Kaeli Potts: Miami as Text 2023

Photograph taken by Kaeli Potts/CC by 4.0

Kaeli is a Junior enrolled in The Honors College at Florida International University pursuing a degree studying Business Analytics. Originally from a small town in Maryland, she ventured off to the spectacular city of Miami in order to fulfill her biggest aspirations. Miami has been the perfect place to explore this potential as Kaeli thoroughly enjoys immersing herself in different cultures, and places, overall, learning different perspectives. As she fully embraces the art of fashion, Kaeli emphasizes that everyone should showcase their authentic selves despite what anyone else thinks. The world would not be as diverse, engaging, and adventurous without the mixture of all different personalities, styles, and mindsets coming together.

Encounter as Text

Perspective By Mindset

By Kaeli Potts of FIU in Miami, Florida

27 January 2023

Photograph taken on January 27, 2023, at the Deering Estate by Kaeli Potts/CC by 4.0

        What do you believe your purpose in life is? What type of experiences and memories will you create to refer to down the line? Honestly, the circle of life contains an immense amount of opportunities and discoveries for any individual to solely acquire a singular purpose. Every element that life brings us plays a huge role in molding every individual into who they are. Without experience, life is meaningless. Without connection, life is hollow. And most importantly, without growth or change, life is stagnant.

            Referring to the opening question, I believe that there are multiple things that align with my overall purpose in this life. As there are some purposes I have yet to discover, I appreciate the unrevealed. Without discovery, an individual will lack growth. When I was younger, my comfort zone was my safe haven and familiarity was my best friend. It’s not a bad thing to feel comfortable, yet many individuals fail to visualize the amount of opportunity that is subconsciously blocked by this supposed comfort zone. Take a minute to think about a time when you pushed yourself to do something different. Visualize exactly who you were right before you made this decision. Now compare that individual to who you are now. What is the key difference? Growth. Resiliency. Strength. The point is an individual acquires a significant amount of attributes and elements every time they experience a period of change. The outcome of these changes is entirely dependent on the mindset of the individual.

            The FIU Honors study abroad program can be defined as the ultimate test of experiencing growth. I’m sure that every student in these programs has about ten different reasons as to why they enrolled. However, my ultimate reasoning circulates around a need for change. As there are many foreign destinations that would fulfill my purpose of growth, something in my intuition connected me to Spain. For the reason that I have never been to Europe, there are so many discoveries and adventures that I have yet to encounter. Pushing myself to enroll in such a program has already uncovered many benefits. Suddenly, I find myself more motivated into learning about different aspects of history. Although history was a subject that I despised in high school, something about actively exploring the area you’re learning about entices me. I am extremely unfamiliar with the culture and customs of Spain, which is why I am extraordinarily motivated to continue putting my best foot forward and experience a positive change of growth. Due to my constant strive for development, my mindset has become unstoppable. I know that I can achieve any vision that I genuinely want simply due to the fact that I am willing to do anything to earn it. Many individuals underestimate the power of their minds. They don’t realize that the second you begin to doubt yourself and/or consider external influences, your mind has already formed some sort of blockage between you and that goal. The secret is to never believe that you have a limit. There is ALWAYS room for growth. There is ALWAYS more to learn. And there is ALWAYS more to discover. Throughout this journey, I am extremely thrilled to not only learn about the contents of Spain, yet to also learn more about myself and further my connections with my classmates.


An Ounce of Collaboration

By Kaeli Potts of FIU in Miami, Florida

12 February 2023

Photograph captured at South Pointe Park by Kaeli Potts/CC by 4.0

Throughout the duration of my life, I have noticed that many individuals, groups, organizations, etc. tend to adhere to specific customs and/or routines that are perceived to place them on the “correct” path of life. It is evident that these routines are mainly adapted from both nurturing and natural experiences an individual encounters. Take a minute to reflect upon a deep belief or habit that you have. No matter how many external forces attempt to tweak or change this belief, it remains unchanged. Our personal beliefs and customs are what mold us into the specific being in who we are today. Without these unique practices, the world wouldn’t be nearly as diverse, innovative, and complex as it is. This right here exemplifies the beauty behind differences in tradition. However, in every seed of good, there is always a piece of bad.

            Acquiring distinct customs reaches its tipping point the second that individuals begin to think that their specified traditions are the only “correct” means of the manner. This stubborn perspective naturally causes groups to compete against one another, and ultimately, attempt to conquer different practices while promoting their own. The flaw with this mindset is that there is not only one correct path toward success and greatness. How does one even constitute what is correct? How does one determine the right path in life? As I stated previously, this concept does not follow the “one size fits all” approach. Every individual is going to obtain procedures that appear to sustain a specific, desired outcome. However, these procedures have been formed based on experiences that one individual encountered.

            The cultural exchange between The Americas and España is a moment in history that perfectly embodies both the positive and the negative outlook of mixed cultural disbursement. Personally, I am extremely fond of the idea of exchanging beliefs, cultures, practices, etc. Instead of competing with those who are different, I believe that the collaboration of different ideas will produce a phenomenal outcome. Without the cultural exchange between The Americas and España, who knows where our world would be today? What would our environment look like? What groups of people would we stick around? Throughout this class, my perspective has been deeply enhanced by the idea that a significant number of objects, places, and things are formed by different groups of people or cultures. Prior to this course, I was completely unaware of the history of Miami. Today, Miami is advertised as an environment that has it all. No matter what kind of activities or adventures an individual may want to pursue, there will always be an opportunity to fulfill those desires in Miami. I never once thought to take a minute and ask myself, “Why is the city of Miami so diverse? What factors contributed toward this rich diversity?” Perhaps these types of questions should be pondered upon more often.

            Cultural exchange is a topic that needs to be addressed more often, especially within educational systems. Instead of focusing on the differences between certain groups, there should be more of an understanding of how these different groups align with one another. Due to this understanding, I have realized that we all acquire at least one aspect of ourselves that is a product of the Transatlantic Exchange. I am a biracial woman. Obtaining more than one ethnicity comes with acquiring several customs that are opposite of one another. Throughout my entire life, I have struggled to figure out which side of myself I identify with more. This is due to the societal pressures that are implemented to segregate different groups and traditions. As I got older, I began to realize the worth of having multiple ethnicities and experiencing different customs. Instead of choosing one side, why couldn’t I have chosen both? Why couldn’t I have seen that I was given the gift to explore different aspects of reality which has severely strengthened my perspective? Overall, the exchange of ideas only makes an entity stronger. Experiencing unusual customs provides an individual with a better understanding of different perspectives. Obtaining this insight truly transforms the way an individual may think and strengthens the outcome of a vision. Without the Transatlantic Exchange, I truly believe our society would not be as advanced and technical as it is currently.


Uncovering Miami’s Hidden Layer

By Kaeli Potts of FIU in Miami, Florida

14 February 2023

Photograph captured by Kaeli Potts at the Deering Estate/ CC by 4.0

Prior to arriving at the Deering Estate, I was unaware of what to expect. Vast fields of forest green and enormous, beaming trees greeted me upon arrival. Genuinely finding a liking to outdoor activities, I was intrigued- wanting to discover more. I believe that many individuals overlook the value of nature. Not only do these particular ecosystems act as a foundation for our world, but also play a huge historical role that many, (including myself), have no idea about. Coming from out of state, I had very limited knowledge about the city of Miami. I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the everlasting warm weather, the fast-paced opportunistic lifestyle, and some of the most beautiful beaches that I’ve seen throughout my lifetime. However, these materialistic aspects of Miami are only a small percentage of what actually molds the city together. How did these beautiful beaches come about? What constructed the city of Miami to be fast-paced and filled with endless opportunities? One of the most significant lessons that I learned by being at the Deering Estate is that there’s always another layer to uncover if you’re willing to seek it out.

Approaching the Stone House, I found myself shocked as to how drawn I was to the foundation. Although I acquired a personal liking for modern architecture, the Stone House possessed the power to immediately draw me in. Between the firm arches and beaming stones, I was completely oblivious to the authentic details of this construction that I was about to discover throughout the lecture. The amount of precision and detail that went into crafting the arches and windows completely blew my mind. It was severely fascinating to acknowledge and learn about the different cultures that collaborated together in bringing the Stone House to life. This concept only exemplifies how powerful the influence and exchange of several different cultures has on multiple societies throughout the years. Visually seeing how inspired the Americans were by Islamic culture only made me realize that this concept still applies to our modern-day society. Instead of attempting to segregate different groups, why not take ideas from each perspective and form them into one? After visiting the Deering Estate, it is extremely evident that the exchange of cultures produces phenomenal results that showcase astonishing uniqueness and diversity.

My personal favorite part of this tour was visiting the underground wine cellar. I’ve seen many wine cellars throughout my lifetime, however, none of them can even compare to the precisely constructed structure that Charles Deering created during his time. Walking down the stairs, I was encountered by a large door that obtained similarities to some sort of hidden vault. This was clearly constructed to be hidden from the public, as it even took some time for Professor Bailly to even unlock the gate to the treasure. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what the interior looked like, but oh was I excited. During this time, the Era of Prohibition was enacted on liquor and wine as a whole. Knowing this, you would think that Charles Deering would only own a few bottles of wine… Entering the cellar, I was in awe. Not only was I shocked about the size of this cellar, but how many bottles of wine could actually fit in there. It’s amazing to think about how strategic Charles Deering was in order to keep this treasure hidden from the outside- looks like there’s always another layer to uncover!

Overall, I am eternally grateful for my experience at the Deering Estate. This lecture was extremely informative and completely changed my perspective of Miami as a whole.


An Unspoken Story

By Kaeli Potts of FIU in Miami, Florida

11 March 2023

Many individuals fail to realize the relevance of visual rhetoric. The concept behind visual rhetoric revolves around the use of visual images to convey and communicate a particular meaning. How do you use visual rhetoric in your daily life? Are you aware of the extent how often visual rhetoric is used throughout our daily lives? Social media is a prime example of a modern form of this concept. Almost every individual that I personally know is currently active on social media databases such as Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, etc. Every post on one of these applications communicates a story that goes beyond words. We even convey some sort of personal experience through these lecture-based blogs right within this class! What story will you choose to tell? As many individuals are focused on these modern-day forms of visual rhetoric, there are endless examples of this concept that are prevalent throughout history. Exploring downtown Miami widened my perspective on the quality and rawness of authentic visual references and their underlying meanings.

When strolling through downtown Miami, I couldn’t help to notice the beauty behind the numerous, soaring architectural buildings. I let the warm breeze caress my body and the profuse city smells enlighten my nose. As these aspects of the city are the primary reasons why I fell in love with Miami, the information that I learned on this field trip provided me with a deep understanding of the city that I genuinely believe that I wouldn’t have discovered elsewhere.

The art of visual rhetoric was thoroughly displayed through our first stop at the Government Center. Attracted to the exterior components of the building, I was enchanted by the idea that the structure of the Government Center was precisely established in a way to produce a specific feeling. How do you feel when you approach an enormous building in an area filled with smaller ones? Are you intimidated? Does it catch your attention? As I learned on this trip, the Government Center was built with the intention of showcasing power and abundance. This particular tactic definitely produced feelings of intimidation within my mind due to the almost “threatening” atmosphere of the structure. As many of us may be aware, the government doesn’t necessarily provide a warm, welcoming hand to the public. The design of this building directly correlates with the art of visual rhetoric and the type of message that was developed to come across to those who reside in the area.

Another structure that blew my mind with its precise technique of visual rhetoric was the installation of the Dropped Bowl With Scattered Slices and Peels. This structure portrays more of a modern sense of art, constructed with intense historical meaning. One of the most predominant values that provide significant purpose within my life is growth. Without growth, one is stagnant. When one is stagnant, there is limited room for opportunities to transform into the best version of oneself. Learning that this structure represents the continuous peeling of Miami’s layers completely enlightened me as it visually illustrated a concept that is extremely important to me. Throughout this course, I’ve learned a significant amount of information on the way Miami’s foundation came about. If the customs and culture of Miami stayed stagnant with the past, the current aura of the city would display an entirely different atmosphere that many would be unfamiliar with. I believe the scattered slices and peels directly align with how operative the city of Miami has unfolded over time, and how much opportunity there is around the area. Additionally, let’s be real, Miami contains such hecticness that the scattering of the slices and peels also exhibits the pure chaos Miami has to offer.

Photograph captured by Kaeli Potts/ CC by 4.0

The last structure that personally stood out to me was the Wagner Family Homestead house. Built by a mixed couple during extreme racial discrimination, I found it completely inspiring that this family willingly adhered to their own beliefs, knowing the potential risks and consequences. Racial discrimination continues to occur throughout our modern-day society and causes huge detriment to those affected. Throughout the lecture regarding the Wagner family, I personally felt a type of connection as I am also a minority residing in The United States. Learning about the actions this family took during a time of extreme racial tensions completely shifted my perspective in such a powerful manner. These types of stories need to be discussed more within our communities as the message(s) behind these visual structures obtain the power to thoroughly change perspectives all around the city. Prior to this visit, I had no idea these historical places were located right at the heart of the city!

I am so grateful to have learned all of the important information that I took in throughout this trip. I continue to apply this knowledge and perspective shift in my daily life.


By Kaeli Potts of FIU in Miami, Florida

12 March 2023

Transforming Dreams into Reality

              Ever since I was younger, one of my favorite places to explore was the depths of my mind. If you think about it, our minds can demonstrate the concept of magic realism. As we obtain the ability to fantasize about topics that may seem unrealistic, we also obtain the ability to transform those thoughts into our own version of reality.

              While depicting a viewpoint that follows a combination of both fantasy and reality, magic realism is found in various forms of literary fiction and artwork. Many authors utilize this genre in order to openly offer a critique in regard to topics that border various political realities. Prior to reading 100 Years of Solitude, I obtained very limited knowledge of this genre. My initial thought when exploring magic realism was; “What categorizes the difference between this and fantasy?” When an individual ponders the concept of fantasy, elements such as wizards, unicorns, and dragons may come to mind. In relation to literature, the genre of fantasy authorizes readers to open a door to a universe that they would never encounter in reality. On the contrary, when an individual considers elements of magic realism, an immense amount of realistic detail is showcased through pinches of magical components.

              Personally, literary work that deeply explores aspects relating to political disturbance, egalitarianism, poverty, etc. can be extremely repetitive and sometimes quite difficult to comprehend. How can authors and artists effectively articulate the importance of these topics to individuals like myself? Discovering relevance, particularly around the mid-20th century, magic realism originated in Latin America. As Western countries economically oppressed and exploited those within indigenous communities, an extreme difficulty arose in establishing a clear line between reality and fantasy. Following this economic catastrophe, many authors began utilizing elements of magic realism to encompass their critiques of the elite and the suffering realities the indigenous faced.

              When considering examples of magic realism, Frida Kahlo’s Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, 1940, successfully exhibits an important message with the inclusivity of fantastical elements. Being that this piece of artwork is a portrait, the majority of components exemplify details of reality. With a nonchalant facial expression and the visual of thorned branches piercing her neck, Frida Kahlo conveys a realistic measure of danger and harm. Ironically, this serious message is displayed with the inclusion of glistening butterflies and tropical animals in order to align with the unusual elements of magical realism. The juxtaposition between elements of opposite references forces spectators to deeply contemplate the intention behind each piece of the puzzle. Additionally, observers are appealed to by the combination of opposing interpretations that end up shifting their perspective in a revolutionary manner.

              As I stated previously, I find some literary works conveying messages regarding serious topics to be uninteresting or difficult to understand. Exploring the genre of magic realism has completely shifted my perspective due to the gaze that I find my mind in when encountering literary pieces of it. Reading 100 Years of Solitude forced me to think outside the box. Instead of solely envisioning the scenes within this book in a completely realistic manner, I was obliged to acknowledge fantastical elements and genuinely envision them in society. Being the realist that I am, this was initially difficult for me to do. I’m not used to reading and/or contemplating magical realism and I am still exploring different aspects of it. Although, throughout this process, I have found that this genre conveys its messages in a manner that deeply interests me in the content at hand. It’s amazing to compare how different information is retained simply by the way it’s portrayed!


By Kaeli Potts of FIU in Miami, Florida

19 March 2023

The Bridge to Our Roots

Arriving just upon the West entrance road at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, I was accompanied by a Tropical Hardwood Hammock framing the walkway. In combination with the enormous, green curtain of trees, a set of arches subtly peak out at the end of the road. I remember feeling immensely intrigued; anxious to explore more. Located on Biscayne Bay, the villa encompasses various European styles of luxury. From the precisely decorative rooms consisting of antiques to its endless majestical gardens, it is evident that the villa of Vizcaya portrays extreme physical beauty. Although, this physical attraction may be appealing to the eye, the historical roots of the villa contribute toward extreme realizations that completely juxtapose the physical aspects.

Photograph captured by Kaeli Potts at Vizcaya/CC by 4.0

If you were the wealthiest person in Miami throughout the 20th century, how would you spend your money? In our modern-day society, many individuals are completely careless with their earnings. Craving attention from the media, a significant number of influential figures will allocate their money toward anyone and anything that can provide them with monumental attention. However, James Deering had a different approach. The construction of Vizcaya Villa was undertaken by James Deering in 1912. After hiring an artistic director and landscape architect, the visual inspirations of Italian and Spanish villas came to fruition. More than 1000 individuals were employed in order to turn these visions into reality! Whilst exploring the marvelous construction of the villa, I was informed that the majority of the workers who built this estate were of Bahamian origin. Out of the 100 acres consisting of the estate, none of these Bahamian employees were given a place to reside, let alone standard quality treatment. During the 1500s, it is inferred that Spaniards from the Province of Vizcaya claimed settlement on Biscayne Bay. This declaration influenced a name change of the area from Tequesta Bay to Biscayne Bay. Influenced by this story, James Deering named his villa after the European settlers.

The early twentieth century was a time of extreme racial segregation in Miami. Black laborers experienced poor reimbursement, harsh working conditions, and were forced to live in segregated sections in Miami. It’s quite ironic, isn’t it? The city of Miami is illustrated out to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. With its countless beaches, glistening blue waters, and phenomenal architecture throughout the structures of Downtown, the city has everything an individual could ask for. But who should be credited for this production of the city? Shouldn’t they deserve to enjoy living in their own masterpiece? The physical aspect of Miami seems so enticing until the underground is noted. The underground depicts the reality behind the idea that the city was built upon Black laborers who were utilized for their construction and tarnished for their heritage.

This entire concept is mirrored through the production of Vizcaya. The area the villa resides in was proclaimed by European settlers in the 1500s. The Tequesta were forced out of their residence, and suddenly had no connection to the area any longer. There is a repeated offense of European descendants announcing their claim on areas that were produced by the indigenous. Along with these claims, the indigenous were forced to suffer harsh experiences as racial segregation was praised. How is this fair? Better yet, why is this not acknowledged more within our society? Prior to taking this class, I was completely unaware of the foundation of Vizcaya, let alone the foundation of Miami. Learning this type of history inspires me to deeply investigate more aspects of the city that I may be unaware of. While learning about the origins of Miami, I have also been able to make several connections and identify similarities between aspects of European culture as well. Between the history of Vizcaya and the city of Miami, the native origins aren’t acknowledged or appreciated enough. Without the Black laborers, none of the precious characteristics of these areas would be here today. Instead of attempting to diminish these foundations of history, there should be a clear connection with the history and roots.

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