Michelle Puentes: Miami as Text 2021-2022

Michelle Puentes is a sophomore student pursing a double degree in Art BA and Psychology with an Italian Minor in Florida International University. Her passions encompass analyzing classical art, studying about the human mind, learning about the Italian culture and teaching children in her church. She aspires to become an art therapist for children in hospitals or with emotional struggles, and wants to travel to many countries to explore the lifestyle of others.

“A Piece of Germany in Miami” by Michelle Puentes of FIU at Downtown Miami Sep 8,2021

A multicultural city bursting of everyday nightlife and heavy Latin culture, Miami is home to many immigrants from all over the Caribbean and South America, with many from Europe and Asia coming over as well. A city I personally never knew or associated myself with deeply to heart, I simply thought of it before as a dangerous nightlife place. Growing up in Broward, my parents rarely took me to a trip south unless a foreign family member came to visit or if we had to attend an event there. But even at the borderline between Miramar and Hialeah, a whole world is seen from across the line. Getting to fully know and explore Miami for the first time was a new eye opening experience for me. From every single little detail in the events Professor Bailey spoke to us, I never knew the immense rich history behind the Magic City. From hearing about the first natives of Miami to witnessing the immense new infrastructures in Brickell, the piece that stood out to me the most was the chunk of the Berlin Wall.

Photograph taken by Michelle Puentes/ CC by 4.0

This unique concrete block had been the one to divide the state of Germany from 1961 to 1989, separating people from the same culture and language into two distinct political sides (“Berlin Wall”). The purpose of this wall was to keep the Eastern Germans eyes away from the attractive Western culture influenced by Americans and West Europe. Before the wall was built, in 1958, tensions between the Allies and the Soviets flared up as a massive amount of Eastern Germans fled to the other side to seek for a new opportunity. Similar to Cubans fleeing to Miami from their communist government, many looked to the other side of the border to search for the way to a better life. The idea of freedom has been implanted in the power to have the right to speak and act without restraint or consequence. America being founded on these rights, it has been a symbol of freedom for many years. Though many Americans take their country for granted, the freedom to speech, democracy, choice and education cannot be found in many countries surrounding us. While the Berlin Wall stood tall for 28 years, 171 people were killed trying to cross the border in many ways attempting to escape East Germany (“Berlin Wall”). Similary, an estimated 16,000 to 100,ooo Cuban raft riders have died trying to reach the United States (Ackerman, 169-200). The proof of freedom being constantly pursued, millions of immigrants sacrifice their lives to reach the land of opportunity. This chunk of wall not only represents the destruction of the oppressive, socialist state of Eastern Germany, but the sacrifice of seeking to arrive to the land of the free in the own city of Miami through Cuban and Haitian immigrants.

Going back home from this trip, I took the moment to reflect at the greatest opportunity I have been given by God to live in this country. A land where many dream of living and becoming who they want to be, I have the chance to attend a university where I can fully grow and learn what I am passionate about, with hundreds of opportunities in scholarships to fund my education. All I need to do is work hard to earn what I want to be in life, and I thank God everyday that I am allowed to do that here. I wish to never take this for granted, and that I may help others reach this blessed land so they as well can become who they want to be.

Photograph taken by Michelle Puentes CC BY 4.0

Cited References

“Berlin Wall”. HISTORY, 2021, https://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/berlin-wall. Accessed 19 Sept 2021.

Ackerman, Holly. The Balsero Phenomenon, 1991-1994. 26th ed. Cuban Studies, 1996. Print.

“Flamingoes of Hialeah” by Michelle Puentes of FIU at Overtown as Text Sep. 22,2021

photograph taken by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

Admiring the beautiful green landscape across the ruins of the horse racing fields of Hialeah Park, it was an eye opening experience knowing the deep history that runs through the veins of Miami’s heart. The park that was once filled with the most beautiful racing horses, celebrities, presidents, amusement rides, and even the Prime Minister of England, is now an empty deserted island where flamingos find their sanctuary within (“History”,2015) . Opening almost 100 years ago, Hialeah Park opened its doors for horse racing including a dance hall, rollercoaster, and casino. Built in the highest standards of architecture fashioned from Monte Carlo and Paris, it’s beautiful structure was admired by many artists, architects, poets and heads of state. It had been visited by extremely well known people such as Nixon, Kennedy, Churchill, Sinatra, Crosby, Princess Grace of Monaco and more (“History”,2015). None of this rich history had been known to me at all; rather Hialeah was just known to me as a Latin-filled city with heavy Cuban influence where almost everyone knew each other. But getting to know the long past of this city was a new lesson learned. Never had I known that flamingoes weren’t even native to Florida, but instead imported from Cuba (“History”,2015). The peculiar choice of colors of the architecture of the Hialeah Park with pops of pink and splashes of aqua explains the reason for Miami’s signature colors, adding its European influence with terraces and balustrades influenced from Monaco (“Hialeah Park”,2021) . Being able to walk through the green smooth fields imagining where the greatest horses raced and the crowds were filled with noise and cheer is definitely being able to revisit history in your imagination. Overall, learning that even the smallest city where you thought nothing happened can have so much deep rich history behind it, having brought the most important figures in the 20th century around the world. This leaves the last lesson of always figuring out the historical context of wherever you step foot on, because it will leave you with a lasting impression that you can never forget.

Sources: “History.” Hialeah Park Casino, 2015 https://hialeahparkcasino.com/about/history#main. 

“Hialeah Park.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 2021 https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nationalhistoriclandmarks/hialeah.htm.