Brittney Sanchez: Miracle Mile 2021

Photo of Brittney Sanchez. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

Hello! My name is Brittney Sanchez. I am a junior at Florida International University, in the beautiful city of Miami. I have an Associate in Arts degree in Pre-Recreational Therapy and I am currently in the Honors College pursuing a bachelors degree in Physical Education: Sports and Fitness. I love to explore, travel, and learn new things. For this reason, I knew that John W. Bailly’s Miami in Miami class was the right fit for me. Being homeschooled gave me the opportunity to travel to many places, but this class has shown me that I do not have to travel far to learn about unique cultures, see fascinating landmarks, and immerse myself into adventurous experiences. For my Ineffable Miami project I chose to explore a beautiful area in downtown Coral Gables called Miracle Mile. Learn more about this sought-after destination below!

Photo of Miracle Mile sign. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0
Screenshot of Miracle Mile on Mapquest. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

Miracle Mile is at the heart of Coral Gables, Florida, United States. It is a relatively small area that spans about 0.5 miles. Miracle Mile is bordered by two main streets to the west and east sides. Lejeune Road (SW 42nd Ave.) lies to the west of Miracle Mile, and Douglas Road (SW 37th Ave.) lies to the east of Miracle Mile. Unlike these streets, many street names surrounding Miracle Mile do not have numerical values, they are simply known by their Spaniard names. For example, Andalucia Avenue, which is south of Miracle Mile and Aragon Avenue which is north of Miracle Mile. The halfway point of Miracle Mile is another famous street known as, Ponce de Leon Boulevard. Although this four block strip only takes up a small portion of Coral Gables, it fits in perfectly with the upscale element that Coral Gables is known for. 

Photo of Miracle Mile. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0
Photo of Mr. and Mrs. Miracle Mile. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

According to the Coral Gables Museum’s website, “The story of Coral Gables’ signature street, Miracle Mile, is one of leadership, resilience, and adaptation.” It all began in the 1920s when George Merrick, the well-known real estate developer, established Coral Gables. After the Great Depression, many more individuals and groups helped establish the Mile. Two of these visionaries were George K. and this wife Rebyl Zain. George is known as the “Father of Miracle Mile” because he began purchasing land in 1937 and put his plan into action to create an outdoor mall in the heart of Coral Gables. This brand new idea of an outdoor shopping mall was quickly spreading throughout the nation, and many young developers and business owners took advantage of this opportunity. In 1944, Albert Friedman and his wife Rose Freidman, also known as “Mr. and Mrs. Miracle Mile,” opened their business on Coral Way along with J. Baldi, Sam Weissel, and Caroll Seghers. They all formed the Miracle Mile Merchants Association and they turned the wide open streets of Coral Gables and help renamed it to the now-famous, Miracle Mile in 1955. 

I N T E R V I E W:

Photo of Nick Portu. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

Although there is no demographic data for Miracle Mile, I interviewed Nick Portu, a nearby resident and frequent visitor of Miracle Mile. 

Brittney: What is your favorite aspect of Miracle Mile?

Nick: “My favorite aspect is the ability to walk around and see a diverse culture.”

Brittney: How would you describe Miracle Mile?

Nick: “I love Miracle Mile because it has rich historical roots and there are many things to do. There are many elite restaurants and stores due to high rent. Miracle mile draws people in from all over, from the city of Coral Gables, city of Miami, and even tourists from all over the world.”

Brittney: Where is your favorite place to eat?

Nick: “Hillstone. They have the best burgers, steaks, and mashed potatoes in Miami.”

Brittney: If someone you knew were coming to Miracle Mile, where would u take them?

Nick: “I would take them to eat at Hillstone, then we would go get ice cream at Häagen-Dazs, then we would shop at the Men’s Wear House, and we would end at Doc B’s for dinner.”

Brittney: What is your favorite thing to do at Miracle Mile?

Nick: “Before the pandemic, my favorite place to go was the Millers Ale House. I would get beers and watch sports with my friends, but unfortunately this restaurant has been shut down due to the current pandemic.”

Brittney: What is your least favorite aspect of Miracle Mile?

Nick: “Definitely the parking.”

Brittney: How do you wish to see Miracle Mile in 5 years?

Nick: “In 5 years, I hope Miracle Mile will continue being as successful as it is now and add more restaurants that can add more reputation to the Mile.”

Photo of Coral Gables City Hall. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

Coral Gables City Hall (405 Biltmore Way, Coral Gables, FL 33134)

Although there are no major landmarks in Miracle Mile due to its small surface area, there are many historical landmarks surrounding it. Among these historic sites is the Coral Gables City Hall located on 405 Biltmore Way, Coral Gables. This huge 3 story building is at the beginning of Miracle Mile. It is truly majestic, and some may even say it looks like a castle. Its architectural style is a mix of Mediterranean with vegetation from Miami. Standing in front of the building is a tall bronze statue of George Merrick. He can be seen standing in  contraposto, holding a scroll with his left hand, and carrying a jacket over his right shoulder.  

Photo of Coral Gables Museum. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

Coral Gables Museum (285 Aragon Ave, Coral Gables, FL 33134)

Slightly North of Miracle Mile lies the small Coral Gables museum. It was built in 1939 but it re-opened in 2010. Many people do not know that this museum is actually located in the old Police and Fire Station of Coral Gables. There used to be a courtroom, jail cells, offices, living quarters for the firefighters, etc. Today, it’s unique LEED certification plays a big part in the green city initiative. Visitors are invited to explore this museum and much of its original building design which include Cuban tile floors and walls, concrete flooring, and coral rock walls.

Photo of First Church of Christ, Scientist. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

First Church of Christ, Scientist (410 Andalusia Ave, Coral Gables, FL 33134)

Slightly West of Miracle Mile lies the First Church of Christ, Scientist on Andalucia Avenue. It is a Christian church that hosts services on Sunday and Wednesday. It also has a reading room that is open Monday- Saturday, 11am – 3 pm and Sundays from 11 am- 12 noon.

Much like many other areas in Miami, Miracle Mile does not have many green spaces. The layout of the street leaves no room for green spaces, and plenty of room for buildings and paved roads. However, palm trees line every road, and there are many large trees that provide shade and a nice breeze for people walking through the outdoor mall.

Merrick Park (405 Biltmore Way, Coral Gables, FL 33134) and Coral Gables City Hall (405 Biltmore Way, Coral Gables, FL 33134)

The only two notable spaces of grass are in front of the Coral Gables City Hall and a small park called Merrick park between Andalucia Avenue and Biltmore way. Although this area simply serves as a meager green space throughout most of the year, during the holidays, it is transformed into a small Christmas themed park with a looming Santa structure facing Miracle Mile.  

There are many modes of transportation that can be used in Miracle Mile. These include using a car, motorcycle, trolley, shuttle, bike, scooter, and obviously, by walking. 

Car / Motorcycle- There are always many cars and motorcycles trying to park or drive down Miracle Mile. Miami is known for its chaotic traffic, and Miracle Mile definitely lives up to this fact. If you plan on going to Miracle Mile, make sure you know how to parallel park and you have plenty of time to find parking.  Although there are parking spaces on the Mile, they are usually full, and visitors may have to find parking in the nearby streets. All of these parking spaces are metered and end up being very costly, if you plan on staying for the entire day.

Coral Gables Trolley – According to Miami Dade’s Metrobus Route website, “The City of Coral Gables provides this service. Douglas Road Metrorail Station, Merrick Park, Miracle Mile, Ponce de Leon Blvd, Flagler Street.”

Freebee shuttle – This free shuttle runs everyday from 10 am to 10 pm. If you’d like a ride, you simple download the Freebee app that is accessible through the App store or Google play store and order a ride through there. This green on-demand shuttle service runs through all of Coral Gables and it is a great way to ride around Miracle Mile.

Bike/Walking – Miracle Mile has enlarged sidewalks that allow many people to stroll down the street with ease. Although there is plenty of space to walk, bike, or hop on a scooter, it wasn’t always like this. About a few years ago, they remodeled the street, and expanded the sidewalks and reduced the amount of parking space. With the new parallel parking, Miracle Mile has a much wider and ample space for avid shoppers to peruse many boutiques.

