Vox Student Blog

Melanie Rodriguez: Miami as Text Spring 2023

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

Everglades As Text

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

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

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

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

Miami Encounter As Text 

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

Photo captured by Grace King.

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

Coconut Grove as text

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

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

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

Coral Gables As Text

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

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

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

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

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

Key Biscayne As Text

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

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

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

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

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

Neighborhood as text

“close to home” by Melanie Rodriguez of FIU in Three Lakes, Country walk

On a rainy weekend in the suburbs of Miami, traveling to the city was not in my plans, and I could not think of any better way to spend it than exploring the neighborhood around me. This outing hit close to home (literally), as I decided to delve deeper into the history and demographics of my neighborhood, Three lakes (Country Walk). If there is one thing I’ve truly learned and taken with me from this “Miami In Miami” course, it is to never disregard the history of a location, and always be in tune with the world around you. In doing so, I’ve learned more about my city in one semester than I have in twenty years living in Miami, and have formed a deeper appreciation for the places I continue to explore, uncovering their true essence. 

I recently moved to the neighborhood of Three Lakes in Country Walk, which is a relatively new area, completely reconstructed after hurricane Andrew in 1992. Originally built in 1978 by a Disney-owned corporation, this neighborhood was built with cheap, wood-frame construction that was easily destroyed and had to be completely rebuilt. Now, most of the area is distinguished by its notable charm and diversity. In three lakes, there is a great amount of hispanic diversity, as over 46% of the area is predominantly Cuban and South American origin. To my surprise, this neighborhood has more Cuban ancestry than any other in Miami. While this fact was new to me, I was not surprised because the area has many features that show diversity worth highlighting, such as bilingual road signs, mostly latin restaurants, and many hispanic-owned small businesses. Just a two minute walk from my apartment, I frequent a coffee shop that is Hispanic owned, as well as my favorite Cuban restaurant in the same shopping center. It is rare to find a walkable shopping center in Miami (other than in Coral Gables), so this is one of the features that I love about where I live. Most of the neighborhood is just homes and large fields, but there are many plazas nearby. I feel right at home here, as I grew up in a Cuban household, and have always felt that I wanted to live somewhere that still embraced these roots. Also worth noting while exploring this area is that it is one of the most expensive to live in, as home prices range from about half a million dollars.

This time that I took to explore was time well-spent, and I feel that it is always important to look into an area. I only wish I did this prior to moving in, but luckily I feel right at home in this diverse and charming neighborhood in Miami. If you ever decide to visit, I recommend that you explore the many shopping pavilions, try the hundreds of food trucks always gathered around every empty field, explore one of the many hispanic restaurants, ride around the beautiful fields, and appreciate the views of the grand lakes around the neighborhood. There is so much beauty to take in, even in the suburbs.

Design District/Wynwood As Text

It’s often I find myself visiting Wynwood, and seldom do I leave without taking note of the rich art that seems inescapable there. At any corner you can find an inspiring mural, unique sculpture, or intricate graffiti that is almost designed to make you trip as you walk along, unable to separate your gaze from them. Despite this and the countless times I’ve paid Wynwood a visit, it’s only now that I’ve come to appreciate the Who, How, and Why, that made the special neighborhood what it is today.

A great way to learn about and understand the artistic history of Wynwood would be to pay a visit to the Marguiles collection. It’s often that one may walk into a “traditional” art museum and see works of art collected for their value, their age, their theme, and organized in a chronological or thematic way, but this is not the essence of the Marguiles collection, nor is it the essence of Wynwood itself. The neighborhood boasts a unique and characteristic blend of street art, sophisticated and precisely curated galleries, and even interactive, or mixed-media installations. This is something very similar to what can be found within the giant spaces and high ceilings of the Marguiles Collection.

The person behind this unique collection is Mr. Marguiles himself, and as if just visiting his collection wasn’t enough, he decided to take the time and tour our group through his whole collection, carefully explaining each piece and his connection to them. This to me, was the highlight of the experience. When a neighborhood like Wynwood is able to generate such a strong culture and identity in such a short time, it is usually due to some special, visionary people. Hearing Mr. Marguiles was to listen to one of these visionaries and it was something that really touched me.

At one point in our tour, I decided to ask him how he decided on the different pieces that he would add to his collection, and while usually, a fulfilling response would include some story about how all the art has a special theme or significance. In contrast, his response was so simple, stating that all of his art was chosen almost purely just because each artwork resonated with him in a different way, and this was clear to see. There were pieces that were sculpted out of stone, works built out of feathers, huge, heavy, concrete structures reminiscent of the Holocaust, and in the next room, a plastic frog with projected human eyes and mouth. From giant, contemporary, and abstract works of art, to works that consisted of a room filled with speakers working together to form a somber symphony. There was no method to his madness, and I found that both very touching and very indicative of the way that Wynwood’s culture developed.

Chicken Key As Text

On paper, our final class lecture was a repeat of our first Chicken Key trash pickup, but I saw it as so much more. It can be said that some of the most rewarding things in life are outside of one’s comfort zone and I can say that many moments throughout Miami in Miami, including this final lecture, were evidence of that. Looking back to our first time visiting Chicken Key, I can almost close my eyes and remember how far away the island looked from shore, thinking how I should have brought more water. I remember how unstable the canoe felt, doubting whether we’d make it and wondering why it seemed like we weren’t even moving sometimes, and I know I wasn’t alone. My peers too, were shocked by the journey we would soon embark on. This time it was almost like riding a bike (if I knew how to ride one).

Before I knew it, I found myself on the water, rhythmically paddling as the mangroves of Chicken Key drew nearer and I realized how without the same preoccupations, I was being able to enjoy the whole experience more. The water glistened despite the somewhat cloudy sky, and the ocean floor, being so shallow, glowed with coral and sea life. Suddenly though, my daydream was shaken away as we found ourselves landing and disembarking our canoe. 

Usually, vibrant colors and unique shapes in nature are signs of beautiful, natural anomalies found in rare flowers or tropical birds and insects, but to my surprise, what I saw was a shoreline covered in trash. Bottles, caps, shoes, debris, you name it; it was everywhere. But why did this surprise me so much? We were there to do a trash pickup, after all. Only last semester we were all here, around 20 of us, tirelessly working to fill up dozens of trash bags full of the nature-disrupting garbage. Despite our efforts, we were here again, surrounded by garbage, and with a tall order on our hands.

What is so crazy is thinking that this is one of the most isolated and scarcely visited natural places you can find in Miami, but I think the problem is just that. The state of Chicken Key, this uninhabited, remote island, home to nesting turtles and exotic sea life, covered in trash from northern point to southern point, is an indication of the way humans have created a lifestyle not as part of a planet, but like we own the planet. This shortsighted way of thinking has brought about devastating consequences, through environmental degradation, habitat destruction, and species extinction, something we’ve been able to witness with our own eyes. We must come to terms with the fact that we are not separate from the planet, but a part of it, and take action to preserve the little untouched nature that is left.

Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova: Miami as Text 2023

Photograph taken by Pepe Carmona/CC by 4.0

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

Encounter as Text

“Spanish Dream” by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova of FIU

January 27. 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transatlantic Exchange as Text

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

February 14. 2023

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

The past beats inside me like a second heart.

John Banville

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deering Estate as Text

“Diving in to the past” Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova of FIU

February 14. 2023

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

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

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

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

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova /CC by 4.0

History that we need to know

Historic Miami by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova of FIU

We are not makers of history. We are made by history.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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

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

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

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova /CC by 4.0

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

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

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova /CC by 4.0

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

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova /CC by 4.0

Magic Realism

“Magic in literature” by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova of FIU

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

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova /CC by 4.0

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Edgar Degas

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

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

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova /CC by 4.0

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

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

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova /CC by 4.0

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

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova /CC by 4.0

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

Behind the scenes of the theater

Miami España as Text By Aitmukhanbetova Nazerke of FIU

In my opinion, theater is one of the most difficult forms of  arts. Indeed, it combines literature, acting, and music. In order to make a high-quality performance, it takes a tremendous effort from a large number of people, and the success of the performance depends on every individual. First of all, some sample of literature is taken as a basis: the text is one component, and acting on stage is a completely different one. Then, the magic happens when the producer’s imagination comes into play – he sees the whole action from a certain angle and he must convey his vision to the actors and the viewers as well. 

I want to begin by saying there is a plethora of  contrasts between theaters in Spain and theaters in America.  Both Spain and the United States have a lengthy history of theater yet their artistic traditions are very diverse.  Theater has an extensive history in Spain, going back to the medieval period. Interestingly enough, it encompasses many types of show art such as flamenco and puppetry. In contrast, theatrical art in the United States has its origins in European theatrical traditions, but it has evolved into a distinct and innovative art form over time.

The disparities in theater are also influenced by the languages and cultures of the two nations. It is worth noticing that the majority of theatrical performances in Spain are in Spanish or Catalan, and they frequently touch on the country’s cultural and political heritage.  Whereas the performances in the United States are typically performed in English and represent the country’s numerous heritages as well as contemporary social problems.   

Also, the genre differs for historical reasons as well: Spanish theater performs a  broad plays in terms of genre, encompassing drama, comedy, and musicals. On the other hand, musical theater is a particularly popular genre in the United States, with numerous classic and modern musicals being performed on Broadway and other theaters across the country.

  In terms of the audience,  Spain is generally more mature and may have a greater degree of education than the average theatergoer in the United States. Furthermore, in Spain, going to the theater is frequently regarded as a nice cultural activity, whereas in the United States, it is regarded as a kind of entertainment for people of all ages.

In many theaters in Spain, you can see the fascinating Flamengo dance. These fantastic dances, which encompass the movement of the legs, and are incredibly breathtaking. Great attention is also focused on the grace of the movement, and also the mimicry of the tanuor conveying emotions in which you can notice both sadness and passion and tenderness. This art emerged in the theater of Spain in 500-250 BC, when Indian dancers arrived in Spain through the port of Gadir to entertain the royalty. Almost 1000 years later, the Moors came, as well as the Gypsies, who brought with them dance styles from Pakistan and Persia, which significantly enriched the already existing Andalusian styles.

It is important to notice the racial aspect of Spanish/Latino theatre as well. Due to the inaccurate portrayal of Latino people in works like “West Side Story”, which was authored by non-Latino artists, concerns regarding racial stereotyping and prejudice have emerged. Controversies also surround the issue of casting of non-Latino actors in Latino theatrical roles. Latino people and cultures are typically represented on stage as being aggressive, competitive, exotic, and resistant to change. Many people view the musical West Side Story as an example of Puerto Rican stereotypes. The reason for that is because this musical served as the foundation for a lot of later racist discourse about Latinos in general.

Talking from my personal experience, I was fortunate enough to live in the city with a vibrant theatre scene. Each time I would go with my family to see a new play, it was an adventure. I remember explicitly the exact day when I went to the theater for the first time, which was  March 8, International Women’s Day. I saw the “Nutcracker,” which impressed me with elaborate costumes, fantastic acting and soaring music. Funny enough, I wanted to become an actress at some point, making my parents watch my acting with siblings. Theatre visits would make me realize how much I love strong female characters. I also remember my mom and I going to a wonderful performance of Don Quixote in my town. I remember seeing big curtains and a hall that looked very antique. The performance itself was beautiful. Looking back, theatre shaped me as a person and my worldviews in countless ways.It taught me about empathy and imagination, the importance of storytelling. I came out filled with love, and I immediately realized what a theater in Europe could be. I have always wanted to see a real European theater. After that experience, I started watching a lot of different videos of theaters in Spain. Their passion and love looked genuine on the stage of the theater. It seemed so unusual to me and then I immediately realized that Spain is a particularly creative place. Overall, I am very excited to explore Spanish theatre culture and learn more about it, which study abroad will gift me with. 

Nazerke’s old pointe shoes

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova of the Suleymaniye Mosque in Istambul /CC by 4.0

Departure as text

“Ready to travel” by Aitmukhanbetova Nazerke of FIU

From the very childhood I was fascinated by the Spanish culture, therefore, I was truly enthusiastic about taking this class. With utmost certainty I can tell that studying Spain and Spanish influence on Americas have changed my worldview dramatically. Most importantly, this course and multiple field trips that we had changed my vision for art and history, which have always been my favorite subjects. For example, when we visited the Vizcaya Museum, I felt as if I time traveled through several centuries, seeing how special is the art of Europe and how Deering appreciated it. This class helped me to imagine how beautiful and breathtaking Spain itself would be.

I enjoyed the Professor’s teaching style, which incorporated reading literature and watching movies, through which we explored the history. I was very impressed by the movie The Libirator,” where Simon Bolivar is the leader of the struggle for the independence of the Spanish colonies in South America. He liberated Venezuela, New Granada, Ecuador from Spanish rule. His strength and courage were transmitted through every minute of the film. It gave me goosebumps after seeing the way the Spanish colonies wanted their freedom. Of course I was mind – blown by the character of Bolivar, who died for the struggle and told the world that he was not just a man from a good family: he convinced that he was a fighter for justice and a military man. This character gave me a vision of how the Spanish people know how to fight for their freedom. 

Comparing myself at the beginning of the class to myself today as we are getting close to the end of the semester, taking it was not only my best decision, but also became my new vision. Now I saw Spain differently. For me, it was a country that boasts a wonderful climate, excellent beaches and a warm sea, interesting sights, bright holidays and delicious cuisine. However, it addition to all these wonderful things, now I see it through a lens of vivid story, art that has seen the centenary of the world, literature where writers not only write but also express everything they can fight for. This class gave me an opportunity to feel and see Spain so much more in-depth than it is shown for tourists. It is worth noticing that this class also helped me to see Miami from the other side as well. Now I see how Coral Gables is a very European part of Florida, where many streets are named as in Europe.  Even the streets you walk through immerse you in a special time.  

I have loved dancing for as long as I can remember myself. From the age of 7, I was engaged in folk dances in Kazakhstan, and then I began to study ballet. I always knew about the beautiful Flamengo dance. I’ve always dreamed of seeing these special movements live. For me this Spanish performing, which signifies love and passion, is, in my opinion, a great art of motion that is both timeless and contemporary, since the intensity of love knows no time or dates.  This dance rises the heart and energizes the spirit, allowing you to express yourself through dancing. Flamenco is an amalgamation of dance, music, and vocal that is a very unique artistic style for me. Flamenco dancing is a beautiful, complex representation of passion reaching on crazy emotions of love. As a dancer and major fan of dancing, this is a huge reason for me to fall in love with this lovely culture.

Photograph taken by Nazerke Aitmukhanbetova of the Suleymaniye Mosque in Istambul /CC by 4.0

In conclusion, this class has been nothing but great experience with great people. I am grateful to Honors College and our Professor for offering such a wonderful course, breaking it up for Spring when we study the” theory,” and Summer, where we get the “practice”. In the span of the semester, I have explored every aspect of Spain and its culture, which built up my excitement of visiting it even more. I can not wait to board the plane for a wonderful journey with wonderful people.  

Janessa Romero: Enlightenment As Text 2023

Photo by Janessa Romero CC/4.0

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nico Uribe: Miami as Text Spring 2023

Photograph taken and edited by Nico Uribe/CC BY 4.0

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



Miami Encounter as Text

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

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

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

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

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


Everglades as Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Coconut Grove as Text

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

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

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


Coral Gables as Text

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

His story begins at a young age, as a citrus seller by mule-drawn cart through a much more virgin version of Miami, slowly working his way and developing his vision… Or so we’re told. Many accounts of Merrick’s life romanticize this “American Dream” path to success that George Merrick led. Although, in truth, he was sent to university on the northeastern coast by his citrus orchard-owning parents. Regardless, he was an astute visionary and businessman, developing an entire city in one of the most unique and practical ways.

He followed guidelines inspired by the City Beautiful Movement. The model, popular during the early 1900s strived to incorporate characteristic architecture, tree-lined streets, schools, a university, and plenty of landscaped public parks, and fountains. As a young man, Merrick had traveled to Central America, having the opportunity to witness the way Spanish architecture looked and felt amongst the tropical green foliage. Needless to say, he was inspired, and thus came the idea for the Mediterranean revival architecture, so characteristic of Coral Gables.

