Vox Student Blog

Marco Lund-Hansen: Neighborhood 2023

Key Biscayne as Text:

View from Cape Florida Light. Photograph by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

Key Biscayne is a modern neighborhood which is located on a barrier island between two state parks: Crandon Park and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. There is a variety of activities to do on Key Biscayne especially centered around nature. To get to Key Biscayne you can drive if you have rented a car, take the line 102 bus or if you love biking there are 9 miles of continuous bike lanes which can take you all the way to Bill Baggs. Incorporated in 1991, Key Biscayne was Miami-Dade’s newest municipality in over 50 years.

Key Biscayne has two of the best beaches in Miami that must be visited. Starting off with Crandon Park which was a donation in 1940 from Commodore James William Matheson who used Crandon Park as a coconut plantation. Today Crandon Park consists of 808 acres and a two mile long beach that offers a range of nature activities. These activities include kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, snorkeling, kiteboarding and windsurfing. If you are not much of a beach person, there is a golf course and tennis center at Crandon Park. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Nature Center is also a must-visit in Crandon Park as interactive nature tours are offered. Visitors can experience the hatching of sea turtles, go on seagrass tours with naturalists and also learn about the local animals and plants from the Nature Center staff.

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is another one of the beaches that is worth paying a visit to. Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park opened on January 1, 1967 and was named after Bill Baggs, an editor of the Miami News who was known for being an advocate for the preservation of Key Biscayne. Not only does the park have a variety of activities to offer, but also has the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County: The Cape Florida Lighthouse. The Lighthouse was built in 1825 and before it was built, black Seminoles and slaves would board ships to the Bahamas which offered them freedom. This was known as the Saltwater Railroad, so when the Lighthouse was built it blew their cover. There is a lot of history to learn about in Bill Baggs, which can be complemented with running, biking and walking trails, fishing charters and wildlife tours.

Key Biscayne also has many restaurants from different cuisines all around the world, which range from Indian to Argentinian food. The Rusty Pelican offers not only a spectacular view of the Brickell skyline, but a variety of seafood to choose from. Novecento is an Argentinian restaurant that has everything meat and wine. Finally, Costa Med Bistro + Wine includes the best of Mediterranean cuisine. These places can be expensive, but there is also a Winn Dixie on the island which is more economic and makes for great picnics. Village Green Park is located centrally in Key Biscayne and has a playground, jogging course, two soccer fields, a community center with a pool and a nice spot for a picnic. Key Biscayne is thankfully not marketed like Miami Beach, making it less crowded and a peaceful place to enjoy paradise.

Katherine Mesa: Enlightenment as Text 2023

Photo by Katherine Mesa CC/4.0

“The Art of Enlightenment”

Enlightenment As Text: Katherine Mesa of FIU, February 12th, 2023

By: Katherine Mesa

The Enlightenment was a time period and movement characterized by its philosophical and intellectual influences on society. There was also debate amongst academics and philosophers in regard to the theories of life in relation to religion and science, and the role they play in the government, such as through the separation of church and state. This was a period of innovation and growth, where creativity was at the forefront of the movement. France played a crucial role during the Enlightenment, and it can even be claimed that the French Revolution was a source of its inspiration, and its influences can even be seen today. One influential piece that ties to The Enlightenment was the book, Candide, which is a satirical novel that highlights different aspects of enlightenment ideals, ranging from social and class hierarchies to the political and power dynamics of its time. 

Political and revolutionary ideals were also transformed during this time, and their influences on government are still taken into account today. This is relevant in terms of the ideals of democratization and liberalization of power structures.

Some prominent philosopher thinkers of this time included Locke, Montesquieu, and Rousseau, and were heavily centered around the ideals of government. For example, John Locke concentrated his theories around the modern republican government, the social contract theory, and individual rights. On the other hand, Baron de Montesquieu focused his intellectual ideals on the separation of church and state and checks and balances. Lastly, Jean Jacques Rousseau deconstructed the philosophical ideals of human nature in relation to civil society. 

However, while male political figures like the ones mentioned above were highly idolized for their work, it is important not to undermine the strong feminist leaders and philosophers who are continuously pushed under the rug. For example, Mary Wollstonecraft was a champion for women’s rights and published two novels, “A Vindication of the Rights of Man” and “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.” She also advocated for equal access to education for women as well as implemented mixed gendered schools to ensure equity in the quality of education.  

In terms of the intersection between faith and reason, this is a very controversial topic that was not only concentrated during the period of The Enlightenment, but also is even seen today. When analyzed through the lens of this being reconciled, it is essential to acknowledge the historical impact of this ideological conflict, as well as its complexity. For example, religious faiths are not one-dimensional, and are very diverse among different populations, where addressing the issue of reason and faith being reconciled is not a straightforward approach. In addition, when defining what encompasses the rationale behind reason and faith, it is also essential to recognize varying interpretations and perspectives of what encompasses rationale. For example, some may claim that faith and religion are rational approaches to life, while others may claim that scientific objections are the true rationale. This conflict will continue to progress and will never be resolved as long as individual and philosophical perceptions dictate the conflict.

Work Cited:

“Enlightenment Thinkers and Democratic Government.” Building Democracy for All, EdTech Books, 1 Jan. 1970, https://edtechbooks.org/democracy/enlightenment.

Voltaire, et al. Candide. Chivers, 2008.

Melanie Rodriguez: Miami as Text Spring 2023

Melanie Rodriguez is a sophomore at the Florida International University honors college, who studies natural and applied sciences. She also minors in biology and psychology, as she hopes to have a career in the medical field, specifically dermatology. Her long term goal is to open her own practice in Miami, and hopes to help others feel beautiful in their own skin. She currently holds a role in the healthcare field as a certified medical assistant, and values supporting her community. Daughter of two Cuban immigrant parents, Melanie is a first generation college student who has been a Miami resident for twenty years and continues to explore the city’s great history.

Everglades As Text

“Florida in all its greatness” by Melanie Rodriguez of FIU at the Everglades

The Florida Everglades is a breath of fresh air, away from the crowds and unarguably one of the most underrated spots in Miami. The majority of travelers write off the Everglades from their “must-see” list, which is a big rookie tourist mistake. While knowing how to navigate and scope out the Everglades is daunting, many resources are present, such as guides and maps, to help you along this wilderness adventure. This historical site demands and deserves your attention, but one thing that resonated with me while on this visit are the misconceptions that surround the Everglades, ones that I am guilty of believing and wish to unveil today.

 I was born and raised 20 minutes away from the Everglades, but why had I never paid a visit to this world-famous park? Like many others will respond, because I was afraid. Afraid of man-eating giant gators, aggressive insect beasts, slithering snakes, and dark and empty roads. When I put it this way, it sounds like a horror movie, but truly this could not be farther from the truth. Never in a million years did I expect to go so far out of my comfort zone and walk through the waist deep water of the slough-slog, but I am grateful for these uncomfortable situations that led me to the magical landscape that is the Everglades. Straight out of “Avatar,” this otherworldly environment was established in 1947 and aims to protect the landscape in this park like no other, while preserving its many species and numerous habitats. One of the best trails to explore is the Anhinga trail, where you can spot some friendly giants (not at all scary or man-eating). Being this close to Florida’s native species makes me proud that these areas are still preserved for them to thrive. This extensive marshland was formed 17,000 years ago, when the Pleistocene sea level rise created runoff from Lake Okeechobee. If the Everglades seems unimportant to you, just know that it creates drinkable water for over 7 million Florida residents, which is one of the reasons why this ecosystem needs to be protected. While many people did not realize the value of the Everglades, there is one person in Florida history who advocated for the preservation of this national park, and that is Marjorie Stoneman Douglas. She famously published “Everglades, river of grass” in 1947 which spoke volumes to the importance of safeguarding this area. Today, the Everglades has received immense recognition as a world heritage site, deservingly so as it is the United States’ largest subtropical wilderness. 

Having an open mind while visiting this wetland can make all the difference in your experience. I truly believe that everyone should take advantage of this remarkable experience to feel elevated in the natural landscape of the Everglades. The typical stereotype is not at all what I experienced, and my hope is that I inspire at least one person to set their fears aside as I continue to spread positive information about my experience in visiting the Everglades.         

Miami Encounter As Text 

“My Miami, Through My Eyes” by Melanie Rodriguez of FIU in Miami

Photo captured by Grace King.

Being born in Miami does not speak to my expertise of the city. While I wish I could say I knew it all, I was truly baffled at the amount of information I did not know while being in this class. Places that I have been to a million times in my life, such as Vizcaya, Overtown, downtown Miami, or Coconut Grove, I realized that I didn’t know the stories behind these places or understand the historical importance of them. So when taking this class, my goal was always to look at these places with a fresh set of eyes. When we arrive at a location, even if I have been there before, I expect to receive an entirely new perspective and context of the area. Time and time again, this class has proven to me that Miami is much more than appears to the naked eye, and much more than an aesthetic, luxurious, sunny paradise, which is all that Miami might seem to others. I have been to Vizcaya multiple times, but did not know about the bohemian hands who built it. I had no idea when walking through downtown Miami that the park in between two buildings was an ancient Tequesta monument. When visiting Overtown before this class, I had an idea of the history, but when delving deep into our discussion I soon discovered an entirely new side to black history in Miami. In coconut grove I always visited miracle mile, boutiques and nice restaurants, but had no idea about the Barnacle, or the long standing homes that are still there. The place I was most eager to visit this semester was the Everglades. I was highly anticipating this visit ever since the first class when it was mentioned, I was intrigued by the Everglades but at the same time fearful of the unknown. Each day I come in eager to discover something new about a city that I have inhabited for so many years, and now after one semester I am beginning to feel like a cultured expert in my own city. This is vital for me because I would never want to look ignorant or clueless when speaking about Miami, and now I recognize how important it is to be able to know the history of where you live, not only to hold up a conversation but also to fully appreciate the environment which surrounds you. I was born in Miami, yes, but I did not know it as well as I thought. I knew very little about the culture of Miami, and the last time I remember touching upon the subject was in early high school. Even then, I was not taught about half of the landmarks that I’ve seen in only one full semester of “Miami In Miami.” Preliminary schools in Miami truly need to do a better job at teaching the rich history of Miami, and without washing it out of its impurities. I wanted to learn the bad, the good, and the ugly, and because of this, I was eager to learn more and decided I needed to enroll in this class. I know that this is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Constantly getting put in uncomfortable positions that are out of my comfort zone has made me discover so much about not only my environment but about myself as a person. I have discovered a passion for nature, for adventure, and I am not scared to explore unknown territory, and for that I am grateful for this class and excited about what this second semester has to bring. 

Coconut Grove as text

“The ‘Little Bahamas’ of Miami” by Melanie Rodriguez of FIU at Coconut Grove

The culture and vibrancy are abundant in Coconut Grove, and this has much to do with the influence of early black settlers in Miami. Before the Grove was filled with shops, lush landscaping, and modern restaurants, this was a place for free spirits and is a true gem in Miami. My visits to Coconut Grove are quite frequent, but I failed to indulge myself in the history of the area until my most recent visit, where I learned about the true importance of The Grove. As a Miami resident I have to say that this is the first time that I’ve explored Coconut Grove beyond its aesthetic appeal. Many people do not know that in building Coral Gables and Miami, there is deep Bahamian involvement. Just a few blocks away from the populated streets which I frequent stand homes built by Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup, unarguably one of the most selfless people of his time. Stirrup, who was an African-Bahamian immigrant, was an instrumental part in the development of Coconut Grove, building and renting out homes for African Americans and presenting them the opportunity to own land in a time where this was extremely difficult to do. The Grove is filled with vibrant colors and structures that reflect the influence of the bahamian settlers during this early time. I enjoyed the diversity of these buildings, and seeing something that looked original and different from the rest of the architecture that fills Miami. Modern white homes are far and frequent in any area, but what I truly love to see is culture, history, and especially the stories behind how and why these structures were developed. Sadly, I saw that more and more homes are not being preserved, and are now collateral damage to people who tear them down and build modern structures. 

To me, these structures should be treated like museums and memories of a time that should never be erased. Under no circumstance should they be destroyed, especially to build modern homes and structures, as this is slowly declining the amount of black history present in Miami. The importance of these homes is being completely disregarded, and I urge Coconut Grove to protect these structures, just as Miami beach is protected. The Grove is not The Grove without this rich history, and it is being reshaped to be a regular urban neighborhood, something that it has never been and should never be. The theme of washing away history in Miami is prominent, but seeing the washing away of an entire cultural inhibition before my eyes has awoken me to the seriousness of this situation, as I hope it has to others around me. This area is filled with remembrances of the past, such as the Bahamian cemetery, and was clearly an area important to this minority group, who I’m sure have been forced to move due to skyrocketing prices and urbanization. I enjoyed touring the neighborhood of Coconut Grove as well as the homes that Stirrup so graciously developed, and I can only hope that the city of Miami comes to their senses and protects these important structures for future generations to learn about and visit, before it is too late and they are all torn down.  Recently, I’ve explored more about this topic and found out that Miami is considering turning Coconut Grove into a “Little Bahamas,” which I believe is a step in the right direction when it comes to preserving culture and community. I do hope that this goes through and solves the issue of gentrification in the community.

Coral Gables As Text

“The Mini Europe Of Miami” By Melanie Rodriguez of FIU at Coral Gables

I hold the city of Coral Gables close to my heart, as it has always been a place where my family and I escape from the modern landscapes of our neighborhood, somewhere where the architecture and design does not allow us to walk as freely as in the Gables. Coral Gables is what I’d like to call my modern utopia, and I perceive it exactly as it was designed to function. This neighborhood has been designed, from day one, to be a city-beautiful, with its main goals being overall sanitary areas, classic architecture inspired public buildings, abundance of trees lining the roads, and landscapes such as schools, fountains, and parks. Visiting Coral Gables transports me to my time in Spain, when I would only have to walk across the street from the apartment to grab a coffee, or even go for a walk in the park in the following block. While the founder of Coral Gables, George Merrick, never visited Spain, he did want the design of this city inspired by them, and drew comparisons from Mexico and Cuba. Where I’m from now (Kendall lakes), I’d be lucky to find a coffee shop a mile away. I don’t enjoy the way that most of Miami is designed, and how far apart everything is in the sense that there is no real “community,” only people and places in somewhat-near proximity to each other. 

I must applaud Coral Gables for the architectural choices which keep the streets full of pedestrians and tourists, and keep me coming back to this neighborhood quite often. It is an example of many things done right to promote pedestrians and a bustling city life. I don’t often get the urge to visit other neighborhoods in Miami like I do Coral Gables, and that is because I enjoy the simple luxury of being able to walk to so many businesses in just one street, a stroll which I frequently take and enjoy. Leisure, relaxation, and a residential sense of community is what comes to mind when speaking of Coral Gables. This is exactly what George Merrick wanted and envisioned, as he planned so carefully to implement this European-like mode of living, as I’d describe it. The classic and old world mediterranean revival architecture that fills Coral Gables is strictly protected, and just adds to the essence and vibe of this metropolis. 

As the land boom in the 1920’s arose, it became the perfect time for Merrick to establish Coral Gables with his prominent vision for the city. He should be remembered for his work, however his controversial and racist beliefs should not be left without mention. George Merrick sold land based on its “potential,” and created an almost magical image of what it could be, the same tactics he used when proposing his new plan. Once Coral Gables was established, the greed of wanting more sparked an idea in this businessman, a plan that would only affect thousands of people, but at least he’d get to produce another city-beautiful… right? With the success of the Gables came the desire for Merrick to acquire Overtown, of all places. His “genius” plan involved a “complete slum clearance,” as well as “removing every negro family.” The extremely controversial, cruel, and almost barbaric proposal shook the audience, even at a time of heavy segregation in Florida. While he is credited with the creation of this beautiful city, he pushed for segregation until he died. When I see his statue, part of me thinks of his ideals which led to Coral Gables as it is today, and part of me thinks of him as a person, and his inhumane mentality. If he said these controversial things out loud in a speech, I cannot even imagine what thoughts spew in his mind. 

We are at a crucial moment in history where we are able to keep the beauty of Coral Gables alive and thriving by not only protecting it but also its past, which includes honoring and remembering the bahamian workers who spent restless days and bare hands building this city. I absolutely adore Coral Gables. It is my escape from the Miami craziness, and I much prefer this neighborhood over more popular areas like south beach or Brickell. There is something so compelling about Coral Gables that intrigues me, maybe it is the thriving cultural scene, maybe it is the architecture. What I do know is that places like these are far too few, and I wish more of Miami resembled this area.          

Key Biscayne As Text

“They key to Miami’s story” by Melanie Rodriguez of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

I have many memories of “The Key” as I call it, all having to do with summer, spring break, or a sunny escape from the suburbs where I’m from. Each class, I discover a deeper history of a place that I’ve visited numerous times, and this class visit did not fall short of that. To say that I knew what was in the place of the lighthouse in Bill Baggs State Park would be a lie, and this shows fault in Florida’s education system. To Say that I knew the significance of my favorite kayaking spot, Virginia Key, would also be a lie. It goes without saying that The Island of Key Biscayne packs a heavy importance on Miami’s history. It is not only important to us today, but was also an imperative part of the lives of black slaves wishing for a free life, and Tequesta tribes relying on this ecosystem. 

Key Biscayne is known to be Florida’s barrier Island, which was widely inhabited by the Tequesta tribe before anyone else. The Key was an essential part of Tequesta livelihood, as hunting and gathering in this area was popular among the tribe. They were not only settlers of this area,but this area was the center of their entire civilization. The Tequesta tribe saw what a treasure this area was, and undoubtedly saw the potential to form a community here, before they were unfortunately outnumbered and pushed away.  

In 1825 when the lighthouse at Bill Baggs State park was first lit, it was said to be intended for ship navigation, but was reconstructed to 95 feet after a battle against a Seminole tribe. By 1878, this lighthouse was overall unsuccessful, and was no longer in use due to its unideal location and little visibility of coral along the coast. The location of the lighthouse at Bill Baggs state park is not random, I’m afraid. When this lighthouse was built, someone had to have known that its location was not ideal for its intended purpose, which is why this lighthouse’s use was short lived, but what came from building this lighthouse in this specific location was more important at the time than its practical use. By building this lighthouse here, it stopped the voyages of freedom of blacks escaping slavery, where many slaves and even seminoles escaped to the Bahamas or other neighboring islands via boat. During this time, there was an underground railroad present precisely at this location, which unfortunately had to stop operations due to the building of the lighthouse. It is clear that this was the main motivation for the location of this lighthouse, because while we needed one, it could have been built anywhere else. 

Standing at the top of the lighthouse where 8 other keepers stood was breathtaking, overlooking the ocean where the wildlife play and the families frolic on the beach. But, what was even more breathtaking was being able to recognize the rich history of this area that happened just feet away from where I was standing. I took a piece of history home with me that day, and appreciate the fresh perspective that I have about my beloved Key.

Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova: Miami as Text 2023

Photograph taken by Pepe Carmona/CC by 4.0

Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova is a sophomore majoring in Health Service Administration and minoring in biology at Florida International University. She is very passionate about art, painting, cooking and learning new languages. Growing up in Kazakhstan, she always had the inclination to help others as a result of her family who is greatly involved in the medical field. There she was able to participate in various volunteer opportunities that inspired her to choose her profession. Now her goal is to change the world of medicine and raise it to a become a better one.

Encounter as Text

“Spanish Dream” by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova of FIU

January 27. 2023

I am very thankful to my parents for instilling in me at an early age the value of traveling and exploring the world. By the time I turned 18, I have been to 6 of the 7 world continents. However, I haven’t had a chance to travel to Spain. The moment I saw Spain study abroad program announcement through honors college, I decided to seize this opportunity. I am so enthusiastic to travel all over Spain, explore every corner of it, taste real Spanish Gazpacho and Salmorejo, listen to the traditional flamenco, explore its unique culture that experienced 800 years of Arabic influence beginning the 8th century, and practice my broken Spanish.

Also, I like the way this program is structured. I am truly fascinated to take the class before going to Spain, prepare for the trip in advance. Throughout the semester, we have field trips,  talk about important aspects of Spain and its history, things we should be aware of upon arrival.  And in my opinion, in order for the trip to be perfectly successful, you need to prepare very well for it – learn about the best places and historically understand where you are, because when you know you already have a store of knowledge about a certain place, then studying it is much more informative. Also, I enjoy working with our Professor, who truly cares about us, the students and makes me so passionate about coming into class every Friday.

I am extremely motivated for this class and for our trip. Although, I am not going to lie – I’m a little worried about class tests and quizzes. For me, tests for certain books have always been a little difficult. But I also know that I have a strong work ethics and that I am hardworking and it is not in my nature to give up. I am here to work on my weak points and change them. That is the part of learning, after all, isn’t it?

Usually, flamenco and bullfighting come to mind when people hear the word “Spain”. But I have studied a lot about Spain all my life and have always been interested in it, for example, I am very fascinated by tapas, paella, gazpacho, the Prado Museum or the Sagrada Familia. According to one version, the name of the country (España) goes back to the word Hispania, which in Phoenician meant “land of rabbits”. Which is really a very interesting fact. Also I am madly interested in the art of Picasso and I know that one of his paintings “Guernica”, painted in 1937, can be seen in the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid. This picture is very rare because it speaks of the horrors of war and its length is almost eight meters. I have never been to Spain but I cant wait to explore it and learn about some other aspects of it that ordinary tourists don’t know about i really want to meet the locals.

Being born in Kazakhstan, I am Muslim. I am thrilled to explore Arabic influence on Spanish culture. As Syllabus states, we are going to visit Cordoba, the city where the Great Mosque is located.

I often like to look at different landscape photos and one day I came across a beautiful landscape with beautiful water and beautiful houses. Later I found out that this is the Costa Brava in Catalonia. And this place seemed so unusual to me. Nature has created a true paradise here. The coastline is generously indented with small bays, and the economic unattractiveness of the area has left intact the pristine landscapes, preventing ports and moorings from forming there. There are many cozy small towns on the territory of the resort, which are smoothly located one after another. And I have a great desire to see this beauty in real life.

Transatlantic Exchange as Text

“I am, indeed, the product of transatlantic exchange.” Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova of FIU

February 14. 2023

All the material I have read and mastered so far was extremely soul-touching and tremendously impressive. I would like to first mention the Colombian exchange: the greatest era of exploration, change and intercontinental exchange in culture, faith, food, language, flora and fauna, customs and traditions the world has ever seen. It all started with the people from the Old World embarking on a journey to the New world, which brought the discovery of potatoes, tomatoes, cocoa etc. Presently, these are the foods we use on every day basis, thanks to the Columbian exchange. However, the cultures got destroyed and violated as much as they got enriched.

The past beats inside me like a second heart.

John Banville

In this blog, I find it essential to talk about the book I have read recently, “Chronicle of the Narvarez Expedition,” which showcases the cultural exchange. In order to travel to and conquer the region known in Spanish as La Florida, Pánfilo de Narváez gathers an expedition in Spain. In the book, you can often notice how Cabeza de Vaca describes the innovations seen in the New World. He was mind-blown: being there for 6 years, he was surprised by everything he learned from there. I was also really struck by the moment that indigenous people made him a doctor, and showed the different kind of medicine they used. It was interesting the way they cut around the wound and breathed there. I also observed a similar scene in the movie “Apocalypto”: one of the Indians had a swelling bruise under his eye, which affected his vision. His father made an incision, which facilitated in clearing the swelling. This movie left a great impression on me: the struggle for your child, the desire to save for your people, and how the war changed the regular Jaguar Paw hunters.

Nevertheless, I also can see the angle the director, Gibson, of this film wanted to produce it. He created in a way that enabled horror in the watcher’s mind through the various shots of the Mayan civilization. One can see how the director pictured a form of narcissism with the way in which the natives like the modern Western civilization, would leave their victim’s corpses out on the field. From the way they spoke to the actions the natives’ displayed, on can see that like the Spainards they felt invincible. One of the writers of the movie, F.

Safina, says that the dilemmas that the natives seen in the film, the Mayas, are present in today’s society. So, when one looks at the fall of the Mayans, their cause of death, it is remarkably like many of the problems in today’s culture surrounding the idea of arrogance.

Photograph taken by Aruzhan Tleuva in Kazakhstan, Almaty /CC by 4.0

Speaking of myself, I am an international student. I, myself am an exchange of cultures. I often tell local people from Miami about my customs and traditions. For example, eating horse meat is a completely normal thing to me, but when I tell my American friends about it, they find it jaw-dropping. I moved from Kazakhstan first to New York, then to Miami. One thing that struck me immediately after I got out of the airport and sat in my Uber, is the strength of Spanish influence. My driver was a great example of that. Spanish language and culture found a sanctuary, home away from home here in Miami. As a person, who was always fascinated by Spanish culture and language, I found the best city in the United States to live in!

Moving a thousand miles away from my home in Central Asia, here I am, five centuries after this monumental historical event occurred, in Miami, writing an essay about it. I am, indeed, the product of transatlantic exchange.

Deering Estate as Text

“Diving in to the past” Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova of FIU

February 14. 2023

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova of Deering Estate /CC by 4.0

With great fascination and tremendous awe, I walked onto the grounds of the Deering Estate and Stone House. As soon as we entered the premises and observed its beautiful nature, the path with tall trees greeted me and lured me into the sumptuous estate. The house we toured took my breath away: vintage yet chic design with exquisite and rich colors that illustrates the magic of the 20th century. Arches, crafted in Islamic architectural style that circumvent the windows, drew my attention. I have always been very interested in Eastern architecture. It is so interesting to see these motifs being used in American architecture of the 20th century, which speaks for itself to how people exchange cultures all around the world. Moreover, the fact that American people were inspired by Moorish Architecture serves as proof of Americans being developed, creative, and inspired by the Islamic World. Also, after visiting Deering Estate, I began to study similar architectural features in Spain: it was intriguing to find out that the mosque of Ibn Adabbas in Seville has a lot of similar arches, all enticingly beautiful and neat. 

Another thing that made an unforgettable impression on me is the underground wine cellar, which was precisely hidden and carefully locked by a large and heavy door with tricky locks as if it was made for a bank vault. This part of the Stone House looked very mysterious, and to be honest, it gave me goosebumps as I walked down the stairs. Turns out Charles Deering was a fine wine collector during the Prohibition Era on wine and liquor. According to Deering Estate Sign, he had many connections that allowed him to keep such alcohol in his home. On the tour I learned that when the archaeologists found this wine cellar, they had a problem opening the locks for several days. Well… after contemplating these locks in person, I am not surprised. However, as soon as they succeeded, it was discovered that all the alcohol was destroyed, with not a single bottle surviving after all these years of Deering meticulously collecting his alcohol. This wine cellar was immense and vast. It is mind-blowing to realize how much quality wine was carefully hidden in the basement of this house during the Era of Prohibition and its strictly enforced laws.

In conclusion, I would like to mention that it is with great enjoyment and sincere interest that I attended this field trip, learning so many exciting new facts about Florida and how it was influenced by Spanish culture. There are so many hidden gems that not even locals know of. Even though I am an international student that moved here only a year ago, I want to explore every corner of this state in connection to this class and Spanish culture. This being my first field trip, I am thrilled for the ones upcoming!

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova /CC by 4.0

History that we need to know

That day I found out about Miami, and its art scene was the best one in my life. The very first day I discovered it was when my parents brought me to Art Basel after graduating high school. As a person who used to go to art school and work at an art gallery in my hometown in Kazakhstan, I genuinely appreciate art and artistic expression. Therefore, this time that we went to downtown Miami, it was breathtaking to me to see the art and the history of Miami.

 What I noticed during my life in Miami, people have yet to talk about what kind of history it has. But everyone says what a crazy life this city can give you. Just a few hours during the walk through downtown Miami during Espana Study Abroad class gave me more historical Florida than I have gotten in two years of living here. The following paragraphs will outline three landmarks of Miami that impressed me the most. 

 I want to start with the fact that there are many beautiful places around downtown Miami where you can have breakfast. A lot of them are at affordable prices as well. Our walk started at the GOVERNMENT CENTER. And of course, the first thing you can pay attention to is how enormous this building is. Which in my opinion, speaks of its greatness and power. Then we went through and saw a fascinating installation, “DROPPED BOWL WITH SCATTERED SLICES AND PEELS”, created by Pop Art collaborators Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. I believe this installation represents two Florida symbols: oranges and chaos. 

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova /CC by 4.0

I appreciate it with all my heart that I have an opportunity to live and study in Miami meanwhile exploring its beautiful art scene during one of my favorite classes at FIU. For me, Miami is always associated with modern art. And in the scattered oranges, I saw.  

The next part of our walking class was this charming WAGNER FAMILY HOMESTEAD house that represents a long and fascinating history of discrimination that took place in the 19th century. It was built by the mixed couple William Wagner, a German immigrant, and Eveline Aimar, a French-Creole immigrant. During the downtown walking class last week, the Professor mentioned that the son of this couple was killed on racial grounds. Being a minority race in America and sometimes facing discrimination myself, it was heartbreaking to hear this story because I can relate to it myself. 

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova /CC by 4.0

Another place that impressed me during our walking class is Henry Flagler Monument. I am not going to lie. I have heard this name every time I go back to my apartment after visiting my friends in downtown Miami: there is a road named after him. During the class, I learned both amazing and horrible things about this person. As much of the positive impact he had on Miami with bringing the first railroad, it is tremendously important to recognize his negative influence in creating a segregated colored town. In conclusion, the walking class made me value the freedom and liberty of the current time. I am incredibly thankful to this class and my Professor for making me realize the deep and meaningful history of such a fantastic town as Miami.

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova /CC by 4.0

Magical Realism

Magic Realism is a genre in literature and art, which integrates supernatural details as well as sensational events into otherwise realistic narratives, blurring the line between the two worlds. After reading a few books of this genre during this class, I outlined two essential and definitive elements from similar genres like fantasy: realistic setting and magical elements. Concerns related to cultural identity, egalitarianism, and the spiritual world are commonly addressed in these books. Several well-known writers, including Salman Rushdie, Isabel Allende, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, have incorporated magic Realism into their writing. Magic Realism is a popular and thought-provoking art form among readers and critics. 

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova /CC by 4.0

Going back to its origins in the Americas, particularly in Latin America, Magic Realism emerged as a significant literary movement in the 1940s and 1950s. Latin America’s cultural, religious, and social traditions have resulted in a distinct blend of reality and fantasy, as evidenced by the region’s literature. Such genre has been frequently created to make a political or socioeconomic point. Many Latin American novelists have used this literary technique to discover the aspects of their societies, such as economic hardship, unequal distribution, and political persecution.

There are many unique works of literature where we can easily recognize Magic Realism, such as “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” by Haruki Murakami and “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz, or world-renowned “Harry Potter” by

Funny enough, since my early childhood, I have been a huge fan of Harry Potter, yet to be honest, I have never thought that this is an example of magic Realism as well: Muggles live a normal life, but their world is connected to the one of Wizards. I haven’t known about the existence of such a genre before reading the book “100 Years Of Solitude,” written by Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This book is a real masterpiece, which immersed me in a special magical world, developing my imagination. The novel does an exceptional job of blurring the boundaries between the real and magical, frequently employing richly imaginative and artistic language with the purpose of depicting a surreal world that is both knowledgeable and dreamy. I devoured this book in a heartbeat: a world that is so familiar yet so strange with the presence of ghosts (Buendía family’s ancestors), prophetic dreams that foresee the future (we see it when Remedios the Beauty dreams about a white moth, which symbolically represents her own death), levitation, time travel, and telekinesis. All these elements are a part of normal life in the city of Macondo, which is both tremendously fascinating and extremely spine-chilling at the same time. Magic Realism may be enchanting and strongly innovative for some readers, but it may be concerting or disorienting for others. It is eventually up to the reader to decide how they feel about Magic Realism, but genuinely speaking, I have had a great time exploring this genre.

            It is tremendously important to mention that Magic Realism can be observed not only in literature but also in art as a style that juxtaposes realistic and fantastic elements. Leonora Carrington’s paintings also implement Magical Realism. Carrington was a British-Mexican surrealist artist who was famous for combining illusion, fairytales, and personal imagery in her work. Her work frequently incorporates mythical creatures and vivid natural landscapes, which easily grab a viewer’s attention and put one in complete enchantment.

            As a matter of fact, this genre is very varied and can be seen in many ways. However, I understand it as a symbol of life in which the material world, objective reality, retains its specific real appearance while acquiring some otherworldly, transcendental meaning that lies beyond every day, a rationally comprehensible system of measures.

In conclusion, I am thankful to the people of Latin America for creating such a special genre as Magical Realism in literature and art. I am thankful to this class for introducing me to it as well. By nature, I love the challenge, so exploring perceptions of reality through the lens of ambiguity, allegory, and symbolism allows me to engage with these texts on a deeper level of understanding. This, in turn, pushes me to the world in a completely new and surprisingly different way. My adventurous nature as an explorer inspired me to take this study abroad class and go to Spain and explore a foreign country. This exact same nature inspires me to explore the foreign world of Magic Realism.


“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”

Edgar Degas

Vizcaya Miami is a historic estate located in Miami, Florida, and is one of the most famous landmarks in the city. 

Vizcaya is a unique and intriguing name,  which I’m not used to hearing all quite often. The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear it is a city of great beauty – Venice. Speaking by my first impression, it will be something from Europe.  The stunning Italian Renaissance-style mansion, with its ornate architecture and elaborate gardens, is a testament to the grandeur and luxury of the Gilded Age. As soon as I stepped my foot on the premises, I immediately felt tremendous fascination by the trees around, which lure you to see a pure hidden gem behind them. 

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova /CC by 4.0

James Deering definitely knew how to attract attention to this villa. Back in 1912, he began building this beautiful villa, which completely allows you to immerse yourself in a special luxury, exquisite design and construction, and wealth that says how he wanted to showcase. Interestingly enough, he acquired this area from Mary Brickell. He hired Paul Chalfin, whose artistic talent quickness turned such an area into Europe far from Europe. Even the fact that he arranged an opening party in the theme of Italian peasants tells me how much he wanted to demonstrate the guests the European style. It is mind – blowing to realize how much he cared for this house that he was willing to fly people in to work on it, bring unique and antique pieces of art all the way across the ocean to have it in his collection. His passion for art and architecture, which is represented by Vizcaya, is definitely seen now over the years. One can only imagine what it was like for the attendees to see this for the first time: Italy and the Mediterranean style. There are so many aesthetic statues throughout the villa personifying how well versed Deering was a big fan of mythology and history. Each part of this beautiful estate seems to speak about the character of the owner. I remember on the window glass it was written “J’at dit” which means “I have spoken” which just screams for me – I did it.  

As a person with a big appreciation for art, I have noticed several pieces of Italian Renaissance era. Some of the most notable pieces in the collection include a bronze statue of Hercules, an 18th-century Italian secretary, and a pair of 17th-century Venetian mirrors.

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova /CC by 4.0

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Vizcaya estate is the attention to detail that went into every aspect of its design. The appearance of every room, every piece of furniture and musical instruments was so antique. Although the garden, which seemed like everyone’s secret love place, was my favorite. Every little component is thought out by architects. Looking at the garden, I can only imagine how magical it was to walk through it in the 20th century. 

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova /CC by 4.0

In conclusion, the Vizcaya Miami is a remarkable testament to the grandeur and luxury of the Gilded Age. Its stunning architecture, elaborate gardens, and impressive collection of art and decorative objects make it one of the most significant cultural landmarks in Miami. Overall, Vizcaya visit was an out of this world experience, which will always stay in my heart.

Janessa Romero: Enlightenment As Text 2023

Photo by Janessa Romero CC/4.0

The Enlightenment was an intellectual and cultural movement that took place in Europe from the late 17th century to the late 18th century. It was characterized by a focus on reason, science, and individualism, as well as a rejection of traditional ideas and beliefs. The Enlightenment thinkers believed in the power of reason to improve society and bring about progress, and they emphasized the importance of individual liberty, tolerance, and equality. Some of the most famous figures of the Enlightenment include Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, and Voltaire. The ideas of the Enlightenment laid the foundation for the American Revolution and the French Revolution, and continue to influence modern political and intellectual thought. Immanuel Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “Social Contract” are two of the most famous philosophical works of the Enlightenment. These works helped to shape the intellectual landscape of the era by promoting the importance of reason, individualism, and freedom.

The Enlightenment was a pivotal time in the history of Western civilization, and it had a profound impact on the world. The thinkers of the Enlightenment challenged traditional ideas and beliefs and encouraged people to question authority and think for themselves. This led to increased freedom of thought, expression, and religion, and helped to lay the foundation for the scientific and technological advances of the modern era. “Candide,” an incisive novel, played a significant role in relation to the Enlightenment. It sheds light on various facets of Enlightenment principles, including class and social hierarchies, as well as the relationship between politics and power during that time.

The relationship between reason and faith has been a subject of debate for centuries, and opinions on whether or not they can be reconciled vary widely. Some people believe that reason and faith are complementary, and that they can support and enhance each other. They argue that reason can help to clarify and deepen one’s faith, while faith can provide a moral and spiritual framework that guides one’s reason. While others believe that reason and faith are incompatible and that one must choose between them.

The reconciliation of reason and faith is a complex issue, and there is no definitive answer. However, some people believe that reason and faith can complement each other and that they can coexist peacefully.

One way to reconcile reason and faith is to see them as different but complementary ways of understanding the world. Reason can provide a logical and empirical framework for understanding the world, while faith can offer a moral and spiritual framework that provides meaning and purpose. By combining these two perspectives, one can gain a more complete and nuanced understanding of the world and one’s place in it.

On of the main messages of Candide that is repeated all throughout the novel is that “all is for the best.” This phrase was one that went hand in hand with the thoughts of enlightenment. Through this phrase, we can see a combination of both reason and faith. Through reason, we can use our “cause and effect” thinking and assume that every situation that occurs in our life either positive or negative is for the best in its effect as it will either teach us a lesson or serve us for the better. Through faith, we can believe that everything that occurs in our life is due to a God making the “best choices” for us. End of the day we can gather that all is for the best through reason and faith.

Nico Uribe: Miami as Text Spring 2023

Photograph taken and edited by Nico Uribe/CC BY 4.0

Nicolas is a sophomore honors college student at Florida International University, majoring in Dietetics and Nutrition. As a Southern California native, now living in Miami, he has been exposed to the endless culture and diversity that South Florida offers every day through life and study. His strong and important Colombian roots have facilitated his growing passion for the city of Miami and he hopes to explore what more there is to learn.



Miami Encounter as Text

After a full semester of Miami in Miami, you would think I could sit here and easily answer the question: What is authentic Miami? The short answer is, although it may disappoint you, no. I can’t. But let me tell you what I do know about Miami.

I’ve lived in South Florida for almost two years now, after having lived the other 18 years of my life in Southern California. My cousins lived here already, and I had come to visit many times before. I felt like I already knew the place, there wouldn’t be too much of a culture shock, or so I thought. Miami is so diverse, but the different cultures are so defined, and so felt. In California, I was used to diversity where for the most part, everyone learned to live and act the same way, but in Miami, you see all the different cultures, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Bahamian, Haitian, Jamaican, Colombian, Venezuelan, and when you’re talking to them, you’ll know which one you’re talking to or they will let you know. Miami is so proud of its culture and in its diversity.

I’ve learned too, that Miami is so historic. From the Tequesta of 10,000 years past, who learned to conquer the difficult land, to the Spanish conquistadors who first introduced Western civilization, to the Miami we see today. Every step of the way has been an influence on the way things are now.

Overall though, Miami is changing and it always has been. Since the Hurricane of 1926 which acted as an eye opener for all the early newcomers, the neighborhoods that were once thriving black cultural sites are now falling victim to gentrification, to places like Wynwood where blank warehouses transitioned to one of the most rapidly blooming art districts around.

There’s truly something for everyone in Miami, and it’s up to us Miami natives to keep the everlasting changes going in the right direction so our city can thrive.


Everglades as Text

For a moment, it was just silent, until it wasn’t. When humans become silent, the earth finally takes its turn to speak its beautiful, yet perpetually overlooked oration. As we stood there, in the cypress forest, the earth was generous enough to speak its silence as loudly as I had ever heard it.

Quicker than gave time to process, the “slough slog” began by pulling over onto the dirt in the middle of nowhere, being handed broomsticks, and told to follow our professor into the dense and flooded forest. Regardless, I was one of the first ones in, overwhelmed by all senses; the surprisingly low temperature of the water, the illusion-like pattern of the white cypress trees affecting my depth perception, and the uneven rocks beneath my feet completed the sensory overload. Nevertheless, we trod along, trusting in the confidence of our guide who reassured us of any worry, after all, we were in the Florida Everglades.

Slowly, we adjusted, taking it all in and realizing we were in the wild. Air plants and wild orchids littered the trees as ethereal as could be. The minnows swam around us in crystal clear water that arrived from Lake Okeechobee at the pace of one meter per hour. Birds of different colors perched on plants I had never really observed before like I was now.

“This is what it looks like, the place where I live”

In incongruence with all the awed furor, led by Professor Bailly, we took a few minutes to be silent. We stopped speaking, picture-taking, moving, and just focused on listening. First, it was silent, until I adjusted my ears like I just automatically turned a knob in my head that went from the “default” mode to something else. I heard all the birds first, performing their songs across the canopy. Then, a splash here or there; a gar or bass ambushing minnows as a reminder of the circle of life. Suddenly breaking the silence, a howl and a series of snaps conjured by the wind in partnership with the trees, so loud that we all looked at each other.

I once heard that “the internet and technology created an idea of infinity and the reason why life is beautiful is that it is fundamentally limited”. I wrote it down once upon a time and can’t remember who said it, but at that moment all I could think about was that quote.

In the context of finding the “authentic Miami”, our expedition exposed a new portion of it in a literal sense. A new setting, one older than Miami itself so one could argue it is the real Miami. Though I love this way of thinking and will look back on the slough slog as such a one-of-a-kind experience, the Miami of now exists and has its own culture, art, architecture, a history to be appreciated and not overlooked. My grand conclusion is that our Everglades are just another component, no less important, that makes Miami such a unique place. As South Floridians, myself included, we are indebted to the Everglades.


Coconut Grove as Text

What makes the history of some more worth conserving than the history of others? Evangelist Street (Now known as Charles Avenue) is a great example of many sites across South Florida where so much history has been paved over and rewritten, usually at the cost of those who have no power to do something about it.

Today, one might find themselves driving down the Main Highway, leaving Coconut grove, and turning right onto the so-called Charles Avenue. On this marvelous and historic street, you may find the original house of Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup; a historic house that belonged to the man responsible for building over 100 homes for his kin, promoting the ownership of land and the formation of a community. Next door, the house of Mariah Brown, a single mother who supported three daughters on her own, constructing a house with weather-resistant techniques, at a time when doing all that as a woman and minority seemed impossible. Surely, these are places we can visit and tour, to learn about the history of the city we call home and the communities that made it what it is today.

The short answer is no. The state of these historical sites, places that influenced and shaped Miami itself, look so run down that if it wasn’t for the placard outside one would think that they’re just old, abandoned houses, ready to be torn down and replaced by huge white boxes like so many others on the same street. The placards stand outside, painted black and gilded gold, as if to quickly pat the backs of Stirrup and Brown, ignoring the state of their work. The Afro-Carribean heritage of Miami is undeniably strong, and without it, this would be a much different place.


Coral Gables as Text

When you’re walking down Miracle Mile, in Coral Gables, you notice things. You notice the wide sidewalks, the beautiful trees, the refreshing open skies, and the beautiful architecture. All the restaurants and cafes are picture-perfect, so much so that it almost justifies the price of parking. There are things that you don’t notice though. You don’t notice that the trees are oak, slow growing, and strong, not commonly used for short-term projects. The open skies are thanks to strong construction codes, strictly restricting the height of the buildings, and architecture, like almost everything else about coral gables, was the vision of George Merrick; the planner and builder of Coral Gables.

Christopher Myers: Miami as Text Spring 2023

Miami encounter as text

Miami: diversity in all shapes and sizes by Christopher Myers on January 29, 2023

There is a very common and accurate way to describe Miami. A melting pot. It is no mystery that Miami has a very large international presence and is one of the most popular cities around the world. Anyone with the smallest familiarity with Miami knows about the large Hispanic influence in south Florida. Spending a semester venturing around parts of Miami really sheds light on how diverse it really is and that goes way beyond the food, culture and people. There were times that we were meeting in an area that I have already been to and I wasn’t how much I would actually learn but there is A LOT to learn hiding around every corner. You could go to the same place numerous times and find something new and different every time.

The Betsy Orb, a sculpture sitting one block away from the popular Ocean Avenue in South Beach. photo taken by Christopher Myers

Of course all of this wouldn’t happen without one key component, professor Bailly. Having an expert show you what corners have something new and exciting is beyond helpful. It was a lot of fun learning about the history and the oldest communities of Miami. Doing it as a class with a passionate teacher was the best part. There is so much more to the city of Miami besides the sports teams, the beaches, the nightlife, the celebrities and the luxury. That’s what we had the opportunity take in. The special parts of the city that takes research and the turning of pages to discover.

Group exploration in the mangroves on the way to Chicken Key. photo taken by Christopher Myers

Miami has a lot to offer that is very distinctive and different than anything else around the world. A lot of unique history dating back even before the city was incorporated. There is so much to see, it could take years to experience it all. What I encountered is something that I will take with me no matter where I live. Learning how to navigate the city and find the true individual characteristics that represent it. Discovering what makes that city special, where it started and how it got to where it is now. Becoming a tourist within my own home is the goal after seeing everything Miami has to offer. Although there may not be as much and each city with have its own characteristics, recognizing and sharing them with others seems like a must.  

Everglades as text

The For-Everglades by Christopher Myers on January 29th, 2023

Such a unique ecosystem that you cannot see anywhere else. You could say there are two rivers in the Everglades, the flowing water and the sawgrass swaying in the wind. It is such a unique location, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. A Biosphere and Wetland that was deemed international importance and we got to wade through it like it was an everyday activity.  As Florida residents, how lucky are we to have that in our backyard?

The river of sawgrass. photo taken by Christopher Myers
“The bleeding tree” photo taken by Christopher Myers

As modern-day humans, we were clearly out of our element. Standing in knee deep water as a group when we heard it, the bellow of a dinosaur, I mean an alligator, not far away in the same waters. The roar of a dinosaur, a creature dating back to 65 million years ago, just feet away letting us know, we were not alone. This is something that anyone can do with entry to the park. Wading through the water does not require a special permit, just a desire for a little adventure.

An ecosystem that gets along. The bromeliads and ferns covering the cypress trees causing no harm, just two plants growing together. The cypress trees creating a dome and a depression to hold water year-round giving the fish and alligators a sufficient habitat to survive. Exiting the cypress dome to a sea of sawgrass for as far as the eye could see with tree islands scattered throughout. 

Coconut Grove as text

Brick by Brick by Christopher Myers on February 5, 2023

Like many other areas, Coconut Grove has a deep history dating back to before the incorporation of the city of Miami. Visiting the area and seeing the architectural innovation of early buildings and structures was very unique. Visiting “The Barnacle,” the 1891 home of Ralph Middleton Munroe and the oldest building still standing in its original location in Miami-Dade County. Learning that the first floor was actually at the second-story level and the second floor was just above ground level was a bit mind-boggling. Munroe designed and built the house out of materials found around the area, including the nearly extinct Dade County Slash Pine, along with wood from shipwrecks and ships that ran aground and deemed immobile. The house sits on its original foundation, but there is a twist. “The Barnacle” was eventually raised above the ground and put on stilts and continually raise higher and higher until it was at the level of a second story and a new first story was built below it. A bit confusing to call the first story the higher level and the second story of the house the lower level but that’s what makes the construction and renovations of this building so unique. 

The octagonal shape of the upper story of The Barnacle. possibly one of the numerous reasons the house still stands today. photo taken by Christopher Myers

Next, stood the boathouse on Munroe’s property, although it was the second version of the house and the original was lost due to the Miami hurricane of 1926. But Munroe’s innovation continued onto the second version of the boathouse. The idea to build a collapsible, breakaway wall to allow severe winds to blow through the building and prevent total loss was another one of those impressive feats that were well before it’s time. Probably an innovation that could have used all around Miami to prevent significant infrastructure loss, but again, something way before it’s time. 

The perforated top and sides of the entryway helps with airflow to keep the house cool all year long. photo taken by Christopher Myers

Moving on to just a short walk down the road, visiting the Plymouth Congregational Church completed in 1917 and this was another mind-boggling experience. Again, another structure built with local materials, the walls being Miami Oolite (limestone) from top to bottom. These walls were put up by one man, Felix Rebom, and an assistant, with some very basic tools from the early 1900s. Standing up close and observing the precise construction and fitment of each block. It’s incredible in the detail that was given it’s so unique and unlike anything you will see you today. Within the main entryway stands a robust, wooden door. Said to have come from a Spanish Mission in Mexico, it mimics what you would see in cathedrals throughout Spain.

Each individual block of oolite calculatedly placed by hand to create to walls of the church. photo taken by Christopher Myers

Coral Gables as text

Tropical Spain by Christopher Myers on February 19, 2023

If you were to take a part of Spain and surround it with palm trees and tropical weather, you would have Coral Gables. From the architecture to the extra-wide sidewalks along the shopping strip, this is a community built with longevity in mind. The Mediterranean Revival building styles were found in some of the principal budlings of Coral Gables, the inspiration was clearly late-15th century Spain.

“Azulejo,” a glazed tile found around Spain and Portugal, at The Biltmore Hotel Coral Gables, FL. photo taken by Christopher Myers

Starting at the Coral Gables City Hall, with tile on the roof, stucco and, and detailed exterior including a 3rd story stone railing. On the inside, you will find a painted mural on the ceiling centered by the main squared-shaped stairway. What stands out the most is the colonnade curved front of the building and it undoubtedly captures your eye. The key component that makes this common architecture unique is the locally sourced oolitic limestone used to construct the columns and main structural walls of the City Hall. Again, we’re talking about Miami, there is always that one detail that makes it stand out.

The painted mural found on the ceiling inside the Coral Gables City Hall. photo taken by Christopher Myers

 Right outside of the City Hall, you will find Miracle Mile. This is a shopping strip along Coral Way that was originally designed to have every business available within a two-block walk. Still lined with a variety of shops but certainly no longer the only shopping choice available in the town. Along the sidewalk designed with plenty of space for people to stroll up and down the strip you will find Live Oak trees on either side. An evergreen oak will have leaves year-round with a growth rate that slows as it ages. This is another hint at the vision of long-term beauty that was anticipated for Coral Gables. 

Norton Museum of Art as text

The Art of Perception by Christopher Myers on February 22, 2023

Monet, Pablo Picasso, Braque, Jackson Pollock. All famous names. So is that what makes art great, is it the artist? Or could it be the style, the innovation, the material, or the subject and scenery? That is something that I started to question as I left the Norton Museum of Art. The collections have great examples of many styles of art from varying artists from all over the world and all generations of art.

But, I think the most important thing that makes art great, is perception. At the Norton, there are world-renowned works of art by world-renowned artists. And don’t get me wrong, they’re all great works of art and creative and different and unique in their own ways. I am sure if I would have seen some of them when they were originally completed, I would have been highly impressed.  

I am nowhere near an expert, nor am I very knowledgeable about art and art history. I can certainly appreciate it but for me to learn why most are considered a great piece would take some research and learning. There are many examples of art that was way ahead of its time whether it was the technique or the materials used. Some just had a different way of thinking and expression that has not been seen before. True original works of art.

The most impressive piece to me and the one that caught my eye the most was one that I could appreciate the skill and physical labor needed to create it and that’s what made it stand out the most. It was a bust of a woman in solid Iranian white onyx. The sculpture is called Purity and it’s by a modern-day sculptor, Barry X Ball. It was positioned right in front of a window, that would let the sunlight shine through and show the depth through the sculpted translucent mineral. The shading and detail that was created within the solid stone are stunning. I found myself staring at this piece, changing angles and staring some more. Finding different details, different shadows, and depth and contrast from every angle. I could have looked at and appreciated this work for the entirety of our time at the museum. The lines of the fabric draped over the women’s head. Being able to see a face behind the fabric and even see the expression on her face. It’s beautiful.

This made me reflect on my perception of art and how different it could be from others. Sometimes it’s about what you can see and find and appreciate. It’s about how you can relate to the art, the artist, the technique, and the colors and display. The Norton has hundreds of pieces of all ages, varieties, shapes, and sizes. It is certainly a great collection, there is no doubt about that. Around every corner is an extremely impressive piece. Something that will most certainly catch the eye of at least one individual.

Purity by Barry X Ball found at the Norton Museum of Art , West Palm, FL. photo taken by Christopher Myers

Key Biscayne as text

The Key to Freedom by Christopher Myers on March 26, 2023

I have never been to key Biscayne before, and I found it to be a nice little retreat from Miami. It was very unique to drive to the Key and for there to be only one road in and one road out. Although we didn’t explore the town but it has a very secluded feel in person and on the map.  

Getting the experience to visit and go to the Cape Florida lighthouse was a one-of-a-kind. From the heavy metal door to spiral staircase, there was so much about it that made you understand why it was so stout. It was clear why this structure was still standing for nearly two centuries and why it withstood two separate attacks. Being able to look out over the ocean and over Key Biscayne from 95 feet in the air is a one-off experience and made the climb up 109 steps totally worth it. You could see Stiltsville to the south, a group of stilt houses located on the sandbanks in Biscayne Bay, stingrays wading their way through the seaweed just off the bank below the lighthouse and all of the beach visitors to the north. Certainly not a frequent view that can be found in the ever-so flat South Florida. 

The lighthouse was very interesting but not the most important part of history to learn about in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. There were two other factors that stood out. The more significant historical fact about the state park is that it was a part of the underground railroad, and before the lighthouse was built, it was a common location for freed slaves to find their way to the Bahamas. Since it led to the ocean, it was deemed the Saltwater Railroad. That is such a deep and important part about the Key. The location that serves as the escape and the freedom for so many who were so wrongfully treated. To stand in the same spot where many people stepped foot off that island and that was the last step they had to take to be free. A very important piece of history and one that led to a much better life for so many. 

The next piece of history leans towards the environmental side. It’s great to learn that there was significant effort to not only to prevent development on the southern end of Key Biscayne but there was also a full ecological restoration effort as well. To look out across the landscape of natural plant species and no longer see any of the Australian Pines that were planted years ago to dry up the soil shows that the effort was very successful and it will continue to thrive and be taken care of as a natural Florida ecosystem. 

Very meaningful history, a historical structure, an ecological restoration, and a town of over 10,000 can all be found within one mile and there is only one road to get there. Key Biscayne is a small part of Miami but has so much to offer that makes it so unique in its own way. 

The 109 step staircase in the center of Cap Florida Lighthouse, photo taken by Christopher Myers

Angelina Jansen: Miami as Text Spring 2023

Picture taken by Angelina Jansen at Patrica and Phillip Frost Art Museum

Angelina Jansen is a sophomore philosophy student at FIU who is currently interested in pursuing Environmental Law. Daughter to a Cuban mother and Sri Lankan father she was born in Toronto, Canada but has been raised for most of her life in Florida. She is a part-time working student who enjoys reading, listening to music, and sunbathing in her free time.

“Miami Reflection” by Angelina Jansen of FIU in Miami February 4th, of 2023

When I think of Miami

I think of the city lit at night, even though it’s so different from the ones I’ve visited and grew up in

I think of the terrible traffic and the bad drivers we have here

I think of the spots by the bridge that make you feel like you have your own personal beach away from the crowds

I think of Cuban coffee with Pastelitos and Spanish gossip

I think about how neighborhoods look like completely different worlds (even though they’re 20 minutes apart)

and despite the differences people always come together, having a Miami mentality you won’t find anywhere else

I think of the peacocks and white Ibis that stroll around

and the palm trees and boats by the ocean

I think of the unique biodiversity and tropical climate we have

I think about how even hurricanes do not scare us

I think of all of the amazing people and ideas I have been exposed to by living in such a diverse place

Miami is much more than just the Downtown area, Brickell nightlife, luxury hotels and Airbnbs. But it also goes beyond the suburbs and streets we call home. It’s a conglomeration of culture that seeps into every location, even though gentrification tries to keep it contained. Miami is nothing like Toronto, the city I was born in. It is also nothing like Fort Myers, the small town spent my childhood in. I am constantly learning something new about Miami that I had never heard before. Whether it is from friends, co-workers, or conversations I hear overhear in the street. In this class I hope to uncover more of Miami and understand its roots and why it is the way it is today.

“The truth of Miami” by Angelina Jansen of FIU in Miami , February 4th, of 2023

I have been living here in Miami for the last 10 years and like most people living here, I had never really explored Miami beyond the areas close to me and certain hotspots for events. After finding out we would be visiting Coconut Grove, my brain instantly drifted to multi-millionaire homes, lush neighborhoods full of trees, rich kids in rich schools, and restaurants all around. I was surprised to learn that the origins of Coconut Grove were starkly different than what they are today. The Coconut Grove that existed before inherited properties were the norm.

During our trip, we learned that the Bahamian people were the backbone of Coconut Grove. They cultivated their own communities by building homes, churches, and cemeteries. We were able to see remnants of the legacy the Bahamian people left behind, learning more about how they lived and congregated together. Unfortunately, based on the condition of structures like Mariah Brown’s home, we can see that the city has not done a good job of honoring these historical places by keeping them maintained.

I was in awe when hearing the story of E.W.F stirrup. He learned how to make homes with his two hands after realizing how important it was for the people in his community to own their own properties. He made over 100 houses in his lifetime, creating affordable housing in the grove for Bahamian immigrants. I can barely imagine what it would take to build one house on your own, building countless more showed how dedicated he was to the improvement of his community.

My favorite part of the class was visiting the Charlotte Jane Memorial Park Cemetery. Unlike other cemeteries I had been in before, this one was vibrant. Some of the graves were painted in bright colors or covered in glitter, serving as symbolism that we could not understand but was clearly important to those who had passed. I could only wonder what various objects on top of the graves could mean, large slabs of rock were among the most common item. In that moment though I felt like the swaying and the trees and the silence told me everything I needed to know. This was a special place where the Bahamian people mourned but also were able to celebrate the lives of people in their community

What truly was ironic about visiting all these sites, was that the areas surrounding were newly renovated homes that have no relation to the culture that was originally in the Grove. While our class was lucky enough to be able to admire these places thanks to Dr. Bailey, it is evident that most of the history of the origins of Coconut grove has been swept away. While change is inevitable, it is sad to see that this rich history is being erased with little to no concern. Business development and soulless white houses have taken over. It makes me wonder how other areas of Miami have reached this same fate because of gentrification and if there is any hope of having a balance.

Sophie Correa: Miami as Text 2023

Photograph taken by Daniela Sanchez/ CC by 4.0″


Sophie Correa is a sophomore nursing student at FIU. Daughter to a cuban mother and father, Sophie was born in Miami, Florida. She is a first generation student with an interest to pursue a career in medicine. Sophie strives to go to medical school to become a Dermatologist. She enjoys learning about different cultures, meeting new people, and trying new foods.

