Vox Student Blog

Daniela Canizares: Miami as Text 2020-2021

Daniela Canizares, Locust Project, January 2021

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.

South Beach as a Text

Images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)

“A unique community”

By Daniela Canizares of FIU at South Beach, September 24, 2020

Miami is a place known for its mixed culture. Rising between the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Biscayne Bay, we find this unique place, originally known as Ocean Beach in its beginnings, and now having the name of Miami Beach. The aspect that makes Miami unique is its architecture, and how the community has been trying to conserve its architecture as it was originally built. For this purpose they have laws in place, making it impossible to change the infrastructure of the buildings.


Miami Beach is characterized by three main styles: Mediterranean Revival, Art Deco, and MiMo. Buildings are showing one or the other, however, there are also buildings having a mix two or even the three of them. From the moment you enter the streets, you start to see a very different landscape from the big buildings surrounding these streets.


Along the styles involving the Mediterranean Revival, we find Versace Mansion in Ocean Drive. This Mansion belonged to Gianni Versace, an Italian fashion designer who after seeing the people at Miami Beach and how freely they walked down the streets decided that was the place he wanted to live for the rest of his life. In his house’s exterior, we see the typical Versace’s logo and some conifer cone’s symbolizing fertility. This design is more European conservative than what we would usually find at Miami Beach.


Another of the styles found at Miami Beach is Art Deco. Their characteristics catch the attention of tourists that are not used to this style as well as residents. We find ziggurat rooflines, eyebrows, curved edges and corners, and elements of three as their main characteristics. They used to only have three storages because it was said that if a building had more than three storages, it would need an elevator, which will take both money to build and space. It was more of a futuristic look. The incorporation of Neon Lights made the streets of Miami Beach unique at that time.


MiMo style came after World War II. They were asymmetric and were characterized by mosaic murals. It was more of a characteristic owned by the own Miami. Its name says it “Mami Modern Architecture”
Even though most of the places along the streets of Miami Beach do not have the same purpose they had at its beginning, they keep the same structures. For example, what used to be a hotel once, nowadays might be a unique restaurant. Or what used to be apartments for retired people, now might be a hotel. However, they conserve their original structure like a city law.
For people coming from the outside, where the only thing they see on a daily base is big skyscrapers, coming to Miami Beach is a travel back in time to the 1950s. It is a unique experience where people get to learn the history and at the same time be a part of it.

Bakehouse as a Text

Images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)

“Bringing nature back to life using the arts”

By Daniela Canizares of FIU at Bakehouse, October 9th, 2020

Hidden behind the entrance of the now culturally known Wynwood, we find the Bakehouse Art Complex. Judging it by its exterior, tourists might even get to think it is just one more of the houses of the neighborhood – having into consideration it is right next to apartments, no so close to the known Wynwood walls, and right in front of a Middle School. However, passing behind those walls, we enter a new world, something we would not imagine seeing in this location. We enter the world of the arts. Or better said, where art is born. One of the artists we find in this magical place is Lauren Shapiro.


Lauren Shapiro combines the world of the arts with nature. Her latest project tries to make people open their eyes to what is happening to the Coral Reefs, and what they can do to help them survive. Her hands-on project allows people from all over the community to work on her art, and feel with their bare hands the texture of nature, which is later put together as a big design.
The novel virus COVID-19 makes it harder for this project to happen at a faster rate, however, by making a reservation, people can go to the Bakehouse Art Complex and be part of it.


Once you are about to start your session, Shapiro gives you a little insight about why she wanted to specifically work with the corals and just by listening to her you feel how passionate she is about the topic and how well learned she is about it as well, which makes you want to contribute even more to this cause. Then, she teaches you how to mold the clay and gives you instructions on how to choose the coral that tells you a story, the one that calls your attention, and then make a coral clay out of it. You could incorporate color to it, always under your perspective. Shapiro only gives you the instructions and then lets you put your point of view on this project. You could either work with gloves or without it, but the best experience would come out of feeling the art and becoming one with it.


After finishing this step, you proceed to place the corals on a bigger picture, a mural that contains all the other corals from the people collaborating.
If someone ever gets to have the opportunity of being part of this experience, it is a rewarding one. They would get to learn about nature, and be part of the eye-opening experience. It is a wake-up call brought to people through the arts.

Rubell Museum as a Text

Images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)

“The Unspoken Art”

By Daniela Canizares of FIU at Rubell Museum, October 25th, 2020

Making an astonishing impact for its location, we find the Rubell Museum surrounded by Pumbling companies and supermarkets -not the typical place someone would find a Museum of this prestige. This location makes this place unique. Judging it from the outside, visitors passing by might think they are in the wrong place because of its façade. However, once they cross the gates, they start feeling out of this world.

Inside the Museum there is the art that common Museums would not have on exposition. However, this is what makes the Rubell Museum one of its kind. The art on the hallways makes people have a conversation and discuss disagreements. An example is a work by the American artist Tschabalala Self, named “Milk Chocolate”. This painting shows a woman of color completely naked. Being a sensitive topic nowadays, a painting like this one would not be shown in any other exhibition. However, the Rubell family brings this piece into the eye of the visitor to provoke conversation between one another. This is not the typical museum where someone would go and be quiet during the whole visit. This is a museum to go to have conversations and see different points of views on different topics, that out of those walls would be seen as controversial.

Every room in the Museum tells a story on its own. Every artist in this Museum leaves its essence that visitors can catch the moment they enter their expositions. It is a story told by art. The conversation you would hear inside this Museum is not the usual conversation you would hear in any other Museum. This art makes you think, and deeply analyze the artist’s intentions behind it. Not the typical Museum but deserves the title it holds to one of the most important ones in the world nowadays.

Deering Hike as a Text

Images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)

“Untouched History”

By Daniela Canizares of FIU at Deering Estate, November 7th, 2020

Deering Estate is divided into two parts: the Historic buildings and a beautiful view of the bay where people go to take pictures, and the history told by nature itself.


Starting the journey in the middle of these two parts, we find the Miami Rock Ridge. This path is almost nonvisible right now due to the climate changes in Miami, which makes it harder to keep a natural historic place like this one, but there are still some traces of what one day used to link this part of Palmetto Bay/Cutler Bay with the rest of the Miamian coast. This path we can see it in multiple places but due to climate changes, it is impossible to see the whole ridge as it was years ago.


After walking for a while, there is a point where you encounter water. Here at this point, buried by nature, you can see pieces that Tequestas used to survive before Mr. Deering came to what we know nowadays as Deering Estate. Some of these pieces are sharp objects, which historians presume they used as a way to cut through the animals to get food and survive. There was also a trace of shells with holes on both sides, which is said they used to introduce sticks through it as another tool to get animal skin to cover themselves and even food.


Deeper in the walk, you will find yourself walking next to the Cutler Burial Mound Boardwalk. This is a burial for the Tequestas that once were living in this area. The history behind it is surreal, and people might think it is made up. The bones were found by a family that was walking nearby with its dog. The dog found the bones and then a group of archeologists came to study the ground, finding that this place had a history no one knew about. Besides this Burial place, there is also one of the oldest trees in South Florida rising right in the center of the Burial. Also, near this place, there is a vertical cave, with symbols so perfectly made that people are still trying to come up with an idea of how they did it and what objects they used for it, which adds more mystery to Deering Estate and attracts fans of supernatural events.


Getting deeper into the waters at Deering Estate, you will find something not a lot of people have the opportunity to experience. There is a stolen plane crashed in the middle of the water and trees. This plane was stolen to move drugs but once the people hijacking it lost control over it and crashed, they left the plane there and ran away from the scene.


Something really interesting about this part of Deering Estate is how well conservative everything looks like. There are pictures of when Mr. Deering bought the property for the first time, and if you compare those pictures to how the place looks like now, you will see only a minimal difference between the two of them.


This experience is recommended if you want to spend some time away from the world of cell phones since there is no service in this place. A day without having to worry about technology. Only you, nature, and the history behind every single thing you look at.

Downtown Miami as a Text

Images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)

“Diverse Miami”

By Daniela Canizares of FIU at Downtown Miami, November 25th, 2020

The history behind the now “new” Miami has people from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds coming together to make what we know nowadays as Downtown Miami.


Starting our journey at the Government Center, right outside we see a structure symbolizing how unique Miami is. To find out the meaning behind it, you have to pay close attention to it, since at a glance it could mean anything but an orange peeling. If you want to look at the perspective of the artist, you have to step back and look at it from a wider angle.


Just a few blocks away, at Lummus Park is where the history dates back in time. In here we find Fort Dallas, what used to be back in the XIX century a plantation slave quarters. Under Miami’s weather conditions, we can only imagine those slaves – who helped in the construction of Miami in its beginnings- living under terrible conditions due to mosquitoes and the high temperatures. This place has served diverse purposes. A short time after, it also served as a refugee for the Seminole War. After that, it served as a post office, trading post, and even a courthouse. Now it is a historic place, but due to COVID regulations, it is closed to the public.


Standing right outside of the Courthouse, we find a statue of Henry Morrison Flagler. He was a key factor in the development of Miami, however, he was also a key factor in the segregation Miami suffered for years. Having him outside of the Courthouse is a contradiction. Yes, he should be there, however, there should be a brief background on him for it to be fair. Just having him standing outside the Courthouse does not seem fair for all the lives that were taken away.
A curious note about Miami is the location of its zero-point: the intersection between Flagler St and Miami Ave. There is more towards one side than towards the other, which makes Miami’s zero points uneven in its distribution of the City.


Miami River, which used to be a key factor in the life of the Tequestas, is now extremely polluted. Authorities recommend not eating anything coming from that river anymore. It is sad to see how humans themselves are destroying a part of history and the food chain.


Miami is one of the most diverse places in the United States. Going one day without having a Cuban cafecito seems like a crazy thing to do. We give credit to food when it comes to manifesting the gratitude we feel about being diverse. However, we never feel the enthusiasm to learn about the history behind the real diversity of Miami.

Everglades as a Text

Images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)

“A wet welcome back”

By Daniela Canizares of FIU at Everglades, January 14th, 2021

As the new year 2021 came to a start, so did the semester and the exploring of, at least for me, new places in my adoptive city. To welcome the new semester back, we started by going to one of the southern places in Miami: The Everglades.


The Everglades is known to be a “swamp” by the people in Miami. Yearly, the Everglades welcome more people from outside Miami, and even outside the country, than people currently living at a remarkably near distance. We had the privilege of being the first educational group having a tour after the shutdown due to COVID 19.


As you get to the main entrance, it seems like a regular park from an outsider’s point of view. To get into the real beauty of the Everglades, there is a drive of around 10 to 15 minutes. However, at the start this drive, there is a gate that charges you a fee to pass beyond that point. Beyond that gate, there is no phone service. If you are looking for a day without using your phone for other purposes rather than taking pictures of your surroundings, the Everglades is the perfect place to go to.

We as a class had the amazing opportunity to be accompanied by Ranger Dylan, who took us in the water with her and showed us the trees growing in there. I had never seen a woodpecker in real life, and by getting in the water I saw him, flying right on top of me. If you stay quiet, you start seeing a lot of animals coming your way, as they think you are not invasive or dangerous. We had the opportunity of seeing mosquito fishes. I did not know that was a real thing until that very moment. Besides all these great things and new learnings, this moment was not my favorite one. I was worried about getting lost or drowning, as I do not know how to swim. The water was clear crystal up to a certain extent, but we could not see what we were stepping on.


On the other side, my favorite moment was walking on a bridge and seeing all the nature surrounding me. I saw an alligator at a close range for the first time -who we collectively as a class named “Jeff the Alligator”. However, the highlight of the day was Jennifer and her love for Biology. Her being a walking Biological Encyclopedia was the most entertaining part of the day, besides changing our wet clothes to dry ones. We proposed a challenge as she was so enthusiastic about her animals and ecosystem: for every animal she would call “beautiful” we would do a squat. We got out of the Everglades more tired because of this than because of the actual walk.


In general, it was a great experience to be able to see each other again and share a good quality time. The Everglades is a good place to go to if you go as a group, but in my opinion, going by yourself can be a bit boring, unless you are a photographer or nature lover.

Margulies as a Text

Images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)

“Art for your perspective”

By Daniela Canizares of FIU at Margulies Warehouse, January 27th, 2021

Right next to I-95 we find this “warehouse”. More than a Warehouse, I see the Margulies Warehouse as an Art Gallery. Mr. Margulies has no background in art, however, his collection is one of the most important ones in Miami.


This art gallery being a private one, is not censored to talk about specific topics. Out of all the great works of art we can find here, the ones I liked the most were the relating to the self. Seeing the headless figures gave me chills. However, the story behind it was rather understandable. This work of art is based on an idea of the Holocaust. To me, it symbolizes how people were no longer thinking by themselves. they were just lifeless objects, all acting the same. Once you take off the head of a person, it loses its uniqueness, its ideas. It becomes a walking “thing”.


The other sculpture I liked about the collection was the men standing in line waiting to get inside what seems to be a store. This sculpture has the same idea as the headless figures. They seem like they took the life out of their body. Even when they are standing right behind each other, they are not talking or making any effort to communicate with each other. Even though this sculpture has their heads on, they give the same idea. an interesting aspect of it is that their heads have the same color as the American Dollar.


My favorite one, however, was the spice bags. Since we had our masks on, smelling them was what I would call a mission. But every single bag had a different smell. It made me remember my grandma’s kitchen.
Going to this gallery is not something I would have usually done by myself in the past. Now that I know of it, and that students have free entrance, I feel like this will be my weekend getaway.

Bill Baggs as a Text

Images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)

“El Farito (Cape Florida Light House)”

By Daniela Canizares of FIU at Cape Florida Light House, February 11th, 2021

Known by many as “El Farito”, Cape Florida Light House stands out at the end of Key Biscayne not only because of how tall it stands (95 feet tall) but because of its history and meaning for the people living at Key Biscayne.


To access this special and beautiful place, there is an $8 fee at the entrance. After paying that fee, you have a combination of both: a historic place and a beautiful, quiet, and clean beach for your entertainment.


Closer to the water, we can see a similar replica of what used to be the light house’s keeper cottage. It used to be closer to the water, but it had to be moved due to the impact the saltwater had on it. As of right now, both the lighthouse and the cottage are closed to the public due to CDC regulations.
behind the cottage, rests a boat that was used as a scape to the Bahamas. nowadays, lizards and wildlife use it as their new home.


The place as a whole is kept clean and the vibes the people in there give off are one of the purest ones. The staff is pretty helpful and from the moment you step inside those gates everyone welcomes you with the biggest smile.


The cons of this place are that there are only two places to eat at. other than these two, you will have to go outside to look for food. The food inside is also expensive. Other than these two cons, I found this place as the perfect getaway from the noisy Miami.

Everglades as a Text

Images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)

“This time for the History”

By Daniela Canizares of FIU at Everglades, February 25th, 2021

Even after said I was not planning on coming back to the Everglades, where I found myself again, but this time for the history. More than a swamp and a place full of wildlife, the Everglades holds a history mostly unknown to the people living so close to it. This puts us miamians so close but so far away from a place within miles from us.


The two solutions holes we find here are fascinating. Just to see how nature gets in charge of changing the constitution of the floor and makes it the way we see it today, is a unique experience. The experience of being able to photograph these two holes on February 25th, 2021 was one of a kind. The next time we happen to go here, these 7 feet deep solution holes are going to be completely different.


A little farther away we find, what I would say the most fascinating part of this trip. The Nike missile site was the greatest part of the day for me. Being born in Cuba I had only heard one side of the story. Coming here to this place and seeing the other side of the story was amazing. The Nike missile (now without the atomic component) was kept in perfect conditions as well as advertisements and signs from the Cold War. They even had a diary for you to sign and stamp to leave your historic mark on history.


I said not to go back to the Everglades, however, to see this part of the History we are only told in school but never get the chance to personally visualize it, I would definitely go back. The getting wet part is not exciting, but the travel through history is worth it.

Frost Museum as a Text

Images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)

“Controversial Art”

By Daniela Canizares of FIU at Frost Museum, March 10, 2021

Even though it might sound crazy, the own FIU student is sometimes unaware of the resources they have for free on campus. One of these is the Frost Museum of Art. It has collections that would lead to conversations and differences of opinions, as it is the exposition on the third floor “Accumulate Classify Preserve Display”

Starting, it has a big contrast between the exposition we find on the second floor, which is mainly nature-based and labeled. This exposition has no labels, which leaves it open for the visitor’s imagination. The first room is filled with pictures of faces and a big mirror, which positions you within the arts. The faces are supposed to be there to never die. When an artist portrays a human feature, it is meant for it to stay forever, for you to look back at it and check how time has never passed, it has stayed the same. However, with the mirror at the center of the collection, you can see yourself changing with the pass of time.


The second room holds a bigger controversy since it mixes religious and ethnic aspects. The Cabinet of Curiosities in the room holds a bunch of random objects, which some people might find appealing to their religion. To me, the two objects at the top kind of related to the Yoruba Religion I am familiar with. The neon green color the cabinet reflexes contrasts with the objects inside which are of a less colorful green hue. The masks on the wall were what caused the most controversy between the people in the room. Some of them saw these masks as a simple work of art, unifying different cultures, however, others saw them as dehumanizing the culture behind it. This was mostly because the artwork did not have a label, which led us to think differently based on our backgrounds. On the floor of the room, we find different religious figures standing together. The artist’s intention might have been to unify the religions or to differentiate between the importance he gave to each one (since it was organized by height). This we will never know.


In the third room, there were four pieces of art by Purvis Young. They had angelical figures in all of them (because of the halos around their heads). Out of the four, the one that caught my attention the most was the one that seemed like people were carrying a person, who at the same time was carrying an imperfect city. There were “blood tears” on the painting and an angelical figure. This led to different interpretations, interpretations we will never know if they were right or wrong. The most interesting part of Young’s artwork is how he uses part of his bed and everyday objects to paint on them because of his socio-economic situation.


This visit to Frost Museum opened my eyes a lot. I am usually the shy type of person. However, seeing these works of art made me raise my voice and speak what I had in my mind. Controversy can make you get off your comfort zone.

Coral Gables as a Text

Images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)

“Rocky Roof”

By Daniela Canizares of FIU at Coral Gables Museum, March 24, 2021

The city of Coral Gables: the city of “rocky roofs”. Even its name is something that would throw you off once you find its meaning. “Coral” comes from the rocks found in the city, “Gables” comes from the way the roofs were built. Something so beautiful but so simple at the same time.

A visit to the Museum of Coral Gables will give you an insight into how the city found by George Merrick, who once lived off selling guavas, had its beginnings.

“A party city based on European style”. That was the idea the Dream Team had when founding Coral Gables. It was supposed to be a dream city where people coming from outside would find everything they needed. Even for residents, they had everything they needed inside their city. There was no need for them to go to Coconut Grove anymore.

As the city was founded in 1926, the Roaring 20s had a big influence on the development and growth of the city. The Dream Theater was one of the city’s main attractions. It would have been amazing if the city would have kept the theater running on its original function and not change it to open a Bank of America instead. In my opinion, sometimes the growth of a city might increase its economic value, however, decreases its cultural value.

The Museum of Coral Gables’ first function was to be a fire station. There are still some of its originals structures in the building. For example, on the outside the columns represent firemen, even the boots are there! The story is, there is a ghost going around the museum at night.

It is incredible how sometimes residents like us, focus on visiting places outside Miami when there is so much to learn and visit in our city. A visit to the Museum of Coral Gables should be a must on everyone’s list.

Vizcaya as a Text

images taken by Daniela Canizares (CC by 4.0)

“To have money in Coral Gables”

By Daniela Canizares of FIU at Vizcaya Museum, April 7th, 2021

Without a doubt, Vizcaya Museum is one of the most liked places for visitors and residents in Miami. It was also like that back in the early 1900s, when Coral Gables was just at its beginnings.


The owner and co-designer, James Deering was the wealthiest person in Miami at the time. Inspired by Mediterranean Revival styles, he decided to buy and build his villa up north of his brothers’ Charles. Having personally visited Charles’ property (Deering Estate), in my opinion, out of the two, I prefer Vizcaya Villa (James’ property). Merrick took inspiration out of Vizcaya to later build Coral Gables under the same Mediterranean Revival style.


Opposite to his brothers’ house, James collected things just because he liked them. For example outside the entrance of his house, we find an arch. Arches usually represent victories. James never won a dispute, he simply put it in his house because he liked it, despite the comments saying otherwise. Just like that we find a vast number of objects around the house. Those objects nowadays would have been tagged as “controversial” if someone were to have them in their houses. An example of it is the statue of “the messenger” next to the phone boot.

The way the house and the gardens were made shows James Deering had a lot of money and that he was full of himself. If he liked something, he would simply buy it and put it at his house. He was pretty proud of doing this to show his guests he had the means to do it. The “sinking boat” at the entrance of his property (by water), was one of those things that nowadays would be considered unnecessary. However, it is like magic to see it standing there. The details, the way it was done, it just goes together by hand.


I had always been interested in going to Vizcaya but never had the opportunity to do it. After this visit, I can say it was definitely worth it. However, I would have liked to be able to visit the second floor. If someone is planning on learning about the history of Coral Gables, visiting Vizcaya Museum and Gardens should be on their list.

Lorena Cuenca: Miami as Text 2020-2021

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.

South Beach As Text

“Hiding A Dark Past” By Lorena Cuenca of FIU at South Beach, September 23rd, 2020

I have to admit, despite having lived in Miami for nearly my entire life I had never been to South Beach before. The thought of going just never interested me, it seemed like something I would not be into, boy was I wrong. South Beach is a uniquely beautiful place; from buildings that seemed to have been taken from different parts of the world to a pride flag at every corner this is something I was definitely missing out on. While the area puts up an interestingly colorful front with creatively designed buildings and odd structures its past is anything but. Starting off as a mess of an ecosystem being torn apart from its roots South Beach has certainly become an image of acceptance and diversity, but it was not always like that.

Carl Fisher took to South Beach, then Ocean Beach, like a “child” of his own; stripping it of its identity and turning it into a place of segregation and profit. He hired the poor and foreign to build a place they would never be allowed to call home. They poured their hearts into building up South Beach only to be pushed away and only asked to return if they were talented and capable enough to entertain the white and privileged. The Black Americans who created what we see today were only seen and heard when the residents wanted them to be. Despite all their efforts they were never allowed to enjoy the neighborhood. This treatment, however, was not exclusive to those of a different color. Even some who had the skin tone and money to live there at the time were pushed to reside south of 5th Street because the stigma surrounding their religion. Those who were Jewish and wanted to live in the center of it all were simply not allowed. There is a lot to the history of South Beach. While the neighborhood looks to be flourishing, the pain and resentment of those who built it along with the reasons behind their oppression and judgment is something that can never be erased or forgotten.

Bakehouse As Text

“Hurting Right Below Our Noses” By Lorena Cuenca of FIU at the Bakehouse, October 7th, 2020

Image Taken by Lorena Cuenca (CC by 4.0)

It is sad how we can praise and benefit from the beauty of something one minute and decide that it is no longer important to us the next. Slowly but surely we are killing everything on this planet due to our selfish advances at a “better” life and it sometimes seems like no matter how much we try, we just cannot seem to undo the damage we have done. Scientists spend their time and energy studying marine life, putting effort into uncovering new ways and methods we can adopt to better serve the flora and fauna we have been overlooking and continue to overlook. I believe it is our duty to care for the planet we live in, the planet that lends itself to our stupid desires and whims. It simply deserves better from us because, at this rate, there will be nothing left.

While it can feel like anything we do is not enough to make a difference, if we all just combine our efforts, we can change the world. Even if we lack the tools necessary to ensue change, one voice is enough. The voice of the people, the voice of the informed. For centuries, artists have used their talents and platform to bring awareness to pressing issues. They have taken it upon themselves to inform the public through their pieces. Art is something everyone can enjoy; it is something we can all appreciate. When it stands as the connection between science and society and the public, it helps us better understand what is going on that we do or cannot see. Artists like Lauren Shapiro lend their talents and skills to their craft for the greater good, to make a change. What we cannot understand from articles and scientific journals we can take from a painting or sculpture. What seems like a cluster of words all begins to make sense once we take a look at a work of art. As if everything begins to fall into place, we start to feel something while in the presence of something of true substance. There is no greater feeling than that of being a part of something you believe will make a difference. That is how I felt while using my bare hands to add on to Ms. Shapiro’s piece. I believed my lack of artistic ability would hinder me useless, but I guess there is so much more to art than talent when you have something to say. I hope this exhibit will succeed in bringing awareness to the current state of our coral reef ecosystem and how we can do something about keeping it alive and beautiful.

Rubell Museum As Text

“What I Now Know” By Lorena Cuenca of FIU at the Rubell Museum, October 21st, 2020

When it comes to art, I have never been one to enjoy it. While I understand that it plays an important role in society and that the human race can be defined by what we create, I have always had a hard time connecting to visual art. I sometimes believe that I lack the depth to understand and see the value in certain pieces because they are not aesthetically appealing to me. This hypothesis is proven wrong when it comes to my relationship with performance art. My entire life I have been creating, I consider myself an artist in that I write music and choreograph dances. I can write a song from a word; I can choreograph a routine from a move. I can literally create from the smallest of things and build upon nothing yet when it comes to a sculpture, drawing, or painting, I seem to struggle to see what others can, if anything at all. It has always been like this. My creativity shines best when it is not limited to something that is purely visual. I need to do; I need to feel and visual art has somehow never satisfied me how it does others.

However, I refuse to allow this to keep me from learning and experiencing. It might take me more time and effort to see the bigger picture, but I will always try my best. The more chances I get to visit museums, exhibits, or galleries the more I get it. With every new experience I further realize that I should not deem myself any less worthy of seeing pieces simply because I do not understand them. In art, there are a million different interpretations to one thing; there is more to be seen and understood than what is at the surface. There is greater depth, a longer story, a more difficult journey than can be seen by just looking. You have to open more than your eyes to really see what is there and at times, what is not. Art is more than brush strokes on a canvas, it is more than clay on a platform. Art is expression, to truly see what is being expressed you must open up your mind and heart. You must welcome everything being shown, even if you disagree. Art is not always “beautiful”. Art is not always right. Sometimes art is not even art.

I have learned that art is also about “community”. It is about taking others’ experiences and learning from them as if they were our own. It is about seeing life through the eyes of other people, even those we have yet to meet. Had I not visited the Rubell Museum with my class, I would have never seen the different pieces through their eyes. What to me symbolized a sense of inclusivity, a child being welcomed into the arms of people like him, or a child being let go off into the world because he was deemed ready through the placement of deer antlers on a sculpture was seen as a symbol of divinity. There is a lot to learn from art and even more to learn from each other, all it takes is creativity and openness to new perspectives.

Deering Hike As Text

“Hidden Beauty” By Lorena Cuenca of FIU at the Deering Hike, November 4th, 2020

There is a lot to be said about the world around us. Unfortunately, we never care enough to pay attention and give it the credit it deserves. The Deering Estate is home to a plethora of fauna and flora unknown to the general public. Visiting the estate and participating in the hike opened up a whole new world to me. I learned more about the people native to the area. The Tequesta inhabited the area before the Spanish took control over Florida. Evidence of their inhabitance can be seen through the presence of the shell tools found near the water and the burial ground where it is believed that ceremonies were held to commemorate the passing of their fellow family and friends.

Not far from this area, we found a well so precisely dug as if done by a machine. On one of the well walls, there was a carving of a Free Mason symbol. This was the most fascinating aspect of the well to me. It was as if while the well was being “built”, its creators decided to leave a message; a mark of their own to let others know who was there and what they stood for. Going deeper into the hike, we set out to find a fallen airplane that was apparently abandoned in the mangrove filled waters after crashing, never to be removed. We continued on our adventure, talking about the animals that lurk the areas along with all the different plants that exist on the estate like the gumbo limbo trees with peeling bark and adaptable independent branches, these violet colored flowering plant commonly known as Gayfeather, and key lime trees that feed some of the animals on the grounds. The last part of the hike was my favorite. The beautiful greenery, butterflies, and dragon flies made it look like some fairytale oasis, a location right out of a movie. It was peaceful, nothing could be heard other than the wind the blew and shook the tree branches. On our way back, it was even more stunning. The Spanish moss that hung from the trees looking like the perfect seasonal decorations made me enjoy the moment that much more. It felt unreal and I loved every minute of it. I learned that there is so much more out there for me to discover and love. The world is an incredibly beautiful place, and I cannot wait to continue to have the opportunities to experience it in all its glory before it is gone.

Downtown Miami As Text

“What History Buries” By Lorena Cuenca of FIU at Downtown Miami, November 25th, 2020

To think that I have spent the past four years walking the streets of downtown, completely ignoring the beauty and history it was trying to share with me leaves me ashamed. I was so worried about my own struggles and pain, running around completely blinded that I overlooked what was right before my eyes: history. Built on the sacrifice of the indigenous people who first inhabited the area, Downtown Miami was nothing but barren land with potential. This potential was seen by Henry Morrison Flagler, whose vision helped shaped Miami into the bright and “thriving” city we now know and love. With the upgrades made by Flagler to Miami during the late 1900s hundreds using the hard work from the natives of the area, Miami quickly grew in popularity with Downtown being one of the most populated areas at the time. Despite its quick growth there is a lot about Miami, downtown alone, that its residents are unaware of when it comes to its history.

After Spain lost possession over Florida, the United States set into motion the Indian Removal Act forcing Seminole Indians further away from home and closer to South Florida. The Second Seminole War began in 1935 and was “marked” with the killing of Major Francis Longhorn Dade, whom the county was named after. Downtown Miami is marked with a collection of tragedies that have been covered up like buried bodies. The Longhouse, located in Lummus Park and placed there during the 1920s to be saved from being demolished, was built somewhere between the 1840s and 1850s by some of the enslaved Africans under Colonel and Senator William F. English. Holding the title as the oldest preserved building in the city of Miami, the Longhouse has withstood the test of time in American history. Downtown Miami, a place built on sacrifice, still carries a great array of passion, only that now it is transmitted in art, beautiful scenery, and incredible places to visit on your time off. So beautiful and full of life with a fun and exciting night life secreting a dark history, holding back the voices of the people who were never even given the right to speak.

Everglades As Text

“Good to be Back” By Lorena Cuenca of FIU at The Everglades, January 13th, 2021

On my first ever visit to the Everglades my fifth-grade class and I walked under the hot sun as we called out everything we happened to see. I still remember standing on a bridge and counting alligators. I counted and counted until there seemed to not be any more space in the water. I counted 42 that day. I was completely fascinated with everything I saw that day so much so that the thought of finally having an excuse to return kept me up the night before our trip. There was not a force in the world that could keep me from participating.

The wet hike itself was incredibly entertaining. The water went from barely reaching my knees and looking quite muggy to reaching my chest and being as clear as day. So clear I could see everything in it, including my own feet. Once we reached clearer water our lovely guide, Ranger Dylann, read to us a poem that perfectly embodied the moment and all that the national park had to offer. The quiet area, far from the cars, far from civilization offered to me the feeling I had been longing for. The serenity I was experiencing was exactly what I needed to help me to distress and disconnect from reality. On my own, during our exploration break, I ventured far enough to where I could hear nothing but the birds resting in the trees, my own breath, and the sound of the water adjusting as I walked through it.

The rest of the day was filled with nothing but fun memories; from walking around and giving a name to every creature we came across to actually learning about the species of animals and plants we encountered with the help of our resident nature expert, Jennifer Quintero. We roamed the waters, bringing chaos and noise everywhere we stepped, I left loving every single minute away from the rest of the world. It was almost as if nothing else was real. It was just us and the park, the park and us. It was so much fun that even after we were done for the day, we took it upon ourselves to go down another path together to see what else we could discover and enjoy. The Everglades is a beautiful place, one that should be a memory to all Floridians. It is so much more than a “swamp”, it is home to a great number of different plant and animal species. The Everglades is not a burden, but a paradise instead and we should treat it as such.

Margulies As Text

“Discovered” By Lorena Cuenca of FIU at The Margulies Collection, January 27th, 2021

What is art? What makes something art and who decides that? Does art have to be beautiful? On Wednesday, January 27th, my class, and I took a trip to The Margulies Collection where we discussed how the definition of art has been altered over the decades. Art itself continues to change whether society believes it has evolved or otherwise. A lot of what is considered art today would have not been considered art in centuries prior. The Margulies Collection started by Martin Z. Margulies in the 1970s has turned into a beautiful collection depicting a timeline of the world’s events and creations. The collection itself is filled with almost disturbingly interesting pieces that shine a light on some of the world’s most dark times in history while also showcasing the beauty of what we have overcome.

While making our way through the collection I began to wonder why these specific pieces were chosen. They are not necessarily beautiful, nor is there something about all of them that stands out. I began to wonder what the message was. To me there seemed to be a theme. I would like to believe that Mr. Margulies wanted to teach something, I believe his message of our past was deeper than the pieces alone. Walking through the collection feels like being told a story moving towards a hopefully better future. There are pieces that nearly grab your attention immediately like Hurma by Magdalena Abakanowicz, which looks like a collection of headless bodies ranging in height and shape with rough textures, and others that leave you confused as to what the artist was trying to express like Seated Woman by Willem de Kooning. There is a lot to admire and appreciate from the collection that Mr. Margulies has taken the time to put together. In my opinion, the most important thing art can do is open up a conversation and this collection does that well. The entire day was filled with non-stop conversations between everyone in our group. As students, some who know very little about art and art history, we were intrigued by the pieces and wanted to know more. Each piece told a story, and we were ready to read it. I believe that is what makes the collection so amazing. You can walk through several collections and museums throughout the country, throughout the world even, but I truly believe none would compare.

Bill Baggs As Text

“Stunningly Clear” By Lorena Cuenca of FIU at The Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, February 10th, 2021

The Bill Bags Cape Florida State Park, commonly known as the home to “el farito” is a place that has gone through the trials and tribulations of South Floridian history. Bill Baggs ranks in the top 10 beaches in American coming in at number seven. The lighthouse, built in 1825, has been a victim of several attacks in our history. The area was the first home to the Tequesta Indians, according to historic records based on artifacts found in the 1980s. After being “discovered” by Juan Ponce De Leon, named Santa Marta in the early 1500s, and claimed for Spain, the land went back and forth through the hands of colonizing countries several times. After the lighthouse was built it became a symbol of pride; it was attacked by the Indians that had been affected by the Seminole Wars. While this now might seem like a useless attack, one insignificant to either side; it was a small victory on the natives’ side. They had been pushed out of their homes with nowhere to go and hurt by the laws and policies of the colonizers. There was nothing they could do but take down what was a physical representation of growth and advancement to the newcomers. With this act, they established their resilience.

The park was destroyed with plans to fill the land and do away with the wetlands in the 1950s. An aspect so crucial to the health of coastal marine life and the ecosystem inhabiting the area was essentially being eradicated. Over 40 years later, Hurricane Andrew hit and affected the work that had been done inspiring the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Parks and Recreation to devise a plan to work towards the revival and restoration of the park. The plan took into consideration the erasure of the vegetation types that were a part of the area before its destruction as well as wave energy and tidal patterns in order to design an adequate plan for the park. While it took quite some type to perfect the plan it was incredibly successful and five years after the restoration began the wetlands had been completely revitalized.

Now the state park is a place where you are welcome to go and enjoy the beach and partake in a multitude of exciting activities such as bicycling, birding, canoeing, hiking, snorkeling, and many others. It is a place rich in history and beautiful sites. Bill Baggs is another place I had never been to, one that was completely unknown to me as someone who has lived in Miami nearly their entire life. Its history and beauty were nothing more than another piece to the puzzle I had yet to begun to put together. Now that I have had the honor of getting to know the park, I am pleased to say that it is all coming together beautifully. I look forward to learning so much more about it and hopefully visiting more in the future.

River of Grass As Text

“Another Surprise” By Lorena Cuenca of FIU at The Everglades National Park, February 24th, 2021

As a much-anticipated return to the Everglades, we decided to venture on to discover what other surprises the park had in store for us. We started the day off with a lecture on the history of the Everglades standing before a solution hole by Research Road. During the lecture, provided in part by both Ranger Dylann and Professor Bailly, we spotted some deer roaming in the distance. That was the first interesting sight of the day which was then followed by many.

We drove off looking forward to reaching the HM69 Nike Missile Base. Being there felt like taking a trip to a past I never heard of. It was surprising to find out about events that had taken place so close to my home that played such a big part in the history of our country. We learned about the site which lost its official use in 1979. The idea behind it and its construction was a response to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. We walked towards the base, also known as Alpha Battery, where we were able to get a closer look. We then proceeded to get ready for our hike.

We took a short ride to our starting point and then the hike began. We walked for over a mile on the mushy ground caused by algae, through temperature-changing waters, and over massive anthills. We continued our hike in hopes of eventually reaching the first structure ever built in the area. After quite some time we finally spotted the structure in the distance. We made our way to it and took a look inside. The structure itself was noticeably falling apart surrounded by old broken bottles and bird skeletons. After spending a decent amount of time discussing the structure and taking pictures, we set off to find a way back to home base. While looking for a means out of the area we were stunned by a flock of Roseate Spoonbills to the far left of the structure. After admiring the group of brightly colored pink birds we made an attempt to find a way out. We struggled a bit before cutting through what looked like a scene from a film. Tree branches coming out from all angles with completely uneven ground made the adventure all that more interesting. We started making our way back while recounting the day’s events. The day ended with a not-so-secret swim in one of the sinkholes we had seen earlier. It was a perfect ending; things had gone full circle and all the surprises made it that much more enjoyable.

Frost Art Museum As Text

“Acceptance” By Lorena Cuenca of FIU at The Frost Art Museum, March 10th, 2021

After having the opportunity to appreciate the art we had been viewing all day we were given the chance to create some of our own. In all honesty, I had not taken a single art class or drawn and/or painted anything in the last decade. I feared I would end up staring at the paper and materials for minutes while my classmates poured their thoughts into their work, but I ended up surprising myself. Inspiration came to me incredibly quickly. We were giving a white rose and a variation of art supplies I immediately knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to use the rose and a careful selection of colors to tell a story, my story.

Since I can remember, I have had a special attachment to white roses. They have always been a symbol of purity and beauty to me. I know that different colored roses are seen to represent different things. Red roses represent love, pink roses represent gratitude, yellow roses represent friendship, etc. I like to see white roses as canvases; they are blank slates capable of becoming any color and represent anything. I was once a white rose, we all were, unaffected by anything, untouched, and uninfluenced by the world. This all started changing as I started growing up. I became self-aware and ashamed of every aspect of my personality and appearance, and I started rejecting certain interests because I thought I had too. I wanted to come off as a strong person because I did not want thought of as a pushover, so I rejected qualities that were associated with femininity and adopted more “masculine” presenting characteristics. I wanted to be myself but myself did not fit the image that I was looking to project so I erased it. To express this, I covered the tip of the rose’s petals with black and dark blue, colors that are seen as more professional and usually associated with masculinity, and the inside of the rose with a bright pink which is seen as a feminine color. I wanted for the rose to represent me: pure in nature but somehow tainted with what I truly enjoyed and wanted to be hidden on the inside. I placed the tainted rose in the middle of the paper and used extra petals to stamp purple around it and added black coming from the center out. I used the color purple to represent the happy medium I am trying to reach, a deeper pink to represent the qualities I have started to reclaim, and black to represent the fact that I am still working on who I am , tying back to the black on the rose. I am still young, still learning about who I am and trying to accept what that means, for this reason I named my creation “acceptance”. There is a lot I wish to accomplish and many places I wish to go but I will no longer allow myself to sacrifice what makes me who I am to get there.

Coral Gables as Text

“New in the Midst” By Lorena Cuenca of FIU at Coral Gables, March 24th, 2021

The Biltmore Hotel, built by George Merrick, is luxury hotel in the city of Coral Gables. Home to what was once the largest pool in the world, the hotel hosted galas, swimwear competitions, and golfing tournaments during its prime. The building was turned into a hospital during the second world war where its most incredible feature, the grand pool, had been mostly filled in. After the war, the structure continued being used as a hospital for veterans and was then turned into a medical school after the University of Miami took ownership. Once abandoned, the hotel became a usual meetup location for the neighborhood kids. Children who grew up in the area and heard stories about the hotel would sneak in every so often despite the guards that had been hired to look over the building by the City of Coral Gables. After several years of simply being sneaking in territory, a place where kids would go and share ghost stories and mess around, the building had begun to be renovated in preparation for active use. For around a decade, ghost stories were told in the lobby by Linda Spitzer, a professional storyteller, once a week for the entertainment of the guests.

Visiting the hotel had been another first of mine. It was my first time exploring the city of Coral Gables and getting to tour the hotel added onto that experience. We started off meeting with our tour guide for the day on the lobby on the second floor. The incredibly high ceilings were in part adorned with patterns of beautiful colors and shapes. The ceiling of the lobby was divided in two with an array of columns and arches dividing the patterned side from one colored blue. On the side of the different ceiling was a staircase which was said to have been used by other guests to move around the building without accessing the rooms or disturbing the hotel’s guests. After learning a bit about the hotel’s history, we were directed into a large room, quite ballroom like, on that floor. The room was once not a room but instead a continuation of the lobby which was now divided with the installment of a wall. We ventured outside and continued to converse on the balcony as we watched guests having lunch on the floor below. After entering another room whose ceilings matched the carpet, a decision which had fortunately been made to keep the authenticity of some of the rooms unlike the lobby and the first room we visited, we headed outside in search of the pool. The pool was massive, despite the alterations it had experienced while the building was in use during the war. It was beautiful and for some reason not filled with guests, which we were told was normal. For the last part of the tour, we took a look at the hotel’s very own tribute to la Giralda in Sevilla, Spain. While we did not get the chance to visit the bell tower, being able to admire it, even from a distance, was breath taking.

Vizcaya As Text

“One Last Time” By Lorena Cuenca of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Garden, April 7th, 2021

While it being the last class of the semester nearly brought tears to my eyes, I was excited to visit Vizcaya once more. My first-time visiting was in middle school. I remember entering the building feeling consumed by everything I laid my eyes upon while being amazed by the stunning china and questionably tiny rooms. The second time was one filled with chaos, as my mom and I hauled through the gardens attempting to lift a possibly ten-pound dress for my 15’s pictures. While our history was one filled with informative tours and interesting experiences, I was glad to return and continue the legacy.

We started the day with an introduction to James Deering, once owner of the mansion, by a life-sized sculpture of Deering’s own ideal self. Brother of Charles Deering, builder of Deering Estate, James was known for his love of traveling and hosting lavish parties. A man in the latter half of his life, with no kids or family to call his own, took interest in creating a place filled with all the luxurious items money could buy. As we walked towards the house, through the south entrance of the mansion we were welcomed by beautiful greenery and water fountains that guided the way. For the south entrance, one that was probably only for servants to use, it was quite a view. We reached the front of the house and discussed some of the sights. Before the house, on the right, was an arc, while in history arcs were built after military triumph and victory once new land and people were conquered, Deering seemed to have wanted on simply for aesthetic purposes. We entered the house and were greeted by a statute. A man standing above a bathtub, sporting a head piece of grapes while holding a grape filled pouring device in his hand, with two babies and dogs by his feet. It was quite the sculpture to experience, one that apparently represented what Deering deemed to be the most important to him. We ventured into one of the hallways. The first room was a waiting room with smaller separate rooms for guests to freshen up in and a floor pattern that paralleled the ceiling. The second was Deering’s office, covered in books on every wall it was beautiful with paintings that were certainly not of his family but of random children which seemed to fill the void. We moved onto the second room, regarded as the Marie Antoinette room and slowly made our way to the last room in the hallway. This room was quite interesting. Every item has a story of its own. From small lion sculptures with inaccurate faces that adorned the table to an organ that had a painting above it which was cut to fit in place, everything had a life before reaching Deering.

We walked outside, through the glass door that were once not there, to discuss the piece that was built in the water. Inspired by shipwrecks, Deering commissioned an artist to build the sculpture. The sculpture was not one simply for aesthetic purposes, we were told that Deering would host parties on it. We came back inside and took a look at the other side of the first floor which had the music room, kitchen, and dining room. The first room was filled with instruments in incredible condition, likely because they have never been played, and I fairy like, flowery chandelier. The kitchen had beautiful plates and sets stored in glass casings and the most advanced appliances of the time. The dining room was beautiful, the table set and perfectly inviting, despite rarely having been used. After becoming familiar with the inside of the house we went onto look at the gardens. I personally believe Deering really outdid himself on the outside portion of the house. The entirety of the outside consisted of a secret garden that guests visited often for its beauty and lawlessness, a small maze, a beautiful area outlooking the water on the side of the house, another area where guests could meet that had one of the many hidden doors of the house, and an abundance or greenery and flowers. Everywhere we went was comparable if not more stunning than the last; it was absolutely my favorite part. Nothing about the last class of the semester could have been grander than that.

Roger Masson: Miami as Text 2020-2021

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

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

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

Deering as Text

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

“A Day to Remember”

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

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

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

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

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

South Beach as Text

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

“Not Your Average Beach Day”

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

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

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

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

Work Cited:

https://worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/miami-beach-fl-population

Downtown Miami as Text

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

“Two Worlds in One”

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

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

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

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

Chicken Key as Text

Chicken Key, Photo by Roger Masson/ CC 4.0

“A reflection of our impact”

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

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

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

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

Bakehouse as Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rubell as Text

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

“One Last Adventure”

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

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

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

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

Everglades as a Text

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

“UNESCO World Heritage Site in our Backyard”

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

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

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

Citation:

https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Wild-Places/Everglades

Wynwood as a Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Baggs State Park as a Text

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

“Bill Baggs State Park holds the Key to Happiness”

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

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

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

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

River of Grass as Text

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

 “A Trip back in Time

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

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

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

Frost Museum as a Text

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

Life is but a Rose

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

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

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

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

Coral Gables as a Text

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

The City of Wonder

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

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

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

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

Vizcaya as Text

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

“A place as Authentically Miami as can be”

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

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

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

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

Komila Kholmatova: Miami as Text 2020-2021

Photo taken of Komila Kholmatova in 2020. Photo by Violetta Rudenski/ CC BY 4.0

Student Bio

Hello everyone! My name is Komila Kholmatova. I was born and raised in “the pearl of Central Asia” Ferghana, Uzbekistan. The city gained the title for its beauty, picturesque view and for being completely surrounded by mountains. I came to US 2 years ago to study and chase my dreams. I am a part of Honors College at Florida International University. I am pursuing my Bachelor’s degree in International business with a focus on a certificate in Social Media and E-Marketing Analytics. In the future I hope to run my own business and create my brand. I really love traveling, getting to know new people, trying new food, painting and listening to music. My passion for travelling and discovering new places contributed to my decision to take Miami in Miami class and learn more about this beautiful and diverse city.

Deering as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Deering Estate. Photo by Komila Kholmatova/ CC BY 4.0

“LIVING THROUGH HISTORY”

By Komila Kholmatova of Florida International University at Deering Estate, 2 September 2020.

Yes, maybe I am alien to this land but there is something that unites us all, and this is the very land, the rich history of our ancestors, and their lived lives that lie in this land. Arriving from a distant country of Uzbekistan, I was able to find something native on this land, which not only surprised me but pleased me – Islamic details on the architecture of the buildings. At that moment I felt some kind of warmth inside as if the place smiled and warmly greeted me. I think each of us felt this but in our own way because the land on which we stood, the land of the Deering Estate, the land of Miami, is so diverse, rich in history, rich in resources, unique nature, and most importantly warm in an atmosphere that everyone can feel and find it like a home. I felt connected and I tried to live through history as Professor J.W. Bailly told us.

We were imbued with history through ancient tools that once helped our ancestors to survive, we crossed and hiked through 5 landmarks: Endangered Pine Rock land, Mangroves, Tequesta Midden, Tropical Forest, and River. We walked on the water and were lucky enough to find the pieces of an unmarked crashed plane.

Even though we faced some difficulties during the hiking, like angry mosquitoes or hot burning weather, the Deering Estate and its mesmerizing atmosphere, and irresistible beauty did not make me regret a second but on the other hand made me definitely come back again!

South Beach as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in South Beach. Photo by Komila Kholmatova/
CC BY 4.0

“ONCE A SWAMPLAND”

By Komila Kholmatova of Florida International University at South Beach, 16 September 2020.

On March 26, 1915, one hundred and five years ago, Miami Beach was officially incorporated as a new city by 33 registered voters. Today, when one thinks of Miami, they primarily imagine the city not as a financial or cultural center but as a tourist resort of South Beach. They picture an incredible number of hotels, restaurants, and other infrastructure in Art Deco Architecture Style that now is a state-protected monument. However, it is not the only good picture that has shaped the Beach’s history. In addition to good times, there were hard times that built the character of the place.

Miami Beach has a vivid history of crime, racism, corruption and economic fall. Back in 1870, Miami Beach was a mangrove ridge and sandbar that was not inhabitable. 

One can say that John S.Collins and Karl Fisher were the founding fathers of Miami Beach. It was these businessmen from the northeastern United States who saw the potential in the small southern agricultural town to make it a world-class resort. They came to the city around the end of the 19th century to buy a coconut plantation from Henry Lum and son Charles, and start looking for fresh water. The plans were to assess the scale of work and possible profits from this adventure.

Collins was an experienced business man and began selling plots of land on a completely unsettled island. He invested his earnings in bringing sand and reclaiming the island, resulting in more land for sale. The unexpected fact for me was that much of South Florida was built on a swampland and that laborers had to clear out the mangroves and fill it with soil to create land. While one founding father was in the business of selling the island, the other, Karl Fischer, organized a major hotel building. Hotels and restaurants for wealthy people began to appear, and all this required human resources. In the period from 1923 to 1943, the southern part of Miami Beach experienced a real construction boom, the Art Deco architectural style appeared, that made the entire South Beach was built. Laborers were cheaply exploited,  and subjected to high heat and mosquitoes. It wasn’t only laborers who suffered there were Blacks who could not buy any land during this developing time and there was social discrimination against Jewish. 

In 1930, the city became the winter residence of many mobsters from New York and Chicago, including the famous Al Capone. During Prohibition, Miami Beach was the center for the production and sale of alcohol. Nice cars drove through the streets, men smoked cigars, women danced in cabarets. It was the golden age of Miami Beach that we see in black and white gangster movies. Gradually, due to the emerging importance of Miami as an emerging cargo port, it became necessary to deepen the bay. The soil, which was raised from the seabed, was used to dump artificial islands on which higher construction. This is how the Venetian Islands, Star Island, Palm and Hibiscus Islands, Fisher Island and other islands in the northern part of Miami Beach appeared. Now the houses located on these islands are among the most expensive properties in the city.

The situation began to change in the 90s, and not only in South Beach, but in Miami itself. The money made by selling drugs had to be legalized and gradually they began to be invested again in construction. For 20 years, downtown Miami has experienced a real construction boom, while Miami Beach has experienced a renovation boom.

 Now there are almost no unreconstructed hotels in Miami Beach, both in the southern part of it and in the north. It was during this time that Collins ave, Ocean Drive and Flamingo Park were rebuilt, Lummus and South Point parks, pedestrian zones on Lincoln Road and Espanola Way were built. But earlier these were ordinary streets, with small cheap eateries and second-hand clothing stores. However, a large-scale construction unfolded in the northern part of Miami Beach, in the areas of Bal Harbor and Sunny Isles. Here, in just a few years, whole streets of residential skyscrapers with magnificent ocean views have grown. Who would have thought that once a swampland would turn into one of the world’s famous and diverse tourist destinations? 

Work Cited:

Munzenrieder, K., 2015. 100 Years: The Dark And Dirty History Of Miami Beach. [online] Miami New Times. Available at: <https://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/100-years-the-dark-and-dirty-history-of-miami-beach-7552169&gt; [Accessed 20 September 2020].

Downtown Miami as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Downtown. Photo by Komila Kholmatova/CC BY 4.0

“THE HEART OF MIAMI”

By Komila Kholmatova of Florida International University at Downtown, 30 September 2020.

Downtown is a place where liveliness and color emanate from everywhere. This place is considered as the business and central part of Miami. Downtown is also called the heart of Miami, as it is home to skyscrapers, fashionable structures, shopping malls, cultural institutions, and green spaces.

Downtown’s contrast includes wealthy and posh neighborhoods, it is home to major financial institutions and trade conglomerates, as well as various small streets. Downtown is a mix of luxury and urban architecture, where the villas of the world’s most influential and famous people are considered a local landmark.

Also, one can find various sightseeing, like:

Adrienne Arsht Center, a large performing arts center that hosts daily shows, musicals and children’s plays.

The Miami-Dade County Courthouse is located at 73 West Flagler Street. The Miami-Dade Courthouse is still in use today as the central civil court. Initially, court hearings and pre-trial detention cells were held here. The cameras were located on the upper floors. It was assumed that it was impossible to escape from such a height. But a series of high-profile escapes from the Miami-Dade County Courthouse disproved that claim. The inmates escaped using a fire hose and other ingenious devices. More than 70 shoots were recorded in total.

Freedom Tower– is one of the first skyscrapers in the United States, built in 1925. The Freedom Tower in Miami is made in a unique synthetic modern style, successfully combining features of late classicism, American Art Nouveau, striking motifs of Spanish architecture – all note a visual similarity with the famous Giralda Tower in Spanish Seville. According to history, the skyscraper served as a registration and distribution center for refugees from Cuba. Here they distributed medical care, listened to horror stories that refugees told in order to obtain citizenship.

 Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum – a science museum with an observatory and planetarium.

 History Miami – Museum of history, as well as the Perez Art Museum with an incredibly huge collection of exhibits. In the art gallery, tourists have the opportunity to get acquainted with the works of the brush as well-known artists, including Mendieta, Rauschenberg, Rosenquist, Stella, and their contemporary younger colleagues. The know-how of this museum is the occasional interactive events, as well as themed music and entertainment evenings.

The history of Downtown Miami is inseparable from the past of the resort itself. Before the arrival of the Europeans at the beginning of the 16th century, and the first of them were the Spanish conquistadors, the Indian tribes of Miami lived here, later giving their name to the area, as well as the Seminoles, who moved to these regions from the northern states. The first European settlers began to settle in these parts already in the 1800s, gradually ousting the indigenous people. The wealthiest of them immediately started buying up orange plantations and investing in urban planning and the construction of a railway line. Miami began to develop rapidly, which was greatly facilitated by the miraculous climate of these places: winter and summer temperatures practically do not differ and remain at the level of 30 degrees. At the end of the 19th century, it was given city status.

Chicken Key as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Chicken Key Island. Photo by Komila Kholmatova, Nicole Patrick/CC BY 4.0

“COMBINATION OF USEFULNESS AND PLEASANTNESS”

By Komila Kholmatova of Florida International University at Chicken Key, 14 September 2020.

From all the trips we had been to, this trip was the most memorable and unlike the others. The trip to Chicken Key Island was a combination of usefulness and pleasantness.

Usefulness, because our group, led by our Professor, made our world a little better by cleaning the ocean from marine debris. We collected 6 canoes of sea garbage, which included plastic bottles, rubber slippers, pieces of glass, cellophane bags,and  a lot more things including a large barrel that Nicole saw, and by working in a group, we pulled it out of the water and sat in the canoe. 

It’s a shame that people are so careless about nature. Unfortunately, plastic is a global problem. Billions of plastic bags and single-use bottles are used worldwide every year. The inhabitants of the Earth use almost one million plastic bottles every minute! But only less than a quarter of household plastic is recycled. Plastic overflows landfills, chokes rivers and lakes, pollutes the oceans, and harms wild animals. I was very happy and proud that we helped our world and made it a better place, and I hope everyone will take an example from us and contribute to the cleaning of marine debris, or at least be vigilant and not pollute the ecosystem.

Pleasantness, because each of us had the opportunity to merge with nature, spent hours listening to the ocean and enjoy the beauty of it, see pelicans, crabs, fish and other marine life. If someone had told me in the past that I would cross the ocean and swim to the island, I would not have believed it. But today, after going through this, swimming to the Chicken key island, I believe that nothing is impossible and that all fears are surmountable. Fortunately, I was very lucky because I was with a wonderful partner, Nicole, who is much more experienced than me, and it  gave me peace of mind. I have never had such an experience and I will remember it forever. Through this lesson, I not only enrich my worldview and learn more about Miami, but I also get out of my comfort zone and overcome my fears.

Bakehouse as Text

“ LOVE, CARE, HOPE”

By Komila Kholmatova of FIU at Bakehouse, 1 November 2020

We got lucky to be a part of the amazing project “Future Pacific”, a clay-pressing workshop, which took place at  Bakehouse Art Complex in Wynwood. Even though there are not so many ways to save corals and reefs, there are artists like Lauren Shapiro, who encourage our community to fight for environmental change and raise awareness of the climate stressors that influence ecosystems of coral reefs. The workshop was informative and we all had so much fun and enjoyed ourselves by making clay corals and reefs by inserting pieces of clay into silicone molds. I really liked the whole process, especially sculpting corals, as well as attaching them to the installation itself using liquid clay, which was used instead of glue. I really love art and everything connected with it.  Art inspires us and opens up new colors of the world, just like in our workshop, art encourages us to do good deeds that make the world a better place.

At the end of the workshop, some of the students including me got interviewed about the way they felt about the project. One of the questions that stood out to me was: What are three words that describe the project to you? – Love, Care, Hope.

We love our world, we care about it and hope that we will be able to save it.

Rubell as Text

“MESSAGE BEHIND EVERY PIECE”

By Komila Kholmatova of FIU at Rubell, 18   November 2020

On November 18th I was able to witness the contemporary art part of Miami, Rubell Museum. Don and Mera Rubell continue to raise the contemporary art rate in Miami by sharing the valuable collection that they have amassed over the past 50 years. Formerly known as the Rubell Family Collection Museum occupies a new space in the Allapattah neighborhood, not far from its original 25 year old home in Wynwood Art Harbor. The Museum debuted during Art Basel 2019. This seems apt as the couple played a key role in attracting Miami’s famous art fair. 

We were able to browse 40 galleries filled with 300 works by 100 artists.  The experience in each gallery was different, with a good balance of intimate and expansive galleries, featuring art from key artists, moments and movements.

The most memorable work that caught my attention was “Infinity Mirrored Room,-Let’s Survive Forever,2017” by Yayoi Kusama’s.  Due to the virus, guests were not allowed to access the room but we as a class enjoyed the minute. Thanks to our professor, we were lucky enough to immerse ourselves in Yayoi Kusama’s exciting work. Entering the room, I felt as if I had fallen into another dimension, I felt a little dizzy and speechless from the incredible beauty.  

We have also seen groundbreaking work from the likes of Keith Haring, Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince and Jeff Koons.  Works as “New Hoover Convertible” Plexiglas vacuum cleaner from Koons;  “Movie Still # 21” One of Sherman’s most recognizable black and white photographs;  and the famous Prince’s Cowboy series.

If before I used to judge contemporary art as we judge the book by its cover, now I look at contemporary art from a different perspective and I have a whole new understanding and appreciation for it thanks to this class. Art gives freedom of speech and it has a deep meaning and message behind every piece.

Everglades as Text


Everglades National Park, Miami, FL. Photo of Everglades by Komila Kholmatova. Photo of Komila by Professor J.W. Bailly / CC BY 4.0.

“UNIQUE WETLAND”

By Komila Kholmatova of FIU at Everglades, 24 January 2021.

On January 20th we started our first and most waited class of Spring semester in a very significant place of southern Florida – Everglades National Park.

Everglades is 1.5 million acres large home to a myriad endangered and rare species of flora and fauna. It is a very significant place that is considered as part of UNESCO World Heritage and Wetland of International Importance.

We met together with the Professor Bailly and the park’s Ranger Ms. Dillan at the entrance of the park and drove approximately 12 miles into the park. It was suggested to all of us to wear water shoes, since we were going to slough slogging. Before that, I did not know what slough slogging means, it means walking through the water.

 As we arrived at the destination, ranger Dillan gave everyone sticks that were meant to help us to figure out the depth of the water before taking a step. Ready for the journey, we plunged into the water, which turned out to be a little colder than I expected. Full of fear and anticipation of bites of mosquitos, snakes, and crocodiles I continued my way. But with every step taken, the water grew warmer and the fear diminished.

Since it was a dry season the ranger Dillan said that due to the low level of the water and noises that we were making by walking, all the animals would be hiding in more quiet places, thus we did not see any animals in the water apart from tiny mosquito eating fishes. We learnt about various plants that were growing in the river, we reached the alligator hole, we jumped through the muddy holes, we became aware of the history of Everglades and we had a lot of fun, even though for me personally it was extreme environment that I would never have witnessed if not at this class.

The most memorable parts for me were listening to a poem in the middle of Everglades and taking a minute of silence to stay quiet, so we can hear and feel the sounds of the nature. I also enjoyed having a socially distant lunch after slogging and stopping at little farm called “Robert is here” after class for milkshakes.

Wynwood as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in the Locust Projects. Photo by Komila Kholmatova/ CC BY 4.0

“IMMERSIVE INSTALLATION”

By Komila Kholmatova of FIU at Wynwood, Locust Projects, 3rd February 2021.

Having entered the doors of Locust Project I was transformed into a magical space with a unique atmosphere that was wrapped into golden leaf flakes and painted canvases. It was an immersive installation “Made by Dusk” by Mette Tommerup that evoked in me those peculiar feelings. 

If the aim of any installation is to change the focus of the viewer from the visual appearance of a piece to its conceptual idea behind, the “Made by Dusk” piece was able to do so. Our class was plunged into the different meanings of the installation. 

The large-scale installation is intended to open a fresh start to the visitors and surround them with enchanting, and unearthly space made by dusk. The artist Ms.Tomerrup was inspired by Freya, the goddess of love, beauty, gold, war and metamorphosis. She described the work as a “liberating self “, which can be seen through the different elements like video projected on the wall where she was in the process of creating the installation, through deep physical manifestation of the canvases and other objects.  The installation also has a healing potential that makes viewers to have a pause and rethink between the moment of the day and night when time seems to stop.