For this huge vision, he needed investment, he needed to convince people that Coral Gables was the next big thing, and he executed it perfectly. He built a few extravagant buildings to marvel at and a stunning hotel, the Bilmore, costing 10 million dollars in the early 1900s. The hotel boasts 250 rooms in Spanish-style architecture, a massive pool, and every bit of beauty needed for a northerner to think they are staying in literal paradise. The investors rolled in, quickly developing Miracle Mile and housing thousands in the surrounding neighborhoods.

As amazing as George Merrick was a visionary and businessman, he wasn’t perfect. Recently, His name was removed from a few University of Miami titles, despite founding the school, since there have been texts by him showing clear disrespect and disregard to African-American communities, by proposing to relocate “negro” families from “slums” to develop a neighborhood.

Goral Gables is not just a pretty city where the sidewalks are nice and wide, it is a city with purpose and with history, where every little thing was planned out and I would have never known it.


Norton As Text

Norton Museum was a portal of sorts that you don’t often see anywhere, much less in Palm Beach County. Nevertheless, there it was, stately and beautiful on the outside, but absolutely magical on the inside.

Museums offer a glimpse into time periods and cultures that we may not have the opportunity to experience otherwise. They have the ability to transport us through time, and to connect us with the stories and histories of humanity. Having grown up with museum and travel-loving parents, it was easy to fall in love with the feeling of slowly walking down a hallway lined with artifacts that each can unlock a burst of imagination. One problem with this is that not all museums are created equal, and in the United States, it is hard to come by one with so much rich history as those found on one’s travels.

The Norton Museum is a thorough stand-out. Different rooms uncovered fascinating historical realities. One room, focusing on religious art, displayed catholic art dating back to the 1500’s, showing the evolution of the relationship between catholic belief and art itself, first focusing on very vague depictions of religious figures to avoid comparing their likeliness to that of mortals, evolving into all-out realistic depictions where artists used models. It’s fascinating to see how human beliefs change so much over time when often the goal is consistency.

One step through a doorway leads you out of one world and into another, as you are met by giant, ancient Chinese Lion cultures and countless other scrolls and artifacts, giving you no time to process the room you just walked out of. The museum didn’t even have a shortage of world-famous painters, displaying works by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Edgar Degas, Georgia O’Keeffe, and even Claude Monet. The totally unique and varying artists shared rooms, the paintings almost competing for the limelight. My winner was Monet’s “The Cliff, Etretat, Sunset,” a painting that kept me staring a few minutes longer than needed.

We finalized our Norton experience with contemporary art, something that felt a lot more “Miami” than everything else. Contemporary art challenges traditional notions of what art can be, pushing boundaries and encouraging onlookers to see the world in new and different ways. It was at this point in our tour that I began to think to myself about where Miami is headed. I have spent a lot of time thinking about what Miami is and has been, but the future is uncertain. One thing I think is safe to say is that Miami is a city that, like contemporary art, has always tried to push boundaries and use creativity to flourish.

The Norton Museum is a place that evidences this theory, and it’s a place I’ll be returning to in search of more mind-wandering and fulfillment.


Key Biscayne As Text

Our locally famed “El Farito”, or the Cape Florida Lighthouse, is situated at the southern tip of Bill Baggs State Park of Key Biscayne. The popular weekend beach-day destination has a certain undeniable look to it that just feels like it has more history to it than meets the eye, but it takes a special eagerness to learn, or at least it takes signing up for Miami in Miami to uncover the history of the lighthouse that is so closely tied into the history of South Florida as a whole.

The first to inhabit the area were the Tequesta, who conquered the difficult landscape for so many years before European explorers and settlers began to arrive. One such was a man by the name of Ponce de Leon, someone very regarded and respected, as seen through the many places named after him and the idolization of him by people like the eccentric James Deering. Ponce de Leon is the man credited for being the first European to document Florida, but a hot debate revolving around his exploration is based on whether or not he really stepped foot on Floridian soil.

It’s at Key Biscayne, that this mystery can be said to be solved, as another Spaniard, a Jesuit by the name of Fransisco de Villareal recalls an account where he, sent to minister the Tequesta natives, observed how “the majority of the Indians went to an island a league from here to eat coconuts and palm grapes. No more than 30 remained here.” The island in question is, of course, Key Biscayne, and the interesting note is that the Tequesta were eating coconuts, a non-native species that could only have been introduced by the one previous voyager, Ponce de Leon. How fascinating is that?

Some of the first real non-native and non-Spanish inhabitants of South Florida were actually escaped African-American slaves, and Key Biscayne became a historic location for this movement of people with its role as the “salt-water underground railroad.” From the southern tip of Key Biscayne, slaves actually managed to escape on boats to the Bahamas in search of a life free of prosecution. It was due to this situation, in combination with a genuine need for a lighthouse that the United States decided to build the Cape Florida Lighthouse that officially eliminated the salt-water underground railroad.

From then on, the lighthouse became an important tool for ships that often crashed into the shallow reefs just off the island’s coast, a problem now much less prevalent. As time went on, the lighthouse was manned by many men who lived at the lighthouse keeper’s house accompanied by their slaves. Often though, these lighthouse keepers who were seldom checked in on would leave the lighthouse under the care of their slaves as they would go off to neighboring islands. At a certain point, the lighthouse was left under the command of two black slave women, acting as just another testament to the importance of women in South Florida’s history.

A certain occasion on July 23, 1836, marked the day that the lighthouse was attacked by a group of Seminoles who wanted to put the lighthouse out of commission for a strategic advantage during the Seminole Wars. During this attack, the lighthouse keepers slave was killed as they sought refuge atop the lighthouse, as an act to save his own life, the lighthousekeeper shot a barrel of oil that exploded, lighting the wooden stairs aflame and isolating himself from the attackers. In the end, he survived, but the Seminoles achieved their goal in a small victory over the American military.

In all, the Cape Florida Lighthouse of Key Biscayne is a location of amazing cultural significance that outlines the history of South Florida as a whole in a fascinating way.


Aventura As Text

Although I’m still a new South-Floridian, there are certain places that have become more part of me than others in some way. One such place is Aventura, it’s the place where my parents lived, before moving to California where I was born, so I grew up hearing far-off stories of this amazing place called Aventura, Florida. Since living here, the Aventura Mall has become my new favorite place to go shopping, and the nice collection of cafes and restaurants that Aventura boasts has led me to frequent it more than almost any other neighborhood in Miami-Dade County. In consideration of this course though, I thought, what is the deeper history of Aventura?

Besides the long and largely forgotten history of the Tequesta, who resided in all of South Florida, including Aventura, it can be said that the place’s history is pretty new. The recent history 0f Aventura began with its purchase by the Fulfords, or Captain William Hawkins Fulford specifically, who purchased 160 acres of land in 1897. He essentially would just rent out land to the so-called “snowbirds”, who were rich men and families from the northern states who would escape the hostile weather and rent out land in places like Aventura to lodge and hunt during the winter months. See the thing about Aventura is that up until 1967, it was basically all just undeveloped swampland until a man by the name of Don Soffer drew out a plan to develop the land, literally on a cocktail napkin, or at least that’s how the story goes.

Don Soffer was a visionary real estate developer who, after purchasing a prominent portion of the land in Aventura, decided to establish a world-class country club and residential community. His idea came to fruition with the Turnberry Isle Country Club which exists to this day, though maybe past its prime.

Soffer’s next main project was the beloved Aventura Mall, which is today, one of my favorite destinations. It was built in 1983 and was, at the time, the largest shopping mall in all the southern United States, and still one of the largest to this day. Another amazing project was the today named, Don Soffer exercise trail, where he successfully established a 3-mile natural trail for exercise and leisure, something rare with development at the time. Along with this, he also established tennis courts, a city center, public transportation, and many roads. All of these establishments contributed greatly to the attraction of so many visitors and new residents, many of which consider Aventura to be a premier community.

Don Soffer, a man born in Duquesne, Pennsylvania grew up in South Florida and dedicated his work as a developer to the greater welcoming community that today, we call Aventura. So much of what transpired is reminiscent of the planning done by George Merrick during the planning and development of Coral Gables, and it’s inspiring to learn about the thought and effort that went behind the development of our favorite places, something so easily overlooked.


Marguiles Collection As Text

The unique histories and cultures retained by the different neighborhoods of Miami are one thing that makes the city so unique. One such neighborhood that we have thoroughly explored is Wynwood. Now popularly known as a well-established art district, the neighborhood came to be what it is today thanks to the efforts of a few visionary individuals in the early 2000s. Though it began as only a few art-dedicated warehouses, as more artists moved in, galleries and studios began popping up, cementing Wynwood’s reputation as a known art destination. Today, the area is home to lots of galleries, street art, and cultural events, making it an especially dynamic art hub.

Meeting the pioneers who created an established neighborhood culture is an incredibly valuable experience, as these individuals possess knowledge and insight into the history and evolution of the community. For our tour of the Marguiles collection, the entire walk was guided by Mr. Marguiles himself, something which I found truly unique. He actually first opened the collection in 1999 on the University of Miami Campus but soon became one of the first to establish themselves with an art gallery in Wynwood.

It was fascinating to see how much of his own interest and passion went into the collection, as every piece from photography, to projected art, to art that made sound through dozens of speakers. It seemed like the key to his taste had no specific theme; it was all just art that resonated with him. This was something I took time to think about, as it’s so easy to categorize one’s interests and while this consistency may be best for some, I found his diverse taste to be very refreshing.

Art is often meant to convey some sort of emotion or reflection into the heart of the viewer, and one such piece that did this at the Marguiles collection was Geheimnis der Farne (Secret of the Ferns) (2007). The piece consisted of a massive rectangular room that had both parallel long walls covered in 48 framed paintings that were never to be separated from each other. These paintings actually used very unique materials including old dresses and plenty of plant life which was mostly ferns. From afar, one might initially say that they all blended together, very cohesively to form one large work, but up close, each painting had significant differences from one another. At the center of the room were two massive structures made from metal and concrete. Mr. Marguiles explained that “The towers in the center refer to the Tower of Jericho and evoke Nazi structures in World War II concentration camps”. Having recently visited Dachau Concentration Camp near Munich, Germany, and having seen the gas chambers that these were meant to resemble made the experience even more real for me. It was a reminder of the wickedness of the world and gave me the opportunity to appreciate my life as I toured some of the most impressive art collections in Miami.

The Wynwood art district is such a unique place, special in its dynamic nature with so many different worlds of art combined in a seemingly unlikely place.


Chicken Key As Text

As our last outing together for the two-semester-long course, this final Chicken Key expedition was one to take time for reflection and to give back to the amazing South Florida world that we’ve come to know so well.

On our previous outing, the island was something very foreign and our goal was so largely focused on collecting as much trash as possible. The canoe trip there had surprised and strained us, but tired, sticky, and wet, the most work was yet to come. On our first trip, everything was out of our comfort zone, the ground was uncomfortable, the spiders were unavoidable, we were afraid to get dirty, and we were all still not so far from just fellow students. This time, everything was different.

As we launched the canoes, there was a sense that everyone knew what they were doing, and everyone knew what they were in for. Before you knew it we were paired up and navigating toward Chicken Key. Despite the crazy winds blowing against us, it seemed everyone was undeterred. Upon arrival, everything was familiar. We knew how and where to land and disembark, where to set up for lunch, and how to collect all the garbage. This time everyone moved as a team where we all trusted each other, helped each other, truly it felt so familiar. As I lifted my head from the garbage-covered floor, I would notice my classmates leading canoes along the bank, taking filled garbage bags and delivering new ones, and classmates twisting their bodies to fit through gaps between the mangroves to collect another few bottle caps. Where our first trip felt so treacherous, this one felt routine, and it allowed me to enjoy the cleaning and nature much more.

At one point a small group of us followed Professor Bailly on a small expedition to the southern tip of the island that he promised held the most beautiful nature. As we entered this section, we immediately noticed the untouched mangrove forest with branches spreading so high, I doubted they were even mangroves as I’d never seen mangroves that old. In this part of the island, the nature was almost as abundant as the debris one is so used to seeing. Besides the ubiquitous hermit crabs, ancient horseshoe crab carcasses would appear, reminding us that this world is so much older than us. Finally, as we almost reached the very tip, we stumbled upon a large snake, one of the highlights of the trip and our queue to turn back.

One very special thing that I found was a very special green, glass bottle. I gravitated to it for its unique shape and color but never expected to see what was in it. It was a mangrove sprout, growing within the bottle like an impressive bonsai, embedded in a layer of soil and restrained against the glass like a prisoner. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if the average person didn’t find it half as cool as I did, but to me, it was such an amazing representation of nature and its resilience, but that however hard it may try, sometimes the prison that humans create it too strong to break free from. It reminded me of the many square miles of rocky pine forest in the Everglades that have been deemed unsavable, or the many miles of mangroves replaced by sand for commercial beaches, or the Miami River that we learned about in our very first class, which used to be so clean you could drink from it.

This final class meeting was great; it was amazing to see all of us who were so recently strangers, working together and trusting each other so much, but it was also a reminder of all the harm we humans have caused to the South Florida ecosystem that we owe so much repairing to.


Miami Reflection As Text

Where to start…

On a given Wednesday during the beginning of the 2022 Fall semester, I found myself carpooling with a couple of my classmates to the Miami-Dade Government Center. Transporting myself back to that moment, I remember feeling nonchalant. I had heard of some of the unique things that we were to do in the coming semester, but in the end, it was just another class, I thought. Walking along and listening closely, I began to gauge the words of Professor Bailly; “Man, this guy knows what he’s talking about.” From the get-go it was all such fascinating information about things that, living in Miami, you walk past daily, not knowing all of the information sitting right under your nose.

We walked at a brisk pace, almost never taking a break from talking, seeing and learning so much as I started to get an idea of what I was in for. It all clicked the moment I put my hand on the wall of the oldest structure in Miami when it clicked and I realized I would be thanking myself for enrolling in this class.

Since then, we visited the Freedom Tower, the location of all the Cuban immigration that formed Miami’s identity, Overtown and Coconut Grove, the beautiful African American neighborhoods that revealed Miami’s rich history and intense gentrification, and Coconut Grove, a depiction of Miami’s grandeur. We visited Vizcaya and the Deering Estate, the homes of two rich brothers that pioneered and shaped Miami in its earliest days. We saw South Beach, Untitled, the Rubell Museum, Wynwood art, the Miami Design District, and Norton Art Museum, all places that revealed the unique artistic and architectural boom of Miami. We experienced the nature of Miami by canoeing to chicken key, hiking through the hardwood hammock of the Deering Estate, and going waist-deep into the Everglades, hearing alligators in the water that we shared.

Best of all though, was that we didn’t just go to these places, we uncovered them, learning about who contributed to them all, how they came to be, and why they are the way they are. Today, it’s impossible for me to go anywhere in Miami without thinking back to a moment in this class when I learned something so fascinating that I would have never known otherwise. In fact, every place that we have visited, I have gone back to, and even then, this class has inspired me to be more inquisitive, to conduct more research, and to try to find out anything new I can about the place I live, because, through this class, I’ve learned that there are more things more fulfilling.

Finally, what can’t be overlooked is the way that we all grew together as a class. To go from complete strangers to real friends that I can rely on and who I share so many experiences with is something so special.

Ultimately, the one thing I can always say when looking back at Miami in Miami is that I know one day, I’ll be telling my kids about it, teaching them about George Merrick, the Salt Water Underground Railroad, the Tequesta, and the list goes on. Thank’s to Professor Bailly and all of my classmates, I’ll have experiences that will last my whole lifetime.

Christopher Myers: Miami as Text Spring 2023

Miami encounter as text

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everglades as text

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

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

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

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

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

Coconut Grove as text

Brick by Brick by Christopher Myers on February 5, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coral Gables as text

Tropical Spain by Christopher Myers on February 19, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

Norton Museum of Art as text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key Biscayne as text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Art District/Design District as text

Take the Art With You by Christopher Myers on April 16, 2023

Wynwood has had a lot of change over the recent handful of years. Significant real estate changes, growth, artistic expression, and much more. The area is most famously known for the graffiti-styled art on the Wynwood walls and buildings in the surrounding area. But, that is not where the influence of art started. In the late 90s and early 2000s collectors, galleries and art nights started to pop up in the empty warehouse of Wynwood. This led to growth in the northern part of Wynwood now known as the Wynwood Art District.

Amongst those first collectors were Martin Z. Margulies and his collection opened in a warehouse to the public in 1999. This was not only a part of Mr. Margulies history but also a part of the history of art in Miami. Various artists and collections and exhibitions from all ages, all styles, and most importantly from all over the world have had their art on display at the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse over the last 20+ years. There was so much variety throughout the warehouse, the magnitude of meaning, inspiration, and creativity was unlike anything else I have experienced. From your standard framed paintings and photographs to pieces that required special machinery and heavy lifting equipment to move into the warehouse, the collections on display were more than enough to keep anyone’s attention for hours. We had the absolute honor, as a class, to receive a tour from Mr. Margulies himself and we got to hear from him personally. We learned about the start of his collection, where it has gone, where it is now, and where it continues. The most impressive characteristic of Mr. Margulies is his willingness to give back. From giving the public access to his collection and waving the fee to all students to his philanthropy and involvement in other art projects and significant donations to the Miami women and children’s homeless shelter, the emphasis of giving back is clearly present.

Just a few miles away from Wynwood and the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse you can find yourself at the de la Cruz Collection in the Design District. Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz make their museum available to the public at no cost. They also care about giving back and provide scholarships, lectures educational travel, and workshops for students. The museum has a tremendous variety of art lining the walls and floors of all 3 stories. There were some unique pieces that left me with a new outlook of experiencing art and the message “take the art with you.” Now obviously you cannot just pick a painting up off of the wall and walk out but there are other ways to take art with you. Whether it’s appreciation or inspiration for something you have in life. Or it could be learning something new, finding a new artist or style, or even a new favorite piece. Or it could be telling someone the story about what you saw.

Or, in some rare cases, you can actually take the art with you (as permitted). In the middle of the floor, on the 3rd story, was a piece that was on display that became my inspiration for this new outlook. An “Untitled” piece from the visual artist Felix Gonzalex-Torres lies two stacks of paper both 56 x 23 inches but with different messages on each stack. One states “Nowhere better than this place” and the other states “Somewhere better than this place.” As a part of this piece, spectators can take one or both of either message.

In one way or another . . . . “take the art with you.”

An “Untitled” piece from the visual artist Felix Gonzalex-Torres on display at the de la Cruz Collection. photo taken by Christopher Myers

Angelina Jansen: Miami as Text Spring 2023

Picture taken by Angelina Jansen/ CC by 4.0

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

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

When I think of Miami

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

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

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

I think of Cuban coffee with Pastelitos and Spanish gossip

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

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

I think of the peacocks and white Ibis that stroll around

and the palm trees and boats by the ocean

I think of the unique biodiversity and tropical climate we have

I think about how even hurricanes do not scare us

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pictures taken and edited by Angelina Jansen/ CC by 4.0

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

Picture taken by Angelina Jansen/ CC by 4.0

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

Norton as Text 2023

During our trip to the Norton Museum of Art, we were able to look through various exhibits and learn about the history of art and how it continued to evolve as various eras shaped the medium, starting off our visit with European art and ending it with contemporary art. We were able to see how different movements impacted art in different periods and how the emotions and beliefs of various generations are heavily reflected by the difference in art styles. We were able to see the influence of religion on European art and how biblical figures were frequently painted, we also saw numerous examples of individuals paying artists to paint them in glorious statures to imitate these holy figures. We learned how light and shadowing were used to emphasize figures and how most of these artists leaned towards realism and were full of details. One of my favorite parts of the lecture was learning that many paintings of Mary and Jesus were based on real individuals, and how there was controversy over this because they were often homeless individuals or prostitutes, and this was seen as blasphemous.  I found that to be refreshing and beautiful to know that some of the most renowned paintings that are supposed to be regarded as holy in nature, were influenced by the very people who lived in that area. It just goes to show how art imitates life and how real-life experiences can serve as the foundation of art forms. I also found it interesting that what was considered acceptable for religious paintings continued to change based on what institutions deemed as appropriate, I would argue that even today institutions attempt to define what is appropriate when it comes to art and learning and how that parallels past times.

While we only stopped by it briefly, the Chinese exhibit was one of my favorite aspects of the museum. I love how Eastern art uses mythical creatures to create a sense of transcendence. The jade pottery and the lacquered cabinets convinced me that one day I wish to have a home that has pieces that makes me feel the same way I felt while looking at these ornate objects. The fluidity and detailing of these works are what make them so unique, each piece tells an intricate story, one that revolves around harmony, balance, and a shared cohesiveness despite being made in different dynasties.

Picture taken by Angelina Jansen/CC by 4.0

We finished up our visit with a look at contemporary art, and how the movement of abstract art expanded art in all different directions. Bright colors and abstract shapes opened up room for more rule-breaking and have influenced the various different kinds of modern art we see today all around us. Artists were open to using unique materials and objects to create depictions of a visual reality that strayed from traditional “accurate” representations. I would argue that art today is less restrained, general themes no longer have to be kept, and we continue to see new styles of art and new combinations of techniques that continue to evolve

Key Biscayne as Text 2023

While walking the long-winded path in Bill Bags Park I was unsure of what to expect, but once I had seen the lighthouse, I knew I was in the right place. Being able to climb up the lighthouse and see the lush green view from the very top was a sight to see. Being that high up and feeling like the wind was about to knock me over filled me with adrenaline, but also made me realize how difficult it must have been to be a lighthouse keeper, especially during harsh weather. Yet no matter the conditions they continued to play a pivotal role in safely guiding boats to shore.

Thanks to Park ranger we got to learn more about the history of Key Biscayne and its first settlers. The Tequesta’s had first navigated to Key Biscayne from the Everglades and were settled there until Spaniards came in and attempted to convert them. It was interesting to learn that Florida was a part of Spain until 1763 and how there was a Southern Underground railroad in which many slaves and Black Seminoles used to enter Spanish Florida. This railroad known as the Saltwater Underground Railroad ended in Key Biscayne, right on the ground we were standing on by the lighthouse. Being such a historically rich area, it is all thanks to Bill Baggs that the area was turned into a state park. Bill Baggs had convinced owners to sell their land and convinced the government to buy it to protect the area. Seeing the clean beach and green vegetation everywhere, I can understand the importance of preserving an area like this, and how unfortunately many areas in Miami that were once like this did not have the same fate.

We were able to enter the property next to the lighthouse where the lighthouse keepers would have resided in. It was strange to see the architectural choices of the house that imitated homes up north, we learned that it was common practice to make all these homes the same for all lighthouse keepers, no matter the location, as a way of paying homage to each other. The home itself was meant to accommodate the lighthouse keeper and his family, despite looking initially small there were several rooms for the family to live comfortably

We got to spend the rest of the afternoon cleaning up the area by trimming the overgrown vegetation and vines and cleaning up debris and garbage. Nothing like a little garden work to get your day going. It felt good to get our hands dirty and work together as a class to leave the area in a better condition than it was before. Within the next two hours, the pathways were clear, and no branches were covering any of the signs. The ending of our day was like a scene from a movie, all of the students together perched on the rocks, cleaning the last of the debris, and sharing a moment together before departing and jumping back into our hectic lives.

