Roger Masson: Coral Gables 2021


Vizcaya Museum and Garden, Miami, FL. Photo of Roger Masson by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.O.

Hello! My name is Roger Masson, and I am 20 years old. I am a student at FIU studying International Relations. Given my major, the classes I take are typically limited to politics and history—subjects that genuinely fascinate me. However, with this class, I uncovered a different side of myself— appreciating art, nature, and the joy of giving back to the community. I have grown to understand the vibrant culture and uniqueness of the city that I am privileged enough to call home!


Coral Gables is a community in the county of Miami-Dade and is located south of the Miami International Airport. The city’s boundary begins on South-West Eight Street and 57th Avenue, known as Red Road, and extends to 37th Avenue, known as Douglas Road. This is a residential city with a bustling business community and many restaurants and exciting shops. A remarkable geographic feature for this city includes waterfront access—seen in the stunning Gables by the Seaand in Matheson Hammock Park. The following communities: Pinecrest, South Miami, Coconut Grove, West Miami, and Little Havana neighbor Coral Gables. This city’s geography puts it in a rather sought-after spot given its proximity to key attractions such as Key Biscayne, Brickell, and Miami Beach, and especially the international airport.

Map of Coral Gables taken at the Coral Gables Museum by Roger Masson/CC BY 4.0


            The history of Coral Gables is rather exciting and is linked to the current features of this city. George Merrick, the founder of this beautiful city, took great inspiration from the Spanish colonial influence in Mexico and other Central American countries, wanting to introduce this style right here in Miami. (Tour of City of Coral Gables Museum) George Merrick, whose family moved down to Miami from Massachusetts, purchased a great deal of land known as Coral Gables. He later divided and sold off the lots. Mr. Merrick infused his vision of a city emulating Mediterranean, Andalusian Spanish, and Arabic ambiances.  For this reason, Coral Gables’ architecture and urban design resemble a fuse of this region and its characteristics. This feature adds to the uniqueness of this zone, influencing the home prices and the demographics greatly. 


The chart below phenomenally assesses Coral Gables’ demographics. What stands out in this analysis is the large White-Hispanic and White Non-Hispanic population, while the black population reflects a minute sector of the population—at three percent. Additionally, it is worth stating that the median age is 27 for its native-born population and 52 for its foreign-born population. Its median household income is $100,000. (Datausa) 

image Retrieved on

Resident Interview: Angelica Franganillo Diaz

Angelica is a senior at Florida International University and is studying Political Science. She is considering a career in Law and is in the process of applying for Law School. 

Interview with Angelica Franganillo, Resident of the City of Coral Gables, Florida:

Photo of Angelica Franganillo/CC BY 4.0.

1.         Where are you from, and how long have you lived in Coral Gables?

“I was born and raised in Carolina, Puerto Rico, and I moved to Coral Gables in 2019, when I transferred to FIU from the University of Puerto Rico.”

2.         What drove you to move to Coral Gables?

“First, location. Since I study at FIU, Coral Gables is only 20 minutes away, and I am also close to the airport, which is important since I travel to Puerto Rico very often to see my family. But I was inspired to move to Coral Gables because of the beautiful architecture and how safe this city is.”

3.         What is your favorite thing to do in Coral Gables?

“I love walking on Miracle Mile with some friends and having coffee at Crema. I also enjoy roaming through Books and Books— it is one of my favorite spots!”


Biltmore Hotel: 1200 Anastasia Ave, Coral Gables, FL  33134

Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables, FL. Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0

Elegance, class, and beauty fall short at categorizing the Coral Gables Biltmore Hotel. It was built in 1925 by George Merrick in cahoots with John McEntee Bowman in efforts to “serve as a hostelry to crowds which were thronging to Coral Gables but also would serve as a center of sports and fashion.” (Biltmore Hotel History) During the wars, the hotel was used as a hospital for the army and endured many difficulties due to numerous instances of economic disarray—however, the Biltmore’s essence prevailed and continues to serve as a hotel and one of the most distinguished landmarks in Coral Gables

City Hall of Coral Gables:405 Biltmore Way, Coral Gables, Florida 33134

Coral Gables City Hall, Coral Gables, FL. Photo by Roger Masson/CC BY 4.0.

The City Hall of Coral Gables epitomizes the majestic nature of this city, serving as an impressive structure, welcoming those entering. What stands out about this building is its Mediterranean Revival style with elements of Miami, given that it is primarily made of coral rock. (Prof. Bailly lecture, 2021)

Coral Gables Elementary School: 105 Minorca Ave, Coral Gables, FL 33134

Coral Gables Elementary School, Photo By Roger Masson/CC BY 4.0.

This elementary school merits recognition as a landmark given its centrality in George Merrick’s plans for this city, and its original design remains largely intact. Its antique features illustrate the way schools were designed to allow students to connect more with nature. 

Biltmore Golf Course: 1210 Anastasia Ave, Coral Gables, FL  33134

Biltmore Golf Course. Photo by Roger Masson/CC BY 4.0.

Granada Golf Course:2001 Granada Blvd, Coral Gables, FL  33134

Granada Golf Course. Photo by Roger Masson/CC by 4.0.

If you are an avid golfer, Coral Gables is the place to be! Two prominent golf courses in this city include the Biltmore Golf Course and the Granada Golf Course. These places include ample greenery and an area allocated for walking around the course. Both locations are meticulously maintenance making it quite a delight to walk down these beautiful golf courses—even if golf is not of your particular interest.

Matheson Hammock Park: 9610 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables, FL 

Matheson Hammock Park. Photo by Roger Masson/CC BY 4.0.

Matheson Hammock Park offers an area of greenery while also providing a great beach area to take pictures and enjoy a day with friends. Entrance prices are relatively affordable: five dollars per car on weekdays and seven dollars on holidays and weekends. This park is famous for memorable occasion photos like graduations and fifteens pictures. Moreover, it is also recognized for housing the remarkable restaurant: Red Fish Grill.


Coral Gables is home to several modes of transportation, connecting its residents to the rest of Miami while facilitating access to visitors. 

The Metro-Rail Station is one fundamental mode of transportation. It is positioned in two sectors of the city—the Douglas station on 37th avenue and US1 and the University station situated in front of University Miami on US1. The Metro-Rail serves as an essential mechanism that connects individuals from a primarily suburban area, with a sizable university student population to Downtown Miami and Brickell, which are business centers and home to attractive nightlife. It is an incredible option for those who do not have a car and those trying to avoid driving, following a green initiative. Parking is available at an affordable cost, allowing commuters to avoid traffic and save a fortune on parking. Also, it helps reduce their carbon footprint.