Encounter as Text

Photograph taken by Sophie Correa/CC by 4.0

“A Whole New World”

I am in this class because it has been my lifelong dream to study abroad.Since middle school i have always had this dream of living in France, Italy, or Spain. I have always been very interested in their cultures and of their ways of living. I have always wanted to learn about different cultures by actually experiencing living in them for a certain amount of time.

I have always been extremely interested in learning the history of things and places so being in this class will help me achieve this or even just create a stepping stool for possibilities in my future. I am extremely motivated to be in this class and a little nervous as well. I am nervous because I have never been to another country without my parents but the nervousness is blocked by the amount of excitement. I have been motivated and nervous for the class even before I completely applied for it. I was very nervous about not getting picked or even being able to experience this wonderful class this upcoming summer.

I am motivated to do my best in this class and pay attention to every lecture and lesson given. I did not know this semester also included excursions around Miami so I am very excited for those as well. I don’t know much about España, all I know is that it is a beautiful country with many landmarks and millions of years of history and full of architecture and monuments roughly around 1000 years old or even more.I have been interested in coming to this country ever since i found out i have family and descents from EspañaThe image I have of España in my mind is beautiful, breathtaking and a fun country to be in. I have heard it has one of the biggest/best nightlifes in the whole world. I have never been to España so I am really looking forward to this trip. My expectations for this program is to come out of it with new friendships as well as core memories I will never forget.

What I am looking forward to in my time in Spain is to try their cuisine. My family that has been to Spain have always bragged about how delicious every plate is and how I have to try the hams, like serrano and prosciutto from there. I have also been told to try the wines which are wonderful to taste. I am excited to experience the nightlife in Spain. I am really hoping it is truly like the movies and as good as everyone puts it out to be.

I am mostly excited for the culture shock, I am ready to experience the differences of living in the United States rather than living in Europe. I’m ready to create memories with all the new people I will be meeting this semester and actually form a little family for this trip and friends that would probably last a lifetime. I am beyond excited to learn about the culture, history and life of people in Spain.

By Sophie Correa 01/27/2023

photograph taken by Sophie Correa/CC by 4.0

“To be or not to be”

It is undeniable that the Transatlantic exchange has had a major impact in today’s society. In a way I am thankful it occurred because we wouldn’t be where we are because of it but there is some points I do not agree with. Although it was extremely destructive and inhumane, thanks to it, Miami and many countries around the world are better than what they possibly could have been. When the Spanish entered the western hemisphere, it impacted the future in ways Cristopher columbous and his people could have not imagined.

I believe that it was too destructive in my opinion. I believe there could’ve been other ways they could have conquered lands especially Florida without having to destroy religions, cultures and even murder thousands of natives. I believe that as seen in “Tambien la Lluvia” the Spanish could have been a little easier on the natives. At the end of the day the natives did not speak the same language as the conquistadors and did not understand what was being said.

Although the in the movie Apocalypto we saw how the Mayans treated other tribes just to conquer their land and make them part of the ritual to sacrifice to their sun god. When I saw that movie, it made me realize that every civilization was inhumane and even used violence to get what they want, so in a way I understood that if a civilization had the possibility to use violence to exert their power or even conquer land it was necessary.

I don’t believe it was right to try to push the Spanish’s catholic religions or cultures to the natives. I believed that it was very wrong and unnecessary. In the book “Chronicles of the Navarez expedition” we saw how Navarez stated it could be easy to push their religion onto the natives because he knew how to convince them. I thought it was very wrong from other materials I have read, that if the natives didn’t agree with the Spanish, they would eb killed. In today’s day and age, we have evolved a lot from that way of thinking but there is still a lot of religions that force the murder of their people if they don’t believe in the religion because it is considered a sin.

I am Cuban and I know that my ancestors are African and Spaniard meaning that I am a product of the transatlantic exchange. From what I know that my father has told me is that my family used to own slaves that were brought from Spain during the time that Cuba was under the Spanish regimen, and my great-great grandfather married a slave which then had my great grandmother and then so on. Therefor I am a product of this exchange. When I found out where my roots came from, it made me sad, because in reality I would never know what was that happened for that to occur or why it was that my great-great grandmother got with my great-great grandfather, because after seeing these movies and realized the Spaniards sometimes forced relationships with these natives, it makes me a little upset to even think that it could be a possibility.

by Sophie Correa 02/12/2023

Photograph taken by Sophie Correa/ CC by 4.0

“Fruit of My City”

As a first-generation student that has lived in Miami for the past 19 years and lived in several parts of South Florida, this walking lecture made me feel like I was a tourist in my own city. It opened my eyes to a lot of history I did not know. It’s going to sound crazy, but I did not even know where the government center was in my own city. 

            There was not a part of this lecture that shocked me more than another, everything I learned blew my mind all over again. When we went to Lummus park, I was shocked of the history in that home/fortress created by slaves. It shocked me that there was a structure like that still standing in Miami, and the rush of emotions I felt with every story told by professor Bailly, it was something I definitely was not expecting. The thought that I was able to touch and even see such a historical home in which so many things occurred in, was new to me. 

            It was more of a cultural shock for me when I learned that the “first citizens of Miami” were an interracial couple, a black woman and a white man. Hearing the story and looking at the house at the same time, helped me imagine the scenarios being told and imagine what it must have been like for them. Learning that they got a long with the natives of Miami and serve as the peace holders, is something I believe should be talked about more in school. 

            Another lesson that amazed me was the fact the Miami was basically founded by two women, just when I thought Miami couldn’t get more interesting, I learned that instead of founding father we had founding mothers, Julia Tuttle and Mary Brickell.  That was something that I can say that shocked me the most, in all this lecture. I think that it shocked me the most because it was something that is never talked about in Miami, and if it wouldn’t have been this lecture it is something I would not have known. It shocked me so much, I texted everyone I was close with and told them everything I learned after class. I feel that in Miami, women representation isn’t shown, and I feel like I should be spoken more about. If it weren’t for Julia Tuttle, Miami would not have been what it has become today. She was the businesswoman that brought Henry Flagler and the railroad to Miami. 

            I place myself as what I would like to call a product of the history in Miami. If it weren’t for what Miami is today, my family would have probably gone somewhere else in the country. Miami is the center of diversity, one of the biggest cities in the world, and it wouldn’t be what it is today if it weren’t for everything I learned in this walk.  From the first citizens being an interracial couple, it being founded by two women, being home to natives that today own one of the biggest casinos in the world, Miami is the definition of its history. A unified city of many cultures and religions and I’m just a fruit of all its accomplishments. 

By Sophie Correa 02/26/2023

“Stepping Into Different Era”

As I drove into the gates of Vizcaya it was like I stepped into this new world. Like if I stepped into a different era. It’s like I had time traveled into the early twentieth century. I had never gone to Vizcaya in my 19 years living in south Florida, and I had no idea of the beauty and history I was withholding myself from seeing. James Deering knew what he was doing when, he together with Paul Chaffin, built this amazing estate.

Vizcaya holds a lot of history that I felt so amazed to learn about. Walking through the gardens I imagined people dancing around, during his parties. As I passed the secret passage on the East side of the estate, where he would smuggle alcohol during the prohibition era, I imagined his workers bringing in the alcohol or even he himself, James Deering helping carry alcohol through his secret passageway all the way into his house. As we walked through the inside of his house, I imagined his arguments with people, men or women. When I found about his passageways from each room to his room, I imagined him sneaking over to his guest rooms. Something I found really cool was the fact that he had a secret passage leading into the dining room from his study area. It is something that you only see in movies. I had never seen that in person, so I thought it was really cool that James decided to have that in his home. Something I also really liked or found interesting about the estate was the barge in his back yard and the fact that he had the mermaids breast size made smaller because it was too provocative.

Something I realized during this lecture was how much money James Deering had, and how he could literally have anything he wants even if it meant had to have it imported from other countries such as Italy. I thought the architecture of the estate was very cool. It was nothing like I had ever seen before. It made me very excited to go to Spain because I know that over there the structures are similar to the ones here. Something I also found cool, was that the estate was built by Bahamians residing in coconut grove, yet it is not talked about. Although they were probably payed for their labor, they were probably not paid enough as the painters or sculptors he hired from Europe.

 James Deering was for a fact a very interest and bizarre man, quite opposite to that of his brother Charles Deering. He was obsessed with the European culture and all of its architecture which honestly, I understand because I would too. This walking lecture has for sure been one of my favorites so far. It taught me a lot about a historic piece in my city that I had no idea even existed. Its history and culture is one that I will never forget and surely remember throughout my journey in Spain next semester. 

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