Angela Sofia Stea: España as Text 2023

(Selfie by Angela Stea/ CC/4.0)


Hi, my name is Angela Stea and I am currently a junior at FIU majoring in accounting. Currently, I am a tax intern at an accounting firm and having my first real experience with my career. This is my last summer before I graduate, so I am excited to take this class and experience a summer in Europe and make memories of a lifetime. Learning more about Spain is something that will help me connect to my ancestors as well as my extended family as I have family in Toledo (a city we are visiting). This class and Spain are going to truly impact my life and make me view life and my surroundings differently.

Christian Gonzalez: España as Text 2023

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Christian Gonzalez is an FIU student and active member of the FIU Honors College. Born and raised in Miami, his passions lie at the intersections of art, nature, and technology. Christian is a senior seeking a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and is currently majoring in Finance.

first post goes here as Text

by Christian Gonzalez
June xxnd, 2023

Digital Art by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

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Miami Final as Text

This year and this last semester have brought forth a lot of experiences that I definitely won’t forget anytime soon. The first class to the Everglades was arguably the highlight of the semester. We had the perfect day wading in knee-waist deep water immersed in nature. With this trip, we marked the start of a new semester and a continuation of the knowledge we have learned in the past. The Everglades trip was uniquely not the furthest trip of the semester. We took a field trip to the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach. In other words, we reached close to the Miami pinnacle of immersion in nature and on the other we reached it in the form of the arts on the East coast of Florida. With a new semester also came new friendships to add to those which we already made. It made the trips enjoyable and helped add to the experiences by having someone to agree or disagree or comment on what we encountered.

The ability to be isolated and separated from the hustle of the Brickell by visiting the Everglades and the Deering Estate were unique ways to disconnect. The coolest moment of this semester was being in the Everglades and holding a moment of silence with our eyes closed. Hearing the trees rub against each other, the birds, and the gusts of wind, made me feel like I was the only person in the world. I feel like I attributed an escape to nature as going to the beach. There isn’t anything wrong with that, but by expanding my knowledge of peace in nature to the Deering Estate and the Everglades, can hopefully motivate me to visit these places more often.

Overall, I felt like this class provided an amazing platform for us to make inferences about how to act in the future based on the information given. By acting upon our experiences and what we are affected by, could start with the simple step of getting more informed to later raising awareness. Education is the key to keeping knowledge alive a passing it on to other people. I felt that classes to places like Coconut Grove and Coral Gables, which I visit every week, also were seen through a different perspective. I felt it useful to rediscover such places and put them into a new light, learning history about the places I had so many times driven or walked past.

Key Biscayne was also a highlight. It wasn’t quite a beach day but its familiarity and closeness to where I live, made it enjoyable. What was most enjoyable was going up to the lighthouse. The view provided as well as the history was pretty amazing. From a distance of the lighthouse, we could see many places that we had already visited in this class such as Coconut Grove, the Deering Estate and Downtown.

Ultimately, I felt like I always woke up looking forward to this class and it helped me make new friendships, gain knowledge and experiences that I would have missed out on. Truly the end of an era but hopefully a continuation of friendships.

Kylee Andrade: My Miami Final Reflection as Text 2023 Spring

Miami in Miami Final Reflection as Text

“Trouvaille” by Kylee Andrade of FIU at Miami on April 25th 2023.

Photograph taken and edited by Professor John Bailly/CC by 4.0

If I could describe Miami in one word, it would be “trouvaille”. This is a French word meaning a “lucky find” or a “found treasure”. Truly, Miami was my trouvaille… my lucky treasure. If I hadn’t moved to Miami to attend Florida International University, I don’t think I would have ever experienced the hidden beauty that South Florida has to offer. Amidst all the media coverage of Miami’s nightlife, clubs, fancy restaurants, and malls, the most important aspect of Miami was never shown… its invaluable historical sites and cultural landmarks. However, thanks to the course “Miami in Miami” taught by Professor Bailly, my whole life was transformed into learning all about the hidden “treasures” that Miami had including its islands, beaches, historical sites, burial mounds, national parks, iconic places of worship, art museums, nature preserves, and extraordinary landmarks that make Miami a melting pot filled with culture and history.

Photographs taken and edited by Kylee Andrade/ CC by 4.0.

Truly, one of my favorite memories throughout this entire semester in the course was having the opportunity to visit Everglades and go slough slugging through the freshwater and Spanish moss. Specifically, the reason for why I loved this memory with our class was due to a specific moment that changed my life forever. Amidst all the distractions, the noise, and the stress, our professor told our class to take a moment of silence… to breathe and meditate on our present moment. Little did I know that the restless noise in my head would finally pause… even if it was for a minute… the distraction, the worry, the anxiety paused. This moment was so beautiful because it allowed me to truly savor the moment I was experiencing with my mind and body in a conscious state. During that moment of silence, all my focus was on every detail the trees had, every broken branch, every shade of color the tree barks had…  I thought about how blue and clear the sky looked, how bright and golden the sun looked, and how it hit my face with warmth and heat… I even thought about how cool the water felt at the tip of my toes and the way it cooled my lower body from the sun. As I mentioned, this experience transformed my life as it not only silenced my mental noise and how effective deep breathing can be to silence my daily stress and anxiety, but it also changed my mindset of the planet as I finally witnessed all the beauty and marveling features of the Earth. Because of that moment of silence, I learned that living a fast-paced life doesn’t mean that we have to ignore the little moments that we can simply savor with a present and conscious mind. If we just dedicated one minute a day to absolute silence and deep breathing, we would finally savor life itself by acknowledging its beauty and its breathtaking views. Therefore, this was my favorite class as I learned the beauty of being present which I was determined to be for the rest of the trips our class took throughout the semester.

Photographs taken and edited by Kylee Andrade/ CC by 4.0.

Nevertheless, this reflection would not be complete without acknowledging my favorite art museum that our class visited in West Palm Beach which was the Norton Art Museum. The reason for why this was my favorite art museum was due to the artistic freedom and creativity that I witnessed and felt when observing the majestical paintings throughout the entire museum. Personally, this was the first time I actually understood artists and their creative endeavors as they strayed away from conforming to rules and structures set by institutions and rather chose to freely portray their imagination, creativity, and artistic spirit through their art. Specifically, the art that completely moved me and transformed my concept of art serving as a channel of freedom and escape for artists was the three portraits portraying the Virgin Mary. More in-depth, these pieces are so compelling because the artists took an original element of religion (the Virgin Mary) and visualized such in a different context that broke away from a 2D understanding of the Virgin Mary. Specifically, artists illustrated a new form where the Virgin Mary was depicted with movement, emotion, color, and 3D-like human features as opposed to previous portrayals of her in a lifeless spirit with little color and movement. Moreover, such new portrayal further enabled the audience witnessing the paintings to kindle a far more profound connection with religion and its teachings during that era. Overall, the pieces demonstrated the life… the movement… the creativity… the imagination… and the freedom that art evokes for the audience witnessing an artist’s original thought and visualization of the world around him/her.

Photographs taken and edited by Kylee Andrade/ CC by 4.0.

Overall, Miami in Miami was a transformative experience as it wasn’t a traditional class where a student wasn’t just memorizing dates and facts but rather experiencing the lecture through sight, touch, smell, and sound. Truly, the course was an unforgettable experience that can leave just about any student speechless with Miami’s iconic sites, historical landmarks, remarkable places of worship, beautiful boulevards, culturally rich restaurants, endearing nature preserves, stunning beaches, and striking art museums. Miami is priceless… Miami is dance… celebration… tradition… art…music…food… and culture all melting together to create a space of creativity and cultural freedom. Because of this course, I will forever consider Miami as my “trouvaille”. Thank you, Professor Bailly, for such a wonderful experience!

Mariano S. Mendez Perez: Miami as Text Spring 2023

Photo by Mariano S. Mendez Perez / CC BY 4.0

Miami Encounter as Text

“My Grand Abode” by Mariano S. Mendez Perez of FIU 2023

As a 10-year Miamian resident, I would say my time living here does not properly indicate my acquaintance of the place. The reason I say this is because apart from casual Downtown stroll or beach visit, I haven’t really gone anywhere else. There are two completely different timestamps regarding the before and after of taking Bailly’s Honors Class. The before, where I knew the most basic locations with little to no knowledge of Miami’s history, to now, the after, where I have visited incredibly beautiful settings, ones which have changed my perception of where I live.

Photo by Mariano S. Mendez Perez / CC BY 4.0

I feel most individuals are just like I was one year ago, people who live in one of the most interesting locations in the world yet hardly know about it. The thing with Miami is that it has so much to offer, it is just massive. With an amazing guide like professor Bailly, one really gets to experience the true Miami. When I was looking for an Honors class, I was looking for another experience rather than a normal lecture and that’s exactly what I got. The locations are perfectly laid out, they offer extensive historical value and are overall exciting.

Although personally I see Miami as a futuristic and sensational city, throughout the course one gets to learn the other side of the picture as well. In the live lecture through Overtown and some parts of Coconut Grove, one gets to see the impoverished, somewhat forgotten estates, overrun by the money and innovative ideals of large corporations. Their schemes to erase significant historically bound buildings as well as low-end neighborhoods is saddening. Like I mentioned in the beginning of this blog, since most individuals lack this knowledge, there is not much to be done to put a stop to these trends.

In the other hand, places like the Everglades and the Deering Estate Nature Preserve are steps in the right direction worth highlighting. The preserving of natural environments should always be of upmost importance in today’s society. Although modernity has encouraged a transformation to more and more technology, it is always important to keep and protect our nature. The work of highly talented environmentalist, among others, is evident when visiting and exploring these places. The hikes throughout both sites were highly impactful and refreshing. My classmates and I got to see how different wildlife and plants thrive in such places, and how it protects and benefits us in the end. To know Miami also has a side of nature that is greatly conserved is amazing. I will always push these ideals, instead of obliterating significant sites; it is important to maintain a balance.

As I plan to continue to reside here for a long time, it is wonderful knowing more about the place now than I ever did before. I will now be able to show friends and family what I have learned and portray the uniqueness that makes up of what is the great city of Miami.

The Everglades as Text

“A Treasure Trove” by Mariano S. Mendez Perez of FIU at the Everglades January 11, 2023

Ever since I resided in Miami nine years ago, not once did I ever think of visiting the great Everglades. Although you “the reader” might rule that out as some sort of arrogance or nonsensical behavior, I can tell you that I was never really encouraged to go, so it never crossed my mind. However, that all changed after glancing over Mr. Bailly’s teaching plans and seeing the Everglades as a destination site for one of our live lectures. Then my interest spiked, I knew from start it was going to be a fun learning experience!

Initially, before our intrusion into the wilderness, I had thought of the place as a swampy, gator-infested habitat. Although I was not completely wrong, it was so much more diverse than I ever imagined. From different ecosystems all together, to the sheer size of it, its massive! The Everglades is a special place, recognized internationally for its importance in today’s modern world. It establishes a reservoir for numerous endangered species like the American Crocodile and the Florida Panther, among others. Its full purpose does not end there, it also serves as a major fresh water source for all of South Florida.

Another reason for why the Everglades is of extreme importance to the State of Florida is because of its vegetation. Obviously, more plants always tend to signify a prospering ecosystem. However, for Floridians, the dense mangroves help with erosion and in general promote soil health. Also, it protects against hurricanes, a common natural phenomenon for the peninsula since it helps with flooding. Its strong intertwined roots reduce the energy from these powerful systems, as they break apart wind and water currents.

While Mangroves are one of the Everglades’ strong points, it is also important to mention its other plants and their respective significance to the environment. A peculiar little plant, bromeliads serve as an essential food and water source for different animals. And lastly, the Bald Cypress, another significant plant, they aid animals with food and cover. Like Mangroves, it also prevents flooding and promotes soil health. During our trip, we got to explore through this Cypress Dome, and it is clear as to how it gives cover to animals since it is enormously packed together, and to be honest, without guides it is an easy place to get lost.

Additionally to all its wonders, the one thing which personally impacted me the most from this trip was when we individually ventured into our own bit of space inside the Cypress Dome and remained silent, meditating. I was truly fascinated by the mental clarity one gets from being so exposed to our world’s raw nature, so dangerous, but at the same time peaceful and soul-healing.

An eventful day, where I learned the true magnitude of one of the most important places in the world. A beautiful ecosystem, full of life. This adventure was not only informative, but it has encouraged me to be more exploratory, to check out other magnificent places our planet offers. I believe if more people were to go out into nature, they would want to preserve and take care of our planet a bit more.

Photos by Mariano S. Mendez Perez / CC BY 4.0

Coconut Grove as Text

“Wonders of Coconut Grove” by Mariano S. Mendez Perez of FIU at Coconut Grove February 5, 2023

A truly eye-opening stroll through a new location, and a remarkable memory for me, like always. Personally, I don’t think I have ever visited Coconut Grove, maybe passed by it but never actually went to it. Like many other trips, I learned so much from so little time, like how Bahamians were pretty much the ones who started building and making things happen for the place. Additionally, I also came to the realization that Coconut Grove it not so much the fancy place I had envisioned before going.

During our visit, I got to experience the rich history of the oldest settlements in Miami. Created even before Miami was established itself, it had a small population and much land to offer for exponential growth. For these reasons, one could say Coconut Grove is the backbone of Miami.

However, the sad reality of some parts of Coconut Grove is how little the city takes care of its monuments. It is apparent how most buildings in certain locations are poorly maintained and falling apart. This all comes about cut funds and high taxes, some property owners are lucky enough for their building to be made a historic site, and some not so much. Most old buildings are challenged by new ideas of replacement, some do get torn down and some stay. I am a firm believer that the city should relish its history and maintain and promote its infrastructure. I am sure certain individuals would agree with my ideals.

In the other hand, a place that completely captivated me was “The Barnacle”. The oldest home in Dade-County is full of amusement. Not only is it still in great shape, but it has an amazing story. The owner “Mrs. Munroe” moved down here from upstate, his reason, his wife’s illness. The prime motive for multiple people to move to Miami was that of sickness, especially tuberculosis. The whole place is enchanted-like, the house by the ocean is wonderful. Additionally, I always had a passion for infrastructure, and the way he built it was utterly incredible. I have never heard of a method like his before, as he built the second floor first, and then lifted it to make the first floor. Also, the house has a great design, allowing for the ocean breeze to pass through the home, keeping it ventilated in Miami’s hot weather.

One last building that also gained my attention was the Christ Episcopal Church. Mainly because of the beautiful stained glass, the first one I have ever seen with the combination of Christ and popular figures like Martin Luther King, among others. The congregations served the Black community as a place of worship and prayer. It is magnificent how it is still in great shape and well kept, a juxtaposition of other buildings near it. Ironic enough, our visit was stalled for a while because an inspection was going on for a construction next to the church.

Overall, I can now mark off Coconut Grove not only as a place I have visited, but also one I have learned a great deal about. I got to see both the pretty and the ugly sides, a true experience.

Photos by Mariano S. Mendez Perez / CC BY 4.0

Coral Gables as Text

“Dark past, Bright future” by Mariano S. Mendez Perez of FIU

As also seen in multiple parts of Miami, Coral Gables shares a dark uprise since it started being constructed in the early 20th century. Although the end product might be prosperous and beautiful, it is important to recognize, and never forget its beginnings.

Built during a time of harsh segregation, a man named George Merrick had a vision to convert a bland place into an European style city. He advocated for the moving of numerous black communities in order for his projects to take place, forcefully displacing them and severely disrupting the lives of those affected. However, in the other hand, all of this led to what is now known as the city of Coral Gables.

His actions were undeniable crude and damaging to black individuals, yet it is important to also acknowledge the good. Mr. Merrick never went to Spain but was rather inspired when visiting Cuba and Mexico; the European Mediterranean style architecture is evident when walking through the city. Most of the town is built behind this, with buildings having open plazas, fountains, and sculptures of European descent. Because of this, a magnitude of people find going to Coral Gables is a refreshing experience with a touch of uniqueness compared to other places in Miami. Although an expensive place now days, some decide to live there because they enjoy the distinctive setting.

Some remarkable infrastructures worth noting are the Coral Gables City Hall and Colonnade building. They both are also tied to Mr. Merrick since the City Hall portrays a big statue of him next to the building; the other structure served as his corporation sales office. It is clear how much resemblance they have to Spanish infrastructure, one has Spanish Renaissance style architecture while the other is a mixture of Spanish Colonial and Baroque. The City Hall in specific has much significance to him since it was a step closer to his dream of having a full Mediterranean style city.

Lately, more controversy has sparked since it was found George Merrick had complete racist proposals and ideals. Because of this, the University of Miami is trying to remove his name and all association with him. Since his true intentions came to light, even after his death, his name has been irreversibly damaged by the public eye. However, in regard to the UM situation, removing a founder of the school that brought it to its existence is somewhat nonsensical and disrespectful. It is easy to point out the bad, but hard to acknowledge the good.

In the end, one can only admire this wonderful place. Far different from all locations near it, the setting can make you feel like you are visiting Europe. Recognizing who took the steps to build it is important, and who labored it even more. The numerous Black Bahamians who worked hard even in times of harsh segregation is honorable. Also, it is imperative to know that even if its history might be dark, it led to what is now known as the city of Coral Gables.

Norton as Text

“A beautiful world of Art” by Mariano S. Mendez Perez of FIU at Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach

Although I would say I am drawn to art, that being because I personally enjoy it and do some myself, through the time I have been in the United States I have not been to a museum. Apart from other places which we have visited as a class, I have never stepped out of my comfort zone and gone to one. So, as expected, I find myself truly fascinated by artworks whenever I see them. Art is indefinitely valuable, as it is a timeless relic. Like the Mona Lisa, among others, they are often an expressive marvel, full of meaning and history.

The Norton Museum focuses on a more European style of art. The founders, Ralph and Elizabeth Norton fell in love with artistic pieces when decorating their home, opening the museum later on. Even though I personally respect and recognize all artistic works as art, I prefer those which are not abstract and depict an actual image or thing. The museum displays numerous Evangelic and medieval works throughout. These wonders are part of history, and the amazing thing is how you can feel a connection to the artist because of a painting. Knowing a backstory, one can imagine the original creator and that, to me, is fantastic.

Photo by Mariano S. Mendez Perez / CC BY 4.0

A specific painting which caught my eye was the “Study for Head of Saint John the Evangelist” by Peter Paul Rubens. The fixed position of the head of St John in the over-the-shoulder state was significantly important in reshaping religious artworks and promoting not only Catholic religions, but most religions in general. The Baroque painting was made of oil on wood and was given bright colors and sharp contrasts. His paintings in general gave a sense of passion and love, because of the way they were made and because it is depicting a somewhat religious figure, praised by many in Christianity.

Photo by Mariano S. Mendez Perez / CC BY 4.0

Another painting which also grasped my attention was the “Nympheas, Water Lilies” by Claude Monet. This impressionist attempted to paint a moment in time, his water lilies. During his lifetime, he created about 250 paintings with this style of art. Extremely peculiar, from close distance it is blurry and seems to be abstract, yet as you walk backwards you start to get the picture intended. This type of art is tremendously creative and immersive. It also has a strong sense of passion and love, as the artist focuses all his works on his water garden in Giverny, which makes it personal and intimate. I found this style of painting truly remarkable and in turn sparked my interest in such. Similar artworks like this will definitely be portrayed in my future house one day.

To conclude, the Norton Museum has a great collection of art. Most being from the European medieval era, others not so much. Trips through museums like this enhance the perception one has towards artworks. After it, I found myself motivated to work on my own pieces, knowing a bit more and seeing a bit more from a range of artists made it easier for me to implement my own ideas.

Key Biscayne as Text

“A lighthouse of dreams” by Mariano S. Mendez Perez of FIU at Key Biscayne

Photo by Mariano S. Mendez Perez / CC BY 4.0

When talking about Miami’s most interesting locations to visit, one must mention “el farito”. The lighthouse, located in Bill Baggs Park in South Florida, is the oldest standing structure in Miami Dade County. It has been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times, and so it has considerable history. Its original purpose was to protect ships from crashing into the coastal reefs, which was extremely common at that time.

The Bill Baggs Park in general is a great place to visit as it offers great views and a nice beach to swim in. It is now a nice spot to enjoy with your family and friends, however, it was not always like that. The lighthouse in specific was built during a time of conflict, “the Seminole War”. On July, 1836, Indian Seminoles attacked the structure, heavily damaging it in the process. A man named John W. B Thompson was able to survive and successfully defend the tower, but sadly his slave Aaron Carter did not. After those chains of events, a man named Bill Baggs convinced the owners of the land to sell it to the government, and so he did. This is why the location is now called after his name, he was the reason as to why we can go and visit the place.

Even though “el farito” is not the main beach I go to with friends, since it is not as local as the other ones, it has a touch of uniqueness that makes it such a cool beach. For one, the lighthouse right next to the water gives it such a cinematic view, unmatched by other places. Our classmates and I were fortune enough to be let inside the lighthouse and be able to take a peek at the top of it. It was spectacular, although tremendously windy that day for some reason, which degraded the whole experience a tiny bit, the view was so refreshing. One could see the beach, the park vegetation, and the city by just going around the lighthouse or just turning our heads. I was able to capture some truly amazing photography that really portrays our point of view. While I have been to Bill Baggs Park before, I have never been inside the lighthouse, it is something I can now check off my checklist.

Photos by Mariano S. Mendez Perez / CC BY 4.0

Subsequently to going inside “el farito”, the class continued to the second phase, as we began to clean up the place. Using machete-like tools, we productively cut off any branches or leaves which were getting out of control. After it was all done, park rangers took care of the heavier debris.

Overall, the Bill Baggs Cape Florida Park in general is and has always been an amazing site to visit. Now knowing all the history behind it makes it so much more intriguing. Knowing that there was a war where I walked is chilling and immersive, it only adds cool factor points to the whole experience.

Wynwood as Text

“An unspecific Collection” By Mariano S. Mendez Perez of FIU at Wynwood

As our class arrived and consolidated on the main entrance of the Margulies warehouse, I knew from the beginning it was going to be an insightful experience. Our professor then presented us to Martin Margulies, a pronounced collector and real estate businessman. A knowledgeable old man, he possesses a large collection of over 5,000 pieces of art, ranging from contemporary art to photography. He took time out of his schedule to come present his collection to us, an admirable doing and one I am thankful of.

Photo by Mariano S. Mendez Perez / CC BY 4.0

One of the first pieces of artwork he presented was the “Unfired Clay Torso” by Mark Manders. This sculpture is quite captivating, while the looks perceive that of a clay or ceramic figure, it is actually bronze. However, the thing I find the most interesting is the meaning behind the object, while some parts are shiny and well detailed, others seem brittle or destroyed. The whole structure has parts of art history from different periods in time. To the normal eye, the figure is a stunning clay figure, to the trained eye, and with a bit of backstory, one is hit with the hidden reality.

Photo by Mariano S. Mendez Perez / CC BY 4.0

Another wonderful work of art in the Margulies Collection is Kiefer’s “Secret of the Ferns”. The small room-like constructions are meant to depict the hardships of the Jewish during the infamous Nazi Germany dehumanizing acts in World War two. It has a dark connotation and feeling to it, it lacks color and seems quite ruined or falling apart. Next to it there is 48 pictures of actual ferns. The artist believes ferns contain secret knowledge that follow a death principle; the whole idea in general is quite powerful. The structures weighted several tens of thousands of pounds, and so it needed special machinery to be brought into the warehouse. This all shows how much love Martin Margulies has for his collection of art.

Photos by Mariano S. Mendez Perez / CC BY 4.0

Lastly, Barry Mcgee’s “truck installations with TVs” is such a cool concept to come up with. The artwork is basically a van, full of graffities, with multiple TVs inside of it. Is that not genuine? Graffiti was and is still used often as a form of expression in the streets. Usually as a way to get a message out to whoever the graffiti is intended to, the van marks an important change in Graffiti’s history, as it switched from a street thing to an institutional thing, being portrayed in museums, etc. Personally, to me, Mr. Mcgee’s truck is not just graffiti being displayed on a van, but the whole idea of the van with the turned on Tvs paired with the drawings that absolutely blew my mind, it takes much creativity to come up with that type of art.

As the live lecture of the Margulies collection came to a halt, Mr. Margulies explained the importance of the subconscious mind and how it can change our life. Personally, being exposed to more art has made me see so many different ideas, the ideas of those artists and what they are trying to portray, it is completely fascinating to me.

