Monica Schmitz: Miami as Text

Photograph taken by Isabelle Schmitz/CC by 4.0

Monica Schmitz is a sophomore at Florida International University, studying Public Relations with Advertising, and Applied Communications. With a love for writing, graphic design, and photography, Monica aspires to be a published author and work at a communication agency. Having lived in Minnesota, Virginia, and California, Monica is passionate about discovering other cultures and traveling. She has challenged herself with many leadership positions and involvements which have allowed her to see the world through new perspectives. She is always eager to learn more and use her voice to make an impact in the world.

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Downtown as Text

“History Can Be Ugly”

By Monica Schmitz of FIU at Downtown Miami, Florida, 12 September 2021

Downtown Miami, Florida is a collection of pieces of history, cultures, and memories. With this diverse collection of individuals and backgrounds come difficult historical moments that we try to block out. We often ignore the shameful, hateful moments of our history, focusing on the victories but erasing the struggle that we faced to reach those victories.

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

Growing up in southern Virginia, I was surrounded by statues of leaders from historical moments. However, these statues caused much controversy as the community and country as a whole discussed whether these statues should remain or be taken down. Seeing the statue of Henry Flagler at the courthouse in Downtown Miami sparked this memory for me. The statue of the confederate leader Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia was a topic of conversation that has been sparking in America for a long period of time. It was the question of whether historical leaders with wrongful actions should remain standing. Although it is important to remember history as history and understand the journey our country has taken to rid itself of prejudice and racism, it is also questionable to keep these statues standing because they could be seen as commemorating leaders that symbolize hate.

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

I am not from Miami, so the name Henry Flagler meant nothing to me until our first Miami in Miami class. Learning about Flagler’s influence on racism and prejudice in Miami opened my eyes to the fact that we often make judgments about history, cities, and historical figures without fully understanding the depth or the details. We cannot ignore the ugly pieces of history, such as hatred, poverty, and heartbreak. These pieces all build a beautiful masterpiece that makes up our communities. We must embrace the ugly but truthful history of our country.