Before I had very limited knowledge in art but on this day both Professor J.W. Bailly and Ms. Tommerup gave us a deeper understanding on the different concepts of art and completely reinterpreted the whole art world for each of us. The installation is a must visit if you are in Miami and want to be blown away by both art and inspirational artist, because we all did! 

Bill Baggs as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Photo by Komila Kholmatova/ CC BY 4.o

“SURVIVAL LIGHTHOUSE”

By Komila Kholmatova of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, 17 February 2021.

On February 17th, our class explored Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park and did a service work. The area where the park is located – Key Biscayne surrounded by Malaysian coconut palms is a part of the coastline of Florida and even though it is named as a Key, it is not a Key it is an island. Rich in history, flora and fauna the island witnessed variety of events.

One thing that caught my attention most from all during our adventure was a Cape Florida lighthouse that was built in 1825 by U.S Government. It is not just a lighthouse that is intended for lighting but it is a lighthouse with a touching history that survived the Seminoles attack in 1836, saved lives, and was of a great importance to the underground railroads. The lighthouse did survive the explosion, and was rebuilt 2 times later by government and increased in height. Today, the lighthouse is about 95 feet of length with a top and 190 steps up if you take stairs.

We also learnt that Tequestas were the first people that lived and settled those areas but we cannot call them pioneers, since it would be considered as erasing history that was before that.

We also met raccoons family and I fed them for the first time in my life with snack we brought, and we learnt that they might bite people and transfer different disease.

We finished our class with a volunteering at the sensitive site of Bill Baggs Park and enjoyed the rest of the time by swimming. It was an amazing experience thanks to the Ranger Shane Zigler  and our Professor who made it all possible.

River of Grass as Text 

Miami in Miami of FIU at the Everglades. Photo of Komila Kholmatova by J.W. Bailly/ CC BY 4.0

“MYSTERIOUS LANDSCAPE”

By Komila Kholmatova of FIU at the Everglades, 5 March 2021.

No matter how many times you have been to Everglades every time you visit it you will be flabbergasted by its captivating, uninhabited and mysterious landscape. 

Marjory Stoneman Douglas said that  “There are no other Everglades in the world”.  And as nature admirers and Miami explorers each and everyone of us in our class can assure you that it is an undeniable truth.

We did not get enough of Everglades during our previous class, so we came back to learn more about this mysterious river of grass.  If it would not be M.S. Douglas, who is known for her incredible contribution to the defense of Everglades, the American Indians who lived there  and all other advocates who understood, protected and preserved  the Everglades best, our class and the rest of the world might not have been able to see and discover those lands.

We started our class by dry hiking together with ranger Dylan. We learned how people, plants and animals impact the unique ecosystem of the Everglades. Also, I learned a new term, a trophic cascade, which describes all the interactions that control the ecosystem. An example for that would be a food chain, if a predator eats another organism, and may, in turn be eaten by something else. Everything in our ecosystem is interconnected, thus we cannot just get rid of any species. For instance, getting rid of raccoons might cause the invasion of iguanas and damage the cycle of nature by causing more eventual problems.

We also visited the Nike Missile Site and got transferred to the past. We felt the Cold War atmosphere and imagined how hard it was to our predecessors defend attacks from the Soviet Union.

Our class finished with the most beautiful sunset that one can imagine and unforgettable memories that each of us will keep in mind forever!

Frost as Text

Patricia & Phillip Frost Miami, FL. Photo by Komila Kholmatova / CC BY 4.0.

“THOUGHT PROVOKING EXHIBITION”

By Komila Kholmatova of FIU at the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, 17 March 2021

Each museum has a purpose as to educate, store and exhibit various objects that have cultural, historical, artistic or scientific values. The more attention is received towards the exhibitions the more awareness is raised for particular topics. Yet, according to the previous experiences of most museums and other historical, and cultural institutions the most attention is received for controversial works that include politics, religion and sexuality or in other words nudity. Miami-Dade public schools do not let children watch such works for psychological reasons and because of an arbitrary limit of the age, which for the majority of museums is 18.

When we toured the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, we learned that such works that draw most of the attention of the individuals are not allowed to be shown to students and thus, arise difficulties in getting attention for the rest objects in most museums.

Another important highlight of the museum tour that we learned is the influence of curators. Curators are the managers of the art pieces and they have almost the same, equal, and sometimes bigger influence than an artist to impact the viewers perspectives. Even though their goal is to represent the art with respect and all the thorough details, sometimes they can misinterpret the work by taking too much liberty and forget the originality, no matter how hard they try. For example, if the artist was disorganized but his or her work might be organised and not knowing such details the representation of the work in the exhibition might cause misinterpretation. But of course, sometimes curators do not have such details because of the lack of information.

The thought provoking exhibition by Roberto Obregon indeed provoked different ideas in each of our minds. Not without reason, the work of Obregon is considered to be conceptual art, since it evokes unique perceptions for each individual. One might say that the focus was the various representations of the rose, while the other would say it was the repetition of elements, and none of them would be incorrect since the idea of conceptual art is not the physical object but the meaning behind it.

The obsession of Obregon to roses captivated me and reminded me of my childhood obsession in making herbariums of various flowers that I used to gather in the clearing near my house. We all have our own obsessions, and we might or might not want to share them and I think seeing one of Obregon’s in a museum will help people to not be scared of criticism of society by having one. 

Another meaning that I associated with rose when the curator asked us was feminism. I imagined that a rose is a beautiful, strong and independent woman. As Professor mentioned, one can be tempted by her beauty but can get hurt by her thorns; by her I thought both rose and a woman. 

Coral Gables as Text

Coral Gables, Miami, Fl. Photo by Komila Kholmatova/ CC BY 4.0

“THE GABLES”

By Komila Kholmatova at FIU at Coral Gables, 31 March 2021

On March 31st our class toured the Coral Gables-one the most beautiful and rich in history cities located in the southwest of Downtown Miami. We had a chance to explore the Coral Gables Museum, along with the Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ   and the Miracle Mile.

As local residents refer to it, the Gables was one of the first planned communities in the US developed by George Merrick during Florida’s first real estate bubble in the 1920s. At our tour in the museum we learnt that Merrick had inherited vegetable, guava, grapefruit, avocado farm from his family, and in 1922 started to evolve the land into the City of Coral Gables. The architecture of the city is almost fully in Tropical Mediterranean Style or also known as Mediterranean Revival Style.

Merrick had a dream of beautiful “castles in Spain” while having dark lonely rides  to town to sell vegetables. He worked hard to make his dreams reality and one day instead of empty lands he saw a thousand houses. Even though the Great Depression and the great hurricanes in the Roaring Twenties caused severe financial difficulties to Merrick, he still was able to see the reaped benefits of his hard work.

After the museum tour, we visited the centerpiece of the Coral Gables – enormous Biltmore Hotel that was built by G. Merrick in 1926 and designed by Schultz and Weaver. The hotel was not always a hotel; it also served as a military hospital during WWII, and after the end of the war it remained to be a hospital for veterans until 1968. The Coral Gables got the building in 1983 and invested $55 million. The hotel was renovated to glory in 1987 and opened to the public.

We finished our class by visiting the Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ. The land for the church was donated by G. Merrick in the memory of his father Solomon G. Merrick. It was designed by Richard Kiehnel and considered as an ideal instance of Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style.  Today, the Church not only serves as a place of worship but also encourages youngsters to pursue musical and artistic talents.

Vizcaya as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. Photo by Komila Kholmatova / CC BY 4.0.

“FROM VIZCAYA TO MIAMI”

By Komila Kholmatova of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, 14 April 2021

On a special day for all of us, April 14th, the last class of Miami in Miami, we went to visit the most beautiful place in Miami – Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.  

Vizcaya will always hold a special place in my heart because it is the first sightseeing location I visited when I arrived for studying in Miami and I could not resist its beauty and unique architectural style. It is a place where Miami started for me, and historically Vizcaya actually represents the end of the beginning of Miami.

The Villa Vizcaya came to its glorifying existence thanks to the idea of James Deering, and the art of Paul Chalfin.  The mansion was built as a place of protection of flora and fauna, the local landscape conservation, and as a house of freedom and escape. Behind the incredible beauty of Vizcaya lies the hard work of Bahamian and indigenous people, whose labor weren’t always recognized. 

Vizcaya welcomes its guests as if it is a mirage in the middle of the desert but in reality it is a magical Villa covered in the tropical landscape curtains wearing Mediterranean architecture style dress along with the mixture of Italian and Spanish details. As you enter Vizcaya you can feel the hedonisms, power, wealth, unusual energy and glory that had a huge impact on the style of the mansion as on the cultural identity of Miami itself.

The Roman God of wine and ecstasy, Bacchus, greets you as you enter the Villa from the west entrance loggia which used to be a back door. As you walk into the patio you almost get blinded by the lights of the sun that are coming through the window ceiling and making the room magically golden and bright. Before Villa became a museum, there were no windows at the doors and the ceiling and you could feel the fresh breeze coming from the Biscayne Bay and ventilating the whole mansion.

Walking from room to room, from room to the majestic garden in the Villa, it feels like you are traveling through different dimensions of eras and architectural styles, from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, from the Mediterranean style to Rococo, from the 80s to the times of the Great Gatsby, what could be better than everything altogether?  Only Vizcaya!

Rafaella Ribeiro: Miami as Text 2020

Photo taken of Rafaella Ribeiro in 2019. CC BY 4.0

My name is Rafaella Ribeiro. I am currently a junior at FIU. I am majoring in international business and supply chain management. I was born and raised in a small town in Brazil. I moved to Miami when I was 15. I have known I was going to move to Miami since the first time I visited the city at age 7. I have always loved Miami, that love however is fading away. I am taking this class to fall in love with Miami all over again. I love taking pictures, hanging out with friends, and learning a new side of things.

Deering as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Deering Estate. Photo by Rafaella Ribeiro/ CC BY 4.0

Miami’s time-capsule

Rafaella Ribeiro FIU at Deering Estate, 2 September 2020

I was seven years old when I first traveled to Miami. I was just a little girl with a life ahead of me. What I did not know then was that the plane ticket to a summer with my aunt would change my life forever. I soon fell in love with the city, and I knew that one day this would be my home. Fast forward a few years and here I am. What once used to make my heart skip a beat became routine, and after six years in this magical place I began to forget why Miami is such a big part of my life. My visit to the Deering Estate was a much needed reminder of my love for the city. As I had the chance to walk through paths once walked by Tequesta, fellow immigrants, people who builded this city, and dreams I felt such a strong connection to Miami. I had the chance to experience the nature of Miami like never before.

The Deering Estate is a  one of a kind  time capsule of nature and history. In a city full of buildings, changes, music, food, and history it is so incredible to find an untouched place that holds so many pieces of what makes us Miami. I will never know the names, the histories, the dreams of those who walked before me, but that did not stop me from connecting and appreciating them. I got there expecting to see trees and explore the nature, but the journey was much more complex than that. There was something unique about the way the sun hited the place. There was a connection of simplicity and luxury, past and present. As I followed professor Bailly the journey I took was much deeper than the nature hike. Deering Estate allowed me to fall in love with Miami all over again. I left a piece of heart there and took a piece of our history with me. I am beyond grateful for this experience and I look forward to my next visit.

South Beach as text

Miami in Miami of FIU in South Beach. Photo by Rafaella Ribeiro/ CC BY 4.0

Overlooking the City

Rafaella Ribeiro FIU at South Beach, 2 September 2020

Miami once again has made me fall in love. Form the blue water, the warm weather, to the historic building and randomly placed pieces of art. The walk from South Beach to Lincoln Rode was another reminder of the rich and unique history on the city. It was so mind opening to learn that a place that is now know for it’s diversity was once a place of segregation and discrimination. Although that is a chapter of our history, it does not define who we are. Miami means so much for so many.

Mimi is so rich in details and history. I have walked though the area so many times but it wasn’t until I was lecturing on t history that everything fell into place. Ocean drive has always had a special place of my hear. I have always love the aesthetic of buildings. My appreciation for it grew bigger e after learning of the fight for preservation that Barbara Capitan. She fought to keep the building as they were. She was the voice and the reason why we have Ocean Drive as it is. I have been there so many times and have always overlooked her statue. From now on when I appreciate the uniqueness of Ocean Drive I will be thankful for her. She is the reason why we can enjoy so much of our history today. She is long gone but her legacy still stands.  

Downtown as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Downtown Miami. Photo by Rafaella Ribeiro/ CC BY 4.0

The beginning

Rafaella Ribeiro FIU at Downtown Miami  September 30, 2020

Downtown Miami is a place that I had never really explored before. There have been a few times I had the chance to drive though it but I had never had the chance to see what it has to offer. It is the place where Miami Ave and Flagler st meet and Miami as we know begins.I could easily describe Downtown as a place that is unique, full of culture, and history, but rather I see Downton as a place full of new beginnings. It is literally the place where the city stats, but it goes much deeper than that. 

Downtown holds 60 historic buildings. One of the buildings that caught my attention was Fort Dallas, a rectangular building that holds so much within its walls. It was once the place where the slaves lived. It was also used to  prevent trading between the Seminole and traders from Cuba or the West Indies. It then was used as a place that people would go to socialize. Today, although closed due to the pandemic, it is a place of learning. As I stood before that building I was overwhelmed. I thought about all the people who experience that place with sadness and lack of freedom. I then thought about how many people had a great time in the same place. I wondered how many friendships started, and if people ever feel in love there. It made me realize that over the years people experienced so many different things in Fort Dallas. It made me realize that Miami is a little bit about that, different people, in different times, all with so many dreams, realties,  and goals. Downtown has a strong and powerful energy. It holds so much, it expresses so much. I learned that the city can speak to you. I went to Downtown not knowing what to expect, I left Downton feeling empowered, free, and connected.

Chicken Key as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Chicken Keys . Photo by Rafaella Ribeiro/ CC BY 4.0



Eye Opening Experience

Rafaella Ribeiro FIU at Chicken Key  14, October 2020

Chicken Key was a place like I had never been before. A little island off the coast of the Deering Estate that although has never been modified by humans, has a lot of trash. This class was definitely one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in a long time.I grew up around water none of my experiences compared to it. I have always loved being in the boat or the jetski, I had never before experienced any water vehicle that you have to do some kind of work to make it move. As superficial as that might sound the experiences are so different. Going in I had no idea how much physical strength it would take to get it moving.  It was so frustrating because I had no idea what I was doing. I had a partner  who was more experienced but the struggle was real. My arms were not ready for it.

I had no expectations of the island, but as soon as I got there I was blown away by its beauty, luxury in simplicity, and the amount of trash. It was very upsetting to see it with my own eyes. As an Earth lover I realized that I was very ignorant and many times failed to truly see the damages we cause to the planet. Getting there was a wake up call. The place was supposed to be clean and home to many sea creatures, but instead it is dirty and home to piles of trash. My heart was a bit broken and my continence a little shaken. I have always seen pictures of other countries and  I never thought that we had a place like that so close to us. This was an awakening experience and it has changed me in more ways than I could ever imagine.

Bakehouse as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Bakehouse . Photo by Rafaella Ribeiro/ CC BY 4.0

Creating

Rafaella Ribeiro FIU at Bakehouse  28, October 2020

Bakehouse is an art gallery in Miami that is home to 100 resident and associate artists, deriving from a rich diversity of backgrounds. It is a place where artists can rent gallery space and showcase their art. We had the opportunity to be a part of a project greater than us. Many times it is easy to forget about things we see. It is ever easier to forget about things that are out of sight. Coral reefs are an essential part of our ocean that is rapidly disappearing. Art can  be used to bring awareness, and that is exactly what this project was about. Lauren Shapiro the mastermind behind this project is using her skills to bring the community together, and to make people aware of the current situation of the coral reefs. 

Scientists made silicone molds out of corals.We then have the opportunity to use clay in the molds to make corals. The beauty of this project is that it is so raw, human, and temporary. The clay is never baked and therefore the shape is momentary. The clay does change color and texture because it air  dries but in the end it will all be destroyed. Lauren Shapiro will then recycle the clay into new projects. To many this might seem like a waste of time, why make something that will get destroyed. But the way I see this project is genius. I think Shapiro represents the problem with our coral reefs in a beautiful and unique way. It is a reminder we only have so much time before it is all gone and we cannot restore it. This project is a call to action, I  hope that the people who have the opportunity to be exposed to this project become more aware of our coral reefs and our environment as a whole. 

Mohan Yatham: Miami as Text 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Photo captured during a medical mission trip to Costa Rica. Photo by Mohan Yatham/ CC BY 4.0

Howdy! My name is Mohan, I’m a senior premed undergraduate at Florida International University. I major in Biology and minor in Business and Chemistry. I want to pursue a dual degree MD/MBA in the future. Throughout my undergraduate career I believed that exploring is a foundation of a new beginning. Over the past decade, I lived in multiple places including India, New Jersey, Rochester, Daytona Beach, Orlando and Miami! This allowed me to gain insights about various regions and local traditions. I’ve always wanted to learn more about the culture and history of Miami. As a part of the Honors College, I am thrilled to share my experience and exploration about Miami in this page!

Deering as text

Visual of the deering estate nature preserve and the tour given by professor Bailly. Logo by: https://www.deeringestate.org/ All photos in the collage are captured and edited by Mohan Yatham/ CC BY 4.0

Miami’s Preserved History!

By Mohan Yatham Of FIU at The Deering Estate, 2 September 2020


<p class="has-drop-cap" style="line-height:1.8" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">The Deering Estate preserves not only a European style mansion but also entire conservation of multiple rare species of plants, ferns, trees, and a diversity of wildlife, such as coyotes, snakes, spiders, foxes, and many more! It is also an excellent place for hiking and immersing in nature. One can only appreciate the value with live visualization of land that has an ancestral background. I can say that I am a lucky Floridan to have walked on the same road as the regular trade road for the Tequesta tribe. One of my favorite views throughout the hike had to be the Pine Rocklands with spectacular views. The quote below resembles to the fact that we should embrace the footprints of our ancestors and connect with the history. However, I did have an adventure walking through the poison Ivy plants with a missing sole on my boots!The Deering Estate preserves not only a European style mansion but also entire conservation of multiple rare species of plants, ferns, trees, and a diversity of wildlife, such as coyotes, snakes, spiders, foxes, and many more! It is also an excellent place for hiking and immersing in nature. One can only appreciate the value with live visualization of land that has an ancestral background. I can say that I am a lucky Floridan to have walked on the same road as the regular trade road for the Tequesta tribe. One of my favorite views throughout the hike had to be the Pine Rocklands with spectacular views. The quote below resembles to the fact that we should embrace the footprints of our ancestors and connect with the history. However, I did have an adventure walking through the poison Ivy plants with a missing sole on my boots!

Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints!

Chief Si ahl

Some of the other interesting sites include the mangroves with green/blue spring waters. That area can also be described as the “shell island,” considering the number of shells seen in the province. Each shell had a purpose, such as drilling or hunting. The hike had views of large trees, such as the gumbo limbo tree, as seen in the picture above. Image 2 shows beavers’ home, but it is a freshwater canal that was blasted years ago. Photo 3 shows views during the hike when attempting to explore a crashed plane. The last picture served as a trap when animals drop in that area and cannot escape; it is an excellent meal for the wolves and other predators!

Overall, the views were spectacular, and it is one place that everyone especially living in Miami, should visit and embrace the long-lasting history at home!

South Beach as Text

Visual of the south beach area and the tour given by professor Bailly. All photos in the collage are captured and edited by Mohan Yatham/ CC BY 4.0

Compass of South Beach’s Outstanding Architecture!

By Mohan Yatham Of FIU at The South Beach, 16 September 2020

<p class="has-drop-cap" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">When you hear the name South Beach, you automatically know that it is one of the most visited tourist attraction! While the streets of South Beach are prominently known for the nightlife, restaurants, beach activities, there is a much more significant reason for its ever-growing popularity. That is how I knew about South Beach until I had the lecture with professor Bailly. I never thought about the preserved architecture such as the art deco design, Miami modern design, and specific details of some buildings for the number of times I walked through the Lincoln road, ocean drive, and many parts of the south beach.When you hear the name South Beach, you automatically know that it is one of the most visited tourist attraction! While the streets of South Beach are prominently known for the nightlife, restaurants, beach activities, there is a much more significant reason for its ever-growing popularity. That is how I knew about South Beach until I had the lecture with professor Bailly. I never thought about the preserved architecture such as the art deco design, Miami modern design, and specific details of some buildings for the number of times I walked through the Lincoln road, ocean drive, and many parts of the south beach.

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">South Beach carries the history of a Mangrove Island, which then had several cultural phases shaped to the present South Beach. I can never stop to admire the designs of some of the buildings on the ocean drive. The city of Miami kept the sites of iconic Art Deco buildings and historically prevalent architectural designs. The eyebrow design is mainly known as a sunshade design for many buildings. The art deco consisted of specific patterns that resembled on many buildings. The colors of some of the buildings are fascinating due to the resemblance of the ocean vibes. Some buildings looked like ships and even rocket-like structures. There was a human-made portion leading to the cruise ship docking and the port of Miami. The pandemic emptied the south beach streets, which had impacted many of the businesses that are held closed until the situation settles. From the alleys to the Versace mansion, South beach holds a remarkable history and remains the site of attraction for the entire world!South Beach carries the history of a Mangrove Island, which then had several cultural phases shaped to the present South Beach. I can never stop to admire the designs of some of the buildings on the ocean drive. The city of Miami kept the sites of iconic Art Deco buildings and historically prevalent architectural designs. The eyebrow design is mainly known as a sunshade design for many buildings. The art deco consisted of specific patterns that resembled on many buildings. The colors of some of the buildings are fascinating due to the resemblance of the ocean vibes. Some buildings looked like ships and even rocket-like structures. There was a human-made portion leading to the cruise ship docking and the port of Miami. The pandemic emptied the south beach streets, which had impacted many of the businesses that are held closed until the situation settles. From the alleys to the Versace mansion, South beach holds a remarkable history and remains the site of attraction for the entire world!

Downtown Miami as Text

Visual of the downtown Miami area and the tour given by professor Bailly. All photos in the collage are captured and edited by Mohan Yatham/ CC BY 4.0

Compass of South Beach’s Outstanding Architecture!

By Mohan Yatham Of FIU at The Downtown Miami, 30 September 2020

Downtown Miami holds some of the most historical monuments and is filled with iconic multicultural towers along the east coast of South Florida. The origin of Miami’s infrastructure begins at the intersection of Flagler Street and Miami Ave. Having been to other nations such as India, England, and Costa Rica, I appreciate the preservation of historic buildings across downtown Miami. The historical places such as the Gisu Church, Biscayne Key, Miami-Dade courthouse, Freedom tower, Fort Dallas, Wagner House, Brickell Park, and many more built today’s Miami community.  The Gus church played a crucial part in understanding the roots of Christianity in Miami from the Spanish. 

It was a fascinating experience to stand at Tequesta’s capital, where Ponce De Leon first sailed to Miami. The massive apartments and structures were built over the graveyard of the Tequestas.  The Wagner House is the oldest in Miami, which was built by a German in 1855. When I looked at the Wagner House, I quickly recalled a village in India with similar design homes. One of the most interesting parts of the visit to downtown Miami is the Fort Dallas vicinity. That building served as a slave plantation house, and it was preserved as a historic building. The Brickell family is one of the most important contributors to the skyline and infrastructure of the downtown Miami. The architecture of the freedom building resembles the Cathedral Bell Tower in Spain. It is a distinctive landmark known for the Latin heritage and located at the heart of Miami. Miami holds a brief history for the present diverse community and the landscape that made Miami one of the most attractive locations in the world!

Chicken Key as Text

Visual of the chicken key area and the tour given by professor Bailly.  All photos in the collage are captured by John Bailly/ CC BY 4.0

Beyond the Deering Estate, lies the golden key!

By Mohan Yatham Of FIU, Reflection of Chicken Key 14 October 2020

Who would say no to canoeing with the professor and classmates for an honors class at FIU? No one!! Although I missed the chicken key visit, from the photos shared by Professor Bailly and my classmates, it was by far the most entertaining educational trip that served a change in the community. From what I have heard from my classmates and my research on sights of the chicken key, it was the most memorable trip that contributed to a bigger purpose. When I first visited the Deering estate, I can feel the blue ocean’s calmness with breathtaking views all around. I believe that cleaning up the trash that potentially harms many fish and sea life around the keys and mangroves is an interminable initiation towards change for the better good.

From what I have heard from my friends, by looking deep inside the island, there was a lot of trash, including big plastic items, caps, and even masks made their way to the small island. The students were paired up when canoeing to the chicken key. Nevertheless, having missed the trip, it only makes me want to visit the Deering estate more often and presumably have a trip with friends to visit the chicken key island to have a closer experience and be part of a positive initiation!

Bake House as Text

Visual of the art structures and the tour given by professor Bailly.  All photos in the collage are captured by Mohan Yatham/ CC BY 4.0

Coral Reef in Art!

By Mohan Yatham Of FIU, Reflection of Bake House 25 October 2020

This week was yet another community project representing the combination of science and art to illustrate the importance of coral life in our oceans! I had a fantastic experience working with clay for the first time. Coral reefs in our seas are dying, and it is a rapidly increasing problem that can vastly affect our near future. This project involves the representation of the degradation of corals in our ocean displayed in a clay structure. Instead of the traditional clay structure methods, this project is purposefully designed to show coral overtime progression. Coral reefs are the heart of the ocean that serves as a shelter for various species and helps prevent storms and erosions. This project aims to show the corals’ actual degradation in the sea to bring awareness to the community in art form! Over time, the coral molds would dry off and fall, showing how we are losing coral. 

As a first timer for working with clay, I was amused to observe and apply the process of building clay structures. I used multiple colors of clay to create exciting designs from different molds. This class will be in my memories forever and a great experience to reflect on in the future. I am fortunate to be involved in this project with my peers and talented artists who dedicate a lot of time and effort. 

Rubell Museum as Text

Visual of the Rubell museum area and the tour given by professor Bailly.  All photos in the collage are captured by Mohan Yatham/ CC BY 4.0

Expression of Society through Art!

By Mohan Yatham Of FIU, Reflection of Rubell Museum 18 November 2020

One quote that evokes in my mind after this week’s class at the Rubell museum is that “art speaks where words are unable to explain.” The impact that art has on our society is inarticulate, and I witnessed that in our class this week. Rubell museum displays contemporary artwork from some of the most famous artists worldwide, including artists from Miami! My favorite piece of art in the Rubell Museum is the Infinity mirrored room created by artist Yayoi Kusama. I felt privileged to have experienced the mirrored room through exclusive access to the infinity mirrored room. Many of modern culture was represented in some of the artifacts throughout the museum. 

What fascinated me the most is that some of the visual representations presented at the museum may not be shown at universities. Since the Rubell museum is privately operated, we have the opportunity and freedom to express art and its underlying message to society. I grew up not knowing the importance of art. It was fascinating to see the giant portrait that was created by the same artist as the portrait of President Barack Obama.  Many of the artworks showed the slavery, transgender, cultural revelations that throughout our history. Having been to the museum located here in Miami, my perspective has completely changed, and I genuinely appreciate the art and respect the artists that prepare crafts that represent stories!

Claudia Martinez: Miami as Text 2020-2021




Claudia Martinez pictured at Palm Court. Photo by CC Martinez/ CC BY 4.0

Claudia Martinez is a newly transferred student from Miami Dade College. She has a passion for the world of financial economics and pursues a career in stock brokerage. Some hobbies include travel, ice skating and of course keeping up with the latest market trends. Miami is a beautiful and vivid green city that she loves exploring and hopes to see it in a new light through the lens of Miami in Miami.

Deering As Text

Deering Estate type of class. Photo by CC Martinez, / cc by 4.0

Deering Estate: A Glance Into The Past

by Claudia Martinez of FIU at Deering Estate, 2 September 2020.

On September 2nd, 2020, I began the journey of Miami in Miami. Little did I know about the site known as Deering Estate, but nevertheless I was going to take advantage of exploring the natural tropical hardwood hammock, the Gumbo Limbo and the diverse habitats that Deering States boasts about. Interesting enough, one of the first things introduced to me was a three story stoned mansion which had both Spanish influenced walls and Islamic styled windows. Another distinct piece of architecture standing alongside of it was the Richmond cottage, and as you guessed, it is inclined to American influence. While venturing further on, I noticed a Tequesta Burial Mound that was carefully preserved with its own area. Now, this is no ordinary burial mound but it is a hidden treasure in the eyes of historians and archeologists as this is a prehistoric mound that once belonged to the Tequesta civilization. At the end of the day, I looked back and reflected on how much history and diversity of civilizations stood in one site alone. My perspective in Miami stands challenged as I believed Miami to be the city known for its Art Deco influence and Spanish roots but I now know that there is so much more to it. There is a world of history behind it and it was not established by the Europeans but before that there were great civilizations with a story to tell. I may not have been there physically in time to see it all happen, but I was living a day in their lives while I was walking through Deering Estate.

South Beach As Text

Claudia Martinez pictured at Miami Beach. Photo by CC Martinez/ cc by 4.0

South Beach’s Colorful History: An Architectural Fun Zone

By Claudia Martinez Of FIU at South Beach, 16 September 2020.

Being brought up in suburban Kendall, South Beach always seemed like the center of civilization in Miami. Despite being an Economics Major, I have long been an Architecture Enthusiast but it was until today that I was only familiar with South Beach’s famous Art Deco style as it is the world’s greatest concentration of this type. I was in for a big surprise when I realized the different influences that greeted many walks of life to this tourist hotspot. This is all grand and all but I was shocked to hear about the origins of Miami Beach as what it used to be, a mangrove barrier island and contrary to myth it was inhabited and also not a wasteland. On the other hand, leaning towards the Art Deco influence on South Beaches, I felt a greater connection to the Art Deco influence after hearing the story behind their composition. The buildings try to portray machines, space ships and even appliances! I may not know about you, but that makes so much more sense to me and in fact causes me to appreciate the Art Deco scene to a more personal level. Art Deco did not just stop there. They integrated designs from Mesopotamia and Mesoamerica that made me transitions from modern era to early civilizations. From beautiful ziggurat rooflines to three story buildings that are conveniently divided by three facades. As a visual person, I cannot help but admire so much detail in one foundation! Even though, South Beach is a glamorous site there is more to its history and origins that contributes to the lively atmosphere that it is so greatly known for.

Downtown As Text

Congregates at Gesu Church ‘Dropped Bowl with Scattered Slices and Peels’. Photy by CC Martinez / cc by 4.0

Meeting Miami’s History At Its Center: A Story Of Two Sides

By Claudia Martinez of FIU at Downtown Miami, 30 September 2020.

Today I did not go to Downtown Miami for a simple leisure trip, I went to learn about the Tequesta civilization whose center lied at this very place that we call downtown. Yes, it turns out that just as downtown is a hotspot to Miami residents, this same area was a hotspot to Tequesta civilizations before us. In fact, when Juan Ponce de Leon first arrived to this area that the Tequesta called home, he arrived in what is called the Miami Circle. So you see, here we have a historical landmark that marks the encounter of two distinct civilizations, the Spanish and the Native Americans coming together. Today Miami’s history repeats itself again on a larger scale as many different cultures come together to meet in this great big hotspot. On the other hand, I was finally able to encounter the oldest known standing house in Miami. The house dates back to the 1850’s, that’s even older than Miami itself! The house was built by William Wagner who was breaking the norms that were considered back in his day unheard of. He is a European young male at the time who is married to a colored woman and that was basically out of protocol at his time. However, just like story, the Wagner House remains until this day. Another foundation that I could not stop thinking about was the Gesu Church. The Gesu church is unlike any other church I have seen in Miami. The church is made up of colorful tinted windows, adorned ceilings, chandeliers and even frescoes of biblical scenes. Now I may not be religious but I felt like I was sharing the same faith as anyone else who congregates there. I felt so identified. Learning about downtown Miami’s distinct historical landmarks impacted me on a personal level, Miami has a story to tell and one worth listening too.

Chicken Key As Text

Claudia Martinez Pictured at Chicken Key Island. Photo by CC Martinez, / cc by 4.0

Journey To Chicken Key Island: Discovering A Natural Beach

By Claudia Martinez of FIU at Chicken Key Island, 14 October 2020.

No journey in the Miami in Miami course has ever disappointed and this was no exception. After two weeks of juggling work, study and health, I found myself dragging to go to the next class unsuspecting of what was to come and how much I needed to try something new for the first time in a long while. As I went on my way to Deering Estate, I had gradually started to adopt a new attitude as the cloudless sky lured me in and a windy front welcomed me into the estate. As soon as I got in the canoe, I focused less on deadlines and exams and more on staying present in a beautiful crossing between Deering Estate and Chicken Key Island. I did not know much about canoeing as this was my first time but learning something new was the high point of my day and I enjoyed every second of it. Finally after arriving to Chicken Key Island, I got to see what a real beach looks like and more importantly after canoeing for the first time for a mile, it was more than reasonable to dive in the refreshing water of the island. I was so glad that I had overcome the lack of enthusiasm of coming to class and realized how fortunate I was to enjoy a full class of students at an uninhabited island specially during a real time pandemic. Progressing on to our mission which was to do a clean up, I along with my classmates, managed to fill up are canoes with trash that reached the island through currents. You would be surprised at what I found. From unopened beer cans to even a covid-19 mask found by my professor. By doing a cleanup along the island we were not only having a positive impact on the wild life itself, but also on ourselves as people who will shape tomorrow’s society and values. After today’s trip I was no longer the same person that walked in before class but I was positively impacting the community and myself as well.

Bakerhouse As Text

Claudia Martinez and classmates pictured at Bakerhouse Art Complex. Photo by N. Patrick/ cc by 4.0

Bringing Coral Reef Awareness

By Claudia Martinez of FIU at Bakerhouse Art Complex October, 28 October 2020

Being part of an art project for the first time, I realized that you do not have to be a self-professed artist to take part in creativity or the arts. This art project, like many art pieces, has a more profound purpose and this one’s very purpose was aimed to bring awareness about the disappearing coral reefs which are vital to many communities of ocean life, and thus, making the reefs vital for sustainable life under water. Now I may not know about you but I was among those people who did not know that coral reefs were disappearing. As part of this art project, I was not only exposed to the beautiful shapes and figures that ocean life holds but also to the fact that they are in danger. I am so grateful that I was part of this art project and not conformed with this, I am much more grateful that this art project contributes to a greater cause of bringing awareness to the dangers that coral reefs face. Personally, I consider the world around us an important issue and I am sure that if we keep pushing we will see the results and benefits of saving the ocean’s coral reefs and their contribution to ocean life.

Rubell As Text

Claudia Martinez pictured at Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrored Room”. Photo by C. Martinez/ CC by 4.0

Contemporary Art Boldness And The Thought-Provoking Conversation It Entails

By Claudia Martinez of FIU at Rubell Museum, 18 November 2020.

Have you ever considered going after a crazy passion even though it might be a costly one. That is exactly what the Rubell family decided they would do when they purchased their first artwork at a great cost that back then signified a high price to them. You see, the Rubell family decided to collect art pieces out of passion and not out of the intention of profiting from them. When I heard that our class was going to be taken at Rubell Museum I did not know much about contemporary art and how it would provoke conversations on topics I usually try to avoid or feel uncomfortable talking about. Upon entering the art exhibition I saw a painting of a man who lay asleep and to put it lightly it was not an image that portrays the status quo of how African Americans are usually painted as. The painter behind this art piece was the same painter who drew a portrait of former president Barack Obama. This painter added a renaissance realism effect to his portrait with a vibrant flower filled background which stands out from other paintings and challenges one’s view on African American art. Another art piece worth noting is “Two Cells with Circulating Conduit” by Peter Halley. Some people may think to themselves, “I could have done that myself”, but the truth is that they didn’t. This symmetrical piece challenges one to reconsider their life by symbolizing the small spaces that one is surrounded themselves in. One box may represent a personal room, an even larger box may the living room and so forth representing that the spaces that people interact with are small and limit the way we see and interact with the world. To say the least, I was far from my comfort zone as we explored interesting topics that challenged me but also taught me a different side of art and the topics they address.

Everglades As Text

First Picture: “Claudia Martinez Slough Slogging at the Everglades”, by Komila Kholmatova/ CC by 4.0. Second picture: Everglades by Claudia Martinez/ CC by 4.0.

Reinventing The Way We See Miami

By Claudia Martinez of FIU at the Everglades 20 January, 2021.

It was my first time in this part of the Everglades and as I went 13 miles into the state park along with my classmates, I could not help but admire the majestic greatness of the Everglades. As I attempted to slough slog for the first time, I have to confess that I was a bit nervous and excited as I thought to myself, “expect the unexpected”. That is precisely what happened as I discovered different tree species and life in the Everglades. Halfway through the way, we listened to a poem by park ranger Dylan that called to attention the beauty that Everglades stands for. Afterwards, we stopped and remained quiet for a minute in order to fully appreciate the sight that was in front of my classmates and I. To my amazement, we heard the fierce call of a bird that sounded like a hawk, the leaves rustling in the wind, and the wind blowing in our midst. Among other things, I noticed the sunlight making its way to our class group and felt the vibration on the water with my feet. At that moment, even if we did not have strong signal, my class and I had a stronger connection with nature than I can last remember. Afterwards, we had lunch together as a group where we listened to one of the other park rangers play an interactive song and called us to sing along with him. Reflecting through out the day, I realized that it was a true privilege to be in the Everglades and witness the beauty it stands for, and I found it fascinating while at the same time coming out of my comfort zone.

Wynwood As Text

Claudia Martinez at Marguiles Warehouse by Komila Kholmatova/ CC by 4.0

Viewing The World Through Conceptual Art

By Claudia Martinez at Marguiles Warehouse 03 February 2021.

As my class and I stepped foot on Marguiles Warehouse I thought to myself, ” be prepared to explore new topics and ideas”. To my amazement, I was eager to see history and social ideas linked to every artistic piece we came across with. For as long as humans have existed, art has been a form of expression. Whether it is to communicate a famine or illustrate a religious event, humans use art as a medium of communication. However, what my class and I found was unique and beautiful. It is called conceptual art, and conceptual art challenges the system of art, what it stands for and approaches it with a new way of viewing art. What conceptual art aims to do is grab an object and use that object to symbolically stand for an idea. This idea was established at the beginning of the twentieth century and has grown since then. The orthodox system of art stands challenged and art was no longer limited to sculpture and canvas paintings but we are now able to discuss new ideas through a new medium of art that focuses in an out-of-the-box way of thinking. In conceptual art, the whole piece is important as a whole, no one fragment is more important than the other which stays true to its values as an art piece.

Bill Baggs As Text

Victoria Jackson, Brittney Sanchez, Esmeralda Y., Aimee Z., Claudia M., Kathalina Z., and Roger Masson pictured at Bill Baggs State Park by Nicole Patrick. CC by 4.0

Cape Florida Light: A True Perseverance Story

by Claudia Martinez of FIU at Bill Baggs State Park, 21 February 2021

Class starts at Key Biscayne this time and I find myself rushing to arrive there as it is my first time. After catching up, I am able to witness the tall lighthouse standing tall, strong and white almost as if history did not try to successively knock it down. However, behind this structure is a true perseverance story. As the white Europeans explored the land and claimed it for Spain and tried to remove the Tequesta’s from the land that they had been living in for hundreds of years. However, in 1836 during the Seminole war, the Seminoles retaliated against European constraints by attacking them and in the attempts they attacked the lighthouse. On that same year, the lighthouse encountered a strong hurricane that led to its weakening and contributed to it being extinguished until the next lighthouse was to be made in its place. Ten years passed but it was not forgotten, far from it. In 1846, the second light house was planned to be reconstructed again using new bricks as well as the old bricks from the first lighthouse as well, preserving the essence of the first lighthouse and was eventually finished in 1847. Through out its time the lighthouse encountered historic events between the Tequestas, Seminoles and the white Europeans and inclusively a civil war. Today, the lighthouse stands strong and beautiful but at the same time reminds us that it had to withstand natural disasters and wars through out its time.

River Of The Grass As Text

John Bailly, Brittney Sanchez and Claudia Martinez at Everglades National park by Kathalina Zuniga. CC by 4.0

Exploring The Everglades

By Claudia Martinez of FIU at Everglades National Park o3 March 2021.

It’s Wednesday and its special today because this time we are making our second trip into the Everglades. As always, I mentally pray that we are all safe during our excursion. I am in the middle of midterms and a busy week of work has swept me by. I am longing for this trip to connect with nature and get a feel of what it is like to get away from the hustle and bustle for the day. As we gathered around the flatness of the Everglades we stood by a solution hole that stood amid a relatively dry portion of the land. I later realized that we were able to walk and speak around the solution hole because the plants around it were not quite grown as it would have been in a year from this date. Another important thing to note was the action of setting up fires was key to maintaining a mixed ecosystem and taking away the dominance of certain plants over the land. We eventually made our way to an abandoned house in the middle of the Everglades. Yes really, an abandoned house in the Everglades. I can only imagine living there being one with nature but also extremely isolated from the world and people at the same time. It was definitely a different type of lifestyle for the person who lived here and not something I would try but learning about it makes me see how capable humans are of living in nature. After a day at the Everglades, I felt sore and exhausted and although I had to cram this into my hectic schedule, I know that it was not only worth the class grade but every second of it was worth it for me on this day.

Frost As Text

Art piece on rose petals by Roberto Obregon taken by Claudia Martinez. CC by 4.0

Conceptual Art Through The Lens of Frost Art Museum.

By Claudia Martinez of FIU at Frost Museum of FIU 17 March 2021.

Art can touch all subjects, you can amplify reflections through art such as human relationships, scientific classification, politics, sexual orientation and the list goes on. Roberto Obregon, an artist who focuses his art on roses and its petals, aimed to expressing these very ideas. When he made his artwork he would number the petals of the rose, almost as if he were numbering the petals as he plucked them out of the rose. Clearly, this artist spent much time with roses and it is not hard to see why. People associate roses with romance, charm and so on. Even though this idea is pleasant to think about, Obregon indulged in the Dada movement where he rejected modern capitalist aesthetics and express irrationality and nonsense in one’s work. In regard of petals of the rose being numbered is something to which he would refer to as dissecting the rose and seeing the beauty of the rose but also acknowledging that a rose has thorns and just like it has beauty it can also bring about pain. I enjoyed seeing art relating to the Dada movement and I thought it was interesting and its simplicity. However, these type of art pieces are the ones that leave a conundrum in my head. I found myself wondering what was behind his strong passion behind roses. At the end of the day, the world may never know but at least I was able to witness it on my excursion to Frost Art Museum.

Coral Gables As Text

The Biltmore Hotel by CC Martinez. CC by 4.0

The Artistic Side Behind Coral Gables

By Claudia Martinez of FIU at Coral Gables 31 March 2021.

Today’s class partially took place in Coral Gables Museum. We are looking back at this particular section of the city whose characteristic architecture influence stands out a little more in this part of Miami. The architecture style is Mediterranean revival and although this may trigger you to think about Spain or neighboring European countries, Coral Gables influence comes from Mexican- Spanish cities that were visited by its founder George Merrick. As I walked through Coral Gables Museum we reviewed the history of the jail that it used to be before becoming the present day museum. According to the museum lecturer, the jail was separated into four groups. The groups included white and colored women and white and colored man. This detail gives us insight of the intense segregation in prisons back then where even same gender inmates where separated by color. As we kept exploring the museum, we gathered the fact that Merrick was a visionary behind the creation of Coral Gables. By taking simple actions such as selling fruits and vegetables and part of his property, he started building houses and eventually met contacts with who he partnered with who he financed the Biltmore with, which was once a hospital. What stands out the most was observing how they were able to bring up this city among so much limestone which presented a huge obstacle for those who participated in the city’s construction. However, Merrick payed above average wages to the workers and it was even said that he would sometimes take time from his routine to help his workers get the job done. Not conformed with this, we were able to make it to the Biltmore where I identified myself with its Baroque detailing on the walls, ceilings and floor. As my first time in the Biltmore, I enjoyed the history rich story that its architecture style expressed.

Vizcaya As Text

The Story Behind Vizcaya

By Claudia Martinez of FIU on 14 of April of 2021

Learning about Vizcaya, and going from one room to the next, one of the things that caught my attention was the fact of how much more advanced James Deering was. He had one of the first vacuum equipment for his mansion and he had a sophisticated communication system that sent signals to his maids to come to him for service when he needed them. It was interesting to see how he was able to live in such a huge mansion and still have everything under his control. On the other hand, it was brought to my attention on how adjacent rooms changed their layout from overly charged decorations to darker simpler rooms. As someone brought up in the US, I am used to seeing a whole house follow a particular theme in every one of its rooms, but Vizcaya was breaking that rules of this protocol. Besides that, it was pretty interesting seeing hedonistic statues that were there from the mansion’s beginning when Miami had not had the hedonistic type of reputation it has today. Yet here they were, standing firm and strong almost as if saying, “ we were here first”. I quickly admired the diverse layout of Vizcaya’s design that was created by Paul Chalfin. Just as Deering aimed to bring a part of Europe to Miami, I felt a portion of Europe as I walked through its hallways and gardens. My point of view of Vizcaya stands challenged and I now see a clearer image of the mansion and what it stands for since it first opened.

Ahdriana Amandi: Miami as Text 2020-2021

Ahdri at Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois, 2019

Ahdriana Amandi is a junior at the honors college at Florida International University and is majoring in Psychology. As a newly transferred student from Miami Dade College, Ahdri is excited to finish her last two years at FIU and is hoping to attend graduate school to become a college professor. Outside of academics, she enjoys roller skating, reading, and traveling.  Although she has spent most of her life in Miami, Ahdri is excited to learn more about her beautiful and historic city through this course.

Deering as Text

Images Taken and Edited by Ahdriana Amandi (CC by 4.0)

“This Is Not Miami

By Ahdriana Amandi of FIU at The Deering Estate, 2nd September 2020

The words “This is Miami” stayed imprinted in my mind as professor Bailly led us through the Tropical Hardwood Hammocks and the Pineland Rocklands- two massively different ecosystems that thrive in Deering Estate’s Nature Preserve. Oolite paved the path we followed, and Gumbo Limbo, the copper trees that seemed to glisten in the sunlight, provided shade as well as a potential remedy for poison wood, which was never too far away.

On the other side of the Hardwood Hammocks were the Rocklands, an area that flourishes in fire. The sharp protrusions of the Miami Rock ridge often peaked through and the sinewy Florida Pine that creates flammable resin welcomes brush fires and suffocates any other plants that aren’t Poison Ivy or Saw Palmetto.

In between avoiding spiderwebs, solution holes, the poisonous plants, and the swarms of mosquitoes that laugh at visitor’s futile attempts to avoid getting bitten, it is hard to imagine that this area was before Henry Flagler, Julia Tuttle, William Brickell, Ponce de Leon, or even the Tequesta. I remember driving home after hiking nearly four miles and feeling absolute disbelief of what I had just experienced, and how our past remains only in small pockets of protected areas such as these.

I do not believe that what I experienced was Miami. What I experienced was something nameless and timeless, something ancient, something before and with the time of man. A relic that has survived our geological ancestors, the founders of our home, and will, in the right hands, outlive ourselves.  

South Beach as Text

Images Taken and Edited by Ahdriana Amandi (CC by 4.0)

“Untitled”

By Ahdriana Amandi of FIU at South Beach, 16th September 2020

When most people think of Miami, they picture Miami Beach; with its beautiful waters and incredible architecture, it isn’t hard to understand why. Our classroom for the day was here, and I couldn’t help but feel grateful for the sun I felt against my skin, the clear blue skies, and the salty breeze in the air that reminds me of my most precious memories of this place. This visit to South Beach, however, felt strange. Ocean Drive, a place that is always filled with music and laughter, was a ghost town. COVID-19 Lockdown and restrictions are still heavily set in place here, and Locations such as Mango’s, Havana 1957, and News Café were empty and/or temporarily closed. The tourists who used to flood these areas are no longer here and throughout our excursion, multiple hosts hawked our group down, offering us wildly low prices in order to get some business. Later, we visited Española Way and Lincoln Road Mall; the only sounds were those of our footsteps. Although the people who make this neighborhood come to life were not here during my visit, I look forward to seeing the people that make this place so vibrant again soon.

As we walked through the streets, Professor Bailly’s comments brimmed with insight of the architecture and the communities who have made south beach what it is. South Beach is home to the largest Art Deco collection in the world, and is easily identifiable by its bright, retro color schemes and Egyptian influence. Alongside Art Deco is MiMo and Mediterranean Revival.  The three designs differ wildly, yet all exist in harmony here. The existence of these three styles is representative of the cultural mosaic that is south beach.

Downtown as Text

Images Taken and Edited by Ahdriana Amandi (CC by 4.0)

“Visions”

By Ahdriana Amandi of FIU at Downtown Miami, 30th September 2020

It is difficult to imagine what stood before Downtown Miami’s iconic skyline and to fathom the amount of history a single place can carry. When thinking about it, the visions appear in my mind, and slowly disappear into the next. When arriving in front of the freedom tower, I can envision the Cuban exiles entering the port of Miami, escaping Castro’s wrath and lost everything. In front of the Brickell mausoleum, I see William and Mary Brickell, trading with the Seminole who had arrived and settled in the land years before their arrival, and ambitious Mary buying real estate and making plans to further the growth of their town. Entering Gesu Church, I remember the story of Don Pedro Menendez and his men forming a mission, Imposing their religion to a sickened Tequesta. When standing on the Miami Circle, I can see the capital of the Tequesta and its people, living and laughing, and the confusion that occurs when Ponce De Leon’s ships become within view, unaware of the impact that this encounter would have on this land.

Before showing us the untouched Tequesta burial site at the Deering Estate, Professor Bailly talked to us about our geographical ancestors and their importance. My mother is a Venezuelan first-generation immigrant, and my father is a second-generation Cuban. Never visiting either home country and never feeling “American” enough, I’ve always felt lost when it came to my cultural Identity. After viewing the fragments of history in downtown Miami, it is easy to understand why I feel unique in my cultural identity. We are a result of the geographical ancestry of this land: we are Miami.

Chicken Key as Text

Images Taken and Edited by Ahdriana Amandi (CC by 4.0)

“Canoes and Chicken Key”

By Ahdriana Amandi of FIU at Downtown Miami, 30th September 2020

There are memories that stay with us for our entire lives and visiting chicken key was one of those moments. Autumn is beginning to start in Miami and although the leaves don’t fall, the wind and cooler weather meant that the 14th of October was a perfect day to head into the water and begin our five-hour long class.

Our class arrived once again to Deering estate, only this time Professor Bailly told us that we must bring gloves and trash bags, and to prepare to row a mile to and from the unpopulated island of chicken key. The class was divided into groups of two, and classmate Claudia and I quickly worked together to row against the current and reach the island.

As we got closer, we began to see that this “unpopulated island” was beaming with life. We watched as pods of pelicans would fly up into the air and swoop back into the water and swallow a mouthful of fish. Fish would occasionally jump up into the air, almost as if they were giving us a show. after tying our canoes up, professor Bailly quickly ran towards the water, and soon after everyone followed.

This feeling of euphoria slowly diminished as I walked along the south side of the island and began picking up old shoes, plastic bags, and shards of glass. We were then told that the trash that ended up here was often debris that floated from Miami beach, an area that was 20 miles away.

I felt a connection to Deering Estate during our first excursion and this second visit only made my love for it grow even more. I’m so grateful that we were able to visit and help clean the island. This trip reminded me that my generation has our future in our hands, and I want to make sure that when I pass it along to the next generation, it will be better than when it was given to me.

Rubell as Text

Sleep, 2008. Oil on canvas 132″ x 300″. Images Taken and Edited by Ahdriana Amandi (CC by 4.0)

“Kehinde Wiley’s Sleep

By Ahdriana Amandi of FIU at the Rubell Museum, 18th November 2020

When you first see the piece from a distance, it is easy to mistake it for a photograph. Taking a step closer, however, allows the magical element that a painting has sets in. Kehinde Wiley’s classical but contemporary, peaceful but powerful masterpiece Sleep (2008) is breathtaking to see in person and leaves a lasting impression upon anyone who has the opportunity to see it. Your eyes are first drawn to the legs and white fabric that covers the subject’s mid-region. This painting is massive, and when looking at it you must take your time to observe and admire each section of the painting, it demands the attention of the viewer. I found myself taking only detail shots of the piece, as I found it to be better representative of the work. The muscles in the feet, the beautiful luminous skin, the lived-in tattoo and the subject’s face all depict a message of peace and serenity. Sleep has many characteristics that are common in Wiley’s work: a singular beautiful hero figure who is the focal point of the painting and is surrounded by vivid ornate flowers. Wiley’s decision to choose black (usually) male figures in his work challenges the stereotypes that black men face and instead gives them beauty and empowerment.  

The busy background but calm subject resonated with me. The clash of modern and classical represents the time it was created and how this era will be remembered in the future. There is a constant fight between old traditions and new ways and combining both in this mystical world that is this painting makes a bold statement that works well together.

Everglades as Text

Taken by Ahdriana Amandi (CC by 4.0)

“River of Glass, Not Grass”

By Ahdriana Amandi of FIU at the Everglades National Park, 23st of January 2021

It feels like I have stepped into liquid glass. Not painful, but rather a smooth and frigid feeling. As we continue to enter the dome, our bodies adjust. Our passionate and kind ranger is providing us information on the flora and fauna but I’m finding it difficult to focus- my mind is flooded with questions and curiosity. How does this part of the everglades benefit the rest of the area? How does the water flow, how does Florida rely so greatly in this park, and what are current and future legislation doing to protect and improve our landmark? How can we get more people to appreciate our beautiful river and what can we do to provide education on issues such as fishing, hunting, etc? What animals live here that are protected, endangered, or invasive? Questions that, as a psychology major, I often don’t have the time to stew over. The more time I spent having the chance to investigate and explore for myself, the more I yearned for knowledge I didn’t have. I felt this feeling of an outsider looking in, a stranger to this world.

Often in life, human beings have a habit of categorizing items in our world: good/evil, life/death. In the everglades, the lines of these category are blurred. The white, spindly trees that look dead and malnourished are actually the strong and though cypress tree. The trees that rot and fall create substrate for other parts of the forest as well as a stronger foundation for other plants to grow in its place. Lichen, a white-green item that looks like mold and periphyton, something that can only be described as an everglade booger supports the life of many micro organisms that help this ecosystem thrive.

After visiting the slough, we had the chance to eat lunch while a volunteer played one of his songs that he wrote about the everglades. It got me emotional when listening to his song because it was comforting to know that this place is loved by others, and how it is important for my generation to continue to fuel the curiosity and love for our parks and spaces.

Locust As Text

Taken by Ahdriana Amandi (CC by 4.0)

“Made by Dusk”

By Ahdriana Amandi of FIU at the Locust Projects, 3rd of February 2021

Made by dusk, an installation at Locust view projects, is an homage to Freya, the goddess of war and fertility. She is often depicted as a beautiful woman clad in white drapery and golden armor. A wooden arch opens to what feels like another world. When entering the installation, it feels like a modern take of an altar room; the goddess would certainly feel honored herself. Gold leaf covers the floor, looking like leaves in the autumn. On the east side, fifty paintings adorn the walls, some of them with golden circles painted on. It’s satisfying to let your eyes trace the patterns and see how many of the paintings connect with each other, and how some don’t.  On the North and South side of the rooms, two enormous canvas encompass the walls. Reminiscent of Rorschach paintings, they seem to space and distort each time you look away. I see skulls, cities, and people.

It’s difficult to reflect on this installation without the context in which I was able to view it. With more cases than ever, COVID-19 and the affects that it has had on my world stays on my mind. The warmth of being in Freya’s light reminds me of the hope that a story can instill. This dusk reminds and us of the resilience that surviving 2020 has given us, and the dusk tells us that it is always darkest before the dawn.

Bill Baggs As Text

Taken by Ahdriana Amandi (CC by 4.0),

“El Farito”

By Ahdriana Amandi of FIU at Bill Baggs Florida State Park, 17th of February 2021

I have lived in Miami for the majority of my life, and I can remember each visit to Bill Baggs park; or as most locals call it- El Farito. My mom would get me to wake up early so that we could find parking and a spot where the shade of the lighthouse would allow us to spend the entire day by the ocean without turning into chicharrones. Although I had visited the park many times, I have never stopped and wondered of the story of the white lighthouse that stands now as an iconic Miami Landmark, and unfortunately, very few Miami natives know the history that this land holds, and it starts as it usually does in Miami history, with our biological ancestors the Tequesta.

Our class started right outside the gates of the lighthouse entrance, Professor Bailly began class with telling us that the indigenous people of this land were nomadic and would come to Biscayne bay during different times of the year. We were read diary entries of missionaries and European explorers complaining of the humidity and the ungodly number of mosquitoes, it’s comforting to know that many parts of ancient Miami hasn’t changed. Our class was then told of the history of the lighthouse, one of the oldest structures that still stands and is functional. We were then told the story of Thompson and Carter, and the battle that took place at the lighthouse during the Seminole wars. As we walked, we pasted a painting that was printed next to the original lightkeeper’s home, and I felt a wave of shame surge over me. The painting depicts the Seminole as these “savages” even though they and other tribes were kicked out of their native land and being colonized; although what had happened here in 1836 was unfortunate, depicting these people as the villains of the story is untrue, and people who do not know the history of the park or of the lighthouse may see the indigenous people in a negative light.

It is incredible to me that throughout countless hurricanes, a battle, and a beacon of hope, this cultural piece of Miami still stands strong today. The lighthouse provides another reminder that history isn’t so black and white, and that although many parts of our city has heartbreaking history behind it, it is important to always seek the truth and never forget the past that our home has.

River of Grass As Text

Socially Distanced Pine, Taken by Ahdriana Amandi (CC by 4.0)

“Growth”

By Ahdriana Amandi of FIU at The Everglades National Park, 3rd of March, 2021

When visiting the Everglades, Ranger Dylan told us about the impact human beings have had on this land, and how the Everglades is an excellent example of human tampering/mismanagement. During our last visit, the class had the opportunity to go slogging in a cypress dome that was knee-deep in water and for the most part, untouched by most people. This visit, however, led us to the donut hole, an area that was once used to farm tomatoes, although you wouldn’t believe it unless you were told; the land looked barren and the limestone, which looked like overgrown pavement, doesn’t seem like it would be any sort of place to do such a thing. We eventually reached a solution hole, and inside there were hundreds of small fish swimming about.

As we stood at the edge of the hole, Ranger Dylan and Professor Bailly talked about the invasive species and plants that are currently damaging the everglades, as well as the recovery of the acres of land we were standing on. After spending an entire semester having the opportunities to explore the incredible Miami Landscape, it’s hard to believe that individuals would intentionally harm/disrupt Florida’s ecosystem. They then spoke about how the park has spent the past three years restoring this area, and how nothing on the land we were standing on was planted. About 100 feet away from us, two Florida Palm trees stood tall and proud, reminding us of the life coming back to this area.

We then left to another location of the park, and there we saw another plot of land similar to the donut hole we first visited. We were then told that this plot of land had been restored one year more than the one before, only this one was full of life, swamp, and birds. During our time here, we even had the chance to see a phalanx of Wood Storks soar above us, giving us an opportunity to appreciate these creatures up close.

 Learning about our past begs us to ask the question: how can we learn from the mistakes of our ancestors/ generations before us? What kind of impact do we want to leave for our loved ones, and what sort of actions can we take that support our want to improve ourselves and our Planet. Seeing the growth between these two areas remind me that there is a fighting chance for humanity and the rest of our ecosystem to grow and advance together, and that the earth, when given the chance, will do its best to restore itself. Bailly said it best when we visited Chicken Key. People need to experience landmarks and parks to love and feel the need to protect them. Having the chance to experience this place firsthand has flourished a passion to want to find ways to coexist with our environment, and help others gain love and appreciation for this land too.

Frost as Text

“Accumulate, Classify, Preserve”

By Ahdriana Amandi of FIU at The Frost Art Museum 17th of March, 2021

Acumulate, Classify, Preserve, Display features Roberto Obregon’s life work of his obsession with the rose, alongside with breaking apart constructs that are associated with the flower and creating new meaning. As you walk into the exhibition, the mural “Ene Eme y Ene De, 1994” depicts two figures who influenced him greatly- Norma baker, otherwise known as Marylin Monroe, and Marcel Du champ. Throughout his work, it is clearly shown that Obregon placed life and decay at the center of his work, and each rose felt as if I was looking at his fingerprints, images he left behind before passing away. In the exhibition, it feels that you can feel the delicacy and precision in each petal he plucked and numbered. His work felt dedicated to existence and the process of aging.

In his work, I felt his ability to turn this symbol of love into a symbol of life, decay, and the passage of time. His work also sparked a connection in my courses for my psychology degree and it reminded me of the value of enriching education with art. Conceptual art like Obregon’s  allows us to appreciate the process of creating meaningful work that amplifies discussions; Obregon’s art is a vessel, a way to take previous understanding and further connect it to other ideas.

This idea made me wonder, how would an engineer student view his work? A biology student? A communications major? All of these facets of learning are small pieces of humanity’s larger goal which is to further understand the world and each other.

Gables As Text

“The Biltmore”

By Ahdriana Amandi of FIU at The Biltmore Hotel Miami, 31st of March, 2021

The Biltmore, one of Coral Gable’s most iconic buildings, was built a year after the founding of the city in 1925 and has remained as a symbol of the city’s history and beauty. It was built by the founder George Merrick and it was used as a place to hold galas and events for the city. Individuals and families such as Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, and the Vanderbilts paid multiple visits to this hotel.  It is truly a beautiful building and worth the visit.

It is difficult to imagine that the building was used as a military hospital during the second world war, or that the University of Miami medical school was first started in the same halls. It is even much stranger to imagine it being abandoned for nearly 15 years. In my mind, all I could see were the famous figures of the 1920’s holding galas and beautiful people enjoying their afternoons by the poolside, or possibly visiting the speakeasy on the 13th floor.

Something that stood out to me when visiting was the inspiration taken from the Giralda, the Sevillian bell tower in Spain, and how both the Biltmore and the Freedom tower in Downtown, Miami were both inspired by this UNESCO world heritage site. When entering the building, there are clear Sevillian baroque inspirations from the building, as well as the Moorish influence from when the Giralda belonged to the Moors, and the beautiful ironwork and buildings that were handcrafted in Mexico, not even to mention the rococo architecture, Mediterranean influence, and the Bahamian’s stone masonry that we saw while walking throughout the building.

When visiting the hotel, I was reminded of how so few Miamians know the true history of our cities, and often write off Miami history as “unremarkable” and “forgettable”, when this belief is far from the truth. Exploring the halls and taking a step back in time while visiting reminded me of one of the very first things I learned while taking this course, which is that our city has always been a fusion of cultures and influences that when put together, creates that feeling of “Miami”. When we examine individual pieces of, it is easy for many to write off. It is only when you take a step back and examine Miami’s history as a whole, both the good and bad,  that you are able to fully appreciate and respect the beauty of our city.

Vizcaya as Text

“Tropical Paradise”

By Ahdriana Amandi of FIU at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, 14th of April, 2021

When you enter the music room in Vizcaya’s Museum and Gardens, it feels as if you have entered a music box. The ornate Rococo design entices the eyes to follow the curves and beautiful pastel colors. The space feels like and dreamy, and warm. Chalfin, the designer of the Vizcaya, once stated, “Someone seems to lurk here, wearing old creamy satin, looking into dim mirrors at strings of pearls and corals upon a narrow and corseted bosom, ready with facile musical sighs.” Its beautiful flowers and antique instruments left an impression on me, more so than the other rooms inside the Vizcaya Museum. Its beauty and playful feelings made me feel very happy, and I wanted to stay in the room for much longer. It’s difficult to take a picture of the room that would do it justice, as the energy that the room has is something that must be experienced in person.

When we learned about the creation of the home and James Deering’s plans of making it an homage to the Vizcaino’s who lived among the Tequesta. Although his home was far from the historical accuracies of the missionaries and the Miami natives, the spirit of owning a tropical paradise is very much alive In the home, and in the music room. Deering and Chalfin’s intentions when building and designing Vizcaya were to make it a place of enjoyment, as well as a collection of antiques.

I first visited Vizcaya when I was 12 years old, and I fell in love with it the moment I saw it. I did not know much about the history of Miami or Florida back then, so when I got to see a European influenced home, I was ecstatic. Coming to visit it once again, however, I had more time to enjoy and marvel at the building’s beauty and energy. This time I came to visit, I saw less of the European influence (which is still existent, of course) and I saw more of the Miami/Florida design. The home was built in a way to enjoy the Biscayne Bay breeze and ocean, and the garden was filled with native flowers and shrubbery that is meant to thrive in this climate. The stone that was mainly used in the home was limestone, which is Florida’s own beautiful and unique stone. The ability to mix things that were brought from other parts of the world and mix it with Florida’s natural beauty. This style of mixing different designs and using the Miami’s landscape and beauty is truly the essence of Miami.

Aimee Zuniga: Miami as Text 2020-2021

Aimee taking a mirror selfie. Photo taken by Aimee Zuniga

Hello peers, My name is Aimee Zuniga . I am a junior hoping to graduate by spring 2021 or summer 2021. I am an organizational communications student. Once I get my bachelors in communications I plan on continuing my education and getting a masters in International Business. My hobbies consist of film photography, music, and nature. I shoot 35 mm film, develop, and scan my own photos at home. My favorite thing to capture is the local music scene of Miami. Before the pandemic, I was going to shows every week capturing and fully immersing myself in the local music scene. Another one of my favorite things to capture are nature spots. I love nature and I try to spend most of my time outdoors. That is one reason I chose this class. I also chose this class because I was born and raised in Miami and I want to learn about the real culture and history of my city.

Deering as text

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Deering Estate , 2 September 2020

Aimee Holding Tequesta tools at Deering Estate. Photo taken by Aimee Zuniga

The hike at Deering Estate was a journey through the past. The area where Deering Estate is located was the land of the Tequesta’s which were a group of Native Americans that lived in the area that we know as Miami. I was astonished while hiking because I was walking through the land the Tequestas once roamed.  While walking through the trail I was picturing the life of the Tequesta’s. The history and the story of the Tequestas was my favorite thing about this Deering estate trip. Finding tools left behind by the Tequestas blew my mind, I never thought I would come across tools left behind by my geographical ancestors. When I picked up the tools from the ground I couldn’t believe what I was doing. Professor Bailly showed us how a specific tool was used, it was very interesting. We also came across Tequesta burial grounds that were surrounded by the tree of life. The tree was large and beautiful.  This was a spiritual experience for me. Professor Bailey told us the stories of the burials while I was mesmerized by the beauty of the tree. It felt like I was being fully immersed into the life of the Tequestas. I chose this photo because holding those tools made me feel like I was holding a piece of real Miami and this was an experience I am truly grateful for. 

South Beach as Text

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at South Beach , 16 September 2020

Art Deco building on South Beach. Photo taken by Aimee Zuniga

South Beach is one of the most visited places in the world. People from all over the world come and visit South Beach for the culture. There is a lot history and culture in South Beach. What really interested me about our class at South beach was the architecture. The architecture of South Beach has always interested me, but I learned so much about it during this class. I learned that there are three forms of architecture in the buildings you see on South Beach. Neo Mediterranean, Art Deco and Mimo. My favorite of the three is art deco. Art deco consist of pastel colors that blend into the environment, rounded corners, and neon lights at night.  It is my favorite because the pastel colors have always caught my attention ever since I was a little kid.  I find the pastel art deco buildings of South beach aesthetically pleasing. During our South Beach walk we passed by the building where one of the most famous Miami movies was filmed, Scarface. The building where the chainsaw massacre scene takes place was shot on Ocean Drive. The building is located next to the Colony hotel and it is now a CVS. This was a very cool aspect of the class because Scarface is one of my favorite movies. The entire time during our walk I was in awe of the beauty on South Beach , I’m grateful I got to see and learn about the culture of this part of Miami. 

Downtown Miami as text

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Downtown Miami , 30 September 2020

Piece of the Berlin Wall. Photo taken by Aimee Zuniga
Photo taken by Aimee Zuniga

Downtown Miami is full of so much culture and history. Before our class in Downtown I wasn’t aware of all the history that is in Downtown. I have been coming to Downtown my entire life and I wasn’t aware of any of the history I learned during class. I learned about Fort Dallas and the plantation slave quarters, Major Dade, Henry Flagler, The Tequestas , the Brickells and the freedom tower.  There is so much history behind Miami, all the information that I learned in this class blew my mind. Something that really stuck with me was the Miami Circle. While standing on the circle I felt the same feelings I felt while at Deering estate. I felt the same spiritual feeling I felt at the burial grounds at Deering estate. While standing on the Miami circle and looking out to the water I felt myself being immersed into the life of the Tequestas once again. 

Another real cool aspect of the class at downtown was looking at a piece of the Berlin wall. The history of the Berlin wall and Ronald Reagan’s presidency has always been one of my favorite things to learn about. I had no idea there was a piece of it here in my city, when I saw the piece, I felt the urge to touch it (but I didn’t)because I was in awe of the history I was looking at. 

Chicken Key as Text

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Chicken Key , 14 October 2020

Photo of trash collected , taken by Aimee Zuniga

Chicken Key is an island a mile from Deering estate. We canoed a mile over there on a beautiful sunny Florida day. We paddled all the way to this island to clean up trash on the Island. Doing beach clean ups has always been one of my favorite things to do. It upsets me to see trash in nature. Cleaning up trash at chicken key was my favorite thing we did as a class. It feels good to clean up trash and it feels good to help your environment. I ended up collecting three whole bags worth of trash. While picking up trash, it made me sad to look at all the trash that was scattered on the island. I saw and collected things like shoes, glass bottles, plastic spoons, plastic bottles and much more. Most of it was plastic.  This overall experience will stay in my brain forever, it was such a perfect day. While canoeing to the island the view was spectacular, I couldn’t get over the beauty of our view.  Paddling to and from the island was a great workout, I was sore the next day. I’m very grateful I had the opportunity to see this side of Miami. I never would have thought I’d ever canoe to an island to pick up trash, but this class made that possible. I chose the photo of all the trash we collected because it is something we accomplished after a whole day of hard work and fun. Seeing the pile of trash at the end of the day put a smile on my face. 

Bakehouse As Text

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Bakehouse Art Complex , 28 October 2020

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Photo taken by Aimee Zuniga at Bakehouse

My first experience at the Bakehouse art complex in Wynwood was spectacular. I had a great time contributing to my community by helping out a local artist with an important project. Lauren Shapiro, a local artist whom I met at the Bakehouse art complex is working on a project called Future pacific. The project is about coral reefs and how they are dying. Lauren uses clay and lets it air dry instead of cooking it inside a kiln. The purpose of this is so that the clay deteriorates and represents how our coral reefs are dying.  I walked into this art complex not knowing what exactly I will be working on but when I was told about Lauren’s project, I was amazed and fell in love with it. An environmental project like this one has the potential to impact the community which is why this is an important project; it addresses a very important environmental issue. This project can teach the community about this environmental issue through art, this aspect made me fall in love with it.  

 Lauren Shapiro’s project made me want to start volunteering at these workshops to help out local artist. Art projects like hers are a great way to spread awareness about an issue that affects our oceans while at the same time enjoying the art culture. I look forward to seeing the finished project and I will be back to the Bakehouse to see the exhibit once it is finished. Thanks to this experience I will now look for more similar opportunities to volunteer in the art community as well as being more aware of what is happening in our oceans. 

Rubell As Text

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Rubell Museum , 18 November 2020

Photo of Infinity mirrored room taken by Aimee Zuniga
Photo of Keith Haring Painting taken by Aimee Zuniga

The class at the Rubell Museum really took me by surprise. Prior to this class I did not do any research on the Rubell Museum . So I showed up to class not knowing what to expect. This class was full of surprises for me. First thing we saw as a class was the Infinity Mirrored room by Japanese Artist Yahoo Kusama. This room was absolutely beautiful . It was a room full of mirrors and mirrored balls. Before walking in I didn’t know what I was about to walk into , once I did I was mind blown. This room was my favorite thing about the the Rubell Museum. I have never seen anything like that room and the memory I have of being in there will stay with me forever. As we kept walking as a class , we walked into a Keith Haring exhibit. This is something else I was not expecting. Keith Haring is one of my favorite artist and has been since I was in high school. I have never seen his artwork in person before so this was very cool. I have shirts and books of his art but to see an exhibit with his art here in my hometown of Miami blew my mind. This exhibit made me incredibly happy , looking at Haring’s art in person put a smile on my face. After class , I went back to the exhibit alone to fully immerse myself into his art. After these overwhelming surprises , I thought that was it but it wasn’t . We also came across a piece by Jean Michell Basquiat , another one of my favorite artist. It was very crazy to me that I saw art from two very important artist of the 1980s in one day here in Miami. I left the museum feeling very refreshed , that is what this class always makes me feel. You never know what you are going to experience in a Miami in Miami class. That is what I love about this class, it is full of surprises and full of learning.

Everglades as Text

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Everglades National Park, 20 January 2021

Photo of Alligator hole taken by Aimee Zuniga

“Slogging through the swamp”

I like to say I was raised in the swamp and I joke to my friends explaining to them that I live that “swamp life”. Being born and raised in Dade – county, I grew up going to the Everglades. I spend a lot of my free time exploring the Everglades whether it’d be kayaking Hell’s bay, fishing in Tamiami Trail, biking 15 miles in Shark Valley or my favorite Everglades activity driving down loop road. I consider the Everglades my backyard, because of this class I was able to experience slough slogging. An activity I never saw myself doing, but this class made that possible. Slogging through the Everglades with my class and a very kind park ranger was a one of a kind life experience.  I learned so much about the living organisms in this ecosystem. The photo I chose is of an alligator hole. An alligator hole is a hole formed by alligators by digging substrate and vegetation. During our slough slogging adventure, we came across alligator holes. When I took this photo, I was with our professor and some of my peers, we went out to look for the alligator hole and some gators. Although we didn’t find any gators on that little adventure, it was very memorable. I was terrified of being attacked by a gator but the peaceful environment and the people I was surrounded by allowed me to stay brave. I am very grateful I got to experience this side of the Everglades while having half my body underwater. This was truly an experience, the information gathered, and the memories made will stay with me forever. 

Wynwood As Text

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Photo of Swing with gold flakes taken by Aimee Zuniga of FIU

“A Day Full of Gold”

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Locust Projects, 3 February 2021

 At Locust projects an instillation piece by Danish artist Mette Tommerup made me feel like I was in a different world. As I walked into her instillation, I see gold flakes on the floor that make my eyes glow with excitement. I continue walking and I see swings across the room. I come across this swing with gold flakes as shown in the photo above and I smile. The gold flakes and the swinging made me forget about the external world and its problem.  There was something about swinging from side to side while being surrounded by gold and paintings that makes you feel as though everything will be alright. When Mette Tommerup spoke about where her idea came from, she mentioned how she wanted people to come into her installation and feel a sense of hope after everything we as individuals have been through with the pandemic. Being in her instillation definitely gives you a sense of hope. As a class, we had the opportunity to be covered in gold flakes. This experience was definitely the highlight of my experience in Tommerup’s instillation. There were two other rooms in the space at Locust that were showcasing two different pieces. One of them showcased a video of a man covered in honey tumbling in circles. It was supposed to represent motion in utero. The other room showcased two videos, one showcased a confederate stature coming down and the other showcased an artist dancing on top of where the stature had been. Both rooms had powerful pieces of art. While being in Locust Projects you are engaging yourself with the local art community, an act that is very heartwarming and educational. 

Bill Baggs As Text

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Photo of Bill Baggs Lighthouse taken by Aimee Zuniga

“The Lighthouse” 

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Bill Baggs State Park

            Bill Baggs State Park is a staple in any Miami native’s memories coming to be known as the beach with “el farito”. Although my family and I have been coming to this beach since before I can even remember, never was I aware of the rich history surrounding the park and its lighthouse. Although I was aware of the history of slavery in Florida, I did not know that here in Cape Florida runaway slaves would be transported to the Bahamas to escape from their masters. While walking around anywhere rich in history, I like to meditate on my surroundings and entertain the idea of being where our ancestors were and what it must’ve been like at the time. While being in the park I could not help but think about the fear and tragedy of what happened here hundreds of years ago and how it became what it is today. Slaves were not the only ones to come onto this Island but also the Tequestas and Seminoles. Before Key Biscayne was even taken by the Spaniards, it was inhabited by early natives that were eventually driven out of the area. Fast forward a couple hundred years and it is now one of many of Florida’s State Parks which host’s thousands of people a year for its beautiful water, soft sand, and beautiful landscapes. 

Aside from learning the history of the park and lighthouse, another thing we did during the class was assist park rangers with shoveling sand and coquina. Coquina is a sedimentary rock which is made up of mostly sand and shells which if not attended to, can become a danger with the high tide. 

The trip to Bill Baggs State Park ended up being another fun experience to be shared with my class as it ended with us being able to stay for the rest of the day and soak up the sun and some ocean water. The information provided to us was not only interesting, but it helped to see the park in a new light and appreciate its beauty more. 

River of Grass as Text 

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Photo of solution hole taken by Aimee Zuniga

“The Hole”

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Everglades National Park ,3rd March 2021

As a class we had an excellent second trip to the Everglades and started off the day by going to the solution holes. These holes are filled with rainwater as well as water from underneath the limestone which is connected through channels spanning all over the Everglades. These solution holes are formed by the chemical erosion of carbonate rocks. After being told how these are formed by the Park Ranger, we went to something called the Nike Missile Site which is located within the Everglades National Park. This site was an old Army missile base dating back to the Cold War. It was completed in 1964 following the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was built here because it is approximately 160 miles from Cuba and its purpose was to be an anti-aircraft missile site. Walking around the missile was astonishing because of its size and comparing oneself to it. It was a great experience because although being a Miami native, I was not aware that there was an old Army base located within the park. 

            The second part of this Everglades trip was the wet hike deep in the river of grass where we looked for a species of bird called Wood Stork. They are large white wading birds. While walking really deep in the Everglades we came across a large flock of Wood Storks taking off. It was a really beautiful and peaceful experience to hear nothing but the sound of birds out in the middle of South Florida’s unique nature. I’m glad we got a chance to see the real South Florida for a second chance. These trips to the Everglades has definitely given me inspiration to visit it more on my own time.

Frost as Text

“A very artsy day at FIU”

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at the Frost Museum , 17 March 2021

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Photo of Carlos Alfonzo Mural at Fiu taken by Aimee Zuniga

Photo of Carlos Alfonzo mural at FIU taken by Aimee Zuniga

At Frost we came across an exhibition that contained some of Venezuelan artist Roberto Obregón’s archives. What you’re walking into when walking into this exhibition is an obsession. You are walking into Obregón’s obsession with rose pedals. His obsession was very scientific. He set up samples of rose pedals and observed their decay over time. So being in his exhibition almost feels like you are in some sort of scientific lab.  The exhibition consists of sketches, photographs, drawings and collages.  

Aside from having this wonderful Obregón exhibition, The Frost museum also currently has an instillation created by artist Pepe Mar that consist of the museum’s collection. This exhibition showcases all kinds of art. Pepe wanted to show people art from Africa, Asia, the Americas, Australia and Europe. The exhibition had a mixture of everything, it was so overwhelming.  Some pieces that stood out to me were two of Cuban Artist Carlos Alfonzo’s pieces. They were two untitled pieces that looked very similar to each other. We were told the story of how he came to America in the Mariel boatlift and how he passed away of aids in Miami. Learning this information while being a Miami native was emotionally touching. It was very refreshing walking out of this exhibit because of all the culture that we were surrounded by as a class.  Leaving the museum, we walked across the campus to go see a mural made by Alfonzo. This shocked me because I have been walking past that mural for three years as an FIU student without even knowing what it was or who painted it. Going in depth with the history of this mural made me feel like I was connected to Carlos Alfonzo. Knowing that this mural went through hurricane Andrew and knowing that people put back the pieces together shows me that Alfonzo was a significant Miami artist who will never be forgotten. As an FIU student, I am very grateful that we have a huge Alfonzo piece on campus that I can casually appreciate whenever I am on campus. 

Coral Gables as text 

“The Gables”

By Aimee Zuniga of FIU at Coral Gables, 31st March 2021

Photo of the Biltmore hotel taken by Aimee Zuniga

 The city of Coral Gables is an area of Miami with rich history dating all the way back to the Great Depression. The founder of the city is named George Merrick, who was raised in a family of farmers and grew up to become a real estate developer. As a child, it is said that he had envisioned building a city that would become a great American suburb. Along with being responsible for the city itself, he was partly responsible for the construction of the Tamiami trail, US-1, and the University of Miami. The museum also had an in-depth explanation of how Coral Gables grew to be the city it is now and mentioned how George Merrick held auctions for the housing in the area.

            During our trip we also explored Miracle Mile which is now a hub for shopping, restaurants, and entertainment. Today, it contains approximately 150 ground floor shopping stores. After WWII, the economy was doing well enough to where most people had money to spend and thus the business on Miracle Mile was booming. While walking down the strip, we entered a historic hotel named Hotel Colonnade. It was extremely elegant with its large staircase, marble floors, detailed walls, and large fountain under a dome painted as the sky. Shortly after we drove to the Biltmore which is a very famous and fancy hotel with a structure inspired by the Giralda Tower in Spain. The architectural team was the same as the ones responsible for constructing the Freedom Tower in Downtown Miami, which explains why they look so similar. The hotel was constructed 95 years ago and when it was completed, it held the title of being the tallest building in Florida.  As we continue to progress as a society, Coral Gables has kept much of its rich history intact. Thanks to the museum, tourists and locals can learn more about the city to truly appreciate its beauty and elegancy. George Merrick will always be remembered as the founder of one of Miami’s most up-scale and historic cities.

Vizcaya as text 

“Mediterranean revival with a hint of baroque”

 By Aimee Zuniga of FIU,18 April 2021

Photo of the Vizcaya mansion and garden taken by Songquan Deng

Miami’s largest and most beautiful mansion, architecturally designed in a Mediterranean-revival style mixed with a hint of baroque elements. Vizcaya Museum & Gardens was originally home to James Deering, who began constructing the building in 1914. The mansion was constructed in the early days of Miami, back when most of the city south of the Miami River remained ruled by nature. When approaching Vizcaya from the surrounding neighborhoods, one can feel the difference in ambience primarily caused by the amount of trees and nature it has. One of the most astounding things about the mansion is the many different rooms you encounter while touring the area; Each of them bringing their own style and personality. One of the most beautiful areas in my opinion is the patio. This area has such a beautiful atmosphere with its large glass ceiling which lets in so much sunlight that it appears to be outdoors, when in reality it is an indoor patio. With so many trees and plants all over the patio and the mansion, one gets an image of what life must have been like in the early days of Miami. 

Outside of the museum is also an amazing view. Looking out into the ocean and the barge on the shoreline, reminds me of something I would find in Venice, Italy. The entire house and the outdoors gives a feeling of being in a European country, when in reality you are still in Miami. One thing that is interesting about the barge and most of the house, is that the designer and architect were really big on symmetry. All around the museum you see the amount of detail that was put into the walls, the furniture, the sculptures, even the placement of the plants.The Vizcaya museum & garden is definitely one of the most beautiful places to see in Miami, even for locals. If you are into the arts, architecture, nature, and history, this place is definitely must-see.

Leonella Santillan: Miami as Text 2020-2021

Description. Photo by NAME (CC BY 4.0)

Hello everyone! My name is Leonella Santillan and I was born and raised in Ecuador, I moved to Miami, Florida 6 years ago. I am an international student at Florida International University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in International Business. After I graduate I will be going to Law school since I want to become an attorney of the state of Florida, since I was little I always tried to argue my way out of things and defend my point of view. I am so blessed to be in this country and try to obtain as many as opportunities I could obtain. One of my desires is to become a professional and be able to help those who need starting a foundation. One of the reasons I took this class is because I would like to learn more about Miami since I love where I live.

Deering Estate as Text 

Description. Photo by NAME (CC BY 4.0)

The Deering Estate is a protected environmental and historical preserve located on the edge of Biscayne which you have the everglades on your left side and on your right side the Atlantic Ocean merged with the Caribbean Sea. Visiting this environmental preserve, I felt very relaxed and connected with nature something I haven’t felt for a while due to the pandemic going on. This treasure of land has a different type of ecosystems around which you felt like you were in three or four different places as the walk goes by, my favorite parts during this amazing trip were when crossed over the water to go back to the entrance, the water felt so refreshing and pure. Another favorite moment was that we got to see the cultivation of each tree such as pinecones, avocados, and many more. One of the moments I also enjoyed it was when we got to see wildlife species such as birds, butterflies, and spiders. This rich land also has a history behind it I remember the professor talking about an ancient burial that on top of it there was an oak white tree. I enjoyed visiting this place I got to experience the wonderful things that the world provides.

South Beach as Text

Rooms full of neon lights

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at South Beach, 16th September 2020

When most people come to Miami, they want to go to South Beach because of its beautiful sand, water, views, architecture, and museums, etc.  Choosing Miami In Miami honors class was the best decision of my life since I have been living in Miami for six years and I have never visited or got to experience knowing South Beach. Professor John Bailly taught us everything that we could obtain knowledge from the beautiful place called South Beach that is located due east of Miami city proper between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Visiting this part of Miami felt kind of strange like if something was missing and what it was missing is that south beach was empty, usually is always packed with full of tourists but this time was empty and the reason why this beautiful place that is always has been full of tourists or residents is that due to the coronavirus. A lot of restaurants were either closed down, out of business, or desperate for clients to come in and enjoy a tasty plate of food, and even giving discounts or promotions for people to come in. 

During this excursion, I learned how Miami Beach or South Beach holds such an amazing culture, history, and architecture. As we were walking professor Bailly explained to us what type of architecture ocean drive or south beach holds, this beautiful two-way street it obtains one of the largest Art Deco collection in the world, and is easily identifiable by its bright, retro color schemes and Egyptian influence. Hotels are inspired by MiMo and Mediterranean Revival. I fell in love with South Beach since is such a magnificent place where you could enjoy the architecture and have the beach next to it. During this excursion, I also felt like if I was in a movie since some movies are filmed in South Beach.

Downtown Miami as Text

Area full of long tall buildings

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at Downtown Miami, 30th September 2020

Downtown Miami is an area full of skyscrapers, malls, cultural institutions, sweeping bay views, and hidden places that tourists or residents could explore. Downtown Miami is Miami’s epicenter since you have access to the beach, airport, malls, and many more. Tourists all over the world come to Miami Downtown since is rich in a diverse and variety of cultures. Downtown Miami consisted of the middle class, and wealthy neighborhoods. This area of Miami is a mix between luxury and urban architecture and that is the reason why a lot of people are interested. 

Downtown Miami is always going to be full of residents and tourists since it is a place where people work, visit, or plan activities. This area of Miami is full of buildings where you can be impacted through their history, architecture, food, recitals, concerts, and many more. Professor Bailly took us to see the Adrienne Arsht Center, which is a performing arts center that hosts concerts, recitals, operas, and shows. Another location that we were able to experience was Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum, this is a science museum with an observatory and planetarium. The last place that I fell in love with was the History Miami this is a museum where it has a huge collection full of exhibits of art. 

Downtown Miami is one the places which I fell in love with the first time I came to Miami, I remember the lights of the buildings, the bridges of the turnpike, and those enormous skyscrapers. Living in Miami has been an amazing experience because there still too much history, activities, architecture, gallery exhibitions where you could learn from or feel inspired.

Deering Estate – Chicken Key as Text

Living Waters

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at Deering Estate, 14th October 2020

Living all these six years in Miami I have felt like an unknown resident of this wonderful land, today I have experienced something magical and special during this cleanup I had time to connect with my wonderful classmates and make memorable experiences for life. By being on this island it made me reflect on how one should be able to enjoy life, I felt so connected with nature and got over my fears of something that I have never experienced in my life. This magical land full of mangroves and species was so wonderful, one of my favorite moments was when all of my classmates were swimming and connecting. I got to experience and to see a hermit crab for the first time in my whole life, I felt so grateful to be alive by being on this island the waters were full of life, peace, and love.

This cleanup made me realize how nature is so important and to take care of it, to try not to contaminate since that is a gift that has been given to us but for us to enjoy it, we must take care of it before it is too late. Humans have been come so careless when it comes to nature when it should be the opposite, this land was full of plastic and trash because we humans contaminate the earth instead of recycling or reuse the plastic or glass, this little excursion opened my eyes to how we should care about the earth and take care of it so our future generations could experience these moments that I got to experience or witnessed.  

Bakehouse as Text

“Body of clay mold of life”

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at Bakehouse, 28th October 2020

The Bakehouse Art Complex is a nonprofit organization that supports and values the artist’s perspectives on how to perceive, reflect, and make an impact on the community. Being in the complex inspired, encouraged, and taught me how the world can be united by art. This project of art made of clay was meant for people to support, help each other, and to bring awareness to the destruction of the coral reefs life on the sea. This art project is conducted by Lauren Shapiro a local artist and was funded by grants or organizations.

This art consisted of putting a layer of clay into molds made of coral reefs such as shells, clams, or snails but before inputting the lay of clay into the mold we would have to spray some vegetable oil into the mold for the clay not to stick into the coral mold. After, when we have a bunch of models, we will have to paste it in the shape surface, and we will have a piece of art.

In my opinion towards this project, I felt very connected to mother earth meanwhile molding the clay since the clay comes directly from the earth. Molding these pieces of clay felt peaceful and distracted from the noisy world, I am grateful that I had to be a part of an amazing project that is going to make a positive impact on the world or the community.

Rubell as Text

 “The way to the heart is with art”

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at Rubell Museum, 18th November 2020

 Rubell Museum is one of the biggest private contemporary art collections in North America located in Miami, Florida. These magnificent pieces are full of history, meaning, and emotions. Visiting this museum, I felt as I was back in time experiencing and reliving those periods of moments, these arts make you feel that you are in a travel machine going back through time and you try to understand how was the artist feeling, concerned, or going through.  This museum holds famous pieces because the Rubell’s were scooping pioneering works from the likes of Keith Haring, Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, and Jeff Koons.  The Rubell Museum exhibits paintings, sculptures, photographs, videos, and rooms that have an environment full of art such as The Infinity Room which is one of the many Yayoi Kusama’s works.

            I admire the work of these artists that made such delightful and meaningful pieces, some of them were even restricted from doing art, other needed to show the pain or the feelings that they were going through and some of them also felt the need to express how some races were perceived or portrayed in society. With some pieces, I felt connected or inspire but in others it just made me feel sadness or pain. One of the works that inspired me and made feel connected was the Infinity Room by Yayoi Kusama, this piece of work amazed me by how the mirrors and the balls can make you see through another dimension. Since because of the pandemic situation we could only admire the room for 30 seconds and then exit, I desired that I would have stayed longer for me to experience the meaning of the artist and what she was thinking when she created this marvelous art.

Everglades as Text

The Everglades the Abundant Wildlife

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at the Everglades National Park, 20th January 2021.

The Everglades is one of the largest remaining subtropical wildernesses and is also a unique natural region treasure located in the southern portion of the United States of Florida.  This ecosystem is preserved and protected by the U.S Congress since 1934, when this was authorized Congress stated to preserve this tropical ecosystem and that includes everything that lives within it. 

The everglades are very well known because of their biodiversity that contains the nine distinct types of ecosystems that have been identified within the park such as cypress, freshwater slough, and marl prairie, coastal lowlands, mangrove, hardwood hammock, pinelands, estuarine and marine. On the Everglades, 39 native Florida species are in extinction, which is protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973.

Visiting the Everglades has made me questioned how this ecosystem full of life is still being kept alive? Since the majority of Miami is crowded filled up with buildings, residencies, parks, parking lots, etc. Going to the everglades has been a unique experience, when I stepped on those rich wetlands, I felt a weird sensation of fear since I used to think an alligator or a snake would come or attack me but actually, it was the complete opposite of these species are very unbothered, and friendly. Stepping into mold water I saw how much wildlife is alive, seeing the cypress trees and the flowers that would grow around it, I felt amazed at how there is still life in our world and that we should protect it at any cost. Another fun fact I learned from ranger Dylan is that the everglades are responsible for supplying drinking water for more than 8 million people. Now, I could say that the Everglades is an amazing ecosystem that is going to blow your mind with the variety and diversity that this place has. I would advise anyone to visit this unique beautiful ecosystem, it is such as unique blow minding experience.

Wynwood as Text

Art that is full of Gold

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at Wynwood, 3rd February 2020.

Wynwood is a trendy, free, and artistic neighborhood located in Miami, Florida. Wynwood is most known for being an entertainment district, with artwork, restaurants, bars, clothing stores, dance venues, among other retail options. This neighborhood of Miami welcomes people from all ages, classes and races.  It was once dominated by the garment district and crime in the 80’s, but remerge into an oasis for the young, creative, and innovative minds of tomorrow. All residents, tourists can enjoy some of the best bites at the wonderful restaurants in the Wynwood Art District like Wynwood Diner. There are also tons of art galleries and street art to admire and photograph to capture memories of your visit.

Professor John Bailey took us to Mette and Locus Projects this localization is a sanctuary for artist to develop ideas freely and give them the time and the space and funds to push their idea to their fullest capacity. In this sanctuary the artist Mette Tommerup spoke about her new large-scale installations, made by dusk that she felt inspired by the Nordic Goddess, Freya, the untamed goddess of love, war, beauty, gold and transformation. These exhibitions reflect an atmosphere of warm glittering golds evoking diminishing rays of sunlight and smoky grays as the infiltrating night. The artist was trying to provide experiences of reflection, connection, and restoration where visitors can avail themselves of the healing potential. 

Bill Baggs as Text

Land filled with histories

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, 17th February 2021

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is an important beautiful historical land that is located in Key Biscayne, Florida. This park was designated as a National Underground Railroad Network Freedom Site, as runaway slaves within the 1800s met on the confidential island waiting to board ships to require them to safety within the British Bahamas. In 1825, a lighthouse was built, today the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County. This lighthouse’s purpose was to serve as a navigational aid. To arrive at the top of this lighthouse you will need to take 109 steps, but this is a climb that is worthy of your time since it will reward you with a beautiful breathtaking view. This park was named after the nominated Novel Prize, an advocator for the preservation of natural landscapes which is Bill Baggs. This powerful citizen left a mark by becoming an early opponent of the Vietnam War, by restoring many landscapes, and by being one of the newspaper editors who campaigned for civil rights for African Americans during the 1950s to 1960s. 

 Bill Baggs State Park contains a lot of recreational activities that tourists and residents can do such as snorkeling, fishing, swimming, hiking, kayaking, bicycling, boating, and wildlife viewing. I enjoyed visiting this park and one of my favorite moments was when my classmates and I sat down on the concrete by the ocean to enjoy and eat our lunch. The ocean breeze immersed me with its purity, relaxed, calm atmosphere which was something unexpected but very much needed it. I also got the opportunity to connect with the wildlife, there were raccoons and we got the chance to feed them. My classmates and I also connected with the rangers that preserve the park, the rangers told us how they love to work in this preserved land and how it has allowed them to work with something they love which is nature. 

In other words, this trip was an amazing opportunity for me since I got the opportunity to perform or do activities I have never done in my life. I felt like nature was fulfilling some empty spaces that needed to be filled inside my soul. This historic land tells you who are the real heroes, fighters, and survivors even though some of them have been forgotten but let’s remind one and another since they have given their whole life to protect one and another, and the ones that preserve this natural magical land.

River of Grass as Text

Carpe Diem

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at Everglades National Park, 4th March 2021

 The Everglades National Park welcomes us again to learn more about the history of the everglades, this will be the second time I have visited this rich land. Never in my life, I would think that I would be experiencing the everglades, these experiences that I have lived are memorable for the rest of my life. 

At the beginning of this field trip ranger Dillion and professor, John Bailly took my classmates and me to a solution hole. Solution holes are pits in karst that formed in the past when sea level and the water table were lower than present levels. Solutions holes provide winter dry-season refuge for aquatic animals and provide repopulation source for species upon reflooding of the marsh during the following summer wet season. In one solution hole, I saw a different kind of species of fishes and a diversity of animals. Ranger Dillion also explained how the everglades used to be an agricultural site that farmers would grow Brazilian pepper, tomatoes and how they used to struggle growing vegetables in that type of rocky soil. Brazilian pepper is one of the most widespread and powerful invasive species in the Florida everglades. On the everglades, there was also a military installation where the missiles would be kept for self-defense and emergency situations to protect our beautiful nation. At the end of our journey professor, Bailly took us to see Florida wetlands in the everglades, these wetlands felt like moist soil, slimy and gooey mud.

 This was such as scary experience but at the same time it was such an enjoyable moment, I have been living in Miami for six years and I never got the time to experience it. This class has taught me how Miami can have so much history, and how many activities you can do or go to. I have felt connected with nature since the beginning of this class, and it has made me be more “Carpe Diem” of how you only live once, how you should live life to the fullest, and try to enjoy it as much as you can.

Frost as Text

Inspirational Rooms

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at the Frost Art Museum FIU, 17th March 2021

 The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum is located at Florida International University on the Modesto Maidique Campus. This museum contains nine galleries which five of which has a natural light, an art storage, a lecture hall, and some public spaces. This museum exhibits work from the university’s permanent collection, temporary exhibitions, and current educational programs.

 The museum footprint and massing have a geometrical response to the L-shaped site. Framing the university’s Avenue of the humanities, the building is angled around a lake and preserves an oversized Ficus tree. The solid style of angles and curves is clad by very pink-gray Chinese granite that glistens within the Florida sunlight. A three-story glass atrium forms a transparent gate between the campus and the wonderful lake.

The galleries are grouped in threes, giving curators flexibility within the display, lighting, and scheduling. within the five galleries with skylights, the museum can exhibit works in UV-filtered daylight. An array of enormous, custom-designed “petals” control light levels and a spread of colors, preferentially scattering natural light to display walls. All exhibition spaces, archives, art storage, and mechanical equipment are above the underside floor, protected against flooding, and prepared to withstand hurricane-force winds.

 I am amazed at how FIU students have a museum within their campus, this university has given us many opportunities to grow as  opened many doors to students to become professional, and to be able toobtain a degree. I am proud to mention that I am a student at Florida International University, and it has been an honor to be able to study at this amazing, and flourishing university.

Coral Gables as Text

Miami's Iconic Biltmore Hotel - Clutch & Carry-On

The Hotel where legends stayed”

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at The Biltmore Hotel Miami, 31st March 2021

Visiting Coral Gables was so beautiful since it is full of boulevards, mansions, hotels, museums, buildings, romantic parks, little boutique stores, stores full of art, wedding stores, and many historic landmarks. I do not go to Coral Gables because I am from Kendall but every time, I would visit it, it was because of a brunch, to eat in a restaurant with my friends, or other reasons. My favorite thing about going to Coral Gables is when I go to the parks, or when I walk by the boulevard and see those little cute stores and boutiques that are either selling art, wedding dresses, or handicrafts. Once I had a really bad experience visiting this neighborhood of Miami, and why you may ask? It is because one day my best friend and I  were at Coral Gables eating some ice cream and walking down the main avenue and when we were going back home my best friend made almost an illegal turn and immediately three cops came at us thinking we were drunk and that we almost could have caused an accident but we didn’t. I thought the cop was going to give us a ticket, but he didn’t he understood we weren’t from the neighborhood and that it was an honest mistake that we were not trying to cause a crash. Coral Gables can have many pros than cons and one of the cons is that there are cops everywhere and for that reason, you have to be careful paying attention  Even if you make the smallest mistake you could get a ticket but what I learned from it is to make sure where you turn right or left since in most of the streets you can’t turn right or left but Coral Gables has given me so many happy moments and going with my classmates and professor Bailly was one of my favorite moments to be more specific one of the most things that caught my attention and that I enjoyed was when we visited The Biltmore Hotel. I learned many fun facts or information about this hotel during our field trip. The history that his hotel has is very interesting such as what is most famous for, who built it, what type of architectural style has, and more information. 

The Biltmore Hotel is a National Historic Landmark and one of the most luxurious hotels in Coral Gables, this hotel is located at 1200 Anastasia Ave, Coral Gables Florida. The Biltmore Hotel was designed by Weaver and Schultze, this historical landmark was built in 1926 by George Merrick and John McEntee Bowman.  The architectural style of this hotel has a Mission, Spanish, Revival, Italian, and Renaissance structure. One of the most remarkable structures from this hotel is the tower since it was inspired by the Giralda, the Giralda is a medieval tower of the cathedral of Seville.

The Biltmore Hotel is well known because the person who built it is the founder of Coral Gables which is George Merrick. This hotel is famous because it hosted and still hosts the most elegant and luxurious charity events, galas, fashion shows, presidents and famous people have stayed at the hotel, for its golf tournaments, it also has been used as a background in many movies or television, and the last reason is that it has an enormous and the largest pool. 

Learning history about this hotel was very interesting especially since the one who built it was the founder of Coral Gables, and how he made an amazing impact on this neighborhood in Miami Florida. I just enjoyed learning about this hotel because I saw the meaning that has behind it, I told myself that one day I might stay at the presidential suite since it is one of the most prestigious rooms that this amazing hotel has.

Vizcaya as Text

Pursuit of Pleasure”

By Leonella Santillan of FIU at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, 14th April 2021

The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens was the residency of a businessman named James Deering, the Villa Viscaya is located in a neighborhood in Miami – Florida, the address is 3251 South Miami Ave in Coconut Grove. This National Historic Landmark has an Italian Renaissance garden, native woodland landscape, and a historic village filled with original furnishings, and artwork.  This villa was constructed in 1914, the design partner was Paul Chalfin. Paul Chalfin was commissioned by James Deering, his mission was to scour all over Europe to find the finest furnishings, antiques, and paintings for this hedonist villa.

Inside this villa is decorated by carved mantels, fresco ceilings from Tuscany and France, marble floors, stained glass doors, gold objects, paintings, gold mirrors, sculptures, and many more European antiques. Outside this villa contains the Italian Renaissance formal gardens, a pool, and a stone breakwater barge that was constructed over 100 years ago. This breakwater barge has a purpose to break the ocean water and for the protection of the mansion, this stone barge is a piece of work art since it is filled with mermaids in the shape of stones at the bow, on top and stern of the barge. 

Visiting this museum was magnificent since I step into the location I was amazed by the landscape, sculptures, and waterfalls around it. This villa made me realized how hard James Deering worked for him to want that lifestyle, he was a very hedonistic person since he believed happiness can be found in pleasure. In the majority of the sculptures you could interpret that he was a very sexual human some people believe that he was a homosexual since he never got married, or dated a woman, he indeed loved kids but he didn’t have any. 

This was one of my last field trips from this class, and I could state that this class has been one of the most wonderful, inspirational, educational class I have taken at Florida International University. I am completely grateful to our dear professor John Bailly and our teaching assistant Nicole Patrick. Taking this class would make you fall in love and connect with nature, your background roots, architecture, museums, and art like the same way I did.  

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