Chosen Neighborhood as Text

“A Miami Delight” by Mariano S. Mendez Perez of FIU at Miami Beach

Photo by Mariano S. Mendez Perez / CC BY 4.0

Ever since I was a small child, I have had a passion for the ocean. I went to multiple Cuban beaches, and whilst they are still the best, in my opinion, Miami Beach is a close second for me.

Because of my love for the water, I participated in my old high school swimming club. I was extremely fast, beating the captain and numerous other prolific individuals. All that swimming has made me a bigger beach goer than most normal people. With that being said, now in the present day, I always see myself going to the local beach with some buddies to hang around. I love Miami Beach mostly because it is super local and near, it is also quite a decent beach so that is a plus.

The unmatched detail when comparing Miami Beach to the Cuban Beaches is that I can also go to a nearby hotel and stay the night, or buy whichever treat or drink I like from a local market if I really wanted to; Cuba lacks this for obvious reasons, its regime and whole system is a complete mess, but I will not get into that.

Another reason as to why I love Miami Beach is because of its racial mixture. One can see all types of ethnicities when walking by, not just Cuban Americans, but other Hispanics and Europeans as well. This makes the place have a positive atmosphere to it, as it is often full of visitors just having a good time and enjoying the warm weather and the beach.

As a long time enjoyer of the place, I know not to get caught up spending in restaurants or hotels, or anything in general. The location is fairly expensive since it is always a high demand place, fully packed on most occasions. Even parking is somewhat challenging or costly, that is why I tend to go with a large group of friends instead of each going on our own.

The decorative buildings in Ocean Drive feature an Art Deco style which definitely draws in numerous tourists. It has remained untouched pretty much since its construction, and it definitely makes up a significant portion of what Miami Beach is known for. Some people tend to go just to have a good time in the plentiful restaurants or to watch the beautiful buildings and the incredible scenery of what some consider the true Miami.

Sadly, there has been a recent Bill which if approved, could allow for the removal of some of these architectural marvels. The bills “SB1317” and “HB 1346” are made so that big corporations are legally allowed to own and destroy historic Art Deco buildings, or any building for that matter, even if classified as historic. This, personally, is a horrible idea, Ocean drive is somewhat the heart of Miami Beach. It must be preserved and retouched but never demolished.

Even if Miami Beach is not my all-time favorite beach I have ever been to, it holds close to my heart as a common spot I visit all the time. Since Miami always tends to have warm weather, it makes it perfect to go whenever one pleases, that paired with the fact that is relatively close by is complete delight to all Miamians.

Chicken Key as Text

“A necessary redo” by Mariano S. Mendez Perez of FIU at Chicken Key

As a highly energetic person, I find hikes and anything to do with physical activity a blast. That is why, when I heard that our classmates and I were going to head to Chicken Key for a second time to clean up, I was excited! With a crew of five highly talented individuals, we went around the island in search of contaminants and pollutants harming the beautiful ecosystem.

Sadly, the shores of the small island are always filled with debris. Due to the natural physics of the universe, all the trash left in the ocean slowly crawls back to the coasts, or sinks, or is eaten by animals that we in turn eat. This is partially why mercury ends up in our diet if we eat fish, a sad reality which must be combated at all costs.

Since this happens, it is imperative to stop polluting our oceans, but also to clean up uninhabited little islands like Chicken Key. It is always a good deed, and a fun one if paired with interesting individuals.

To no surprise, as our little crew of five came around the island, we found so much trash that if we really wanted to, we could have decorated a house, no kidding! We found parts of a couch which happened to weigh tons, some sort of plywood or plastic (also heavy), shoes, cans, etc. We really made and effort to try and fit all of it in our canoe, which was hard but, in the end, manageable. Even though we were working hard, our time was spent throwing jokes and puns, since this was the last class we were going to have.

As we continued in search of contaminants, we were alerted that there was a venomous water snake and that we should not roam around a specific part of the island. Apart from that, we spotted puffer fish and other kinds of fish but they were too fast to photograph. Also, while going around the island, I was able to see so much healthy mangroves and it reminded me of how great of a purpose cleaning up the island really is. During our semester, I learned mangroves are essential to us in South Florida, but to the little island of Chicken Key, important to its inhabitants, little crabs, spiders, birds, and snakes, amongst others. Mangroves help with soil erosion and with natural disasters like hurricanes, a natural phenomenon common in Florida, as it disrupts water currents and wind patterns.

Although the trip to Chicken Key is not a usual Miami in Miami class, as it lacks the live lecture which makes up part of the course experience, it is still complete fun. Kayaking, or in my case, canoeing there, is a healthy practice and a nice skill to have. Although that day in specific was quite windy, which made us push even harder, it did not diminish the experience. As a last class, I would say it was the perfect location, a memory for life.

Miami Final Reflection

“Memories” by Mariano S Mendez Perez of FIU

There is a saying that goes like “nothing good lasts forever”, and that is how I feel about this Miami in Miami class. As the course came to an end, I can now say that I know more about Miami than ever before. The amount of information I learned throughout the class is fantastic. Whether it was about a place’s history, or the place itself, this style of class in incredibly unique and effective. At the start of the fall semester, I still remember feeling a bit underwhelmed, being my first semester in FIU, I did not quite understand the class directions as I never took anything like it before. Because of this, I missed the first meeting where professor Bailly made his introduction. Although some might say it was not the ideal start, I later came to love this class for what it was, the search for the authentic Miami.

Personally, I had never really stepped out of my comfort zone when talking about going to new places. I knew Miami’s beaches like Dania Beach and South Beach, Downtown, and other common places. However, during the time of this class, we got to travel to the Everglades, to impoverished areas in Coconut Grove and Overtown, we also traveled to Chicken Key twice! Things I never really thought I would experience, especially not during my undergraduate studies. I definitely planned on this after I started working in my field later on, but not now. Though unexpected, I do not regret taking this class one bit. The live lecture style personally suits a class of this size, with only a small number of students, professor Bailly is able to get his points across without having to exert much effort. Also, because of the intimacy of being a smaller group, it was easier for everyone to make friends with one another.

Also, going to different museums like the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach or the Margulies collection in Wynwood, one got to reflect and perceive different artworks by a wide range of talented individuals. Pair that with awesome speakers and expositors like Martin Margulies and Mr. Bailly, amongst others, one gets to learn immersive knowledge, really interesting in nature. During our visit through various museums, I got to see a wide range of art, from Contemporary Art to Baroque to abstract pieces, I believe I saw it all, or came close to it. The illustration of ideas through paintings is as pure of an art as there is one. The creativity that some artists have like Barry Magee truck of TVs or the Monet Nympheas water lilies, every work possesses some sort of meaning, passion, and intention. A beautiful form of expression.

During our Everglades hike, we got to experience a side of nature we never get in touch with.

Actually getting in the water, and seeing wild animals and plants all around you is somewhat primitive, yet humbling. As one familiarizes with raw nature in real time, some of our perception changes. We live in a city heavily industrialized and modern, with abundant buildings and cars, yet we never really get to experience the world as it is. Most of us live within the city, never getting in contact with our plant. After the hike I felt a sense of awareness like never before. We must protect the very animals and plants within the Everglades, as they in turn protect and aid us.

The culmination of the class occurred in Chicken Key, and it could not be more perfect. Knowing it was the last class, our classmates and I had a blast going around the small island in search for debris. In the end, we were able to get incredible amounts of trash, helping the ecosystem thrive.  I can now say I know Miami better than ever before, with different perspectives in life as a whole. All thanks to our great instructor Mr. Bailly and the Miami in Miami Honors class!

My Miami Final Reflection as Text:

The First Class of The Semester. Photographs by Letizia

Just like that we concluded the spring semester of “Miami in Miami” on April 19th, 2023. The search for the authentic Miami ended at the Deering Estate which was one of the places where the most memorable experiences of the Fall and Spring semester took place. With the 2022/23 school year being my first year in the Honors College I could not have asked for a better class to start with. I have lived in Miami since 2011 yet had either never been to the places we went to in class or had been to some places but knew very little about the history.

Our first trip to the Everglades was the experience of a lifetime where we completed the Slough Slog through the Everglades River. With the water being knee deep and using a walking stick to not lose our footing it was one of the most immersive experiences with nature I have had in Miami. Having been able to walk in the original unchanged South Florida is something truly special which we also experienced in the Fall Semester at the Deering Estate. It really puts into perspective how humans lived back then and how they prevailed by using nature to their advantage. Learning about the importance of Cypress trees and mangroves served as a reminder of our responsibility to help protect the Earth that will essentially benefit human and animal health.

Coconut Grove and Coral Gables were two places which I had spent lots of time in as I went to high school in Coral Gables and my church is in Coconut Grove. However, as usual I was met with surprises in both places. I was not aware that Coconut Grove is the oldest neighborhood in Miami and the impact E.W.F Stirrup had on Miami by being becoming one of the largest landowners in Coconut Grove and through this he built 100 homes for African Americans. In Coral Gables, even though I had heard about George Merrick I was not familiar with the story of why he developed Coral Gables to be a Mediterranean Revival style city. It was shocking but not surprising that Merrick campaigned to remove black families from Miami to the Everglades. Like Henry Flagler and Carl Fisher, Merrick shared the same attitudes of racism and segregation.

By going to the Norton Museum of Art and the Marguiles Collection at the Warehouse we were able to see all kinds of artwork that made me reflect as many interpretations came to my head when looking at these pieces of art. In the Norton Museum of Art seeing Claude Monet’s Water Lily painting was the most valued piece of art I have ever seen, and it was special to see it up close. At the Marguiles Collection I enjoyed seeing Anselm Kiefer’s artwork, especially the Secret of the Ferns and the Ages of the World.

I felt like ending the class by making the trip to Chicken Key was the perfect way to end the semester. I am leaving this class with more knowledge about where I live in, one in a lifetime experiences and great friends which I will be going on study abroad trips with soon. I will never forget the time I had in this class and the experiences we were able to have and want to thank Professor Bailly for making it all possible.

Neighborhood as Text 2023

The city of Coral Gables provides many opportunities to immerse in historical, gastronomical, and culturally popular experiences. This guide intends to give readers recommendations on places to visit that are unique to Coral Gables and can help expand knowledge on their perception of the City of Coral Gables.

The Venetian Pools:

The Venetian Pools is the largest freshwater pool in the United States. The Venetian Pools opened in 1924 as the “Venetian Casino” and was created from an abandoned coral rock quarry. The area is decorated in the Mediterranean Revival style and is the only pool on the National Register of Historic Places. It is recommended to go on weekdays when it is less busy and open from 11-5:30. It is also worth noticing that if you are a Coral Gables resident you can get a hefty discount. If you find yourself in Coral Gables on a warm day, you should check out the Venetian Pools on a rare occasion to cool off in “Venetian-esque” surroundings.

Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens:

 Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens is another gem situated in the area of Coral Gables. The park is 83 acres large and has collections of several exotic, native plants, birds, and fruit and various ecosystems and exhibits. One of the several notable exhibits is the Wings of the Tropics Conservatory for Butterflies. Fairchild Gardens is also known for their events, such as the International Mango Festival and the Fairchild Palms 5K run/walk. Fairchild Gardens is definitely a must visit if you are in Coral Gables. You could certainly spend a whole day walking through and attending events at Fairchild. If you get hungry the Glasshouse Café is the cafeteria found inside the park with views of the greenhouse. Fairchild is open every day of the week from 10AM to 5PM. Hours might differ for holidays. There is also the possibility of becoming a member and getting unlimited access for a year. Student discounts exist on day-fares and there are also discounts if you bike to the gardens.

Merrick Park:

If you want to experience the side of Coral Gables’ shopping and dining, the open-air mall known as Merrick Park is worth checking out. The Village at Merrick Park, as it is formerly known, is a unique high-end shopping mall close to the center of Coral Gables. It is a 10-minute walk away from the Douglas Metrorail Station and a 3-minute walk away from the nearby trolley station. For authentic Parisian Cuisine, Brasserie Central is the place to go, serving escargot among other French delights in a Parisian decorated restaurant. Sawa a Mediterranean style and Mi’Talia an Italian place are two highly restaurants also found in the mall. In other words, for everything from a simple coffee break to a full meal, the shops at Merrick Park are likely to have something you are looking for. On the other side of the coin, shopping at places such as Nordstrom, Gucci or Hugo Boss is possible. It is also possible to work out at Equinox with a day pass or existing membership or check out Bo Concept’s home furniture design store. Spa treatment is also available if you have had a long day, at stores like Le Petite Spa Corp.

Marco Lund-Hansen: Neighborhood 2023

Key Biscayne as Text:

View from Cape Florida Light. Photograph by Marco Samuely Lund-Hansen

Key Biscayne is a modern neighborhood which is located on a barrier island between two state parks: Crandon Park and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. There is a variety of activities to do on Key Biscayne especially centered around nature. To get to Key Biscayne you can drive if you have rented a car, take the line 102 bus or if you love biking there are 9 miles of continuous bike lanes which can take you all the way to Bill Baggs. Incorporated in 1991, Key Biscayne was Miami-Dade’s newest municipality in over 50 years.

Key Biscayne has two of the best beaches in Miami that must be visited. Starting off with Crandon Park which was a donation in 1940 from Commodore James William Matheson who used Crandon Park as a coconut plantation. Today Crandon Park consists of 808 acres and a two mile long beach that offers a range of nature activities. These activities include kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, snorkeling, kiteboarding and windsurfing. If you are not much of a beach person, there is a golf course and tennis center at Crandon Park. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Nature Center is also a must-visit in Crandon Park as interactive nature tours are offered. Visitors can experience the hatching of sea turtles, go on seagrass tours with naturalists and also learn about the local animals and plants from the Nature Center staff.

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is another one of the beaches that is worth paying a visit to. Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park opened on January 1, 1967 and was named after Bill Baggs, an editor of the Miami News who was known for being an advocate for the preservation of Key Biscayne. Not only does the park have a variety of activities to offer, but also has the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County: The Cape Florida Lighthouse. The Lighthouse was built in 1825 and before it was built, black Seminoles and slaves would board ships to the Bahamas which offered them freedom. This was known as the Saltwater Railroad, so when the Lighthouse was built it blew their cover. There is a lot of history to learn about in Bill Baggs, which can be complemented with running, biking and walking trails, fishing charters and wildlife tours.

Key Biscayne also has many restaurants from different cuisines all around the world, which range from Indian to Argentinian food. The Rusty Pelican offers not only a spectacular view of the Brickell skyline, but a variety of seafood to choose from. Novecento is an Argentinian restaurant that has everything meat and wine. Finally, Costa Med Bistro + Wine includes the best of Mediterranean cuisine. These places can be expensive, but there is also a Winn Dixie on the island which is more economic and makes for great picnics. Village Green Park is located centrally in Key Biscayne and has a playground, jogging course, two soccer fields, a community center with a pool and a nice spot for a picnic. Key Biscayne is thankfully not marketed like Miami Beach, making it less crowded and a peaceful place to enjoy paradise.

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.

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