Francisco Fuertes: Ida España 2022

Photograph taken by J.C. Diaz/CC by 4.0

Francisco Fuertes is currently a junior in FIU majoring in chemistry. Always having a curiosity for the human body, he plans to attend medical school after obtaining his degree. He was born in Miami, Florida, and has a strong connection to the Dominican Republic where his family moved from. On his free time, Francisco likes to learn and experience new things, such as different cultures, languages, cuisines, and many more.

The Ida y Vuelta Journey of Literature between Spain and the Americas

In 1492, Christopher Columbus with his crew of explorers uncovered a land unbeknownst to the European countries of the time. With a population of Indigenous people already having found a home for themselves and their families in these vast lands, the Europeans sadly conquered, killed, and destroyed many of these tribes along with their homes. With this distasteful way of acting, however, there quickly became an exchange between both the Indigenous inhabitants and their European conquerors. These exchanges expanded to everything such as food, clothing, dance, and other cultural phenomena that are still prevalent. One of these exchanges that is forgotten is literature. For this discussion, literature will be considered any written work available to the public. This holds true for fiction, non-fiction, public journals, etc. How has literature been affected in both the Americas and Spain after the first interaction between these cultures? Literature has affected both Spain and the Americas with their language, and the genres they write.

Learning New Languages

Before Columbus and his crew set their eyes on shore, there were groups of natives that were residing deep into the land and its surroundings. They had created their own way of living unrelated to the Europeans, just as the Europeans created their own way of living. For Spain, literature was something that already began, as there were many works of poetry and other writings. In addition, with the invention of the printing press in the 1400s, this would make literature more accessible, causing for an increase in literacy, and also, future writers. In the Americas, this was not the case. Although they did have things such as religious stories, prayers, and rituals, they did not have any written works. This caused all of it to be transmitted orally (Echevarría). With this knowledge, it can be inferred that the first known case of literature in the Americas was brought by the Europeans.

One obvious, yet important aspect of the Ida y Vuelta of literature is language. In the Americas, there are many countries such as Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela that speak Spanish. This is due to the vast land conquered by Spain and the communities they created as a result. So, the first transfer of literature was through Spain and into the Americas by first giving the areas a language to write with. However, it is important to remember that these Indigenous tribes already had their own languages. Because of this, the Spanish language had to evolve. This is what causes people in Mexico to speak differently that people in Colombia, for example. In other words, the language that was brought across sea will soon form different accents and phrases. Also, due to this exchange of cultures, the land and the tribes gifted their own words to the language. Important words we use daily, such as papa, tomate, and huracán  were gifted to this beautiful language (Indigenous words in the Spanish language). Not only was this important for the growth of Spanish literature, but it was an advancement of the language as a whole. It must also be seen that the “discovery” of the Americas itself led to a change in Spanish literature. The loggings and journals of explorers on expeditions is a good example. Now, Spanish writers and explorers who had seen the Americas could write about it and create a bizarre grey area of fiction and non-fiction. As the readers have never been exposed to an avocado, or a potato, or a jaguar, they are now exposed to it through literature.

The Origins of the Spanish Novel

Moving along through time, Spain was having its fair share of writers. An important reaction that occurred in Spain was the commencement of the modern novel. This seems to have come about through a style of writing known as the picaresque novel. This way of writing depicts the story of a protagonist that has to undergo a set of adventures. This protagonist is characterized by his/her rogue nature, as denoted by the Spanish word picaro. The first story to come out of this genre was a piece of writing by the title El Lazarillo de Tormes. Written by an anonymous author, the unique protagonist captivated the reader and many future writers. Arguably the most important work to come out of this movement was by a man named Miguel de Cervantes. Published in 1605, Don Quixote has now become a Spanish must-read, and is a novel taught in Spanish-speaking countries and classes all over the world. Interestingly, this work of writing has even been called “…the prototype of the modern novel” (Gomez et al.).

Magical Realism in Latin America

With the emergence of the picaresque novel in Spain, this would lead to not only literary changes in its native country, but in other countries as well. When Spanish literature is brought up, Cervantes may be thought of. This is not the case for the Americas, more specifically, Latin America. Something needed to change, and it did. A definitively Latin American style of writing is magical realism, or realismo magico in Spanish. Compared to Cervantes and the other works that have been explained, this genre is very contemporary. There have been many authors in this genre from Latin America. For example, there are countless writers, one such author being Isabel Allende, but nobody holds the magical power that Colombia’s Gabriel García Márquez was able to capture in his stories. Although he has had many respected novels such as El amor en los tiempos del cólera and El general en su laberinto, the novel that garnered him and the genre of magical realism the most fame was Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude).

Photograph taken by Francisco Fuertes of Cien años de soledad (English translation)/CC by 4.0

Telling the story of a fictional town Macondo, the reader lives through the tribulations of the founder José Arcadio Buendía and his descendants. Many examples of magical realism can be taken from this novel, such as the insomnia disease that infects the whole town, ghosts who come and interact with the characters, and gypsies who come to town to display the newest technology they have found throughout the world.

What is most interesting about this genre is why it has become what it is today. A unique aspect of Latin America compared to Spain is its Indigenous background. This background is rooted in many paganistic religions and myths. In comparison during the Colombian exchange, Europe was Christian. Magical Realism, in a sense, is Latin America’s renaissance and acceptance of their culture. It is a symbol of its past that was taken away from by the Spaniards. According to John Green on this matter,

And literary critics have argued that integrating the logic of the visible world with magical elements provides a way for writers from colonized parts of the world to make sense of multiple realities. It allows writers to tell stories from the perspective of both the colonizer and the colonized.

John Green – Crashcourse

To me, this is a way for the writers to come to terms with the world that they were given. Why do countries decide to colonize? Is Spanish rule actually over, or will they always be a part of us? Also, not to forget, magical realism can detach the author and the reader from the real world. This can be relevant in terms of what was occurring around the time. Magical realism also acts as a way to take the reader from the real world, setting him or her into the magical realm, and explain a concept that is very real. A common novel assigned in the United States that shares this same point is Animal Farm. Even though this is not considered an example of magical realism, it still displays this idea. In order to get his point across, George Orwell created a farm of talking animals to display the political situation at the time of writing. Even though the novel seems childish from the outside, it is one of the everlasting novels of our times and is a classic. Magical realism holds the same truth: a writer can create an entirely new world where people talk with their noses and smell with their ears but can convey a message that is pertinent to society.

Analyzing the Ida y Vuelta aspect of magical realism, it is safe to say that it has made an impact on Spanish Literature. Gabriel García Márquez, for example, won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his writing. This, of course does not only stay in the realm of magical realism. Mario Vargas Llosa also received this prestigious award. These two authors and the many others that are spread out across the Americas can be found in libraries in Spain and taught in schools. Just as Spain made an impact on the Americas, we have been able to return the favor.

Finding One’s Cultural Identity

My personal attachment to this topic has been recent. As a child raised by a Dominican family in the United States, I have always felt like I could never fit in culturally. To Americans, I am too Hispanic, and to Dominicans, I am too gringo. The latter has always made me insecure of my heritage, as Spanish is my second language. Because of this, I have a very unrecognizable accent. I do not speak like the Mexicans I was taught in school, or the Spaniards where our language comes from, or like my country’s people who are notorious to speak ragingly quick. This did not help my cause; however, I recently found a home in Spanish literature. As someone who does not have a distinguishable accent, it allows me to be free of cultural shackles and stereotypes. I feel safe experimenting and collecting ideas, slang, and ways of living from other countries. My first book of this ongoing journey is Crónica de una muerte anunciada. Not only has this book inspired me and taught me many things about South American culture, but it has also taught me and made me question my culture too. Being once relatives under our conquerors, we do share many similarities. Literature allowed me to be confident in my Spanish, and how I feel about my controversial identity. To me, I am stuck in the middle of this highway between Spain and Latin America. I have always felt like this was a negative thing, but as I grow older, I have learned to see that I am not stuck, as I have been given a unique opportunity to be directly in the middle. With this, I am not limited to one side; I have the ability to cross or stay whenever I want.

Photograph taken by Francisco Fuertes of La Fiesta del Chivo and Crónica de una muerte anunciada/CC by 4.0
Spanish Literature Today

In today’s world, we are in a very different time. With technology and transportation, the barriers of knowledge and lack of cultural mingle have been destroyed. Now, diffusion of knowledge from other areas of the world is inevitable. This makes the Ida y Vuelta of The Americas and Spain as easy as going on your phone. The level of difficulty it was for a copy of Don Quixote to reach Mexico is the level of ease it is now for Márquez to deliver a book to Spain himself. There is no comparing the difference between diffusion of cultures. A perfect example of this is the author, Richard Blanco. Born from a Cuban Family in Spain, Blanco grew up in Miami. He is a prime example of this constant exchange between these two worlds. In his book The Prince of Los Cocuyos, he even shows that Spanish literature does not have to be written in Spanish. Detailing his life growing up in Miami, Blanco is able to tell the story of cultural identity and stagnation in our present world. Even though this is a book about himself in Miami, there still holds strong roots to Cuba, as he uses many examples of common vernacular him and the people around him use. Overall, the cultural highway between Spain and the Americas first created by Columbus is becoming stronger every day as technology advances. Soon, whether good or bad, the need for this highway may become obsolete, as cultures may homogenize into one. Personally, I hope this never occurs, as culture is what makes us who we are. It sets us apart from others and allows us to bring new and different ideas to the conversation. Everyone has a story, and it is our responsibility to give each other the platform to share it.

Works Cited

Crashcourse, director. 100 Years of Solitude Part 1: Crash Course Literature 306. Performance by John Green, YouTube, YouTube, 10 Aug. 2016, Accessed 24 Apr. 2022.

Echevarría, Roberto González and Hill, Ruth. “Latin American literature”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 6 May. 2020, Accessed 24 April 2022.

Gómez, Angel María García , Pérez, Janet I. and Atkinson, William C.. “Spanish literature”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 6 May. 2020, Accessed 24 April 2022.

“Indigenous Words in the Spanish Language.” SpanishDict, 29 June 2012,

Francisco Fuertes: España as Text 2022

Photograph taken by J.C. Diaz CC/4.0

Francisco Fuertes is currently a junior in FIU majoring in chemistry. Always having a curiosity for the human body, he plans to attend medical school after obtaining his degree. He was born in Miami, Florida, and has a strong connection to the Dominican Republic where his family moved from. On his free time, Francisco likes to learn and experience new things, such as different cultures, languages, cuisines, and many more.

Madrid as Text

El Palacio Real

By: Francisco Fuertes at El Palacio Real, June 10, 2022

Photographs taken on June 10, 2022 by Francisco Fuertes at El Palacio Real CC/4.0

Coming from a country that has no monarchy or royal tradition, El Palacio Real was my first experience of royalty. I must say that this experience was life changing. To see the grandiosity and the lives these kings and queens lived shocked me. It is a very different life than what the common people like us have to go through. The rooms were painted from roof to floor by the best painters of their time, the walls and furniture shined with the brightest golds of the world. It was a breath-taking experience and one that I would not seize to forget. This palace, to me, shows the level of power that Spain has and once had. However, where did they get all of these riches? Surprisingly, most of it is not even of Spanish origin, but of the lands of the Americas and of Asia. Peru, for example, was one of the lands that lost a lot of its gold to Spain, and like professor Bailly stated, to make the plates that the servants use to serve the royal family. What does this say about Spain? It makes me wonder if this Spanish palace can even be called Spanish, as the fortunes come from the regions they stole and pillaged from. It saddens me that I give the credit of all these beautiful artworks and artistry to the Spaniards which they probably wouldn’t have been able to achieve if it wasn’t for the countries they conquered. All of this being said, I do not believe that the Spain of today should be hated because of it. These are different times with different people who do not agree with the actions their country committed in the past. Holding people in today’s Spanish society will not solve anything, as they never chose their nationality or what their country did. What is important is that we realize that the Spanish empire would not be the Spanish empire without the necessary resources and materials taken from others. I think the thing that really ties all of this together are the statues of the former kings on the outside of this magnificent building, one in particular that calls my attention. There is a statue of the former king of Peru, holding that before Spanish rule, it was he who was a leader of the country Spain would later overtake. It is a tribute and an acknowledgment for the importance of him and the countries they conquered like Peru that they were also an important aspect of the empire.

Toledo as Text

Greeting El Greco

By: Francisco Fuertes in Toledo, Spain on June 15, 2022

Photograph taken by Francisco Fuertes of The Burial of the Count of Orgaz in Toledo, Spain on June 15, 2022 CC/4.0

How hot can it possibly be? My palms feel like little lakes as I clench onto my phone to take my next picture. My face and body are sweating like I’m trapped in an oven. I give shade to my phone and pray for some good news. 104?!?! Is this thing broken? I glance around to my peers to see if they are also experiencing the ambush of heat. A soft whisper tiptoes through my ear as the tour guide leads us to our next destination. We see stone after stone after stone, beautifully placed as if Mother Nature built it herself. We begin our walk into a small courtyard, full of trees and shade. I take my position right under the tree in the corner, hiding from the army of UV rays. I stare blankly at the tour guide trying my best to pay attention and not think about a cold bottle of water. Not knowing what to expect, the class marches into a dark, quiet room with many people huddled around the right side. I twist my torso to them only to be met by his greatest masterpiece. As I stand there as breathless as the Count of Orgaz, I watch his soul escaping its hollow casket and into the arms of an angel. “As you can see on the left…” Wait, that’s his son, and that’s him? I don’t believe it. But as awestruck as I was, I did see the resemblance of the nose, and the peering eyes staring into our souls as if we were next. I follow the trail of white going up until I am on top of the dirty clouds and into the bright light of Heaven. Mary, Jesus, and the apostles all come to greet me and welcome me in. “And if you look farther up to the left of Mary, you will see a set of keys…” Each sentence crawling out of the tour guide’s mouth latches onto my ears and entices me more and more to get lost in this painting. Every little inch of this masterpiece has a meaning, whether it be the reflection on the Count’s armor, or the painting on the bottom has another piece to place in the never ending puzzle of insanity. I slither my way through the crowd until I reach the separating bar, trembling to get my phone and take the perfect picture. No, needs better lighting…; No, this angle seems a bit better…; No, it’s too blurry, I will take another. I finally got the perfect picture, one that captivated me even through the bright screen in my hands. As I walk away, taking my last look at the Count of Orgaz’s lifeless body, I step outside into the heat, and slowly drink my water sip by sip. 

Córdoba as Text

Verses from the Mosque-Cathedral

By: Francisco Fuertes at the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba on June 18, 2022 

Photographs taken by Francisco Fuertes at Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba on June 18, 2022 CC/4.0


There is no sign of wealth,

No sign of greed,

No sign of arrogance,

All I can see with my two eyes are smooth, beige walls.

Walls that reflect like mirrors.

What lies buried in this fortress of nothing?

It does not call attention upon itself, nor does it attract,

It stands there waiting calmly, allowing those who are worthy to enter.

A mystery of red and white arches swing across one’s eyes like monkeys on a vine.

They are as endless as the reflections these mirrors create.

Like all treasures, this one lies in the confines of the fortress,

Hidden from the thieves that lurk the surrounding streets.

No treasure should be left out for others to point their dirty pupils at.

When one finally explores one’s inner crevices, then the real gold can be discovered. 


They refuse to not, 

Resisting all urge to remember what it was really used for. 

They take the time to try, 

Taking what others throw away and treasure it 

Byzantine, Roman, marble, limestone,

They are pleased to find purpose in the ruins. 

To others, ruins would ruin the new, 

But to them, ruins bring reformation, 

A rebirth of the unwanted and wasted back to necessity. 

Tall, skinny, short, or wide,

They bring balance to their structures. 

Obscurity and variability are the least of their worries,

For consistency through this nonuniformity is found. 

As many things in this world fall victim to dispensability, we have lost the vision to find use in the used. 

Left to rot for eternity, it will find a new purpose in having none.

Sevilla as Text

Sevilla and All of its Beauties

By: Francisco Fuertes in Sevilla, Spain and the Cathedral of Sevilla on June 19, 2022

Photographs taken by Francisco Fuertes in Sevilla, Spain on June 19, 2022 (La Giralda, View of Sevilla from roof of Cathedral, and Plaza de Toros from left to right) CC/4.0


Sevilla, a city of uniqueness. 

Found in the south of Spain, 

It is a place many people call home, 

And a place where many tourists envy 

Warm shades of white dominate the city walls, 

Allowing its friends yellow and red to find shelter. 

With so many beautiful alleys and streets,

Music lurks at every corner. 

The food entices you with its savory aromas like a harpoon, 

Reeling you in every step you take to a table of wines and tapas 

Spanish, Italian, German, English, Portuguese….

There is never a conversation that will be colorless. 

And don’t forget about their residents! 

For they are always proud of their city. 

Whether it is for their politicians, their monuments, or football team,

There is not a local you can find without love for Sevilla. 

The Tower

Standing on top of the structure lies its guardian, 

Towering over all of Sevilla.

Her gaze stretches all of the land, 

Protecting the cathedral from heretics. 

Bells lie below her feet, 

Smashing in unison so everyone is reminded of her presence. 

She holds herself tall as the Catholics rule victorious, 

With her tantalizing tower to prove it.

But let’s not forget how she got there, 

And the souls that she banished because of it.

Under the bell tower lies a Muslim minaret, 

Carrying her like Atlas with Roman carvings as his footholds.  

Without the Romans and Muslims forming the foundation, 

The Catholics would never be able to create such a beautiful structure. 

When reaching the destination, it is easy to forget the journey. 

But without the journey, how would she reach the top?

Barcelona as Text

An Experience From Sagrada Familia

By: Francisco Fuertes at Sagrada Familia Barcelona, Catalonia (Spain) on June 25, 2022

Photographs taken by Francisco Fuertes on June 25, 2022 at Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Catalonia Spain CC/4.0

It is as if it is eagerly climbing all the way to the heavens. Each year it becomes more and more mature, growing into the plan they have intended for it. Coming from the main entrance, it greets you with Jesus’ life. Scenes of his birth and his childhood flash before your eyes like a kaleidoscope. Animals pounce along the sides protecting the forest inside. Through the doors, the numerous leaves give you shade from the scorching Spanish sun. You take your first step and there it is: pillar upon pillar holding it like stilts. An endless amount of colors burst into the room. Blues, reds, yellows, greens, all entrap you in their arms and rip the breath from your lungs. Your eyes are frozen balls as you stare helplessly at pattern after pattern of this building. The roof becomes more rippled every time you look up, as if glass was smashed by a hammer. The animals, the plants, the people- it all creates the forest that Gaudi planned for. As you make your way to the future main entrance, you catch a glimpse of the crucifix. Something is different about this crucifix, and it is painfully noticeable. Jesus is not immobile or dead, but is given life by his posture. The human necessity of survival, shown in the curled position and the contraction of his diaphragm. It gives life to Jesus that other crucifixions don’t- it captures his human side, a side of anguish and despair. 

Gaudi was able to capture life and movement through architecture. The stained glass windows are an amazing example of this, as it moves when light moves. The roof is another. Just like nature trends to disorder, so does the design of this roof. However, there’s a code and a pattern, just like everything does in nature. Gaudi’s vision of a Church is not only to venerate the Christian god, but to venerate the complex creatures that roam this world. For it is us, the animals and the plants that are his representatives. It is a celebration of the beauty, of the intricacy, and of the necessity of nature.

Sitges as Text


By: Francisco Fuertes at Museus de Sitges in Sitges, Spain on June 26, 2022

Photograph taken by Sebastian Calonge at Museus de Sitges in Sitges, Spain on June 26, 2022 CC/4.0

As the days approached our trip to visit Sitges, my friends and I began to realize that our time in Spain was coming to an end. So many places explored, so many topics learned, but none’s importance to Miami’s influence was talked about more than Sitges. When joining this class, I thought this day trip would be, in a sense, the least relevant one, as neither I nor my fellow travelers knew much about it. The day finally arrived and I was excited. Constantly throughout the train ride I was reminded of the reason why we came: Charles Deering. It was he that acted as the connection between Spain and Miami. I stepped out of the train and felt the sea salt touch my face. I could not help but feel nostalgic of my hometown’s beaches, but the city did not scream Miami to me. We walked along the paths of this quaint city until our eyes glazed over the museum we intended to visit. We did the tour and I loved the city; The buildings were in harmony with the white waves that washed the shore of the nearby beach. Although it was the town that I was enamored with, I did not see the ida y vuelta of Deering’s house to Miami. The trip was sprinting to the finish line and before I knew I was to endure 17 hours of traveling to get back to Miami. After the long flights and the delays, I fell asleep, but when I woke, I decided to take a walk around Coral Gables like I used to. The whites and the blues and the reds and the yellows, it all led back to Sitges. I began to notice the subtle styles of pillar carvings, and the choices of materials used to build the houses. There was one house in particular that was a clear match. It had the roof, the colors, even the tile work on the walls barricading it from the rest of the neighborhood. It was there where I, standing stone still in amazement, found this inspiration. The problem was not that Sitges did not resemble Miami, but that Miami resembled Sitges. This began an introspective dialogue that I have been having to this day: Who am I? Do I really know where I come from and how I act? After living in Miami for 19 years of my life, I was never introduced to the idea of a clear connection between here and Europe, but the more I look around, the more I see the influence of the Mediterranean. What I find myself questioning as I write this blog is what connections have I missed all my life in my second home, the Dominican Republic. Having been to Spain now, I can say that next time I visit Santo Domingo that I will find this lost trace. Now understanding a little more about the potential Spanish influence on both places, I ask where I am truly from. Is this a Miami thing? A Dominican thing? Or has it really been a vestigial Spanish root that has been covered by the dirt of the land. The only way to find this answer is through experience. With the knowledge I have gained from the course, I will use it to uncover what has been hidden from me all my life, and find inspiration in newfound explorations.

Francisco Fuertes: Vuelta España 2022

Photograph taken by J.C. Diaz/CC by 4.0

Francisco Fuertes is currently a junior in FIU majoring in chemistry. Always having a curiosity for the human body, he plans to attend medical school after obtaining his degree. He was born in Miami, Florida, and has a strong connection to the Dominican Republic where his family moved from. In his free time, Francisco likes to learn and experience new things, such as different cultures, languages, cuisines, and many more.

Introduction: La Vuelta 

Photograph taken by Francisco Fuertes of Spanish Flag on June 13, 2022 in Segovia, Spain CC/4.0

For years my family and I have been trying to go to Europe together. Sadly, there was always something that came up– monetary restraints, work/class obligations, a global pandemic… As much as we strived and fought for our trip, it never worked out. That is, until I received an email from my school,  Florida International University (FIU). The chance arose for me to go with my university and finally go to Europe. Though it was not how I planned with my family, I was still grateful to go on this life-changing opportunity. I had heard so much about Europe: the food, the art, the culture. The thought of never going was driving me insane. It was as if with every comment someone made, the straps of my straightjacket were being tightened. Once I heard the wheels of the plane smash the ground, I felt the jacket loosening. I’m finally here. Even though I knew to expect another world, I was not expecting it to be a world so different to my own. With a new place came new ideas and a new understanding for things such as identity, intellectuality, and originality.

The Forgotten Capital of Florida: Madrid

Photograph taken by Francisco Fuertes of symbol of Madrid on June 10, 2022 in Madrid, Spain CC/4.0

Our first stop of our tour of Spain was Madrid. It was great to visit the capital of Spain first, as it made me understand more what was to come for the rest of the trip. Madrid is an interesting place, riddled with graffiti and areas of the antique and of the new. However, what struck me the hardest was how relevant this city is to not only Spain, but to all the land they once held. This is not only the capital of this beautiful country, but the forgotten capital of lands that stretch all around the world. 

Like everything on this trip, I had to begin my questioning. Who am I? Where do I come from? I was born from Dominican parents in Miami, Florida, but it was here in Madrid where I learned that my family name dates back to my ancestors in Asturias, Spain. It was also here where I relearned the history of Spanish Florida. In 1513, Juan Ponce de León stepped foot on new soil, setting the scene for Spanish Colonization near what is now St. Augustine ( editors). This made Madrid the capital of the land I and other Miamians inhabit today.

Photograph taken by Francisco Fuertes of El Palacio Real on June 10, 2022 in Madrid, Spain CC/4.0

Our trip to El Palacio Real was eye opening. To be standing inside of a building with such a rich history for not only Spain, but for all of its colonies, placed a lot of things into perspective. To walk through the halls where kings and queens roamed and the rooms where pivotal historical decisions were made was an experience that cannot be replicated here in Miami. These people and decisions dictated numerous outcomes to the world that we know and understand today. Not only does El Palacio Real have centuries of history, but the sheer magnitude of influence, whether good or bad, cannot be overlooked when discussing this magnificent structure. It is this colonial stronghold that Spain once had that has me conflicted on my ethnical identity. When does a lineage become “too old” to not be considered a part of you? I see this in Florida; yes, we are from the United States, but why does that stop us from remembering we were once considered Spaniards?

It was during my time in Madrid where I had the opportunity to link a lost trace of my story. It is the place where I was able to learn about my Asturian ancestors and how they came to the Dominican Republic, and the place where I was able to connect with a side of Florida I never felt to consider. That does not mean that I am a Spaniard, however. The way I see it, we as formerly colonized people have grown to become our own separate entities. Sure, we have our roots in Spain and in other parts of the world, but that does not limit us to who we are and can become. With time comes change, and with change comes rebirth. 

Las Letras and its intellectual lifestyle

Photograph taken by Francisco Fuertes of statue of poet Federico Garcia Lorca on June 10, 2022 in Plaza de Santa Ana, Madrid, Spain CC/4.0

In Madrid lies a neighborhood where the souls of the literature greats lurk. Authors from El Siglo de Oro (The Golden Age) of Spanish literature, such as Cervantes and Quevedo, resided here and wrote the many works we praise them for today. The reaction to having this historical monopoly on Spanish literature has been to have a local custom of reading. Here you can find plenty of bars that have books to share. I enjoy reading, and it was an amazing experience to see such an emphasis on this art. What I liked most about this neighborhood is that reading is done as a hobby, not as a requirement. I have noticed that reading in the United States is not as common as it might have been before. I hypothesize that it may be due to the school system’s treatment of books and readings as an obligation. I remember as a kid the churning in my stomach all summer long, worriedly thinking about having to read my summer reading book and the report that was to come. Reading to many is work, and not the adventure that authors intend on creating. That is why I felt at ease here, as the neighborhood shows that there is still hope for reading and writing, and maybe one day others will be inspired to begin reading for entertainment, not for grades. What was also a beautiful aspect of this neighborhood was the quotes on the ground. It showed that this area is all about writing and the promotion of it. They were presented in such a beautiful gold and bold font that catches your eyes from neighborhoods away.

Photograph taken by Francisco Fuertes of a quote on June 14, 2022 in Las Letras, Madrid, Spain CC/4.0

What I also enjoyed about the area was the amount of statues and museums for the authors that lived here. It gave me a connection to the ones I knew and taught me about the others that I had not heard of before. 

Photograph taken by Francisco Fuertes of Miguel Cervantes’ apartment and his statue on June 14, 2022 in Las Letras, Madrid, Spain CC/4.0

Andalusia and Sitges: Miami’s Influences and Differences

Photograph taken by Francisco Fuertes of rooftop view of El Catedral de Sevilla on June 19, 2022 in Sevilla, Spain CC/4.0

An intrinsic fulfillment I had traveling through Spain was to visit all the areas that I drive through in Coral Gables. All these mysterious Spanish cities like Madrid, Sevilla, or Córdoba tantalized me every time I saw the little street markers. But now, as I drive around Coral Gables, I say to myself, Hey! I’ve been to Granada! I’ve traveled through Andalusia! There is no hiding the fact that Coral Gables is influenced immensely by Spain, and Europe as a whole. For me, it was different to assume this than to actually experience it. Everything I see now makes more sense: the roofs, the color choices, the tile arts… it all leads back to Europe. The two places that caught my attention the most were Sevilla and Sitges. Even small neighborhoods like Sant Marti sent nostalgia crawling down my spine. I did not understand it at first, but when I returned back to my city, it all started to make sense. Being able to drive around the neighborhood, and pinpoint these influences in other areas of Miami is now possible for me. 

Photograph taken by Francisco Fuertes of the Mosque-Cathedral on June 18, 2022 in Córdoba, Spain CC/4.0

While it is riveting to experience Europe in Miami, I can’t help but miss the architecture that is not as prevalent. One style I fell in love with was Arabic and Mudejar architecture. One building that stuck out to me was the Mosque-Cathedral in Córdoba, Spain. The red arches were mesmerizing, spinning me around at each glance, splitting my vision in two as I slowly regained my composure. Once the dizziness settled, the mosque opened before me and became balanced, united, and completed. Before coming to Spain, I had never been inside a mosque (or at least a mosque turned catholic church). It was not necessarily something I was introduced to or interested in attending. Although this was the case before, I was massively intrigued by not only the architecture, but the philosophy behind it. The premise behind this style is not to show grandiose and lavish aspects of the building on the outside, but to keep it bland and boring.The inside is where all the intricate pieces of what makes these buildings so fascinating are. This is supposed to signify how we should act. We should not outwardly project our qualities or wealth to others. Instead, we should allow the people themselves to search through us and find the beauty. This philosophy resonated with me, as I find it distasteful when someone posts their new Rolex, or their Lamborghini, or their designer shoes on social media. We should not boast about our riches, as the philosophy entails, it is through the universe (in this case Allah) that you are able to have these things. Let not your materials speak for you, for the voice of your true self will be crushed.

Barcelona and Sagrada Familia

Photograph taken by Francisco Fuertes of La Sagrada Familia on June 25, 2022 in Barcelona, Catalonia (Spain) CC/4.0

What is a Gaudí? I rummaged through the list of websites for snow globes that Google threw at me. Is it a company? Why so many? Hopelessly staring outside the train window, I counted the hours until we reached Barcelona. It was until we were scheduled to explore Sagrada Familia and Parc Güell where I found the meaning behind this mysterious word. Antoni Gaudí, the most esteemed architect from Catalan and known worldwide as one of the best. His work, especially Sagrada Familia, to me was the most inspiring of the entire trip. I have always had inner struggles with originality. I always want to be original- copying someone has never been an option for me- but the more I try to be original, the more I notice that I take inspiration from others I look up to. After several years, I came to the conclusion that originality is impossible, as to have an idea, it needs to stem from earlier knowledge. However, to be original for me is to take something, and add your own twist to it. I see this all the time in music, art, architecture, innovations, and even now in my own work. To me, Gaudi’s line of work is the epitome of this idea. It was as if all the styles we saw during the trip clashed together. What makes this style even more captivating for me is that he found originality in unoriginality. Taking the building piece by piece, there is nothing new: stained glass, statues, etc. When viewing the building as a whole, it becomes a unique entity. The style of roof, the use of organic materials and images, the way the arches are built, all aspects combined in a Catholic Church creates a fresh style of architecture. 

Photographs taken by Francisco Fuertes of La Sagrada Familia on June 25, 2022 in Barcelona, Catalonia (Spain) CC/4.0

Not only was it remarkable in its originality, it was also remarkable to be there. Being raised a Catholic, I was always in a church. Having now graduated from all my years of Catholic schooling, I am always away from a church. When having to learn about so many things about a religion, you get to see a lot of the same things sadly, and looking back at it now, church to me was a mundane experience. Everything is dead and about death: The crucifix, the artwork bleeding off the stained glass, the people sitting and waiting for the hour to meet the dreaded scythe. This church was different: you walk and you feel alive. There are sculptures everywhere of animals, prancing and pouncing along the corners of the Church, guarding it from the heretics. The colors of the stained glass melt along the sides and drown you with its beauty. As you walk to the middle, a crucifix with a wounded and breathing Jesus lays vulnerable for you to grieve. Birth, success, struggle- this Church is a living representation of what life is like until our last breath. Shouldn’t all Churches be like this? Maybe not, but it is a beautiful way of representing the faith. I think this idea of death being needed in churches is due to life on Earth not being the end goal, but only a way to get to the real paradise. However, it does not mean that we should forget all of the glorious things that exist here, with or without a god’s help. To my point, it is for this reason that I enjoyed this rendition of a church so much. It understands that we are not only here to suffer and to die for god and his paradise. We are here to bask in the light, breathe in the air of the pure, and share this gift with each other and all the animals that come along with it. 

Concluding Remarks

Class photograph taken by unknown photographer on top of mountain on June 28, 2022 in Montserrat, Spain CC/4.0

All in all, this trip was an experience that can never be replicated. I am sure that my friends and family are getting tired of me saying, “Well, when I was in Spain…”, but this trip was more than just a getaway to another country. It was an opportunity to learn more about myself, about what is around me, and what isn’t around me. It was an opportunity to get out of my bubble I have called home for 19 years of my life and challenge my knowledge and philosophies. It was an opportunity to get to know another culture intimately, and maybe call home one day. One of the reasons why I joined this class was in hope of finding a new lifestyle. The siestas, the transportation, the language… I can go on for as long as the lands of Spain lay. Whether it will be a future home, it has changed my ideas of living and understanding of the world. Having been able to see such beautiful places like Sagrada Familia, the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, Alhambra, and a multitude of other human achievements has given me a chance that many people dream of. I could not ask for a better group to do it with than Professor Bailly and the wonderful people I call my friends now. 

Works Cited editors. “Ponce De León Claims Florida for Spain.”, A&E Television Networks, 9 Feb. 2010, 

Francisco Fuertes: Miami as Text 2022

Photograph taken by J.C. Diaz/CC by 4.0

Francisco Fuertes is currently a junior in FIU majoring in chemistry. Always having a curiosity for the human body, he plans to attend medical school after obtaining his degree. He was born in Miami, Florida, and has a strong connection to the Dominican Republic where his family moved from. On his free time, Francisco likes to learn and experience new things, such as different cultures, languages, cuisines, and many more.

Deering as Text

Digging for Lost Roots

By: Francisco Fuertes of FIU at Deering Estate, January 28, 2022

Photograph taken on January 28, 2022, at Deering Estate by Francisco Fuertes/CC by 4.0

For the New Year, my family and I took a trip to Boston. It was a whimsical idea I had one day that I honestly didn’t give much thought to, but as I was there, I knew I made the right decision. What my biggest takeaway from that trip was the unfortunate realization that I know nothing about the history of my Miamian and Floridian ancestors. Especially coming back from a place like Boston with such a rich history, this saddened me. The answer to my discontent was the Deering Estates. This place serves as a relic for forgotten times here in South Florida. Prohibition, for example, was something I never thought of being an issue here in our city. It was fascinating to walk into Charles Deering’s wine cellar and discover this piece of lost history. It also showed me how much history I walk and drive past without even knowing it, and how much influence it has on what I see.

Taking the nature walk with Professor Bailly was a delightful experience. We walked on the same trails as the Tequesta, admired the same trees as them, and basked in the same sunlight. We were even lucky enough to find the same tools they used to hunt and eat with. For me, an important part of this hike was seeing the Tequesta burial site. This puts into perspective how little we know of where life will take us. To these people, life was about the ability to survive. Especially here in Miami, survival in that sense is the least of our worries. It also makes me ponder how our world today will be different. Will we meet an unfortunate demise like the Tequesta, or can we find solutions to our current and future problems? 

Vizcaya as Text

James Deering or Jay Gatsby?

By: Francisco Fuertes of FIU at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, February 18, 2022

Photographs taken on February 18, 2022, at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens by Francisco Fuertes/CC by 4.0

Upon my arrival to the hidden mansion of James Deering, I had no idea of what I was to discover. Having never been, I presumed that it was simply a garden, but it was much more than that. Although I was enchanted by the garden and the luscious forest that surrounds the property, I could not help but ponder on the life of the late owner. What would lead someone to create such a property? Reading about him on Vizcaya’s website, I found out that it was actually a decision due to his condition of pernicious anemia (for more information, visit Who was James Deering? – Vizcaya). During our tour, Professor Bailly made the comparison of James Deering to Jay Gatsby. At the time, I brushed it aside, but looking back now, I could not agree anymore. I found the design of the whole place to be very “new rich”. Much like Gatsby, I feel like James Deering made many decisions on the layout and design of his property based on others and not himself. To the extravagant painting, to the sculptors of conquistadors and Greeks deities, and to the luminous chandeliers that gave life to the tiles we stepped on, everything to me seemed too much. Going from room to room, we talked about how this was imported from Italy, and this was handcrafted by an Italian artist that Deering sailed with to his mansion. All of it to me seemed very flashy; it reminds me of a specific part of the novel where Gatsby begins throwing all of his clothes in the air to Daisy while feverishly naming all the places and materials they were made out of. 

The entire experience makes me wonder whether I would do the same if I were in the position that Gatsby and Deering were in. I would like to think I wouldn’t, but I cannot say for sure. I believe that once a man/woman achieves such a level of wealth and monetary status, there is no telling what he or she will do with it. With so many issues today regarding financial sustainability, having the luxury of not worrying about it must change someone, for better or for worse.

Miami as Text

Fear the Pioneer

By: Francisco Fuertes of FIU in Downtown Miami, March 11, 2022

Photographs taken on March 11, 2022, in Downtown Miami by Francisco Fuertes/CC by 4.0

With my progress through the curriculum of this class, I have come to understand that there is an issue with the teaching of Miami history. Although this makes for an amazing class experience now, it saddens me that I do not know much about what we are learning. Why couldn’t the schools I went to teach more about the history of Miami. Who is Henry Flagler, James Deering, and other prominent figures that had a big impact on our city? I believe that this should be taught in schools all over Miami but done correctly. Professor Bailly brought up a great point in the lecture: Henry Flagler was not a pioneer. How can you be a pioneer of something that has already been found? Henry Flagler was not the first to settle on our lands. What about the natives who settled here before Europe’s arrival in Florida? Wouldn’t they be considered pioneers? I also think it is important to realize that people like Flagler did not build this city all by themselves. He and many others had the unappreciated help of the Bahamians and other groups of workers. If Flagler should be praised as a pioneer, it should be those workers who this honor is bestowed to, as they worked long and hard to create the foundation of our beautiful city. 

Reflecting on this, the word pioneer does not seem to hold any value to me either way. What I find interesting about all of this is that we love to believe that humans are pioneers. Technically, any animal could pioneer a land, but we as humans choose to make ourselves the sole beneficiary of it. Animals and their habitats were mostly likely there long before we stepped foot on any type of land, and especially now, to destroy these lands in the name of pioneering is not just.

SoBe as Text

Say Hello to My Long-Lost Friend

By: Francisco Fuertes of FIU at South Beach, April 1, 2022

Photographs taken on April 10, 2022, in South Beach by Francisco Fuertes/CC by 4.0

South Beach: known to me for many things such as South Pointe, Scarface’s chainsaw scene, and the massive traffic to get there. I’ve been to South Beach numerous times with friends and family, but never have I taken time to admire its uniqueness. South Beach for me is one of those areas in Miami that I do not hold much awe for anymore. When my friends from different states or countries come to visit, they always ask to go to the beach, and I am hesitant to say yes. Are you seriously going to drive and waste 3 hours finding parking, Franco? However, this trip to South Beach was different. Learning about the history and culture of this area of my city has made me feel proud of what we have, as I have never truly made sense of what was around me.

Among the many things I learned, what fascinated me the most was the architecture. We talked about three different types of buildings as my class and I explored the catacombs of knowledge that South Beach had to offer: Art deco, Mimo, and Mediterranean Revival. The many things that make Miami “Miami” are displayed on these structures. The color palette, the themed designs, even the style of windows all tell a story of our culture and what makes our city distinct. My favorite aspect about these architectural designs is the fact that they are dispersed across South Beach. On one side of the street, you can see various examples of Mimo buildings, but behind you stands a Mediterranean revival building. To me, this symbolizes the diversity of Miami. We are not a city of uniformity, but one of dizzying complexity. That in itself is displayed in each glance you take. One building drips a flashing yellow that pierces one’s eyes like the juice of a lemon, while the one next to it is painted a simple white with a bold roof. Like these styles of architecture, Miami is home to countless people with countless stories and experiences that all mesh into one beautiful consciousness that makes this city ours. 

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