            Moreover, the Miami-Dade County Bus System also serves as a central transportation mechanism given the dispersed nature of bus stops in this city and its affordable pricing at $2.25 to hop on. Via the bus, individuals can get around the city and the essential areas, especially the Metro-Rail. Additionally, the Coral Gables Trolley is another option that is free of price to anyone interested in hopping on. The stops are positioned in important sectors such as Miracle Mile and Ponce de Leon, alleviating the cost of transportation—and most importantly—parking. 

            Driving is also a common way for Coral Gables residents to get around. The existing public transportation might be better than other areas such as the Redlands, where I grew up. However, Miami is a city that is exceptionally spread out, and some destinations are not easily accessed by public transportation. Driving offers a much faster alternative than public transportation at times. 

Walking or Bicycle Riding around the city of Coral Gables is possible and adds to the distinctiveness of this city. The urban design of Coral Gables makes it feasible to walk and explore certain parts of the city, such as Miracle Mile and its adjacent streets. This area, in particular, was designed to allow for a comfortable walk to your favorite restaurant or shopping destination. To this feature, Giralda Avenue was closed off to traffic and is a phenomenal spot to walk and find a delicious place to have lunch or dinner.

Giralda Avenue. Photo By Roger Masson/CC BY 4.0.

            Transportation in Coral Gables offers various options that truly help make this city accessible and an appealing site to visit. Due to the urban planning of the city of Miami as a whole, the city is difficult to connect entirely, and it affects the way people from the western sectors of town depend on public transportation. However, it is neat to note that Coral Gables is an outstanding example of a city that offers various means of transportation and invests in ways to limit the number of cars on the road.


Café Demetrio:

Cafe Demetrio. Photo By Roger Masson/CC BY 4.0.

To begin, Café Demetrio is one spot that cannot be ignored when visiting Coral Gables. This spot holds the record for being the first coffee house. It stands out for being an 18th-century European style-café. When visiting, the French Toast and caramel latte are out of this world and worth trying!

Zucca Restaurant

Zucca. Photo By Roger Masson/CC BY 4.0.

Zucca is a world-class Italian restaurant located at the Hotel St. Michel on Alcazar Avenue, on the first floor. This restaurant truly captivates you from the outside with its picturesque vibes and draws you into an environment of pure elegance. This spot is perfect for a special occasion or a romantic evening. It is on the pricey side, but the exceptional cuisine and delightful ambiance make it entirely worth it! 

Talavera Cocina Mexicana

Talavera Cocina Mexicana. Photo By Roger Masson/CC By 4.0.

Talavera Cocina Mexicana gifts the city of Coral Gables with an authentic taste of Mexican cuisine. Its name originates from the fine pottery unique to Mexico, highlighting its roots and national pride. This is a perfect place to grab brunch on the weekend and enjoy their delicious Tacos de Barbacoa. This restaurant also includes vegetarian options. 


Back and Forth Miami: 226 Almeria Avenue Coral Gables, Florida. 

Screenshot of Back and Forth Miami’s Instagram Account.

Back and Forth Miami takes shopping to another level. This clothing store offers a matchless shopping experience for men’s clothing, with carefully curated products that range from streetwear and menswear. This store stands out for its top-notch customer service and its dedication to making each customer feel special. 

Veneta Cucine

Veneta Cucine, Coral Gables, Florida. Photo By Roger Masson/CC BY 4.O.

Veneta Cucine, located on Miracle Mile, is a state-of-the-art kitchen manufacturer and is proudly a family business that has been around for forty years. This Italian enterprise made it down to Coral Gables, providing this city with top-grade Italian kitchen cabinets and more. Its showroom truly demonstrates that this business represents pure luxury. 

Books and Books

Books and Books, Coral Gables, Florida. Photo By Roger Masson/CC BY 4.0.

Instead of buying books from Amazon or any other chain company, it would be nice to think about buying from our local, independent bookstores. Books & Books, located directly in front of the Colombian Consulate, is a great way to show your support for such a staple business in our community and its central role in enriching us with knowledge. This place is one of my favorite places to purchase a new book and enjoy an iced latte. 


The city of Coral Gables adds tremendously to the culture and genuineness of Miami. Whether you are looking to delight in an elegant dinner, walk in the park, or appreciate the shopping scene of this great city, Coral Gables has it all. One detail that caught my attention while conducting this project is the demographic feature of Coral Gables. This city is predominantly White Hispanic and White Non-Hispanic, and only a mere 3% of the population is African American/ Black. This speaks on a more pressing issue that continues to affect our city—the systemic features of racial segregation, supported by the city’s founder, as evidenced by Prof. Bailly. It is lamentable that remnants of this dark period of our history are still reflected in contemporary times.


Roger Masson: Miami Service Project 2021

Photo of Roger Masson. By Kathalinna Zuniga/ CC BY 4.0

Hello! My name is Roger Masson, and I am 20 years old. I am a student at FIU studying International Relations. Given my major, the classes I take are typically limited to politics and history—subjects that genuinely fascinate me. However, with this class, I uncovered a different side of myself— appreciating art, nature, and the joy of giving back to the community. I have grown to understand the vibrant culture and uniqueness of the city that I am privileged enough to call home!

This semester, I registered for the opportunity to volunteer with the Salvation Army, an organization that has truly impacted this world in an inspirational way! Raquel Alvarez, the individual in charge of the food pantry, informed me of the detailed history of the organization that she so proudly works for. The Salvation Army began in England and made its way over to the United States in the 19th Century, with a religious background aimed at helping those in need. In our community, there are numerous branches of the Salvation Army. Some take on the labor of rehabilitation with the profit earned from the Thrift Shops, and others are shelters for the homeless, as was the case of the particular branch I worked with during this time. During my volunteer hours, I helped at the Salvation Army Miami Area Command Branch, located in Allapattah. 

Doing part to combat malnutrition in my community was a significant driving factor in selecting this opportunity to volunteer with the food pantry. Due to the COVID-19, many people in Miami and worldwide are enduring a harsh situation, financially—significantly impacting food access. I hope to continue working with the Salvation Army and its mission to provide aliments to those in need, alleviating a massive burden in this respect. Last semester, I was interested in taking part in an opportunity of this nature; however, I was nervous about the close contact with others that is part of the volunteer experience at a food pantry, particularly given that my grandmother lives at home with me. Thankfully, she received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and I could volunteer with more ease. 


During my search to find an organization to volunteer, my close friend and classmate, Kathalinna, recommended the website Hands on Miami, which guided me towards the volunteer opportunity with the Salvation Army. This website outlines the dates available for each organization via the “opportunities calendar.” Below, I attached the link to this phenomenal resource.


April 20, 2021, Food Pantry—Preparation Day: 1:00 P.M. -3:30 P.M shift

I arrived at the Salvation Army at 12:30 for my shift at 1:00, and as soon as I met with Raquel, I was put right to work. My mission was set out for me: fill as many bags as possible with ten items to hand out in the morning of April 21, 2021. This left me with little time to take photos due to the time-sensitive task at hand. As I was starting to get the hang of this process, Carlos, a frequent volunteer, arrived to help. Between the two of us, we put together 50 paper bags with ten items of food. In each bag, we placed one can of tomato sauce, black beans, green beans, apple sauce, a can of mixed fruits, a bag of pinto beans, a container of oatmeal, a can of chicken soup, one box of Pop-Tarts, and a box of pasta. The picture below illustrates the result: two shopping carts with 25 bags in each, ready for distribution in the morning.

Photo of Carts loaded with Paper Bags filled with Food. By Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0

After completing this task, Carlos and I began our next duty: moving what seemed like a thousand boxes of expired vegetables. Safely disposing of these boxes was crucial given that the vegetables were in the way and impeded one’s access to specific items. Furthermore, the containers were leaking a liquid conducive to causing a slipping accident. Below, I was able to capture images of some of the boxes before and after being discard.

Photo of the Rotten Vegetable Boxes Placed outside. By Roger Masson CC/BY 4.0
Photo of the Rotten Vegetable Boxes Placed outside. By Roger Masson CC/BY 4.0
Photo of the Rotten Vegetable Boxes Placed in Dumpster. By Roger Masson CC/BY 4.0

After completing this task, we picked up the area that we worked in and packed it up for the day.

April 21, 2021, Food Pantry— Distribution and Preparation Day: 8:00 A.M. to 3:30 P.M. Shift:

On this day, I got a bright and early start. Once I walked in, I started working to make the distribution of food a success. Today was bitter-sweet since I was all alone, but it brought me great joy to assist Raquel with such an important task, knowing that my work played a vital role in this operation. First, I was in charge of moving the carts with the paper bags that Carlos and I prepared the day before to the distribution location. Then, it was time to transport the refrigerated items, such as the butter, the chicken, cucumbers, and blueberries, to this site to place them in the respective bags. After arranging each item on the designated tables, I was ready to let the public come in, five at a time. Part of my responsibility was to make sure that only five people pass and comply with the social distancing measures and mask mandates. Additionally, I handed each individual one bag and gave them one chicken. I did this from 9:00-12:00. 

Photo of the Bags with Food Ready to be Handed Out. By Roger Masson CC/BY 4.0
Photo of the Bags with Food Ready to be Handed Out. By Roger Masson CC/BY 4.0

After lunch, I handled the same process as the day prior. I prepared the paper bags for Thursday’s distribution. This time, I was not accompanied by Carlos and his help, so it was a bit more time-consuming. Nevertheless, I completed two carts with 25 bags in each and left things intact for the next day.

Photo of the Bags with Food Ready For the Next Day. By Roger Masson CC/BY 4.0
Photo of the Bags with Food Ready for the Next Day. By Roger Masson CC/BY 4.0



Volunteering with the food pantry at the Salvation Army is, without a doubt in the world, one of the most enriching experiences of my life. It is one thing to want to make a difference and another to take the initiative to make it happen. Given the economic situation and the level of unemployment due to the pandemic, operations such as this are fundamental to combat hunger in our community. During this project, I witnessed first-hand just how significant an impact an endeavor like this one has on other’s lives. A rather poignant moment of this voluntary experience was when a gentleman confided in me enough to say that he had been praying for the way to bring food to his house, and thanks to the Salvation Army’s Food Pantry, his prayers were answered. More than everything, I am thankful that this assignment led me to this opportunity. At times, it is easy to make excuses that time can get in the way of volunteering, but there is so much room to help, and even a few hours can have such an impact on the community. I plan to continue working with this Food Pantry and setting aside time to give back to those around me. 

Roger Masson: Miami Service 2020


Rubell Museum. Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/ CC BY 4.0.

Hi, my name is Roger Masson, and I am 19 years old. I was born in Miami, but I spent 11 years up in the city of Alachua, Florida where I grew up and spent most of my childhood. Being part of this class has been a true gift; I have grown to cherish this city much more and understand its rich history.

For this project, I was fortunate enough to volunteer on three separate occasions with two unique institutions. In total, I volunteered for twelve and a half hours. The first location I helped at was the Chicken Key, situated just a canoe-ride away from the Deering Estate. I volunteered on October 14, 2020 and on December 2nd, 2020, in the form of an extensive trash-collection. The next institution I volunteered at was the Bakehouse Complex, in Wynwood. Here, I was able collaborate with my classmates to assist a local artist. 

Before the pandemic, I felt pretty active since I was volunteering, and I made it a point to be as connected as possible with the opportunities to help out in my community. For the past nine months, however, I have been afraid to continue with this passion due to the current health crisis given that my grandmother also lives with me. This class allowed me to partake in volunteering again and demonstrated that it is possible to continue volunteering in my community when the necessary precautions are taken and respected. I was able to safely engage with my classmates on both instances and discover new passions. Although my major is not directly related to the activities I partook in, these events where enrichening on a personal level and served as opportunities to step out of my comfort zone and make more of an effort to branch out.

Chicken Key Cleanup: 

On October 14th and December 2nd of 2020, Professor John W. Bailly informed us of the opportunity to perform a cleanup at Chicken Key during our scheduled class time. What made this experience even more exciting was that our divided class, due to covid-19, was finally able to meet together and collaborate.

Bakehouse Art Complex:

On October 18th, Professor John Bailly connected our class with the artist, Lauren Shapiro to help her finish her project bring awareness to the critical state of coral reefs.

Describe specifically what you did and on which days. This should read as a personal and academic diary. Include photographs documenting your experience from start to end.

October 14, 2020, Chicken Key Cleanup:

Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.

I arrived at the Deering Estate at 10:00 A.M., anxious to embark on my first canoe ride. Luckily, I got paired up with a new friend, Brittany Sanchez, who had experience canoeing and assured me that I had nothing to worry about! In preparation for our ride out to Chicken Key, I made sure that I placed my cellphone in a secure location and got ready to set sail.

We arrived at Chicken Key around 10:40 a.m., giving Brittany and me plenty of time to achieve our mission to make this key as clean as possible and alleviate some of the damage caused by pollution.

In no time, we were able to fill up our canoe with four trash-bags inundated with miscellaneous items like shoes and plastic bottles—among other things. We also collected an enormous blue banister that was stuck in the branches next to where we tied our canoe. Additionally, we picked up a wooden pallet, many containers, and more random items that did not fit in the trash bags. 


Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.

After this arduous task, our class was able to enjoy a special lunch together and share what interesting things we picked up.

October 28:

Bakehouse Art Complex:

After volunteering at Chicken Key and “getting our hands dirty” to make an environmental difference and working to minimize the accumulation of trash at this location, it was neat to be able to partake in a project with a similar aim– but through the use of clay. 

Lauren Shapiro’s vision was to bring awareness to the severe conditions that are currently threatening the existence of coral reefs. Due to my brief experience with clay, it took me a while to get the hang of making shells out of clay. 

Kathalinna and I worked together and after many failed efforts, we were able to create a container full of clay shells!

Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.

After doing creating enough shells, we were ready to begin attaching them to the unique canvas in this case, which represented a coral reef. 

Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.
Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.
Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.
Roger, Kathalinna, and Victoria. Photo by Professor John Bailly / CC BY 4.0.

This was such a cool project, not only because of the important message behid it but also because of our ability to contribute as a class. It was special to see that Lauren Shapiro incorporated her community in this work of art.

December 2:

On December 2nd, we returned to Chicken Key as a class for the second time. During this visit we only had a two-hour class period, but we were still able to pick up a decent amount of trash.

Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.
Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.

Due to our time constraint, we ventured out to the mangroves located south of Chicken Key on Biscayne Bay. I was in shock of the overwhelming amount of trash that gets lost in this area. I began to feel dizzy at our time of arrival at the mangroves, but luckily my classmate was generous enough to offer me a protein bar which helped tremendously. Moments after, I was quickly able to pick up enough garbage to fill two trash bags. There were so many objects obviously out of place, such as flip-flops and water bottles among other items that should have been properly discarded. 


Given our current global situation, the opportunities to volunteer in person are exceptionally scarce. It has been a true blessing to have been part of this course that not only offers the chance to do so during class time but promotes doing so with the required precautions so that we remain safe and healthy. Each volunteer experience instilled a sense of responsibility to make an effort to make a difference in my community. There is so much work to be done to make this world a better place and the truth of the matter is that no action or contribution small. Moreover, I noticed that I enjoy working with a partner during these three occasions and that helped me feel more comfortable and made the workload less stressful. In the future, I am going to look for opportunities that encourage teamwork and collaboration. 

Roger Masson: Hialeah 2020

Key Biscayne, Florida. Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.


Hi, my name s Roger Masson, and I am 19 years old. I wanted to start this project with a warm welcome to my Blog on the great city of Hialeah—La Ciudad del Progreso (The City of Progress). I was born in Miami, but I spent 11 years in Alachua, Florida, where I grew up and spent most of my childhood. Moving back to Miami was always an important dream of mine— no matter how long I was gone, I always felt right at home here. Being part of this class has been a true gift; I have grown to cherish this city much more and understand its rich history. 


Hialeah is located in a favorably central part of Miami-Dade County. It is located in close proximity to the Miami International Airport. It is home to a number of local businesses and charming single and multi-family homes and apartments, reasonably priced. Hialeah also includes a variety of “green” areas, many with baseball fields—a particularly popular sport among its population.

Palm Avenue splits the West and the East side of Hialeah apart that divides a more suburban, affluent area from a less privileged sector of the city. There is a noticeable income gap in this area. For example, if we take a look at the schools in the east of Hialeah—like Hialeah High School—and Westland Senior High School, there are clear differences in its infrastructure and the resources available at each school. 

Image taken from Zillow


The history of Hialeah is vibrant and detailed. Its name, Hialeah, comes from a Seminole Indian by the name of Willie Wille after describing the area as “pretty prairie.” This city was settled in 1921 and later incorporated in 1925. This area simultaneously developed to be referred to as “working man´s town” during the time that Miami bloomed, as mentioned in the Miami Herald. (“FlashbackMiami”) A central component of Hialeah’s history revolves around the establishment of the Hialeah Park Racetrack, as well as Hialeah park, putting this suburban town on the map on a national level. The triumph of Fidel Castro’s Communist Revolution in Cuba marked a turning point in this city’s history and influenced its present-day demographic structure. The influx of Cuban refugees to the United from that point on made this area rich in Cuban culture and fundamentally shaped the city’s culture, as well. Today, Hialeah is home to Hispanics of all nationalities, attracted by Spanish being spoken by a great part of its residents.


The chart located below does a great job of assessing the characteristics of Hialeah´s demographics. An interesting detail to note is that such a large Hispanic population lives in this city. This element is consequently reflected in the section discussing the food and businesses unique to Hialeah. Other features worth mentioning include that the median age is 44.3, and its median household income is $33,161. (Datausa)

image Retrieved on

Resident Interview: Jose Cereijo

Jose Cereijo graduation picture, Photo by HJ

Jose is a freshman at Florida International University and is studying Mechanical Engineering. His hobbies include horseback riding, riding ATVs, and “mudding.” He graduated from Imater Academy in Hialeah, June of 2020. 

Interview with Jose Cereijo, Resident of the City of Hialeah, Florida:

1.         Where are you from, and how long have you lived in Hialeah?

“My mom and dad are both from Cuba, but I was born in raised in Hialeah and have lived here all 19 years of my life—you can say that I am a native “Hialeahan.” My parents have lived here since they moved here from Cuba; they also have a small business here.”

2.         What is your favorite memory made here in Hialeah??

“I actually have two. During played baseball during my high school experience at Imater Academy, and one of the most memorable moments here would have to be the day we won a game at Babcock Park and celebrated as a team. The other would have to be the day the Miami Heat won the NBA championship, and we ran to 49th street with pots and pans to celebrate such a momentous event!”

3.         What is your favorite and least favorite aspect of living in Hialeah?

“The sense of community in Hialeah, to me, is unmatched. The friends that I have made here have almost become family. For the most part, people are always willing to help here. However, there are some residents that tend to be on the more aggressive side when driving, which can be quite annoying at times.”


Hialeah Park. Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.

Hialeah Park Racing and Casino: 2200 East 4 Avenue, Hialeah, Fl 33013.

As mentioned in this project’s history section, Hialeah Park Racing and Casino can certainly be considered a landmark. In recent years this place has not lived up to its past, but it would be a shame not to discuss the fact that Sir Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, described this park as “extraordinary!” (HialeahParkCasino)

Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.

José Martí Monument in his honor, James S. Walker Community Center

For Cubans, José Martí represents a strong figure of liberty, independence, and patriotism. There is a lot to say about Hialeah’s demographic and culture through this monument. While Cubans living in Hialeah might have left behind their island, it is remarkable to see how much of Cuba’s characteristics form part of this city.

Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.

Entry Plaza Okeechobee Park: 481 To to Lo Chee Dr, Hialeah, FL  33010

            This emblematic sign provides a warm welcome to all when entering the city through Okeechobee Road. An interesting fact about this location is that it was featured in the video parody: “Sweet Home Hialeah,” which makes colloquial references to the city and its uniqueness.


Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.

Triangle Park: 290 Palm Avenue, Hialeah Fl 33010

Triangle Park may not be as big as the other parks in Hialeah, but it is truly a cute park located in southern Hialeah. During this time of the year, this park is transformed into a festive spot with holiday décor that embodies Hialeah’s Christmas spirit!

Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.

James S. Walker Park: 800 west 29 Street, Hialeah Fl 33012

            Walker Park is known for its baseball field, which is used for the local teams along with the distinct schools located in this area. There is also a basketball court and a community center at this park.

Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.

Amelia Earhart Park: 401 E 65th St, Hialeah, FL  33054

            Park Amelia is located on the northern side of Hialeah, separating it from the city of Opa-Locka. This is the largest park in this city, with a stunning 515 acres. This park offers an 8-mile-long trail ideal for mountain biking, beautiful lakes, an area with farm animals, and many spots that can be used for birthday celebrations and so on. (Miamidadeparks)


Hialeah features various modes of transportation, which ultimately connects its residents to the rest of Miami. The picture below summarizes the three modes of transportation—the Metrorail, the Miami Dade County Bus, and driving– interestingly so.

Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.

First, the Metro-Rail Station is located in two distinct parts of the city—the Okeechobee station in West Hialeah and the East Hialeah station. This is an important feature since it serves as a mechanism that transports individuals from the suburban section to important sectors such as Downtown Miami where people typically work. There is also parking available at thedistinct stations for commuters that look to avoid traffic or take a green initiative to reduce their carbon footprint.

Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.

            The bus system is also key transportation means since bus stops are located extremely spread out around the city. This facilitates the resident’s ability to take the bus from proximity to their home. Moreover, those that take the metro-rail can also get to the respective station via the bus.

            A great number of Hialeah’s residents get to their destination via driving. While it is true that the existing public transportation is an effective means of transportation, the city of Miami is exceedingly spread out and it could make for a long ride. 

Walking or riding a bicycle is also a mode of transportation in Hialeah. There are many parts of the city where residential sectors are close to grocery stores and restaurants, for example, which make walking or biking feasible. 

            The means of transportation in Hialeah are not perfect. Still, there is reason to believe that the city provides adequate opportunities to use public transportation and the city’s location makes it close to other areas of Miami. As seen in the screenshot below, a trip from Hialeah to Miami International Airport is a 13-minute drive, more or less. Since driving is still a more ideal option given the great distances in Miami, traffic can get pretty unbearable at times. There is an opportunity for the city representatives to work on this matter to alleviate the resident’s stress of traffic, while also helping the environment.


Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.

La Fresa Francesa: 59 West 3rd Street, Hialeah, Florida 33010—

This French restaurant is a hidden gem in Hialeah. This charming café is located near Okeechobee Road and offers a varied menu that includes great brunch options. It is a cool spot to enjoy French-style cuisine in an area that features predominately Hispanic and North American dining options. This distinguished restaurant was even part of the exclusive Miami Spice event.


Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.
Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.

Fritanga Nicaragüense Hermanos Mendoza: 1358 Palm Ave, Hialeah, FL  33010

Hialeah is home to nearly 12k Nicaraguan American residents, according to the census. (Census) A huge part of their impact on this area is in the form of their famed Fritangas such as this one. What stands out about this location is that it is a family-owned restaurant with exceptional prices for extraordinary food. 

Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.
Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.

Molina´s Ranch Restaurant: 4090 East 8 Avenue, Hialeah, FL 33013

Due to the large Cuban population, it is expected to find many Cuban options. Picking just one Cuban spot was not an easy task, but Molina’s Ranch offers truly special dining experiencing that deems spotlight. A plate worth trying is their Ropa Vieja!


Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.
Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.

Hialeah Schwinn Cycle: 4070 E Fourth Ave, Hialeah, FL  33013

Hialeah Schwinn Cycle is a one-of-a-kind small business in Hialeah that has been part of the community for 63 years. The store sells and fixes bikes at a competitive price while offering state-of-the-art customer service. It does not go unnoticed that this small business is fairly busy no matter the time of day; there really is reason to believe that this location is special.

Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.
Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.

¡Ñooo, Qué Barato!: 1198 W 23rd St, Hialeah, FL  33010

            The name of this iconic store really sets it apart from other businesses and just makes one excited to visit. This phrase roughly translates to “dang! It’s so cheap” in English. The neat thing about this store is that it sells items at low prices that make it easier for those who are trying to send things abroad to family and friends.

Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.

Red White & Blue Thrift Store: 901 E Tenth Ave, Unit 12, Hialeah, FL  33010

            The Red White and Blue Thrift Store is located in the famous Flamingo Plaza in East Hialeah. This business attracts shoppers from all sectors of Miami, given its great range of options and outstanding prices.


Hialeah has always had a special place in my heart. As the son of Cuban parents, this city served as a connection to my Hispanic heritage, given how challenging it is to visit the island. Hialeah is rich in history, culture and features an extraordinary feeling of community. Unfortunately, individuals are quick to overlook the significance of the suburban sectors of Miami, like Hialeah. This has the potential to spark an interesting dialogue on the importance of suburbs like Hialeah to the city of Miami as a whole. Hialeah offers a nice option for residents of middle and lower-income to live in a safe and central area, perfectly connected to the rest of Miami by its transportation. There are definitely opportunities to make this city better, like finding ways to alleviate the traffic levels and tackling the factors that cause its residents stress, as Jose Cereijo mentioned.


Roger Masson: Miami as Text 2020-2021

Robert is Here, Homestead, FL. Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.

Hi classmates! I am excited to share a little about me with you all. I was born in Miami, Florida to Cuban parents and I moved to Gainesville at the age of four. I moved back to Miami in 8th grade and the only thing I can remember about my time up in North Florida is the countless prayers at night to move back home- that just goes to show how special this city is to me. 

I am currently a senior studying International Relations with a minor in Political Science. I look forward to getting to know the city I love and create lasting memories with my classmates.

Deering as Text

Deering Estate, Miami, FL. Photo by Roger Masson/ CC 4.0

“A Day to Remember”

by Roger Masson of FIU at Deering Estate, 2 September 2020.

A visit to the Deering Estate is much more than just a beautiful day in the park—it’s a journey to a million places at once. To say that this destination is magical is an understatement; there was something special about the ambiance of the Deering Estate that took my breath away, more so than the hike. 

During my time at the Deering Estate, I remember commenting that I felt everywhere but in Miami. In certain instances, it seemed as if I were in the rural regions of Colombia. In particular, the first picture that I attached below transported me back to the road trip I went on with my best friend, Laura, and her dad, who happens to be a truck driver in Colombia. On our way to Bogotá from Cali, I recall seeing acres full of banana trees just as the one located in the Deering Estate. Later on, when we were exploring the Miami-Dade County Pine section, immediately, I was back on the expressway near my childhood home in Alachua—an area with an abundance of pine trees. It is remarkable just how certain details can trigger so many lovely memories at once. 

Throughout the course of this tour, I took the time to reflect and appreciate the special connection I have with my environment. Our brief stop by the Tequesta burial site, gifted me the opportunity to view my identity through a different lens, along with our unique relationship to the city of Miami. Although my parents are from Cuba and my great-grandparents came from the Canary Islands and France, I was born in Miami and my geographic ancestors are, in fact, the Tequesta—a group that I had never heard of before this excursion. It is quite unfortunate that a great portion of our background and history has been washed in such a way that does not allow for us to find unity through this shared identity and ancestor.

There is no doubt left in my mind that a trip to the Deering Estate is both worthwhile and memorable.

South Beach as Text

South Beach, Miami Beach, FL. Photo by Roger Masson/ CC 4.0

“Not Your Average Beach Day”

By Roger Masson of FIU at South Beach, 16 September 2020

For eleven years of my life, I dreamed of the day I moved back to Miami for many reasons, but living close to the beach was among the top three reasons. South Beach had always been my ultimate favorite place to go, there was always something unique about this area. Undoubtedly, there is a whole lot more to South Beach than picturesque views and world-renowned restaurants– a significant portion of its uncomfortable history has been silenced and pushed under the rug. After our class on Wednesday, I have a more profound appreciation for South Beach, along with a clearer picture of its history and culture. There is so much to be gained from properly assessing and discussing the extent that we have progressed from the past.

It would not be fair to enjoy the lovely aspects of South Beach without honoring the individuals who built it and, for so long, did not get to take advantage of the fruits of their arduous labor. Great detail went into the construction of this area, but both the Bahamian and African Americans were given a check with insufficient funds as Martin Luther King Jr. once described. As a city, Miami has made indispensable strides towards ensuring racial justice and inclusivity; however, there are countless examples of systematic disparities that demonstrate that we are far from where we should be. I took the time to analyze the population of Miami Beach and only four percent of the population is Black or African American; there is something to be said about the cyclic nature of history.

With regards to the LGBTQ+ community, the neighborhood of South Beach represents freedom of expression and to love the person of one’s choice– which is quite remarkable.  South Beach has always been a safe place for me. Growing up in a Hispanic household with strong Catholic values, going to South Beach was always a memorable experience since it served as a beacon of hope; a place 45 minutes away from where I would be able to express myself without that overwhelming judgment. I know that sooner than later, this will be the case for all of Miami. Love is love, it deserves to be out and professed without the fear of facing discrimination or intolerance.

Work Cited:

Downtown Miami as Text

Downtown Miami, FL. Photo by Roger Masson/ CC 4.0

“Two Worlds in One”

By Roger Masson of FIU at Downtown Miami, 30 September 2020

Spending the day in the Downtown sector of Miami is akin to stepping into two distinct worlds— a divide entrenched in its historical foundation. While it is easy to fall in love with the glamour of Brickell, it is indifferent to overlook the evident socioeconomic gap that characterizes the Downtown of Miami.

It could be said that Henry Flagler and Major Francis Langhorne Dade laid the blueprints for the city that we currently live in. They have been revered and esteemed for their contribution to Miami, yet there is little said about their racist nature that corrupted Miami’s potential to be a more welcoming city from its inception. 

Our tour of Miami began at the Government Centre Metro Station and we made our way to Lummus Park, on the other side of the 1-95. This park features great history, but so does the surrounding neighborhood. Henry Flagler designated this area to be referred to as “colored town,” which became the Overtown area of Downtown Miami throughout the years. To compare the infrastructures around Lummus Park to that of opulent Brickell Avenue, it is clear that the repercussions of the past are ever-present. It is surprising to see how much changes while walking a few blocks in this area. One moment you are walking by a popular shopping mall, like the Brickell City Centre, with stores like Saks 5thAvenue and Cartier, and the next you are in a working-class neighborhood with Section-8 housing. It is important to keep these social issues in mind while we appreciate the magic of Downtown Miami.

Chicken Key as Text

Chicken Key, Photo by Roger Masson/ CC 4.0

“A reflection of our impact”

By Roger Masson of FIU at Chicken Key, 14 October 2020

Our journey to Chicken Key was unforgettable, even so that it was worth the countless ant bites and sore arms that just happen to be part of this excursion. It was such a delightful experience to bond with the entire class for the first time this semester; it was also a true inspiration for us to make this one-time event a reoccurring trip and contribute our grain of sand to make this world a better place. 

In my other posts, I make mention of the need for reform and social change in Miami, but it was refreshing to finally have the opportunity to participate in this change. The environment is one of the few free things in life, unfortunately, we have not done our part to preserve it and care for it with sufficient effort. In the limited time that we spent picking up, there were uncountable items inappropriately placed—blemishing the ecosystem—where nature should instead flourish freely. Each time Brittany and I thought we were making a dent in the clean-up, we uncovered even more waste in the form of sandals, wheels, water bottles, beer cans, and a big blue banister trapped between two trees at the edge of the island. I kept remembering the times that people around me, carelessly, threw away water bottles with assurance that one bottle was not going to make a difference. It is evident that it does, in fact, make a tremendous impact. Each item that we do not make the conscious decision to recycle or discard of through the required means, we are augmenting this issue.

There is hope that the future holds a different fortune compared to the trends that have led to the current state of our environment. We are the future; we have the key to make the critical amends to rectify our past wrongdoings and provide the conditions for nature to thrive.  

Bakehouse as Text

Bakehouse Art Complex, Wynwood, FL. Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.

“Saving the Coral Reefs, one clay Coral at a time”

By Roger Masson at FIU at Bakehouse Art Complex, 1 November, 2020

My trip to the Bakehouse Art Complex might have gotten off to a rough start, since I was involved in a car accident, that caught me completely by surprise and left me in a state of nervousness. Luckily, I was able to take care of everything and make it to class and transform the sourness of that morning into a delightful day. 

 I have always been an admirer of art and projects that touch upon issues that are pertinent to our community, but it was just amazing to be able to partake in such a neat project with the same purpose; and the fact that we were able to do it as a class made this experience even more enjoyable. After our class at Chicken Key, it was clear that the dire condition of the environment necessitates the assistance of each and every one of us. The opportunity to volunteer our time through a different approach, to raise awareness for the urgency of saving the Coral Reefs, greatly complemented the themes that resonated most during our last session. 

Coral Reefs are invaluable for the ecosystem, and have, unfortunately, taken a significant hit in the recent years that threaten their vitality. If serious measures are not taken, the effects of completely killing off the coral reefs will, in turn, harm our livelihood as human-beings—as well as countless other organisms. Research indicated that the two elements most detrimental to Coral Reefs are climate change and pollution. It is evident that pollution is not a thing of the past, as we saw on our trip to Chicken Key. Moreover, many governments around the world (including the U.S.A) have been hesitant to make the crucial changes instead of acting meticulously to dilute the factors intensifying climate change. While it may be that we are not in a governmental position of power—we are in control of the impact we can have on those currently in that position. Through these art statements, there is no question that this message is clearly communicated.

 One day at a time, and in unity, change will occur, and we will leave an inerasable mark on our planet. Fortunately, artist like Lauren Shapiro encourage entire communities to keep fighting for justice and environmental change!

Rubell as Text

Rubell Family Collection, Allapattah, Florida. Photo by Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.

“One Last Adventure”

By Roger Masson of FIU at Rubell Museum, 22 November 2020

Our visit to the Rubell Family Collection Museum was the perfect place to culminate our fall semester, even though it was quite bittersweet knowing that our next meeting is months away. 

During our tour, I was able to reflect on the effect this class has had on my life on a broader scale. I have been pushed outside of my comfort level and encouraged me to experience things that have certainly left an unerasable mark on my life. Something as simple as going to an art museum was not the same before taking this class; I used to feel out of place, and frankly, lost. It is incredible to see the evolution, in such a short time, since I have developed a curiosity to investigate what I am not familiar with and learned to appreciate works of art genuinely. 

The vast diversity of art that makes up the Rubell Family Collection is indeed exceptional. Our one-and-a-half-hour class felt like thirty-minutes with the many things that are available to see and enjoy. All in all, there were many captivating exhibits with thought-provoking and engaging attributes. Interestingly so, there were a few of those exhibits labeled as controversial or even radical for a selective group. These particular pieces might not settle well with a certain crowd, especially those with more conservative or traditional views. They could very well be averse to taking a second to understand the meaning of the work as a whole and its overall significance. I thought about the uneasy reaction that my grandmother, or even my mother, might have if they encounter art like the exhibition of the nude man performing a sexual act, for example. They would not be as predisposed to take a step back and listen to or read about the artist’s purpose and message behind such a piece; that is the key to appreciating contemporary art, as mentioned by professor Bailly. Thus, it is imperative to ignore the preconceived notions that might dissuade us from truly understanding the idea behind a given work of art; and its power to spark vital conversation among others.

Everglades as a Text

Everglades National Park, Homestead, Florida. By Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0.

“UNESCO World Heritage Site in our Backyard”

By Roger Masson of FIU at Everglades National Park on January 20, 2021

            Categorizing the Everglades National Park as an incomparable, one-of-a-kind place is definitively an understatement. The Everglades radiates energy like no other and offers its visitors the opportunity to connect with mother nature truly. During our day in the Everglades, our class was privileged enough to see the many things that the park has to offer with ease given that we were accompanied by Professor Bailly and a ranger that knows the ins and outs of this area. What impacted me the most throughout our excursion and slogging adventure was the fact that this park is located 20 minutes away from my house yet visiting this park had never crossed my mind. This led me to reflect on how common it is to take the treasures unique to our community for granted, overlooking their great significance to our culture. This manifested itself most when our exceptional Park Ranger, Dylann, mentioned how popular the Everglades was among tourists and researchers from all around the world and the fact that it was even classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site. As residents of Miami, these details give us another reason to feel incredibly proud of our city and appreciate its many elements of distinctiveness. We live in an extraordinary place. 

Aside from the natural beauty and tranquility that epitomize the experience that is visiting the Everglades, it is necessary to mention that we owe the Everglades an immeasurable level of gratitude and respect. The South Florida community reaps the benefits of being in such close proximity to the Everglades in the form of water supply for both drinking and agriculture. (National Wildlife Federation) It is worth highlighting that we have a responsibility to protect this area from the evils of pollution and other human-made phenomena that might pose a threat to the well-being of this irreplaceable ecosystem. 


Wynwood as a Text

Margulies Collection, Wynwood, Florida. By Roger Masson/CC by 4.0.

“One Day, Two Museum, Thousands of Memories Made”

By Roger Masson of FIU at Margulies Collection at The Warehouse, 3 February 2021.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to visit a world-renowned art museum like the Margulies Collection with a VIP tour by Mr. Margulies himself—and free of cost. Given my major being international relations museum, it is rare for me to have an entire class day dedicated to art. This week’s visit truly sparked a realization from my affinity for contemporary art and this undiscovered love for visiting our museums, along with my desire to learn more and more about this topic. It was quite enriching to share our thoughts as a class and gain first-hand knowledge from such a prominent art collector and supporter of artists, both in our community and internationally. It was refreshing that even though our class is not directly related to the study of art, and for the most part, we are not well-versed in this subject; however, everyone was able to add something to the conversation and learn from one another. 

Throughout the tour was stood out to me, in particular, was a museum’s enormous effort to make art accessible to the community. Mr. Margulies is unquestionably committed to making art as democratic as possible. His mission to include the community in his collection, to enjoy by all regardless of socioeconomic factors that can hinder one’s ability to experience the magic of an art museum visit, is truly commendable. 

Making art accessible to the community is of great cultural value. Art not only provides us with enjoyment and leisure, but it can also convey poignant messages in such a way that words are unnecessary. Undeniably, Mr. Margulies’ emblematic art collection contributes to the enchantment and charm of Miami.

Bill Baggs State Park as a Text

Bill Baggs State Park, Key Biscayne, Florida. By Roger Masson/CC by 4.0.

“Bill Baggs State Park holds the Key to Happiness”

By Roger Masson of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, 17 February 2021.

Ever since I can remember, Bill Baggs State Park has been the go-to spot on the weekends or special occasions. A getaway to El Farito has always been emblematic of an enchanted time, a place where creating everlasting memories is inevitable. My family and I have a particular history with this park; we have spent some of the happiest moments here.  Visiting this park as a class was extraordinarily special for many reasons, especially since I could share this place’s incredible magic with my wonderful classmates and professor. Moreover, the opportunity to learn about Key Biscayne’s historical background and the Bill Baggs State Park was just an exceptional experience.

Acknowledging the complex history of the places we love adds a degree of specialness and allows for a deeper appreciation. During our tour, each of us enjoyed the park’s beauty and what it has become over the years, but there is something profound about the past that speaks volumes to this day. One of the historical events that most stood out was the Lighthouse Attack and its respective art piece, representing this incident ever since. The Seminole and African American individuals fought for the right to have a territory to call their own—where they could live safely and freely. The lighthouse in place represented the means to intersect the underground railroad for runaway slaves. It also served as a symbol of American oppression on the land that was once a haven for these groups that were increasingly displaced. With this information in mind, it is disheartening to witness how historians portrayed such an event—animalizing the indigenous and African Americans while simultaneously making the American members seem like victims. This shows the power of historians to disseminate accounts based on their bias and how that impacts future generations’ views, producing a vicious cycle of ignorance. 

 We must actively discern between the official story reported by history books and between what actually happened, constantly questioning the veracity of what is being reported when it comes to delicate topics such as this. Having such a deep understanding of the places we love truly bolsters the connection we have with them. 

