Michelle Puentes: Miami Lakes 2022

Biography

Photographed by Andrya CC by 4.0

Michelle Puentes is a sophomore student pursing a double degree in Art and Psychology with a Certification in Italian Language at Florida International University. She loves to explore and travel, learn new languages, draw and paint, play guitar and serve in her church. She aspires to become an art therapist for children with emotional or physical struggles, and wants to travel around the world to immerse in different lifestyles and appreciate the art and cuisine.

GEOGRAPHY

Miami Lakes is located in the northern part of Miami Dade County, neighboring Palm Spring North and Hialeah. It has a total square area of 6.4 square miles and is located at 25°54′42″N 80°19′30″W. Located 16 miles North of Downtown Miami and 10 miles from Miami International Airport, it crosses the streets NW 170th St and Palmetto Expressway to the North and NW 138TH to the South and extends latitudinally from NW 57TH Avenue (Red Road) (East) to Interstate 75 (West). The climate around this area is mostly wet tropical and humid, even in the land parts of Miami Lakes.

The urban landscape is compromised of 53% of Miami Lake’s land area, compromised of residential housing, office parks, and industrial areas. Modeled after New Urbanism, it contains shopping centers and services located within walking distances in narrow, walking streets. The streets are designed in the form of a small town, with many cul-de-sac streets in residential neighborhoods and curved streets. It contains apartment buildings, neighborhood shopping centers and a town center known as Main Street.

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

On the other side, the natural landscape is full of tree canopies, lakes and greenery.Lakes and canals only constitute 13% of the land area, and 6% is undeveloped land. It contains a total of 4,363 acres and is around 3 feet in altitude.

HISTORY

Photographed by Unknown

In 1962, Miami Lakes began developing under Graham Companies, and was previously owned by Florida Senator Ernest Graham. The land was previously the Graham’s dairy farm, and was decided to be created into an adaptable city plan that would take decades of growth and construction based on changing market conditions. Developed by Lester Collins, a Harvard graduated landscape architecture and former dead of the Harvard School of Architecture, the original master plan contained many curved features, such as curving lakes and tree shaded roadways, which was uncommon compared to the usual square and rectangle features. He set forth the foundations of the town to from an integrated community that would contain residential, industrial and commercial areas.

Finally being incorporated into Miami Dade County in December 2000, it became the 31st Municipality in Miami Dade. It is currently one of the youngest cities in the county and is home to 30,000 residents and 1,100 businesses. Operated under a council-manager form of government, it is managed by several elected officials appointed by the town manager.

Today, it is known to be one of the most charming suburban areas in South Florida, with low crime rate, plenty of green space, tree shaded streets and large estate lots.

DEMOGRAPHICS

Miami Lakes currently has over 30,000 residents, claiming around 11,194 households. According the 2019 United States Census, its estimated population is 30,864, with a median age of 41.3 years. 66.1% are between the age of 15-65, 16.3% being 65 and older, and 17.6 % under 15. The demographics of sex is roughly split equally, females accounting for 53% of the population and males 47%. The race and ethnicity is prominently white and hispanic, accounting for 78.9% altogether. 88.3% identify as Hispanic or Latino, 9% as white, 1.5% as black, 1.3% as Asian and 12.1% as two races or more. Around 50.9% of the population are foreign born, most likely from Latin American countries such as Cuba and Colombia. The median household income is $77,535, with a poverty level at 6.4%. The median property value is almost half a million, at $410,300. The education levels are average , having 89.7% of people over the age of 25 having completed high school and 37.2% having completed a bachelors degree.

Interview:

How long have you lived in Miami Lakes and what do you think of this town?

I’ve lived here my whole life and I think it’s a great place to live because it has a small town feel.

What do you like about Miami Lakes?

I like going to Main Street because there are a lot of restaurants and it’s a nice place to walk around. My parents used to take me there when I was a kid so that spot means a lot to me growing up. Main Street also has a movie theater that is full of memories as a child and middle school years, so I enjoy it a lot.

What is your favorite aspect about this neighborhood?

I like how the town emphasizes greenery and tree canopies through shading, making it a more pleasurable experience to walk when it’s sunny. Miami Lakes has a lot of neighborhood parks to sit around the grass and enjoy the scenic view. There is also a very cool Fourth of July firework show.

What would you change about this neighborhood if you were the mayor?

I would try to decrease traffic flow and prioritize public transportation around the town. I would also add more attractions such as movie theaters, stores, or plazas.

LANDMARKS

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

Main Street Miami Lakes

The main social hub of Miami Lakes, Main Street is a delightful plaza full of local restaurants, retail shops, offices, civic facilities and movie theaters that gather the community. It was developed by the Graham Companies in 1983, and ever since has been a mark of the development of Miami Lakes. It has been recognized by many national publications for the control of mix-use development. Overall, it has a very live ambience and is a nice place to take a stroll in the afternoon.

Shula’s Golf Course

Miami Lake’s official golf club, it is known as one of Miami’s best Championship golf courses with a variety of holes for all skill levels. It was originally designed by Bill Watts in 1962 and then remodeled in 1998 by Kipp Schulties, a golf course architect. Owning 500 acres, this golf club offers 18 challenging holes and has tree shading over the course for the most pleasant experience.

Veteran’s Memorial

On September 17, 2014, Miami Lakes unveiled a Veteran’s memorial in front of Miami Lakes Government center. On that day, more than 200 people attended to honor the veterans who fought for our country. First Class Petty Officer USCG and chair of Veterans Committee Angel Luis Vazquez stated ” This monument recognizes all the brave men and women who signed a blank check payable to the United States of America up to the amount of their life. I want to commend the members of the Veterans Committee who are dedicated and worked tirelessly to bring this Veterans Memorial project to the Town of Miami Lakes.” The artwork contains a large scale V for “veterans” with an American flag , created by Stephanie Werner and has commemorative bricks around to honor the soldiers.

GREEN

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

Royal Oaks Park

A green space of Miami Lakes built with 4 athletic fields for soccer and flag football, a playground area, picnic pavilions, a 3/4 exercise trail, a butterfly garden and concession stand. It also has a recreation center and offers a community center to play dominoes and reserve large rooms for events and parties.

Miami Lakes Optimist Park

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

A public park that is at walking distance for Miami Lake’s residents, this park features 4 baseball fields, one softball field, three picnic pavilions, three batting cages, 4 outdoor tennis courts, 2 soccer fields, 2 flag football fields, a 1/4 mile lighted walking path and even a marina for fishing! It is set up for residents to enjoy the lush greenery and beautiful climate of Florida.

Veterans Park

The Veterans Park is another of Miami Lake’s 99 parks, with renovated pavilions, half court basketball court, lighted walking path, playground, and fitness equipment. It offers a wonderful view for guests with a water fountain and lake for the view. This park also has the Mary Collins Community center for event venues and recreational activities.

FOOD

Brigadeiro’s Boutique

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

A Brazilian family owned sweets shop, this location offers beautifully decorated Brazilian bakery and sweets available for catering, online orders and in store pickup. Their specialty is Brigadiero cake, which is a Brazilian chocolate cake filled with fudge candy. They also offer many types of cakes, such as cheesecake, carrot cake and passion fruit chocolate. If not in the mood for any sweets, they also offer empanadas, Brazilian bolinha de queijo and croissants.

Raspaos

This is an authentic Colombian restaurant that has two locations, one in Miami Lakes and another in Kendall. Having massive success, this restaurant was founded by Orlando Mosquera, and made the restaurant famous through its original recipe of Colombian Raspaos and Cholados. Offering a variety of meals, it has different types of ice creams, smoothies, arepas, fruit salads, Colombian plates and burgers. Overall, I love to order the arepa mixeta, full of shredded meat and cheese!

Ciboney Cuban Restaurant

A local Cuban restaurant offering many types of meals, this place contains a nice atmosphere that allows you to experience the Cuban ambience. Offering Daiquiris and Cuban Mojitos, it has live music and karaoke for anyone to enjoy. They have many plates to serve, such as seafood, pasta, fajitas, cuban sandwiches and salads.

BUSINESSES

A La Mode Hair and Boutique

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

One of the many local shops in Main Street, Ala Mode is a hair salon that offers pampering services to make the customer feel beautiful. Their services include haircuts, color treatments, makeup,perms and relaxers and hair styles at convenient prices. They are a bilingual establishments and operate from Tuesday to Saturday.

Miami Lake’s Farmers Market

This Farmer’s Market is done weekly on Saturdays and offers a variety of fresh produce, assorted flowers, cultural foods, hand-crafted accessories and natural smoothies for anyone to enjoy. It is from 9am to 2pm and done at Miami Lakes Picnic Park West. It offers some of the best fruit juices that you can ever taste and has an overall enjoyable environment.

SQIN Med Spa

This luxury med spa is a special spa that offers treatments and services to achieve overall aesthetic and wellness goals. It uses advanced technology in order to offer services such as body sculpting, hydra facial, micro needling, body detox therapy, fibroblast plasma, and chemical peels. They also have membership services where you can maintain a healthy skin care routine and body with monthly treatments.

TRANSPORTATION

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

Miami Lakes has several modes of transportation, including Freebee, Miami Dade Transit and South Florida Commuter Services. Installed in July 2021, Freebee was introduced by the Town of Miami Lakes, and attained through funding from Florida’s Department of Transportation. It contains free on-demand connections from the Town Hall or Picnic Park West to the Palmetto Metrorail station from Monday to Friday, 6am to 9am or 4pm to 7pm. It’s convenient transportation for those who do not own a vehicle and must reach Southern Miami Dade County, having access to the Palmetto Metrorail station immediately.Or alternatively, for those who have a vehicle and would like to avoid Miami’s high traffic hours, its a great way by taking the Miami Metro.

Miami Dade Transit is also another form of transportation, being the 15th largest public transit system in the U.S. Through the Metrobus, Metromover or Moover Bus, Miami Lakes is included in six different routes, all operating on weekdays. South FL Commuter Services is another form, having programs for carpooling and vanpooling around Miami Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

But from observations, since Miami Lakes has a high population of senior residents, walking is one of the most popular forms of transportation. Since Miami Lakes has New Urbanism model planning, most shopping centers and businesses are within walking distances, and many do so in order to save on gas and maintain their health.

SUMMARY

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

Miami Lakes is a city full of life and greenery with it’s unique land development, classic Main Street and amazing transportation layout. It’s innovating city plan and incredible development have led to Miami Lake’s master plan being praised by nationwide Urban planners, with open streets, many green spaces, peaceful cul-de-sacs, and managed mix of exclusive business parks. There are many convenient chain stores within walking distance, such as Publix, CVS, Navarro and Walmart. The sidewalks are pedestrian friendly and there is always a live crowd in Main Street. The only main issue with this city is the traffic and road layout. Because the streets are so narrow and have excessive amount of traffic lights, it builds heavy annoying traffic during peak hours. My best advice is to go off road to reach your destination- usually you will make it faster than waiting in traffic. If they added more lanes to the road and less traffic lights, it would be a much more pleasant experience to live and visit Miami Lakes.

References

Ciboney, 7 June 2021, ciboneyrestaurantmiami.com/. 

Herrera, Alexandra. “Veteran’s Memorial Unveiled at Front of Miami Lakes Government Center.” The Miami Laker, 17 Sept. 2014, miamilaker.com/veterans-memorial-unveiled-at-front-of-miami-lakes-government-center. 

“History of Miami Lakes .” You Are Being Redirected…, http://www.miamilakes-fl.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=31&Itemid=166. 

A La Mode Hair Studio, http://www.alamode-hair.com/aboutus.php. 

“Miami Lakes Golf Club.” Miami Lakes Golf Club – Miami Lakes, FL, http://www.miamilakesgolf.com/. 

“Miami Lakes Transportation.” You Are Being Redirected…, http://www.miamilakes-fl.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=436&Itemid=491. 

“Raspaos .” Raspaos, 25 Aug. 2021, http://www.raspaos.com/. 

“Shop – Brigadeiros Boutique ” Brigadeiros Boutique – Sweets, Cakes and More, brigadeirosboutique.com/shop/page/2/. 

U.S. Census Bureau Quickfacts: Miami Lakes Town, Florida. http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/miamilakestownflorida. 

Miami Lakes Website http://www.miamilakes-fl.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=18&Itemid=153. 

Michelle Puentes: Miami Service 2022

Student Bio:

Photographed by Stephanie CC by 4.0

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.

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

WHO?

I volunteered at the Deering Estate in Palmetto Bay for this semester’s service project for the Annual Deering Seafood Festival. With the assistance of three other fantastic interns, we assisted our professor, John William Bailly, with presenting his studio to incoming guests from The Deering Seafood Festival. This specific institution, which with I also did my last service project for, is a historic site filled with natural preserves of Florida and a stunning bay front for guests to enjoy and explore. It includes areas to hike, kayak and tour, while also hosting numerous signature events, programs and classes. In this event, Deering Estate takes pride in hosting this event for it’s 16th time and fills the day with fun activities such as live concerts, games for kids, local shops and special seafood vendors that prepare their delightful meals. The Deering Seafood Festival focuses on serving seafood sensations, and offers seafood served fried, grilled, sautéed, raw and many more options. It also offers chef demo tents, where chefs from Miami offer demonstrations of their recipes. The event also hosted a cultural parade this year, with color filled outfits and walking stilts by fantastic performers. 

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

WHY?

This specific volunteering opportunity was given through my internship with Professor Bailly as an art studio intern. He asked for us to volunteer at the festival to exhibit his studio to the guests. I selected this opportunity because it is in line with my art major, and while we waited for guests to come, we worked on assisting the professor with his large canvas so he could shave off certain parts of his painting to give it a special effect. It also related to my career in terms of the art environment, such as the art studio. I was able to experience how an exhibition works and what is explained overall to guests when they visit art studios. 

I was also curious to find out what The Deering Seafood Festival was about, and with this, I was personally experience one of the events The Deering Estate hosts. Crowds and crowds of people came in, and it was interesting to observe how these historic sites utilize their large green space to fit numerous tents, food stations and even a live stage in front of the bay. With this fun event, it gave me an idea to perhaps thinking of a career in event coordination with state parks. 

Photographed by Deering Volunteer CC by 4.o

HOW?

I connected with this new opportunity through getting to explore the cultural side of The Deering Estate. With its famous seafood event bringing cultures from the Caribbean to display their cuisine, I was able to view the many eclectic seafood platters I never once thought to see. Enjoying a color filled parade with bright tropical colors and sparkly costumes full of feathers, it was like being transported to a Latin carnival. The detailed tribal patterns on the clothing of the men, and loud brass trumpets and beating drums allowed me to view the way Bahamians celebrate in their culture

As well as experiencing a cultural connection, I was also able to connect socially with FIU students and people at the event. Having met three other students from my professor’s study abroad classes, I was able to spend time with them and discuss about what parts of Europe we are most excited about. During our free time, we explored around the event and got to know each other while at the studio and during our lunch break. Also while at the studio, we got to know different guests who were teachers or worked as an artist. We met a teacher who would also take study abroad trips to Europe and told us of the life changing experiences she had. It was a great experience to make new friends at the university and learn more about others by volunteering.

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

WHERE & WHAT?

When the event began, I headed towards the studio to receive instructions on how to do our work. There, we planned to make our day productive by helping the Professor with his painting while people came in and out of the studio. We had the task of supporting the back of the canvas with cardboard in order for the artist to smoothly sand his oil painting and chaff bits of the paint off for a rough effect. We took turns holding the paper, and sometimes faced miscommunication, not following the movements of the sanding machine. However, we enjoyed the process while the artist worked on his masterpiece and at the end had a satisfying result. The effect gave a pop to the painting and brought the underlying colors from below, which taught me a new art technique.

Photographed by Ashley Moreno CC by 4.0

While we were there, we also took breaks in between and explored different parts of the event. We visited several tents and saw the peculiar things people sold, such as plants, pottery, jewelry and even paintings. While visiting the food tents, there was a wide variety of special dishes, such as grilled blackened fish sandwich and shrimp cocktail. They played different genres of music, such as reggae and rock, with different bands on stage. Overall, we got the best of both the art studio and the outside activities, so it was an eventful day.

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

WHEN?

SUMMARY

From working with sandpaper machine on canvas to picking up a new plant pot from the vendor tents, it was a successful day full of meeting new people, learning new techniques and making new friends. The time schedule was perfect: not too early, not too late, and the weather was in our favor. The Deering Estate’s bay displayed itself majestically as always and was a perfect background for many pictures to be taken. After a long, downfall of two years with no life or excitement due to COVID, it finally seemed like everything was coming back to life again. The students that I volunteered with were amazing and fun, and it was great being able to make new friendships on this day. Our professor as always made it a fulfilling joyful day, and allowed us to explore the event itself with free admission. What didn’t work? Perhaps the times we did not do the job correctly and misplaced the cardboard paper while the artist sanded; next time we should find a bigger piece of cardboard! And of course, the studio was always open, so one of us always had to stay behind, unfortunately not being able to explore everything together. However, there was times we did all go out secretly, and were able to take great pics and discover new things. Out of my internship experience with Professor Bailly, this was definitely one of the best days I’ve ever had.

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

Michelle Puentes Miami as Text 2022

Michelle Puentes is a sophomore student pursing a double degree in Art and Psychology with a Certification in Italian Language at Florida International University. She loves to explore and travel, learn new languages, draw and paint, play guitar and serve in her church. She aspires to become an art therapist for children with emotional or physical struggles, and wants to travel around the world to immerse in different lifestyles and appreciate the art and cuisine.

“Language of Art” by Michelle Puentes , Vizcaya as Text, February 18, 2022

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

Coming once again to the small piece of Italy in Miami was a delight, exploring all the wonderful masterpieces that truly make Vizcaya the beauty it is. Filled with European artwork that dates from centuries ago, James Deering truly took his time in filling each detail and corner of the room with thoughtful themes. 

Being located in the city that is known for fulfilling hedonistic pleasures with wild partying and forgettable nights, Deering placed the very own concept of Miami since 1916. A city that booms today with a vivid nightlife and bursting diversity, Vizcaya makes the connection between Italy and Miami with Mediterranean style architecture and crawling tropical hammocks. Containing artwork from the Rocco period to Neoclassical, the mansion contains a wide variety of eye candy to look at, with eyes jumping towards every direction. Each room decorated with its respective art period and filled with curious things , it can translate what Vizcaya is really telling us about it’s home. 

The entrance hall starts with the rigid, coherent, symmetrical nature of the Neoclassical art, each shape of the ceiling matching perfectly with the floor. Opposite to Miami’s spirit , it reflects the orderly, meticulous organization and culture the U.S has, from its perfectly square infrastructure to its tight religious values. Did James Deering attempt to embody Miami in this room? Most likely not. 

The next room, the reception room, is covered in lightly decorated trees and plants influenced by the Rocco period in France. Known as the Marie Antoinette room, the role of it was to entertain the guests and impress them with the riches and wonders. Similar to what Miami’s attractions attempt to do, it expresses the luxury and possessions Miami shows off to the world.  Additionally, it is arguably the most reflective room of the scenic nature of Miami, with graceful palm trees and pastel palette embodying the overall theme Miami is known for today. 

And the last room, the music room, styles from Rocco art again. With a luxurious Italian chandelier flying from above, the room boasts with gold adorned walls and playful floral patterns, containing a grand piano and harp that were never played. Perfectly capturing the spirit of Miami in a room, the enchanting visual splendor and shallow use of the instruments mirrors the infamous reputation Miami people hold: beautiful on the outside but shallow on the inside. 

What could have inspired Deering to decorate the room accordingly? Could it have been his vast extensive knowledge of European art history and its symbolism, or simply his aesthetic taste of how a room should be decorated to show his glory? It may never be known, but it definitely leaves a lot to discuss and question about. The most curious part of it all is that Vizcaya personified the way Miami is, even before it came true decades later. 

Sources:

“The Other Side of History” by Michelle Puentes, Downtown as Text, March 11, 2022

Photography by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

A beautiful, electrical city bursting with contemporary art and latin culture, Miami is known to be the nightlife city full of beaches, palm trees and young people. However, the picture everyone knows of Miami is not as accurate as its reality, having its own separate history and projects. 

Miami was founded in 1896 by Julia Tuttle, also known as the “Mother of Miami” and being one of the few cities in the United States with a female founder. After her fathers’s death in 1890, she received his land and moved to Biscayne Bay. She used money from her family’s estate to purchase land around the Miami River, which would eventually develop to modern day Miami. She took the initiative to turn the wild mangroves and tropical wood hammocks into a prosperous city, and asked Henry Flager to extend his railroad to Miami. After numerous letters and even a personal visit to Flager, Tuttle could not successfully convince him to build the railroad. However,the Great Freeze turned in favor of Tuttle and reminded Flager of her story of the weather in Biscayne Bay. After sending his men to investigate the weather in Miami, he gave his order to extend the Florida East Coast Railway. 

Of course, Miami would not be the abundant, prosperous city as Tuttle wished it to be without its innovating developers like Flager. But beyond that, the blood and sweat behind the development of Florida is not known much yet. In 1877, Florida’s Governor codified the leasing system in Florida, where prisoners could be leased out to private companies and industries. This was taken as the replacement method of slavery after the abolition of slavery during the Emancipation. Flager took this method and used convict leasing to build the Florida East Coast Railway. The convict leasing system was inhumane, with violent methods being used in convict camps and prisoners with injuries and diseases having to work despite their conditions. However, convict labor was not the only form of slavery used, debt peonage occurred too. Flager worked with Northern labor agencies to bring in immigrant workers, promising them the American Dream. But the living conditions of South Florida proved a living hell, with risk of diseases, heatstrokes, poisonous plants and insects everywhere. Many tried to escape and were beaten if they didn’t work. Many as 4,000 workers became slaves of this. But after legal investigation of Flager’s peonage system with the Florida East Coast Railway, he was able to cheat the Justice System and gain clearance of zero evidence of slave use. Flager manipulated the newspaper and media to hide his trials of peonage and was able to glorify his railroad work through his ownership in some newspaper. At the end, his deceitful news were spread and the congressional investigation concluded there was no immigrant peonage in the FECR camps. This has allowed history books to gloss over the cruel treatment Flager’s workers faced , and give honor and glory to Flager with numerous infrastructure named after him and a statue of him at Downtown Miami. 

As a repeated moment of history throughout the world, the past of the greatest cities are often told with the brightest light, leaving the dark realities in the shadows to never be heard or seen again. And still, the statue of Henry Flager stands mighty and tall today in its power. 

Sources:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/made-by-history/wp/2018/05/17/how-slave-labor-built-the-state-of-florida-decades-after-the-civil-war/

https://www.thejaxsonmag.com/article/the-story-of-convict-leasing-in-florida/

“Hidden History” by Michelle Puentes, South Beach as Text, April 1, 2022

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

A street full of tourists and heavy drinkers, aligned with crowded tables of restaurants under classy Art Deco buildings, South Beach is one of a kind place in the world. Surrounded by breathtaking blue green waters from the Port of Miami, it is immediately the center of attraction for anyone coming to visit. However, the only attraction behind this district is not only the stunning beaches and load of nightlife, it is also the rich history behind it’s unique infrastructure and developers, which many are unaware of.

In 1920, Miami Beach started rising, having South Beach’s mainstreets beginning to develop. In the 1930s, South Beach’s star was born. Art Deco buildings became popular among the street’s of South beach, bringing an architectural revolution. Art Deco was characterized by 10 common features: ziggurat rooflines, white facades with pastel highlights, three stories tall, curved edges, low relief sculptures, horizontal eyebrow shades, circular windows, glass bricks, terrazzo floors and bright neon strips. These unique features were inspired by the future, as the 1930’s viewed modern appliances such as refrigerators and toasters, or rocket ships and spaceships, as the future of the world. The signs of the building decorated with classy deco font highlighted with neon lines, it gave Art Deco buildings a new meaning and style by the night.

Thanks to the activism and efforts of Barbara Baer, Art Deco buildings were preserved in South Beach after her persistent efforts in preserving the unique architecture in 1977. Because of this, South Beach was added to the National Register of Historic Places and has received mass tourism today due to its distinctness and originality. However, as tourists and locals walk through the street, not much of them know of the rich history behind the pretty neon lights. Unfortunately, not much is given to bring awareness upon the past of South Beach, and how they are located in one of rarest places in the world. Hopefully in the future, the eventfulness and development of South Beach is one that children can learn and people can know through awareness and education.

Michelle Puentes: Declaration 2022

Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825)

In the 1760s, Neoclassical art was born, a movement that stirred Europe for several decades, retaliating against the sensuous Rocco style. Due to the discovers of the excavation of ancient Roman cities Pompeii and Herculaneum, the art movement brought major interest to the classical arts from ancient Rome and Greece- focusing on straight lines, minimalistic color palette, and simplicity of form. During the time the ancient Roman cities were discovered, one of Neoclassicism’s most prominent figures was born- Jacques Louis David.

Born to a father who died in a duel and an abandoning mother, David was raised by his uncles and given a classical education at the College des Quatre- Nations in Université de Paris. Even though his guardians’ desired him to be an architect, he pursued a career to painting instead. He was placed under the training of Joseph-Marie Vien, who was a leading promoter of Neoclassicism. During his years at the Royal Academy, he attempted to win the prestigious Prix de Rome, which was a scholarship to stay in Rome for 3-5 years. Having lost three times consecutively, he was finally able to win the prize with his painting Erasistratus Discovering the Cause of Antiochus’ Disease.

David,Jacques-Louis. Erasistratus Discovering the Cause of Antiochus’ Disease (1774) Oil on Canvas.

While studying in Italy, he stated “The Antique will not seduce me, it lacks animation, it does not move”, but eventually became influenced by the Neoclassical doctrines that had developed in Rome. Visiting the excavated ruins of Pompeii in 1779, it developed his belief in the persistence of classical culture being rooted in eternal conceptual and formal power. Over the years, he began painting his early work and painted one of his most famous paintings, “Oath of the Horatii”. The scene depicts a Roman legend between two quarreling cities, Rome and Alba Longa. Instead of choosing armies to fight to war, they agree to choose three men from each city and send them to fight off. On the Roman side, three brothers from the Horatii family agree to sacrifice their lives by fighting three other brothers from the Curiatii family. During the confrontation, only one of the Horatii brothers survive, but makes a strong comeback killing all the three brothers from Alba Longa. The painting depicts the three Horatii brothers saluting to their father, who holds the swords in front of them. At the bottom right corner, a woman named Camila is crying, who is betrothed to one of the Curiatii brothers. As the legend goes, the surviving brother kills Camilia for crying over the enemy. The painting became a huge success among the public, and gave birth to the Roman salute, which was appropriated by the Nazis during World War II as they adopted this fully extended right arm salute.

David, Jacques-Louis. Oath of the Horatii (1794). Oil on Canvas

During the commencement of the French Revolution, David was a supporter of the movement, being allies with Robespierre and a member of the Club des Jacobins. This club contained the most radical revolutionary members, and were associated with the “Reign of Terror”. Being part of the radical, exclusive group, he voted for the beheading of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antionette, and became active in revolutionary propaganda for the new republic of France. His first painting dedicated to the Revolution was the Oath in the Tennis Court, which was commissioned by the Club des Jacobins. With this, he transformed the contemporary event of the ongoing Third Estate meeting in the indoor tennis court into a historical artwork. Similar to the Oath of Horatii, he represents the unification of men in a patriotic perspective with outstretched arms representing the Roman salute. With this painting, David went onto the attempt of capturing current political events in real time, as it pertains to one of Neoclassicism’s attributes in classicizing contemporary topics.

David, Jacques-Louis. Oath in the Tennis Court (1789)

However, the political circumstances in France tensioned and became too polarized to complete the painting. The unity in the Oath in the Tennis Court no longer existed in a radicalized 1792. Becoming a leader member in the Committee of Public Instruction, Davide was Robespierre’s minister of the arts, and became the vessel for mass propaganda of French revolutionary ideals. This is seen in David’s The Death of Marat, which was a painting dedicated to his friend Marat, a radical Revolutionist who was most responsible for the September massacres, and the death warrants of those who opposed the revolution. Depicted in a angelic, Christ-like way, Marat is depicted as a holy martyr who died tragically, having warm light bathe over his corpse. Despite his horrible skin condition the caused blisters, his skin was shown as pristine and healthy instead. His softened, melancholic expression gave the audience a sense of pity, as he died with a letter in his hand from Charlotte Courday. On the wooden table, money lied there, instructed to be given to a widow by Marat, instead of his usual death warrants. The crime of justice for one of the most extremist, bloodthirsty men in the French Revolution was given a saint-like painting, depicting Marat as a humble man of the people.

David, Jacques-Louis. Death of Marat

Being named the Pieta of the revolution, it became the leading image of the Reign of Terror and immortalized Marat and David as key figures of the French Revolution. Afterwards, he also painted other two of the Revolution’s “martyrs”- Lepelletier de Saint-Fargeau and Barra.

After years of counter revolutionary voices being silenced, Robespierre’s Reign of Terror came to an end, and he was guillotined in July 1794. David’s revolutionary patriotism was soon antagonized, being named the “tyrant of the arts”. He was arrested and placed in prison for several months, and there he painted his own portrait of his younger self. Years later, he developed a new style of painting known as “Pure Greek Style” and characterized this in terms of smoother curves and more natural poses. This type of art came to attention to Napoleon, and he became the official painter for him. Being appointed as his First painter, he was commissioned to commemorate the inaugurals ceremonies in four paintings. One of them, the Coronation of Napoleon, depicted Napoleon’s coronation at Notre Dame de Paris, and was composted of the rules of neoclassicism with lines running across several axes and all eyes turned to the center of the painting- Napoleon.

David, Jacques-Louis. Coronation of Napoleon

After the reign of Napoleon fell in 1815, the Bourbons returned to power and King Louis XVIII offered David the position of court painter. Refusing this offer, he chose self-exile in Brussels and spent the remainder of his life there with his wife. He painted in that time mythological scenes, and created his last grand work- Mars Being Disarmed by Venus and the Three Graces. Taking elements of neoclassicism, it is seen by some as his last Neo-classical piece in retaliation to the growing romanticism movement in the 1800s. It was completed three years later, before dying in a carriage accident in December 1825.

David, Jacques-Louis

In connection with contemporary life, Jacques-Louis David, although having been a radical revolutionist, is one of the most influential artists today who managed to depict the political turmoil of the French Revolution. Not only did he create grand masterpieces of paintings during his time, but he also managed to attend his testament of being a political leader and educator by surviving when his friends had fallen. He redefined the historic paintings of the 17th century in France, relating ancient historic figures to ongoing contemporary events in the revolution. His revolutionary fervor led him to organizing propaganda festivals and dispensing the occurring French Revolution to the public eye, and many were influenced by the moving art of his.

Using his Neoclassical realism to push the revolution ideals towards the public with paintings of martyrs and historic events, he changed the world across spheres as a political artist. Although he is most known for his alliance to the French revolutionary ideals, he was also a person who switched affiliations to whoever was in power. From pertaining to the stable monarchy- to the radical revolutionaries- and to Napolean’s new regime, David utilized his position and cleverness to adapt to every changing power and suit his artistic expression to their needs. However, no matter who was his master, he left a lasting influence on the neoclassical era with the subject of his paintings.

Napoleon Crossing the Saint-Bernard

The neoclassical movement rose in retaliation to the overly decorative and whimsy essence of the Rococo and Baroque period, focusing rather on current political and social events of the time. The core belief of this movement was that art should express the ideal virtues of life, not the pleasures and vanity, and could influence the audience by imparting a moralizing message. Similar to today’s art world, contemporary artists seek to express their beliefs and communicate their messages across the world through contemporary art. Influencing from neoclassism, this movement seeks to reflect on society and controversial issues around the world that deal with identity and society. Of course, using different mediums compared to the neoclassical era, contemporary art seeks to find innovating techniques and ways to create art using technology and objects.

In personal relevance to living in today’s society, the important figures of the neoclassical art period such as Jacques Louis David have changed the purpose of art in today’s world. Art before pertained to the rich nobility who would have their portraits and wishes painted, accumulating status from owning aesthetic canvas on their walls. But the French Revolution brought a shift to the world of art- turning away from art for religion and monarchy- to using it instead for conveying human rights and enlightenment ideals.

The Death of Socrates

However, the world of contemporary art today seems to trace back to its contrary state. Having the characteristic of being art used to bring awareness on global issues and comment on society’s faults, it is tagged with a price that only today’s “nobility” can attain. Similar to the pre-revolutionary art, those who can afford the $25k paintings place it on their walls for the nice aesthetic of their second homes. And although it strips away from the negative characteristic of art with no meaning, it is still owned by those who find no genuine personal connection to the art. In a similar way, it coincides with the irony of the French Revolution; revolting against an oppressing monarchy who did not care for its people, to placing bloodthirsty individuals in power who eventually were no different from the oppressive monarchs.

Jacques Louis David, a prominent figure in the French Revolution and artist in the Neoclassicist era, brought change to the world through redefining the purpose of art. Although an exceptional master at his crafts and technique, he sided with whomever had the most power, eventually becoming corrupted. And even in the smallest details observed through his shading and color schemes, a message lied underneath it all, while maintaining a perfect, symmetrical balance to please the viewer-a psychological master of the eye.

Self Portrait

References:

“About Contemporary Art.” About Contemporary Art (Education at the Getty), http://www.getty.edu/education/teachers/classroom_resources/curricula/contemporary_art/background1.html. 

Boundless. “Boundless Art History.” Lumen, courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-arthistory/chapter/neoclassicism/. 

“The Death of Marat: The Propaganda of Jacques-Louis David | French Revolution.” The Conspiracy of Art, 11 June 2021, youtu.be/2bxjxUotvtA. 

“Jacques-Louis David.” Artist Info, National Gallery of Art, http://www.nga.gov/collection/artist-info.1212.html. 

“Jacques-Louis David.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 13 Apr. 2021, http://www.biography.com/artist/jacques-louis-david. 

“Jacques-Louis David.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Apr. 2022, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques-Louis_David. 

“Jacques-Louis David: Painter and Revolutionary.” TheCollector, 1 July 2021, http://www.thecollector.com/jacques-louis-david-revolution/. 

“Mars Being Disarmed by Venus.” Mars Being Disarmed by Venus by Jacques Louis David, http://www.jacqueslouisdavid.net/mars-being-disarmed-by-venus/. 

McMurty, Leslie. “Tennis Court Oath Painting by David: Meaning & Analysis.” Study.com, 9 Aug. 2016. 

Neagle, Kylie. “Discuss the Art and Politics of Jacques-Louis David and His Approach to Propaganda during the French Revolution.” Art Educators , arteducators.weebly.com/uploads/2/4/6/6/24662231/kneagle.pdf. 

“Neoclassicism Movement Overview.” The Art Story, http://www.theartstory.org/movement/neoclassicism/. 

“Oath of the Horatii.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 Mar. 2022, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oath_of_the_Horatii. 

Michelle Puentes: Palmetto Bay 2021

Biography

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.

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

GEOGRAPHY

Palmetto Bay is a village-like suburb in Miami-Dade County located west across Biscayne Bay , and neighboring Pinecrest and Cutler Bay. The suburb has a total area of 8.8 square miles and has an altitude of 39 feet. The climate around this area is mostly compromised of a wet tropical savanna climate .

Apple Maps

The urban landscape of Palmetto Bay is compromised of several plazas, shops, businesses and restaurants along Dixie Highway, with the east side of Palmetto Bay being mostly parks, homes and schools. Schools are Coral Reef Elementary School, Palmetto Bay Academy and Westminister Christian School.

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

The natural landscape of this city, however, is completely different. A small portion of the raw natural landscape of Miami is located at the Deering Estate, where Charles Deering was one of the few settlers during Miami’s development of 1920s that preserved the nature. Part of the Deering Estate, located in Palmetto Bay, sits on top of the Miami Rock Ridge, which is a sedimentary ridge that is up to 25 feet above sea level. Most of the natural landscape of Palmetto Bay consists of mangrove forests, tropical hardwood hammocks, pine Rocklands, salt marshes and more. Overall, the natural landscape is stunning with a wide open view of Biscayne Bay by the shore and lush green tropical surrounding the untouched areas of Palmetto Bay.

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

HISTORY

The land of Palmetto Bay had been inhabited by Paleo-Indians and Tequestas in the beginning dating around 10,000 years ago. The Tequestas were one of the first tribes in South Florida settling around Miami area. They lived along the mouth of the Miami River and flourished for many years until the English came. Since the Tequesta never surrendered, they were able to maintain a mutual relationship with the Spanish, but when the English began to conquer and push south, the Tequesta began to move towards the everglades and even Cuba. The Old Cuter Fossil Site in the Deering Estate property has fossilized remains including mammoths and dire wolves, seen in the solution holes. A untouched burial mound of the Tequestas sits as well there, which is one of the two only unearthed Tequesta burial sites in the world. It believes to hold 12 to 18 Native Americans, with a 600 year old oak tree growing above, seeming as a representation of the Tequesta spirit flourishing within the roots of the majestic tree.

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4,o

In the more recent past centuries, around 1813, the land of Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay, and the Falls were granted to Dr. Perrine, who had the intentions of creating an agricultural colony. During his years, Dr. Perrine studied tropical plants in order to pursue his vision and cultivate them in that area, but unfortunately in 1840, he was killed in an Indian attack. After his death, squatters began to settle in the same soils Dr. Perrine had claimed, but instead of following his vision, they chose traditional farming over new plant introduction. In 1897, two settlers, Francis and John Earhart owned 2,000 acres of the 3 suburban areas and established a small farming community called “Franjo”. The Franjo Road takes its name from this small community, which led to them. In 1883, Dr. William Cutler settled and bought 600 areas of land. Building the Town of Cutler, it was located between Old Cutler Road and SW 168 street, which grew quickly with vegetable and fruit production. However, during Henry Flager’s development of the railroad, the Town of Cutler was bypassed by several miles and cut short of its potential growth. It wasn’t until almost a decade later, Charles Deering bought the land in the slow city of Cutler and brought life once again. Charles Deering was the half brother of James Deering, who built Vizcaya, and both built Mediterranean style mansions on the edge of Biscayne Bay. Charles Deering preserved much of the land and maintained the former Indian Hunting grounds, while also planting Royal Palms near the water. He became a avid naturalist and preservationist, allowing the US Department of Culture to establish an experimental station on several acres of his property. However, as much as his glory is recognized, it was also during a period of intense racial segregation, where most construction workers of the Deering Estate were African American or Afro Bahamian. Under horrible working conditions, the building of the Deering Estate resulted in four deaths and five injuries, which is still not recognized today by the park or city of Palmetto Bay. The Richmond Inn at the Estate today is one of the last surviving structures of the town of Cutler, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The creation of the municipality of Palmetto Bay was a tough one during the past decades. On November 6, 1995, the alliance of Palmetto South Homeowners petitioned Miami Dade County to incorporate the village. Being denied by the Boundaries Commission, the County’s Planning Advisory board approved. However, the Board of County Commissioners deferred the petition in 1996 and residents and attorneys filed a lawsuit against this. Finally on May 20, 2000, the Board of County Commissioners approved the creation of Palmetto Bay Municipal Advisory committee. It was not until September 10, 2002, that voters approved the municipal charter and Palmetto Bay finally became the 33rd municipality in Miami Dade.

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

DEMOGRAPHICS

Palmetto Bay is currently home to over 24,000 residents, governed under a five member Village council. According the the United States Census, its estimated population as of 2019 is 24,523, with a median age of 41.5 years. 54% are between the age of 18-65, 14.8% being 65 and older, and 31.2 % under 18. The demographics of sex is roughly split equally, females accounting for 50.3% of the population and males 40.7%. The race and ethnicity is prominently white and hispanic, accounting for 86% altogether. 46.6% identify as Hispanic or Latino, 42.1% as white, 3.7% as black, 3.7% as Asian and .1% as American Indian or Alaska native. Around 32% of the population are foreign born, most likely coming from Latin American countries. Compared to other areas around Miami Dade County, the income in Palmetto Bay proves to be an affluent neighborhood, with the median household income being $123,477 and a low poverty level at 5.7%, compared to Hialeah Gardens having a median household income of $53,423 and 12.5% poverty level. Additionally, the median property value is half a million, at $562,300. The education levels are very high as well, having 94.8% of people over the age of 25 having completed high school and 58.5% having completed a bachelors degree.

INTERVIEW

Patricia Christine Garcia

How long have you lived in Palmetto Bay and what do you think of this neighborhood?

I have lived here for 10 years.. since 2011. It is a pretty safe and well maintained neighborhood in general, where potholes are taken care of. It is generally filled with nice individuals, like retired couples or families of upper middle class. There is not many singles living here, it is mostly a community where families live. But the prices have been skyrocketing here over the past years.

What do you like to do around here?

I have gone biking here around because places are not so distanced from each other, so it is easy to get around. I have also gone kayaking at the Deering Estate and fishing at Deering Pointe, which is a lot of fun. I have gone to a farmers market near coral reef park which was an interesting experience.

How did your family arrive to Palmetto Bay?

My parents are from Cuban descent, so both of them came to the United States when they were children. We used to live in Cutler Bridge, but it was a very unsafe neighborhood so we decided to move. We chose Palmetto Bay because it was close to my elementary school so it worked out.

What is your favorite aspect about this neighborhood?

What I like most about this neighborhood is the overall safety and security here. It is a place where I generally feel safe, not like before where I used to live. The people here are warm and friendly, so it adds to the feeling of home where you feel safe and sound. Overall, I think I would stay here to live longer with my family.

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

LANDMARKS

OLD CUTLER ROAD

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

The Old Cutler Road is a very important landmark here in Palmetto Bay. It crosses through Coral Gables, going fully into Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay. Originally belonging to the name of the former town of Cutler, it was a town founded by William Fuzzard who settled around the late 1800s. In 1883, Fuzzard and other residents cut a path north and east through the pine rocklands and hardwood hammocks, following towards the village of Coconut Grove. It was the first overland route connecting Coconut Grove and Curler, and was declared a public road in 1895. It was known as Cutler road, then Ingraham Highway and now known today as Old Cutler Road. In 1916, a concrete bridge was installed over Snapper Creek and led to Florida’s first state park : Royal Palm State Park. It was declared a State Historical Highway in 1974 by the Florida Legislature. Deering had also petitioned to the county to allow him to divert the road around his estate, in exchange for a public dock, which was granted to him.

THALATTA ESTATE

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.o

Another Estate Park located in Palmetto Bay, Thalatta Estate is a two story Mediterranean Revival home that was built and designed by the Connett family in the 19th century. A venue that today holds wedding ceremonies and receptions both inside and outdoor, it offers a beautiful view of Biscayne Bay with beautiful gardens and an outdoor courtyard. Built in the style of 1920’s, it contains elements of decorative Cuban tile floors and carved wood entry doors inside the house, with red clay tiled roof, and round arched openings. It was acquired by the Village of Palmetto Bay in 20o5 in order to preserve as a landmark for Miami Dade County.

CHINESE BRIDGE

Originally known part of “Old Cutler Road”, the Chinese Bridge was ordered to be constructed by Charles Deering as a bridge to cross Cutler Creek and his home. Deering relocated the access way of Cutler Road into the natural areas of his property and designed it in a Chinese theme as a commemoration of his U.S Naval voyages to Asia. Water from the Cutler Drain Canal C-100A flows under the bridge, due to a coastal wetlands restoration project. A resident who has lived in Palmetto Bay since his teens states the Chinese Bridge as a “pretty little bridge in the middle of nowhere, forgotten and swallowed by nature”, due to its dark location surrounded by mangroves, large trees and thick vegetation.

GREEN

Deering Estate

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.o

The Deering Estate is one of the most important green spaces and landmarks of Palmetto Bay. Having been built by early preservationist and environmentalist Charles Deering, it was designed to keep the nature and history of Southern Florida intact and in its original state as the Tequestas lived in. The biodiversity in this park itself is amazing, with seagrass beds, coastal dunes, salt marshes, mangrove forests, tropical hardwood hammocks, and pine rocklands being part of the diverse ecosystem. It includes a variety of wildlife such as squirrels, snakes, birds, gray foxes and butterflies with rare species being recovered. Additionally, it is popular as a location for a wedding venue and beautiful ambience to host signature events, programs, hiking tours and classes.

CORAL REEF PARK

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.o

Located in SW 152nd Street of Palmetto Bay, this beautiful park offers beach volley ball, tennis, basketball, baseball, exercise trail, and a large playground for kids and adults to enjoy. More than 50 acres big, it offers pine land preserve areas and a beautiful streaming river that gives a sense an ambience of peacefulness. The park itself is very beautiful with a large space and trail to walk on, making it a green space to enjoy an active lifestyle.

PALMETTO BAY PARK

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.o

A park quite hidden between the streets, it is a popular park of Palmetto Bay located near US-1. This park formerly was 5 acres, but after the Village incorporation, it was expanded to a 25 acre park facility. It includes basketball courts, six softball fields, large playgrounds , a skate park and an extensive greenspace. It also has a two story concession and observation deck at the center near the softball field. It is a nice park to walk around and enjoy for a view, but not as much as the other ones.

FOOD

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.o

Aromas del Peru

A Peruvian Cuisine restaurant, it serves authentic Peruvian food for those who enjoy a nice relaxed ambience along the streets of Palmetto Bay. They also serve pastas and sushi, which adds to the diversity of their menu where everyone can enjoy. The cost of their menu is averagely expensive ranging from $15-$40 a plate. Overall, its a modern ambience restaurant to enjoy on a date or with friends while visiting Palmetto Bay.

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

Walter’s Coffee Shop

A family owned restaurant since 1965, Walter’s Coffee Shop is a perfect dine in to stop by for some classic American breakfast and lunch. The menu consists of eggs and bacon or french toast breakfasts for anyone to feed the morning hunger. For lunch, milkshakes and burgers are offered to enjoy midday, and for dinner N.Y steak strips or different fish platters are offered for the night. Their prices are average, ranging from $10-$20 a plate. Overall, its a great place for a family to enjoy at anytime of the day.

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

Daily Bread

A Greek/ Middle Eastern market and restaurant, this place offers delicious meals and products coming from the Mediterranean. They offer typical platters such as Falafel, Kibbie, Gyro,Stuffed Cabage and more with a side of pita bread that comes and delicious homemade sauces. They also have delicious desserts such as Baklava, Crescent Cookie, Nut Roll and alot more delicious treats! Their prices are inexpensive, ranging from $8-$15 a platter. Additionally, they have a market with a wide variety of products from the Middle East and restaurant made pita and dips.

BUSINESSES

Palmetto Bay Farmer’s Market

Photo of Palmetto Bay Farmer's Market - Miami, FL, United States. East side of market
Photographed by Helena A.

An open air market at Coral Reef Park, it is a special market with over 30 booths where vendors come and sell their handmade jewelry, homemade soaps, local honey, special herbs & plants and more! There are also delicious food stands where you can eat Mediterranean humus, smoked BBQ, and ceviche. Lots of choices to choose from, it can help support small local businesses to keep their business growing. It is open every Saturday from 9am to 3pm!

Miami Reptile Co.

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

Miami Reptile Co is a reptile rescue friendly store where owners of snakes,lizards or more can come and shop for food, reptile products or new pets. They currently have exotic reptiles for sale, such as the Chinese golden thread turtle or the Ghi fire spider. They also include a line of feeders, such as rodents, worms and insects available for these vile creatures. Additionally, they also have a Reptile Day care where they can take care of your lizard, snake or tortoise while you are away on vacation or a trip for a small price of $3 a day. Overall, it is a great pet store if your looking for something new and exotic to have as an animal.

Bella Vita Salon and Spa

This full service hair salon has been opened since 2001 with an upstanding commitment to have client’s experience the most tranquil, upscale ambience in the spa. Complimentary wine, tea or coffee is always available at the guests hand, treating their guests as royalty. They offer skin, hair and nail services, such as acrylics, facials and haircuts in order to beautify the customers features. Customer reviews are always filled with how friendly the staff is and how great their services are. They are open Monday through Saturdays, and closed on Sundays.

TRANSPORTATION

Palmetto Bay has quite a few helpful modes of transportation which allows it to travel easy between the village. They have local bus services and Freebee, which can save the environment on extra gas from the cars and allows for people to get free transportation. Freebee was introduced in July 2019, where free gases vehicles can pick you up and take you anywhere within Palmetto Bay at zero cost. There are also now two “Freebee” shuttle buses that will take riders from Palmetto Bay park to Dadeland South metro-rail station, which is another great mode of transportation to get through most of Miami without the traffic hassle.

Palmetto Bay also has the I-Bus, which is a intra-Village bus service that is designed to increase the number of destinations through a scheduled route. They all come equipped with air condition, wheel chair accessibliliy and bike racks so anyone can transport easily within.Additionally, they are free, funded by the transportation surtax of Miami Dade County. They also connect with the Miami Dade Transit routes, which make it once again easy to travel into Miami outside of Palmetto Bay.

Another notable mode of transportation here, as noted by a resident who I interviewed, is golf carts. Golf carts are popular used here as a mode of transportation around the neighborhoods, especially around the evenings, to save on gas and enjoy the fresh nearby breeze of Biscayne Bay. Often families use golf carts to travel around the village.

SUMMARY

Since I’ve been coming here to this neighborhood often due to my internship at the Deering Estate, this place feels like a second home to me. Being able to take part of several hikes at the Deering Estate along with Professor John Bailly, I have learned an incredible amount of the history of Palmetto Bay and Miami in general. This neighborhood has a very peaceful and naturalistic environment, where the roads are often quiet near homes and there are many green spaces to enjoy of, which pertains to its nickname as the “Village of Parks”. Of course, since it is an affluent, wealthy neighborhood, there is a lot of sense of safeness and security, which unfortunately is not the case for other neighborhoods in Miami Dade. Because it is a very expensive place to live to, it is not accessible for everyone else to live, including low or middle class people.

An important aspect to note about this neighborhood that does not work, is the single lane roads along Old Cutler Road and SW 67th Ave. Especially around rush hour, it is expected to wait a long time going south from these roads since the traffic lights increase the wait time and there are no double lane roads to allow move more cars along. It is an improvement the council should consider expanding, but due to the nature of the village itself, it may cause disruption to the territory of houses and parks around.

Another risk is its close proximity to the shore, which makes it a high risk location when Hurricane season arrives. During Hurricane Andrew, many homes and places suffered lost and damages due to this catastrophe. It was a difficult recovery for all of Florida, but even harder for those close to the shore. However, Palmetto Bay has improved of this with building safer houses that are more resistant against hurricanes, such as concrete materials.

Overall, the Village of Palmetto Bay is a beautiful, peaceful neighborhood with so many parks to enjoy from. Highly recommended for naturalists and preservationists, they will find themselves in a delight of nature bliss at Deering Estate or Deering Pointe, where they can truly immerse themselves in the stunning open view of the Atlantic Ocean along with the white ibis who fly across.

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

Works Cited

“History of Palmetto Bay: Palmetto Bay, FL.” Village of Palmetto Bay Floridahttp://www.palmettobay-fl.gov/681/History-of-Palmetto-Bay.

“Palmetto Bay, FL.” Data USA, datausa.io/profile/geo/palmetto-bay-fl/.

“U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Palmetto Bay Village, Florida.” Census Bureau QuickFactshttp://www.census.gov/quickfacts/palmettobayvillageflorida.

“History.” History | Thalatta Estatehttp://www.thalattaestate.com/history.

Bailly, John William. “Deering Estate Walking Tour.” John William Bailly, 25 Apr. 2021, johnwbailly.com/lectures/deering-estate-walking-tour/. 

“Charles Deering.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 20 Sept. 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Deering. 

“Chinese Bridge Historical Marker.” Historical Marker, 22 June 2021, http://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=79320. 

“Old Cutler Road Historical Marker.” Historical Marker, 16 June 2016, http://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=73635. 

The Tequesta of Biscayne Bay, fcit.usf.edu/florida/lessons/tequest/tequest1.htm. 

Michelle Puentes: Miami Service 2021

Student Bio:

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.

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

WHO?

The institution I volunteered in during my service was the Deering Estate located in Palmetto Bay, Florida, where we went to a nearby island named Chicken Key to do a community beach clean up in my class. Made possible thanks to Florida International University Honors College’s Miami in Miami class, we were granted the access to canoe and land on Chicken Key in exchange for doing a beach clean up on the island.

The Deering Estate is a national landmark on the National Register of Historic Places and is situated in a portion of Everglades Restoration Project. Chicken Key is one mile off shore from this preserve, and debris and trash from around the coast of Miami collects towards the uninhabited island of Chicken key. Beach cleanups in this area is often essential as much trash is collected progressively at the shore every day.

WHY?

I chose this specific place to volunteer because the opportunity was given during my Miami in Miami class on our excursion to Chicken Key. It was directed by our professor John Bailly and 30 other students combined from both Miami in Miami classes. It was a unique opportunity to get close together as a class after just knowing each other from two other excursions, and making connections as we all completed a service to the environment. This volunteer service does not relate directly to my major in Art and Psychology. However it does relate to my interest in exploring nature in a form of kayaking and getting to see beyond the shore. Although environmentalism is not my passion, it was definitely fun doing my first beach clean up with people who are passionate and interested in saving the environment from waste. Moreover, it brought awareness to me on how much consumption a single human can have with every single soda bottle they drink or pack of chips they consume. It made me realize that almost all of nature’s packaging is decomposable and safe for the environment, but human made packing is often destructive and harmful. It made me realize how important beach clean ups are around the world in order to maintain a cleaner, safer environment for all creatures.

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

HOW?

I connected with this opportunity through immersing myself in the beauty of nature under the mangroves, clear shallow waters, and beautiful sea grass plants and reefs that were nearby Chicken Key. It was an amazing opportunity getting to explore the raw keys of Florida which are uninhabited and full of life with fish, hermit crabs and crabs crawling all across the the sand and rocks. I also saw for the first time a huge hermit crab about the size of a knuckle, which was cool since I used to have a small hermit crab pet when I was younger.

I additionally had the opportunity to connect with my fellow classmates and even the other group of the class. It was so much fun getting to see all of us interact and work together to do the most we can to get trash off the beach, and many of us were able to fill up many bags with trash to take out. I had the opportunity to go snorkeling with another classmate and go deeper into the sea and together spot out different creatures and plants we saw. While kayaking, I got to know my friend from my class more and also another person from the other group by knowing their interests and majors. It was unique as a entire class being able to enjoy the nice cool salty water under the bright beautiful sun that day, and all laughing and struggling to kayak at first. Overall, it was exciting getting to connect not only with nature, but also my classmates which we have gone through everything .

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

WHERE & WHAT?

On the day of the volunteering, we first kayaked all the way to Chicken Key from the Deering Estate. We had a bright sun and few clouds, so the weather had favored us. We raveled through the mangroves in a small trail we went through and went deep inside to explore. Afterwards we kayaked out into the open sea and made our way to Chicken Key. When we arrived, we explored the island for a bit and took a dip in the water. We then began to use recyclable bags in order to collect the trash from the beach. Walking around at first, I only collected tiny pieces of trash such as bottle caps and small pieces of plastic. I could not find huge pieces of trash around most of the area as other people had found. It was not until our teacher assistant pointed out an area with lots of trash that I was able to fill up my bag immediately. There was a small corner that contained many plastic bottles and soda cans that were entangled in between the mangroves and water. There I was able to fill up and clean the dirty place. Although there was so much trash to pick up, at least the small amount I filled with my bag can make a huge difference in the accumulation of trash at Chicken Key. Afterwards, we collected all the trash into the canoes and placed in my canoe around four trash bags and a plastic bin for bottles. We canoed back to land very exhausted from the long trip, but it was an amazing fun time.

WHEN?

SUMMARY

Overall, my first time doing a beach clean up was a unique and grand opportunity. The canoe experience had worked for me well overall, since I was with two other individuals and I took turns with my friend to canoe the boat. The students, assistants and professor definitely made it an enjoyable experience by most of us together attempting to kayak for the first time. We were able to arrive safely at the island and without any troubles. When picking up the trash, what didn’t work for me was the gloves I had brought, which were medical gloves, and I instead had to pick up trash with my hand. It wasn’t as bad as I thought, as most trash had been washed by the sea. The difficult part was definitely being able to access the trash that had been embedded in the deeper part of the mangroves. It would be more convenient next time to bring a trash pick up stick to access these areas. The bags themselves were sufficient but not so easy to tie, so trash had the possibility to fall out. When we all went back, we were able to organize the trashes in several canoes, and off we went to the shore. After arriving, we settled the trash in a truck, so we didn’t have to carry it all the way across back, making it easier.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience being able as a class to do a service to nature and clean up all the human made mess. It had me think how governments should invest more money in having beach and even park cleanups with incentives in order to get people more involved into this. Volunteering is good, but it should also be a responsibility of the local government to spend budget on keeping nature clean and beautiful the way it should be, instead of wasting taxpayer money on new development ruining the environment. I hope to be able soon to contribute to more events like these and have my small action make a difference in the world we live in.

Michelle Puentes: Miami as Text 2021-2022

Michelle Puentes is a sophomore student pursing a double degree in Art and Psychology with a Certification in Italian Language at Florida International University. She loves to explore and travel, learn new languages, draw and paint, play guitar and serve in her church. She aspires to become an art therapist for children with emotional or physical struggles, and wants to travel around the world to immerse in different lifestyles and appreciate the art and cuisine.

“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. 

“The Shallow Glory of Vizcaya” by Michelle Puentes of FIU Vizcaya as Text October 20, 2021

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

A smooth, white marble figure of Dionysus rose high above a stone platform, rays from above illuminating his striking figure holding the symbol of festivity, madness and pure pleasure. Walking through the curtains of glittering, green leaves embellishing the pure white statues and tinted pink platforms, the glimpse of a rich man’s life almost seemed enviable to attain. However, the most heavenly impression was the diamond waters being a carpet to the breathtaking Mediterranean revival style mansion dressed in baroque inspired art that came from the heart of renaissance art, Italy. At last, the world of the rich elite was revealed to me for the first time through the gates of a man who simply spoke and received. James Deering, a wealthy, successful executive in his father’s Deering Harvester Company, led to develop one of the most beautiful houses in all of Miami, Vizcaya. In the abundance of his richness, nearly everything he desired was placed upon his lap at the expense of money. However, the majestic beauty of this palace was nothing short of an empty shallow soul attempting to fulfill his needs through materialism. Displaying his god at the back entrance of his Vizcaya, it showed that most of his life consisted of only living in the moment of pleasure . However, as pleasure is only a temporary feeling, his longing for something more could be seen in his delusional house decor reflecting the opposite of who he was. Placing several paintings of random people he pretended to be family, establishing symbols of honors that only the worthy heroes earned, and creating a own god of himself in a statue, it displayed his need to feed his delusion that he was something more than an ambitious, crude man. Having the grounds of his glory built by Bahamians and his bread served by immigrants, his arrogance surpassed the hard work of these people as he simply looked down upon them and shed away their sight from his filthy guests. Nothing of what he desired for was given at the end, which was for his nieces and nephews to enjoy their family inheritance of the Vizcaya palace (James Deering). Shortly however, the nieces Marion Deering McCormick and Barbara Deering Danielson could not keep up with the costly maintenance of his castle, giving it away to the government of Miami Dade (James Deering). At the end, it only turned into a majestic museum for the public to enjoy, instead of a elite’s inheritance being enjoyed fully by his generations to come.

Sources

“James Deering.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Oct. 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Deering. 

“The Art Deco Beauty” by Michelle Puentes South Beach as Text November 4, 2021

First arriving at the Pierre Point of South Beach, the bright, vibrant blue green waters softly crash against the sea rocks, as a stray cat lays in between soaking up the sun’s rays and enjoying the ambience of South Beach. Similar to the cat, many tourists take the same approach at South Beach putting on their best swimsuit and relaxing by the flawless manmade beach that is the image of Miami. However, beyond the glamorous Versace house and fresh soft pasteled- art deco houses that reside by the blue waters, South Beach has had a deeper history beyond its riches. South Beach is home to the only Art Deco buildings in the world, where there bright colors and futuristic style are what brings people from all over the world to come and visit. Barbara Capitman was Art Deco’s savior, as she fought in the 1970’s over the preserving of the brightly colored art deco hotels (Dembling, 2014) . She often made rallies and protests in order to keep the buildings from being demolished into more modern structures that were deemed to be more efficient and money producing as large towers. In 1976, she founded the Miami Design Preservation League which fought for the neglected art deco buildings (Dembling 2014). Her effort’s rewarded her a place on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 (Cook, 1990). Her accomplishment allowed for future generations to continue enjoying the unique 1920’s and 30’s Art Deco buildings that give South Beach it’s edgy, space-age theme with ziggurat inspired buildings that borrow from Egyptian and European art to compliment it’s sleek pastel colors. 

References

Cook, Joan (1990-03-31). “Barbara Baer Capitman, 69, Dies; Created Miami Art Deco District”New York Times..

Dembling, Sophia (2014, September 3). Barbara Baer Capitman: South Beach’s Art Deco Hero: National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“Our Geographical Ancestors” by Michelle Puentes Deering Estate as Text November 17, 2021

Photographed by Michelle CC by 4.o

Since nearly 500 years ago, the Tequesta People roamed and ruled through Florida’s southeast coasts, raveling through the mangroves and utilizing any of nature’s material to survive their way through the jungle of Miami. The Tequesta survived through being hunter gatherers. They used dugout canoes to move across the bay and hunted for deer, alligator, fish and shells as food (Early Tribe Tequesta). They often wore clothing made of palmetto for men and skirts of Spanish moss for women. Even though the blood of Tequestas was never carried out through Miami’s generations, one connection does remain, which is the geographical ancestry. As citizens of Rome relate to their geographical emperor and soldier ancestors no matter the bloodline, the one thing they have in common is the land and soil they are on. The homeland one lives on is one they will cherish forever, with endless memories of childhood, adulthood, and even until senior years. The seasonal weather and unique smell of the homeland will always be one that every person holds deep in their conscious to forever hold. More specifically, the thick humid weather and endless sun and rain that fall upon the coast of Miami is something every Tequesta, Spaniard, English, Seminole, Cuban, Bahamian, Venezuelan, Colombian and more have all experienced on this coast. But through the constant changing of the landscape into modernism, it has become more of a blur into what Miami will be in the future than what it meant in the past.

Visiting one of the only two Tequesta burial sites in the world at the Deering Estate was something unique and impacting. Recognizing the importance of acknowledging those who made it possible for us to live where we are today was the first moment I felt a true connection to the place I call home. Knowing those who truly kept the nature of this land pristine and fertile is the key to being grateful and appreciative of what others have done for us. Despite the Deering Estate now being one of the only small chunks of the original Miami, it’s also important to recognize the efforts of others who have made it possible to keep the land intact. Having treaded through the muddy mangroves, crossing the crystal clear flowing waters, and walking under the long trees roofing the entire trail was a splendid experience of calmness, serenity and reflection. Although it’s an experience not desired or unknown by most inhabitants of Miami, it has been an opportunity I am grateful of to have. Hopefully in the future, more will desire to remember the land that was built by nature and not man.

Sources:

info@fusedog.com, Fusedog Media. “Early Tribes: Tequesta.” Tequesta, Historical Society of Palm Beach County, http://www.pbchistoryonline.org/page/tequesta. 

“The Business of Art” by Michelle Puentes Untitled as Text, December 1, 2021

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

Entering the world of contemporary art for the first time, it was a different than expected experience as an artist. At first look, most of the art has been created in a form of modern technology, often seeming more simplistic and abstract, with some dizzying patterns and disturbing faces across the canvas. However, behind the art is a price tag, more expensive than the cost of a car or college tuition. In the art world, a whole new world moves around, the business of art. The world of pure luxury and unnecessary indulgence is seen through the heavy costs of all these artworks where one pays millions for a canvas with three brush strokes of paint. The buyers strut fashionably with their name brand clothing across the booths, looking for their next piece to decorate their second homes. Coming out of the fair, they talk about their plans for the week to attend a playboy party at some mansion, as art vendors are outside struggling to sell their cultural paintings for 99% less of what they have just purchased at the fair. The amount of undistributed wealth is seen in what art is really made for in the real world. However, the renowned artists are not to blame, as their art is made for what they believe in or feel needs to be spoken in society… it was simply a matter of luck for them to have been discovered by the rich and known. With this, for artists who simply want to make a living with their paintings or drawings, it’s a matter of luck and opportunity, not just skill, that will make them known. Perhaps if the wealthy could ever for once take a walk down the street and buy the painting of the humble artist who seeks to pay for his daily meal – wait never mind, it’s not hanging up on a white wall at an exclusive fair with $6 coffee to purchase.

“What is left of Florida” by Michelle Puentes, Everglades as Text, January 12, 2021

Photography by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

The brisk wind gushes across the white frosted trees bare from the winter season, as the cavernous brown colored waters slush across the legs. Almost seeming like a fantasy winter world, the ethereal beauty of Florida can been seen here, showing what’s more beyond the classic palm trees and electric loud Miami skyscrapers. This small part of the massive Everglades proves how diverse and eclectic South Florida’s natural ecosystems are, with different worlds emerging in every corner of any acre. Furthermore, the types of people visiting these natural wonders happened to be more tourists than actual native Floridians, which leaves me astounded to know most people living here don’t know about an entire different planet behind their backyards. Florida being compromised of more than 8 distinct ecosystems, it is a stunning state filled with many natural wonders that few know of. However, with the constant infrastructure development and future perspective of Florida becoming a nightlife vacation state, how much longer will the raw, pure parts of Florida remain for?

Since the 1800s, the natural flow of the Everglades has been disrupted by human action, draining and transforming this natural swamp into residential and agricultural areas. This has unfortunately caused critical states in the ecosystem of the Everglades to develop, disrupting the balance of flowing freshwater (Protecting the Everglades). This unbalance causes certain sea plants to either overproduce or die due to little freshwater. It then chain reacts to fishes survival in food depletion, and affects our food source as well. With this ongoing interference of human’s greed and the perfect balance of nature, it won’t be much longer until nothing but dry, destroyed land layered with concrete walls and floors are left.

However, in 2000, the Florida Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project was taken into action in order to restore the natural flow coming from Lake Okeechobee into the Everglades, projecting 30 years to complete (CERP Project Planning). Has progress been made? According to a National Academies Report, the CERP has accomplished a couple of their goals since 2017, including increased water flow from the Everglades and improved adaptation to droughts and extreme rain weather (University of Maryland, 2017) . However with climate change, it has been unsuccessful in readapting and calls for the CERP to be updated in order to address these issues.

Photography by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

With the usual mess of humans attempting to stick their hands into reforming nature, its an irreversible action that can cause lasting harmful impact to the environment. With more call and awareness for the protection of the environment, more plans and projects have been funded into attempting to fix what went wrong in the past. However, not even all the money in the world could ever fix what was once perfect in nature… all what’s left is to maintain and improve only what’s left of the pure, green beauty of what Florida once was entirely.

Cited Sources:

“Everglades Restoration Report Shows Success, but Climate Change Remains a Challenge.” University of Maryland , Phys.org, Phys.org, 6 Feb. 2017, phys.org/news/2017-02-everglades-success-climate.html. 

“CERP Project Planning.” South Florida Water Management District, http://www.sfwmd.gov/our-work/cerp-project-planning. 

“Protecting the Everglades.” National Wildlife Federation, http://www.nwf.org/Our-Work/Waters/Great-Waters-Restoration/Everglades. 

“The Fruitful Merits of Power and Wealth” by Michelle Puentes, Coral Gables as Text, January 26, 2021

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

The stroll along the beautiful Spain inspired city was a fruitful walk, with a lot for the eye to see and ears to hear. Learning about the inspiring story of George Merrick and his efforts in constructing a uniformed style city with classic architecture was interesting and left a lot to admire. But one thing that truly stuck out the most to me during the entire trip was the way power and money influenced people. Entering the Biltmore Hotel, we were cancelled last minute by our tour guide and told the administration wanted us to pay a great deal of money in order to have a tour, simply due to the truth that offended them. We entered the hotel as regular public guests, admiring the glimmering beauty and luxury the hotel offered. Yet despite all the hassle and bitterness, a kind hotel worker greeted us all into his space. He all gave us wonderful advice and let us know a little bit more of what the hotel has to offer. At the corner of my eye, I saw a wealthy looking man sitting down and glaring at us as we invaded “his space”. How much humbler and warm hearted a person is when they know the true meaning of life is in sharing, not money and power. It’s almost a mirrored reflection of Coral Gables founder, George Merrick : innovative, wealthy and powerful, but stingy, cruel hearted and evil.

George Merrick came to the land of Coral Gables from Massachusetts, getting 3,000 acres. He had a vision and plan to construct Coral Gables out of the finest details and focus on its aesthetics, inspired by the architecture of Spain. With determination and perseverance, he was able to complete the city in three years, including the Biltmore hotel and other community buildings (Merrick, Miami and the story…). Although his hard efforts left him a legacy with a beautiful city visited by many, he also had an ugly side many refuse to see. In the 1930s, Dade County Planning advocated for slum clearance, and George Merrick along with others proposed “removing every negro family from the present city limits” (Mohl, “Making the Second Ghetto”). It was incredible to see what money and power can do to weak minded individuals such as himself; allow families to be displaced from their homes for their own personal gain. Where do politicians and city officials living off of taxpayer’s money own a right to dictate where people should and should not belong? Especially towards a vulnerable community who were neglected due to the color of their skin, how can these individuals exist with themselves knowing blood is on their hands? Of course, this is not a concept pertaining to only Coral Gables; it is only a minuscule fraction comparing it worldwide. How much more can money and power deteriorate those in the government, living off the hard earned money of the people of the nation, often stealing and becoming rich for their benefit. What is so appealing of having more and more money while throwing people’s lives away, only to never spend it and have it accumulated in their own miserable dynasties? It’s truly astonishing how history seems to repeat itself everyday, those in power live off the backs of those who work. But it’s not surprising, as the downfallen nature of humans is selfish and greedy. As George Orwell best quotes “Man serves the interests of no creature except himself.”

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

Cited Sources:

Mohl, Raymond A. “Whitening Miami: Race, Housing, and Government Policy in Twentieth-Century Dade County.” The Florida Historical Quarterly 79, no. 3 (2001): 319-45.

“Miami and the story of its remarkable growth : an interview with George E. Merrick”The New York Times. March 15, 1925.

“Over the Law” by Michelle Puentes, Deering Estate as Text, January 28, 2021

During the 1920s, the Prohibition Era was set in the United States, forbidding the sale of alcohol in all states in hopes of reducing crime, improving lifestyle, and protecting young people from the dangers of alcohol. However, certain individuals were made an exception from the law: those who were above the law. And the founder of the Deering Estate happened to be one of the exceptions, due to his wealth. Because with great wealth comes great power. 

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Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

In his Stone house, designed by Phineas Paist, Charles Deering held a wine cellar located on the first floor, and stashed away his extensive collection of wine and alcohol. Moreover, the stash was so well hidden, it was only discovered after Hurricane Andrew. Hidden behind a built in cabinetry, it was a perfect masterplan for the wealthy to enjoy their alcohol while the others got fined or arrested for selling alcohol. It can be asked, what are the circumstances when the rich are above the law? Is it the same issue of money being the reason the justice system may sell themselves out for a few millions more? Charles Deering as a wealthy man who came from a affluent family, found his gold rush through the backs of Bahamian workers who were paid low wage and worked in horrible slave like conditions. The lives of 5 of them were taken during the construction of his majestic estate, which is not publicly recognized to this day. Of course, had any charges been pressed again Sir Deering for slave working like conditions or held responsible for the young men’s deaths? Most likely not. Somehow, it seems the lives of those who own plenty are more valued than those who own nothing. Those who do not own a property, or do not have abundant luxuries today are often looked down upon as unsuccessful and lazy, only working a minimum wage job because they could not “work harder for more”. It’s a comparable analogy to make to the time of America where those who did not own property could not vote, yet all men were created equal in the Constitution. Sometimes the law is made for those who are not enough, and surpassed by those who are more than enough, leaving a never ending loop of disproportioned populations always remaining in their ancestral generation’s state of living. 

“The Old Reality” by Michelle Puentes, River of Grass as Text, February 16, 2022.

Every hour, news about the Metaverse flushes through the internet, discussing everyone’s opinions and the potential future it will have. Created by Mark Zuckerberg, he hopes all of humanity will soon have the amazing opportunity to create their own idealized reality through the magic of the virtual world. He claims this will be the next future, allowing people who want to work from home be able to take it to the next level and develop their life in the comfort of their screen.

Indeed, nothing will make Zuckerberg happier than having everyone turned into a bunch of loner individuals who will depend on a strapped screen to feel accomplished in this world.

Already living in an era where education is conducted online, work meetings are done through Zoom, and virtual study abroad exists, the internet is becoming a rapidly, adaptive environment for us to detach from reality and put our focus on a lit up screen. Everyday the comfort of our homes lures us in to wrap ourselves in a blanket and live our lives looking at a screen, so we avoid the awkwardness of real social interactions and the hassle of having to wear nice clothes. How annoying is that, huh?

But truly, has anyone taken the opportunity to see how to vast blue skys gently touch the brim of the Everglades waters, creating a never-ending blue canvas? Or seen how the wild birds span their enormous wings across the sky, casting a large shadow above the ground? Or felt the refreshing, cool water from the solution holes on their feet as they slug across the crystal waters containing life?

Can that same feeling be replicated in the Metaverse?

Probably… the only difference being your eyes will hurt after you take off the VR headset.

The only thoughts that rushed through my head while at the Everglades was the pure fortune I had to be immersed in the raw state the REAL world was created in; to be able to create a lifetime memory of soaking up the warmness of the sun while I interacted with my classmates and learned of them while we experienced the same reality.

And realize that it may soon not be the reality for anyone anymore… something our children and future generations will refuse to experience…. something outdated and dangerous that will no longer be desired.

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

References:

https://www.theverge.com/22588022/mark-zuckerberg-facebook-ceo-metaverse-interview

“The Modern Day Battlefield” by Michelle Puentes at Design District February 23, 2022

Photograph by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

On February 19, 1954, the unveiling of the Marine Corps War Memorial by De Weldon was held in honor of all the Marines who have fought for the United States since 1775. A beautiful bronze casted sculpture inspired from the 1945 photograph, it depicts six Marines who raised the American flag on top of Mount Suribachi during World War II. For centuries, honorary figures and celebrated individuals were honored a statue in their favor, remembering their legacy and influence for a long time. This honorary way has been presented since the past millenniums, dating back to the Egyptian statues of Pharaohs. But dating now, contemporary art has taken its form and done the opposite.

Depicting the photograph taken in 2011 by Peter Souza, the “Situation Room” depicts Obama and his national security team viewing the live updates of Osama bin Laden’s killing. Described by historians as a “New Change in American Landscape”, its best known as showing the “crossing between racial and gender boundaries”. However, Will Ryman took a different approach and expressed differently. He created a life size sculpture made out of charcoal that took three years. He stated that in his work, he had drained “the nationalism, romanticism and Shakespearean feel from the strategically taken photo” through using crushed black charcoal and leaving the plain postures and shapes of the photo. Two different points of view from historians and an artist, the essence and meaning behind this sculpture is not to honor anyone, but rather express and immerse the viewer in one of the most pivotal moments in U.S history. As stated by Ryman, it was not intentioned for any political statements, but rather leave the viewer to form their own thoughts towards the modern battlefield of this day.

In my view, this sculpture is made out of material that reflects exactly what the government is made up of : an odorless, tasteless, black porous solid made of carbon, that is obtained through heating wood, plant or animal materials with minimal oxygen. It’s seen so perfectly… the lifeless politicians who absorb much of the power and wealth off the hard working people of the nations, standing and sitting there behind a screen as they take control and decide the lives of many across the world, while the earth burns and crumbles to the floor.

Cited Articles:

https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2021/12/03/will-ryman-situation-room-margulies-collection-miami

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/chemical-engineering/charcoal

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_Corps_War_Mem

orial

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Situation_Room_(photograph)

https://www.ft.com/content/f1f3ae08-57cf-11e5-a28b-50226830d644

“The Waters to Freedom” by Michelle Puentes Key Biscayne as Text, March 16, 2022

Photo by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

In 1513, Ponce de Leon stumbled upon the land of Biscayne Bay and named it after the Bay of Biscay, north of Spain. Being described as a “bright nameless great bay…and fresh springs in the rocks”, Biscayne Bay has attracted numerous amount of tourists for its stunning azure waters and pristine clear shore. Relying on water that flows directly from the Everglades, Biscayne Bay is a large part of South Florida’s ecosystem, and home to diverse communities of corals, sea grasses and sponge. Fresh water springs bubble from the ocean, and it is possible to catch a pail of water and drink refreshing clean water from the saltiness all around. However, Biscayne Bay also has an immense historic importance, being an Underground Railroad for runaway slaves and natives.

During the 1800s, the Saltwater Underground Railroad was a fugitive escape route to the Bahamas, which was under British rule. Bill Baggs State Park played an important role in this route, being a central point for boats coming to pick up runaway slaves. The land of this park was owned by Spain during this period, and it posed a lower risk for slaves than American controlled land. When news of United States purchasing Florida from Spain spread, many slaves came to Key Biscayne before undergoing American control in 1821. However, it was also a risky trip across the Atlantic Ocean. Travelers would either go on Bahamian vessels by paying or go in Indian dugout canoes and small boats, risking the ocean’s deadly waves for 123 miles to Red Bays. Not only the ocean was feared, but they also had the potential of facing unpredictable weather, slave hunters or pirates. But the risk for freedom was worth it.

America being the promised land of many for centuries, it was also the hell for slaves who escaped the promised land to find their liberty. With irony, the land that should have allowed every man and woman to find their opportunity for freedom since its establishment was the land that gave freedom only to a certain group of men. Its important to remember that the clear, pristine waters of Key Biscayne is the same waters that runaway slaves and black seminoles risked their lives in order to gain liberty.

Sources:

https://history.howstuffworks.com/historical-events/saltwater-underground-railroad.htm

https://ww.nbcmiami.com/new/local/south-floridas-connection-to-the-underground-railroad/2023004

http://www.discoverbiscaynebay.org/history-and-ecology.htm

https://www.keybiscaynechamber.rg/bill-baggs-cape-florida-state-park

“The Bahamian blacks who built Miami” by Michelle Puentes, Coconut Grove as Text, March 30, 2022

Photo by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

During the late nineteenth century, Bahamians immigrated to Florida, and were among the first West Indians to come. Having visited Florida from before throughout the early nineteenth century, Bahamian blacks had been familiar with the land of Florida Keys, and often interacted with the Seminole Indians through trade. The large immigration to the Florida Keys came for two primary reasons, the close proximity and low economic opportunity in The Bahamas. The booming development of Miami after 1896 attracted many new immigrants, and any Bahamian that wanted labor could find it here. About one fifth of the entire population of Bahamas immigrated to Florida between 1900 and 1920, making Miami the largest foreign-born black city in the United States besides New York. They mostly settled along South Florida, developing their own cities such as Lemon City, Coconut Grove and Cutler Bay. However, racism persisted during these times, and state laws limited their opportunity and freedom in Florida. Despite this adversity, Bahamian Americans flourished in their labor work and are the reason Miami stands today as it is.

When Bahamians arrived to Florida, they were employed in several occupations and actives, being adept in many areas. They were known for their masonry skills, and especially skilled in working with oolitic limestone, which was common in Bahamas. Many historic structures and touristic housing in Miami today is built from limestone, and Bahamian blacks were the masters in sculpting this rock, despite their horrible working conditions. During Flager’s railroad construction to the Florida Keys, the heavy clearing work was assigned to Bahamians, along with Cayman Islanders. They were also assigned the industrious, rough labor to James and Charles Deering’s homes, including the construction and limestone work under Florida’s pressuring heat and insect filled conditions. Agricultural work was also given to them, as Bahamians often worked in the local citrus industry around Coconut Grove and in vegetable farms during harvest season. Though most of this work was given to men, Bahamian women also contributed to the labor in Miami. They worked as maids, cooks, laundry and service workers in Miami’s new hotels and restaurants, but at the same time were refrained from even stepping foot on these places unless they were on the clock. From all this, Bahamians have served a massive contribution to Miami’s development, having their hard work ethic and perseverance reflected on Miami’s success today. Despite the cruel treatment they faced during the nineteenth and twentieth century, Bahamians still persisted through their hard labor. If it were not for this successful, diligent group of immigrants who came into Florida during Miami’s peak development period, one of the most touristic and desired cities of the world would not exist without them. Although nowadays much credit and honor is given to the selfish, rich tycoons such as Henry Flager and George Merrick, the real title is owned by those who sacrificed and dedicated their full lives to making a living out of hard work, and the Bahamian blacks are those who did.

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