Paris as Text
“A City that Wears its Heart on its Sleeve,” by Amanda Marie Sardinas of FIU at City of Paris on July 2nd, 2022.
Studying abroad was supposed to be me taking a risk and experiencing a broader perspective on culture, as well as participating in this idea I had of self-exploration. Due to all the obstacles that my fellow classmates and I endured throughout our Spring semester; we didn’t think we’d actually make it here in Europe. However, here we are, and I’ve come to realize that my temporary visit to France will become permanently engraved into my future self and her endeavors. The moment I took my first steps onto Paris grounds I knew that I had come face to face with true happiness and the closest thing I’ll ever get to, to time travel. For me happiness has become about exploring and learning about a specific place that is filled with wonder, romance, history, and life. A place that I had only ever seen on T.V and thought I’d never be able to travel there. Happiness is meant to be felt deep in your bones and send shivers down your spine the moment you crane your neck up, to get a long-lasting look of that beautiful iron tower that erects over the city of Paris. Houses are lined up, and untouched since the era in which they were built in, and the worn-out gravel keeps your eager steps off balance. I am amidst a cultural epiphany where the Parisian way of life is, as the saying goes, “la vie en rose’’ (life in pink). Beauty, liberty, and history paint the canvas of this magical city’s architecture. Architecture that has remained sturdy and in character since its transition from the Middle Ages all the way up to the 21st century. In the end Parisian’s cultural identity is seen through what they consider to be the most unique and distinctive characteristic of their city, which is their architecture.
Paris wears its history proudly and patriotically on its sleeve. As a Cuban American I am accustomed to this type of culture where pride for one’s island is prevalent in daily recognitions, such as wall graffiti’s honoring the native flag, as well as flags being hung-up all-around neighborhoods and buildings. Both America and Cuba tend to be very patriotic and loyal towards their nations. Paris consists of several world-famous sites such as the neoclassical architecture of the The Arc De Triomphe and the modernized look of the Eiffel Tower, as well as other architectural marvels, to serve as poignant reminder of the many distinct eras and governments that have made their mark on the city and encouraged this patriotic way of living. For example, Napoleon Bonaparte was the leader of the French Revolution in its last years. In reference to historian/journalist, Noa Radosh, ‘’He became Emperor of France in 1804 and ruled the country until 1814’’ (2019, par. 3). Gorgeous neoclassical statues adorn the Arc de Triomphe highlighting different aspects of the French Army. The first one on the left shows Napoleon in all his glory surrounded by gods, especially the Greek goddess of Nike who represents victory and wisdom. Le Départ des Volontaires en 1792, also known as la Marseillaise, represents a diverse set of French people marching in unity to battle. Then, the back side of the arc shows two more astonishing statues which aim to symbolize the prospects of war and the pursuit of peace. Many contributions were made by Napoleon, some of which are still important to France today such as being one of France’s greatest military generals, his triumph in conquering Spain and granting the Jews and Muslims their rights back into Spain, helping popularize universities, and his emphasis on spreading ideas of the revolution to the people. Hence, why The Arc De Triomphe, which was Napoleon’s idea, was sought through even after his death and commemorates all of his and France’s victories. Serving as a main symbol in Paris, The Arc De Triomphe reminds the French people of their national identity and spirit.
The Parisian way of life is filled with conspicuous innuendos located all around Paris, which emphasize how sexually liberated they tend to be. For instance, Gustave Eiffel designed the Eiffel Tower for the 1889 Exposition Universelle, which commemorated the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. Its modern look celebrates science without limitations and the idea of progression. It exceeds the height of the church, which back in the day was a huge no-no. French Revolutionists wanted to separate state and church, which Gustave achieved by making the Eiffel Tower a long-lasting monument of science. However, not only is the Eiffel Tower a key component to the progress made in science and is considered an industrial masterpiece, but it is also an obvious hats off to the male private part and their ‘’superiority’’ in society at the time. The names carved on the tower also only acknowledge white male French scientists. And even though this monument is a step forward for science and a step back for women and feminism, there is a place located within Paris that kind of shows the significance of women and its interpretation of motherhood. That place would be Square de la place Dauphine, which is said to be the birthplace of Paris and is ironically enough shaped to symbolize a woman’s vagina. This is another example of Parisians doing the most to make their city uniquely and hilariously sexualized to mirror their views on the matter.
Architecture that’s so vulnerable and true to its city guides people in the right direction of learning how to honestly understand and appreciate its cultural identity. Someone like me can resonate to its roots and admire the adoration the people have for their home. It’s a place that cannot be fully appreciated from a screen but must be seen in person to fully immerse yourself in what is known as the Parisian lifestyle. A culture full of pride and vigor, stays strong and allows visitors to go back in time and understand their history and ideals through their building’s stories.
Radosh, N. (2019, September 30). 14 Events That Shaped Paris’s History. Culture
Versailles as Text
“Two Kings, One Versailles,” by Amanda Marie Sardinas of FIU at Versailles Palace and Gardens on July 3rd, 2022.
Louis XIV was a king who dreamt lavishly. He took on the prospect of enhancing the iconic palace of Versailles for the sole purpose of leaving a cultural legacy. A legacy so impactful, that till this day the palace still stands in all its beauty and glory. During his 72-year reign, Louis XIV altered Versailles by expanding the chateau, which had been built by Louis XIII, to impress those all around the world. He wanted this place to be the new and elite Paris for the wealthy. Through symbolism and strategic architectural designs, he made his message of authority very clear. From the consistent references and self-comparisons to Apollo, to placing his bedroom at the center of Paris and claiming ”The state is me”, Louis XIV made sure to portray himself as a divine and respectful being. Visiting this location was a sight to behold; however, all I could think about while being there is how inadequate Louis XVI must’ve felt compared to Louis XIV. Louis XVI just couldn’t handle the pressure of the great legacy that Louis XIV bestowed upon the future generations of the monarchy. The uprise and downfall of the leadership in Versailles are a clear indication of the ends not justifying the means for the monarchy, but a step forward towards the French Revolution.
The Palace of Versailles found itself right in the middle of the uprising. The Palace, which was constructed to serve as the French monarchy’s official residence during Louis XIV’s rule, retained this purpose under Louis XVI. As the “Sun King,” Louis XIV consolidated the monarchy’s authority and ruled during a time of exceptional wealth, during which France rose to become the dominating force in Europe and a pioneer in the humanities. Whereas Louis XIV was a strong-willed ruler who was determined to leave a legacy, Louis XVI was the complete opposite. Prior to the monarchy being overthrown during the French Revolution, Louis XVI was the final king of France. Louis XVI lacked self-confidence and maturity. A tyrannical monarchy and a massive debt made it difficult for ruler Louis XVI of France to do his duty as an honorable king and serve his people. For much of his time in office, he would be dogged by his inability to solve the country’s severe fiscal issues. As I entered one of the grand rooms in the palace, I was able to visibly see the differences in character of both men through their portraits. Louis XIV stands confidently for his portrait, with his hair voluptuously sprawled out like a male peacock flashing his fancy feathers to get attention and praise. The colors that surround his silhouette are comprised of bold reds and golds, which signify confidence. His crown and sword are obviously seen, kind of like they are being flaunted. On the other hand, Louis XVI’s portrait is more mellow. He uses shades of blues and white’s, which make his portrait seem more relaxed and calmer. His facial expression makes him look like he is uncomfortable and feels awkward. His crown is subtly peeking out from the left side and his sword seems to get lost behind the enormous cape that seems to be drowning Louis XVI.
Versailles also aided Louis XIV in gaining control of the nobles by giving ample room for him to keep a close eye on them. He would use the palace’s lavish upbringing to distract everyone. During King Louis XIV’s reign, the Palace of Versailles promoted absolutism via propaganda and noble control. Louis XVI wasn’t very strategic or business savvy; hence, him being persuaded by Benjamin Franklin to form an alliance with the American rebels to help them in their pursuit of independence from the British. However, this ends up being Louis XVI’s demise because the French rebels seek inspiration from America’s pursuit of freedom. He also refused to sanction the ‘’Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen’’, which ‘’…[proclaimed] liberty, equality, the inviolability of property, and the right to resist oppression’’ (Britannica, 2022). By the 5th of October in 1789, the impoverished ladies of Paris had had enough. They marched to the royal house at Versailles because there was a shortage of bread, which meant that they were unable to provide for their families in the absence of it. Additionally, there were reports that the royal family staged sumptuous feasts for military troops. During this time it seems as though instead of the king controlling his people, the people were taking control of him. The royal family was then taken back to Paris to receive their punishments for a lack of consideration of the people, and Versailles was left behind like a pipe dream for the monarchy.
Versailles was meant to enhance the reputation of French culture and status. Till this day it still does because of its history and impact. However, the means of building it to accommodate only those with fortune didn’t catch on and Louis XVI clumsily made sure its purpose would dissipate. The French Revolution overcame the monarchy, which mirrored how both Louis XIV and Louis XVI ruled their nation during their reign. Overall, I’m glad to have been able to pretend to live like a royal walking through the halls of Versailles, even though I know very well I would’ve been a rebel during that time.
Encyclopedia. (2022). French Revolution – Events of 1789. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/event/French-Revolution/Events-of-1789
Berthe Morisot (1841-1895): Berthe’s Brushstrokes towards Equality
I would always rather be happy than dignified. – Charlotte Bronte
The quote above originates from the classic novel Jane Eyre and was written by renowned feminist author, Charlotte Bronte. Jane Erye is one of my personal favorites. The fictional character of Jane emphasizes passion, power, and independence on behalf of the women living during the, very patriarchal, Victorian Age. She marries for love, relishes in her adoration for sketching, and challenges old traditions with her wit and intelligence. I admire those, especially women, who have paved the way for me to live the life I live in now. My life consists of hardly ever being looked down upon for pursuing an education, speaking freely, and constantly being encouraged to pursue anything I set my mind to. The character of Jane Eyre shares plenty of attributes that parallel with a great woman known as Berthe Morisot who I chose for this Declaration project. Berthe made her mark, following her passion of painting during the Impressionism Movement, even when it was not considered dignified enough for society.
Berthe Morisot was born in an affluent, bourgeois family on January 14th, 1841, in Bourges, France. She had advantages lower-class individuals did not, such as obtaining a distinguished art education alongside her older sisters, Edma and Yves. The sisters studied with Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, an eminent French artist noted for his plein-air painting style and a crucial role in the Impressionist movement. Their parents had encouraged them to work with Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot at the Louvre which deepened their study and admiration for painting. He inspired them to paint in the open air and in nature, something Berthe would do for the rest of her life. Despite the fact that Edma Morisot was the most talented, she had given up painting to marry a navy commander. Berthe, on the other hand, became a model for Édouard Manet and entered the Parisian avant-garde society. Soon after at the age of thirty-three, she married Eugène Manet, Édouard’s younger brother. Getting married at thirty-three was very taboo during her time because by her waiting so long to get hinged meant she was considered an old maid to society. However, she didn’t care because she adored Eugène and married for love not status. She gave birth to her only daughter, Julie, at thirty-seven, and continued to use her family as muses.
Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Thomas Eakins, and other esteemed artists are highly renowned names that are constantly recognized in correlation to the Impressionist movement. The Impressionist Movement originated in 1860 and lasted until 1886. Impressionists rejected classical subject matters in favor of modernism, seeking to produce works that mirrored their surroundings and ‘’A great part of the struggle of nineteenth-century experimental painters was an attempt to recapture the color, light, and changeability of nature that had been submerged in the rigid stasis and studio gloom of academic tonal formulas’’ (Arnason, 2012, p. 28). Morisot addressed impressionist elements of modernity in her depiction of the human form, including the intimacy of everyday bourgeois living and family life, a passion for gardens, the significance of fashion, and women’s domestic labor. Her paintings, which are intentionally unfinished in appearance, are not an unmediated reflection of her everyday environment; rather, they confront the temporality of representation and truth behind beauty. When she joined a radical new artists’ association in 1874, she was the only female artist to display in their debut exhibition later on. This was because she was adamant in forming contacts with the Parisian avant-garde and fighting for her talent to get the recognition it deserved. For their untidy, seemingly incomplete work, critics mocked this group of “impressionists,” but Morisot remained unfazed. Some of the works she showed that year are among her most famous such as Woman at Her Toilette (1875-80).
Berthe Morisot’s painting career was a back and forth between positive and surprising prospects and patriarchal society’s foreseen oppressions. On the one hand, Berthe’s husband Eugène had resigned his profession as a prosecutor in the French Ministry of Justice to care for their daughter Julie and organize Berthe’s exhibitions. He deeply loved, supported, and advocated for his wife. A woman could not have had a stay-at-home spouse and a developing career in the arts during that period, or at any other time frame since, so both Eugène and Berthe were breaking barriers together. According to Gordon, writer for official website of ARTDEX, ‘’Perhaps to express her gratefulness and devotion to him, Berthe made Eugène the only male subject in all of her paintings, examples of which are in England (Eugène Manet on the Isle of Wight) (1875) and Eugene Manet and His Daughter in the Garden (1883)’’ (2021, para. 8). In Eugène Manet on the Isle of Wight) (1875), Morisot depicts her husband, sprucely dressed in a straw hat, leaning on a chair, and gazing out a window, which shows a garden, a fence, and a well-dressed woman and daughter walking along the coast behind the curtains and greenery on the windowsill. Boats may be seen behind them, implying that these women are on their way somewhere while the male remains at home. In it, she stays faithful to tradition by creating opulent rooms while allowing her spirit to run wild.
Even though this accomplished, educated painter received peer and public praise throughout her lifetime, Morisot’s name isn’t discussed as much. Morisot once wrote in her diary in 1890, “I don’t think there has ever been a man who treated a woman as an equal, and that’s all I would have asked for — I know I am worth as much as they are” (Almino, 2018, para. 4). Her paintings are just as important to Impressionism as those of her male colleagues, yet because she was a woman her work was automatically casted aside throughout history. Morisot is frequently viewed as a feminist icon, sometimes even radically so, due to her exclusive concentration on the females in her environment, which consisted of aristocratic women and chambermaids. It is said that ‘’Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot, and Suzanne Valadon were among those to confront directly and, to varying extents, subvert the tendency to treat female models as objects of a masculine, heterosexual gaze’’ (Arnason, 2012, p. 714). Berthe was intensely aware of the male-centric environment in which she found herself. Whether they were ladies of higher social standing or maids and house staff, she mostly depicted women and children in home scenes and parks. Her male Impressionist colleagues had the privilege of painting beautiful Paris locations that Berthe could not visit without a male companion.
Berthe Morisot’s painting, The Cradle, is a picture of motherhood’s joys and the emphasis on women’s roles and responsibilities in late-nineteenth-century France. It is one of my favorites because it is so gentle, yet powerful at the same time. Berthe’s sister, Edma, is seen in the picture, tenderly watching her daughter Blanche (Berthe’s niece) sleep in her cradle. Because the mother is portrayed carefully sheltering her infant, there is a sense of security in this artwork. Her arm rests softly on the crib’s edge, as if she were cradling her infant, even though the baby is sound asleep. Soft pastels and primaries are among the colors used, giving the spectator a sense of comfort and Zen.
As she examines this extension of herself in the form of a newborn, the mother’s expression is filled with content and thoughtfulness. Blanche is a legacy that can blossom into a magnificent member of society with the correct amount of tenderness, love, and care. But, in order for this to happen, Edma must recognize the fulfilling duty, relationship, and devotion that raising her daughter entails, which I believe she does via her expression. The white and gauzy curtain that drapes over the child’s cradle lends an innocent aura to the picture. The mother is similarly covered in her own curtain, indicating that she is equally encased in this intimate setting. The quiet moments a mother embraces to admire her loved ones whether they be directed towards her children or to her husband, should be acknowledged as powerful. There is nothing like a mother’s love. A mother who would sacrifice anything and everything to make sure her family is safe and secured. Morisot’s gender and social status forced her to paint solely about the bourgeoisie’s home life and/or subjects she was familiar with as a woman painter. She focuses on present life in her work because she avoids the topics that the Academy would have favored, which include religion, mythology, and/or ancient history. She perfectly conveys the true spirit and essence of motherhood, despite it not appealing to critics and the Academy.
The Guerilla Girl’s, a feminist activists’ group, breakthrough installation, “Do Women Still Have to be Naked to Get into the Met Museum?” (1989), placed them on the map and on everyone’s radar. The billboard employs a picture by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres called Grand Odalisque. The purpose of this painting was to emphasize a woman’s sensual and exquisite allure. A gorilla mask is then edited over her face to display the Guerrilla Girls’ signature trademark and to underline the ferocious nature that every woman possesses deep within her. “Less than 5% of the painters in the Modern Art categories are women, while 85 percent of the nudes are female,” is a bolded statistic laid out next to the lady figure. “Less than 4% of the painters in the Modern Art categories are women, while 76% of the nudes are female,” says the most recent re-count (2012). The piece’s theme elucidates how males rule the art industry while women are labeled as delicate muses rather than being inspired to become great innovators. The fact that this sculpture is refreshed every few years, keeps the battle for artistic equality alive and has also encouraged exhibits to research and highlight female artists who never received the attention and praise they deserved. For example, on October 21, 2018, through January 14, 2019, The Barnes Foundation dedicated an entire exhibit to the trials and tribulations of Berthe Morisot. The exhibit recognized the extraordinary journey of a lady who overcame social conventions and then deservingly joined the Paris avant-garde. The exhibit opened with the most fitting quote said by Berthe, which stated ‘’Work is the sole purpose of my existence…. Indefinitely prolonged idleness would be fatal to me from every point of view’’ (Morisot, 1871). This quote can be interpreted as a direct correlation to what Berthe Morisot significantly valued in her life, which was her career and her passion.
Morisot’s individuality and sense of independence is depicted in two illustrations. The first piece was painted by Edouard Manet. She is shown wearing a beautiful black dress with ruffles and train, lace gloves up to her elbows, and a ribbon around her neck. She is dressed elegantly in black but has a determined expression on her face; she is not one to let her appearance get in the way of her profession. In the second painting she is dressed elegantly in her 1885 self-portrait, even down to the way her scarf is wound around her neck. She’s holding a brush and a palette, showing herself as a professional lady with a sense of style, proving that the two aren’t mutually incompatible. She pinpoints characteristics not usually seen in portraits of woman for there is no sensuality exuded, just pure assertiveness and professionalism.
Morisot did not have her own studio for the majority of her career. She created scenes centered in the “toilette”, like people getting dressed, encased by mirrors, soothing wallpaper patterns, and light flowing through dainty curtains. She also emphasized figures in parks and gardens, as well as in her own bedroom. She didn’t paint nudists very frequently, but when she did, it was usually a modest picture from behind. She paints woman in a more innocent light, which was considered unique. It is undeniable that Berthe Morisot was a remarkable artist. She overcome gender stereotypes in a variety of ways, one of which was to take advantage of the new artistic freedom given by Impressionism. She was also utilizing her social standing to paint subjects that were off-limits to males.
I feel that for a woman with her wealthiness she could’ve tested the waters a bit more regarding painting nudes that other female painters at that time didn’t have because they couldn’t afford too. I would’ve liked to have seen Berthe take a more aggressive approach to representing woman in their natural state embracing their sexuality for self-worth and not for the male gaze. For instance, Mary Cassatt was a Pennsylvania-born American impressionist painter. She spent the most of her adult life in France, where she met Edgar Degas and displayed her work with the impressionists as well. Cassatt’s themes in her work centered on bourgeois women’s daily lives, like Berthe, however she also painted/sketched her fair share of nudes that show women in a playful light and a sensual one. My favorite one being Reclining Nude by Cassatt. The woman in the painting acts coy with her arms draped across her forehead, yet her expression is cheeky because she smirks slightly at the viewer. Her body language suggests she is comfortable with her physic despite her tummy’s obvious love pouch, and she is still trying to act modest by having her legs hinged together as she poses. I think this is a perfect representation of the female gaze painting a woman in the nude in contrast to some male artists who paint nude females and objectify them.
Berthe Morisot struggled to reconcile her status as a member of high society with her free artistic spirit, despite being featured in seven impressionist exhibits and producing over 850 artworks throughout her lifetime. She passed away on March 2nd, 1895, due to contracting pneumonia. However, she lived a fulfilled life. Furthermore, she battled in her creative career to be embraced for who she was, rather than being perceived as a weak, feminine figure who would have been brilliant if she had been a ‘’man’’. Berthe’s legacy shouldn’t be forgotten. Various feminist and art history scholars may disagree over whether she genuinely belongs among feminist icons. Still, one thing is certain: Berthe Morisot was a fearless female artist who fought for her deserved place at the top of a male-dominated profession. She confronted challenges that women face today, more than a century and a half later. Women of various professions may identify with Berthe Morisot and be encouraged by her example to fearlessly continue their journeys, knowing that they are just as deserving of respect and distinction as their male counterparts. Berthe Morisot once said ‘’Real painters understand with a brush in their hand’’ (The Art Story, 2020). Despite Berthe being a woman, she always knew she belonged in the art world. She is an inspirational figure who has resonated deeply with me because of her endurance, artistry, and wisdom.
Arnason, H., & Mansfield, E. (2012). History of Modern Art (Paperback) (7th ed.). Pearson.
Almino, E. W. (2018, November 9). Why Berthe Morisot Was an Essential Figure in the Impressionist Movement. Hyperallergic. https://hyperallergic.com/468570/why-berthe-morisot-was-an-essential-figure-in-the-impressionist-movement/
Barnes Foundation. (2020, June 23). Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist. https://www.barnesfoundation.org/whats-on/morisot
Gordon, J. (2021, May 1). Berthe Morisot And Radical Feminism. ARTDEX. https://www.artdex.com/berthe-morisot-and-radical-feminism/
Schjeldahl, P. (2018, October 22). Berthe Morisot, “Woman Impressionist,” Emerges from the Margins. The New Yorker. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/10/29/berthe-morisot-woman-impressionist-emerges-from-the-margins
The Art Story. (2020). Berthe Morisot Paintings, Bio, Ideas. https://www.theartstory.org/artist/morisot-berthe/
Amanda is a junior at Florida International University and is majoring in Communications Performance and Arts. She loves her major because she learns a lot about people, their behaviors in the modern work place, culture, and how society has evolved. She has always been a people person and hopes to engage in a career where her daily duty is to help, guide, encourage, and inspire others.
Amanda adores reading and also considers herself to be a complete movie buff. Her two favorite novels are ”Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte and ”Call Me By Your Name” by Andre Acliman. Her preferred movie decade is the eighties.
She finds that there is beauty and romance in the art of traveling and her goal is to utilize her blog to ignite a cultural fire in those who view it. She also wants to motivate others to take a leap of faith like the one she is taking by participating in the Honors College France Study Abroad Program. Amanda believes that embracing and learning about other cultures can help society develop a deep and meaningful understanding for the way different cultures juggle universal systems, as well as gain insight into the way others handle issues and how it differs from our given culture.
Deering as Text
It was said by America’s sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln, that ”History is not history unless it is the truth”. I resonate deeply with this quote because for centuries aspects of history have always been tested and exposed for the greater good of society. For example, our current morals and beliefs may not have been what America approved of during the thirties or the fifties because knowledge overpowers ignorance. Obviously, this is a great thing for we as a society are constantly finding ways to enhance ourselves for the better. We evolve and learn from our history to make a brighter future for generations to come.
Unfortunately, due to COVID, I was unable to visit Deering Estate in person. However, I now have a location I can look forward to, to visit because of the deep and meaningful history that cocoons this significant area. The beauty that is Deering Estate doesn’t just stem from its luxurious architecture. Sure, the Richmond and Deering families took this land and transformed it into a lavish inn and then with Deerings passion for art it became a place for him to showcase his expensive collections and live peacefully for his remaining time. However, the Richmond Cottage, with its vintage wooden structures and two story frame, or even the Stone House, which consists of three stories, 18-inch poured concrete walls, and/or its modern Otis elevator are not what instantly captured my attention when reading about the estates history, it was the truth that had been lost and was then found. The reality of this lavish structure sprouted from a time of hardship and suffering for the minority group of Afro-American and Afro-Bahamian laborers because of the prominent racial segregation that occurred then. Credit was not given where it was due, because while Deering Estate wanted to display itself as a serene and peaceful sanction, its truth is its history lies in the fact that minority groups shed blood, sweat and tears for its development with little to no acknowledgement. One defining moment of Deering Estate history is when four members of this minority group died and another five were injured due to the lack of safety and precaution within the work environment and lack of urgency from rescuers. No recognition or proper memorialization occurred after this tragic event, leaving future generations unaware of everything that had happened. It is said that the future goals of Deering Estate is to finally honor those who sacrificed so much for this land and educate the public.
The Tequesta tribe were the original people who on Miami grounds hunted, made shell like tools, created ceramics, experienced blood shed, and witnessed the acquisition of European colonists such as Ponce de Leon who landed on Biscayne Bay in 1513. It is proven that an entire community of Tequesta people located themselves amongst Deering Estate, yet there is no existing image or documentation to further demonstrate they currently exist. However, the most interesting aspect of Deering Estate is The Tequesta Cutler Burial Mound, which is only one of two Tequesta burial sites which have been dug up. According to Sheila Steiglitz from Cutler Bay News, ”It is believed that 12 to 18 Native Americans, including women and children, are buried there in a circular placing, much like the spokes of a wheel”. Nature provides its condolences by stretching its branches through out the burial sites protecting the tribe like a mother who hovers over her new borns cradle. I could imagine how the wind feels like gliding through the leaves and branches playing like a soft prayer that whooshes past your ears. The sounds of nature remind you of what the Deering Estate and the Tequesta tribe have endured and experienced, making mother nature the only one to truly know the harsh realities of what occurred behind the mass extinction of the tribe. Overall, the truth will always be uncovered. We must embrace open minds and open hearts to fully understand the true origins of our history and our culture.
Bailly, J. W. B. (2021, April 25). Deering Estate Walking Tour. John William Bailly.
Retrieved February 3, 2022, from https://johnwbailly.com/lectures/deering-
Vizcaya as Text
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a national historic landmark located on Biscayne Bay in the present day Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, Florida. I had never visited this so called ”iconic landmark” and was grateful to experience it with a much more mature and analytical mindset. Forty three acres of luxury, history, and love is what Vizcaya has provided the city of Miami with since 1916. James Deering, brother of Charles Deering, was a man on a mission and with a vision. He and Paul Chalfin, architect of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, decided Miami needed a bit of an upgrade. Empty land that was just filled with mosquitos, palm trees and had a lack of excitement was completely transformed into the beginning of the exotic and lavish night life ambiance Miami is known for till this day.
In the famous 90’s movie titled ”Clueless”, the protagonist, Cher, refers to a girl as a ”…full-on Monet”. What she meant by this is from afar the girl is objectively good looking, however up close everything is just a hot mess. Personally, Vizcaya felt like a Monet to me. From afar Vizcaya is seen as this beautiful prospect of hope where thousandths of couples spend an absurd amount of money to get married at, young girls becoming women take their very meaningful and long lasting fifteen’s/sixteen’s pictures at, and overall is perceived as gorgeous because of how it faces the bay and relishes in the sunlight. However, on the contrary we have romanticized Vizcaya. Its history is not at all meaningful for it was built by Bahamians who endured terrible working conditions, received little to no pay, were not given any type of credit, and weren’t even allowed on the premises once construction was completed. James Deering even made sure that no one of lower stature could sneak into the area by creating a moat around his dear Vizcaya. Vizcaya was only to be associated with extravagant living and respectable reputation.
Deering also emphasized this through the interior and exterior design of the house. He makes a mess of meshing cultures together and interpreting them superficially. To begin with, the first thing visitors are welcomed with is this enormous statue of the well known conquistador, Ponce de Leon. Ponce de Leon arrived to the America’s and discovered Florida in 1513. I believe James Deering deeply resonated with Ponce de Leon because he also felt like it was his god given right to explore and take claim of land he did not have a moral right too. Both men did not realize the true suffering they caused minority cultures in exchange for power and wealth.
Within the Vizcaya house visitors are presented with a widespread of rooms and nature blending into one. One could tell James Deering did admire nature because the trees act as curtains showing off the house and water fountains guide visitors like a stream running along a river. Sincerely, nothing shows off his personality more than the Bacchus, god of wine and ecstasy, statue which is cocooned by plants. The statue further proved his motives for providing visitors with a good time and a good party. James valued beauty more than meaning and within the house you are presented with various versions of Rococo design style. Rococo is decorative and less intellectual. His plethora of books on his shelves served no purpose for he wasn’t much of a reader. Everything through out the house is meticulously placed to make James Deering seem like this well rounded individual, when in reality he was just showing off his wealth. James showers his house with cherub babies and random artwork, to compensate for the fact that he never had children or got married. He even has a Victorian styled portrait of a woman whose last name was also Deering, yet there is no relation between James and her. He just put the portrait there to make people think that there was.
As you make your way through the house you are also tricked into believing that genuine marble makes its way along the rims and columns, but in reality, Deering just hired a very detailed artist who painted portions of the house to look like marble.
Overall, I enjoyed learning about the history of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens because it is still a piece of the city that I was raised in and so deeply admire. On the bright side the garden aspect of Vizcaya felt more genuine to me because in some sections the Bahamians were able to use native shells from the ocean to create little love caves through out the grounds. It was also interesting to see the French influence he incorporated into his estate such as some of the bushes being molded to look rounded instead of sharp like and linear. Back then this concept represented royalty and wealth because you are adjusting nature to look the way you desire. He also included miniature mazes amongst the grounds, which is another French influence, since they used these mazes to create chance encounters amongst lovers. This was an enlightening experience and I can’t wait to share new found understanding of the place with anyone who wants to visit.
Downtown Miami Walking Tour as Text
Picture this: you’re in the middle of Downtown Miami with your classmates for a school lecture. The streets are raging with bumper-to-bumper traffic, the humidity makes your hair go all frizzy, and the sounds of construction are like music to your ears. You’re learning and embracing the true history behind this beautiful city that has raised you, and suddenly while you’re relishing in the exuberant energy radiating around you your professor screams ”RUN”, and there you are running after him towards the middle of an intersection laughing and taking selfies with your new family.
You may be thinking to yourself what makes this intersection so unique that you and your classmates had to dangerously run towards the center of it to take a whole bunch of pictures. Well, turns out it is a very special spot for the people of Miami because it is ”The Magic City’s Kilometer Zero” located at the junction of Miami Avenue and Flagler Street. There are no southwest, northwest, northeast, or southeast directions at this crossroads, but the sidewalks on each corner indicate the beginning of each of Miami’s divisions. For some background history, Josiah Chaille was the son of William Chaille, who, after migrating from Ocala to Miami, owned The Racket Store on Avenue D (later dubbed Miami Avenue). The Chaille family came in Miami around 1900, not long after the city was founded. Chaille and his business partner at the time, Hugh Anderson, greatly impacted Miami through the development and influence of the fabulous Wynwood we know and love today.
Before Chaille’s proposal, the city’s street names followed a pattern of letters for avenues and numbers for streets. As the city grew, the basic address system became obsolete. Recognizing this requirement, Chaille, who was on the Miami City Council, proposed a street name scheme based on a quadrangle system of naming and numbering streets. The historic Twelfth Street and Avenue D crossroads, or the more well-known Flagler Street and Miami Avenue intersection, was located at the quadrant’s center. Streets north of the center point were assigned numbers, starting with First, and directional designations dependent on whether they ran east or west of Miami Avenue. On October 6, 1920, the Miami City Council adopted the proposal and Chaille was forever remembered as the creator of the street naming system that Miamians utilize till this day.
Miami is a place of opportunity and hope, which is represented in ”Magic City’s Kilometer Zero”. It feels like the intersection is a metaphor for the plethora of choices people have when they arrive to Miami. The infamous freedom tower is another signature landmark for Miami that also symbolizes freedom and possibility. This 17-story tower use to be called the Miami Daily News Tower and is architecturally inspired by the Mediterranean Revival style Giralda Tower in Seville, Spain. The News Tower was sold to Irving Maidman, a New York realtor, for $1,250,000 in September 1957. The facility sat unused for the next 4-1/2 years, until the US General Services Administration leased four floors for use as the Cuban Refugee Emergency Center. Many Cuban exiles fled to Miami when Fidel Castro took power in Cuba in 1959. More than 80,000 refugees had arrived in Miami by 1961, and they continued to arrive at a pace of 2,000 per week. More than 450,000 Cuban migrants were registered through the Cuban Refugee Centers between February 1961 and October 1978. During the 1960s, when it functioned as the Cuban Refugee Emergency Center it became a symbol of liberation for Cuban refugees. Those who step foot on Miami are presented with a city that has a deep-rooted history. It has its strength and like everything else also has its weaknesses, but overall, it has saved the lives of those who were stuck at an intersection and chose freedom.
Chaille Street Naming Plan in 1920. (2022, March 12). Miami History Blog.
South Beach as Text
From Tony Montana cruising down the neon lit streets in his Porsche 928, to singer, Pitbull also known as Mr.305 rapping on top of an expensive yacht, is a place so majestic and filled with life everyone dreams of having the luxury of living here. Can you guess which place I’m talking about? Will Smith said it best ”Welcome to Miami, Bienvenidos a Miami”. Visitors come from all over the world to see South Beach’s iconic Art Deco neighborhood located on Ocean Drive.
Carl Fisher, a Miami pioneer, played a key role in the development of South Beach as a tourist destination in the 1910s. By 1920, South Beach’s reputation had begun, with hotels and mansions springing up left and right. The South Beach Art Deco era began two decades later, during which many of the area’s hotels were established in this style of architecture; several of these hotels also took their everlasting stance on Ocean Drive. There is a variety of cultures that influence these unique, renowned structures. Three styles that are predominantly utilized through out Ocean Drive include; Mediterranean Revival, Miami Modern (MIMO), and Art Deco. Each have their own distinctions and characteristics.
Mediterranean Revival was implemented in California in the 1920s and 1930s, when it was termed as “Spanish Colonial.” Its relations to Spain are significant since this architectural style was influenced by Spanish Renaissance, Spanish Colonial, and Venetian Gothic architecture in the nineteenth century. This rectangular-looking home design with tones of yellows, oranges, and lush gardens was passed down to Miami.
Miami Modern is futuristic and geometric, being influenced by Art Deco, but consists of glass bricks, port whole windows, white and pastel highlights, and resonate with boats or yachts. Curved and/or Sharp angles, trapezoidal shapes, Hollywood-style glass walls, and flat roofs characterize the architecture. Many momentous events occurred throughout the 1950s and 1960s, which fueled the change and hope expressed by this movement.
Art Deco was considered more bright and flashy. Art Deco, which blends Egyptian style and industrialization, follows the rule of three with its symmetrical lines, pyramid inspired steps on the roof, and ”eyebrow” looking shields above the windows. On November 4th, 1922, King Tut’s tomb was discovered, which impacted the revolution of rejecting traditional European styles because it was like nothing anyone had ever seen before. As you admire the buildings you begin to notice a lot of Mayan and Egyptian motifs, sharp lines, and geometric patterns as well as, aquatic and tropical themes which resonate with nature. The 1924 Paris Exposition des Arts Decoratifs and Industriels Modernes, a Paris design expo that promoted the decorative arts’ connection with technology, also impacted the Art Deco we experience today. Most if not all the buildings have neon signs, pastel colors, and quirky fonts which pay homage to the advanced tech that was booming at the time.
No matter where you walk on Ocean Drive, you are constantly being blessed by the presence of these beautiful structures that stand confidently over Miami’s beaches. Each building is a character of their own that exudes culture and history.