Hebah Bushra: Miami Beach 2021


Photo by Inaya Shaikh (CC by 4.0)

My name is Hebah Bushra and I am an undergraduate student at the Honors College at Florida International University. I am majoring in Biological Sciences and Natural and Applied Sciences as well minoring in Chemistry. Some of my aims are to pursue a career in the medical field and travel to all 7 continents whilst trying different cuisines, volunteering, exploring cultures and religions, and meeting new people. I find gardening and painting to be my therapy in this chaotic world of ours. Although I have lived 3o minutes north of Miami my entire life and have most likely visited all of the beaches in South Florida, I have yet to experience the hidden treasures Miami encompasses. By taking the Discover Miami class with Professor John W Bailly, I have gained knowledge about Miami’s concealed stories, diverse culture, and rich environment through numerous destinations.


20th St & Washington Ave Intersection Miami Beach, FL 33139. Photo by Hebah Bushra (CC by 4.0)

Miami Beach is a city in Miami-Dade county, Florida and is an island located between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean being its own municipality with a connection to the mainland through several bridges. According to the US Census Bureau, Miami Beach has a total area of 18.7 square miles from which 7 square miles is land and 11.7 square miles is water. Miami Beach consists of three districts: South Beach, Mid Beach, and North beach. This subtropical tourist magnet is made up of businesses, residential communities, beach resorts, and more while holding the largest Art Deco architectural collection in the world in Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue, and Washington Avenue, etc due to preservation activists. Although this highly developed city is very urbanized, it has around 20 green spaces or parks, 3 large golf courses, and of course miles of beaches. Miami Beach experiences tidal flooding on some streets and this has become more common since the mid 2000s. Methods to combat sea level rise and storms have had difficulty in success due to the limestone’s porosity.


Opening of the Collins Bridge. Photo from Wikipedia Commons

Although current day Miami Beach is known for its inclusivity and welcoming atmosphere, it’s history encompasses wealth disparity, racial and ethnic segregation, environmental degradation, and lots more. Miami beach was originally occupied by the Tequesta tribe and then by Seminoles where until 1912, the land was flourishing mangrove forests much like the rest of Miami. Henry Lum and his son were the first people to buy this land for 25 cents an acre. The aim of utilizing this land for agriculture like creating coconut plantations was quite unsuccessful even though there was some prosperity with avocado groves. 

The development of Miami by Henry Flagler, Julia Tuttle, and others brought about wealthy northerners as well as segregation and class disparity. The arrival of John S. Collins, Carl G. Fisher, and Johan and James Lummus was the start of real estate development in Miami Beach. Before their presence, African American, whites, Native Americans, Jews, and more lived harmoniously together. The Collins began the development of the largest wooden bridge at that time which was about 2 ½ miles long to connect the mainland Miami to the island. With the financial aid of Fisher, the bridge was open for public use in 1913. The degradation of land and clearing of the vast mangrove forests was done by Black Americans and Bahamians. Even though draining the swampland increased the land area of the island, it has detrimental impacts as mangroves were the main defense element against flooding and erosion. The city was known as Ocean Beach in 1915 and was named Miami Beach a year later. When Carl Fisher started his massive impact on the island, segregation occurred. After their forced hard work, the people of color were segregated and had to stay in an area called Virginia Beach depicting that as the town developed, lines were drawn. Although at one point Miami’s first black millionaire named Dorsey bought an island and people of color resided there, the Great Depression made him sell it to Carl Fisher (Fisher Island) forcing the colored community out. 

There was little growth of the city due to the Great Depression and the hurricane in 1926; however, around the 1930, the city began to thrive with the addition of several Art Deco architectural style buildings. After World War II, the popularity of the land increased and became a tourist and retirement destination. In 1959 when Fidel Castro started his rule of Cuba, around half a million Cubans migrated to Miami, building the foundation for the Latin South Florida Community. Throughout the years, there has been a cultural and economic growth in Miami Beach. Many important people like Gianni Versace and Barbara Capitan who saved the Miami Beach Art Deco world have shaped and defined this island. As of today, there is a great amount of inclusivity and acceptance that was completely gone in the past. Although Miami Beach is incredibly unique and a major part of Miami’s cultural identity, it is important to understand and remember the negative aspects of its history.


As of July 1, 2019, according to the United States Census Bureau, Miami Beach population estimates are 88,885 people with the highest percentage of people being 65 years or older and about 2 people per household. For the population characteristics, 55.8% are foreign born people, majority from Cuba, Haiti, and Colombia, and there are 1,634 veterans. Likewise to other cities in Miami-Dade County, the two highest race populations are Hispanic and White. There are slightly more males (51.7%) than females (48.3%) in Miami Beach. The median value of owner-occupied housing units is $459,000 and property size is much smaller than other parts of Miami due to having beaches in walkable distances. 

According to Data USA, the median age of Miami Beach residents is 42.4 with a median household income of $55,348. The major ethnic groups in Miami Beach are White (Non-Hispanic), White (Hispanic), Other Hispanic, African American, and Asian. The largest ethnic group is Hispanics with 53.1%, followed by White with 37.6%, then Black with 3.01%, and the smallest is Asian with 1.55%. This is a change from the beginning of Miami Beach’s development as the majority were African African and Bahamian/Caribbean people. 

Nicole Castillo and her dog in Collins Park, Miami Beach, FL. Photo by Hebah Bushra (CC by 4.0)

While exploring the parks of Miami Beach, I knew it was important to obtain knowledge about the experiences and opinions of local residents. In Collins Park, I had the opportunity to learn about Miami Beach from a personal point of view by resident Nicole Castillo. Although she asked not have her photo taken, her puppy was ready to strike a pose!

Interview with Nicole Castillo on April 23, 2021

Hebah: Please introduce yourself and your relation to Miami Beach. 

Nicole: My name is Nicole Castillo and I lived here for 8 years in South Beach. I am a real estate agent and I used to teach yoga.

Hebah: What is your favorite thing about Miami Beach?

Nicole: I didn’t like Miami Beach before but I love it now. I found my own community with the hotel residents. It did take some time for me to know the day time community but I found a group of people with similar interests. I enjoy working out at the beach or park like this one (Collins Park).

Hebah: What is your least favorite thing about Miami Beach?

Nicole: At first, I did not like that it was so touristy and the people who came to Miami Beach would just destroy the city because to them it’s like Vegas. This makes it dangerous for the residents on bikes and scooters. I got hit by a rented scooter by tourists so I would like more rules implemented to control tourists, specifically Ocean Drive on Memorial weekend and the Fourth of July. After living in California, New York, and North Carolina, I wish this city provided a better Healthcare system as it doesn’t help those who need it the most and had more libraries, schools, and churches.

Hebah: How would you describe the residents of Miami Beach?

The true residents that I know live at the hotels and are very friendly however, the young people who arrived recently are not my favorite.

Hebah: How would you say Miami Beach changed with the Pandemic?

Nicole: With the pandemic, a lot more people from New York or big cities are moving here which is good for the economy. I am happy that they slowed down the roads between 17th and 5th street due to the Pandemic which is better for bikers and pedestrians. Personally, the pandemic made me more independent and I utilized outdoor areas like this park instead of the gym. I became closer with my neighbors and grew a sense of community due to the simplicity.

Hebah: How has Miami Beach changed since you arrived 8 years ago?

Nicole: It has definitely changed and grown for the better and they are still adding new components like a mall and park. It is much busier with many entrepreneurs opening up unique businesses, hotels, and restaurants.



Photos and edit by Hebah Bushra (CC by 4.0)

The Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach was started by a group of Holocaust survivors in order to create a permanent memorial for the six million Jews who died from the Nazis during World War II. The location of Miami Beach was perfect due to South Florida having one of the highest survivor populations and according to Abe Resnick, there were about 20-25,000 survivors in this area. 

Architect Kenneth Treister designed and created this memorial landmark with a large arm having a tattooed number stretching out to the sky with numerous thin, naked people grabbing onto each in the middle of a still and reflective pond. This center piece is called Sculpture of Love and Anguish and represents the dehumanization and torture faced my Jews. There were several human figures scattered around the hand holding each other with saddened face expressions including children crying. The memorial also has several black granite walls with images and information about the Holocaust called Arbor of History. 


Photo by Hebah Bushra (CC by 4.0)

The Bass Museum is a contemporary art museum that aims to excite, break boundaries, and inform the community. The museum became public in 1964 by donations to Miami Beach by John and Johanna Bass. The exhibition focuses on international contemporary art and artists focus on the spirit and international elements of Miami Beach with the inclusion of design, fashion, and architecture. The museum also contains educational programs for people of all ages and backgrounds and promotes creativity in early childhood education with Miami-Dade County Public Schools.


Photos and edit by Hebah Bushra (CC by 4.0)

The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater has a good stage presence, with audio and visual lighting to match the strength of the visiting artists. It originated in the 1950s. People from all around the world flock in to view performances which include dance, songs, comedy, and even boxing. Some well-known, regular visitors included Aretha Franklin, The Grateful Dead, and Miles Davis which brought even more attention to the place.



Photos by Hebah Bushra & Inaya Shaikh/ Edit by Hebah Bushra (CC by 4.0)

Miami Beach Botanical Garden highlights many of Florida’s plant attractions such as palm species, orchids, and native plants. While strolling through the tropical garden, several state butterflies can be spotted as well as limestone water fountains. This beautiful attraction contains a Japanese Garden alongside a koi pond as well as many other unique garden sections. Different activities and events take place in this area like parties, yoga classes, cultural events, workshops, and more. With the boutique center, visitors can take home and grow their own souvenirs with seeds of the various plants shown in the garden. With Miami’s year-round tropical climate, this garden stays open throughout all four seasons.


Photos and edit by Hebah Bushra (CC by 4.0)

Collins Park is known as a relaxing green space with several collection pieces from the Bass Museum in the middle of this busy city. John A. Collins designed this park with clean lawns and sidewalks and towering Baobab and palm trees. One side faces the Bass Museum while the other faces the beach and along the sides are apartments and restaurants.  Many gatherings are hosted in this park such as weddings, cocktail parties, and picnics.


Photos by Hebah Bushra (CC by 4.0)

The park located next to the New World Center is called New World Symphony park or Soundscape park. It is described as a typical park with attractive nature and pleasing trails. My favorite part was the aluminum structures that held the blooms of bougainvillea vines as seen in the image as well as the provided shade. What makes it such a world-class destination is its concert hall programs. It provides live performances and cultural events with its design and music. This area also serves for film-screenings, community events, and art galleries. Excluding all its events, the park offers beautiful sculptures and relaxing gardens. With a variety of restaurants and food stations this park presents, it’s a great place to spend a nice, stress relief day. 



Photos and edit by Hebah Bushra (CC by 4.0)

Transportation in Miami can be achieved with a CitiBike. This bike share system is placed around various areas of the city. Whether it’s commuting to work or discovering the beauty of Miami, this system gives an environmentally friendly, amusing, and effective way to travel around Miami. These bikes are affordable and its stations provide an easy lock and unlock feature. Riders have access to these bikes at any given time. 


Photo by Hebah Bushra (CC by 4.0)

The trolleys in Miami provide an easy and affordable means of transportation from most one place to another. It typically serves around 15 hours a day and most importantly, it’s free for the public! It’s a fun and exciting way to travel and explore the depths of Miami. The routes consists of beaches like South Beach, Mid-Beach, and North Beach. It also makes several stops on roads like Lincoln Road, 5th Street, and Collins Avenue. This transportation system enables passengers to shop, visit, and explore various places located in Miami.


Photo by Hebah Bushra (CC by 4.0)

The Miami Beach Bus Route 150 gives passengers an easy route to and from places like Miami International Airport Metrorail Station and Julia Tuttle Causeway. It also travels to beaches like MidBeach and South Beach and goes along streets like Collins Ave, Indian Creek Dr, and Washington Ave. It gives customers an affordable and accessible way to go around Miami. It is available all seven days of the week.


 Española Way, Miami Beach. Photos and edit by Hebah Bushra (CC by 4.0)

Havana 1957 Cuban Cuisine located in Espanola Way which was established in 1925 and gives visitors a traditional Cuban cuisine with the hint of Havana in the 1950s. With its authentic, flavorful food, classical Cuban music like Celia Cruz, and scenic decorations from bottom to top, it gives customers a glimpse of Cuba in the 1950s and its alluring culture. The menu contains Cuban dishes by Chef Juan Luis Rosales and there are over 120 types of rum from across the world.

iL Pastaiolo is an authentic Italian restaurant that serves trattoria Neapolitan style, handmade pasta and is located in Collins Ave. This restaurant originated with Mirko Cipriano from Napoli, Italy who came in 1999 and trusted the old fashioned way of creating iL Pastaiolo. This hand tossed pasta contains the illustrious past down traditions of Italian food.

Joe’s Stone Crab was created in 1913 by Joe Weiss who had a little lunch counter serving fish sandwiches on Miami Beach. It is the most historic restaurant in South Beach and located in South of Fifth. The restaurant was established even before Miami Beach became the city it is today. This over 100 years old restaurant is visited by actors, athletes, and politicians and was in the film The Mean Season in 1985 as well as many television shows.


Lincoln Road Antique & Collectible Market is a major social event on Sundays in Miami Beach. This is located on Lincoln Road which highlight several shops and restaurants and is in the Art Deco district. This market presents numerous vintage goods such as clothing, furniture, jewelry, and art. Featuring over 100 vendors, the market occurs from October to May at 9 am to 5 pm between 800 and 100 blocks of Lincoln Road. This enables the interaction between artists and collectors as well as supports small businesses.

Consign of the Times was created by Carin Kirby in 2001. It is Miami’s first luxury and designer resale boutiques and a widely known retail landmark in Lincoln Road on Miami Beach for over a decade. This business focuses on luxury at affordable prices, personalized services, and quality and righteousness.

DLB Vintage & Antique Rugs is located in Miami Beach and offers trusted antique rugs from Doris Leslie Blau for more than 45 years. The custom and vintage Persian carpet and rug collection has had a large fondness by Floridians for many years due to its botanical elements.


From the efforts to maintain Art Deco structures to segregation of colored individuals, Miami Beach has a deep history and culture. This neighborhood has several eye catching and unique elements such as authentic restaurants, vintage shops, Art Deco, Mimo, and Mediterranean Revival architecture, and long beaches. This glammed vacation spot also deals with negative consequences. The homelessness rate and poverty has had a drastic increase in recent years as well as holding a dark hidden past. The discrimination of ethnics groups like Jews and African Americans was very prominent in the beginning of the city’s formation. Miami has suffered from the decision of destroying its nature state of thick mangrove forests with large flooding from storms and hurricanes as will as erosion. In order to continue enjoying this unique treasure, environmental polices need to be placed as well as stricter rules for tourists destroying and polluting beaches. The busy city of Miami Beach holds several distinct elements that anyone can enjoy during the hot day and neon sign lit night.


“About Us.” About Us Joe’s Stone Crab, http://www.joesstonecrab.com/about-joes.

“About Us.” Consign of the Times ™, http://www.consignofthetimes.com/pages/about-us.

“Antique & Collectible Market.” The Lincoln Road Antique Collectible Market, antiquecollectiblemarket.com/.

Brig1978Ireland, et al. “Cuban Restaurant on Espanola Way in Miami, FL.” Havana 1957, 14 Sept. 2020, http://www.havana1957.com/espanola-way/.

“Collins Park.” The Bass Museum of Art, thebass.org/collins-park/.

Fillmore Miami, http://www.fillmoremb.com/venueinfo.

“Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach: History.” The Holocaust Memorial of Miami Beach, holocaustmemorialmiamibeach.org/about/history/.

“How To Get Around Using Miami’s Trolleys.” MiamiandBeaches.com, http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/plan-your-trip/transportation/how-to-use-miamis-trolleys.

“Miami Beach Botanical Garden in Miami Beach: South Beach, FL.” MiamiandBeaches.com, http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/thing-to-do/parks-recreation/miami-beach-botanical-garden/2126.

“Miami Beach History.” Zippia, 27 Aug. 2020, http://www.zippia.com/miami-beach-careers-765642/history/.

“Miami Beach SoundScape.” West 8, 16 Mar. 2021, http://www.west8.com/projects/miami_beach_soundscape/.

“Miami Beach, FL.” Data USA, datausa.io/profile/geo/miami-beach-fl/#:~:text=The%205%20largest%20ethnic%20groups,and%2072.8%25%20are%20U.S.%20citizens.

“Miami Beach.” The Beacon Council, 26 Apr. 2018, http://www.beaconcouncil.com/why-miami-dade/cities/miami-beach/.

“Miami Beach.” Wikitravel, wikitravel.org/en/Miami_Beach.

Motivate International, Inc. “About Citi Bike: Company, History, Motivate.” Citi Bike NYC, http://www.citibikenyc.com/about.

Services, Miami-Dade County Online. “Metrobus Route Details.” Miami, http://www.miamidade.gov/transportation-publicworks/routes_detail.asp?route=150.

“Trattoria Gourmet.” Ilpastaiolomiamibeach, ilpastaiolomiamibeach.com/.

Hebah Bushra: Miami Service Project 2021

Photo by Inaya Shaikh (CC by


My name is Hebah Bushra and I am an undergraduate student at the Honors College at Florida International University aiming to pursue a career in the medical field. I am majoring in Biological Sciences and Natural and Applied Sciences as well minoring in Chemistry. My hobbies include photography, painting, and traveling and I enjoy getting out of my comfort zone with new and different experiences.


I was provided the opportunity to volunteer for a clean up project at Chicken Key through the Deering Estate and Professor Bailly from FIU Honors College. The Deering Estate, land originally inhabited by Tequesta, was owned by industrialist Charles Deering and consists of two houses, a basin surrounded by several islands including Chicken Key, and protected natural areas with distinct ecosystems. This Miami Museum embraces different activities such as conservation, hiking, learning with camps and programs, and arts exhibits.


I chose this volunteering opportunity because it is a different outlet for me to positively impact our community. I have always been passionate about giving back and helping those in need and have volunteered at the Cleveland Clinic Florida for 2 years, food pantries, Southwest Regional Library, and a Sunday School. From these opportunities, I was able to help people of all ages in a direct and immediate way. With the cleanup on Chicken Key, I was able to impact not only people indirectly but also the several flora and fauna living in Biscayne Bay through environmental efforts against harmful human activity. This slightly relates to my major of Biological Sciences through the ecological aspect however, it heavily relates to my interests and passions as I am an intern for the FIU Office of University Sustainability and helped create the environmental club at my high school. This opportunity enabled me to protect environments which humans take for granted, allowed for self awareness and reflection, and provided impactful memories.


I connected with this volunteering opportunity through my Discover Miami Honors College course from FIU. This class encompasses memorable experiences from walking in the Everglades to canoeing to an uninhabited island and enriching knowledge of Miami’s History. 


On April 9th 2021, my classmates and I arrived at the Deering Estate around 10 am. With perfect weather and seeing the canoes lined up with life jackets, I was truly excited for this unique volunteer opportunity. After listening to Professor Bailly explaining what our day holds and choosing our canoeing partners, we started to canoe towards our destination of an uninhabited island off of the Deering Estate called Chicken Key. My canoeing partner, Jena Nassar, and I were cruising through the waters at first. Professor Bailly led us to a magnificent clear path surrounded by mangroves on either side which was just the start to this memorable journey. After exiting the mangrove path, the canoeing process became a bit tiresome and hard. It became difficult to control the direction our canoe went as we kept turning towards the opposite direction intended, leaving us a little behind. Once we figured out a paddling method with counting and switching paddles from side to side, we started to enjoy this peaceful experience.

After about 4o minutes of canoeing, we arrived at Chicken Key and as we paddled alongside the island I could already see waste and plastic objects tangled in the mangrove roots. We pushed and secured our canoes onto the shore of the island and with our personal items and gloves/trash bags in hand, we headed inward. We relaxed on a small bench for a couple of minutes and some students ate lunch to become energized however, from the minute I stepped foot on the island, I was eager to get started on the clean up. But first to cool down, we all ran into the shallow blue water and enjoyed yourself with some splashing. After gaining energy, we each took trash bags and started to explore the island while simultaneously picking up as much waste we encountered. I was genuinely surprised to see some of the items that washed up onto the island. I found several sandals and boots, an ice cube tray, unused contact lens, glass bottles sadly with no notes, at least 100 bottle caps, and much more! It was very important to pick the small pieces of plastic as those are the most dangerous for animals since they are accidentally consumed. At one point, I just sat on the ground for a couple of minutes picking up tiny colorful bits of plastic. It was really sad and frustrating to see that some animals lived in the bottles like crabs and plants were growing surrounded by or wrapped in plastic. After hours of filling up multiple trash bags, we all placed the heavy bags into the canoes as well as a plastic chair, tubes, and a tire. We ended our day on the island with lunch and some took naps while others headed to the water to relax and swim. We soon packed up our canoes by distributing the trash bags appropriately and headed back to the Deering Estate.

The journey back was much easier with the current and wind working in our favor. We even paddled to the edge of Biscayne Bay and laid back in the gently rocking canoes listening to the water which made me feel so relaxed and even a bit sleepy. Once we reached the estate, we made a pile of the trash and properly disposed of everything. It was very satisfying to see our efforts to help the environment in front of us and away from the innocent flora and fauna.

Photo by Hebah Bushra (CC by 4.0)


The cleanup occurred on Friday, April 9th, 2021 from 10 am to 4 pm.


All things considered, the service project Chicken Key Cleanup provided breathtaking and exhilarating memories and awareness of the immense need for environmental protection. This is a problem that is highly overlooked and seen as not a current issue as it is not witnessed first hand by many. After seeing a picture of the waste on Chicken Key in 2017 to how the island is currently, I am relieved that people are putting in time and effort to conserve the land. But, in 2021, we are still bringing back heavy bags of trash and this is all due to continuation of harmful human activities and this is only one small island out of many. I believe that our efforts to clean up Chicken Key was very successful and will definitely help in the long term conservation efforts. This being said, I aim to continue raising awareness on environmental issues and help through actions. This opportunity will be one of my most notable and rewarding college experiences.

Photo by Jena Nassar (CC by 4.0)


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

Hebah Bushra: Miami as Text 2021

Photo by Inaya Shaikh (CC by 4.0)

Hello everyone! My name is Hebah Bushra and I am an undergraduate student at the Honors College at Florida International University. I am majoring in Biological Sciences and Natural and Applied Sciences as well minoring in Chemistry. Some of my aims are to pursue a career in the medical field and travel to all 7 continents whilst trying different cuisines, volunteering, exploring cultures and religions, and meeting new people. I find gardening and painting to be my therapy in this chaotic world of ours. Although I have lived 3o minutes north of Miami my entire life and have most likely visited all of the beaches in South Florida, I have yet to experience the hidden treasures Miami encompasses. With this opportunity, I hope to gain knowledge of Miami’s concealed stories, diverse culture, and rich environment through the numerous destinations below.

Downtown Miami as Text

Photos and edit by Hebah Bushra (CC by 4.0)

Melting Pot Miami,” by Hebah Bushra of FIU at Downtown Miami, 29 January 2021

While driving through the shadows casted by the towering buildings of Downtown Miami, I realized that I have never set foot outside of my car and explored this colorful city in the 20 years I have lived in South Florida. Due to the pandemic, this busy city was quite muted which came to an advantage for me as I was able to grasp onto the architecture and scenery that Downtown Miami possesses. As we strolled through different areas of the city, the hidden history and melting pot of Miami was unveiled. 

From the beginning of time, Miami, unlike many other major cities, consisted of people from different backgrounds who eventually found a way to live together. The interactions and presence of Seminoles, the Tequesta tribe, Bahamians, Jews, African Americans, the Miccosukee Tribe, Spanish conquistadors, White Americans, and Latin Americans displayed this beautiful melting pot that Miami held from the start.

Amid the roaring highway was a small park, Lummus park, containing two old houses, originally located near the Miami River, holding a great amount of history. Fort Dallas was originally built and quartered by African American slaves and later was taken hold of by the US army during the Seminole War from which it received its name by the Navy officer at that time. Once the army leaves after the Seminoles agree with a treaty, the house was utilized in several other ways such as a post office, the 1st courthouse of the county bought by Julia Tuttle, and a social gathering club. Although it is difficult to judge others of the past, it is important how we frame history. I really believe that the name of this historic structure is an insult to the suffering faced by the hardworking slaves in the 1840s and a name change to English Slave quarters is necessary to actually tell the history and origin of the house. Alongside the Fort of Dallas is Wagner’s house which tells a story of a positive moment in Miami’s history. Against the norm at that time, a German man named William Wagner married a Haitian woman. Wagner and his mixed race son encountered 17 Seminoles and offered them clothes and dinner. This beautiful interaction and some may say a real Thanksgiving is a great illustration of diverse people being at peace with one another and having a sense of unity. 

Even with the mixture of people that make up Miami’s vast history, their representation is lacking and significance is undermined. For example, Miami Dade Cultural Center has a Spanish colonial theme which only represents one group of people leaving several others such as the Seminoles and Tequesta tribe. If you were unaware of Miami’s history, you would only see what the people want you to see and it portrays the wrong message. 

Obtaining knowledge on Miami’s history immensely opened my eyes to the non inclusiveness and flawed portrayal of what Miami is. In school, I have never learned anything about Miami’s origin and only learned what people want to remember. It is important to call out how history is framed and learn about the past. Even with the gloomy history, the diversity and melting pot of Miami is unreal and there is always positive light. For example, the Freedom tower, Miami’s Ellis Island, symbolizes liberty and free will to many Cuban immigrants escaping from Castro’s repressive rule. I believe a great artwork which portrays this concept is right in the middle of the Government Center named Dropped Bowl with Scattered Slices and Peels by artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. This massive statement art depicts the spread of different cultures and groups of people in this populous metropolis.

Everglades as Text

Photos and edit by Hebah Bushra and Bottom Left Photo by Sana Arif (CC by 4.0)

Being One With Nature,” by Hebah Bushra of FIU at Everglades National Park, 12 February 2021

When I stepped foot in the murky water surrounded by pond cypress trees I expected warm water as after all, we are in sunny South Florida. However, to my surprise, the water was cold which actually had an instant soothing effect on my nerves. With the help of my walking stick and gradually gaining balance on this unusual surface, I finally looked up to see the captivating environment surrounding me. 

The Everglades started experiencing harmful biodiversity depletion and habitat loss dating back to Henry Flagler’s touch in Miami. This resourceful environment was at one point home to different Native American tribes. I learned that the cypress trees were a survival tool to create boats as the trees were hollowed out with fire and scraped with shells which surprised me at first as the trees next to me were very thin. As we went deeper inside the tree framed dome, the water level increased, the trees were much larger, and I observed more flora and fauna. I was determined to spot an alligator but I realized I was more appreciative of seeing the small creatures that  play a major role and inhabit this area and such as woodpeckers, mosquito fish, and even a red cardinal. I gained the knowledge of how natural and prescribed fires are a key component for the Everglades’ prairies to thrive as the absence of fire creates crowding and overgrown plants. Certain plants such as sawgrass can take over and with no sunlight reaching down, there is a decrease in the population size of species. The burns clear the top and opens up the understories so various species can develop. Pine Rockland is the most biodiverse habitat in the National Park with 23 species of endemics and according to Ranger Dylan, this environment would have extended far all the way to Downtown Miami.

Ranger Dylan read a poem by Anne McCrary Sullivan who would explore the Everglades on her own and find a spot to sit and write. She refers to the Everglades as an in between place where it is not quite land or water and describes the way the world is when we (humans) are not there. As I separated from the group to explore my surroundings, I discovered this fallen tree which was still alive and decided to sit on it for a minute or two as Anne McCrary and listen to my surroundings. I felt one with nature hearing the creaks of the cypress trees, chirps of birds, and the gusts of wind. At this moment of the silent yet loud atmosphere, I understood the poem and what Sullivan was trying to illustrate through her words about being in an untouched place, which I would have not comprehended a day before. 

South Beach as Text

Photos and edit by Hebah Bushra (CC by 4.0)

Architecture Treasure Chest,” by Hebah Bushra of FIU at South Beach, 26 February 2021

While walking to the end of South Pointe Pier, I was able to absorb my surroundings of the turquoise blue water, vibrant architecture, and the wave of people relaxing on the sand even with my eyes squinting from the harsh sun rays. Even though I had a tiresome week and would have loved to unwind with the rest of the people, I was eager to learn about this tourist magnet called South Beach.  

With the welcoming atmosphere and diverse array of people all having the same motive in mind, one would have not thought that Miami Beach had negative aspects to its history like Downtown Miami. Miami Beach, originally called Ocean Beach, was a barrier island of mangroves. The development of Miami by Henry Flagler, Julia Tuttle, and others brought about wealthy northerners as well as segregation and class disparity. Carl Fisher, an automobile developer, built the longest bridge at that time to connect the mainland to ocean beach and hired Black Americans and Bahamians to clear the massive mangrove forest and called the area Miami Beach. After their forced hard work, the people of color were segregated and had to stay in an area called Virginia Beach depicting that as the town developed, lines were drawn. Although at one point Miami’s first black millionaire named Dorsey bought an island and people of color resided there, the Great Depression made him sell it to Carl Fisher (Fisher Island) forcing the colored community out. Today, this is one of the wealthiest zip codes in the United States. Although South Beach is incredibly unique and a major part of Miami’s cultural identity, it is important to understand and remember the negative aspects of its history.

As we walked further away from the beach and under the shades casted by the hovering buildings, I started to obtain knowledge on the harmonious yet distinct architecture surrounding us. South Beach buildings were composed of three architectural styles: Mediterranean Revival, Miami Modernist (MiMo), and Art Deco. With ceramic roof tiles and European features, Mediterranean Revival architecture was easy to distinguish. Both MiMo and Art Deco architecture encompassed a futuristic look and fanned away from the European style. The curved buildings shaped like boats/ships with glass were part of MiMo architecture. Lastly and my favorite, Art Deco architecture had such unique characteristics such as the rule of three and relief sculptures. Most Art Deco structures are three stories, have lines in threes, exhibit eyebrows and slick curves, and illustrate relief sculptures that reflect landscape around us such as water and seagulls depicted in a geometric pattern. South beach has the largest Art Deco neighborhood in the world. There was also “identity crisis architecture” as Professor Bailly would say and these structures had a combination of different aspects and not a particular unique architectural style.

 As I passed each building on Ocean Drive and every place we walked, I would quiz myself or act like I was in a treasure hunt by using characteristics (hints) of each building to discover the architectural style (the treasure). The positive end to our day was witnessing the conservation of Lincoln Theater’s architectural style in an H&M store in Lincoln Road Mall. The efforts put into saving the uniqueness of South Beach buildings was definitely worth it with the tourism it attracts and the distinctiveness not found anywhere less. The vibrant colors and welcoming atmosphere of Ocean Drive today is much different from the 1910s. Until this class, I would have viewed the architecture as just pretty, colorful buildings as most tourists but gaining this knowledge on architectural styles and the history of Miami Beach actually made me feel a sense of belongingness and connection to this city.

Deering Estate as Text

Photos and edit by Hebah Bushra (CC by 4.0)

Entering Miami’s True Nature,” by Hebah Bushra of FIU at Deering Estate, 12 March 2021

As we huddled in front of the massive gates of Deering Estate, I wondered what today’s class had in store to add to my growing knowledge of Miami’s history. As we entered the premises, I saw two houses with architectural details we learned about previously and a beautiful basin with manatees surrounded by several islands. However, what was not seen immediately and the unknowns were the most valuable aspects of this experience personally.

In time of intense racial segregation, the grounds, degraded channel, and house was built by Black Bahamians and Black Americans under horrible conditions. Charles Deering bought Richmond cottage in 1916 and the stone house was finished in 1922. The houses displayed Mediterranean revival and Islamic dome shapes and were influential to many parts of Miami as seen in Coral Gables architecture. One of my favorite parts of the house was actually outdoors and was this spinoff of a European mosaic with Miami elements such as corals, sea plants, and shells decorated on a ceiling. 

I was amazed to find out that the protected natural areas of the estate that we explored consisted of not one but multiple distinct ecosystems and habitats and is part of the original Old Cutler Road which served as a Native American footpath for connecting Tequesta villages to others near Miami River. We walked through and learned about several ecosystems like Biscayne Bay seagrass beds, salt marshes (blue crab mania), mangrove forests, tropical hardwood hammocks, and pine rocklands to name a few. I found the Gumbo Limbo, a native tropical tree, to be one of the intriguing plants as the trunk is green inside and red for the outer layer and to combat the threat of vines, the tree peels making the vines fall off the bark as a means of protection. Also, if limbs are knocked off, another tree will grow right there which was probably advantageous to Native Americans. While admiring the beauty of the Flora and Fauna, I learned about the significance of this area. It is difficult to connect with Miami’s past because everything has been destroyed and paved over to showcase an attractive developed city, however, this one place is pristine and untouched. I tried hard to envision the Tequesta people walking along the same path as me to survive and perform daily activities and it wouldn’t click until Professor Bailly showed a treasure of the past. As we approached the mangrove forests, we entered a midden which contains discarded tools and food. Researchers found shells and with a hand grabbing test, they observed if it fits in your finger like a tool. These shell tools could be used by the Tequesta to scale fish, skin animals like squirrels, and create holes in deer or in the ground to plant seeds. As I grasped onto the tool with my thumb fitting perfectly in the indent of the shell, I had a glimpse of the history, people, and land of Miami’s past. 

Another part of the land that served as a way for me to connect to the past people was the Cutler Burial Mound where around 8 or more Indians were buried in a circle. Walking on the bridge and keeping an eye out for the burial mound, I couldn’t see it until it was pointed out. The mound was hidden in the intertwined trees but was almost honored with one of Miami’s biggest Oak Trees thriving on top. I felt that this gloriously massive tree casting pools of glimmering sunlight served a symbol of the significance and strength Native Americans held as they endured many hardships and played a major role in Miami’s history. 

This walk back into Miami’s real natural history showcased the importance of respecting the way of life of people and history and understanding species and environmental interactions to promote long term survival of these unique ecosystems in order to preserve biodiversity. Most people have not experienced the true natural state of Miami due to destruction and this realness is not seen elsewhere.

Vizcaya as Text

Photos and edit by Hebah Bushra (CC by 4.0)

Miami’s Elegant Playhouse,” by Hebah Bushra of FIU at Vizcaya Museum, 26 March 2021

Driving into the entrance to a narrow road surrounded by thick green trees and pops of small sculptures was a complete change of scenery from the city feel I just passed ten minutes ago. The Vizcaya Museum named after Spanish explorer Vizcaíno who lived with Tequesta Indians was built in 1914 and 1916 and owned by a wealthy industrialist, James Deering. After the last of the seminole war, most seminoles left however, the few that remained inhabited the everglades. The US passed an act that enabled white Americans to obtain 160 acres of land if they defend it against the seminoles. When the seminoles and bahamians had to leave, wealthy northerners occupied land. James Deering’s fondness of Spain, Italy, and Mediterranean revival was the key inspiration for this museum’s aesthetic. In the middle of the mangroves was this recreation of an Italian Villa.

The pathway leading to the house was framed by the tropical hardwood hammock ecosystem which enabled the maintenance of the greenery and acted as curtains unveiling the house. This inviting aspect was accompanied by shallow flowing water fountains to create a linear perspective. Although this house is quite beautiful and enchanting, James Deering entering a habitat originally occupied by seminoles, Bahamians, and tequesta was not acknowledged. There was no representation of the culture and people in Vizcaya which is unfortunate as he was the most wealthy person in Miami. This entirely European, Mediterranean Revival house in the middle of the mangroves was designed by the artist director Paul Chalfin. Personally, I would have not known much about the style and architecture of each room if not taught this information. From sculptures to secret gardens, this house was a mini getaway to Europe. 

As we entered the main doors, we were welcomed by a Roman god sculpture of Bacchus, the god of wine and pleasure, with grapes and a massive tub. This was a major display of Deering’s mindset and personality and was depicted throughout the house layout. Although this place was home to residents, the house was aimed to be a source of entertainment and show for guests. This graceful and refined playhouse had an inner courtyard, decorative rooms, small outdoor theater, bush mazes, a lover’s bench, and more showcasing his vision. Several architectural styles such as neoclassical, fuoco rococo, and Islamic patterns were incorporated into the design of the house. The neoclassical style which focuses on perfect balance and symmetry was seen in one of the rooms where the ceiling shapes corresponded with the floor tile shape. Many rooms had the complete opposite atmosphere with fuoco rococo focusing on the decorative, detailed ceiling purchased in Venice, Italy, and playfulness with palm trees and flowers. One of my favorite parts of a room was a chandelier framed with beautiful gold flowers instead of crystals displaying elegance and liveliness. Islamic elemental art called Mudéjar was seen in abstracted Arabic writing. All of these distinct features definitely provided the house with its playful yet sophisticated nature. This stop on our Miami list was definitely quite different from others with this European inspiration and secret gardens; however, it is a significant part of Miami’s history. 

Margulies as Text

Photos by Hebah Bushra, Jena Nassar, & Sofia De La Torre/ Edit by Hebah Bushra (CC by 4.0)

Meaningful Broken Boundaries,” by Hebah Bushra of FIU at Margulies Art Collection, 16 April 2021

When most people think of art, they picture a painting on the wall or a marble sculpture one can walk around (traditional art) however, the art displayed at The Margulies Art Collection at the Warehouse was quite the opposite. Mr. Margulies is one of the first people in the Miami art world and is a big contributor to the uniqueness of Wynwood seen today. His warehouse holds contemporary art which challenges boundaries with the combination of materials, techniques, and ideas. Mr. Margulies collects this art to engage ideas, meet interesting individuals, and share art with the community. This was my first time at a contemporary art exhibition and while walking in and seeing headless sculptures and different shaped tables hanging on the wall, I was unsure if this type of art is my cup of tea. 

As with our other Discover Miami classes like Downtown Miami, Vizcaya, and South Beach Ocean Drive, I knew that I could not just use my eyes to understand the meaning, concepts, and reasons behind certain things. This was true with the first art we learned about. Hurma, by Magdalena Abakanowicz is made up of 250 headless figures of differing heights made from burlap with resin. This art signifies the dehumanization of the Holocaust as the Jews were not considered people but objects and symbolizes the stripping of their identity and emotions. I greatly enjoyed walking into a room not knowing the artist’s intentions and learning that contemporary art has a personal aspect to it and aims to tell a story with nontraditional sculptures and images. After this exhibit, I was eager to learn the hidden meaning and intentions of the many works in the warehouse. 

Another exhibit where the beauty of contemporary art is displayed is the Asia-Pacific Ant Farm by Yukinori Yanagi. From a visual perspective, I saw several flags of different countries; however, these flags were made out of colored sand and were connected with a tube for ants to move around. This work represents migration as the ants do not respect boundaries and cross over from one country to another country’s flag as well as the idea of international boundaries being artificial. 

I admire the creativity and personal aspects of this type of art. These non traditional, engaging ideas can also be illustrated in an interactive art form. One of my favorite collection pieces was an installation by Ernesto Neto and Lawrence Carroll which consisted of massive sacs filled with different aromatic spices dropping down from the ceiling. Similar to the previous artworks, I did not know what to expect and was quite surprised and intrigued by the idea. The scents had familiarity as some smelled like an Indian dessert or tea while others smelled like a savory dish. 

All of the artwork at the warehouse was unique, personal or told a story, and can be interpreted by the viewer in different ways. The broken boundaries with the use of different materials, techniques, and ideas including digital art and photography brought uniqueness and meaning to every work. From the elevator opening to a digital screen of people staring at you to the outdoor installation with mirrors by Olafur Eliasson, I have grown a fondness for creativity and non traditional approach to contemporary art and will definitely be visiting more places like the Margulies Collection.

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