Scooters – Bird electric scooters are available to rent all over Miracle Mile. To rent the scooter, you need to find one, download the free app, and register as a new rider. According to the Coral Gables website, “Cost is $1 to unlock a new ride, plus $0.15 per minute. Bird requires all riders be over the age of 18, and encourages everyone to wear a helmet while riding. They will send any rider who requests one a free helmet.” They are fairly easy to ride, but you must watch out for people walking, as it can be easy to crash if there are many people on the sidewalk.

Photo of K.A.O. restaurant. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

K.A.O. Sushi and Grill (127 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, FL 33134)

K.A.O. is an Asian inspired restaurant in Miracle Mile. It is known for its meats, fish, and most importantly, sushi. I have eaten at this restaurant many times, and my favorite dish is the Teriyaki Pork Medallions. These medallions will melt in your mouth. Their menu has many different options and to start off, everyone is served a miso soup shot when they’re seated at their table. K.A.O. offers many different discounts, such as ladies night specials, happy hour specials, and more. They’re relaxing and elegant ambience fits in perfectly with the Miracle Mile atmosphere. Although it might seem like a relatively small area at first, this restaurant expands further back to allow room for a large maximum capacity. This space allows them to host many events such as monthly salsa and bachata dance nights.

Google’s Review: 4.6 Stars

Brittney’s Review: 5 Stars

Salumeria 104 (117 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, FL 33134)

If you are looking for authentic Italian food, Salumeria 104 is the right place to go. This restaurant on Miracle Mile is always packed with hungry customers throughout the entire day. According to Salumeria 104’s website, “Salumeria 104 is a rustic, trattoria-style restaurant serving signature salumi dishes, and traditional home-made Italian classics.” They have great service and even better food. Their plates are expensive, but they are also very abundant. My favorite dish is the Tagliolini. This dish consists of shrimp and pasta with a hint of lemon zest and pistachios. It is absolutely mouth-watering!

Google’s review: 4.6 Stars

Brittney’s review: 4.8 Stars

Photo of P.Pole Pizza. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

P. Pole Pizza (279 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, FL 33134)

P.Pole pizza offers an endless variety of options. This personalized pizza place is similar to Subways. You choose your favorite dough, then you choose your sauce as the base, and then the toppings. They prepare and bake the pizza right in front of your eyes! Their unique approach to pizza makes it a great addition to Miracle Mile. It is affordable, unique, and delicious.

Google’s Review: 4.7 Stars

Brittney’s Review: 4.8 Stars

Photo of Miracle Theatre. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

Miracle Theatre (280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, FL 33134)

The Actors’ playhouse at the Miracle Theatre was established in 1988 by Dr. Lawrence E. Stein. According to the Actors’ Playhouse website, it”…is the largest self-producer of critically acclaimed dramatic and musical theatre for adults and children in South Florida. The private nonprofit organization presents a full season of Mainstage and Children’s programs and extensive educational outreach and community service.” They are known for showing contemporary and classic live theater productions and offering educational and outreach programs for both adults and children of all ages. They have also won many awards and other distinguished honors throughout the years.

Photo of Gables Coin and Stamp Shop. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

Gables Coin and Stamp Shop (82 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, FL 33134)

This small department store in the middle of Miracle Mile surely stands out among the many high-end boutiques. It was founded in 1967 by Mr. John Albright and still serves many costumers today. They sell coins and bills from the U.S. as well as many distinct coins from other countries, such as Asia, Australia, Africa, Middle East, South America, North and Central America, and Europe. They also buy or sell jewelry, watches, and diamonds.

Photo of Spy World. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

Spy World (96 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, FL 33134)

The Spy World shop is another store that stands out in Miracle Mile. This store is packed with technology for safety and security. They have 27 years of experience and their mission is to help protect customers’ homes, family, and businesses with their safety technology. They offer a wide variety of products such as hidden cameras, bug detectors, recorders, GPS trackers, and more. They even have unique items that people usually only see in Crime TV shows or movies.

Miracle Mile is well known for attracting visitors from all over the world to its prestigious boutiques, high-end restaurants, and quality shops. There is something to do for all ages. Its relaxed and leisure environment is perfect for a day full of shopping and dining with your family, while its bustling nightlife ambiance is perfect for a night out with friends or a romantic date with your significant other. There are also many events that take place on the Mile such as weekly farmer markets, the Eggstreme Egg Hunt in March, the Pumpkin Patch in October, and the Holiday Tree Lighting in December.

I have been to Miracle Mile many times, whether it be to study at Barnes and Nobles with friends, or simply passing by the busy streets of Miracle Mile on my way back from work, but creating this Ineffable Miami project has given me the opportunity to truly appreciate this part of Coral Gables. Much like many things in life, I easily take for granted the beauty of Miracle Mile. It amazes me that many people pay hundreds of dollars to simply travel to this prestigious outdoor shopping mall, and I have the opportunity to drive through Miracle Mile almost every single day. I hope that Miracle Mile continues to thrive so that I am able to show my future kids the history that lies in such a beautiful place like Miracle Mile.

C I T A T I O N S:

Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre. About Us. Retrieved from https://www.actorsplayhouse.org/about-us/

Coral Gables. Bird Launches Scooter Option in Coral Gables. Retrieved from https://www.coralgables.com/news/bird-launches-scooter-option-in-coral-gables

Coral Gables. (2015, September 29). Retrieved from http://christianscienceflorida.org/about/coral-gables/

Gables Coin and Stamp Shop Since 1967. Retrieved from http://www.gablescoin.com

Metrobus Route. Coral Gables Trolley. Retrieved from https://www.miamidade.gov/transit/mobile/metrobus_routes.asp?routeID=9011&routeName=Coral+Gables+Trolley

Miracle mile: The evolution of a street. (2018, December 19). Retrieved from https://coralgablesmuseum.org/portfolio-item/miracle-mile-evolution-street

Salumeria 104. Retrieved from https://www.salumeria104.com

Spy World. Spy World Miami. Retrieved from https://www.spyworldmiami.com

W., A., P., S., E., F., U., A., & V., J. (n.d.). Downtown coral GABLES & Miracle mile 220 Miracle Mile Miami, FL shopping centers & malls. Retrieved from https://www.mapquest.com/us/florida/downtown-coral-gables-miracle-mile-277649875

Brittney Sanchez: Miami Service Project 2021

Photo of Brittney Sanchez. By Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

Hello! My name is Brittney Sanchez. I am a junior at Florida International University in the beautiful city of Miami, Florida. I have an Associate in Arts degree in Pre-Recreational Therapy and I am currently in the Honors College pursuing a bachelors degree in Physical Education: Sports and Fitness.  

Who?

Throughout the spring semester I had the privilege of volunteering for the Special Olympics. This organization is a unique place centered on inclusion and acceptance. The Special Olympics is a non profit organization that provides year-round training for athletes with intellectual disabilities. It was founded in 1968 and remains one of the most well known organizations for people with special needs. People of all age groups are welcomed to participate in sport training and olympic style athletic competitions. Through these activities, athletes can excel in their athletic abilities and discover new skills. The sports played in the Special Olympics are similar to the actual Olympics, except that they are modified to allow the athletes with disabilities to participate competitively and safely.

Why?

I have always wanted to work with the disabled population, and the moment I heard about the Special Olympics, I knew that I wanted to take part in this organization. I started volunteering in the Fall of 2020 and I wanted to continue volunteering for them in the Spring, because they hold such a special place in my heart. Volunteering for the Special Olympics perfectly combined my love for helping people with special needs get physically active, and my passion for sports. I wanted to help the athletes in the Special Olympics develop movement skills and improve their movement performance to help them compete to the best of their abilities.

How?

After the Fall semester, I emailed Danielle Kent, the Assistant Manager of Sports, Health and Fitness.

Screenshot of email thread. Photo taken by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

Sadly, the program had ended, but Danielle provided me with some additional contacts.

Screenshot of email thread. Photo taken by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

After reading the options, I chose to email Misha Payne from Southeast Florida.

Screenshot of email thread. Photo taken by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

After many failed attempts to reach Misha, she was finally able to get in contact with me and we spoke over the phone regarding my interest in the Special Olympics and basic information on the volunteering requirements. After the phone call, I sent her a few more questions via email.

Screenshot of email thread. Photo taken by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

Once everything was clarified, we set up an orientation meeting that took place on February 24th. The following email was the last email update regarding the Zoom class.

Screenshot of email thread. Photo taken by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

I told Misha that my sister wanted to join me as well, and we both signed the necessary documentations to teach the dance class on Mondays from 4:30-5 pm, March 8th to April 26th. After we both spoke to Misha over the phone, we were ready to volunteer for the group homes.

Where and What?

Photo of Brittney Sanchez teaching a dance class. Photo by Ashley Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

The Special Olympics hosts many Zoom classes throughout the week to keep the athletes engaged throughout the pandemic. These classes range anywhere from health and nutrition classes, to fitness and dance classes to help keep them physically active. My sister and I taught the 30 minute dance class to help get them motivated and excited about being active. Our first class occured on Monday, March 8th. I sent Misha my private Zoom link, and she sent it out to the group homes. At our first meeting, we all introduced ourselves and they found it fascinating how Ashley and I were twins. They loved speaking to us about everyone in their group homes and all their friends. Although it was a small group, 4-10 participants each week, we created memorable bonds with them.

Photo of Brittney Sanchez teaching a dance class. Photo by Ashley Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

Each class consisted of a dynamic warm up, a few dances, and a final stretch. We would login a few minutes before the meeting to check our audio and camera visibility. Although we had some techincal difficulties throughout some of the classes, we were able to fix some of these issues with the help of Misha. She was able to join and help us with our technical issues and to give us some advice on how to engage more with the athletes while we taught them the dance moves. One of the first classes, we asked them for song suggestions and they said they wanted to dance the Electric Slide. Ever since then, we played the Electric Slide almost every single Zoom meeting and they really enjoyed dancing and singing along to it. We chose many different dance routines from many different genres. For example, we played songs from the Greatest Showman soundtrack, Ed Sheeran songs, and Disney songs. We ended every Zoom call with some stretching, and they always thanked us for the meeting. We were required to ask for the names of the athletes and to send Misha the final attendance sheet after every meeting.

Screenshot of Special Olympics Participants. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

When?

Screenshot of Honors engagement. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

Summary

Overall, volunteering for the Special Olympics has been a memorable experience. I loved getting to know each and every one of the athletes that joined our weekly Zoom meetings, and I hope to continue volunteering for such an incredible organization. I loved seeing the smiles on their faces, and all their comments. They were always very appreciative and loved to guess who was Ashley and who was Brittney.

Although it was a great experience, I believe there is room for improvement. Misha always seemed very busy, and it was very hard to get in contact with her. She had told us that she would try to join almost all of the Zoom meetings, but she was only able to join one of them. Also, there were a few meetings that the athletes did not show up because the group home leader was not informed ahead of time. In the future, I hope that the managers will reach out to the group home leaders with enough time for the athletes to be able to join every Zoom meeting.

Through this experience, I was able to learn more about the Special Olympic athletes and how to get them motivated. At first, it was pretty difficult to get their attention because they were surrounded by many other athletes in their home. They would turn on their cameras, but many of them were distracted or unwilling to engage in the dance routine. The athletes are not technically required to participate, so there was not much we could do, other than to encourage them to participate and ask for their input in song suggestions. After a few meetings, we were able to know their names, know them more personally, and help them stay motivated throughout the entire Zoom call. Although their attendance was not perfect, I truly enjoyed teaching them and creating unforgettable memories.

Brittney Sanchez: West Miami 2020

Photo of Brittney Sanchez by Cristina Martinez / CC BY 4.0

Student Bio:

Hello! My name is Brittney Sanchez. I am a junior at Florida International University in the beautiful city of Miami. I have an Associate in Arts degree in Pre-Recreational Therapy and I am currently in the Honors College pursuing a bachelors degree in Physical Education: Sports and Fitness. I love to explore, travel, and learn new things. For this reason, I knew that John W. Bailly’s Miami in Miami class was the right fit for me. Being homeschooled gave me the opportunity to travel to many places, but this class has shown me that I do not have to travel far to learn about unique cultures, see fascinating landmarks, and immerse myself into adventurous experiences. For my Ineffable Miami project I chose to explore a small city named the city of West Miami. Learn more about this little-known city below.

Geography:

Photo of Brittney Sanchez by Carolina Garcia / CC BY 4.0

The city of West Miami is a relatively small city located in Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States. Unlike other larger cities located in Miami-Dade County, West Miami is less than a square mile. West Miami is bordered by two main streets in the north and west sides. North of West Miami is the famous ‘Calle Ocho,’ which directly translates to Eighth Street; and to the west lies 67th Avenue. Although West Miami is next to these populated and well-known streets, it is a quaint family oriented, tight-knight city. It is mainly occupied by single family homes, small shops and businesses on the outskirts of the city, some green areas, and West Miami’s city hall. 

Map of West Miami from Google Maps.

History:

The city of West Miami has a short but unique upbringing. According to the City of West Miami’s official website, “On April 7, 1947 four businessmen decided to incorporate the city when Dade County wanted to reduce the cocktail hours and ban gambling rooms.” The four businessmen along with some residents invested only about $400 and decided to name it the city of West Miami. Although it was a significantly small city in the 1900s, after World War II, many soldiers decided to build new homes in the free lots available in West Miami. “Incorporated as a town with only 700 residents, West Miami now stands as a city with 6,132 residents, a 4% increase since the 2000 census” (City of West Miami, Official Website).

Demographics:

The City Data shows that the median age of the residents living in the city of West Miami is 45.2 years old. The female to male ratio is very close, but females take the lead with a 9.4% average above men. It also shows that the median household income level has increased since 2000. The most recent documentation is taken from 2017 which indicates that the median income level increased from $34,910 to $48,464. Like many other cities in Miami-Dade County, West Miami is filled with hispanic culture. In fact, many of the names of small businesses in West Miami are written in Spanish, and you will most probably hear people predominately speaking Spanish all around you in West Miami. According to the U.S. Census Buraeu, the White alone percent of residents living in West Miami are 95.4% and Hispanic or Latino percent is 93.1%.

Interview with Luis Garcia

Photo of Luis Garcia by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

Brittney: Please introduce yourself.

Luis: “Hello, my name is Luis Garcia. I am a Catholic married civil engineer, and I have lived in West Miami since 1997”

Brittney: Why did you choose to live in the city of West Miami?

Luis: “It offered what we were looking for. A stand alone house which was moderately priced in a central location.”

Brittney: How would you describe West Miami and its residents?

Luis: “A small gem in the county. A current change of residents with the new comers being middle class young families.” 

Brittney: What is your favorite aspect of West Miami?

Luis: “It is a city that feels like a small community and it is centrally located”

Brittney: If someone you knew were to come to West Miami, where would you take them?

Luis: “The recreational center, because it was recently renovated and it has a variety of facilities for indoor games and outdoor sports, as well as a new hall.”

Brittney: Would you say you feel safe in this city?

Luis: “Yes, because we haven’t been a victim of crime for over 10 years” 

Brittney: What is something you wish you could change?

Luis: “The buildings going up. The small community feeling of 1997 is being lost by greedy developers and corrupt politicians.” 

Brittney: How do you wish to see West Miami in 5 years?

Luis: “I hope there are no more high rise developments, and that the residents invest money in their homes to maintain the original flavor and standards of living of West Miami. 

Landmarks:

West Miami monument at Cooper Park (5841 SW 16th St, Miami, FL 33155)

It is easy to spot this monument due to the high rising American Flag in the middle of the park. This West Miami monument commemorates two Jewish War Veterans from 1951. Their busts are propped up by a column and they can be seen on both sides of the flag. A slab commemorating their heroic acts can be seen near the ground where it states, “To the glorious memory of our comrades of every race, color, and creed who have made the supreme sacrifice that this monument might stand in a free America.”

Temple Beth Tov-Ahavat Shalom (6438 SW 8th St, West Miami, FL 33144)

Photo of Temple Beth Tov-Ahavat Shalom by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

This quaint synagogue can be found in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Calle 8 in West Miami. The temple is described on their website, Beth Tov-Ahavet Shalom, as “friendly, conservative, traditional, and warmhearted.” The website also states the history of the temple. “In 1955 a group of very determined members, headed by Morris Harris decided to establish the first traditional synagogue in West Miami. After a lot of planning, hard work, perseverance and much paper work, the plan was approved by the authorities in August of 1956″(Beth Tov-Ahavat Shalom). Today, they offer a variety of religious services throughout the week, along with their different programs, classes, and activities.

West Miami City Hall (901 SW 62nd Ave, West Miami, FL 33144)

Photo of the West Miami City Hall by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

“The City of West Miami takes pride in delivering “Efficient City Services” to residents and to the businesses located within our Municipal boundaries. We take pride in our ability to deliver personalized service”(City of West Miami, Official Website). The West Miami City Hall hosts many town meetings for residents to discuss city regulations with city commissioners as well as providing passport pictures for West Miami residents. You can also find the mayor Rhonda A. Rodriguez, Vice-mayor Eric Diaz-Padron, City Commissioner Candida Blanca, Commissioner Juan M. Blanes, and City Commissioner Luciano L. Suarez at the City Hall.

Green:

City of West Miami Recreation Center (1700 SW 62nd Ave, Miami, FL 33155)

The city of West Miami has a great amount of green space considering its small area. One of the largest multipurpose green spaces in West Miami is the recreational center. They offer a variety of sports for adults and children including Baseball, Tennis, Softball, Basketball, Racquetball, and T-ball. There are many fields and courts including, a Baseball field, Tennis court, Basketball court, Racquetball court, One-wall court, Multipurpose Lit Ballfield, Lit Batting cage, and a small playground area for children. According to the City of West Miami Official Website, “Various programs and activities are continuously offered and special events are celebrated throughout the year at the Recreation Center, making it a focal point of community and family involvement.”

Cooper Park (5841 SW 16th St, Miami, FL 33155)

Cooper Park is a spacious and family-friendly community park in West Miami. This park has something to do for the entire family. For example, there is a small sand box with swings for younger children, two playgrounds for older children, a large green area for athletes to engage in any sport, and a fitness area for adults. The only downside of this park is the fact that dogs are not allowed in the park.

West Miami Park (1540120510100, Miami, FL 33155)

Photo of West Miami Park by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

As you drive down SW 18th Terrace you are met by this small playground. I found this to be a peculiar place to insert a playground because it is in the middle of a completely residential street. According to Google Maps it is called the West Miami Park, but there is no way of identifying this park otherwise.

Transportation:

Freebee West Miami City Bus

The Freebee West Miami City Bus is a new addition to the city. It was only introduced a few months ago, and it is a great way to get around the city. This free program of transportation can be used by simply downloading the app, to see where the bus is located, and then order a ride.

Metrobus

The Metrobus route schedule starts at the West Miami City Hall at 8 am. According to the Miami Dade County Metrobus Route Details, “The City of West Miami provides this service. Sylvania Heights Elementary School, Trail Plaza, Recreation Center, E.P. Cooper Park, Publix, Fairlawn Library, Trail Shell, Air Park Plaza.”

Driving

One of the perks of living in West Miami is the centrality of its location. Many well-known places and areas in Miami-Dade County range from only 15 to 30 minutes away in a car. For example, West Miami is only 5.5 miles South of Miami International Airport, 14 miles West of Miami Beach, 19.8 miles East of the Everglades National Park, and 14.2 miles North of Zoo Miami. West Miami is also surrounded by many expressways. For example, it is East of the Palmetto expressway (SR 826), South of the Dolphin expressway (SR 836), and West of I-95.

Biking / Walking

The last method of transportation in West Miami is biking and walking. According to West Miami Demographics, the highest means of transportation to work in West Miami is a car, followed by walking. Since it is a fairly small city, walking or biking to grab a quick bite to eat or to get something from the grocery store is very convenient; however, the majority of people you see biking or walking in West Miami are people trying to exercise or families on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

Food:

Luis Galindo Latin America Restaurant (898 Red Rd, West Miami, FL 33144)

Photo of Luis Galindo Latin America Restaurant by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

If you are craving Hispanic food, the City of West Miami is definitely the place to go. One of my favorite Cuban restaurants located in West Miami is, Luis Galindo Latin America Restaurant. It is an inexpensive and delicious local eatery swarming with daily hungry customers. They serve a wide range of traditional Cuban food and their portion sizes are very large. I recommend ordering the churrasco (juicy skirt steak) with white rice and plantains, you will not regret it.

Google’s Rating: 4.2 Stars, Brittney’s Rating: 5 Stars

Sakura Sushi Bar (1180 SW 57th Ave, West Miami, FL 33144)

Photo of Sakura Sushi Bar by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

According to Yelp, Erik G. opened Sakura Sushi Bar in 2012. It is a cozy restaurant with a wide variety of Japanese and Korean food. They are known for having many traditional sushi rolls as well as some unique sushi rolls, like their very own West Miami Roll. You can enjoy indoor and outdoor seating, and they even have a bar where you can see the sushi chefs making the sushi. Although there are many sushi options to choose from, I would recommend ordering my favorite roll, the Waffle Roll. It is a flavor packed roll with, “Shrimp Tempura, Crab Salad and Cream Cheese, Topped with Avocado, Crispy Flakes, Spicy Mayo and Sweet Sauce” (My Sakura Sushi). The only downside of this restaurant would be the cost, especially for a college student like me. The sushi rolls are particularly small for their high prices.

Google’s Rating: 4.4 Stars, Brittney’s Rating: 4.8 Stars

Frank’s Fresh Fruit Mini Market (6480 SW 8th St, West Miami, FL 33144)

Photo of Frank’s Fresh Fruit Mini Market by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

Frank’s Fresh Fruit Mini Market is the newest addition to the City of West Miami. It only opened up this year and it is already booming with customers. It is a unique combination of a fresh fruit mini market along with its full menu with typical Hispanic cuisine options. The prices are extremely affordable and very delicious. I recommend the strawberry milkshake, it is the right combination of sweet and tart, and it is perfect for a hot afternoon in the beaming Miami sun.

Google’s Rating: 4.4 Stars, Brittney’s Rating: 5 Stars

Businesses:

La Edad De Oro Adult Day Care (5870 SW 8th St, West Miami, FL 33144)

Photo of La Edad De Oro Adult Day Care by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

I chose to include this adult day care because I believe the City of West Miami does an exceptional job at providing service for all age groups. According to Aging Care,”Adult day care can give caregivers respite by providing a center where elderly parents can be taken for a couple of hours or the entire day and picked back up later. The day programs include social activities, meals, and general elderly supervision.” This adult day care provides an active and social environment for many elderly people. On a typical day you can see them enjoying an exciting game of Bingo.

Flor’s Hair Styling (6206 SW 8th St. West Miami, Fl 33144)

Photo of Flor’s Hair Styling by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

Flor’s Hair Styling is a small, independently-owned boutique offering a variety of services for both men and women. While you are waiting for your hair to dry you can get your manicure and your pedicure done. You can also find many hair products, jewelry, and hair accessories at the salon. Flor, the owner, opened this salon many years ago and has many loyal customers.

Ramón Puig Guayaberas (5840 SW 8th St, West Miami, FL 33144)

Photo of La Casa De Las Guayaberas by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

What can be more Cuban than a store that sells Guayaberas in West Miami? Guayaberas originated in Cuba in the late 1800s. They are light weight, breathable linen shirts made for men. They are easily recognizable by their large pockets and two stitched parallel lines running down the torso area. You can see on RamonPuig.com that this store sells Guayaberas for as low as $40 to as high as $150. They are open seven days a week and even offer shipping .

Summary:

Although Miami is known for the beaches and scenic nightlife ambience, there are many smaller hometowns that are often overlooked, such as West Miami. I believe West Miami is a great city to live in because of its central location, affordable housing, safety, appetizing cuisine, friendly residents, and hispanic culture. It is an adequate and small city made perfect for raising a family in. With many local parks, nearby grocery stores, its own school, a recreational center, and many small businesses, families can truly flourish in a city like West Miami. It’s small size makes it easy to get from point a to point b, and it is a very safe neighborhood because of the constant police cars present in its small radius. It is evident that West Miami is mostly residential, and I believe they have done a noticeable initiative to make it a comfortable living space for all of its residents.

Citations:

City of West Miami. (n.d.). City of West Miami Florida. https://cityofwestmiamifl.com

City of West Miami. (n.d.). Mission Statement. West Miami Florida. https://cityofwestmiamifl.com/index.asp?SEC=61161D64-4EB5-4B21-9EDB-F286C8DCD0DF&Type=B_BASIC 

City of West Miami. (n.d.). Recreation Center. West Miami Florida. https://cityofwestmiamifl.com/?SEC=3D7ED9FE-3A86-4497-A4D1-AF59CDC744D4 

La Edad De Oro Adult Day Care Llc. (n.d.). Aging Care. https://www.agingcare.com/local/la-edad-de-oro-adult-day-care-llc-miami-adult-day-care-fl 

Miami Dade County. (n.d.). Route West Miami Shuttle. Metrobus Route Details. https://www.miamidade.gov/transportation-publicworks/routes_detail.asp?route=9027 

Menu of Sakura Sushi Bar. (n.d.). My Sakura Sushi. https://www.mysakurasushi.com/menu 

Ramon Puig Guayaberas. (n.d.). Ramon Puig Guayaberas. https://ramonpuig.com 

Synagogue Beth Tov, Ahavat Shalom, Inc. (n.d.). Welcome to Temple Beth Tov, Ahavat Shalom, A House of Prayer and Study. https://bethtovahavatshalom.org 

United States Census Bureau. (n.d.). Quick Facts West Miami city, Florida. United States Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/westmiamicityflorida 

West Miami, Florida. (n.d.). City-Data. City of West Miami. (n.d.). City of West Miami Florida. https://cityofwestmiamifl.com 

West Miami Demographics. (n.d.). Point 2 Homes. Miami Dade County. (n.d.). Route West Miami Shuttle. Metrobus Route Details. https://www.miamidade.gov/transportation-publicworks/routes_detail.asp?route=9027 

West Miami, Florida. (n.d.). City-Data. City of West Miami. (n.d.). City of West Miami Florida. https://cityofwestmiamifl.com Yelp. (n.d.). Sakura Sushi Bar. https://www.yelp.com/biz/sakura-sushi-bar-miami

Brittney Sanchez: Miami Service 2020

Photo taken of Brittney Sanchez canoeing on September 19 2020. Photo by Carolina Garcia/ CC BY 4.0

Hello! My name is Brittney Sanchez. I am a junior at Florida International University in the beautiful city of Miami, Florida. I have an Associate in Arts degree in Pre-Recreational Therapy and I am currently in the Honors College pursuing a bachelors degree in Physical Education: Sports and Fitness.

Who?

I volunteered for the International Coastal Cleanup at the Biscayne National Park and the Deering Estate. This institution provides volunteers with a great opportunity to learn about the actual amount of trash that lies in our very own coastlines and waterways. Volunteers not only have the opportunity to engage in this eye opening experience, they also take part in an even greater global science project. The International Coastal Cleanup, or ICC, volunteers remove the marine debris and document everything that is collected so that the ICC can have a better idea of what kind of trash lay in the shorelines. It is important to identify how much trash, what kind of trash, and where this trash is located so that they can have a global snapshot and provide a better environment for marine life as well as our own lives. Lastly, my last costal cleanup was at Chicken Key as part of Professor Bailly’s classes.

Why?

I am blessed to have had the opportunity to engage in many volunteering opportunities throughout my life. I love helping those around me, and each one of these experiences has filled me with a greater sense of awareness and fulfillment. I strongly believe that a good life is a life lived selflessly and for the good of others. I truly look up to my parents and grandparents for showing me what it is to be selfless and generous. Although I have volunteered in many different places, I wanted to engage in a completely different experience this time around. I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone and volunteer for the International Coastal Cleanup. I had been wanting to do a beach cleanup for a while, and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to do so due to the Covid situation. After my first cleanup at the Biscayne National Park, I wanted to continue helping in many more ways. I knew that no matter how small my effort was, at least it would make a change. So, I chose to do my own pop-up clean up at the Deering Estate with the help of some friends. I came to the ICC wanting to learn more about the environment. I wanted to expand my knowledge on the effects of marine debris on the world, and my experiences definitely exceeded these expectations.

How?

Biscayne National Park: 

Finding volunteering opportunities during the pandemic was no easy task. However, my classmates sent multiple links to volunteering opportunities in Miami and it lead me to a website called, volunteercleanup.org. I immediately input my zip code and it redirected me to coastal cleanups around my area. After some research, I signed up for a cleanup on September 19th with my cousin. A few days later I received an email from the event coordinator, Ana Zangroniz the Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent, stating that this cleanup was already too filled up. They were not allowing any more people to take part in the cleanup because of the new Covid guidelines, and they were going to have to move the volunteers to the next weekend. I replied to her email saying that I was not going to be able to make it to the next cleanup, but I asked her to keep in touch with me for any other upcoming volunteering opportunities. To my surprise she replied in a few minutes saying that she was going to allow us to take part in this cleanup because I had responded so fast!  

Deering Estate: 

The week after my first coastal cleanup, some of my classmates sent information regarding volunteer opportunities in the Deering Estate and it lead me to the same website. I emailed the event coordinator, David Lotker the Recreation Leader at the Deering Estate, and I made the arrangements to clean the coastline at Deering Point on October 5th. I asked my friends if they were available that weekend so that they could join me, and they both agreed to help me clean up at Deering Point. I sent the signed volunteer forms to the event coordinator and we were set to go! 

Chicken Key:

On October 14th many students from Bailly’s Miami in Miami Honors class and I set out from the Deering Estate to Chicken Key to clean up marine debris. Professor John W. Bailly was able to get canoes as well as bags for the whole class to canoe out to the island to pick up trash.

Where and What?

– Biscayne National Park: 

At 8 am on September 19th, my cousin Caro and I met up with the event coordinator and a few other people at the dock at Biscayne National Park. As soon as everyone got there, Ana went over the instructions and safety guidelines. As we kayaked through the Mowry canal, we saw some trash laying on the coastline a few miles away and we decided to stop there. We got off our kayaks and headed to the coastline with our trash bags, gloves, buckets, data collection cards, and trash pickers. We worked in teams; one of us would pick up the trash and the other person would write down the type of trash we would pick up and document it on the sheet. 

Photo taken of Brittney Sanchez and Carolina Garcia cleaning up trash. Photo by Ana Zangroniz / CC BY 4.0

After a couple of hours we finally loaded the kayaks to head back to the dock. On our way back, we found some plastic chairs and pieces of a tent, so we stopped and loaded them on the kayaks. When we arrived at the dock, we weighed each trash bag and item.

Photo taken of Brittney Sanchez and Carolina Garcia weighing the trash bags. Photo by Elizabeth Strom / CC BY 4.0

After weighing everything, cleaning the kayaks, and transporting the trash into huge trash containers, we thanked everyone for the opportunity and left to get some milkshakes. To our surprise, Ana emailed us to tell us that the grand total of debris by weight was 68 pounds!

– Deering Estate: 

At 11 am on October 4th, my friends Summer, Anoud, and I went to the Deering Estate to volunteer at the popup coastal cleanup. The faculty at the Deering Estate was very disorganized and did not know where to send us to volunteer. After about 45 minutes of going back and forth, we were finally helped by someone named Jared. He lead us to Deering Point and gave us instructions. Two of us cleaned up trash while one of us documented what type of trash we picked up on the Cleanswell app. This app made it much easier to document the type of trash we collected rather than using a pencil and data collection card to write down the information, which was very time consuming.

