Vox Student Blog

Luzmariana Iacono: Miami as Text

Luzmariana Iacono in Doral, Florida, 2020

Luzmariana Iacono is a driven individual in her junior year at the honors College in Florida International University. She is double majoring in Marketing and International Business and is passionate about the entrepreneurial aspect of business. Artistic by nature, Luzmariana recently started her own career in the beauty industry as a professional Makeup Artist with a specialisation in Editorial and Avant-Garde makeup. She is trilingual and even if she has been living in Miami for less than a decade, she enjoys the culturally mixed environment and hopes to learn more about its history and hidden beauties through this course.   

Deering as Text

Image Taken and Edited by Luzmariana Iacono (CC by 4.0)
“Culturally Mixed”

By Luzmariana Iacono of FIU at Deering Estate, 9 September 2020

The Deering Estate narrates the story of a culturally mixed past through its two building structures and captivating surroundings. Charles Deering was a wealthy industrialist who, alongside his brother, remained stuck in the United States during World War I without any economic power over their family company. 

A lonely mind and soul becomes creative, so he decided to replicate his adventures in Europe by including bits and pieces of culture in every detail of the two buildings. Initially, Samuel H.Richmond had built a pioneer home for his family, but in 1900 an addition to the home was built and open to the public – “The Richmond Hotel” became the first hotel between Coconut Grove and Key West (Deering Foundation Inc). In 1922, Charles Deering decided to let his melancholic state of mind flow by constructing the Mediterranean revival-style Stone House (Deering Foundation Inc). The Spanish villa with Islamic influence was the beginning of Miami. The domes were of islamic influence, the replication of a Spanish mosaic using shells and ocean elements were beautifully placed in the ceiling outside the villa. The intricate details of serpents, seahorse, amongst other creatures in the capitals give off the Mediterranean feeling. 

From the outside, these buildings transport you to another era, and once you enter an overwhelming feeling of calmness mixed with mischief narrate the story of Charles Deering. There is a sense of tranquility once you enter the Christian room where two beautiful stained glasses illuminated from behind depict the history of Jesus – back then churches were the only place that were clean and pure enough to transmit peace among the chaos and illnesses that took place in Spain. Regardless of his religious inclinations shown throughout the villa, there was a hidden liquor storage room that smelled like danger – remember the Prohibition era? Well they survived it by illegally storing and drinking alcohol in the basement. Only after the passing of hurricane Andrew, people were able to discover this hidden treasure. Behind those walls and immense garden, between the Chinese panels and furnitures, the steel work on the doors, and the Islamic inspired domes, a story of art and culture is written. 

Works Cited 

“Deering Estate History: Historic Miami Mansion & Gardens.” Deering Estate, 26 Mar. 2020, deeringestate.org/history/.

Monica Barletta: Miami as Text

Monica Barletta at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Monica Barletta is a sophomore in the Honors College at Florida International University. She is currently a Biology major on the Pre-med track, and hopes to attend the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. Outside of school, she enjoys creating art, spending time with friends, and watching movies.

Monica Barletta at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Deering as Text

“The Influence of Cultures at Deering”

By Monica Barletta of FIU at the Deering Estate, 9 September 2020

The Deering Estate is a 444-acre plot of land containing some of Miami’s oldest pieces of history that can still be viewed today. This estate’s background dates back to the late 19th century when the first house on the property was built by the Richmond family. The property was later turned into an inn for travelers until 1915 when it was purchased by Charles Deering.

Deering was a very wealthy business owner who made his money from creating farming tools, but more importantly, he was an avid art collector. Deering’s interest in art is what makes this building such an interesting place to visit, as he incorporated art styles from so many different cultures throughout his estate. Built in 1922 from concrete and limestone, the second house on the property became known as the Stone House. This house is what stood out to me the most during my visit because of the way aspects from many different cultures can be found in the art and architecture.

Stone House – Deering Estate, Photo taken by Monica Barletta

The outside of the building is made from limestone, which is found in Florida, but is created in a Spanish style to look similar to his house in Spain. Features of Islamic architecture can also be seen around the house from the dome-like arches of the windows to the sea-shell mural on the ceiling. Inside of the Stone House, Deering’s collection of art is displayed, vases from China, stained glass panels from France, and Catholic statues from Spain are some of the many pieces he acquired from around the world. The way all of these small things are taken from so many cultures and come together is what makes the house so intriguing.

Deering Estate, Photo taken by Monica Barletta

Ameenah Aljabry: Miami as Text

Photo taken by Emily Morgan. Edited by Ameenah Aljabry/CC BY 4.0

Hi, I’m Ameenah Aljabry! I’m a student at FIU and am majoring in English and minoring in philosophy. I love spreading happiness and love. If I can put a smile on someone’s face, that will make my day. I specifically have a love for animals. I have loved animals since the age of 5 and continue to widen my horizons in the field of animal science. I currently love my job and get to groom dogs every day but am hoping that in my near future I can and will become a veterinarian and have my own practice. I love the arts as well and as a hobby, I sing. So, if you are ever in a car with me while the radio is blasting, I am sorry in advance. I also dabble in drawing and photography. In my eyes, every day is a new opportunity for me to create something special whether it be a connection with another amazing person, a piece of artwork, or an amazing educational discovery. And I truly believe that this class will allow me to continue living my motto to the fullest.

Deering as Text

“Peaceful Waters,” by Ameenah Aljabry of FIU at Deering Estate on September 9th, 2020.

Photos taken by Ameenah Aljabry. Edited by Ameenah Aljabry/CC BY 4.0

As I look back at my first experience at Deering Estate I honestly can say that my emotions have a conflicting nature to them. First, let me start off by saying that the natural aspects of this estate make you feel one with the earth. It is as if you are entangled within this preserves branches, vines, and trees when walking around. As I peered over the Chinese bridge I looked below to a flowing river of freshwater and all I could think was that I wanted to jump in and how refreshing that would be and that I also found it beautiful and serene. Deering Estate has a way of intriguing its guests with its mystery as well as its vast openness when it comes to its landscape and architecture. As we walked down Old Cutler Road I realized that there was so much more deep within these forests that we had no clue about. Just like when looking out at the dock, you would have no clue that five individuals died while making this estate what it is today. I realized that as we stood in this estate we were coming to understand the roots of Miami and its history. The idea that individuals like Charles Deering were striving and growing their name while others were being put to work and not getting any recognition for it and were not treated correctly is not entirely fair. But, the cultural aspects of these underappreciated individuals still shine through in many of the architectural aspects and artwork seen in both The Stone House and The Richmond Cottage. For example, this amazing and intricate mosaic made by the Bahamians is a piece of art that would not be seen anywhere else. This ceiling mosaic consists of shells, coral, and much other common life found in our Miami waters. This shows how innovative these individuals truly were when they did not have regular materials like colored glass. Instead, they made something of their own.

Photo taken by Ameenah Aljabry. Edited by Ameenah Aljabry/CC BY 4.0

This piece of artwork is ageless and tells us a story of culture and wildlife seen in Miami which can be said about many things seen in Deering Estate. Deering Estate can be a magical place where you experience the quietness and calmness of nature, but at the same time see the cultural struggle and suppression as well. And Miami’s history could not be told without revealing both of those aspects.

Jennifer Quintero: Miami as Text

Jennifer Quintero where she is happiest, Everglades, 2020

Jennifer Quintero is a Junior at Florida International University currently majoring in Sustainability and the Environment and Public Administration with the goal of working in the public sector as an environmental educator and policy maker. Between studying full time and participating in extracurriculars, she works part-time for Miami-Dade County Parks and Recreation as an environmental educator. During the semester she also works as a naturalist on campus giving tours and leading volunteers on the university’s nature preserve all in the hopes of encouraging a culture of sustainability. When not working she enjoys hiking, kayaking, and learning all there is to know about the outdoors.

Deering as Text

“The Classroom Inside the Hidden Gem”

by @LocalEnvironmentalist of @FIUInstagram at the @DeeringEstate, 13th September 2020

The Stone House Gallery. Photo taken by Jennifer Quintero (CC by 4.0)

My first impression of the Deering Estate was: “Wow, that’s a lot of kids.” Granted I was there for an interview to become an educator while Deering was in the midst of hosting its annual summer camp, so definitely not a typical circumstance. One interview, some bureaucracy, and a phone call later and I found myself as the youngest member in the Learning Department. Now the Deering Estate has a lot of things: a museum, a park, a nature preserve…but its main function is actually that of a classroom. No one goes to the Deering Estate and leaves without learning something, especially me. In the past year of my employment there, I have found myself in each of its ecosystems gawking at the vast biodiversity that hides right along the edge of a mega populated city. I’ve had the privilege of going into its archeological sites and seeing fossilized dire wolf teeth for myself (better perks than any other job I’ve had I’m sure).

Raccoon teeth found on a hike through the Cutler Creek. Photo taken by Jennifer Quintero (CC by 4.0)

The most wonderful thing I’ve had the pleasure of seeing though, is people leaving with something that they didn’t know before. I’ve taken people of all ages through the houses and the hikes, but I think the kids are my favorite because they see the extraordinary in the smallest things. One of my favorite experiences though is when I lead them into the gallery and tell them all to lay down on the floor and look up: The first thing they do is grumble, then they notice the chandeliers, but finally they really look up at all the golden tiles on the ceiling and inside each one they find plants and animals. Nature influences art and vice versa. Deering is one of the places where this bridge is strongly made. This is also where the nature of Charles Deering really shines, he wasn’t just an art collector after all, he was an early preservationist and a lover of nature. The Deering Estate is a place where people can be surprised at how much they didn’t know, from college students like me, to kindergarteners, to seniors, and learn to see nature (and Miami) from a different perspective.

The ceiling of the Stone House gallery. Images taken by Jennifer Quintero (CC by 4.0)

Luis Gutierrez: Miami as Text

Luis moments before meeting his prom date, 2019

Luis Gutierrez is currently a sophomore studying English at Florida International University. He loves to watch movies, listen to old music, and play beach volleyball with his friends. He also enjoys writing and collecting vinyl records.

Deering as Text

“Flight Into Egypt” photo taken by Luis Gutierrez

“Shining Glass from the Heavens”

By Luis Gutierrez of FIU at The Deering Estate, 14 September 2020

The Deering Estate located in Miami, Florida is home to many works of art and historical artifacts. One of the works of art that can be seen here is the “Flight Into Egypt” stained glass panel. It shows Mary, Joseph, and an infant Jesus on their way to Egypt. Though Joseph appears to be breakdancing, this work of art is ultimately timeless and beautifully colorized. This panel is one of two that were lost after the death of Charles Deering but thankfully, they were both found, restored, and are now up for display at the Deering Estate. The restoration process was expensive and needed skilled artisans to handle and recreate the beautiful artwork of that time. Though we don’t know the exact date it was created, historians believe this and other religious stained glass panels can date back to around 1150 and 1500.

Before entering this particular room which houses the stained glass panels, Professor Bailey gave a short synopsis of how tragic and unbearable life was during the medieval era. He then began to say that glimpses of God were one of the only things that kept people going at the time and that this was one of those glimpses. Professor Bailey really hyped up what we were about to see, and might I say that this “glimpse”, lived up to that hype.

I am a Catholic who used to attend Church fairly often prior to entering high school. I would attend this particular church from my middle school, St.Agatha, here in Miami that also incorporated stained glass artwork. All around the top of the church was the story of Jesus’ life depicted through colorized glass that would shine different colors on the people in the church when the sun would pass through. I used to be a very religious person and one of the reasons I would love to attend this specific church was because of the stained glass that would shine on me. Especially during the homily or the slower parts of mass, I would look up and see the story of this particular man that changed the world forever. The stained glass in my church and the ones in Deering State both had emotional and spiritual connections to me that made me look back at my life as a Catholic. These panels also give hope to those who see them especially in times of despair such as the medieval period and the times we are living in today.

The Deering Estate transports you back through history with its historical, religious, and lively artifacts and artwork that gives you a quick sight into life in the past, even if this life had a breakdancing Joseph.

Work Cited

Kersten, S. (2019, October 19). Pre-17th Century stained glass panels restored for display at Deering Estate. Retrieved September 14, 2020, from https://communitynewspapers.com/featured/pre-17th-century-stained-glass-panels-restored-for-display-at-deering-estate/

Sydielim Chong: Miami as Text

Photo taken by Jennifer Escalona

Sydielim Chong is a passionate 19 year old student at Florida International University. Sydielim is on a pre-law track majoring in criminal justice while also applying a minor in statistics. Sydielim is a full time tutor for Bright and Brainy Tutoring. Sydielim also enjoys watching movies, especially thrillers, and loves going out on adventures in hopes of exploring new things all over the world. As a part of Art Society Conflict, she hopes to learn more of the valuable history behind Miami and the artistic culture rooted in the city.

Deering As Text

“The Unknown” by Sydielim Chong of FIU on September 9th, 2020.

The Deering Estate is one of Miami’s oldest historical pieces of land. Once having crossed the wooden gates at the front of the property, it’s like going back in time. The Deering Estate is made up of over 400 acres of land, two houses, and tons of preserved wildlife and nature. One of the first things noticed upon arriving are the two houses as they look nothing alike. Used by Mr. Deering and his wife as the “main house”, the Stone House has a more contemporary and medieval look and feel to it. The Stone House was designed to represent the different places Mr. Deering himself had traveled to and made connections with. Simply looking at it will take you back in time through history. The rooms inside of the house were specifically made in order to represent different religions and cultures. The first room to the left when walking into the house has no doors, instead a black and gold gate, like those used in Spanish culture. Mr. Deering used this room as an art gallery, putting up over half a dozen artworks which he collected throughout his trips to Europe. Looking up at the ceiling, Mr. Deering had the constructors manufacture special tiles that represent everything seen in Miami, from dolphins and seahorses to leaves and palm trees. The second room to the right of the entrance is a study. In contrast to the art gallery which was bright and prestigious, Mr. Deering’s study was a dark room filled with books, a desk, and art, including a portrait of himself. Mr. Deering specifically designed this room so that if there were any fires in the room, it can be withheld in order to preserve the rest of the house and the artwork in it.

Right by its side, there’s the Richmond Cottage which was used by Mr. and Mrs. Deering as a winter home. The Richmond Cottage has a modern and classical look to it. Although classical and modern are contrasting types of houses, this is what made the Richmond cottage special in a unique way. The cottage entailed smaller rooms with more detail. When walking into the cottage, the first room seen is a simple room, a fireplace, a table, and a counter stored with food. The Deering’s stored this food because back then there weren’t any local markets in the area. The next room consists of a prepared dining table. On the walls hang more of his beloved artwork as well as the head of a deer. Being that everything in the cottage was smaller, compared to the Stone house, made the cottage seem like a perfect fit for a winter home as it made everything seem warmer the minute you walk in.

Each house was designed and manufactured to represent the history of Miami and show that the city of Miami has always been a mix of religion and cultures from all around the world.

The Stone House basement, perfectly reconstructed to imitate the original.

One of the most interesting things about this historical property is that it has made its way through time, all the way from the 1900’s to 2020. The state of Florida has tried to preserve the land and the houses by making copies of the original artifacts since after Mr. Deering passed away, most of his belongings were sent to a Museum in Chicago. The one thing that was kept exactly the same until 1992 when hurricane Andrew hit Florida, was a neat room in the basement. This room had been hidden for over half a century as it was behind a huge safe. The Stone House was built during the prohibition era and Mr. Deering was clever enough to make a room, hide it, and keep it stocked with alcohol that was shipped out to him from other countries. This detail shows how Mr. Deering was smart and at the end of the day, did what pleased him and what he liked. This safe room wasn’t found until 1992 and even then, the state of Florida had to fly someone out from another country just to get the safe open because it was that difficult. Mr. Deering was a bright man, a man who loved the world, he loved living his life, and a man who always appreciated art, culture, the environment, and religion. It is because of Mr. Deering’s appreciation for the simple and good things in life that the people of South Florida now have a beautiful piece of history to turn to when the facts of our roots have been forgotten.

Daniela Canizares: Miami as Text

Daniela Canizares, Downtown Miami, February 2019

Daniela is a Sophomore at Florida International University Honor College. She is majoring in Psychology. Daniela was born and raised in Havana, Cuba and she moved to Miami when she was 15 years old. Once she finishes with her Bachelor in Arts, Daniela is planning on pursuing a Masters in Science in Professional Counseling. Daniela is very passionate about the Spaniard influence in the American culture because for ten years she was a flamenco dancer but she stopped to focus on her academics.

Deering as a Text

Images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)

“Hidden Gem”

By Daniela Canizares of FIU at Deering Estate, September 9th, 2020.

Surrounded by 444 acres of land, we find Deering Estate, one of the only historical places conserved in its original estate ever since it was built. Even its location at Palmetto Bay in Miami makes it hard to believe that this place is one of the key components in the history of this city (taking into consideration that the heart of Miami itself is more towards the North of the City). Upon arrival at Deering Estate, visitors could feel the contrast between “old Miami” and the “new Miami”. The moment you cross the wooden gates, you get the sensation of going back in time to the XX century, when Miami was at its beginnings.

One of the most fascinating components of Deering Estate is its architecture. It has two residencies: The Stone House, which was used by Mr. and Mrs. Deering as the main residence, and The Richmond Cottage, which was first used as an inn and then as a winter house. The Stone House’s walls consist of walls in between 14-16 inches each one, which makes the structure safer due to its closeness to the Bay. Each one of the rooms of the Stone House is built in such a way that in case a fire starts in one of the rooms, it is possible to contain the fire on it, saving the rest of the house’s value. The exterior of The Stone House has engravings of each one of the things representatives of Miami back in the XX century. In those engravings, we see monkeys, pelicans, seahorses, and endemic flowers. On the ceiling of the exterior, we see a mosaic, made with rocks, algae, and shells that the Bahamians building the house would find along the way. On the roof of this house, we see tiles with specific and unique engravings, which workers used as a method of proof to get paid for their work. The house itself mixes Islamic art and modern techniques, which is an astonishing contrast, that makes us see that Miami itself is a mix of multiple cultures.
The Richmond Cottage right next to the Stone House is one of the oldest wooden houses in the whole Miami Dade County. After Andrew, it had to go under reconstruction, but the constructors tried to keep it as similar to the original one as possible. The Richmond Cottage interior design contrasts with the interior designs that we see in Miami nowadays. The rooms are contrastingly smaller than the regular room people are used to, and so are the bathrooms. However, the kitchen’s dimensions are relatively large if we compare the dimensions of the guest rooms and the dimensions of the kitchen. Coming into that room was like going way back in time and looking at a whole different idea, an idea most of us have only seen in Brazilian novelas.
A couple of miles away from the houses, we see a Chinese bridge. It was shocking to see all those cultures mixed, but at the same time it was an escape from the toxicity of the city and the traffic of Miami, as no motor vehicles can go past a certain point, and nature is preserved the same way as it was a century ago.
This visit was more than just a simple walking tour. It was like going back in time, escaping from the XXI century and all 2020 has brought to our lives and going back to the XX century. No motor vehicles, no Miamian traffic. Only history, walls talking by themselves, and an amazing nature ready to tell us all about the unknown, unspoken Miami history.

Jessica Finol : Miami as Text

Student Profile: Jessica Finol

Biscayne Bay paddle trip, 2020

Hello! My name is Jessica and I was born and raised in Miami. I’m currently double majoring in History and Liberal Studies, and I plan to complete a Masters degree in Textile and Fashion History after graduation. I want to focus on the history and significance of traditional cultural dress, especially in East and South Asia, which are rich both in culture and the history of fabric. I love exploring with my dog Athena, especially by hiking and paddle boarding together around Miami. Miami’s cultural arts scene is one of my favorite things about this city, and I am a regular attendee of ballets, theater performances, orchestras and art fairs (I have not yet been able to attend an opera, but its on the list!), and I hope to gain an even better understanding of the Miami arts scene through this class!

Deering as Text

Tequesta Cutler Burial Mound – “Trail of Floridas Indian Heritage” – “https://www.trailoffloridasindianheritage.org/southeast

“Farther Back”

By Jessica Finol of FIU at Deering Estate, 9/2/20

Deering Estate is a historic junction of Miami’s past. Many who think of this city tend to conjure images of beaches and high rise buildings, but Deering Estate allows visitors to connect with the historic roots of Miami, back to before the land was even named so. Unable to attend the group class, I unfortunately missed out on a very informative tour, however I still managed to learn something new about Deering. I have always thought that Miami seems like such a young city compared to other east coast cities, and often wished for the rich history that they have. However, I did not know that there was tangible evidence of the original native people of what is now today the city of Miami. The Tequesta people who lived on the land of Deering Estate during the 16th century are perhaps the beginning of Miami’s old history that I had longed for. While there are no cultural remains such as language or art left by the Tequesta people, we know of them because of two burial mounds. The Tequesta Cutler Burial Mound located on the Deering land contains the remains of twelve to eighteen Tequesta people, arranged in a circular pattern. When I learned of these Tequesta people, I was fascinated because history that far back is something that I have never associated with Miami, even though I have lived here my entire life. I hope to be able to attend a walking tour of Deering in the future so that I might be able to see these incredible burial mounds in person, in addition to the beautiful nature trails. 

Lorena Cuenca: Miami as Text

Lorena in Downtown Miami, Florida, 2020. Image Taken by Eric Forteza (CC by 4.0)

Lorena Cuenca is a junior at the Florida International University Honors College where she is majoring in Business Administration. Lorena earned her Associates degree at Miami Dade College during high school and is looking forward to completing her college journey at FIU. She plans on attending Columbia University where she hopes to join their dual degree program for Law and Business and become a corporate attorney. While academics are her priority, she likes to dabble in performance arts. On her time off from school and work, Lorena enjoys writing music, singing, choreographing, and dancing. Lorena wants nothing more than to see the world; while Miami is a beautiful city, she knows there is so much more than what is in her own backyard.

Deering As Text

“Deering’s Treasures” By Lorena Cuenca of FIU at The Deering Estate, September 9th, 2020

Miami, a growing city, embracing change with every passing year. A somewhat overlooked example of cultural mixing represented perfectly by the construction of the Richmond Cottage and Stone House in Deering Estate. A chaotic blend of cultures including that of the American owner Charles Deering, the Bahamians who with their blood, sweat, and tears built the Stone House and the Islamic and Spanish influences embedded in the design and structure of the Stone House. Stepping into the Stone House is an experience in itself. The house bears a resemblance to something straight out of an old vampire movie or show, something Dracula would live in, holding Spanish art and Chinese pieces in the inside. Charles Deering had this house built to hold and display his pieces. Enjoying his money and youth he began traveling across Europe collecting art, with every new piece welcomed into the family as one of his own.

The first room I stepped into felt grand. What I believed to be a ballroom to hold parties and events was the room where a flourishing artist displayed his work. This was what Deering wanted. In what looked like an office, Deering displayed religious pieces he brought back from Spain alongside a number of beautifully painted pottery placed all around the room. For the first time, but hopefully not the last, I got the chance to feast my eyes on two stained glass panels. Both windows have been restored and displayed within one of the rooms inside the Stone House. The room itself was dimly lit, more so than the rest of the house, but it did not need any light. The windows allowed all the light necessary to shine through showcasing the brightly colored stained glass and the stunning image made for us to see. This house was just full of surprises; with every turn there seem to have been something new to appreciate like the creative mosaic made by the Bahamians who despite having no knowledge about mosaics nor the materials needed to make one created something much more memorable. Using seashells, coral, and a variety of other random items they build something, something new and refreshing, something to add to the outside of the house. Now the Stone House was as beautiful on the outside as it was on the inside.

The Richmond Cottage has a history of its own. The house was built by Samuel H. Richmond for himself and his family to live in. A couple of years after it was built, it was expanded and introduced to the public as the Richmond Hotel. A generation later, Deering took the Hotel under his wing and added it to his list of homes. Deering made sure the house and its surrounding nature were being taken care of. He took into consideration what was surrounding the houses as much as what was in them. He contacted botanists and architects to restore and protect all he was fond of. Charles Deering was clearly a man of fascinating interest and while I enjoyed touring one of his homes and a house built to store his prized possessions, I am looking forward to exploring the remaining part of the estate and take a look at the nature he put effort into restoring.

Roger Masson: Miami as Text

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: