Liza Guanch is an Honors College student and Psychology major at Florida International University who is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree. Her long-term goal is to study forensic/legal psychology and find a career in a government agency, preferably the FBI. In her free time, Liza enjoys being out in nature and learning about her environment.
Welcome to the town of Cutler Bay. Town is a keyword when defining this neighborhood, as it does have a local government and is larger than a village but smaller than a city. While it is smaller than a city, it stretches about 10 square miles with 4.8 square miles being land, 0.1 square miles belonging to water, and 4.9 square miles belonging to the CDP (1). Cutler Bay is a relatively flat area which makes it more flood-prone which causes its residents to pay flood insurance. It is to be known that the town of Cutler Bay is not associated with Cutler which was a pioneer town that essentially turned into the Deering Estate. It has an altitude of 26 feet and an area of 26.49 kilometers squared (2). Within Cutler Bay there is Cutler Ridge which is a coral formation that stretches from South Miami to Homestead; in Cutler Bay it is at a height of about 14 feet and is included in hurricane emergency plans as the east can fall victim to storm surge (1). While it does have its own governing body, it is still apart of Miami and is considered a neighborhood in Miami.
The history of Cutler Bay does not date back that far, but the history of the land it is founded on does. The original inhabitants of Southern Florida were the Tequestas and eventually, the Seminoles. These were the Miamians before Miami, but they ended up going missing due to European colonization, forced exile, and disease. In 1836, Dade County was founded and named after Major Francis L. Dade who was killed during the Seminole Wars after leading his men into an ambush, controversy on whether Dade County should be named after Major Dade is present because of this. In 1838, Dr. Henry Perrine acquired 36 square miles of township on the agreement with the government that he would be able to bring more settlers into the area, however Perrine was killed in 1840 and was never able to create his town. Many people came into Perrine’s land, but none of them wanted to make his visions a reality and used it for farming, mostly. In 1897, the heirs of Dr. Perrine were finally able to resolve issues with the land and was able to put it on the market. There were few notable settlers in this area, Francis and John H. Earhart owned a farming community which became named as Franjo in their honor and the road leading to the community was named Franjo Rd, also in their honor and Dr. William Cutler who owned around 600 acres north of the Perrine land. Cutler never had enough success with his dream which was like Perrine’s, but he was able to convince a few people to stay and they paved the way for much of what is known today. The settlers who stayed on Cutler’s property named the pioneer town after him and although it is now mostly taken up by the Charles Deering Estate, it remains an important piece of history as it contains the beginning of the construction of Old Cutler Road. As the years continued, many more development achievements were made such as Henry Flagler and his railroads which led to the ability to create the township of Cutler Bay which gets its name partly from William Cutler’s legacy.
Prior to the town incorporation, there was much occurring within the Cutler Bay limits. The Cutler Ridge development plan was occurring along with the Cutler Ridge shopping mall which opened in 1977, over 20 subdivisions were created after the Bel-Aire subdivision was founded, Lennar Homes created Section One of Lakes by the Bay and is continuing to develop more. Demand was high for the areas in and surrounding Cutler Bay, so the demands needed to be met. In 2005, the residents voted to incorporate, and it was approved which made the town of Cutler Bay the youngest incorporated municipality in Florida. The town of Cutler Bay’s first mayor was elected in January 2006, but died in April 2006, so the vice mayor stepped up. The town of Cutler Bay is now governed by a five-person council and is operated under a council-manager government (ALL ABOVE (12)).
According to the US Census, last updated in 2020, the population estimate is about 45,525 which is approximately 5,000 more than the previous census population estimate in 2010, showing that there is continuous growth in this town. In terms of age and sex, there are around 52.4% of females, 24.6% of people under the age of 18, and 13.9% of people at 65 or older. The dominating races in this town are Caucasian and Hispanic with Caucasians taking up around 69.4% and Hispanics occupying 62%. Foreign born people make up around 42.1% and between the years 2016-2020 there were 1,174 veterans residing in Cutler Bay. The average amount of households in Cutler Bay, as of 2020, is 13,000 and the average persons per household is 3.35 with median gross rent being in the upper $1000s and the median household income being around $75,699. It can be also noted that around 88% of the population in the town of Cutler Bay have their high school diploma, but only around 31% have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The level of poverty in 2020 was around 10.7%, but upon viewing the town, it seems likely that this has increased as of late, which is sad to say (US CENSUS (3)). I had the advantage of having a relative who resides in Cutler Bay, so I was able to get more insight from them.
Interviewee: Ventura Guanche
Relationship to Cutler Bay: Resident
He speaks primarily Spanish, as he is foreign born from Cuba, but this interview was conducted in English.
Question: How long have you lived in Cutler Bay?
Answer: Around 10-11 years
Question: Where did you live previously?
Answer: I have lived in many places like Cuba, Virginia and Hialeah.
Question: Why did you move here?
Answer: Your aunt and I chose to move here to be closer to family, but also to buy a smaller home that fit our needs
Question: Do you like living in Cutler Bay?
Answer: Sometimes it can be difficult with traffic and some areas aren’t as safe as others, but overall, it is a nice area, I can’t complain too much
Question: What is your favorite part about living here?
Answer: Being able to host family events since I am in the middle of everyone.
Question: How is it being a Hispanic in Cutler Bay?
Answer: Actually, very easy, almost everyone is Hispanic here, so I can speak Spanish 90% of the places I go without a problem
Sadly, there aren’t many landmarks of note in Cutler Bay as it is still a relatively new town, but some that are present include:
Southland Mall: Southland mall is located at 20505 S Dixie Hwy, Cutler Bay, FL 33189 and was opened in 1960 as an extension to the Cutler Ridge Shopping Center. There are plenty of dining and shopping options to choose from and, my personal favorite, a movie theatre. Some stores and restaurants include Victoria’s Secret, Applebee’s, and DSW. It is a local hangout and is the ideal location for any shopping occasion. It also has an insane amount of parking all around, so finding a spot is never an issue.
Black Point Park and Marina: Black Point Park and Marina is a beautiful location fit for any with a love for the outdoors. There is much to do from biking trails, fishing spots, picnic areas, a massive marina for boaters, and a restaurant. It is quite easy to pass time at Black Point. There is also a Black Point mascot, a saltwater crocodile named Fred, who likes to hang out in the area quite often. He is huge and a sight to see. The address is 24775 SW 87 Avenue, Miami FL and it is open 24 hours, but some parking areas do close early (4).
South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center: This is a building that was created to showcase performers, whether it be music, dance, or art. The grand opening occurred in 2016, so it is somewhat new, but it has been loved by the community ever since. It has the seating capacity of 961 and contains two buildings. One of the two buildings is for the formal performances and has an orchestra pit, a stage, areas for concessions, restrooms, dressing rooms, storage, and a fly tower. The other building is meant for informal performances such as rehearsal and is also used for community gatherings. There are always new performances going on, so there is usually something for everyone’s taste. It is located at 10950 SW 211th St, Cutler Bay, FL 33189, so feel free to stop by and check it out (5).
Cutler Bay may not be home to many landmarks, but there are quite a few parks. Some of those parks are:
Cutler Ridge Park and Pool: Cutler Ridge Park and Pool is a favorite of Cutler Bay locals and is on 10 acres of land. It is home to its own soccer club and aquatic team and contains many facilities. It has a 25-meter swimming pool, picnic areas, a recreational building, athletic fields, and parking space that fits 70 cars. Currently, the swimming pool does not have admission prices listed as it is in the process of repairing a broken water heater, but when it does have them listed, it is very reasonably priced with adults paying $2, children 17 or younger paying $1.50, senior citizens of 55 and older getting in free, and a 10 month pass for $10. It is located at 10100 SW 200th Street Cutler Bay, FL 33189 (6).
Bel-Aire Park: Bel-Aire Park is half the size of the Cutler Ridge Park and Pool with it only being 5 acres, but there is still much to offer. Its main use is for athletic purposes as it is home to a tackle football and cheerleading squad and holds many practices/games for adult soccer and youth lacrosse. There are also restrooms, picnic areas, and a parking lot for guests. It is located at 18500 SW 97th Avenue Cutler Bay, FL 33157 (6).
Saga Lake Park: Saga Lake Park is the perfect location to relax at. It is also 5 acres, but it does not have the same number of athletic fields as the other two parks. It does, however, have a picnic area, a softball/baseball field, and a path for fitness lovers. It is a calm park, but sometimes that it what makes for a perfect park. It has a beautiful view of the lake which may be appealing to those who enjoy picnics by the water. It is located at SW 198th Street & SW 83rd Avenue (6).
In Cutler Bay, the main mode of transportation is car, but there are other options too.
Golf Carts: It can be said that some areas of Cutler Bay are quite golf cart friendly and can be an effective mode of transportation that reduces pollution and carbon emissions. I do not believe that US1 is safe for this type of transport, but perhaps smaller neighborhoods and areas on Old Cutler can be suitable.
GO Connect: This is one of the two transportation services that the town of Cutler Bay provides for its residents at no cost. It travels from the South Dade Transitway all throughout Cutler Bay and can be booked via mobile app that has English and Spanish options. Aside from holidays, the GO Connect runs from Monday-Friday 5:30AM-8PM (7).
Town Circulator Bus: This is the second transportation service offered to the residents of Cutler Bay that, as of September 2021, is free. The first trip begins on Old Cutler Rd and Franjo Rd, with trips continuing to leave every hour after up until the last trip. The hours of operation are Monday-Saturday 8:40AM-4:40PM and Sunday 10:40AM-3:40PM. A real-time update on the location of the bus can be viewed within the mobile transit app of Miami-Dade County (7).
Overall, cars continue to be the most common, but the public transportation does help those who cannot afford a vehicle or those who simply want to take advantage of public transport to reduce carbon emissions and make an impact in saving the environment. They are also useful to those who do not enjoy spending money on gas due to the current outrageous prices.
There are many options for dining within the town of Cutler Bay, but some authentic options include:
The Tea Room Restaurant: This restaurant has been serving guests a fine selection of international teas and food items since 1974. The interior is modeled after tea rooms in the U.K and England and instantly immerses you with its unique interior and delicious menu items. It was damaged by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 but remodeled and reopened to the public to continue introducing people to new and exotic teas (8).
Black Point Ocean Grill: This restaurant is located within Black Point Park and Marina. It serves delicious and fresh seafood along with plenty of other options for the non-seafood lovers or the alcoholic beverage lovers. They also have live music performances of different genres to suit every person’s taste in music. Before or after a meal at the grill, guests can take a peaceful stroll along the water’s edge on the boardwalk. It is a little piece of heaven and a must-try location (8).
Ackee Jamaican Cuisine: Many may not know, but South Florida has a deep love for Jamaican Cuisine and this restaurant satisfies the cravings of many Cutler Bay locals. It is a cozy location and offers authentic Jamaican food such as curry chicken and oxtail; they also serve an authentic Jamaican drink called BIGGA which is a lightly carbonated soft drink that comes in many flavors (8)
There are so many businesses within Cutler Bay, but three of them include:
Hair Ego: Hair Ego is a beauty salon in Cutler Bay that has been around for over 40 years. It is highly rated and does everything from the simplest hair cut to the most extensive of treatments to your hair. It is a unisex salon, so it does offer both men and women services. It also offers waxing and nail services, so there is more than one reason to visit. It is a local business and is located at 20463 Old Cutler Rd Cutler Bay, FL 33189 (9).
Encompass Health: Encompass Health does have other locations, but the business itself is important and is a wonderful addition to the Cutler Bay town. It serves as a rehabilitation facility for those who have suffered a life-changing illness or a severe injury. It offers different types of therapy to match any need of every patient and they go above and beyond to ensure that their patients receive the best care (10).
Sweet Haven Bookstore: Sweet Haven Bookstore is a quaint location that sells used books, gifts, and many other items. It is a small store which adds to the experience and may bring a sense of peace for customers who do not like huge department stores. This store has much to offer as used books are usually good books, so it seems that there can be many treasures found within and it is a local business which is always a plus (11).
All in all, Cutler Bay is a town that many may not think much of, but it has opportunity for growth. The community is mostly Hispanic which emphasizes the diversity present and the acceptance of it. While there may not be many landmarks due to the town being so young, there is an extensive developmental history that can be found simply by going onto the town website. There are many beautiful parks to visit and lovely places to try new foods at. It may not be a town that people give much thought, but it is home to many, and it continues to let people in. Access to public transportation is another feature of Cutler Bay that makes it so appealing, as that benefits many people and can be the most effective way to travel at times. The only downside to Cutler Bay may be the traffic or the fact that there is not much to do past a certain time, however Miami is not Miami without traffic and Black Point is open 24 hours, so that is certainly an option for those night owls who want to enjoy the nighttime weather.
Liza Guanch is an Honors College student and Psychology major at Florida International University who is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree. Her long-term goal is to study forensic/legal psychology and find a career in a government agency, preferably the FBI. In her free time, Liza enjoys being out in nature and learning about her environment.
I volunteered at Deering Estate and Bill Baggs State Park in Miami, Florida. Both volunteer excursions were led by Professor John William Bailly of FIU in the Miami in Miami class. In Bill Baggs State Park, we were also led by Ranger Shane Zigler. Bill Baggs State Park is a Florida state park that protects South Florida’s natural environment, is home to Cape Florida Lighthouse, and is a tourist destination for beautiful, sandy beaches and other outdoor activities. While the original plan was to venture out to Chicken Key, the winds weren’t in our favor, so we came up with the alternative plan of cleaning up the mangroves on the estate.
While the main reason for completing these volunteer excursions was because it was a part of the Miami in Miami syllabus, there are multiple other reasons. Ever since I was young, I would take part in protecting the environment in any way that I could. I was a Girl Scout for 7 years which allowed me to do a lot of volunteer work that would benefit nature such as beach cleanups with Baynanza, recycling activities, or even something as simple as cleaning up a garden. I noticed that out of all of those, I would continue to gravitate towards beach cleanups or anything revolving the ocean because of how important the ocean is to me. I have always had a deep love for the ocean and what lives in it, so being able to clean up some of the damage that humans are doing to it means a great deal.
These activities do not directly relate to my major, as I am a psychology major, but they do relate to my interests. Along with my love for the ocean, I also have a love for Marine Biology. I considered going down the Marine Biology track in college, but I preferred to keep it as a hobby, so I could have some more room to explore my other interests like legal psychology. Marine Biology is extremely interesting to me, and the mangrove cleanup made me feel like I was making an impact and helping the lives of marine animals, including dolphins which happen to be my favorite animal of all-time.
For the Bill Baggs State Park excursion, we were told to meet at the Cape Florida Lighthouse where we were met with our mission. It was a beautiful day to be outside with blue skies and a bright sun that shined consistently throughout the day. Upon first glance of the lighthouse, I was in awe, I had seen it before as a child, but learning about the history and how it is the one of the oldest standing structures remaining in Miami Dade County made the view all that more breathtaking. This is the second semester of the Miami in Miami class, but this excursion seemed to bring the class together. Along with connecting the class, I was able to connect with Ranger Shane Zigler and learn about his history, his current responsibilities, and more on his outlook of the park and the world.
This trip to the Deering Estate is the third we have made in this class, but each time is completely different. If we had stuck to the original plan, we would have needed to get to Chicken Key by canoes, but because of the weather conditions and luckily for our muscles, we only had to walk a short distance to get to the mangroves. The first sight that is seen is a blocked off entrance to the old Deering Estate mangrove path which creates a level of mystery and anticipation of what’s to come.
WHEre & what
The Bill Baggs State Park Cleanup took place on April 6th, 2022. We met at the Cape Florida Lighthouse and were told that we were on landscaping duty. The project was to carry several bags of mulch, using gloves, and then lay the mulch all along the sides of the pathway that lead up to the lighthouse. Despite it being April, the Florida sun is no match, and we were instantly breaking a sweat. I was able to work alongside classmates that I had not spoken to much and bonded with them over the task at hand and learned a little bit about their backgrounds which proved to me how doing something good can bring people together. Laying the mulch and making it look as visually appealing as possible took around 2 hours. Once we finished, we stopped and looked at all that we had done and were amazed at the results. It looked stunning. The feeling of accomplishment that came over me when I was able to see the difference, I had made just in two hours was indescribable.
The Mangrove Cleanup took place on April 20th, 2022. This was another April event, so it while it wasn’t as hot as it could be in Miami, it was still enough to sweat instantly, especially with the work we were doing. We met at the Deering Estate and prepared ourselves for the day by putting on mosquito repellent, sunscreen, putting on water shoes, if we had, and gathering the trash bags. Before we started to clean, we learned that there used to a be a path through the mangroves that was about 1 mile long and would lead out to Cutler Creek, but it was destroyed during Hurricane Irma. The mangrove habitat seemed a bit overgrown and while we did find plenty of trash including a metal bucket, some illegal lobster trap materials, and plenty of other litter, we also encountered plenty of spiders and even saw a couple snakes. It was very much an immersion into nature, but that made it all the more rewarding to clean up.
Overall, both days were a success. I would not have had it any other way. The way I see it, we were able to make an impact and assist in the beautification of our natural world. It is easy to say that what didn’t work on the Deering Estate cleanup day was the weather which preventing us from going to Chicken Key, but it led us to clean another area that needed just as much care and attention. The best part of both excursions was being able to see our results, however I wish we had more time to spend in the mangroves. There is so much to be done there and hopefully one day, that won’t be the case, but until then, the little that we did do went a long way. The only thing left to say is, keep our world beautiful. It provides for us, so let us keep it healthy and thriving. It is the least we can do.
Liza Guanch is majoring in Psychology and working towards her bachelor’s degree at Florida International University in the Honors College. Her career goal is to study forensic psychology and hopefully, turn that into a career with the FBI. In her free time, Liza enjoys spending time in nature and experiencing the world around her.
The city of Key Biscayne is an island town. It is approximately four miles long and two miles wide with over two miles of beachfront property along with two major parks, Crandon Park and Bill Baggs State Park (1). The highest point of elevation in all Key Biscayne is 5ft. One might believe they are in Key Biscayne once they cross the Rickenbacker Causeway bridge, however, this is not so. The first island that is introduced to those entering through this bridge is Virginia Key, a separate barrier island. Key Biscayne is in between Crandon Park and Bill Baggs State Park with the Atlantic Ocean on the East and the Pacific Ocean on the West (2). It is also crucial to understand that Key Biscayne is NOT geographically tied to the Florida Keys, despite the name, it is a separate island that formed naturally. To be more specific on the formation of Key Biscayne, it was created from eroded sand that traveled from the Appalachian Mountains through rivers. Its foundation is made up of weak sandstone, with no real solid bedrock. Post-2000 BC is approximately the time when Key Biscayne may have surfaced as an island due to the sea level rise stopping around this time, at least this is what some geologists say (2).
The urban landscape consists of the general cityscape with buildings, residences, and businesses. As previously mentioned, Key Biscayne is connected to Florida by the Rickenbacker Causeway, which is a short drive away from residents providing an easy flow of transportation on and off the island, assuming you have a mode of transportation that can cross this bridge. With the thriving businesses, efficient road systems, and inland Key Biscayne being filled with infrastructure, the urban lifestyle is found here. However, Key Biscayne started out as nothing but nature with mangrove habitats, greenery, and several beaches; it now contains a vast amount of greenery, with several protected natural areas, but it is more so beaches amongst the city.
As previously mentioned, it is assumed that the island appeared around or after 2000 BC once the sea level stopped rising. The first inhabitants of the island were the Tequestas, a native tribe to Florida. The Tequestas were one of the first inhabitants of South Florida along with the Calusa tribe. These Tequestas were hunter-gatherers, so this island proved beneficial for their needs, as they would hunt for fish and other marine life from all sides since it was surrounded by water. The Rickenbacker Causeway was not present during the time of the Tequesta, so the only means of transportation would be by boat, or in their case, dugout canoes. The Tequesta were not only found on the island of Key Biscayne, but they did use this area extensively, it seems.
The more time passed, the more things changed. In 1513, Ponce de Leon traveled to and discovered this island. He named it “Santa Maria” and left quickly, which was good for the Tequestas, to show off his findings to the King of Spain. This was not the end of the Tequesta tribe, but it was the beginning of their end. Some 50 years later, a man had to stop at this island because of nasty sea weather due to a hurricane, Pedro Menendez de Avila. At first, the Tequestas created a type of relationship with this man who had been on a mission to establish a settlement in St. Augustine and murder French protestants that were nearby, but he was a Catholic Spaniard in a time where other religions were not accepted. He attempted to convert the Tequestas to Catholicism and divert them away from their culture and beliefs, so a mission of the Jesuit priests was formed and eventually, failed because their conversion methods usually involved a lot more violence than necessary. This was the end of the Tequestas, as we know it. They were pushed down to Cuba if they survived the foreigner’s fight, and there is no trace of them after that.
Centuries passed and many shipwrecks occurred. Some of these shipwrecks were filled with treasures that have yet to be found. One of these wrecks led a sailor to give the island the name “Vizcaya” which means “Biscayne”. Key Biscayne was once owned by the British in the 1700s, but colonists seemingly did not thrive in the natural landscape of the island, so it was given back to the Spaniards who had held on to it for several centuries. However, in the early 1800’s, the United States had claimed Florida, including Key Biscayne, and the American history of this island begins.
In 1825, the Cape Florida Lighthouse was built to guide ships in the night to safety and to bring more people into the new town of Key Biscayne. For a while, the main residents of Key Biscayne were farmers, each owning their fair share of land and using it mostly for exotic fruits that were able to thrive in the unique South Florida climate (all above-(3)). A prominent plantation that lasted up until World War II was the Matheson family coconut plantation which now makes up most of Crandon Park. After World War II, the island was getting more tourism but was not greatly developed until the completion of the Rickenbacker Causeway in 1947. In 1950, houses were being built in the villages of Key Biscayne that would sell for less than $10,000 which is far from the millions these same houses go for in present times. The first and only bank at the time was the Key Biscayne Bank & Trust (1964) which was owned by Charles Rebozo, a friend of Richard Nixon. In 1969, Richard Nixon found his “Florida White House” in Key Biscayne that was mainly used for visits to Charles Rebozo and as a vacation to the warm climate. This house is not still standing today because the new owners bulldozed it in 2004. Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992, but it did more good than bad, as there were many invasive plant species that the hurricane wiped out (all above after (3)- (4)). The years that followed were filled with more and more urban development which is still occurring to this day. Key Biscayne is continuously expanding its city, which can be an economic success but can pose a threat to the natural life surrounding it
Interview with Brian Hernandez, LOCAL FISHERMAN
Q: “How long have you been fishing?”
A: “About 8, maybe 9 years”
Q: “Why is Key Biscayne the spot to fish at?”
A: “In my experience, I have found that Key Biscayne has some of the best spots to fish just because of the marine life found all around. You also have two oceans to choose from, so that adds to the diversity in marine life.”
Q: “What is your favorite spot in Key Biscayne?”
A: “Honestly, the best spot is Crandon Park, not even to fish, but just to relax. There is so much to do and most of it is outside, so how can you not love it?”
Q: “Do you see yourself living here full time as you get older?”
A: “I don’t know if I would live here full time because of how expensive it is, but maybe if I land a career that pays well enough, I would consider retiring here.”
According to the 2019 US Census, the population estimate is 12,846 which is only a few hundred more from the population estimate in April 2010, which was 12,344, but the population census in 2020 is estimated at 14,809 showing a sharp increase. The primary races in Key Biscayne are Caucasian (96.6%) and Hispanic (69.4%). There are more teenagers found in Key Biscayne than young children with teenagers under 18 making up 28% of the Key Biscayne population and adults over 65 following behind with 16.8%. Over 50% of the population in Key Biscayne is female. The mean household income is $151, 310 with 4.9% of the population being in poverty (US CENSUS (5)).
1- Bill Baggs State Park
Bill Baggs State Park is, as in the name, a state park. However, it is so much more than that with the stunning views of the ocean and it is home to the 1825 Cape Florida Lighthouse. The hours are 8AM to sundown with an $8 fee per vehicle charged upon entrance. There is little opportunity for boredom as there is an experience for everyone with bicycling, swimming, rollerblading, fishing, and hiking being some. There are tours offered of the Cape Florida Lighthouse, but it can also be self-guided which provides an immersion into the past and upon reaching the top, a breathtaking image of the sea. Pets are allowed, so the whole family can take part in the fun. There is also a restaurant in the park, so if you forget to bring food to the beach, there is no need to worry (all above- (8)).
2- Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center
Located in Crandon Park and established in 1985 by Marjory Stoneman Douglas, this nature center is an environmental facility crafted for the study and preservation of Florida’s wildlife and nature. It is free to enter with hours from 9AM to 3PM, but there is a parking fee for nonmembers of the nature center which is $7. There is an art gallery and museum exhibits with tons of marine and historical information. It is also an entry point to Bear Cut Preserve (all above- (7)).
3- Crandon Park
Crandon Park is located on the northern side of Key Biscayne. It is one of the most famous areas because of the countless amenities and the beautiful beaches. There is a fee of $5 on the weekdays and $7 on the weekends for parking, but it seems like a decent price to pay for a full day’s worth of fun. The beach is two miles long and there is a sandbar, that Crandon is famous for, protecting the visitors from harsh waves and tides. Among the many things to do, there are jet ski, parasailing, and kiteboarding rentals available for purchase at the water sports concession stand located at the beach. Visitors can also rent out cabanas for a luxurious and relaxing beach day getaway. If the beach isn’t your style, there is plenty more to do with Crandon Park’s tennis and golf course, marina, and the Bear Cut Preserve. There are 26 tennis courts and lessons are available to those who may want. The golf course is 18-holes and is immersed in the Florida landscape. The marina is a good spot for the fishermen and snorkelers as there are many fishing spots and artificial reefs near this area; the marina is also a wonderful spot for the sea-lovers who wanted to go out on a boat, maybe even a dive boat. Bear Cut Preserve is an environmental study area, perfect for nature lovers who might not want to get their feet wet (all above- (6)).
Key Biscayne is covered in greenery and there are tons of parks and places to enjoy nature to choose from. Some of them include:
1- Village Green Park
The village green park is located at 400 Crandon Blvd. It is a beautiful and family-friendly park that is suitable for picnics, exercise, or any playful endeavors. If you are thinking of taking the family out for a picnic and some frisbee-throwing, the village green park is an ideal location.
2- Paradise Park
Paradise Park is located within Crandon Park and provides access to the beach, views of nature, and picnic areas. There are many wildlife that find their homes in Crandon Park, but the most frequent appearances are made by raccoons who love the attention of the park’s visitors.
3- Calusa Park
Calusa Park may have gotten its name from the Calusa tribe which was one of the first inhabitants of South Florida, the Miamians before Miami if you will, and is yet another place filled with gorgeous scenery and serves as the perfect location to breathe fresh air and relax. It does contain an abandoned shack, which distracts viewers from the nature around them out of intrigue. This shack is one of Miami Dade County’s oldest historical landmarks. It was created in 1917 for the Matheson Coconut Plantation and was originally located in Grand Bay. This shack served as a barrack for workers and held many duties from a living space, to a church, to a school, and even a hurricane shelter. It then became known as, “The Calusa Playhouse” and held several musicals and plays becoming a hot spot for entertainment for over 40 years, until Hurricane Andrew struck and building codes were updated that the shack could not keep up with, so it was deemed unsafe and locked up (all above- (9)).
There are several modes of transportation on the island, but the most popular include those that reduce pollution such as bicycling or walking. Four miles is not a terribly far distance, so these methods prove to be extremely effective for those who don’t enjoy driving or simply enjoy the outside and exercise. Another typical transportation method seen in Key Biscayne is cars and golf carts. Cars are seen more than golf carts, as they can be used for longer distances such as going on and off the island, but golf carts prove to be useful for the locals who need to do some quick errands, but they may not be within a decent walking distance. Boats are also typically seen in the waters of Key Biscayne and can serve as a mode of transportation to those who plan on taking trips through the ocean around Key Biscayne and Miami and stopping at marinas along the way. If you are a fan of public transportation, there is the Metrobus and the “Freebee on the Key” which is a free ride service that travels to different locations in Key Biscayne and is perfect for travelers and locals; it cannot operate past 25MPH, which makes for the perfect scenic and budget-friendly tour of the Key. I have also seen that air travel by helicopter is available, but I am not sure it is extremely used and there may not be many spaces to land safely.
While there are many places to eat and enjoy the local grub of Key Biscayne, these are some fan-favorites.
This is a local bakery that has been around for approximately 20 years, owned by Maria Louisa. It serves baked goods from Peruvian and international cultures. It is known for the pionono which is a roll of sponge cake filled with dulce de leche and the chocolate volcano which is a moist chocolate pound cake topped with chocolate ganache. This bakery is the perfect stop for visitors with a sweet tooth who want to tour the world’s flavors without all the intense travel (all above- (10)).
2- Donut Gallery
This is a family-owned restaurant, established in 1972, that serves delicious breakfast. It is known for what is called, “The Ted’s Special”, which is an English muffin that is topped with bacon, egg, cheese, ham, and tomato open-faced. With many breakfast food combinations and fresh beverages to choose from, it is one of the best spots to eat the most important meal of the day (all above- (11))
3- KeBo Restaurant
A newer restaurant to the Key Biscayne scene, KeBo is a Spanish Mediterranean-style restaurant that was founded in 2014. It quickly became a Miami foodie hot spot and is the place to get authentic Spanish food. It was voted best Spanish restaurant in the Miami New Times in 2017 which is a huge achievement being that they originated from a deli restaurant that only had 4 tables. Their kitchen staff is made up of three HAND-PICKED chefs to ensure the best quality. It has gone from a quick deli shop to an upscale restaurant in a matter of 7 years and is sure to only keep improving (all above- (12)).
There are too many businesses to count as it is a city filled with locals and tourists, but some of the local spots are:
1- Toy Town
Toy Town is a local toy store that has been in Key Biscayne for over 20 years. It has been rated as one of “Miami’s Top Toy Stores” and has received a feature on the front cover of “Business Monday”. Aside from being a locally owned business, it is unlike any other toy store around because it does not only sell toys, but they also offer gift wrapping for FREE and the customer service is beyond compare; they even throw huge parties for their customers throughout the year with a fan-favorite being their Christmas Party that contains a guest appearance from Santa Claus, himself. The store also gives back to the community by donating to local schools, churches, sports teams, and charities. If you want to get a toy for your child or if you are in the mood to relive your own childhood, this is the spot to go (all above- (13)).
2- The Golden Hog
The Golden Hog started out as a small neighborhood farmer’s market that ensured the best quality in all their products. This is not the average farmer’s market, as it sells gourmet food items from artisan cheeses to handmade pastas all with fair prices to increase sales and keep that local business atmosphere. They cater, deliver, create gourmet baskets for any occasion, and will attempt to source any item that cannot be found in their market. If you are unable to go to the Golden Hog in person, much of what they sell can be purchased online. This seems like the ideal place for those who favor luxury food or those who want to enjoy gourmet dishes from time to time (all above- (14)).
3- The Island Shop
The island shop is marketed as a gift shop, but it can be a shop that serves all with their range of items. They sell items from home decorations to baby clothing, to fragrances, and so much more. They have been serving the community for over 30 years and emphasize that each of their items is picked so that any customer that they have does not leave empty-handed. The shop also offers in-house printing for any personalization needs. If there was ever a gift shop to recommend, this would be the one (all above- (15)).
It is safe to say that Key Biscayne may be one of my favorite cities in Miami. I may not live there, but I do go there often to enjoy the beautiful scenery found within their parks and beaches. It is a city that balances urban life and natural life which is not something often seen. It has many businesses and companies, but it never loses that small-town feel, and hopefully never will. It cares about its community, and it cares about preserving the environment. From every restaurant to every local store to every park, Key Biscayne (or Key Biscayne Village) has something unique to offer.
Liza Guanch is majoring in Psychology and working towards her bachelor’s degree at Florida International University in the Honors College. Her career goal is to study forensic psychology and hopefully, turn that into a career with the FBI. In her free time, Liza enjoys spending time in nature and experiencing the world around her.
I volunteered at the Deering Estate in Miami, FL with Professor John William Bailly and the Miami in Miami class. This Estate is protected land and preserves the natural landscape of Florida from the Pine Rockland to the Mangrove Habitat. There are many volunteer opportunities at this Estate, but our group was able to do the most rewarding experience of cleaning up Chicken Key. Chicken Key is an uninhabited island that collects the debris of the neighboring beaches and local fishing spots, so the wildlife that does live there suffers.
Cleaning up Chicken Key was part of the syllabus in the Miami in Miami class, so that is one of the main reasons we took part in this opportunity, but it was not the only one. In school, we are taught of the environmental issues the world is facing, but we never get the chance to make a change, so this was our chance to make a difference.
I am a Psychology major, so taking part in this cleanup was not for the benefits of having it relate to my career, but it did take me back to my younger years of being a Girl Scout. I was a Girl Scout for 7 years and we did many beach clean-ups, hiking trips, and other outdoor excursions, so this Chicken Key Cleanup reminded me of my background and how it feels to be a positive impact instead of the negative one. Also, I am a lover of the ocean and its endless beauty, so any chance I have to help preserve it, I will take it.
Since this is an island that can only be reached by boat, we paired up and took canoes. Naturally, we would be placed in canoes with limited canoeing experience to add more adventure to the expedition. The wind was fighting us, and we were fighting the current of the water. It was a competition of stamina, endurance, and strength. Professor Bailly allowed us a pitstop on the way to the island to enter a path into the Mangrove Habitat, however, this proved to be another challenge rather than a rest stop. Canoes are easily stuck in the roots of Mangroves, so the teamwork needed to be exceptional to avoid a potential crisis.
Despite the struggle of the journey, it was rewarding and got our muscles ready for action. Upon arrival, I immediately had the urge to clean and once I started looking for things that shouldn’t be there, I couldn’t stop finding them. It was a rollercoaster ride of emotions because seeing the litter was disappointing and disheartening but clearing it up gave a sense of relief and joy.
Where & What
This Chicken Key Cleanup took place in early October, October 6th, to be exact. It was early into the fall season, so the sun was still bright, and the temperatures were coming down slowly from their summer highs. The trip to and from Chicken Key by canoe was stressful but peaceful and the cleanup was extremely rewarding yet cut too short. We managed to fill every canoe which was about 10 canoes, if memory serves correctly, with anywhere from 2-6 bags filled with trash and some larger pieces of debris that could not fit in a trash bag. The most common trash I found was bottles, Styrofoam, and fisherman items like chum boxes and fishing line.
We found a lot of random items such as crates, massive plastic containers, shoes, and toothbrushes/toothpaste. What saddened me the most is how much ground there was left to cover when it was time to head back. I feel that we could have spent the whole day there and still would have only removed a portion of the trash found. When we got back to the Deering Estate, we were able to assist the employees of the Estate and throw our findings away in the dumpster for proper disposal. We emptied so many bags of trash, so it is insane to think that we managed all of that in just six hours. This cleanup allowed us to do so much, and I would not trade the experience for the world.
When reminiscing on this day, it is easy to get caught up in the fun of it all, but it is necessary to remember the reality of the situation. Our oceans are constantly being polluted with plastic, glass, Styrofoam, and so much more. Our oceans which make up most of this world that we live in are constantly suffering at the hands of humans. This cleanup was organized so that humans could correct the errors, in some way, of the other humans who were careless and reckless. This cleanup was organized to show the true level of harm that littering does and it succeeded. The day was an overall success, but I am sure that we could’ve been better prepared for what we endured. Being canoe amateurs did not help, but it was easy to get the hang of it when the correct rhythm was found between the front and back end of the canoe. I feel like what worked was our choice of using reusable trash bags despite them being rather small because we didn’t add to the pollution with our use of plastic. The size of the bags did not work very well because of how much there was to pick up, but all that meant was grabbing more bags every time we returned to base camp. The time spent there worked for the plan that was set that day, but I feel like we did not realize how much left there would be, so planning a longer trip might be beneficial to increase the amount collected. Overall, the day worked as it was supposed to, but as with anything, there is room for improvement, however, I loved every second spent out on the Bay and at Chicken Key. It was an experience I will never forget and would love to do again.
Liza Guanch is a 19-year-old junior at Florida International University. She was born and raised in Miami but embraces her Cuban and European background. She is a cancer survivor and sees that as one of the blessings in her life. She is majoring in Psychology and wants to pursue a graduate degree in Forensic Psychology to then work in the FBI. She continues to challenge herself to accomplish all her goals and learn every piece of knowledge she is able to.
Downtown as Text
“Roots of the City as Text”
by Liza Guanch of FIU at Downtown Miami, 1 September 2021
Color can be found deep within the roots of Miami. However, it seems that this story of color has been washed out. The original inhabitants of Miami were colored, the Tequestas. The first named citizen was a colored man, a Bahamian. The first buildings to be built in Miami were created by African-American people. Miami runs on color, but with so much of the history that is told being based on the European colonization, it gets pushed underground.
To be colored in a society that was crafted by those who were colored should be something powerful, yet it has brought so much fear and struggle instead. In the beginning, the Tequesta people brought life to this city prior to it being a city. They used their knowledge of the land that they called home to survive 250 years past European colonization. They passed on many skills and lessons to these foreigners such as farming in this wet environment and hunting methods to get the best catch in the Miami wild. Without these skills, the foreign Europeans would not have lasted long. Yet, somehow, the foreigners decided that these Tequestas were of no use as the years went on and ran them out leading to their extinction. Miami may have been inhabited by color, but it then became a European settlement.
As the Europeans continued to take over the land we know as Miami, a man by the name of William English came from the Carolinas to create a civilization based on fertile soil. While this can be seen as good, all good brings on its fair share of bad. To take care of this land, labor was needed, and what better labor, English thought, then free labor. Slave labor was introduced because of civilization creation and agriculture in Miami. The first buildings ever built were slave quarters, “Longhouse” which then turned to “Fort Dallas” to be used in the Seminole Wars, and they were built by the African-American and Bahamian people. While slavery may have started because of William English, the foundation of Miami being built by color was also started.
Further understanding of Miami roots running deep and filled with color are the Seminole Wars. These three wars paved the way for the Seminole Indians to have the home that they have now in the Everglades. These wars were some of the most gruesome wars on both the European and the Seminole sides. While they were the most gruesome, the end result was freedom for the colored people, despite them still being pushed into the Everglades. The colored roots of Miami may run deep and may be underground in most parts, but the Seminoles prove that these roots are present and are never-ending.
As the creation of Miami continues, Henry Flagler brings railroads to Miami which is an extreme improvement to the city that Julia Tuttle founded. However, these railroads allowed for town separation which Flagler took advantage of and created segregation among Miami through the development of the city we know as “Overtown”, but was known as “Colored Town” and referred to as “Darkie Town”. This was the first appearance of segregation and continues to prove that despite Miami being crafted and built by color, there is more fear and struggle than power and freedom in these colors because of its European history.
As time goes on, segregation eventually ends in the 1900s, but the divide never disappears. Racism dates back to the early 1700s-1800s when the Europeans first came to interact with the indigenous people and any other tribes that made their presence known such as the Seminoles and Tequestas. Racism does not limit itself to only the African-American people, it extends to those of all color, and it does not leave color out. It is a prevalent issue that still exists today which is a deep shame because this city would not exist if not for color. Our roots are color, we were built because of color, the society we know today would not be if not for color. Our roots run deep and they are colored.
Overtown as Text
by Liza Guanch of FIU at Overtown, 15 September 2021
Time. We know it as the seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years of our lives. We see it as a wake-up or go to sleep reminder, we see it as class/work start and end times. In present day society, many simply see time as a concept that helps our day-to-day lives. The reality is time is not just an aiding concept. Those of us who do not see time in this “present” view are those who have been at war with it, those such as the Tequesta tribe and other Native American tribes or the lively community that was forcibly created in Overtown who have suffered so greatly at the hands of this unbeatable force.
The beginning of this fight in Miami against time starts with the Tequesta inhabitants, the Miamians before Miami. This tribe and a few others such as the Seminoles and Miccosukee found the area of what is now known as Hialeah as a place to farm because of its fertile grounds, but it was also used as time went on with those newer Miami people. As time passed, the Tequesta went extinct after 250 years of living alongside foreigners, the Seminole people fought for their land and never surrendered but were forced to move to the Everglades where they presently reside. Time forced these inhabitants out of Hialeah, so a city could be built, as if a community was not ruined. Hialeah Park was created as time passed and it became the center of Hialeah in the 1920’s standing as a family friendly location to bet on horse races and greyhound races. This seemed wonderful and it lasted for several years leading up to the late 1990’s/early 2000’s, but again, time passed meaning that laws were passed, and those laws include gambling and animal cruelty laws which shut down horse and greyhound racing; this led to the eventual shut down of the Hialeah Park amusement area and it is now seen as a protected piece of history. While the loss of business in Hialeah Park is not as much of a loss as what the indigenous people faced, it is still a clear example that the more time passes, the more life can be altered in so many significant ways.
One of the most saddening challenge that has been faced with time is portrayed in Overtown. This city was created to segregate the Blacks from the Whites during the time of Henry Flagler and was known as “darkie town”, so these people of Overtown were forced to create a community out of this area and they did. They made the most out of this forced lifestyle and even developed a business sector and a “Little Broadway” which is where the city would come to life with the constant performances from big name Black celebrities such as Billy Holiday, Aretha Franklin, and Count Basie among others. As the enemy known as time continued to terrorize life as they knew it, developers came and decided that many buildings, homes, and areas needed to be updated to give Overtown more appeal. If you view Overtown today, it is filled with high-rises including excessively expensive apartment buildings and there is a highway, I-95, that sits around 50 ft from one of the first historically Black churches in Miami. This is called gentrification. Gentrification is dislodging a community to try and create a different image for the city, despite the city already being beautiful and filled with passion. All those high-rises were once family homes and businesses that were forced to move because developers decided they had a better plan for that one specific area which overruled having to uplift so many families and hard workers from the only places they knew as theirs. The only buildings left from this massive development are mainly the ones that must be protected by the National Register of Historical Places such as the two historically Black churches, the Dorsey house, and the Lyric Theatre. These churches still have services to this day where they speak on all the good the Lord has provided them with, yet they are still made aware every day of all that has happened leading up to present times. They never forget the effect that time had on them and continues to have on them. While time may bring some good, we can never forget that we are always racing time.
Vizcaya As Text
By Liza Guanch of FIU at Vizcaya, 13 October 2021
Ignorance is bliss. Bliss is defined as perfect happiness or an immense level of joy. What brings on bliss during times of struggle? Pleasure. People crave to be pleased and to please because of the satisfaction it brings despite any issues they may be facing. James Deering, one of the wealthiest men in Florida in the late 1800s to early 1900s, desired a lifestyle filled with this concept. He enjoyed traveling and experiencing all the world had to offer, but he was enamored by Italian living. As he was planning his next expedition to Italy, World War I struck preventing him from doing so. What does a man who longs to be entertained and pleased do when he is kept from his place of enjoyment? Naturally, a man like Deering would bring Italy to Miami, Florida.
Deering not only brought Italy to Florida, he brought Europe as a whole to Florida during his creation of Villa Vizcaya, an Italian-style villa made to represent pleasure and entertainment. He hired Paul Chafin as an artistic director to bring his ideas to life in this villa. To provide an idea of what Deering wanted to have on display in his villa, one has to understand that despite wanting to create a theme of indulgence, he also had to have anything that was new in technological advancements or that showcased his wealth such as a phone which he primarily used to contact his brother, Charles Deering at the Deering Estate, and an organ in one of the rooms.
Villa Vizcaya was created amongst the 180 acres of Bayfront land that Deering purchased, but it only makes up about 38,000 feet and Vizcaya Museum only consists of 50 acres to date. Deering made it a point to buy this much land but only build on such a small portion in comparison to be able to preserve the natural environment. The creation of this villa took about 4 years and utilized 10% of Miami’s population at the time with most being Afro-Caribbean, black laborers that were paid more at Vizcaya as opposed to any other job they were able to get yet it was still nowhere near a stable living for these laborers. While Deering may have been an avid nature conservationist, he remained blind to the main issues at hand such as racism, prohibition, and many others. Some would say that his wealth blinded him, but being ignorant comes from only viewing the world in a singular view, and in his case, it was his hedonistic view that shut out any that would impact it negatively— though, I suppose wealth could also play a part in this. His ignorance might have prevented him from being involved in society and using his wealth for more than just self-satisfaction, but Deering never seemed to create any label for himself that would place him as a vile person, just possibly overcome by his status.
Deering believed himself to be made up of many different personalities. He believed he was an adventurer, a pioneer, and a hero to name a few. He crafted statues of Ponce De Leon and a man from the Vizcaya shipwreck which he placed across from each other on the grounds to showcase who he thought himself to be. Throughout his villa, many representations show his egotistical view of himself in several ways, but there are also many depictions of ecstasy and indulgence such as the statue of the Roman God of Hedonism, Dionysus, the statue of Leda who had relations with a swan that was Zeus in disguise, or the music room with “Cupid” seen on the walls and ceilings and floral patterns seen in the light fixtures, furniture, and walls representing the female anatomy in art.
Deering crafted a beautiful villa with representations of Spain, Italy, France, and Rome in the architecture and design. The villa immersed visitors in a trip around the world that satisfied all of their visual needs and allowed them to be consumed in pleasure and blind to reality. With secret garden hideaways, breath-taking pieces of artwork, stunning natural landscaping, and hedonistic symbols throughout the property, Vizcaya lives up to Deering’s goal of being a place of pleasure. Living in ignorant pleasure may not be suitable for day-to-day life in present times, but if there is a chance to experience it for a moment and escape true reality, then that is a chance worth taking.
South Beach as Text
“Diversity and Design”
By Liza Guanch of FIU at South Beach, 27 October 2021
Diversity is defined as the quality of including people from different ethnic, religious, social, and racial backgrounds along with those of different genders and sexual orientations, so how is there diversity in design? South Beach has not always been known as a place filled with unique architecture, as it was once a mangrove-filled habitat that transformed into a getaway beach paradise for those of all colors. However, as time progressed, diversity was strained until design in architecture decided to take over which allowed for a grand re-opening of a shared city.
There are three main architectural designs that South Beach is filled with: Mediterranean Revival, Mimo, and the most famous, Art Deco. Mediterranean Revival comes from Spanish and Mediterranean influences and is known for creating an atmosphere of relaxation and serenity; identifying this style involves looking for archways, porches, balconies, and iron fixtures much like the Versace mansion. This form of architecture can be found throughout South Beach and was introduced to Miami in the 1920s-1930s to entice tourists and add an “exotic” appeal. Mimo is the second style found throughout the architecture in South Beach and stands for Miami Modern. It was developed in the post-war period and was meant to fulfill the intrigue of people’s fascination of futurism with acute angles and other geometrical forms. Last, but not least, is Art Deco, which by itself can stand to represent the beauty and symmetry of the diverse and tropical city that we live in. Art Deco first began in France just before World War I and is where the name was founded, but it made its appearance during the design period of the 1920s and 1930s which is when the other styles began to emerge as well. This movement was a strong influencer and motivator to more than just building styles, it inspired fashion and art as well. These buildings are not easy to miss and that was intentional as the goal was to create a modern look that was simple, yet fresh. Noticeable features of these Art Deco buildings are their bright colors, their porthole style windows, the symmetry of “three”, and the detailing that is usually of geometric shapes or of nature.
These three design styles may only be buildings, but they are creations of different backgrounds that serve as a destination for all to view, therefore increasing diversity in and through design. It may not make total sense, but Miami often does not, yet the chaotic nature of this city is what helps it thrive. We are diverse and beautiful in every sense of the word.
Deering Estate as Text
By Liza Guanch of FIU at the Deering Estate, 10 November 2021
The Deering Estate is made up of over 450 acres of natural Miami landscaping. It was once the home of the Tequesta people and is still the home of many animals such as gopher tortoises, river otters, spiders, snakes, coyotes, and many more. There is so much history that is found within the roots of the mangroves, within the bark of the tree, and within the holes of the earth. Even the extinct Dire Wolf ran across the prairies that made up the land that is now the Deering Estate.
Step into the past. The roots run deep here. Imagine you are a foreigner because that is what you are in this terrain. The mosquitoes flying at full speed like fighter jets just to get a taste of your sweat-covered body, coyotes howling in the distance, unknown steps being taken into mangrove-filled freshwater that can house all from alligators to snakes to the tiniest of insects, the beautiful danger is all around. You discover several holes on your trek through this wilderness, some are solution holes, some are the doings of the animals around you such as the crab, but all are not meant to be stepped in with their varying depths, they are threats that contain history that is not meant to be disrupted. The type of history that is found here is the type that tells stories. From animals being trapped in the deep holes that they just went in for a sip of water, but never lived to drink anymore as they were devoured themselves to human remains that were buried as part of a ritual. This is a land of many stories. A land of several habitats and homes. This is not a foreigner’s land, but it welcomes it with all its dangerous beauty. This is and was the true Miami.
Being able to preserve this part of Miami is crucial because it helps remind us of our roots. It helps archaeologists better understand our roots. It helps the mangrove roots survive and continue to spread, providing a better environment for everything. Our roots run deep and the Deering Estate is proudly preserving them.
Rubell as Text
Modern art and contemporary art define two versions of artistic style. Contemporary art usually refers to current artwork that is thought-provoking and creates an emotional response, whereas modern art is about the medium being used which began with a simple painting but has evolved into using any and every material for creation. Combine these two styles together and you have Modern Contemporary Art. A style that contains art done with all imaginable items such as wood, plastic, oil, fur, or something as simple as a pencil and some paint. Modern Contemporary Art is a style that uses multiple resources to create the final piece which often tells a story or can create one by touching on sensitive topics such as societal issues. Some say that these pieces of work are a conversation between the creator and the piece, itself, but I believe that the piece stands as a message man for the creator who is screaming their message across in immersive and abstract beauty.
At the Rubell Museum, there is a constant flow of artwork traveling through from over 1,000 artists. The latest and most featured exhibit are the works of Yayoi Kusama. Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist who had spent the past 40 years being a voluntary patient in a psychiatric hospital due to severe hallucinations and panic attacks that stem from childhood trauma among other situations she has encountered. She has lived through a series of events and depicts that in her art. It seems that she is insistent on making her work come to life to tell her story, as any contemporary artist would, but she does this to a deeper level. Her artwork takes you places, it takes you to other worlds, and immerses you in her headspace, into her creations. She has been creating ever since she was a child, detailing her trauma, her loss, her suffering, her lessons learned, all through the medium of artwork. Knowing her intention and background significantly affects how her art is viewed, but without that knowledge, her artwork is incredibly powerful and speaks for itself. A personal favorite is “Where the Lights in My Heart Go”, it is a piece that immediately drew me in and a piece that I developed a connection with. This piece reminds me of a city of stars and being lost in the light. I was instantly overwhelmed by the beauty of it and wish I had more time to spend inside of this art installation, but it created a lasting memory in my brain. It told a story of being caught in a never-ending world and how it is so easy to be caught up in the endless and all-consuming side of it, but the constant rays of light show that while it may be endless, it is also beautifully lit up and filled with extraordinary moments. It is safe to say that Yayoi Kusama has successfully mastered the art of immersive experience and I hope that she continues to tell her stories and allow others to create stories of their own with her work because it is truly captivating.
Everglades as Text
“An Alligator’s Oasis”
The Everglades is made up of 1.5 million acres of natural landscape from saltwater marshes to pine rockland. Within this vast amount of land, there are several species of animals and plants, but the alligator holds the spot as the most well-known. Alligators are perceived as dangerous creatures and their level of violence has been exaggerated through the years. This is not to say that they are not strong and ferocious creatures, they are, but they usually prefer to keep to themselves. They have a unique lifestyle, and the Everglades acreage is perfect for it.
It is common to see alligators in groups, or congregations, basking in the sun, but alligators do not actually spend all their time in this groups. They enjoy their privacy and time has taught them a solution to this. One of the nicknames that alligators have is “engineer” and this is because of their ability to create. These reptiles have mastered the art of construction within nature. They construct massive homes for themselves that define serenity. These homes are known as “alligator holes” to people, but a proper name would be “alligator’s oasis”.
Upon entering an alligator hole, a feeling of peace immediately takes over. It is a creation unlike any other. The alligator hole from the outside looks like a simple hill, but within, it is made up of so much more. Water covers the ground with depths usually being around 2-3 feet all around, but there are deeper spots throughout. Massive trees are spread out all over the land with small spots of dry land that provides just enough room for an alligator to relax and a large opening in the center of the hole to let all possible natural light enter. The beauty in this hole is surreal. The alligator’s oasis is not just for the alligators, as owls and other species have been seen enjoying their own moment of serenity.
Alligators may not be human, but they understand the importance of having a place of peace that helps escape reality. These reptilian engineers craft nature’s 5-star resorts and it is truly impressive. Once one enters this oasis, leaving becomes a challenge because there is no place on earth that is as quiet, as serene, or as beautiful, as the alligator hole.
Coral Gables as Text
“Step into the City”
The city of Coral Gables opened in 1906 and was founded by George Merrick. Merrick’s name is controversial to some, as he used Black laborers for much of his construction, but he remains a man who crafted a successful city, despite how many attempts there are at erasing his name in history. A major highlight of his success is the Biltmore hotel.
The hotel was originally created by Merrick as a place for his new landowners to stay while they awaited the completion of their new homes in Coral Gables, but it became more than that. It became a hot spot for entertainment and fashion. It opened in 1926 with 400 hotel rooms, an 18-hole golf course, beautiful views, and designs crafted in Merrick’s vision of beauty which was of Arabic and Mediterranean style. During the years leading up to World War II, the hotel was hosting major events and housed several celebrities and exclusive individuals from royalty to Al Capone. It was also during these years that the Biltmore overcame the economic downfall that was occurring by using the pool that was the largest pool in a resort at the time for aquatic events from alligator wrestling to synchronized swimming.
World War II changed the Biltmore from an exhilarating tourist destination to an army hospital. This is where many haunted stories of Coral Gables began due to the many deaths that have occurred during the years of the war. It remained a hospital until the late 1960’s and then was owned by the city but left abandoned for about 10 years. These 10 years involved endless amounts of trespassing teenagers looking for ghosts, specifically the lady in white who jumped out of the balcony window in hopes of saving her son and while she managed to save him, her spirit is said to be trapped in the Biltmore; alternatively, these trespassing teens could have simply wanted an exciting adventure.
Around the early 1980’s, the Biltmore began a major restorative process to reopen as a hotel. It opened after 4 years, remained open for 3, and closed again for another 4. Another attempt was made to restore this hotel to its natural beauty and elegance and this attempt took 10 years but exceeded expectations. It is a National Historic Site and is an expensive landmark that has tourists flying in from all corners of the world. Going to the Biltmore may seem like an escape from reality and into royalty, but it really is a step into the city of Coral Gables and a step into history. The Biltmore was crafted by Merrick and will be forever known as the place made for the city. It will also be known for its haunted history, so feel free to stop by for a ghost tour and a day at the pool.
River of Grass as Text
Stepping foot in the Nike Missile Base is taking a step into history. From the dog kennels to the missile itself, it is 100% authentic and preserved. This site was finished in 1965 and served as protection to air attacks that could occur from the Soviet Union as this was in the middle of the Cold War. This war was the result of an ongoing political rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States post World War II; the reason for the name is because neither officially declared war which means they never fought directly, as opposed to a “hot war” where nuclear weapons can destroy. With this knowledge, it can be understood that the missile sites that were created all over the United States served a purpose of protection; it can be called a “just in case” measure.
The Nike Missile Base in the Everglades is called “HM69” or “Alpha Battery”. It was a part of a project called Project Nike (Nike being the goddess of victory in Greek mythology) that involved setting up these sites around the country in efforts to protect U.S grounds from Soviet air attacks. The Everglades was not a major city, but it was at a perfect location because it was on watch for attacks in the South, or rather from Cuba which was a Russian hotspot at the time. This specific location housed 2 missiles with extensive technological advances that allowed for a better defense of South Florida. During the time it was in use, it was home for over 140 soldiers, and they stood as the manpower behind the missiles. In my opinion, the most interesting remnant of this site is the dog kennel because if this was a site to prevent air attacks, the purpose of the canine’s presence other than companionship is unknown to me.
However, this site was not used; the soldiers who made up the staff of this site were given an “Army Meritorious Unit Commendation” for its deterrence ability rather than attack. Overall, this historical site is an impressive location that deserves continuous recognition for the part it played in the war and the protection it gave to the Everglades and all South Florida.
Design District as Text
“The Art of Giving”
Art is powerful. It can take on many forms and meanings. An artist’s mind is almost as powerful, as it creates the ideas behind the pieces. An artist’s work is a way of storytelling, and it is an extension of themselves. These stories in these pieces speak volumes and they need to be heard.
In both the Margulies Collection in Wynwood and in the De la Cruz Collection in the design district, there was art that immediately immersed its viewers, but Felix Gonzalez-Torres was the most intriguing of all. His work is located at the De la Cruz Collection which is a private collection owned and started by Rosa and Carlos De la Cruz. The De la Cruz couple had personal ties to Felix which made the exhibit even more impactful.
Felix was a Cuban artist who referred to himself as American and crafted his work around engagement of the community. His main intentions of his pieces were to be intellectually immersive and some physically immersive. He wanted his art to give something more to people, so he began crafting pieces with the sole purpose of it being given to anyone who sees it, for free. Many of his art installments were untitled, but there was a subtext which provided some insight on the meaning. A specific piece that gave to the public and is untitled is the stack of white candies on the floor which is crafted in his father’s memory as it detailed in the subtext. These white candies may not mean much to the outside eye, but the idea that it is art that one can interact with is significant.
Another piece of giving art made by Felix was these two stacks of paper with one sentence on each, “Somewhere better than this place” on one and “Nowhere better than this place” on the other. Felix wanted people to take a paper and choose their own meaning. He wanted people to think upon their life and make the decision if they were where they were meant to be or if they still had to find their better place. Obviously, some viewers may not think much and just choose one or both simply because it is there, but it was the idea that Felix made this piece to influence the mind and allowed this influence to be a take-home item.
Art can tell many stories and hold many meanings, but the most significant art is art that gives. Felix Gonzalez-Torres spent his life telling his stories through art that put the mind to work, but also established new meaning by giving his art. He was and forever will be an inspiration that lives on through his powerful pieces.
Coconut Grove as Text
“The Creator’s Home”
Coconut Grove is far from what it used to be, yet the stories of its past remain intact in several places. Like all Southern Florida, the land that would eventually turn into the city we know belonged to the original inhabitants, the Tequestas. The Seminoles also shared this land as time went on, but the first to live were the Tequestas. These were the Miamians before Miami, and they created the beginning of the Miami legacy. There is much to learn about these original creators, but this story is of those less spoken of, the Bahamians.
Coconut Grove existed prior to Miami being incorporated as a city and had an influx of settlers from the Bahamas and other Northern states. While the settlers from the northern states did make a name for themselves such as the Munroe family, the Bahamian presence and impact is the focus. These were laborers, but they were so much more than that. The Bahamians were one of the few who knew how to thrive in the Southern Florida environment and work with what they were given. They knew how to plant crops, harvest food, and use limestone to aid in construction projects that would put roofs over their heads. Without them, Miami may not have existed in the way it does. Bahamians travelled for a better life opportunity and were one of the first immigrant groups to arrive in the Grove which makes it one of the oldest black communities in Dade County to date.
Of the many, the most notable Bahamians would be E.W.F Stirrup and Mariah Brown. The stories of these two individuals in unlike any other. E.W.F Stirrup started his life in Key West and used his charismatic spirit to get into the world of real estate. He became one of the icons for Bahamians and was one of the few rich Black men. He would buy several plots of land and would sell them to other Blacks because he believed that homeownership was key to a better life and being a better person. He also built himself a beautiful two-story house that would be wood-framed and is still standing to this day. Aside from selling houses, he owned several local stores which made the community thrive. E.W.F Stirrup is a man to be remembered for the impact he had on the creation of the Coconut Grove community. Mariah Brown was a pioneer in the Grove. She had travelled to work at the Peacock Inn and her family was one of the first to settle in Coconut Grove. Her significance is within her homeownership. She had purchased land for $50 and constructed her house. She is known as one of the first Black homeowners and she is a woman which expresses the importance of women in the creation of Miami. It is a one-and-a-half story white house built out of Dade County Slash Pine with a construction design intended to aid in harsh weather such as humidity, tropical storms, and wind pressure. This design was influenced by Bahamians as this came from their homeland and was known as Conch houses. Conch houses were made with large roof overhangs and high ceilings among other features to ensure airflow and sturdiness. Brown’s house is still standing today but does not seem to be receiving the care it deserves, so there is something to be said about that. These are landmarks and they should be treasured, not trashed.
In the city of Coconut Grove, there is a cemetery. This is unlike any other cemetery as it is solely a Bahamian cemetery. This is a place for Bahamians to recognize their loved ones and the creators of Coconut Grove that were not white. Where it is today was not its original location, but it outgrew the previous space and required a different location. For this move to occur respectfully and correctly, the leaders of the city such as E.W.F Stirrup and others purchased the property it is on today to keep their loved ones safe and secure. This is the resting place of many of the creators of Coconut Grove and it should be kept as such. A unique feature about this cemetery is that all the caskets are above ground. In my opinion, it added a personal touch and allowed for a deeper level of respect and recognition to be given. This cemetery is a constant reminder of who created Coconut Grove and who is keeping the creation alive. Coconut Grove is one of the oldest black communities in Dade County and it should be known that it is the home of the creators. It is home of the laborers. It is home of the constructors behind most of Miami. History has stories of these individuals, but we must continue to tell them, so that they may never be forgotten.
Key Biscayne As Text
“Escape to Paradise”
What is the ideal outdoor location? Beach access? Trails to walk or bike through? Areas for fishing? Restaurants/Cafes on site? Or simply just somewhere to sit? Whatever your preferences may be, Bill Baggs State Park has it all. It is at the farthest end of Key Biscayne and is made up of 442 acres of natural beauty. It is home to one of the oldest standing structures in Miami Dade County, the Cape Florida Lighthouse, and protects a vast majority of South Florida’s natural landscape and wildlife.
Once you pass the entrance, you are immediately transported into a tranquil paradise. This park has so much to offer, both in activities and history. The Cape Florida Lighthouse, which is a must-see location, was built in 1825, but suffered damage during the Seminole Wars, so it was reconstructed in 1846. This lighthouse is not currently in active use, but there are tours offered for locals and tourists to see some breathtaking sights from atop the lighthouse and to experience what it was like inside a lighthouse. Many are familiar with the underground railroad, but there is another underground railroad that is not often spoken of. Between the years 1821 and 1861, there was a coastal route that would help lead slaves to freedom in the Bahamas and it was known as the Saltwater Underground Railroad. The Saltwater Underground Railroad route would occur in Cape Florida which is the land that Bill Baggs is on today, making this state park more interesting. The Cape Florida Lighthouse is listed on the National Register for Historical Places and Cape Florida is known as a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Site to allow the continued remembrance of the lives they saved, and the slaves freed.
To be at the park is to be immersed in nature and to step on the park’s soil is to be taking the same steps as history. Marjory Stoneman Douglas once called Key Biscayne, “a romantic hideaway”, however I believe that the true hideaway is in Bill Baggs State Park. Bill Baggs State Park is simply a drive away for Miami locals, so if there’s ever a need to escape to paradise, it is found there.