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.