Vox Student Blog

Jose Villavicencio: Miami as Text 2021-2022

My name is Jose Villavicencio, and I am a senior studying business analytics at FIU. I love to ride my bike around my community, whether it be to push myself past my limits to break my own pace record or to casually cruise down the street and let the sun soak through my skin. If you happen to see me on my bike, experiencing the outdoors with a sweat on my brow, I am probably having the time of my life!

Downtown as Text

Who are we?

by Jose Villavicencio of FIU in Downtown Miami on 08 September, 2021

Ten minutes east, down 88th street from where I sit right now typing this, is the hospital where my two siblings and I were born. Miami is the city, the home, that we have known our entire lives. Despite the fact that it is all I have ever known, all I have ever had, I cannot help but think about all those who came before me, who were born here thousands of years before the hospital was even a twinkle in the land developer’s eye. Downtown Miami may seem like a sprawling mass of glass, concrete, and steel with little to be said about the city’s green space or its pedestrian infrastructure that leave much to be desired, but there is more to it than meets the eye. My own cynical outlook on urban development and an over-reliance on cars was quickly challenged as we scoured the corners of Downtown for these pockets of life that were undeniable proof that the echos of the past persist to be perceived by us, the descendants of this land.

12,000 years ago, before the Spaniards, English, or French began to even ponder colonizing the Earth, South Florida was home to culture, to religion, to industry; South Florida was a cradle to humanity. Walking alongside the ancient artery that is the Miami River proved as much to me. Just as thousands of people each day drive a collective millions of miles on the turnpike to travel to different parts of modern Miami, the Miami River served the same purpose to humans just like me all those thousands of years ago. If you aren’t actively looking for it, it is very easy to pass by the essence of humanity that pervades throughout the city as you get swept up in the break-neck pace of the tropical Miami nightlife. The reminders are there, however. No matter how you feel politically, you cannot deny the sheer holistic human value that comes from watching the U.S. and Cuban flags fly side by side atop the freedom tower. The inspiration that the anointed “Ellis Island of the South” is just another chapter in the history of displacement in South Florida. Despite what the reality of the situation is, that tower represents a new life for Cubans fleeing political strife just 90 miles to our south.

Symbols like the freedom tower, or the holy Tequesta site of the Miami circle remind us of the human strife that South Florida was unfortunately home too, but there are other more sinister symbols that may not appear that way at first. The Royal Palm hotel was opened by Henry Flagler, one of the most (in)famous figures in Miami’s history. Yes, Flagler brought the railroad which led to Miami’s incorporation as a city, but he also brought with him the atrocities of the imperial world. The arrival of Flagler signified that Miami was no longer a land for indigenous peoples to subsist off of. If Miami was going to “make it” as a modern city, it had to adopt some “modern” ideals. I speak, of course, of segregation. To this day, segregation shows itself as a scar across the map of demographics in Miami. The comfortable coastal lands were developed for hotels, businesses, and white people living in the city, while all black people who were living in the area before were now relocated and only allowed to live where Overtown is today. These unfortunate histories are what we must keep in mind every time we ride the metro rail, or enjoy a nice day at the beach. None of it would have been possible without the rich tapestry of human history that is Miami, a tapestry that is still being woven to this day.

Overtown as Text

The Historic Mount Zion Baptist Church as it is seemingly choked by the concrete cobra that is I-95.
Photo by Jose Villavicencio/CC by 4.0

“What doesn’t kill you makes us stronger.”

by Jose Villavicencio of FIU in Overtown, Miami on 22 September, 2021

Love, loss, and even more love is a consistent theme you will find when you put your feet to the ground and connect with the community of Overtown. Marred by decades of racism and segregation, Overtown is one of the most unique places not just in Miami, or even Florida, but on all of planet Earth. The sheer spirit needed to endure these decades of desecration was something that shone through with each spoken word of the wonderful women who took the time out of their days to pass on these histories to us. What stood out to me the most is also referenced in the photo above, where you can see the chalky, grey asphalt of US Interstate Highway 95, the infamous highway that killed the city in it’s proverbial crib. The Mount Zion Baptist Church is ground zero for this cultural reckoning, as the building of the new highway in it’s vicinity seemed almost like a targeted attack. Entire communities that once stood where the sprawling concrete now dominates were forced to, in some instances, simply abandon their homes and their entire lives. No help was offered, no sympathy extended, they simply told them that they were to begin construction in 30 days, and that they had to find somewhere else to go. As you can imagine, this devastated a community that already had to fight so hard just to get permission to exist in a segregated city. The church that was once home to a congregation of 2,000 now sits at about 100 members. The communal services and facilities offered by the church before I-95 existed no longer had a consistent population of neighbors to utilize them. There was even a parsonage that would undoubtedly be a historically registered building for the city of Miami, had it not been destroyed to make way for I-95. Truly this highway acted as a constrictor upon the trachea that breathed life into this community.

Still, the story of Overtown is one of resilience, like a singular flower that defies all odds and manages to grow out of a crack in the concrete, Overtown survived. It was much harder to do so with the core community seemingly scattered to the winds. To this day, Overtown remains a largely Black city, and the effects of racism imposed upon the city are still felt to this day. Even now, high rise apartment buildings and land developments seek to squeeze every last dollar out of the community while forcing those who were born there, out. History doesn’t repeat itself in a mirrored fashion, but it often does rhyme. That is why I believe that no matter what comes their way, the city of Overtown has got what it takes to endure just about anything, because they’ve already had to go through almost everything. 

Natalia Sanchez: Miami as Text

Natalia Sanchez is a sophomore majoring in Criminal Justice at Florida International University. Born and raised in the 305 by Salvadorian parents, Natalia has always had a passion for the arts. She has been expressing herself through colorguard for the last 6 years. She has participated with the FIU marching band, FIU winterguard and South Miami colorguard. She enjoys going to local concerts for Miami native bands such as Mustard Service. With a passion in community service, Natalia is also part of the Bubble City Community Project. She works along other FIU students with the purpose of giving back and establishing safe shelters for the homeless community in Miami-Dade.

Photograph taken by Michael Maulini/ CC 4.0

Downtown as Text

Growing up in Miami, the image of the city that is often portrayed is not exactly accurate. However, the artwork and various historical sites visited cleared up my misconceptions. I was able to soak in the rich history of those who owned this land prior to us.

Photograph taken by Natalia Sanchez/CC 4.0

Visiting the mouth of the Miami River and learning the history behind it really shocked me. I was intrigued to learn that this was one of the most important sites for the Tequesta. They had access to fertile land and access to both fresh and salt water. I had never heard of the Tequesta until this day. I often had the misconception that the Seminoles and Miccosukee were the tribes settled around the Miami River. This then made me analyze how ignorant our Miami population can be. How many other people are living around Miami just how I was? With no knowledge or desire to investigate our cities background. A contribution to this issue is the fact that our city officials are always trying to erase our rich history. Unfortunately, officials of our city, specifically Brickell, have built skyscrapers and supermarkets over the tombs of the Tequesta. My interpretation of this is that these officials do not respect the history of the native tribes and colored people that built the land that they are now trying to profit off. Whether history taints the city in a spectacular or horrible light, we have the right to learn about our ancestors and their contributions to Miami.

Photograph taken by Natalia Sanchez/CC 4.0

The picture above shows a sign acknowledging the presence and history of the Tequesta tribe in Miami. This sign is located in Gesu church. I found this ironic due to the fact that a catholic church is acknowledging the presence of a group of people that they oppressed. My interpretation of this action is that the catholic church is starting to accept their shameful past. The catholic church is acknowledging that the Tequesta tribe had their own way of life before the religion took over. Although I think they are late to this realization, especially since the tribe does not exist anymore, I still respect the fact that they are confronting their shameful past. I respect how they are trying to learn from it and educate the public on their mistakes.

Photograph taken by Natalia Sanchez/CC 4.0

The story of the Tequesta tribe is just one of many stories that make up Miami. It is also just one of many stories that are easily forgotten. We must continue to educate ourselves upon those who once took great care of our land. We must continue to bring awareness to the issues that prevent us from further educating others on the rich history of Miami.

Overtown as Text

After visiting Overtown, I gained a new perspective on the history and culture of the city. I was also able to witness how this community works together to get through the many challenges they face.

Photograph taken by Natalia Sanchez/ cc 4.0

One main theme I noticed when visiting Overtown is the rapid gentrification and displacement of the community. Overtown was originally a place where black miamians went after being displaced from other nearby towns such as Downtown and Brickell. Now we notice this trend once again with the rapid construction of high end luxury buildings. This is not only causing rent to be unaffordable for the local community, but these buildings are displacing members and making them move to nearby neighborhoods. Individuals that lived in the area for generations are now losing their houses to developers. These luxury buildings are also overshadowing the rich history of Overtown such as local restaurants, churches and culture sites.

Photograph taken by Natalia Sanchez/CC 4.0

Greater Bethel AME Church was my favorite destination of the day. The architecture of the church itself was spectacular. It was interesting to learn about the mediterranean revival style of architecture and actually seeing such a unique structure in person. Hearing the history of the church was very eye opening for me. I was able to learn more about a different religion from my own. The stories we were told really highlighted how important the church is in the community of Overtown. The church always brought together the community. From organizing protests during the 50s to the corona virus pandemic, the Greater Bethel Church was always there for their followers and those of the community. The members of Greater Bethel Church never hesistate to speak up for what they believe in and take care of those in need. One important piece of history of this church is that Dr.Martin Luther King Jr gave his speech of 1958. His words touched many people on that day and still inspire others now.

Vizcaya as Text

Vizcaya is one of the most popular attractions in Miami. Living my whole life in Miami, this trip was my first time visiting this historic landmark. As soon as I arrived at Vizcaya, I quickly noticed why it is such a beloved destination.

Image taken by Natalia Sanchez/CC 4.0

Seeing the house at first glance was breathtaking. The beautiful faded coral pink walls of the house really emphasized the fact that this building has gone through so much history and it is still standing. Walking into the back of the house, I was greeted by a sculpture of Dionysus. Dionysus is known to be the god of wine and ecstasy. This god is a perfect representation of Miami. This statue made me think about the crazy culture of Miami. This city is known for its lavish lifestyle, partying from sunset to sunrise, and self-indulging individuals. It was also pleasing to see how detailed the sculpture is. Dionysus is seen carrying a pitcher with grapes which represents wine. Wine represents living a fancy life full of pleasures. His character seems to be rather attractive which harps on the fact that James and all of the people that visited this house were concerned with the beauty within life’s pleasures.

Image taken by Natalia Sanchez/CC.40

Walking inside the house, it is indisputable that James enjoyed having art being displayed. However, this brings up an issue. History shows that most of these pieces were just bought or taken without any consideration of their history. This posed another question in my head. It is quite ironic that James basically stole off other cultures for his own benefit. This is what the house was built upon. When you bring in the history of Miami, this city was built of multiple cultures. From the Tequesta that inhabited downtown to the Bahamians that inhabited coconut grove. This made me think about how these cultures are never given enough credit for everything they did and instead, the credit is given to Europeans.

This trip motivated me to not only appreciate art but be aware of the history behind it. The importance of history as well as how it contributes to Miami is a great reason why one should visit Vizcaya.

Jared Johnson: Miami as Text 2021-2022

Photo taken by Shae J./ CC by 4.0

Jared Johnson is a 21-year old senior at Florida International University. He is majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Business Administration. After graduation, he wants to work in cybersecurity while continuing to expand his online businesses.

Downtown as Text

“Desecrated Land” by Jared Johnson of FIU at Downtown Miami

Mouth of the Miami river. Photo taken by Jared Johnson/ CC by 4.0

When people think of Miami, they might think of it as a place with endless packed beaches, or a place with expensive luxury condos and constant nightlife, or an immensely diverse city with many cultures coming together. However, very few people take a moment to reflect on what Miami used to be, and the culture of the natives, before it was developed into an urban center.

The Miami River was the source of life for the different natives that used to inhabit the area over thousands of years. As Miami became more and more urbanized, lots of the culture was lost and, in its place, tall, ominous structures were erected. However, a few artifacts are left standing today to acknowledge their impact on the community. Standing on the bridge looking around I can imagine the small communities and Tequesta tribes that used to live there. On the south side of the river, I can even see remains of an ancient village, called the Miami Circle. 

As I cross the river and enter Brickell, there is a nearby landmark which used to be the tomb of the Brickell family, who were known for bringing wealthy landowners down to Miami in the early 20th century. Directly next to it is a luxury condo building which was built on an ancient Tequesta burial mound. It is quite fitting for the tomb of the Brickell family to be next to a desecrated burial ground, representing a common theme throughout much of US history where wealthy landowners would forcefully remove natives from their land.

From now on, every time I cross the Miami river and see all the luxury high rises, I am reminded of the native tribes and the land that was stolen from them.

Overtown as Text

“Community” by Jared Johnson of FIU at Overtown

Greater Bethel Methodist Church. Photo taken by Jared Johnson/ CC by 4.0

All too often, people have stereotypes or preconceived notions about places without ever going to experience it for themselves. Overtown, like many other places, exists due to a history of racism and segregation. It was originally founded as a place where black people were forced to live because Flagler did not want to bring his railroad if Miami was not segregated. It was then named Colored Town. However, if you look beneath the surface, it is much more than that. It was once a cultural center for black musicians and performers, as well as the front lines of the battle for civil rights in the 1960s. 

I had the honor of visiting two historic churches in Overtown, Greater Bethel and Mount Zion, and hearing different perspectives from members of these churches. They spoke about their relation to the church and their own personal experiences. They recalled memories of their childhood about what the church was like and the important role it played in the community. The church was central to organizing events in the community and provided a place for people to come together and support each other in times of difficulty. They also served as community strongholds against civil injustice, having had Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders speak at these churches. 

Over the years, development has encroached on the town and displaced many people from their homes. From condos to roadways, the landscape of Overtown has changed from when it was a thriving community and cultural center. One of the memories recalled by a member of Mount Zion was when I-95 was under construction. The state decided to have it go directly through Overtown and gave Mount Zion the option of either having the church itself torn down or have the pastor’s house torn down. She explained that having the pastor’s house directly next to the church was important for people to gather and feel more connected to the church. Having it torn down did not only make some people feel less connected, but it also displaced the pastor and his family. 

After listening to the stories and experiences of the two guest speakers from the churches, I now have a much better understanding and appreciation for Overtown, and the role that the churches played in support for their community. In a decade or two, these two historic churches may be some of the only monuments left, in a sea of condos and commercial buildings, representing the importance of the community in Overtown. 

Ashley Sanchez: Miami as Text 2021-2022

Photo by Brittney Sanchez (CC BY 4.0)

Ashley Sanchez graduated with an Associates in Arts degree from Miami Dade College in 2018. After receiving her AA degree, she transferred to Florida International University in pursuit of a Bachelor of Science degree in Rehabilitation and Recreational Therapy. She will begin applying to different graduate programs in the upcoming year to further her education in pursuit of becoming an Occupational Therapist. Ashley has a passion for adventure, sports, dancing and loves to spend quality time with others. Although she was born and raised in Miami, Florida, she is eager to become a tourist in the city she has grown to love and be able to see it from a different perspective. She is ready for all the adventures that are yet to come. This is her Miami as Text.

Downtown as Text

Photo taken by Ashley Sanchez (CC by 4.0)

“Modernization or Culture Loss?”

by Ashley Sanchez of FIU at Downtown Miami, 08 September, 2021

Miami is such a unique city with an incredible history, yet, not a lot of people know much about it-not even locals who were born and raised in the city. I am one of those locals who was born and raised in this urban center that many individuals from all kinds of cultures call home. In order to get to know Miami’s roots, Downtown Miami is a great way to start since it is considered the “…history center of Miami”(“Greater Downtown Miami”).

It comes as no surprise that, since it is coined the “history center” of Miami, there are many well-preserved historic buildings and sites that are accessible to the public; some of which include the Freedom Tower, the Miami Circle, Miami Dade County Courthouse, English Plantation Quarters, and many more. These sites all represent a different part of Miami’s intriguing history and deserve to be preserved for generations to come. However, there are several sites that have been transformed, modernized, or even wiped out.

The city’s developers have been so preoccupied with the modernization of the city, that they have turned their backs on the different places and treasures that made a huge impact on making Miami what it is today. An example of this is the trolley service. The trolley played an integral part in Miami’s transit system history. The trolley era unfortunately came to an end in 1940 when “…the last Trolley Car entered its barn at Southwest Second Street and Second Avenue for the last time” (“History of the Trolley in Miami”). Although we have a modernized version of the trolley system today, it does not compare to the streetcars that once busied the streets of Miami benefitting communities, tourism, and preventing urban congestion.

Works Cited

Admin, P. B. (2020, September 29). History of the trolley in Miami. Miami History Blog. Retrieved September 17, 2021, from https://miami-history.com/history-of-the-trolley-in-miami/.

Wikimedia Foundation. (2021, June 20). Greater downtown Miami. Wikipedia. Retrieved September 17, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_Downtown_Miami.

Overtown as Text

Photos taken by Ashley Sanchez (CC by 4.0)

“On Wednesdays, We Wear Pink”

by Ashley Sanchez of FIU at Downtown Miami, 22 September, 2021

On a gloomy Wednesday afternoon, I had the privilege of visiting Hialeah Park along with my other classmates and Professor Bailly. It was our last stop of the day. We had been getting off and on the Miami-Dade County Metrobus all morning walking through the streets of Overtown and visiting historic churches. However, visiting the historic racetrack in Hialeah was what really stood out to me.

I had never heard of Hialeah Park before Wednesday’s class. I have always thought of Hialeah as just the place where most of my friend’s grandparents live, including mine. I would have never guessed that such a historic gem known for its wide variety of entertainment options was located in such a secluded area in the center of Hialeah, Florida. As I walked through the property, I couldn’t help but feel like I was transported back to the 1920’s, visiting the racetrack alongside my wealthy family. Sitting in the stadium seats that looked out into the racetrack where horses once competed, I felt as if I could hear crowds of people chattering and passionately yelling to show their support for the horse they had placed their bets on. Climbing the steps that led out unto the balcony with the arches seemed like I was walking into a movie set. It overlooked the beautiful gardens and the stables which were located towards the back of the property. 

Although the gloomy clouds made the picturesque gardens look almost colorless, there was one color that could not be missed. The pink accents that were visible all throughout the property—on paintings, tarps, railings, and on the color of the flowers. Almost every time I would look in a different direction, the pink color would catch my attention. I figured the significance of the pink color was to represent the flamingos which were kept in the infield of the racetrack. However, I tied it into another significant part of the history of Hialeah Park. 

Diane Crump was the first woman jockey to compete against men in a horse race. As anyone could imagine, this caused a lot of turmoil and many of the male competitors were opting out of the race hoping that she would no longer want to race. This, however, did not stop her from wanting to compete. It must have been incredibly hard for her to stay in the competition since many people would yell things like, “Go back to the kitchen and make dinner!” and “You’re never going to win!” They would also throw items at her which caused her to need a police escort for the race and even while she competed, the men would try to drag her back. She is a great example of a strong female that did not stoop down to the societal expectations of a woman. She fought to be heard, seen, and compete.  

Vizcaya as Text

Photos taken by Ashley Sanchez and Afifa Fiaz (CC by 4.0)

“Dona Præsentis Cape Lætus Horæ, et Linque Severa”

by Ashley Sanchez of FIU at Vizcaya, 24 October, 2021

A Roman poet once said “Dona præsentis cape lætus horæ, et linque severa” which translates to “Gladly enjoy the gifts of the present hour, and banish serious thoughts”. I believe this quote perfectly encompasses the ambiance and spirit of the Vizcaya estate on Biscayne Bay. The Vizcaya property is now owned by Miami-Dade County and used as a museum which also showcases its alluring gardens behind the estate. The estate had once belonged to a wealthy man by the name of James Deering. Mr. Deering’s character was anything but ordinary and his taste in architecture very distinct. There were no two rooms alike and his tendency to showcase his wealth was a common trend throughout the main house. 

Mr. Deering only wanted the finest home features and appliances to impress his guests. For example, the main houses’ kitchen, which is located on the second floor, is equipped with one of the earliest “ice boxes” which today would be considered a refrigerator. The kitchen also features a dumbwaiter which functions as a food elevator. He commissioned some of the most prominent artists around the world to create works for his villa including statues and murals located throughout the property. Lastly, he made sure to have one of the first in-home electric telephones that was held in its own private room. 

As previously mentioned, the recurring theme of the property pays tribute to the location of the villa, that is, Miami, Florida. Miami is known for its parties and entertainment and Mr. Deering really incorporated that into the landscape and architecture of the villa. For example, the property features a beautiful pool grotto and a music room. The stunning garden in the back also features a section where there is a maze and a small theatre that was used for entertainment. Lastly, towards the back of the garden, atop the garden mound sits the casino, or “little house”, which was used for parties.

Paola Castro: Miami as Text 2021-2022

Paola Castro is a senior majoring in Computer Science at Florida International University. Having grown up in Puerto Rico, and later coming to pursue higher education in south Florida, she was able to meet other people of various cultural backgrounds and learn more about the vibrant communities of south Florida. As someone who is interested in the history, art, writing, and politics of the Caribbean and south Florida, she is eager to explore Miami in this course.

Selfie taken by Paola Castro/ CC BY 4.0

Downtown as Text

Even in the years prior to its official establishment, Miami was the “melting pot” we celebrate today – and understandably so. It is not a stretch to say that south Florida is a natural extension of the Caribbean, sharing many of its historical trends and its sheer variety of inhabitants. Much like the islands of the Caribbean, Miami was inhabited by a multitude of people since its beginning, offering a home to Tequesta natives, Bahamians, Africans, and European settlers. 

Wagner House in Lummus Park taken by Paola Castro/ CC BY 4.0

People of color built Miami from the ground up, in more ways than one. Their various contributions are what allowed Miami to prosper. Without the Tequesta natives’ techniques for taking care of the land, Miami’s soil wouldn’t be fertile enough to start growing crops for profit. Without slaves to tend to the crops within the farmland, the railroad would not have been brought down to south Florida for the purpose of shipping food up north (a decision which later allowed the city to grow and get officially established).

Longhouse in Lummus Park Miami River taken by Samantha Johnson/ CC BY 4.0

Unfortunately, these contributions later spelled the marginalized communities’ doom, in one way or another. The fertile land Tequesta natives cultivated was coveted by wealthier European settlers and later taken by the settlers, driving the Tequesta out of their own communities. Barracks created by enslaved Africans and Bahamians were later used as forts to fight native people in the Seminole Wars. Even the railroad brought down to south Florida by Henry Flagler later led to segregated communities, one of which being modern day Overtown. 

Statue of Henry Flagler taken by Paola Castro/ CC BY 4.0

People living in Miami nowadays, ignorant of the town’s history, may see these formerly segregated neighborhoods populated by people of color as a failure. They may assume that these communities are in dire straits through some fault of their own, some character flaw or just bad work ethic. The truth of history tells another story. Miami – much like other big cities around the world – has a history of profiting off of marginalized people’s labor, even using it against them at times. It’s difficult to pull yourself up by your bootstraps when your bootstraps are constantly stolen from you.

Make no mistake, Miami was built by the marginalized.

Vizcaya as Text

Vizcaya Garden Areas taken by Paola Castro/ CC BY 4.0

Throughout the tour of the Vizcaya museum and its gardens, all I could notice is how custom-made for its original owner everything was. Every single aspect of the estate was made with Deering’s peace and pleasure in mind, down to the last detail. Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than the gardens, where the landscaping creates less of a garden and more of an extension of the house with rest areas, plentiful shade, and entertainment in the form of hedge mazes. Having been built from scratch in a previously undeveloped forest area, even the nature outside of the garden grounds was altered to suit his needs – such as the moat surrounding the estate and the stone taken from it to use in other areas of the house. 

It was refreshing to see Deering’s realized vision of taking what was naturally beautiful about the area before it was developed and making it not only more beautiful, but also livable and comfortable for him and his guests. Nowadays, many famous architects are paid to create spaces in the city of Miami, but as they have never had to live in the city for a long time, they end up creating beautiful but impractical public spaces. One example of this is the courtyard we saw on our first Miami in Miami class that was built to be a public space for museum goers but, due to offering no protection from the scorching sun, is usually vacant. And that is just one example of many. 

In contrast to that thoughtless construction, Vizcaya’s outdoor areas are positively heavenly. As soon as you walk out, the serene sound of running water calms you down, the sheer amount of lover’s benches provide many opportunities for resting or lounging, and small, water cooled grottos provide ample shade and respite from the harsh sun. It truly was made for the comfort of all who visit, since even in such a humongous garden, you’re never more than 20 feet away from shade and rest areas. 

After visiting Vizcaya, I truly hope the city of Miami will take some notes on how to make public areas comfortable as well as beautiful for all who visit, so that more people are encouraged to spend the day outside. Making public areas comfortable does not always have to cost a fortune, but it does require vision – something Deering and his crew definitely possessed.

Samantha Johnson: Miami as Text 2021-2022

Photo taken by Faith Tullier //CC by 4.o

Samantha Johnson is a 19-year old junior at Florida International University. She was the youngest at her high school graduation and graduated at 16. She later graduated from Indian River State College with her Associates Degree. Samantha is currently studying Sustainability and the Environment with a minor in Marine Biology. She hopes to one day achieve not only a PHD but also a JD in Environmental Law. In her free time, she loves to read and hang out with friends, but also loves to go to the beach and is extremely passionate about the environment.

Downtown as Text

“Walking on History” by Samantha Johnson of FIU at Downtown Miami, September 12, 2021

Downtown Miami. All photos taken and edited by Samantha Johnson // CC by 4.0

Miami is rich with history. From the Tequesta who have lived here since its origin, to the railroad being built by Henry Flagler, Miami has faced many changes and diversity.

The Tequesta people had been living in Florida for generations. It is thought that they had lived in South Florida for over 2,000 years. They were one of the first tribes to settle in South Florida and settled in the Biscayne Bay area. They lived along the Miami River, and the chief lived at the mouth of the river. They lived here from about 500 BCE through Spanish colonization until about 1763.  

Miami was founded by Julia Tuttle who lived in the area. She was a rich woman and ran orange groves on her land. In 1894-1895, there was a major freeze that killed off most of the citrus in Florida, but not in Miami. At the same time, Henry Flagler was constructing his railroad to transport citrus to the northern states. The freeze impacted his business immensely and he was later sent a few oranges from Julia Tuttle with the invitation to extend his railroad down to Miami.

When Henry Flagler made the deal with Julia Tuttle to come to Miami, part of the deal was to make a hotel. They decided to build the Royal Palm Hotel. They had to level the mound of an ancient burial ground for construction to begin. The clearing for the hotel began in 1896, and it opened in January of 1897. When the mound was there, it used to face the Miami Circle. The Miami Circle is a source of many archeological findings. It contains many different Tequesta artifacts including shell, stone, bone, and pottery. It is also thought to have been the place where a Tequesta hut was once standing.

Lummus Park is the oldest public park in Miami. It was established in 1909, and holds both the home of William Wagner, and the slave quarters from Fort Dallas. Both of these buildings had been relocated from their original locations because they were going to be demolished. Mary Brickell Park contains the mausoleum of the Brickell family, and now allows visitors to walk through the park with their dogs.

What made the most impact on me when we were walking through Downtown was the realization that we were walking on sacred and hallowed ground. I thought that Downtown Miami was mesmerizing but learning about the history behind it left me with an eerie feeling. From walking through Lummus Park, to walking through Mary Brickell Park, and just through the city itself it all felt wrong knowing what had occurred there. I was in awe of the buildings because I have never lived in such a big city, but learning about the history it felt wrong. It astounds me how there is an archeological site that is now underneath a Whole Foods.

I am a superstitious person by nature and knowing that we had been walking through and walking by ancient burial grounds got underneath my skin. I just kept feeling like I wasn’t supposed to be there. Burial grounds are considered sacred because that’s where people bury their family, friends, loved ones of all kinds. If someone were to go around and disturbing these places nowadays, they would be in trouble, but this did not occur back then. I will never understand how someone could trade precious history and burial sites of someone else’s people just to make a profit. I had a really hard time wrapping my head around the fact that a different people used to live there and had buried their people there. It really saddens me to think about it, but I am not surprised. People will always more about making a profit for themselves than other people, and I truly believe that this is where we have failed as a people. Downtown Miami is just one sign of this, but it has happened all around the world. I just hope that future generations will learn from our mistakes and not make the same ones we did.

Overtown as Text

“Misconceptions in History” by Samantha Johnson of FIU at Overtown, September 29, 2021

Overtown – a history. All photos taken and edited by Samantha Johnson // CC by 4.0

When moving to Miami, I was told to avoid certain neighborhoods because they “are not safe” or “that’s not a side of town you want to be in”, etc. I never questioned this because it was either my parents or my grandparents telling me these things, and they had lived down here for most of their lives. My parents grew up in Hialeah and my grandparents currently reside in Pembroke Pines, and when I mentioned to them that I would be visiting Overtown for class, there was just silence. Then the lecture came, “don’t wander off”, “make sure to stay with your group” and even “that isn’t a good part of town”.

I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I was caught by surprise. Overtown was beautiful, different, and just stunning overall. I had never walked through a town that has such deep roots and scars from their history, or if I did, I never realized it before. I believe that it is the misconceptions of this town and the history of this town that lead to the concepts and fears that people link to it.

This all relates back to the concept of segregation and racism that the people of Overtown experienced. Overtown was founded in 1896, and was originally called Colored Town. It was created around the time that Henry Flagler was bringing the railroad to Miami. It was built during the time of Jim Crow Laws, and the rules and regulations in the town were created due to these laws.

The Jim Crow Laws were used as a way to control the African American community. They were used all around the country at the time, but in Miami they were used to create Colored Town. It was originally built for the African Americans that were employed by Henry Flagler when he was building his railroad, but it was later used as a community for its Black residents and was a neighborhood that they were forced to reside in.

The most interesting thing to me was when we met members of the oldest black churches in Miami. The members of Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church talked to us about how important the churches are to the community. Both churches were important to the Civil Rights Movement, and Martin Luther King Jr even spoke at Greater Bethel. His speech here was the start of SCLC’s (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) Crusade for Citizenship. There are members of the church that were there the day that he spoke, and we were able to stand where he stood on that day in 1958. They are able to speak about the impact that this interaction had on them, and it was incredible to hear their story and to know that part of history.

After going to these places and talking to the members of the community, I realized that there are a lot of misconceptions about this neighborhood. The people who live here were so welcoming and were happy to tell us about the history of Overtown. I wish we had more time to talk to them and to see more of the city. It made me realize that the things I had been told were outdated. These ideas are from a time where people weren’t openminded, and had made assumptions about he people living in Overtown without knowing any better. This caused the extreme levels of racism and segregation that occurred in this city, and I have come to realize that this is how it starts around the world as well. I now wonder what other places have this stereotype about them and why this may have occurred.

Amaranta Bailly: Miami as Text 2021-2022

This image was taken by Natalia Garcia-Lee/CC by 4.0

My name is Amaranta Mattie Bailly and I am a proud Cuban-French-Floridian. I have grown up in Miami for the Majority of my life but have had the privilege to travel much of the world at a very young age. My education, passions, upbringing and goals drive me to constantly learn more about the world that I live in and how I can better it. I consistently find myself fascinated with various forms of artistic expression, as well as the environment and understanding its intricacies. Comprehending the profound history and facets of my hometown Miami will undoubtedly provide more clarity regarding where I hope my life, as well as hard work, will take me.

Downtown as Text

This image of “Dropped Bowl with Scattered Slices and Peels” by artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen is taken by Amaranta Bailly/CC by 4.0

The Origin Story”

by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University at Downtown Miami, 1 September 2021

For 19 years I have lived on these streets, going to the beach with family, grabbing food with friends, and exploring with anyone willing to join me. It was both riveting and shocking to learn that I didn’t understand how my city came to be the undeniable wonder it is today, and that I had been denying myself the privilege of truly understanding what lay just below my feet. It was disheartening to realize I hadn’t seen this statue before class. Not only did I experience Miami in a different light on an educational level, but observing the physical landmarks I had passed by for so long was a wake up call. I quickly recognized that I need to become more aware of my surroundings.

Throughout the day I absorbed what seemed like an endless amount of information that revealed or involved the development of Miami economically, socially, politically and environmentally. Somehow, Oldenburg and Bruggen were able to narrow these incredible and at times heartbreaking stories down into a single sculpture, that somehow sits at the near center of our city. This piece was developed to display how Miami grew as a city; explosive, stunning and through chaos. On top of how unique to our state and city it is, seeing as how the Orange has been a Florida staple for decades, the shattering glass properly reflects the literal groundbreaking work that was required to build from the ground up.

This Image of the Plantation Slave Quarters in City Park was taken by Amaranta Bailly/CC by 4.0

The Fort Dallas and William F. English Plantation Slave Quarters in City park display a perfect parallel between the darker and lighter parts of history. The stone unit, although it was relocated, emanated a physical and evil energy that will never leave those walls. It was built approximately 200 years ago by slaves themselves, and holds tales of horror that are incomprehensible when compared with the Miami that surrounds the structure today. The quarters were passed down through generations as well as the plantation until 1849, when the Army claimed the land and used it as a base during the Seminole Wars. I was standing in front of a building that had been used as an aid to commit mass genocide as well as strip the humanity from individuals, individuals who were treated as less than mules, I felt and still feel disgusted. Professor Bailly recommended that we become physical with the structure but I almost couldn’t bring myself to move so close. I felt nothing but repelled by the mass before me. He then had gone on to elaborate regarding his request, and stated that he felt connected to the slaves building this quarter, and not the stories that had occurred within them. I then proceeded to hold the same rock a slave had held 200 years before, and the sensation of the grainy material beneath my hand brought about feelings of extreme sadness and sympathy. I began to ponder how exactly a city can host such tragedy a mere 200 years ago, and morph the diverse and cultured beaut it is today.

This image of William and Evelyns old home was taken by Amaranta Bailly/CC by 4.0

The answer I had quickly begun to search for was found earlier than expected in the neighboring building. Not more then 20 feet from the slave quarters stood a home from the same time period, but told a strong opposing story when looked at from a moral perspective. William Vagner was a German man who had immigrated to the United States in the earlier 1800s and met a woman named Evelyn Emair. They had fallen in love but unfortunately were forced into keeping their relationship a secret because interracial marriages were not legal at the time. They lived a beautiful life together and had 15 children. It stunned me that even during this dark time period, there were tolerant people who looked past societal standard to find happiness. Professor Bailly then went on to discuss a seemingly frightening encounter with a Group of 17 seminoles. William had come across the unit with his wife and daughter Rose, and seeing as how the political situation at the time was rough to say the least, its natural to feel a certain level of fear when the intentions of others are unknown. Instead of insighting violence or being verbally aggressive in order to protect his family, William invited the Seminoles to his home for dinner. Together, 17 seminoles, an interracial couple and several biracial children were more than capable of sitting at a table and have a meal together despite the judgement and war raging on the outside world. William formed an alliance with the seminoles, and attempted to bring peace between peoples throughout his life. My admiration and respect for William grew to unimaginable proportions as the minutes passed. He has a vision that not many had at this time and was not influenced by the fact that because of his origin or the color of his skin, he could have abused his position in more way than one. Instead, because of his endlessly tolerant mind, he found love within Evelyn, faith in his children, and peace with the Seminoles. He used his divine insight to make people stronger in a time where everything was divided amongst the masses.

I am thrilled that I was able to become more educated regarding the origin story of the city I was raised in and adore. I was fortunately raised around a largely diverse group of people. My family is from various different countries and continents, as are my friends. Now I don’t have to question the ways to which we reached this peace in this place we call home. Now I know that even in the darkest times, there were people out there who saw the light in others. The extent to which these people fought to save that light now gives me the privilege to do the same, and gave others privileges that I won’t take for granted anymore.

OverTown as Text

“New vs Original Overtown”

by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University at Overtown Miami, 15 September 2021

Miami is a city well renowned for its diverse population. The large variety of cultures compacted into approximately 100 miles of coast is unparalleled nationwide. Although it has grown to be quite the tourist attraction, its authenticity still burns bright as day. It wasn’t until I made my way into Overtown along with my fellow pupils and professor that I realized the roots of what makes Miami flourish as a city is gravely under threat. 

This picture of Overtown MIA was taken by Amaranta Bailly/CC by 4.0

Overtown was originally founded in 1896 and went by the name Darkie-Town. In the late 19th and early 20th century, Black Americans were only permitted to inhabit certain neighborhoods and enter wealthier neighborhoods for work. Slavery at the time was outlawed, but segregation played an enormous part in the formation of Miami at this time. Through the challenges of a marginalized life, the Black Americans that were forced into Overtown were still able to build a successful community that flourished over the years. The fact that strong, original remnants of this town remain today is relieving to say the least.

This image of the Lyric theater was taken by Amaranta Bailly of FIU/CC by 4.0

Celebrities such as Billy Holiday and Muhammad Ali would come to Miami and showcase their talents in wealthy parts of the city but were after sent to Darkie-Town because they were not permitted to rest at hotels near where they performed. The Lyric theater pictured above was a safe space for celebrities to behave authentically and is a large part of why Overtown was referenced as “Miami’s Broadway”. Not only did celebrities visit Overtown, but strong political activist such as Andrew Young, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. often spoke at churches, which brought resilience into the hearts of the community.

This image of the interior of Mount Zion Church was taken by Amaranta Bailly of FIU/CC by 4.0

This altar is located in Mount Zion, one of the other few structures that still does this historically charged area justice. I was astounded when I learned that I was standing before a place where various heroes had previously preached their ideas to the people. Knowing that empowering words of tolerance and change were spoken and heard here, by people who needed to constantly battle oppression, is a once in a lifetime experience. A heartwarming woman elaborated on the personal connections she shared with Martin Luther King as well as the kind and homey atmosphere that the church possessed. Her unique words of wisdom brought to my attention that any one individual has the ability to make a difference if they can attain the courage, strength and heart to do so. I felt moved, and had a reality check to the largest extent of the word. These chosen few individuals had the ability to reach people to unbelievable proportions and honed that talent to change the world for the better. Their ideals are still touched upon in schools nationwide today, but to stand before a woman and a place that was graced with an extraordinarily powerful presence brought upon the realization that people suffered in cosmic proportions to build the town I’ve come to visit.

I also didn’t realize until traveling to town with my class just how much the local’s fight for equality is ongoing. Overtown is currently experiencing Gentrification; when wealthier people move into an urban area and push out those without a financial advantage. The process is slow and grueling for the true locals. Overtime, due to environmental and financial reasons, Overtown has been nearly torn to the ground. For approximatley a century the Black Americans who were forced into Overtown to begin with have been building a community with the small amount they worked tirelessly for. The talent that came to life on Miami Broadway attracted folks from all over, and soon the roads buzzed with activity. There came a gradual shift in Overtown in a sense of who wanted to inhabit the streets, and once developers arrived, the authentic community began to be a thing of the past. As wealthy people flood into a town that has beautiful music, great food, and people living harmoniously, they begin to clear house and create establishments too difficult for the locals to afford. It starts with an Art Gallery in a prominent cultural area, followed by little cafés, bakeries and shops. Slowly older restaurants and stores are purchased and remodeled, charging more than any other place in town. Then come the high-rises, slowly but surely pushing people from their homes and cities because they can’t afford rent. Fortunately historically valuable buildings are protected to a certain extent, although it is extremely difficult for these structures to be put on the list of Heritage Registers, which is essentially a list of areas that cannot be remodeled or destroyed because they hold a historically important past.

This image of a violation notice was taken by Professor John Bailly of FIU/CC by 4.0

This image was taken less than two weeks after my class and I visited the church of Greater Bethel. This church is technically on the register of historic structures that cannot be demolished but certain protocols are in place in to maintain structures of a community, and if the following repairs are not completed in a time frame provided then the building might not have a very long future. Filure to follow these difficult codes can result in the “destruction of the offending structure by the city of Miami.” Because the community is forcibly absent, not many are able to visit the Greater Bethel church and therefore it does not receive suitable funding. It only goes to show that the government does not care about the historical landmarks that exist in Overtown, they do not recognize the challenges that those who are attempting to keep the community alive face. If the Greater Bethel Church cannot fulfill the cities requests, then less than a year from now this sacred ground might not exist. Who is going to remember that Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Andrew Young took a stand within these walls if there are no walls to marvel at? How is it fair to be forced out of a town your ancestors were herded into, who then encouraged it to grow into something to be admired? How will anyone be able to attest to the existence of Overtown without a place to explore? The absence of the original Overtown as well as the people who fill it with pride and beauty is an injustice to the growth of our nation and one step closer to erasing our past. This should strike anger into the core of anyone who values the history of Miami and the people who helped create the community that lies before us.

I spent the day being immersed in a community that I quickly grew adore. Every single individual opened their personal their nook for us to be explored with open arms, on the condition that we came with open minds. Civilians on the street, gentleman at the barbershop, and the totality of Mount Zion as well as Greater Bethel wanted us to know where they come from and exactly how threatened they are by big companies and developers with big money. Professor Bailly continues to emphasize that the destruction and harmful events that occurred here are not our own fault unless we lack the ability to educate ourselves. This brought upon a large moral dilemma that I fought with internally the entire day and for quite some time after. How can I say I’m innocent and free of blame if I absorb all of this information and choose to do nothing with it? If I hear all of the stories and emphasize with the people who are being harmed, then I believe I would be flawed morally if I remain silent. Challenging the government and people behind Gentrification is how we can aid and possibly save the remnants of Overtown as well as other communities that are struggling. I realize that in order for me to repay the entirety of Overtown for the unparalleled generosity, I have to give them my support that extends past my personal education. I will continue to visit Overtown, to eat their delicious food and to walk their streets with my companions so that they can also open their mind to a beautiful part of our city. A part of our city that is unforgettable and beyond a shadow of a doubt, worth fighting for.

Vizcaya as Text

“House of Power”

by Amaranta Bailly of Florida International University at Vizcaya Museum, 3 October 2021

The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens have stood as a symbol of aged wealth in Miami for approximately the past century. Ten percent of the Miami population was employed by James Deering, the only true resident of this establishment, and participated in the construction of this stunning Villa. The structure is completed with various guest rooms, more than one floor, an interior courtyard, towers that flank the structure, a barge to protect from the tide amongst other things and the most high end trinkets of the early 20th century.

Not only is this home a fascination to various architects, interior designers and artists, but the gardens are very well maintained and breathtaking to say the least. These amenities are a clear indicator of the magnitude of wealth James Deering attained in his lifetime. The peaceful waterfalls, inspired by islamic temples, guide your slow descent to the back entrance of the home, where you will find a glorious yet revealing statue of Dyonisus. Dyonisus is known as the god of wine, but is also often associated with both pleasure and ecstasy. This statue was carefully selected to stand in the entrance of the home because his power accurately displays the message James Deering was attempting to send to any visitor who has the pleasure of entering his home.

Mr. Deering was clearly a man of immense riches, a party animal ahead of his time, and desired more than anything a cultured image. This sculpture of Dionisus, amount many others, as well as the actual structure of the home is meant to display the fact that he could actually afford the culture he so greatly admired, as well as the fact that anyone who came into his home should prepare for a good time. The tour of his home is absolutely immaculate. Each room, specially crafted by Architect Paul Chalfin, displays a different time period and location in Europe. Nearly all of the items in this room were imported from different parts of Europe and were not actually selected by James Deering, he sent Paul Chalfin on various trips to select the priciest handmade items for months on end.

I can admit that this accumulation of wealth for his time is to be gawked at, but i in no way felt a personal connection to these excessive items. It appears to me that James Deering was a man who lacked actual culture but had the ability to pay in large for it. The presence of an antique organ in the living room is strong evidence of my take on this home. Mr. Deering did not actually know how to play an organ, but the ownership of an organ when not by a public place at this time indicates extreme wealth. His closer associates questioned his desire to have this particular object imported because it would serve no actual use in his home. Mr. Deering would not hear any of this logical questions and purchased the organ regardless to achieve the status quo.

Just because Mr. Deering was clearly obsessed with appearances, does not necessarily mean that what I think he paid to create is in any way less important, admirable and powerful. Vizcaya is now a place where one can venture off to in order to admire the beauty thats a blended history holds. The mixing of cultures is something commonly seen in Miami, but this structure is evidence that citizens of this city admired all parts of the world from a very early age.

I personally felt at home in a cultural sense while visiting Vizcaya because I am of both Latin and European descent. My mother is Cuban and My father is French, therefore I can state with confidence that the entirety of my life has been graced with a combination of backgrounds. I often traveled with my father through different parts of Europe as he worked tirelessly to make something for his family. I was blessed with the opportunity to experience different parts of the world at an incredibly young age and for that my gratitude will never waver. I had the pleasure of exploring various cities out of state, of eating food that does not exist or is not often found in Miami, of getting to know my extended family and admiring structures that stand tall after thousands of years.

After traveling for months I would return to Miami and be surrounded by my Cuban culture and family, as well as the members of my family who are Peruvian and Thai. Not only did I have a very unique cultural experience in my youth because of personal reasons, but Miami has flourished into a city where I have had the privilege of becoming well acquainted with individuals who originate from all over the world, like myself. Often my blended background lead to questions of self identity. I didn’t feel like I belonged to any one place and I couldn’t answer a question regarding my origin without quite a lengthy response. As I got older and explored places like Vizcaya, my questions regarding the explanation of my origin were answered overtime. The discussion that occurred in the discussion room spoke to me on a deeper level in particular.

At first I had thoughtlessly assumed that all this room could attain was an extreme display of wealth that Mr. Deering spent though sands of dollars on in order to impress other people who attained a similar amount of wealth. This room is focused on the eighteenth century time period in France, and is breathtaking for lack of a better word. Tall ceilings, a glistening chandelier, windows lining the north wall, and a statue of Mary Antoinette by the east door truly resemble the form of riches she lived with. As we were about to leave this room, the attention of my classmates and I was brought to the walls, which were gracefully and subtly covered in palm trees.

It was at this point I realized that although James Deering himself was not extremely knowledgable and did not actually enthrall himself in cultural affairs, through his immense financial gain he created a structure that would influence Miami as well as the rest of the world, as it continues to gain popularity among tourists. Vizcaya in essence is both unique and lovely, and has become a beacon of unity for generations to come.

Joheily Rodriguez: Miami as Text 2021-2022

Photograph Taken By Joheily Rodriguez /CC 4.0

Joheily Rodriguez is a junior majoring in Biological sciences with minor in chemistry at Florida International University. Passionate about art, medicine and connecting with new cultures and individuals. She is involved in numerous leadership opportunities at FIU including Resident Assistant at the University level, and holding leaderships roles in numerous clubs such as students care. Students care provides help to the local community and connects college students to medical exposure.

Downtown as Text

Photograph of the “Dropped Bowl with Scattered Slices and Peels” . Dariyani Law Group. Joseph McKeon. sep 1 2021. Retrieved Sept 12th 2021.CC//4.0

“A Stranger In A Not So Strange place”

by Joheily Rodriguez of FIU at Downtown, Miami.

A conversation of community and belonging is happening in downtown Miami; however, the volume is relatively low. At the same time, walking through the streets of Miami and heard about those that were in this land; the Tequesta, the Bahamians, and slaves. I could not stop thinking of how I have walked these streets many times with friends and family and not once thought about the history and the sacrifice it took to the city to get where it is today; there was sadness, destruction, and bloodshed. Miami is known for its diversity, for its ability to thrive and be beautiful in the chaos. Chaotic, just like the sculpture “ Dropped Bowl with scattered slices and peels by Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen, this sculpture describes the diversity of Miami; it showcases the falling of fruit, so chaotic yet so majestic to watch. However, I feel like this sculpture also conveys that some pieces of fruit tend to fall and catch dust and mold under the refrigerator.

photograph taken and edited by Joheily Rodriguez/CC BY 4.0, 01 September 2021

These pieces that were hidden and left to deal with their own are communities that have been displaced, strangers in a place that is not so strange. Although the Tequesta have no known ancestors, Bahamians are well concentrated in the coconut grove. Many undernourished communities also pushed into Overtown, or how it used to be known, colored town. This community survived in its little niche, but following that, they were misplaced once more by building bridges and highways to allow the privilege to drive downtown Miami and escape from the hardships happening right under their noses.

Overtown Text

Photograph taken an edited by Joheily Rodriguez// CC by 4.0, september 15th 2021

“Displacing and erasing”

by Joheily Rodriguez of FIU at Overtown, Miami.

The conversation on belonging that was previously discussed can be heard in some places more than others. This week in Overtown, I listened to the community, their anger, and sadness on the displacement in Overtown or how it used to be known as “Colored-town.” During this evening, we visited many churches like Greater Bethel and Historic Mount Zion Baptist Church. These Churches are were very important to the community as it was a place where people gathered, grieved, and celebrated. In these churches, many of the greats pushing for changes in civil rights spoke, ranging from martin L. King Junior, Muhammid Ali, among others. It was an indescribable feeling, talking to individuals that have been here during the thriving Overtown era, that spoke to inspiring figures that have influenced our culture and politics in very positive ways. 

Photograph taken an edited by Joheily Rodriguez// CC by 4.0, september 15th 2021

While walking through these historical places, It was evident the way the community felt about the displacement that has been occurring in the area lately, and by that, I mean gentrification. Gentrification is a process where low-income communities go through significant changes done by individuals in higher communities; this causes many individuals originally living there to lose their homes and culture, and history. One of the reasons construction of high-end housing and business is happening is because of the environment, with high sea level we see the wealthy people moving further and further from the beach area, this causes a displacement of people who were already affected by the construction of I95 and also the destruction of what they hold dear their culture and history. 

Viscaya As Text

“A World In A World: An Isolated Quilt” 

by Joheily Rodriguez FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

While driving through Coral Gables, it is easy to miss the hidden gem Vizcaya is, nevertheless when driving past the two beatifically symmetrical stones engraved with the name “Vizcaya,” it is with no doubt, a new world has been entered. A world that accepts no rules and believes in the power of now. These beliefs were instilled by James Deering, which are prevalent and vital in the perfectly imperfect city of Miami.

 At the entrance, visitors are greeted by two critical figures; to the north side, Bel Vizcaya, and to the south, Ponce De Leon, who were important figures in conquest and settlement in Florida. James Deering related and admired Bel Viscaya and Ponce De Leon; Viewing himself as a conquistador that is here to enlighten by bringing mixtures of European culture and art to Biscayne bay.

 The fusion of different European cultures can be seen throughout the entire estate. Soothing and cascading fountains greet guests at the entrance that guide them into the main house. As guests walk down the aisle, their eyes immediately descend into the place due to the symmetrical arrangement of sprays and the descending water pressure, giving a prime example of how James Deering used his knowledge of various cultures. The use of Islamic fashion fountains to instill calm and grounding with a mixture of Spaniard fashion fountains blend and bring a balance and exciting anticipation as to what is to see in the house. 

It is essential to focus on the external details just as much as the internal details; by entering Vizcaya, Millions of visitors can experience vast cultural and architectural knowledge. 

Monica Schmitz: Miami as Text

Photograph taken by Isabelle Schmitz/CC by 4.0

Monica Schmitz is a sophomore at Florida International University, studying Public Relations with Advertising, and Applied Communications. With a love for writing, graphic design, and photography, Monica aspires to be a published author and work at a communication agency. Having lived in Minnesota, Virginia, and California, Monica is passionate about discovering other cultures and traveling. She has challenged herself with many leadership positions and involvements which have allowed her to see the world through new perspectives. She is always eager to learn more and use her voice to make an impact in the world.


Downtown as Text

“History Can Be Ugly”

By Monica Schmitz of FIU at Downtown Miami, Florida, 12 September 2021

Downtown Miami, Florida is a collection of pieces of history, cultures, and memories. With this diverse collection of individuals and backgrounds come difficult historical moments that we try to block out. We often ignore the shameful, hateful moments of our history, focusing on the victories but erasing the struggle that we faced to reach those victories.

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

Growing up in southern Virginia, I was surrounded by statues of leaders from historical moments. However, these statues caused much controversy as the community and country as a whole discussed whether these statues should remain or be taken down. Seeing the statue of Henry Flagler at the courthouse in Downtown Miami sparked this memory for me. The statue of the confederate leader Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia was a topic of conversation that has been sparking in America for a long period of time. It was the question of whether historical leaders with wrongful actions should remain standing. Although it is important to remember history as history and understand the journey our country has taken to rid itself of prejudice and racism, it is also questionable to keep these statues standing because they could be seen as commemorating leaders that symbolize hate.

Photograph taken by Monica Schmitz/CC by 4.0

I am not from Miami, so the name Henry Flagler meant nothing to me until our first Miami in Miami class. Learning about Flagler’s influence on racism and prejudice in Miami opened my eyes to the fact that we often make judgments about history, cities, and historical figures without fully understanding the depth or the details. We cannot ignore the ugly pieces of history, such as hatred, poverty, and heartbreak. These pieces all build a beautiful masterpiece that makes up our communities. We must embrace the ugly but truthful history of our country.

Carolina Echeverri Valle: Miami As Text 2021-2022

Carolina Echeverri Valle is a senior pursuing a double degree in International Relations and PRAAC, with a minor in Political Science and a certificate in Human Rights and Political Transition at Florida International University. Being a passionate advocate for human rights, she aspires to work in a non-profit aimed at helping children and/or women. After graduating from her two majors, she plans on attending graduate school. She has had the privilege of working the Spanish Ministry of Education, the German American Business Chamberof Commerce, UNICEF, Hillel at FIU, CARTA in DC at FIU, Broward County and is currently working in the Live Like Bella Foundation. She’s been a peer advisor at FIU, served in many leadership positions within her sorority of Alpha Omicron PI and created a project for the Millennium Fellowship. As a student who grew up in Colombia, she desires to learn more about the culture and history of one of the most diverse cities in Florida: Miami.

Downtown As Text

Downtown Miami Photography. Photographs taken by Carolina Echeverri Valle/CC by 4.0


By Carolina Echeverri Valle of FIU at Downtown Miami on September 8, 2021.

When we started the walk around Downtown, I didn’t really know what to expect. Downtown Miami holds so much history, art and culture that it was hard to determine what we would focus on. However, I was amazed at what I saw. 

As young adults who live in Miami, we are surrounded with people who come from diverse places, who have generational varying ethnicities, people who have been brought up in different ways. What unites us? Our lovely Miami. As we walked through historic buildings, such as The Wagner House and Fort Dallas which were located one in front of the other, we truly grasped what Miami is all about. This city has seen indigenous tribes getting kicked out of the land, slavery, and the division of colored people; however, it has also seen the growth of multiculturalism that happens on a day to day basis. People from all over the world move to Miami in hopes of getting a better life. We can see it through Coosje Van Bruggen’s and Claes Oldenburg’s ‘Dropped Bowl with Scattered Slices and Peels’, a massive public artwork. 

Personally, I saw this art piece as a representation of the diversity that Miami has. Miami grows everyday. Currently people from Venezuela are coming over to flee their political, social and economic situation. Nonetheless, Cubans, Haitians and people from other countries in South and Central America have come to Miami in hopes of having a life with better opportunities and a freer life. Miami has been the home of many immigrants, including myself. I came here looking for better educational opportunities, and my parents also lived here in the past due to work openings. The scattered oranges and peels represent the continuous increase of people in Miami. It’s like a mandarin was thrown to the floor and it exploded.

When I first saw this piece of art, it appeared very colorful and full of life, each part of it being different and separated. Miami has neighborhoods that are all so distinct from each other. For instance, Brickell is known for its fancy restaurants and beautiful tall buildings, while Little Havana is known for its people and vibrant environment. This fusion of places and cultures are what make Miami what it is: a city full of life, diversity, a variety of places to eat and activities to do and a place where people want to be. Especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, many decided to move to Miami and be by the beach, in a place with a warm and dreamy weather, where life is like we’re on vacation. The scattered slices and peels are all those distinct pieces that make up Miami: the neighborhoods, people, food, cultures, activities, weather, etc. 

At the end of the day, the past and present of Miami can be summed up by Van Bruggen and Oldenburg’s artwork. Will the future of Miami keep being this multicultural land?

Overtown As Text

Overtown, Allapattah, and Hialeah Photography. Photographs taken by Carolina Echeverri Valle/CC by 4.0

“Diversity As We Know It”

By Carolina Echeverri Valle of FIU at Downtown Miami on September 8, 2021.

It all started in Allapattah on a rainy morning. As I walked through the city something stood out. It was the differences that surrounded this place vs other more touristic places of Miami. What happened here? What led to this clear division? I questioned myself. Inequality has always been an enormous issue everywhere in the world, but isn’t the United States supposed to be developed?

When I walked into the Metrorail, I learned that Miami has this amazing public transportation that we take for granted. Some people who’ve lived here all their lives haven’t even utilized it once. Why? All these questions just filled my head, I was eager to learn more.

When I found out that FIU, my university, was one of the places that refused to have the Metrorail add a stop there, I was shocked. As young adults who grew up in the XXI century as millennials, we were brought up to be open minded, caring, and most of all, accepting of diversity and inclusion. Isn’t that what schools and universities teaching us? It was hypocritical of me to learn that places, such as FIU, didn’t want to bring public transportation, such a necessity to many, into their university. FIU literally has the word “international” in the name. The university prides itself on having multiculturalism within, even though most of the student body is composed of commuters. These commuters have international parents, coming from different parts of the world, and their socioeconomic background, ethnicities, beliefs, way of living, etc are all different. We are in a globalized and interconnected world. That’s why it was shocking for me to see that FIU didn’t allow for a Metrorail to pass through there. Not only is it FIU, but many different neighborhoods around Miami haven’t permitted the Metrorail.

Public transportation is essential for people from all over the world. Many don’t have cars and having to walk or order an Uber isn’t sustainable. Therefore, I believe Miami should open stops in every crucial part of Miami and connect the city, people, and cultures.

Vizcaya As Text

Vizcaya Museum Photography. Photographs taken by Carolina Echeverri, Oscar Roa and Ashley Sanchez/CC by 4.0

“Love is Everywhere”

When we look at our surroundings, we can see that there’s love everywhere. What does this mean? We love our friends, family, animals, plants, cities, countries, world, foods, etc. It’s a natural feeling that we feel for someone and/or something and it’s inevitable.

When I went to Vizcaya, I noticed the various love benches located around the gardens. There were even closed areas of the gardens, that allowed lovers to meet up. As we look through the generations, I notice that this hasn’t changed. We go through the world trying to be with our loved ones, trying to pursue the things we love and to be happy overall. The Vizcaya Mansion started being built in 1912, so it’s been over a century since. To see these trends still happening is shocking.

James Deering didn’t get married or have children that are known to us. There are myths and legends stating that he was homosexual. No one knows for sure if this is true. If this was the case, it resembles the LGBTQ+ fight for equality that is taking place in the recent years. If he wasn’t, but just didn’t find someone to marry and have children, he felt love for other things. Either this be keeping his garden beautiful, decorating his home with valuable pantings and/or furniture.

Be whatever it may be, love was seen through this mansion. Even though Deering wasn’t married or have a family live here, love was seen in other ways. The beauty and light coming from all these rooms and gardens was prevalent, and it made me feel love towards it.