Picture taken by Angelina Jansen/CC by 4.0

Wynwood as Text 2023

Wynwood is known for being popular for its towering murals and street art along with other kinds of entertainment like restaurants, music shows and events, and the nightlife scene. I had been to Wynwood several times with friends and family but I had never been to Marguilles Museum previous to our class trip. I loved the layout of the museum, rather than viewing art in the traditional sense where you stand and observe a painting, each room was an immersive experience. “Geheimnis der Farne” by Anselm Kiefer is a perfect example of this. When I entered the room it felt like an entirely different world, the large space and concrete structures made me feel small in comparison. It felt like a scene from an apocalyptic movie, but what made it truly impactful was that it captured the horrors of the Holocaust. This was not some construed piece but a reflection of a time in history when genocide ruled. The ferns played a pivotal part in displaying this extinction along with articles of clothing on the frames surrounding the room

Picture taken by Angelina Jansen/CC by 4.0

Going through the museum gave me a newfound appreciation for modern-day art in which large objects serve as the medium. The ability to view art by exploring it through all angles is so deeply powerful, I felt connected to it in a way that I typically do not with art just because the medium of the art allowed me to interact with it in such a unique way in which I was immersed in the vision of the artist. Viewing art in this way encapsulates this grandness, this feeling of something being beyond me, and has truly made me understand the transcendental ability of art and what this kind of art can show us. It is like peeling an onion, where this interactive art brings a new level of empathy for the viewer.

It was an honor to have Martin Z. Margulies graciously lead us around the exhibit and give the class information and anecdotes about the art pieces as well as his own story as to how he got involved in collecting art. Not only was he witty, but his passion for the collection is what really moved me while visiting The Warehouse.

I had a full-circle moment when visiting the De La Cruz Collection in the Miami Design District. In my sophomore year of highschool, I took a dual enrollment art class, and in this art class, there was a poster of “Flowers on Body” by Ana Mendieta. I remember the impression it had on me when I first saw it and I had made it my wallpaper on my phone. Lo and behold just a few years later I got to see the piece in person. Seeing her other work made me realize that my first intuitions of her art through that one piece were shared when looking at the larger collection. I resonated with her work and her art style and loved her heavy use of symbolism in various different mediums. Whether it was photography, sculptures, or videos. Viewing her exhibit was a special moment for me that will not be forgotten

Picture taken by Angelina Jansen/CC by 4.0

Picture taken by Angelina Jansen/CC by 4.0

Miami Final Reflection 2023

In just a blink of an eye, the semester is finally coming to an abrupt end, and summer is entering the horizon. There is the common joke of students immediately forgetting everything they have learned the moment classes are over, but I know that much of what I learned in this honors class will linger with me as I continue to explore Miami on my own. Prior to this class I had a surface-level understanding of Miami and was unfamiliar with its history, what I’ve been left with is a much deeper appreciation for it. I can only hope that many of the narratives and stories we learned about will be continued to be discussed rather than be forgotten. There are so many mental notes in my head regarding architecture, gentrification, art, culture, city layouts, history and nature that has allowed me to connect the dots with so many ideas, especially when it comes to discussion of Miami today. It is important to be aware of our roots and have knowledge on our city so we can make conscious decisions about our future, especially during a time when legislation continues to make drastic changes that affect education, preservation, and history.

Besides just the educational aspect of this class, I have been able to form friendships and talk to people who have completely different life experiences than I do.  Long car rides have given me stories and moments that are podcast worthy. Being able to walk around and eat with my classmates really encapsulates what college is supposed to be about it.  Of course, our classes and internships are important, but real human connection is what allows us to grow and shapes us into the people we will become. The laughter and random conversations we have had are the moments I will cherish most from Miami in Miami.

I hope to bring the people I love in my life to some of the locations we visited so they can witness some of the magic we got to see during the semester. This course has inspired me to get out of my comfort zone and to explore the city while I am still here. The goal is to revisit some of these locations in the summer, but also create my own go-to spots. There is always something to find, and sometimes it is right in front of us, in the places we pass by every day while commuting around Miami.

Picture taken by Angelina Jansen/CC by 4.0

Sophie Correa: Miami as Text 2023

Photograph taken by Daniela Sanchez/ CC by 4.0″


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

Encounter as Text

Photograph taken by Sophie Correa/CC by 4.0

“A Whole New World”

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

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

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

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

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

By Sophie Correa 01/27/2023

photograph taken by Sophie Correa/CC by 4.0

“To be or not to be”

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

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

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

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

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

by Sophie Correa 02/12/2023

Photograph taken by Sophie Correa/ CC by 4.0

“Fruit of My City”

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

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

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

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

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

By Sophie Correa 02/26/2023

“Stepping Into Different Era”

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

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

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

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

Miami Encounter as Text

I have lived in Miami since the day I was born, now 20 years and counting. Growing up I spent most of my time in the neighborhoods of Coral Gables, Westchester and Key Biscayne. I am quite a stranger in most other parts of South Florida. I have always admired the Latino culture which is so prevalent and strong here in South Florida, as well as the Cuban and Bahamian influences on food, music, dance and entertainment. I am very proudly the son of Cuban immigrants and I am grateful to grow up in such an accepting and inviting cultural crock pot which is Miami. I am in this class to look past the superficial layers of Miami and experience the original and vintage areas of Miami which laid the groundwork to build the booming city we have now. When selecting this class I was fascinated by the weekly adventures we had planned and I now look forward to each class excited and eager like a kid going on a field trip. I am extremely curious about the creation of the town which I have always called home and would appreciate understanding the history and people whom came before us.

The image Miami conjures in my mind is one of Spring Break students partying on South Beach and a lavish city lifestyle with rooftop bars and futuristic service. I picture business moguls and models and nice sports cars and modern skyscrapers. I am in this class to see and experience pockets of Miami which remained genuine and true to the vision of those whom pioneered our beautiful South Florida. I am most looking forward to visiting Chicken Key and venturing throughout an uninhabited island. I am greatly looking forward to the canoe trip and all the potential ocean critters we may encounter. I have always loved being out on the water so out of all the incredible destinations we have planned I am truly most excited for Chicken Key and learning about the marine life. I highly anticipate a calm picnic overlooking the water with a cool breeze hitting our tropical island. Additionally, the potential animals we may encounter within the island and on our canoe trip intrigues me as well. I would be fascinated to see some manatees, sharks, crocodiles, sea turtles, tortoises or snakes.

Furthermore, I am tremendously excited to voyage through the historic downtown Miami. I look forward to learning about the beautiful and tragic history of the Magic City as I have limited knowledge on the subject. I am most excited to visit the HistoryMiami museum as I have never been before and I love admiring artifacts and ancient works. I am excited to experience each week of this course and analyze how my opinions of a particular area may change from prior to our visit to after our in depth experience.

Diego I. Segurola : Miami as Text Spring 2023

photograph taken by Diego Segurola

Diego Segurola is a junior majoring in Hospitality Business Management at Florida International University. Son to Cuban immigrants, I aspire to learn more about the history and culture of the city in which my grandparents and parents sought refuge. I seek to satiate my curiosity of those who laid down the foundation of our beautiful South Florida.

Everglades as Text

photograph taken by Letizia

I truly had no idea what to expect when I was on my way to the Everglades for our class slough slog. Having lived in central Miami my entire life I have always been aware of the mysticism linked with the Everglades, otherwise referred to as the “river of grass” by conservationist Marjory Stoneman Douglas. However I had never experienced an in person trek through this one of a kind terrain and environment, I had only seen pictures. I was awe struck on my drive to the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center. I could not help but lower all my windows and gaze upon the sawgrass prairies that went as far as the eye could see, with no buildings or street lights or footprint of humanity other than the road on which we drove.

Stomping through waist deep water on a muddy and uneven ground terrain in an ecosystem which is home to over 750 different species was a life changing experience. I felt like a pioneer carrying my walking stick and
admiring the flora and fauna. Park Ranger Dylan and Professor Bailly both emphasized the importance and value that the Everglades possesses, being recognized as one of only 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States. I was able to appreciate the largest mangrove ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere and the largest continuous stand of sawgrass prairie in North America with all 5 of my senses. The slight and subtle slicing of the sawgrass as I walked through it. The sweet songs of the birds and chirping of the bugs. The smell of fresh natural air and grass. The view of a towering Cypress Dome, so large one can clearly see the curvature created by the larger trees in the center. A slightly salty taste in the air deep within the Cypress Dome.

After an adventurous slough slog, we traveled over to the Anhinga trail for a peaceful stroll. We were lucky enough to see several Anhingas spear fishing for dinner, as well as a couple alligators sun bathing and even a snake. It was remarkable to observe all of the complex dynamics constantly occurring in the diverse ecosystem which is the Everglades. Our final destination of the day was the ancient deer feeding station, the last remaining structure built by the Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs. This voyage through the trees made me reminisce on the mystery and curiosity the first pioneers of the Everglades must have felt when they explored through the never ending foliage of wilderness.

