Aleksandra Baryshnikova: Little Havana 2021

Photo taken of a Aleksandra Baryshnikova in 2020. Photo by Mila Voribieva /CC BY 4.0 

Little Havana

Welcome to my blog! My name is Aleksandra Baryshnikova. I’m a Junior, majoring in Hospitality Management at Florida International University. I was born and raised in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. I have always been passionate about the organization of events. For as long as I could remember, I have wanted to help my family and friends to experience the best celebrations in their life. I organized many events and I have realized how much I care about the industry of events. Now, I want to continue helping people to experience the best ceremonies of their life. Though I love hospitality, I also enjoy hiking, adventures, and nature. Miami in Miami class helped me to fall in love with Miami. Before, I thought that this city is a show-off and nothing more. To start my journey, I decided to explore Little Havana get educated and dive into the diversity of Miami. 

Picture by Google Maps. Edited by Aleksandra Baryshnikova /CC BY 4.0 

Little Havana, also known as the heart of the Latin (primarily Cuban) community is a neighborhood located the west of Downtown Miami. The place is full of colorful restaurants, cafes, markets with local food and drinks. All the popular, authentic places situated along Eights Street, also called Calle Ocho. Besides, Little Havana has three parts: West, Central, East Little Havana. Although it may sound large, the Cuban heart is relatively small, 25 acres. The neighborhood is surrounded by Miami River on south and west, Brickell on the east, and SW 27th or 37th Avenues on the west. 

Photo taken of Little Havana murals in 2021. Photo by Aleksandra Baryshnikova /CC BY 4.0 

Photo taken of Little Havana murals in 2021. Photo by Aleksandra Baryshnikova /CC BY 4.0 


What made Cubans choose this neighborhood? After the Cuban revolution in the 1960s, many people had no choice but to immigrate to the United States. The reason why Cubans occupied West Downtown was because of the primary location of Freedom Tower. This building was opened as the Cuban Assistance Center. The purpose of the now called Freedom Tower was to assist with immediate help to provide necessities for refugees. Hence, the community started to thrive and expand their culture in the neighborhood. 

However, Little Havana was not always occupied by Latinos, before immigration, the neighborhood primarily belonged to the Jewish community. With time, Jewish people moved further North to Broward and Palm Beach districts. Looking closer at the history of Miami there arises a common theme of discrimination as the catalyst for migration- the Jewish community was no exception. Anti-semitic attitudes highly affected the Jewish people. Due to the Miami founders, they were not allowed to purchase the land North of 5th street. People were pushed to live further from wealthy neighborhoods. Eventually, after the jewish community formed an association in North Miami, more Cubans arrived and it grew into a Latin neighborhood, with the well-known name -Little Havana. Later on, the place welcomed many nationalities like the Caribbean, Honduran, Central America,  and Nicaraguan cultures. In the following years, Latin people began to explore and later on move to new places like Kendal and Hialeah. Nowadays, even with the new innovation and immigration, Little Havana and Cuban heritage remain.  

Photo taken of Little Havana cafe in 2021. Photo by Aleksandra Baryshnikova /CC BY 4.0 


According to  Point2Homes the total population of Little Havana is 83,130 people that includes 41,849 males and 41,281 females. In addition, approximately 33% of the population is individuals who were not born in the USA, and 27% were born in the USA, plus 40% are noncitizens. The average age of the citizen in the neighborhood is 43 years old. The ethnic groups that live in Little Havana are; Hispanic- 92.4%, Black- 4.4%, and 3% of the population are white. The statistics show that only 9117 people received Bachelor’s degrees, while 30,519 people completed some high school, and 12322 people never attended school. The statistic explains why there are many markets and small businesses that are not related to the government chain. It is important to mention that the average household income is $41,000 while the lowest is around $27,000. 

That being said, Little Havana is listed as the first most Inhabitated district and the second most packed area in Miami. 

An interview with a resident of Little Havana.

Photo taken of Jose Navarro in 2021. Photo by Aleksandra Baryshnikova /CC BY 4.0 

Jose Navarro Castellanos is a senior at Florida International University, he was born in 1999 in the Dominican Republic, when he was 5 his family and he moved to Miami, Little Havana. 

A: Nice to meet you, Jose, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

J: Of course, my name is Jose Alejandro, I’m a senior at FIU, graduating this summer. I’m working at South Food and Wine Festival as a recruiter. I would say that my personality is extremely energetic and enthusiastic. 

A: Do you remember when you moved to Little Havana? Did you like it?

J: I definitely remember moving out, and adjusting to the new place. However, when you are a kid everything feels normal and I thought changing countries is something that everyone does. It was not difficult for me. I quickly found friends and I just kept adapting to the new place. “I liked being in Miami, it is a completely different lifestyle, busier” – says Jose.

A: That is a great story! Can you share your favorite place in Little Havana? 

J: This is easy- “Versailles”, I love food, especially Cuban food. This is the most famous Cuban restaurant in the world. I enjoy grabbing cafecito at “Versailles” in the morning and only then, I can start my day.

A: Do you want to stay living here? 

J: This is a hard question. I feel that I do not see my future here. I want to travel and see more places. I do not want to settle right now. Besides, I think that Little Havana is definitely feeling a little small to me, everyone knows each other. 


Photo taken of sandra Baryshnikova /CC BY 4.0  in 2021. Photo by Aleksandra Baryshnikova /CC BY 4.0 

 Cuban Memorial Boulevard and Bay of Pigs Monument

Close to Domino Park, you can find the Cuban Memorial devoted to Cuban freedom warriors. There are a couple of monuments. The Eternal Torch of Brigade 2506 is one of the main memorials dedicated to the fighters who passed in the Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba in 1961. There, you can also see a statue devoted to all journalists who were not afraid to write and publish against Castro’s leadership. I felt extremely inspired, looking at those monuments. I think people who were not afraid to stand up for their country should never be forgotten. 

Photo taken of Warner House. Photo credits: Miami- History blog  /CC BY 4.0 

Warner Place

At 111th Southwest 5th Ave you can find a historical house that was built by  J. W. Warner. Warner was the founder of the first South Florida floral company. The house was considered one of the finest buildings in the neighborhood. Elegant verandas and wide porches make the J.W. Warner House perfect for Florida weather. Also, in 1983 Warner’s building was mentioned in the National Register of Historic Places. I was not impressed by the design of the house, however, I think it is pretty impressive that the house with such a design was built in 1983.

Photo taken of Cubaocho Museum in 2021. Photo credits cubaocho instagram /CC BY 4.0 

Cubaocho Museum and Performing Arts Center

Cubaocho is a little museum situated at 1465 SW 8th St. According to locals it is the best place to listen to live music. However, it is not only a site for music, it is also, Fine Art Gallery. It preserves the largest Cuban Art Collection from 1800 to 1956. Besides, if you are a tobacco lover you can find a huge collection of cigars as well as the biggest Rum collection (482 bottles). I would recommend this place if you want to experience the full extent of Latin culture.

Calle Ocho Walk of Fame

The Walk of Fame on Calle Ocho is a little boulevard of stars that copies the idea of Hollywood- but recognizes famous Cuban people instead of American celebrities. Even though it is a small street, I feel that it makes people smile while looking at it. It is a great landmark.  


Photo taken of Domino Park in 2021. Photo credits frh images  Instagram /CC BY 4.0

Domino Park

Domino Park is located at Southwest 8th Street and 14th Avenue. Originally named Máximo Gómez Park in Little Havana, it became a hidden gem to locals. The park was named after a Cuban revolutionary -General Máximo Gómez. He was a chief of the Cuban Liberation Army at the times of wars of independence with Spain. Usually, the park is full of senior citizens who are playing the famous game- dominos, unfortunately, right now because of the pandemic it is temporarily closed.

Photo taken of Jose Marti Park in 2019. Photo credits cubacurtisrogersstudio /CC BY 4.0 

Jose Marti Park

On 351 SW 4th St- close to Downtown, you can find a 1.7-acre park that was named in honor of Jose Marti. He was a poet and a Cuban patriot who dedicated his life to the concept of liberating Cuba. The park is usually full of locals of all age groups- from little kids to oldies. Jose Marti Park has a beautiful riverwalk that is situated across the park. Personally, I  grab my friend, a sandwich, and a blanket and we make an amazing picnic in the fresh air. Among the park’s pathways, you can find a gym and pool, picnic tables, indoor and outdoor basketball courts, and a playground. It is a pretty big park with a plethora of recreational activities. 

Photo taken of Riverside parkin 2021. Photo by Aleksandra Baryshnikova/CC BY 4.0 

Riverside park

Last but not least we have Riverside park situated on 799 SW 4th Street. It is definitely one of the smallest parks I have ever visited. Riverside Park has a baseball diamond with a tiny playground. Besides the size, the park still has green space. 


In my opinion, one of the main problems in Miami is transportation. More specifically, there is not enough public transportation. Nevertheless, Little Havana provides several options for traveling across the neighborhood. There are public buses, private cars, bicycles, and walking. If you would like to travel by  car, it gives you the freedom to decide where you want to travel. However, keep in mind that you would have to pay for parking- so then arises the many benefits of taking the bus- one of which is that public transportation is free. Due to the pandemic, all buses are currently free. Also, another benefit is that there are a plethora of bus stops, however, there is no possibility that the bus will be there on time. After all, Little Havana is comparably small, therefore, it is easier to explore the neighborhood by walking. Personally, walking is my favorite type of transportation. There is no rush, hence, you can admire and appreciate the beauty of the neighborhood. Last but not least, there is cycling. According to Google Maps, it takes about thirty minutes to forty minutes to cross Little Havana. 


Photo taken of El Rey De Las Fritas in 2019. Photo by Aleksandra Baryshnikova/CC BY 4.0 

El Rey De Las Fritas

As their Instagram page says: “Miami’s home for la original frita Cubana”. It is a small cafe that specifies sandwiches. Their menu consists of eight hamburgers that come with fried eggs, cheese, and fries- also called fritas. I’m a big fan of fries, so I was so happy when I saw this place and even happier when I tried fritas because they were incredibly delicious. 

Photo taken of Versailles Restaurant in 2019. Photo credits cubacurtisrogersstudio /CC BY 4.0 

Versailles Restaurant

I could not miss the opportunity to visit the world’s famous Cuban restaurant “Versailles”. This place started its business almost fifty years ago. Founded by Felipe A. Valls Sr. in 1971, they opened their doors with the lure of great tasting, authentic Cuban food and quickly gained the trust of locals. 

  Versailles Restaurant is comparably big, it has 370 seats. It also has its own bakery and a takeout area. The restaurant area has its own unique design, I especially liked the ornate etched glass and statuettes. 

Miami is a unique place where you can experience many cultures. I think it is incredible, how you can visit Cuba without leaving Miami. This restaurant is a great place to immerse yourself in Latin culture. 

Photo taken of Cafe La Trova in 2020. Photo credits Cafe La Trova instagramm /CC BY 4.0 

Cafe La Trova

Cafe La Trova is a unique place where drinks, food, and dances perfectly work together. You can find the cafe on Calle Ocho. The menu is mostly Cuban with a little bit of Latin hybrid. Besides, they are famous for their cocktails. Unfortunately, I was there during the day and I did not have a chance to try them. However, their empanadas were incredible. I highly recommend this place. Cafe La Trova will immerse you in the Cuban atmosphere with live music played.


Tosca Bakery

Down between 5th and 6th Avenues, right outside of Brickell and I95 you will find the Tosca Bakery. This is a Cuban bakery that serves a huge amount of pastries and hot meals. The owner of this bakery is Cuban and has been here almost thirty years. It is a great place to grab a little snack while exploring Calle Ocho. One of the big benefits of this place is their prices, they are really cheap. If you would have a chance to visit the bakery, take the tamales and a pastry.

Photo taken of The Tropical Supermarket in 2019. Photo by Aleksandra Baryshnikova /CC BY 4.0 

The Tropical Supermarket 

On  Calle Ocho you will find one of the most authentic Cuban grocery stores in Little Havana.  This small local store is definitely not as fancy as any chain store, however, it has a little piece of history from Cuba. The store has all of the Cuban and Latin products and foods. Locals usually visit it to grab a snack or quick lunch.

Cuba Tobacco Cigar Co

Situated on 1528 SW 8th Street, Cuba Tobacco Cigar Co is the oldest store that sells Cuban cigars. The owners are the Bello family who have been in the industry for almost 100 years, and have been operating this store since almost fifty years ago. One feature that I find interesting is that the cigars are manufactured the same way that they have forty years ago, saving family traditions. The value and genuineness that comes from Cuba Tobacco Cigar Co is incredible.

Photo taken of Little Havana 2020. Photo by Aleksandra Baryshnikova /CC BY 4.0 


Little Havana has become an inseparable part of Miami. The little neighborhood is rich with Latin history and Latin roots. Many times in class, we discuss that Miami is a hub for international cultures. This is a perfect example of the diversity and uniqueness of Miami. Personally, I see Little Havana as a small separate city. And, as it should be history, is never full of just good events. Jewish oppression and Cuban immigration both affected the history of the neighborhood. It is rich with unforgettable events and memories of citizens of Little Havana. I found it fascinating how strong the Cuban people are. They demonstrate a powerful community. Definitely, Little Havana is a pearl and a gem that requires protection. 


“Miami Neighborhoods.”, 

Pfeffer, Ryan. “Cafe La Trova – Little Havana – Miami.” The Infatuation, The Infatuation, 27 Oct. 2019, 

“Little Havana Demographics.” Point2, 

“Little Havana: A Vernacular Mélange of Latin American Influence.” Little Havana: A Vernacular Mélange of Latin American Influence | The Cultural Landscape Foundation,,Ocho)%20and%20W%20Flagler%20Street. 

“Miami/Little Havana.” Wikitravel, 

“Home.” Versailles, 17 Jan. 2012, 

Cuba Tobacco Cigar Co., 

Dahl, Marc. J.W. Warner House, 

MIM Service Project Spring 2021: Aleksandra Baryshnikova

Photo taken of Aleksandra Baryshnikova in 2021. Photo by Komila Kholmatova /CC BY 4.0


Greetings! My name is Aleksandra Baryshnikova, I’m an international student majoring in Hospitality at Florida International University. I moved to Miami around three years ago to pursue my Bachelor’s degree. Unfortunately, I only had a chance to take one-semester of the “Miami in Miami” class. I thought I would never fall in love with Miami, however, the “Finding Miami” class changed my perspective. That’s why they say “never say never.”


For my service project, I decided to volunteer for SPC at Florida International University. The Student Programming Council is an amazing organization that creates and organizes many events for FIU students. They try to entertain and bring creativity to students. Thus, I chose to volunteer for SPC at Pride Drag Show. Even nowadays with the pandemic, Student Programming Council has been bringing the most engaging performances to Florida International University, which a lot of students enjoy.

Also, I was lucky enough to volunteer for Deering Estate for a clean-up at Chicken Key with professor Bailly. We spend our last class cleaning the island and enjoying the sun and ocean. Clearly, I would never forget my last Honors’ class. However, for this paper, I want to focus on the Drag Show for SPC. 

Photo taken of a Drag Queen in 2021. Photo by Aleksandra Baryshnikova /CC BY 4.0


To be born as a member of the LGBTQ+ community in Russia means that throughout your whole life you will face ridiculous discrimination quite often. Almost two dozen nations have authorized a law that allows people who belong to the LGBTQ community to have same-sex marriages. However, the Russian Federation absolutely denies the existence of homosexual communities. Unfortunately, government rules and laws discriminate against the opportunity for homosexual individuals to speak their minds and peacefully live their life. As a Russian citizen, I believe that I have a responsibility to show concern for people who were deprived of their rights and freedom. I decided to volunteer at the Drag performance to show my support for the LGBTQ community. Furthermore, I believe that community service educates and trains dependability and maturity. I believe that someday my native country will finally come to the fair decision of providing rights to the groups of minorities. But for now, I will continue to provide any help and support that I can, to show my respect and appreciation to LGBTQ individuals. 


I stumbled upon the chance to volunteer at the Drag Show for SPC  on one of my emails from FIU’s Honors College. It should be noted that I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities that Honors college provides. The volunteering hours at the Drag Queen show were promoted by Erica Jayne Friedman. Yet, with the Coronavirus’ epidemic, Florida International University finds ways to diversify and entertain its students. I found this astonishing. I hope that in the near future we will be able to come back to normal and open even more events and volunteering opportunities for FIU students.

Photo taken of a Drag Queen in 2021. Photo by Aleksandra Baryshnikova /CC BY 4.0


On 10 April 2021, one of my best friends, Komila Kholmatova, and I had to be present at 3 pm at GC Lawns, FIU. We arrived earlier and met a group of SPC people who were already setting up tables and other equipment. Komila and I received t-shirts and an event tag with all of the information for the event. Later, we started to help other volunteers set up for the event. We wrap the tables, packed give-aways, received and organized food, and cleaned the stations. Around five pm guests started to arrive. Komila and I were set to the food station. We got pretty lucky since we still could see the show from our spot. As soon as people came, we were giving away meals and snacks. Undoubtedly, time flew and it was already seven when the event officially started. The show was incredible, the Drag Queens were the stars of the show. Personally, I had never been to a Drag show before, however, I saw many performances online. The atmosphere was amazing, everyone was enjoying the night. People screamed, laughed, and even danced. I believe there were about five of the Queens, who demonstrated marvelous entertainment. The show ended on a high note and guests slowly started disappearing. Thus the last part of the volunteering began. The SPC group and volunteers initiated the cleaning. We perceived to clean all tables, wrap up leftovers and take the equipment back to the SPC office. Hence, our volunteering hours came to an end. 



During the community service, I realized how little it takes to bring good things to the world. If everyone would dedicate only an hour of their time to improve social issues or other worldwide problems, the world would become a heaven on earth. Throughout the whole academic year, I have improved my knowledge of social issues by taking Honors classes. I have had many opportunities to talk with people who are knowledgeable in the area of social justice. Those opportunities were provided by Honors college at FIU. To this day, I cannot express my gratitude for all of the opportunities I’ve been given thanks to them. While lectures and zoom classes bring a great value to a students’ education, the volunteering work exposed Honors students to a plethora of benefits outside of a classroom or a lecture. While there is great value in this style of learning, my community service work has taught me the many benefits of studying using different environments and teachers like fellow classmates, rangers, and people at volunteer sites,  despite their educational level or background.

 Other than that, I think many people assume that volunteering is a boring waste of their time. However, who said that people can not have fun during volunteering? My friends and I had the best time doing kayaking, clean-ups, and food tabling. I consider my experience as quality time. While my friends and I left Chicken Key Island with sore shoulders, zero stamina, and sunburned faces, Deering Estate left me with ambitions and an understanding of one thing: That you do not necessarily have to accomplish big things, as long as you have a good company and loyal friends and family by your side, you’ve won. A part of me definitely feels satisfied after all of the volunteering hours. I will try my best to continue dedicating myself to community service and strive to do better.


Florida International University – Web Communications. “Student Programming Council.” FIU, 

Aleksandra Baryshnikova: Miami as Text 2021

Aleksandra Baryshnikova: Miami as Text

Photo taken of Aleksandra Baryshnikova in 2021. Photo by Komila Kholmatova /CC BY 4.0

Welcome to my page! My name is Aleksandra Baryshnikova, I’m a Junior in Hospitality management at Florida International University. I was born in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. This city has a special place in my heart. The city is full of historic places, palaces, parks, and museums. When I was a kid my family developed a personal love for traveling. Since then I want to visit as many countries as I can. Other than that, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, and my dogs. I love creating photography and arts. I hope “Miami in Miami” class is going to help me to discover Miami and new passions.

Downtown as Text

Photo taken of Aleksandra Baryshnikova in 2021. Photo by Annette Cruz /CC BY 4.0

“Deeper connection ”

By Aleksandra Baryshnikova of FIU at Downtown Miami, 22 January 2021.

I have been living in Miami for three years and I never fell in love with this city. However, from all of the places in Miami, Downtown is on my top list. Even though I have been to Downtown quite a few times and I never paid much attention to buildings and structures. When students and I were walking through the “heart of Miami” ( sometimes running because professor Bailly is a speed) we were amazed by the history of this place. Downtown is full of contrast. Rich and poor everyone wants to take something from this place. 

In one day with professor Bailly I saw more, than in three years by myself in Downtown. The place that gathered my attention the most was a piece of the Berlin Wall. The Wall was built after World War Two. It represents two different views and ideologies of the USSR and the US. Their views were extremely different as well as their governments and they decided to separate Germany. The eastern communists were obviously more conservative and strict in every single way. While western democrats were more open-minded. The piece of the Wall today symbolizes victory and division at the same time. Still, we can see how Russian and the US are different. Even nowadays Russia saved its conservative views while America represents liberty. I think I liked this monument because I feel that this piece is a part of my history. My great-grandparents participated in Word War 2 , they shared their memories with my family. I remember they said that War is the worst thing that could happen in the world.

Another historical place that captured my attention was Freedom tower. While I was listening to the professor’s lecture I felt extremely sentimental for Cuban kids who had to go through immigration alone. The Freedom tower is extremely important in Miami history because it tells the story of the Cuban immigration to America during the Cold War. 

Miami represents diversity. However, we need to remember where this diversity came from and respect the importance of the history of Miami. We should never forget the real history of Miami. Indians were the first people who lived in the area of Downtown more than 15 centuries before white men came and colonialized lands. Tequestas were a Native American tribe and people shouldn’t forget that they died in those lands because of colonialization.   

Everglades as Text

Photo taken of Aleksandra Baryshnikova in 2021. Photo by John William Bailly /CC BY 4.0

“Hidden gems”

By Aleksandra Baryshnikova of FIU at Everglades , 05 February 2021.

Our second journey took place at  Everglades National Park, situated at the junction of North America and the tropical Caribbean climates. Everglades Park is home to a varied flora and fauna. Who would have thought that we would have a chance to go slogging there?

As soon as we stepped into the water we entered a magical portal to wildlife. Few minutes after I looked back,  there was no road, no cars, only a labyrinth of cypress. Everglades opened their doors for us, it was kind to us. Water was clear and still, soft wind accompanied us all the way through our adventure. I felt as we were a group of explorers. Everyone knows that a good group of explorers have a ringleader. In our case, we had two leaders: Ranger Ms. Dillan and Professor Bailly. Our leaders guided us through the labyrinths of cypress and waters.  My classmates and I were brave enough to enter the alligator hole. The students submerged into the water, up until their waist; gathered around and gazed at the mysterious hole. After a while, we all agreed that there were no alligators. Hence we persisted to scramble through trees and water.  Later some people decided to “baptized” themself in Everglades waters. It was quite entertaining.  After lunch, our brave group decided to continue our adventure with Cesar Becerra. Cesar is a Miami historian and a natural-lover explorer. I was thrilled when Cesar said that he could take us to a place that was seen only by two hundred people. We trumped through the woods to look at some of the hidden Everglades finds. It was magical. I tried to capture everything that Cesar was saying. Meanwhile, the atmosphere of “Indiana Jones” mixed with the “Jurassic Park” vibes followed us through the whole day from the moment when we stepped into the water to the moment when we had to sit in our cars and leave the mysterious place. 

“Grateful and pleased”, words that would best describe my feelings. The Everglades flora made my mind and soul dived into a deep state of serenity and complete silence.  

South Beach as Text.

“Unseen faces , Unheard voices.”

By Aleksandra Baryshnikova of FIU at Everglades , 19 February 2021.

Photo taken of Starlite hotel in 2021. Photo by Aleksandra Baryshnikova /CC BY 4.0

There is a plethora of ignorance when it comes to the history of South Beach. Some people still believe that colonist Carl Fisher found, now called South Beach, during his vacation dated in 1910. Supposedly, later on, Fisher announced that he is buying the land and rebuilding it into a “paradise”. Yet according to Samuel Hensdale Johnson, before Fisher’s railroad, Miami was like a tiny neighborhood where people knew everyone who lived there. When the railroad was done, South Beach became unrecognizable. Later, blacks were banned from there. 

Fisher, Flager, Collins these names are all around the city. Certainly, the above-mentioned people made a great contribution to the development of the city. Although, after blacks basically built the whole town and the time came to share the bounty from the flourishing Miami, Black residents were quickly banished. People blindly admire the city of Miami without realizing that not only white businessmen were involved in the history of South Florida and it needs to be said more.

After all, the history of Miami is not something to be proud of. On the other hand, the architecture of South Beach is magnificent. Ocean Drive is a truly unique place. This exclusive place combines a mix of architectures such as Art Deco, Mediterranean, and Mimo. It is impossible to choose a favorite style. Every single building has a unique detail that leaves an indescribable impression. In fact, Ocean Drive was saved by Barbara Baer Capitman. Thank to her merits and activism, we still have this gorgeous neighborhood. Without her passion, South Beach would look like a run-of-the-mill skyscraper city. 

Deering as Text.

Photo taken of “Finding Miami” group in 2021. Photo by John William Bailly /CC BY 4.0

“Diversity of Nature”

By Aleksandra Baryshnikova of FIU at Deering Estate Miami, 6 March 2021.

“ Fill your life with experiences, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.”- Unknown. I was lucky enough to pick the “Miami in Miami” class this semester. I can definitely say that it was love at first sight or better to say love at the first hike. Much as I go on to have fun with Miami’s nature and architecture, there was still something about being outside and hiking through mangroves that lit me up inside. Thus, this week’s adventure was waiting for us at Deering Estate. 

Deering Estate is a unique place that has eight different ecosystems. They are pine Rocklands, mangrove forests, seagrass beds, coastal dunes, salt marshes, and tropical hardwood hammocks. Imagine you are walking and eventually entering a completely different ecosystem. It is like you transitioned in time or used a magic portal. At Deering Estate you can find rare solution holes, sinkholes, and caves. We persisted to scramble through contrasting ecosystems and caves. All of those surfaces were naturally created many years ago. More than a thousand years ago, Florida faced a phase of erosion and carbonate sediment deposition. Due to the historical movement of freshwater, it created an extremely porous limestone foundation with many caves and holes. We were lucky to immerse ourselves in one of the caves at the end of our hike. Besides, Deering Estate is doing a good job of preserving and protecting this historical land and in particular those ecosystems.  

In addition to the marvelous flora and fauna of Deering Estate, we explored Charles Deering’s estate. Located in Palmetto Bay, the Deering Estate is an enlightening treasure and historical site featured on the National Register of Historic Places. Finally, I can say that this trip to Deering Estate might be one of my favorites hikes so far. I’m looking forward to new adventures. 

Vizcaya as Text.

Photo taken of Finding Miami in Miami group in 2021. Photo by Annette Cruz /CC BY 4.0

“Typical Miami”

By Aleksandra Baryshnikova of FIU at Vizcaya MuseumMiami, 19 March 2021.

For my whole childhood- I had spent countless hours at endless museum tours- hating all of them. However, I have never hated art or history, all I’ve hated are the lifeless tour stories, long lines, and crowds. After some time, my mind fell victim to the growth of knowledge and the hate turned into fondness- I began to love attending museums. Ironic isn’t it? Luckily, I had the colossal privilege of being born in Saint Petersburg, a place full of palaces, royalty, and museums, so moving to an entirely different country has taught me to appreciate the art and culture I experienced during my upbringing. Thus, it is pretty interesting to observe how historical places like Vizcaya museum have been preserved in time in a place of modernity and hastiness.     

The history of Vizcaya started in 1914. Completely hidden by the subtropical ecosystem, Vizcaya was an unseen gem in the middle of the jungle. Built and decorated by many artists, the estate and the gardens resemble a Mediterranean paradise mansion on the shores of Biscayne Bay. Nowadays, Vizcaya serves as a museum for visitors. The owner, James Deering wanted to create an interpretation of an Italian villa. Therefore, Designers like Alexander Stirling Calder, Robert Winthrop Chanler, and Gaston Lachaise constructed this stunning Mediterranean artwork. One of my personal favorite parts of the villa is the Courtyard- originally this open in order for the ocean breeze to cross the whole house. Besides, Vizcaya is extremely famous for combining a plethora of different European styles. However, it is important to remember that Vizcaya was built in the subtropical ecosystem which is a dramatic difference compared to the European climate. A good example would be the garden’s layouts- inspired by French and Italian architecture but performed with Cuban limestones and coral trim, planted with Floridian native plants. 

Definitely, the estate has a unique charm. While walking through the villa you can feel the change in different styles of architecture. It creates a feeling like you are traveling through time. From Rococo to Renaissance and back to Islamic motive, this mix of architecture demonstrates James Deering’s taste. He did not care about rules, if he wanted a piece of art, he got it- the newer the better. As an illustration, James Deering’s estate was the first place with a telephone system in Miami-Dade County.

All things considered, Vizcaya is a perfect representation of Miami. A mix of everything in one place. The newest thing and designs (at that time). Vizcaya still remains chic and luxurious. It is a great place to visit and get involved in Miami history. 

Margulies Collection as Text.

Photo taken of Aleksandra Baryshnikova in 2021. Photo by Saniya Pradhan /CC BY 4.0

“A bigger idea”

Before attending the Margulies Collection, I had heard many stories of how Wynwood was constructed as a working-class residential district, and how later on it became one of the most famous neighborhoods in Miami. Martin Z. Margulies was one of the people who bought a warehouse at Wynwood a long time ago and changed it to one of the most famous private collections in Miami. 

Before meeting Martin Z. Margulies, I imagined that he would look extremely professional and formal. However, to my astonishment, I saw a humble man wearing a simple T-shirt with a goofy label on it. As soon as I saw him, I immediately knew I would enjoy his company. I was extremely excited about our tour at  Margulies Collection. While slowly wandering through the gallery you get the sense that your mind is being freed. I believe this is connected to the fact that the collection does not have a specific theme or meaning- which I find astounding. You allow your imagination to flow with whatever comes to your mind. We saw many examples of contemporary art. Personally, I loved it. It is interesting how for some people, Anselm Kiefer’s work wouldn’t leave any impressions, but for others, his work would touch hearts. It is amazing how art could change people’s emotions and perspectives.

The Margulies private Collection stores a diverse range of modern art worldwide, but perhaps my favorite feature is a massive artwork, “Dinner Party” by Will Ryman at the disposal. “The dinner table is a great narrative to bring different characters together and is also a timeless topic”, says Will Ryman. In addition, Mr. Martin patiently explained why and how he purchased each individual piece of the collection. Apart from his stories, he shared his opinion about contemporary art, he says that “art does not have to have a meaning, it is simply an idea.” I find this appealing to my idea of art. I see art as a charming expression of an ability to see beauty everywhere. 

Visiting Margulies Collection is a great way to challenge your imagination and perspectives regarding art. I strongly suggest you visit the private collection and dive into contemporary art.  

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