River of Grass as Text

The Hole in the River of Grass, Everglades National Park, Florida. By Roger Masson/CC by 4.0.

 “A Trip back in Time

By Roger Masson of FIU at Everglades National Park, 3 March 2021.

During our day-to-day lives in Miami, we are seldomly exposed to scenery mirroring the way in which Florida looked like thousands of years ago. As is the case for most major cities, the impact of developers and other actors looking to shape the landscape of the respective cities in a way that facilitates further growth, in a sense, erases the beauty of untouched nature. There is definitely something to be said about the achievements attributed to modern humans and their influence on the environment. Yet, it feels as if there is a missing piece left behind by the limited opportunities to appreciate the pristine natural world’s splendor.

As we stepped into the river of grass, our class had the exceptional chance to take in the enchantment that is the Everglades, once again, and catch a glimpse of the landscape that has best preserved its essence for the past years. In this particular region of the Everglades, the only signs of modern civilization were the distant road paved, which enabled our excursion, and the dilapidated home used by the farmers who inhabited this area. It was a truly surreal experience to be immersed in nature—with no cellphone service and far away from the city’s noise. Ranger Dylann informed us of the past mistakes involving the agriculture initiatives that once took place in the Everglades and certainly disrupted this area’s environment. In the past few years, there has been a restoration movement to reconcile the past errors and allow for this park to thrive once more. Given the incredible importance of the Everglades, as previously discussed in my earlier post, it is comforting to know that there is such a great effort to restore this area’s original form.

Frost Museum as a Text

Sick Rose by Roberto Obregón. Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum, Miami, Florida. By Roger Masson/CC by 4.O.

Life is but a Rose

By Roger Masson of FIU at Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum, 17 March 2o21

After countless adventures throughout the beautiful city of Miami, our class was lucky enough to return to the birthplace of this course. Florida International University is one of the most emblematic structures in this city. Undoubtedly, this university is known for its academic excellence and for providing its alumni with the required tools for lifelong success. Through the illustrious Frost Museum and art displays around campus, FIU provides its students with these critical tools for success.

Since 2008, the Frost Museum has been part of FIU’s Modesto Maidique Campus, with captivating and conversation-starting exhibits and around 10-12 shows each year. Given the global situation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, this museum has been unable to perform at its usual rate. However, we were incredibly fortunate to visit two outstanding exhibits, Roberto Obregón’s Archive titled: Accumulate Classify, and Pepe Mar’s exhibit: Tesoro. 

Each exhibit observed during this particular tour was nothing but lovely. Roberto Obregón’s exposition truly transformed my view of the rose and resonated with me on a personal note. His work depicts the cycle of the rose’s decay and its link to humanity in a somewhat obsessive manner. His work led me to contemplate the nature of life itself. In the past year, I lost two significant people—my grandfather and my great aunt. It was pretty challenging to imagine life without them; they had lived many years without me, but I had never been a day without them. Knowing that they were in my life and that I could pick up the phone and hear their voice was comforting. It was terrifying to think that was not the case anymore. As months went by, their health began to decay just like the rose did. They lived over seven decades on this earth, spreading love and joy to those around them, yet their time with us came to an expiration. Nothing lasts forever; we are all heading on that same path. However, we are in control of our destiny, and we must take advantage of the days in which the rose petals that represent our lives are full of vitality and health and leave a lasting mark on this world. 

Coral Gables as a Text

Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ, Coral Gables, Florida. By Roger Masson/CC by 4.0.

The City of Wonder

By Roger Masson of FIU at Coral Gables, Florida, 31 March 2021.

            As we reach the culmination of our class’s search of Miami’s magic and authenticity, we stumbled upon a true gem of a city—Coral Gables. This city stands out for its unique architecture, captivating greenery, and majestic environment, making it a sought-after location to live and visit. Our walking tour of the city was extraordinary, given that it is of the rare areas planned around being able to walk down the sidewalk with ample room safely. Coral Gables has always been one of my favorite places to visit and grab dinner with friends. Our tour of the CG museum, where we were enlightened about the city’s history, enhanced my appreciation for this city. 

            It is interesting to note that the Merrick family’s excursion down to the Miami area is responsible for the current appearance of Coral Gables. George Merrick is known as the developed and founder of this great city—the man known for bringing a ‘Spanish’ touch to the town. His inspiration surged from the colonial influence of Mexico and other countries of Central America. George Merrick might not have been a perfect man, no one honestly is by all means, but he left an ineffaceable mark on our community. According to our tour guide at the Biltmore, Mr. Merrick paid above the average wages to the Bahamian workers that assisted in the arduous tasks that were part of this process. Moreover, he even stepped in at times and worked alongside these individuals when it was necessary. He also went to great ends to ensure that new developments did not damage the city’s architectural integrity.

Coral Gables is emblematic for its Mediterranean, Andalusian Spanish, and Arabic fuse, distinguishing itself from the rest of the city. Given this diverse city’s demographic structure, Coral Gables offers a home away from home to Hispanics or Latinos— while also giving those who were born here a connection to their roots. I might have been born and raised in Miami, but anytime I am in Coral Gables, I feel incredibly connected to my background without having to board a plane.

Vizcaya as Text

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Miami, Florida. By Roger Masson/CC by 4.0.

“A place as Authentically Miami as can be”

By Roger Masson of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, 14 April 2021

Being from Miami, it was pretty special that my first visit to Vizcaya Museum and Garden was with my Miami in Miami family during our last class session. After a year of creating lasting memories together, culminating our search for the authentic Miami at this location was, in short words: exceptional. 

Professor Bailly mentioned that Vizcaya is typically the first-class session for this course, but our class’ experience was nothing but typical—in a rather beautiful sense. Instead, our first-class meeting was at the Deering Estate, the home of the visionary behind Vizcaya, James Deering. James Deering spared no expense to develop a site that is incredibly emblematic of Miami— significantly contributing to the culture of this beautiful city.  

Vizcaya’s name originates from James Deering’s intent to pay homage to the provincial origin of early Spanish settlers in Miami.  Like Mr. Merrick’s concept with Coral Gables, James Deering wanted to include Mediterranean elements and style in this place. Interestingly, the Mediterranean architecture, design, and artwork, combined with our city’s tropical environment, came together to produce a place that was one-hundred percent Miami. To describe our city as proper, humble, and religiously structured might fit for some. Nevertheless, Miami can be best defined as exciting, opulent, and even debauched to a certain extent. Vizcaya’s charm encapsulates this theme and provides a place that highlights the extravagance, decadence of this city—one that is not too shy to exhibit its wealth and good fortune. What we can take away from this visit—and from this class—there is no one way to describe this gem of a city that we are fortunate to call home. Miami has many layers that work together and truly make this city stand out. Whether you are in the suburbs of Kendall or in the hustle and bustle of Brickell, each sector is distinctive and full of wonder.