Screenshot taken of the Cleanswell app on October 4 2020. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0  

We cleaned for a few hours and we found that the most prominent pieces of trash in that area were articles of clothing and many bottle caps. Jared was very helpful and he even gave us some of his own trash that he decided to clean up. When we finished cleaning up the area, we gave the trash bags over to Jared and he discarded them for us.

Photo taken of Brittney Sanchez with a trash bag at Deering Point on October 4 2020. Photo by Anoud Aljamal / CC BY 4.0

– Chicken Key:

At 9:30 am on October 14th, I got to the Deering Estate to help Professor Bailly and the staff of the Deering Estate load life jackets unto a golf cart to transport them to the docking area. As soon as the whole class got there, we set out in pairs of twos to Chicken Key, I went with my classmate Roger. We quickly filled up our canoe with four bags, two wooden slabs, many containers, random small items, and a big blue rainwater collection basin.

Photo taken of Brittney Sanchez and Roger Masson at Chicken Key on October 14 2020. Photo by Nicole Patrick / CC BY 4.0

When we made it back to the Deering Estate we gathered everyones trash and we waited for the staff to help us transport the trash and canoes. We ended up with 6 canoes worth of marine debris. Lastly, we washed off the sand bags and dropped off all of our combined trash.

Photo taken of trash on October 14 2020. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

When?

Summary:

These eye-opening opportunities gave me a greater sense of appreciation for our earth. In return, I was able to help maintain these marine habitats and clean the debris damaging our ecosystem. “The numbers are staggering: There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris on the ocean. Of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer litter the deep sea” (Parker, 2015). Everyone should see these alarming statistics and want to do something to help. 

Each cleanup taught me something new about the marine debris and how to clean up more effectively. One of the most important things I learned was the importance of working together to pick up and document the trash. Documenting the exact item we were cleaning up was very time consuming because of our inability to quickly find the item on the sheet. For this reason, we implemented a new technique in which we would be more specific when identifying the piece of trash so that the person documenting it would find it easier on the sheet. 

Also, the greatest piece of advice given to me was the importance of staying hydrated. The heat can be very dangerous. It can cause excessive sweat which can lead to dehydration and even a heat stroke. Having our water bottles close by and drinking frequently helped us to stay hydrated and focused on our tasks. As well as this, skin protection is very important. After my first experience, I started to wear long sleeved shirts to protect myself against the sun.

In the future, I hope to continue to help protect the beautiful habitats within many more areas, and educate more people on the importance of keeping our earth clean! It is sad to see dead animals wrapped up in trash because of humanities inability to simply throw their trash away. We are all cohabitants of this beautiful earth, and we all need to do our part to keep it this way.

Citations:

Parker, Laura. “Ocean Trash: 5.25 Trillion Pieces and Counting, but Big Questions Remain.” The numbers add up to trouble for the oceans, wildlife, and us, but scientists are struggling to understand how. National Geographic, 2015. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/1/150109-oceans-plastic-sea-trash-science-marine-debris/

Brittney Sanchez: Miami as Text 2020-2021

Photo taken of Brittney Sanchez in 2019. Photo by Cristina Martinez/ CC BY 4.0

Hello! My name is Brittney Sanchez and I was born and raised in the beautiful city of Miami, Florida. I was homeschooled all throughout my life until I graduated high school and attended Miami Dade College to obtain my AA degree in Pre-Recreational Therapy. This year I transferred into the Honors program at Florida International University to pursue a bachelors degree in Physical Education: Sports and Fitness. I am passionate about helping people with disabilities, and want to pursue a career that allows me to combine my passion of helping others and my love of fitness and nutrition. I love finding joy in the little things in life like dancing, listening to music, getting to know new people, seeing people smile, learning unique hobbies, and watching the sunset.

Deering as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Deering Estate. Photo by Brittney Sanchez/ CC BY 4.0

“A Blast into our Geographic Past”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Deering Estate, 2 September 2020

On September 2nd, we immersed ourselves into an unforgettable hike surrounded by awe-inspiring oak trees and chilling spider webs. We were no longer staring at the busy streets of Miami. Instead, our class took place in the serenity of the Deering Estate. It was not just a lovely sight to see; it was the melting pot of many diverse cultures, an archeological wonderland, a wide array of unique plants, and a wildlife environment which one cannot experience on a typical day in Miami. As I embarked on this journey, I was welcomed by coffee plants, oak trees, strangler figs, and most importantly the untouchable poison ivy.  
The most fascinating part of the Deering Estate, in my opinion, was the influence of the Tequestas. Although the Tequestas inhabited Miami in the 1500’s and are now extinct, I could just imagine them using their shell tools and intermingling with each other as I stood in the Tequesta Cutler Burial Mound. I personally had not heard of the Tequestas until Professor Bailly introduced me to their rich past and unique tools. As I examined the shells which the Tequestas used as tools in the palm of my hand, I could see that each shell served a different purpose. For example, I personally held one that was used as a drill to dig into the dirt. The history that surrounded me in Deering Estate’s nature preserve was an unforgettable experience. Something as simple as holding a tiny tool in my hand, made me feel connected to my geographic past.

South Beach as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in South Beach. Photo by Brittney Sanchez/ CC BY 4.0

“Not Your Typical Eyebrows”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at South Beach, 16 September 2020

On September 16th, we walked down Ocean Drive with a completely different outlook. Although I had been to South Beach’s Art Deco neighborhood countless times, for the first time ever, I got to walk down Ocean Drive without the tourist filled sidewalks and crowded streets. Because of the pandemic, this usually highly populated road was completely empty. This allowed us to have a new sense of appreciation for the architectural history and cultural heritage which makes Ocean Drive such a popular tourist attraction today. In fact, buildings in the Art Deco play such a significant role in our cultural history, that they are not allowed to be destroyed or significantly modified.
South Beach is known for being a prime location for music videos, delicious restaurants, and beautiful sandy beaches. However, most people do not know that the buildings surrounding Ocean Drive encompass a wide variety of aesthetic characteristics and architectural styles that date back to the early twentieth century and the influence of machines and appliances. As I made my way down the street, I looked up at these fascinating structures with their futuristic styles and linear components, and I immediately pictured myself in the Jetsons cartoon. The most fascinating qualities shared by these buildings are the “eyebrows.” Although it might seem like the architect may have forgotten to finish the balcony, these ledges immediately draw you in with their perplexity. Speaking of perplexing forms of art, many of these buildings also display a variety of contrasting relief art. These art pieces can range anywhere from natural elements to erotic displays. I believe each work of art perfectly accentuates the architectural characteristics and cultural heritage displayed throughout the buildings and they each play a vital role in telling their own story.

Downtown as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Downtown. Photo by Brittney Sanchez/ CC BY 4.0

“The Influence of the Catholic Church”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Downtown, 30 September 2020

On September 30th, we walked around Downtown Miami and learned about the spread of Catholicism and the substantial influence the Catholic church has had on the world. It is crazy to think that there were no Catholics in the western hemisphere in 1492 and, according to Will Worley, Christianity is the most popular religion in the western hemisphere today. As we ended our walk down 2nd Street, we climbed the steps to what seemed like an ordinary, peach building. Although it might look like a simple building to passersby, once I stepped into Gesu Catholic Church, I was reminded of its beauty. There was a high domed ceiling, countless pews, tall stained glass windows, gold accents adorning the altar, and many saint sculptures around the church. Although many different people from around the world came to America with new religions and ideologies, the Catholic faith remained and flourished quickly.

The reason for the vast spread of the Catholic faith can be accredited to the missionaries in the late 1500s. Catholics believe they are called to spread the good news of Christ and these missionaries did exactly that. They went around towns and started converting the slaves and indigenous people living throughout the area. Jesus’ call to missionaries is presented many times throughout the Bible, which is the sacred scripture in the Catholic faith, for example in Luke 10:1-2 where it states, “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go” (“Jesus Sends out the Seventy-Two”). Although “the first Catholic presence in Miami was in 1567 when Jesuit missionaries arrived with the Spanish settlement founded by Don Pedro Menendez de Avila at the mouth of the Miami River,” (“History”) this church continues to have multiple Masses on the weekends and confessions held throughout the week. It is evident that the Catholic Church has made a significant impact on today’s world, and Gesu is a great reminder of that.

Works Cited

Biblegateway. “Jesus Sends out the Seventy-Two.” 2011. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2010%3A1-23&version=NIV
ECatholic. “History.” GESÙ CATHOLIC CHURCH was founded as a Church in 1896. https://gesuchurch.org/history
Worley, Will. “What are the largest religious groups around the world, and where are they?” The distribution of religions across the world, 13 April 2016. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/what-are-largest-religious-groups-around-world-and-where-are-they-a6982706.html

Chicken Key as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Chicken Key. Photo by Brittney Sanchez/ CC BY 4.0

“We are the World”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Chicken Key, 14 October 2020

On October 14th, we made a difference. “The numbers are staggering: There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. Of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer litter the deep sea” (Parker, 2015). It is no secret that our earth is filled with marine debris; however, there are moments like these that make the unthinkable facts come to life right in front of your eyes. This opportunity let me take part in making our earth a safer place for wildlife and marine animals so they could live peacefully without being threatened by trash in the bay. You might think to yourself, what difference can one person really make on such an expansive earth like this? Well, on October 14th I learned that a small group of us from the Honors College can make a major difference in just a matter of hours.

It was a bright and windy day in Biscayne Bay. We packed up our lunch, prepared the canoes, grabbed some paddles and life vests, and finally distributed sand bags to collect the debris. Although the water had been completely serene in the morning, by the time we set out to Chicken Key, the water hit the sides of our canoes, furiously dragging us further away as we tried to paddle to the island. To our surprise, our cleanup started even before landing on the designated area on the island when we found a huge barrel which we mounted onto our canoe. Once we landed, we found debris laying near the coastline and on the island. These pieces varied anywhere from hundreds of bottle caps, to large gasoline tanks. After a long day, we collected 6 canoes worth of marine debris. Learning about the effects of trash on the environment and the creatures abiding in it should be important to everyone. We must make a conscious effort to clean up and reserve these beautiful habitats for years to come.

Works Cited

Parker, Laura. “Ocean Trash: 5.25 Trillion Pieces and Counting, but Big Questions Remain.” The numbers add up to trouble for the oceans, wildlife, and us, but scientists are struggling to understand how. National Geographic, 2015. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/1/150109-oceans-plastic-sea-trash-science-marine-debris/

Bakehouse as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Bakehouse Art Complex. The “Future Pacific” by Lauren Shapiro. Photo by Komila Kholmatova/ CC BY 4.0

“Combining Science and Art”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Bakehouse Art Complex, 28 October 2020

On October 28th, we took part in the creation of a contemporary art piece to bring awareness to such an eye opening installation made by artist Lauren Shapiro and marine ecologist Dr. Nyssa Silbiger. They’re combined knowledge and creativity made this engaging environmental art installation possible. Yet simple in nature, this work of art mixes technology, reusable resources, ceramics, and scientific research to bring attention to the coral reefs like I have never seen before. These large wooden structures are covered by many hundreds of intricate coral ceramics that have been installed by the local community alongside the artists in the Bakehouse. These eye catching structures showcase a wide range of different textures, colors, and intricate details.

Although there is many distinct details in each and every structure, there is something they all have in common. They each take part in a grander project, to bring awareness to the frailty of coral reefs all over the worlds oceans. The room is filled with some bright and colorful shells, while other shells are faded, dried, and cracked. This shift is made possible because of the way these corals were made with unfired clay material. This material is used to demonstrate the decay of the coral reefs and the affect we have on them. Shapiro does an excellent job in creating a contemporary work of art while engaging the local community in a unique artistic experience. This abstract art installation is an important representation of engagement, community, involvement, and awareness.

Rubell as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Rubell Museum. Photo of Two Cells with Circulating Conduit by Peter Hall. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

“Think Outside the Box”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Rubell Museum, 18 November 2020

On November 18th, we were face to face with multicultural, contemporary works of art. These thought-provoking installations, sculptures, and paintings pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I saw myself examining and interpreting art in a completely new way. To be completely honest, I am guilty of going to contemporary art museums and thinking to myself, how is this in an art museum if I could easily do this at home? However, this experience was unlike any other, it compelled me to think unconventionally.

The painting above, Two Cells with Circulating Conduit by Peter Halley, might look simple by nature to many people, but I believe it is a minimalistic work of art which uniquely combines culture and art. It is also important to understand that this type of art is left completely to the interpretation of the spectator. Typically I would have quickly passed by this painting in a museum, but as I stood in front of this work of art, it transported me into a whirlwind of imagination.

Although this painting was made in 1987, it lead me to ponder our current situation in 2020. Many of us feel trapped in our homes because of this pandemic. We are told to stay 6 feet apart from each other, we are strongly encouraged to stay home, and constantly wear masks, while living in fear of contracting this virus. With all the restrictions and conditions, this virus has taken away our first form of communication, human touch. It has caused many people to feel as if they are reliving the same day over and over again. The painting is a reflection of society, the squares represent this constant routine we find ourselves in. However, this abstract painting of geometric squares connected within a larger square gives me a sense of hope. Although we may feel as if 2020 cannot get any better, I see the larger square as a sign that there is a grander plan, something greater to come.

Everglades as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU at the Everglades National Park. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

“Into the Unknown”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at the Everglades, 20 January 2021

On January 20th we got to explore one of the most unique wetlands in the world, the Florida Everglades. We experienced a different side of Miami that is not often seen by tourists or even locals. Although people might call the Florida Everglades a swamp, it is actually a slow moving river that covers millions of acres. We went slough slogging through the murky waters during the ‘dry season’ in the Everglades. Because of the dry season, there weren’t as many mosquitos and we weren’t suffering from the usual Miami heat. “South Florida’s subtropical to tropical climate has a seven month long “wet season” from April through October. Only a quarter of yearly rainfall takes place during the “dry season” (November-March)” (Field School, 2013). The park is widely recognized for being a Unesca World Heritage Site and Wetland of International Importance. It is also home to many different plant and animal species. Whether you are looking for a thrill-seeking adventure, or a relaxing escape from the busyness of everyday life, the Florida Everglades is a unique experience for all who are brave enough to step into the “River of Grass.”

One of my favorite parts of the experience was standing in the silence, completely surrounded by nature, consciously trying to listen to the sounds around us. It reminded me that we need to take time in our lives to truly be grateful for what is around us and view things with a different perspective. I truly hope that this subtropical wilderness will be protected and further researched for our future generations to enjoy as much as I did.

Works Cited

Field School. (2013). Everglades Seasons: Wet and Dry. https://www.getintothefield.com/blog/everglades-seasons-wet-and-dry

Wynwood as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in the Locust Projects. “Made by Dusk” by Mette Tommerup. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

“The Conversation Starter”

By Brittney Sanchez of FIU at the Locust Projects, 3 February 2021

On February 3rd, we were introduced to an inspiring female artist named, Mette Tommerup. Through her story, I grew a new sense of appreciation for the grit that artists embody throughout their professional careers. She is a painter and storyteller from Denmark who made a unique installation called, Made by Dusk. She challenges the art market by creating a space that perfectly combines mythology, modern topics, sounds, textures, interactive objects, tapestry, and more in an unimaginable way. It is immediately captivating from the moment you step into the gallery. Her message is not clearly written in black and white, instead, the audience is encouraged to reflect on the display and discuss their perspectives. This immersive installation gives society a platform to discuss pre-existing sensitive topics, such as feminism. She personally describes it as,”‘an opportunity to build a forum for a dialogue for how women can be the catalyst for transformative change in the world today'” (Mette Tommerup, 2020).

Tommerup explains that it is a liberating work of art, and I sensed this liberation through the videos projected onto the walls. To the left, she is seen picking up a large, heavy piece of tapestry which she pulls up into the roof. To the right, the video shows her dropping it from the roof. The video is perfectly laid on top of a textured style on the wall, which makes it an unique visual experience. Tommerup completely reimagined the world of art for me with this piece. I highly recommend it for anyone who would like to be blown away by her talent.

Works Cited

Mette Tommerup. (2020). New Major Immersive Installation by Mette Tommerup Creates an Otherworldly Luminous Space for Reflection and Transformation [Press Release]. From http://www.locustprojects.org/exhibitions/main-gallery/made-by-dusk.html.

Bill Baggs as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

“Searching for the Truth”

By Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, 17 February 2021

On February 17th, we explored a barrier island. Although it is commonly known for being part of the Florida Keys, Key Biscayne is geologically part of the coastline of Florida. It is home to the famous Cape Florida lighthouse, many land and sea animals, and an array of tropical foliage. The most fascinating aspect of Bill Baggs and the Cape Florida lighthouse, is the history that lies within the island. Whether it be that Marjory Stoneman Douglas skinny dipped with her friends on the island, or the importance of the lighthouse throughout the years. Through this class, I have learned that history needs to be well researched, because a good majority of it can be one-sided. We must acknowledge all the different stories that can be found in the history of Bill Baggs, especially the role that the lighthouse has played in it. For example, its relation with the underground railroads, its aid in navigation, and lastly its impact on the Seminole wars.

Among these stories is the spread of Christianity on the island through the Jesuit missionary, Francisco Villareal. He sought to convert the Tequestas, but the Tequestas did not appreciate these new religious teachings by the Jesuits. I found this interesting because of the way it showcases the difference between the inhabitants of the island and the mission of the Jesuits. They both had very different mindsets and motives. While the Tequestas just wanted to find ways to survive by simply converting to Christianity if it was to their convenience, Villareal vigorously sought to convert them into Christianity and was oblivious to their motives. He was so fascinated by the Tequestas eagerness to learn about the faith, that he even reported his situation in a letter that was later discovered and found in the Vatican Archives.

River of Grass as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU at the Everglades National Park. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0 

“Exploring the Everglades”

By Brittney Sanchez of FIU at the Everglades National Park, 5 March 2021

On March 5th, we learned about the biodiversity present in the Everglades. First, we explored it on a dry hike lead by ranger Dylann. We learned human’s effect on the Everglades and the history of the national park. The importance of the Everglades cannot go unmentioned. It is pivotal to the unique culture and heritage of South Florida. Also, the diversity among the animals makes it such a unique ecosystem. Although the land had been used for many different things, today it is covered by pine and rock lands, and it is home to extraordinary wildlife. You must live the Everglades to truly understand it – seeing it through pictures does not do it justice. Rare species like the Dinosaur Birds and Roseate Spoonbills can be seen here, among many others. Each animal serves a purpose – even predators. In fact, our class lecture started off by ranger Dylann speaking to us about a bird that flies up to 250 mph and eats other birds that can even be larger in size.

Next, we went to the Nike Missile Site. As I stood under the looming shadow of the Nike Hercules Missile, which dates back to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, it reminded me of my Cuban-American roots. Although it was renovated and inactive, I felt as if I was transported back in time to the Cold War and it was a completely eye opening experience. I stood in this missile site, absorbing all the information and imagining how different history would have been if the nuclear warheads killed millions of people in the United States. It blew my mind that I was only 160 miles from Cuba, and that I was standing amongst many historical relics of the Cold War.

Frost as Text

“Fragility”

By Brittney Sanchez of FIU at the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, 17 March 2021

On March 17th, we toured many of the 6500 works at the Frost Museum. Among these works was the thought provoking exhibit by Roberto Obregón. He had an obsession with the dissection of the rose. He only worked with a certain number of roses, and everyone who has the opportunity to tour this exhibit can quickly sense his obsession with the uniqueness of the petals. As I toured Obregón’s exhibit, I was immediately captivated by a specific piece called the “Sick Rose,” or “Rosa Enferma” in Spanish. In the picture to the left, I noticed a rose which seemed to be untouched by humanity nor by harmful creatures. It was delicate, yet full of life. As I stood in front of this painting, I thought to myself, why is this beautiful flower named “the Sick Rose”? Then, I turned to my left and saw that this flower that was once so full of life, was taken apart petal by petal and laid out into a different frame with some writings on it. The very detailed note recounts the day that Obregón’s friend, Salmerón, gifted him this flower. This piece pays homage to Salmerón, who died a few years later from AIDS.

Although the rose had many meanings throughout the exhibit, I felt as if this rose could connect to many of its viewers, especially now during the corona pandemic. For me, it was a reminder that life is fragile, but it is also worth living. We all experience birth, development, and death. We do not know when our time will come, and this pandemic has made this clear to everyone. We are susceptible to many types of external factors such as diseases, infections, and natural disasters, but instead of living in fear, this flower should remind us to care and love for one another in a deeper and meaningful way. 

Coral Gables as Text

“Be Our Guest”

By Brittney Sanchez of FIU at the Biltmore Hotel, 31 March 2021

On March 31st we explored many tourist attractions in Coral Gables, such as the Coral Gables museum, Miracle Mile, and the Biltmore Hotel. As we entered the Coral Gables museum we were quickly transported to the early 1900s and the Great Depression. The tour combined local history, architecture, segregation, visionaries, and the overall development of Coral Gables. The uprising can be accredited to the founder and developer, George Merrick. His success story started as a young boy who tended his family farm filled with guava trees. He worked tirelessly and had a vivid dream of creating a city based on Spaniard architectural styles. Our tour guide gave us a thorough depiction of the history that lies within the city and the role Merrick played in making it such a successful city. Although it’s rise to fame is worth noting, one cannot push aside the intense segregation that lie in Miami at the time. We saw this immediately as we walked into the first room, the court house and the jail cells. They were separated into four different cells. White men, black men, and white women, and black women. The white men and women had the nicer cells facing a window, while the others had the dark, cold rooms. Much like any museum you visit, you need to create your own opinion. Having a critical mindset is pivotal. There will always be great success stories, but one must look at all the angles to fully understand the complex history.

Shortly after visiting the Coral Gables museum, we drove to the Biltmore Hotel which had a success story of its own. Although it was a military hospital during WWII, architects Shultz and Weaver renovated it in only 11 months. It became a beautiful hotel that combined Mediterranean revival and Miami Mediterranean styles with many geometric patterns and building styles that resembled Cuba. It was a place where many famous people visited, such as Desi Arnaz, and many galas, golf tournaments, and water shows were held. Today, it is a beautiful vacation spot for many locals and tourists from around the world!

Vizcaya as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. Photo by John Bailly / CC BY 4.0

“La Fin”

By Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, 14 April 2021

On April 14th, we took part in an exclusive tour of the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. In a year full of uncertainties, this class quickly became one of my biggest blessings in 2020. We experienced Miami in a unique way and I could not have imagined ending such an unforgettable semester anywhere else but the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. This place is absolutely breathtaking. In 1912, James Deering undertook the construction of Vizcaya with Paul Chalfin as the artistic director. As you enter the gardens through the winding roads at the east entrance, you are welcomed by a Mediterranean architectural style embellished with tropical curtains. From the moment you enter the garden, you can see that hedonism, wealth, and self-glorification greatly influenced Deering’s design throughout Vizcaya.

As you walk through the back entrance, you are greeted by Bacchus, also called Dionysus, the Roman god of wine and ecstasy. He is depicted wearing minimal clothing and he is surrounded by little figures called putti. As you continue to walk through the house, you come across the patio that is lit up with natural light shining through the window ceiling. When this was built, it was completely open. I could just imagine the pure sunlight filling up the space with the fresh sea breeze circulating around it. Although you are surrounded by the Mediterranean architecture, you can also notice many other aspects that make this room so unique, such as the indoor/outdoor feel, the Cuban inspired roof, and the tropical flora throughout the room. This fresh air would have come straight from the east where you are face to face with the Boat Landing. This boat welcomed guests in the early 1900’s and served as a breakwater to protect the house and surrounding area from water. Although it was under construction, it quickly grasped your attention. Lastly, my favorite room in the South Loggia is enclosed by three pastel colored, arched, mosaic stained glass windows. This room is majestic. As the light from the setting sun fills the room with color through the stained glass windows, it instantly reminds you of a Disney movie. Life seems to simply stop for a moment as you stare into the endless garden through the stained glass windows. I cannot wait to go back to the museum for many years to come and show my family members the former home of James Deering.