Daffodyle Saget: Miami Service Project 2021

Photo taken by Daffodyle Saget ( CC By 4.0)


My name is Daffodyle Saget and I’m a senior majoring in English and Sociology with a minor in International communications. I’ve enjoyed all the adventures we’ve had in this class and I’m happy to have had the opportunity to give back to Miami with the Chicken Key clean-up.


The Chicken Key is a small island off the coast of the Deering estate founded by Charles Deering. The key does not have a permanent clean-up crew that does continuous scheduled maintenance on the island. The only volunteers that help keep the key clean are from Florida International University. Thanks to professor Bailey and the Honors college the key has gotten numerous visitors to help maintain its environment. I got to join this relatively young initiative as a student of “Discover Miami” one of professor Baillys’ classes this Spring of 2021. The class focuses on learning about the city of Miami through direct interaction with the city. The cleaning got students to both interact with nature and be active while also seeing for themselves the environmental damage being done to Miami and the world at large. It was a well-rounded experience that meets the class objective and the Honors college values.

Photo by Daffodyle Saget (CC by 4.0)


I was happy to find this to be part of the semester’s curriculum. While traveling around Miami and visiting different neighborhoods for class my eyes could not help but see the problems the city had. When we visited Downtown Miami our first class I could not help but notice the countless homeless people and the legacy of segregation followed by the gentrification of Black neighborhoods. It was infuriating walking around South beach and seeing all the vacant property next to homeless people obviously in need of access to mental health support. At the everglades, I got scared of losing our natural resources to environmental damage and bad policy because of the neglect of the citizens. The Key cleanup was one way I could help and be a part of the solution to at least one of these issues.


Professor Bailly is not only a professor at the Honors College at FIU but also a resident artist at the Deering Estate. He arranges for us all as a class to dedicate a meeting to act in service of Miami. We were instructed at the beginning of this course of this trip and were told to prepare with water shoes and clothing that could get wet. On the day of the excursion, we learned how to canoe and were taken out by Bailly who was familiar with the journey. We were given bags to fill and two hours or so to work.

Where and What

After canoeing for about thirty to forty-five minutes from the Deering estate we parked off the coast, amongst the mangroves, of the small island known as the chicken key. At the time of arrival, it was around 10:40 am. We began to settle in the picnic area and wait for instructions. Bailly being the professor that he is invited us to swim to lift our spirits and motivate us to begin the hard work of the day. During the swim, we were told more about the key and how the clean-ups began. Professor Bailly detailed a little more what we would encounter including small plastic pieces that were eaten by the animals resulting in their death. We were also told that furbished wood should also be picked up because of the chemicals they bleed into the water. I would not have a guest to pick up the wood so I noted that for later.

Photo by Daffodyle Saget (CC by 4.0)

Once on land and dry we were given large black garbage bags and told to walk either direction and fill as many bags as we can before stocking them on the canoes at the shore. We were given two hours or so to work and the time flew fast. I had not thought I would fill a bag but it became obvious that I had no reason to worry. As I walk I found the oddest object from birthday balloons, sandals, to deodorant. It felt like I was an alien picking up what was left of Human society after its end. It felt like I was an archeologist of a dystopia. It was endless the amount of trash on the key. I would pick from a spot and look there again to find something. It was overwhelming the amount of trash and I felt like I barely made a dent. I started to feel hopeless that we were doom to become remains outlived by the trash we created.

Photo by Daffodyle Saget (CC by 4.0)

Close to the class’s end time, we were all called to pack up and gather again. We had canoes filled to the brim with the trash that we had to walk back to the original spot and I felt the itch to go back and do more. I shared my feelings with professor Bailly who then showed me a picture of the old key. He reassured me it used to be worst and that we were in fact making a difference. Looking at the picture where the trash was visible even miles with the naked eye made me confident again that my efforts were not in Vain. We canoed back with heavy loads divided amongst us and ended the day dumping trash that should have never been made in the first place. I left smiling knowing I gave back and contributed to the city I love.

Photo by Daffodyle Saget (CC by 4.0)


Photo by Daffodyle Saget (CC by 4.0)


I am no stranger to volunteering. I gave my time to service throughout Highschool. I worked with patience at my local hospital giving them comfort or guidance. It felt good to be able to help. I still jump at the opportunity when it comes from beach cleanups to phone banking. I guess I feel move to contribute to something bigger than myself. It’s how I want to leave a mark on the world by making it with my small efforts a better place. I got so much from this class and realized how distant I was from Miami as a community. I wanted to feel like a citizen not just in residency but in action. That was the feeling that captured me in each class meeting this semester and the trip to Chicken key allowed me to exercise that feeling.


“Deering Estate History | Historic Miami Mansion & Gardens.” Deering Estate, 26 Mar. 2020, https://deeringestate.org/history/

Daffodyle Saget: Little Haiti 2021

Photo taken by Daffodyle Saget ( CC By 4.0)


Daffodyle Saget is a senior graduating this spring 2021. She is a double major in Sociology and English with a minor in International communications. Saget was born in Haiti but moved to South Florida at the young age of five and has specifically been a resident of Miami for four years now.


Little Haiti is located in what is considered to be the heart of Miami. The neighborhood’s exact coordinates are 25.8327° N and 80.1962° W. It is located to the right of Liberty square and above the Design District from 54th to 87th ST. covering around 3.5 miles. it is easily accessible by I-95 and the Florida East Coast Railway. Little Haiti has an elevation of 7′ making it less susceptible to rising sea levels. This geographic facet has garnered it a lot of attention from developers as the wealthy try to escape the consequence of environmental degradation The neighborhood’s high elevation is the motivation for its recent gentrification pushing out the immigrant group that has made it their home and culture mecca.

Little Haiti, Photo from google maps


Before Little Haiti was Little Haiti it was Lemon city. Lemon City was home to White populations that moved down and Black Bahamians that moved up. The very first residents were just squatters forming the first real community under the name “Motto” in 1889 after many applied for the homestead grants. Homestead grants allowed citizens mostly white to apply to receive government-owned land during the mid-1800s. The Black Bahamians had also already successfully created a thriving Black neighborhood with their own churches, post office, and “colored” school.

Haitians began coming to the neighborhood in high numbers during the mid-1960s. The motivation was the cruel dictatorship of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. He was the son of Haiti’s first Dictator Francois Duvalier who gain power after a military coup d’état. He terrorized the nation with his undercover death squad called the “Tonton Makout”. Many started fleeing as political refugees creating a massive Brain drain on the nation. Between 1977 and 1981 Haitians began to regularly come to Miami’s shores and an estimated 70,000 migrants had arrived. The highest amount came in the year 1980 at almost 25,000. Many traveled via small boats in hopes of seeking asylum. They were not meet with welcome upon arrival to American soil like many Cubans had during their flee from Castros Cuba. Haitians were continuously deported and denied refugee status by the American government.

One Haitian migrant seeking asylum was Viter Juste an advocate for democracy in Haiti partnered with Msgr. Bryant O. Walsh to help advocate support for Haitians arriving to Miami. Walsh who helped in operation Peter Pan getting young Cubans in Miami was successful again in helping get Haitian refugees the attention they needed. Viter Juste is often called the father of Little Haiti. He is credited to help in giving the name to the neighborhood. He wrote a letter advocating that it be called “Little-Port-Au-Prince” to The Miami Herald but the editors thought the name too long and instead title the article “Little Haiti”. Since then that is what the neighborhood has been referred to and it has grown to resemble its namesake not just in demographics but in aesthetics as well. The Viter Juste did not stop there in his pursuit of building “Little Haiti”. He invested in the community with businesses like “Les Cousins” selling books and records and even launched a newspaper for the community. He also co-founded the Haitian American Community of Dade and help Haitians learn how to get asylum, jobs, and learn English.

Boat of Haitian Refugees, photo from crfimmigrationed.org

Little Haiti began to grow crossing Lemon city into Little River and going as far north as North Miami Beach. To this day its borders are still contested. Like all immigrant communities Haitians lived in fear of deportation because many were undocumented. Haitians also face a lot of discrimination from fellow migrants and were not fully accepted by the established African American community. It was a combination of things that cause this rejection. Racism because the vast majority of Haitians were Black. Xenophobia because their blackness was not what was familiar. As well as the stigma caused by Anti-Haitian propaganda created by the U.S for being an independent Black republic during enslavement and Jim crow.

Haitians were not deterred but kept building and creating institutions in their new home. A Haitian radio station, the first of its kind, was founded by Carmelau Monestime connecting the community at large. In 1981 the Notre Dame D’Haiti Catholic Church was founded. In 1990 Little Haiti marketplace was founded modeled in the style of the gingerbread architecture common in Port-Au-Prince and the first chef creole opened in 1992. The famous Serge Touissant started painting murals around the neighborhood contributing to its now recognizable aesthetic. Little Haiti started being noted as a landmark of Miami and receiving lots of attention from outsiders. In 2009 the official Little Haiti cultural center was founded and the “Big nights in little Haiti” cultural festival was started in 2011. Little Haiti begun attracting artists and galleries began to open. Now Little Haiti is facing gentrification as developers like Magic City move in. Around eighteen acres of little Haiti is set to be developed into buildings up to 25 stories tall. Slowly it seems Little Haiti might disappear despite all it took for it to create it.

Article: Haitian Immigrants in the United States | migrationpolicy.org
Drummers at an event in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami, Photo from Knight Foundation


The estimated population of Little Haiti is about 12,791 residents. Out of that 12,791, 6,354 men are making up 49.68% of the population. Women make up about 50.32% of the population at around 6,437. The median age in Little Haiti is estimated to be 36 years old which is only four years younger than the median age of the city of Miami at large which is estimated to be 40 years old.

The majority of Little Haiti at 54.67% are United States-born citizens. Those who were not born in the United States but have obtained citizenship are around 25%. The education level of the population is as follows: 43% went to high school and around 15% had earned a bachelor’s but 31% had some college education. Most of the workers are categorized as white-collar in the area around 80% and the rest were blue-collar at around 20%. The majority were employees at private companies at 72%, after which 12% were self-employed, and 10% worked for the government. The remaining 5% were employed by a nonprofit organization.

The average household income came out to be an estimated $65,931 and the Median household income was $40,948. The majority of the residents lived above the poverty level at 9,322 and the rest at about a quarter of the population lived below poverty at 3,160. In terms of houses themselves, there are about 5,288 with most build around 1964. It is recorded that 4,602 of these housing units were occupied. Most were not owned but being rented at 65%. (Little Haiti Demographics)

Looking at these statistics it is easy to see how Little Haiti has been quickly brought up since most of the residents do not own the property they live on. A third of the population being in poverty means when gentrification pushes these residents out homelessness is possibly the reality many will face. Little Haiti has been able to fight and slow down the transformation of the area and hold developers accountable and that may be because of its highly educated population who mostly occupied white-collar jobs and a significant amount works nonprofit.


Little Haiti has many cultural landmarks many of which pay tribute to or resemble the aesthetic of Haiti the nation. The following three are very popular spots :

The Little Haiti Cultural Center

To start a tour of Little Haiti it would be best to throw yourself right into its colorful culture. The Little Haiti cultural center was conceptualized by the late city of Miami commissioner Arthur E. Teele Jr. and construction in the beginning of 2006. The center is centered on the arts and also has a museum. It showcases Haitian art in various forms from paintings, sculptures, to crafts. It is hard to miss in its colorful grandeur. The building is built in the Ginger-bread style with complex fretwork and intricate woodwork most notable around windows, doors, and all the edges of the building. The colors of the building shout at you in bright yellow, blue, and orange giving it an afro Caribbean twist to the European style. Inside art classes are offered to the public and the building has a two hundred and seventy-seat theatre where live music and dance is performed. Other events you may catch at the center include the Caribbean Market day which is held Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm and sounds of Little Haiti which is on the third Friday of each month and runs from 6pm to late in the night.

Now's the Time to Visit Little Haiti, on the Brink of Change \ VISIT FLORIDA
The Little Haiti cultural center, Photo from visitflorida.com

Notre Dame d’Haiti Mission

Located at the heart of Miami’s Little Haiti. First Known as a mission of Saint Mary’s Cathedral. After the flood of Haitian migrants to the area during the 1980s father Marcel Peloquin, an Oblate missionary expanded the church to better serve its new influx of members. The church has been a community hub for Little Haiti and has supported the population in developing and administrating programs to help Haitian refugees. The large beige building with its coral roof and huge cross right in the center can be called a cornerstone of the neighborhood. It is an important part of the community and should not be skipped over.

Smile Lil’ Haiti Mural

There is a lot of art in little Haiti but the Smile Lil’ Haiti Mural captures its soul best. Designed and painted by famed local artist Serge Toussaint the mural is located at NE 2nd Avenue and 60th Street. It has three parts, the first part depicts a man holding a camera recording onlookers from the beach. He is wearing a Haitian flag t-shirt. In bold red letters to his left side is “Smile” and on the right in the same font is “Lil’ Haiti is Watching”. The next two parts feature aspects of Haitian history. The second part centers on a large Haitian flag with the year of Haiti’s independence at the top. On either side is an arm with broken chains. The left side under the arm says “Libre” and under the right side is “Fiertee” translating to “free” and “proud”. The last mural is of Citadelle Laferrière, a Haitian fortress designated as a World Heritage site, and standing next to it is Henri Christophe one of Haiti’s revolutionaries. The Mural is meant to celebrate Haitians and rebuke any detractors.

Artist Serge Toussaint in front of his mural “Smile Lil’ Haiti “, Photo by Gabriel Poblete


It is an unfortunate reality that Little Haiti is a poorer area and until developers came in got very little attention from the government. This means that its green areas are limited. These are some of the better parks in this historically underfunded neighborhood.

Athalie Range Park

This green space is located at 525 NW 62nd St, Miami, FL 33150. It is named after Bahamian American civil rights activist and politician Mary Athalie Wilkinson who advocated for better schools for Black children. It features a playground and swimming pool. This would be a great park for a quick visit to let young children play but not much else is offered.

Lemon City Park

Keeping the original name of the area, Lemon City Park is located on 27 NE 58TH ST, Miami 33130. It has a playground and a recreational center where children can sign up for many different camps like summer, winter, and youth camps. Dogs are also allowed in the park on leashes. 

Little Haiti Soccer Park

Open from 8 am to 9 pm on weekdays and 8 am to 6 pm on weekends Little Haiti Soccer park holds many amenities besides its large soccer field. There is outdoor gym equipment, a playground, and a recreational center. The recreational area allows reservations and offers computers to the public. This park gives a lot to the community and could be a great place to plan an event like a birthday party. It is located on 6301 NE 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33138.

Little Haiti soccer park, Photo by miamigov.com


Little Haiti being ignored by local government most of its history has meant it is not always considered when major things like transportation are planned. Getting to Little Haiti had two ways. It was either the bus or the subway. Little Haiti has only three main bus routes that travel to or near it. They include bus two, fifty-four, and nine. If traveling by subway to get to Little Haiti the green line must be taken. Only recently in 2018, a new method was offered. A new trolley route was opened and it runs from 6:30 am to 8:00 pm seven days a week. The stops are located along Northeast 2nd Avenue or Northwest 2nd Avenue. There was also a bike-sharing initiative started that year that works on an hourly, monthly or annual basis with an hour pass that cost $6.50 or a subscription up to $25.

New Little Haiti trolley and bike rental station changes how residents move  around the city | Miami's Community News
Mayor Francis Suarez at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new trolley, Photo by Gabriel Poblete


There are numerous restaurants in Little Haiti but if you asked around most people will suggest The Citadel. A bi-product of gentrification it offers no real taste of Haitian culture. If you want to support locals and get an authentic experience then the following are great options.

Chef Creole Seasoned Kitchen

The most famous restaurant in the area has to be Chef Creole seasoned kitchen. Owned by Haitian celebrity chef Chef Wilkinson “Ken” Sejour, the colorful restaurant offers outdoor seating styled like a beach shack and walls of famous rappers and actresses who have visited. It has predominantly Haitian food but also has Bahamian and other afro Caribbean dishes on its menu. A menu that includes griot (fried pork), pikliz (spicy cabbage slaw), and lambi (conch). It is located at 200 NW 54th St., Miami, FL 33127.

Chef Creole Season Kitchen, photo by ediblesouthflorida.com

Naomi’s Garden Restaurant

Naomi’s Garden restaurant and lounge is decorated with murals with a garden that has a patio. It is located at 650 NW 71st St., Miami, FL 33150. Its menu features plantains, collard greens, and pumpkin soup and is very vegan/vegetarian friendly.

Chez Le Bebe

Chez Le Bebe is located on 14 NE 54th St., Miami, FL 33137 and has claims to have the best griot in Miami. Foie (liver), ragout (pig feet), taso (fried goat) are stables at this spot which has been open for thirty four years.


There seem to be three types of businesses in Little Haiti. The first being Haitian own, the second a non-Haitian business that came before gentrification and is considered a community member, and finally the businesses that are outsiders of the community. The following places fall under one category or another.

Libreri Mapou

Libreri Mapou is a Haitian-owned bookstore in Little Haiti founded by Jan Mapou, a Haitian playwright and activist, in 1986. The bookstore has books in Haitian Creole, French, and English spanning every genre from folklore, grammar workbooks, to sociological studies. You can also purchase newspapers from around the world from Port-Au-Prince to Paris.

The Top 9 Things to Do in Little Haiti
Libreri Mapou ,Photo by Montes-Bradley/Getty Images

Sweat Records

Founded by local artist Lauren “Lolo” Reskin a local DJ, Sweat Records is an indie record shop located on 5505 NE 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33137. Records from every genre can be found from hip hop to metal, to experimental to folk. Sweat records also has an onsite vegan coffee shop and hosts live performances. It has been opened for more than a decade and is considered a member of the community.

Nina Johnson

If you want to explore Little Haiti’s path to gentrification then the galleries are a great place to start. Galleries are the first to appear following after the young starving artist before gentrification takes hold. A great gallery to see would be Nina Johnson. It is located at 6315 NW 2nd Ave, Miami, Florida 33150. The Gallery is a curation of unique designs and sculptures from both international and Miami-based artists. However, nothing about it is Haitian and it is not for the local population to use in any way. These types of businesses are becoming more and more dominant in the area.


Little Haiti is home to a resilient diaspora that has forged a home against all obstacles. Migrants running from a cruel dictator having to plead to an apathetic America who then was isolated in to a poor underserve area have made it a colorful beacon celebrating who they are. Unfortunately, it seems all they have struggled to make theirs is slowly being taken from them through gentrification. Visiting you can already see Little Haiti being erased. However, they are ever more visible and they may be able to sway the audience to support them in protecting what they built and not just investing in the community for the enjoyment of outsiders but to better the lives of the residents.


Gabriel Poblete, et al. “Gabriel Poblete.” South Florida Media Network, 23 May 2019, sfmn.fiu.edu/little-haiti-artist-says-his-new-mural-is-for-the-community-and-those-who-threaten-it/.

“The Best Things To Do In Little Haiti.” MiamiandBeaches.com, http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/plan-your-trip/miami-trip-ideas/insider-guides/insider-s-guide-little-haiti.

“Fighting for the Soul of Little Haiti.” Grist, 16 Mar. 2021, grist.org/Array/fighting-for-the-soul-of-little-haiti/.

Gabriel Poblete of the South Florida News Service -, et al. “New Little Haiti Trolley and Bike Rental Station Changes How Residents Move around the City.” Miami’s Community News, 15 Feb. 2018, communitynewspapers.com/aventura-news/new-little-haiti-trolley-and-bike-rental-station-changes-how-residents-move-around-the-city/.

Staff, Eater. “Haitians in Miami: A Story of Resilience: MOFAD City.” Eater.com, 17 Aug. 2016, http://www.eater.com/a/mofad-city-guides/miami-haitian-history.

“Where to Eat in Little Haiti.” MiamiandBeaches.com, http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/things-to-do/restaurants/where-to-dine-in-little-haiti.

“Little Haiti Demographics.” Point2, http://www.point2homes.com/US/Neighborhood/FL/Little-Haiti-Demographics.html.

Daffodyle Saget: Miami as Text 2021

Photo by Daffodyle Saget (CC by 4.0)

Greetings! My name is Daffodyle Saget and I am a senior graduating this spring with a degree in Sociology and English with a minor in International Communications. I have a deep love for learning especially about us as humans from the histories that form our current reality to the psychology that motivates our actions. I guess that’s why I choose sociology as a major, it helps me understand the world around me. That’s also the reason I was pushed to take this class, I wanted to understand all that makes up my current environment. Miami is my home and when you get used to something you question it less but I want to hear this cities stories and understand its problems instead of passively living here. I am so excited to learn more than I already have!

Downtown Miami as Text

“First was the Tequesta” by Daffodyle Saget of FIU in Downtown Miami

Photo By Daffodyle Saget ( CC By 4.0)

The Tequesta were first. They were the indigenous people of South Florida and what we know now as the great city of Miami. A city that is known for its diversity and its large immigrant population pouring in from all over Latin America and the world at large. But before The Cubans, The Haitians, The Bahamians, and The Europeans there were the Tequesta and it is important to start any part of American history with Native Americans.

I was so happy we began class with Professor Bailly starting this term by visiting native sites and telling their stories. Often times they are ignored when history is covered. Most people in Miami if polled on the streets would not even be able to name the indigenous people of the city even in a multiple-choice question. Professor Bailey filled in the blanks of our history classes introducing us to the Tequesta one site at a time. I learned that the Tequesta were living in Miami and all of South Florida as early as 2,000 years ago and were killed off after contact with the Spanish leaving little evidence of their culture behind. Most depictions of the Tequesta today is fictional and likely inspired by the nearby Arawaks. Most natives in the South Florida region today were pushed down from locations further north in the state and even as far north fromstates like Georgia and Alabama. The Seminole tribe itself was formed out of displaced tribes like the Miccosukee and Choctaw.

It’s devastating to think a whole people and culture was wiped out and we will never learn what life for them was truly like. To think it all started in a circle located downtown. Standing in the Miami circle where likely the center of governance was for the Tequesta and where they greeted the Europeans it was chilling to think a city would be born thousands of years later on their graves and they would become just a sad fact. People and cultures are sacred and history has a sad way of repeating itself. I left the class even sadder knowing if we don’t learn about what happened to the Tequesta and allowed what happened to them in a way happen to the African American population in Overtown, will it soon then happen to the Haitians and Cubans that create Miami culture today. With gentrification at every corner, what will Miami look like in just a few decades…

Everglades as Text

“Forgotten Miami” By Daffodyle Saget of FIU at the Everglades

Photo By Daffodyle Saget ( CC By 4.0)

When people think of Miami images of the cities concrete white and blue skyline might flash through their heads along with the white sand beaches and palm trees. Spanish music may start playing in their mind and they may feel the humid air and taste the well-grilled meats of Latin America or a cafecito, or even a margarita. Club lights and skimpy bikinis may also fill their imagination but they probably won’t think to picture swamps, cypress trees, and alligators. I wouldn’t have thought to think of nature when it came to Miami either and I live here. Now I was knee-deep slogging through the Everglades surrounded by cypress trees as a ranger points out alligator poop on our trail. There wasn’t a concrete building in sight and I felt like I was meeting Miami for the first time.

The Everglades was always there. I knew that and so do most South Florida residents but it felt like just the abandoned backyard. Nothing occupied it but scary and gross creatures and there was nothing to do. You went there only for middle school field trips or a true country Floridian who wrestled alligators for fun. Most people from Miami have forgotten the everglades and like me until now never saw it in person. The everglades however cant be forgotten. It is part of the history and cultural heritage of Miami. This was what Miami looked like before it was industrialized, this is true Miami, Miami at its core. As we slough through professor Bailey and Ranger Dylan point out that the natural environment of a location use to shape the culture of the people living there. That forced architecture to be unique because only the trees and other natural resources available could be used. The cuisine of an area was also informed by its indigenous vegetation. Clothing would also be made from the indigenous plants and animals around. What we wore, ate, and lived in used to be of our nature. Humans used to interact with their natural environment on a daily basis becoming very much a part of it. The Tequesta build boats from the cypress I now look up at and before only knew because of the name of condos. We as residents of the city are so removed from our environment with everything imported and influence from the outside.

We have forgotten Miami and our neglect might kill her. We can’t fight for something that we don’t know to exist. It is easy to litter when you don’t see what you’re destroying daily, harmful environmental policies are easier to pass when residents don’t think it affects them, and it’s easy to see Miami as a location rather than a living environment. Instead of just moving buildings further north as the water level rises maybe we should prioritize from a young age knowing and appreciating the natural environment to prevent harm in the first place. I know sitting in that water in the shadow of the cypress connected to Miami for the first time I will fight harder knowing what I will be losing.

South Beach as Text

“South Beach the refuge” by Daffodyle Saget of FIU at South Beach

Photo By Daffodyle Saget ( CC By 4.0)

South Beach is known for many things. The iconic neighborhood is famous for its nightlife, celebrity residents, and unique architecture. Walking past the iconic landmarks amongst lively tourists living out their Miami fantasy a story unfolded amongst the art deco buildings. This place was a refuge. Not a word you would think to use for the over-exposed neighborhood where everyone’s trying to flash something either their flesh or their wealth. But Gianni Versace saw it as such and build his dream home right in the middle of it. Many queer people ran to Miami to be themselves and their legacy is visible in every other corner from the drag shows to the rainbow-painted walkways.

Miami Beach was saved by the LGBT community that came and revitalized the economically dead city in the mid-’80s. The community brought restored abandoned art deco buildings that people travel from around the world to see. South Beach became a gay mecca where people were allowed to be open and free. Decades before gay marriage was legalized men would publicly hold hand and kiss in this part of the world wherein others they risked their lives. The history of Miami can not be told without highlighting the contribution of the LGBT community. They like many groups that make up the city now found Miami to be a place they could find freedom. People come now seeking that freedom of expression the LGBT community build here and that may not exist had they not come. Covid may have taken pride this year but it’s still visible in the legacy of those first bold residents.

Deering Estate as Text

“Founders of Miami: Charles Deering” by Daffodyle Saget of FIU at Deering Estate

The Deering Estate is a manifestation of all that Charles Deering was. A lover of arts, nature, and European culture. Charles Deering unlike Flagler does not get enough attention or credit as one of the men that made Miami what it is today. However, his contributions are vital for putting the city on the map in its early years. Born in Maine in 1852 Charles began wintering in Miami as Europe closed because of World War I. Unable to take his trips he thought it would be a great idea to bring Europe to him. The 444 acres were slowly transformed with care by Deering with the purchase of the Richmond cottage. The estate became a place for his friends to come and play many of which were creatives. Charles encourages the arts with a gallery of his own that he used to spotlight artists. Its as if Charles predicted Miami would be a huge center for art with Wynwood and Art Basel being notable neighborhoods and events in the city. Charles also had a great appreciation for the nature of Miami and his residence is one of the few locations that remain largely pristine as Miami developed and erase its natural history. I got to enjoy and enveloped myself in that legacy walking through various ecosystems from wet mangroves to deserts. I personally gain alot of respect for Charles Deering for letting the Indian burial mount on the land be left untouched. The legacy of other white male developers has unfortunately also been disrespect of Native people and their culture. Another thing that Charles can get credit for is the look of Coral Gables the Italian revitalization architecture was brought to Miami because of him and now the influence is seen everywhere in the city especially the neighborhood of Coral Gables. Charles Deering’s investments and belief in this city lead him to manifest his hopes on a plot of land in the middle of nowhere Miami and it all has bared fruit.

Vizcaya as Text

“The Founders vs the Builders of Miami” by Daffodyle Saget of FIU in Vizcaya

I have seen Vizcaya in many Instagram posts with people all dressed up to match the luxury and grandeur of the place. Like his brother Charles, James Deering had a vision and build it in Miami. Well, he didn’t build it and neither did Charles build Deering. Although these men are responsible for investing in Miami and setting the path for it to thrive into the city it is now. They are not the actual people that gave their lives to this city with each physical exertion. It can not be ignored that among these European mansions with imported works from France, Spain, and Italy that people come to pose and pretend next to are dead bodies. Many of the artisans that carried the bricks for Vizcaya were Black Bahamian workers. They are often lost in the story of the large estate with its porcelain sculptures of naked Europeans and sensual art creating the setting for merry times. Under each distraction of the maximalist decor is the truth of racial inequality that leads to these workers being exploited to create a getaway for another wealthy white person. It is estimated that over a thousand workers of Bahamian descent worked to build Vizcaya. They resided in the Coral Gables years before it started being developed by investors. Their knowledge of the land and skill was vital to making these ideas into real concrete buildings. Their importance is not to recognize enough in Vizcaya or any other major estate in Miami. It would have been nice to find amongst all the gilded gold interior and well-manicured landscape something paying tribute to them.

Margulies as Text

Art as a Practice of Reflection”by Daffodyle Saget of FIU at Margulies

“We are living in trying times” says every mass institute email, commercial, and news station. Covid-19 has made life more difficult this past year. It robbed many of jobs, travel, community, fun, and their lives. It has forced us to reflect on the social structures in place to take care of us and also face ourselves as individuals. There hasn’t been a time in history like it. We were asked to sacrifice everything that comes naturally to us as human beings. Walking through Margulies I was reminded of other trying times in history long pass but their effects long-lasting. Magdalena Abakanowicz “Hurma” installation was one of the first I saw on the trip and it set the theme of my visit. Abakanowicz uses this piece to reflect on the holocaust and the dehumanization many faces to justify the cruelty enacted on them. The statues headless and of all shapes and sizes are a daunting view that overwhelms you. Another era of great loss in human history survived to be told. This theme continues as another tragedy is told with the breadline statues by George Segal. The great depression was another time people lost life as they knew it practically overnight. Structures in place failed us and the damage forced a generation to reassess their values. One of the last installations I saw was a woman projecting her distraught image onto a balloon head that was attached to a small body hidden under a bed. The piece expresses personal suffering which in “trying times” we are all familiar with to some degree. I left wondering what art will be made to reflect and heal from this pandemic and connect to future generations. I’m sure the mask will be in heavy use in those installations.

%d bloggers like this: