Esmeralda Iyescas: Hialeah 2021

Photo of Esmeralda Iyescas by Martin Gutierrez/ CC BY 4.0

Student Bio

Howdy! My name is Esmeralda Iyescas and I currently am a senior at Florida International University Honors College, majoring in Information Technology. Though I am a STEM major, I love the arts, cuisine, literature, and learning about new cultures. I was born and raised in Miami, Florida but my background is Franco-Nicaraguan. Prior to taking Miami in Miami, I would like to have considered myself as someone who was familiar with their hometown, but I soon realized, there is much of Miami that I took for granted. There is a rich history and many stories that come to life when you uncover Miami’s past. Part of my mission to reconnect with Miami, I chose to learn and research Hialeah since it’s a neighborhood I am not familiar with. Nonetheless, I spent a lot of time in the area to discover its history and beauty.

Geography

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Hialeah,+FL/@25.8662339,-80.345202,13z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x88d9ba8b0e7ef5ef:0xfbb5a88631343c5e!8m2!3d25.8575963!4d-80.2781057

Hialeah is also commonly referred to as the “City of Progress” because of the major changes and improvements it has gone through since the 1920s when it was first founded. With this growing city, it is reported by the World Population Review that Hialeah spans over 23 miles, making it the 6th largest city in Florida. Hialeah neighbors Hialeah Gardens and Miami Springs to its left and Miami Lakes, Opa-Locka, West Little River, and Brownsville to its right. Though Hialeah has a multitude of parks in its vicinity, it is primarily an industrial city with a lot of commercial and community centers, as well as small owned businesses. From the 2010 United States Census, Hialeah reported to have 22.3 square miles and about 21.5 of those square miles is land, leaving the rest to be water. Naturally, it would be very difficult for Hialeah to have more areas of water with a city so densely populated and flooded with businesses and areas for industrial work.

Hialeah is a very widespread and densely populated neighborhood with over 10,000 people per square mile. These statistics result in Hialeah being one of the largest neighborhoods in the United States and the biggest in Miami.

History

Photo in front of the Hialeah Police Department and Lua E Curtis Library in Hialeah by Esmeralda Iyescas / CC BY 4.0

Though Dade county was founded in 1936 by the famous Major Francis L. Dade, Hialeah only was added to this county in 1925. This decade was crucial to the development of Hialeah because many of the area’s pioneers began developing the city. 

Glenn Curtiss was an immensely rich and powerful man who came to Hialeah in the early 1920’s and bought acres of land to help build parks, buildings, and most importantly a racetrack. These implementations helped the city grow but the acquisition of the racetrack would bring Hialeah a lot of monetary funds to help sustain the wealth within the city. Because he was very business savvy, he imported logs into the city which he would then donate to create the first school in the area of Hialeah. 

In 1922, Mary Glick, a very influential woman came to Hialeah from Pittsburgh and began by opening the very first restaurant, hotel, and meat market in the neighborhood. Her hotel, Glick Hotel, was the first two story building in Hialeah which was very audacious during that time period. Even though she was not a very educated woman, she had a lot of grit and perseverance that allowed her to acquire properties and continuously contribute to the expansion of Hialeah which we know today. 

Similar to Glick, the first Cubans recorded in Hialeah came in the 1930’s and began their business ventures with little education and money. Nonetheless, they were able to found the first cigar company in the city and would be considered one of the “true pioneers”. 

In the 1960’s, during Fidel Castro’s revolution, many Cubans fled their homeland and arrived in Miami where they began buying properties in Hialeah. Today, 74% of the population of Hialeah is made up by Cubans. This percentage is equivalent to about 200 thousand people! Much like the Cubans, other Latin and Central American immigrants came to Hialeah escaping communism, civil wars, and violence within their countries. Though Hialeah is known for its high-density Cuban population, Hialeah houses a large number of Nicaraguan and Colombian citizens. 

As much as Hialeah is often overlooked, this city represents a place of ‘home’ for these people who fled their homelands in hopes for a better future. These are the kinds of people who helped pioneer the city and allowed it blossom into the magnificently diverse city it is today.

Demographics

The demographic recorded for Hialeah reported by Point2homes, 23% of the population is not US born and 77% of those people are not citizens of the United States. Additionally, StatisticalAtlas reported that over 90% of the population are Hispanic or Latino, leaving the rest to be split between White or Black Americans. Of these Hispanics, 74% are Cubans, making it the neighborhood with the highest percentage of Cuban-Americans in all of the United States. Next, Colombians are the second largest Hispanic community in Hialeah. Leaving Dominicans, Hondurans, and Nicaraguans make up the rest of the Hispanic communities that are found in the neighborhood. Consequentially, Hialeah is the neighborhood with the largest Non-White Population in all of Miami. 

Hialeah has a significantly higher female to male ratio, especially from the 50 to 85+ age cohorts. The neighborhood is also primarily made of older adults, resulting in the median age being 46, in the mid to late 40’s. 

Overall, about less than 30% of the population lives below the poverty line, making the median income $35,000 and the average income $49,000. In addition, the education statistics for Hialeah is approximately 63% of citizens having some to no high school education and the next majority having only some college education. Conversely, many of the demographic statistics do not consider the fact that many immigrants had prior education from their countries of origin. These statistics poorly reflect the education level of the residents because many started their own small businesses and other entrepreneurial ventures from prior experience. 

Since Hialeah is the most densely populated neighborhood in Miami, the primary mode of transportation is by car. This accurately justifies the large conglomeration of people and heavy congestion in the streets of the neighborhood.

Interview with Hialeah Resident:

Photo take of Adriana by Esmeralda Iyescas/ CC BY 4.0

Adriana is woman who was born and raised in Hialeah. She currently resides in the area Hialeah for about 40 years. I was able to interview her while we were waiting for our orders from the S & N Vegetable “ventanita” cafe.

E: Can you please give me a small introduction of yourself?

A: Hi, my name is Adriana. I am a Cuban-American in my mid 40s and have been born and raised in Hialeah.

E: What brought you to Hialeah?

A: My parents and grandparents were the first to come here on the Mariel Boatlift in the 80’s. They came escaping Cuba’s political oppressions.

E: Favorite thing about living in Hialeah?

A: I love the sense of community and culture we have in this city. We take care of each other and are always trying to better the city. This city is so friendly and welcoming to others.

E: Something you feel can be improved about Hialeah?

A: The local government, nonetheless, we are working on it as a community to make sure that local government take care of the residents of the area.

E: Any final thoughts or comments you would like to share?

A: I love Hialeah! This is my home, and it is a great place to raise a family. The local people are so loving and caring of each other. Hialeah is also a great place to start a business because this city is built on people fulfilling dreams and creating mom and pop shops.

Landmarks

Entrada Plaza Park

Photo taken by Esmeralda Iyescas of the Entrada Plaza Park in Hialeah/ CC BY 4.0

Hialeah’s Entrance Park is also known as the ‘Fountain of Hialeah’ because of the grandiose fountain that sits in front of the building. The landmark as a whole was created to welcome all who come and visit the great city of Hialeah. In the 1980s and 90s, the building stood alone and was made of coral. In 2005, The local government passed a 411-thousand-dollar budget for the restoration project that would renovate the façade of the building. The building was changed to look more Mediterranean in order to match the Hialeah’s theme of Mediterranean Revival which was used in founding Hialeah during the 1920s. 

I personally think that the flamingo on the fountain in addition to the Mediterranean revival style architecture is a beautiful landmark. It stands out and welcomes who enter the remarkable city of Hialeah.

Hialeah Park Racing & Casino

During 1926, a devastating hurricane swept the land of Hialeah and destroyed much of the work and infrastructure that Glick and Curtiss helped build. Later in 1931, one of the wealthiest families in America at the time, the Wideners, bought the destroyed racetrack Curtiss had built and reestablished the Hialeah Park we know today. Joseph Widener built the horse racing park using Mediterranean revival architecture styles and implementing the grandiose European staircase. Since he loved the sunny winters of Florida, he added Royal palm trees and flamingos to give it an exotic and tropical feel. This creation attracted a lot of attention from celebrities around the world and helped the city establish a reputation of wealth and fame. 

Joseph Widener brough over 2,000 works of art, that included Rembrandt, Vermeer, Renoir, Monet, and more. Unfortunately, masterpieces are now housed in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. 

The Hialeah Park lost much of its traction during the early 2000’s. This led the park to face great financial difficulties, but in 2009, the Hialeah Park was given a large sum of money to invest towards a restoration project. This project used a significant amount of the budget to implement a Casino which would render it to be very financially useful. 

The Hialeah Park Racing & Casino is significantly bigger in person!  I was surprised by how well kept the whole area was considering the vast number of acres is owned by the park and how big the casino is. The casino itself is truly magnificent because of the European-styled building which is complemented by the grandiose fountain at the entrance. The flora that surrounds is also very admirable because there were various species of plants and flowers that gave the Mediterranean style building a more tropical look. Personally, I think this casino is a must see if anyone visits Hialeah.

JFK Public Library

The JFK Public Library first opened its doors to the Hialeah residents during July of 1965. The reason for being constructed was because the Hialeah population was rapidly increasing; There was only one library, but it was being outgrown by the city. This library was created by a group of women in the 20’s that wanted to start their own book club. These women saw the value of having an institution that would offer book collections, host civic events, and encouragement of furthering their education in culture, arts, and a plethora of other subjects to the local residents.

The official creation of the building was when the first local library, Lua A. Curtiss Public Library, became much too small to serve the entire community. This resulted in the women wanting a dedicated building for the ever-growing committee of Hialeah. Luckily, they were able to restore a water tower and fire station in order to turn it into the JFK Public Library we know today. 

Though JFK Public Library was not the first one built in the city, it is now considered to be the only central branch, making it so that the others are only e-libraries. It has been the governing branch since 1965, during its inaugural welcome to the neighborhood.

One thing I personally love and admire about this public library are the murals that were added to the building during 2015-2017. I find that the murals add a lot of personality and vibrancy to the building, permitting it to stand out and admire it whenever you drive by it.

Green

Amelia Earhart Park

Amelia Earhart park is easily one of the largest parks in South Florida. The park has over 500 acres of land, 90 acres of lake, and 8 miles of mountain bike trials. With this much space, the park offers amenities and activities of all types for every age group to enjoy, which is unlike any park in Miami. The park offers water activities such as wakeboarding, paddle boarding, wake surfing, waterskiing, and more. For children, they have a gigantic playground and an animal farm where they can interact with all sorts of animals in a safe and controlled environment. The park also has a designated area reserved for dogs and their owners to enjoy called the “Bark Park”. The park is extensive, and the list could go on and on of activities for the public to enjoy. 

The park used to once pertain to the Naval Air Force Station in the early 1900s. Once the Naval Station was no longer in use, the park was transformed into the Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport. Since the Naval Air Station had an extensive amount of land, it was perfect for an Airport to be built. Several leaders from the community fought for part of the property. Their efforts were not fruitless because the Naval Air Station decided to donate half of the park to the city in order for a park to be built.  

Amelia Earhart was a famous female aviator who attempted to fly around the world. During 1937, she departed from Miami-Opa Locka Airport as her second and final attempt to fly around the world. In memory of her courageous and adventurous attempt, the park for the land was named after her in 1947. But the park itself officially opened its doors to the public in 1980.  

I would have to say that this park is by far one of the best parks I have ever visited! I am an avid park-goer and love the outdoors, so seeing everything this park had to offer was so crazy. If i lived closer to the area of Hialeah, I would definitely spend a lot of time at Amelia Earhart Park, but unfortunately, it is quite far from my place of residence. Nonetheless, I do highly recommend everyone to at least visit the park at least once because you truly will not be disappointed since they have something for everyone.

Babcock Park

Babcock Park was originally named Hunter Lyon park. Hunter Lyon was a very wealthy and influential man who had connections with Joseph Widener, the current owner of the race track at the time. Being the influential man that he was, Lyon founded one of the oldest community centers and parks in Hialeah in 1938. Later, the park was renamed Babcock because of a young marine named Benny Babcock who lost his life serving our country during World War II. The City of Hialeah made the change in 1940 and created a plaque that would commemorate all local residents who enlisted and were valiantly killed in action. 

Babcock park is particularly important to the Hialeah community because they were the first to implement a public swimming pool and now offer 7 baseball fields and tennis, racquetball, and basketball courts. Additionally, Babcock Park hosted many of the local school graduation and dances, as well as other types of personal ceremonies for the community since it is at the epicenter of Hialeah.

Milander Park

Milander Park was named after a Henry Milander who came to Hialeah in 1924 from Pennsylvania. When he arrived, he found Hialeah to be a land full of potential since it was all mostly farmland and empty land with a few thousand residents. After the infamous 1926 Hurricane, he opened up a small butcher shop and was known to generous by feeding the impoverished locals. Since he was creating this image for himself, in 1935, he ran for public office as Mayor of Hialeah. He would win 15 consecutive terms and be known as “The People’s Mayor” for all of his efforts to help Hialeah flourish.

Milander Park officially opened in 2013 and was named after Henry Milander since his beneficial impact on Hialeah. He also opened one of the largest Municipal Pools in 1959, which is still present today. The park offers a lot of amenities to the public but is particularly known for their football Stadium.

The park may not offer as many amenities as Amelia Earhart, but their football stadium, basketball fields, and indoor recreational center is astonishing. The entire vicinity is well kept and have round the clock employees making sure the park and its maintenance is up to standards.

Transportation

Miami is known to have a serious transportation issue due to the density of the city. In almost every neighborhood, throughout most of the day, the traffic is extremely heavy and the congestion within the streets is a literal nightmare. As previously mentioned throughout the report, Hialeah is the densest neighborhood in Miami, therefore, the traffic is particularly worse here. Hialeah unfortunately carries a bad reputation due to the poor drivers and the heavy congestion. The heavy traffic congestion is a result from poor public transportation.

Personal motorized vehicles

Photo taken by Esmeralda Iyescas of personal vehicles in Hialeah/ CC BY 4.0

Based on the statistics from Point2homes, over 94% of the residents in Hialeah rely on their cars as their primary method of transportation. Since almost all of the locals use their automobiles to get around the city, this causes a lot of traffic on the roads. Obviously, a personal vehicle offers more comfort, convivence, and reliability, but unfortunately, this is detrimental to the circulation issues we face and to the pollution that is emitted in the air.

When considering how widespread and large the city of Hialeah is compared to other neighborhoods in Miami, public transportation is not ideal for commuters because of the limited methods and stops available.

Metrobus

Photo taken by Esmeralda Iyescas of the public bus in Hialeah/ CC BY 4.0

The next popular means of transportation is bus. In Hialeah, a little more than 1% of the population relies on the public bus for transportation which is incredibly small. Unfortunately, the demands for public bus in this area is not present and I think is primarily due to the large concentration of people who prefer to commute via personal automobiles. It is important to mention that these statistics are not unusual because Miami is not known for having a reliable method of public transportation. Nonetheless, comparing these demographic statistics with other neighborhoods in Miami, Hialeah has a higher percentage of residents who use public bus.

Bike/ Walking

Photo taken by Esmeralda Iyescas of a biker in Hialeah/ CC BY 4.0

In the City of Hialeah, commuting via. bus and bike or walking are approximately equivalent. I happened to notice that there were a lot more bike riders than pedestrians. However, with the Florida heat and the sun blaring most of the year, it is completely reasonable to not have as many pedestrians compared to bikers. In addition, the layout of Hialeah makes it really difficult to commute as a pedestrian or a biker because it is far spread. The small percentage of bikers and pedestrians is ultimately a lack of public transportation in the city.

Eateries

Charlie Ice Cream

Photo taken by Esmeralda Iyescas of Charlie’s Ice Cream in Hialeah/ CC BY4.0

Charlie’s Ice Cream is located on 510 Hialeah Dr, which is a very historic strip in Hialeah. Hialeah Dr was filled with shopping centers and businesses during the 40’s and 50’s, which is quite impressive when considering that Miami was still in a development phase during that time. This location was built in 1952 and has gone unchanged since then. For that reason, Charlie’s Ice Cream stands out among the rest of the shops and businesses in the area because it was built during a different time period where the culture was dramatically different.

Initially, the building was built for Dairy Queen, another ice cream shop, and the business had a lot of success until it shut down in the late 90’s early 2000s. The building went abandoned and unoccupied until Charlie’s Ice Cream took over in 2015 and is ran by a family who are locals to the Hialeah community. They decided to leave the building as it was because they appreciated the history of the location and building. The ice cream parlor is still currently run by the same family and take pride in serving delicious ice cream at very affordable prices.

I had the pistachio ice cream in a waffle cone, and I will just say… It was the best ice cream I have had in a really long time. The flavor and creaminess of the ice cream was out of this world, plus there was whole pieces of pistachio, which I personally really enjoyed. The waffle cone was also really nice because it was crunchy and super tasty. I would recommend this small ice cream parlor to anyone who visits Hialeah.

Los Tres Monitos

Photo take by Esmeralda Iyescas of Los Tres Monitos Bakery in Hialeah/ CC BY 4.0

Los Tres Monitos translates to “the three monkeys” in English from Spanish. This is an authentic Colombian bakery that was founded in 1979. It is one of the first and oldest Colombian bakeries in Hialeah. The reason why the bakery is called “Los Tres Monitos” is because it was originally founded by three Colombian brothers. The original family opened the bakery because they wanted to share their traditional Colombian pastries and treats with the community. Like the Cubans, many Colombians fled their homeland because of political reasons and to escape the violence and crime occurring as a result of the drug cartels.

After having owned the bakery for 27 years, the original family finally sold the bakery several years ago to a Colombian man in order to retire. The new owner has to uphold the same quality of food and service that was originally brought by the three brothers.

I tried a “pan de bono”, a typical Colombian bread that is primarily made of the cassava root and cheese. I was able to pan de bono which was pretty good. It is safe to assume many people also find the baked goods to be delicious considering they were almost sold out on most of their breads and pastries.

S & N Vegetable

S & N Vegetables is a little hole-in-the-wall or “ventanita” styled cafe located in Hialeah. Ventanita comes from the word “ventana” in Spanish meaning window. The concept for these styled cafes is where people can get down and quickly order without having to enter the establishment. S & N Vegetables was founded in 1982 and is still currently owned and operated by the Alvisa family. Like Adriana’s family, the young woman that I interviewed, the Alvisa family came to Hialeah on the Mariel boatlift escaping their oppressive political regimes. After arriving, the Alvisa family began selling fruits and vegetables at the local Hialeah flea market until they saved up $1800 dollars to begin their business venture. The family created a successful establishment that has allowed them to serve Hialeah’s local community for over 30 years! 

S & N Vegetables has created itself quite an iconic reputation for selling the freshest juices and shakes because is known as “El Mejor Batido de Hialeah” meaning “Hialeah’s best shakes”. All the local Hialeah residents seem to agree because when I entered the cafe to order my own shake, every single person had at least one shake in their hands (I am quite literally not exaggerating). 

I ordered their best seller shake, “batido de Mamey”, and it was by far the best shake I have had in a long time! The only real competition I feel S & N Vegetables has in regard to shakes is Robert Is Here Fruit Stand, located in Homestead. Nevertheless, I would recommend to everyone that they try at least a shake from S & N Vegetables because the shake was very affordable, and the freshness and quality is unlike any other. 

Businesses

Morro Castle

Morro Castle is one of the oldest establishments that is still open today and is currently ran by the same original owners. I had the privilege of meeting and speaking to the owner of Morro Castle and learned a lot about the history of Hialeah and his personal establishment.

The owner came from Cuban with his brothers because their business was being halted from the corruption and socialist political system. They left everything behind and took their previous experience to start fresh and attempt at opening new businesses in the States. They officially opened several establishments during the early 60s and their business ventures were rendering to be quite successful. Unfortunately, the other brothers ended up selling their establishments and this is the only one remaining from their family. Nevertheless, he takes pride in serving the community authentic Cuban food at affordable prices.

I asked him why he chose to name the restaurant Morro Castle, and he replied that it is one of the most beautiful and remarkable landmarks in Cuba with a lot of rich history. He further explained that many Cubans love the Morro Castle and he wanted to give the locals a beautiful reminder of their homeland which they cherish deeply.

I tried the “frita” which is a typical Cuban dish that is similar to an American hamburger. The frita is Cuban-styled burger that can be made with ground beef patty, pork, chorizo, or a combination of the three. The frita also differs from traditional American burgers because it has sautéed onions and is topped with the signature shoestring potato fries. That is the reason why it is called frita, which means fried in Spanish, is because of the shoestring potatoes fries. This really differentiates it from a traditional burger and gives it its iconic taste like no other.

Ñooo Que Barato

Ñooo Que Barato loosely translates to English from Spanish as”No way, so cheap”. The reason for this is because Ñooo Que Barato literally sells anything you can possibly fathom at ridiculously low prices. This small owned shop is located in a warehouse corner on W 23rd St and W 12th Ave. The Blanco family opened this store in 1996 and still currently own and operate it.

In 1967, Mr. Serafin Blanco came to this country alone at the age of 16 and began working in a textile factory. While working in the factory, he observed the growing Cuban community in Hialeah and wondered why nobody was making clothes for these people. He saved money and in 1992 he opened a little store that was tailored specifically for the Cuban community. Only a couple of years after opening his small store, the “Balsero” crisis broke out, which essentially the largest emigration of Cubans fleeing their country and arriving to the United States. With this surge of Cuban immigrants, Mr. Blanco seized the opportunity and saw the potential for an expansion on his small store. That is when he finally opened Ñooo Que Barato which is now an iconic establishment within the local Hialeah community.

La Viña Aragon

Photo taken by Esmeralda Iyescas of La Viña Aragon in Hialeah/ CC BY 4.0

La Viña Aragon, like many of the other small business in Hialeah, was founded in the early 80’s since the Cuban owners came via the Mariel boatlift. It is currently still owned by the same family and specialize in serving authentic Cuban homestyle food. The restaurant has a lot of similarities with the other small owned businesses in the area because of their “ventanita”, classic cuban dishes, and taking cash as their form only of payment. The restaurant is located on the corner of W 8th Ave and 81st St. The little restaurant can be easily missed because it is tucked away in a little local shopping center, but to the local residents, this cafe stands out from the crowd. Some of the regular locals argue that La Viña Aragon sell the best “pan con vaca frita” or “pan con bistec” sandwiches in all of Hialeah. These typical Cuban sandwiches consist of either shredded meat or a beef steak in between a piece of Cuban bread that is generous smeared with mayo and topped with potato sticks, lettuce, and tomatoes.

I ordered their last piece of fried pork belly or “chicharron” which I found to be absolutely delicious. The meat was soft and tender and gave me very Homestyle cuisine vibes. While I was observing the indoor portion of the cafe, I happened to notice that nearly everyone was eating some form of sandwich accompanied with either a “Cafecito” or fresh juice. One of the last things that I was able to appreciate and admire was the college degree that was hung proudly at the entrance of their establishment. Though the owners fled their homeland and did not arrive to Hialeah with much, they have been able to get an education and start a very successful business with a lot of hard work and determination.

Summary

Photo taken by Esmeralda Iyescas of the Lua A. Curtiss Branch Library and Hialeah Police Department in Hialeah/ CC BY 4.0

Hialeah is a neighborhood that is definitely underrated and overlooked. Though it may appear to be dominated by the Cuban culture, there is a wide array of other cultures that come together to give it that sense of “Latin community”. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize those brave Cubans who chose to flee their country and start a new here in Miami because they are the reason why Hialeah has been able to flourish into the beautiful city that it is today. I was pleasantly surprised to find a neighborhood that is flooded with so many small and family-owned businesses. I think this is one of the main reasons why Hialeah has such a strong sense of community and why all the residents are helpful and friendly. Though Miami is known for the outrageous parties on the beach and the boisterous nightclubs, it is also home to many immigrants who helped shape and cultivate this city to be accepting of all the different cultures and ethnicities.

Citations

https://hialeahparkcasino.com/about/history

https://www.facebook.com/hialeahlove1925/?ref=page_internal

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_E._Widener

https://statisticalatlas.com/county-subdivision/Florida/Miami-Dade-County/Hialeah/Race-and-Ethnicity

https://www.point2homes.com/US/Neighborhood/FL/Hialeah-Demographics.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hialeah,_Florida#Demographics

https://www.hialeahfl.gov/740/Milander-Park

Esmeralda Iyescas: Miami Service Project 2021

Photo taken by Esmeralda Iyescas at Chicken Key/ CC BY 4.0

STUDENT BIO

My name is Esmeralda Iyescas and I’m in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in Information technology from Florida International university. Aside from technology, some of my other interests include gardening, paining, volunteering, swimming, and reading.

WHO

For my service-learning community service hours, I volunteered for two beach cleanups located in south Florida. The first location I volunteered at was at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park located in Key Biscayne, Florida. Bill Baggs is a local park that is protected and ran by the State of Florida. The second location where I volunteered at was at Chicken Key, an island off the coast of the Deering Estate located on the Biscayne Bay. I volunteered for this clean up with several students from the FIU Honors college. Professor John Bailly was kind enough to extend an invitation to an initiative he organized to cleanup Chicken Key.

WHY

Though I am a computer major, I have many outside hobbies that have influenced my passion to keeping the environment clean. On my free time, I swim, fish, jog, bike, play tennis, paint, and volunteer. If not all, most of these activities I do outside, and while performing these hobbies, I noticed how much more polluted our environment has gotten with time. I hate seeing people litter and my community being scattered with trash. For this reason, I have learned how my contribution to my community is very important through volunteer service.

I really love Miami and all that it has to offer, but one thing I wish was improved was our pollution crisis. Even though it is a crisis that affects the world-wide globe, keeping our city clean is the start to creating a more sustainable way of life. I will continue to participate in volunteer opportunities in the South Miami/ South Florida area as often as I can because I know that even the small efforts make a big change in the long run. I encourage my friends and peers to also take the time to find opportunities to clean up our planet because this way of life is not sustainable for a healthy future.

HOW

Currently, community service opportunities have been rather limited due to the fact we are still in a pandemic and adapting to the changes. With that being said, beach cleanups have been one of the few volunteering opportunities that are still mostly available for locals since it does not interfere with the COVID-19 pandemic CDC guideless that include social distancing and the mandatory use of a facial mask.

Bill Baggs Cape Florida Park:

For last semester’s service project, I had reached out to Park Ranger Shane Zigler for any volunteer opportunities that may be offered through the park. He was very kind in welcoming me to the park and offering me several hours of community service for cleaning up the park and the beach. This semester, I reached out to Park Ranger Zigler again and decided to host my own event. I contacted about 40 members from the Tau Sigma Honors Society and relayed the community service opportunity to them. Fortunately, I was able to get about half join me in serving Bill Baggs Park for a beach cleanup on March 13th, 2021.

Chicken Key:

Professor Bailly organized a beach cleanup for the Chicken Key island and asked my Miami in Miami class if anyone was willing to participate in the event. Since I had enjoyed the last Chicken Key clean up so much, I jumped on the opportunity and relayed my interest in attending. Luckily, I was able to be one of the few students from my class to participate in the clean up on April 17th, 2021.

WHERE & WHAT

Bill Baggs Cape Florida Park:
Photo taken by Esmeralda Iyescas at Bill Baggs Cape Florida Park/ CC BY 4.0

Since I was organizing the event, I had all the attendees meet me in the Key Biscayne park, Bill Baggs. Once all the attendees arrived, we were split up into small groups of 2 so that we could cover the entire island and abide by the CDC social distancing guidelines.

I paired up with my friend and we started collecting trash around the parking lots because many people litter there. Once we had cleaned up the entire parking lot section, we moved up towards the fishing pier. As many times as I have volunteered and been a visitor at Bill Baggs, I was never aware they had a fishing pier for the visitors. Though the fishing pier was a refreshing little discovery, it was unfortunate to see how littered the pier was with fishing line, plastic bait, and empty beer cans. I obviously picked up the trash that was scattered in the vicinity but also encouraged the fishermen to dispose of their garbage in a respectful manner and use the trash cans that are meticulously placed around the park to facilitate proper disposal.

I continued to pick up trash through one of the walking/biking trails located in the far end of the island. I noticed that there were a lot of empty bottles and potato chip bags scattered within the bushes and plants. It was truly disheartening having to pick up that much trash from our local park as a result of people not caring for the environment.

In the picture above, you can see that I have a one-gallon plastic pail, I filled about 3 of those within the span of 2 hours. I felt extremely satisfying picking up that much trash, but on the same note, I was absolutely devastated that there was that much trash scattered around the island. It was even sadder to realize that Park Ranger Zigler and his team, and all the weekly volunteers, are caught in an unfortunate endless cycle of picking up after inconsiderate people. 

Chicken Key:

On April 17th, 2021, I arrived at the Deering Estate and met up with Professor Bailly and the rest of the FIU Honors students. Professor Bailly paired us into a group and reminded us all of the safety precautions and rules once for canoeing. We then got ready to leave from the Deering Estate to the Chicken Key island on our canoes. Though the day was absolutely beautiful, and the weather was perfect, there were some rather strong currents in the Bay that made canoeing to the key a little tough. Nonetheless, we were able to stop and see the mangroves and spotted some osprey and pelicans on our way to the key.

As my partner, Lorena, and I were trying to maneuver the canoe towards the island, we saw a lot of coastal debris such as pallets, rope, and large chunks of plastic. This was less debris than my previous times attending the Chicken Key cleanup, so made me very hopeful that perhaps there would be less trash on the island too.

Upon arrival, I noticed that indeed there was less trash on the coast but as I walked around the island, it was still heavily polluted. One of the biggest problems with the plastic debris that with time, they break apart into smaller pieces and form microplastics.  This is extremely detrimental for the surrounding wildlife and the overall marine ecosystem. Luckily, as we walked around the island picking up trash, I was able to collect a good amount of microplastics and larger pieces of plastics too.

As we collected trash and filled our trash bags, we started loading them onto the canoes. The trash bags and other larger pieces of trash quickly accumulated to large piles of litter on our canoes. It brings me much joy to know that the island is significantly cleaner when we leave because it reminds me how impactful our contributions are to the environment.

Once we left the island, I could quite literally see the difference we made because the island was significantly cleaner than when we arrived. It brought me a lot of joy to see the students padding away from the island with canoes full of trash and our contributions for the day resulted in a close to immaculate little key.

When

Screenshot of the hours completed and approved from the MyHonors website

SUMMARY

Photo taken by Lorena Cuenca of Esmeralda Iyescas / CC BY 4.0

This semester, my community service only consisted of beach clean ups around the Miami area. I would generally prefer a little diversity in the volunteer opportunities but taking into consideration the limitations set by the pandemic, I am grateful I was able to participate in an in-person volunteer event. 

Frankly, I found it baffling that even with all the restrictions placed upon us due to the pandemic, the quantity of trash is the same if not more. I wish the culprits would understand the detrimental effects these small actions of littering have on our environment. Personally, serving for my community always reminds me how humbling the experience is because one quickly realizes how each decision, we make affects the world around us. For example, in Miami, we have a very serious pollution crisis, and I have observed that a significant number of people ignore the current environmental crisis. On the other hand, I am grateful for the individuals who recognize this problem and who are willing to dedicate a couple of hours of their time to volunteer and contribute towards a solution.

These experiences and opportunities have allowed me to learn and grow, and I will help inform and educate other people on the environmental crisis. I will make it my duty to keep volunteering and aiding my community in any way possible because I really care and love my city and this earth. We had a common responsibility to maintain this earth clean and healthy, if we work together, we can accomplish our environmental goals.

Esmeralda Iyescas: Miami Service Project 2020

STUDENT BIO

My name is Esmeralda Iyescas and I in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in Information technology from Florida International university. Aside from technology, some of my other interests include gardening, paining, volunteering, swimming, and reading.

WHO

For my service learning community service hours, I volunteered at various beaches and parks located in south Florida. The first location I volunteered at was Pinetree Park in Miami Beach for Clean Miami Beach, which is a nonprofit organization that is committed to cleaning up the environment to make life more sustainable. Next, I volunteered at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park located in Key Biscayne, Florida. Following this was another clean up at Chicken Key where my Honors class and I helped pick up trash. Professor John Bailly kindly took the initiative to organize the cleanup for his entire Miami in Miami class. Lastly, I volunteered at the Bakehouse Art Complex in Wynwood, which was also organized by Professor John Bailly for his Honors class.

WHY

Since I was a little girl, my mother always emphasized the value of volunteering and how my contribution to my community is very important. This mentality was instilled at a very young age, so I have had the pleasure of volunteering at countless different events throughout my lifetime. That being said, none of the places where I volunteered pertained to my major, instead pertained to a subject that I care deeply about. I often find myself looking for volunteer opportunities that will positively impact the environment because it is a topic that is of great interest to me. In addition, many of the volunteer opportunities in the south Miami/ south Florida area are often on the environmental spectrum because we are greatly impacted by the pollution crisis.

HOW

Pinetree Park:

I saw there was various openings for Miami Beach cleanups, but due to the corona virus pandemic, the spots were extra limited and filled up rather quickly. I took the initiate to contact Sophie Ringel, the founder and executive director of Clean Miami Beach. The fantastic woman that she is found an opening for me. I was able to participate and join their cleanup for 2 hours at Pinetree Park in Miami Beach, Florida.  On September 26th, 2020, I drove up to the park and collaborated with other volunteers to clean up the park that had not been clean for several months due to the pandemic.

Bill Baggs Cape Florida Park:

The next volunteer opportunity was a cleanup at at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Pre-pandemic, I would visit the park often with friends and family because I enjoyed spending time outdoors and by the local lighthouse. I had contacted Shane Zigler, Park Specialist and Volunteer Coordinator, multiple times about volunteering at the park, but unfortunately Covid made it very difficult for me to find an opening. Luckily, Shane Zigler never forgot about me and reached out when a couple spots opened.  On October 10th, I seized the opportunity and spent my Saturday morning cleaning up trash from the Biscayne coast. For two hours, I walked up and down the coast and around the park cleaning up the area and enjoying the beautiful outdoors.

Chicken Key:

On October 14th, 2020, Professor John Bailly organized a cleanup for our Miami in Miami Honors class. We all met up at the Deering Estate Park and prepared for our adventure to Chicken Key Island. We teamed up in groups of two and paddled out of the Deering Estate in our rented canoes.

Bakehouse Art Complex:

On October 28th, 2020, Professor John Bailly had us meet him and the rest of the class at the Bakehouse Art Complex in Wynwood, Florida for another volunteer opportunity. At the Art Complex, we helped assist a young artist, Lauren Shapiro, on her art endeavor. We would spend our class time learning about the purpose of her project and ways we can aid her.

WHERE & WHAT

Pinetree Park:
Photo taken by Esmeralda Iyescas at Pinetree Park/ CC BY 4.0

On Saturday September 26th, 2020, I arrived to Pinetree Park and signed in with the volunteer coordinator to get my shirt and a bucket for the event. The founder of Clean Miami Beach, Sophie Ringel, explained to us the kind of trash that is typically found on the particular coast and the importance of trying to remove as much as week could during out allotted time.

While I was picking up trash during my 2 hours, I was taken back by the amount of trash that covered the area. I picked up microplastics, bottles, nets, and even tires from the park. The volunteer coordinators were keeping track and weighing the trash that everyone was brining in order to be compared at the end. I went to dump out my bucket several times and by the end of the 2 hours, I had picked up about 50 pounds of trash. All the volunteers collectively collected 600 pounds of trash. I was in absolute awe when I saw how much trash had be collected after the two hours. That experienced allowed me to see the reality we are living in and how the amount of trash that is found on our coastal waters is destroying our environment.

Bill Baggs Cape Florida Park:

On Saturday October 10th, 2020, I had the privilege of volunteering at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park and met a very nice gentleman by the same of Shane Zigler. He is a state park ranger who is also in charge of coordinating all the volunteer services for Bill Baggs. He gave me a bucked to collect my trash and I began by the lighthouse and worked way down the beach. The people who pollute the area really disgusted me because I had to pick up several bottled of urine, dirty pampers, used and dirty underwear, and syringes. As I was working my way down the beach, I could not believe that the trash kept going, it truly felt endless. I decided to work my way up once I almost reached the end of the beach and some visitors really broke my heart. They were sitting by the beach and discarding their trash behind them or hiding it under the sand. Upon viewing that, I felt utterly repulsed how a family could be so carless about the earth and teaching this to their children. I respectfully asked them if they would give me their trash instead of littering, but seeing that really had me lose a bit of faith in my community.

After I had completed my service, I asked him a series of questions about the cleanup and how our contributions impacted the park. Zigler went on to mention how the pandemic had been a blessing in disguise for the park because they needed to shut down for a couple months and that helped bring the ecosystem back to healthier standard while also improving the quality of life to the animals and plants. Since there were no visitors, there was a significant reduction in trash and pollution along the coast. On the other hand, since there were visitors allowed, that meant volunteers were also not allowed to come either. And even though there was no direct pollution happening, Zigler mentioned that there was still a large amount of trash in the ocean and would end up along the shore. This meant the rangers had to pick up trash on their own and it was a lot of work for such a small group of employees. Upon learning this, I realized how important and valued our contributions were to the environment and to the employees.

Chicken Key:

On Wednesday October 14th, 2020, Professor John Bailly had us meet at the Deering Estate to pickup trash from Chicken Key. We got into groups of two and paddled on our rented canoes out to the Chicken Key island. Once we arrived to the island, we secured our canoes and began filling up our bags with the trash that covered the area. For such a small piece of land, there was an impressive amount of trash. We very quickly filled up all our trash bags and our canoes, with a ton of trash still remaining on the island. The problem we face with pollution and littering is when it gets discarded incorrectly, it will make its way into the environment and destroys the natural habitats. I saw examples of this with the hermit carbs, pieces of plastic would be buried in their holes or they would get stuck in plastic bottles. Fortunately, I did not see many dead fish but in other parts of Miami, wildlife is constantly dying from the pollution.

Bakehouse Art Complex:
Photo taken by Esmeralda Iyescas at the Bakehouse Art Complex/ CC BY 4.0

On Wednesday October 28th, 2020, we met Professor John Bailly at the Bakehouse Art Complex to help out a local artist, Lauren Shapiro, with her art project. Upon arrival, we were welcomed into her studio and she began by introducing herself and the purpose of her project. The medium she was working with was clay and great amounts of it.

Lauren showed us how to make the clay molds and how to apply it onto her wooden blocks. What I did appreciate about her art endeavor was that she allowed us to place it however and get creative with the project. Her idea of a community project really took life and allowed her project to really blossom. I enjoyed the collaborative efforts I made with my classmates to help Ms. Shapiro complete her project.

WHEN

Screenshot of the hours completed and approved from the MyHonors website

SUMMARY

Most of my community service hours consist of beach and parks clean ups around Miami because I care deeply about the environment and my community.

Frankly, I found all the experiences to be really humbling because I realized the notable impact each volunteer has on our pollution crisis. I also noted how easy most people dismiss the current environmental issue that we are all faced with. In addition, I noticed that there is a small group of people who are willing to dedicate a couple of hours of their time to volunteering in their community.

These experiences and opportunities have allowed me to learn and grow, and I will help inform and educate other people on the environmental crisis. I will make it my duty to keep volunteering and aiding my community in anyway possible because I really care and love my city and this earth. We had a common responsibility to maintain this earth clean and healthy, if we work together we can accomplish our environmental goals.

Esmeralda Iyescas: Little Havana 2020

Photo of Esmeralda Iyescas by Martin Gutierrez/ CC BY 4.0

Student Bio

Howdy! My name is Esmeralda Iyescas and I currently am a senior at Florida International University Honors College, majoring in Information Technology. Though I am a STEM major, I love the arts, cuisine, literature, and learning about new cultures. I was born and raised in Miami, Florida but my background is Franco-Nicaraguan. Prior to taking Miami in Miami, I would liked to have considered myself as someone who was familiar with their hometown, but I soon realized, there is much of Miami that I took for granted. There is a rich history and many stories that come to life when you uncover Miami’s past. Part of my mission to reconnect with Miami, I chose to learn and research Little Havana since its a neighborhood I am not familiar with. Nonetheless, I spent a lot of time in the area to discover its history and beauty.

Geography

https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?msa=0&hl=en&ie=UTF8&t=m&source=embed&ll=25.776714658214757%2C-80.21865542614171&spn=0.023188%2C0.055619&mid=1LUDCsFcpnInX6frTNyxOvO86CT8&z=14

Little Havana, also known as La Pequena Havana, is a neighborhood located in North-East Miami. This area of Miami is also referred to as Calle Ocho since many of its famous landmarks can be found along this strip. Little Havana has an elevation of 10 feet above sea level which is approximately a 4 feet difference from the average elevation for Miami. To the left of Little Havana is West Flagler and to the right is Riverside and Downtown. The neighborhoods like West Flagler, Fountainbleau, or Westchester that are all located west of Little Havana are other areas in Miami whose populations are primarily made up by the Latin community.

Little Havana is split up into three sections, East Little Havana, Central Little Havana, and East Little Havana.

History

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Photo of a house in Little Havana by Marcella Norambuena/ CC BY 4.0

Little Havana originally was a prominent Jewish and Greek neighborhood but around the late 1950s through mid 1960s, Cuban immigrants began moving into the area. They slowly started incorporating their culture to the neighborhood changing the dynamic. Since the community did not want to lose the Cuban and Latin culture, they decided to create a “Latin Quarter” to diversify the city.

There was a problem with Little Havana, the architecture did not reflect the prominent Cuban culture. Renovations were done and began adding palm trees and building homes and businesses with Mediterranean and Spanish influences (like the photo shown above.) In addition, they made 9th street through 1st street look like a typical Havana neighborhood.

With all the renovations and Cuban immigrants, they began opening mom-and-pop shops and other businesses to allow the neighborhood to blossom. A notable difference from the shops in Little Havana from other parts of Miami at the time was that the owners were only Spanish speaking. Many did not learn the language and created a prominently Spanish speaking community where all the immigrants could feel at home.

The City of Miami recognized Little Havana as a culturally rich neighborhood and in order to preserve the changed they created guideless for new business in the area. The guidelines entailed having new buildings to match the Mediterranean and Spanish architecture and to incorporate culturally relevant and accurate renovations. In addtion, the City would held provide funding and find grants for these changes to be done to Little Havana. An example of these renocations was the murals and other art works that were added to the McDonalds located on 8th Street and 14th Ave.

Photo taken by Esmeralda Iyescas of McDonalds on 8th Street/ CC BY 4.0

Demographics

The demographic recorded Point2homes 75% of the population is not US born and 42% of those people are not citizens of the United States. In addition, nearly 90% of the residents are Hispanic or Latino and the rest consisting of Black Americans or Non-Hispanic White according to the StatisticalAtlas. The 90% is majority Cuban followed by Nicaraguans and Hondurans. The median age is 43 and the population is evenly split between females and males.

The median household income is $27,000 and the average household income being $41,000. It is important to note that the average household has three people. The education statistics for Little Havana almost 50% of citizens having some high school education and the next majority having no high school education. This reflects how the majority of occupations in Little Havana begin with construction and facilities.

Little Havana is the first most populated neighborhood and the second most dense neighborhood in Miami. This would explain the large conglomeration of people and heavy congestion in the streets of the neighborhood.

Interview with Little Havana Resident:

Photo of Valerie taken by Esmeralda Iyescas/ CC BY 4.0

Valerie is currently a student with a part time job at Azucar. She lives in the area and has lived there her entire life. I spoke with Valerie in order to get information on Little Havana that I would not have been able to Google.

E: Can you please give me a small introduction of yourself?

V: I am a student, I have been working here (at Azucar) for about a year and half, and consider myself outgoing and bubbly.

E: What brought you to Little Havana?

V: My grandparents were the first ones to come from Cuba. And they have been here ever since.

E: How would you describe Little Havana?

V: Very friendly, you see new people everyday, the area is very diverse and cultural.

E: Favorite thing about living in Little Havana?

V: I was raised here and so the locals know each other and will greet one another everyday. Everyone is always so friendly and makes it enjoyable to live in the area.

Landmarks

Ladies in White:

Photo taken by Esmeralda Iyescas of the Ladies in White mural in Little Havana/ CC BY 4.0

Ladies in white is a mural that was painted by a young artist local artist, Daniel Fila. He created this mural to tribute a non-violent movement that started in Cuba during the early 2000s. The movement was called “Damas de Blanco” (or Ladies in White) because after 75 women were arrested in Havana, Cuba for publicly challenging the Cuban government, other women supports would dress in all white each Sunday to march down the streets of Havana. The artist wanted to recognize the brave women who fought and encouraged respect for all human rights. The freedom we may take for granted is one that must be fought for in places such as Cuba, where voices are silenced and oppressed.

J.W. Warner House:

Photo taken by Esmeralda Iyescas of the J.W. Warner House in Little Havana/ CC BY 4.0

The J.W. Warner House is the only location that has been added to the “U.S. National Register of Historical Places” in Little Havana. The house was recognized as a historical place because it was built in 1912 and was built with primarily a neoclassical style with subtle but different architectural accents. In addition to its architecture, the house is also recognized because continues to stand tall over century later. The reason for this because during the original construction in 1906, a hurricane that hit and the Warmers decided to reinforce the wood with concrete.

James Warner came to Miami with a passion for flowers and as an employee for Flagler. James Warner’s wife, Susan, loved flowers and started to make floral arrangements for close family and friend. Quickly, her little endeavor blossomed into a successful business, the Miami Floral Company.

Cubaocho Museum:

The Cubaocho museum embodies everything Cuban — art, mojitos, live music, cigars, and lively night ambience. Upon entering the museum, your eyes cannot help but bounce across the room because since there is so much to see, it is hard to focus on only one item. There is a lot of truly magnificent pieces of art and furniture in the museum. The bartender notified me that every single item in the museum is for sale. Remember: “Everything has a price”.

The Cubaocho museum starts to become alive towards the evening and stays open all through the night. The owners wanted to introduce a very typical Cuban nightlife to Miami, where people from all ages can come and enjoy a couple drinks with live music and cigar to top off the night. Even for those who may not be interested in drinking, smoking, or lively music, the art works that is housed within the museum is worth admiration. The murals that surround the premise are also decorated to promote Cuban culture and Cuban artists from the local community.

Plaza De La Cubanidad:

Photo taken by Martin Gutierrez of Plaza de la Cubanidad in Little Havana/ CC BY 4.0

Plaza de la Cubanidad uses Spanish wordplay by combining the two words “Cuban” and “comunidad” (which means community) to come to “Cubanidad”. La Plaza de la Cubanidad stands at the center of Little Havana greeting all the visitors and residents who pass the intersection on West Flagler Street and NW 17th AVE. The landmark is symbolic to Cuban culture because it acts as small centre and memorial to remember and recognize Cuban refugees who died trying to escape their homeland. The small mural reminds us how fortunate we, Americans, are to live freely in a country and leave at free will without risk of being killed.    

Green

Bay of Pigs Memorial Park:

The Bay of Pigs Memorial Park was created to recognized the brave soldiers that died during the Bay of Pigs invasion. The Bay of Pigs invasion occurred because the United States wanted to help Cuban exiles overthrow Fidel Castro’s regime. The Cubans who opposed Fidel Castro’s revolution were trying attempting to take back Cuba from the hands of their oppressor. Many young men lost their lives or were imprisoned from the invasion. Since the invasion was hosted by the United States in collaboration with Cuba, Little Havana decided to create a monument to commemorate the brave efforts from the valiant soldiers.

The Kapok tree that is depicted in the fourth picture, is very important to the park because to the Afro-Cuban culture, the tree is considered as sacred. The tree is considered sacred because it was said that they housed the spirts of their ancestors. The kapok tree is used an alter for the Santeria belief. The Santeria believers will use the tree to offer fruits and other items to the gods.

Photo taken by Esmeralda Iyescas of the Domino Park walkway in Little Havana/ CC BY 4.0

Domino Park or Maximo Gomez Park is located in the center of the 8th street strip in Little Havana. It was constructed in 1976 and has thrived since its opening. The park is primarily occupied as a social spot for retired Cuban locals to socialize and talk about politics while they play dominoes with a cafecito on the side. Domino park is unfortunately closed to the current pandemic but otherwise, this area would be filled from dawn until dusk.

Jose Marti Park

Jose Marti Park is a park that is located on the most eastern part of Little Havana that runs along the Miami River. The park is named after Jose Marti who was a very famous Cuban poet who encouraged Cubans to rebel against the repressive regime. He spread his democratic and freedom oriented ideologies.

Something I appreciate greatly about the park is the mural they have on one of the children’s section is a mural with a very famous quote that says “Los ninos son la esperanza del mundo” or “Children are the hope of the world.” It is a very beautiful quote that was taken from a piece of poetry that Jose Marti wrote.

Transportation

The city of Miami has been known to have a big transportation issue considering its density. Therefore, Miami suffers from a lot of congestion and heavy traffic most of day, which makes transportation by automobile difficult. Being that Calle Ocho (8th street) is located in Little Havana, this makes transportation particularly more difficult and less effective. Public transportation has been a growing issue for Miami and affects most neighborhoods in the city due to its limitations. For example, considering Little Havana’s geographical location, the Metrorail goes around the neighborhood, making it out of reach for the residents there. The nearest stop is Coconut Grove station if coming from the south, but coming from the west there are more options, but nonetheless, all being rather from the neighborhood.

Trolley/ Metrobus

Photo taken by Esmeralda Iyescas of the Trolley passing through 8th Street in Little Havana/ CC BY 4.0

The next option the residents have for public transportation is between the Metrobus and a trolley that passes through the area. The trolley route that is designed specifically for the Little Havana neighborhoods only loops around 1st street and 8th street. The reason for this design is because the concentration of tourists and businesses are along these two streets making the trolley most effective for these two strips. On the other hand, the Metrobus has many different lines that connect with each other, and that stop at different Metrorail stations. The only downside is the traffic slows down the efficiency of the transportation, but at least the options are available for the residents of the neighborhood.

Personal motorized vehicles

Photo taken by Esmeralda Iyescas of scooters parked on 8th Street in central Little Havana/ CC BY 4.0

The other option for transportation is of private means, automobiles, motorized bikes, scooters, ect. These means for transportation are used much more around and in the neighborhood because of convenience, comfort, and efficiency. According the the reported demographics for Little Havana, personal cars are the most popular and most used form of transportation.

Scooters and other small vehicles makes transportation ideal in Little Havana because the streets are narrow and constantly packed. Manuevering the steets in a smaller vehicle permits easier parking and facilities commutes during times of high congestion.

Walking/ Biking

The last transportation option is biking and walking. This form of transportation is less ideal in this part of Miami because the Little Havana is widespread and covers a large surface area. The demographics show that walking and biking is one of the smallest forms of transportation when compared to commuting by car or bus/trolley.

Eateries

Azucar, otherwise known as Sugar in English, is an artisan ice cream parlor located on Little Havana’s 8th street strip. The owners were inspired by Miami’s diverse cultures and wanted to represent it in their ice cream boutique. South Florida is like their parlor that many different flavors have come together harmoniously regardless of the different background and cultures. Azucar is a beautiful ice cream boutique that has incorporated the Latin culture flawlessly. Upon walking in, you notice their cushions are made from the guayaberas that are very prominent in Cuban cultures (picture shown above). Next, their flavors options are widespread and named after famous American and Latin Stars, different Spanish colloquial sayings or common Spanish exotic fruits. I must say, I am not a big fan of sweet treats, but the ice cream served at Azucar is top-notch. I was blown away by the freshness of the ice cream! I would recommend it to any local or tourist that has the opportunity of taking a small trip to Little Havana.

Versailles Restaurant Cuban Cuisine:  

Photo taken by Esmeralda Iyescas inside the Versailles Restaurant in Little Havana/ CC BY 4.0

Versailles Restaurant is one of Miami’s most popular restaurants since it was built during an important time for Cubans. The restaurant was built in 1971, making it one of the oldest Cuban restaurants in the country. In addition to old, the Cubans found Versailles to be a safe place because it was said to be where Cuban exiles convened to discuss Cuba’s regime and political leader, Fidel Castro. However, Versailles is meant to be a take on the Palace of Versailles in France.

Dude to the current pandemic, I decided to eat outside so I was not able to appreciate the interior design and decorations of the restaurant. I did however, go inside once before leaving, and I must say that the restaurant is impressive. The area that particularly caught my attention was hall whose walls were covered in mirrors and the ceiling had a row of chandeliers. It reminded me much of the Hall of Mirrors at the original royal Palace of Versailles which had a whopping 357 mirrors!

La Esquina de la Fama:

La Esquina de la Fama translates to “Corner of Fame” in English. This restaurant reminds me much of the Cubaocho Museum because of the historical new clippings and the manner in which it is decorated on the inside. When walking into the restaurant, it felt much like walking into a museum because I could see and feel the Cuban presence. There is a famous culinary tour guide in Miami hosted by Grace Della and she takes locals and tourist around Little Havana to show them the Latin Quarter. One of the places where she religiously stops for an empanada on her tours is La Esquina de la Fama. I can personally say that their empanadas were to die for. It was truly one of the best fried empanadas I have had in a very long time. In addition, their ham croquetta was probably the best I have ever had in my life. I could genuinely taste the ham and the balance between crispness and softness was beautiful.

Businesses

Cuba Tobacco Cigar Co:

Cuba Tobacco Cigar Company was the first cigar shop to open in Little Havana over 40 years ago. The cigars are made the same way as they did when the business first opened. I spoke with one of the knowledgeable employees of this cigar shop, and he informed me that they used the same tobacco leaves, which originated in Nicaragua. Each cigar is hand rolled with care and packaged to sell.  The cigars range from $2-$400 depending on what you are looking for.

Los Pinarenos, Fruteria:

Photo taken by Esmeralda Iyescas of a fruit market stand at Los Pinarenos/ CC BY 4.0

Los Pinarenos Fruteria is an outdoor market that sells fresh fruits, grains, and vegetables that are not found commonly in traditional supermarkets. Like many other shops in Little Havana, this market is a genuine mom-and-pop shop that has been around for more than 50 years! In this fruit market, the owners are very adamant about only selling fresh fruits and vegetables that (if possible) are grown and harvested locally.  In addition, they sell many fruits and items that would be typically bought in a fruit market in Cuba, making it easy for residents to continue cooking authentic Cuban cuisine at home.

Union Beer Store:

Union Beer Store is a small mom-and-pop shop where they sell exclusive craft beers. I had the pleasure of meeting David, the founder and owner of the store, and he shared how dedicated they are in only serving the best craft beers in town. Many of the beers they sell are brewed locally in order to help support the breweries in the community. Due to the pandemic, they have expanded their beer bar to include an outdoor seating area that truly is enjoyable. Though our current health and social circumstances have impeded sales and traffic, the quality of beer severed along with the ambiance makes it a one-of-a-kind experience!

Summary

Photo taken by Marcella Norambuena of the “Welcome to Little Havana” mural in Little Havana/ CC BY 4.0

Little Havana is a very rich neighborhood with a lot of history and Latin flavor. Walking the streets of Little Havana after learning about Cuba and Miami’s history enriched my experience and allowed me to admire Cuban and Latin culture. I would most definitely recommend any local or tourist to visit Little Havana. Though Miami is known for the beaches and the lively nightlife, Miami should be recognized more often for the important cultural influences that have given by the immigrants who reshaped the city.

I think everyone should pay a visit to Little Havana because it really is unlike any neighborhood in Miami!

Citations

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“Ladies in White.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 29 July 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ladies_in_White.

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

“Little Havana.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 5 Oct. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Havana.

“Little Havana Topo Map in Miami-Dade.” TopoZone, 23 Dec. 2015, www.topozone.com/florida/miami-dade-fl/city/little-havana.

Martinez, Nicole. “Behind the Legacy of Little Havana’s Cuba Tobacco Cigar Co. in Miami.” Culture Trip, The Culture Trip, 9 Aug. 2019, theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/florida/articles/little-havana-and-the-cuba-tobacco-cigar-factory/.

“Miami’s Cuban Cuisine Palace.” Versailles. 18 Oct. 2012. Web. 12 Dec. 2020.

“Race and Ethnicity in Little Havana, Miami, Florida (Neighborhood).” The Demographic Statistical Atlas of the United States – Statistical Atlas, statisticalatlas.com/neighborhood/Florida/Miami/Little-Havana/Race-and-Ethnicity.

Rupersburg, |By Nicole. “Don’t Call It Graffiti: Daniel Fila Is a Professional Fine Artist Who Paints Murals All over Miami.” Creative Exchange. 29 July 2016. Web. 12 Dec. 2020.

Whitefield, Mimi. “Cuba’s Ladies in White Win $250,000 Prize for Advancing Liberty.” Miamiherald. Miami Herald, 18 May 2018. Web.

Wikipedia contributors. “List of Neighborhoods in Miami.” Wikipedia, 31 Oct. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_neighborhoods_in_Miami#/media/File:Miami_neighborhoodsmap.png.

Esmeralda Iyescas: Miami as Text 2020-2021

Esmeralda Iyescas in front of the Brouwerij ‘t IJ brewery windmill in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Photo by E Iyescas/Iyescas Media

Esmeralda Iyescas is a senior at Florida International University (FIU) and is working on finishing a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology. She recently transferred from Miami Dade College and joined the Honors College at FIU. Ideally, she would like to continue studying for her Master’s Degree and upon finishing, would like to leave to France to internship or work in the cybersecurity sector. Academics aside, Esmeralda loves acquiring new hobbies but her favorites remain: painting, embroidering, swimming, biking, fishing, and traveling. She is very excited to further knowledge of Miami and learn about the treasures this beauty holds.

Deering as Text

Photo by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“The beauty hidden in the city”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Deering Estate, 2 September 2020

The Deering Estate located in Cutler Bay was a park I was familiar with because I had visited the park several times before. The times that I have visited the Estate, I would come with a friend to appreciate the natural scenery and get inspiration for our paintings, or to simply enjoy the outdoor environment.

Professor Bailly started to unravel the history that lied where I was standing and soon after revealed the beauty the hid behind the locked gates. Upon entering the gates, I quickly came to realize that I never truthfully knew The Deering Estate. This includes but is not limited to: the native trees, such as the Gumbo Limbo, different types of plants found on the premises, the use for the shells and the importance it held to the native folks in the past.

 I would like to consider myself as an “outdoorsy” kind of person, but after walking through the Estate, it felt as if we had walked out of Miami. As we hiked through the nature trail and learned about the area, I began to realize this was no ordinary hike. Being that Professor Bailly is an artist, he sees the world much different than the ordinary person. He shared with us his creative insights and many I found to be very creative. There was one of his comments that particularly resonated with me. It was a large piece of limestone that was sticking out from one of the sides. This particular formation of limestone seemed to be eroded from the bottom, so it was slightly hovering over the water, and on the top was little tree stems beginning to grow. I remember Professor Bailly pointing out this structure and commenting how he perceived it almost like table and sitting on top was the little plant.

This comment made me think back to all my past painting dates and how there was a time where I, similarly, saw the world with a more creative perspective but seemed to have lost it with time. In addition, to being very meaningful to me, it made me want to gain back this creative vision I seem to have forgotten.

South Beach as Text

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“Ignorance: Bliss or destruction? ”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at South Beach, 16 September 2020

South Beach to most is simply the area where the beach is located, and where the city comes to life at night with all the neon lights. This is not false, though there is so much more to be appreciated about South Beach than the superficial façade that is made up bars and restaurants that line up against strip or the artificial sand everyone believes to be natural.

South Beach, otherwise, originally known as Ocean Beach, is culturally diverse and this is displayed all throughout the area. The first hotel, Browns Hotel, was built in 1915 and preserved its original all-American Wild West style. On the other hand, we have a more modern style, Miami Modern Architecture (MiMo), which consists of playful, glamours, repetitive designs that do not always make sense. MiMo plays with Bauhaus elements and use different tiles, textures, materials, and concepts to create a fun and unique style for building structures. The next style is very common and popular among the Miami culture, Mediterranean Revival. These influences are seen across neighborhoods and are currently being implemented into modern living. This style is a mélange of Spanish, French, Italian, and Arabic architecture. There are two very famous monuments that brought Mediterranean revival into South Beach: Espanola Way, and The Villa Casa Casuarina (AKA Versace Mansion).  Lasty, Art Deco, the style of architecture that is most associated with Miami Beach. Art Deco is short for Art Decoratifs, a primarily a French style of art. Art Deco uses natural elements to create designs using industrial materials. Buildings resemble that of a toaster or a microwave, mixed with natural and flora elements, and additionally adopted influences from around the world. The influences that are often recognized are Egyptian, consisting of the flat topology and 2-D reliefs, and the use geometric shapes and pastel hues. Art Deco admired the Mayan and used ziggurats on the top of buildings, giving it a staircase apperance. The Egyptian and Greco-Romans also used geometric shapes and reliefs to embellish the buildings which is similarly seen among the Art Deco structures in South Beach.

I have been to South Beach more times than I can count, and I never once noticed these diverse cultural elements on the Art Deco structures. Many of these buildings and monuments I had briefly looked at but never gave them second thoughts. After learning about the different styles and cultures, it brought a deeper appreciation for the area and the preservation of history. South Beach is full of rich history that is presented right in front of us, but the lack of education and curiosity allows us to live in ignorance. There are uneducated people who do not care to preserve South Beach’s history, this ignorance is destructive and dangerous to the culture, art, and history of the city. Fortunately, there were people like Barbara Baer Capitman who fought to support the preservation South Beach’s history, those are the true heroes allowing me to share my discovery today.

Downtown Miami as Text

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

Dade – A dark past”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Downtown, 30 September 2020

Dade County, also more commonly known as Miami-Dade County. I have lived in Miami-Dade County for over 21 years and having received education from Miami-Dade public schools system all my life, I was never taught the significance of the name Dade and why we name an entire county after this person. If we named our entire county in honour of this man, why had I never heard of it earlier?

American Army Major Francis Langhorne Dade partook and was one of the men who lead an important battle in south Florida. This battle was against the native people of the area, the Seminoles. The battle was also known as the “Dade Massacre.” Dade’s ultimate goal was to arrest and kill as many Seminole’s as possible in order to take over ownership of the land, what we present day call Miami. Dade attempted to kill the Seminole Indians but instead was ambushed; the majority of the soldiers he led into battle we killed, including himself. They began to see his actions as heroic and honored him by naming this county after him.
When I heard of this story, it absolutely baffled me how quickly they were willing to honor a man that tried to exterminate the native Americas of their land. I truly appreciate and love this county, and have volunteered and dedicated time, effort, and care to preserving it. After finding out the true history that behind the name Dade, I feel a bit disappointed how this man was praised over his inhumane actions.
Miami-Dade used to symbolize a name of safety, love, and most importantly a sense of home and community. But now as I walk around Miami, continue to see Dade stamped on all public schools, transportation means, buildings, ect,
I now see a county that terrorized the native Seminole Indian’s home in attempt to claim ownership of the land. Miami is one of the most culturally diverse cities I know. Having spent the entirety of my life here, I know that Miami accepts everyone and invites them to share their cultural differences. It is ironic that Miami’s largest and Florida’s third largest county is named after a man who was supporting and leading a genocide, when the majority of Miami’s population are immigrants. How the times really do change.

Chicken Key as Text

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“Cleaning up our beaches – A global effort”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Chicken Key, 14th October 2020

The cinematic industry has explored the idea of “What if a person arrived to a remote island?” The famous movie Cast Away and TV series Lost, have both explored this idea extensively. Wednesday morning, our class took canoes from the Deering Estate and paddled to the remote island off the peninsula called Chicken Key. One thing I found to be inaccurate about these movies was how clean and well-kept the islands were always portrayed in the cinema.

As my partner and I were paddling towards Chicken Key, the view was particularly admirable. The mangroves surrounding the island were thriving and full of life, the seabed was filled with its natural flora, and there was an abundance of sea animals in the vicinity. I imagined that is what Miami originally looked like to Carl Fisher before he remodeled the area and wiped it of its natural beauty. As we approached our destination, we could not help but notice all the trash that surrounded the key and has accumulated over time. It was heartbreaking to see how our lack of care for the environmental is having secondary effects on the surrounding areas. Though the island is remote and is not visited very frequently, it is indirectly being polluted from the trash that escapes In order to remedy our inconsideration for the environment, we had made it our goal to fill our canoes with as much trash as possible, and dispose of it appropriately.

After a couple of hours of being on the island and appreciating what the land had to offer, we started to collect trash, and the canoes filled up much quicker than I would have expected. Though we removed a significant amount of trash from the island, there was still an astounding amount that remained there.

I am very proud of my classmates and myself for the effort we made that day to remove trash from Chicken Key. It was a collaborative effort that could not have been as successful alone. We all were able to appreciate the key and learn from this experience. The environment needs to be treasured and treated with respect in order to maintain and preserve the area.

Bakehouse as Text

Photo by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“Art that resembles reality”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Bakehouse Art Complex, 28th October 2020

Bakehouse Art Complex used to legitimately be a bakery back in the 1980’s. Since then, the complex space was repurposed as a studio for local artists. One of the local artist who occupies the space is Lauren Shapiro. This young local artist is currently working on an art project whose main goal is to bring awareness on the destruction of our natural coral reefs.

Lauren Shapiro’s art project is consisted of layering clay molds of coral reefs and other natural life that is found on or around the reefs. Even though she will be using clay as the medium for the project, she will not be cooking the clay like traditional methods. Instead, she plans on letting the clay air dry. There are two main reasons for not cooking the clay. When cooking clay, carbon is being emitted into the environment, which is a major factor in global warming. Lauren explained that there as different methods of cooking clay, but all result in the release of carbon emissions. Secondly, when clay is not cooked, it falls apart by breaking down into smaller pieces and eventually turning into dust. This is what makes her art conceptually beautiful, like the air-dried clay, the literal coral reefs are falling apart and dying. Through her art, she is able to show her audience what is literally happening to our coral reefs and the effects that we have had on the environment. Her art project speaks in volumes and is conceptually a very important subject.

I have a lot of appreciation for this art project and for Ms. Shapiro because she has received help from her community in order to complete this project for her art exhibition. She explained to me that as an artist it is really hard to let go of control. There is a level of meticulousness and strive for perfection that cannot be achieve when not being fully in control and contribution help from other people. Nonetheless, she was able to put those feelings aside and embrace the help and the specs of individualism each person adds to the artwork. Like the community contribution Lauren has received, global warming is a change that affects every individual on this planet and will require a group effort in order to make positive change and reverse some of the negative effects.

Rubell as Text

Artwork: Two Cells with Circulating Conduit by Peter Halley at Rubell Museum
Photo by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“How artists communicate through art”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Rubell Museum, 18th November 2020

Located close to the center of Allapattah, there is a quite new contemporary museum that houses many thought provoking artworks. Myself and several people close to me were surprised to find a museum in Allapattah. Nonetheless, the museum is located in a warehouse but has been decorated and remodeled to give it a very eloquent and prestigious feel.

As we were beginning our tour of the museum, I remember Professor Bailly saying along the lines of “art should send a message not simply took beautiful. Art should be judged on how well the message is being communicated rather than its appearance and that contemporary art sends a plethora of messages to the viewer.” I kept thinking about this throughout our walk because people are usually taught to appreciate art for its appearance, not for the meaning behind the art work.

As I keep Professor Bailly’s words close, I see a painting that really captured my undivided attention, Two Cells with Circulating Conduit by Peter Halley. The painting is nothing more than a few geometric shapes on a canvas, but symbolically, the painting is much more complex. Professor Bailly explained that the artist, Peter Halley, wanted to represent the New York lifestyle in a painting. The way he chose to express this was with two squares on either end of the canvas and a circulating conduit connecting the two squares or “cells.” Through this simple painting, Halley wanted to show depict life, how we are naturally creatures of habit and always find ourselves in this endless routine. We rarely ever deviate from our routines which consist of moving from one cell to the other, endlessly.

I found that particular piece to be almost poetic, to the naked eye, it seems like a nontechnical almost boring painting, but after learning about the artist and the message he was trying to communicate, the symbolism is represented beautifully.

Another artist who was present at Rubell and does a phenomenal job at sending messages through their art is Keith Harring and Tschabalala Self. Both artists use their platform to be able to spread positive or eye-opening and thought provoking truths.

All in all, the Rubell Museum houses many art pieces that forces people to think about the reality we live in. Some art pieces present a more negative message than others, but nonetheless, they are truths we are must accept. I have to admit, the Rubell Museum is by far my new favorite Museum in Miami. I am very thankful for the Rubell’s for sharing their private art collection with the public because I was introduced to many new artists that I have a newfound admiration for.

Everglades as Text

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“The Everglades is not a swamp”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Everglades National Park, 20th January 2021

On Wednesday January 20th, 2021, Professor Bailly teamed up with Park Ranger Dillion to take us through the Everglades. Whenever I mention to my family or friends that I was going to be slogging, they asked curiously if I was going to pick up and collect slugs. I quickly realized this is not an activity that is often done regardless whether you’ve been born and raised in Miami or you’re visiting for the first time. In addition people have this instilled fear that going into the water at the Everglades is equivalent to a death sentence (asking to be attacked by a gator.) The experience could not be further from the opposite of their exceptions. 

The Everglades National Park is an area I am very familiar with but this experience allowed me to experience the park in a whole new and unique way. Upon going into the water and adjusting quickly to the chilled water, it was quite exciting. We followed Ranger Dillion and Professor Bailly for most of the trip. There was a brief portion where I deviated from the rest to explore the uncharted territory and experience the slogging for myself. I found myself absolutely loving the peace and calmness. The water was stunning, reflecting the nature around it, I couldn’t believe how clear and mirror-like the water was! There were moments where I was surround by the water, entirely alone, but silence was hard to find. You could faintly hear the bird and other animals that inhabited the area (no gators unfortunately). For a very short moment, I was a state of complete and utter tranquility.

I found the whole trip to be very humbling. We were so insignificant to the vast space that surrounded us! I also realized during the trip how much I changed from when I first took this class until now. I have gained a new perspective on so many parts of Miami (including the Everglades) which has allowed me to embrace everything around me.

Wynwood as Text

Artwork: Geheimnis der Farne by Anselm Kiefer at The Margulies Collection at the WAREhOUSE
Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“The Theory of Alchemy: Lead will turn into gold”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at The Margulies Collection at the WAREhOUSE, 3rd February 2021

Wynwood is an area in northern Miami that has been immersed to a lot of cultural changes. Martin Z. Margulies is one of the first to have his private collection of art on display for the public in this area. He and many others who followed, revitalized the contemporary art movement, and allowed for art to be exposed and been seen by the public. 

The Margulies Collection is a host of many different genres of art and is displayed in a fashion that is interactive with the visitor. He began his tour with Suga, a Japanese’s artist that inspired the Mono-ha art movement, which was radical at the time because it was about impermanence. The art was primarily based on feeling, how one felt towards the object, versus the object itself. I found this style of art to be very impactful because it reminded me much of conceptual art which is one of my preferred.

 Mr. Margulies introduced us to his vast Anselm Kiefer collection which was utterly astonishing. Considering how recognized and decorated Kiefer is in the art community, it was shocking to see so many of his installations and art pieces in one gallery. “Die Erdzeitalder”, Ages of the Word, is the name of one of two the art works that resonated with me from Kiefer because he made the sculpture from old canvases, dead sunflowers, lead books, and rubble. The artwork is said to feel dystopian and post-apocalyptic, yet I felt the complete opposite. I found hope in his art sculpture because of the old and never finished canvases he used. I used to paint quite frequently myself, and I too have many old and never finished pieces of art that I consider trash, but Kiefer allowed me to reflect on those never finished pieces and see that perhaps they are not trash though they may feel like so. He turned old, weathered down art materials into a powerful and conceptual sculpture that is admired by the millions of fans.

Lastly, the second Kiefer work that took my breath away was his “Geheimnis der Farne” or The Secret of the Ferns. The installation is comprised of 48 paintings and 2 concrete structures each weighing about 45-50 thousand pounds! Mr. Margulies explained that Kiefer grew up in Germany post-WW2, therefore, the country that he was raised in was all rubble and destruction. His artworks reflect the decimated landscape and the loneliness that followed the war. Nevertheless, he knew that with time the ferns would blossom again. In his paintings, we see the use of broken terra cotta to represent the broken land and the withered down concrete structures were symbolic of the breakage of the playgrounds he never had. I found this aspect of his work to be very deep and absolutely beautiful. The theme that is constantly displayed in his artworks, is the theory of alchemy. Alchemy is the idea that there will be change and transformation of matter. Mr. Margulies said it best, “Lead will turn into gold or silver, at least in his mind,” this quote stayed with me throughout the remainder of the tour because the depth and emotion that can be felt through Anselm Kiefer’s work is entirely profound and personal.

Bill Baggs as Text

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

Bill Baggs: Savior of the barrier island known as Key Biscayne

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, 17th February 2021

Bill Baggs State Park, a place that holds many of my fondest memories, I was sadden realize I was compeletely uneducated on the hsitory that the island holds. As we started walking through Avenue of the Palms, it was clear to me, I really did not know this park at all.

Bill Baggs was a very influential man who worked for the Miami Newspaper, served in the WWII and was nominated for Nobel Prize for his efforts to stop the Vietnam War, and advocated for the preservation of natural landscapes. With his efforts to save Key Biscayne, he got Elena Santeiro Garcia to purchase the land and allowed for restoration of the park. This was the start of many other restoration projects that took place in Bill Baggs.

One restoration project that stood out to me in particular took place in 1992 right after Hurricane Andrew wiped the island of all the invasive Australian Pine Trees. They took advantage of the situation and decided to remove any exotic and invasive plants and trees and replace with native ones. This restoration project would permit the island to return to its original natural vegetative state. Though coconut palm trees can still be found around of the island and is an iconic staple to Miami’s image, I was surprised to learn that the coconut palm tree is in fact not native to Miami at all. The coconut palm tree is actually native to the Indian ocean and not the Atlantic ocean. Similarly, the citrus trees are a product from the Caribbean Islands. Bahamians brought them to Miami to plant and harvest when ready. Ironic how some of the major icons of Miami are not even native to its location.

This trip, like most of the ones I have taken in this class, taught me about the true history of Miami. I have come to notice that the majority of the history that is taught is whitewashed and always portray the wrong people as heroes. Time and time again, the original founders and inhabitants of the land get stripped of their rights and territory, while portraying them in history as the criminals. I deeply admire Bill Baggs State Park for their informational panels that are located around the park describing history as it happened, not encouraging the distribution of misinformation.

River of Grass as Text

Photos by John Bailly/CC BY 4.0

Carpe diem

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Everglades National Park, 4th March 2021

This is our second time going attending class at the Everglades National Park, but I have visited the park dozens of times on my spare time. I will say, this most recent experience at the Everglades really left me in awe.

Ranger Dillion and Professor Bailly began by educating us on the history of the Everglades and the drastic changes it has gone through throughout the span of five thousands of years. It was shocking to me that the Everglades was once all pine but with the sea level rise, the ecosystem transformed and adapted to the changes. Next, farmers attempted to use the land for farming, but the conditions did not permit for this venture to be successful. Later, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Everglades was used as a military installation where the missiles would be housed as a first line of defense to protect our capital.

Though learning about the in-depth history of the Everglades was very interesting, what I found to be so exciting was hiking though the water that was about knee level and finding ourselves completely alone in the acres of land. It was so peaceful to not hear the constant honking and blaring of cars. The only noises you could hear were from the birds and the slashing of water. It truly felt like we had time traveled and we were able to experience Miami in its original from. We were able to see wood storks, turkey vultures, American white ibis, and several other birds, which was truly a sight like no other.

The journey was not done yet and the best was yet to come. A couple of us were able to experience the sunset in the middle of the Everglades. I had never seen a more beautiful sunset in my life! The way the colors changed as the sun progressively descended were surreal, it seemed like a painting from a world-renowned artist. At that moment, it felt almost euphoric, as if I were on top of the world! I am grateful I was able to take this class, but more so, during this pandemic. Professor Bailly said it best, during this pandemic, it seems like we have forgotten the concept of time since we are locked indoors, but if we make the most of our time, we can create unforgettable memories that will be forever cherished.

Frost as Text

Artwork: Chronicle of a Flower num.6 by Roberto Obregón at the Frost Art Museum FIU
Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

A man and his rose

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at the Patricia & Philip Frost Art Museum FIU, 17th March 2021

Before attending this class session, I was unfamiliar with the Frost Museum at FIU. Though the museum is relatively small and located on campus, it houses over 6,500 pieces of art. Since the museums is located on a state campus, the art is more conservative and encounters more conflict with balancing subjects and controversies that will attract students and handing the artistic controversies appropriately. The exhibitions we visited we not controversial but nonetheless, very interesting. My personal favorite was the Roberto Obregon Archive exhibition because it gave me a whole new perspective to museum and the importance of curation.

Roberto Obregon was a Venezuelan artist who truly loved and appreciated very aspect of the rose. He would “dissect” or remove the petals and take the rose entirely apart and intensely study each individual piece. He would study and keep notes of his rose observations because this would turn out to be a 30-year project. What I appreciated about Obregon’s was that he would only work with a specific set number of roses and instead focus on the process of repetition. The reason for the repetition and the dissection was because he compared uniqueness of each petal like a fingerprint. Every single petal independent from each other but together come in unison to form a beautiful flower.

I truly felt enrapture by Roberto Obregon’s exhibition, I imagined if I were in his position and a curator organized an exhibition without me being able to have any say. I have visited many different exhibitions in the past, but I never thought about the relationship between the artist and the curator. For example, when attended class at the Locust Project, a local Art gallery, and met with the artist Mette Tommerup where she was able to curate her own exhibition. For that reason, she was in total control of how the art is arranged, therefore, she decided what message her exhibition would to portray to the public. Personally, I would feel very uncomfortable being a late artist and having a curator arrange an exhibition for my work. As I mentioned, I was enraptured by exhibition, but I felt this deep connection with his work of art, beyond anything what words can describe. And I had never heard of Obregon or seen his art before our class, but that connection gave me an intuition that perhaps this was not how he would have wanted his art to be displayed. Nonetheless, the curators organized the exhibition in a manner that exemplified his passion for the rose beautifully.

I really appreciated this exhibition because I was able learn about a new artist but also learned about museum curation and the impact it has on the art displayed. This class outing gave me a new found the hard work that goes into museum curation.  

Coral Gables as Text

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

It only takes a man with a plan

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at the Biltmore Hotel Miami Coral Gables, 31st March 2021

Considering I once used to live in the area and have spent a lot of my time visiting and getting to know the city, I was never aware of the history. I have come to realize that most people who live in the area and in overall Miami, are also not educated on the history. Nevertheless, there is a museum in Coral Gables dedicated to educating the residents and visitors of the history of how this city came to be. During our visit, I learned about the significance of the Merrick family and their contributions to the development of the area.  

Coral Gables has a rich history because the development and vision came from a very important man, George Merrick.  Merrick poured his heart and soul into the vision and development of Coral Gables because he literally turned a plot of land into the beautiful Mediterranean styled city. Ironically, he did not visit any of the Mediterranean countries, but instead was inspired by writing and by his single visit to Mexico. The Merrick Family was considerably wealthy at the time and started using the local resources to create more income. They began buying land that was originally the back country of Coconut Grove and started creating a small empire.

When George Merrick started envisioning Coral Gables, he was greatly inspired by the Mediterranean Revival styled architecture. That is one of the biggest implementations that is still clearly visible today. He also loved the grand entrances that are found in Europe, therefore, he incorporated four of them with the coral rock. They are located on Ponce, Alhambra, Granada, and El Prado. Another implementation that Merrick had created was having no building structure higher than 3 stories. Unfortunately, commercial buildings have disregarded his visions and created sky scrappers which is detrimental and problematic to preserving the identity and culture heritage he created. Fortunately, today we can still see many of the original buildings and great architectural landmarks. Perhaps the most recognized building created by the Merrick’s would have to be the Biltmore Hotel.

The Biltmore Hotel is grandiose in every aspect and every square in of the hotel is breathtaking. George Merrick incorporated Mediterranean Revival, Romanesque, Moorish, and Rococo aesthetics while balancing it with tropical styles, permitting for the vision to fit the Miami lifestyle perfectly. The diversity reflected is timeless and represents well the history of Miami.

Vizcaya as Text

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“j’ai dit” – J.D

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Vizcaya, 14th April 2021

I will be frank in saying that I used to think Vizcaya was overrated and was nice but there was better. After having learned about the Deering brothers and their impact on Miami’s history during this class, I realized that Vizcaya is oppositely highly underrated!

James Deering was very much in love with the Mediterranean Revival the and European styles of architecture and décor. From that admiration, he gathered inspiration for his dream house that would be built on Biscayne Bay. Therefore, two years prior to the commencement of Vizcaya’s construction in 1912, James Deering and Paul Chalfin, the interior designer of Vizcaya, toured many European countries and began purchasing art works, sculptures, tapestries, and ect. to bring back to the villa. Once the construction was completed in 1916, Chalfin used all the things they had collected from their European tour to furnish and decorate the villa. Since they had used so many authentic pieces from Europe, the estate is incredibly remarkable and truly breath taking.

Aside from all the European art and architecture that inspired James Deering, there was one Roman god that really embodied his personality, Bacchus. Bacchus was the Roman god of wine and ecstasy; James Deering similarly lived a hedonistic life by enjoying each day and living life to the fullest. James was known for having a cigarette in one hand and a glass of whiskey in another. He also was also known for the extravagant parties he would throw in his villa or one of the many yachts that he owned. The hedonistic way of living was the only way of living for James Deering, and I truly believe he is the founder of the iconic Miami image of “party capital”.

One thing I absolutely loved about him was the fact that he created this villa where he was playing the role of God. Moreover, in the villa there is a stainless window that faces east, the direction from where the sun rises, and at the top of the window, there are the words “j’ai dit”. The words are not bolded, there are rather subtle and could be easily missed. “J’ai dit” is french for “I said” or “I have spoken”, which plays on his wanting to be a God. The words “j’ai dit” also sounds like his initials “J. D” in English, which I think is an incredibly clever play on words that really underappreciated.

James Deering created the villa to act as a temple of pleasure and it resonated with his pompous character. He was instilled this “personality trait” to Miami which is very much still present today.

I really appreciated the fact that we started this class by learning and uncovering the history of Miami through the Deering Estate owned by Charles Deering and ending the class with his brother James Deering.

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