Vox Student Blog

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

A picture containing indoor, piece, counter, sitting

Description automatically generated
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

A picture containing outdoor

Description automatically generated
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

A picture containing outdoor, tree

Description automatically generated
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 

A picture containing tree, outdoor, nature

Description automatically generated
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

A picture containing text, sky, outdoor

Description automatically generated
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.  

Kathalinna Zuniga: Miami as Text 2020-2021

Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, 2019. Photo by Pamela Zuniga.

Hello everyone! Welcome to my Miami in Miami blog! My name is Kathalinna Zuniga, I was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia and I moved to Florida almost five years ago. I am a senior, double majoring in International Relations and Political Science at Florida International University. Before moving to Florida, I lived in Ottawa, Canada for about a year. Canada’s demographic diversity awakened my passion about different cultures, languages, religions and customs, reason why I have decided to take the Miami in Miami class because I want to learn more about this beautiful city.

Deering as Text

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0
“A Hike to the Past”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Deering Estate, 2 September 2020.

    I found the Deering Estate a fascinating place to visit! When thinking about Miami people usually imagine stunning infrastructures, beautiful beaches, fashion, culture, and art. Indeed, Miami is all that, however, on my visit to the Deering Estate I found a side of the city that I have never known. In fact, I was amazed by the incredible ecosystem that resides there; the marine life, migratory birds, coyotes, racoons, tortoise, snakes, frogs, and the incredible variety of plants and trees. On our hike I even got to see a Pomacea, also known as apple snail, which is considered an invasive species (see photo attached).

However, what stood to me the most was the history that we found there. For once, I felt connected to this country. The Tequestas were a Native American Indian tribe that occupied this area of Florida. In fact, there is evidence of their presence at the Deering Estate grounds. On our hike, we saw their burial mound, where a massive tree has grown and will forever be the undeniable memory of the past and the ancestors that were once living in this territory. Surely, the Deering Estate is the perfect place to connect with nature and Miami’s ancestors. 

South Beach as Text

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0
“South Beach: History, Architecture and Art”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at South Beach, 16 September 2020.

The class at South Beach was an incredible combination of history, architecture and art. I felt for a moment that I was living again the time of segregation, when Carl Fisher was refusing to sell property to Jews, and darker skin Americans and Bahamians could not live anymore on the island they have built with so much effort. It is simply horrible to think that human beings were treated that way, but have things really changed? have we learned from our history? Those were the questions that were stuck in my head after hearing the history of Fisher Island.

     Nonetheless, South Beach is a now a place where people enjoy the freedom of expressing themselves without being judged, regardless of their race, ethnicity or sexuality, in fact, this neighborhood of Miami is a magnet for tourists. Therefore, this all ends up adding more to the culture, traditions and uniqueness of the area. 

     On the other hand, as we continued our walk, I was amazed by the beautiful architecture that characterizes South Beach. For example, Art Deco is a neoclassical type of architecture with rounded corners, pastel colors, “eyebrows shades” and neon lighting. Additionally, we were able to see Miami Modern/MIMO infrastructures, which are characterized for having geometric and marine designs, different textures and open spaces. 

     Finally, to conclude this post, I had to comment on how COVID has affected South Beach. While we walked through this beautiful area of Miami, we saw empty and isolated restaurants, and desperate employees that were even offering free stuff just to attracted customers. Sadly, this panorama is seen in many more places, where multiple sectors of the economy are suffering.

Downtown Miami as Text

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0
“(Un)Forgotten Past”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Downtown Miami.

Downtown Miami has an interesting and contrasting unforgotten but forgotten past. In places such as the Lummus Park, the William Wagner House reminded us of one of the first permanent residents of South Florida, a US veteran, who was originally from Germany and was married to a Creole lady. In fact, this couple is a clear example of the cultural diversity that characterizes Miami today. On the other hand, in this location, we could also find the Fort Dallas, which went from slave quarters to soldier barracks and finally to a post office, a courthouse, and a tea restaurant.

Additionally, Miami has monuments such as the one of Henry Morrison Flagler that exalts his ambition and effort to build what is now Downtown Miami. In fact, he gave birth to the new identity of the city with the tourism industry. However, many people forget at what cost this urban city was built. Indeed, Flagler contributed to the segregation of that time while pushing black communities to live in a set-aside town. Not only that, but Flagler decided to build his luxurious hotel on a Tequesta burial mound, erasing part of Miami’s history.

Even though it seems that the legacy and history of our ancestors have been wanted to be erased by many, it is our duty to protect these places, and give them the significance they hold. Undeniably, we have to make sure that these treasures survive development as they are an important piece of the essence of this city.

Other than that, downtown Miami preserves well portions of history with part of the Berlin Wall, the Gesu Catholic Church, the monument of a walking immigrant located next to the Museum of Art and Design, among many others. Certainly, Miami is a beautiful and unstoppable city that holds much more history than what we can imagine.

Chicken Key as Text

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0
“Canoes and Cleanups”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Chicken Key, 14 October 2020.

The class spent at Chicken Key was a blast. I think it was a gratifying and amazing opportunity to learn and discover new places, connect with people, overcome fears, and help the ecosystem. It was nice to have once again a different perceptive of Miami while having the chance to see the beauties of the city from a canoe. This class had something special, not only because we were engaging in a new activity in which we were all stepping out of our comfort zone during a pandemic, but also because we were meeting as a whole group for the first time. I am glad we got to meet each other and explore Chicken Key together. 

It was fascinating to see all the marine life; the small fishes, crabs, and stingrays. Nonetheless, at the same time, it was sad to see all the trash that opaque this “isolated” island. All the plastic bottles and bags, glass, shoes, and even containers were an eye-opening that let us realize that we have a long way to go in terms of preserving the ecosystem. I believe is extremely important to teach society the value of these places; habitats that are being constantly affected by our pollution. Thus, in my opinion, by doing these cleanups we are setting an example to future generations, while also motivating others to do similar activities. 

In conclusion, this has been one of the most amazing and unique experiences I have lived since I moved to Florida. Nonetheless, what paid off the mile canoeing was not only the fact that we filled six canoes with trash but, also, I was able to go with Esmeralda, Nicole, and Komila to a beautiful hided passage were freshwater combines with salt-water and creates a unique and beautiful environment where the water looked clean and clear.

Bakehouse as Text

The “Future Pacific” by Lauren Shapiro. Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0.

“Ocean Gems”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Bakehouse Art Complex, 1 November 2020.

Last class we had the opportunity to help Lauren Shapiro with her project called “Future Pacific”, this exhibition seeks to raise awareness about endangered marine ecosystems while encouraging and providing researches with a platform to work with. Additionally, Shapiro is motivating the community to help and be part of her project. Therefore, during our class, we worked with unfired clay and molds that resemble coral reefs. 

     I have never worked with clay before and it was an amazing and enriching experience, not only because I got to learn new things but because I actually realized the vital role that coral reefs play in our ecosystem. Indeed, coral reefs provide habitats for multiple marine species, nonetheless, pollution, climate change, and overfishing are killing these ocean gems. As an example, the Great Barrier Reef located on the northeast coast of Australia has lost over half of its coral, and this is by no doubt an alarming situation that should concern us all! 

     On the other hand, I really like the metaphor of the unfired clay, which at the end of the exhibition will dry, lose its color, and crack, creating then the effect of a real coral reef that loses its bright colors, turns pale and dies. Thus, I hope this project will not only incentivize people to learn more about art but also to appreciate the hard work that undergoes these projects and the message it wants to send to the community.

Rubell as Text

 LET’S SURVIVE FOREVER, Yayoi Kusama. Against All Odds, Keith Haring. Sleep, Kehinde Wiley. Untitled, Anselm Kiefer. Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0

“Filling my Cup”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Rubell Museum, 18 November 2020.

This class along with places such as the Rubell Museum have awakened a side of me that loves art and appreciates the story, beauty, and details behind every artwork. I have discovered that this class is what “fills my cup”, what gives me energy, and what I enjoy doing. After going to the museum, I was amazed by the art of Yayoi Kusama, Kehinde Wiley, Keith Haring, Anselm Kiefer, Liu Wei among many others. I was so intrigued by everything I saw that when the class finished I did some research on the museum because I wanted to learn more about the exhibitions and the artists. 

     Thus, I learned that Yayoi Kusama’s art involves dots because the hallucinations she had when she was a child were about fields of dots. Also, now I understand more the work of Kehinde Wiley and how he wants to portray or challenge the concept of masculinity, especially among black and brown men. Besides, I now pay more attention to the visual language that is behind art pieces such as the ones of Keith Haring. On the other hand, I have learned the importance of history when dealing with the past, and how an artwork might bring awareness of what once happened in the world and what those events represent in the present, as it is the case of the powerful art of Anselm Kiefer. 

     To conclude, I enjoyed our visit to the museum, and I hope to find more spaces where I can feel connected, recharged, and happy. I am sure my visits to the museum will become a regular routine. Finally, I am excited to learn more and explore that side of me that loves art, appreciate outdoor activities, and enjoy new adventures. 

Everglades as Text

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga/CC BY 4.0

“A Subtropical Wilderness”

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

Last Wednesday we had an amazing experience going to the Everglades. I have been living in Florida for almost five years and I have never been there, all this time without knowing the beauty that this place holds. When telling people, I went slough slogging in the Everglades they reaction is surprising. Most of them are just scared of the “stories”, “the things that have happened” or simply the things they imagined could happen, but nobody really knows what it is like to experience it.

I would like to break that misconception they have of this place because it is beautiful. We should instead appreciate the fascinating ecosystem we have in our backyards while taking full advantage of it. The connection we felt; hearing the birds and animals, watching the little fishes and plants, exploring the alligator hole, and not having signal, make this an unforgettable trip. Stepping out of the comfort zone and forgetting about the monotony that sometimes overwhelms us is amazing and this is the perfect place to do that.

It was really nice understanding more the ecosystem while listening to Ranger Dylann telling us about this awesome place. She said that there is a female and a male alligator that live there, as well as multiple snakes and different types of animals, sadly or luckily, we did not get to see any, but we did have the chance to see two gators while walking along one of the trails. Something that also caught my attention is the fact that the Everglades is an untouched world treasure as it is the largest subtropical ecosystem in the United States.

I wish more people would take the time to go out and explore the Everglades!

Wynwood as Text

Made by Dusk, Mette Tommerup. Photo by Roger Masson/CC BY 4.0

“What is art?”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Locust Projects , 3 February 2021.

I was never a person that knew much about art before taking Professor Bailly’s class. However, now it is something I like and appreciate. This class has awaken that side of me, the one that enjoys going to museums and art installations, the one that stares a little longer to “understand” the idea, the one that tries to look at it with a different perspective. When we went to Mette’s art exhibition called Made by Dusk this is what I felt. I was amazed by everything, and then I understood that art is not only for the ones that know about it, neither it is a traditional painting or the object that is being displayed. Art is an experience, an idea, it has the magic to transport you to a different environment, it is interacting with the space and things. 

It was really nice knowing more about Mette’s art, about Freyja, goddess of love, fertility, battle and death. I enjoyed watching the video that shows the process of her art. I like how everything was displayed, and I could not stop thinking about how big those canvases where, and how long it took her to finish the installation. I also enjoyed how she was explaining the idea and concepts of her artwork and the gold shower we had afterwards. I was wrong because I thought that by not having enough context or knowledge, I was not going to enjoy this class, but it was quite the opposite.

Bill Baggs as Text

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga CC/BY 4.0

“Back Then”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, 17 February 2021.

When thinking about Key Biscayne I used to only imagine the lighthouse and the beautiful, clear beach. However, the history that this place holds is simply incredible, and it is sad that not too many people know about it. Key Biscayne is the perfect spot to relax, have a date, bring family from overseas and show them how beautiful Miami is. Nonetheless, this has not always been like that, in the time of the Tequesta, mosquitos would have made these activities of relaxation almost impossible. 

While we were there, I was trying to picture how life was at that time, was it difficult to have people coming to your land trying to impose their beliefs and rules? Indeed, the first legal claim of this land was made by Ponce DeLeon, who first called Key Biscayne Santa Marta. Yet, it is fascinating to imagine the life of the Tequesta, how they would catch whales and collect wood using their “boats”, how they would trade with the Spaniards, how some member of the Tequesta would travel to Spain, or how some Spaniards would learn Tequesta to be able to communicate. So many questions that could only be answered with imagination. Indeed, I felt transported to a different place that day, while trying to imagine life at that time. 

On the other hand, the lighthouse is also a very important structure that has “survived” multiple events throughout history. In fact, the lighthouse has recovered from attacks by the Seminoles, who assassinated Carter, one of the lighthouse keepers, and left John Thompson badly injured. It has also resisted the Confederate attacks and dangerous tropical storms. After our visit to the Big Baggs Cape Florida State Park, next time somebody mentions Key Biscayne I will definitely think about the unforgettable history that surrounds this place and not only about its beautiful beach.

River of Grass as Text

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga CC/BY 4.0

“Our Soldiers”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Everglades National Park, 7 March 2021

The Everglades is such an amazing place that few people visit, yet it holds the most amazing ecosystem and history relics. Every visit to the Everglades is memorable, however, I felt the most connected last time we were there. When we were visiting the Nike Missile Base, I could not stop thinking about the soldiers that once stood to fight for their country in that same place. I could not stop thinking about my father and how a few years back he fought for his country, Colombia, ending with a broken spine, and with almost no chances to walk again. I could not stop thinking about Rahjanni’s husband, a friend of mine, who committed suicide after being deployed in the Middle East multiple times. He could not deal with the traumas that those places have left. It is sad how we sometimes take for granted the sacrifices that others have made for our freedom and peace.

I hope that visit reminded us of the 200 million people that lost their lives during that war. I hope it remined us of their hours of trainings, their uncertainty, fear, pain, all the difficulties they lived, their families, and the heartbreaking moment of receiving the flag of the country, as a sign that you loved one have died defending the country. I hope after that visit we take a minute to think about them, and how they put at risk their lives and health for us. I hope after that visit we think about the millions of soldiers that are far from home, fighting for this country.

Frost as Text

Accumulate, Classify, Preserve, Display, Roberto Obregon. Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga CC/BY 4.0

“Perceptions” 

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, 17 March 2021

Obregon’s work has been one of my favorites, the delicacy and preservation of the rose petals is impressive. However, what I like the most is that his work touches upon multiple aspects such as scientific classification and human interaction. Hence, Obregon’s artwork could be interpreted in different ways.

When we first walked to the exhibition, I did not understand the purpose of Obregon’s work or what he wanted to portray in all those glued and watercolor petals arrangements. Nonetheless, as I immersed myself in the exhibition, thinking, touching, and watching everything, I started linking those things to my personal experiences. First, I started to look at the petals in a more geographical way, thus, to me, their shape resembles countries. Additionally, after watching the silhouettes of people and petals that are displayed in a wall that looks like a board game (see photo attached) I thought about politicians playing with the faith and welfare of each of those countries (the silhouettes of people being politicians, and the petals being countries). 

On the other hand, something that grabbed my attention was the sick rose. Petals that were eaten by bugs and look significantly different from the other ones. When I saw those petals, I thought about countries that are not in a good position right now and resemble that damaged petal. In addition, Obregon organized each one of the petals he collected by numbers, numbers in which we also classified countries, according to their economic, military, and political power. 

It is incredible how you can connect Obregon’s artwork with things that are of your interest. In my opinion that is the magic of his art. Obregon was able to dissect those roses and erase, at least for some time, the idea or connection we have created between roses and love, romanticism, feminism, and even death. Therefore, I was able to interpret his art in my own way, while thinking about world politics.

Coral Gables as Text

Photo by Kathalinna Zuniga CC/BY 4.0

“Guavonia”

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Coral Gables, 21 March 2021

Once again on our visit to Coral Gables we got to see a place that does not look anything like Miami, or at least to the idea that the media has created of this beautiful place. The misconception that often links Miami to beaches and nightclubs starts to shade away as we walk through the streets of Coral Gables.

When walking inside the Biltmore Hotel, for example, you feel like you are multiple years back in time when this historic gem was first built, or even better you feel as if you are in the Giralda. It is fascinating to think that the Biltmore hotel went from having the largest pool in the world and being the tallest building in Florida, to a World War II hospital, and finally, to the amazing place that welcomes tourists and locals today.

On the other hand, the architecture of the city is beautiful. The Mediterranean Revival style that predominates in the area is inspired by both Spain and the Mediterranean. Hence, the city has a cohesive identity that is related to its architecture. Nonetheless, we can now see how some enormous buildings start to overshadow the traditional ones. Despite that, places such as the Venetian Pool, the Miracle Theatre, among others make this city a historic relic.

In addition, all the pictures and images that we saw at the museum are amazing. It is hard to imagine that the city was once a subtropical hardwood forest that looked nothing like it does today. Oftentimes, when thinking about the construction of Coral Gables, the first name that comes to mind is George Merrick. However, as we have seen in past lectures, African Americans and Bahamians are the ones that have put in the hard work to build all those beautiful cities. Indeed, there is a lot of people that helped to build Coral Gables.

Vizcaya as Text

Collage by Kathalinna Zuniga CC/BY 4.0

“What Miami is today…” 

By Kathalinna Zuniga of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, 14 April 2021

I could not imagine a better way to end this class than at Vizcaya. Something that Professor Bailly said during class and resonated with me was that so much of what Miami is today starts here, at this beautiful dream house. Indeed, everything about that construction and its architecture is fascinating. The contrast of the “mangroves” with the ocean view is nothing but peaceful. However, at the time of James Deering, there was nothing peaceful about that house, as the back entrance welcomes you with a sculpture of Bacchus, also called Dionysus, god of wine and ecstasy. 

     During our class I was trying to picture the life of James Deering with such a beautiful and enormous house, all to himself. In fact, there was so much work put into that property, every detail; the sculptures, the marble pieces around the house, the limestone used on the exterior, the paintings, the style that prevails in each room, everything is stunning. I wonder how he was able to convince and bring so many people to work in a remote place full of mosquitos, just to please his desires. How did he manage to import all the stuff from Europe during a World War War. How many workers were needed to build this amazing house… so many questions arise when you start thinking about all the work that was required to build this house.  

     Undoubtably, Vizcaya is one of my favorite places in Miami. The fact that James Deering purchased a 1,000 feet waterfront property, and built a European style house in the middle of the mangroves sounds even crazy, but it is such an elegant and stunning place. Nonetheless, I think James Deering was living a fantasy life, with paintings of kids that were not his, instruments that were never played, portrays of people that were not related to him. In my opinion, his house was a façade to the real James Deering. 

Brittney Sanchez: Miami as Text 2020-2021

Photo taken of Brittney Sanchez in 2019. Photo by Cristina Martinez/ CC BY 4.0

Hello! My name is Brittney Sanchez and I was born and raised in the beautiful city of Miami, Florida. I was homeschooled all throughout my life until I graduated high school and attended Miami Dade College to obtain my AA degree in Pre-Recreational Therapy. This year I transferred into the Honors program at Florida International University to pursue a bachelors degree in Physical Education: Sports and Fitness. I am passionate about helping people with disabilities, and want to pursue a career that allows me to combine my passion of helping others and my love of fitness and nutrition. I love finding joy in the little things in life like dancing, listening to music, getting to know new people, seeing people smile, learning unique hobbies, and watching the sunset.

Deering as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Deering Estate. Photo by Brittney Sanchez/ CC BY 4.0

“A Blast into our Geographic Past”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Deering Estate, 2 September 2020

On September 2nd, we immersed ourselves into an unforgettable hike surrounded by awe-inspiring oak trees and chilling spider webs. We were no longer staring at the busy streets of Miami. Instead, our class took place in the serenity of the Deering Estate. It was not just a lovely sight to see; it was the melting pot of many diverse cultures, an archeological wonderland, a wide array of unique plants, and a wildlife environment which one cannot experience on a typical day in Miami. As I embarked on this journey, I was welcomed by coffee plants, oak trees, strangler figs, and most importantly the untouchable poison ivy.  
The most fascinating part of the Deering Estate, in my opinion, was the influence of the Tequestas. Although the Tequestas inhabited Miami in the 1500’s and are now extinct, I could just imagine them using their shell tools and intermingling with each other as I stood in the Tequesta Cutler Burial Mound. I personally had not heard of the Tequestas until Professor Bailly introduced me to their rich past and unique tools. As I examined the shells which the Tequestas used as tools in the palm of my hand, I could see that each shell served a different purpose. For example, I personally held one that was used as a drill to dig into the dirt. The history that surrounded me in Deering Estate’s nature preserve was an unforgettable experience. Something as simple as holding a tiny tool in my hand, made me feel connected to my geographic past.

South Beach as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in South Beach. Photo by Brittney Sanchez/ CC BY 4.0

“Not Your Typical Eyebrows”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at South Beach, 16 September 2020

On September 16th, we walked down Ocean Drive with a completely different outlook. Although I had been to South Beach’s Art Deco neighborhood countless times, for the first time ever, I got to walk down Ocean Drive without the tourist filled sidewalks and crowded streets. Because of the pandemic, this usually highly populated road was completely empty. This allowed us to have a new sense of appreciation for the architectural history and cultural heritage which makes Ocean Drive such a popular tourist attraction today. In fact, buildings in the Art Deco play such a significant role in our cultural history, that they are not allowed to be destroyed or significantly modified.
South Beach is known for being a prime location for music videos, delicious restaurants, and beautiful sandy beaches. However, most people do not know that the buildings surrounding Ocean Drive encompass a wide variety of aesthetic characteristics and architectural styles that date back to the early twentieth century and the influence of machines and appliances. As I made my way down the street, I looked up at these fascinating structures with their futuristic styles and linear components, and I immediately pictured myself in the Jetsons cartoon. The most fascinating qualities shared by these buildings are the “eyebrows.” Although it might seem like the architect may have forgotten to finish the balcony, these ledges immediately draw you in with their perplexity. Speaking of perplexing forms of art, many of these buildings also display a variety of contrasting relief art. These art pieces can range anywhere from natural elements to erotic displays. I believe each work of art perfectly accentuates the architectural characteristics and cultural heritage displayed throughout the buildings and they each play a vital role in telling their own story.

Downtown as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Downtown. Photo by Brittney Sanchez/ CC BY 4.0

“The Influence of the Catholic Church”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Downtown, 30 September 2020

On September 30th, we walked around Downtown Miami and learned about the spread of Catholicism and the substantial influence the Catholic church has had on the world. It is crazy to think that there were no Catholics in the western hemisphere in 1492 and, according to Will Worley, Christianity is the most popular religion in the western hemisphere today. As we ended our walk down 2nd Street, we climbed the steps to what seemed like an ordinary, peach building. Although it might look like a simple building to passersby, once I stepped into Gesu Catholic Church, I was reminded of its beauty. There was a high domed ceiling, countless pews, tall stained glass windows, gold accents adorning the altar, and many saint sculptures around the church. Although many different people from around the world came to America with new religions and ideologies, the Catholic faith remained and flourished quickly.

The reason for the vast spread of the Catholic faith can be accredited to the missionaries in the late 1500s. Catholics believe they are called to spread the good news of Christ and these missionaries did exactly that. They went around towns and started converting the slaves and indigenous people living throughout the area. Jesus’ call to missionaries is presented many times throughout the Bible, which is the sacred scripture in the Catholic faith, for example in Luke 10:1-2 where it states, “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go” (“Jesus Sends out the Seventy-Two”). Although “the first Catholic presence in Miami was in 1567 when Jesuit missionaries arrived with the Spanish settlement founded by Don Pedro Menendez de Avila at the mouth of the Miami River,” (“History”) this church continues to have multiple Masses on the weekends and confessions held throughout the week. It is evident that the Catholic Church has made a significant impact on today’s world, and Gesu is a great reminder of that.

Works Cited

Biblegateway. “Jesus Sends out the Seventy-Two.” 2011. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2010%3A1-23&version=NIV
ECatholic. “History.” GESÙ CATHOLIC CHURCH was founded as a Church in 1896. https://gesuchurch.org/history
Worley, Will. “What are the largest religious groups around the world, and where are they?” The distribution of religions across the world, 13 April 2016. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/what-are-largest-religious-groups-around-world-and-where-are-they-a6982706.html

Chicken Key as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Chicken Key. Photo by Brittney Sanchez/ CC BY 4.0

“We are the World”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Chicken Key, 14 October 2020

On October 14th, we made a difference. “The numbers are staggering: There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. Of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer litter the deep sea” (Parker, 2015). It is no secret that our earth is filled with marine debris; however, there are moments like these that make the unthinkable facts come to life right in front of your eyes. This opportunity let me take part in making our earth a safer place for wildlife and marine animals so they could live peacefully without being threatened by trash in the bay. You might think to yourself, what difference can one person really make on such an expansive earth like this? Well, on October 14th I learned that a small group of us from the Honors College can make a major difference in just a matter of hours.

It was a bright and windy day in Biscayne Bay. We packed up our lunch, prepared the canoes, grabbed some paddles and life vests, and finally distributed sand bags to collect the debris. Although the water had been completely serene in the morning, by the time we set out to Chicken Key, the water hit the sides of our canoes, furiously dragging us further away as we tried to paddle to the island. To our surprise, our cleanup started even before landing on the designated area on the island when we found a huge barrel which we mounted onto our canoe. Once we landed, we found debris laying near the coastline and on the island. These pieces varied anywhere from hundreds of bottle caps, to large gasoline tanks. After a long day, we collected 6 canoes worth of marine debris. Learning about the effects of trash on the environment and the creatures abiding in it should be important to everyone. We must make a conscious effort to clean up and reserve these beautiful habitats for years to come.

Works Cited

Parker, Laura. “Ocean Trash: 5.25 Trillion Pieces and Counting, but Big Questions Remain.” The numbers add up to trouble for the oceans, wildlife, and us, but scientists are struggling to understand how. National Geographic, 2015. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/1/150109-oceans-plastic-sea-trash-science-marine-debris/

Bakehouse as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Bakehouse Art Complex. The “Future Pacific” by Lauren Shapiro. Photo by Komila Kholmatova/ CC BY 4.0

“Combining Science and Art”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Bakehouse Art Complex, 28 October 2020

On October 28th, we took part in the creation of a contemporary art piece to bring awareness to such an eye opening installation made by artist Lauren Shapiro and marine ecologist Dr. Nyssa Silbiger. They’re combined knowledge and creativity made this engaging environmental art installation possible. Yet simple in nature, this work of art mixes technology, reusable resources, ceramics, and scientific research to bring attention to the coral reefs like I have never seen before. These large wooden structures are covered by many hundreds of intricate coral ceramics that have been installed by the local community alongside the artists in the Bakehouse. These eye catching structures showcase a wide range of different textures, colors, and intricate details.

Although there is many distinct details in each and every structure, there is something they all have in common. They each take part in a grander project, to bring awareness to the frailty of coral reefs all over the worlds oceans. The room is filled with some bright and colorful shells, while other shells are faded, dried, and cracked. This shift is made possible because of the way these corals were made with unfired clay material. This material is used to demonstrate the decay of the coral reefs and the affect we have on them. Shapiro does an excellent job in creating a contemporary work of art while engaging the local community in a unique artistic experience. This abstract art installation is an important representation of engagement, community, involvement, and awareness.

Rubell as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in Rubell Museum. Photo of Two Cells with Circulating Conduit by Peter Hall. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

“Think Outside the Box”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Rubell Museum, 18 November 2020

On November 18th, we were face to face with multicultural, contemporary works of art. These thought-provoking installations, sculptures, and paintings pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I saw myself examining and interpreting art in a completely new way. To be completely honest, I am guilty of going to contemporary art museums and thinking to myself, how is this in an art museum if I could easily do this at home? However, this experience was unlike any other, it compelled me to think unconventionally.

The painting above, Two Cells with Circulating Conduit by Peter Halley, might look simple by nature to many people, but I believe it is a minimalistic work of art which uniquely combines culture and art. It is also important to understand that this type of art is left completely to the interpretation of the spectator. Typically I would have quickly passed by this painting in a museum, but as I stood in front of this work of art, it transported me into a whirlwind of imagination.

Although this painting was made in 1987, it lead me to ponder our current situation in 2020. Many of us feel trapped in our homes because of this pandemic. We are told to stay 6 feet apart from each other, we are strongly encouraged to stay home, and constantly wear masks, while living in fear of contracting this virus. With all the restrictions and conditions, this virus has taken away our first form of communication, human touch. It has caused many people to feel as if they are reliving the same day over and over again. The painting is a reflection of society, the squares represent this constant routine we find ourselves in. However, this abstract painting of geometric squares connected within a larger square gives me a sense of hope. Although we may feel as if 2020 cannot get any better, I see the larger square as a sign that there is a grander plan, something greater to come.

Everglades as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU at the Everglades National Park. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

“Into the Unknown”

by Brittney Sanchez of FIU at the Everglades, 20 January 2021

On January 20th we got to explore one of the most unique wetlands in the world, the Florida Everglades. We experienced a different side of Miami that is not often seen by tourists or even locals. Although people might call the Florida Everglades a swamp, it is actually a slow moving river that covers millions of acres. We went slough slogging through the murky waters during the ‘dry season’ in the Everglades. Because of the dry season, there weren’t as many mosquitos and we weren’t suffering from the usual Miami heat. “South Florida’s subtropical to tropical climate has a seven month long “wet season” from April through October. Only a quarter of yearly rainfall takes place during the “dry season” (November-March)” (Field School, 2013). The park is widely recognized for being a Unesca World Heritage Site and Wetland of International Importance. It is also home to many different plant and animal species. Whether you are looking for a thrill-seeking adventure, or a relaxing escape from the busyness of everyday life, the Florida Everglades is a unique experience for all who are brave enough to step into the “River of Grass.”

One of my favorite parts of the experience was standing in the silence, completely surrounded by nature, consciously trying to listen to the sounds around us. It reminded me that we need to take time in our lives to truly be grateful for what is around us and view things with a different perspective. I truly hope that this subtropical wilderness will be protected and further researched for our future generations to enjoy as much as I did.

Works Cited

Field School. (2013). Everglades Seasons: Wet and Dry. https://www.getintothefield.com/blog/everglades-seasons-wet-and-dry

Wynwood as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU in the Locust Projects. “Made by Dusk” by Mette Tommerup. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

“The Conversation Starter”

By Brittney Sanchez of FIU at the Locust Projects, 3 February 2021

On February 3rd, we were introduced to an inspiring female artist named, Mette Tommerup. Through her story, I grew a new sense of appreciation for the grit that artists embody throughout their professional careers. She is a painter and storyteller from Denmark who made a unique installation called, Made by Dusk. She challenges the art market by creating a space that perfectly combines mythology, modern topics, sounds, textures, interactive objects, tapestry, and more in an unimaginable way. It is immediately captivating from the moment you step into the gallery. Her message is not clearly written in black and white, instead, the audience is encouraged to reflect on the display and discuss their perspectives. This immersive installation gives society a platform to discuss pre-existing sensitive topics, such as feminism. She personally describes it as,”‘an opportunity to build a forum for a dialogue for how women can be the catalyst for transformative change in the world today'” (Mette Tommerup, 2020).

Tommerup explains that it is a liberating work of art, and I sensed this liberation through the videos projected onto the walls. To the left, she is seen picking up a large, heavy piece of tapestry which she pulls up into the roof. To the right, the video shows her dropping it from the roof. The video is perfectly laid on top of a textured style on the wall, which makes it an unique visual experience. Tommerup completely reimagined the world of art for me with this piece. I highly recommend it for anyone who would like to be blown away by her talent.

Works Cited

Mette Tommerup. (2020). New Major Immersive Installation by Mette Tommerup Creates an Otherworldly Luminous Space for Reflection and Transformation [Press Release]. From http://www.locustprojects.org/exhibitions/main-gallery/made-by-dusk.html.

Bill Baggs as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0

“Searching for the Truth”

By Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, 17 February 2021

On February 17th, we explored a barrier island. Although it is commonly known for being part of the Florida Keys, Key Biscayne is geologically part of the coastline of Florida. It is home to the famous Cape Florida lighthouse, many land and sea animals, and an array of tropical foliage. The most fascinating aspect of Bill Baggs and the Cape Florida lighthouse, is the history that lies within the island. Whether it be that Marjory Stoneman Douglas skinny dipped with her friends on the island, or the importance of the lighthouse throughout the years. Through this class, I have learned that history needs to be well researched, because a good majority of it can be one-sided. We must acknowledge all the different stories that can be found in the history of Bill Baggs, especially the role that the lighthouse has played in it. For example, its relation with the underground railroads, its aid in navigation, and lastly its impact on the Seminole wars.

Among these stories is the spread of Christianity on the island through the Jesuit missionary, Francisco Villareal. He sought to convert the Tequestas, but the Tequestas did not appreciate these new religious teachings by the Jesuits. I found this interesting because of the way it showcases the difference between the inhabitants of the island and the mission of the Jesuits. They both had very different mindsets and motives. While the Tequestas just wanted to find ways to survive by simply converting to Christianity if it was to their convenience, Villareal vigorously sought to convert them into Christianity and was oblivious to their motives. He was so fascinated by the Tequestas eagerness to learn about the faith, that he even reported his situation in a letter that was later discovered and found in the Vatican Archives.

River of Grass as Text

Miami in Miami of FIU at the Everglades National Park. Photo by Brittney Sanchez / CC BY 4.0 

“Exploring the Everglades”

By Brittney Sanchez of FIU at the Everglades National Park, 5 March 2021

On March 5th, we learned about the biodiversity present in the Everglades. First, we explored it on a dry hike lead by ranger Dylann. We learned human’s effect on the Everglades and the history of the national park. The importance of the Everglades cannot go unmentioned. It is pivotal to the unique culture and heritage of South Florida. Also, the diversity among the animals makes it such a unique ecosystem. Although the land had been used for many different things, today it is covered by pine and rock lands, and it is home to extraordinary wildlife. You must live the Everglades to truly understand it – seeing it through pictures does not do it justice. Rare species like the Dinosaur Birds and Roseate Spoonbills can be seen here, among many others. Each animal serves a purpose – even predators. In fact, our class lecture started off by ranger Dylann speaking to us about a bird that flies up to 250 mph and eats other birds that can even be larger in size.

Next, we went to the Nike Missile Site. As I stood under the looming shadow of the Nike Hercules Missile, which dates back to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, it reminded me of my Cuban-American roots. Although it was renovated and inactive, I felt as if I was transported back in time to the Cold War and it was a completely eye opening experience. I stood in this missile site, absorbing all the information and imagining how different history would have been if the nuclear warheads killed millions of people in the United States. It blew my mind that I was only 160 miles from Cuba, and that I was standing amongst many historical relics of the Cold War.

Frost as Text

“Fragility”

By Brittney Sanchez of FIU at the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, 17 March 2021

On March 17th, we toured many of the 6500 works at the Frost Museum. Among these works was the thought provoking exhibit by Roberto Obregón. He had an obsession with the dissection of the rose. He only worked with a certain number of roses, and everyone who has the opportunity to tour this exhibit can quickly sense his obsession with the uniqueness of the petals. As I toured Obregón’s exhibit, I was immediately captivated by a specific piece called the “Sick Rose,” or “Rosa Enferma” in Spanish. In the picture to the left, I noticed a rose which seemed to be untouched by humanity nor by harmful creatures. It was delicate, yet full of life. As I stood in front of this painting, I thought to myself, why is this beautiful flower named “the Sick Rose”? Then, I turned to my left and saw that this flower that was once so full of life, was taken apart petal by petal and laid out into a different frame with some writings on it. The very detailed note recounts the day that Obregón’s friend, Salmerón, gifted him this flower. This piece pays homage to Salmerón, who died a few years later from AIDS.

Although the rose had many meanings throughout the exhibit, I felt as if this rose could connect to many of its viewers, especially now during the corona pandemic. For me, it was a reminder that life is fragile, but it is also worth living. We all experience birth, development, and death. We do not know when our time will come, and this pandemic has made this clear to everyone. We are susceptible to many types of external factors such as diseases, infections, and natural disasters, but instead of living in fear, this flower should remind us to care and love for one another in a deeper and meaningful way. 

Coral Gables as Text

“Be Our Guest”

By Brittney Sanchez of FIU at the Biltmore Hotel, 31 March 2021

On March 31st we explored many tourist attractions in Coral Gables, such as the Coral Gables museum, Miracle Mile, and the Biltmore Hotel. As we entered the Coral Gables museum we were quickly transported to the early 1900s and the Great Depression. The tour combined local history, architecture, segregation, visionaries, and the overall development of Coral Gables. The uprising can be accredited to the founder and developer, George Merrick. His success story started as a young boy who tended his family farm filled with guava trees. He worked tirelessly and had a vivid dream of creating a city based on Spaniard architectural styles. Our tour guide gave us a thorough depiction of the history that lies within the city and the role Merrick played in making it such a successful city. Although it’s rise to fame is worth noting, one cannot push aside the intense segregation that lie in Miami at the time. We saw this immediately as we walked into the first room, the court house and the jail cells. They were separated into four different cells. White men, black men, and white women, and black women. The white men and women had the nicer cells facing a window, while the others had the dark, cold rooms. Much like any museum you visit, you need to create your own opinion. Having a critical mindset is pivotal. There will always be great success stories, but one must look at all the angles to fully understand the complex history.

Shortly after visiting the Coral Gables museum, we drove to the Biltmore Hotel which had a success story of its own. Although it was a military hospital during WWII, architects Shultz and Weaver renovated it in only 11 months. It became a beautiful hotel that combined Mediterranean revival and Miami Mediterranean styles with many geometric patterns and building styles that resembled Cuba. It was a place where many famous people visited, such as Desi Arnaz, and many galas, golf tournaments, and water shows were held. Today, it is a beautiful vacation spot for many locals and tourists from around the world!

Vizcaya as Text

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

“La Fin”

By Brittney Sanchez of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, 14 April 2021

On April 14th, we took part in an exclusive tour of the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. In a year full of uncertainties, this class quickly became one of my biggest blessings in 2020. We experienced Miami in a unique way and I could not have imagined ending such an unforgettable semester anywhere else but the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. This place is absolutely breathtaking. In 1912, James Deering undertook the construction of Vizcaya with Paul Chalfin as the artistic director. As you enter the gardens through the winding roads at the east entrance, you are welcomed by a Mediterranean architectural style embellished with tropical curtains. From the moment you enter the garden, you can see that hedonism, wealth, and self-glorification greatly influenced Deering’s design throughout Vizcaya.

As you walk through the back entrance, you are greeted by Bacchus, also called Dionysus, the Roman god of wine and ecstasy. He is depicted wearing minimal clothing and he is surrounded by little figures called putti. As you continue to walk through the house, you come across the patio that is lit up with natural light shining through the window ceiling. When this was built, it was completely open. I could just imagine the pure sunlight filling up the space with the fresh sea breeze circulating around it. Although you are surrounded by the Mediterranean architecture, you can also notice many other aspects that make this room so unique, such as the indoor/outdoor feel, the Cuban inspired roof, and the tropical flora throughout the room. This fresh air would have come straight from the east where you are face to face with the Boat Landing. This boat welcomed guests in the early 1900’s and served as a breakwater to protect the house and surrounding area from water. Although it was under construction, it quickly grasped your attention. Lastly, my favorite room in the South Loggia is enclosed by three pastel colored, arched, mosaic stained glass windows. This room is majestic. As the light from the setting sun fills the room with color through the stained glass windows, it instantly reminds you of a Disney movie. Life seems to simply stop for a moment as you stare into the endless garden through the stained glass windows. I cannot wait to go back to the museum for many years to come and show my family members the former home of James Deering.

Lukas Stump: Miami as Text 2020

Photo taken by Lukas Stump in New York October 12, 2020

My name is Lukas Stump. I was born in Germany but grew up in Panama City, Panama (Central America) my whole life. I came to the United States to study, and have been in Miami for a year now. I am currently studying computer engineering at FIU. What I plan to do with my major is to help expand Panama technologically and help us to continue progressing as a country. Although we are still developing as a nation we are the most advanced country in Central America.

I chose to take Miami in Miami because since I’ve been here I haven’t really been able to experience much, it pretty much has been work and study. With this class I am hoping to broaden my knowledge and gain experience here in Miami.

Deering as Text

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is deering-estate-mim-2.jpeg
Photo taken by Lukas Stump at the Deering Estate Miami, FL. September 2, 2020

“Untouched Miami”

By Lukas Stump of FIU at the Deering Estate September 2, 2020

A year and a couple days ago I was looking for somewhere to study and I chose Miami because it was the place that reminded me of home the most. As I shuffled through many photos and videos describing life here there was no mention of a place like the Deering Estate. The videos were more about what you could do in the city and at the beach. Thanks to my professor in the Miami in Miami class I was able to get a taste of Miami’s roots. The Deering Estate was the closest I felt to home than I have in a while. It reminded me of many places in Panama City, Panama. The scenery was breathtaking and the environment rich. From tropical forests to pine rocklands and water caves the Deering Estate allowed us to get into touch with mother nature.

Our tour began walking down the original old Cutler road, which led us to a small boat basin where we saw manatees hanging out. Our next adventure began in the tropical forest where the native Tequestas were from. We were able to see first hand what they ate and the tools they made. On the ground we saw a bunch of shells and conchs that were used as tools by them. As we continued our journey we stumbled across a huge oak tree on a mound. The oak tree was surrounded by a family that were buried there. Finally, we ended our excursion through the forest by visiting a plane crash cite that was suspected to have been flown by cocaine drug mules.

Next, we visited a pine rocklands biome. There we walked through crystal clear water and over huge boulders that have been there for years. Over time the water cut through the the rock creating caves off all sizes

For those of you who are interested in learning and experiencing what Miami originally looked like at the turn of the 20th century, I recommend you visit the Deering Estate.

Pro tip: bring water, sunscreen, bug spray, and get ready to walk and get wet.

South Beach as text

Photo taken by Lukas Stump at South Beach Miami, FL. September 16, 2020

“A trip to the past at South Beach”

By Lukas Stump of FIU at South Beach September 16, 2020

Going to South Beach, especially ocean drive was like stepping back into time and living in the 20th century. We started our journey on South Point Peer which stretched over the beautiful crystal blue ocean. It was sunny out and you could not ask for better weather.

I learned how Fischer made what is known today as South Beach. Its history is both incredible, sad, and should never be forgotten. The South Beach we all know and love today was built by the Bohemians. These people were treated unfairly due to the color of their skin and the time in which they lived in. Believe it or not, Fischer Island, which is now very exclusive, used to be the beach were the Afro Americans who built it would swim. After a while Fischer was able to acquire it and send them off t0 another beach.

After the peer, we walked down Ocean Drive. This was the highlight of the trip in my eyes because we were able to all the different type of art-deco buildings that have not been changed for years. There is a law that prohibits the modification of these buildings if they do not follow that style. The key features to this style of building were the colors and the shapes they used in their designs for example, the colors were pastel and every building either had eyelashes, rocket shapes, and boar windows. It is amazing to see how well preserved these buildings are and I hope they remain like this for ever.

Downtown Miami as Text

Photo taken by Lukas Stump, Downtown Miami September 30, 2020

“Culturally Mixed”

By Lukas Stump of FIU at the Downtown Miami September 30, 2020

            Miami is a very culturally mixed city with its population being from across the world. This wasn’t any different before it became the Miami we all know and love today. In a park by the government center sits the oldest house in Miami which belonged to a German man and his bride, a Native American woman. As you go deeper into downtown Miami you can the skyscrapers that sit along the Miami River. In the heart of the city on the mouth of the river, there is a burial site which is believed to be the spot where the Tequestas saw the Spanish conquers coming on their ships.

In the heart of Downtown Miami lies the heart and center of Miami. During my trip there I was able to stand in the middle of Zero Street or Calle Zero. Not to far from there, there was a draw bridge that opened on either side to let large boats go through. This was an immediate flash back for me because back home the canal did the same thing.

Towards the end of my trip to Downtown Miami I was able to see where the Liberty Tower was. This tower was used to process the peter pan kids from Cuba. It also was used to process many Latin’s that wanted to enter the United States through Miami. It now functions as a display museum owned by Miami Dade College. Overall, Downtown Miami was a very beautiful place full of diversity and people form different places.

P.S our very own Miami Heat play in the Triple A arena. Go heat!!!

Chicken Key as Text

Photo taken by John Bailly at Chicken Key, FL. October 14, 2020

“Leave no trace”

By Lukas Stump of FIU at the Chicken Key September 2, 2020

Our trip to chicken key is by far my most memorable experience I have had in Miami. Being able to group up with everyone from the class and help the environment by picking up trash. It was also the first time I have swam in Biscayne Bay. The paddle out was beautiful, and the conditions could not have been more perfect. They ocean was a crystal clear blue and the perfect temperature. It was astonishing how shallow it was 1 mile out from the shore, on the way back it was shin deep.

The amount of trash we found on the island was not a sight for sore eyes. I was disappointed with humans after finding the amount of trash we did. After seeing so much trash, especially plastic, I thought back and realized that I could do so much more to help the environment.

On our way back we all experienced the rough wind and the current of the ocean pulling us away from the Deering Estate marina. It felt as if we were on a treadmill not progressing anywhere. Once we made it back, I was able to see how much trash we really picked up as we threw it into the dumpster. At the end of the day this was an amazing experiencing full of surprises and fun!!   

Bakehouse as text

Photo taken by Lukas Stump at The Bakehouse Art Complex 28 October 2020 cc

“Saving our Reefs”

By Lukas Stump of FIU at Rubell Museum, 22 November 2020

This past Wednesday I was able to help save our reefs by participating in an art project in The Bakehouse art Complex that is trying to raise money and awareness. Before we began to help, we were given a brief explanation on what is going on with our reefs today and how important they are to sustain human life. Reefs are like the cities of the ocean. All sorts of aquatic species gather there and benefit from it, whether its for food, nesting, or living. Without reefs our way of life is at threat. As our professor put it, removing reefs form our oceans is like not having insects to spread pollen. It is hard to believe how molding clay and pasting it to large structures can help save our reefs, it is the little things that help the most­­. The structures spread across the room are meant to represent the reefs around the world. Over time the clay dries and cracks and looses its colors. This is meant to show how reefs look like and it represents how they are dying every day.

In the end, I was truly blessed to be a part of something this great. The work those artists are doing is really inspiring. A couple years from now I can look back and say that I took part in something bigger than myself. Gratefully, I was able to stay longer and help during both class sessions and what I saw was beautiful. We all came together to help save our reefs. Wednesday October 28, 2020 is a day I will never forget.

Rubell as Text

Photo taken by Lukas Stump at the Rubell Museum in Miami, Florida November 22, 2020, Art by Yayoi Kusama

“Thinking the Contemporary way”

By Lukas Stump of FIU at Rubell Museum, 22 November 2020

When it comes to understanding contemporary art, you need to open your mind and just accept the fact that what your looking at is art. In the past I have visited contemporary art exhibits and say to myself “if that’s what they are calling art I should be a millionaire” and things like “wow I could do that.” All of this changed on the 18th of November 2020. My professor took us to the Rubell Museum and showed me that what was on display was in fact art. One of the pieces was a 20th century vacuum in a clear plex glass siting on LED fluorescent lights. At first, I was stubborn an began to think in the closed-minded manor I used to, but after hearing the explanation the professor gave I could not unsee it, it was art!!

The highlight of the day was our first exhibit, the Infinity Mirrored Room by Yayoi Kusama. We owe a special thanks to the manager of the museum Juan for allowing us access to it. What impacted me the most about this piece was when I first stepped in and saw many of my reflections I thought “am I the best version of myself?” This allowed me to reflect on my self and see that some aspects of my life needed changing. Another exhibit I enjoyed was the black family embracing each other. It represented the injustice black citizens face every day in America.

Overall, our trip to the Rubell museum was educational, inspiring, and a whole lot of fun. Not only did we learn to interpret contemporary art but also learned messages from the art itself.  

Victoria Jackson: Miami as Text 2020-2021

Photo taken of Victoria Jackson in 2020. Photo by Nigel Courtney/ CC BY 4.0

Hello Everyone! My name is Victoria Jackson and I was born and raised in Miami Florida. I am junior in the Honors College at Florida International University studying English-Education. Outside of school I love travelling, reading and dancing. I am looking forward to exploring the place I have called home, seeing and experiencing the different wonders Miami has to offer and creating memories with the rest of my classmates.

Deering as Text

Photo by Victoria Jackson/ CC BY 4.0

“A Trickle in Time”

BY VICTORIA JACKSON OF FIU AT THE DEERING ESTATE, 8 SEPTEMBER 2020

From the moment you enter the grounds of the Deering Estate, you feel as if you are being far removed from society and entering a world from another time. We stepped into and gazed at a true Miami that was untouched and uncultivated. We were greeted by a variety of plants, an untamed wildlife environment and a rich history.

While hiking we explored the limited history of the Tequesta people, a tribe of people who existed and inhabited the land before us. Having a glimpse of their life and holding the tools they used was such a memorable experience. During our journey we came across one of their last surviving burial mounds. They were buried face down with their heads together and on top of their remains rested a large tree. We were told that it is said that their life force flows from them into the tree, providing it with life and the ability to grow to new heights.

I truly felt it. I felt not only the energy going into the tree but intertwining and exuding into the vast surrounding nature. Seeping into the soil and providing a strong foundation for the flora and fauna to thrive off of. I felt completely as one and surrounded by the spirits of our geographical ancestors. Surrounded by the spirits of the people who once occupied the land that we know today. Surrounded by the spirits whose names we do not know, whose appearance we are unaware of and whose tribe was decimated, still helping to enrich the land, and helping life to continue on. Time has continued on and their people are no more but as my mud-covered shoes hit the same trail that they walked all those many years ago I felt connected.

South Beach as Text

Photo by Victoria Jackson/ CC BY 4.0

“A Reflection of a Shinning City”

BY VICTORIA JACKSON OF FIU AT SOUTH BEACH, 20 SEPTEMBER 2020

Millions of tourists flock to the beautiful icon and staple of Miami that lies on the south part of Miami Beach. They come to immerse themselves in a community with different people and styles. They come to take part in the action on Ocean Drive and experience all the sights, sounds and smells that the area comes with. To experience this wonderful blend of art, history, and cultural heritage. An experience that a lot of us who live here in Miami take for granted.

While walking with the class I felt like I had a special lens on that was allowing me to see the streets I have traveled a couple of times before in a new and clearer way. Many people wish they could revisit something for the first time again and feel the same amazement, admiration, curiosity, and excitement as they did initially. As we went on with our journey, I felt like I was getting a chance to experience this wish. That I was seeing and experiencing South Beach for the first time through a whole different perspective.

We learned about the amazing inspirations and ideas that formed the wonderful architecture that adds to the unique culture of Miami. Viewing the great Miami Modern, MiMo, architecture and its geometric style, nautical theme, curved and open court characteristics. Looking at the beautiful and scenic concentration of Art Deco buildings graced with symmetrical and repetitive patterns of natural elements, neon colors, pastel highlights and shaped by dreams and ideas of the future.

As we continued to make our way, I could not help but think back to what we learned about the great and beneficial yet awful, segregated, and dehumanized foundation of the neighborhood that we have come to know. I was shocked that not only had it happened but also that it was information that was not well known. When I recounted the details to some family and friends they were just as taken aback as I was. It upset me that these things are not being discussed leading to not only more ignorance but a lack of honor to the individuals who built and did so much for the area without getting recognition. While we can see how times have evolved and how South Beach has become a place for acceptance for all types of people, it is instances like these that show how many steps Miami has taken in terms of justice, honor and accountability.

The idea of viewing this community from a new perspective was amplified when we saw the impact that the Coronavirus is having on the area. While it was unique opportunity to walk through the streets without much car or foot traffic and have a glimpse into a more peaceful atmosphere like how it was in the 80’s, we were brought back and given a harsh reminder of the direct results of the pandemic and collapse of the economy. Where there was so much life end energy flowing through and around every shop and restaurant is now vacant.

Downtown as Text

Phot by Victoria Jackson/ CC By 4.0

“A Paradox”

BY VICTORIA JACKSON OF FIU AT DOWNTOWN, 4 OCTOBER 2020

While it contains a beautiful mixture of cultures that has existed for years, Downtown Miami is no stranger to the inequality, prejudice and racism that was once ran widespread and unrestrained. The remnants and long-lasting effects can be still be seen throughout the area.

One of the places that we visited was the Miami Dade County Courthouse. A building that is supposed to endorse and represent justice and impartiality but is actually a constant reminder of the discrimination against individuals who lived here long ago. When approaching the front of the building people are greeted by a statue of Henry Flagler who helped make Miami what it is today but also utilized and then discarded and segregated individuals when they were no longer useful just because of the color of their skin. While we cannot ignore the great benefactions that Flagler provided for the development of Miami, to remain unknowledgeable about the history would be a big dishonor and disservice to the many hands who also had an important role in building the Miami that we love.

 People are also greeted by a plaque adorning the wall at the front that uses the derogatory term “negroes” to refer to some of its citizens. Greeted by its looming and intimidating structure the courthouse can already make someone who is going there unnerved, but having the statue and plaque placed proudly at the front of the building can deter anyone looking for a fighting chance. This building was built on and continues to highlight its own contradicting message of equality and representation of the innocent.

Our present system illuminates and prides itself on being a free, diverse, and progressive land that caters to its citizens and provides them with opportunity, chance, and justice. This blinding message truly blinds some into thinking that no effects of the past are present today when that is not the case. Just walking through the neighborhood, you could see such a stark contrast in the livelihood of its citizens. Many homeless people, predominantly people of color, roam the streets passing by established buildings. The wounds are still present. Yes, they have healed for those who have been privileged and provided with opportunity but for others the wounds are still raw and serve as a constant everyday reminder. These things need to be addressed and changed.

Chicken Key as Text

Photo by Victoria Jackson/ CC By 4.0

“A Veiled, Harsh Truth”

BY VICTORIA JACKSON OF FIU AT CHICKEN KEY, 18 OCTOBER 2020

Exploring Chicken Key was truly an experience I would not change for the world. Visiting the small island in Biscayne Bay off the coast of Miami Dade County was an experience unlike anything I have done before. While throughout day we had some challenging moments that we had to work through, what we were able to accomplish as a class was truly amazing.

Along with the bustling schools of fish and the scuttling hermit crabs that greeted us as we parked our canoes and made our way on the island we were also greeted by the harsh reality of our actions. Pieces of glass, rope and strings, sections of shoes and other discarded objects littered the floor. As we explored and went deeper into the heart of the island the waste was not only becoming larger but was also becoming more prominent.

Looking at all of our canoes steadily pile up with trash saddened and angered me because I know that this land is an exceedingly small reflection of the many polluted areas across our planet. Just viewing the island at face value, it would be hard to believe that behind the scenic beauty would lie so much trash and waste. It makes me wonder why as a society we do not do more and push the conservation conversation to the forefront.

As we paddled away from the island it was a very bittersweet time. While we were not able to collect everything, we did feel good that we were able to make a dent in the growing mound of trash. The whole experience was extra special because it was our first time being together as a whole class. Though we were going to be separated again during our next meeting, we could hold onto this precious moment and use it influence our future choices.

Bakehouse as Text

Photo By Victoria Jackson/ CC By 4.0

“An Intersecting Medium”

BY VICTORIA JACKSON OF FIU AT THE BAKEHOUSE ART COMPLEX, 1 NOVEMBER 2020

Art is able to transcend so many barriers and serve as an amazing language of its own that has the ability to spread messages, prompt feelings, and evoke emotions. Visiting the Bakehouse Art Complex in Wynwood served as an important reminder that individual efforts can lead to an increasing and powerful collective.

The arts have been a passion of mine from since I was smaller, specifically in dance. I loved being able to shape and mold myself as part of an ensemble to visually represent a bigger picture. While I have always held great admiration for art, I have not been given many opportunities to utilize it as a form, so getting a chance to explore the same concept through a different medium was extremely exciting.

Using a silicon-based stencil to create clay models, in a variety of colors and shapes, we were able to create, form and display a representation of the continuous problems happening to coral reefs due to climate change. Lauren Shapiro, the principal artist, does an amazing job of blending science, art, and technology to generate and produce more environmental awareness within our community and create a platform for additional information to be spread by scientists and researchers.

This was a wonderful representation of how the smallest contribution could affect the overall picture. From many different conversations I have had had with my peers, a lot of them wonder and have some degree of disbelief regarding how much of their individual effort could make a difference. It is so important to know that the little things that we do everyday can have a large impact. With amazing projects like this we were not only able to feel accomplished working as a group to help and exhibit a powerful message, but it also made us mindful of doing our own parts as we go forward.

Rubell as Text

Photo by Ahdriana Amandi/ CC By 4.0

“Comfort in the Uncomfortable”

BY VICTORIA JACKSON OF FIU AT THE RUBELL MUSEUM, 22 November 2020

The Rubell Art Museum is an amazing space that leaves the floor open to many hidden as well as upcoming artists to display their messages and ideas. Though I was not able to able to be there physically, I could sense the amount of feelings and emotions it prompted from my classmates while discussing the trip with them.

The museum is home to pieces by artists from all around the world spanning different eras. The artists they chose to shine a light on are overlooked and on the rise thus providing them with a larger audience to display and promote their amalgam of thoughts and ideas. Leaving their art up for interpretation while also demonstrating different things in our current society. Making visitors think beyond normal confines and venturing into topics that some people may view as unconventional and unorthodox.

Viewing the different pieces elicited such a powerful response from me. A piece by Mickalene Thomas called Mama Bush ll, Keep the Home Fires Burnin’, really stuck out to me. The piece depicts a woman who is naked and completely owning her own. There is such a push for women to step away from the roles that have been set for them and to embrace themselves but if people were to look at a painting like this, they would refer to it as too revealing, and it would serve as a tendentious topic. A picture like this would be over-sexualized instead of focusing on the empowerment of the individual. This serves as a great reminder that as a society we still have so far to go to get to the point where a woman is not put into a biased and prejudiced category based on their race and approach of sexuality.

Changing perspectives, morphing ideology and an abundant number of stories and experiences opens the floor to visitors to question the way they think. Opening up important conversations that need to be held and challenging them to deliberate. I hope in the future I am able to go visit so that I can fully immerse myself into this collective, open, inspiring, and free-thinking space. To look and take in the different textures, angles, lightings and see how they contribute to the larger narratives. To ask myself questions and to challenge my way of thinking.

Everglades as Text

Photo By Victoria Jackson/ CC By 4.0

“Moment of Stillness”

BY VICTORIA JACKSON OF FIU AT THE EVERGLADES, 20 JANUARY 2021

Stepping into the clear and frigid water felt like walking into a new world entirely. The hairs on my body were rising, my senses were amplified, and each step I took away from the main road brought me closer to exploring and contemplating a different existence. While I was stepping in and peering into this space that was unknown to me, it gave me a refreshing feeling. Guided by our amazing ranger, we were greeted by the many lichen decorated cypress trees, shoals of mosquito fish, and hanging spider webs along with the salutations of other animals who were a distance away.

At one point in the trip, we branched off from one another, closed our eyes and just let ourselves be immersed in the sounds of nature. Listening to the leaves shifting under the wind and the movement of the trees. Hearing the distant chirping of the birds and the croaks of frogs. Allowing ourselves to get lost in this wonderful world that was untouched by man was one of my favorite moments. For this very brief period of time, I was able to just escape all of my current thoughts and feel fully submerged in this one-of-a-kind and treasured landscape.

This reflection caused me to pause and analyze things from a new perspective. It was a great reminder that this environment has not only shaped the livelihood of the flora and fauna immediately present but has also shaped the culture and economy of all of the citizens living in Florida. It was a reminder to not overlook this amazing world in our backyard but to really analyze and deeply appreciate the beauty of this environment. It was a reminder that we should be working toward more conservation efforts to preserve this beautiful and unique place where different walks of life are intertwined.

Wynwood as Text

Photo By Victoria Jackson/ CC BY 4.0

“A Fleeting Moment of Gold”

BY VICTORIA JACKSON OF FIU AT WYNWOOD, 3 FEBRUARY 2021

Our conversation held at dusk at the Locust Projects was an overture to revision, rebuilding, and rebirth. Mette Tommerup, a wonderful creator and narrator from Denmark, has carefully interwoven the many threads of this immersive installation where creation and product are able to come together to form a glorious space called “Made by Dusk”.

In this fleeting moment of gold, we were able to encounter a lasting significance. Compilation contemplation, communication, and connection are brightly illuminated. It was so easy to be captivated by the perfect merging of audio and video, tangible textures, interactive pieces, current subject matters, and mythology. It is an open space serving as a protest of power that gives society a platform to comfortably discuss a wide array of more sensitive topics like commercialism, gender, and race representation through history. The floor is open and encourages a variety of discussion to take place that reflect the displays.

While we are currently facing our own pause and separation from this world, this space provides a pause where an individual can find solace, support, and peace. Where we have been devoid of touch, we can now revel in the tactile element of the space. Where it feels like communication has been impaired, we can build up the conversation. This is where salvation, healing, and liberation for both the artist and the spectators can be found. While my eyes glazed over the canvas covered walls, the video of Mette Tommerup repeatedly tossing a large tapestry off of a roof, the gold covered floor, large structure, and uneven swings, I saw not only the beginning and the ending but the whole journey. The ambiance of the room outshone the black and white of the outside world to formulate a new visceral vision and feeling.

Bill Baggs as Text

Photo By Victoria Jackson/ CC BY 4.0

“The Light of Perception”

BY VICTORIA JACKSON OF FIU AT BILL BAGGS CAPE FLORIDA STATE PARK, 17 FEBRUARY 2021

The large structure that sits on the southern tip of Key Biscayne serves as an important symbol of the place we have called home. It provides perception and awareness into the multilayered history of Miami. Serving as an illumination of the truth in multiple ways. Viewing the lighthouse that sits on the southern tip of Key Biscayne in Bill Baggs State Park was truly an experience.

Growing up I always saw the lighthouse as something that was a symbol of good and held one simple undertaking. From our day at the park, I realized it was not entirely true. It is neither good or bad, black or white, but lives in a shade of grey. While it was initially built as a way to stop the journey of the runaway slaves to the Red Bays of Andros Islands in the Bahamas by shedding a light on oncoming boats, it also provides a visual of history as it happened and not a fabricated story that favors one side. It provides representation for the unrepresented and displays perseverance and strength.

Most of the history that we are taught throughout our time in school come from one specific perspective and completely writes off those who go against these main ideals. Treating them as invalid and portraying them as the villain. They are only included if they fit the picture that others are trying to draw. An example of this was shown when viewed and learned the story behind a painting of an American Indian man and a white man. Even though the man was defending himself and his future he was portrayed as the main aggressor. History is not something that is just simple. There are multiple sides that need to be heard, understood, and acknowledged and not doing that is a disservice. The abundant aspects of American history are engraved on the coast of Key Biscayne

River of Grass as Text

Photo Taken By Roger Masson/ CC BY 4.0

“A Contrast in the Same World”

BY VICTORIA JACKSON OF FIU AT EVERGLAS NATIONAL PARK, 5 MARCH 2021

Visiting the Everglades always feels like you are stepping into another world. A world where time is forgotten, moments are cherished, and you have the ability to just breathe. A world where you can see and experience the natural Miami. It is also the place where you can see both the effects of change as well as the new beginnings.

The Everglades also display two sides of a coin. During the class’s previous visit to the everglades, we were able to go slough slogging and examine an area that was generally untouched by man. A hidden world under a cypress dome that was ours to explore. The class’s visit this time to the everglades displayed a different world. A world where extreme changes were made. From unsuccessful farming attempts to the location being used to house missiles that were used as a primary line of defense, the are has been subject to a lot of transitions and adjustments which caused a decline in the growth of the area. However, because of recovery efforts that have been happening the past couple of years, the area has begun to flourish once again.

Experiencing and basking in the glow of this environment causes you to have a greater admiration and appreciation for Miami’s natural landscapes. That even though many changes have been made previously, efforts to conserve will be a beautiful beginning to a positive transformation. It sparks an urge to work harder and do more to preserve and protect places like this so that the areas continue to grow and prosper. So that we are able to keep and maintain a beautiful world that we could cherish for a long time. I hope to take what I have learned and continue to spread the message.

Frost as Text

Photo Taken By Roger Masson of Roberto Obregón’s Untitled (Snow) / CC BY 4.0

“One in the Same”

BY VICTORIA JACKSON OF FIU AT THE FROST ART MUSEUM, 17 MARCH 2021

After venturing out and exploring different parts of Miami, the class was able to make its way back to campus to tour the Frost Art Museum. The Frost Art Museum is truly a gem. The museum houses a collection of over 6,000 pieces with an expanding collection of pieces from contemporary artists who have ties to the Caribbean and Latin America. The class was able to have the chance to look into the minds of Roberto Obregón and Pepe Mar through their respective collections.

The pieces by Roberto Obregón really connected with me in particular. His pieces on the rose worked through the deconstruction of its more common expression and style. He literally and figuratively peeled back the layers to view the flower objectively. He specifically observed the rose and how it decayed through a series and succession of images. It served as a physical display for the passage of time.

I feel that the class as a whole was able to resonate with this piece, especially in light of everything going on regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Learning about the exhibit and viewing the pieces caused me to really reflect and think about life itself and the concept of time. While different outside forces caused the flower to become wilted, the inner integrity stayed constant. Especially in the past year, we have all been shown that tomorrow is not promised and that the only things that are guaranteed in this world are birth and death. This should not prompt us to live in fear and uncertainty but to go through life’s journey and show love and care for other individuals in an earnest and profound way. Obregón’s work on the rose provided me with a passage to deepen my thoughts and connect them to other feelings and beliefs.

Coral Gables as Text

Photo By Victoria Jackson/ CC BY 4.0

“Advancement vs Identity”

BY VICTORIA JACKSON OF FIU AT CORAL GABLES, 31 March 2021

Passing by buildings like the one on the right have always struck me as odd. Especially when they are situated next to others that look like the ones on the left. Now, after our class visit to Coral Gables, they strike me as completely out of place and as a symbol of things that are making Miami lose its cultural heritage.

Our class had the opportunity to learn more about the history of coral gables and its visionary George Merrick. George Merrick was able to model the area into an image of a Mediterranean style city. From his trip to Mexico, he was able to gather inspiration to create his vision. He implemented Moorish, Rococo and Roman styles and designs along with the natural tropical feeling of the area to mold his empire. We viewed this as we walked through the area and visited building like the grand Biltmore Hotel. The construction and development of the area was also due to the labor of Bahamian immigrants who were adept craftsmen. Learning more about the history and going deeper into these wonderful constructions took me on a journey back in time. These moments were then broken when something like a commercial building came into view. Taking away from what represents the history of Miami and what shows the mixture of styles, use of natural resources and the amazing work of the Bahamian immigrants.

When I speak to friends and family who have visited Miami, the main thing they take away from the city is the beaches and the twenty plus story commercial buildings. Even some individuals I know who live in Miami view it only as this as well. While that is a part of it, it is a very small part of the interesting and rich history that this beautiful city has to offer. The meeting and merging or different styles encompass and represent everything that Miami is, has been and always will be. A place where a mixture of different elements come together in harmony to form a new collective. Conserving, protecting ad maintaining the diverse legacy and identity of the city should be the priority.

Vizcaya As Text

Photo By Victoria Jackson/ CC BY 4.0

“Embracing Identity”

BY VICTORIA JACKSON OF FIU AT VIZCAYA, 14 APRIL 2021

Beyond walls of pink lies a masterpiece whose foundation is intertwined with the history of Miami. The Villa Vizcaya stands in all its glory; curtained and framed with the ever-growing greenery. Greeting its visitors with a passing breeze. The creation of James Deering and the canvas for Paul Chalfin and Diego Suarez serves as our brilliant emblem. Acting as a visual representation of how we are currently influence by the past. Weaving distinct and different fragments into a cohesive refined construction.

Using Bacchus, the roman god of wine, fertility, agriculture, and fruitfulness as a paragon, Vizcaya was built as a place of escape and freedom. Built by the hard and often unrecognized labor of the Bahamian people and dressed in a Mediterranean style with heavy Italian and Spanish influences with facets of the native natural elements, a new identity in Vizcaya is formulated. Watching as the rooms continuously unfolded into others and seeing the alluring paintings adorning the walls, hanging tapestries, and beautifully preserved furnishings allowed us to experience a journey so foreign yet so familiar. It was an amazing journey to walk through the passages inside, leave the main part of the house and look out at the sea and finish off by walking and weaving through the extensive and magnificent garden.

A man’s winter home has become a long-lasting symbol of our identity. Embracing ourselves unabashedly. The mixture of native as well as imported elements. Passing on fragments and information of the old world to the new world. The blending of the negative and the positive aspects of our history to all be knit together to form our elegant heirloom. To be passed down from generation to generation. To form and represent the core of our culture. This is Vizcaya. This is Miami.

Esmeralda Iyescas: Miami as Text 2020-2021

Esmeralda Iyescas in front of the Brouwerij ‘t IJ brewery windmill in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Photo by E Iyescas/Iyescas Media

Esmeralda Iyescas is a senior at Florida International University (FIU) and is working on finishing a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology. She recently transferred from Miami Dade College and joined the Honors College at FIU. Ideally, she would like to continue studying for her Master’s Degree and upon finishing, would like to leave to France to internship or work in the cybersecurity sector. Academics aside, Esmeralda loves acquiring new hobbies but her favorites remain: painting, embroidering, swimming, biking, fishing, and traveling. She is very excited to further knowledge of Miami and learn about the treasures this beauty holds.

Deering as Text

Photo by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“The beauty hidden in the city”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Deering Estate, 2 September 2020

The Deering Estate located in Cutler Bay was a park I was familiar with because I had visited the park several times before. The times that I have visited the Estate, I would come with a friend to appreciate the natural scenery and get inspiration for our paintings, or to simply enjoy the outdoor environment.

Professor Bailly started to unravel the history that lied where I was standing and soon after revealed the beauty the hid behind the locked gates. Upon entering the gates, I quickly came to realize that I never truthfully knew The Deering Estate. This includes but is not limited to: the native trees, such as the Gumbo Limbo, different types of plants found on the premises, the use for the shells and the importance it held to the native folks in the past.

 I would like to consider myself as an “outdoorsy” kind of person, but after walking through the Estate, it felt as if we had walked out of Miami. As we hiked through the nature trail and learned about the area, I began to realize this was no ordinary hike. Being that Professor Bailly is an artist, he sees the world much different than the ordinary person. He shared with us his creative insights and many I found to be very creative. There was one of his comments that particularly resonated with me. It was a large piece of limestone that was sticking out from one of the sides. This particular formation of limestone seemed to be eroded from the bottom, so it was slightly hovering over the water, and on the top was little tree stems beginning to grow. I remember Professor Bailly pointing out this structure and commenting how he perceived it almost like table and sitting on top was the little plant.

This comment made me think back to all my past painting dates and how there was a time where I, similarly, saw the world with a more creative perspective but seemed to have lost it with time. In addition, to being very meaningful to me, it made me want to gain back this creative vision I seem to have forgotten.

South Beach as Text

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“Ignorance: Bliss or destruction? ”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at South Beach, 16 September 2020

South Beach to most is simply the area where the beach is located, and where the city comes to life at night with all the neon lights. This is not false, though there is so much more to be appreciated about South Beach than the superficial façade that is made up bars and restaurants that line up against strip or the artificial sand everyone believes to be natural.

South Beach, otherwise, originally known as Ocean Beach, is culturally diverse and this is displayed all throughout the area. The first hotel, Browns Hotel, was built in 1915 and preserved its original all-American Wild West style. On the other hand, we have a more modern style, Miami Modern Architecture (MiMo), which consists of playful, glamours, repetitive designs that do not always make sense. MiMo plays with Bauhaus elements and use different tiles, textures, materials, and concepts to create a fun and unique style for building structures. The next style is very common and popular among the Miami culture, Mediterranean Revival. These influences are seen across neighborhoods and are currently being implemented into modern living. This style is a mélange of Spanish, French, Italian, and Arabic architecture. There are two very famous monuments that brought Mediterranean revival into South Beach: Espanola Way, and The Villa Casa Casuarina (AKA Versace Mansion).  Lasty, Art Deco, the style of architecture that is most associated with Miami Beach. Art Deco is short for Art Decoratifs, a primarily a French style of art. Art Deco uses natural elements to create designs using industrial materials. Buildings resemble that of a toaster or a microwave, mixed with natural and flora elements, and additionally adopted influences from around the world. The influences that are often recognized are Egyptian, consisting of the flat topology and 2-D reliefs, and the use geometric shapes and pastel hues. Art Deco admired the Mayan and used ziggurats on the top of buildings, giving it a staircase apperance. The Egyptian and Greco-Romans also used geometric shapes and reliefs to embellish the buildings which is similarly seen among the Art Deco structures in South Beach.

I have been to South Beach more times than I can count, and I never once noticed these diverse cultural elements on the Art Deco structures. Many of these buildings and monuments I had briefly looked at but never gave them second thoughts. After learning about the different styles and cultures, it brought a deeper appreciation for the area and the preservation of history. South Beach is full of rich history that is presented right in front of us, but the lack of education and curiosity allows us to live in ignorance. There are uneducated people who do not care to preserve South Beach’s history, this ignorance is destructive and dangerous to the culture, art, and history of the city. Fortunately, there were people like Barbara Baer Capitman who fought to support the preservation South Beach’s history, those are the true heroes allowing me to share my discovery today.

Downtown Miami as Text

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

Dade – A dark past”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Downtown, 30 September 2020

Dade County, also more commonly known as Miami-Dade County. I have lived in Miami-Dade County for over 21 years and having received education from Miami-Dade public schools system all my life, I was never taught the significance of the name Dade and why we name an entire county after this person. If we named our entire county in honour of this man, why had I never heard of it earlier?

American Army Major Francis Langhorne Dade partook and was one of the men who lead an important battle in south Florida. This battle was against the native people of the area, the Seminoles. The battle was also known as the “Dade Massacre.” Dade’s ultimate goal was to arrest and kill as many Seminole’s as possible in order to take over ownership of the land, what we present day call Miami. Dade attempted to kill the Seminole Indians but instead was ambushed; the majority of the soldiers he led into battle we killed, including himself. They began to see his actions as heroic and honored him by naming this county after him.
When I heard of this story, it absolutely baffled me how quickly they were willing to honor a man that tried to exterminate the native Americas of their land. I truly appreciate and love this county, and have volunteered and dedicated time, effort, and care to preserving it. After finding out the true history that behind the name Dade, I feel a bit disappointed how this man was praised over his inhumane actions.
Miami-Dade used to symbolize a name of safety, love, and most importantly a sense of home and community. But now as I walk around Miami, continue to see Dade stamped on all public schools, transportation means, buildings, ect,
I now see a county that terrorized the native Seminole Indian’s home in attempt to claim ownership of the land. Miami is one of the most culturally diverse cities I know. Having spent the entirety of my life here, I know that Miami accepts everyone and invites them to share their cultural differences. It is ironic that Miami’s largest and Florida’s third largest county is named after a man who was supporting and leading a genocide, when the majority of Miami’s population are immigrants. How the times really do change.

Chicken Key as Text

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“Cleaning up our beaches – A global effort”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Chicken Key, 14th October 2020

The cinematic industry has explored the idea of “What if a person arrived to a remote island?” The famous movie Cast Away and TV series Lost, have both explored this idea extensively. Wednesday morning, our class took canoes from the Deering Estate and paddled to the remote island off the peninsula called Chicken Key. One thing I found to be inaccurate about these movies was how clean and well-kept the islands were always portrayed in the cinema.

As my partner and I were paddling towards Chicken Key, the view was particularly admirable. The mangroves surrounding the island were thriving and full of life, the seabed was filled with its natural flora, and there was an abundance of sea animals in the vicinity. I imagined that is what Miami originally looked like to Carl Fisher before he remodeled the area and wiped it of its natural beauty. As we approached our destination, we could not help but notice all the trash that surrounded the key and has accumulated over time. It was heartbreaking to see how our lack of care for the environmental is having secondary effects on the surrounding areas. Though the island is remote and is not visited very frequently, it is indirectly being polluted from the trash that escapes In order to remedy our inconsideration for the environment, we had made it our goal to fill our canoes with as much trash as possible, and dispose of it appropriately.

After a couple of hours of being on the island and appreciating what the land had to offer, we started to collect trash, and the canoes filled up much quicker than I would have expected. Though we removed a significant amount of trash from the island, there was still an astounding amount that remained there.

I am very proud of my classmates and myself for the effort we made that day to remove trash from Chicken Key. It was a collaborative effort that could not have been as successful alone. We all were able to appreciate the key and learn from this experience. The environment needs to be treasured and treated with respect in order to maintain and preserve the area.

Bakehouse as Text

Photo by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“Art that resembles reality”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Bakehouse Art Complex, 28th October 2020

Bakehouse Art Complex used to legitimately be a bakery back in the 1980’s. Since then, the complex space was repurposed as a studio for local artists. One of the local artist who occupies the space is Lauren Shapiro. This young local artist is currently working on an art project whose main goal is to bring awareness on the destruction of our natural coral reefs.

Lauren Shapiro’s art project is consisted of layering clay molds of coral reefs and other natural life that is found on or around the reefs. Even though she will be using clay as the medium for the project, she will not be cooking the clay like traditional methods. Instead, she plans on letting the clay air dry. There are two main reasons for not cooking the clay. When cooking clay, carbon is being emitted into the environment, which is a major factor in global warming. Lauren explained that there as different methods of cooking clay, but all result in the release of carbon emissions. Secondly, when clay is not cooked, it falls apart by breaking down into smaller pieces and eventually turning into dust. This is what makes her art conceptually beautiful, like the air-dried clay, the literal coral reefs are falling apart and dying. Through her art, she is able to show her audience what is literally happening to our coral reefs and the effects that we have had on the environment. Her art project speaks in volumes and is conceptually a very important subject.

I have a lot of appreciation for this art project and for Ms. Shapiro because she has received help from her community in order to complete this project for her art exhibition. She explained to me that as an artist it is really hard to let go of control. There is a level of meticulousness and strive for perfection that cannot be achieve when not being fully in control and contribution help from other people. Nonetheless, she was able to put those feelings aside and embrace the help and the specs of individualism each person adds to the artwork. Like the community contribution Lauren has received, global warming is a change that affects every individual on this planet and will require a group effort in order to make positive change and reverse some of the negative effects.

Rubell as Text

Artwork: Two Cells with Circulating Conduit by Peter Halley at Rubell Museum
Photo by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“How artists communicate through art”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Rubell Museum, 18th November 2020

Located close to the center of Allapattah, there is a quite new contemporary museum that houses many thought provoking artworks. Myself and several people close to me were surprised to find a museum in Allapattah. Nonetheless, the museum is located in a warehouse but has been decorated and remodeled to give it a very eloquent and prestigious feel.

As we were beginning our tour of the museum, I remember Professor Bailly saying along the lines of “art should send a message not simply took beautiful. Art should be judged on how well the message is being communicated rather than its appearance and that contemporary art sends a plethora of messages to the viewer.” I kept thinking about this throughout our walk because people are usually taught to appreciate art for its appearance, not for the meaning behind the art work.

As I keep Professor Bailly’s words close, I see a painting that really captured my undivided attention, Two Cells with Circulating Conduit by Peter Halley. The painting is nothing more than a few geometric shapes on a canvas, but symbolically, the painting is much more complex. Professor Bailly explained that the artist, Peter Halley, wanted to represent the New York lifestyle in a painting. The way he chose to express this was with two squares on either end of the canvas and a circulating conduit connecting the two squares or “cells.” Through this simple painting, Halley wanted to show depict life, how we are naturally creatures of habit and always find ourselves in this endless routine. We rarely ever deviate from our routines which consist of moving from one cell to the other, endlessly.

I found that particular piece to be almost poetic, to the naked eye, it seems like a nontechnical almost boring painting, but after learning about the artist and the message he was trying to communicate, the symbolism is represented beautifully.

Another artist who was present at Rubell and does a phenomenal job at sending messages through their art is Keith Harring and Tschabalala Self. Both artists use their platform to be able to spread positive or eye-opening and thought provoking truths.

All in all, the Rubell Museum houses many art pieces that forces people to think about the reality we live in. Some art pieces present a more negative message than others, but nonetheless, they are truths we are must accept. I have to admit, the Rubell Museum is by far my new favorite Museum in Miami. I am very thankful for the Rubell’s for sharing their private art collection with the public because I was introduced to many new artists that I have a newfound admiration for.

Everglades as Text

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“The Everglades is not a swamp”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Everglades National Park, 20th January 2021

On Wednesday January 20th, 2021, Professor Bailly teamed up with Park Ranger Dillion to take us through the Everglades. Whenever I mention to my family or friends that I was going to be slogging, they asked curiously if I was going to pick up and collect slugs. I quickly realized this is not an activity that is often done regardless whether you’ve been born and raised in Miami or you’re visiting for the first time. In addition people have this instilled fear that going into the water at the Everglades is equivalent to a death sentence (asking to be attacked by a gator.) The experience could not be further from the opposite of their exceptions. 

The Everglades National Park is an area I am very familiar with but this experience allowed me to experience the park in a whole new and unique way. Upon going into the water and adjusting quickly to the chilled water, it was quite exciting. We followed Ranger Dillion and Professor Bailly for most of the trip. There was a brief portion where I deviated from the rest to explore the uncharted territory and experience the slogging for myself. I found myself absolutely loving the peace and calmness. The water was stunning, reflecting the nature around it, I couldn’t believe how clear and mirror-like the water was! There were moments where I was surround by the water, entirely alone, but silence was hard to find. You could faintly hear the bird and other animals that inhabited the area (no gators unfortunately). For a very short moment, I was a state of complete and utter tranquility.

I found the whole trip to be very humbling. We were so insignificant to the vast space that surrounded us! I also realized during the trip how much I changed from when I first took this class until now. I have gained a new perspective on so many parts of Miami (including the Everglades) which has allowed me to embrace everything around me.

Wynwood as Text

Artwork: Geheimnis der Farne by Anselm Kiefer at The Margulies Collection at the WAREhOUSE
Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“The Theory of Alchemy: Lead will turn into gold”

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at The Margulies Collection at the WAREhOUSE, 3rd February 2021

Wynwood is an area in northern Miami that has been immersed to a lot of cultural changes. Martin Z. Margulies is one of the first to have his private collection of art on display for the public in this area. He and many others who followed, revitalized the contemporary art movement, and allowed for art to be exposed and been seen by the public. 

The Margulies Collection is a host of many different genres of art and is displayed in a fashion that is interactive with the visitor. He began his tour with Suga, a Japanese’s artist that inspired the Mono-ha art movement, which was radical at the time because it was about impermanence. The art was primarily based on feeling, how one felt towards the object, versus the object itself. I found this style of art to be very impactful because it reminded me much of conceptual art which is one of my preferred.

 Mr. Margulies introduced us to his vast Anselm Kiefer collection which was utterly astonishing. Considering how recognized and decorated Kiefer is in the art community, it was shocking to see so many of his installations and art pieces in one gallery. “Die Erdzeitalder”, Ages of the Word, is the name of one of two the art works that resonated with me from Kiefer because he made the sculpture from old canvases, dead sunflowers, lead books, and rubble. The artwork is said to feel dystopian and post-apocalyptic, yet I felt the complete opposite. I found hope in his art sculpture because of the old and never finished canvases he used. I used to paint quite frequently myself, and I too have many old and never finished pieces of art that I consider trash, but Kiefer allowed me to reflect on those never finished pieces and see that perhaps they are not trash though they may feel like so. He turned old, weathered down art materials into a powerful and conceptual sculpture that is admired by the millions of fans.

Lastly, the second Kiefer work that took my breath away was his “Geheimnis der Farne” or The Secret of the Ferns. The installation is comprised of 48 paintings and 2 concrete structures each weighing about 45-50 thousand pounds! Mr. Margulies explained that Kiefer grew up in Germany post-WW2, therefore, the country that he was raised in was all rubble and destruction. His artworks reflect the decimated landscape and the loneliness that followed the war. Nevertheless, he knew that with time the ferns would blossom again. In his paintings, we see the use of broken terra cotta to represent the broken land and the withered down concrete structures were symbolic of the breakage of the playgrounds he never had. I found this aspect of his work to be very deep and absolutely beautiful. The theme that is constantly displayed in his artworks, is the theory of alchemy. Alchemy is the idea that there will be change and transformation of matter. Mr. Margulies said it best, “Lead will turn into gold or silver, at least in his mind,” this quote stayed with me throughout the remainder of the tour because the depth and emotion that can be felt through Anselm Kiefer’s work is entirely profound and personal.

Bill Baggs as Text

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

Bill Baggs: Savior of the barrier island known as Key Biscayne

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, 17th February 2021

Bill Baggs State Park, a place that holds many of my fondest memories, I was sadden realize I was compeletely uneducated on the hsitory that the island holds. As we started walking through Avenue of the Palms, it was clear to me, I really did not know this park at all.

Bill Baggs was a very influential man who worked for the Miami Newspaper, served in the WWII and was nominated for Nobel Prize for his efforts to stop the Vietnam War, and advocated for the preservation of natural landscapes. With his efforts to save Key Biscayne, he got Elena Santeiro Garcia to purchase the land and allowed for restoration of the park. This was the start of many other restoration projects that took place in Bill Baggs.

One restoration project that stood out to me in particular took place in 1992 right after Hurricane Andrew wiped the island of all the invasive Australian Pine Trees. They took advantage of the situation and decided to remove any exotic and invasive plants and trees and replace with native ones. This restoration project would permit the island to return to its original natural vegetative state. Though coconut palm trees can still be found around of the island and is an iconic staple to Miami’s image, I was surprised to learn that the coconut palm tree is in fact not native to Miami at all. The coconut palm tree is actually native to the Indian ocean and not the Atlantic ocean. Similarly, the citrus trees are a product from the Caribbean Islands. Bahamians brought them to Miami to plant and harvest when ready. Ironic how some of the major icons of Miami are not even native to its location.

This trip, like most of the ones I have taken in this class, taught me about the true history of Miami. I have come to notice that the majority of the history that is taught is whitewashed and always portray the wrong people as heroes. Time and time again, the original founders and inhabitants of the land get stripped of their rights and territory, while portraying them in history as the criminals. I deeply admire Bill Baggs State Park for their informational panels that are located around the park describing history as it happened, not encouraging the distribution of misinformation.

River of Grass as Text

Photos by John Bailly/CC BY 4.0

Carpe diem

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Everglades National Park, 4th March 2021

This is our second time going attending class at the Everglades National Park, but I have visited the park dozens of times on my spare time. I will say, this most recent experience at the Everglades really left me in awe.

Ranger Dillion and Professor Bailly began by educating us on the history of the Everglades and the drastic changes it has gone through throughout the span of five thousands of years. It was shocking to me that the Everglades was once all pine but with the sea level rise, the ecosystem transformed and adapted to the changes. Next, farmers attempted to use the land for farming, but the conditions did not permit for this venture to be successful. Later, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Everglades was used as a military installation where the missiles would be housed as a first line of defense to protect our capital.

Though learning about the in-depth history of the Everglades was very interesting, what I found to be so exciting was hiking though the water that was about knee level and finding ourselves completely alone in the acres of land. It was so peaceful to not hear the constant honking and blaring of cars. The only noises you could hear were from the birds and the slashing of water. It truly felt like we had time traveled and we were able to experience Miami in its original from. We were able to see wood storks, turkey vultures, American white ibis, and several other birds, which was truly a sight like no other.

The journey was not done yet and the best was yet to come. A couple of us were able to experience the sunset in the middle of the Everglades. I had never seen a more beautiful sunset in my life! The way the colors changed as the sun progressively descended were surreal, it seemed like a painting from a world-renowned artist. At that moment, it felt almost euphoric, as if I were on top of the world! I am grateful I was able to take this class, but more so, during this pandemic. Professor Bailly said it best, during this pandemic, it seems like we have forgotten the concept of time since we are locked indoors, but if we make the most of our time, we can create unforgettable memories that will be forever cherished.

Frost as Text

Artwork: Chronicle of a Flower num.6 by Roberto Obregón at the Frost Art Museum FIU
Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

A man and his rose

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at the Patricia & Philip Frost Art Museum FIU, 17th March 2021

Before attending this class session, I was unfamiliar with the Frost Museum at FIU. Though the museum is relatively small and located on campus, it houses over 6,500 pieces of art. Since the museums is located on a state campus, the art is more conservative and encounters more conflict with balancing subjects and controversies that will attract students and handing the artistic controversies appropriately. The exhibitions we visited we not controversial but nonetheless, very interesting. My personal favorite was the Roberto Obregon Archive exhibition because it gave me a whole new perspective to museum and the importance of curation.

Roberto Obregon was a Venezuelan artist who truly loved and appreciated very aspect of the rose. He would “dissect” or remove the petals and take the rose entirely apart and intensely study each individual piece. He would study and keep notes of his rose observations because this would turn out to be a 30-year project. What I appreciated about Obregon’s was that he would only work with a specific set number of roses and instead focus on the process of repetition. The reason for the repetition and the dissection was because he compared uniqueness of each petal like a fingerprint. Every single petal independent from each other but together come in unison to form a beautiful flower.

I truly felt enrapture by Roberto Obregon’s exhibition, I imagined if I were in his position and a curator organized an exhibition without me being able to have any say. I have visited many different exhibitions in the past, but I never thought about the relationship between the artist and the curator. For example, when attended class at the Locust Project, a local Art gallery, and met with the artist Mette Tommerup where she was able to curate her own exhibition. For that reason, she was in total control of how the art is arranged, therefore, she decided what message her exhibition would to portray to the public. Personally, I would feel very uncomfortable being a late artist and having a curator arrange an exhibition for my work. As I mentioned, I was enraptured by exhibition, but I felt this deep connection with his work of art, beyond anything what words can describe. And I had never heard of Obregon or seen his art before our class, but that connection gave me an intuition that perhaps this was not how he would have wanted his art to be displayed. Nonetheless, the curators organized the exhibition in a manner that exemplified his passion for the rose beautifully.

I really appreciated this exhibition because I was able learn about a new artist but also learned about museum curation and the impact it has on the art displayed. This class outing gave me a new found the hard work that goes into museum curation.  

Coral Gables as Text

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

It only takes a man with a plan

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at the Biltmore Hotel Miami Coral Gables, 31st March 2021

Considering I once used to live in the area and have spent a lot of my time visiting and getting to know the city, I was never aware of the history. I have come to realize that most people who live in the area and in overall Miami, are also not educated on the history. Nevertheless, there is a museum in Coral Gables dedicated to educating the residents and visitors of the history of how this city came to be. During our visit, I learned about the significance of the Merrick family and their contributions to the development of the area.  

Coral Gables has a rich history because the development and vision came from a very important man, George Merrick.  Merrick poured his heart and soul into the vision and development of Coral Gables because he literally turned a plot of land into the beautiful Mediterranean styled city. Ironically, he did not visit any of the Mediterranean countries, but instead was inspired by writing and by his single visit to Mexico. The Merrick Family was considerably wealthy at the time and started using the local resources to create more income. They began buying land that was originally the back country of Coconut Grove and started creating a small empire.

When George Merrick started envisioning Coral Gables, he was greatly inspired by the Mediterranean Revival styled architecture. That is one of the biggest implementations that is still clearly visible today. He also loved the grand entrances that are found in Europe, therefore, he incorporated four of them with the coral rock. They are located on Ponce, Alhambra, Granada, and El Prado. Another implementation that Merrick had created was having no building structure higher than 3 stories. Unfortunately, commercial buildings have disregarded his visions and created sky scrappers which is detrimental and problematic to preserving the identity and culture heritage he created. Fortunately, today we can still see many of the original buildings and great architectural landmarks. Perhaps the most recognized building created by the Merrick’s would have to be the Biltmore Hotel.

The Biltmore Hotel is grandiose in every aspect and every square in of the hotel is breathtaking. George Merrick incorporated Mediterranean Revival, Romanesque, Moorish, and Rococo aesthetics while balancing it with tropical styles, permitting for the vision to fit the Miami lifestyle perfectly. The diversity reflected is timeless and represents well the history of Miami.

Vizcaya as Text

Photos by Esmeralda Iyescas/CC BY 4.0

“j’ai dit” – J.D

By Esmeralda Iyescas of FIU at Vizcaya, 14th April 2021

I will be frank in saying that I used to think Vizcaya was overrated and was nice but there was better. After having learned about the Deering brothers and their impact on Miami’s history during this class, I realized that Vizcaya is oppositely highly underrated!

James Deering was very much in love with the Mediterranean Revival the and European styles of architecture and décor. From that admiration, he gathered inspiration for his dream house that would be built on Biscayne Bay. Therefore, two years prior to the commencement of Vizcaya’s construction in 1912, James Deering and Paul Chalfin, the interior designer of Vizcaya, toured many European countries and began purchasing art works, sculptures, tapestries, and ect. to bring back to the villa. Once the construction was completed in 1916, Chalfin used all the things they had collected from their European tour to furnish and decorate the villa. Since they had used so many authentic pieces from Europe, the estate is incredibly remarkable and truly breath taking.

Aside from all the European art and architecture that inspired James Deering, there was one Roman god that really embodied his personality, Bacchus. Bacchus was the Roman god of wine and ecstasy; James Deering similarly lived a hedonistic life by enjoying each day and living life to the fullest. James was known for having a cigarette in one hand and a glass of whiskey in another. He also was also known for the extravagant parties he would throw in his villa or one of the many yachts that he owned. The hedonistic way of living was the only way of living for James Deering, and I truly believe he is the founder of the iconic Miami image of “party capital”.

One thing I absolutely loved about him was the fact that he created this villa where he was playing the role of God. Moreover, in the villa there is a stainless window that faces east, the direction from where the sun rises, and at the top of the window, there are the words “j’ai dit”. The words are not bolded, there are rather subtle and could be easily missed. “J’ai dit” is french for “I said” or “I have spoken”, which plays on his wanting to be a God. The words “j’ai dit” also sounds like his initials “J. D” in English, which I think is an incredibly clever play on words that really underappreciated.

James Deering created the villa to act as a temple of pleasure and it resonated with his pompous character. He was instilled this “personality trait” to Miami which is very much still present today.

I really appreciated the fact that we started this class by learning and uncovering the history of Miami through the Deering Estate owned by Charles Deering and ending the class with his brother James Deering.

%d bloggers like this: