I have lived in Miami since the day I was born, now 20 years and counting. Growing up I spent most of my time in the neighborhoods of Coral Gables, Westchester and Key Biscayne. I am quite a stranger in most other parts of South Florida. I have always admired the Latino culture which is so prevalent and strong here in South Florida, as well as the Cuban and Bahamian influences on food, music, dance and entertainment. I am very proudly the son of Cuban immigrants and I am grateful to grow up in such an accepting and inviting cultural crock pot which is Miami. I am in this class to look past the superficial layers of Miami and experience the original and vintage areas of Miami which laid the groundwork to build the booming city we have now. When selecting this class I was fascinated by the weekly adventures we had planned and I now look forward to each class excited and eager like a kid going on a field trip. I am extremely curious about the creation of the town which I have always called home and would appreciate understanding the history and people whom came before us.
The image Miami conjures in my mind is one of Spring Break students partying on South Beach and a lavish city lifestyle with rooftop bars and futuristic service. I picture business moguls and models and nice sports cars and modern skyscrapers. I am in this class to see and experience pockets of Miami which remained genuine and true to the vision of those whom pioneered our beautiful South Florida. I am most looking forward to visiting Chicken Key and venturing throughout an uninhabited island. I am greatly looking forward to the canoe trip and all the potential ocean critters we may encounter. I have always loved being out on the water so out of all the incredible destinations we have planned I am truly most excited for Chicken Key and learning about the marine life. I highly anticipate a calm picnic overlooking the water with a cool breeze hitting our tropical island. Additionally, the potential animals we may encounter within the island and on our canoe trip intrigues me as well. I would be fascinated to see some manatees, sharks, crocodiles, sea turtles, tortoises or snakes.
Furthermore, I am tremendously excited to voyage through the historic downtown Miami. I look forward to learning about the beautiful and tragic history of the Magic City as I have limited knowledge on the subject. I am most excited to visit the HistoryMiami museum as I have never been before and I love admiring artifacts and ancient works. I am excited to experience each week of this course and analyze how my opinions of a particular area may change from prior to our visit to after our in depth experience.
Diego Segurola is a junior majoring in Hospitality Business Management at Florida International University. Son to Cuban immigrants, I aspire to learn more about the history and culture of the city in which my grandparents and parents sought refuge. I seek to satiate my curiosity of those who laid down the foundation of our beautiful South Florida.
Everglades as Text
photograph taken by Letizia
I truly had no idea what to expect when I was on my way to the Everglades for our class slough slog. Having lived in central Miami my entire life I have always been aware of the mysticism linked with the Everglades, otherwise referred to as the “river of grass” by conservationist Marjory Stoneman Douglas. However I had never experienced an in person trek through this one of a kind terrain and environment, I had only seen pictures. I was awe struck on my drive to the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center. I could not help but lower all my windows and gaze upon the sawgrass prairies that went as far as the eye could see, with no buildings or street lights or footprint of humanity other than the road on which we drove.
Stomping through waist deep water on a muddy and uneven ground terrain in an ecosystem which is home to over 750 different species was a life changing experience. I felt like a pioneer carrying my walking stick and admiring the flora and fauna. Park Ranger Dylan and Professor Bailly both emphasized the importance and value that the Everglades possesses, being recognized as one of only 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States. I was able to appreciate the largest mangrove ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere and the largest continuous stand of sawgrass prairie in North America with all 5 of my senses. The slight and subtle slicing of the sawgrass as I walked through it. The sweet songs of the birds and chirping of the bugs. The smell of fresh natural air and grass. The view of a towering Cypress Dome, so large one can clearly see the curvature created by the larger trees in the center. A slightly salty taste in the air deep within the Cypress Dome.
After an adventurous slough slog, we traveled over to the Anhinga trail for a peaceful stroll. We were lucky enough to see several Anhingas spear fishing for dinner, as well as a couple alligators sun bathing and even a snake. It was remarkable to observe all of the complex dynamics constantly occurring in the diverse ecosystem which is the Everglades. Our final destination of the day was the ancient deer feeding station, the last remaining structure built by the Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs. This voyage through the trees made me reminisce on the mystery and curiosity the first pioneers of the Everglades must have felt when they explored through the never ending foliage of wilderness.
All in all, my favorite experience of the day was when Park Ranger Dylan suggested we all have a couple minutes of silence within the Cypress Dome simply to appreciate the sounds of nature and beauty of the untouched and natural South Florida. I felt truly at peace and connected with the ground upon which we stood. My understanding of the Everglades changed in the sense that I appreciate the individual components, whether it be species of animals or trees, which come together to create this beautiful and thriving diverse ecosystem.