Vox Student Blog

Hebah Bushra: Miami as Text

Photo by Inaya Shaikh (CC by 4.0)

Hello everyone! My name is Hebah Bushra and I am an undergraduate student at the Honors College at Florida International University. I am majoring in Biological Sciences and Natural and Applied Sciences as well minoring in Chemistry. Some of my aims are to pursue a career in the medical field and travel to all 7 continents whilst trying different cuisines, volunteering, exploring cultures and religions, and meeting new people. I find gardening and painting to be my therapy in this chaotic world of ours. Although I have lived 3o minutes north of Miami my entire life and have most likely visited all of the beaches in South Florida, I have yet to experience the hidden treasures Miami encompasses. With this opportunity, I hope to gain knowledge of Miami’s concealed stories, diverse culture, and rich environment through the numerous destinations below.

Downtown Miami as Text

Photos and edit by Hebah Bushra (CC by 4.0)

Melting Pot Miami,” by Hebah Bushra of FIU at Downtown Miami, 29 January 2021

While driving through the shadows casted by the towering buildings of Downtown Miami, I realized that I have never set foot outside of my car and explored this colorful city in the 20 years I have lived in South Florida. Due to the pandemic, this busy city was quite muted which came to an advantage for me as I was able to grasp onto the architecture and scenery that Downtown Miami possesses. As we strolled through different areas of the city, the hidden history and melting pot of Miami was unveiled. 

From the beginning of time, Miami, unlike many other major cities, consisted of people from different backgrounds who eventually found a way to live together. The interactions and presence of Seminoles, the Tequesta tribe, Bahamians, Jews, African Americans, the Miccosukee Tribe, Spanish conquistadors, White Americans, and Latin Americans displayed this beautiful melting pot that Miami held from the start.

Amid the roaring highway was a small park, Lummus park, containing two old houses, originally located near the Miami River, holding a great amount of history. Fort Dallas was originally built and quartered by African American slaves and later was taken hold of by the US army during the Seminole War from which it received its name by the Navy officer at that time. Once the army leaves after the Seminoles agree with a treaty, the house was utilized in several other ways such as a post office, the 1st courthouse of the county bought by Julia Tuttle, and a social gathering club. Although it is difficult to judge others of the past, it is important how we frame history. I really believe that the name of this historic structure is an insult to the suffering faced by the hardworking slaves in the 1840s and a name change to English Slave quarters is necessary to actually tell the history and origin of the house. Alongside the Fort of Dallas is Wagner’s house which tells a story of a positive moment in Miami’s history. Against the norm at that time, a German man named William Wagner married a Haitian woman. Wagner and his mixed race son encountered 17 Seminoles and offered them clothes and dinner. This beautiful interaction and some may say a real Thanksgiving is a great illustration of diverse people being at peace with one another and having a sense of unity. 

Even with the mixture of people that make up Miami’s vast history, their representation is lacking and significance is undermined. For example, Miami Dade Cultural Center has a Spanish colonial theme which only represents one group of people leaving several others such as the Seminoles and Tequesta tribe. If you were unaware of Miami’s history, you would only see what the people want you to see and it portrays the wrong message. 

Obtaining knowledge on Miami’s history immensely opened my eyes to the non inclusiveness and flawed portrayal of what Miami is. In school, I have never learned anything about Miami’s origin and only learned what people want to remember. It is important to call out how history is framed and learn about the past. Even with the gloomy history, the diversity and melting pot of Miami is unreal and there is always positive light. For example, the Freedom tower, Miami’s Ellis Island, symbolizes liberty and free will to many Cuban immigrants escaping from Castro’s repressive rule. I believe a great artwork which portrays this concept is right in the middle of the Government Center named Dropped Bowl with Scattered Slices and Peels by artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. This massive statement art depicts the spread of different cultures and groups of people in this populous metropolis.

Everglades as Text

Photos and edit by Hebah Bushra and Bottom Left Photo by Sana Arif (CC by 4.0)

Being One With Nature,” by Hebah Bushra of FIU at Everglades National Park, 12 February 2021

When I stepped foot in the murky water surrounded by pond cypress trees I expected warm water as after all, we are in sunny South Florida. However, to my surprise, the water was cold which actually had an instant soothing effect on my nerves. With the help of my walking stick and gradually gaining balance on this unusual surface, I finally looked up to see the captivating environment surrounding me. 

The Everglades started experiencing harmful biodiversity depletion and habitat loss dating back to Henry Flagler’s touch in Miami. This resourceful environment was at one point home to different Native American tribes. I learned that the cypress trees were a survival tool to create boats as the trees were hollowed out with fire and scraped with shells which surprised me at first as the trees next to me were very thin. As we went deeper inside the tree framed dome, the water level increased, the trees were much larger, and I observed more flora and fauna. I was determined to spot an alligator but I realized I was more appreciative of seeing the small creatures that  play a major role and inhabit this area and such as woodpeckers, mosquito fish, and even a red cardinal. I gained the knowledge of how natural and prescribed fires are a key component for the Everglades’ prairies to thrive as the absence of fire creates crowding and overgrown plants. Certain plants such as sawgrass can take over and with no sunlight reaching down, there is a decrease in the population size of species. The burns clear the top and opens up the understories so various species can develop. Pine Rockland is the most biodiverse habitat in the National Park with 23 species of endemics and according to Ranger Dylan, this environment would have extended far all the way to Downtown Miami.

Ranger Dylan read a poem by Anne McCrary Sullivan who would explore the Everglades on her own and find a spot to sit and write. She refers to the Everglades as an in between place where it is not quite land or water and describes the way the world is when we (humans) are not there. As I separated from the group to explore my surroundings, I discovered this fallen tree which was still alive and decided to sit on it for a minute or two as Anne McCrary and listen to my surroundings. I felt one with nature hearing the creaks of the cypress trees, chirps of birds, and the gusts of wind. At this moment of the silent yet loud atmosphere, I understood the poem and what Sullivan was trying to illustrate through her words about being in an untouched place, which I would have not comprehended a day before. 

South Beach as Text

Photos and edit by Hebah Bushra (CC by 4.0)

Architecture Treasure Chest,” by Hebah Bushra of FIU at South Beach, 26 February 2021

While walking to the end of South Pointe Pier, I was able to absorb my surroundings of the turquoise blue water, vibrant architecture, and the wave of people relaxing on the sand even with my eyes squinting from the harsh sun rays. Even though I had a tiresome week and would have loved to unwind with the rest of the people, I was eager to learn about this tourist magnet called South Beach.  

With the welcoming atmosphere and diverse array of people all having the same motive in mind, one would have not thought that Miami Beach had negative aspects to its history like Downtown Miami. Miami Beach, originally called Ocean Beach, was a barrier island of mangroves. The development of Miami by Henry Flagler, Julia Tuttle, and others brought about wealthy northerners as well as segregation and class disparity. Carl Fisher, an automobile developer, built the longest bridge at that time to connect the mainland to ocean beach and hired Black Americans and Bahamians to clear the massive mangrove forest and called the area Miami Beach. After their forced hard work, the people of color were segregated and had to stay in an area called Virginia Beach depicting that as the town developed, lines were drawn. Although at one point Miami’s first black millionaire named Dorsey bought an island and people of color resided there, the Great Depression made him sell it to Carl Fisher (Fisher Island) forcing the colored community out. Today, this is one of the wealthiest zip codes in the United States. Although South Beach is incredibly unique and a major part of Miami’s cultural identity, it is important to understand and remember the negative aspects of its history.

As we walked further away from the beach and under the shades casted by the hovering buildings, I started to obtain knowledge on the harmonious yet distinct architecture surrounding us. South Beach buildings were composed of three architectural styles: Mediterranean Revival, Miami Modernist (MiMo), and Art Deco. With ceramic roof tiles and European features, Mediterranean Revival architecture was easy to distinguish. Both MiMo and Art Deco architecture encompassed a futuristic look and fanned away from the European style. The curved buildings shaped like boats/ships with glass were part of MiMo architecture. Lastly and my favorite, Art Deco architecture had such unique characteristics such as the rule of three and relief sculptures. Most Art Deco structures are three stories, have lines in threes, exhibit eyebrows and slick curves, and illustrate relief sculptures that reflect landscape around us such as water and seagulls depicted in a geometric pattern. South beach has the largest Art Deco neighborhood in the world. There was also “identity crisis architecture” as Professor Bailly would say and these structures had a combination of different aspects and not a particular unique architectural style.

 As I passed each building on Ocean Drive and every place we walked, I would quiz myself or act like I was in a treasure hunt by using characteristics (hints) of each building to discover the architectural style (the treasure). The positive end to our day was witnessing the conservation of Lincoln Theater’s architectural style in an H&M store in Lincoln Road Mall. The efforts put into saving the uniqueness of South Beach buildings was definitely worth it with the tourism it attracts and the distinctiveness not found anywhere less. The vibrant colors and welcoming atmosphere of Ocean Drive today is much different from the 1910s. Until this class, I would have viewed the architecture as just pretty, colorful buildings as most tourists but gaining this knowledge on architectural styles and the history of Miami Beach actually made me feel a sense of belongingness and connection to this city.

Deering Estate As Text

Photos and edit by Hebah Bushra (CC by 4.0)

Entering Miami’s True Nature,” by Hebah Bushra of FIU at Deering Estate, 12 March 2021

As we huddled in front of the massive gates of Deering Estate, I wondered what today’s class had in store to add to my growing knowledge of Miami’s history. As we entered the premises, I saw two houses with architectural details we learned about previously and a beautiful basin with manatees surrounded by several islands. However, what was not seen immediately and the unknowns were the most valuable aspects of this experience personally.

In time of intense racial segregation, the grounds, degraded channel, and house was built by Black Bahamians and Black Americans under horrible conditions. Charles Deering bought Richmond cottage in 1916 and the stone house was finished in 1922. The houses displayed Mediterranean revival and Islamic dome shapes and were influential to many parts of Miami as seen in Coral Gables architecture. One of my favorite parts of the house was actually outdoors and was this spinoff of a European mosaic with Miami elements such as corals, sea plants, and shells decorated on a ceiling. 

I was amazed to find out that the protected natural areas of the estate that we explored consisted of not one but multiple distinct ecosystems and habitats and is part of the original Old Cutler Road which served as a Native American footpath for connecting Tequesta villages to others near Miami River. We walked through and learned about several ecosystems like Biscayne Bay seagrass beds, salt marshes (blue crab mania), mangrove forests, tropical hardwood hammocks, and pine rocklands to name a few. I found the Gumbo Limbo, a native tropical tree, to be one of the intriguing plants as the trunk is green inside and red for the outer layer and to combat the threat of vines, the tree peels making the vines fall off the bark as a means of protection. Also, if limbs are knocked off, another tree will grow right there which was probably advantageous to Native Americans. While admiring the beauty of the Flora and Fauna, I learned about the significance of this area. It is difficult to connect with Miami’s past because everything has been destroyed and paved over to showcase an attractive developed city, however, this one place is pristine and untouched. I tried hard to envision the Tequesta people walking along the same path as me to survive and perform daily activities and it wouldn’t click until Professor Bailly showed a treasure of the past. As we approached the mangrove forests, we entered a midden which contains discarded tools and food. Researchers found shells and with a hand grabbing test, they observed if it fits in your finger like a tool. These shell tools could be used by the Tequesta to scale fish, skin animals like squirrels, and create holes in deer or in the ground to plant seeds. As I grasped onto the tool with my thumb fitting perfectly in the indent of the shell, I had a glimpse of the history, people, and land of Miami’s past. 

Another part of the land that served as a way for me to connect to the past people was the Cutler Burial Mound where around 8 or more Indians were buried in a circle. Walking on the bridge and keeping an eye out for the burial mound, I couldn’t see it until it was pointed out. The mound was hidden in the intertwined trees but was almost honored with one of Miami’s biggest Oak Trees thriving on top. I felt that this gloriously massive tree casting pools of glimmering sunlight served a symbol of the significance and strength Native Americans held as they endured many hardships and played a major role in Miami’s history. 

This walk back into Miami’s real natural history showcased the importance of respecting the way of life of people and history and understanding species and environmental interactions to promote long term survival of these unique ecosystems in order to preserve biodiversity. Most people have not experienced the true natural state of Miami due to destruction and this realness is not seen elsewhere.

Vizcaya As Text

Photos and edit by Hebah Bushra (CC by 4.0)

Miami’s Elegant Playhouse,” by Hebah Bushra of FIU at Vizcaya Museum, 26 March 2021

Driving into the entrance to a narrow road surrounded by thick green trees and pops of small sculptures was a complete change of scenery from the city feel I just passed ten minutes ago. The Vizcaya Museum named after Spanish explorer Vizcaíno who lived with Tequesta Indians was built in 1914 and 1916 and owned by a wealthy industrialist, James Deering. After the last of the seminole war, most seminoles left however, the few that remained inhabited the everglades. The US passed an act that enabled white Americans to obtain 160 acres of land if they defend it against the seminoles. When the seminoles and bahamians had to leave, wealthy northerners occupied land. James Deering’s fondness of Spain, Italy, and Mediterranean revival was the key inspiration for this museum’s aesthetic. In the middle of the mangroves was this recreation of an Italian Villa.

The pathway leading to the house was framed by the tropical hardwood hammock ecosystem which enabled the maintenance of the greenery and acted as curtains unveiling the house. This inviting aspect was accompanied by shallow flowing water fountains to create a linear perspective. Although this house is quite beautiful and enchanting, James Deering entering a habitat originally occupied by seminoles, Bahamians, and tequesta was not acknowledged. There was no representation of the culture and people in Vizcaya which is unfortunate as he was the most wealthy person in Miami. This entirely European, Mediterranean Revival house in the middle of the mangroves was designed by the artist director Paul Chalfin. Personally, I would have not known much about the style and architecture of each room if not taught this information. From sculptures to secret gardens, this house was a mini getaway to Europe. 

As we entered the main doors, we were welcomed by a Roman god sculpture of Bacchus, the god of wine and pleasure, with grapes and a massive tub. This was a major display of Deering’s mindset and personality and was depicted throughout the house layout. Although this place was home to residents, the house was aimed to be a source of entertainment and show for guests. This graceful and refined playhouse had an inner courtyard, decorative rooms, small outdoor theater, bush mazes, a lover’s bench, and more showcasing his vision. Several architectural styles such as neoclassical, fuoco rococo, and Islamic patterns were incorporated into the design of the house. The neoclassical style which focuses on perfect balance and symmetry was seen in one of the rooms where the ceiling shapes corresponded with the floor tile shape. Many rooms had the complete opposite atmosphere with fuoco rococo focusing on the decorative, detailed ceiling purchased in Venice, Italy, and playfulness with palm trees and flowers. One of my favorite parts of a room was a chandelier framed with beautiful gold flowers instead of crystals displaying elegance and liveliness. Islamic elemental art called Mudéjar was seen in abstracted Arabic writing. All of these distinct features definitely provided the house with its playful yet sophisticated nature. This stop on our Miami list was definitely quite different from others with this European inspiration and secret gardens; however, it is a significant part of Miami’s history. 

Daffodyle Saget: Miami as Text

Photo by Daffodyle Saget (CC by 4.0)

Greetings! My name is Daffodyle Saget and I am a senior graduating this spring with a degree in Sociology and English with a minor in International Communications. I have a deep love for learning especially about us as humans from the histories that form our current reality to the psychology that motivates our actions. I guess that’s why I choose sociology as a major, it helps me understand the world around me. That’s also the reason I was pushed to take this class, I wanted to understand all that makes up my current environment. Miami is my home and when you get used to something you question it less but I want to hear this cities stories and understand its problems instead of passively living here. I am so excited to learn more than I already have!

Downtown Miami As Text

Photo By Daffodyle Saget ( CC By 4.0)

“First was the Tequesta” by Daffodyle Saget

The Tequesta were first. They were the indigenous people of South Florida and what we know now as the great city of Miami. A city that is known for its diversity and its large immigrant population pouring in from all over Latin America and the world at large. But before The Cubans, The Haitians, The Bahamians, and The Europeans there were the Tequesta and it is important to start any part of American history with Native Americans.

I was so happy we began class with Professor Bailly starting this term by visiting native sites and telling their stories. Often times they are ignored when history is covered. Most people in Miami if polled on the streets would not even be able to name the indigenous people of the city even in a multiple-choice question. Professor Bailey filled in the blanks of our history classes introducing us to the Tequesta one site at a time. I learned that the Tequesta were living in Miami and all of South Florida as early as 2,000 years ago and were killed off after contact with the Spanish leaving little evidence of their culture behind. Most depictions of the Tequesta today is fictional and likely inspired by the nearby Arawaks. Most natives in the South Florida region today were pushed down from locations further north in the state and even as far north fromstates like Georgia and Alabama. The Seminole tribe itself was formed out of displaced tribes like the Miccosukee and Choctaw.

It’s devastating to think a whole people and culture was wiped out and we will never learn what life for them was truly like. To think it all started in a circle located downtown. Standing in the Miami circle where likely the center of governance was for the Tequesta and where they greeted the Europeans it was chilling to think a city would be born thousands of years later on their graves and they would become just a sad fact. People and cultures are sacred and history has a sad way of repeating itself. I left the class even sadder knowing if we don’t learn about what happened to the Tequesta and allowed what happened to them in a way happen to the African American population in Overtown, will it soon then happen to the Haitians and Cubans that create Miami culture today. With gentrification at every corner, what will Miami look like in just a few decades…

Maria Simon: Miami as Text

Photo by Maria Garcia (CC BY 4.0) of FIU

Hello! My name is Maria Simon and I am a junior at the Honors College at Florida International University. I am also a Biological Science major aspiring to be a doctor. Seeing and feeling different cultures has always being the hobby I enjoy the most, whether if it is from traveling to different countries, eating different food, and meeting unique people. I immigrated to the United States from Cuba in the year 2010 and it was one of the greatest, if not the greatest gifts my family has ever given me-the opportunity to have a prosperous future. Aside from traveling I love to play volleyball and to dance.

Downtown Miami as Text

Photos by Maria Simon (CC by 4.0) of FIU at Downtown Miami

“Miami beneath Miami” by Maria Simon of Florida International University at Downtown Miami.

The city of Miami is well known for its beaches and it’s beautiful skyline. Although,  Miami carries a long path of historical evolvement and an enrichment of culture from all parts of the world. Miami takes part in a multicultural setting where immigration has formed part of the city for many years and the years to come.

An example of how Miami has carried its immigrant roots and has sheltered the history and the culture from represented countries all around the world is Cuba. In the late 1950s Cuba had a “Revolution” where many parents and grandparents sent their children to the United States in fear of what the Revolution would bring. The act was called “Operation Peter Pan” which happened from 1960 until 1962. After those kids came to the United States the first place they would come across with is the Freedom Tower in Downtown Miami. The Freedom Tower is the one on the bottom right corner. The children along with other cuban immigrants would do their paperwork and get a medical check-up. The Freedom Tower is where they would formally become residents of the United States of America.

Through other ways and measures, Cubans would immigrate to the United States after the political crisis in Cuba, all in hopes of returning one day. When they started realizing that the situation in Cuba was not getting better they started opening their own businesses in Miami. As seen in the top light corner, there is a restaurant that was built up by them where they would specialize in “pollo frito” (fried chicken).

IIn the realization of what Miami was doing for the cuban people, Russia granted the city a piece of the Berlin Wall in representation of the cuban people that were divided of their families due the dictatorship of their country just like Russia was once.

Miami has taken into their wings many immigrants who starve for a new life and a new meaning. It shelters their traditions and their backgrounds while creating a new life in a new country where the opportunities are endless to those who seek it and to those who work for it.

South Beach as Text

Photos by Maria Simon (CC by 4.0) of FIU at South Beach

“Relief Sculptures and Pastel Colors” by Maria Simon of Florida International University at South Beach.

South Beach is one of the most multicultural parts of Miami. It has history, culture, and religion designed all over its area. With its unique colors and architectural design it takes you back in time to places all around the world. These places represent a religious part of our culture and our background given the fact that in the city of Miami you can find people from all around the world either passing through or living here. Through its three main architectural designs, Miami Modern ( aka:MiMo), Art Deco, and Mediterranean Revival, South Beach makes you travel in time and transport you to many other places.

Art Deco is an architectural design that is distinguished by its constant three parts. The design of the building is made into three parts, for example three dots on one side of the building, three windows throughout it, and the bars that cross vertically through the building. Art Deco is seen throughout the many structures that South Beach has. This architectural design reached its peak from the 1920’s through the 1930’s. 

Along with ArtDeco goes Miami Modern which is known as MiMo. MiMo is also seen in a grand variety of structures in South Beach. It developed after World War II and it created an environment or all those who would come in and feel identified with the architecture. They were also made by young designs which gave it a modern touch to the buildings and its surroundings. 

Mediterranean Revival is the third architectural design that portrays a Spanish style of living. It is particularly identified for its iron balconies, designs on a form of arches portraying a way through the building. This design was implemented in the 1920s as well as Art Deco. Mediterrenean Revival gives an atmosphere of a Spain-like neighborhood, especially with Espanola Way in one street. 

South Beach carries a history on its shoulders. Many movies have been filmed there and a special one was Scarface. Scarface is a movie that was filmed in 1983 which tells the story of one of the many people that came from Cuba during one of the most famous exodus known in history and the many ways that their life changed while coming to the United States. 

Deering Estate as Text

Photos and edit by Maria Simon (CC by 4.0) of FIU at Deering Estate

“Old traveled territory” by Maria Simon of Florida International University at Deering Estate.

While the city of Miami is seen as a very developed and up to date city, there’s plenty of proof that people lived here more than 10,000 years ago. The city of Miami is a very well explored city where you can find all types of artifacts pertaining to those who lived in it 100 years ago as well as 10,000 years ago. This found proof were rocks and tools that were used as construction mechanisms and daily activities such as cooking. Furthermore, because of those artifacts it can be analyzed that there were early inhabitants of the northern continent in Miami, specifically in the area of the Deering Estate. 

The Deering Estate was built by Charles Deering in the 1920s and it holds around 444 acres of land which he lived on. This part of the estate is called the Stone House which is seen in the picture above on the left. 

Through Deering Estate, one can get to Vizcaya, although, initially to get there one would have to go by car through the cutler ridge because the cutler ridge is an elevated area but it is 45 minutes away from the Vizcaya. 

The Deering estate went through many time changing decades such as the Prohibition in the United States where alcohol was not allowed. Although, Charles Deering is believed to be the exception. At the bottom of the Estate there is a wine cellar that was built during the Prohibition Era. A bottle of wine from the wine cellar can be seen on the top right of the picture. 

The inside of the Deering Estate offers a grand variety of culture and religion from past decades. For example, in one of the bedrooms there is a stained glass mosaic with The Madonna with the Child which is the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus. This can be seen in the picture on the bottom right on top.

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens as Text

Photos and Edit by Maria Simon of FIU (CC by 4.0) at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

The Rise of Mediterranean Revival in Miami” by Maria Simon of Florida International University at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

The famous Vizcaya Museum & Gardens was built between 1914 and 1922. Its original owner, James Deering, designed the estate in such a way that it would accentuate its tone of freedom, pleasure, and eccentricity. The name Vizcaya comes from the feminized version of Sebastian Vizcaino, a Spanish explorer from the 15th century who James Deering was captivated by. Before the entrance, there is an arc which is inspired by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France. The history behind it is that James Deering saw Arc de Triomphe as an inspiration even though it means the victories of Napoleon’s army. The image of the arc is above on the very top.

At the very beginning of the entrance it is seen the god of wine and pleasure standing up with a bowl of grapes in his hand. In front of the god there is a 2,000 year old bath. Right at the very beginning of the inside of the estate you get the sense that you are entering a state of sin due to the liberty that the god transfers you. Such a picture of the god is seen above on the middle image on the left side. James Deering’s unconventional way of god complex is seen on a stained glass window’s top where it states in french “ J’AI DIT”, meaning “I said”. This means that what he says is the final word, it is what rules in his estate and in his mind. A picture of the stained glass can be seen above on the middle image on the right side.

James Deering’s sexuality was always in doubt given that he was never married nor did he have kids. It can be seen in two of the tapestries in the estate, which also supports this suspicious idea. On the tapestries it shows the phallic figures representing a male and flowers representing the female. This tapestry is on the bottom right corner. On the other tapestry, there is a peculiar phallic figure at the center of it.  This figure is on the bottom left corner. 

The estate has various scents in  it. For example, in one room which is done in Paris you get the Neoclassical design where everything is perfectly symmetrical and balanced. If you stand on a section of the floor and look up, you get to see the same thing on the roof.  

Derick Plazaola: Miami As Text

Photo by Eszter Erdei (CC by 4.0)

Good day to everyone! My name is Derick Plazaola and I am a junior at Florida International University currently pursuing a dual Bachelor of Science degree within the fields of Anthropology and Geography while also in the progress of completing a minor in History. My primary passions in life include traveling, exploring nature, and reading historical documents. While at FIU, I have been able to become involved in the betterment of residential life through Parkview Hall Council and have undergone academic opportunities presented to me through the Honors College at the university. I wish to further my academic future by going into graduate school for additional subfield studies of Anthropology, with a certain interest in Archaeology above all other subfields.

Having been born in Miami, I never truly got to experience or undergo an opportunity that has directly allowed me to gain a multi perspective view of the city which I was born in. When the Covid-19 pandemic first began, I truly believed that any chance to engage in an activity that would allow me to captivated by Miami’s history was absolutely diminished. However, this would quickly change with my personal decision to become apart of John Bailly‘s “Discover Miami” 2021 course. With that being said now, I truly thank Professor JW Bailly for being able to create an opportunity for like-minded students to be captivated by the enriched history which the city has to provide.

I now present my Miami as Texts.

Downtown Miami as Text

Photos and editing by Derick Plazaola (CC by 4.0)

“The Obscured Past of Miami”, by Derick Plazaola of FIU in Downtown Miami on February 7th, 2021

“What a day to explore Downtown Miami” was the initial thought that I had conceived as I was driving on a rather cold morning towards our meeting location at Government Center. Over the course of the drive, I would wonder what kind of history would be revealed to us by Professor Bailly and how it would impact my perspective of the city. Though I did not know it yet, this answer would soon arrive in the most eloquent of ways – through the process of firsthand exploration.

This process of exploration would lead me to develop one of the primary changes in my perspective of the city of Miami. The change in perspective was one of recognition regarding the importance which diversity yielded in establishing the foundation of Miami, as a whole. Our group’s visit of Fort Dallas in tangent with the Wagner Homestead and Mary Brickell’s grave would provide knowledgeable insight in allowing me to see the cultural foundations of Miami. Fort Dallas and the Wagner Homestead would directly showcase the cultural roots which Miami is founded upon with regard to the presence of blacks, Indians, and mixed populations. However, such foundations would not be limited to solely ethnicity as the importance of gender could be witnessed with the development of Miami. As professor Bailly explained within the class, the importance of women MUST be recognized in the foundation of the city as Julia Tuttle and Mary Brickell were two monumental figures that were responsible for the eventual development of the city.

I remember asking myself during the class: How is it that these greatly historical aspects of Miami aren’t being taught widely across educational systems in the city? That answer, too, would arrive with the exploration conducted. The visitation of the Dade County Court House and Henry Flagler’s statue ultimately revealed the widespread racism that had been instituted deeply within the history of Miami. I was able to learn firsthand that Henry Flagler’s action of constructing the railroad system in South Florida would grant him great amounts of power and wealth. As a result, Flagler would actively relocate non-white populations to poorer areas of Miami, establishing a precedent for racism and segregation – a precedent whose aftereffects can still be witnessed today. However, historical whitewashing would play an active role in concealing the dark truths behind the foundation of Miami while showcasing the achievements of white figures and, thus, the cultural roots upon which the city was established would become instantly obscured to the public eye. I quite actively, as a result of my partaking in the class, became highly aware of the untaught truths that lied in the history of Miami being publicly taught.

While I also had the opportunity to learn about additional key monuments that are present throughout Downtown Miami along with their cultural significance, I ultimately drove back home appalled, yet troubled, by the deeply rich past of Miami that has become widely obscured. As a result, I now believe that – in order to relieve the city of a whitewashed history – educational systems should not be afraid to shy away from teaching the true multi-cultural history of Miami. Without a doubt, however, I was grateful for the objective truths which this first class session was able to provide me with. I began my day telling myself “what a day to explore Downtown Miami” and ended the day telling myself “what a day to see the obscured past of Miami”.

Everglades as Text

Photos and editing by Derick Plazaola (CC by 4.0)

“River of Grass”, by Derick Plazaola of FIU in the Everglades on February 21st, 2021

To be frank, I began the day with a rather overwhelming sense of uncertainty and – undoubtedly – nervousness as to what exactly could happen in my first-ever trek into the Everglades. I recall the exact moment being shown in the class group-chat exactly what we would be doing throughout the duration of our class session and was, least to say, appalled. I simply could not believe that I had to actually trudge through the heart of the Everglades with a stick, without any worries of what could lurk in the water and tall grass alike. Then the hypotheticals came. “What if an alligator was to approach us?” and “What would I do if I were to fall into the water?” were among the main questions I pondered as I prepared to drive an hour down south. However, I thought back to my session of the class in Downtown Miami and reminded myself of one of the primary lessons I learned: living in the moment is crucial for the best experiences. Thus, with this notion in mind, I made my way towards the National Park.

The “Slough Slog”. Walking through the Everglades water through an unofficial trail with a hiking stick in one hand and camera phone in the other. The first and, perhaps, most immersive component of this class session. The time to undergo this experience was approaching rapidly as we drove down the singular strip of road connecting all of the different areas of the Everglades. All of my previous concerns started to then resurface, but it was then when I had gained awareness of the very nature of this opportunity: it was nothing short of a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Like Professor Bailly would come to mention later in the class, the whole experience would become unforgettable.

Upon first stepping onto the trail, I could see nothing but cypress trees as far as the eye can see. Cypress trees, as our lead park ranger explained to us, served as being among the most distinct of trees present in the Everglades due to their ability of being able to grow in water-filled areas. This was only made possible due to the oligotrophic, or low-nutrient, nature of the surrounding environment. The area in which we were specifically walking through was known as the “dome” of the Everglades due to the shape in which the culmination of the cypress trees created, with the tallest trees gathering near the center (see center photograph). Going back to the Slog, I became quite entranced in the moment of having to simultaneously walk through the water while also scouting to see opportunities for photographs. However, as I kept trudging along through the water with the rest of the class, I gradually gained more recognition of the interconnection which this very land provided. It was a distinct sense of interconnectedness between man and the natural land as, with each step, I could hear all the many things associated with the true experience of the Everglades. The ripples in the water caused by our walking, the sounds of various different animals from a distance, the wind blowing back and forth. All of these different sounds amounted to the sensation of the overall experience. It was a strange feeling to be able to experience a moment in which one truly feels connected with the land at their feet. It was a feeling I only had experienced on a recent trip to Arizona and yet, it was an amazing feeling to have been reproduced. I was certain that this same feeling could be felt by the Tequesta -as Professor Bailly previously indicated to us that the Tequesta had moved towards the Everglades – and utilized the bark of cypress trees to construct boats.

After our journey through the Slough Slog, we proceeded to then continue our journey at two key locations. The first, the Royal Palm Visitor Center, would allow us to gain more of a closer look at the animals residing within the Everglades. This small, yet detail-oriented, trail would truly serve as another fulfilling experience during the trip. However, Professor Bailly’s teachings at this trail provided us with a viewpoint into the rich history of the Everglades, with one of the key points being the fact that Henry Flagler actually attempted to build a railroad through the Everglades. It was at this point during the class that I recognized that what I had learned of Flagler, during the previous first class, had become applicable yet again in the context of the Everglades. In addition to this fact, Bailly provided us with a statement that, even today as I recall the entire experience, changed my perspective on how I entirely viewed the Everglades: “The Everglades is not a swamp. It is a river of grass”. To me, this statement would serve as the backbone of the lessons learned during the entirety of the trip. In concluding with the class session, we visited the “Hole in the Donut” restoration area which allowed us to view the current state of the solution hole present there. It was during this conclusive visit that I had truly taken an appreciation for the connection felt during the entirety of the visit to the Everglades. Would I repeat it, given the opportunity? The experience as a whole now allowed me to respond to that question with an undoubtable “yes”.

In reflecting upon the experience as a whole now, the memorability of this whole trip would only be heightened by the bonding moments shared between our class as this experience truly allowed us to become more along the lines of friends rather than just mere classmates. It’ll be quite hard to forget the feeling of authenticity associated with walking through the different areas of the “River of Grass”. And to think that there is still so much more to explore. Perhaps for next time then.

South Beach as Text

Photos and editing by Derick Plazaola (CC by 4.0)

“At the Ocean’s Side” by Derick Plazaola of FIU in South Beach on March 7th, 2021

Prior to this class session, I identified the city of South Beach as being one of the many components of Miami that projects it on a global level, attracting millions each year. However, Bailly’s teachings and our class exploration of South Beach revealed to me something different; South Beach is not a component of Miami, but rather its own entity existing within Miami. I would come to learn very quickly that the city of South Beach is vastly different to Downtown Miami and Miami as a whole, with many key characteristics setting apart this one stretch of land from the whole city.

The introduction to this class was certainly breathtaking to say the least. Taking the time to stand at the end of South Pointe Pier and take in the scenery of South Beach, the Miami River, and the Atlantic Ocean all under one singular culmination point was something that I could only describe as extraordinary. With that being said however, Bailly would soon reveal to us the true nature of South Beach which, not surprisingly, held elements of a dark past. One of the aspects of South Beach’s foundations that I found to be more troubling was how the city seemed to almost be setting itself up for failure against the volatile weather conditions associated with the oceanside. In addition to noting the foundation of South Miami on shells and sand rather than limestone, we were also shown images of when South Beach was essentially a mangrove and coconut forest – its original state as a barrier island. However, as Bailly kept repeating during the class, we cannot doubt the ability of humans to keep innovating to keep up with our planet’s current conditions.

Another secondary troubling aspect of the history of South Beach and its foundation that I found disgusting, yet essential to my overall perspective of the city, was the institutionalized racism that was adopted by the city officials and influential figures ingrained in the establishment of the city. Yet again, as seen previously with the heavily racist actions by Flagler in the construction of Miami, I was taken aback by the implementation of the actions of Carl Graham Fisher – the entrepreneur responsible for the development of South Beach. Albeit his self-labelling of himself as a “pioneer” to the “wasteland” of Miami, Fisher would soon prove his true character through the re-location of blacks who aided in the construction of South Beach. This would only be bolstered by the re-location of Jewish communities to only a limited section of neighborhood under Fifth street. Learning the details of this corrupt past was most certainly disturbing but upon reflection, I took an appreciation for the eye-opening details which this adventure enlightened me with.

Crazy to think that I would also become somewhat of a master of identifying the primary architectural styles utilized in the many establishments on South Beach. It was almost as if we were being quizzed as we passed each building on Ocean Drive. “Mediterranean revival! No wait, Art Deco! Or is it actually MIMO?”. Statements like these filled a great portion of our walk but at the same time, I already took on such an appreciation for the culmination of artistic, culture-filled architectural styles that were brought to the streets of South Beach as even the smallest details contained such large remnants of ancient history. Without a doubt, by this point, we were fully ingrained in one of the greatest – if not the greatest – Art Deco location in the world. Even the conclusion of our class yielded a surprise as the H&M at the Lincoln Mall was originally a theatre and still had its original architectural style. How crazy indeed!

With no doubts in mind, this class session had such a great impact in allowing me to establish an objective viewpoint of the city which I live in. I can only imagine how long I would’ve kept on walking across Ocean Drive in my life without knowing the negative history associated with its foundation. However, I also took a deep appreciation for the interconnection which this excursion provided to our previous adventures. To think that the Spanish and Tequesta Indians still held such a heavy presence in South Beach before the name was even brought into existence. In fact, you could say they were truly the first to be at the “Ocean’s side”. Neither Fisher nor Flagler, but the Tequesta instead.

Deering as Text

Photos and Editing by Derick Plazaola (CC by 4.0)

“Untouched Miami” by Derick Plazaola of FIU in Deering Estate on March 21st, 2021

Serving as the very manifestation of what Miami originally was before the introduction of several key figures instrumental in the development of current-day Miami, the Deering Estate is a historical landmark that perfectly captures the authenticity of the city that spans back hundreds of years into the past. However, as taught to us during the duration of this class session, the history surrounding the land of the Deering Estate even delves into the thousands of years of history cultivated by the first peoples in Miami. The best way to describe this rich landmark is that it serves to be as a sort of ‘lens’ to the untouched past. A Miami which we weren’t alive to see widespread across the city, but one that is preserved here in full capacity.

Built in 1922 by black Bohemians under the direction of Charles Deering, this site would become among his primary homes within Miami. With that being said, there is no doubt that the construction and development of his luxurious home was fueled by the racism which was heavily present during this time. This would prove fundamental in being able to utilize black Bohemians for their ability to work, while further adding to an increasing amount of segregation. While working here, black Bohemians had to unfortunately experience a highly difficult sense of coexistence between them and what they would term as “white crackers” as a result of the sounds made by the whips they carried. With so much of a dark past embedded within the Deering Estate, this is something the average visitor can easily overlook in place of the physical beauty which Deering’s home has to offer. The construction of the Estate would ultimately showcase an active borrowing of influence from outside cultures as Bailly pointed out clear Islamic Moor elements. Ultimately however, the stone house was always more of a museum and a cultural venue in the eyes of Deering rather than serving as just a house.

Furthermore, the Deering Estate allows us to take a glimpse into the lives of the first peoples of Miami, pre-dating even the presence of those such as the Charles Deering and Henry Flagler. This class’ theme of interconnectedness continues yet again as the land surrounding the Estate served as the same land which the Tequesta roamed thousands of years ago. Constantly surrounded by rich gumbo limbo trees and over 80 species of rare natural plants, the Tequesta recognized this as their home – same is the case with that of the Everglades. Their influence on the land, though they are not physically here now, is still undeniably high however; the trail which we walked on is surrounded by land that serves as the oldest archaeological site in South Miami. This is displayed through the presence of middens and archaeological tools – utilized by the Tequesta – scattered all across the forestry of the Estate. It certainly took an extremely good eye on my part to take notice of these fine details as the past’s influence remains ever-so high.

One statement from Bailly that stuck close with me was him describing the rich ecosystems here in the Estate as if “it’s like you’re going from the forests of Costa Rica to the deserts of Mexico”. The most appalling thing is that he is on the dot with that description. It’s one thing seeing the beauty of Deering’s home and the key, but it’s a completely different world once you step foot on the main trail and really dive into the culmination of six different ecosystems. This is the preservation of the original Miami, the “Untouched Miami”.

Vizcaya as Text

Photos and Editing by Derick Plazaola (CC by 4.0)

“A Villa of Getaways” by Derick Plazaola of FIU in Deering Estate on April 4th, 2021.

I tell you what. It is not often that you get to experience the very culmination of what can only be described as a “flex” by some people. However, our class walk in Vizacaya proved to be just that. Around each and every corner you walk throughout this villa in the heart of Coconut Grove, you come to find that James Deering – the owner of Vizcaya and main individual behind it’s construction – really wanted to have this location serve as a brilliant showcase of his extended amount of wealth. It’s quite clear he succeeded in achieving this goal, to a great extent, through the villa’s displaying of its many outdoor and indoor decorations and eye-catching details. All of these contribute towards the rich history surrounding Deering’s villa and, ultimately, offers us a lens through which we can directly see the many perspectives that came into the development of Vizcaya. I was most certainly able to view through this lens because of the time I dedicated towards this exploration of the villa.

In arriving to South Miami, James Deering saw himself as more of an explorer and adventurer in his eyes. This was further boosted by the fact that the area where Vizcaya was to be built was originally a booming mangrove forest, just like South Miami’s untouched shoreline before its eventual development. However, Deering’s arrival to the city would prove to be instrumental in not only the construction of Vizcaya, but also in the development of a Mediterranean revival art style – which is now seen widespread throughout the city.

Like many of the locations previously explored within this class, Vizcaya is no stranger when it comes to the deeply engrained issue of racial discrimination and racism. Specifically comparing the villa to Deering, James Deering – like Charles – utilized the labor of Black Bohemians in the construction process of both the main house and the surrounding gardens from 1914 to 1923. Thus, we see the continuation of a theme regarding the importance of Black Bohemians in the development of South Miami as we know today – a topic which should be highly recognized. In addition to this, we see a connection to the Tequesta that not many, myself included, would expect. Clearly, the land on which Vizcaya was built upon was where the Tequesta once walked in large numbers. However, the name “Vizcaya” also indirectly relates to the Tequesta because of who the villa is named after. Sebastián Vizcaíno was the survivor of a Spanish shipwreck, placing him in a situation where he had to live with the Tequesta in order to survive. Thus, we see not only a clear Spanish background embedded in Vizcaya, but also a connection to the first peoples on Miami.

However, straying away from the negative history associated with the villa, the implementation of highly superficial and eccentric decorations inside and outside contribute to the overall high-class status associated with it. Certain decorations like the inclusion of a statue of Bacchus – the Roman god of wine – and the implementation of Roman decorations create an aura of partying – a retreat from reality if you will. The decision to include a majority of these highly superficial items can be attributed to the decisions of Paul Chalfin, the main artist and interior designer employed by James Deering. However, Chalfin’s inclusion of high-status elements within Vizcaya proved to express that feeling of “party” and “royalty” all at the same time as I walked through the many rooms inside Vizcaya.

In closing, a walk of Vizcaya is something that I feel is necessary in order to truly a gain a glimpse into the historical past of Miami. With that being said, I recognize that these realities are not initially seen by the common visitor eye and are instead overshadowed by the materialism associated with James Deering’s vacation home. I feel as if these discussions and historical truths need to be conveyed more to the visitors so that they understand the full scope of Vizcaya. It wasn’t only a “villa of getaways” but it was so much more.

Stephanie Gudiel: Miami as Text

Stephanie Gudiel/CC by 4.0

Hi! My name is Stephanie Gudiel, I am currently a junior in the FIU Honors college majoring in Psychology with a minor in Business. I’m currently 20 years old and love to travel, however due to covid I have slowed down on the travel aspect. Aside from that, I enjoy working out as a way to destress, I have been teaching myself how to cook a little bit, and I enjoy being outdoors trying new things. I decided to take this class because even though I was born and raised in Miami I feel as if there is still so much I don’t know about Miami, from its history to hidden gems, so I hope to gain more insight and a deeper understanding on how Miami came to be what we know it to be today.

Downtown Miami as Text

Photo by Stephanie Gudiel (CC by 4.0)

“Unspoken Past” by Stephanie Gudiel of FIU at Downtown Miami

Growing up in Miami I learned about the side of history educators wanted us to be proud of. I was taught that Henry Flagler was a founding father of south Florida, and most of what is around us today is thanks to his hard work. I was also taught about the history of slaves in the America as a whole. But it wasn’t until a couple weeks ago that professor Bailly took our class to Lummus Park, that I was able to have a deeper understanding about the history of Miami, and realized our history isn’t as clean or simple as the textbooks put out to be.

In the 1840’s the Longhouse in the picture above was constructed by one hundred enslaved Africans that belonged to Colonel William F. English and it was part of a slave plantation here in Miami. English had obtained the title of the 640 acres that belonged to his uncle, who had already been running the slave plantation about a decade before. The current location of the Longhouse is not where it had always been, the slave plantation houses were originally constructed on the north bank of the Miami River. English left Miami for the California Gold rush leaving the Longhouse and all the land to be requisitioned by the Army in 1849 who decided to call it Fort Dallas.

Fort Dallas was used as barracks for soldiers during the Seminole Wars to push the Seminoles further out west by blocking their trade and isolating them. Once the army was satisfied with the land they took from the Seminoles they left. By 1889, Julia Tuttle was acquiring properties of the Biscayne Bay Company, and in 1891, she and her children moved into English’s former Slave Plantation.

This is when Julia Tuttle lured Henry Flagler down to South Florida, she gave him prime land on the mouth of the Miami River while she kept English’s properties for herself, in return he built his famous railroad all the way down to Miami. This is how Julia Tuttle became the Mother of Miami, she single handedly transformed a former slave plantation into a city, she is the only woman to have founded a major American city. After Julia Tuttle passed away, the Longhouse was shortly transformed into a gambling club and then into a Tea room in 1923.

In 1925, more than 75 years after the Longhouse had been built, it was moved from its original location to Lummus Park and this was the first time in Miami history that a building had been preserved for historical significance. This one building has been part of so many significant events that transformed Miami into what we know it to be. I never knew this building existed, much less that there was once a slave plantation where Downtown is today. This is to prove that although the building is standing in Lummus Park today with a summary of events in front of it, there is much of Miami’s past that is unspoken of.

Everglades as Text

Photo by Stephanie Gudiel (CC by 4.0)

“Uncharted Territory” by Stephanie Gudiel of FIU at the Everglades

As I walked into the cold murky water I thought, to myself “What could I possibly see here? What could I learn from walking through this dome?” I came to the realization, it’s not about learning, it’s about being able to experience and be one with nature. Being able to know and see a different side of the world, a side that has not been touched or changed by humanity. A place so self-contained with no trace of society, that it has its own sound, its own system and way of living that depends on no one and nothing but itself.

Walking deeper into the dome I saw fallen cypress trees, its roots lifted from the ground due to natural disasters, one would think that is how this cypress dome would slowly be destroyed, through natural disasters, or at least I did. Only to find out that from the roots began to grow more flora, life did not end there, from the fallen tree rose beautiful greenery to continue the cycle that is life. This ecosystem had the perfect balance as it was so pure and self-sufficient.

At one point we stopped, a safe distance from the road, completely immersed in the dome that I was able to hear the chime the wind created as it stirred within the trees, the birds chirping and gliding between trees even the flow of the water. It was something I had never experienced before. There was so much life, so many things going on in this one place that wasn’t undisclosed, simply unexplored, it was so easy to pass by on the road and not think anything of it.

To think that once upon a time this land was once home to the Tequestas, these grounds were walked by them everyday to the extent that they were just like our modern-day drive to our nearest publix to them, yet to us it is mysterious uncharted territory. I was simply a guest along with the rest of my class, wandering through this mesmerizing dome. And there will continue to be more just like me in the future, hundreds of years from now this dome will still contain its beauty and its distinctive qualities and will continue to captivate others.

This experience has made me appreciate the world from a new perspective, there is so much beauty I have yet to see, to feel, and encounter. So, we must appreciate each time we may face the untouched raw world and embrace it to preserve it, so future generations can relish and have this unique experience as I did and be one with nature.

South Beach as Text

Photos by Stephanie Gudiel (CC by 4.0)

“Built History” by Stephanie Gudiel of FIU at South Beach

I was enjoying the sun on my skin as well as the light breeze as we were walking down Ocean drive. Looking left and right trying to take in all that is South beach, as I hadn’t been there in over a year due to the pandemic. It was like going there for the first time. The road was blocked to allow the restaurants to continue to operate with outdoor seating, I heard loud music playing in the background, the sound of people talking and laughing, simply enjoying their day. I thought to myself, this is Miami, this is what people from all over the world come to see and feel, this vibe that is unique to my hometown.

Music and culture aside, what really completes South Beach are the architectural styles we run into. It hadn’t been something I had thought about until Professor Bailly pointed it out. I had been to South beach countless times, however, this was the first time I realized there are three main architectural designs that give South Beach the ambiance we long for. They each serve their purpose and show a bit of the history of Miami through them.

The mediterranean revival style was most prominent in the early 1900’s, and this style reflects the influence of the mediterranean coast. These types of buildings mostly show the spanish baroque style with the columns and balconies, they also typically have the stucco walls and red tile roofs. In the old days, the red tile roofs were actually made by hand, the women would use their thighs to give the clay tile that curved shape. As we walked through South beach we saw a few buildings resembling this architectural style.

South Beach is most well known for its concentration on Art Deco style, it actually has the highest concentration of Art deco buildings making it the iconic style for Miami. From the pastel colors used, to the “eyebrow like” balconies and its unique curves, it’s everything that comes to mind when you think of Miami vice. It is typically easy to identify using the 3 by 3 rule, meaning they tend to be three floors, and its colors are split in three, they also try to reflect the ocean so they generally use blue when making these buildings. This design was meant to embrace the machine age and a perfect example of it would be the Ocean five hotel.

Lastly, we encountered Mimo, which is eclectic on its own and relatively new. Simply put, it takes Art deco and modernizes it, making it glamorous yet minimalist. Miami Modern style is easy to distinguish with its curves, bright colors, and walls with geometric shape cutouts.

All three of these styles are seen walking down Ocean drive, one building after another with its own unique twist on one of these styles are a typical example of them. Each one resembling a piece of history that made Miami what it is today, and reminding us what it once was. One would think all this variation of styles on one street would look off putting, but it’s quite the opposite, this is what attracts all kinds of people to Miami.

This class brought me to a different kind of awareness, when we go anywhere the first thing we acknowledge is the culture of the place which is normally noticeable through the music and people. But sometimes we need to step back and see the bigger picture, quite literally see where we are as each place tells a story of its own from our surroundings. The colors set the mood, the shapes built into the walls speak volumes, from glamour to tranquil. This will allow us to appreciate and understand the world as it is.

Deering Estate as Text

Photos by Stephanie Gudiel (CC by 4.0)

“Sight to see” by Stephanie Gudiel of FIU at Deering Estate

It was a sunny day and I could feel the humidity as we walked into Deering Estate. As we walked through, the view was breathtaking, from the water to all the beautiful vegetation and flowers I encountered. At the dock, where the fresh water meets Biscayne Bay, we were able to see quite a few manatees, living in their own world they were turning on their backs, coming up for air every few minutes it was fascinating to see as I’d never seen them so up close.

After walking through six different ecosystems that were all found on the Deering Estate, we were able to walk through the Stone house and the Richmond Cottage. Charles Deering, an industrialist, environmentalist, and art collector bought the land that is now known as Deering Estate, and constructed the Stone House in the 1920’s. Deering bought the land and property from Samuel H. Richmond who constructed what is known as the Richmond Cottage, this was the first and only hotel between Coconut Grove and Key West during that time. Next to the cottage is where Deering built the Stone house, in which most of its architectural influences are from the mediterranean revival style but still reflects some islamic influences through the doors and windows. The Stone house was used more of a way to showcase his valuable art collection rather than a home. Aside from the aesthetically pleasing designs throughout the house as well as parts of his art collection displayed, the part that intrigued me was the hidden wine cellar. There was a wine cellar down in the basement hidden behind a vault and a bookshelf, all this secrecy was of course due to the fact that this was during the prohibition era. This cellar was only discovered after Hurricane Andrew flooded and damaged part of the property.

Vizcaya as Text

Photos by Stephanie Gudiel (CC by 4.0)

“Living Lavishly” by Stephanie Gudiel of FIU at Vizcaya

I made a sharp right turn as I almost missed the exit from US1 to head towards Vizcaya. Driving through the entrance I was surrounded by trees it felt like I was driving through a forest until I began to see statues to my left and right. After parking, I walked through heading towards the gates and the main entrance to this beautiful Italian inspired villa. The view of the walkway to go to the house was simply awe inspiring. The symmetry of flowers and a stream of water flowing in the middle of them on both sides of the walkway, with the Mediterranean revival style main house in the middle really set the tone for the rest of the estate.

From that moment it was clear that James Deering was not a fan of humility. This became more evident as I noticed the arches right outside of the entrance of his home. There were triumphal arches, which were known to be used by the Romans to commemorate victorious generals or as a symbol of founding new colonies. James Deering had no historical significance for them, simply wanted them to aesthetically enhance his estate and I believe it also suits his personality. He personalized these arches to fit his estate by adding seahorses throughout the arches.

Walking into the house the first object to catch your eye would be a statue of Bacchus, the god of wine and pleasure, on top of a tub with two children on each side. This fountain is a great representation of what James Deering had in mind for his villa, a place for entertainment and to showcase his wealth. Deering did not refrain from spending when it came to styling his home. Every room was designed around objects brought from Europe, more specifically the majority of the objects and style came from Italy. He put Paul Chalfin, an artistic director, in charge of assembling his rooms together, and Diego Suarez in charge of his landscape masterpiece.

John Deering’s architectural style and lavish life essentially influenced the whole city of Miami, as it is what Miami is known for to some extent, the lively entertainment and mediterranean revival style.

Letizia D’Avenia: Miami as Text

Photo by Letizia D’Avenia (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Hi! My name is Letizia D’Avenia. I am a sophomore attending the Honors College at Florida International University majoring in psychology. I was born in Milan, Italy, and I lived there for the first 17 years of my life. At FIU, I am part of an organization called Roarthon, I am a proud member of Phi Mu Fraternity and I am a Learning Assistant in the Psychology department. I like to describe myself as an “artistic” person. One of my favorite hobbies is singing and playing the guitar. I took pottery classes for about 4 years and I love painting. I enjoy reading and writing songs. I am very extroverted and one of my goals in life is to travel the world and make friends with people from different countries. Additionally, after taking an environmental science class during the fall semester, I became very passionate about this topic and I am planning on participating in different volunteering opportunities, such as beach clean-ups. I decided to take this class because I moved from Italy about one year and a half ago, and due to COVID-19 I have not had the opportunity to visit Miami as I wanted to.

Downtown Miami as Text

Photos by Letizia D’Avenia (CC BY 4.0)

Written in These Walls” by Letizia D’Avenia of FIU in Downtown Miami.

“Today is the day”, I thought to myself while making the bed. It’s a windy day, but the sun is shining and smiling at me. As toast with orange jam and Philadelphia melts in my mouth, I start feeling anxiety kicking in. This would have been my first in-person class since the pandemic had started. I felt my skin slightly tingle and my lungs filled up with new fresh air. I breathed out my sudden wave of fear, I put my sneakers on and I started driving to the location. I parked and felt my nerves slightly loosen. I turned my car off as I let out a shaky breath. My feet felt light on the concrete, like all of a sudden I had wings attached to my ankles. I spotted my classmates awkwardly standing in a semi-circle in front of the escalators next to the Government Center. I slowly waved at them and I stopped a little behind the semi-circle. “A student is late” said the Teaching Assistant, fixing her mask and making eye contact with the professor. I am not sure what to do with my hands or eyes, so I pretend to look at my phone. Once the student meets us, we started walking. 

Little did I know that during that walk that lasted for more than 2 hours, I would have learned about Miami’s deep institutionalised racism and how much it affected the quality of life of too many people. I forgot about the present and I dived into the past, and I learned about the Tequestas, Seminoles and runaway slaves, who all lived in Florida and were pushed down to the Everglades and forced to live there by the British. I learned about Flagler, who “convinced” 240 black voters to vote on July 28th, 1896, to create the city of Miami, and then he assigned them to live in Colored Town (the worst part of Miami at that time). I learned about Ponce de Leon, who started the contact between Tequestas and Europeans and General Dade, who was the general who led the army to fight the Seminoles out of Florida (and who was the first one killed during the clash). I learned about Julia Tuttle and Mary Brickell, two women who were crucial to the development of Miami. Our last stop was the Freedom Tower, which was the first place where Cuban Immigrants would be taken once they got to Florida and where the Pedro Pan children were brought. I sat on a bench on the first floor, staring at the image in front of me but not focusing on it. This building smells vintage, a mixture of wood and dust. 

At the end of our excursion, I feel filled with unknown knowledge, with forbidden truth, which no one really talks about but that lives in the walls of Downtown. My heels tingle from walking 6 miles and I can feel my stomach growl in anger for food. But all I can do is just stare at the wall and let the stories that I learned that day sink in my brain, so that I will carry them with me and keep them alive till the end of my days.

Everglades as Text
Photos by Letizia D’Avenia (CC BY 4.0)

The Gators Hole” by Letizia D’Avenia of FIU in Everglades

One of the reasons why I enrolled in this class was to experience Slough Slogging. The day finally came, and as I was walking down the long hallway of the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, a shiver ran down my spine. I greeted my classmates, and after the skilled Park Ranger gave us detailed and important information about our excursion, we got into our cars to start this thrilling adventure. When we reached the spot where our walk would start, I wore my bright blue water shoes, I grabbed a long stick (which you use for balance),  and we all got in a line to get in the muddy water. As soon as my feet came in contact with it, I felt the cold liquid infiltrate in my water shoes, soaking both my feet. As I kept walking in though, I understood why my professor had instructed us to buy these kinds of shoes: they were really tight to my feet and they did not retain water, enabling me to move freely and easily. After I got used to the sensation of the water hugging my legs, I started using my senses to experience the nature around me. I could feel the light rain on my hat, the smell of wet plants; I could hear the far away frogs croak and the birds chirping and all I could see were the cypresses surrounding and swallowing us.

The deeper we walked into the environment, the greener it became. I could see algae touching the water’s surface and brushing my uncovered ankles. At some point, I truly believed we had crossed some sort of portal and we were on another planet. I had only seen this kind of flora in movies, and being able to experience it in person felt unreal. The Ranger explained to us that the Everglades are a source of inspiration to many artists, since it is such a unique and peaceful place. We then reached a more open area, where there was grass and periphyton, a particular algae important for the overall ecosystem of the Everglades. While we were walking back towards our cars, we stopped to take some pictures and we passed by the Alligator Hole. Because during the dry season there is less water, the gators create deeper holes where they usually go to rest. When the wet season ends, the water levels rise again, causing these holes to become even deeper than they originally were. We all got back to the cars safely, and we drove to the Anhinga Trail, where we had lunch and walked around. We saw an alligator sunbathing and many different kinds of birds and fish. 

As I drove back home, I felt at peace with myself and nature. That was a day I understood how powerful nature is and how important it is to protect it, otherwise places like the Everglades will have a hard time to exist as we know it.

Miami Beach as Text

Photos by Letizia D’Avenia (CC BY 4.0)

Blue Eyebrows” by Letizia D’Avenia of FIU in Miami Beach

I looked at the time on my phone as I was frantically walking towards South Point Pier. “I am late” I thought to myself, while impatiently looking for the spot where the afternoon class was supposed to meet up. I finally saw my professor and, with my surprise, only one student, which made me feel less guilty of the sweet time I had taken to reach the location. As we waited for the rest of the students, I was able to admire the beauty of the view in front of me. I looked at the people on the beach, who were carelessly sunbathing, playing on the sand and swimming between the turquoise waves. Behind them, tall colourful skyscrapers took the rest of the landscape, creating this peculiar mixture of urban and rural, which is what Miami is known for. 

The rest of my classmates finally arrived, and we started walking down the Pier, while the professor talked about the history of Miami, and the major figures that helped create it. We talked about the importance of the letters that Francisco Villareal left us. I learned that the original name of Miami Beach was “Ocean Beach”. We discussed how Carl Fisher was one of the people who saw a lot of potential in Miami Beach, and was the one who decided to create this “tropical” paradise for him and his northerner friends (by removing the majority of mangroves and any “unaesthetic” feature that he could find). Unfortunately, he was also the one that prohibited Black people from coming to Miami Beach, since “if you want to attract white wealthy northerners you do not want “blacks” on the beach”. Once Miami Beach developed and flourished, the division between white and black people widened even more. As we walked down Lincoln Road, I found myself surrounded by vivid buildings, with thick eyebrows and windows that seemed to be staring at me. I learned about the peculiar architecture styles that make Miami Beach such an attractive place for locals and tourists. We finished class at an H&M store, which was originally an old theater that was bought by the company and transformed into a unique location.

This class helped me see Miami Beach under a different eye. I have always thought of it as a fancy strip of land where people sunbathe. Being from Italy, I had the European picture of it. I never thought Miami Beach had so much history embedded in its sand and streets. 

Deering Estate as Text

Photo by Letizia D’Avenia (CC BY 4.0)

“Six Ecosystems” by Letizia D’Avenia of FIU at the Deering Estate

As we walked into the Deering Estate, it felt like we were leaving the busy world behind us, to enter a magic kingdom, who seemed to be inhabited by mystical creatures who survived off berries and sun. I moved my head back and forth, mesmerized by the tall trees and the sweet smell of flowers and spring. A butterfly passed by and settled down on a white table cloth. “It looks like there’s going to be a wedding!”, said our TA softly. I glanced at where she pointed and I saw numerous tables, which were being decorated with all kinds of ornaments. I smiled under my mask and kept following my classmates. Before starting our long hike, we stopped by our professor’s office, where he showed us the painting he is working on. The vibrant colors attracted my sight to it, and I let my eyes wander on the canvas for a couple minutes, before we left to start our hiking. We walked for about 3 hours, and we passed six ecosystems. Between salt marsh and tropical forest, we had the opportunity to explore these completely different habitats, and it felt like we were walking through different continents. It is unbelievable to think that in such a small strip of land there is so much flora and fauna.

Once we finished hiking, we had lunch and we hung out with the manatees, which are usual visitors of this place. In the last part of our excursion, we were able to visit Charles Deering’s house, which was filled with art and history. We were even able to see his massive wine collection.

It was the first time I was able to visit this place, and I am glad I had the opportunity to do it with such an amazing group of people. I will keep this little piece of paradise in mind and I cannot wait to go back and relax under the palm trees.

Vizcaya as Text

Photo by Letizia D’Avenia (CC BY 4.0)

“The Hidden Spot” by Letizia D’Avenia of FIU at Vizcaya.

There was peace and quiet at the entrance of Vizcaya. The open space in front of the ticket booth was wide, giving us enough space to social distance, as COVID-19 rules require. I could feel the warm sun on my skin, and a breeze of wind brushed my hair. We started walking down the main street, in between two fountains, until we reached the yard right in front of the house. There was a pond in the middle, which resembled the structure of a boat. There was also a triumph arch, which did not make a lot of sense, since James Deering (the owner of the house and the wealthiest man of Miami) was not a soldier; however, he liked this kind of “decoration”, and wanted one for himself as well. We walked up a couple steps and we entered the house. On a table, right in front of the door, there is a statue of Bacchus, the God of Wine and Ecstasy. He was purposely placed there, so that when Deering’s friends would walk inside the house, they would understand what the “vibe” was. Moving into the middle of the house, there was a spacious yard, decorated with all kinds of plants. Deering had a huge studio, a dining room, a “music” room, and different rooms with all different kinds of arts displayed for his guests to admire.

He was one of the first people to own a refrigerator, and in his kitchen he had a way to alert his servants where they needed to bring him food. After we finished exploring and learning about the inside space, we walked out, in his backyard. He had built a dock, so that his visitors (which usually came by boat), could leave their boats there. There was construction happening while we were visiting, so we were not able to reach some of the areas outside, but we were still able to walk in the majestic garden.

Thanks to professor Bailly, we were able to learn some secrets of this place, such as the little theatre stage and the hidden place in which Deering stored the wine that was brought for him. Although I had already been at Vizcaya, visiting it while actually learning about its history was extremely insightful, and I am glad I had the opportunity to acquire this knowledge.

Angelo Gomez: Miami as Text


Introduction:

Hello everyone, my name is Angelo Gomez. I’m currently a junior at Florida International University majoring in Political Science and Journalism. I’m nineteen years old and I enjoy learning new things and concepts. I’m a huge Marvel and Star Wars geek, a history nerd, and a soccer superfan. That’s about everything you could wish to know about me.

Downtown Miami as Text

“Subtle Nods”  by Angelo Gomez of FIU at Downtown Miami, January 29 2021

Commonly referred to as a “melting pot” of different nationalities, Miami is the intersection of different worlds. In this sunny metropolis, several different races, ethnic groups, and nationalities all come together to form a colorful painting on a city-wide canvas. From its indigenous roots to its colonial experiences, and then fast-forwarding to its inception in 1896, many different hands and feet have passed through our home, each group leaving its influence in this ever-growing cultural landscape.

Downtown Miami subtly nods at its long and complicated history, while proudly and boldly embracing the beauty of its diversity. Merely a few blocks away from Government Center lie remnants of horrors of slavery; a few blocks further ahead, stands the Overtown district, with its own unfortunate racial history and troubled past.

Beyond the shiny skyscrapers adorning Brickell’s skyline are clues scattered across reminding its own people of its rich past. A small memorial testament to Mary Brickell reminds us of the women that brought us to this day.  The towering indigenous warriors fire arrows to the sky above the same river where indigenous Tequestas roamed their land.

Yet, among skyscrapers and boat tours, merely plaques subtly nod to the importance of these landmarks at one point in history.

Behind the Liberty Tower, stands a piece from the Berlin Wall. Yet, underground rest the corpses of black slaves and African American workers that built up the city that never got to experience the promise of freedom for themselves. How does this make sense? It doesn’t, but few things in Miami make sense.

These subtle nods are pieces of a puzzle; a scavenger hunt map that allow us to reflect and piece together an appreciation of what came before to improve on what is to come.


Everglades as Text

“Legacy” by Angelo Gomez of FIU at Everglades National Park, February 5 2021

A vibrant and buzzing ecosystem. As a small group of students carefully treaded the waters, nature warmly embraced its own. Miles of land stretched out beyond the eye could see. At the exit of the dome, the river grassland greeted us as it stretched out until the horizon line. Lying ahead, an entire world untouched. Untouched by humanity and development. A peaceful landscape. In that moment, I thought of every indigenous native, slave, and settler that stepped through these lands at some point or another in our history. For the Tequestas, the original founders of this beautiful landscape, we honor their legacy by preserving the land they owned and cared for. Carefully walking beside them, we honor the cypress trees, the waters, every plant, animal, and microscopic species that roam and own this territory, their territory. These lands have existed long before us. They will be around much long after me. We are just co-inhabitants of their world. In the grand scheme of things, we are just minor characters in an overarching narrative surrounding us.

South Beach as Text

“Distinctiveness” by Angelo Gomez of FIU at South Beach, February 19 2021

Sandwiched between the beach and the city, the walk along Ocean Drive was an inspiring sight of beautiful and unique architectural styles coming together. As the roadblocks opened the street for pedestrians and restaurants extended onto the road, the convergence of strangers along the famed Ocean Drive was a pleasant sight to see amid the coronavirus pandemic.

South Beach offered an eclectic mix of colorful buildings and innovative architecture and design. It offered a distinct blend of architectures such as Mediterranean-inspired architecture, modern MiMo architecture, and the iconic Deco style. These three styles blended to create an eye-popping and creative panorama. The contrast between the designs plays off each other and their distinctiveness are the center of South Beach’s creative spirit.

Walking through South Beach feels like a rewind through time, an appreciation for the innovative and creative spirit of man. As modern architecture favors geometrically shaped homes and neutral color palettes are the rave, bright neon colors light up the South Beach night sky. Bright yellow and pink and green hotels attract the eye with their bizarre and exuberant displays. These buildings could have been demolished to make room for oceanside skyscrapers. Heavy traffic could have crowded the street from pedestrians and closed the restaurants.

However, amid the humid and sunny Miami weather, we enjoyed a travel forward into the future and simultaneously walked through history.

Deering Estate as Text

“Time stands still” by Angelo Gomez of FIU at Deering Estate, March 12 2021

Under the cool, quiet shade of the trees, we traveled along the nature preservation of the Deering Estate. As we journeyed through the same grounds that the tribal Tequestas, James Deering, and Charles Flagler once walked on, we experienced the feeling of traveling through time itself. We caught glimpses of our land in its original state, where time stands still, and the land remains intact and untouched. However, debris and ocean garbage line the deep mangrove shores. The decaying corpse of a small plane lies still. Hundreds of caves decorate the landscape. Mosquitoes own the land. The Tequesta “tree of life” is the center of it all.

A couple miles ahead, a Spanish-esque mansion and a preserved old town stood tall at the frontier of the Atlantic Ocean. As far as the eye could see, the ocean and the sky blended into one blue canvas as the sun stood high in the noon sky. Where a man-made row of palm trees lined up the blue sea, manatees floated and greeted us as we begun our journey.

As for the estate itself, I learnt a lot about James Deering. He was a complex man, one with many accomplishments but also many faults. Much like Henry Flagler and Carl Fisher, our city shares an equally beautiful and turbulent past. Much like Deering’s Spanish villa home, Miami offers a distinctively colorful blend of cultures and inspirations from across the globe.

Vizcaya as Text

“Exuberant” by Angelo Gomez of FIU at Vizcaya, March 19 2021

Standing in Miami’s own luxurious Vizcaya mansion, it feels like being transported to a different world in the distant past. The same hedonistic desire that led the creation of Louis XIV’s grand Versailles palace in France also inspired Vizcaya mansion, a towering and shiny palace right in front of the ocean with colorful gardens and gorgeous views. Large rooms filled with artwork detail in the interior of the mansion. Large banquet halls and ballrooms were once home to lavish parties and exuberant events. The expensive decorations inside the mansion reflect a life of charm and plentiful spending. The colorful gardens are a treat with gardens, mazes, fountains, and statues.

Built in the middle of a up-and-coming, swampy and rural Miami, a vast party house invaded the scene. However, one must also remember the complicated past that Vizcaya represents. Vizcaya was built off the hands and labor of slaves or black workers, who worked under unpleasant conditions, to say the least. Vizcaya’s lavish lifestyle was not accessible to these folks, the poor and underrepresented communities that were often set aside and forgotten in history. Much like the rest of the monuments explored in this course, the memories and legacies of many are often neglected for the sake of the few, those rich and powerful, and often white.

To this day, Vizcaya remains a popular tourist destination as the city lives up to Deering’s complicated, but exuberant legacy. There is nothing better that can describe Miami’s culture, a city known for its beaches, parties, and rowdy night life.

Sana Arif: Miami as Text

Photo by Aliza Ghaffar (CC by 4.0)

Sana Arif is a sophomore at the Honors College at Florida International University pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences degree with a minor in International Relations. Sana is slowly developing her interest about the world and the many cultures, religions, and deep history within it. In her free time, she likes to watch documentaries to learn about events such as various genocides and the effect of war and poverty on different groups of people. In addition to learning, she has an arsenal of adorable photos of her Green Cheek conure named Zuko, and would love to show anybody who asks (Warning: it might take a couple of hours before she lets you go). She hopes to learn more about Miami by engaging in this course, and is excited to have a refreshed, refined, and accurate perspective on South Florida.

Downtown Miami as Text

Photos and editing by Sana Arif (CC by 4.0)

“Miami’s Untold Truths,” by Sana Arif of FIU in Downtown Miami on January 30th, 2021

As soon as I stepped out of the car to walk to Government Center in Downtown Miami, I was in complete awe. Living in a suburban area filled with old people and nothing much to do, I am not used to walking in bustling areas of what is truly considered “city life.” While the streets were not nearly as crowded as they may have been pre-Covid, I still felt like the main lead in one of those coming-of-age movies. Although I was scared for my life at the thought of possibly having to cut off my feet (Professor Bailly had pointed out earlier how my flat boots were not compatible with the amount of walking we would have to do), I emerged from this journey with an abundance of more knowledge than I had originally expected.

As someone who has never walked around Miami to enjoy its immense culture, I was surprised to learn about the racial history behind many structures around the area. This may be because my history classes failed to mention anything about Florida except Ponce de León’s arrival, or because famous singers Pitbull Mr. Worldwide and Enrique Iglesias focused my attention on the livelier aspects of Miami.

I was able to experience a glimpse of the past when I rested my bare hands on one of the stones of Fort Dallas. Professor Bailly had instructed us to imagine having to be one of the enslaved African Americans building their own quarters in the 1840s, and I felt a wave of sadness and guilt at the thought of not having known about the history of slavery in Miami. I learned of how Julia Tuttle, the “Mother of Miami,” was the catalyst of forming Miami into the grand city it is today, but was swept aside for the more grand economic achievements of Henry Flagler. I learned of the hardships endured by the Native population in Miami, and about the safety and sanctuary the Freedom Tower brought to Cuban refugees seeking political asylum from Fidel Castro’s regime.

Professor Bailly brought us inside the Gesù Church, the oldest Catholic Church in all of South Florida, serving as a sanctuary to many since 1896. It was my first time stepping foot inside a Church, and I felt immensely calmed by the beautiful stained glass windows and silent atmosphere of reflecting worshippers. We were given the opportunity to observe more architecture via the Freedom Tower, which we learned was modeled after La Giralda in Seville, Spain, built as the minaret for the Great Mosque of Seville during the Almohad Dynasty. Although not of Cuban origin, I too was able to find a sense of comfort from the Freedom Tower, behind the inspiration for its architecture, and by stepping foot inside the building, which resembled a mosque atmosphere.

My trip in Downtown Miami was characterized by a profound sense of realization to pay respect to the brutal past of Miami by learning of its history. How can we become more educated on our history and reflect on the past, and bring awareness to the history of our standing structures? While this is a difficult question to answer, re-naming structures such as Fort Dallas to the William English Slave Plantation Longhouse so Miamians are no longer misguided to forget important history can be a great first step.

Everglades as Text

Photos and editing by Sana Arif (CC by 4.0)

“Finally Finding Florida,” by Sana Arif of FIU in the Everglades February 12th, 2021

The cold water rushing into my shoes as soon as I took a step in the water felt… unreal. As I walked further into the murky brown water, I took a look at all the trees around me, and was able to somewhat smell the clean air around me through my mask. It was a juxtaposed experience, both unnerving yet comfortable. My classmates surrounding me made me feel at ease, but I still felt as though I was on a separate planet. My feet kept getting tangled in the intricate roots of the cypress trees and other flora, and I kept losing my balance initially, but as we stood in silence to admire the atmosphere surrounding us, I began to appreciate where I was. I was simply a humble guest, nothing more, privileged to be able to hear the swift croaks and groans of the cypress trees swaying and dancing above me, an admirer of the beautiful warblers darting in them.

At one point, a cardinal appeared in the muted grey and green colors of the wetland ecosystem, beautifully contrasted with its bold red colors. Professor Bailly excitedly pointed out the handsome bird, and we watched as it hopped from branch to branch, occasionally disappearing from view, only to surprise us with its display in a fleeting moment. This is how the trip through the Everglades felt, like I was waiting for little surprises to show up along the trail. One moment that astounded me was when Professor Bailly asked us to turn around once we had walked far enough, and we were able to observe the dome-like structure that the cypress trees had formed. The trees were intertwined like an extensive community, and that is what I learned about the Everglades that day. This land was not a separate planet, but it was an ecosystem that even I was a part of. Park Ranger Dylan had addressed issues of pollution in different areas, and it is our job as Floridians to respect the Everglades and the species within it, and to take care of our home.

Slough slogging in the Everglades is definitely an experience I will never forget. I can still remember the feel of rushing through the water, seeing mosquito fish dashing around my legs. I had even observed a mutated form of the fish, a blotchy black and white mosquito fish, stand out amongst its translucent friends. I am glad I was able to hear the story about the Everglades from the wise trees and many species within. If you listen closely, you might be able to hear it too.

South Beach as Text

Photos and editing by Sana Arif (CC by 4.0)

“You’re So Art Deco…” by Sana Arif of FIU in South Beach February 26th, 2021.

The first thing I noticed was the remarkably blue water triumphantly glistening as the hot rays of the sun burned into it. As we walked down the Pier, breathing in the salty air and observing others jogging with their dog(s), rollerblading, and simply enjoying the sunny day, it was clear that South Beach has long been serving as a hotspot for those wanting to enjoy the warm weather South Florida has to offer. As pleasant as this image can be, it serves as a stark contrast to the harsh reality of how this Beach came to be. The area was designed for whites, and in its early days, the only blacks allowed were employed in occupations to serve wealthier white individuals. It was difficult to envision the initial environment of twisted mangroves reserved for wealthy white Northerners, rather than the clear waters filled with assortments of individuals from different races today. It brought further insight onto the difficulties faced by black individuals in early Miami days, in addition to the information learned from my first class in Downtown Miami.

As we walked down the Art Deco Historic District, I observed a flurry of social activity that only created a more unique addition to the old-fashioned take on neoclassical architecture known as Art Deco. Each building had a different display and take on fauna and flora motifs, with geometric curves to highlight the aesthetic of water, and other features such as porthole windows. Towards nighttime, I was able to observe how neon lights further accentuated the retro and funky style. As we ended our tour on Lincoln Road, I understand why preservationist Barbara Capitman fought to protect the Art Deco style in Miami. It brought out a sense of community and inspiration for other designers to match other buildings to the flow of pastel-hued architecture with nuances unique to Art Deco.

While South Beach has woven its history into the growing hotspot for tourists it is today, it has maintained a rich preservation of how it became the neighborhood of diversity it is today. With prominent destinations such as the mansion where Gianni Versace famously lived (and was assassinated), a rainbow crosswalk, The Palace drag club, and other spots on Ocean Drive, I saw many of my firsts while strolling down the street with the class. I was able to observe and learn about how a vibrant LGBT community was able to flourish after facing harsh difficulties in the past. I learned about the segregationist policies and Jim Crow laws that were in place in Miami’s earlier days, deed restrictions forcing Jews to live south of Fifth Street, and other realities of the difficulties different groups of people had to endure. It was intriguing to put into perspective how that era transformed into the thriving and vibrant community that South Beach is today.

Deering Estate as Text

Photos and editing by Sana Arif (CC by 4.0)

“Walking Back in Time…” by Sana Arif of FIU at the Deering Estate March 12th, 2021.

The air was… different. There was a hint of salt, but overall, it was more crisp. As someone who lives outside of Miami, the visit at the Deering Estate transformed my perspective to understand Miami is filled with more nature and history than expected. At one spot in the nature preserve, I even stood on the highest point in Miami (not very high, but I felt quite invigorated in the moment). As we trekked along the preserve, we encountered many different ecosystems, all with certain histories within them. As we entered a wetland brimming with intricate mangroves, I was able to hold smoothed out shells that were used by the Tequestas to complete various tasks in daily life. I held a conch shell in my palm, felt the weight of it, and tried to imagine how it had been used years ago. I found myself placing it back gently in the exact same spot it had been left, as if one of the Tequesta peoples would return the same day to use the shell to drill into the ground. The moment felt quite serene and calming to me, as I tried to reconnect with humans from the past, while observing the fish darting in the water next to me. As I ventured along the trail, I tried to envision what it would have been like to wander these paths thousands of years ago. I was able to hear the sound of the wind swirl through the rustling leaves, notice spider webs glistening in the sun when we visited different terrestrial caves, and the stream of cool water in a creek under the bridges we walked upon.

The hardest image to visualize was when we visited the Cutler Burial Mound. It was described to have 12-18 Indians buried in a circle, but all I saw was a giant mound barely visible due to a vast arrangement of trees circling it as a sort of tribute. It felt silent, as if the animals and trees knew that humans were sleeping forever in this mound. An oak tree stood magnificently over, an extension of the life underneath. This moment touched me deeply, because it was where I was struck with the realization that the Tequesta peoples were just that, people. They were individuals who walked these paths and endured hardships just like present day civilizations. What those hardships were, I could never understand or attempt to realize what it meant to overcome them.

In Deering’s mansion, we were met with historical artifacts, like the beautiful pre-17th century stained glass panels which depicted the Holy Family’s Flight Into Egypt, various paintings, and an impressive book collection. In my walk back in time, I was able to admire an extensive collection of original alcohol bottles (all empty, but it wasn’t me who drank them) in a cellar that flourished during the Prohibition Era. This only added on to the feeling of admiring history, the good and bad, and attempting to understand different human experiences. The Deering Estate certainly has a lot to offer, and is a visit that captivated me beyond understanding from start to finish.

Vizcaya as Text

Photos and editing by Sana Arif (CC by 4.0), except top left photo of Sana Arif, taken by Jena Nassar.

“Am I Still in Miami?” by Sana Arif of FIU at Vizcaya March 26th, 2021.

Upon reading the estate’s “Bel Vizcaya” on its grand gates at the entrance, I felt as if I were entering the wrong area. Was I trespassing? As we drove along even further, I noticed multiple Italian Baroque sculptures amidst the trees, serving as a sort of trailer to what was to come. It was certainly very un-Miami like. The sun certainly favored this estate as it did the rest of Florida, but in a more unique way. The rays filtered through the branches to land upon and illuminate the sculptures, as if they were alive in the very moment I was looking up at them. Upon walking into the entrance, I was able to admire the Islamic inspired fountains that were symmetrically lined up on either side of me, with trees perfectly framing the buildings, a taste of the intricate details inside.

Once inside, I stared up at Bacchus, who I felt was taunting the class with a lost invitation of the parties and lavish occasions experienced at Vizcaya at the height of its years. As we continued along inside, we were met with a grand courtyard, in line so you could see a magnificent fountain and the glistening blue water outside. We continued along the estate, and were met with rooms of different vibes. One being a dark and dimly lit study, the next an extravagant and playful seating room, another to display somewhat ludicrous art, onto more that held placement for entertainment with music, a room for staff to prepare meals and cater to visitors and residents of Vizcaya. While there was no common theme in all the rooms, there were attributes that could be assigned to all. It was evident that James Deering was a man who appreciated and admired the arts, but for his own personal use and enjoyment. For example, arches were placed for aesthetic purposes for entrance into the gardens that resembled the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, but clearly held no motivational purpose for any troops to march through.

The gardens themselves were filled with fun surprises all throughout. Placed near the deep blue waters was a magnificent and relaxing pool, but if you stumbled further down, an outdoor stage for performers to entertain, but down the path was a miniature maze. Even more different than the minute changes of scenery were mangroves in a shaded area, where an unseen crocodile resided. In addition, much like his brother, hidden in a cellar by a camouflaged stone door, was an area for alcohol during the Prohibition Era. My visit through Vizcaya was insightful, almost humorous, as James Deering resembled a playful-like persona, with a home of riddles and fun surprises. I felt as though I would see Cupid darting about at any second, floating on the clouds and streaming down with the sun’s rays. As we left the estate, I left imagining what it would have been to walk the marble floors alongside James Deering, as one of his guests to enjoy an evening at a wonderful place.

Saniya Pradhan: Miami as Text

Saniya Pradhan/CC by 4.0

Hi, I’m Saniya! I am an Indian-American from Tallahassee, Florida, and I moved to Miami three years ago as a freshman at FIU. I’m currently a senior in the Honors program, majoring in International Relations as well as French & Francophone Studies. As it did for us all, the COVID-19 pandemic brought my life to a grinding halt. My plans to travel and study abroad were cancelled, and I was left scrambling to improvise a new plan – both academically and personally – for the next year or so. What I came up with, after months of isolated introspection, was to continue to reach for new and exciting experiences, just a little closer to home. After three years here, I feel as if I am still a stranger to Miami. My motivation for taking this class is directly related to my resolutions for 2021: to be present, to make the most of what I have, to learn, absorb, and grow as much as I can, and to gain a deeper understanding of Miami and the world around me. C’est parti !

The Unbearable Lightness and Heaviness of Being in Miami by Saniya Pradhan of FIU in Downtown Miami

Saniya Pradhan / CC by 4.0

Miami-Dade. Miami comes from the indigenous word “Mayami” meaning “big water”, and Dade comes from General Francis L. Dade, a major who was ambushed and killed by Native Americans during an attempt to move them from Florida. One honors the original settlers of this land, and the other honors the side responsible for their forcible removal and genocide. The dichotomous name of our city is representative of its history – rich and diverse, but also saddening and disappointing. Light, and heavy.

Flagler. Flagler college, Flagler county, or FIU’s very own West Flagler St? His name is everywhere, because he was one of those responsible for the early development of the state of Florida. On the suggestion of Julia Tuttle, he extended his railroad to South Florida, which led to the incorporation and founding of the City of Miami. While we celebrate him for his financial contributions to our state, we must also remember that he was responsible for first segregating Miami, thus starting the deep history of racial prejudice and systemic racism.

As we learned a little bit about the history of the Tequestas, now mostly lost to time, and the history of black people in Miami, used and put down, I found myself seeing Miami through their eyes. Today’s Miami is a special, diverse city which attracts people of all colors and backgrounds. Today, Miami is a place where anyone may feel that they belong. But our version of Miami is not the only one. The stories of the Tequestas, the black populations, and those who persecuted them, are now intertwined with our own. 

What happened in Miami is not unlike in the rest of the United States. It is tainted with death, exploitation, and injustice. In 2020 we had a reckoning against our country’s often wicked history, and people’s blindness to it. While the latter has had long-term effects on minorities in this country, the former is our biggest obstacle to meaningful change. So, how does one reckon with this dark past while appreciating Miami for all its beauty and diversity?

Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being opens with the philosophical comparison of lightness and heaviness. Kundera cites Nietzsche’s argument of eternal recurrence, the idea that the universe works in a cyclical nature, thus giving our actions weight or “heaviness.” Kundera, on the other hand, argues that each person only has only one life to live, so they must live in freedom or “lightness”.

In this context, lightness means individuality while heaviness means community. Miami’s strength comes from our diversity and receptiveness to humanity. Our stories are interconnected, so we have a responsibility to pass along the messages and the lessons of our past. Heaviness and intentionality mean that we must consider those that came before us, and those who will come after, and recognize our role in finding the way forward.

3, 2, 1… by Saniya Pradhan of FIU in the Everglades

Saniya Pradhan / CC by 4.0

At first glance, the cypress trees of the Everglades National Park seem to stand independently — each one spaced out from its neighbors. It takes just a little bit of slough slogging; however, to realize that this is not the case. The roots of the cypress trees form a complex underground network and support system which provides structure and life to the entire ecosystem. They provide a home to a host of flora and fauna, from air plants to gators to lichen to warblers. The trees have been there since long before you were born, and there they will remain, long past your death. They teach us of our own nature, of the deep interconnectedness of man and the Earth.

Going to the Everglades is easily the closest I’ve come to having a spiritual experience during my time in Miami. Visiting with Bailly’s class was an incredible introduction, but it left me with a hunger to return to the national park and explore what it has to offer. After spending about nine hours there, I know I’ve only barely scratched the surface of what there is to be learned and experienced.

I truly enjoyed the opportunity to speak with Park Ranger Dylan. She was extremely knowledgeable, and she taught us all a lot about the biodiversity of the everglades, the opportunities offered through the park, and the deep respect we should all carry for our planet and its inhabitants. When I asked about the biggest problems facing the Everglades, she said there were more than she could name. The biggest issues, she said, were water usage, fish deaths, and red tide. You can see more from her on Instagram @theswampandthesea.

What the West lacks is a deep reverence and connection to nature. Unfortunately, with the exportation of Western values and norms across the globe, indigenous populations seem to be the only ones left who fully grasp the harmony of nature and our role in protecting it. As much as we have tried to convince ourselves otherwise, we are not separate from planet Earth. Man can fight against it all he wants, but he is of this planet, and his destiny is one small part of its greater story.

When you’re standing there among the trees, breathe it in, absorb, listen, and accept. Accept that life is here, now. It is happening all around us whether we notice it or not. The trees are bearers of an ancient wisdom, and if you listen, they will share it with you. Then you will learn that mankind and nature are not antithetical — we are one and the same.

The Significance of Miami Architecture by Saniya Pradhan of FIU in South Beach

Saniya Pradhan / CC by 4.0

In popular culture worldwide, the term South Beach is used interchangeably with Miami. It evokes images of beaches, nightclubs, pastel buildings, and flashing lights. In a sense, this is pretty accurate, and remains true even during COVID-19. Take a walk (or bike, or skateboard, or rollerblades) down Ocean Drive. People are still gathering from around the world to experience South Beach. Surrounded by pastel facades and whimsical designs, you feel almost transported to another time. At night, you see their neon lights, and although tempered a bit since the pandemic, South Beach is still lively and full of people.

South Beach tells the story of how Miami became a city of cultural influence. This was probably due to a number of factors, such as its historically flashy reputation, and its being home to a vibrant LGBT community. Famous figures such as Gianni Versace, Andy Warhol, and Bruce Weber found inspiration among the warm weather, bright colors, and environment of political and personal liberation and self-expression. This history of cultural and artistic relevance remains true in Miami today and is most notably conveyed through the unique design and architecture of the city.

As is the case in popular tourist destinations around the world, Miami has struggled in promoting a lucrative tourism industry while maintaining the original beauty and culture of the city. South Beach is particularly vulnerable to losing its culture and history to commercialization of the area. In fact, the reason that we see the Art Deco buildings that we can is due to the efforts of Barbara Capitman, and others like her, who fought to preserve the architectural and cultural heritage of Miami.  

It’s like driving home by Saniya Pradhan of FIU at the Deering Estate

Saniya Pradhan / CC by 4.0

It’s like driving home, I think to myself as I drive my car down Old Cutler Road, on my way to the Deering Estate. By home, I mean my family’s home up in Tallahassee, a city with dense tree cover, towering live oaks, Spanish moss, and beautiful canopy roads. Normally, this is not how I experience driving in Miami, but while driving on Cutler I saw the daylight filter through the tall, leafy trees and felt a sensation of familiarity. I would come to realize throughout the day that the natural environment of the Deering Estate is magnificently varied, making it unlike the rest of Miami, or anywhere in the world for that matter. Deering is a celebration of South Florida’s wealth of natural beauty and multicultural legacy.

As we hiked along the paths of Deering, I got to see and experience many types of ecosystems, including a pine rock land, mangroves, and a tropical hardwood hammock. These ecosystems are home to many endangered and protected species, as well as host to a number of natural and archaeological treasures. As we walked, we saw how each ecosystem was different from the one before it, the role these ecosystems have played historically, and man’s role in the natural history of South Florida. One thing that marked me from our hike was the Tequesta Indian burial mound, left intact by the Deering Estate, upon which stood a massive oak tree. The oak tree, a symbol of strength, stands tall and proud above the rest of the trees. Attached to one of its branches is a beehive, buzzing with new life and energy. Life comes from the earth and life returns to the earth.

19 march 2021 by Saniya Pradhan Vizcaya Museum & Gardens as Text

JW Bailly / CC by 4.0

The first steps into Vizcaya tell us all we need to know. We look up at Bacchus, who returns our gaze, welcoming us to his playground. We step into a courtyard flushed with sunlight and a cool breeze (in reality from the AC, but we can imagine it’s from the ocean just a few steps away).

Standing in his courtyard, on his marble flooring, gazing at his stained glass and statues, it’s easy to believe that the blue sky and water also belong to him. As a first-time visitor to James Deering’s place of residence, one senses his presence all around. He created Vizcaya in the image of the European bourgeoisie. In a truly Miami fashion, Deering drew influence from all over the world, prioritizing prestige and luxury over all else. This becomes increasingly clear as we continue down the rooms of the museum, each more decorated and appalling than the last. The museum opens onto the prim and playful gardens, a view of the ocean, and endless tiny paths into the South Florida mangroves.

The decadent home of a Euro-American aristocrat turned into an important historical and natural South Florida landmark and a must-see place for tourists in Miami. The history of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is closely intertwined with that of Miami and different people and artists residing in South Florida. It attracts intellectuals for its large collection of European art, as well as tourists for its picture-worthy spots (like the one of me above!) Overall, I recommend Vizcaya for anyone who needs an escape from the busy city life of Miami and a step into the life of James Deering, whose legacy molded the city of Miami.

Alfredo Bidopia: Miami as Text

Photo by Alfredo Bidopia/ CC by 4.0

Hi there! My name is Alfredo Bidopia and I am a junior studying Marketing with a certificate in Import and Export at Florida International University. I was born in Cuba, raised in Panama, and I have lived in the United States for five years. Something curious is that the three countries that I mentioned share the same colors on their flag. In my spare time I like to paint, ride bicycle, and play guitar. I also love traveling and discovering new places. That is what motivated me to select the “Finding Miami” class. I hope that after taking this class I can see Miami with a wider perspective and I can learn more about its history.

Downtown as Text

Photo by Alfredo Bidopia/ CC by 4.0

“Tequesta County”

By Alfredo Bidopia of FIU at Downtown Miami, 22 January 2021.

For the five years I have been living in the United States I don’t think I have ever thought about the history of Miami. This realization came to my mind when professor Bailly showed us the interesting and mysterious downtown this city offers. We started our journey at the Government Center and finished it at the Freedom Tower. However, in the middle of these two destinations we stopped at the Dade County Courthouse to appreciate the origin of the name of our county. To my surprise “Miami-Dade County” originates from the name of the Major Francis Langhorne Dade. This Major was sent to Florida to fight the Seminoles and force them to relocate to the west. History is not black or white, it is gray and that is why I understand that if situations like this never happened maybe we wouldn’t be here today. However, that doesn’t mean I agree that our city should be called after a Major that came to fight the already suffering tribe of Seminoles. Instead, we could use a different name that represents more the city and its origins. For example, “Tequesta County”. I think this could be a great name for our county because it demonstrates that we respect our past and the people that was here before us.

My thoughts about the name of our county became stronger when we visited the Miami Circle. At first glance I thought this was just a normal dog park, but when professor Bailly started explaining that in that circle there used to be a Tequesta structure I was shocked. It is a disrespect to the origins of our city and to the extinct Tequesta tribe. I don’t blame the people that was there because they were probably misinform like I was. But I don’t understand how the city can allow something like this. In my opinion, schools should focus more on teaching about Miami history and perhaps by doing this we can show the respect the Tequesta deserve.

Everglades as Text

Photo by Alfredo Bidopia/ CC by 4.0

“Miami’s Hidden Paradise”

By Alfredo Bidopia of FIU at Everglades National Park, 05 February 2021.

Fifty minutes away from my house I found myself in a place like no other. I remember thinking, “This doesn’t look like South Florida”. The reality was that for the first time I was witnessing the real South Florida.

The idea of just going to the Everglades would have sound boring and crazy to me around seven months ago. Covid-19 has impacted us in many different ways, but the aspect that shocked me the most from this pandemic was not been able to go to my usual places. This provoked a new flame in me to discover new places and connect more with nature.

Our adventure at the Everglades started when Ranger Dylan arrived and explained to the class how we were going to proceed in the slough and some past experiences she had. She even told us about another Ranger that almost stepped on top of a venomous snake. Let’s just say that snakes are not my favorite animals. When we finally parked the cars on side of the road to enter the jungle of the cypress trees, I didn’t know what to expect. I was afraid, but at the same time, I was excited because this was my first time visiting the Everglades.

As we entered the cold waters of the slough, I only thought about the possibilities of having alligators or snakes near me. It was when I allowed myself to be one with the present that I got to enjoy the real experience. Ranger Dylan was incredible, she guided us through the slough and shared with us important information regarding biodiversity. Suddenly she took a book out of her backpack and read the class a poem in the middle of the cypress forest. At that moment I felt connected for the first time with nature. It was something unexpected, but necessary.

As Ranger Dylan suggested I decided to separate from the group and explore the area by myself. The air running between the trees and the water moving between my legs brought me inspiration. I was inspired to create, to conserve, to show this paradise to others. I couldn’t understand how a place like this could bring such types of emotions. It was at that moment that I felt I was truly getting to know my home.

South Beach as Text

Photo by Alfredo Bidopia/ CC by 4.0

“South Beach Reality”

By Alfredo Bidopia of FIU at South Beach, 19 February 2021.

Like many other places around the world, Miami Beach has some good and bad sides to its history. Usually, people tend to only know the good aspects because that’s what the city tries to highlight. When Carl G. Fisher arrived at South Beach, he saw the potential of what this place could become. With the growth of the city, mangroves were removed. Ironically, what we know today as Fisher Island used to be the place African-Americans were allowed to attend the beach. Segregation was not only suffered by African-Americans. Jews were only allowed to live south of the fifth street. Carl G. Fisher bought the island from Dana A. Dorsey, one of the first African-American millionaires in Florida. Ironically, Fisher Island is one of the most expensive zip codes in the United States. Another interesting fact about this island is that it used to be connected to South Beach. The separation came with the government cut to allow better access to the port of Miami.

One of the most attractive features of South Beach is its diversity in architecture. We can find buildings with completely different styles, but the most common ones are Mimo and Art Deco. What characterizes Mimo buildings are the roundness of their shapes, open courts, and contrasting textures. On the other side, Art Deco is more focused on creating lines and symmetric separations between the buildings. These lines make eyes go crazy. Almost every building has three floors and three main sections marked with lines that separate the aesthetic of the construction. These types of buildings also include lines that stick out, providing shadow for pedestrians or in some cases their only purpose is to follow the aesthetics with lines. South Miami has become one of the favorite places for tourists to see the Art Deco design because of how well buildings are preserved.

The good and the bad will always be present in the history of Miami. It is our choice to decide which of the three sides of history we will remember. The good, the bad, or both.

Deering Estate as Text

Photo by Alfredo Bidopia/ CC by 4.0


“The Shadow of Vizcaya”

By Alfredo Bidopia of FIU at Deering Estate, 5 March 2021.

From the moment I entered the gates at Deering Estate, I asked myself why I hadn’t been here before. The best way I can describe Deering Estate is like traveling  to the past and seeing how Miami used to look before.

At Deering Estate, we can find 8 types of ecosystems and more than 100 acres of pine rocklands. Within the Deering Estate’s protected areas, there is evidence that the Tequesta occupied this zone by finding different types of their tools including shells and pottery. We can even find a burial mound.

Another significant aspect about this place is its historical structures. We have the Richmond Cottage, a hotel that was famous because visitors came to do business related to Flagler’s railroad. This is one of the oldest wooden structures in Miami Dade County. This place was later bought by Charles Deering. To the property, Charles decided to add the Stone House. This house was inspired by another property Charles owned in Spain. An additional interesting fact is that inside the Stone House we can find a secret wine cellar.

At Deering Estate, we can also find the Miami Rock Ridge. According to the website deeringestate.org “The sedimentary ridge was formed more than 120,000 years ago, has elevations up to 25 feet above sea level, and serves as a topographical barrier between Biscayne Bay and the interior basin of the southern Florida peninsula”. What amazes me the most is how I didn’t know about this place before. It makes me wonder how places like this one don’t get the attention they deserve.

From different ecosystems to a house that used to function as a hotel for travelers, to Charles Deering and the incredible Stone House. This is all included in one place. I think Miami has great historic places that represent the origins of the city, but the same city is doing a bad job representing and showing these places that would only make their people feel more represented and prouder of their land.

Vizcaya as Text

Photo by Alfredo Bidopia/ CC by 4.0

“Vizcaya Museum, Gardens, and More”

By Alfredo Bidopia of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, 19 March 2021.

Going from Deering Estate to Vizcaya was the best possible way for me to understand this place. By doing this we can comprehend the different types of personalities Charles Deering and James Deering had. The construction of Vizcaya began in 1914. Two years after, James Deering moved to the property. The first thing I noticed when I entered the house in Vizcaya was a sculpture of Dionysus. I understood from this that James Deering was trying to tell his visitors this was the type of life he lived, he bathed with wine. Going to the middle of the house we can appreciate this space used to be open, representing a Spanish and Italian type of architecture. Throughout the house, there was a recurring theme, caravels. Instantly I associated the ships to Cristobal Colon. In my opinion, James Deering wanted to demonstrate how he came to conquer or make this place his own. He definitely made the house different, combining distinctive styles that to some might look weird or out of place, but I think they represent what Miami is today. A mix of everything. As we head out of the house, we enter the famous gardens of Vizcaya. According to the website The Cultural Landscape Foundation, “The ten-acre gardens at this private estate were designed for James Deering by Colombian-born landscape architect Diego Suarez, who worked on the project between 1914 and 1917. Suarez, who had studied at Villa la Pietra outside Florence, Italy, adapted classical European Renaissance and Baroque landscape design to Miami’s subtropical climate and terrain, using native soil and plant materials in an aesthetic arrangement that evokes sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Italian and French gardens”. In the gardens there is a sense of symmetry and organization, to give the impression that nature can be controlled. Vizcaya is a place that will be remembered for its extravagance, but it should also be remembered for its representation of the culture of Miami.