Derick Plazaola: Grand Tour 2022

Photo by Derick Plazaola / CC by 4.0
“Congelato, ma Andando Avanti” by Derick Plazaola
Introduction: The Grand Tour Redux

My first trip to Europe, and to Italy of all the locations I could’ve selected. I knew that once I finalized the process of study abroad there would be no going back. I would have to leave behind everything and everyone back home and to immerse myself into a completely different life for an entire month – a thought that seemed to ever so scary and extremely stressful to comprehend in the days approaching the beginning of the program. However, I realized that going out of this comfort zone that I have enveloped myself my entire life – this bubble per se – would expose my perspective to horizons that I never have seen or even could comprehend without pushing myself physically, mentally, and emotionally to see them.

After the conclusion of this trip, I have come to the realization that beyond the wall of comfort lied one of the best experiences that any human could undergo and, in the shoes of a 21 year-old male from Miami, an opportunity to gain a level of appreciation for the materialistic items that I own but don’t appreciate on an everyday basis. Above all, the opportunity to study abroad allowed me to disconnect entirely from everything in Miami and to assimilate into an environment that was uncharted to me. This is why I viewed my Grand Tour experience as a time period where I was frozen, yet continually moving forward – “Congelato, ma Andando Avanti”. The time I spent in each of this cities allowed me to step into the shoes of those who have been there before me but also allowed me to create a pause – a freeze – on the life I have always experienced when at home in Miami, and to instead move forward with each day in Italy; living in the moment and appreciating every thing and interaction – big and small – was what would ultimately make this trek a core memory that will remain unforgotten as I resume, as I unfreeze, my life back home.

Structure of the Grand Tour

In order to showcase the experiences and events which I underwent while in Italy, I will first provide a more general picture of the feelings and thoughts I had while in each city or region that we lived in. Then, I will dive into the reflections that I specifically had for each location or area within that city that we were assigned beforehand and attempt to undertake a deeper analysis of the significance of these areas to, both, those who lived there eras before our arrival and to those who live there now and can see these locations on a daily basis.

With each of these locations, there were specific key emotions or qualities that I overwhelmingly felt in the moment while exploring each and every one of these areas. That being said with each step I took, I had to pause and think to myself if those hundreds of years before me or even if the others around me perhaps felt the same qualities or emotions when they immersed themselves into these locations. Perhaps they also saw these qualities as being tied to these locations or perhaps not. However, to me it was important that my mind had been exposed to the sensations that seemed to almost envelop one in the places which I have now explored.

Ancient Rome, Roma: Greatness
Photos and Editing by Derick Plazaola / CC by 4.0

Greatness. That was the overwhelming quality that I felt when viewing the entirety of this massive city. This would exceed in unimaginable amounts when I walked not only through the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, but also when I took a significant amount of time to take in every single building, structure, and key landmark tied to what was known as “Ancient Rome”. There was not a singular point in each of my days when I would wake up and see something that was apart of the ancient part of the city; it’s almost as if this section of the city had to make itself known on a daily basis. Whether it’d be through the continual viewing of the expression “SPQR” – the Senatus Populusque Romanus or “the Roman Senate and People” – on various streets and everyday items or through the passing of our study abroad group through the city’s various Aurelian walls or “portas”, this section of the city was continually letting its presence be known in such a proud manner. This is to great amounts of avail however as one has to simply respect the fact that these structures were recognized to be apart of one of the greatest, if not the greatest, empire to exist in the world.

I am a heavy believer in the idea that the authenticity of locations can only be truly experienced when one is there in person, rather than through the viewing of a picture or video. This was confirmed in its entirety when I had the opportunity to walk through these locations of Ancient Rome that were proudly idolized by the city’s people. There were times that I forgot that Rome was just a city. I would constantly view Rome as a time machine, a portal to the past if you will. A portal that allowed you to truly experience what Ancient Roma was truly like.

It was surreal. That feeling of surreal overtook me as I realized that I was among the first among thousands, for the day, to be in the middle of the Colosseo. The ground where my feet stood planted had been a breeding ground for endless violence – a violence that was viewed as entertainment of the highest quality for Roman citizens and nobility alike. It was almost as if you could feel that you were being transported in time and could hear the sounds and visualize the sights of what would surround you as stood motionless in the middle of the Flavian Amphitheater.

Once you finally wake up from viewing into the past, you come to the unbelievable realization that these remnants of the olden eras has managed to successfully remain standing ever-so proudly after so much time. This old civilization has now blended in successfully with the new city and thus a new, complete Roma has been formed. The geographical point where I overwhelmingly felt this the most was when I had the opportunity to stand atop the Vittorio Emanuele II national monument at the heart of Rome, a building commonly recognized as Rome’s “Wedding Cake” due to its unique architectural style. Had it not been for my curiosity to find the secret elevator that takes you to the top of this structure, I would not see the jaw-dropping sight that I did. When viewing towards the Colosseo, you would see the entirety of Ancient Rome all on that one side. When looking towards the other side, you see Central Rome filled with its newer buildings, but still coating some more ancient structures – such could be seen with the clear dome of the Pantheon peering through the rooftops. And yet right next to where I was standing were the “Quadriga della Libertà” and the “Quadriga dell’Unità” – the chariots of Liberty and Unity respectively. I couldn’t help but picture these chariot statues as almost serving as the connecting point, the midway marker, between Ancient and Modern Rome. Unity and Liberty combining together to express an overwhelming feeling of greatness.

Piazzale Michelangelo & Oltrarno, Firenze: Timelessness
Photos and Editing by Derick Plazaola / CC by 4.0

Timeless. To not change in quality even as insurmountable amounts of time pass by. That is the best way I can describe my experience when living in Florence. That being said, walking down the streets of Florence was of course one of the better ways to be able to experience this authentic feeling of timelessness as you would pass by and see so many architectural pieces along with art and sculptures or statues that you would find yourself admiring for quite some time. However, I found that the best way to truly appreciate the timeless nature of Florence was to push yourself continually up and up the steps of Piazzale Michelangelo until you finally reach the top. It is not until you are able to reach this plaza that you are presented with an unmatched view of Florence, allowing you to intake everything. It is here where you can see not only the unmatched authenticity of Florence, but just truly timeless the architecture of the city is in comparison to some of the locations in Italy. For example, I found myself lost in viewing everything from the side of the Ponte Vecchio all the way to that of the buildings in close distance to the Santa Maria Cathedral and Brunelleschi’s Dome. It is nothing short of entrancing as you could spend so much time in this little areas simply mesmerized not only by the magnificent view in front of you, but also by the welcoming ambience of Piazzale Michelangelo with its many people, some of which were playing instruments to set the tone for what this relaxing location can offer.

When in Oltrarno, I felt as if I was still apart of Florence and not apart of it at the same time. To get to Oltrarno, it even felt entirely unique as I had to cross the Ponte Vecchio to get the outskirts and then walked further into the area through the streets filled with colorful pastel-colored buildings and past the various streets with unique dining locations and shops. To come then face to face with structures such as the Pitti Palace and the Basilica of Santo Spirito emitted this resonating feeling of authenticity and timelessness yet again. I found that regardless of wherever I found myself within Florence, I could easily picture people hundreds of years before me walking down the same pathways and entering all these locations just like myself and others were doing so now.

I feel like being able to live a week in Florence and having the opportunity to visit all the locations we did was an experience that was entirely unique in its own regard compared to the things done in other cities. I feel like there was a noticeable assimilation into the life of a Florentine from the Renaissance with the activities that we were able to do and the locations we were able to visit. Whereas before, nobles and higher class people in the Renaissance were able to envelop themselves in these exclusive activities, now a group of students from Miami were able to do the same thing hundreds of years later all while still retaining the same level of authenticity as hundreds of years before. It only just goes to show just how timeless Florence truly is.

Corniglia, Cinque Terre: Serenity
Photos and editing by Derick Plazaola / CC by 4.0

Serenity. To reach the state of being peaceful and untroubled is a journey that is truly difficult and, at times, feels like an impossibility. I think that for the first time in a long time, I felt true serenity when I was in Cinque Terre. It was here in this part of Italy that three things existed; myself, the Earth I was standing on, and the calmness which the nearby Ligurian coast provided. It was an overwhelming sensation of the feeling that I could truly disconnect from all my previous problems and issues that continually clouded my mind and to instead be one with the environment around me. I cannot even replicate the feeling of being able to walk to the end of these villages and to peer out into the endless coast that faced me as I felt comforted by the beauty that surrounded me. I believe it will be hard to replicate or to even come close to the feeling of peace that Cinque Terre provided to me. Regardless of the elevation where I was standing, I still always felt so comforted by the sights that one could encounter here.

Corniglia in particular was where I found myself having spent the most time simply because of the fact that all the little things that were here complimented off of each other so well and that really resonated with me. To start off, the intricacy and beauty of the interior of the church of San Pietro here was a church that was highly memorable for me among all five of the villages of Cinque Terre. The ceiling being so well lit in particular was a sight that immediately seemed to have a firm grasp over my attention span when inside of it. Exiting out the church, I loved the opportunity of being able to enter all of the small shops and local businesses within Corniglia as I found myself always having a positive interaction at the end of it all, explaining where I was from and the things I loved about Cinque Terre. I think the fact that I felt so at peace from the environment in Cinque Terre greatly helped towards helping me feel so welcomed by the village and its people. Finally, being able to descend all the way from the top of Corniglia – where I could still oversee the sea along with the two villages to the left of Corniglia and the two to the right – to the bottom where the cliff diving was an experience in itself. I personally was too cowardly to cliff dive this first time but I was not too worried as I knew I would do it the next time I came her – something that may prove to be sooner than I expect as I fell in love with here.

The feeling of being able to be such at peace while here in Cinque Terre is a feeling that I don’t remember finding anywhere else before I came here. I know that at some point in my future life, I will return here so I can experience this feeling of serenity once again. I would do anything to go back in time to experience that feeling for the same for the first time again.

Santa Croce, Venezia: Buoyancy
Photos and editing by Derick Plazaola / CC by 4.0

Buoyancy. While it may be defined as the ability for something to quite literally float on water, buoyancy can also signify a significantly optimistic and cheerful nature and these are both attributes that can be tied to the city of Venice. Although our study abroad group was only there for a handful of nights, I was still able to clearly see the cheerful side of this city – something that I found to be the most clear at nighttime when crowds of people could come together to enjoy a shared feeling of enjoyment and togetherness. If I was here during Venezia’s annual “Carnival” festival, I definitely would be overtaken with the feelings of buoyancy that I described as the overwhelming amount of celebration could easily envelop someone and lure them in to become apart of the shared feelings of joy. Such a feeling can only go hand and hand with the city “married to the sea” as it fits the overall sentiment felt by immersing oneself into the life of a Venetian. Even having the opportunity to stand alongside the canals of the city and to see the gondolas pass by provides a feeling of enjoyment and satisfaction that is hard to feel elsewhere in Italy simply because the geographical composition of Venice is so vastly different from the rest.

Specifically when in Santa Croce, I felt this feeling of buoyancy when in the Giardini Papadopoli, one of the bigger public gardens within Venice. This area along with the nearby constitution bridge felt like the perfect hotspot where Italians could come to perform their passeggiata naturally as I would see large families enjoying time in this garden in the midday. This place was also a source of calmness however as I found myself being able to naturally rest without concern after a long day’s worth of walking and the hot sun. Thus, Giardini Papadopoli would hold a place as being a retreat from the usual alleyways and seaside views of Venezia. In addition to the garden, I was also able to experience the sight of two unique churches in the area of Santa Croce in the form of the Church of Saint Nicolò of Tolentino and the Church of San Rocco, both of which held spectacular pieces of catholic art that could not be found elsewhere. Santa Croce did offer a personally interesting, yet funny experience in the form of the Leonardo da Vinci museum; it was hilarious to be presented with clear copies of paintings like the “Annunciation” being presented to me when I had already seen the real thing at the Uffizi in Firenze.

From the time I spent in Venezia and its neighboring islands, I walked away from this city understanding very clearly just how overwhelming buoyant this city was. However, it was a feeling that sat very well with me and I saw myself as being very open to visiting this unique city again.


The Grand Tour Redux was an opportunity that I can only describe as being once in a lifetime. My perspective on my current lifestyle has been changed entirely from being able to immerse myself into the cultures and everyday customs of an Italian, regardless of whichever city I was situated in that day. To stay in the four locations we did and to undergo the respective sentiments, feelings, and qualities of Roman greatness, Florentine timelessness, Cinque Terre’s serenity, and Venetian buoyancy is an experience that will forever situate itself as being among the best experiences of my lifetime.

The Grand Tour was ultimately an opportunity for me to freeze my life back in Miami and to instead begin anew in Italy, moving forward with entirely different and unique experiences with each and every day. I do not regret a second of it and would gladly go back in time to do it again from start to finish.

Thank you for taking the time to read my Grand Tour Redux. Perhaps now you will also consider taking a freeze on your personal life at some point and spending a month in Italy. It is an experience that will only leave craving more.

Derick Plazaola: Italia America 2022

The Influence of Italian Cartography on American Mapmaking
The Fra Mauro Map (circa 1457-1459)

Introduction and Purpose

Italian poet and scholar Francesco Petrarca – better known by his anglicized name, Petrarch – was a figure from the early Italian renaissance as having stating the following:

“Therefore I decided not to travel just once on a very long journey by ship or horse or on foot to those lands, but many times on a tiny map, with books and the imagination, so that in the course of an hour I could go to those shores and return as many times as I liked…not only unscathed, but unwearied too, not only with sound body, but with no wear and tear to my shoes, untouched by briars, stones, mud and dust”.


It is from this quote that I had read that I could see his desire for travel and the acquisition of knowledge while being able to remain at home. I could genuinely see that the map, at its core, is a tool that could directly the imagination of the poet and the scholar to create intellectual and artistic domains over their worldly surroundings while yet remaining at home.

As I soon approach the closing of my academic timeline as an undergraduate student at FIU, my courses have allowed me to become more immersed in my career passion of mapmaking through the usage of online programs that utilize location data – such as Esri’s ArcGIS Pro – while still being able to remain home, just like Petrarch. I could directly view the world through the lens of this mapping tool and gain greater geographical knowledge. However as I continued to produce these online projections, I began to question if and how elements of early historical cartography have carried over to the current age by asking: How has early Italian cartography served as a significant point of influence for American mapmaking and surveying? Specifically, what elements of Italian cartography are still present in the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) that we see utilized today? Are there any specific Italian cartographic techniques that have allowed for numerous different modern applications? Thus, this project will serve as a direct pathway to helping me discover the answers to these questions. Henceforth, I now present my Italia America.

Historical Background

The age of the European Renaissance would give birth to some of the most notable modern inventions such as the printing press, the pendulum, and various forms of telescopes while also serving as the period for artists to produce some of the most globally recognized works of art including Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” and “Mona Lisa”, Sandro Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”, Michaelangelo’s “Statue of David”, and many more works along these lines. That being said, the Renaissance would also make way for an increased emphasis on key fields of studies focusing on elements of the natural and scientific worlds with notable escalations in study for the fields of astronomy, medicine, and mathematics. However, the study of geography and cartography – in specific – would undoubtedly also join some of the aforementioned as having been furthered in knowledge acquisition by key figures in the field of mapmaking, a good number of which were Italians.

With time, the influence of Italian mapmaking during the Renaissance would embed itself within the heart of Venice as the ever-so constant study and creation of new maps yielding new cartographic elements, designs, and different purposes alike would primarily come from the work done by cartographers in the Italian city. In order to be able to recognize the effects of early Venetian cartography on the modern world and current-day American mapmaking, it is key to first draw attention to the work of Egyptian and Ancient Roman astronomer, mathematician, and geographer Claudius Ptolemy. This man would be the scholar that would become a pioneer in the study of geography and the art of cartography.

Ptolemy’s Role
Claudius Ptolemy

Ptolemy’s recognized status as a astronomer, mathematician, and geographer all in one is recognized by his act as having authored both the “Almagest”, which focused on his work studying the mathematical and astronomical motions of the stars and planetary paths, and the “Geography”. His “Geography” proved to be such a monumental book in the field because of the fact that his book effectively served as a compilation of all knowledge regarding the world’s geography in the Roman Empire around the 2nd century – the time period in which Ptolemy was alive from 100 AD to 170 AD. However, his book and its contents would not reach the West until the beginning of the 15th century which paved the way for the Italian Renaissance to be a breaking point in the advancement of cartography. The book would prove to be revolutionary in the sense that it completely altered the modes of global and large-scale geographical illustrations that were directly accessible to Europeans, but also that this book would allow for more conceptual and practical questions to be asked regarding mapping.

When the book arrived in Florence around 1400 from Byzantium, the 8 books that were apart of his “Geography” – 7 of which mainly consisted of locational coordinates of the known world, were translated into Latin and published in Venice for the first time in 1475. What was distinctly unique about Ptolemy’s book that would undoubtedly hold great relevance in how revolutionary it held itself to be was the techniques in which the scholar utilized to compile his work. Ptolemy effectively created the concept of recording longitudes and latitudes, an element of mapmaking which is quintessential to producing a final map. This is something that is not just utilized within the United States, but also globally as it is proven effective in creating final maps. This piece alone of his work, regardless of it being 2,000 years old, is still being utilized in the modern world today as even I have to always utilize longitudes and latitudes as part of location data when making final map projects.

Furthermore, the popularity of this book is something that would inadvertently lead to the discovery of America by falling into the hands of Christopher Columbus, an Italian himself from Genoa. This piece would be one of the many books in Columbus’ collection that would assist in his navigations and explorations of the world.

Ptolemy’s map of the world (Latin version, 1482).

The Heart of Cartography – Venezia

Renaissance map of Venice, Italy

The city that would find itself to be at the epicenter of cartographic advancements and innovations would end up becoming Venice as the Renaissance would give birth to many key figures in the field. It would also be here where the applications of cartography would physically visualized for the world to see.

What is important to recognize as well, in relation to the impact which Italian cartography had on American mapmaking, is that as Venetian cartography grew more and furthered itself, the higher in which the level of detail imbued within these cartographic illustrations had become. The symbology relating to these maps is key to be aware of as today’s map effectively utilize legends to denote what landmarks mean what. However, one key development in the design of Venetian maps has been using mountains or hillshade to show detail to the elevation of ground at that location. In American maps in today’s day and age, this world hillshade is utilized to effectively also highlight changes in elevation on a map.

Take, for example, the work of Giacomo Gastaldi who worked primarily in Venice. Gastaldi is recognized as being among the most important figures in the Italian Renaissance when it came to cartography, in which he was able to produce a number of maps of Italy along with parts of the nation’s peninsulas. However, his map of Sicily is one that is produced with the clear showcase of landmarks along with a hillshade significant enough to let its viewers aware of the elevation there.

Giacomo Gastaldi’s 1545 map of Sicily
Maps and Literature

Particularly during the 15th century in Italy, art would be reminiscent of that of the Middle Ages. This period would come to be recognized as the “Quattrocentro” and it was during this time that cartography would find itself to be more intermingled with pieces of famous Italian literature, creating illustrations that effectively established an imaginative world through the utilization of cartography. Such an example would end up being seen with Francesco Berlinghieri’s poem titled as “Septe giornate della geographia” which attempted to create a poetic translation of Ptolemy and his work while being based off of Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno”, “Purgatorio”, and “Paradiso”. Berlinghieri interestingly enough saw himself as being Dante whereas Ptolemy was, to him, playing the role of Dante’s guide – Virgil. Girolamo Benivieni, another Italian, would come to create a cartographic illustration utilizing a projection of the globe along with some of Ptolemy’s coordinates and measurements Dante provided in the last six cantos of “Inferno” to figuratively find where hell was.

Girolamo Benivieni’s “Map of Dante’s Hell”, 1506.
Land Surveys and Instruments

A key component of mapmaking in the modern day within the United States today is the usage of surveying techniques in order to actually be able to collect geospatial location data needed to produce a final map of whatever product is intended on being created. That said, there are various tools and instruments that directly go into this process of data collection such as a prism pole are necessary for being able to measure longitude, latitude, and height all at the same time. However, during the time of the Renaissance, mathematicians and cartographers did not have access of course to such tools and had to improvise by utilizing the natural world around them. One section from Chapter 19 of David Woodward and Uta Lindgren’s “Land Surveys, Instruments, and Practitioners in the Renaissance” details how geographical longitude had to be calculated in relation to the astronomical North Pole by observing the heights of lunar eclipses at different places simultaneously (479). These could then be processed through tables and were then input into cartographic maps and globe projections.

To me, it is completely baffling how these mathematicians and cartographers worked together to be able to compose the ideas to utilize the natural world around them in order to attain location data that can be easily attained today in comparison. It showcases a differentiation between the dynamics at play between the period of the Renaissance compared to that of today where within the US and internationally, technology developments have allowed for quicker and easier data collection. This quite easily showed me the important role in which understanding the mechanisms of the natural world plays in being able to further knowledge acquisition.

Conclusion and Takeaways

Without a doubt, the history of Italian cartography was truly birthed with the arrival of the Renaissance but the foundational knowledge that came with this time period originated more than 1200 years before Claudius Ptolemy’s work had ever arrived in the cities of Florence and Venice. Regardless of this, the age of the Renaissance would prove monumental in creating cartographic techniques and elements that would remain cemented in time in relation to their application and necessity to the overall image and quality of final map projections. These techniques and elements would appear to be quintessential in current day mapmaking as they serve the current day backbone of the cartographic process today. This is something I was only able to reflect upon with the compilation of all the knowledge I had now attained from being able to create my Italia America.

It is time now to go back and answer the original proposed question: How has early Italian cartography served as a significant point of influence for American mapmaking and surveying? Early Italian cartography, primarily that of the Renaissance, has undoubtedly served as a important stepping stone in the way cartography has been shaped today in American usage because of the concepts and techniques imbued within the process and creation of Italian maps. For example, the stress of implementing detail to geographical landmark and elevation, the ability to process data directly dealing with geographical latitudes and longitudes, the utilization of different projections based upon specific location, and the ability to create representations that can deal with location in literature texts within the maps produced by the Italian cartographers of the Renaissance are elements that have been widely adapted in the cartography we seen being done today with alterations that can fit primarily online formats. Furthermore, the process to actually create these maps has not differed greatly as the data collection process along with the step of processing the data collected is something that is still needed to be done.

What I can say is something that has dramatically differed from Italian cartography compared to current-day US mapmaking today is the difficulty of nature relating to the process itself. Whereas today, data collection and the creation of final cartographic projections can prove to be far quicker with the usage of online formats and mediums, the techniques that needed to be performed during the Italian Renaissance along with their different level of time consumption is something far more abundant than what is seen today. However, this only goes to show the innovative methods and work around tricks which the cartographers of that age had to adapt in order to come up with their final products.


  • All images are in the public domain
  1. Cosgrove, Denis. “Mapping New Worlds: Culture and Cartography in Sixteenth‐Century Venice.” Imago Mundi, vol. 44, no. 1, 1992, pp. 65–89.,
  2. Venice & the History of Maps: Article for Seniors – Odyssey Travellers.” Venice & The History of Maps | Article for Seniors – Odyssey Travellers | Odyssey Traveller, 
  3. Quist, Rachel. “Ptolemy’s Geographia.” Geography Realm, 13 Oct. 2020, 
  4. Jones, Alexander. “Ptolemy.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 
  5. The ‘Lafreri School’ of Italian Mapmakers Ca. 1544-1602.” Map Forum, 8 Feb. 2022, 
  6. Woodward, D and Cachey Jr. T. “Maps and Literature in Renaissance Italy“, Chapter 16. Cartography in the European Renaissance. Vol. 3, University of Chicago Press, 2007.
  7. Woodward, D and Lindgren U. “Land Surveys, Instruments, and Practitioners in the Renaissance“, Chapter 19Cartography in the European Renaissance. Vol. 3, University of Chicago Press, 2007.
  8. Woodward, David. “The Italian Map Trade, 1480 –1650“, Chapter 31.  Cartography in the European Renaissance. Vol. 3, University of Chicago Press, 2007.
  9. Woodward, D and Fiorani F. “Cycles of Painted Maps in the Renaissance“, Chapter 32Cartography in the European Renaissance. Vol. 3, University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Derick Plazaola: Italia As Text 2022

Photo by Derick Plazaola/CC by 4.0

Derick Allen Plazaola is Honors College Senior seeking a dual degree in Geography and Anthropology with an additional certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) at Florida International University. Continuing forward in life with the compassion of discovering new locations and experiencing new memories, Derick is seeking to eventually become a GIS Analyst. His primary hobbies have included the likes of Polaroid Photography, Journaling, and Traveling. During his time at FIU, Derick has been able to become integrated into FIU’s Residential Life team as a Resident Assistant for students living on campus.

As a part of JW Bailly’s Italy Study Abroad 2022 group, Derick has been thoroughly enjoying his time so far being able to immerse himself in the history and beauty of which Italy and its cities have to offer.

Here are Derick’s Italy As Texts.

Roma as Text

Photos and editing by Derick Plazaola / CC by 4.0

“Immersione Completa” by Derick Plazaola of FIU in Roma, Italia from May 7th to May 18th.

In these 11 days that I have been here, I have been introduced to a new way of living that I have never in my life been able to experience before. The opportunity to study abroad has outright changed my perspective on being able to place yourself in a completely different cultural environment. Just only being able to realize this fact has made me realize how quickly the days pass on by when you dedicate the time to live the life of an Italian living in Roma With that being said however, the via’s of Roma along with the histories and secrets they yield have been nothing short of engaging for me.

To start, the ancient wonders of Rome have served as the primary lens by which I have been able to look into the past of the city. I realized very quickly on that it is one thing to see these places in pictures, but it is outright a different kind of feeling being able to stand within these locations and visualize the events which have taken place there for hundreds, if not thousands of years. One of the most memorable excursions for me so far has come in the form of being able to visit the Flavian Ampitheater – the Roman Colosseum. Upon our arrival to the lower level of the Colosseum, my mind revolved around the fact that the ground I stood on was where gladiators actively clashed their blades against each other and that over 50,000 Romans sat in the seats surrounding me at a 360 degree angle from above watching a show of survival just where I was standing – all of this taking place centuries ago. It felt like I was just a step away from being able to hear these sounds and to visualize the people both watching and fighting below.

If the grandeur of the Flavian Ampitheater isn’t enough, then perhaps the jaw-dropping architecture of the Pantheon can perhaps satisfy one’s desire to gain an appreciation for what Ancient Rome was at its core. Looking into the heavens above while being able to stand in front of the stand once dedicated for the Roman gods is exactly the action that the Romans centuries ago were doing, and here our study abroad group was repeating this same act. I could look outwards towards the entrance and pictured tens of thousands people coming into the Pantheon to give respect to their gods or to even provide offerings – a sight now replaced with visitors coming to be amazed by the architecture of this amazing building.

Even the art of Roma and its ancient past is a key aspect of the city that has allowed me to become nothing less than encompassed by the history of not just Roma, but of Italy entirely. One key experience I will not forget when walking the hallways and grand rooms of the Capitoline Museum is being in the presence of Marcus Aurelius – more specifically, standing underneath the Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius. I quite distinctly remember when Professor Bailly was lecturing us back in Miami and showing us the fluidity and movement that can be visualized with the statue from pictures and showcasing just how expertly the Romans were able to capture this sense of movement within the pieces of art they created. Months later, I now found myself at the foot of this statue looking up at the Roman emperor and his noble steed. It was an unimaginable moment just because I felt as if he was directly waving to me from where I was standing below him and I realized just how amazingly the emotions associated with this statue were captured.

There has been one aspect of Roma that has surprised me in just how much I have been drawn towards it, especially when reflecting the pictures I was able to capture. The churches and basilicas of Roma are nothing short of a source of jaw-dropping beauty, especially in the level of craftsmanship that was required to make the art within stand out distinctly among each other. Two moments stood out to me during our class exploration of Rome’s churches. The first moment was when a service was being held in one of the rooms within the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran and the organs started playing; this moment truly stuck with me as the sounds of the organs travelled entirely down the church while simultaneously sending a shiver down my spine out of how beautiful it was to hear in person. Secondly, being able to step inside the massive hall of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls truly allowed me to attain an idea of the long-standing history of the Catholic Church. The way light was utilized to illuminate all of the popes within history as well as illuminating the mural of the current pope, Pope Francis, was artistically genius to me.

All of these locations and key pieces of Roma yield experiences that simply could not be felt through the viewing of a picture or a video. It takes one’s very own presence to be able to truly experience the emotions imbued within them as well as the ability to understand their respective histories and secrets. Such can be especially be conveyed with the ‘La Passeggiata’ leisurely walk that has been done by so many Romans before us. In the end it truly takes a full immersion to retain these experiences – in Italian, this is a ”Immersione Completa”.

Pompeii as Text

Photos and editing by Derick Plazaola / CC by 4.0

“Are we Pompeian”? by Derick Plazaola of FIU at the ‘Scavi Archeologici di Pompei’ on May 16th.

Growing up for so long, you always hear about the stories revolving around Pompeii and being told about the opportunity to be able to see the bodies of Pompeians that were once living – now existing as plaster casts – was a continuity that remained in my life since gaining the chance to initially learn of the once-city’s existence. It’s only now during study abroad where I truly gained a surreal realization in that there was so much distinct value lying within the city that is sadly not focused on as much, something which is minuscule compared to what the city is unrecognizably distinguished for being – the city destroyed by the punishment of the gods in the form of the explosion of Mount Vesuvius. Traversing the avenues and streets of Pompeii along with the rest of the class allowed me this chance to uncover characteristics of the once-intact city to be precursors to things one can see in modern society. 

In starting off, it’s interesting to be able to touch upon first of the geographical layout of Pompeii in relation to the streets lying within Pompeii. Our tour guide, Antonio, was able to express to us that Pompeii wasn’t entirely streets as avenues are geographically north to south whereas streets are east to west. Furthermore if a street continued without interruption all the way to the other side of Pompeii it would change names even as the pathway continued; for example: one same street would be divided into “Via Delle Terme”, “Via Della Fortuna”, and “Via Di Nola”. In connection to my career interest lying directly in cartography, this was something that threw me off entirely at first sight. 

In relation to its geographical location, it was extremely beautiful to even undergo the process of entering the city. The view that one retains from entering into Pompeii from Porta Marina, the “Sea Gate”, and to look behind you is one that isn’t easily forgotten as you truly feel connected with the Mediterranean coastline thats so close by. However, it would prove quite the double edged sword to receive such beautiful views, but at the same time to be the city that was “struck by the gods”; an action that could directly counteract the protection given to the city by the safety of the surrounding Apennine Mountains, which symbolically served as a wall of defense. I do find it ironic that such a landmark was a token and yet the downfall of the city would prove to be the destruction brought about by the same sort of environmental landforms that were praised. 

What drew in most effectively however from today was the sheer amount of precursors to modern day society that were visible in Pompeii still. For one, the language utilized to describe the buildings are still directly connected to those same terms in the modern era; I found this to be quite the most distinct with the usage of “domus” being the origin for the word domicile or “home”. I did not think there could possibly be more after this, but I stood corrected shortly mostly thanks to Professor Bailly and Antonio’s lectures. The water and bathroom systems that lie dormant within the now ash-covered shops and homes of Pompeii was jaw-dropping as we could see, yet again, a precursor to what we as individuals have to actively maintain within our very own homes. Here we are 2000 years later still with systems that are undoubtedly reminiscent of those which we saw on this day trip. To me, it just completely altered my perspective on the things we have to effortlessly adapted into modern day usage as we are clearly so nonchalantly accepting things as they are and not dedicating time to look into where things came from – such as the case with these Pompeians relics. Even the “beware of dog” sign that we see so many neighborhood residents use is something that is emitted by the Pompeians of the time. 

Even amidst the beauty of the art lying present here along with the many mosaics in conjugation with architectural landmarks and buildings, the value of Pompeii comes in being able to gain an appreciation for the physical objects and systems that were actively utilized in the once-thriving city. It’s nothing short of an eye opener as to being able to understand even our own lifestyles much better and to question: “Are we Pompeian?” 

Assisi as Text

Photos and editing by Derick Plazaola / CC by 4.0

“Era Passato un Altro Giorno” by Derick Plazaola of FIU in Assisi, Italy on May 20th, 2022. 

To be deceived by the appearance of something is a phenomenon that occurs quite frequently throughout the lives of many. This phenomenon is one that exists as yielding a dualistic nature as there can be both negative and positions connotations associated with an appearance that doesn’t reveal the entire backstory at first glance, requiring further exploration and analysis to understand the full picture. Spending the day in Assisi had later brought me to the realization that what I experienced was the latter, more positive connotation as I found myself being drawn in by the small city distanced deep in the Umbrian region of Italy. Reflecting back on it, the level of history – especially the Christian ties – lying within Assisi was nothing short of amazing to fully take in as the city served as a foundation for many things to unknowingly come.

Vastly different from the constant liveliness and busy-spirited nature of Roma, Assisi proved to be such a geographical magnet for me because of its distant beauty compared to the streets of Italy’s capital. Assisi proves itself a small, yet ever-so welcoming town that sees millions of tourists every year come to view the wonders and secrets lying within the historical churches embedded into the heart of the city. However for me, the ability for the town to be so closely in geographical distance to the beauty of the Apennine mountain range is such a driving point for me personally as it there is an offering of great landscape and cultural immersion that is offered together as one complete package. Interestingly enough, the town of Assisi was one that didn’t yield Roman roots in its origin as it was originally an Etruscan town that later morphed itself into a Roman one. However regardless of this, the opportunity to walk through the streets of Assisi provides you with the opportunity to be overwhelmed by the medieval influence embedded within the town’s architecture and overall aura.

Where there is a high amount of historical value within the town of Assisi lies in the Christian past greatly associated with it. Known for being the birth place of Saint Francis of Assisi, this town is responsible for being the starting point of the Christian values tied deeply to the pope of our current age – Pope Francis – who deeply expresses liberal values of aiding poverty, environmental protection, and joy. It is no coincidence that our current pope shares the same name as Assisi’s Saint Francis as the ideals he advocated for within the Franciscan order he would end up creating would be adopted in great detail today. Saint Francis of Assisi seemingly declared that he was not a soldier for man, and is a soldier for Christ; this was something that really resonated with me as it was beyond expression to see this continuation of an ideal be reflected in today’s pope while standing in the same town where this saint preached these Christian standards. Understanding this places you in the mindset of being able to truly understand that the caretakers of the world lie within our very own selves. Thus, it is no wonder why Saint Francis is now accepted as Italy’s very own patron Saint. The day in Assisi truly allowed me to view that the town was responsible for birthing a Christianity that pushed for doing things for what they are in this world and not for the purpose of securing a spot in heaven.

What really drew me in was the unique experiences I had with interacting with the people of Assisi. Coming from Rome and being able to hold great conversations with shop owners and other locals, I truly thought it could not get better but Assisi quickly proved me wrong. Even a simple conversation I had with a street shop owner led to her gifting two of my classmates and myself a unique and wonderful post card that I would treasure simply because I learned about that shop owner’s time in the town. Furthermore, the welcoming nature of people in this city was something that truly drew me in as I was able to receive a private business tour which allowed me to see a wine vault hidden to the general public by another local shop owner. I never imagined that this city had these kinds of experiences in stock just waiting for me.

I walked away at the end of the day extremely satisfied with the combination of a deep cultural & religious history along with some of the most unique experiences I had gone through in my time in Italy so far. I was so distracted with all of this immersion that I did not realized – especially so quickly – that, because of the cultural immersion another day had gone by. Thus, “Era Passato un Altro Giorno”

Firenze as Text

Photos and editing by Derick Plazaola / cc BY 4.0

“Benvenuti nel Rinascimento” by Derick Plazaola of FIU in Florence, Italy from May 23rd to May 30th

There are two words that, I personally feel, best describe the city in its entirety. Out of all the cities in Italy, this one is easily the one that best serves as a “time machine”. Never did I think that I would be transported back to the time of the Renaissance so flawlessly with all of the notable pieces of art and architecture that have been surprisingly well preserved for several decades now. And above all, to be encapsulated by the city’s grandeur from the notable views of the Piazzale Michelangelo and the top of Brunelleschi’s Dome and its neighboring bell tower crafted by Giotto is a feeling that is indescribably jaw dropping. This city truly serves as a portal that takes one back to prime of the Renaissance. There are just so many enriching pieces of history that lie dormant in Florence, just waiting to be discovered.

In starting off with the architectural highlights of Firenze, there are some key contenders to be the city’s best physical landmarks. To start with the most easily seen and recognizable of them all, Brunelleschi’s Dome is truly a one-of-a-kind masterpiece that simply cannot be replicated to its perfect extent elsewhere nor at any point in time. For one, it’s insane to think about the fact that Brunelleschi’s masterpiece was constructed without any sort of supporting structure; it truly does strike you in the moment of this realization and you can’t help but feel so minuscule in presence of its grand nature. Being in such awe of it can even make you forget of the fact that what you’re standing inside – as you slowly make your way to see Firenze from the top of the Duomo – is actually 2 domes in the form of an internal and external dome, both with distinct materials and patterns being embedded into the creation process. Quite the feeling it is to fully ascend to the top of the dome though as you truly feel as if you’re at the epicenter of Florentine Renaissance and at the literal height of the city. If the dome isn’t enough to satisfy architectural cravings, then perhaps the neighboring bell tower crafted ever-so carefully by the hands of Giotto and Pisano is more along your tastes. For me, it was a time of Gothic reminiscence and endless determination to be able to ascend this – seemingly harder – structure as you realize that each step taken simply marks another colored marble layer that is passed. For me personally however, the interior of the Medici Chapel’s first room – “The Chapel of the Princes” – truly made you feel insignifiant in the presence of the Medici’s grandeur due to the truly massive size of this initial structure. Entering this room and seeing the altars dedicated for those who were buried there was a feeling that can only be truly understood once you step foot in this room; a feeling that will stick to my core for ever so long.

On the other hand, the heart of the Florentine Renaissance may just as easily lie within the art spread across various museums and galleries within the city. Although some pieces of art prove themselves to be substantially smaller than others and vice versa, all seem to perform an impeccably equal role in transporting those who come to see these pieces of art back to the century at which the art was built. I thought that the Uffizi Gallery performed this perfectly with examples such as the Virgin Mary room, where you find yourself having to shift from different interpretations of her from different centuries, or having come face to face with both the “Primavera” and “The Birth of Venus” paintings only mere seconds away from each other – a feeling of endless beauty which overcomes you as soon as you feast your eyes upon these works. The same could be said with each and every angle upon which you choose to view Michelangelo’s “David” as not only do you receive the feeling that Michelangelo was directly chosen by God to create this artistic masterpiece, but also the fact that the creation of the sculpture would come to mark the period of the “High Renaissance”, the peak of the era.

Ultimately, Firenze is a city that has two faces. On the left is a booming tourist epicenter which attracts millions of people every year that enthrall themselves in the beauty of the city. On the other face, Firenze is a city that exists as a forever image of the Renaissance that says to you, with open arms to bear witness to the greatness of this period: “Welcome to the Renaissance” – “Benvenuti nel Rinascimento”

Pisa as Text

Photos and editing by Derick Plazaola / CC by 4.0

“La Città Interconnessa” by Derick Plazaola of FIU in Pisa, Italy on May 25th

In my journey so far across the Grand Tour of Italy, I found myself being taken aback by the by the web history which is Pisa. What I learned on this particular day is that Pisa goes way beyond the face value that it has received extensively from so many people globally especially highlighting the grandeur of the Leaning Tower. Instead, this city has simply so much more underlying history that has to be uncovered through secondary effort and research.

Even at its historical roots, Pisa would come to quickly establish itself as a city that would geographically intertwined with the rest of Italy. The city found itself in history to serve as the main port city connected to the rest of the country that would dominate in terms of goods and economic development; this would allow for an expected domination of the Mediterranean as the city would serve as the forefront of maritime trade.

Focusing on the cultural connections of the city however, I find that here Pisa establishes itself to be a location that is deeply intertwined with individuals and groups of people that have already established some sort of influence within Italy, only further boosting Pisa’s notability in the global scheme of things. For one, the Medici are inherently involved in the history of Pisa as they allowed the city of Firenze to be able to conquer Pisa. Furthermore, the figure of John the Baptist from Christianity is recognized as being buried at Pisa’s very own baptistery, giving yet another interconnected pathway. Adding onto this trend, echoes of Catholicism lie within the history of this city as one of the most important Madonnas lies in the cathedral of Pisa – one which was preserved and saved during the time of the Black Plague. Furthermore, scientific origins lie within the city’s history with Galileo’s own mathematical teachings have taken place in the city’s university – especially including a leaning tower recreation lecture which perfectly encapsulated Galileo’s concept of differently sized objects sharing the same of gravitational pull.

I think the surprise of the day when visiting Pisa for me was even seeing Dante’s Alighieri’s notable “Inferno” being displayed in full effect within Pisa’s “Campo Santo”. However what caught me off guard with the notable painting in the Campo Santo was just how grotesque and gruesome the portrayal of hell was recreated for many to see. It almost serves as a constant reminder of what is to come to one of misdoings were to continue.

Again, it was nothing short of insane to see just how intertwined Pisa was many important Italian historical pieces and individual which I have previously discovered on the Grand Tour. I definitely do think the timing of visiting Pisa was perfect because it did allow me to see that Pisa is more than just a city known to being home to the leaning tower and to rather appreciate the secrets hidden within it. These secrets truly make it “La Città Interconnessa”

Cinque Terre as Text

Photos and editing by Derick Plazaola / CC by 4.0

“I Cinque Tesori della Liguria” by Derick Plazaola of FIU in Cinque Terre, Italy from May 30th to June 2nd

When you see a chance to explore the “Five Lands” of Italy, you can not afford to miss out on this opportunity that may easily prove to be once in a lifetime. Before coming here, I did not think that this section of Liguria could not possibly top the experiences which the other cities up to this point have yielded. I could not have been more wrong to take up this assumption as Cinque Terre would rapidly prove to be the location in Italy which would truly allow me to feel the most drawn in by the culture which was waiting to be experienced in its entirety there. Above all, Cinque Terre would serve as the location in all of study abroad that would allow me to enjoy the utmost genuine interactions with the locals of the seaside villages and experience some of the most authentic natural beautiful sights which the country has to offer.

From the day of arrival, I could tell that what the next few days in Cinque Terre had to offer was going to be drastically different from what I had been adjusted to living to in the more developed cities of Roma and Firenze. From several times before, I was told by Italian locals in the other cities that Cinque Terre was one of the most beautiful parts of Italy along with Professor Bailly continuously mentioning how Cinque Terre was ”authentic Italy”. Even my previous dorm roommate, who has an Italian background, was jealous of the fact that I would be staying a few days here when initially highlighting the agenda for the entire trip. Stepping out of the train station only to then not only see the grand Mediterranean, the Italian Riviera, in front of me along with the other villages of Cinque Terre nestled among the mountains to the left and the beach right below was a sight I just couldn’t believe. For more than half of the program now, I had been so conditioned to seeing the highly more compacted and developed cities

I would say the hospitality of Cinque Terre was a factor of this part of study abroad that truly resonated with me. From the wonderful locals and visitors alike to the food that was treasured across these five villages, I found that I did not encounter a single negative experience in all of these areas. In starting with where we lived for the duration of our stay in Monterosso, our time at Santuario Di Soviore was undoubtedly the most special location that could allow us to truly feel welcomed into the heart of Liguria. The owners of the sanctuary always made sure to make us feel treasured, were especially kind, and served us nothing short of the most delicious food. However, the front porch of the sanctuary was a gem that I always found myself constantly going back to as I was enthralled by the mind-boggling view that came with being so high up in the mountains. It even felt wrong to leave behind such a beautiful view once it was time to depart as it was a treasure I ended up becoming so jealous of the people who are able to see it every day. Past the grounds of the sanctuary and into the other villages, I found myself enjoying being able to strike up new interactions with all sorts of people that I found when traversing the streets and entering businesses. My favorite little interaction was at a seafood location called “Tutti Frutti” in Riomaggiore where I explained to the owner that my professor was the one who gave this recommendation and she was beyond delighted to see that her business was being openly shared to others. It was these sorts of small things that added to the level of enjoyment I felt when in Cinque Terre.

Then there is the natural beauty of Cinque Terre in both its grand mountains and in its respective villages. The combination of healthy green pathways scattered across the mountains with the colorful palette of the five villages is a sight that flourished so naturally together. This became only even better at certain spots where I could also see the clear blue waters of the coast; I truly felt like I could see a complete trifecta of a picture when all three of these elements came together. In reference to the villages themselves, I found it so interesting how – at first glance – they obviously all look so alike in terms of their color and the way in which the buildings are constructed. However, they all each have their notable characteristics, landmarks, and specialities that separate them. For myself, I found myself spending the most time in Corniglia where I could peer over the rocks where so many cliff dive and yet still look back on a colorful city all while enjoying a “Granita di Limone” that I had bought from a kind shop owner. Cinque Terre thus does a phenomenal job of captivating you to enjoy the environment in its entirety and to not ignore a single element; its as if you also can’t give more attention to one element of Cinque Terre more than another as adoring all equally at the same time will give you the best possible view you are seeking.

Cinque Terre was an experience that I truly do wish could have lasted for longer. Visiting this region of Italy was truly the authentic experience that I was led for so long to believe. Now it only seems that what’s left to do is to simply plan the next time to visit for the villages of Cinque Terre, to me, are “the five gems of Liguria” – “Le Cinque Gemme della Liguria”.

Venezia as Text

Photos and editing by Derick Plazaola / CC by 4.0

“Gran Finale” by Derick Plazaola of FIU in Venice, Italy from June 3rd to June 7th.

Everything great has to come to an end and thus, my Grand Tour of Italy through JW Bailly’s Italy Study Abroad 2022 program concluded with an immersive experience to the beyond beautiful city of Venezia. By this point, I had already found myself staring into Italy’s past through the artistic creations and architectural master pieces that lied within the cities I had visited prior to this. Thus, I could not see myself being more amazed by the content in which Venezia had to offer during my stay there; I could not be more wrong assuming this as I found that I was enveloped entirely by the historical creations that lay hidden within the city mere inches above the nearby waters. For one, I’m glad that my perspective was corrected entirely once I immersed myself into this city; this allowed me to retain a higher level of enjoyment from this rare experience.

The visit to this city truly served as a strong conclusion to the overall journey that I had experienced for the past month and will forever remain as a core memory for me. Thank you endlessly for reading my experiences up until this point. Please enjoy my “Venezia as Text” piece.

The process of immersing myself into the daily life of a Venetian was an experience that I found to be so distinctly unique to the ever-so constantly flowing lifestyles of Rome and Florence, or the tranquil escape that Cinque Terre embodies. For myself, life in Venice was a city that was thriving off its rich history and culture that shined through the various different mediums that lie dormant in the city married to the sea. This was something that I personally saw the best in the enriched structures of Saint Mark’s Basilica and the Palazzo Ducale as they each contained extremely-preserved pieces that could not be found elsewhere in the world. Additionally however, I often found myself being lost in the booming social gathering and nightlife environment which this maritime city had to offer as every alleyway would offer a new batch of unique shops and locations to dine at. If there was one thing that stole my heart from this city however, it would be the historical artifacts that specifically were tied greatly into my field of study; I found myself spending hours just analyzing these pieces altogether.

In reference to these historical artifacts that could be viewed while here in Venice, the pieces that absolutely stole my heart and demanded my attention were the cartography pieces that lie within the “Museo Correr” exhibition at St. Mark’s square. The buildup to the final piece of this section was phenomenal as I initially started out with viewing some of the smaller maps of Venice and Italian regions lying within old books. I feel like this in tangent with the historical pieces of maritime navigation and Venetian ship building – of which was known to be among the best in the world – was nothing short of an amazing starting course to the exhibition of the Museo Correr. Coming to the final rooms of the Correr’s cartography sections was where the real gold lay for me. I found myself entranced just viewing these phenomenal and entirely unique maps, attempting to understand them entirely – a feat which proved extremely difficult. Starting with the heart shaped World Map of Hajj Ahmed, i viewed this cartographic illustration as being among the most artistically unique I saw that day with the depiction of the world fitting entirely into the shape of a heart. Then, to be able to see the documents of Marco Polo himself was a sight I couldn’t believe I was facing; had it not been for the barrier of glass protecting these writings, I would more than gladly sift through and read his works. Finally however, to come face to face with one of the most important maps I had previously seen when working on my Italia America project was a jaw-dropping moment as I now stood in front of the massive Fra Mauro map created in 1459. As to how this circular planisphere was carefully crafted is one of the questions I kept asking myself as I not only stood in front of the real thing but also as I was interacting with the respective interactive touch screen, finding locations from the real world that I recognized. It was simply insane to me how vastly different this map was from so many that were previously shown to me in this very same exhibit, but yet the same in so many aspects.

Just when I thought the mainland of Venice already had so much to offer, the islands of Murano and Burano proved out to be just as beautiful, unique, and memorable in their own ways. To be able to walk away from the island of Murano with not only a live glassmaking demonstration but also with purchased glasswork is something that I will forever express to be one of my favorite experiences when in Venice. Finally, the welcoming nature which Burano embodied was something that I truly enjoyed as a final destination within Venice.

The finish line has finally been reached. All of the destinations and locations which I have now visited within Italy have all proven to be significantly life changing and memorable in their own regards. There was a start to the Grand Tour and here now, in Venice, we complete this once in a lifetime journey with a grand finale – a “Gran Finale”.

Derick Plazaola: Miami As Text 2022

Photo by Jahelly Maxwell/CC by 4.0

Derick Allen Plazaola is Honors College Senior seeking a dual degree in Geography and Anthropology with an additional certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) at Florida International University. Continuing forward in life with the compassion of discovering new locations and experiencing new memories, Derick is seeking to eventually become a GIS Analyst. His primary hobbies have included the likes of Polaroid Photography, Journaling, and Traveling. During his time at FIU, Derick has been able to become integrated into FIU’s Residential Life team as a Resident Assistant for students living on campus.

As a part of JW Bailly’s Italy Study Abroad 2022 group, Derick is extremely hopeful to fulfill his desire to travel to Italy; somewhere he would only dream of ever visiting in his life.

Here are Derick’s Miami As Texts.

Deering as Text

Photos and Editing by Derick Plazaola/CC by 4.0

“Origins Lost to Time” by Derick Plazaola of FIU in Deering Estate on January 28th, 2022

All cities have a beginning that are ingrained in the books of history for future generations to witness through the lens of time. However for the city of Miami, many of its residents live unaware of the true start to the city’s story, one which has been continually denied to be taught widespread to the cities inhabitants. The true story surrounding Miami’s birth lies deep within the heart of the Deering Estate in Cutler Bay.

At first sight, would you become fascinated by the sights surrounding the leisure of the Richmond Cottage in combination with the grandeur of the Stone House? Without a doubt, it’s a sight that captures the immediate hearts of so many visitors with its direct embodiment of remnants of Islamic and Spanish influence within its architecture. Or perhaps the crystal blue manatee-filled waters of the Estate’s Boat Basin is more your taste? The opportunity to see your reflection within it’s bright waters while looking out towards the horizons in the distance is one that entrances so many. However, so many who come to witness the beautiful sights all collected here leave without paying a single ounce of thought as to the true story of how the Deering Estate was erected into Cutler Bay.

With Charles Deering purchase of the Estate in 1916, manual labor would be needed to fully construct the Estate. This would eventually be done with the utilized labor of African Americans and Afro-Bahamian workers during a period of enforced racial segregation within Miami. This labor would be extremely intense and abusive for those working on the construction of the Estate with four deaths sadly resulting in the excavation process of the Estate’s canal. It is very upsetting that such a price had to manifest itself in the creation process of this beautiful location. However, this tragic past surrounding the pleasant sights of the Deering Estate should serve as a reminder for the lessons that need to be continually brought to the attention of its visitors.

The hospitality of the Estate’s mansion and cottage is one realm within Deering. However, the hiking trail into the nearby nature preserve reveals so much about the cultural roots of the city of Miami as a whole. Miami is widely known to have begun with the joint efforts of Henry Flagler and Julia Tuttle. However, this is so far from the real truth. Miami ultimately began with the introduction of the Tequesta Indians into the lands. The lands which they primarily occupied are the ones that are directly seen in the hike into the nature preserve as we see remnants of their influence and daily culture existing until this very day. The Tequesta were the ones who had the opportunity to roam these natural areas that no longer exist within the main parts of Miami. The citizens of Miami do not have the chance to experience an authentic “Miami”; the Tequesta were the ones who were blessed with this opportunity. To live in this early version of Miami, the Tequesta utilized various tools – lying today in a midden – were the primary means of survival for them as it allowed them to complete a variety of daily objectives. Additionally, the hike exposes you to the captivating nature of the Tequesta Burial Mound, which is among only two archaeological burial sites in Miami. Upon completion of this hike, you feel as if you have just been introduced to a brand new perspective surrounding what Miami is.

This was my third time at the Deering Estate and I enjoyed it just as much as the previous two. Being able to begin anew with the Deering Estate for this new semester served perfectly as the first precursor to Italy. It reminded me of the true beginnings of Miami, with it’s “Origins Lost to Time”.

Vizcaya as Text

Photos and Editing by Derick Plazaola/CC by 4.0

“Like Ebony and Ivory” by Derick Plazaola of FIU in Vizcaya Museum and Gardens on February 18th, 2022.

In both people and places, there is a sense of duality to be discovered. Like the yin’s and yang’s of this world, there are balances that are captured within specific locations and with the people associated with these locations. This sense of duality is one that I personally see being emitted in great retrospect when analyzing the enriched, yet dark history of James Deering’s Vizcaya Estate along with the villa’s ability to serve as a centre of 20th century Miami affluence and indulgence. Even while having this duality, Vizcaya remains as a cultural reminder of Italian culture – one which I’ll be grateful to reminisce on when I eventually step foot into Italy.

To analyze Vizcaya as a whole, we must first turn our eyes towards the darkness hidden in the beauty of the villa – the yin of Vizcaya. The construction of this beautiful villa began in 1912 and this process was facilitated heavily throughout 1914 and 1916 through the employment of primarily Afro-Bahamian backgrounds. This is heavily reminiscent of the repeating idea that black labor was crucial in establishing early Miami. Though the beauty of this villa was built by these black workers, they themselves ultimately experienced ugliness with the time in which they lived in as it was a time of intense racial segregation with very little economic payment and extremely poor working conditions. It is heavily important that this dark past is one that is not afraid to be discussed in great detail as its visitors must know the real foundations to the beauty present in this great villa.

Although there is clearly an underlying dark past lying within the beauty of James Deering’s villa, it is key to engage oneself in the beauty that has emerged from this corrupted history – the yang of Vizcaya. The theme of this villa is one of celebration as there is an emphasis on pleasure through various key pieces of artwork and architectural design – all of which share a key role in equally committing towards the beauty of this location. Even though James Deering’s superficial and eccentric personality comes alive through the items and artwork he places in the villa, it does so in a way that it complements the already existing architectural choices and design, as they resonate with an overwhelming sense of Italian culture. One such example of this can be seen with the Arc of Triumph present outside the main pedestrian entrance, truly making you feel some type of grandiose as you walk through past it. Or take, for example, the greetings you receive as you enter by the Roman god of wine, Bacchus. If this kind of eccentricity isn’t your type, then perhaps the stained-glass windows are more your calling. Regardless of what your art tastes stand, there are key pieces of art here for everyone. This is even excluding the sheer number of views to be seen within the garden grounds. It is this kind of tasteful mélange that adds to the beauty of Vizcaya.

In sum: we are not meant to be perfect, but yet in the end we are meant to be whole. Vizcaya, in my eyes, stands to be an amalgamation of that which is light and dark. Not perfect in its history, yet perfect in its beauty and brilliance. Thus, Vizcaya stands hidden in the Tropical Hardwood Hammocks of Miami, displaying its black yins and white yangs “Like Ebony and Ivory”.

Downtown Miami as Text

Photos and Editing by Derick Plazaola/CC by 4.0

“Ever-standing Illusions” by Derick Plazaola of FIU in Downtown Miami on March 11th, 2022.

As we all continue forward with our lives, there is one key thing to remember: Facades exist around us. It simply takes time to be able to truly discover that we are seeing exists in reality as a facade. Such is the prime case with the city of Miami and its foundational history. Miami, to the average tourist or even local, may be viewed in a light that is especially appreciative of it’s grandiose and ability to be seen as a city that thrives at night with its scenes of self-indulgence and festivities. However when one takes the time to look beyond the city’s present-day activities and vices, such as was done in today’s walk, it proves easy to be taken aback by the dark history lying in the foundation of Miami.

A major benefactor that contributes to this dark history that lives beneath the present-day appearance of Miami was the deeply instituted racism that was previously established in the city. One of the figures pushing such inequalities within the city was none other than the individual that is recognized today as sharing the same name as a busy street: Henry Flagler. Flagler was key in being push to a selfish, yet racist agenda that would severely implement segregation on a large scale. For one, this could be seen with the decision to move native blacks to what was termed “darkie town”, recognized as being Overtown in the present day. Furthermore, expansionist decisions and actions would create further destruction that could not be seen from an outsider’s first perspective of the city. Such could be seen with the city’s decision to boost development on a large-scale highway system to provide higher levels of accessibility across Miami. However, this decision would result with blacks living in Miami at the time to experience the repercussions of this action; this would notably come in the form of the decimation of Overtown due to construction projects and development. To see the repercussions of these projects be ignored and to instead focus on the glorification of figures such as Flagler – particularly noting his statue still standing tall in the court house’s presence – is flat out shocking to me.

Despite these buried injustices, there are some victories to be seen with the development of Miami. To start, the city of Miami simply would not be the same today if it wasn’t for the efforts of Julia Tuttle, the “Mother of Miami”. Without her initiative in her business in establishing the city, perhaps we would be seeing a different city in the present day. Her efforts were joined with the effective pushes that Mary Brickell had in establishing the neighboring flamboyant buildings we saw on our walk. Additionally, on top of the influence that women had in establishing the city, we also see that there were figures that went out of their way to effectively stand against the deep racism being established during the city’s foundation. One of these figures was William Wagner, who was not afraid to stay with his Creole wife amidst the deep sentiments of segregation previously aforementioned. All of these figures held such deep impacts in being able to set precedents for the city of Miami but were sadly erased as the city progressed itself into the present day.

In place of Miami’s dark foundational history, we now see the fruits of the decisions of the city’s major historical figures. The high-rises towering over our heads serve as a continual reminder that Miami serves as a culmination of the efforts of many. Or perhaps, they serve as a reminder of the facades existing in the city – the “Ever-standing Illusions”.

South Beach as Text

Photos and Editing by Derick Plazaola/CC by 4.0

“The Neon Sands of the Southeast” by Derick Plazaola of FIU in South Beach on April 1st, 2022.

In finishing our lecture walk across the sunny roads of South Beach, the refreshing hopes of a carefully crafted cold smoothie drew my attention and successfully satisfied my cravings once I did manage to get my hands on it. However in looking upon that small experience, I realize only now that that smoothie served as a representation for what SoBe presents itself to be in today’s modern age: a mixture. How can a globally-recognized geographical section of a city be like a smoothie mixture? It’s simple: it serves as a mixture of cultural pieces and influences acting in collaboration with the physical manifestations of festivity, gluttony, and wealth. Hear me out!

Regardless of origin, one has to give praise for the high level of effort and well-thought out selection that was done with the architecture standing tall – primarily three stories tall to be exact- on the streets of Ocean Drive. Here exist three distinct flavors of architecture that all go into the concoction that is South Beach, making the city feel as if it was comparable to that of a collage painted by an artist. These three styles of architecture are Art Deco, Miami Modern, and Mediterranean Revival. Starting off with Art Deco, buildings assuming this style of architecture primarily rely on the usage of linear and rectangular elements while also including curved aspect to the structure. It’s an aesthetically-recognized style that adopts a double-edged style as it involves stiffness and fluidity both at the same time. Next, Miami Modern is a style that simultaneously emphasizes and embraces curves while also retaining minimalist elements. Finally, Mediterranean Revival is a style that does exactly what it is named after – it instills an architectural style that is highly reminiscent of what you would see in Mediterranean countries such as Italy and Spain. The presence of balconies is key with this style of architecture in South Beach. Overall however, all three of these distinct architectural styles act as their own unique addition but act in collaboration to contribute towards making South Beach a concoction of cultural influence. All of these factors go towards being able to create a globally-recognized section of Miami that highly values the eccentric party scenes, extensive selection of restaurants, and exclusive housing for those who sit at the top of the economic ladder.

With that being said, South Beach wasn’t always the touristy section of Miami as we know it to be now. It was appalling to realize that the coasts of Miami Beach, Key Biscayne, and the surrounding islands span back over 4,000 years in history. The South Beach we know now existed previously as a mangrove epicenter that was quickly removed to make way for economic opportunity and architectural planning. This came with it’s respective positive and negative aftereffects however as commercial boom would hit the shores of Miami but the cutting of all the mangroves would create unprecedented environmental disaster. Double-edged swords existing all around is a takeaway lesson to be learned from this example. Furthermore, the area of South Beach was also immediately infected by the influence of racism and segregation with its foundation. It goes to show that a potential dark past can be hidden behind the popularity of locations.

At the end of the day, that smoothie was well deserved! But in reflection, it was crazy to see that South Beach is an amalgamation of cultural flavors – all of which play a role in creating a uniquely crafted part of Miami. So don’t think of shying away from the thought of consuming a relaxing drink on “The Neon Sands of the Southeast”.

Derick Plazaola: Palmetto Bay 2021

Photos and editing by Derick Plazaola (CC by 4.0)


Hello everyone! My name is Derick Plazaola and I am a junior at Florida International University currently working towards a dual Bachelor of Science degree within the fields of Anthropology and Geography while also in the progress of completing a minor in History. My primary passions in life include traveling, exploring nature, and reading historical documents. While at FIU, I have been able to become involved in the betterment of residential life through Parkview Hall Council and have undergone academic opportunities presented to me through the Honors College at the university. I wish to further my academic future by going into graduate school for additional subfield studies of Anthropology, with a certain interest in Archaeology above all other subfields.


Screenshot of map of Miami by U.S. Census Bureau (CC by 4.0)

Situated on the east of U.S. Highway 1 and located north of Cutler Bay, Palmetto Bay is a small community village that is connected to the calm shores of Biscayne Bay. I found it to be a rather calm and peaceful location where one could take a retreat to enjoy moments of relaxation because of how easy it was to be next to the shore.

According to the official Village of Palmetto Bay website, the city was established in 2002 – now having almost marked 19 years since it was built. The incorporation of the city into the Miami-Dade counties marked Palmetto Bay as the 33rd municipality. With that being said, Palmetto Bay now serves as a residential home for over 24,000 people with that number most likely have increasing by today’s current time.


Timeline of Village of Palmetto Bay taken at Thalatta Estate by Derick Plazaola (CC by4.0)

Within the overarching history of Miami, a prominent theme of interconnection is one that is continually seen throughout many key destinations in the city. Palmetto Bay is no different as this theme of interconnection is reassured through the once-known presence of the Tequesta Indians within the area, notably via their inhabitation within the land that now recognized as being apart of the Deering Estate – one of the historical landmarks which I’ll later discuss. In addition to the Tequesta, there was also a presence of Paleo-Indians, Seminoles, Afro-Bahamians, and Anglo-Americans. However, the Tequesta were the ones who left a notable footprint upon the land as their burial land in Deering Estate – now recognized as the Old Cutler Fossil Site – was one of the biggest archaeological discoveries within South Florida that completely revolutionized the foundational knowledge of early human inhabitation, thousands of years ago, within South Florida. This influence of the Tequesta would, unfortunately, quickly disappear with the arrival of the Spanish to South Florida due to a transfer of diseases. This would lead to the complete disappearance of the Tequesta by 1700.

In the foundational history of the village of Palmetto Bay, the Perrine family grant would play a major role along with other the presence of other figures – notably Dr. William Cutler and Charles Deering – to begin the development of what would become Palmetto Bay. According to the Thalatta Estate timeline, Dr. Henry Perrine would become the recipient of a land grant, from the US congress, that would allow him to promote settlement and tropical plant agriculture in the area. However, this would be interrupted with his death, effectively placing a stop to the establishment of any settlements. To further add, this stop would be worsened by the failure of Henry Perrine Jr., the son of Dr. Perrine, in 1873. The development of Cutler in South Dade, named after Dr. Cutler, would change the development course of Palmetto Bay by slowly incorporating settlers towards the area of Palmetto.

Although the Perrine family had failed in utilizing the land grant, the land grant’s influence would retain importance and be passed on to figures who would fully utilize its power. Charles Deering was one such figure would eventually build his famous property on the shores of Biscayne Bay – starting in 1916 – along with the Chinese Bridge just outside of the gates of the Deering Estate. With the establishment of the Deering Estate then came the rise of a Mediterranean Revival through the construction of the Thalatta Estate in 1925 by the Connett family. Further construction in the area would be marked by the development of the Perrine Community House, as a result of the establishment of the Works Progress Administration of the Roosevelt New Deal in 1935, the Palmetto Bay Park Recreation Center – originally named the Perrine Park Recreation Center – in 1938 and the Perrine Jail in 1946. Finally, the Cutler Drainage Canal System – which still can be seen in various areas Palmetto Bay – was developed in the 1950s. Alongside all this development came an increase in settlement by many different people in the local area.

The establishment of Palmetto Bay as a municipality would not arrive until 2002 due to a years-long prior history of denial by the Boundaries Commission and Board of County Commissioners (BCC). According to the Palmetto Bay history site, this 7-year long lasting issue began in 1995 when the Alliance of Palmetto South Homeowners Association petitioned for the incorporation into the Miami-Dade counties. This petition would be deferred in 1996 and would lead to a lawsuit battle over the right of citizens to vote over incorporation. In 2000, the BCC would allow for the establishment of the Palmetto Bay Municipal Advisory Committee for any tasks and problems relating to incorporation. With this, incorporation finally came in 2002.


In terms of specific demographics regarding the citizens who live in Palmetto Bay, the Data USA census showcases that the specific number of residents who currently reside here is, at minimum, 24,6000. There is a near balance of both males and females as the Census Bureau lists the population as being 50.3% female and 49.7% male. Furthermore, Palmetto Bay is primarily ethnically composed of 42.8% Hispanic or Latino origin and 42.3% white non-hispanic. On the other hand, there are also minority populations showcased with a Black population of 4.49% and an Asian population of 5.09%. According to Data USA, the median age for those residing in Palmetto Bay is 41.1 and the median household income is around $115,709, marking a 7.5% increase to the number from 2020 – that being $107,612. Regardless of the increase, the high median household income number of over $100,000 details that Palmetto bay is a rather higher middle-class area of Miami, thus contrasting some of the more poverty-filled municipalities of the city.


The Deering Estate

Once serving as a retreat vacation home for businessman Charles Deering and his family, the Deering Estate serves as a remarkable reminder for what a Spanish villa truly looks like. As previously mentioned in the history section (see above), the Deering Estate was built from 1916 to 1922 and serves as major source of Mediterranean revival influence. The active borrowing from other cultures was essential in the construction of the home as it would serve as a culmination of all of these different cultures all into one major source. However, this stone house was never seen as a house by the likes of Charles Deering. For him, the house was reminiscent to that of a museum in his eyes because of the incorporation of so many cultural values and aspects in its construction.

However, the history of the Deering Estate in not limited in just the history of its owner but in the history of the land upon which it is built. With the Tequesta having once inhabited the lands of the Estate thousands of years ago, this location serves a lens for which people can view into the past and see the true foundations of what Miami-Dade once was – prior to any development. With that said, people can visit the Deering Estate for a simple view towards the waters of Biscayne Bay, may make reservations for a wedding ceremony, or can even rent canoes and kayaks to take out to the surrounding islands, notably Chicken Key.

Chinese Bridge

Located on the nature trail right outside the front walls of the Deering Estate, the Chinese Bridge serves as a lens by which visitors can look into the experiences of Charles Deering. Built in 1918 on what was once known as “Old Cutler Road”, the bridge serves as a reminder for Deering into his past experiences as a young U.S. Naval officer when he was traveling across Asia. Without a doubt, the placement of this bridge brings an overwhelming sense of cultural identity compared to the nature-ridden swamp-like aesthetic of South Florida.

When walking to find this historical landmark, it almost felt like I was coming across a hidden gem because of the fact that it was hidden within this path. Previously, during Charles Deering’s time, I perhaps think that landmark was one that was appreciated more often. However, nowadays, I noticed that people were rarely stopping to take a look at it or take any photographs. I personally took an appreciation to this landmark because of its initial hidden physique, making it one that people had to actively search for in order to find.

Thalatta Estate

Only a couple minutes driving distance from the previously-discussed Deering Estate, the Thalatta Estate serves as yet another prominent source of Mediterranean revival art style present in South Florida. Built in 1925 by the Connett family, the Thalatta Estate is another such villa which offers its visitors a first-hand view towards the waters of Biscayne Bay. Quite similar to the Deering Estate, the Thalatta Estate is another notable venue that offers visitors the potential to make wedding reservations for those engaged.

Upon my arrival to the Thalatta Estate, my eyes were first set upon the presence of the magnificent tree placed in the middle of the driveway leading to the villa. Upon researching it, the Thalatta Estate’s official welcome page helped reveal that this was a Banyan tree. I thought that the placement of this tree here really helped in establishing the villa’s high-class status.

Green Spaces:

With each of the green spaces present in Palmetto Bay, I personally found that each area had its own advantages over the others as to what visitors could do in that space.

Thalatta Park

Located right behind the Thalatta Estate villa, Thalatta park offers a vast recreational space for its visitors to sit on the lawns of the villa. This park, specifically at the very end, offers its visitors a first-class view to the waters of Biscayne Bay. I found this park to be one in which visitors could dedicate their time and energy best towards relaxing and feeling the currents of the Biscayne Bay winds with plenty of walking space for those wishing to simply get outside.

Ludovici Park

Photos and editing by Derick Plazaola (CC by 4.0)

Instead of offering a direct view towards the bayside, Ludovici park offers a quiet reserved space for those wishing to perhaps get a good reading out of a book. Connected right next to the Palmetto Bay Branch Library, Ludovici park offers many spaces for its visitors to dedicate their time to obtaining knowledge of all sorts. However, in addition to its quiet reserve spaces, Ludovici park is also recognized for being able to host musical performances and loud activities for all sorts, serving as a community gathering ground for the residents of Palmetto Bay. Thus, a sort of duality is taken into appreciation with the spaces of Ludovici park.

Bill Sadowski Park

Offering more of an adventurous and activity filled aura instead of a fully recreational and quiet space, Bill Sadowski park is a smaller green space located in a centralized area of Palmetto Bay in which residents can take their children and families alike to gather together, whenever the occasion calls for it. When I personally went, there was a gathering for boys scouts happening. In addition to this, the park offers a 0.3 mile trail in which its visitors can take time to exploring the ins and outs of the pathway, taking an appreciation for the surrounding nature.


Photos and editing by Derick Plazaola (CC by 4.0)

For the most part when driving through Palmetto Bay, I found that most people stuck by conventional transportation means through their own vehicles. However, there were quite some exceptions to that. I found that a lot of the residents in the nearby area actually took an appreciation to biking since a lot of things were within a close radius of each other. Also, I saw people utilizing golf carts instead of conventional vehicles – most likely with the intention on saving money not having to drive a normal vehicle. Finally, there was still a utilization of buses within Palmetto Bay as there were bus stops all around for those who needed to utilize them.


Greek House Kitchen

Photos and editing by Derick Plazaola (CC by 4.0)

Offering a grand menu of classic Greek dishes and meals, Greek House Kitchen is a dining establishment that truly provides you with a classic, yet richening Greek experience when it comes to the selection of unique nourishment. I personally ordered the wrapped Chicken Gyros (pictured above) and was extremely satisfied with the amount of food which they provided me with. Greek House Kitchen is located at 17041 S Dixie Hwy in Palmetto Bay.

Maxwell Bros. Clothing Store

Probably my most favorite food establishment from this list, Maxwell Bros. Clothing Store is a pizza and beer based dining establishment located at 17395 S Dixie Hwy. The establishment, which features a bar, takes on a sort of classic retro-oriented space theme that fully compliments the overall vibe of the establishment. Without a doubt, I found it to be the more unique dining locations that I went to because of this welcoming aura presented with the location. Even when I was dining in, a customer entering the establishment said “oh! This was not what I expected!” in a highly positive tone, showing the uniqueness to the place.

Walter’s Coffee Shop

Photos and editing by Derick Plazaola (CC by 4.0)

Walter’s Coffee Shop, located at 17009 S Dixie Hwy, is more of a classic restaurant type of location – a perfect location if you are looking to have whole breakfast or lunch meals with your family. Featuring both an outdoor and indoor dining option, Walter’s is a classic choice for anyone seeking to dine from a classic American menu of well-nourishing food options. I personally ate a classic french toast when I went there in the morning to start my day off right.


Babe’s Meat & Counter

Photos and editing by Derick Plazaola (CC by 4.0)

Serving as a small meat butchery shop, Babe’s Meat & Counter is a perfect location if you are wishing to obtain different kinds of meats for any meals you seek to prepare at home. Located at 9216 SW 156th St, Babe’s also features a small menu of food selections for those wishing to grab a meal to go from this business.

Milky Way Cereal Bar

Photos and editing by Derick Plazaola (CC by 4.0)

Located at 17013 S Dixie Hwy, the Milky Way Cereal Bar is easily a sort of heaven for those with a sweet tooth. Here at this small shop, you can mix and match different kinds of desserts with a wide selection of add ons and toppings to your selection. Most interesting of all, this shop utilizes cereal in their items. This gives it a unique approach as customers can interchange with their favorite cereals mixed in tangent with their selection.

Golden Rule Seafood

Photos and editing by Derick Plazaola (CC by 4.0)

Simultaneously a market and a dine-in restaurant, Golden Rule Seafood serves the best of both worlds to customers as you can either dine-in to the vast selection of food offered at the restaurant or you can take your time and pick through the items offered in the market – both next door to each other. This unique approach gives the business even more customers by being able to still offer unique selections of seafood at the butchery while also providing meals for customers only a couple footsteps away. Golden Rule Seafood is located at 17505 S Dixie Hwy.


In terms of what works, I find that Palmetto Bay is a quiet yet, at the same time, busy part of Miami by being able to offer a sort of duality that is not found in other parts of the overarching city. For one, residents and visitors alike can take the time to have a more recreational experience by visiting historical landmarks that undoubtedly lure in the visitors due to their rich history and the possibility to experience the Biscayne bayside. On the other hand, Palmetto Bay features a vast selection of businesses and food locations which people can visit and enjoy their time at with their families. What allows these both worlds to work so well is the lack of distance between all of these things. As I personally was going through Palmetto Bay, I found that it did not take too much time at all to arrive at the next location which I was interested in viewing or visiting. Even without a car, I find that the people here are still able to arrive at their desired location relatively quickly, adding towards the success of the overall area.

Works Cited:

“Chinese Bridge Historical Marker.” Historical Marker, 16 June 2016,

“History of Palmetto Bay: Palmetto Bay, FL.” Village of Palmetto Bay Florida,

“Palmetto Bay, FL.” Data USA,

United States Census Bureau,

“Welcome to Palmetto Bay: Palmetto Bay, FL.” Village of Palmetto Bay Florida,

“Welcome to Thalatta Estate.” Welcome to Thalatta Estate | Thalatta Estate,

Derick Plazaola: Miami Service Project 2021

Hello everyone! My name is Derick Plazaola and I am currently in the Honors College at Florida International University, double majoring in Anthropology and Geography while also pursuing a minor in History. At the time of this page being published, I am currently 20 years old and a junior-level student at the university. Among my primary passions in life are traveling, photography, and spending time with my friends and family. With that being said, I wish to go into graduate school in order to obtain a master’s in Archaeology after I am done with my undergraduate studies.


For my Miami Service Project this year, I chose to volunteer alongside Professor John Bailly alongside students from my honors class at the Deering Estate – located in Palmetto Bay – for the cleanup service of Chicken Key. This cleanup service was performed on the date of April 9th, 2021.

Photo by Derick Plazaola (CC by 4.0)

I personally decide to become apart of this cleanup service activity here at the Deering Estate because of the fact that this activity was one that would prove to be both fun and impactful towards the environment and preservation of the environment. Although this activity did not relate to my major in any aspect, my participation within John Bailly’s ‘Discovering Miami’ Spring 2021 course allowed me to see that the authentic history of Miami is one that can only be preserved through the continuation of human efforts of active preservation and protection of the surrounding environment. Thus, the cleanup service of Chicken Key was one effort that contributed toward this overall effort of environmentalism within Miami. Additionally, I also saw how exhilarating the experience would be as it would turn out to be my first time in which I could go canoeing.

Photo by Derick Plazaola (CC by 4.0)

I was personally able to connect with this opportunity by actually being able to physically see the aftereffects of our efforts on Chicken Key once we were done cleaning by the end of the service. Upon arrival, I was first able to see just how much trash and waste was on Chicken Key and around the shores of the island. This was only made even more apparent as I continued walking around and saw just how far some of this waste – notably in the form of plastics – was able to reach inland. By working together with the rest of the people in my class to fill up as many trash bags as we could in order to lessen the amount of waste on the island, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride and selflessness in being able to be apart of this overall effort for environmentalism. This was something that was really exemplified at the end of the day as we were able to see just how much trash we were able to collect in total, amounting to the collection of our combined efforts on Chicken Key. Thus, having the opportunity to clean up this uninhabited island that was filled to the brim with trash was something that allowed me to connect with this service activity. However, in addition to the cleanup, I also connected further with the service activity by actually being able to canoe towards the island. I was able to not only learn how to perform the activity, but at the same time I also was able to enjoy moments of serenity by having the chance to relax in the waters of Biscayne Bay. It was a moment where I could feel at one with the sea by having the opportunity to canoe so far away from the Deering Estate.

Photo by Derick Plazaola (CC by 4.0)
Where & What?

On April 9th I arrived at the Deering Estate around 9:30 in the morning, somewhat nervous and concerned for my wellbeing considering that this would prove to be the first time in my life that I would canoe. After having the opportunity to pair up with a fellow classmate and friend of mine, Johnny, the class departed for Chicken Key from the estate. Before we actually started heading towards the island, we decided to explore a tunnel of mangroves that was connected to Deering Estate and it was quite a great introduction to the overall canoeing experience. After roughly 40 minutes of canoeing, our class arrived at Chicken Key. Upon this said arrival, we tied the canoes and kayaks to the island and began working on collecting trash while also simultaneously exploring at the same time.

Photo by Derick Plazaola (CC by 4.0)

As I began walking around the island and collecting trash, I gained more of an idea regarding just the kinds of trash present on Chicken Key and was only more and more astounded as to the different forms of trash that were just endlessly lying around. Bottles, sandals, pieces of plastic, pieces of wood, and more. Professor Bailly noted to us just how ridiculous some objects of trash had diverted from areas of Miami – such as a sign that indicated that it had come from Miami Beach. Furthermore, we could see how pieces of garbage had become stuck within the mangrove trees, further ruining the authenticity which the island previously retained before all this trash had arrived and ruined its previous image.

One trash bag done already about an hour into arriving at Chicken key. This only showcased to me further the amount of trash that was present there, to the point that my first trash bag was already filled to the brim within that amount of time. After a lunch break and a break in the shallow waters surrounding Chicken key, it was back to collecting more trash for the service. Within a quick matter of time, my second bag had become filled with another abundant amount of trash that was still ever-so present on the island.

After finishing up this second bag, I proceeded to have a final lunch break and had some fun in the water with some of my fellow classmates. Then we proceeded to round up and collect all of our trash bags and tied them onto our boats so we could take them back to Deering Estate. Once we did this, we canoed back as a group once more. However, before this, we canoed out to the edge of Biscayne Bay and spent some relaxation time in the waters, truly appreciating the beauty of the bayside. Once we arrived back, we unloaded all of our trash and were able to successfully dispose of everything. In the end, we were proud of the efforts which we all put in when it came to preserving the mangrove trees of Chicken Key.


Overall, the Chicken Key cleanup was a service project which yielded highly important results in the form of environmental protection and an exhilarating life experience. From start to finish, the opportunity to be able to work directly with Professor John Bailly in order to amount to this effort. Environmental protection is an issue that is commonly overlooked by a lot of people, or is rather is one that a lot of people do not place effort into aiding towards. Therefore, the opportunity to clean up Chicken Key was one that allowed me to immerse myself towards this noble cause. In addition to just the effort of cleaning up the island, this opportunity allowed me to experience an activity that will always be memorable when it comes to thinking about my best moments in college. Having the chance to canoe on the waters of Biscayne Bay will, without a doubt, be the first to pop up in my head as I reminisce and reflect on my years in college and the most notable experiences of them.

In terms of what worked, I definitely do believe that our efforts to cleaning up Chicken Key were an undoubtable success. We were able, as a group, to come together and restore the preservation efforts of this important, uninhabited island. After being shown images of what Chicken Key looked like in comparison to today, we could see that our efforts were part of a long-term conservation effort that has been maintained for years on end. Starting with an island that was filled to the brim with trash to an island that now had a significantly lesser amount of waste showed that long-term efforts do indeed yield impactful results.

Photo by Derick Plazaola (CC by 4.0)

Derick Plazaola: Miami As Text 2021

Photo by Eszter Erdei (CC by 4.0)

Good day to everyone! My name is Derick Plazaola and I am a junior at Florida International University currently pursuing a dual Bachelor of Science degree within the fields of Anthropology and Geography while also in the progress of completing a minor in History. My primary passions in life include traveling, exploring nature, and reading historical documents. While at FIU, I have been able to become involved in the betterment of residential life through Parkview Hall Council and have undergone academic opportunities presented to me through the Honors College at the university. I wish to further my academic future by going into graduate school for additional subfield studies of Anthropology, with a certain interest in Archaeology above all other subfields.

Having been born in Miami, I never truly got to experience or undergo an opportunity that has directly allowed me to gain a multi perspective view of the city which I was born in. When the Covid-19 pandemic first began, I truly believed that any chance to engage in an activity that would allow me to captivated by Miami’s history was absolutely diminished. However, this would quickly change with my personal decision to become apart of John Bailly‘s “Discover Miami” 2021 course. With that being said now, I truly thank Professor JW Bailly for being able to create an opportunity for like-minded students to be captivated by the enriched history which the city has to provide.

I now present my Miami as Texts.

Downtown Miami as Text

Photos and editing by Derick Plazaola (CC by 4.0)

“The Obscured Past of Miami”, by Derick Plazaola of FIU in Downtown Miami on February 7th, 2021

“What a day to explore Downtown Miami” was the initial thought that I had conceived as I was driving on a rather cold morning towards our meeting location at Government Center. Over the course of the drive, I would wonder what kind of history would be revealed to us by Professor Bailly and how it would impact my perspective of the city. Though I did not know it yet, this answer would soon arrive in the most eloquent of ways – through the process of firsthand exploration.

This process of exploration would lead me to develop one of the primary changes in my perspective of the city of Miami. The change in perspective was one of recognition regarding the importance which diversity yielded in establishing the foundation of Miami, as a whole. Our group’s visit of Fort Dallas in tangent with the Wagner Homestead and Mary Brickell’s grave would provide knowledgeable insight in allowing me to see the cultural foundations of Miami. Fort Dallas and the Wagner Homestead would directly showcase the cultural roots which Miami is founded upon with regard to the presence of blacks, Indians, and mixed populations. However, such foundations would not be limited to solely ethnicity as the importance of gender could be witnessed with the development of Miami. As professor Bailly explained within the class, the importance of women MUST be recognized in the foundation of the city as Julia Tuttle and Mary Brickell were two monumental figures that were responsible for the eventual development of the city.

I remember asking myself during the class: How is it that these greatly historical aspects of Miami aren’t being taught widely across educational systems in the city? That answer, too, would arrive with the exploration conducted. The visitation of the Dade County Court House and Henry Flagler’s statue ultimately revealed the widespread racism that had been instituted deeply within the history of Miami. I was able to learn firsthand that Henry Flagler’s action of constructing the railroad system in South Florida would grant him great amounts of power and wealth. As a result, Flagler would actively relocate non-white populations to poorer areas of Miami, establishing a precedent for racism and segregation – a precedent whose aftereffects can still be witnessed today. However, historical whitewashing would play an active role in concealing the dark truths behind the foundation of Miami while showcasing the achievements of white figures and, thus, the cultural roots upon which the city was established would become instantly obscured to the public eye. I quite actively, as a result of my partaking in the class, became highly aware of the untaught truths that lied in the history of Miami being publicly taught.

While I also had the opportunity to learn about additional key monuments that are present throughout Downtown Miami along with their cultural significance, I ultimately drove back home appalled, yet troubled, by the deeply rich past of Miami that has become widely obscured. As a result, I now believe that – in order to relieve the city of a whitewashed history – educational systems should not be afraid to shy away from teaching the true multi-cultural history of Miami. Without a doubt, however, I was grateful for the objective truths which this first class session was able to provide me with. I began my day telling myself “what a day to explore Downtown Miami” and ended the day telling myself “what a day to see the obscured past of Miami”.

Everglades as Text

Photos and editing by Derick Plazaola (CC by 4.0)

“River of Grass”, by Derick Plazaola of FIU in the Everglades on February 21st, 2021

To be frank, I began the day with a rather overwhelming sense of uncertainty and – undoubtedly – nervousness as to what exactly could happen in my first-ever trek into the Everglades. I recall the exact moment being shown in the class group-chat exactly what we would be doing throughout the duration of our class session and was, least to say, appalled. I simply could not believe that I had to actually trudge through the heart of the Everglades with a stick, without any worries of what could lurk in the water and tall grass alike. Then the hypotheticals came. “What if an alligator was to approach us?” and “What would I do if I were to fall into the water?” were among the main questions I pondered as I prepared to drive an hour down south. However, I thought back to my session of the class in Downtown Miami and reminded myself of one of the primary lessons I learned: living in the moment is crucial for the best experiences. Thus, with this notion in mind, I made my way towards the National Park.

The “Slough Slog”. Walking through the Everglades water through an unofficial trail with a hiking stick in one hand and camera phone in the other. The first and, perhaps, most immersive component of this class session. The time to undergo this experience was approaching rapidly as we drove down the singular strip of road connecting all of the different areas of the Everglades. All of my previous concerns started to then resurface, but it was then when I had gained awareness of the very nature of this opportunity: it was nothing short of a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Like Professor Bailly would come to mention later in the class, the whole experience would become unforgettable.

Upon first stepping onto the trail, I could see nothing but cypress trees as far as the eye can see. Cypress trees, as our lead park ranger explained to us, served as being among the most distinct of trees present in the Everglades due to their ability of being able to grow in water-filled areas. This was only made possible due to the oligotrophic, or low-nutrient, nature of the surrounding environment. The area in which we were specifically walking through was known as the “dome” of the Everglades due to the shape in which the culmination of the cypress trees created, with the tallest trees gathering near the center (see center photograph). Going back to the Slog, I became quite entranced in the moment of having to simultaneously walk through the water while also scouting to see opportunities for photographs. However, as I kept trudging along through the water with the rest of the class, I gradually gained more recognition of the interconnection which this very land provided. It was a distinct sense of interconnectedness between man and the natural land as, with each step, I could hear all the many things associated with the true experience of the Everglades. The ripples in the water caused by our walking, the sounds of various different animals from a distance, the wind blowing back and forth. All of these different sounds amounted to the sensation of the overall experience. It was a strange feeling to be able to experience a moment in which one truly feels connected with the land at their feet. It was a feeling I only had experienced on a recent trip to Arizona and yet, it was an amazing feeling to have been reproduced. I was certain that this same feeling could be felt by the Tequesta -as Professor Bailly previously indicated to us that the Tequesta had moved towards the Everglades – and utilized the bark of cypress trees to construct boats.

After our journey through the Slough Slog, we proceeded to then continue our journey at two key locations. The first, the Royal Palm Visitor Center, would allow us to gain more of a closer look at the animals residing within the Everglades. This small, yet detail-oriented, trail would truly serve as another fulfilling experience during the trip. However, Professor Bailly’s teachings at this trail provided us with a viewpoint into the rich history of the Everglades, with one of the key points being the fact that Henry Flagler actually attempted to build a railroad through the Everglades. It was at this point during the class that I recognized that what I had learned of Flagler, during the previous first class, had become applicable yet again in the context of the Everglades. In addition to this fact, Bailly provided us with a statement that, even today as I recall the entire experience, changed my perspective on how I entirely viewed the Everglades: “The Everglades is not a swamp. It is a river of grass”. To me, this statement would serve as the backbone of the lessons learned during the entirety of the trip. In concluding with the class session, we visited the “Hole in the Donut” restoration area which allowed us to view the current state of the solution hole present there. It was during this conclusive visit that I had truly taken an appreciation for the connection felt during the entirety of the visit to the Everglades. Would I repeat it, given the opportunity? The experience as a whole now allowed me to respond to that question with an undoubtable “yes”.

In reflecting upon the experience as a whole now, the memorability of this whole trip would only be heightened by the bonding moments shared between our class as this experience truly allowed us to become more along the lines of friends rather than just mere classmates. It’ll be quite hard to forget the feeling of authenticity associated with walking through the different areas of the “River of Grass”. And to think that there is still so much more to explore. Perhaps for next time then.

South Beach as Text

Photos and editing by Derick Plazaola (CC by 4.0)

“At the Ocean’s Side” by Derick Plazaola of FIU in South Beach on March 7th, 2021

Prior to this class session, I identified the city of South Beach as being one of the many components of Miami that projects it on a global level, attracting millions each year. However, Bailly’s teachings and our class exploration of South Beach revealed to me something different; South Beach is not a component of Miami, but rather its own entity existing within Miami. I would come to learn very quickly that the city of South Beach is vastly different to Downtown Miami and Miami as a whole, with many key characteristics setting apart this one stretch of land from the whole city.

The introduction to this class was certainly breathtaking to say the least. Taking the time to stand at the end of South Pointe Pier and take in the scenery of South Beach, the Miami River, and the Atlantic Ocean all under one singular culmination point was something that I could only describe as extraordinary. With that being said however, Bailly would soon reveal to us the true nature of South Beach which, not surprisingly, held elements of a dark past. One of the aspects of South Beach’s foundations that I found to be more troubling was how the city seemed to almost be setting itself up for failure against the volatile weather conditions associated with the oceanside. In addition to noting the foundation of South Miami on shells and sand rather than limestone, we were also shown images of when South Beach was essentially a mangrove and coconut forest – its original state as a barrier island. However, as Bailly kept repeating during the class, we cannot doubt the ability of humans to keep innovating to keep up with our planet’s current conditions.

Another secondary troubling aspect of the history of South Beach and its foundation that I found disgusting, yet essential to my overall perspective of the city, was the institutionalized racism that was adopted by the city officials and influential figures ingrained in the establishment of the city. Yet again, as seen previously with the heavily racist actions by Flagler in the construction of Miami, I was taken aback by the implementation of the actions of Carl Graham Fisher – the entrepreneur responsible for the development of South Beach. Albeit his self-labelling of himself as a “pioneer” to the “wasteland” of Miami, Fisher would soon prove his true character through the re-location of blacks who aided in the construction of South Beach. This would only be bolstered by the re-location of Jewish communities to only a limited section of neighborhood under Fifth street. Learning the details of this corrupt past was most certainly disturbing but upon reflection, I took an appreciation for the eye-opening details which this adventure enlightened me with.

Crazy to think that I would also become somewhat of a master of identifying the primary architectural styles utilized in the many establishments on South Beach. It was almost as if we were being quizzed as we passed each building on Ocean Drive. “Mediterranean revival! No wait, Art Deco! Or is it actually MIMO?”. Statements like these filled a great portion of our walk but at the same time, I already took on such an appreciation for the culmination of artistic, culture-filled architectural styles that were brought to the streets of South Beach as even the smallest details contained such large remnants of ancient history. Without a doubt, by this point, we were fully ingrained in one of the greatest – if not the greatest – Art Deco location in the world. Even the conclusion of our class yielded a surprise as the H&M at the Lincoln Mall was originally a theatre and still had its original architectural style. How crazy indeed!

With no doubts in mind, this class session had such a great impact in allowing me to establish an objective viewpoint of the city which I live in. I can only imagine how long I would’ve kept on walking across Ocean Drive in my life without knowing the negative history associated with its foundation. However, I also took a deep appreciation for the interconnection which this excursion provided to our previous adventures. To think that the Spanish and Tequesta Indians still held such a heavy presence in South Beach before the name was even brought into existence. In fact, you could say they were truly the first to be at the “Ocean’s side”. Neither Fisher nor Flagler, but the Tequesta instead.

Deering as Text

Photos and Editing by Derick Plazaola (CC by 4.0)

“Untouched Miami” by Derick Plazaola of FIU in Deering Estate on March 21st, 2021

Serving as the very manifestation of what Miami originally was before the introduction of several key figures instrumental in the development of current-day Miami, the Deering Estate is a historical landmark that perfectly captures the authenticity of the city that spans back hundreds of years into the past. However, as taught to us during the duration of this class session, the history surrounding the land of the Deering Estate even delves into the thousands of years of history cultivated by the first peoples in Miami. The best way to describe this rich landmark is that it serves to be as a sort of ‘lens’ to the untouched past. A Miami which we weren’t alive to see widespread across the city, but one that is preserved here in full capacity.

Built in 1922 by black Bohemians under the direction of Charles Deering, this site would become among his primary homes within Miami. With that being said, there is no doubt that the construction and development of his luxurious home was fueled by the racism which was heavily present during this time. This would prove fundamental in being able to utilize black Bohemians for their ability to work, while further adding to an increasing amount of segregation. While working here, black Bohemians had to unfortunately experience a highly difficult sense of coexistence between them and what they would term as “white crackers” as a result of the sounds made by the whips they carried. With so much of a dark past embedded within the Deering Estate, this is something the average visitor can easily overlook in place of the physical beauty which Deering’s home has to offer. The construction of the Estate would ultimately showcase an active borrowing of influence from outside cultures as Bailly pointed out clear Islamic Moor elements. Ultimately however, the stone house was always more of a museum and a cultural venue in the eyes of Deering rather than serving as just a house.

Furthermore, the Deering Estate allows us to take a glimpse into the lives of the first peoples of Miami, pre-dating even the presence of those such as the Charles Deering and Henry Flagler. This class’ theme of interconnectedness continues yet again as the land surrounding the Estate served as the same land which the Tequesta roamed thousands of years ago. Constantly surrounded by rich gumbo limbo trees and over 80 species of rare natural plants, the Tequesta recognized this as their home – same is the case with that of the Everglades. Their influence on the land, though they are not physically here now, is still undeniably high however; the trail which we walked on is surrounded by land that serves as the oldest archaeological site in South Miami. This is displayed through the presence of middens and archaeological tools – utilized by the Tequesta – scattered all across the forestry of the Estate. It certainly took an extremely good eye on my part to take notice of these fine details as the past’s influence remains ever-so high.

One statement from Bailly that stuck close with me was him describing the rich ecosystems here in the Estate as if “it’s like you’re going from the forests of Costa Rica to the deserts of Mexico”. The most appalling thing is that he is on the dot with that description. It’s one thing seeing the beauty of Deering’s home and the key, but it’s a completely different world once you step foot on the main trail and really dive into the culmination of six different ecosystems. This is the preservation of the original Miami, the “Untouched Miami”.

Vizcaya as Text

Photos and Editing by Derick Plazaola (CC by 4.0)

“A Villa of Getaways” by Derick Plazaola of FIU in Vizcaya Museum on April 4th, 2021.

I tell you what. It is not often that you get to experience the very culmination of what can only be described as a “flex” by some people. However, our class walk in Vizacaya proved to be just that. Around each and every corner you walk throughout this villa in the heart of Coconut Grove, you come to find that James Deering – the owner of Vizcaya and main individual behind it’s construction – really wanted to have this location serve as a brilliant showcase of his extended amount of wealth. It’s quite clear he succeeded in achieving this goal, to a great extent, through the villa’s displaying of its many outdoor and indoor decorations and eye-catching details. All of these contribute towards the rich history surrounding Deering’s villa and, ultimately, offers us a lens through which we can directly see the many perspectives that came into the development of Vizcaya. I was most certainly able to view through this lens because of the time I dedicated towards this exploration of the villa.

In arriving to South Miami, James Deering saw himself as more of an explorer and adventurer in his eyes. This was further boosted by the fact that the area where Vizcaya was to be built was originally a booming mangrove forest, just like South Miami’s untouched shoreline before its eventual development. However, Deering’s arrival to the city would prove to be instrumental in not only the construction of Vizcaya, but also in the development of a Mediterranean revival art style – which is now seen widespread throughout the city.

Like many of the locations previously explored within this class, Vizcaya is no stranger when it comes to the deeply engrained issue of racial discrimination and racism. Specifically comparing the villa to Deering, James Deering – like Charles – utilized the labor of Black Bohemians in the construction process of both the main house and the surrounding gardens from 1914 to 1923. Thus, we see the continuation of a theme regarding the importance of Black Bohemians in the development of South Miami as we know today – a topic which should be highly recognized. In addition to this, we see a connection to the Tequesta that not many, myself included, would expect. Clearly, the land on which Vizcaya was built upon was where the Tequesta once walked in large numbers. However, the name “Vizcaya” also indirectly relates to the Tequesta because of who the villa is named after. Sebastián Vizcaíno was the survivor of a Spanish shipwreck, placing him in a situation where he had to live with the Tequesta in order to survive. Thus, we see not only a clear Spanish background embedded in Vizcaya, but also a connection to the first peoples on Miami.

However, straying away from the negative history associated with the villa, the implementation of highly superficial and eccentric decorations inside and outside contribute to the overall high-class status associated with it. Certain decorations like the inclusion of a statue of Bacchus – the Roman god of wine – and the implementation of Roman decorations create an aura of partying – a retreat from reality if you will. The decision to include a majority of these highly superficial items can be attributed to the decisions of Paul Chalfin, the main artist and interior designer employed by James Deering. However, Chalfin’s inclusion of high-status elements within Vizcaya proved to express that feeling of “party” and “royalty” all at the same time as I walked through the many rooms inside Vizcaya.

In closing, a walk of Vizcaya is something that I feel is necessary in order to truly a gain a glimpse into the historical past of Miami. With that being said, I recognize that these realities are not initially seen by the common visitor eye and are instead overshadowed by the materialism associated with James Deering’s vacation home. I feel as if these discussions and historical truths need to be conveyed more to the visitors so that they understand the full scope of Vizcaya. It wasn’t only a “villa of getaways” but it was so much more.

Margulies as Text

Photos and editing by Derick Plazaola (CC by 4.0)

“The Past’s Gallery” by Derick Plazaola of FIU in Margulies Collection on April 17th, 2021.

Unfortunately, due to sudden illness, I missed out on the opportunity to go to the class lecture for the Margulies Collection. Undoubtedly, I was upset that my illness had prevented me from obtaining a full experience. However, the thought did not stop me from going to the art collection upon recovery to take the time to gain an appreciation for the various pieces of artwork present here. In reflecting, I’m beyond glad I decided do this within my own time as the experience allowed me to connect and, occasionally, interact with certain pieces of art that caught my eye.

It’s one thing to enter a museum or art studio that has various painting and canvases laid across the walls. But it’s a completely different experience and feeling to enter an art collection that has its handcrafted pieces of art simultaneously luring and guiding your train of thought and eyes towards it, having you dedicate time to coming to understand the piece for what it truly signifies. The Margulies Collection succeeds in performing this by having a hand-picked number of sculptures and paintings alike that create an emotional connection within its viewers. Dedicating a space of 50,000 square foot within the Wynwood warehouse allows the Margulies to captivate its visitors through the various sections, each with their own themes and ideas. From pieces of artwork containing historical importance to others reflecting the life experiences of its artists, the Margulies serves as a welcoming space for those fascinated by art.

In my personal experience walking through the collection, there were quite a couple pieces of art that specifically caught my attention the most. One artist whose work was quite easily able to catch my eye was the sculptures of Anselm Kiefer. Specifically, his Geheimnis der Farne and Die Erdzeitalter sculptures were ones I personally found to be magnificent because of the sheer amount of the size they took up. In addition to this rather obvious sight, having the opportunity to read the papers on the walls which detailed the history of these sculptures helped greatly in creating an awareness of the themes which are produced by these sculptures. You come to understand that there is an overwhelming representation of our planet’s evolution and history being detailed within these sculptures on second look. And yet, while this realization was happening, I found myself immersed in the presence of them. It was only upon reflection that I really realized the immersion embodied by some of these grand pieces of art.

On the other hand, there were also more interactive artworks that I found myself spending time just to see the variation built within them. For one, Leandro Erlich’s Elevator Pitch was one such artwork in which I stood in front of the elevator just to see all the different outcomes showcased. With this one, I really saw an element of variation and it almost seemed like an endless curiosity was calling me back to sit in front of the elevator to see all of the different outcomes. Such the same thing could be seen with Peter Coffin’s television stand where can one sit aimlessly and see all of the different images being displayed on all the screens.

Overall, I found that the variety present at the Margulies collection was one that further captivated its visitors to become lured towards the remarkableness of the pieces of art placed there. Without a doubt, these art works allowed visitors – such as myself – to see the experiences and thought processes of the artists behind them, thus creating a lens by which we could understand what they were undergoing and thinking when creating them. This collection is one that is known as the “Past’s Gallery”.

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