain has brought much to America in terms of what we deem as beautiful, such as slim figures and light complexions, people’s attempts to meet these unrealistically high standards have caused many individuals great harms. Eating disorders are highly prevalent in the United States, as younger people strive to look exactly like the world’s most successful models. It is not realistic to assume that everyone will be able to stay really thin, have naturally perfect skin, beautiful hair, and be able to keep up extensive beauty routines. Beauty can be such a powerful thing, but it often gets twisted into something that people despise as they are expected to something that is simply not possible or reasonable.

Works Cited

Alexandra Fiedler: Vuelta España 2022

Photograph by Jena Nassar//CC by 4.0

Alexandra Fiedler is a second-year student at Florida International University who is majoring in Psychology and minoring in Spanish. After moving to Miami from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Alexandra is fascinated by the cultural, historical, and geographical differences between the place she grew up and the places she is experiencing for the first time. Alexandra passionately strives to learn and help others, while expanding her knowledge about the exciting cultural phenomena not just here in Miami, but also abroad in exciting, new places like España!

By Alexandra Fiedler of Florida International University on 30 June, 2022

Spain is a beautifully unique and historically rich country that offers so much in terms of art, culture, delicious food, and more. After thoroughly exploring many iconic cities and different destinations, there is so much that could be discussed. From its ancient start with different kingdoms and cultures, to its impressive churches (some of which remain under construction to this day), Spain has an abundance of fascinating things to offer. 


Starting in the 700s CE, the Reconquista was a series of military campaigns that sought to claim land throughout Spain and Portugal’s territories from the Moors, which was formerly known as al-Andalus (World History Encyclopedia). The Reconquista continued through to the 13th century, by which point almost all land had been conquered from the Moors with the exception of Granada. Granada would remain under Moorish control until the year 1492. The Reconquista was led by various Christian leaders over the course of hundreds of years. They were determined to have everything under Christian control and did not want the Moors to be in charge or lay claim on anything. Granada, Cordoba, and Sevilla are three notable places that were once great Muslim strongholds that were conquered by the Christians throughout the 800 years that the Reconquista lasted. Although they were often brutal and deadly towards Muslim people, there were a few instances in which cohabitation between the two religions became necessary. For example, Ferdinand III at first attempted to expel all Muslim inhabitants from Andalusian cities such as Cordoba and Sevilla, but had to reform his policy when the economy began collapsing (Britannica). What ensued was a unique situation in which Muslims and Christians coexisted because they realized that both groups were necessary to maintain a functioning society. 

Demonstration of wealth possessed by Christian rulers: Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

The Spanish Inquisition

Ceiling in El Alcazar de Granada: Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

The marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile was one of the most politically and strategically significant decisions in European history for a multitude of reasons. The two cousins married in 1469, effectively unifying all of Spain (HISTORY). However, the two Christian monarchs determined that the best way to ensure political unification of the country would be through establishing religious unification as well. Therefore, in 1478, the Spanish Inquisition began under their rule. The Inquisition demanded that all Jews living in Spain must either convert to Christianity, be exiled from Spain, or face certain death. Jewish people were forced into segregated neighborhoods, and throughout Spain remnants of many Jewish quarters can still be seen today. Beginning right before the fateful 1492, the year that the last Moorish Alcazar and stronghold in Granada fell to Christianity and the year that Columbus discovered the Americas for the Spanish crown, the Inquisition was merely another piece of the greater puzzle for Spain’s conquests of the time. All of these variables led to Spain being established as one of the world’s greatest powers at the time. Keeping in accordance with their image as a powerfully united and dominating kingdom, they extended the Inquisition to Muslims living in Spain four years after it began for the Jewish population (HISTORY). The Jews and Muslims were put in an absolutely tragic situation; being forced to either lose everything they owned and the place they called home, have to give up deeply important religious beliefs and identities, or be tortured or killed in gruesome manners. Thousands of people fled, but many more were simply unable or unwilling to. It has been estimated that around possibly 160,000 Jews were forced to leave Spain after rejecting being baptized into the Christian Church (Britannica). While people would often ‘convert’ to Christianity, many would continue practicing their religion in private. But Isabella and Ferdinand grew wary of fake converts–deeming them more dangerous of a threat than those who refused to convert–and the Inquisition grew exceptionally harsh in Spain, with many innocent people being falsely accused of not truly converting, costing former Jews and Muslims their properties, jobs, or even their lives (HISTORY). The Inquisition continued for over 200 years, making Spain a very hostile place for anyone who was not devoutly Christian for a very long period of time. The remnants of this can still be felt today, as there is an almost nonexistent community of Jews and Muslims in Spain even today hundreds of years later. 

Indicator of Jewish Quarter in Toledo: Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

Lasting Effects

It was disheartening to learn about and actually witness many places that were affected firsthand by the Spanish Inquisition. It reached from Toledo to Granada to Sevilla to Cordoba. It felt as if wherever we went, the Inquisition had gone too. In doing my research, I learned that of all the Inquisitions throughout Europe, Spain’s has long been regarded as one of the most horrific and bloody of the cultural purification attempts (Britannica). It was uncomfortable going through Toledo and seeing their former Jewish ghetto, where people were forced to stay, being regarded as second-class citizens. We even saw the Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca, a synagogue that had formerly been transformed into a Christian church, that was designed in Mudejar style. It was confusing to see how Christians despised the other religions and those who practiced them, but had no issue in using their styles of art, architecture, and design for their own places of worship. This hypocrisy was found yet again in Cordoba, where the great Mosque-Cathedral is located. It is an incredibly emotional tumultuous experience to go into that Cathedral, especially when the history of it is discussed. The mosque was originally built in 785 CE, when Moors controlled the area of Al-Andalus. However in 1236, as a part of the Reconquista, Christians took control of the area and seized the mosque (HISTORY). Contrary to the typical practice of burning down mosques in areas the Christians conquered, they decided to spare the great mosque and it is not hard to see why. The architecture is beyond breathtaking. It is an absolutely astounding experience to walk in and see these great arches and intricate art lining the walls, ceilings, and even decorating the floors. So instead of burning it to the ground, the conquerors determined that the mosque could survive if it was converted into a Christian church. They added the typical Christian altar and icons, and restructured the way the building was used. Now the former center of worship for the Muslims has been pushed to the side and is dimly lit, making it blatantly apparent that it is not intended to be the focus of the building any longer. Thus is the dichotomy of the Mosque-Cathedral. It is painful to see how the former mosque has been taken away from its former people, and can never again be used for its original intended purpose. It is uncomfortable to think of Muslim people going into the Mosque-Cathedral and not being able to openly practice their religion while any Christians that enter are free to light a candle, pray, and attend mass. However, if the mosque had not been transformed into the cathedral, it would not exist at all today. The Reqonquista was a violent and upsetting piece of Spain’s history and it is unfortunate that those were the only two options for the mosque at all: destruction or conversion. Destruction or conversion seems to be a highly prevalent theme throughout Spain’s history. Beginning with the Reconquista and continuing through the Inquisition, there have been long lasting periods of time where coexistence of religions and cultures was simply deemed not possible. It is a shame to see that because I know that when cultures and traditions blend and mesh together, they can create truly beautiful things to be shared and enjoyed by all. 

Cathedral altar from Mosque-Cathedral in Cordoba: Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

Uniquely Miami

One thing I grew to appreciate about Miami this summer that I sort of took for granted before is how generally accepting of a place it is. I know that right now we are in uncertain times politically, with legislation changing things that we have come to accept as norms. However, Miami is one of the most diverse places in the United States and I would not trade that for the world. Different races, ethnicities, sexualities, religions, and ways of life are accepted and celebrated, where they might not be in other places. For example, in Miami, around 64% of residents are Hispanic, 13% are Black, and 12% are White (DataUSA). Of the Hispanic populations that reside in Miami, some of the most populous groups are Cubans, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. The most popular religions in Miami are Catholicism, Judaism, and Islam, while there are still others who practice Hinduism, Buddhism, and Santeria. While the Spain I got to know this summer was incredibly modernized, accepting, and kind, the country’s intolerant and destructive history simply cannot be overlooked. It is such a blessing that people are free to be who they want in Miami, and for the most part in the United States. It reminds me that I am lucky and blessed to live where I do when I do, and that it is okay for me to be whoever I want to be without fear of judgment, much less rigid persecution. 

Expression and Acceptance

One of the ways that the similarities and differences between Miami and Spain were highlighted to me was in both places ideas of expression and acceptance. I mean this to include religions, sexualities, and ways of living. I grew up believing Miami was the most liberal, free-spirited place that you could ever find, but my time in Spain demonstrated to me that things that still would not be deemed socially okay or acceptable were perfectly normal in Spain. It taught me that nothing is black and white, that many things should not be determined before one has gained wider perspectives about a particular matter. Spain really opened my eyes to what it means to be expressive and open in ways that I had not previously considered.

Chueca y Barceloneta

Acceptance in Chueca

Chueca is a place where people from all walks of life can go to feel comfortable and accepted. Being an openly gay neighborhood, one can feel the change in atmosphere the second they step out of the metro. The normally monotonous gray walls are substituted for brightly colored rainbow bricks, acutely representative of the energy one is bound to encounter in Chueca. The neighborhood itself is incredibly progressive, supportive of alternative and marginalized lifestyles that have not always been welcomed or accepted in other places (Chueca Quarter). As we wandered through the streets we encountered many bars, clubs, and sex shops that openly displayed their merchandise. If we had been in any other location, there would have been an air of shame and secrecy as opposed to the blatant openness that seemed to be typical for Chueca. It was refreshing to see that people were unbothered by these traditionally taboo topics and that typically ‘shameful’ things like sex toys could be viewed as just another part of everyday life. 

Expression in Barceloneta

Class at the beach in Barceloneta: Photograph by Jena Nassar//CC by 4.0

Miami has always been pinpointed as an especially progressive city in the United States, known for pushing the envelope in what is acceptable behavior and attire (Stategistico). So it was doubly surprising when we ventured to the beach and immediately noticed a great majority of the women did not wear swimsuit tops. I was highly unaccustomed to seeing public nudity, even though I supposedly attend college in one of the most socially progressive places in the United States. Women in Spain just seemed so comfortable in their bodies without covering up and it forced me to consider why I personally felt so uncomfortable being around nudity. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that I was personally raised in a very religious household where nudity is discussed with a great degree of shame, making it awfully surprising to see everyday people being so casual about their own nudity. However, the more and more I went to the beach, the more accustomed I grew to seeing women completely bare chested. Personally, it was also almost funny to consider how when I was in the United States everyone seemed to make such a big deal about ‘Free the Nipple’ and women empowerment but no one usually ever did much to make the movements come to fruition in regards to nudity and acceptance. Yet in Spain, no one seemed to make a big deal out of anything at all; they just did as they pleased. Surely legislation has to play a role in the differences between the two countries as Spain has more lax laws surrounding nudity in public while the United States has strict rules in place (Living in Barcelona). 

Closing Thoughts

Photograph by kind stranger//CC by 4.0

Visiting Spain was an incredible experience that I would not trade for the world. I learned so much about history, art, architecture, culture, and much more. The people I got the opportunity to travel with made the experience a thousand times more interesting. This summer challenged me in so many different ways; academically, physically, emotionally. But I got the chance to experience things that I would never have seen or done otherwise like climbing to the top of El Escorial or standing in front of Las Meninas. All the late nights, early mornings, and especially tapas made this a summer I truly will never forget. I would like to thank Professor Bailly for this opportunity and all my wonderful classmates and new friends that I can’t wait to see in Miami. 

Alexandra Fiedler 2022


Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Reconquista”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 10 Mar. 2021, 

Cartwright, Mark. “Reconquista.” World History Encyclopedia, 5 October, 2018,

“Chueca Quarter.” Spain Information, Espana Info,

“Ferdinand of Aragon Marries Isabella of Castile.” This Day in History, HISTORY,

“Inquisition.” HISTORY, 21 August, 2018,

“Miami, FL Census Place.” DataUSA, 2019,

“Most Liberal Cities in Florida.” Stategistico, 7 July, 2022,

“Nudity Laws in Spain–Is Nudity Legal in Barcelona?” Welcome to Barcelona, ShBarcelona, 26 April 2021,

Ryan, Edward A.. “Spanish Inquisition”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2 Jul. 2020,

Alexandra Fiedler: España as Text 2022

Photo by Monica Schmitz: CC by 4.0


Alexandra Fiedler is a second-year student at Florida International University who is majoring in Psychology and minoring in Spanish. After moving to Miami from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Alexandra is fascinated by the cultural, historical, and geographical differences between the place she grew up and the places she is experiencing for the first time. Alexandra passionately strives to learn and help others, while expanding her knowledge about the exciting cultural phenomena not just here in Miami, but also abroad in exciting, new places like España!

Madrid as Text

“From the Classroom to Reality”

By Alexandra Fiedler of Florida International University on 13 June, 2022

Las Meninas by Diego Velazquez

Madrid is a city full of rich history, intertwining different cultures, groups of people, and stylistic movements throughout the ages. Being established as the capital of Spain in 1561, Madrid seemingly overflows with the amount of historical significance that its city limits contain. The art especially demonstrates how truly influential and impactful the artists, city, and country have become for the art world. Although Spain has not necessarily popularized or established a “new” style of art, many of the greatest artists this world has seen have originated or established themselves in Spain. Velazquez, El Greco, and Goya, just to name a few of the most memorable, have many prominent works featured in the world-famous El Prado museum in Madrid. 

But what was most fascinating to me as I journeyed through the museum and was transported back in time was realizing just how real all of these works are. It is one thing to learn about Las Meninas by Velazquez and Goya’s Dark Paintings from a textbook or a classroom powerpoint; it is an entirely separate thing to stand directly in front of the works and truly take them in. I especially loved learning in depth about what makes Las Meninas so impressive. The absolute complexity and mystery that shroud the painting due to its usage of paradox, lighting, mirrors, reality, and unique characters truly encapsulate Velazquez’s impeccable talents and special understanding of art. Then as the class ventured to Goya’s painting, La Familia de Carlos IV, I felt I gained a new understanding of the art community, and how talents and techniques inspire others and how individuals constantly adapt well-established techniques to develop uniquely powerful pieces of their own. Seeing Goya standing in the back of his own painting of the Spanish royal family seemed eerily similar to Velazquez’s own self-depiction in Las Meninas. However, the energy of the two paintings were clearly contrasting. Goya appeared in the shadows, seeming unwanted or unnoticed by his superiors, while Velazquez appeared to be adequately intermixed into his surroundings. This noticeable difference possibly indicates the different ways the two men viewed themselves in their profession. Perhaps Velazquez felt more self-assured and valued in his work, while Goya viewed his work as something he had been tasked with doing–not feeling particularly special or important to those who commissioned him–leading him to feel as if he belonged with the shadows. 

La Familia de Carlos IV by Goya

The intensity with which I studied and pondered the works of art simply could not be possible in any other setting than El Museo del Prado. The environment most simply caters to deep thought and curiosity. As I traversed the museum, I felt transported all throughout the past, both through time and space. I felt like I was in Goya’s lonely home while studying his Dark Paintings, I felt like I had experienced the greatest eras of classicalism in Rome, I felt like I was also witnessing the lives of royal families through the eyes of their artists. It was a surreal experience that has enriched my experience here in Madrid, and has only made me more eager to discover all the other incredible things this city has to offer. 

Toledo as Text

“Toledo Through the Eyes of an Artist”

By Alexandra Fiedler of Florida International University on 15 June, 2022

If there is one man who has truly made his mark on Toledo, it has to be El Greco. Born in modern day Crete by the name of Domḗnikos Theotokópoulos, it is no wonder that he eventually received his iconic nickname when living and working in Toledo in the late 1500s. The class was lucky enough to see some of his greatest works throughout our voyage through Toledo. The most iconic had to be The Burial of Count Orgaz, a painting several feet high and wide, commissioned for the titular Count after his death. El Greco masterfully incorporated elements from both the human world and the heavenly realm, with Count Orgaz’s ascending soul breaching the divide between the two realities. The mannerist style of painting, the complexity of characters, and the impressive use of religious and historical figures come together to create a visual masterpiece. 

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

The class then visited Santa Iglesia Catedral Primada, which was home to an impressive 19 different Greco paintings just in the room where priests get dressed: a sacristy. The visit to the cathedral really brought to life how much of a staple El Greco was in Toledo. He did not just paint a work here or there, he was commissioned several dozens of times to create a vast range of beautiful works that decorate various establishments throughout the city. 

However, the most impactful way I experienced El Greco’s work on our trip was when a group of us hiked to the very spot where he painted the iconic View of Toledo. It was a magical experience; staring over the wall of Toledo, seeing the cathedral towers, steeples, and the sprawling city. I felt transported back in time, like I could have been there when El Greco was. It was so surreal thinking that I was viewing the same exact place as this insanely talented artist from the 1500s–except with some modern improvements of course. That experience I got to share with friends made the excruciating heat and exhaustion fade to the back of my mind. It is not everyday that I get a chance to experience something as cool and unique as the view of Toledo, and I would do it all over again in 105 degree heat if given the chance. 

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

Cordoba as Text

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

“Mosque or Cathedral?” 

By Alexandra Fiedler of Florida International University on June 21, 2022

Similar to many of the other locations throughout Spain, Cordoba has a rich yet turbulent history, in which different religious and cultural groups grappled for control over the immediate region and even extending into the surrounding areas. The thing that truly draws millions of people into the ancient city year after year is the great Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. One of the most unique structures in the world, the Mosque-Cathedral is an excellent example of the cultural mixing and convivencia that was once characteristic of Spain. 

The convivencia refers to the period of time in Spain in which people from different religions cohabited Spain peacefully, and without religious persecution of the other groups. Typically, it is used in reference to Christians, Muslims, and Jews all coexisting harmoniously in Spain before the 1492 Inquisition in which Christianity became the only legal religion, and the other religious groups were forced to either leave Spain, convert, or be killed. 

The Mosque-Cathedral highlights the somewhat troubling history where Catholics took the mosque from the Muslims when they gained control of Cordoba. But due to its impressive architecture and magnificent artwork, the Catholics decided to convert the mosque into a cathedral as opposed to destroying it in their normal manner. From that point on, only Catholicism could be practiced within the former mosque’s walls, meaning that Muslims would no longer be able to use one of the greatest mosques in the world to practice their religion–even though it was designed as a place to worship in the Islamic faith. 

Much controversy has been caused by the conversion of the mosque into a cathedral, as many people purport that it should be returned to the Muslim community, since the greatness of the now iconic mosque truly started from their deeply ingenious artistic and architectural designs. However, the point remains that the mosque would have been destroyed during the country’s strictly Catholic years if it had not been converted into a cathedral for practicing Catholicism. In that sense, the Catholics saved the mosque, and it is only due to their efforts that we are able to view the magnitude of the creation thousands of years later. 

I personally don’t know how to feel about the Mosque-Cathedral in Cordoba. Being raised Catholic, I know how seriously Catholics take their sacred spaces, meaning that the Cathedral-Mosque will never be returned to the Islamic people. Once it has been blessed, it would be viewed as desecrating the space for any other religion to be practiced there. Howveer, my heart truly goes out to the Muslim people who feel that their place of worship has been stolen front hem. In a sense–it has. But history is twisted, complicated, with lots of gray areas. The Catholics are the reason it is not a mosque anymore, but the Catholics are the reason the mosque exists today in any capacity. I don’t have the answer for what should be done: it would be nice to see a place where the two religions could coexist peacefully, but it just simply is not realistic. Although the convivencia may have thrived in the past, when it comes to something as delicate and complicated as this particular Mosque-Cathedral, I cannot be sure how any ending would make everyone happy. Hopefully, through honest communication and compromising dialogue, the affected groups can find ways to continue to honor both traditions while preserving the extraordinary piece of history. 

Sevilla as Text

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

“Not Black and White”

By Alexandra Fiedler of Florida International University on June 19, 2022

Although today it is viewed as a beautiful yet quaint historical city, Sevilla was once one of the most powerful places in the world. Viewed as the gateway to the Americas, Sevilla’s Torre de Oro is the place where each ship coming and going to the Americas had to pass through in order to be processed and pay taxes.

Sevilla was such a notable port that Magellen’s excursion around the globe even began and ended in that very place. The crew of well over 200 men began their journey with a prayer in the Cathedral of Sevilla, and the 18 men who remained at the journey’s conclusion finished their voyage with another prayer at that very place. 

But perhaps the most infamous usage of Sevilla’s ports is that of Christopher Columbus. He began by asking for financial support from the king and queen in Alhambra in Granada. Once his monumental voyage got approved, he set off for India. As is very well known, instead of establishing a new route to India in 1492, he was the first of the Europeans to discover the Americas. 

What is most fascinating to me is how different the perception of Christopher Columbus is in the United States as opposed to here in Spain. As the class traversed across Sevilla, we noticed several different monuments to the aforementioned. It appears that here they have a lot of pride in Columbus and what he achieved, while the US seems to focus much more heavily on what he did wrong. There seems to be less understanding about what was acceptable for the times, and more of wanting to hold him accountable to the standards of the present day. There truly is no clear cut answer for how he should be regarded or how his legacy should be remembered. It is a very messy slice of history that cannot be broken down into black and white. 

Barcelona as Text

“Barcelona: A City of Style”

By Alexandra Fiedler of Florida International University on June 24, 2022.

If there is one thing I learned after spending a week getting to know the beautiful city of Barcelona, it’s that the city has style. Aside from its unique cultural identity, identifying itself as Catalonia as opposed to part of Spain, Barcelona has also developed a uniquely stunning style of artwork that can be discovered throughout the urban sprawl. Modernismo quickly became one of my favorite architectural styles that I saw all throughout Spain due to its special integration of naturalistic elements, implementation of materials such as glass, ceramics, and mosaics, and usage of curves over typical straight lines and edges. I was lucky enough to see some truly beautiful examples of Modernismo art and architecture throughout Barcelona in places such as the Palau de La Música Catalana, Park Guell, and La Sagrada Familia.

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

The Palau de La Música Catalana was designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner and is one of the most iconic musical theaters of all time. Decorated in highly ornate ceramics, one can marvel for hours at the intricacies that line the walls and ceiling. But the true masterpiece of the theater is the giant golden orb hanging down from the center of the ceiling. Acting as a sun to light up the room, the impressively detailed glass glows unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Surrounding the sun are thousands of ceramic roses, dozens of chandeliers, and ornate statues depicting majestic animals and mythical muses alike. Montaner’s masterful use of the Modernismo elements like the incorporation of nature and inexpensive materials create something beyond breathtaking that people still enjoy over 100 years later. 

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

Learning from his mentor Montaner, Antoni Gaudí went on to create some of the most iconic architectural structures in all of Spain such as Park Guell and La Sagrada Família. Focusing on Park Guell, it was an unfortunately unfinished project Gaudí took on in which he intended to design 40 houses in his own unique way. Although only two houses were ever completed, an incredible community gathering area was also designed and completed. What makes it so special is Gaudi’s usage of ‘trencadís,’ a style in which pieces of ceramics, tiles, and glass are broken by hand and then reassembled into a mosaic design. It is said that Gaudí would tell his workers to bring any bottles or pieces of tile they found into work which he then would incorporate into the artwork. Park Guell was unlike any mosaic I’d come across and I loved how it transitioned from design to design, from color to color. It was highly apparent that someone with a masterfully artistic mind had to have been the one to put it all together. Regardless if the original project was finished, it was still such a blessing to be able to see any part of Park Guell at all. Modernismo makes Barcelona a truly unique place to experience creativity and artistry you can’t truly replicate anywhere else. 

Sitges as Text

Photograph by Jena Nassar//CC by 4.0

“Deering’s Estate(s)”

Perhaps the best example of the Ida y Vuelta theme of our study abroad was presented to us in Sitges. A short train ride from Barcelona, the picturesque beach town sits right on the coast. Atop a seaside hill, we approached a white stuccoed complex of buildings. The first hint that this was something similar to what the class experienced in Miami was the iconic logo that adorned the Deering Estate back home. The rising red sun over the blue waves was also the signature of Charles Deering’s home, art collection, and museum here in Sitges. It was so fascinating to see where his art collection truly began because I was much more familiar with seeing his former collection and estate back in the United States. I really enjoyed the tour we received as it was incredibly enlightening to the thought and dedication Deering had to the arts. He worked with other art appreciators, namely Miquel Utrillo, to amass works from throughout Spain and even other parts of Europe. 

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

Walking into the house immediately amazed me because I was not expecting it to look the way it did. The house was set up in a salón style, meaning almost all the available space on the walls was covered in artwork. Whether it was paintings, drawings, decorative plates, stained glass, or tapestries, there was something covering absolutely everything. Perhaps it is because the Stone House in Miami has been almost entirely emptied, but the Cau Ferrat Museum really brought Charles Deering to life in my mind. It was much easier to visualize an eccentric  and passionate art collector when I was staring at his Goya paintings and Picasso drawings. Overall, it was really special to see the place where Deering’s collection began that would eventually be transported across oceans to end up in our very own Miami, Florida. 

Alexandra Fiedler: Coconut Grove 2021

Photos by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

Photo by Monica Schmitz//CC by 4.0


Alexandra Fiedler is a second-year student at Florida International University who is majoring in Psychology and minoring in Spanish. After moving to Miami from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Alexandra is fascinated by the cultural, historical, and geographical differences between the place she grew up and the place she now calls home. Alexandra passionately strives to learn and help others, while expanding her knowledge about what makes Miami an especially unique and vibrant cultural setting.


Coconut Grove has been described as a “small town with a big city vibe,” an aptly fitting name when considering this uniquely vibrant neighborhood. It has an area of just over 5 square miles, with Biscayne Bay directly to its east. US 1 to the north, North Prospect Drive to the south, and LeJeune Road to the west define the other boundaries of the neighborhood. To the south of Brickell and east of Coral Gables, Coconut Grove has a special identity all of its own. Boasting both urban shops and cozy residential areas, Coconut Grove has the perfect mixture of bustle and relaxation. Also known as “The Grove,” this neighborhood consists of many parks, beach views, walkable paths, and pleasant scenery. CocoWalk is an upscale outdoor shopping center that hosts many vibrant dining locations and exciting shops. People can enjoy the natural beauty of South Florida here while also relishing in the more urbanized amenities of the area. The natural appeal of Coconut Grove is clear, flourished with tropical species such as banyan trees, palms, and live oaks. Its charming location near the ocean has made its waterfront properties extremely desirable, and there are even multiple yacht clubs in the Grove. All in all, one can find both the natural stunning tropical scenery and the more urbanized lively shops, restaurants, and other special commodities here in Coconut Grove. 


Being recognized as the oldest continuously inhabited neighborhood in the city of Miami means that Coconut Grove has a lengthy and fascinating history. In the mid-1800s, many people from all over were attracted to South Florida because of the Homestead Act, which would give someone 160 acres of land if they lived on it, took care of it, and grew crops for 5 years. The first known permanent residents of Coconut Grove are Edmund and Anne Beasley. Edmund was a sailor from Connecticut, while his wife Anne was a Bahamian immigrant. After being widowed, Anne Beasley rented a portion of her land to a man named Horace Porter, who then created a U.S. Post Office, which he named ‘Cocoanut Grove’ in 1873. Others began to move to the area in the 1870s, such as the Pent family from the Bahamas and the Peacocks from Great Britain. Jack Peacock eventually opened up the neighborhood’s first guest house in 1882 which was referred to as the Bay View Inn. Many of the original hotel staff were black Bahamians who had settled in Key West throughout the earlier decades. They heard of a hotel that needed help with everything, from cooking to cleaning to carpentry, and many relocated in order to hopefully find employment. Mariah Brown is recognized as Coconut Grove’s first black Bahamian resident, moving to the area in 1889. Although it had originally been forgotten, Porter’s post office was reopened and the official Coconut Grove name was derived from his original idea, although the spelling was slightly modified. Because of its picturesque location near the water and surrounded by vibrant vegetation, the Bay View Inn attracted all sorts of creative individuals as visitors, including writers, artists, environmentalists, titled counts, and other eccentric characters. With the influx of new visitors, the young inn called for expansion, was renamed the Peacock Inn, and therefore required more staffers. A black Bahamian named Ebenezer Stirrup had been accumulating land in the area for years in exchange for work. He then built and sold/rented over 100 homes to Bahamian immigrants–some of which are still standing today in the west part of the neighborhood. These ‘shotgun style’ homes were constructed in a long and narrow form with two rooms and two doors, much like the homes located throughout the Bahamas and parts of the Caribbean. Because of his efforts, in the early 1900s Coconut Grove had a booming Bahamian community located near the Peacock Inn. 

Unfortunately, the annexation of Coconut Grove by the city of Miami was detrimental to the quality of life for the marginalized groups in the community. Although in the early 1900s, Coconut Grove had a civil relationship between blacks and whites–people even attended the same worship services, west Coconut Grove was “increasingly marginalized and choked of resources”(Nebhrajani) for an extended period of time. The west part of the Grove strived to preserve its Caribbean identity but gentrification and marginalization have led to a more fractured and worn down sense of spirit. Fortunately, in later years Coconut Grove has celebrated its identity and roots in the Bahamas through the Junkanoo Festival and other celebrations of Bahamian influence in the neighborhood today. 


Much like many other neighborhoods throughout Miami, Coconut Grove is a diverse location, with residents of all races, ages, backgrounds, and socioeconomic statuses. The current population statistic is 26,815 people although this number often fluctuates over time and across different resources. Data collected from 2019 delineates a population of 36.8% Hispanics and Latinos, 29.9% Blacks, 26.3% Whites, with Asians, Indigenous people, and other races making up the rest of the population. A large Hispanic population is nothing out of the ordinary for Miami, but Coconut Grove boasts a particularly large Bahamian population. Coconut Grove is regarded as a wealthier neighborhood, with a median household income of $88,824. For reference, Miami as a city only has a median income of $42,966, meaning many of the residents in Coconut Grove earn much more than people in other areas of the city. Although when excluding those who make over $200,000, a majority of residents are earning between $40,000 and $125,000, indicating that many people actually make much less than a median statistic would show. As for education levels, 63% of the population has received a bachelor’s, master’s, or a higher degree, making it a very well-educated neighborhood. The median age for male residents is 37.9 years, while for females it is 43.4. These numbers illustrate that a slightly older crowd calls Coconut Grove home, perhaps because it takes time to accumulate the money necessary to afford a place of residence in the neighborhood, which is supported by the fact that 58% of the neighborhood’s population is above the age of 35. Another interesting statistic is that only 5.6% of the neighborhood’s population does not speak English well or at all, which is much lower than other parts of Miami as a whole, even though the percentage of foreign born residents in Coconut Grove is 35.1%. As a whole, many different kinds of people call Coconut Grove home, regardless of their education, age, race, or socioeconomic status. 


While in Coconut Grove, I had the pleasure of speaking to Maj. Kevin John Simon who works at the Christian Science store in Coconut Grove. I was just exploring around the Grove when he invited me inside. Major(Retired) Simon was incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, even showing me an old map of Coconut Grove from 1896! The map was spelled ‘Cocoanut Grove’ which has not been used since the late 1800s. Mr. Simon was excited to tell me about Coconut Grove and even gave me a book titled, “The Pictures of America: Coconut Grove.” The book was an excellent resource, as was Mr. Simon. I asked him about the Grove in general and he shared that he thinks it is an excellent neighborhood with a rich history. Mr. Simon told me how the building we were standing in was over several decades old and was a building originally owned by the Munroe family. He informed me about how the Munroe family owned a vast amount of buildings and land, most of which they sold over time.

It was a wonderful experience getting to talk to Mr. Simon and getting to hear about more of the in-depth history of Coconut Grove. The map amazed me because it is entirely unrecognizable from the Coconut Grove that exists today. Furthermore, I am so thankful he shared the book and all his knowledge with me, and I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Mr. Simon. 


Coconut Grove is an especially interesting area when one considers the vast amount of history that has taken place here. There are multiple historic buildings throughout the neighborhood, each with a uniquely fascinating story that can still be learned today.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Vizcaya was the home of James Deering, an eccentric millionaire who wanted a uniquely captivating home which he had built between 1914 and 1922. His home has since become a museum thanks to the impressive collections of art James amassed from around the world from many different cultures. Featuring Italian Renaissance inspired gardens, the surrounding estate has been marveled at since its creation. The architecture of the actual home has great Italian influence, and its grandeur has been recognized throughout the ages. Paul Chalfin was the primary designer, and working with Deering, created one of the most intricate, beautiful, and impressive estates of all time. 

Coconut Grove Library

Part of the Miami-Dade public library system, the Coconut Grove Branch has an extensive history. First opening in 1895, the branch eventually moved to its current location in 1901. The Munroe family was crucial in the creation and development of the library, with Kirk Munroe donating the land for both of the libraries locations and Mary Barr Munroe starting the ‘Pine Needles Club,’ a place for young girls to gather. The library hosts over 36,000 items in its collection and its picturesque location provides a lovely opportunity for people to learn and relax in its spacious and comfortable environment.

Barnacle Historic State Park

Becoming a state park in 1973, Barnacle Park was put on the National Register of Historic Places mainly because it is home to the oldest house in Miami-Dade county that is still standing in its original location. The Barnacle Home was built in 1891 by Ralph Munroe, located near the beautiful waters of Biscayne Bay. Munroe also created a boathouse and started a yacht club on his land. The 40 acres of bay-front land were originally purchased for $400 and belonged to the Munroe family until Mary Munroe sold it to the state of Florida instead of developers in the early 1970s, where it achieved its state park title and historic registry status. 

Green Spaces

Coconut Grove features a large amount of green spaces and natural life. Even the most urban parts feature trees, shrubs, vines, and other plants. Many storefronts have incorporated vegetation, such as having vines crawling up the sides of buildings and wrapping around pillars or staircases. There is a multitude of parks, some preserving natural ecosystems such as hardwood hammocks. All throughout the neighborhood, there are natural spaces for the public to enjoy. 

Peacock Park

Photo by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

This park features 9 acres of land, filled with grass, trees, and fun and engaging opportunities for people. The park has a basketball court, a softball field, soccer fields, a playground, and a multipurpose field. It even features a boardwalk that overlooks Biscayne Bay. Located right by the water, the location makes this park easily accessible and worth the visit. It is actually located where the Peacock Inn used to stand, and the name is a nod to the Peacocks who first opened the inn. 

Billy Rolle Park

This mini park offers many of the great features of the other green spaces but on a smaller scale. In this park, one can find picnic tables, bathrooms, a barbecue, chess tables, and dominoes. It is located near a more residential area, offering local residents a great place to go and enjoy the outdoors without the bustle often associated with the more prominent parks. 

Regatta Park

Located directly on the bay, Regatta Park is next to both boat clubs and a marina. Some of the amenities featured here are a boat ramp, bike racks, water rentals, picnic tables, and of course the waterfront view. People can come here to enjoy the view of the water or the sight of sailboats on the sea. It is a beautiful green space filled with sprawling grass and shady trees. One can stroll along the pier or simply sit and appreciate the views.



Photo by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

Coconut Grove has a trolley available in the neighborhood that is free of charge and anyone may use. The trolley runs from 6:30 am until 11:00 pm most days of the week. It has multiple stops throughout the Grove, ensuring people can hop on and off all over the neighborhood. People can use this fun, efficient, and vintage mode of transportation to go around the charming streets of Coconut Grove.

Citi Bike

These trendy new bikes are open for public use and can be located through the corresponding app through mobile devices. People can rent bikes and travel around the neighborhood in an energy-efficient manner while taking in all the endearing sights Coconut Grove has to offer.

Miami Metrorail

The metrorail has a station within Coconut Grove and can be accessed with a metrocard, which is an inexpensive cost. The Orange Line runs through Coconut Grove and the stop is near the neighborhood’s trendiest and busiest center. The metrorail is a great cheap alternative to paying for gas and parking. 


In addition to the many other forms of public transportation available in Coconut Grove, one can also access the area by the bus. There are multiple stops in the neighborhood, like at the Golden Glades Terminal, all along SW 27 street, and Bayshore Drive.


There is an abundance of public parking lots and garages throughout the Grove, meaning one does not have to rely on public transportation to get in or around the neighborhood. Parking rates vary, and many are often full because of the high amount of traffic that Coconut Grove brings in. Regardless, driving around and finding a parking spot is certainly a possibility when looking to explore the neighborhood. 


Coconut Grove is designed to be enjoyed by pedestrians. Multiple streets are closed off to motor vehicles, meaning walking is truly the only way to access many of the best spots this neighborhood has to offer. Coconut Grove is filled with businesses that are best enjoyed by pedestrians. Restaurants put their menus out front so people walking by can enjoy them. Other places play music, or string up lights. The atmosphere is truly best enjoyed by foot.


Coconut Grove is home to a multitude of different restaurants, cafes, and cuisines. There are trendy brunch spots, sophisticated dinner venues, mom-and-pop style delis, and ice cream shops. One can find American, Italian, Mexican, Cuban, Asian, and many more different types of food all within close relation to each other.

Taco Way

This authentic Mexican restaurant is a great place to go when one wishes to switch it up  a little bit. Contrary to the other Hispanic influences in Miami, this restaurant features exclusively Mexican cuisine, decor, and music. The bar has plenty of Mexican inspired drinks, while the menu features Mexican specialties like a handmade paleta lemonade drink. The food is phenomenal, featuring items such as quesadillas, tamales, enchiladas, salsas, Mexican rice, and much more. One can stop in for a great lunch or dinner right on Main street. They offer outdoor seating, making it a great place to eat while watching all the fun action happening throughout the street. 

GreenStreet Cafe

This cafe and lounge has been thriving on Main Street in Coconut Grove for over 30 years. A classic option in the Grove, this spot offers both indoor and outdoor dining. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the GreenStreet Cafe strives to provide a welcoming atmosphere, great food, and even better drinks. They bring in a wide range of patrons, from local politicians to tourists and of course, locals. The menu offers a wide selection of items, from appetizers to sandwiches to salads to fish and pasta. They even offer multiple desserts as well as different cuts of meat like filet mignon. Everyone should take a chance to experience this Coconut Grove classic. 

The Last Carrot

 This family-owned restaurant is a wonderful option for a healthy snack, lunch, or even dinner. It has a quaint location, being tucked into the corner of a small center. Featuring a menu of healthy options such as sandwiches, salads, and wraps, The Last Carrot is a delicious and healthy option for those looking to grab something quick yet satisfying. 


Coconut Grove has a great mixture of small businesses, trendy places to eat, fashionable boutiques, and more. There is a wide range of unique businesses that make this neighborhood an exceptionally interesting place to explore. One can find clothes, books, trinkets, home goods, and so much more.

Books & Books

This bookstore is located near the center of the Grove and is a lovely business to check out. Having two stories, a tiny cafe, and shelves reaching the ceiling, the cozy atmosphere of the bookstore makes it a great visit. They have a sizable collection of books, from children’s to romance to horror. They even have a special section of staff favorites, giving people an easy place to start if they are not too sure what they are looking for. 

Celestial Treasures

Photos by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

This quaint shop is tucked in among other shoppettes and cafes. It is a store focused on spirituality and spiritual growth. The store has a plethora of crystals, rocks, tarot cards, incense, decor, and much more. I purchased a bracelet and the lady working cleansed it with sage before giving it to me. The quiet storefront blends into the Grove perfectly and the wide range of available items in store makes it a great place to check out and experience. 

This n That

A thrift store located in the main city center of Coconut Grove, This n That offers a range of items. From collectors hats that cost $300 to old books that cost $1, the thirst shop has a very cozy feel where people can find all sorts of goods. Decor, clothing, accessories, home goods, books, and much more can be found here. Friendly service and great prices make this shop totally worth the stop. 


Photo by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

Coconut Grove is a vibrant and beautiful community for so many reasons. They have truly figured out how to attract tourists, keep things interesting, while still engaging the local residents. The neighborhood is extremely pedestrian friendly, making the Grove a perfect place to explore with family, friends, or even alone. They have such a unique selection of restaurants and businesses meaning anyone can find something that they will enjoy. A wide variety in cuisines and price points help ensure that this area remains accessible to people who cannot afford the steeply high prices often associated with Miami. Beyond the urban life, Coconut Grove is simply just a beautiful neighborhood. With trees, bushes, grass, and other naturalistic elements found throughout the community make it exceptionally beautiful and a joy to traverse. There are so many different things for people to enjoy, both urban and natural. 

Unfortunately, similar to many other neighborhoods as trendy and popular as Coconut Grove, the neighborhood has faced gentrification and modernization that make it less accessible to poorer and less fortunate people. Specifically the black Bahamians that are credited with being some of the first people to inhabit the area are often pushed to the side and reside in more run-down places in the neighborhood, while the city center becomes increasingly popular with rich tourists. The prices of food, parking, shopping, and just about everything else in the neighborhood are getting more expensive, taking the neighborhood away from the less wealthy natives and making it a new trendy haven for the increasingly wealthy population that wants to live near downtown and be by the water. It was a shame to see the traditional shotgun style houses around the edges of the neighborhood and seeing locals use the more unkempt and less popular recreational areas while the center of Coconut Grove continues to become more lavish and extravagant. My hope for the future is that more concern and care is shown to the more marginalized populations of the area instead of just catering towards what will generate more revenue.  

Works Cited

Ava Moore Parks. “Visit 9 Historic Sites In Coconut Grove.” The Official Travel and Tourism Site of Greater Miami & Miami Beach,

“Billy Rolle Mini Park.” The City of Miami,

“Coconut Grove neighborhood in Miami, Florida, detailed profile.” City-Data,

“Fun and Funky Coconut Grove.” The Official Travel and Tourism Site of Greater Miami & Miami Beach,

“History.” Florida State Parks,

Jodi Mailander Farrell. “3 ‘Conch Towns’ Where Florida’s Bahamian Culture Thrives.” Visit Florida,

Paul S. George. “Early Stirrings in Coconut Grove.” Brickell Avenue Neighborhood Book,

“Peacock Park.” The Official Travel and Tourism Site of Greater Miami & Miami Beach,

“Rail, Mover, Bus Rider Alerts.” Miami Dade Transit,

Roshan Nebhrajani. “The early Bahamian history of Coconut Grove.” The New Tropic,

“Regatta Park.” The City of Miami,

“Regatta Park.” The Official Travel and Tourism Site of Greater Miami & Miami Beach,

“Welcome To GreenStreet.” GreenStreet Cafe,

Alexandra Fiedler: Miami Service 2021


Photograph by John William Bailly//CC by 4.0

Alexandra Fiedler is a second-year student at Florida International University, seeking her BA in Psychology with a minor in Spanish. Alexandra enjoys the multitude of unique and captivating things Miami has to offer as both a city and a classroom to expand her knowledge and discover new enchanting things about this place she now calls home. 


I volunteered at Chicken Key, located a mile off the coast of Miami’s Deering Estate with Professor John William Bailly, Teaching Assistant Claudia Martinez, and several other Honors students in Miami in Miami. The deering Estate is full of diverse and endangered wildlife and vegetation, making its conservation especially crucial. The waters surrounding the Deering Estate are home to mangrove forests, seagrass beds, and coral reefs which are all critical ecosystems teeming with life. The Deering Estate works tirelessly to conserve and protect both these amazing animals and plants.


Because of the current state of the pandemic, the Chicken Key excursion for Miami in Miami became the chosen volunteer opportunity for the year. As a psychology major, a canoe and beach cleanup excursion does not necessarily align with my professional goals, but it was tremendously impactful nonetheless. I am currently taking Ecology of South Florida and its associated lab. I chose this class of my own volition–not because I was being required to complete it. Learning about the environment, various flora and fauna, conservation efforts, and generally the world around me has always captured my fascination. I grew up in New Mexico, next to the mountains, which I continuously explored throughout my years there. I love hiking, being outdoors, exploring, learning, and making a difference. Hence the Chicken Key beach cleanup was the perfect opportunity for me to connect with the naturalistic side of myself that has almost gotten lost in Miami’s seemingly endless urban jungle. I’ve only lived by the water for a short amount of time, but a lifetime of watching documentaries has taught me just how crucial our waters and beaches truly are. Furthered by my higher education here, my concern and love for the earth have only dramatically increased since moving to Miami. I believe actually putting my paddle in the water, my feet on the sand, and the trash in my bag is not only the most physically impactful way to make a difference but also the most fulfilling way to help make a change. 

Photograph by John William Bailly//CC by 4.0


Because of the current state of the pandemic, Professor Bailly was able to provide the Miami in Miami students a really great way to complete a form of service while still maintaining safe health practices. The class was able to leave from an isolated area on the Deering Estate and travel to an uninhabited island, where we could pick up trash without putting ourselves or anyone else at risk.


Beginning bright and early, we faced Chicken Key from the shoreline of the Deering Estate. Getting into pairs we began our mile-long journey past the edges of the mangrove forests, through the waves, above the seagrass beds, and finally onto the shore at Chicken Key. Initially, I was apprehensive about the canoe ride because as previously mentioned, I am from the desert. And my partner for the ride comes from the great state of Minnesota. So we were logically worried about our ability to paddle a mile to an island in open waters. But as we cut through the water, my many ventures of white water rafting, kayaking, and paddle boarding came to mind. Similarly, my partner grew up around lakes, and on boats, and by water; proving herself to be beyond capable of the task at hand. We had such a blast paddling to shore, forgetting all of our previous doubts. 

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

Once arriving on the uninhabited island, we took in a saddening scene. Trash. It was everywhere. It was inescapable. Tangled into mangrove roots. Half buried in the sand. Bumping onto shore from the shallows. Littering the beach and even scattered about the highest points on the island. It was disheartening to see such a blatant lack of disregard for the planet, the environment, for our own home’s wellbeing. Although initially unnerving, the trash was an excellent motivator. The students quickly spread throughout the island, grabbing bags to start restoring the island, one piece of trash at a time. 

After working near the canoes for a while, I eventually traveled through the water along the side of the shore with Professor Bailly, a few canoes, some supplies, and a few other classmates. We took the supplies to the far side of the island, making it easier to spread further and successfully access trash we did not even realize we had access to. This was personally my favorite part of the day. I walked with Professor Bailly and a fellow student to the furthest point of the island, with the intention of exploring on the way out, and picking up trash on our return. We trudged through muddied ground, hopped around mangrove roots, and (usually successfully) dodged spider webs. I felt very connected to the world around me in those moments. We went all the way to the tip of Chicken Key, and even got into the ocean. It was breathtaking. I even pushed my comfort zones–doing things like getting into water when I couldn’t see what was in it, holding a hermit crab for the first time. It just scratched the surface of how amazingly beautiful our natural world can be, and why it’s so important to fight for it and just put in the work to protect it. 

Photograph by Caro Echeverri Valle//CC by 4.0

After collecting a discouraging amount of trash, and being forced to leave even more behind due to lack of time and manpower, we loaded our bags onto the canoes and began our journey back. While the journey out was fun, carefree, and almost easy, the way back was an exhausting nightmare. Our canoe was significantly heavier and unbalanced, an unfortunate fact we only realized after our departure from shore. The mile felt like five in our canoe that ceaselessly veered left no matter how hard we paddled against it. We took much longer on our return, needing frequent breaks to let our canoe reorient itself and to rest our weary arms. Relaxing out in the open water was peaceful, which was nice as serenity is yet another thing that is nearly never associated with the typical Miami atmosphere. Upon our return to shore, we unloaded the boats, moved the trash, washed our life jackets, put our paddles away, and our beach cleanup at Chicken Key was thus complete. 

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0



As a whole, I had an incredible experience at Chicken Key. Even the just the journey was eventful and something I am grateful for. I think the connection I felt to the people I was with is an awesome benefit from this experience. We worked hard as a collective team to achieve one common goal. We swam in the ocean, playing around, laughing, sharing, and really connecting with one another. It was a refreshing change of pace from my normal schedule. I really think the best way to describe this experience is “soul food.” The adventure warmed my heart in so many ways and from so many things. I loved being in nature, surrounded by a truly naturalistic environment where the only thing I had to focus on was picking up trash and actively seeing the difference I was making. I loved hearing Professor Bailly explain natural phenomena, uniquely fascinating creatures, and the importance of Chicken Key. They were all lessons that I clung to and still remember now and believe I will for a very long time. I loved being in the water, being in the canoe, and just feeling like I was part of the world, that this is my home too. The good outweighs the bad–easily. 

Photograph by Claudia Martinez//CC by 4.0

Although I would love to sit here and paint a scene of solely rainbows and sunshine, there were some harsh realities of our excursion as well. Right off the bat, the canoe right home was my least favorite part. It was a test of endurance I did not know if I would pass while I was going through it. It was frustrating and tiring to fight so hard against our canoe. It was irritating thinking of how pleasant the ride to the island was as we battled to keep our canoe straight. It was embarrassing receiving well-intentioned advice from peers to, “paddle to the left!” as we unsuccessfully struggled through the waves. But I felt such strong compassion and camaraderie when a classmate attempted to tie our canoe to the back of his and drag us to shore behind him. I know they were trying to support us, and make sure everyone was okay, which I appreciate so much. And so, the good still manages to outweigh the bad.

I was about to delve into the discomforts of the island, but I really don’t see those as necessarily negative. I was not on that beach to have fun. I was not on that beach to be comfortable. I was there to work. And so, the hot sun, itchy sand, micro cuts on my feet and legs, sunburnt face, and sore arms are simply part of that work. They gave me a sense of pride in what I was accomplishing. I buckled down and disregarded my discomforts, just like everyone else around me was forced to do. We put our personal comfort away for just a few short moments to achieve something of arguably, much higher importance. 

The biggest lesson of this adventure is that we have so much more work to do. We barely made a dent in the colossal amount of trash that continuously washes up on Chicken Key. Seeing a picture a few weeks later made my heart ache, as I saw mounds of trash covering the beach we just worked so hard to clean. It only goes to show that humans have much work to do to successfully restore this planet. Our beach cleanup was only the beginning. I know my determination to make a difference has only hardened as time goes on, and I hope many others share that sentiment. I want to make a change. I want to make an impact. I want to save our home. And hopefully, one day I can say I did. 

Photograph by John William Bailly//CC by 4.0

Alexandra Fiedler: Miami as Text 2021-2022

Photograph taken by Milton Lau/ CC by 4.o

Alexandra Fiedler is a second-year student at Florida International University who is majoring in Psychology and minoring in Spanish. After moving to Miami from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Alexandra is fascinated by the cultural, historical, and geographical differences between the place she grew up and the place she now calls home. Alexandra passionately strives to learn and help others, while expanding her knowledge about what makes Miami an especially unique and vibrant cultural setting.

Downtown as Text

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/ CC by 4.0

“Behind the Ideal”

By Alexandra Fiedler of FIU at Downtown Miami on 1 September, 2021.

Known for its stunning blue waters, vibrant nightlife, perfect weather, and cultural diversity, it’s no wonder that Miami is often idealized as a uniquely magical place. In many ways, it is true. Miami is a special place, full of many different cultures that creates an environment like no other. However, because of all the wonderful things the city has to offer, Miami’s painful and often dark past gets forgotten too easily.

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/ CC by 4.0

People often regard Miami as a cultural mixing pot, where many cultures blend and all are accepted. I know that growing up, I was always amazed at how people from all different countries would come to Miami. I loved how so many people had unique and wild experiences that varied from person to person. As a child, I never associated Miami with the brutal history representative of many places in the United States. But throughout the day, we learned about Henry Flagler, a man often regarded as helping establish Miami as the place it is today was crucial in the creation of Overtown, a segregated neighborhood that was cruelly referred to as “Colored Town.” By segregating black people in the city, Flagler successfully convinced rich white people to move down South to Miami. The painful reality is that even in a city glamorized for being a cultural epicenter, Miami has been built on a foundation of racism and ignorance. Far too often, people embrace what Miami is meant to be, rather than acknowledging many of the painful and unjust things that have occurred here in the past.

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

While it may initially seem beneficial to leave Miami’s past in the past, it unfortunately creates a large problem: ignorance. When people do not know about the past, they can never learn from it. Without acknowledging that painful reality of the city, the idealistic vision of Miami is merely a facade. In order to truly appreciate the place Miami has become, it really requires seeing the strength of this city and its people. The people who overcame years of malicious treatment and unfair judgements still shared their traditions, culture, experiences, and much more in order to create the amazing home that many of us get to enjoy today. While things are still not perfect today, we can continuously learn about the foundation of Miami, and work to share the wonderful things that it truly has to offer.

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/ CC by 4.0

Even though Miami has more than enough turbulent history, its past is rich with powerfully progressive stories. Anecdotes of Seminoles entrusting white settlers, a white man marrying a black woman, and so much more truly highlighted how Miami is a place that defies the odds. Although many terrible things have happened here, there truly is a spirit to this city that is worth idealizing. Although when done without moderation, ignorance creeps in, but when appreciated wholly and acknowledging the regrettable past, Miami continues to be a place like no other with potential for an even more exciting future.

Overtown as Text

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler/CC by 4.0

“History or Highways”

By Alexandra Fiedler of FIU at Overtown on 15 September, 2021.

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler/ CC by 4.0
Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler/ CC by 4.0

Mt. Zion Baptist Church has a significant, yet often unheard history. Located in Miami’s Overtown, the church was once home to over 2,000 members, while the current membership stands at around 250 parishioners. In speaking with a local member of the church, Linda Rodgers, we were able to learn the true significance of being in the church building. Shortly after arriving at the altar, Linda informed us that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once stood at the podium and spoke there shortly before his untimely death. The church signifies such a dark yet powerful part of our history, not only as a city, but as a nation. The church has thankfully been added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Buildings meaning it will continue to be preserved. 

It really impacted me to be in a place of such historical significance. One could feel just how much power the room held. It was important. It was historical. It was critical in igniting the change so desperately needed in this country so that all people could truly be regarded as equal. To be in that room, to hear the part it played, was to take part in that history. To acknowledge its significance, to appreciate its strength was to feel what it meant to take part in something so meaningful. The people who once filled that room were change-makers, people who didn’t live through history–people who created it. 

Yet these people were challenged, defined, and denied at every step of the journey. At its foundation, Overtown was meant to be a segregated neighborhood in Miami; a place to put black people so the rich white people could have a better chance of popularizing Miami. Despite its cruel beginnings, Overtown managed to flourish into a cultural hotspot, where famous musicians and powerful civil rights leaders would convene. However, when it came time to build I-95 through Miami, developers quickly settled on building right through the heart of Overtown. Thousands of residents would be displaced with the construction of the interstate, many of whom had short notice and were not financially compensated. But their unacceptable treatment was permissible because of the racial biases of the people in charge. 

This rich culture is worth protecting, and although many people remain ignorant of the importance that Overtown and Mt. Zion possess, and it is our job to inform and to educate, and to make sure that this precious and monumental history is not lost. One startling sight to me was seeing just how close I-95 is to the Church. They practically built up to the side of the building. It is a perfect yet heart-wrenching example of how little thought or compassion was shown to this great historical landmark. The essence of Overtown needs to be fought for and protected before it is lost to all of us forever. Although many people have already vacated, there is still a chance to bring back that vibrancy and energy that once made Overtown such a uniquely powerful place.

Vizcaya as Text

Photograph taken by Alexandra Fiedler/CC by 4.0

“The Loneliness of his Luxury”

By Alexandra Fiedler of FIU at Vizcaya on 13 October, 2021.

Photograph taken by Alexandra Fiedler/ CC by 4.0
Photograph taken by Alexandra Fiedler/ CC by 4.0

Vizcaya is an extraordinarily decadent estate located in Miami, Florida. Owned by James Deering and created through the work of himself, fellow friends and architects, and built by mostly black Bahamian workers, it is still a highly ornate and beautiful estate to witness. Completed in 1916, the mansion was soon surrounded by sprawling lawns, impressive gardens, and immaculate statues. Yet the grandeur of it all begs the question, was Deering’s obsession with the fanciful merely a form of overcompensation for some other aching emptiness in his life?

James Deering was famously coined a “life-long bachelor” who never married or was even seriously linked to any females in his years. Known as a man who enjoyed wild parties and especially bourbon, James Deering enjoyed an especially lavish lifestyle. But as history shows humanity time and time again, material possessions will always pale in comparison to genuine human connection. It leaves one to wonder how fulfilled Deering could truly be when he was famously alone. Even the architecture of his home lends itself to this painful realization. Deering’s bedroom was located on the second floor, with a guest room right next to it. However, unlike the other rooms on the floor, the guest room has a secret door connecting it to the master bedroom through the bathrooms. This connection between the rooms is not visible from the hall, meaning that whoever stayed in the guest room could easily make their way to Deering’s bedroom without being detected by anyone else in the home. Now, I would like to preface what I am about to describe with the fact that none of it has been proven as historically accurate and is merely heresy at the end of the day. But throughout his life and even today, many rumors surrounding James Deering’s sexuality have persisted. Many people think that his extravagant tastes coupled with his lack of female company could mean that James Deering was gay. When someone is as successful, rich, and iconic as James Deering, many wild sexual escapades are almost to be expected. Yet, there is little to no evidence of Deering having lovers, even female ones. In addition, Paul Chalfin, the main architect and decorator for Vizcaya was an openly gay man, who was good friends with James Deering. The two spent a multitude of time together, even traversing Europe searching for pieces to add to Vizcaya’s impressive collection. Chalfin had a known romantic partner throughout the 1920s, which is something that is almost unheard of for that historical time. But could having another openly gay man thrive and lead a successful life have inspired James Deering to want the same for himself?

It is highly unlikely that people will ever conclusively say whether Deering was gay or not. But regardless, the statement still stands that all his luxury and nearly priceless belongings are just that–belongings. And although Deering was a man who enjoyed many riches, friends, and things most people could hardly dream of, it is hard to say that those carry the same meaning as genuine human connection. How lonely it must have been to create such an immaculate space and not have someone to truly share it with. The excitement of partying, drinking, and unlimited luxury can only fade with time. Immortalizing himself through his estate could have been James’s way of ensuring his legacy got passed on, since most people depend on their memories being carried on through the people they were closest to. He had no partner, no children, nobody to speak to his truest character. I believe Vizcaya is a tool: a way for people to experience and remember James Deering and the iconic luxury that will always be tied to his name.

South Beach as Text

Photograph taken by Alexandra Fiedler/CC by 4.0

“Glamorous, Happy, and Alive”

By Alexandra Fiedler of FIU at Downtown Miami on 27 October, 2021.

I have long been captivated by Miami Beach’s captivating and unique architecture. Even before I moved to Miami, there had always been something special about South Beach. Something about its vibrancy, eccentric designs, and palpable energy always had me captivated. But lacking the proper knowledge about Miami’s special architecture, I was left unable to describe or even truly understand what made this place so remarkable. Then I recently had the opportunity to learn about Art Deco and how it has truly shaped South Beach into the place we know today. Art Deco is a style of architecture that has many distinct characteristics. Building in this style typically follows the rule of three–a principle that suggests that a grouping of three is more memorable, satisfying, and effective to the eye. This is highlighted by Art Deco’s usage of three sets of windows, three stories, three markings on the building etc. Art Deco is also known for its pastel and bright colors, with blues, pinks, and yellows being especially popular on the strip. These buildings also have ‘eyebrows,’ elevated strips along the building used for blocking the sun, but also add an aesthetic flair. They make use of neon lights and signs, as well as glass bricks and porthole windows. The masonry is comprised of cement and bricks, a simple base for the eccentric and stylish architecture. South Beach and Ocean Drive in particular have the ability to take one back in time, as the street is lined with these historic Art Deco buildings. It is easy to imagine being back decades ago when the hotels were the absolute prime real estate of the area. The beautiful water, pristine beaches, and high energy create such an immaculate atmosphere it’s no wonder Gianni Versace chose to make this place his home. Historic South Beach has touched me and countless others, as hundreds of thousands of people still travel to it each year. As Miami Beach is the home to the largest collection of Art Deco buildings in the world, its captivating and stylistic architecture will hopefully be marveled at for years to come. 

Deering Estate as Text

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler/CC by 4.0

“More than a Hike”

By Alexandra Fiedler of FIU at Deering Estate on 10 November, 2021.

Warm sun, green foliage, fresh breeze, and cool water greet us as we enter the Deering Estate. Its natural beauty is captivating, and begs to be explored, even before one uncovers the rich history that surrounds the Deering Estate. Charles Deering constructed his enchanting estate in 1922 and only spent a few years there before passing away. But Deering’s time there barely scratches the surface of the human usage of the estate’s surrounding lands. Evidence even indicates the presence of Paleo Indians, dating back 10,000 years. More recently, there is a multitude of evidence showing the Tequesta presence in the Deering Estate. Records from Ponce de Leon in the early 1500s reveal a strong Tequesta presence in the area. Remains of this ancient Tequesta community can still be found to this day, including shell tools the Tequesta would use for various purposes. One particularly fascinating site that was uncovered tucked deep in the hardwood hammocks in the 1980s is the Tequesta Cutler Burial Mound. The mound is located under a massive oak tree that is estimated to be between 400 and 600 years old. There are between 12 to 18 bodies buried in the mound in a circular fashion, with their heads pointing towards the center of the mound. The mound remains undisturbed as is the wishes of the current Indigenous community in the area. 

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler/CC by 4.0

It is no wonder to see why the Paleo Indians, Tequestas, and Charles Deering among others throughout history chose this particular location to settle. Harboring multiple unique and fascinating ecosystems in a relatively compact amount of space lends itself to incredible natural formations and examples of true naturalistic beauty. Through hardwood hammocks, to pine rocklands, and mangrove forests, one travels through vastly different areas that show off different attributes of the areas. Limestone getting uncovered under the first and mangrove roots weaving throughout the shallows can all be explored. I can only imagine how throughout history different peoples and communities have likely marveled at the alluring vegetation, wildlife, and views they witnessed. Experiencing its natural beauty firsthand is truly the only way to actually understand and appreciate both the fascinating ecosystems and the deep history that encompasses the Deering Estate.


Photo by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

“The Light in the Dark”

By Alexandra Fiedler of FIU at UNTITLED Art Fair on 1 December, 2021.

The UNTITLED Art Fair is a truly enchanting event that highlights the talent and hard work of incredible artists from all around the globe. Art from all different countries and in all different styles are presented side by side in a magnificent show. However one artist in particular, Arleene Correa Valencia, stands out among the rest. The class had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Arleene, who shared her inspiration and thought process behind her work. Pictured above is Reunited (Por favor No Te Olvides De Mi), which translates to (Please Don’t Forget about Me) and is made from embroidered fabric. In order to truly help us fully understand the gravity of her work, Arleene shared her very moving story of being a DACA recipient and family to undocumented immigrants. Her art depicts scenes of parents interacting with their children in loving ways, and a few frames feature parents standing alone.

The most impactful part of the piece, however, can only be seen when photographed with flash. When the picture is caught, one sees that the parents are illuminated, hiding the children. When I first looked at my photo, I got instant goosebumps. Her art is an extraordinarily powerful representation of a parent’s undying and unconditional love for their children. The piece paints a scene of a mother or a father who would do anything for their baby. It demonstrates how in a dangerous situation, they will always try to put themselves between harm and their children. These mothers and fathers risk their lives to save their children’s. They put their lives in danger, they cross borders, they accomplish the most challenging feats and go to indescribable lengths to provide for their children. Their own flesh and blood. And in the particular case of crossing the border illegally, parents put everything they have on the line just for a chance that their kids can have a better future. It is an incredibly powerful message and the artist’s use of lighting and flash create such a masterful depiction of what it must feel like to be those parents. The amount of fear, doubt, and pressure are simply unimaginable. The captivating story that Arleene masterfully weaves is deeply touching and extremely compelling. It pushes people to think, to reevaluate their ideas of what it must feel like to be in that precarious position. But those parents have done it and they will continue to cross any border imaginable to give their children a good life, one that is full of opportunity and promise. 

Everglades as Text

Photo by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

“A Quiet Wonder”

By Alexandra of FIU at Everglades National Park on 19 January, 2022.

There is something so powerful about being in untouched nature, surrounded solely by the natural terrain unmarred by human interaction. Seeing the habitats in their natural state of existence where they have been preserved to flourish without exception is truly the best way to understand and value the essential pieces of our planet. On our hike led by two delightful and incredibly knowledgeable rangers, the class was able to experience the essence of the Everglades first hand and knee deep. While at times it was cold or slightly uncomfortable, this experience was undeniably meaningful. Located near a city known for its luxurious and hedonistic way of life, it was a refreshing moment to take a step back from the concrete highways and industrial high rises. We witnessed a much different side of Miami. A gentle one, one that doesn’t have flashy lights and blaring music around every turn. One that doesn’t beg for attention, one that quietly exists the way it has for thousands of years. It was amazing to learn the detailed intricacies of the environment, how its carefully crafted system continuously functions without fail. We got chances to witness firsthand the fascinating creatures that call the Everglades home, like owls and alligators. We got the opportunity to learn about cypress trees, how they form in these perfect dome shapes and how their unique ‘knees’ are still technically viewed as a mystery to scientists who can only make guesses about their purpose. We got to listen to a poem written by an artist who also personally experienced the magnitude of the Everglades and used it as inspiration for her work. We found plants that have been long used for their medicinal purposes, or more recently, their captivating natural fragrances. We found periphyton–and even got the chance to hold and learn about the base of the food chains. It bewildered me that a clump of algae-looking matter floating on the water is the basis of a multitude of life forms within the park. The experience only solidified my resolve that The Everglades is worth protecting, worth fighting for, worth defending from people who have yet to recognize the utmost importance that it holds. Cities will come and go, just as people do, but when the Everglades is gone, it will be gone forever and the consequences of that will likely scar this planet in ways that we can’t quite comprehend, making it even more worthy of our admiration, respect, and protection. 

Coral Gables as Text

Photo by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

“The City Beautiful”

By Alexandra Fiedler of Florida International University at Coral Gables on February 2, 2022

Coral Gables is undeniably one of the most picturesque and beautiful cities found in the Miami area today. This is sensible considering the main intention of the original designer, George Merrick intentionally created the city to be “The City Beautiful.” Merrick pulled inspiration from multiple different unique architectural styles, such as Mediterranean and Spanish styles, among many others. He intentionally created an exceptionally pleasant atmosphere in Coral Gables, specifically designing beautiful walkways, incorporations of greenery, majestically styled buildings, and plenty of natural areas for people to both enjoy looking at and walking through. He also designed Coral Gables to be a walkable and easily accessible destination, adding to the ambiance and further solidifying the beautiful city as a necessary destination for the affluent and successful alike. Impressive locations such as the Biltmore Hotel, the Colonnade Building, Miracle Mile, and the Miracle Theater/Actors’ Playhouse proved to be beautiful staples of the city that drew in loads of people. In addition to the more entrepreneurial side of the city, Merrick also dedicated plentiful space to creating neighborhoods, meaning that the city would be an incorporation of their daily lives instead of just an isolated city location. The residential area allowed the city to grow in size, popularity, and wealth. 

As with most products of the early 20th century, the beauty of the city can also be seen as an elaborate facade covering up the turbulent and dark history that led to the creation of the city beautiful. Built by Bahamian workers in terrible working conditions, these people would never be able to experience and enjoy the fruits of their labor. As Jim Crowe laws were still strictly enforced, segregation was rampant throughout these times. Black people were not allowed to live in the city’s residential area, nor were they allowed to stay at the impressive hotels. They could not go enjoy shows at the theater or dine at the plentiful amount of restaurants. It is an unfortunate but true reality of the time. Merrick’s target demographics for the area were affluent members of society and successful businessmen. Because they were allowed to prosper and execute all sorts of business ventures while the Black people of the area were extensively denied the same opportunities, the wealth disparity of the area grew exponentially. An example of segregation was present in the city’s very first courthouse and jail, having four different cells–one for White men, one for Black men, one for White women, and one for Black women. People’s racist attitudes were highly prevalent as they endlessly tried to ensure that they would not be forced to coexist with those they deemed to be lesser members of society. The city now works to recognize these wrongs, instead of sweeping them under the rug and pretending that Coral Gables has a history as beautiful as its buildings, which is a small step in the right direction for amending these atrocious wrongs. They will never be able to undo the past, but it is certainly worth the effort to acknowledge the dark past and do better in the future. The city and its story and not merely black and white, having a convoluted and nonsensical history that people should strive to not only recognize but to correct moving forward. 

River of Grass as Text

Photo by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

“As History Repeats”

By Alexandra Fiedler of Florida International University at Everglades National Park on February 16, 2022

Located in a secluded area of the Everglades National Park, the Nike Missile Site is a registered historic place. The missile site was completed in 1965, just a few years after the conclusion of the Cuban Missile Crisis, an event that lasted 13 days in which the United States got the closest it has ever gotten to engaging in nuclear war. The Cuban Missile Crisis was one of the most extreme points of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, when both countries were striving to be the singular most powerful country in the world. Although the missile crisis was eventually avoided through diplomacy, the fear it created was very real. 

The purpose of the Nike Missile Site was to provide defensive support against potential attacks coming from Cuba. Truthfully, when the class was learning about the missile site, I did not understand the true weight of what the situation must have felt like. To be a young American in the 1960s and not knowing whether or not nuclear weapons would be detonated and life would be forever changed. The uncertainty and fear must have been overwhelming at times. But after very recent events in Ukraine, as Russia is actively trying to take over the country, I have gotten much closer to understanding the helplessness and confusion that people must have been experiencing during the Cold War. While I admit that we are not as close to a full on world war as many people think, it has been truly heartbreaking to learn about the destruction and violence overtaking the Ukraine. Regular individuals just like me are watching their normal lives shatter as war and invasion become a new reality. It really forces us as humans to think about the power we possess and how genuinely detrimental our violence-inducing behaviors have come. Wars can now be waged on unimaginable scales with equally as unimaginable consequences. The Nike Missile Site and what it has come to represent have taken a place in the front of my mind as I consider how these once desolate sites become culturally relevant yet again. While that particular site will not be used, I still wonder what sites are currently being developed, and how war will continue to shape our country and attitudes surrounding what it means to not only be alive, but free. 

Wynwood as Text

“What is Art?”

Miami is many, many different things–but at its core, it is a city of passion, excitement, diversity, modernity, and creativity. The Margulies and de la Cruz collections are both fantastic manifestations of these ideas of what Miami truly is. They are representative of Miami’s unique approach to art in that they focus on plenty of modern and contemporary pieces of work. The collections showcase amazing artists from all across the globe who have presented their art in a wide variety of mediums. They are truly redefining what art means by shifting away from the classic European standard of ‘good’ art. Instead of classically training and focusing on making art look pristinely technical and objectively impressive, the artists featured in the collections exhibit their skills and talents in a multitude of different ways. One gets a chance to truly experience the art, as it forces the observer to interact and think about the piece in an entirely new way. There were interactive pieces of art, such as one that simply lit up a wall for people to immerse themselves in the piece and actually become a part of the artwork. Entire rooms would be turned into art, including an old bus that was redesigned to be an eccelpric and captivating work of art.  

The one thing that kind of stuck with me in a not entirely positive way is how these high end collections are almost taking away the original intent of contemporary art. As the guides explained it to the class, contemporary art focuses on making art accessible to everyone–the intense level of professional training to be considered an ‘artist’ was removed from the equation as incredibly talented people found new and creative ways to express themselves and share meaning with the world. However, as time has gone on, contemporary art now captures the attention of an incredibly wealthy and privileged population. I remember being in the Margulies collection and not being able to hear an honest answer about the price of a particularly massive and impressive work of art by Anslem Kiefer. It kind of confused and bothered me that this art that was once intended to be shared and appreciated by everyone equally has now been almost monopolized by the wealthy. They are now the only ones that can afford to have this art, especially that of the most esteemed artists of our time right now. The positive of all of this is that incredibly generous people such as those that run the Margulies and de la Cruz collections allow people to view their private collections for free or almost free. They may be the only ones that can ever afford these works of art, but they choose to share their prized possessions with the public, ensuring that the art can still be appreciated by anyone that cares to. 

Coconut Grove as Text

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

“When Art Imitates Life”

By Alexandra Fiedler of Florida International University on 23 March, 2022.

Being older than the city of Miami itself, Coconut Grove has truly earned the title of “historic neighborhood.” Established in 1873, Coconut Grove is the oldest continuously inhabited neighborhood in Miami-Dade county. The inhabitants of Coconut Grove have faced many of the same issues as those located in other parts of the city, such as Overtown. Gentrification, forced removal, and quickly rising cost of living have made it all but impossible for these long term residents to stay in their homes. Although I personally am new to Miami, some long-term residents could easily attest to the fact that the original Coconut Grove is all but gone now. Trendy cafes, chic boutiques, and expensive restaurants line the main streets of the Grove. Young, fashionable people explore the area looking for the best place to take an instagram photo. Yet if one travels past the main avenues that make up the Grove, there is still much history to uncover. For example, walking down Charles Avenue, one quickly comes across a particularly unique cemetery. Not only did it inspire Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video, it also is the resting place of many generations of Bahamian immigrants that originally settled in the Grove. The cemetery looks especially interesting as the sarcophaguses are laid above ground, instead of the typical underground fashion.This is due to the high water levels beneath the ground, making it an unstable place to place the dead. 

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

Crossing from Charles Avenue to William Avenue, one can then come across Christ Episcopal Church. This church is especially fascinating because of the artwork inside. The walls are covered in stained glass, which may be typical for many churches. However, the people depicted in the glass art are Black–something I have never seen before even though I have been going into churches for my entire life. It was so refreshing to see the art reflecting the people who made the art, who go into that place of worship, who founded that particular community, and who all too often get left out of history. I was so touched to see Jesus, John the Baptist, nuns, children, and many other important figures depicted in a way that I have never seen before in church. I can only imagine how a black person would feel finally seeing themselves reflected back in art. All too often, religious depictions are painted to look like white people, which doesn’t even make sense on a historical level. So seeing a predominantly black community have the artwork inside their place of worship  match those who worship there every week was really cool. Furthermore, the church also had far more depictions of women than I am used to seeing inside churches. It was incredibly meaningful to see these traditionally underrepresented groups being showcased and highlighted in the church. It made me question why that is such an abnormality–why is it so uncommon to highlight different genders, different races, different ways of life? I think that church could become an even more meaningful place if people could find something to relate to within their place of worship. Instead of possibly feeling detached from these incredibly old stories and rituals, they could see themselves as an important part of their own faith. The honest representation was incredibly refreshing and I hope that church and the rest of the community hold on to their sense of spirit and identity. 

Key Biscayne as Text

Photograph by Alexandra Fiedler//CC by 4.0

“The Light”

Getting to Bill Baggs State Park is no easy task at 10am on a Wednesday morning. But fighting through an hour and a half of traffic is well worth it once one takes in the spectacular view only possible from the top of the lighthouse located within the park. From the bird’s eye view 30 meters above the ground, one can see the vast Atlantic ocean, Key Biscayne, downtown Miami, Cape Florida, and Miami Beach. In the foreground, the dunes and preserved nature of the park provide ample scenery to create one of the most picturesque views of the entire city.

But just seeing the Cape Florida Light does not even begin to shed enough light on the massive amount of history that the lighthouse has been through. First built in 1825, the lighthouse has been through decades of harsh weather including hurricanes, natural erosion, and even a Native American offensive attack as part of the greater Seminole Wars that once took place throughout Florida. The Seminoles knew that the lighthouse had great strategic value to the US military and anyone else that needed to safely navigate the Florida coast at night. On one fateful night in 1836, a group of Seminoles attacked the lighthouse. Only one of the two men tending to the light survived the attack, which becomes even more impressive when one considers the facts that there was actually an explosion on the lighthouse during the attack due to oil, fire, and gunpowder mixing into an unfortunately deadly concoction. The Seminoles were successful in disarming the lighthouse, and it became inoperational in the coming years. After 10 years of having its light out, the lighthouse was fixed and relit in 1847, 11 years after it was first destroyed. Today, the lighthouse has earned its spot on the National Register of Historic Places, due to its impressive survival throughout a taxing history. It now stands as a proud reminder of what South Florida has developed into from its first days of being explored by various countries in their various sea-faring vessels. 

Photograph by Claudia Martinez//CC by 4.0

Having the opportunity as a class to do maintenance work on the surrounding area was both taxing and rewarding. It felt good to be putting in the actual work to maintain the area, both on a practical and aesthetic level. We got to ensure that Bill Baggs can be enjoyed in the present and the future, which becomes increasingly important to do as more land gets developed to turn Miami into a booming urban center. Any work that can be done to maintain the natural beauty of our area is meaningful and its importance should never be discredited. I love this city as much as the next person, but there is just something so special about being surrounded by absolutely pristine nature–something I am so thankful for Bill Baggs for protecting. 

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