Christian Gonzalez: Bal Harbour 2022

STUDENT BIO

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is profile.png
Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Christian Gonzalez is an FIU student and active member of the FIU Honors College. Born and raised in Miami, his passions lie at the intersections of art, nature, and technology. Christian is a junior seeking a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and is currently majoring in Finance.

GEOGRAPHY

Every year, millions of people from all over the world come to visit Miami. South Beach and the city of Miami Beach are among some of the most popular tourist attractions in South Florida, but tucked away on the northside of the same island is the far lesser known village of Bal Harbour. 

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Bal Harbour lies on the the northernmost end of the same barrier island that South Beach is located on, with the city of Miami Beach on its southernmost end and only the town of Surfside in between them.[1] The word “Bal” is a portmanteau of the words Biscanye and Atlantic, due to the fact that it is bordered on the west by the Biscayne Bay and on the east by the Atlantic Ocean.[2] 

Bal Harbour is by far the smallest portion of the barrier island, encompassing only 0.99 km2 (4.4%) of land on the island. Surfside, on Bal Harbour’s southern border, is located on 1.44 km2 (6.4%) of land, and both are dwarfed by the city of Miami Beach which occupies 19.92 km2 (89.1%) of land on the barrier island.[3]  

HISTORY

The land where Bal Harbour and Miami Beach are currently located was originally a peninsula and part of a much larger barrier island. However, in 1925 an inlet was cut through a narrow point in the sand. The northern end of Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean became connected because of this inlet which now separates the cities of Bal Harbour and Sunny Isles.[4]  

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

In the 1940s, WWII broke out and almost all of Miami Beach’s 332 resort hotels were leased to the US Air Force.[5] By 1943, the city had become a training ground for the war. Development plans for Bal Harbour were put on hold during this time and the land was rented out to the United States Air Corp. The Air Corps used this land similarly as a training ground, constructing  military barracks, a firing range, and even a Prisoner of War camp. The prisoner camp, notably, was located where the Bal Harbour Shops currently stand.[2] 

The village of Bal Harbour was officially incorporated in 1946. Bal Harbour experienced rapid development in the subsequent decade. A total of nine beachside resorts opened in Bal Harbour during this time, attracting upscale clientele.[6] In 1949, a bridge was built over the inlet to the north, connecting Bal Harbour and Sunny Isles.[2]

In 1957, Stanley Whitman purchased 16 acres of land in Bal Harbour to build a mall. He paid $2 per square foot of land, which was a record price for retail property at that time.[7] Inspired by the Lincoln Road mall in South Beach, Whitman wanted to create an open-air luxury shopping experience within Bal Harbour. The Bal Harbour Shops mall was opened in 1965 with 30 upscale tenants, and it was reported to have been immediately successful.[6] 

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

In 1971, Whitman convinced Neiman Marcus to open its first department store outside of Texas, which became an anchor outlet for the Bal Harbour Shops. Other notable outlets within Bal Harbour Shops include the first mall location for Cartier and Bulgari and the first Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Sergio Rossi outlets in the United States outside of New York. Because of the success of the Bal Harbour Shops, some consider Stanley Whitman to be the “Walt Disney of luxury retailing”.[6]  

The remainder of Bal Harbour’s history can largely be characterized by the development of resort hotels and luxury retail shops. The last undeveloped beachfront site was sold for $220 million in 2012 to build the luxury Oceana condominium complex.[2] Today, Bal Harbour is flanked by the Bal Harbour Shops and St. Regis Bal Harbour resort on its south end and the Ritz-Carlton and Haulover Inlet Bridge on its north end. 

DEMOGRAPHICS

According to 2020 US Census data, Bal Harbour has a population of 3,093 residents across 1,424 households. 65.8% of residents are White, 26.8% are Hispanic or Latino, 3.88% are Mixed or Multi-Racial, 1.49% are Asian, and 1.03% are Black.[2] 

Notably, Bal Harbour was the subject of scrutiny in the 1980s due to discriminatory housing practices. In 1982, a $10 million lawsuit was raised against an exclusive Bal Harbour community, the Bal Harbour Club, due to a 36-year old policy that prevented Jews and Black people from owning property there. After the introduction of the lawsuit, the community quickly voted and passed measures to remove these discriminatory restrictions.[8] 

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

The median home property value in Bal Harbour is $1.27 million, and the median household income is $76,962. 51.6 is the median age of Bal Harbour residents, and only about 1,138 (36.7%) of residents are employed.[9] From this data, we can infer that a large majority of Bal Harbour residents are older retired White or Hispanic people.

Employment for Bal Harbour residents is somewhat diverse, but still concentrated in a handful of occupations. Of the 1,138 employed Bal Harbour residents, 19.7% are occupied in management positions, 17.0% are occupied in sales, 12.1% are occupied in business and financial operations, and 10.1% are occupied in health care. In terms of industry, 17.6% of residents are employed in the real estate sector, 15.6% are employed in the health care sector, 9.67% are employed in the accommodation and food services sector, and 9.46% are employed in the retail trade sector.[9] 

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

While taking photos at the Ritz-Carlton in Bal Harbour , I had the opportunity to interview one of the concierges at the hotel. I asked him if he could tell me something about Bal Harbour that most people don’t know about. He immediately started talking about the Bal Harbour Shops, and how he had lived in Miami his whole life and hadn’t even known the mall existed until he started working in Bal Harbour. I asked him why he thinks that is, and he speculated it’s probably because the Aventura Mall, nearby on the other side of Biscayne Bay, gets a lot more attention.

Continuing the interview, I asked what the best day of the week to visit Bal Harbour might be. Without hesitation, he claimed that Sundays are nice because there is significantly less traffic on the way to Bal Harbour, and that Tuesday nights are also good because of the food trucks at Haulover Park. Haulover Park, across the inlet bridge, is about a 5 minute walk from the Ritz-Carlton. Asking about the perks of working in Bal Harbour, he was keen to name-drop some of the numerous celebrities that frequently visit Bal Harbour such as Ed Sheeran, Mike Tyson, Gail King, and J. Cole.  

LANDMARKS

St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

The most well known hotel and resort in Bal Harbour is the St. Regis. This 5-star hotel sits on the beach at the south end of Bal Harbour and was opened in 2012.[10] The St. Regis epitomizes the high-end luxury lifestyle that defines Bal Harbour, containing several notable restaurants including Atlantikos Greek cuisine, BH Burger Bar, and La Gourmandise French cuisine. 

Bal Harbour Shops

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

The Bal Harbour Shops is a luxury open-air shopping center, and one of the highest grossing shopping centers in the world with sales of $3,000 per square foot. The mall is still owned and operated by the Whitman family who developed the site in the 1950s and 1960s.[11] Bal Harbour Shops contains approximately 100 retail stores and services including Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue department stores as well as dozens of luxury and designer outlets such as Gucci, Prada, Saint Laurent, Versace, Balenciaga, and Fendi. 

The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour Resort

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Another 5-star hotel resort in Bal Harbour is the Ritz-Carlton which sits at the northernmost end of the Bal Harbour beach. Opened in 2014, the hotel stands out from other beach hotels on the island and is marketed as a “getaway” on the beach, isolated from the busier hotels on Miami Beach within the more residential north end of Bal Harbour.[2] The Ritz-Carlton offers several restaurants, a complete spa experience, and many other amenities to its guests. 

GREENSPACES

Bal Harbour Beach

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

In tune with the neighborhood’s luxury status, the Bal Harbour Beach can be described as one of the most manicured and well maintained beaches in South Florida. The beach is free and publicly accessible to all. A path alongside the beach allows guests to walk, jog, or cycle and is widely decorated with outdoor art exhibitions and installations organized by Bal Harbour’s “Unscripted” art program.[12]   

Haulover Park

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

On the other side of the bridge connecting Bal Harbour and Sunny Isles, you will find Haulover Park. A 177-acre park opened in 1948, the park contains one of the first officially recognized nude beaches in South Florida and the largest public nude beach in the United States. The park also contains a marina, tennis courts, numerous food trucks on Tuesday nights, and a dog park.[13]  

North Beach Oceanside Park

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

North Beach Oceanside Park is located south of Bal Harbour, a 30-minute walk along the beach from the Bal Harbour Shops. Although dogs are not allowed on the beach itself, this park is widely recognized as a pet-friendly area complete with nearby restaurants that accommodate pets with outdoor seating. Oceanside Park is also known for being a good spot to picnic, thanks to designated BBQ grilling spaces within the park.

TRANSPORTATION

According to data from the US Census Bureau, 56.7% of workers in Bal Harbour commute by driving alone, 21.9% work at home, and 9.62% commute via carpool. Only 1.9% of workers in Bal Harbour commute via public transit.[9] The Bal Harbour Express Shuttle that once used to operate in the village was suspended in 2021 due to budgetary adjustments.[14] 

There are a few options to get to Bal Harbour from Downtown Miami via public transport. One example is the Arsht Metromover which can take you from the Adrienne Arsht center all the way to the Bal Harbour Shops on Collins Avenue. However, public transportation appears to be limited almost by design in Bal Harbour. With the removal of the Bal Harbour Express Shuttle, there are only two bus stops in the southern half of the neighborhood, near the retail district. 

FOOD

Hillstone

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Located on the second floor within Bal Harbour Shops, Hillstone offers modern American cuisine. Open for both lunch and dinner, meals here are not cheap. However, the food may be considerably less expensive compared to other high-end restaurants in the neighborhood. My sister is a huge fan of the ribs here, and I can personally recommend both the grilled artichokes as well as the crab cakes, whenever they happen to be available. 

Le Zoo

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Le Zoo is described as an energetic celebration of French Mediterranean cuisine, located in Bal Harbour. This French bistro is inspired by Parisian cafes and restaurants in St Tropez, offering freshly baked bread and an assortment of gourmet cheeses. Some of the best dishes here include the escargot, carpaccio, and crème brûlée. 

Makoto 

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Another restaurant located within the Bal Harbour Shops, Makoto is a modern Japanese restaurant operated by Chef Makoto Okuwa since 2011. One of Bal Harbour’s most popular restaurants, Makoto specializes in Edomae-style sushi. Here you will find outstanding short rib noodles and a wide variety of sushi dishes. 

BUSINESSES

Haulover Bike Rentals

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Haulover Bike Rentals is a great service that offers bike rentals for reasonable prices within Haulover Park. You can ride your bike throughout the park or across the bridge and down Bal Harbour Beach’s scenic beachside cycling trail. 

Big Daddy’s Liquors

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Big Daddy’s Liquors, a South Florida staple for over 60 years, is a locally-owned liquor store located just one block south of the Bal Harbour Shops. It is owned and operated by the family of Joe “Big Daddy” Flanigan, the man who founded Miami’s famous Flanigan’s restaurant.[15]  

Miami Boat Rentals & Tours

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

One of the best boat rental and charter companies in town, Miami Boat Rentals & Tours is located at the Bill Bird Marina within Haulover Park. A great way to explore Biscayne Bay and Bal Harbour by sea, you can rent a boat here for an entire day complete with a captain who is licensed to drive the boat for you.

SUMMARY

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Rather sleepy and quite small, Bal Harbour is one side of this urban oceanside paradise that many people who live here don’t often see. You could say it’s one of Miami’s best kept secrets, but the more I learned about Bal Harbour, the more I realized how prohibitively expensive the town really is and how limited local activities appear to be if you are not a hotel guest or a resident. The Bal Harbour Shops is an interesting mall to visit, especially if you have money to spend, but the only affordable activities in this neighborhood are the local parks and beaches on the periphery of town. Although I would love the opportunity to stay at one of Bal Harbour’s famous 5-star hotel resorts, it is easy to see why most people prefer visiting the much more tourist-friendly South Beach. 

CITATIONS

  1. “Surfside, Florida.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Mar. 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surfside,_Florida 
  2. “Bal Harbour, Florida.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Feb. 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bal_Harbour,_Florida
  3. “Miami Beach, Florida.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 5 Apr. 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miami_Beach,_Florida
  4. “Baker’s Haulover Inlet.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Sept. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baker%27s_Haulover_Inlet
  5. Syken, Bill. “When Miami Beach Went to War.” LIFE, 18 Apr. 2021, https://www.life.com/history/when-miami-beach-went-to-war/
  6. “History of Bal Harbour, Florida: Hotels and Miami Tourism.” Bal Harbour, https://www.balharbourflorida.com/miami/tourism-history/
  7. “Stanley Whitman.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 7 Feb. 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Whitman
  8. Ap. “Florida Club Drops Barriers in Face of Discrimination Suit.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 12 Dec. 1982, https://www.nytimes.com/1982/12/12/us/florida-club-drops-barriers-in-face-of-discrimination-suit.html
  9. “Bal Harbour, FL.” Data USA, https://datausa.io/profile/geo/bal-harbour-fl. 
  10. “The St. Regis Bal Harbour.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Apr. 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_St._Regis_Bal_Harbour
  11. “Bal Harbour Shops.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Dec. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bal_Harbour_Shops
  12. “Beach Path Art Exhibit.” Bal Harbour, https://www.balharbourflorida.com/miami-arts-culture/beach-path-art-exhibit/. 
  13. “Haulover Park.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 9 Dec. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haulover_Park 
  14. “Express Shuttle.” Bal Harbour Village, https://balharbourfl.gov/residents/transportation/public-transportation 
  15. “About Us.” Big Daddy’s Liquors , https://bigdaddysliquors.com/pages/about-us

Christian Gonzalez: Miami Service 2022

STUDENT BIO

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Christian Gonzalez is an FIU student and active member of the FIU Honors College. Born and raised in Miami, his passions lie at the intersections of art, nature, and technology. Christian is a junior seeking a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and is currently majoring in Finance.

WHO

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Roarthon is a 17-hour event that represents the culmination of a year-long fundraising campaign to raise money for children with debilitating illnesses in collaboration with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. FIU Students, friends, family, and faculty were invited to the April 9th Roarthon event to celebrate the children and their families and participate in a variety of activities to help raise money. 

However, Roarthon is not just an event. Along with Homecoming, it is one of FIU’s longest running traditions, going all the way back to 1997.  The FIU Center for Leadership & Service helps to organize this yearly event at FIU’s Recreation Center, but Roarthon would not be possible without the support and assistance of dozens of dedicated volunteers, and hundreds of students who help fundraise throughout the school year.

WHY

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Having a child is one of the greatest joys life has to offer, but having a child afflicted with a critical life-threatening illness is one of the most painful things that anyone can possibly endure. Although the United States has made some progress in creating a more equitable and affordable public healthcare system in the past few decades, for many families in this country it just isn’t enough. Furthermore, there are many illnesses we still haven’t found cures for.

Donations to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMNH) help fund life-saving treatments for children with debilitating and life-threatening illnesses. In addition, the CMNH nonprofit organization helps fund medical research, purchase pediatric medical equipment, provide financial assistance for low-income families who cannot afford medical services, and support kid’s emotional health during prolonged hospital stays. Through these donations, CMNH helps support the health of over 10 million children each year.

HOW

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

The Roarthon event on April 9th took a committee of over 50 students to plan and organize. FIU’s Center for Leadership & Service reserves space in the Recreation Center over the weekend, and then the committee sends Google Forms out to various student organizations to coordinate signing up and volunteering for shifts throughout the 17-hour weekend event. This opportunity came to me through one of the Honors College group chats. I signed up for a shift on the Google Form for the Saturday, April 9th event, and was then added to another group chat to further organize and delegate responsibilities for our respective shifts.

WHERE & WHAT

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Before Roarthon even begins, a massive year-long fundraising drive takes place beginning in the Fall. Throughout the school year, FIU clubs and organizations, fraternities and sororities, students and faculty help to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. This drive formally ends in April with the 17-hour weekend Roarthon event held in FIU’s Recreation Center, also known as the FIU gym. Noticeably, this year’s Roarthon had a comic-book “superhero” theme attached. 

I was assigned to the first shift of the event. Among dozens of volunteers arriving at the gym at 2:00 PM, we were told that we had three hours to set up and prepare for the event which was supposed to start at 5:00 PM. Volunteers for this event fall into two broad categories. Some volunteers are “sponsored”, which means that people pay donations for them to attend the entire 17-hour event where they are expected to stay, standing for the duration of the event, and sometimes dancing when prompted.

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

I was a part of a secondary group of volunteers who managed various activity booths spread throughout the floor of the gym’s basketball court. Like carnies at a state fair, there are a number of ways that we encourage attendees to spend money through merchandise, booths, and activities which go toward the fundraiser’s pool of donations. There is a nominal fee that students and others are charged to attend the event, given wristbands at the door, and then there are booths for selling t-shirts, snacks, and drinks. One of my first assignments as a volunteer was to help gather ice and water to mix lemonade and gatorade powder into large coolers which were then used to sell to attendees. 

After we finished prepping  the drinks station, we helped carry tables and props to set up other booths. There were photo booths where you could get your picture taken for $5, booths where you could answer riddles ($1 a guess) for candy prizes, and several other carnival-like games. Many stations were set up as activities for the children to enjoy for free when they arrived with their families while simultaneously serving as fundraising opportunities which could be charged to students. Some of these activities included a bounce house, a booth for video games, another booth for card games and board games, a booth for ball games and hula hoops and coloring books just to name a few. 

Eventually, the children arrived with their families for the opening ceremony at 5:00 PM. FIU’s Interim President Kenneth Jessell gave opening remarks before inviting the families up onto stage. They were warmly welcomed by the crowd and then encouraged to go enjoy the fun and activities while students showed up to spend money and donate to the cause. Once the event began, I was assigned to monitor the video game station for a couple hours before being relieved by volunteers arriving for the next shift.

WHEN

Registered and Approved Volunteer Hours from MyHonors

SUMMARY

For 25 years, Roarthon has been helping raise money for children in need. Since it first began in 1997, Roarthon has raised over $1 million dollars for the Children’s Miracle Hospital Network. Despite the recent complications from the COVID-19 Pandemic, students still managed to help raise over $56,000 for the kids and their families during the 2021-2022 fundraising drive before the April 2022 Roarthon event. 

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Although I was just there for the first shift of the event, it was only a small fraction of the 17-hour long event that extended from Saturday afternoon far into Sunday morning. If I could do it all over again, I would like to help lead the event as an organizer. I can only imagine what the event turns into as more students filter in and out far into the night and early in the subsequent morning. 

For Roarthon to happen every year, it takes over 300 students from FIU clubs and organizations to help fundraise money throughout the year. This money could not be raised without the help of hundreds of students and dozens of volunteers that dedicate time and resources every year to make this fundraising drive successful.

Christian Gonzalez: Dadeland 2021


STUDENT BIO

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is profile.png
Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Christian Gonzalez is an FIU student and active member of the FIU Honors College. Born and raised in Miami, his passions lie at the intersections of art, nature, and technology. Christian is a junior seeking a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and is currently majoring in Finance.

GEOGRAPHY

Step off the plane at Miami International Airport and onto the Miami Metrorail. Or hop on at Government Center, Hialeah, or Brickell station. It doesn’t matter. If you were to take the Metrorail as far South as it will go, you will eventually arrive in Dadeland.

Image from Wikimedia Commons / CC by 3.0

Surrounded on most sides by suburban communities like Pinecrest, Kendall, and Glenvar Heights, Dadeland is located just 10 miles South of Downtown Miami. Its epicenter can be found at the intersection of US-1 and Kendall Drive. US-1, of course, is one of the country’s oldest highways connecting the East Coast of the US, and Kendall Drive was once described as the Champs-Élysées of South Miami-Dade by the Miami Herald.[1]

View of Downtown Miami from the roof of Dadeland Station.
Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Dadeland is a location that would be classified as an edge city by an urban planner or residential surveyor.[2] Like a smaller city within another city’s metropolitan area, Dadeland’s residential towers, cosmopolitan malls, and commercial skyscrapers represent the bulwark of Miami’s southward metropolitan expansion.

History

It can be said that the two most important events in the history of Dadeland were the construction of the Palmetto Expressway and the Dadeland Mall. Prior to the completion of these projects, Dadeland was described as a desolate area. In 1960, the highway was completed with its southernmost exit providing an offramp onto US1 in Dadeland and allowing a much higher volume of traffic to flow into the area than was previously possible.[3]  The subsequent residential boom and suburban expansion surrounding Dadeland can be attributed to this event and the 1962 completion of the Dadeland Mall.

Image from Wikimedia Commons / CC by 3.0

Describing the history of Dadeland without mentioning the Dadeland Mall would be unconscionable. In fact, the top result on Google when searching the term “Dadeland” often yields the Dadeland Mall. In the 1960s, after its completion, it was the largest shopping mall in the Miami metro area. In 1979, the mall became the site of the infamous Cocaine Cowboys shooting spree that killed two men, later identified as a Colombian cocaine trafficker and his bodyguard.[4] The Dadeland skyline, for about 60 years, was  marked by the mall’s concrete tower. Topped with a giant letter-D, this landmark stood as a unique presence observable from both the Palmetto Expressway and Kendall Drive, existing since the completion of the mall.[5] However, in the past year, a new marker for Dadeland Mall has been erected replacing the mall’s original iconic tower. 

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

The Metrorail expansion which connected Downtown Miami to Dadeland was completed in 1984. In 1987, American author and journalist Joan Didion described taking the newly constructed Metrorail down to the mall: “On my first visits to Miami the gleaming new Metrorail cars glided empty down to the Dadeland Mall and back, ghost trains above the jammed traffic on the South Dixie Highway. When I returned a few months later service had already been cut back, and the billion-dollar Metrorail ran only until early evening.”[6]

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

In the 1990s and beyond, the Dadeland area experienced a large development boom of high-rise residential and office complexes made possible by unique zoning laws that allowed for high-density development in the area specifically between US-1 and the Palmetto Expressway. These regulations, along with the connection to the Miami Metrorail and access to nearby highway infrastructure is what contributes to Dadeland’s classification as an edge city.

DEMOGRAPHICS

Because Dadeland is not a census-designated place, it is not easy to obtain accurate statistics for demographic data. The Southern portion of Dadeland, including Dadeland Mall, the Dadeland South Metrorail station, and the Datran center, is located within the 33156 zip code which also encompasses the Pinecrest suburban neighborhood. 

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Overall, the Dadeland district’s residents are described as highly educated and composed of “renters by choice”. Rent, however, in Dadeland is not cheap. The average household income within Dadeland’s 33156 zip code is $186,198 and the median household income is $115,967.[7] These figures contribute to the Dadeland neighborhood’s exclusive and high-end price range, when viewed in comparison to Miami-Dade county’s median household income of $51,347.[8]

Dadeland’s population is listed at 31,599 according to 2010 census data, with an estimated 33,734 residents in 2020 and a projection of 34,617 residents by 2025. Regarding employment, Dadeland  is dominated overwhelmingly by the Finance, Insurance, Real Estate & Services industry. Approximately 69.1% of jobs available in Dadeland are in this industry, with another 8.8% employed in retail trade. 95.0% of employment by occupation can be described as white collar jobs, whereas 5.0% are blue collar. 

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

In an attempt to interview residents of Dadeland, I travelled to Dadeland Center. My goal was to discover the purpose behind the wireframe installation at the top of one of Dadeland’s iconic buildings, at 9155 S Dadeland Blvd. The dome of this building is instantly recognizable to residents of the nearby area and highly representative of the skyline of Datran, resembling something like an upside-down diamond. I suspected it had some functional purpose, but I wasn’t sure. 

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

The first person I stopped to ask, a man riding his bike outside of Dadeland Center, wasn’t sure about the installation’s purpose. I asked a woman carrying groceries away from the Publix across the street. Although she was quite polite, she didn’t know what the story behind it was either. 

After some persistence, I was able to ask a security guard who worked at the Dadeland Center building about the purpose of the wireframe structure on top of the building. Preferring to remain anonymous, he claimed the diamond-shaped structure was an attempt to hide or obfuscate the building’s large HVAC system on its roof. I asked how long he’s worked at Dadeland Center, and he told me that he started this new job for a security contracting agency a few months before the pandemic began in 2020 and that he gets assigned to work at Dadeland every once in a while. I asked for his thoughts about this neighborhood. He said he appreciates how it’s mostly clean and quiet, and he also appreciates how convenient and accessible it is thanks to the Metrorail and bus terminal just a few blocks away.

LANDMARKS

Dadeland Mall

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Dadeland Mall is easily accessible from the Dadeland South Metrorail station by foot. It is the commercial and cultural center of the Dadeland district, offering a multitude of stores and services. This 535,000 square-foot mall is home to hotels, restaurants, a food court, fashion outlets, furniture retailers, large department stores including Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, JCPenny, and more. The Macy’s department store located in Dadeland Mall is also Macy’s flagship Florida store, the largest Macy’s outlet in the state. 

Downtown Dadeland

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

South of the Dadeland Mall, across Kendall Drive, you can find a small but welcoming chic stretch of restaurants, retail stores, outlets, and condominiums that make up the walkable and inviting area of Downtown Dadeland. Also adjacent to the Dadeland South Metrorail station, many of Dadeland’s condos and hotels can be found here. The pedestrian-friendly road of SW 72nd Place here in the Downtown Dadeland area is a popular spot for nightlife and recreation that stands apart from the much busier stretch of commercial strip malls and highways. A Publix supermarket is also tucked away here in this part of the town, which provides convenient access to groceries and general goods for residents of the area.

Dadeland Station

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Another commercial shopping center in the Dadeland area is Dadeland Station. This smaller mall accessible from the Dadeland North Metrorail station is home to several large stores and retail outlets such as Best Buy, Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Michaels. A small assortment of restaurants and cafes can also be found here, and it is a convenient spot for residents who live in the North portion of Dadeland to visit.

GREENSPACES

Dadeland Dog Park 

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Due to the small size of Dadeland and its commercial designation, there are no formal parks or green spaces that are available to residents within the immediate Dadeland area. The one exception is Dadeland Dog Park. This compact and well-maintained patch of Dadeland is perfect for kids and dog owners to congregate when going out for a walk. Mainly servicing the nearby condominiums and apartments, this area includes a fenced-in play space for dogs to roam without a leash as well as a nearby playground for kids on the opposite end of the park.

Coral Pine Park

A few blocks South of Dadeland, in the adjacent Pinecrest neighborhood, you can find Coral Pine Park. This nine acre property is home to a large open field and natural area. You can find a playground for children, a recreation center, and tennis courts as well at this park.

Flagler Grove Park

Also located in the Pinecrest area, South of Dadeland, is Flagler Grove Park. This three acre park offers a playground, restrooms, and a soccer field. It is easily reachable from US-1, just a block away from the South Dixie Highway on SW 104th Street.

TRANSPORTATION

As previously mentioned, one highlight of the Dadeland area is its accessibility by Metrorail. Dadeland boasts two Metrorail stations, Dadeland North and Dadeland South. As the Southern end of Miami’s Metrorail line, Dadeland South is the busier station. The Dadeland South station also houses a large parking garage and a bus terminal for easy access to the surrounding suburban neighborhoods.

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Transportation by car is not an issue in Dadeland. There are sufficient parking garages located at the Dadeland Metrorail stations, the Dadeland Mall, as well as wide sprawling parking lots in the nearby strip malls and at the Dadeland Publix. Because of the relatively small size of Dadeland, most of the district is also walkable. The triangular area that is sandwiched in between the Palmetto Expressway and US-1 is pedestrian-friendly when compared to other walkable areas in United States cities.

FOOD

Roasters ‘N Toasters

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Roasters ‘N Toasters has been a staple in the area since 1984. Their original location can be found on US-1 across from the Dadeland South Metrorail station. Roasters is an example of a classic New York deli, serving bagels, coffee, sandwiches, and breakfast all day. Their menu is extensive, and everything on it is top-notch. If you’re looking for something sweet, I recommend trying the Nutella French Toast made with slices of thick-cut challah bread. For something savory, I recommend the Rachel pastrami sandwich with a side of potato Latkes.

Ghee Indian Kitchen

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Located on SW 72nd Place, in the trendy heart of Downtown Dadeland, this restaurant serves authentic Indian cuisine with a contemporary spin. The brainchild of Chef Niven Patel, Ghee is an extraordinary find for lovers of Indian food in Miami. The small menu at Ghee demonstrates a focus on quality over quantity. For those who aren’t afraid of a little spice, the Ghost Pepper Cheddar Naan is to die for. I can also recommend the Short Rib Dosa and the Vegetable Samosas, if they happen to be available.

Apizza Brooklyn

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

The best Italian food in the area, Apizza Brooklyn is also located on US-1 across from the Dadeland South Metrorail station in the same business complex as Roasters. This Brooklyn-inspired Italian fare is a must try, offering pastas, salads, pizzas, fish, wine, desert, and a wide variety of high-quality dishes. Their brick-oven pizzas are a must try. My personal favorite is the Da Bomb pizza, but even their simple plain Cheese Pizza is outstanding thanks to a high degree of craftsmanship and quality ingredients. If you’re not on a diet, I can also recommend the Fried Mozzarella served with a marinara sauce that is out-of-this-world delicious.

BUSINESSES 

Empire Social Lounge

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Looking for a place to enjoy an authentic Cuban Cigar in South Miami-Dade? Well keep looking, because they are still illegal to purchase as of 2021.[9] However, if you’re looking for the next best thing, Empire Social Lounge is the place to go. A unique business in Downtown Dadeland, located on Dadeland Boulevard, this cigar lounge offers a sophisticated experience for purchasing cigars and sipping whiskey in the trendy Downtown Dadeland neighborhood. Please note, smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer according to the CDC.[10]

Dadeland Animal Hospital

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Dadeland Animal Hospital is an experienced veterinary clinic for dogs, cats, small mammals, and other pets in the local area. They are compassionate here and love taking care of pets, offering a wide variety of services including preventive care, diagnostic tests, surgeries, emergency services, vaccinations, and boarding. I take my dog, Ripley, here. 

Tattoos by Lou

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Tattoos by Lou! Are you looking for a tattoo? Tattoos by Lou is the place to go in Dadeland. Offering tattoo and piercing services since the 1980s, Tattoos by Lou has friendly and helpful staff and professional tattoo artists ready to accommodate your needs. Founded by Lou Sciberras, Lou’s has consistently provided the foundation of excellence in tattoo artistry and helped establish Miami as a world famous city for tattoos and tattoo artistry.[11] You can find them at the shopping center on US-1 and SW 98th Street, near the Palmetto Expressway exit. 

SUMMARY

A highly commercial neighborhood, what Dadeland lacks in parks and green areas it makes up for with its wide variety of malls, restaurants, services, and businesses. It’s not a perfect place. Chiefly, it is prohibitively expensive for most residents of Miami to live in, although housing is much cheaper in nearby neighborhoods. For those that are fortunate enough to live or work in the Dadeland area, the convenience of having a Metrorail station within walking distance cannot be understated. 

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

I have lived nearby Dadeland in the Kendall area for most of my life. Although many tourists who come visit Miami will never see Dadeland, to those of us who live here it is iconic. We pass by it anytime we take the Palmetto Expressway northward to downtown. The skyline of the Dadeland Center and Dadeland Mall is something that people in this area recognize and can relate to as common landmarks of their hometown. 

Sunset on the Palmetto Expressway at Dadeland
Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Over 100 years ago, the development of modern Miami began, as construction and expansion has continued ever since. The high-rise towers, condominiums, and office buildings that makeup the Miami landscape stretch far down South, dotting up and down US-1 along the Metrorail tracks reaching all the way to Dadeland. Dadeland remains today the southernmost point on Miami’s Metrorail line. Dadeland is among the densest commercial and residential zones South of downtown, and, as of 2021, Dadeland stands as the Southern terminus of Miami’s urban sprawl.

CITATIONS

  1. Ogle, Connie. Kendall Is the Paris of Miami. Miami Herald, https://www.miamiherald.com/miami-com/funny-stories/article231673798.html. 
  2. “Edge City.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 6 Dec. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edge_city. 
  3. “Dadeland.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 5 Dec. 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dadeland. 
  4. Hamacher, Brian. “’Dadeland Mall Massacre’: Thursday Marks 40th Anniversary of Infamous ‘Cocaine Cowboys’ Shootout.” NBC 6 South Florida, NBC 6 South Florida, 12 July 2019, https://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/dadeland-mall-massacre-thursday-marks-40th-anniversary-of-cocaine-cowboys-shootout/127956/. 
  5. “Dadeland Mall.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Aug. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dadeland_Mall. 
  6. Didion, Joan. Miami. Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1987. 
  7. “Dadeland.” ArcGIS StoryMaps, Esri, 30 Mar. 2021, https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/69c538c445c24bc5bcf89c91df7d4b4d. 
  8. U.S. Census Bureau Quickfacts: Miami-Dade County, Florida. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/miamidadecountyflorida/POP060210. 
  9. Carter, Adam, and Adam Carter. “Why Are Cuban Cigars Illegal? [Updated for 2021].” Cigar Hombre, 3 Feb. 2021, https://cigarhombre.com/why-are-cuban-cigars-illegal/. 
  10. “What Are the Risk Factors for Lung Cancer?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 Oct. 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/lung/basic_info/risk_factors.htm. 
  11. Tattoos by Lou . https://www.tattoosbylou.com/lou.

Christian Gonzalez: Miami Service 2021

STUDENT BIO

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Christian Gonzalez is an FIU student and active member of the FIU Honors College. Born and raised in Miami, his passions lie at the intersections of art, nature, and technology. Christian is a junior seeking a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and is currently majoring in Finance.

WHO

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

The Deering Estate is a national landmark, a museum, a historical site, a cultural asset, and a tourist destination located in Palmetto Bay, south of Downtown Miami. Since 1986, it has been listed as a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. Part of the Deering Estate’s mission is to preserve the early 20th century estate of Charles Deering and also to manage and protect hundreds of acres of pristine onsite property extending across multiple biomes of natural Florida wilderness.

Chicken Key is a seven acre island managed by the Deering Estate. Off the coast, it is accessible from the estate by canoe. Chicken Key is also a nature preserve home to precious mangroves and many species of local Florida wildlife such as birds, fish, manatees, and turtles. 

WHY

Working with the Deering Estate to help clean and preserve the island of Chicken Key was important to me for several reasons. As a native resident of Florida, born and raised in Miami, I feel a special and sentimental attachment to my home and the ecological imperative of preserving the limited native land still left in this region. Growing up in the area, it is impossible to not be raised by lessons from Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Rachel Carson. We are taught from an early age about the impact man has on nature and why we must protect life and preserve our natural ecosystem, to live in balance, for the good of all species. What we give to nature, nature often gives back. 

HOW

The opportunity to volunteer with the Deering Estate to help cleanup Chicken Key was presented to us as a part of the Miami in Miami course curriculum at FIU. Professor John Bailly, an artist in residence at the Deering Estate, helped make connections with the organization to allow his students access to the nature preserve at Chicken Key. He also arranged free kayak and canoe rentals for his student volunteers, which made it possible for us to reach the island for this project. 

WHERE & WHAT

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

I wasn’t sure what to expect. The Professor briefed us well, but the preparation required was almost overwhelming. We were told to bring water shoes, gloves to pick up trash, plenty of water, lunch, sunscreen, bug spray, and a camera or phone to take photos. When we arrived that Wednesday morning in early October, the Professor was there to greet us and usher us into the property. With our things in hand, each of us were then fitted with an oar and a life jacket before marching out to the docks where a rack of canoes was waiting for us. 

The journey to the island was invigorating. Arriving at Chicken Key, we were surrounded by a forest of mangroves. We made our way to a small clearing with a fire pit, where we placed our equipment and belongings before getting started. The Professor distributed reusable trash bags to each of us, and we set out in search of trash to collect. 

Digital Artwork by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Among the refuse and the detritus, we discovered many things that we were astounded to find on a remote island uninhabited by man. We found glass bottles, empty soda and beer cans, broken lawn chairs, wooden crates, large buoys, and a wide assortment of plastic derelict. As the Professor pointed out, the plastic was among the worst offenders. Nearly impossible to break down naturally, it pollutes the ecosystem more than most other materials. Plastic can be deadly to wildlife when swallowed by a turtle, for example, or when lodged into a whale’s blowhole causing suffocation.

By the end of the day, many of us had filled two, three, even four bags each full of waste and debris. In our canoe alone, we hauled a dozen bags of garbage back to the shore where we were met by management from the Deering Estate. After we arrived back to the mainland, they helped us dispose of the trash. Evident from their expressions was a clear appreciation for our help cleaning up the island and assisting in the preservation of the area’s natural wildlife.

WHEN

Registered and Approved Volunteer Hours from MyHonors

SUMMARY

After our experience at Chicken Key, I imagined that thanks to our combined effort that we had recovered so much waste that the East coast of the island would be clean and pristine for at least a year, if not more. Of course, I was shocked like many of my fellow classmates, when the Professor revisited the island only one month after our cleanup and shared a video of Chicken Key. It was almost more polluted than when we left it. At that moment I felt like Sisyphus, rolling his boulder up the hill only for it to roll down again once reaching the top. 

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

To get to the root of the problem, we need to determine who is causing this mess to wash up on shore in the first place. Is it boaters? Or is it people on Biscayne Bay? Discarding trash wantonly as they party on the coast. Maybe its tourists from cruise ships sailing out of the terminals at the nearby Port of Miami. Or maybe this is the result of poor waste management, sewers that spill out all this plastic and other garbage out and into the coast. Is the whole city to blame?

Not only do we need to take personal responsibility for our actions as citizens of one Earth, but we also need to acknowledge why we do this for the larger benefit of our survival. The ecosystem is maintained in a delicate balance that we far too often ignore. As species like the Florida diamondback terrapin become endangered and faced with extinction, whole links in the food chain are at risk of being removed. Biological foundations can collapse in a cascade as the loss of one species removes checks and balances that regulate populations of other species and provide food for multitudes of other forms of life, which, in turn, helps sustain our own. 

Digital Artwork by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Cleaning up one island one time won’t solve all of the environment’s problems. However, we can’t overlook the impact that individuals can have when organized into repeated habits that prioritize and enforce conservation, as we learn to take personal responsibility for our actions. When we volunteer like this, not only do we give back to the Earth which nurtured us into existence across millions of years, but we also become cognizant of the impact mankind has on the environment and why it is so important to take care of the only home we have, the only home we may ever know. 

Christian Gonzalez: Miami as Text 2021-2022

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Christian Gonzalez is an FIU student and active member of the FIU Honors College. Born and raised in Miami, his passions lie at the intersections of art, nature, and technology. Christian is a junior seeking a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and is currently majoring in Finance.

Downtown as Text

“Half Awake in an American Empire”
by Christian Gonzalez of FIU at Downtown Miami
September 19th, 2021

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

A ziggurat-domed neoclassical tower of justice rises amongst brutalist administrative structures, colonial plazas, luxury postmodern condominiums and offices plastered with the names of moneylenders.

Long ago yet nearby, an extinct indigenous people used to congregate on the banks of a river named for its vast nourishing waters.

Unspoiled streams of freshwater once flowed from the inland Everglades and discharged into the Atlantic, cradling protogenetic life in a subtropical edge of civilization.

People who lived in a balance of nature and grace have since been replaced by a society living largely in a digital world, where the majority of communication and human interaction is now confined.

Raised on transistors and screens, we stage our photos, record our videos, pick our filters, post our content, and then retreat into the much more vital, much more valid electric reality within our devices.

Walking around this city, how many of us are oblivious to the legacy and atrocities below our feet? How many would even care?

“What are some bones in a hill or holes in a field to the inexorable progress of mankind?” politicians will argue as they fasttrack relentless urban development, the manifest destiny of our age.

On the Brickell Avenue bridge, a monument of respect to those who came before rises opposite the river to a monument of indifference.

But if every tragedy can be perceived as an opportunity, every ounce of guilt becomes a catalyst for redemption.

We commission plaques, we disseminate knowledge, we preserve artifacts in museums to honor and remember our past so we are not doomed to repeat it.

A quantum of humanity is salvaged anytime we strip our ego and show compassion, anytime we stop to hold the door open, to help someone up the stairs, or just to acknowledge someone’s presence and wish them a nice day. 

Overtown as Text

“A Far, Far Better Thing”
by Christian Gonzalez of FIU at Overtown and Hialeah
October 3rd, 2021

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

It was the best of times.

You can’t live here, the white men say.
Nonetheless, a charter is signed.
Power is centralized.
Posh hotels and vacation homes are constructed.
A foundation of a city built upon the backs of the marginalized.
One town is planned. Another is born.

We won’t keep your records here, the bureaucrats say.
Segregated communities and cultures germinate from delusions of separate but equal.
The band plays on over at the Lyric.
Discretion battles grace.
The Reverend speaks.
A city listens.

You can’t park here, the officer says.
Look up.
Newly erected apartments darken the stained glass windows that used to illuminate the foyer of Greater Bethel on Sunday mornings.
The pews are empty now.
The billboards beside the highway over Mt Zion have gone digital.
Developers sing, and plowmen dig.
Can you hear the gentrification?

It was the worst of times.

I met a pale horse from an antique land, handicapped by time and labor the aged mare described to me a distant memory of a far-off place where he once emerged from stables to behold a structure fashioned with cosmic stone and marble floors built for presidents and movie stars, politicians and gangsters, railroad barons and sultans, filmmakers and widows, gambling addicts and jockeys who escorted their property through the tunnel onto the dirt track to be gawked at in the grandstands hanging above by the raging multitudes plied with liquor and staring vacant through binocular lens to catch a glimpse of a sport since outlawed but not without cost as spectators abandon the decaying palace, the clubhouse falls silent, bannisters rust, now home only to flamingos the racetrack still remains, forever vaunted, entombed in bougainvillea.

Vizcaya as Text

“The House at the Edge of Time and Space”
by Christian Gonzalez of FIU at Vizcaya
October 31st, 2021

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Past a pink wall and over a dry moat, through arcades teeming with spiders, lies a house with many wonderful things: A telescope, a library, a decorative harp. A gilded armchair, an Egyptian pedestal, a terracotta jar. Coffers and coffins, a dumbwaiter, a gift shop. A bust of Apollo, a bathtub for Bacchus, a bronze sculpture of Napoleon. A chandelier, a secret garden, an open secret. A mantle clock to count the minutes, a sundial to count the hours.

And hours feel so much longer when there’s nothing left to say. 

They say no man ever steps in the same river twice. Waters churn, sands shift, and people change. No river is ever the same river twice, and he is never the same man. But time is not a river. It is a whirlpool, cycling downward in orbit around a center that cannot hold. Wood rots, metal rusts, bones decay. 

A constant conversation, since 1917.

One of my oldest memories from childhood was looking up at night to behold a sky filled with stars too numerous to count. Was this a false memory? A dream? I wonder if my eyes have deteriorated or if this is a byproduct brought on by the inevitable acceleration of modern light pollution? These nights, looking up from the same place, I struggle to see a single star.

So I think again about the telescope in Vizcaya’s living room. 

In Deering’s day, someone might have been able to spot Enceladus or Ganymede peering through its glass. Imagine what could be seen back when even Cassiopeia and The Pleiades were visible with the naked eye on cloudless Miami nights. Since light travels at a constant speed to reach our eyes, any stars we see are like messages from the past. These stars, here on Earth, are images projected to us from years ago. Today, the telescope points not up but out toward the bay’s plutonian shores. 

Once more, the sundial beckons us. 

“Abandon serious things,” it commands, demanding us to shake off the existential angst of the new age. What does the present moment really mean when all we observe travels through space and time to reach us? …When these thoughts take time to process. What does it all mean when we learn to think before we speak and absorb before we think? The past is unpredictable, but the future is certain. And thus the present hour gets the better of the present moment.

South Beach as Text

“Deco by Daylight”
by Christian Gonzalez of FIU at Miami Beach
November 14th, 2021

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

You can’t quite recall how you arrived here. 

Looking around, you soak in the salt air, the ocean breeze, the wafting palms, the sand at your feet, here in this tropical Elysium. You don’t need to read your watch to know that it will be dark soon. As the sun goes down, the people on the shore head inside. You remind yourself about your mission, your purpose here, as you follow the crowd across the street. Here comes the night.

The lambent neon arrives. It gleams up and down Ocean Drive, flickering and illuminating the faces of bougie beachside restaurants, chic cafes, and Henry Hohauser hotels. Stopping to admire the fashion and the form, in awe and slightly dazed, you take it in for just a moment before continuing forward. You make your way past the clamor and commotion erupting from the glass brick bars at the venerable Clevelander, past the profligates and the tourists, past the club promoters and the mixtape vendors. They keep their distance, as if somehow you weren’t a normal person. 

Where is she anyway?

The night gets darker, as the neon’s luminescence intensifies. It reaches its blinding climax before last call, so bright it almost hurts. You move off the street into alleyways, less bright, yet still dense with artistry. Poetry dripping from railings, strips of light strewn from wall to wall, it hangs from above. You stare up at the orb that floats behind the Betsy hotel, wondering whether or not it is hollow, wondering whether or not she’s in there somewhere. 

Further on, sports cars fly down Collins Avenue in the dim twilight as you find yourself emerging at the Lincoln Road mall, long after the shops have closed. Black as Erebus, you gaze down the boulevard, then back down at your feet. You realize that you have been here before, a long time ago. Was this the spot where you were engaged? In a rush, it starts to come back to you, one fragment at a time. Ambulance sirens blare as premature memories flood back in. Visions of holidays with the family, a gift she gave you for your birthday, shattered glass on the floor, doctors in the hallway, and then you hear her. You look back, expecting to see Eurydice. She is gone. 

She couldn’t ask you to remember her, but she couldn’t bear it when you forgot.

You don’t want to forget, and yet it’s no longer up to you. At the mercy of your own morphophysiology, the voices return. Lesions on your amygdala begin to drum like hoofbeats pounding in your brain. Swallowed by the miasma, you can feel your body begin to panic. The voices grow louder still, and you try your best to ignore them. You let out a primordial scream, not out of terror but out of defiance. You are not afraid. If the sun ever comes up again, you are going to sleep so well. Clutching the watch she gave you, you look back East and stagger once more toward the Beach.

Deering as Text

“Of Egrets and Vultures”
by Christian Gonzalez of FIU at Deering Estate
November 28th, 2021

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

1455

Morning arrives and sunbeams peak through narrow gaps between mangroves. Awakening from his desperate dreams, the Tequesta man emerges from the solution hole, set upon another day. At the freshwater spring, he meets his brother and his sister and the rest of his tribe. Breakfast today is a feast of freshly gathered conch shells. He sets the empty shells aside for his father, who fashions them into various tools and appliances. Today’s journey will lead him across the rock ridge and into the brush. So he equips himself with his own tools. He takes his stick to ward off evil and some rope to tether the good.

1915

Boom. The Bahamian takes cover and averts his eyes. A plume of dirt and rock and foliage erupts from the earth. They call for the foreman near the Main House to examine the results. Waiting for the man to finish his inspection, he stares up at the high noon sun breaking through the canopy above him. Not long after, vultures will arrive to pick apart any animals unfortunate enough to be caught up in the blast. After a while, the foreman concludes that this location will be insufficient. They’ll need to scout North of here and find a better location to plant the foundation. And so the Bahamian and his company retrieve their equipment and prepare to move on. Ready to continue the search for another site, he brandishes his toolbox and surveying equipment and ventures deeper into the hardwood hammock.

2021

The tourist looks up from his iPhone, as the guide announces they’ve nearly reached the end of their excursion. One final stop awaits, a site housing an ancient native burial mound. Stepping off the road, he follows the others, continuing onto the wooden framework that leads them deeper into the thickness of nature. Rotating around the slender platform, they see the mound rising above the flattened earth below. This will be an excellent photo opportunity, the tourist thinks. He extends his device over the railing and positions the camera lens at just the right angle. Snap. He drops his phone and bends, reaching underneath the railing to recover it. Grasping the rubber backside of the iPhone case, he notices a great white bird resting on the underside of the railing. Their eyes meet for a brief nanosecond, before the creature, startled, flies away. 

Rubell as Text

“Understanding Art Part I: What Art Means”
by Christian Gonzalez of FIU at the Rubell Museum
December 12th, 2021

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

What is art? What makes art great? Why is some art better than other art? Why is someone’s art considered good enough to be in a museum and not others? These are some of the questions that have been on my mind since visiting the Rubell museum. Since then, I have ruminated long and hard to arrive at some partial answers to these questions.

From my perspective, there are one of two criteria that must be met for something to be considered art: 1) Something has to be communicated or 2) Some emotion has to be elicited. Often great art does both. The first element is what I consider to be symbolic value. The second element is the aesthetic value, that represents how effectively an artwork evokes some emotion and to what degree of intensity.

Something that communicates a point effectively or creatively, in my opinion, can be considered art. A great speech, a letter, the stream of consciousness thoughts of Proust can all be considered art through the ingenuity and virtue of the writing itself and what is communicated even if it is not intended to evoke any particular emotion. Of course, on the other extreme, good art can elicit emotion without really ever communicating anything at all. Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, from my limited exposure, are masters of this kind of expression. The Yayoi Kusama art installation at the Rubell museum is another example of this type of art, albeit in a more immersive sense.

If you were to plot these two factors, the significance of what is being communicated on the horizontal axis and the intensity of the aesthetic experience on the vertical axis, you could theoretically obtain a measure of an artwork’s greatness by calculating the total area.

This is part of the conclusion that I came to while browsing through the exhibits and the artwork on display at the Rubell museum, works from Basquiat, Keith Haring, Murakami, and Wiley. The surface level and the subtext of the art sometimes dancing in coordination sometimes merged like a mythical chimera, eternally fused.

Often, contemporary art will take existing frameworks for what people consider to be art and toss it out completely. Sometimes it all seems very simple. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. One definition of modern art that I’ve heard tossed around goes like “my child could do that,” or “I could have done that”. And that is true. You could have done that. However when it comes to the true value of art, there is one more important factor that has been left out of this examination thus far: context…

Untitled as Text

“Understanding Art Part II: The Value of Art”
by Christian Gonzalez of FIU at Untitled
December 12th, 2021

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

The contemporary art at Untitled differs from the contemporary art at the Rubell Museum in one significant way. The art at Untitled is on display to be sold, whereas the art in a museum is on display to be experienced and enjoyed. These two aspects are not mutually independent. However, the question that stuck with me long after visiting Untitled was entirely a different one. What determines the price of art?

Price and value are not always the same. In an economic sense, the price of something is simply what someone is willing to pay for it. Art housed in a museum is often considered to be “priceless” because museums claim they will not part with it at any price. And yet the art on display at Untitled is not priceless. Not yet anyway. 

For each booth exhibiting artwork, the artwork has almost an exact price for which the studio is willing to sell it at. If the price for a studio to display art at the Untitled exhibition is $50,000, then the sum total of the art displayed, we can assume, must be at least $50,000. Many of the pieces of art we observed and asked about were selling for close to that price. 

Of course, establishing a minimum floor price doesn’t answer the heart of the question. What determines the price of art? The invisible hand of the market sometimes isn’t sufficient enough to explain away everything. From my point of view, the one most significant factor to price, when considering the value of art, is precisely its context.

While the surface level aesthetics and symbolic subtext of art is important as well, sometimes the most important factor to how well art will be received lies in its context. The more history, the more backstory, the more context that can be provided for a piece of art and its artist, the more valuable that piece of art happens to be, regardless of its aesthetic or symbolic value. When studios and vendors at Untitled would talk to us about their art, it felt like they were primarily and purposefully trying to establish context in order to justify why the art being displayed demanded such a high value. 

All of this might seem highly philosophical and out of place for what is essentially a reflection on one day at a museum or one day at an art show. But just like our class, Miami in Miami, attempts to recontextualize our relationship with our home through in-depth examination of the environment, history, and culture around us, modern art, like the kind found in the Rubell Museum and at the Untitled exhibition, also attempts to recontextualize our relationship with art itself.

Everglades as Text

“On the Nature of Inconsequentiality”
by Christian Gonzalez of FIU at Everglades National Park
January 23rd, 2022

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Surrounded by South Florida’s vast wilderness, it is easy to feel inconsequential. You cannot observe any commercial office buildings, high-rise condominiums, industrial power lines, or cell phone towers when staring out into the horizon, only canopies of cypress trees rising up over a foreground of bromeliads stretching across the sunlit fen for miles. Migrating flocks of storks and great blue herons sporadically flutter and flit across the sky. Knee-deep in slough, we wade just a few meters away from the main road and listen for a while to the orchestra of the damp morass. Shallow waters pitter patter throughout the sawgrass marsh, the wind howls as it slides in and out of towering cypress domes. A red-bellied woodpecker chisels in response.

However, in relation to the fragile balance of man and nature, one can argue that we are anything but inconsequential. It is the first piece of knowledge imparted onto us as our day begins. With the visual aid of an oversized map, the park ranger explains how water used to flow freely from the Kissimmee River into Lake Okeechobee and then southward throughout the Everglades. Then, in the early 1900s, South Florida developers began a process that would attempt to drain the wetlands, so that new property could be built on top of dry land. Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, who successfully ran for governor of Florida in 1904, promised to drain the Everglades completely if elected.

To complicate things further, it is entirely natural to feel inconsequential. We have a biological imperative to eat and breathe and survive with the ultimate goal of maximizing the total number of genes we pass on to the next generation. Environmental conservation is not built into our DNA. We are born with natural biological mechanisms that cause us to hoard resources for the benefit of ourselves and our kin. We exist as products of nature, but are blessed with the grace of reasoning, language, and critical thinking. With the faculties of the human mind, we have expanded across almost every inch of the planet. But we have also constructed a society that values public education. It is because of this kind of education system that many of us have learned about the fragility of our ecosystem and the potential for harm we possess as a species. Human beings, after all, are capable of so many wonderful and terrible things.

Coral Gables as Text

“We Need to Talk About George”
by Christian Gonzalez of FIU at Coral Gables
February 6th, 2022

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

I have fond memories of Coral Gables. 

As a kid, visiting Coral Gables with my parents was a rare treat. I remember the many busy restaurants and bustling shops on Miracle Mile illuminated at night by street lamps and the brilliant glow of the Actor’s Playhouse marquee. I remember watching the fireworks on the green of the Biltmore hotel’s golf course on the 4th of July, surrounded by other families and the warm evening air of a Miami Summer night. I remember driving down the corridor of Coral Way, shaded by oaks and lined with banyan trees, admiring the old Mediterranean Revival homes, my mom dreaming aloud that we would live here one day if we had enough money, the carrot at the end of the stick that is the American Dream. 

In Coral Gables, George Merrick is the predominant figure whose name appears more than any other individual and who is honored by the solitary statue presently located on the front lawn of the Coral Gables City Hall. Merrick accomplished many great things in his lifetime. He studied law in New York City, he is credited as the progenitor and chief developer of Coral Gables, he helped establish the University of Miami, but, above all, Merrick was a salesman. Merrick made his living investing in land, developing plots and building homes, and flipping real estate for profit which earned him considerable influence and wealth. The history of modern Miami can be told through the history of its relentless expansion and insatiable development, and Coral Gables is no exception.

Many accounts like to emphasize Merrick’s rags-to-riches story as well as his friendship with Black people. “His best friends were the black Bahamian laborers who worked on the plantation side-by-side with him,” claims one report written by the City of Coral Gables in 2002.[1] However, in a speech presented on several occasions and later published in 1937, George Merrick proposed “a complete slum clearance be made, effectively removing every negro family from the present city limits”.[2] In May of 2021, the University of Miami decided to remove Merrick’s name altogether from buildings on campus, acknowledging that “George Merrick’s proposals as chair of the Dade County Planning Board perpetuated a wealth gap for Black residents and broad inequities in our community that persist to this day”.[3] 

On Aragon Avenue, I remember visiting the Books & Books on warm Autumn evenings to hear local authors lecture and recite passages from their latest novels. Adjacent to the bookstore is the old Coral Gables police and fire station since converted into a neighborhood museum, the lintel of its edifice adorned with reliefs of men and women, boys and girls, dogs and cats, and busts of firefighters equipped with helmets. Many buildings in Coral Gables are similarly decorated with carved images of pelicans, historically a symbol of sacrifice. Conveniently omitted from most of the town, is the sacrifice endured by Black Bahamians laborers who were essential in the construction of Coral Gables and many other districts of early Miami. 

Bibliography

  1. The Coral Gables Charrette Report. City of Coral Gables, 2002, https://www.coralgables.com/media/Development%20Services/Planning/2002%20Charrette/GablesCharretteFinalReportApril2002.pdf
  2. Merrick, George E. “Planning the Greater Miami for Tomorrow.” University of Miami Digital Collections, University of Miami Library, https://digitalcollections.library.miami.edu/digital/collection/asc9999/id/13354
  3. “University Reaffirms Commitment to ‘Belonging and Justice’ through Naming, Renaming of Facilities.” News@TheU, University of Miami, May 2021, https://news.miami.edu/stories/2021/05/university-reaffirms-commitment-to-belonging-and-justice-through-naming,-renaming-of-facilities.html

River of Grass as Text

“Lost In Search of Time”
by Christian Gonzalez of FIU at Everglades National Park
February 27th, 2022

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

29-year-old Tsutomu Yamaguchi was on a business trip in Hiroshima when the first atomic bomb went off on the morning of August 6th, 1945. Despite his wounds, despite being heavily bandaged, he arrived for work on-time three days later in his hometown of Nagasaki. Tsutomu Yamaguchi lived another 65 years and had 9 children.

These are my thoughts, as I began my walk into the river of grass.

Earlier that day, we visited the HM-69 Nike Missile Site located within Everglades Park. The Nike Hercules surface-to-air missiles here were strategically placed to intercept nuclear missiles launched from Cuba, as part of a defense program established during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s hard to imagine what it must have been like to advise Kennedy in those October days of 1962, at a time when the world was the closest it’s ever been to escalating into a full-scale nuclear war. Today, as I am writing, it is hard to avoid thinking about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and all the fear and uncertainty that comes from speculation about a potential World War III.

How do people stay calm and rational when it seems like their whole world is collapsing?

On Wall St, one of the most coveted traits of a good trader is the ability to hide your state of mind. Like a bad poker player who can’t hide his tells, most traders divulge whether they are making or losing money by the way they move, the pace at which they speak, the timber in their voice. The profound ability to wear the same blank expression in any situation, to control your emotions so precisely and to stay calm and collected in tense situations is such a desirable skill because so often traders are consumed by their own fear and their own greed.

Why must we fight our natural instincts so often to succeed in business and society these days?

Peering out into the vast expanse of the Everglades, knees wet and the sun low in the sky, I get the feeling that Nature doesn’t care. It is our nature to maximize our own happiness, to eat and hoard resources, to protect ourselves and our kin, to be liked, to be loved. Naturally, we all find ways to be unhappy even when the greatest wonders of our world, the apex of human evolution, the marvels of modern technology are apparent all around us. 

Perhaps, to find real happiness, we have to accept being slighted, being disliked, and — eventually — being forgotten. Maybe the only way to be happy is to love, without restrictions or filters or conditions. To see the glass half full. Before life passes us by. 

I think Tsutomu Yamaguchi is the luckiest man who ever lived. 

Yet Nature is made better by no mean

But Nature makes that mean; so, over that art,

Which you say adds to Nature, is an art

That Nature makes…

The art itself is Nature

Winter’s Tale [Act IV, Scene 4]

Miami Art Institutions as Text

“Painters and Patrons”
by Christian Gonzalez of FIU at Wynwood and Design District
March 13th, 2022

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

On the highest floor of the de la Cruz art collection in Miami’s Design District, planted on the Northern wall, is a portrait of a woman painted by Salvador Dalí. The woman is Dolores Sureo Falla, the mother of Carlos de la Cruz. This piece was striking for many reasons. It was a portrait created by a notable artist who famously did not paint many portraits, it stood out as a portrait within a hall of colorful and striking contemporary artwork that made even Dalí’s surrealist style appear rote and traditional by comparison. Although, I believe, the primary reason why it stood out was because of how closely the woman in the painting resembled my own grandmother. Appearing just like I’ve seen her in old photographs from Cuba, if someone had told me that this artwork was in fact a portrait of my abuela, I would have easily believed them.

According to the collection’s archivist, this portrait has a long history. It was smuggled out of Cuba through the Dutch Embassy in the 1950s when the old government fell during the Revolution. It was one of the few treasures that Carlos’s family managed to get out of Cuba before they fled the Castro regime. It is a story that many Cuban families in Miami are familiar with. The details may differ, but the scars are shared the same. The portrait can almost be seen as the crown jewel of the de la Cruz collection, the keystone located on the topmost floor from which all other pieces of the collection are informed. It is an early example of modern contemporary artwork and the rest of the collection can almost be seen as an evolution of the movement that stems from early modernist artists, like Dalí.

That same day, we visited the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse in Wynwood. It was explained to us there that Mr. Margulies acquires new pieces according to how well they fit into the “rhythm” of the collection. Although they both contain works of contemporary art, the themes and feelings evoked by the de la Cruz collection and the Margulies collection are noticeably different. The artists I noticed the most in the Margulies collection were primarily German, Italian, and others from all over the world. The colors of the art there were earthy and muted compared to the more colorful works of the predominantly Cuban, Hispanic, and local artists that I noticed in the de la Cruz collection.

If all of the artwork housed in the Louvre was relocated to warehouses in Wynwood, would the experience be comparable to its original setting?

Often a collection of artwork is an expression of its collector and curator than the sum of the artwork or the artists represented therein. Galleries like the de la Cruz and Margulies collections are themselves works of art, from the form of its presentation, to the layout of the collection, the position of works within the room in relation to other art pieces and the flow of the exhibit, to the themes and artists featured. Even the halls and doorways that lead us into our first impression of certain pieces are facets of style that are part of the experience of the collection. In this way, the collectors of art themselves become artists capable of expressing themselves.

Key Biscayne as Text

“Under Halcyon Skies”
by Christian Gonzalez of FIU at Bill Baggs State Park
March 27th, 2022

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Driving into Key Biscayne, it is hard to imagine a better view of Miami than the vantage point atop the Rickenbacker Causeway as you cross Biscayne Bay and look back westward toward the city. And yet, if you continue south past Virginia Key, down Crandon Boulevard, and into Bill Baggs State Park you might just discover the best vista Miami has to offer. Like the view from St. Peter’s cupola in Rome, there is something special about the view from the platform at the top of the Cape Florida lighthouse, made even more special by the somewhat unnerving and wobbly ascent up the tower’s spiral staircase. 

The Cape Florida lighthouse is a landmark that sits on the southern edge of Key Biscayne. Before its construction, this edge of the island was used as a meeting place for runaway slaves and Black Seminoles seeking freedom via passage to the British Bahamas. This crucial location, an important point along the little-known Saltwater Railroad, was compromised by the bright light from the tower after it was constructed in 1825. 

In 1836, the lighthouse again became a site of historical significance. Seminole Indians, making a defiant stand against encroaching colonial occupiers, raided the lighthouse during one of the many skirmishes of Second Seminole War. In an arguably tasteless move, the Florida Historical Society has marked this event with a stereotypically inaccurate piece of artwork within the park which depicts the event. 

From the viewing gallery at the top of the lighthouse, one can only imagine what it must have been like to be a lighthouse keeper here: sun and sand, ocean breeze and a tower all to yourself, a life by the sea. However, the lanterns once fueled by whale oil and kerosene can now be powered by electricity and solar panels. Although the last lighthouse in the United States was automated in 1998, lighthouses are nonetheless an iconic feature of the American landscape dotting up and down the coastline, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes, from the East Coast to the West, from sea to shining sea.

Coconut Grove as Text

“Simple and Genuine”
by Christian Gonzalez of FIU at Coconut Grove
April 10th, 2022

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Commodore Ralph Middleton Munroe organized the first Biscayne Bay regatta in the Spring of 1887. Munroe, a native of New York City, often spent his time in search of a better life, an idyllic life, the simple and genuine life. By all accounts, he was a man who cherished the natural world, and he must have been finely attuned to his environment to endure through the days when Coconut Grove was an isolated and dense mosquito-plagued tropical hardwood hammock. 

Munroe is said to have been many things in his lifetime. In addition to being a naturalist, he was a civic activist, and a photographer. Clearly apparent due to the many existing pictures of him, Munroe lived in the twilight age of photography. He utilized the power of this burgeoning technology to record himself, his family, and the natural world around him. Perhaps most importantly, however, Munroe was a man who loved boats.

Traditionally, the title of Commodore is given to Presidents of yacht clubs. Thus, Monroe, who never served time in the Navy, became known as Commodore Ralph Munroe when he founded the Biscayne Bay Yacht Club in 1887. Throughout his life in Coconut Grove, Munroe spent a majority of his time designing and building yachts, successfully completing fifty six during his lifetime. 

Shipbuilding is not only a technical discipline, but an artistic one as well. It is easy to appreciate traditional architecture because buildings on land are meant to last indefinitely. In comparison, naval architecture is much more ephemeral. Boats serve a functional purpose primarily, but as a recreational activity they can also serve an aesthetic purpose. In this way, Commodore Ralph dedicated his life to exploring the natural world on both land and sea through the application of technology with artistic intent. 

Ralph lived and died in South Florida, passing away in 1933. The state of Florida acquired his home, the Barnacle, in 1973 to convert into a park and historic landmark. By that time, the largely Bahamian community of Coconut Grove gave way to a bohemian counterculture movement of the 1970s. Despite Munroe’s enviable life, it would be wrong to reflect on our time here without acknowledging the original Bahamian settlers of the area. The history of Coconut Grove, like so many other parts of Miami, can be told through the history of displacement and gentrification. Not even the coconuts are native, and the native people are all long gone. Time nonetheless moves ceaselessly forward, here in this lush and indomitable paradise, beside an endless tide and a bottomless ocean.

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