All in all, my favorite experience of the day was when Park Ranger Dylan suggested we all have a couple minutes of silence within the Cypress Dome simply to appreciate the sounds of nature and beauty of the untouched and natural South Florida. I felt truly at peace and connected with the ground upon which we stood. My understanding of the Everglades changed in the sense that I appreciate the individual components, whether it be species of animals or trees, which come together to create this beautiful and thriving diverse ecosystem.

Chosen Neighborhood as Text

photograph taken by Melanie Rodriguez

The neighborhood I felt most connected with myself was our adventure throughout the beautiful land of Coral Gables. As a kid I would spend all my Summers skateboarding through the same streets we toured and it was truly a full circle experience understanding the history and cultural importance of the same places I used to venture around.

George Merrick arrived to Miami in 1899 and began developing 3,000 acres of land through his Mediterranean Revival style vision. By 1925 the City of Coral Gables was incorporated, furthermore the University of Miami was chartered and the Coral Gables Congregational Church was dedicated in the same year. Mr. Merrick gave detailed descriptions as to how he believed the Spanish and Moorish architecture and artistic style beautifully complimented and harmonized the tropical environment of South Florida. However, the story of Coral Gables cannot be told without mentioning that George Merrick actively advocated for the forceful relocation of black families from Miami, as well as used Bahamian labor to build Coral Gables during a time of violent segregation.

photograph by Diego Segurola

I most enjoyed visiting the beautiful Biltmore hotel, a building I had passed by and gazed up at hundreds of times, however I had never previously entered. George Merrick recognized the importance of having a luxury hotel in the city to attract wealthy elites interested in the real estate Merrick had to offer. Ground was broken in 1925 and $10 million later, the eccentric and lovely Biltmore hotel boasting a golf course and 350 rooms opened in January 1926. I felt an absolute serenity and calmness as I gazed upon the expansive golf course and beautiful greenery. As the cool breeze hit me I felt as if there was truly no better place on Earth to be. It was in this moment that I realized what Mr. Merrick was trying to capture in his vision of the City of Coral Gables, a luxurious tropical get away complimented by Spanish architecture and Bahamian influences. The open air gazebo held a tranquil and mysterious restaurant cafè within it. We then had the honor of touring the pool area and looking at what was once the largest hotel pool in the United States. The overwhelmingly vast pool gives a sense of luxury and grandness. Furthermore, we observed more Spanish influences in how the tower at the peak of the Biltmore is modeled after the Giralda Tower from the Cathedral of Seville. The lobby and elevators are kept in absolutely vintage and pristine condition and give a sense of elegance. The Biltmore is a truly classic establishment that beautifully captures the tropical environment Miami so gracefully encompasses.

Finally we visited the historic Coral Gables Congregational Church. It was extremely peaceful and enlightening to have the experience of touring and experiencing such a beautiful establishment and appreciating the cultural impact it had on the neighborhood. We had a great discussion regarding how every community represents their God and holy people in a relatable manner and one that benefits the community. For example, the church represented Martin Luther King Jr. and other black activists in their murals as it was symbols of hope and justice to the community.

Key Biscayne as Text

photograph taken by Jane

The Key Biscayne retreat experience was a much needed getaway from city life and a beautiful immersion with our tropical shoreline. It was very humbling to hear the stories of all the Light Keepers whom lived a lonely yet peaceful life alone with their assistants taking care of the whole Light House and holding the enormous responsibility of keeping the shoreline lit to keep ships and sailors safe. It was also very interesting to realize that this establishment of the light house officially marked an evolution in the colonization of the area and a stepping stone in removing indigenous people from the lands. These indigenous people retaliated and we are left with the legendary story of the light keeper and his assistant whom fought off an entire wave of native soldiers, and the light keeper whom blew up the entire stair case to protect himself from the attack and signal for help with the loud boom of the explosion. Being able to experience actually going up the steps gave me great perspective on the strenuous tasks the light keepers had of constantly going up and down and tending to the building and their home. The image of the New England style home suitable for a cold climate built on the shoreline of Florida is absolutely humorous and perfectly captures human tendency of repeating what we know.

Furthermore, the recycling experience was very humbling and I was appreciative of the opportunity to take care of my homeland. I had fun with my friends cutting overgrown shrubs and throwing away plastic, as well as spotting harmful and invasive plant species. Climbing upon the rocks and investigating the garbage stuck in between boulders was extremely hands on and engaging. We also had the privilege of studying the coconuts and learning about how the coconuts were brought over by the Spanish and they flourished here. It is rumored that Indian tribes would feast on the never ending supply of coconuts that covered the island.

photograph by Diego Segurola

Looking down from the 65 foot light house made me feel very small in comparison. The view was beautiful and I was able to see Stiltsville and the multiple wooden homes built on stilts located a couple hundred of feet off shore. Looking at the homes made me very appreciating for the technology and electricity we have available to ourselves today. Thinking about how dangerous sailing and travel was only a mere 150 years ago and how surrounded by wilderness and wildlife our geographical location is makes me appreciate the land I live on much more. The blue prints of this beautiful city was made by adventurous explorers whom were willing to conquest and colonize treacherous lands filled with obstacles. Finally, I was left contemplating on how our shoreline and beautiful habitat is in grave danger due to global warming and climate change. Our wonderful tour guide explained how different the shoreline looked a mere 50 years ago, and described how much erosion and the rising tide has altered the beach.

Norton as Text

photograph taken by Marco

Our trip to the Norton museum was such an incredible experience as we were able to appreciate in person five different curatorial departments, those being European, American, Chinese, Contemporary and Photography. The vast collection of artworks allows us viewers to trace the evolution of art and the portrayal of idols throughout Western Europe from the 1300’s to present day. I was most enamored by the four depictions of Virgin Mary which capture the evolution from the Byzantine influence on Gothic art to the naturalism of the Renaissance to the dynamic compositions of the Baroque.

Madonna and Child in Glory by Nosadella, circa 1563 masterfully portrays the Virgin Mary’s robe a beautiful rose red, meanwhile the shawl across her lap is a pale baby blue. This contrasting of pale colors are characteristic of Mannerism, however the style was used in exemplary fashion. Furthermore, I was very surprised yet interested to see that the Christ Child is not at all the perfect toddler represented by Florentine painters. He is much fleshier and appears to be much more mature. His posture is much more dramatic as well as the look on his face as he gazes off into the distance. In a similar manner, the Virgin Mary’s posture and hand placement is very demonstrative. I believe what the painter was trying to portray is that whatever was lost in the idea of symmetry and beauty was gained in the action of expressiveness. The artwork absolutely creates a sense of emotion in the viewer as there is so much imagery to digest and understand, as well as the beautiful color of the piece.

The Immaculate Conception by Giordano, Cisco 1657 was my personal favorite depiction of the Virgin Mary. Giordano’s luminous and decorative manner pops off the canvas in this illustrious piece. Furthermore, Giordano included plenty of symbolism to capture the beauty of his image. The white robe and blue cloak represent a new counter reformation doctrine whereby the Virgin herself was said to be immaculately conceived. The mirror is a symbol of virginity, meanwhile a lily of the valley represents purity. In the painting, I was amazed by the beautiful use of color such as with the light of Heaven beaming down on Virgin Mary, the lovely dark blue of the cloak, and the vibrant pink, white and green flowers held by the angels. After much analysis and discussion, I believe this is my favorite painting I have ever seen. I could not help but feel as if I were in the presence of the Virgin Mary.

photograph by Diego Segurola

The next painting that truly captured my attention was Nympheas by Monet, 1905. What most resonated with me was that my grandfather was an artist and he always enjoyed painting portraits of nature such as a river flowing down stream or a canoe floating on a lake. The depiction of Lily’s by Monet brought me a sense of peace and calmness that I would feel when I was young and would watch my grandfather paint. I truly enjoyed appreciating his artwork and it made me believe that grandfather must have had some type of influence on his artwork by that of Monet’s lily pads. Monet’s contrast of light and dark are very visually appealing and his blending of colors is masterful.

Design District as Text

photograph by Diego Segurola

Meeting Mr. Margulies and hearing his perspective regarding the artwork he possesses and the story behind the art was truly an honor and a privilege. I was amazed at how kind and genuine, yet thoughtful and stoic Mr. Margulies was. His passion for art was inspirational and poetic.

photograph by Diego Segurola

The artwork which created the most emotion within myself was Kiefer’s Secret of the Ferns. Kiefer believed that ferns could give us many clues about our beginnings, how like forests they contain secret knowledge. The broken terracotta resembled the rubble of the playgrounds from his childhood, one ravaged by war and destruction. The towers in the art work refer to the Tower of Jericho and resemble Nazi structures in World War II concentration camps. The melancholy tone of the artwork captures the ravaged state of Europe from the perspective of an innocent young boy on the playground. The imagery of the shipment container designed to appear like a nazi structure was absolutely chilling. In a similar manner, the image depicting a child’s ashy pajamas was heart breaking. Kiefer masterfully captured the emotion of the times.

I was very entertained and enamored by McGee’s Truck Installation with TV’s. I greatly enjoyed how this movement and era was able to appreciate art in everyday objects. Art became an idea, anything that evoked emotion was now art. Barry McGee thrived as a result of the graffiti movement of the 1980’s. The appropriation of graffiti to galleries and museums marked a point in United States history where counterculture became mainstream. Young and creative artists now had a new avenue to express themselves and have their message be seen. I appreciated how these artists broke down the traditional rules of art.

Finally, I was tremendously impressed by the photography study center. They focus on the education and research of contemporary and vintage photography with a mission to further visual literacy in our community. The beautiful array of photographs capturing varying scenes made me appreciate the beauty in everyday life and how we must simply have an eye for art to appreciate all the beauty it has to offer.

Coconut Grove as Text

photograph by Diego Segurola

I was truly amazed and entertained learning about the complex history of our Miami, and more specifically a Coconut Grove. Experiencing an incredible tour inside the oldest home in Dade County, nicknamed The Barnacle by its owner and builder Ralph Munroe. The house was completed in 1891 and masterfully utilized engineering tactics and attention to detail to provide proper ventilation throughout the home with a vast supply of windows facing the ocean. I was shocked to learn that Monroe built the boathouse in 1887 and lived on the upper floor until the main house was completed. His craftsmanship is eloquently displayed throughout the appropriately named Barnacle.

I was then again left in awe by the beautiful Christ Episcopal Church. The Church itself was founded on March 24th, 1901 and the first service held included members such as Mr. and Mrs. Stirrup, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Roberts, Mrs. Lula Reddick, Mrs. Catherine Anderson, and Mr. Azariah Sawyer. Not enough credit and appreciation is shown towards the Bahamian immigrants whom built our beautiful city from the ground up. Furthermore, I found it extremely interesting how different cultural groups portray their idols in manners that are relatable to themselves. The Church included figures such as Martin Kuther King Jr. in their glass artwork and murals, by doing so I believe the community was able to connect with the messages portrayed in the Bible better.

Finally, I was then again caught off guard by the grandness and importance of the historic Coconut grove Cemetery first used as a graveyard for Bahamian settlers in 1906. In 1913, 5 families composed of civic leaders asked the property for the graveyard for $140 and took care of the plot. Countless members of the original Bahamian settlers whom put in excruciating work to build up our beautiful city are buried in this cemetery. The rich culture and history reflects Bahamian background and rich African American cu,true and roots of the neighborhood.

All in all, I greatly enjoyed our adventure throughout Coconut Grove and learning about the rich history that is far too often ignored by mainstream culture and media.

Miami Final Reflection as Text

For my final reflection I wanted to go back to my first day in class, meeting Professor Bailly and all of our awesome classmates in the middle of the Everglades preparing for a slough slog. To be completely honest, I had no idea what type of class I was getting myself in to. We were given a great introduction by our tour guide and told exactly what we should expect through our trek in the swamp. We received our hiking sticks and valiantly set on our way. I very soon realized I was in a class comparable to nothing I have ever taken before in my life. Within 10 minutes of embarking we were already in the middle of absolutely nowhere with murky water up to our knees and in some spots, up to our waist. My mind couldn’t help but wander off and think about the possible critters and monsters that could be below. Eventually I was able to find peace and serenity in the calmness of the trees and chirping of the birds. I felt a sense of freedom and adventure being in an area that has been so preserved and respected by man kind.

I greatly enjoyed being able to observe the cypress dome with my own 2 eyes and not simply through a computer screen. The beauty of nature displayed by the cypress dome makes me believe that art is truly all around us in the natural world, we just have to be able to spot it. The wilderness aspect and the unknown and dangerous quality of the unforgiving Everglades makes me very appreciative for modern technology, housing and comfort that we take for granted in today’s age. We then had a peaceful and scenic lunch by the nature trails and I was able to appreciate the calmness of the moment and beauty of the nature around me. There were no enormous buildings and I was very appreciative for the beautiful and natural landscape around us. Our South Florida ecosystem is truly one to be in awe of as it supports such a vast variety of different species.

After our incredible slough slog, I visited a local fresh market with some friends from class and we had such an incredible time buying the most exotic and peculiar fruits and goods. I myself purchased a special jelly made out of mango, pineapple, and apples as well as a home made spicy mango pepper jam. It was truly very wholesome walking around a fresh market with my friends from class and enjoying the incredible and mostly unknown spots that our beautiful South Florida has to offer. All in all that is what I am most appreciative of this class for, the weekly adventures and child like joyous approach to each class and each experience. It was so damn cool taking such in depth tours through unappreciated parts of our beautiful city, as well as the one of a kind ability of Professor Bailly to introduce us to countless important figures throughout Miami whom graciously lent us their time and knowledge. Professor Bailly has an enthusiasm and a passion for teaching others that is truly inspirational and I am tremendously proud to have been in his class. I now hold memories I will carry forever as a result.

Chicken Key as Text

photograph by Marco

The Chicken Key adventure was truly one of the most eye opening experiences I have had in my life as I was able to appreciate the luxury of modern technology, transportation and communication. As I hopped on my canoe and began paddling towards Chicken Key, I immediately felt the strong resistance of the wind luring me back to shore. I tried keeping my balance and paddling evenly on each side to maintain my route in a straight line. I saw my destination off in the horizon, a small oasis of tree and marsh, yet the gap between us felt endless. I began to reflect on how our ancestors must have felt whenever they had to endure such travels. How the desperation of looking for food or refuge would have forced more primitive tribes to embark on dangerous journeys through unexplored and unforgiving wilderness. Furthermore, those tribes Miad to craft their own tools and equipment by hand. They did not have the luxury of industrial equipment provided today. As I voyaged about 200 feet from shore the wind started spinning me in a slow yet tumultuous circle and I quickly realized, there are no rules out here. I was one with my environment and as a result, I was subject to whatever punishment it could throw at me.

I soon met my inevitable fate, some water entered the canoe and due to the uneven weight distribution I tumbled over. I very quickly realized I was outside of my comfort zone as I could not reach the ground beneath the murky water. A shot of adrenaline coursed through my veins and I carried the canoe back to shore. I was so damn happy to touch land. The dry Earth beneath my feet and warm rays of sunshine felt like salvation. I looked off into the horizon at Chicken Key again, so close yet so far. I moved my glare off to the ocean with a new appreciation and respect for nature. I felt so small in comparison to the power of the wind, the power of the waves and the vastness of the open water. However, there was a slight sense of joy I felt in the water. A oneness with my ecosystem I had never previously felt.

All in all, I am tremendously grateful for the experience I had in Chicken Key. It was a wild adventure outside of the bubble wrap safety of modern city life. There is no predator and prey in a shopping mall. I realized how truly distanced we are from our own ecosystem as we take for granted the protection and efficiency of buildings, roads, as well as modern aqua mobiles such as jet skis and boats. I realized how dependent I am on technology in my everyday life and gained a greater appreciation for the native tribes whom used to call the land of Miami home.

%d bloggers like this: