Monica B. Perez: Miami As Text 2023

Monica at the Everglades by John Bailly // CC by 4.0

Monica Perez is a student of the FIU Honors College pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Religious Studies. With that and future schooling she hopes to administer therapy and conduct research. With a secondary interest in ecopsychology, she hopes to also use elements of nature and the environment to treat PTSD and anxiety disorders. Her current motto is “seek radical empathy” as she strives to understand and share in others’ thoughts and life experiences.

Spring Encounter As Text

Monica and Professor Bailly demonstrating “selfie attendance” By John Bailly / CC by 4.0

“The Last Chapters”

By Monica B. Perez of FIU on the first week of class, January 13, 2023

On one’s last semester of undergraduate study, it is common practice to reflect on what has made the past few years so special. My undergraduate experience has been far from conventional. It was not until my second year that I was fully able to attend school on campus. Now, it is my third and last, and I am looking for a way to approach this semester that will make the confused freshman inside of me proud of what she becomes. One thing I am heavily focusing on is how to make the most of my commitment to study abroad in France with the Honors College.

This is a moment I have been dreaming of ever since I was a little girl listening to my mother tell stories of her own travels to Europe as a young adult. She has never been back since (life gets in the way), so this has been one of the greatest motivators for me to seize the opportunity to experience something different. I chose this program for long list of reasons, so I will only name a few. For one, France is the European country I am most intrigued by. From my limited knowledge, it is so culturally different from the United States despite being so heavily involved in its conception and history. In my time there, I would like to explore this difference a bit further and theorize why I think it is present and what I can learn from the French lifestyle.

Another reason I chose this class is because of the professor and course content. I am familiar with Professor Bailly’s teaching style and personality as I have taken his courses and interned with him in the past. It is very complementary to mine as I am highly anxious, overly empathetic, and an overall over-thinker. I know that the fast-paced, “just do it” attitude of the course is exactly what I need to make the most of this trip. The content of this course interests me because as a psychology major, I learn about mental health and society from the American perspective (understandably so, considering I will be conducting research and psychotherapy in the United States). It will be useful to learn about how a society’s history influences their artistic expression, which may hint at their views and values regarding mental health and wellness.

It is safe to say I am feeling curious, excited, and motivated about this course and my last push at FIU. I am curious to discover what my findings will be, what new questions I may develop, and how I may change over the course of the trip. I am excited to experience something so old yet so new to me. I am motivated to make the most of this trip by honoring my past and current selves in this transitional period of my life. I expect the course to challenge me physically and mentally. I expect to be uncomfortable and find comfort in my discomfort. Most importantly, I expect to learn more about art, world history, current world issues, and myself. I look forward to seeing what the last chapters of my undergraduate study may hold.

Enlightenment As Text

Image by Ekaterina Ershova from Pixabay / CC by 4.0

“Just the Beginning”

By Monica B. Perez of FIU on February 3, 2023

When studying history, it is important to note the language being used to convey certain events and figures. For the sake of making a subject appropriate for younger students, those writing textbooks and designing curriculums will simplify conflicts and ideas, understandably so. However, there are times where these people become carried away and certain topics are oversimplified. This comes to mind regarding the Enlightenment. he Enlightenment was a time where society shifted the focus from religion to science, embracing “reason” over “superstition”. In my experience, this time is presented to us as a start-and-finished period where humans simply “woke up”, embraced science, and there is no more necessary growth to be done.

Voltaire’s Candide addresses this by poking fun at the idea that Enlightenment thinking and philosophy was a humanity’s saving grace. In Voltaire’s eyes, this radical optimism leads to the same tragic life as belief in religion. Growing up around philosophers, the titular character was fed the notion that humanity had achieved the “best of all possible worlds” due to the innovations of the time. After a traumatizing life, he realizes that the enlightened world of philosophy and science is not humanity’s savior, and he concludes that we must “cultivate our own garden.”

Voltaire’s message can be interpreted in several ways, but many choose to understand the “garden” as a metaphor for one’s inner peace and personal enlightenment. One must put time and effort into it to see it blossom and produce fruits. I like to think of the period of Enlightenment the same way. Instead of a start-and-finish time where humanity was saved by the sciences, the Enlightenment was a time where we started to normalize and prioritized critical thinking, personal growth and education, and the pursuit of equality. While great strides were made in these areas, humanity still struggles with these ideas even today. We need to work on these areas in order to make true progress.

The education system leads us to believe that society made this swift change toward reason, and there is not much else to learn. It depicts the modern day as a utopia by oversimplifying the past and omitting current scientific and socio-political struggles. This leads to complacency, and people do not feel motivated to cultivate these ideas for themselves. We need to acknowledge that we still have not reached “the best of all possible worlds” despite making incredible progress. The Enlightenment planted the seed, but it is our responsibility to cultivate our garden and grow.

Historic Miami As Text

The Miami River by Image by Marco Brugo from Pixabay / CC by 4.0

“Back in Time”

By Monica B. Perez of FIU at Downtown on February 17, 2023

There is something very special about historic buildings and landmarks. They have the ability to connect us to our geographic ancestors by transporting us into the past. Downtown Miami is home to several geographic and architectural landmarks that have seen Miami become what it is today. Some places represent the “wins” of Miami’s history, and others represent times where greed and racism led to the mistreatment, oppression, and murder of innocent people. From the Miami River to the Freedom Tower, these places tell Miami’s story in a way no textbook can.

One building that perfectly encapsulates Miami’s history is the Wagner Family Homestead. It was built around 1855 and housed the interracial immigrant couple: William Wagner and Eveline Aimar and their children. According to a text by Margot Ammidown, the Wagner family was on a walk near the Miami River when they encountered a group of Seminoles. Rather than act defensively, Wagner invited them for dinner at his home and offered them garments to replace their tattered ones. While these events do not discount the atrocities committed by United States’ settlers on the Indigenous nations, it is important to recognize that this is an excellent display of modern Miami. It is a city where people of every race, ethnicity, shape, and gender identity come together to eat, dance, tell stories, and celebrate life. The Wagner house is now located in Lummus Park, where people can visit the structure and picture the eclectic group sitting around the house enjoying a supper despite the turmoil surrounding them.

A landmark that exhibits Miami’s shortcomings is now located just feet away from the Wagner Homestead. The structure known as Fort Dallas was constructed at around 1844 on the William English plantation as slave barracks. In the 1850s, the structure was used by the Unites States’ Army as a trading post and military barracks. This building marks a time of intense racial injustice and reminds us that Miami’s history is not perfect. While the city is marked by diversity now, it had similar beginnings to the rest of the country. To touch the limestone wall is to touch the hands that built it- the hands that built the city.

One geographic landmark shows both the beauty and shortcomings of the city, both of which are still present today. The Miami River is what brings life to Miami. It carries fresh water from the Everglades into the Atlantic ocean and originally created a unique ecosystem for that the Tequesta used to drink, bathe, and eat. Miami would truly not exist without it, and we have it to thank for our presence here, no matter how we arrived. In 1897, Henry Flagler opened the Royal Palm Hotel, which started a cycle of pollution into the river. Today, the very water that brought civilization to this land is not even safe to bathe in. This shows a part of Miami (and the rest of the United States’) hubris: greed and ignorance. It was greed that brought Henry Flagler to Miami, and while it was his railroad that kickstarted the development of the city, he destroyed its natural resources in the process.

Downtown Miami is a treasure trove of history and has many lessons to teach us. It shows us our successes and juxtaposes them with our faults and shortcomings. It can be tricky to talk about history, especially in times as divisive as these, because there is no way to talk about one without the other. It is uncomfortable to admit when we were wrong, but it is part of the truth. Both the beautiful and the painful can be true, and it is landmarks like those in Downtown Miami that teach us that.

Revolution As Text

Execution of Louis XVI from Wikimedia Commons

“How Far?”

By Monica B. Perez of FIU on February 27, 2023

The French Revolution is characterized as a pivotal moment in French history that overthrew the monarchy and set the stage for a new country built on equality and liberty. Nearly 100 years after the Enlightenment, the people of France were ready to liberate themselves from the rule of the monarchy and the Church. After years of living in poverty as the monarchy wasted their money on aesthetics and luxury, revolutionaries were pushed to use extreme lengths to achieve their goal. While their methods were questionable, they succeeded in transforming their country, lighting a fire that will likely never burn out.

The Lost King of France by Deborah Cadbury details the events of the French Revolution from the perspective of the monarchy. It describes in painstaking detail the methods employed by the revolutionaries to torture and kill the royal family. This skewed perspective causes modern readers to consume this media and become lost in its captivating story, developing sympathy for Louis-Charles, the son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The eight year old boy was manipulated, drugged, and sexually mentally abused for years before being killed via neglect. He was manipulated into believing that his mother and aunt sexually abused him as a child, delivering a testimony that lead to his mother’s execution.

It is clear that the acts against Louis-Charles were entirely unethical and justifiably considered “evil”. However, what the book fails highlight are the identical stories of every child neglected by the monarchy for years before the revolution. If each of those stories were recounted in such detail, all the libraries in France could not hold the novels written. If the revolution had not happened when it did, hundreds more innocent people would have died from very similar conditions as the lost king. In the opinion of a modern, sarcastic, leftist college student, most of the revolutionaries’ actions were justified and necessary. The monarchy had to die to end the atrocities they were committing, and there could not be hope for a reinstatement.

The acts I found the most troubling, however, are the lengths at which the revolutionaries went to abuse Louis-Charles. It is clear to me that the use of physical, sexual, and psychological violence against children is never justified, no matter how atrocious the actions of their parents were. Because of his age, it is my opinion that Louis-Charles was as much a victim of humanity as the other deceased children of France. It is important to note that my opinion carries much less weight than that of people less privileged or more educated than I am. While I will never apologize for my opinions, I will always do my best to admit my privilege. It is easy to give an uneducated opinion because you do not have to do much work. I hope to never understand what it is like to experience the level of oppression the French people did, and I hope to never have to make such a difficult decision as war heroes and revolutionaries have made and continue to make.

Vizcaya as Text

Photo of Vizcaya by Elisa Rolle // CC by 3.0


By Monica B. Perez of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens on March 10, 2023

In efforts to calm tensions and promote peace among all people, certain people and institutions find it appropriate to simply not discuss the downfalls of the past by individuals or institutions. These decisions, however, tend to be made not by the victims or descendants thereof, but by the oppressors or their descendants. The problem with this situation is not the approach itself so much as those enacting the approach. If a victim wants to “forgive and forget”, then they should feel empowered to do so, but if the voice of the victim is being silenced, shut out, or goes unheard, a second layer of oppression is occurring. This concept is unfortunately evident in Miami’s Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens officially opened its doors in December of 1916 as the winter estate of James Deering, a wealthy and prominent figure in Miami’s history. It began operations as a museum in 1953, and has since been the home to numerous cultural events and enjoyed by many from all over the world. It exemplifies the Mediterranean architectural style complemented by features made from limestone, a material native to Miami’s tropical climate. This makes it a shining example of Miami’s cultural exchange and identity as a sliver of Europe interacts with the Americas. Most (if not all) limestone elements were constructed or somehow manipulated by black Bahamian workers; however, there is little to no representation of this or other marginalized communities in Vizcaya’s permanent exhibits.

It must be admitted that the institution of Vizcaya is taking steps to acknowledge the role of Bahamians in the construction and design of the estate. They have released a few articles, podcast episodes, and hosted several events to uplift those stories. However, the current layout and exhibit of the estate holds little to no acknowledgment to this practical and cultural contribution (spare depictions of Bahamians kneeling in submission carved in limestone, a material which only Bahamians knew how to manipulate properly). This brings to mind the disturbing new legislation presented and approved by Governor Ron Desantis to ban numerous majors and minors, including those related to Gender Studies, Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and others that include these ideas in their curriculum. While the actions of the Governor are far more extreme and reach much further than those of Vizcaya, the deliberate avoidance of addressing these topics in any way contributes to the harmful and disgusting culture of academic censorship politicians like the Governor wish to create.

The actions of the governor compromise academic integrity, freedom, and truth because they gloss over the harsh effects on past oppressions on today’s world. As mentioned prior, this creates further oppression. Vizcaya’s hushed approach at discussing the contributions of black Bahamians on the construction and design of the structure may have been acceptable in the past, but in light of recent attacks on education, it is becoming more important for institutions to promote truth and encourage real healing by highlighting the oppressed as much as the wealthy parties that funded the endeavors.

World War II as Text

Image by Larah Vidotto from Pixabay

“Scars Inherrited”

By Monica B. Perez of FIU

Evolutionary psychologists and other scientific researchers are just beginning to study how certain life events and traumas affect people for generations after the event occurs. Generational trauma (also called inter-generational trauma) is described as a series of events that evoke negative psychological symptoms and distress to people (typically families) across multiple generations. There are multiple events that are severe enough to cause such damage on a bloodline. Mass exile and displacement, racist actions, war, and genocide are a few. This concept is different from PTSD and other trauma-related issues because it takes many forms. Some people may adopt or inherit symptoms that mask as other disorders.

Heightened anxiety and difficulty focusing may present as ADHD. Obsessions, intrusive thoughts, and related self soothing behaviors may mimic OCD. Depressive symptoms and disorders may arise due to hopelessness, internalized anger, or intense confusion. When untreated, these symptoms can further traumatize others that are completely removed from the original event. Because of this, it is crucial to understand generational trauma and how we can help those who may be suffering due to a trauma that they did not even experience.

Besides scientific research, there are ways to explore the complexities of generational trauma and how different members of a family may suffer the effects of a tragedy despite not living it. In the 90 years following the Jewish Holocaust, much media has been created to discuss the ways that survivors and their descendants cope with the tragedy. One incredible example of this is MAUS by Art Spiegelman, a graphic novel that addresses life in a Nazi concentration camp the complex relationship between father and son after horrific tragedy. The novel alternates between two storylines: one that details how his father, Vladek, survived survived the Holocaust, and the other in the years leading up to his death. Spiegelman discusses his mother’s suicide and how deeply it affected him. She chose to end her life after battling with depression as a consequence to the Holocaust, and this further strained the relationship between Art and his father.

In MAUS, readers see how despite not living through the Holocaust, Art still suffers from the after-effects. While we cannot be sure what their lives would have been like without the trauma, we see how this event created a scar in the family that may affect them for generations to come. While many like Art sought psychological help, others have not had such an opportunity, and it is likely that the after-effects continue to linger. Even today, family and other close relationships are deeply affected by the Holocaust and other tragedies.

Despite the lack of scientific validity, works like MAUS can inform how we approach generational trauma because it details its evolution in a personal way while still being easily generalizable. More research is needed to develop interventions for this phenomena, but works like this help survivors, their descendants, and outsiders understand their own traumas. This raises awareness for the issue and may push agencies to fund more scientific research.

Departure as Text

Image by Free Photos from Pixabay

“The Last Page”

By Monica B. Perez of FIU

My last Spring Semester has been one of immense growth both personally and professionally. I have landed a position for a post-bachelor’s experience, dove into the world of research by co-authoring a poster at a conference, and begun to prioritize my own personal and professional needs. I have planted the seeds of numerous friendships and can already see them sprouting. As I become more secure in my personal and professional identity, I feel more prepared to travel to Europe.

The content of this course has inspired additional reading and watching to better understand the culture and values of the country I will be visiting. I have read more French literature and watched French films because I simply cannot wait to immerse myself in the lifestyle. Our course discussions have challenged my opinions and philosophies, strengthening some and changing others. Reading books that have been banned in the past and some that are banned now (like Candide and MAUS) help me understand why it is so important to do one’s own digging to find truth. Needless to say, my expectations for the Spring course alone have been exceeded.

As mentioned above, I am feeling much more prepared to travel on my own and much more excited for everything I will learn about art, history, French culture, and myself. This excitement has caused my nerves to spike because I am imagining the newness and change this will create within me. To be frank, I am a little scared going into this program because I know I will be very different when I return.This, however, is a fear I will attempt to diffuse because there is nothing I can do now but wait and see how this change manifests.

I expect this trip to expose me to concepts and physical experiences I have never seen before (this is a given since I have never been to Europe, but I suppose I should be realistic about my expectations). I also expect to become more in tune with myself and how I want to live the rest of my life. I do not want to make finite life decisions or commitments because that would hardly be realistic, but I do want to get a better idea of who I am and who I want to be. This is not only because I am traveling without family for the first time, but it is also because I am graduating this summer. Because of all these changes, I am feeling a wide ranges of emotions I have difficulty describing.

I am more than satisfied with my choice in program, especially since this program will not be the same after this year. I know that the professor, pace, material, and teaching style are right for me because I am pushed in a way that other courses do not push me to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. I am happy to be grouped with motivated classmates who will teach me so much and encourage growth. It a great environment for learning, and I cannot wait to see what this summer holds.

Melanie Ponce: Poetry, Art Community 2017

© Melanie Ponce

Contrapasso Contrapposto
By Melanie Ponce

We stand together beneath the muffled rays of light
A group of bare kneed students with wrinkled shirts and crumbled pamphlets
Looking ‘round the Kingdom of Limestone
Sweat runs down our backs, the humid air stagnant as we breathe collectively
The smell of salt and ocean mist clinging to our skin
We are the architects of this room, our future
A plethora of decisions yet to come
We hold the collective steps and potential pathways
That will carve our Vizcaya in the coarse sands of time

The rallying cry of change calls for us
An echo pounding against the white walls
The chiseled figures sculpted by our ancestors
Works of art
Smooth marble
Breaking apart by the sound of our pleas, the stomping of our feet
Shake their foundation
‘Till they break

But the marble hid the steel inside
Its structure, the decrepit beams which woke
The ardent stares of those who came before us
Their eyes digging a hole at the back of our necks.
Their cry for change was good enough for them
And everything that we do
That I do
Poses a threat to their lifestyle
To their evening luncheons and art excursions
To their carnival cruise ships and holiday trips to the north.
The old men and women of yesteryear,
Whose chant echoes how our future is in our shoulders but in turn slap our hands away
When we ask for help.
Their backs face us, draped with the cloths of their experiences.
They wash their hands with our sweat.

Originally posted in

Melanie Ponce: Poetry, Art, Community 2017

Village Garden © Melanie Ponce

Paintbrush from the Past

by Melanie Ponce

Strokes of wet paint glides on a canvas
Pigments from bone
Colored hues whose origins were
Dug from the roots of mangroves and wildlife
They whisper
Through layers of sediment and artifacts
An identity which lies buried in the ground

The foundation of skeletal remains
That braved to touch this land
Mixed tongues and dialects communicate
Through each twist of the wrist and flick of the hand
Of the artist whose job is to mix
Blood and oil
To form a village of dreams

Originally shown at

Liza Guanch: Cutler Bay 2022


Photography by Liza Guanch// CC by 4.0

Liza Guanch is an Honors College student and Psychology major at Florida International University who is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree. Her long-term goal is to study forensic/legal psychology and find a career in a government agency, preferably the FBI. In her free time, Liza enjoys being out in nature and learning about her environment.


Map from Google Maps
Photography by Liza Guanch// CC by 4.0

Welcome to the town of Cutler Bay. Town is a keyword when defining this neighborhood, as it does have a local government and is larger than a village but smaller than a city. While it is smaller than a city, it stretches about 10 square miles with 4.8 square miles being land, 0.1 square miles belonging to water, and 4.9 square miles belonging to the CDP (1). Cutler Bay is a relatively flat area which makes it more flood-prone which causes its residents to pay flood insurance. It is to be known that the town of Cutler Bay is not associated with Cutler which was a pioneer town that essentially turned into the Deering Estate. It has an altitude of 26 feet and an area of 26.49 kilometers squared (2). Within Cutler Bay there is Cutler Ridge which is a coral formation that stretches from South Miami to Homestead; in Cutler Bay it is at a height of about 14 feet and is included in hurricane emergency plans as the east can fall victim to storm surge (1). While it does have its own governing body, it is still apart of Miami and is considered a neighborhood in Miami.


The history of Cutler Bay does not date back that far, but the history of the land it is founded on does. The original inhabitants of Southern Florida were the Tequestas and eventually, the Seminoles. These were the Miamians before Miami, but they ended up going missing due to European colonization, forced exile, and disease. In 1836, Dade County was founded and named after Major Francis L. Dade who was killed during the Seminole Wars after leading his men into an ambush, controversy on whether Dade County should be named after Major Dade is present because of this. In 1838, Dr. Henry Perrine acquired 36 square miles of township on the agreement with the government that he would be able to bring more settlers into the area, however Perrine was killed in 1840 and was never able to create his town. Many people came into Perrine’s land, but none of them wanted to make his visions a reality and used it for farming, mostly. In 1897, the heirs of Dr. Perrine were finally able to resolve issues with the land and was able to put it on the market. There were few notable settlers in this area, Francis and John H. Earhart owned a farming community which became named as Franjo in their honor and the road leading to the community was named Franjo Rd, also in their honor and Dr. William Cutler who owned around 600 acres north of the Perrine land. Cutler never had enough success with his dream which was like Perrine’s, but he was able to convince a few people to stay and they paved the way for much of what is known today. The settlers who stayed on Cutler’s property named the pioneer town after him and although it is now mostly taken up by the Charles Deering Estate, it remains an important piece of history as it contains the beginning of the construction of Old Cutler Road. As the years continued, many more development achievements were made such as Henry Flagler and his railroads which led to the ability to create the township of Cutler Bay which gets its name partly from William Cutler’s legacy.

Prior to the town incorporation, there was much occurring within the Cutler Bay limits. The Cutler Ridge development plan was occurring along with the Cutler Ridge shopping mall which opened in 1977, over 20 subdivisions were created after the Bel-Aire subdivision was founded, Lennar Homes created Section One of Lakes by the Bay and is continuing to develop more. Demand was high for the areas in and surrounding Cutler Bay, so the demands needed to be met. In 2005, the residents voted to incorporate, and it was approved which made the town of Cutler Bay the youngest incorporated municipality in Florida. The town of Cutler Bay’s first mayor was elected in January 2006, but died in April 2006, so the vice mayor stepped up. The town of Cutler Bay is now governed by a five-person council and is operated under a council-manager government (ALL ABOVE (12)).


According to the US Census, last updated in 2020, the population estimate is about 45,525 which is approximately 5,000 more than the previous census population estimate in 2010, showing that there is continuous growth in this town. In terms of age and sex, there are around 52.4% of females, 24.6% of people under the age of 18, and 13.9% of people at 65 or older. The dominating races in this town are Caucasian and Hispanic with Caucasians taking up around 69.4% and Hispanics occupying 62%. Foreign born people make up around 42.1% and between the years 2016-2020 there were 1,174 veterans residing in Cutler Bay. The average amount of households in Cutler Bay, as of 2020, is 13,000 and the average persons per household is 3.35 with median gross rent being in the upper $1000s and the median household income being around $75,699. It can be also noted that around 88% of the population in the town of Cutler Bay have their high school diploma, but only around 31% have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The level of poverty in 2020 was around 10.7%, but upon viewing the town, it seems likely that this has increased as of late, which is sad to say (US CENSUS (3)). I had the advantage of having a relative who resides in Cutler Bay, so I was able to get more insight from them.

Photography by Liza Guanch// CC by 4.0


Interviewee: Ventura Guanche

Relationship: Uncle

Relationship to Cutler Bay: Resident

He speaks primarily Spanish, as he is foreign born from Cuba, but this interview was conducted in English.

Question: How long have you lived in Cutler Bay?

Answer: Around 10-11 years

Question: Where did you live previously?

Answer: I have lived in many places like Cuba, Virginia and Hialeah.

Question: Why did you move here?

Answer: Your aunt and I chose to move here to be closer to family, but also to buy a smaller home that fit our needs

Question: Do you like living in Cutler Bay?

Answer: Sometimes it can be difficult with traffic and some areas aren’t as safe as others, but overall, it is a nice area, I can’t complain too much

Question: What is your favorite part about living here?

Answer: Being able to host family events since I am in the middle of everyone.

Question: How is it being a Hispanic in Cutler Bay?

Answer: Actually, very easy, almost everyone is Hispanic here, so I can speak Spanish 90% of the places I go without a problem


Fred in his natural habitat// Photography by Liza Guanch// CC by 4.0

Sadly, there aren’t many landmarks of note in Cutler Bay as it is still a relatively new town, but some that are present include:

  1. Southland Mall: Southland mall is located at 20505 S Dixie Hwy, Cutler Bay, FL 33189 and was opened in 1960 as an extension to the Cutler Ridge Shopping Center. There are plenty of dining and shopping options to choose from and, my personal favorite, a movie theatre. Some stores and restaurants include Victoria’s Secret, Applebee’s, and DSW. It is a local hangout and is the ideal location for any shopping occasion. It also has an insane amount of parking all around, so finding a spot is never an issue.
  2. Black Point Park and Marina: Black Point Park and Marina is a beautiful location fit for any with a love for the outdoors. There is much to do from biking trails, fishing spots, picnic areas, a massive marina for boaters, and a restaurant. It is quite easy to pass time at Black Point. There is also a Black Point mascot, a saltwater crocodile named Fred, who likes to hang out in the area quite often. He is huge and a sight to see. The address is 24775 SW 87 Avenue, Miami FL and it is open 24 hours, but some parking areas do close early (4).
  3. South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center: This is a building that was created to showcase performers, whether it be music, dance, or art. The grand opening occurred in 2016, so it is somewhat new, but it has been loved by the community ever since. It has the seating capacity of 961 and contains two buildings. One of the two buildings is for the formal performances and has an orchestra pit, a stage, areas for concessions, restrooms, dressing rooms, storage, and a fly tower. The other building is meant for informal performances such as rehearsal and is also used for community gatherings. There are always new performances going on, so there is usually something for everyone’s taste. It is located at 10950 SW 211th St, Cutler Bay, FL 33189, so feel free to stop by and check it out (5).


Cutler Bay may not be home to many landmarks, but there are quite a few parks. Some of those parks are:

  1. Cutler Ridge Park and Pool: Cutler Ridge Park and Pool is a favorite of Cutler Bay locals and is on 10 acres of land. It is home to its own soccer club and aquatic team and contains many facilities. It has a 25-meter swimming pool, picnic areas, a recreational building, athletic fields, and parking space that fits 70 cars. Currently, the swimming pool does not have admission prices listed as it is in the process of repairing a broken water heater, but when it does have them listed, it is very reasonably priced with adults paying $2, children 17 or younger paying $1.50, senior citizens of 55 and older getting in free, and a 10 month pass for $10. It is located at 10100 SW 200th Street Cutler Bay, FL 33189 (6).
  2. Bel-Aire Park: Bel-Aire Park is half the size of the Cutler Ridge Park and Pool with it only being 5 acres, but there is still much to offer. Its main use is for athletic purposes as it is home to a tackle football and cheerleading squad and holds many practices/games for adult soccer and youth lacrosse. There are also restrooms, picnic areas, and a parking lot for guests. It is located at 18500 SW 97th Avenue Cutler Bay, FL 33157 (6).
  3. Saga Lake Park: Saga Lake Park is the perfect location to relax at. It is also 5 acres, but it does not have the same number of athletic fields as the other two parks. It does, however, have a picnic area, a softball/baseball field, and a path for fitness lovers. It is a calm park, but sometimes that it what makes for a perfect park. It has a beautiful view of the lake which may be appealing to those who enjoy picnics by the water. It is located at SW 198th Street & SW 83rd Avenue (6).


In Cutler Bay, the main mode of transportation is car, but there are other options too.

  1. Golf Carts: It can be said that some areas of Cutler Bay are quite golf cart friendly and can be an effective mode of transportation that reduces pollution and carbon emissions. I do not believe that US1 is safe for this type of transport, but perhaps smaller neighborhoods and areas on Old Cutler can be suitable.
  2. GO Connect: This is one of the two transportation services that the town of Cutler Bay provides for its residents at no cost. It travels from the South Dade Transitway all throughout Cutler Bay and can be booked via mobile app that has English and Spanish options. Aside from holidays, the GO Connect runs from Monday-Friday 5:30AM-8PM (7).
  3. Town Circulator Bus: This is the second transportation service offered to the residents of Cutler Bay that, as of September 2021, is free. The first trip begins on Old Cutler Rd and Franjo Rd, with trips continuing to leave every hour after up until the last trip. The hours of operation are Monday-Saturday 8:40AM-4:40PM and Sunday 10:40AM-3:40PM. A real-time update on the location of the bus can be viewed within the mobile transit app of Miami-Dade County (7).

Overall, cars continue to be the most common, but the public transportation does help those who cannot afford a vehicle or those who simply want to take advantage of public transport to reduce carbon emissions and make an impact in saving the environment. They are also useful to those who do not enjoy spending money on gas due to the current outrageous prices.


There are many options for dining within the town of Cutler Bay, but some authentic options include:

  1. The Tea Room Restaurant: This restaurant has been serving guests a fine selection of international teas and food items since 1974. The interior is modeled after tea rooms in the U.K and England and instantly immerses you with its unique interior and delicious menu items. It was damaged by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 but remodeled and reopened to the public to continue introducing people to new and exotic teas (8).
  2. Black Point Ocean Grill: This restaurant is located within Black Point Park and Marina. It serves delicious and fresh seafood along with plenty of other options for the non-seafood lovers or the alcoholic beverage lovers. They also have live music performances of different genres to suit every person’s taste in music. Before or after a meal at the grill, guests can take a peaceful stroll along the water’s edge on the boardwalk. It is a little piece of heaven and a must-try location (8).
  3. Ackee Jamaican Cuisine: Many may not know, but South Florida has a deep love for Jamaican Cuisine and this restaurant satisfies the cravings of many Cutler Bay locals. It is a cozy location and offers authentic Jamaican food such as curry chicken and oxtail; they also serve an authentic Jamaican drink called BIGGA which is a lightly carbonated soft drink that comes in many flavors (8)


There are so many businesses within Cutler Bay, but three of them include:

  1. Hair Ego: Hair Ego is a beauty salon in Cutler Bay that has been around for over 40 years. It is highly rated and does everything from the simplest hair cut to the most extensive of treatments to your hair. It is a unisex salon, so it does offer both men and women services. It also offers waxing and nail services, so there is more than one reason to visit. It is a local business and is located at 20463 Old Cutler Rd Cutler Bay, FL 33189 (9).
  2. Encompass Health: Encompass Health does have other locations, but the business itself is important and is a wonderful addition to the Cutler Bay town. It serves as a rehabilitation facility for those who have suffered a life-changing illness or a severe injury. It offers different types of therapy to match any need of every patient and they go above and beyond to ensure that their patients receive the best care (10).
  3. Sweet Haven Bookstore: Sweet Haven Bookstore is a quaint location that sells used books, gifts, and many other items. It is a small store which adds to the experience and may bring a sense of peace for customers who do not like huge department stores. This store has much to offer as used books are usually good books, so it seems that there can be many treasures found within and it is a local business which is always a plus (11).


Photography by Liza Guanch// CC by 4.0

All in all, Cutler Bay is a town that many may not think much of, but it has opportunity for growth. The community is mostly Hispanic which emphasizes the diversity present and the acceptance of it. While there may not be many landmarks due to the town being so young, there is an extensive developmental history that can be found simply by going onto the town website. There are many beautiful parks to visit and lovely places to try new foods at. It may not be a town that people give much thought, but it is home to many, and it continues to let people in. Access to public transportation is another feature of Cutler Bay that makes it so appealing, as that benefits many people and can be the most effective way to travel at times. The only downside to Cutler Bay may be the traffic or the fact that there is not much to do past a certain time, however Miami is not Miami without traffic and Black Point is open 24 hours, so that is certainly an option for those night owls who want to enjoy the nighttime weather.


Google. (n.d.). Cutler Bay Map. Google maps. Retrieved from,-80.3292365,13.98z

(1) Wikimedia Foundation. (2022, February 8). Cutler Bay, Florida. Wikipedia. Retrieved from,_Florida#Geography

(2) Cutler Bay Miami-Dade County, Florida. Cutler Bay, FL – Geographic Facts & Maps – (n.d.). Retrieved from

(3) U.S. Census Bureau quickfacts: Cutler Bay Town, Florida. (n.d.). Retrieved from

(4) Services, M.-D. C. O. (n.d.). Black Point Park & Marina. Untitled Document. Retrieved from

(5) Dade County: Department of Cultural Affairs. Miami. (n.d.). Retrieved from

(6) Town parks. Town of Cutler Bay Florida. (n.d.). Retrieved from

(7) Town Transportation. Town of Cutler Bay Florida. (n.d.). Retrieved from

(8) Cheap self-storage units in Cutler Bay, FL | Value Store … (n.d.). Retrieved from

(9) Hair Ego Salon. Hair ego. (n.d.). Retrieved from

(10) Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Miami. Inpatient Rehabilitation Hospital Miami. (n.d.). Retrieved from

(11) Home. Sweet Haven Books Used Books, gifts and more. (n.d.). Retrieved from

(12) Town history. Town of Cutler Bay Florida. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Liza Guanch: Miami Service 2022


Photography by Liza Guanch// CC by 4.0

Liza Guanch is an Honors College student and Psychology major at Florida International University who is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree. Her long-term goal is to study forensic/legal psychology and find a career in a government agency, preferably the FBI. In her free time, Liza enjoys being out in nature and learning about her environment.


I volunteered at Deering Estate and Bill Baggs State Park in Miami, Florida. Both volunteer excursions were led by Professor John William Bailly of FIU in the Miami in Miami class. In Bill Baggs State Park, we were also led by Ranger Shane Zigler. Bill Baggs State Park is a Florida state park that protects South Florida’s natural environment, is home to Cape Florida Lighthouse, and is a tourist destination for beautiful, sandy beaches and other outdoor activities. While the original plan was to venture out to Chicken Key, the winds weren’t in our favor, so we came up with the alternative plan of cleaning up the mangroves on the estate.


While the main reason for completing these volunteer excursions was because it was a part of the Miami in Miami syllabus, there are multiple other reasons. Ever since I was young, I would take part in protecting the environment in any way that I could. I was a Girl Scout for 7 years which allowed me to do a lot of volunteer work that would benefit nature such as beach cleanups with Baynanza, recycling activities, or even something as simple as cleaning up a garden. I noticed that out of all of those, I would continue to gravitate towards beach cleanups or anything revolving the ocean because of how important the ocean is to me. I have always had a deep love for the ocean and what lives in it, so being able to clean up some of the damage that humans are doing to it means a great deal.

These activities do not directly relate to my major, as I am a psychology major, but they do relate to my interests. Along with my love for the ocean, I also have a love for Marine Biology. I considered going down the Marine Biology track in college, but I preferred to keep it as a hobby, so I could have some more room to explore my other interests like legal psychology. Marine Biology is extremely interesting to me, and the mangrove cleanup made me feel like I was making an impact and helping the lives of marine animals, including dolphins which happen to be my favorite animal of all-time.


For the Bill Baggs State Park excursion, we were told to meet at the Cape Florida Lighthouse where we were met with our mission. It was a beautiful day to be outside with blue skies and a bright sun that shined consistently throughout the day. Upon first glance of the lighthouse, I was in awe, I had seen it before as a child, but learning about the history and how it is the one of the oldest standing structures remaining in Miami Dade County made the view all that more breathtaking. This is the second semester of the Miami in Miami class, but this excursion seemed to bring the class together. Along with connecting the class, I was able to connect with Ranger Shane Zigler and learn about his history, his current responsibilities, and more on his outlook of the park and the world.

This trip to the Deering Estate is the third we have made in this class, but each time is completely different. If we had stuck to the original plan, we would have needed to get to Chicken Key by canoes, but because of the weather conditions and luckily for our muscles, we only had to walk a short distance to get to the mangroves. The first sight that is seen is a blocked off entrance to the old Deering Estate mangrove path which creates a level of mystery and anticipation of what’s to come.

WHEre & what

The Bill Baggs State Park Cleanup took place on April 6th, 2022. We met at the Cape Florida Lighthouse and were told that we were on landscaping duty. The project was to carry several bags of mulch, using gloves, and then lay the mulch all along the sides of the pathway that lead up to the lighthouse. Despite it being April, the Florida sun is no match, and we were instantly breaking a sweat. I was able to work alongside classmates that I had not spoken to much and bonded with them over the task at hand and learned a little bit about their backgrounds which proved to me how doing something good can bring people together. Laying the mulch and making it look as visually appealing as possible took around 2 hours. Once we finished, we stopped and looked at all that we had done and were amazed at the results. It looked stunning. The feeling of accomplishment that came over me when I was able to see the difference, I had made just in two hours was indescribable.

The Mangrove Cleanup took place on April 20th, 2022. This was another April event, so it while it wasn’t as hot as it could be in Miami, it was still enough to sweat instantly, especially with the work we were doing. We met at the Deering Estate and prepared ourselves for the day by putting on mosquito repellent, sunscreen, putting on water shoes, if we had, and gathering the trash bags. Before we started to clean, we learned that there used to a be a path through the mangroves that was about 1 mile long and would lead out to Cutler Creek, but it was destroyed during Hurricane Irma. The mangrove habitat seemed a bit overgrown and while we did find plenty of trash including a metal bucket, some illegal lobster trap materials, and plenty of other litter, we also encountered plenty of spiders and even saw a couple snakes. It was very much an immersion into nature, but that made it all the more rewarding to clean up.


Approved/Awaiting Approval hours on MYHONORS


Overall, both days were a success. I would not have had it any other way. The way I see it, we were able to make an impact and assist in the beautification of our natural world. It is easy to say that what didn’t work on the Deering Estate cleanup day was the weather which preventing us from going to Chicken Key, but it led us to clean another area that needed just as much care and attention. The best part of both excursions was being able to see our results, however I wish we had more time to spend in the mangroves. There is so much to be done there and hopefully one day, that won’t be the case, but until then, the little that we did do went a long way. The only thing left to say is, keep our world beautiful. It provides for us, so let us keep it healthy and thriving. It is the least we can do.

Imani Woodin: Miami as Text 2021-2022

Photo taken by Nathaly Lay Zelaya fotografia

Imani Woodin is a sophomore at Florida International University majoring in international relations with a minor in Portuguese. Starting her life in Kenya, moving around the state of Florida, and living as an exchange student in Brazil fueled her intrigue in learning about people and places. As someone who is fascinated by art, nature, language, and life, she is more than ready to explore Miami through this course.

Downtown as Text

By Imani Woodin of FIU at Downtown Miami, 01 September 2021

It’s so easy to romanticize a city like Miami: The ocean breeze. The palm trees. The fresh mangoes and limes. But when we only pay attention to the easy parts of the city, we oversimplify and ignore its past and present issues.

Longhouse in Lummus Park Miami River taken by Imani Woodin

One of the first stops we made in our tour of downtown was to the Longhouse in Lummus Park (Miami River), less than a mile from the city’s government center. The structure was built in the 1840s by enslaved African people- only 20 something years after Spain sold Florida to the US in 1821. Seeing this building in the heart of Miami unveiled a truth that I had considered but never really learned about: the foundation of this city- just like every other American city- is built off of the labor of displaced, enslaved Africans.

It was enlightening to learn that this structure was built by the hands of enslaved people, however I did not notice any signs or plaques that shared this information. I believe that it is important to educate the public about these details. Not only will people have a deeper understanding about the foundation of the city, they’ll also have a realer interpretation of how Miami is impacted by the sociocultural hierarchy in place.

Many Floridians try to shrug off our state’s history when it comes to slavery, segregation, racism, and the byproducts of these horrors. However this mentality is dangerous. It undermines the experience of the persecuted along with their descendants.

Portrait of Henry Morrison Flagler. J. J. Cade – The Cyclopaedia of American biography. 1918.

The horror and glory of the city of Miami can be personified in the man, the myth, the menace- Henry Flagler. On one hand, Flagler, who co-founded Standard Oil with John D. Rockefeller, connected Miami to the rest of the United States by adding it as a destination to his Florida East Coast Railway. On the other hand, Flagler openly disgraced native culture when he flattened and removed a Tequesta burial mound to build his hotel. On top of that, Flagler introduced segregation to Miami and displaced a black diaspora community of American southerners and Caribbean immigrants to an area called Overtown (formerly referred to as Colored Town). The black population dealt with unequal educational and professional opportunities, which still linger today as more than half of Overtown residents live below the poverty level; 34% are unemployed; a large percentage of youth are neither in school or working.

Miami Dade County Courthouse/Flagler Statue taken by Imani Woodin

After visiting the Longhouse, we went to the Dade County Courthouse. At the front of the Courthouse stands a statue of Henry Flagler. I chose this photo of the courthouse specifically because sitting at the steps before his statue sat a black woman who appeared to be homeless. I couldn’t help but to think to myself that this woman who carried her life in reusable bags and looked to be in poor health, was in her situation in part because of Flager’s actions.

One of my classmates, Amaranta, asked if it was ethical to have a statue of Flagler in the city. I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Miami River taken by Imani Woodin

After the Courthouse, we found our way to the Miami River, which was once the source of fresh drinking water before early developers of the city dumped raw sewage into it. I don’t know how many times I’ve passed the waterway since moving to this city in January, but I never realized the history or significance of this site until this day.

African American Leaders in History Miami taken by Imani Woodin

Our final destination was to History Miami. One display that caught my eye exhibited African American leaders from the city, including figures such as Florence Gaskins who organized the Black Junior Red Cross during World War I and opened the first black employment agency in the 1920s. This section of the museum was significant to me because in school I never learned about black leaders who helped the black community- only black leaders whose work was significant enough for the white patriarchy to pay attention to. Although figures such as MLK are important, it’s essential to celebrate individuals who helped to improve their marginalized community. Sadly their impact is overseen by most educators in this country. This recognition not only gives young people of color idols to look up to, but it also humanizes black figures of the past for those who might not be familiar with their plight.

This type of education demonstrates that there is no one race in Miami (or in this country)- the city is made up of several communities who took care of themselves when the groups in power refused to. Educating locals and visitors on the several different groups that reside in this city opens a forum in which we can all relate to one another and become more considerate of our neighbor’s history, struggles, and customs.

We are one Miami-Dade taken by Imani Woodin

On the bus back home from downtown I saw this sign and thought it was a perfect summarization of Miami. Diversity has been a defining factor of this city, and everyone who is presently in Miami, whether residing or visiting, is a small yet significant part of the city. Whether you’re walking Ocean Drive or driving through Westchester, we all feel pride in hearing people singing or rapping about being at Miami Beach or bragging to northerners about how winter is not a word in our vocabulary, however we need to balance that honor with consideration and inclusion, which has been put on the back burner for so many.

Make sure to educate yourself and the people around you on the full history of this city or whichever city you live in. Make sure to teach the next generation about what came before them and make sure it’s the whole truth- from multiple perspectives. If you want to learn more about Miami’s history, you can start by visiting

Overtown as Text

By Imani Woodin of FIU at Overtown Miami, 15 September 2021

Greetings from Overtown mural. CC by 4.0 Imani Woodin

What stuck to me the most about Overtown was how hospitable the people were. Although Miami is a vibrant city, it isn’t exactly known for having the sweetest people. Overtown, the people went out of their way to say hi and to thank us for visiting. (I learned that the city is called Overtown because it was the second black settlement in Miami, which was “over town” from the first one in Coconut Grove. When you hear the locals talk about the area, they don’t say “in Overtown the people are so kind,” they say “Over town the people are so kind.”)

I-95 in Overtown CC 4.0 Imani Woodin

I think the people Overtown might have been so appreciative of our visit because most the people who go there don’t go with open hearts to embrace the history and to meet the people. Instead they go in with green eyes, looking to see how much of it they can take. Gentrification trickled Overtown slowly but surely. The event that broke Overtown was the construction of I-95. Now they see it in other ways. Sometimes it’s a blueprint for another 40 story building. Then the rent goes up another $100. Every day it gets more and more flooded with new living expenses until the people who’ve lived in the area all their lives can’t afford to stay there any more.

One of the locals who saw us walking around pointed at a skyscraper and said “do you see that? they tore down my elementary school to build that.”

The town part of Overtown is getting phased out for the bustle and the expenses of the city to come through and the community that once thrived is getting pushed away.

Some of the only original structures standing in the area are two churches: Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal and The Historic Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church. So many historical moments happened in them: MLK spoke in both of them, in fact he spoke at Mt. Zion 5 days before he passed away. Sit-ins that changed the way this country functions were planned in both churches. Not only are these places where people went to realign themselves sprititually, these are hubs where people came together to uplift one another and to change their community for the better.

Linda Rodgers at Mt. Zion Episcopal CC 4.0 by Imani Woodin

Both the Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal and The Historic Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church was special, however our visit to Mt. Zion resonated with me the most. There, we met a woman named Linda Rodgers. I’d never met anyone who spoke with such eloquence. Her presence is what I envisioned it to be like if I’d ever met Maya Angelou. Not only could she capture an audience and maintain an unwavering composure, but she also told us stories of her interactions with influential people such as Martin Luther King Jr, who she said visited the church she attended while in college.

At the time she knew him as Martin the church goer. They would see each other every once in a while but what stuck out to Miss Rodgers, she recollected, was while she had to call all the other men at the church by their surnames “he let me call him Martin.”

One day at church, she told us, a couple got into an argument which escalated into a man hitting his wife and knocking her to the ground. As the whole church turned to see what happened, Martin rushed over and helped the woman up then quickly turned to the man to condemn his actions saying, “violence is never the answer.”

That story goes to show that kind gestures go much further than the moment you do it. I doubt that as Reverend King was helping that woman he was thinking about what others would be thinking about him- but that was his character- he was good and he didn’t need recognition for it.

Vizcaya as Text

By Imani Woodin of FIU at Vizcaya, 13 October 2021

Gates going into Vizcaya CC 4.0 Imani Woodin

As you drive up to the gates of Vizcaya, the greenery of the neighborhood contrasts the concrete plains that cover most of Miami. Along with that, the intricacy of the statues and arches laugh in the face of dull modern architecture that surrounds it.

The long walkway you take before going into Vizcaya gives you a sense of anticipation, like you know something grand is to come. The trees add to the ominosity by covering the full view of the building. Your sense of curiosity and excitement grows with every step you take until you finally get to the pond that sits in front of the home.

I have this theory that every person wears a house in the same way they would wear clothing. If you imagine it, your uncle would look really different in a pair of Levis than if you wore them. Similarly, when you go into a room in your home, you might like to use the ceiling light while your roommate prefers to use the nightlight on the wall. Maybe your wife prefers lighter colored comforters while you’d choose a darker one. These small differences reflect each person’s style and contribute to how you experience a living space.

When you’re in Vizcaya, you and your roommate don’t need to argue about which light to pick or which color scheme to choose from- all you have to do is explore every room so you each can enjoy the one that matches your style. Each room has its own atmosphere. For minimalists, you might enjoy the entrance room which is centered around symmetry, as you can see in its paintings and the reflection of the floor and ceiling patterns. For those who appreciate music, there’s a music room and for those who enjoy haphazard environments, you might prefer the north hall for its rococo style. There’s something for everyone to love there: even in the most flamboyant room there’s some simplicity and in the most simple room there’s flamboyance. Deering not only built a house, but living art. I think he understood that in what he built, everyone is able to experience the house in their own way.

As you walk through Vizcaya, it almost feels like it’s your own. In all its flair, there’s a part of it that you can find which can speak to you. At the beginning of the tour my class took, we saw how Deering chose to keep a statue of Ponce de Leon at the back entrance of Vizcaya. He compared to himself to the explorer, saying they both exported culture. In the sculpture, de Leon is stepping on a globe and at the center of the world is south Florida- specifically Vizcaya. And truly, when you’re in the villa, it feels like center of the world.

South Beach as Text

By Imani Woodin of FIU at South Beach Oct 27 2021.

The feeling of the sun hitting my skin on this 87° (31° C) October day reminded me of how beautiful life can be. Something about the air in Miami Beach makes you want to run around like a little kid and just enjoy yourself. Every time I go there, it reminds me of the joy I got from pool days or beach trips when I was younger. As you walk around and look at the the cruise-ship like windows of the art deco buildings or the people of all ages zooming around on their skates, the whole island reminds you that it’s always summer in Miami Beach.

Something I never knew about until we went on this excursion was Art Deco. Honestly, I thought Art Deco was a museum before this day. Now I know it is an architectural style that can be recognized by many different features which are not always mutually exclusive.

The first characteristic is the incorporation of natural themes such like the birds at the bottom of the building in the photo above. Some buildings have palm trees, some have waves, some don’t have any of these features. Another characteristic is the signature pastel colors. One of my classmates, Anna, said that being in South Beach felt like she was in a Nickelodeon show, and what really gives it that effect is the pastel colors. One other trait is Art Deco’s “Rule of Three.” In all of the buildings above, you can see that its face is divided in threes. This is an Art Deco signature and now that I’ve learned about it, I can’t stop seeing it. There are even some buildings on campus that I just noticed to have Art Deco feautres.

Theater-turned H&M in Lincoln Road, South Beach. CC 4.0 Imani Woodin

Our class also saw how some historic buildings have been converted into something more mainstream. For example, the historic Lincoln Theatre is now an H&M clothing store.

While at South Beach, I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude to have been here at this time. I’m aware that I couldn’t enjoy the area as a traveler if I had come 2 generations ago because of segregation. What I am able to do in Miami beach now, at 19 years old is a lot broader than what my grandmother would have been able to do had she been here when she was my age. This is what I was reminded of as we learned about the Bahamian laborers who built Miami Beach then were thrown out after it was developed. It is what I treasured as I learned about the Jewish people of Miami Beach and the confines they endured as they were unable to live in the wealthier areas of the island and had to take a fairy to go to the synagogue in Miami as they were not allowed to pray there.

It’s fun to enjoy a place like Miami Beach and I am grateful that Professor Bailly makes sure we acknowledge the whole history of the island. I recommend that all of you honor the lives of those who built the island, those who lived in it in but were persecuted, and those who were forbidden from the island because of race, ethnicity, or religion before you to go to Miami Beach and enjoy the weather and the atmosphere then live like it’s your last day at least once in your life. See you there.

Deering Estate as Text

By Imani Woodin of FIU Nov 10 2021

Ocean front at the Deering Estate CC 4.0 Imani Woodin
Inside the Stone House . CC 4.0 Imani Woodin

History: The Deering Estate was purchased and owned by Charles Deering, who was the half-brother of Vizcaya owner James Deering. The land was purchased in 1916 and his Stone House where he kept his art collection was built in 1922 (left). The land was Deering’s until his death in 1927.

However, before that, the area was inhabited by native Americans of the Tequesca tribe who used the land as a burial site. Although Deering and his developers respected some of the burial grounds, he also removed some graves because to build on it. This could be because the Tequesca buried the dead above ground and covered them with sand and shells, as we learned during the lecture.

Deering made the best of his time in Miami. The 1920s was the period of Prohibition, and while most Americans either resorted to speakeasies or settled for sobriety, Deering had both easy access to the Caribbean to buy alcohol and storage so he could hide it in his home. The cellar (below) is hidden at the lowest floor of his Stone house and locked behind three vaults. The photo doesn’t do justice to the enormity of the cellar.

Part of Deering’s Liquor Cellar CC 4.0 Imani Woodin

Preservation to nature: The Deering Estate has maintained the local plant and animal life so the highest degree in anywhere I’ve seen since moving to Miami. I love nature, but this was my first time being immersed in it in this section of Florida. The best part of the day was going into mangroves. I didn’t understand how important mangroves are to south Florida until today. Their dense roots are the reason why sand is able to settle in the ocean and improve water quality by keeping pollutants from spreading across the ocean while providing a habitat for a diverse wildlife population.

I was also grateful to enjoy the nature at the estate because it is so different from the rest of Miami because the area sits at a higher sea level. I was thinking about my trip to the Deering Estate the other night, and I realized that there’s no other place like it in the world. You can’t manufacture a natural environment like that of the Deering Estate. It’s an incredible experience being there and enjoying pure nature.


Leaving Untitled Art at sunset by Imani Woodin CC 4.0

During Miami art week, and Untitled Art specifically, art from around the world was showcased. It was a compilation of Miami’s beauty, mystic, and wonder in the form of paintings and sculptures. Some art made you feel, some made you think, and some made you wonder why in the world someone would make it.

Some art was jaw-droppingly intricate. I couldn’t wrap my head around how much time it might have taken the artists to come up with the idea, make prototypes, and complete the work.

Crocheted coral

Some art was trippy and nostalgic. Again, I can’t fathom the time and thought that went into the work.

Photos by Imani Woodin CC 4.0

Some art was just beautiful.

I can’t express how special it felt to be at Untitled. I’d only ever heard of galleries like it before. It was an honor not only to see the art, but to hear about the pieces from the gallery owners and some of the artists themselves. I’m definitely going again next Untitled so I can feel the wonder of being surrounded by beauty once more.

Everglades as Text

Imani at the Everglades photo by Alex Fielder CC 4.0

I want to start this blog by stating that although I’ve traveled to multiple countries and multiple continents, nowhere evokes the feeling of home to me the way Florida does. I was born in Gainesville, I’ve lived in St. Augustine, Apollo Beach (by Tampa), and Tallahassee. I’ve travelled throughout Florida, as the majority of my life has been spent in the sunshine state, but it wasn’t until January 19, 2022 when I stepped into the Everglades for the first time. My experience was wild and unexpectedly mind-opening. I’ve read a lot about the national park, but hearing about it and experiencing it is like seeing a place at night versus in the day.

One element about the national park that caught me by surprise was its biodiversity. The picture on the left is of a sinkhole in a flat, grassy area of the park. At first, it seemed like just a hole in the ground to me, but then the park ranger who guided us, Dillian, mentioned how the plane of grass we stood on was its own micro-ecosystem within the Everglades ecosystem, and the little hole in the ground was its own micro-ecosystem within that one. What she said resonated with me so much because it gave a unique perspective to how special the location we were was, and how something doesn’t have to be seen from a satellite to be noticed.

The grassy area above on the right was taken just a few hundred meters from the pictures below… as the ground level rose, the water level dropped, making the area less habitable for trees, but the open field made it easier to find birds. The grassfield felt infinite as we were walking in it. It was just person and nature, which now I realize is rare to the average modern Miamian, but it was one of the most Miami sites just a few hundred years ago.

One thing I appreciate from this class is how it brings me out of my comfort zone. Going around with my class pushes me to do things that I would have never done had I come with a different group. This trip, I was taken out of my comfort zone when the class decided to go into an alligator’s den. I was scared at first, but when Ranger Dillion told us that the gator wouldn’t attack since we were in a large group, I felt a little more assured.  I also learned that only males have their own dens. Although I wasn’t scared, I still couldn’t get over how we were in a 8 foot gator’s home just for the sake of it. I’ll never forget this experience.

The Everglades as a whole caught me by surprise. I never imagined it would be so beautiful and I would recommend that everyone take a trip and go on a slough slog (walking in the swamp). As an essential part of our ecosystem, it’s important to acknowledge its vitality- and understanding this is much easier when you’re waist deep in it. Being surrounded by nature is rejuvenating and as long as you’re physically able to do so, there’s nothing I recommend more.

The Twists of Coral Gables

As our class walked through Miracle Mile and along the sidewalks of Alhambra hearing the stories of how Coral Gables was founded, I realized that the neighborhood is built on a series of twists and turns, both literally and figuratively.

The first of these twists are from the artwork that line the streets and hold the buildings of Coral Gables. These artistic influences come from around the world and unite to create a smooth, delightful atmosphere. The Colonnade Hotel and Office Building, for example, was designed by Phineas Paist in collaboration with Walter DeGarmo and Paul Chalfin, James Deering’s interior designer for Vizcaya. The structure is a mixture of Spanish Colonial and Baroque. Going inside was like a corporate wonderland. But even if you don’t have to visit Coral Gables to go to a budget meeting for your job, I recommend you go see this incredible building with incredible details.

The Coral Gables Museum, on the other hand, uses depression architecture with Mediterranean details. The quaint building has subtle beauty, as you can see inside and outside of the building. Some of the carvings on its façade show its European influence mixed with tropical touches of native fauna. Finally, some of the world-famous Biltmore Hotel’s art was derived from Andalusian influence, which is a fusion of Arabic and Spanish. It’s jaw dropping architecture and interior design is enchanting. It was the highlight of my trip.

Coral Gables itself, planned by George E. Merrick was developed with Mediterranean Revival style along with Mexican and Cuban influences. These elements are felt in the Spanish style roofs and sophisticated architecture with tropical elements. This microcosm of different cultures and art styles twist together to build the most charming neighborhood in South Florida.

Statue of George Merrick in front of the Coral Gables city hall.

This next twist in Coral Gables history is about its foundation. The mastermind behind the city, George Merrick, was liberal with his creativity but heartbreakingly conservative in his social views as he was a raging racist. He advocated for racist policies including the Negro resettlement plan which sought to remove black residents from Overtown to West Miami Dade in order for white families to move in. Some of the advertisements he commissioned for this plan included caricatures and sayings, such as “remove the monster.”

Merrick was so proud of his efforts to displace black families that he published his own speech to the Miami Board which introduced the Negro resettlement plan. It is said that the scroll in his hand in the statue above is that same speech.

Some people defend George Merrick, saying that above all he was a good man of good intentions, but I simply cannot say the same and I take offense to anyone who would respect this side of him. Knowing that he would not want me and anyone who resembles my complexion around his town leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The fact that he was so comfortable displacing families who were in Miami longer than he was startles me.

I know that someone reading this is going to be annoyed to the extent I’m talking about this topic, but I feel the need to speak about it because this part of history is overlooked. If you google George Merrick, you won’t see an article about this part of him on the first page, even though it was a huge part of his personality. If anything, he was proud of his racism, so this is a part of George Merrick that he would want you to know. The way history books and tour guides gloss over these parts of history is alarming, but I’m trying my best to let you know about the real Miami.

Poolside at the Biltmore Hotel. Photo by Imani Woodin CC 4.0.

Overall, I believe that learning the full history of a place allows for you to enjoy the visit even more. I suggest you visit Coral Gables with this knowledge, as you will be able to see the entirety of the neighborhood.

River of Grass as Text

Imani in the Everglades photo by Claudia CC 4.0

Ranging from enormous caimans to microscopic insects, the Everglades is home to countless wondrous creatures that are often only found in this area. Normally, when you hear about the national park, people tend to exaggerate the wildlife, especially the potentially dangerous- overlooking its other incredible sites such as a missile base used during the cold war.

Nike missile photo by Imani Woodin CC 4.0

Most would think that a national park is not the place to build and house a missile base but thats exactly what the U.S. government did. The missile base, used for storing about three missiles during the early 1960s until the the end if the 1970s, was called the Nike HM-69 and was one of the many missile bases across the country. They were all named Nike after the greek goddess of “victory”. The area for the base in the Everglades was nicknamed the “Hole in the Donut” for the fact that it was built on the private property of Iori family who operated a farm within the government-owned Everglades national park. The base was built immediately after the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, which led to the belief that if a Cuban airstrike were to happen, it would completely destroy South Florida’s defense leaving the United States open to Russian attack from the south. All of the Nike bases were constructed quickly and durably, as the notion of security felt more and more necessary.

Picture of the missile during the cold war
Picture of missile propaganda on Cheerios cereal

The base had two main areas: the control center and the storage/launching center, which were separated so in case the launching center was attacked, the the staff that worked and lived at the base would be too far to get hurt. The base, barely visible in the landscape of the Everglades, was home to over 140 staff workers who maintained the three missiles at the base and kept them ready for deployment at a moment’s notice. Being stationed in the middle of a wildlife preserve caused some unusual issues for the employees of the base such as rats, mosquitoes, and alligators; yet the most dangerous issue of all was the equipment igniting wildfires that would be fueled even more by the dry grass. Despite this rarity, the wildlife of the Everglades is not the only aspect of being located in this national park that differentiated the base to other Nike bases.

Dry grass at the Everglades

See, unlike the other Nike bases, HM-69 could not be stored in an underground area because of its low water level, for this reason they were stored in these above ground barns. Despite its odd location in a national park, some were intrigued by it’s location, such as frequent visitor: commander-in-chief, John F. Kennedy.

Top Secret NIke HM-69 files.

The Nike HM-69 base never once fired a missile, but all its personnel were awarded the Army’s Meritorious Unit Commendation, one of the few instances in which it was awarded not for engagement but deference. The Nike HM-69 operated until it was decommissioned in 1979 and was after granted to the Everglades national park.

The Nike HM-69 missile base was one of the best preserved Nike bases, making it possible for the park offer tours of the site. This is another unique spot here in Miami that I recommend visiting. Even if you aren’t really into history, the stories of what happened and the collective fear around the height of the cold war is an incredible piece of both local and national contemporary issues to learn and think about.

For further reading, visit:

Wynwood as Text

From the Marguiles Collection by Imani Woodin CC 4.0

Miami’s art district is filled with wonders, including the incredible Marguiles collection located in West Wynwood. While the whole establishment was astounding, I was blown away by the work of Anslem Kiefer.

How the art found its way to me

Kiefer was born March 8, 1945 in Donaueschingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. His upbringing during the post-war climate inspired his career as the theme of destruction is evident in his art. An example of this can be seen in the piece above. While it may look very confusing at first glance, I think part of its appeal is that it makes you look. The stacked canvases mixed with the sediment make it look like a deconstructed home; maybe a victim of chaos during the war. Its muted colors are primarily seen, but at closer glance there are patterns and colors make up the piece. At the bottom, carpet-like designs cover the canvases while towards the top, sky and tree blues and greens pop out. If you notice on the right side of the structure there’s a photo scroll hanging. This- to me- might be distant memories. Maybe it’s his parents’ memories of what it was like before the war, maybe they were his own, all I know is it gave the piece a nostalgic feel. That’s what I find beautiful about this work- instead of painting a destroyed home, he made one.

In my interpretation, the piece represents the silverlinings of chaos. The beauty behind the madness.

After seeing the sculpture above, we travelled to the room that resonated with me the most, pictured below. It was also made by Anslem Kiefer and in the same fashion as the first piece, the pictures don’t do the experience any justice. The room was the same temperature as the rest of the gallery but it felt like it was on fire. The color scheme, the subtle flames in the paintings and the abandoned concrete structures all evoked the feeling that everything was scorched.

The painting on bottom picture towards the left shows a lit match with a snowy background and to the right of it a flattened, dirty child’s dress. These elements are even eerier when seen in person. The whole room raised my awareness while at the same time making me empathize with Kiefer and his family. I wonder what it was like for him to grow up in land of uncertainties. After so much destruction, I’m sure the only light he might have seen was that from fire. Long winters , ruined childhoods, and unstable governments and families might be found in his art. This not only tells his story but that of many others from Germany and other places in the world.

In order to feel art you need to first be human. If you ever go to the Marguiles Collection (which I highly recommend, as entry is free for Floridian students), I advise you to feel the art instead of thinking about it. If you try to make it logical for yourself, you might throw yourself in a pit of disappointment; however if you feel your way through the art, you’ll come to see that Kiefer is also trying to piece together memories and figure out his feelings, so why not join him on his journey?


Mosaic from Christ Episcopal Church photo by Imani Woodin CC 4.0.

One thing I’ve learned to be aware of is who tells the story in history. In history class, ninety per cent of the time it was a white man who was telling the story: his fight, his successes- which took away so many perspectives on the American experience. Women were seldom brought up, African Americans were enslaved and then freed by Martin Luther King Jr, Asian Americans just kind of showed up, and Latin Americans just don’t exist (apparently).

Thankfully, this class doesn’t teach history in that light. While Coconut Grove is marketed as a “fun and funky” bayfront destination on google, Professor Bailly keeps it real by sharing Miami’s real history and current state of affairs.

One of the first things I learned in this course was how Bahamian immigrants who fled from slavery helped build Miami. We are reminded of this history in almost every class- whether it’s Vizcaya, Coral Gables or downtown, Bahamian immigrants were the backbone of Miami’s development. Because the landscape in Miami was similar to that of the Bahamas’, Bahamians knew how to work with local materials like oolite stone unlike northern settlers. Without the Bahamian contribution, treasures like the Deering estates and Miami Beach would be more bleh… they wouldn’t have that Miami magic.

That’s why our of Coconut Grove began in the heart of the Bahamian neighborhood- Evangelist Street (now known as Charles Avenue), where hundreds of Bahamians immigrated over a hundred years ago and where their descendants still reside. The path was paved by pioneers such as Ebeneezer Woodberry Frank Stirrup who immigrated to the area in 1899 and constructed more than 100 homes, many of which still remain.

Evangelist Street/Charles Ave photo by Imani Woodin CC 4.0

Another treasure we discovered was the one and only Christ Episcopal Church. The West Indian gem has been a focal point of the community since 1901, and although we did not attend service, I was still able to notice an accepting air as the mosaics displayed religious figures with dark skin. This is so monumental to me because I have been to many black churches in this country and in Kenya, my maternal country, but all of the churches showed a Jesus that was white as snow. From a black standpoint, so much has been fed to us as greatness because of European origins or affiliation. To have a black Jesus is to say that goodness comes from someone who looks like you. It might not mean a lot to other people but I’ll never forget it.

Mosaic from Christ Episcopal Church photo by Imani Woodin CC 4.0.

In our year long discovery of Miami, this is an area that I’ve been waiting to see since the first day of class. The Bahamian contribution has been greatly appreciated yet devastatingly misdirected towards rich men like Flagler and Merrick. Which made me think, where in my life do I credit the wrong people for what I cherish? Should I celebrate the writer of the movie or the person who won the Oscar? Should I applaud the construction worker along with the architect? I appreciate Bailly’s awareness of where we are and how it became what it is. I think it’s what I’ve learned most from this class and what I want to carry out into other parts of my life.

Key Biscayne as Text

Beautiful day at Crandon Park, Key Biscayne CC @ponticelli on instagram

The Oasis of Key Biscayne, before it was filled with colorful umbrellas on the shore and ice cream shops inland, was once home to the turtle hunting tribe known as the Tequesta. The seafaring native American tribe were some of the first to fish the Florida, and strategically built their villages on palm pilings to live at sea level, right next to their food supply.

Bounty from the Sea by Morris Theodore

The Tequesta people were written about extensively in the 1575 memoir Memoria de las cosas y vosta y indios de la Florida by Escalante de Fontaneda. He was a Columbian boy who landed in Key Biscayne after a shipwreck while sailing to go to school in Spain. After living in the area for 17 years, he saw every part of life, writing, ““The common food is fish, turtles, and snails, and tunny and whale; which is what I saw while I was among these Indians. Some eat sea wolves; not all of them for there is a distinction between the higher and lower classes, but the principal persons eat them.”

Change came in waves for the Tequesta, notably, in 1563, Pedro Menéndez de Avila, an explorer sent by the King of Spain to  St. Augustine, arrived to the island to take refuge from a hurricane and later tried to convert the Tequesta into Catholics which led to hostility and conflict.

An illustration of Christopher Columbus arriving in North America in 1492. 
Gergio Deluci/Courtesy of L. Prang & Co., Boston/Wikimedia Commons

The island became known by colonizers as Vizcaya, named after the Spaniard province of Biscay in the Iberian region by a Spanish sailor after he shipwrecked on the island. Though along with rest of Florida Vizcaya was handed over to the English from the Spanish until the revolution ended the British control, leading to Florida being  return back to Spain, who in 1825 handed it over to the US. Around that time, the Cape Florida Lighthouse was erected and still stands today.

The lighthouse of Key Biscayne by

Soon, Key Biscayne had farmers setting up plantations of exotic fruits, naturalists coming to see its subtropical flora and fauna, which attracted many tourists who came to see the island’s world renowned beauty. After the Second World War Key Biscayne was still largely underdeveloped, but after the building of the Rickenbacker Causeway major developments were made and the population increased exponentially. The Villages of Key Biscayne in 1950 by the Mackle brothers, the houses built went for at most $10,000, mostly sold to veterans of the war. Now, these houses known also as “Mackles,” go for one million dollars, though now they are scarce.

Mackle House by Wiki-Key Biscayne

Key Biscayne eventually gained enough popularity to became vacation paradise for influential Americans, such as the 37th president Richard Nixon who had a ranch style compound as his winter retreat, he chose the area because his friend Charles “Bebe” Rebozzo owned the only bank on the island. Nixon spent huge amounts of time at compound during and after his  presidency leading to it being dubbed the “Florida White House”. Most of Key Biscayne is now mansions and condos, also it has become expensive but it stills has some its original beauty from the Tequesta period such as Bill  Baggs State Park that still contains the native plants of that time.

The beauties of Key Biscayne reveals itself in each visit. The treasures the Tequesta got to live under and people went out of their way to experience is still here in eastern Dade County, and each minute on the Key is a minute to be savored.

Liza Guanch: Miami as Text 2021-2022

Photography by Liza Guanch//CC by 4.0

About Me

Liza Guanch is a 19-year-old junior at Florida International University. She was born and raised in Miami but embraces her Cuban and European background. She is a cancer survivor and sees that as one of the blessings in her life. She is majoring in Psychology and wants to pursue a graduate degree in Forensic Psychology to then work in the FBI. She continues to challenge herself to accomplish all her goals and learn every piece of knowledge she is able to.

Downtown as Text

Photograph by Liza Guanch// CC by 4.0

“Roots of the City as Text”

by Liza Guanch of FIU at Downtown Miami, 1 September 2021

Color can be found deep within the roots of Miami. However, it seems that this story of color has been washed out. The original inhabitants of Miami were colored, the Tequestas. The first named citizen was a colored man, a Bahamian. The first buildings to be built in Miami were created by African-American people. Miami runs on color, but with so much of the history that is told being based on the European colonization, it gets pushed underground.

To be colored in a society that was crafted by those who were colored should be something powerful, yet it has brought so much fear and struggle instead. In the beginning, the Tequesta people brought life to this city prior to it being a city. They used their knowledge of the land that they called home to survive 250 years past European colonization. They passed on many skills and lessons to these foreigners such as farming in this wet environment and hunting methods to get the best catch in the Miami wild. Without these skills, the foreign Europeans would not have lasted long. Yet, somehow, the foreigners decided that these Tequestas were of no use as the years went on and ran them out leading to their extinction. Miami may have been inhabited by color, but it then became a European settlement.

As the Europeans continued to take over the land we know as Miami, a man by the name of William English came from the Carolinas to create a civilization based on fertile soil. While this can be seen as good, all good brings on its fair share of bad. To take care of this land, labor was needed, and what better labor, English thought, then free labor. Slave labor was introduced because of civilization creation and agriculture in Miami. The first buildings ever built were slave quarters, “Longhouse” which then turned to “Fort Dallas” to be used in the Seminole Wars, and they were built by the African-American and Bahamian people. While slavery may have started because of William English, the foundation of Miami being built by color was also started.

Further understanding of Miami roots running deep and filled with color are the Seminole Wars. These three wars paved the way for the Seminole Indians to have the home that they have now in the Everglades. These wars were some of the most gruesome wars on both the European and the Seminole sides. While they were the most gruesome, the end result was freedom for the colored people, despite them still being pushed into the Everglades. The colored roots of Miami may run deep and may be underground in most parts, but the Seminoles prove that these roots are present and are never-ending.

As the creation of Miami continues, Henry Flagler brings railroads to Miami which is an extreme improvement to the city that Julia Tuttle founded. However, these railroads allowed for town separation which Flagler took advantage of and created segregation among Miami through the development of the city we know as “Overtown”, but was known as “Colored Town” and referred to as “Darkie Town”. This was the first appearance of segregation and continues to prove that despite Miami being crafted and built by color, there is more fear and struggle than power and freedom in these colors because of its European history.

As time goes on, segregation eventually ends in the 1900s, but the divide never disappears. Racism dates back to the early 1700s-1800s when the Europeans first came to interact with the indigenous people and any other tribes that made their presence known such as the Seminoles and Tequestas. Racism does not limit itself to only the African-American people, it extends to those of all color, and it does not leave color out. It is a prevalent issue that still exists today which is a deep shame because this city would not exist if not for color. Our roots are color, we were built because of color, the society we know today would not be if not for color. Our roots run deep and they are colored.

Overtown as Text

Photograph by Liza Guanch// CC by 4.0

“Racing Time”

by Liza Guanch of FIU at Overtown, 15 September 2021

Time. We know it as the seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years of our lives. We see it as a wake-up or go to sleep reminder, we see it as class/work start and end times. In present day society, many simply see time as a concept that helps our day-to-day lives. The reality is time is not just an aiding concept. Those of us who do not see time in this “present” view are those who have been at war with it, those such as the Tequesta tribe and other Native American tribes or the lively community that was forcibly created in Overtown who have suffered so greatly at the hands of this unbeatable force.

The beginning of this fight in Miami against time starts with the Tequesta inhabitants, the Miamians before Miami. This tribe and a few others such as the Seminoles and Miccosukee found the area of what is now known as Hialeah as a place to farm because of its fertile grounds, but it was also used as time went on with those newer Miami people. As time passed, the Tequesta went extinct after 250 years of living alongside foreigners, the Seminole people fought for their land and never surrendered but were forced to move to the Everglades where they presently reside. Time forced these inhabitants out of Hialeah, so a city could be built, as if a community was not ruined. Hialeah Park was created as time passed and it became the center of Hialeah in the 1920’s standing as a family friendly location to bet on horse races and greyhound races. This seemed wonderful and it lasted for several years leading up to the late 1990’s/early 2000’s, but again, time passed meaning that laws were passed, and those laws include gambling and animal cruelty laws which shut down horse and greyhound racing; this led to the eventual shut down of the Hialeah Park amusement area and it is now seen as a protected piece of history. While the loss of business in Hialeah Park is not as much of a loss as what the indigenous people faced, it is still a clear example that the more time passes, the more life can be altered in so many significant ways.

One of the most saddening challenge that has been faced with time is portrayed in Overtown. This city was created to segregate the Blacks from the Whites during the time of Henry Flagler and was known as “darkie town”, so these people of Overtown were forced to create a community out of this area and they did. They made the most out of this forced lifestyle and even developed a business sector and a “Little Broadway” which is where the city would come to life with the constant performances from big name Black celebrities such as Billy Holiday, Aretha Franklin, and Count Basie among others. As the enemy known as time continued to terrorize life as they knew it, developers came and decided that many buildings, homes, and areas needed to be updated to give Overtown more appeal. If you view Overtown today, it is filled with high-rises including excessively expensive apartment buildings and there is a highway, I-95, that sits around 50 ft from one of the first historically Black churches in Miami. This is called gentrification. Gentrification is dislodging a community to try and create a different image for the city, despite the city already being beautiful and filled with passion. All those high-rises were once family homes and businesses that were forced to move because developers decided they had a better plan for that one specific area which overruled having to uplift so many families and hard workers from the only places they knew as theirs. The only buildings left from this massive development are mainly the ones that must be protected by the National Register of Historical Places such as the two historically Black churches, the Dorsey house, and the Lyric Theatre. These churches still have services to this day where they speak on all the good the Lord has provided them with, yet they are still made aware every day of all that has happened leading up to present times. They never forget the effect that time had on them and continues to have on them. While time may bring some good, we can never forget that we are always racing time.

Vizcaya As Text

Photograph by Liza Guanch// CC by 4.0

“Ignorant Pleasure”

By Liza Guanch of FIU at Vizcaya, 13 October 2021

Ignorance is bliss. Bliss is defined as perfect happiness or an immense level of joy. What brings on bliss during times of struggle? Pleasure. People crave to be pleased and to please because of the satisfaction it brings despite any issues they may be facing. James Deering, one of the wealthiest men in Florida in the late 1800s to early 1900s, desired a lifestyle filled with this concept. He enjoyed traveling and experiencing all the world had to offer, but he was enamored by Italian living. As he was planning his next expedition to Italy, World War I struck preventing him from doing so. What does a man who longs to be entertained and pleased do when he is kept from his place of enjoyment? Naturally, a man like Deering would bring Italy to Miami, Florida.

Deering not only brought Italy to Florida, he brought Europe as a whole to Florida during his creation of Villa Vizcaya, an Italian-style villa made to represent pleasure and entertainment. He hired Paul Chafin as an artistic director to bring his ideas to life in this villa. To provide an idea of what Deering wanted to have on display in his villa, one has to understand that despite wanting to create a theme of indulgence, he also had to have anything that was new in technological advancements or that showcased his wealth such as a phone which he primarily used to contact his brother, Charles Deering at the Deering Estate, and an organ in one of the rooms.

Villa Vizcaya was created amongst the 180 acres of Bayfront land that Deering purchased, but it only makes up about 38,000 feet and Vizcaya Museum only consists of 50 acres to date. Deering made it a point to buy this much land but only build on such a small portion in comparison to be able to preserve the natural environment. The creation of this villa took about 4 years and utilized 10% of Miami’s population at the time with most being Afro-Caribbean, black laborers that were paid more at Vizcaya as opposed to any other job they were able to get yet it was still nowhere near a stable living for these laborers. While Deering may have been an avid nature conservationist, he remained blind to the main issues at hand such as racism, prohibition, and many others. Some would say that his wealth blinded him, but being ignorant comes from only viewing the world in a singular view, and in his case, it was his hedonistic view that shut out any that would impact it negatively— though, I suppose wealth could also play a part in this. His ignorance might have prevented him from being involved in society and using his wealth for more than just self-satisfaction, but Deering never seemed to create any label for himself that would place him as a vile person, just possibly overcome by his status.

Deering believed himself to be made up of many different personalities. He believed he was an adventurer, a pioneer, and a hero to name a few. He crafted statues of Ponce De Leon and a man from the Vizcaya shipwreck which he placed across from each other on the grounds to showcase who he thought himself to be. Throughout his villa, many representations show his egotistical view of himself in several ways, but there are also many depictions of ecstasy and indulgence such as the statue of the Roman God of Hedonism, Dionysus, the statue of Leda who had relations with a swan that was Zeus in disguise, or the music room with “Cupid” seen on the walls and ceilings and floral patterns seen in the light fixtures, furniture, and walls representing the female anatomy in art.

Deering crafted a beautiful villa with representations of Spain, Italy, France, and Rome in the architecture and design. The villa immersed visitors in a trip around the world that satisfied all of their visual needs and allowed them to be consumed in pleasure and blind to reality. With secret garden hideaways, breath-taking pieces of artwork, stunning natural landscaping, and hedonistic symbols throughout the property, Vizcaya lives up to Deering’s goal of being a place of pleasure. Living in ignorant pleasure may not be suitable for day-to-day life in present times, but if there is a chance to experience it for a moment and escape true reality, then that is a chance worth taking.

South Beach as Text

Photograph by Liza Guanch//CC by 4.0

“Diversity and Design”

By Liza Guanch of FIU at South Beach, 27 October 2021

Diversity is defined as the quality of including people from different ethnic, religious, social, and racial backgrounds along with those of different genders and sexual orientations, so how is there diversity in design? South Beach has not always been known as a place filled with unique architecture, as it was once a mangrove-filled habitat that transformed into a getaway beach paradise for those of all colors. However, as time progressed, diversity was strained until design in architecture decided to take over which allowed for a grand re-opening of a shared city.

There are three main architectural designs that South Beach is filled with: Mediterranean Revival, Mimo, and the most famous, Art Deco. Mediterranean Revival comes from Spanish and Mediterranean influences and is known for creating an atmosphere of relaxation and serenity; identifying this style involves looking for archways, porches, balconies, and iron fixtures much like the Versace mansion. This form of architecture can be found throughout South Beach and was introduced to Miami in the 1920s-1930s to entice tourists and add an “exotic” appeal. Mimo is the second style found throughout the architecture in South Beach and stands for Miami Modern. It was developed in the post-war period and was meant to fulfill the intrigue of people’s fascination of futurism with acute angles and other geometrical forms. Last, but not least, is Art Deco, which by itself can stand to represent the beauty and symmetry of the diverse and tropical city that we live in. Art Deco first began in France just before World War I and is where the name was founded, but it made its appearance during the design period of the 1920s and 1930s which is when the other styles began to emerge as well. This movement was a strong influencer and motivator to more than just building styles, it inspired fashion and art as well. These buildings are not easy to miss and that was intentional as the goal was to create a modern look that was simple, yet fresh. Noticeable features of these Art Deco buildings are their bright colors, their porthole style windows, the symmetry of “three”, and the detailing that is usually of geometric shapes or of nature.

These three design styles may only be buildings, but they are creations of different backgrounds that serve as a destination for all to view, therefore increasing diversity in and through design. It may not make total sense, but Miami often does not, yet the chaotic nature of this city is what helps it thrive. We are diverse and beautiful in every sense of the word.

Deering Estate as Text

Photograph by Liza Guanch// CC by 4.0

“Dangerous Beauty”

By Liza Guanch of FIU at the Deering Estate, 10 November 2021

The Deering Estate is made up of over 450 acres of natural Miami landscaping. It was once the home of the Tequesta people and is still the home of many animals such as gopher tortoises, river otters, spiders, snakes, coyotes, and many more. There is so much history that is found within the roots of the mangroves, within the bark of the tree, and within the holes of the earth. Even the extinct Dire Wolf ran across the prairies that made up the land that is now the Deering Estate.

Step into the past. The roots run deep here. Imagine you are a foreigner because that is what you are in this terrain. The mosquitoes flying at full speed like fighter jets just to get a taste of your sweat-covered body, coyotes howling in the distance, unknown steps being taken into mangrove-filled freshwater that can house all from alligators to snakes to the tiniest of insects, the beautiful danger is all around. You discover several holes on your trek through this wilderness, some are solution holes, some are the doings of the animals around you such as the crab, but all are not meant to be stepped in with their varying depths, they are threats that contain history that is not meant to be disrupted. The type of history that is found here is the type that tells stories. From animals being trapped in the deep holes that they just went in for a sip of water, but never lived to drink anymore as they were devoured themselves to human remains that were buried as part of a ritual. This is a land of many stories. A land of several habitats and homes. This is not a foreigner’s land, but it welcomes it with all its dangerous beauty. This is and was the true Miami.

Being able to preserve this part of Miami is crucial because it helps remind us of our roots. It helps archaeologists better understand our roots. It helps the mangrove roots survive and continue to spread, providing a better environment for everything. Our roots run deep and the Deering Estate is proudly preserving them.

Rubell as Text

Photograph by Liza Guanch// CC by 4.0

“Immersive Experience”

Modern art and contemporary art define two versions of artistic style. Contemporary art usually refers to current artwork that is thought-provoking and creates an emotional response, whereas modern art is about the medium being used which began with a simple painting but has evolved into using any and every material for creation. Combine these two styles together and you have Modern Contemporary Art. A style that contains art done with all imaginable items such as wood, plastic, oil, fur, or something as simple as a pencil and some paint. Modern Contemporary Art is a style that uses multiple resources to create the final piece which often tells a story or can create one by touching on sensitive topics such as societal issues. Some say that these pieces of work are a conversation between the creator and the piece, itself, but I believe that the piece stands as a message man for the creator who is screaming their message across in immersive and abstract beauty.

“Where the Lights in My Heart Go”- Yayoi Kusama Photograph by Liza Guanch// CC by 4.0

At the Rubell Museum, there is a constant flow of artwork traveling through from over 1,000 artists. The latest and most featured exhibit are the works of Yayoi Kusama. Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist who had spent the past 40 years being a voluntary patient in a psychiatric hospital due to severe hallucinations and panic attacks that stem from childhood trauma among other situations she has encountered.  She has lived through a series of events and depicts that in her art. It seems that she is insistent on making her work come to life to tell her story, as any contemporary artist would, but she does this to a deeper level. Her artwork takes you places, it takes you to other worlds, and immerses you in her headspace, into her creations. She has been creating ever since she was a child, detailing her trauma, her loss, her suffering, her lessons learned, all through the medium of artwork. Knowing her intention and background significantly affects how her art is viewed, but without that knowledge, her artwork is incredibly powerful and speaks for itself. A personal favorite is “Where the Lights in My Heart Go”, it is a piece that immediately drew me in and a piece that I developed a connection with. This piece reminds me of a city of stars and being lost in the light. I was instantly overwhelmed by the beauty of it and wish I had more time to spend inside of this art installation, but it created a lasting memory in my brain. It told a story of being caught in a never-ending world and how it is so easy to be caught up in the endless and all-consuming side of it, but the constant rays of light show that while it may be endless, it is also beautifully lit up and filled with extraordinary moments. It is safe to say that Yayoi Kusama has successfully mastered the art of immersive experience and I hope that she continues to tell her stories and allow others to create stories of their own with her work because it is truly captivating.

Everglades as Text

Photograph by Liza Guanch// CC by 4.0

“An Alligator’s Oasis”

The Everglades is made up of 1.5 million acres of natural landscape from saltwater marshes to pine rockland. Within this vast amount of land, there are several species of animals and plants, but the alligator holds the spot as the most well-known. Alligators are perceived as dangerous creatures and their level of violence has been exaggerated through the years. This is not to say that they are not strong and ferocious creatures, they are, but they usually prefer to keep to themselves. They have a unique lifestyle, and the Everglades acreage is perfect for it.

It is common to see alligators in groups, or congregations, basking in the sun, but alligators do not actually spend all their time in this groups. They enjoy their privacy and time has taught them a solution to this. One of the nicknames that alligators have is “engineer” and this is because of their ability to create. These reptiles have mastered the art of construction within nature. They construct massive homes for themselves that define serenity. These homes are known as “alligator holes” to people, but a proper name would be “alligator’s oasis”.

Upon entering an alligator hole, a feeling of peace immediately takes over. It is a creation unlike any other. The alligator hole from the outside looks like a simple hill, but within, it is made up of so much more. Water covers the ground with depths usually being around 2-3 feet all around, but there are deeper spots throughout. Massive trees are spread out all over the land with small spots of dry land that provides just enough room for an alligator to relax and a large opening in the center of the hole to let all possible natural light enter. The beauty in this hole is surreal. The alligator’s oasis is not just for the alligators, as owls and other species have been seen enjoying their own moment of serenity.

Alligators may not be human, but they understand the importance of having a place of peace that helps escape reality. These reptilian engineers craft nature’s 5-star resorts and it is truly impressive. Once one enters this oasis, leaving becomes a challenge because there is no place on earth that is as quiet, as serene, or as beautiful, as the alligator hole.

Coral Gables as Text

“Step into the City”

The city of Coral Gables opened in 1906 and was founded by George Merrick. Merrick’s name is controversial to some, as he used Black laborers for much of his construction, but he remains a man who crafted a successful city, despite how many attempts there are at erasing his name in history. A major highlight of his success is the Biltmore hotel.

The hotel was originally created by Merrick as a place for his new landowners to stay while they awaited the completion of their new homes in Coral Gables, but it became more than that. It became a hot spot for entertainment and fashion. It opened in 1926 with 400 hotel rooms, an 18-hole golf course, beautiful views, and designs crafted in Merrick’s vision of beauty which was of Arabic and Mediterranean style. During the years leading up to World War II, the hotel was hosting major events and housed several celebrities and exclusive individuals from royalty to Al Capone. It was also during these years that the Biltmore overcame the economic downfall that was occurring by using the pool that was the largest pool in a resort at the time for aquatic events from alligator wrestling to synchronized swimming.

World War II changed the Biltmore from an exhilarating tourist destination to an army hospital. This is where many haunted stories of Coral Gables began due to the many deaths that have occurred during the years of the war. It remained a hospital until the late 1960’s and then was owned by the city but left abandoned for about 10 years. These 10 years involved endless amounts of trespassing teenagers looking for ghosts, specifically the lady in white who jumped out of the balcony window in hopes of saving her son and while she managed to save him, her spirit is said to be trapped in the Biltmore; alternatively, these trespassing teens could have simply wanted an exciting adventure.

Around the early 1980’s, the Biltmore began a major restorative process to reopen as a hotel. It opened after 4 years, remained open for 3, and closed again for another 4. Another attempt was made to restore this hotel to its natural beauty and elegance and this attempt took 10 years but exceeded expectations. It is a National Historic Site and is an expensive landmark that has tourists flying in from all corners of the world. Going to the Biltmore may seem like an escape from reality and into royalty, but it really is a step into the city of Coral Gables and a step into history. The Biltmore was crafted by Merrick and will be forever known as the place made for the city. It will also be known for its haunted history, so feel free to stop by for a ghost tour and a day at the pool.

River of Grass as Text

Absent from this excursion; photo is from previous Everglades excursion// Photograph by Liza Guanch// CC by 4.0

“Everglades Defense”

Stepping foot in the Nike Missile Base is taking a step into history. From the dog kennels to the missile itself, it is 100% authentic and preserved. This site was finished in 1965 and served as protection to air attacks that could occur from the Soviet Union as this was in the middle of the Cold War. This war was the result of an ongoing political rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States post World War II; the reason for the name is because neither officially declared war which means they never fought directly, as opposed to a “hot war” where nuclear weapons can destroy. With this knowledge, it can be understood that the missile sites that were created all over the United States served a purpose of protection; it can be called a “just in case” measure.  

The Nike Missile Base in the Everglades is called “HM69” or “Alpha Battery”. It was a part of a project called Project Nike (Nike being the goddess of victory in Greek mythology) that involved setting up these sites around the country in efforts to protect U.S grounds from Soviet air attacks. The Everglades was not a major city, but it was at a perfect location because it was on watch for attacks in the South, or rather from Cuba which was a Russian hotspot at the time. This specific location housed 2 missiles with extensive technological advances that allowed for a better defense of South Florida. During the time it was in use, it was home for over 140 soldiers, and they stood as the manpower behind the missiles. In my opinion, the most interesting remnant of this site is the dog kennel because if this was a site to prevent air attacks, the purpose of the canine’s presence other than companionship is unknown to me.

However, this site was not used; the soldiers who made up the staff of this site were given an “Army Meritorious Unit Commendation” for its deterrence ability rather than attack. Overall, this historical site is an impressive location that deserves continuous recognition for the part it played in the war and the protection it gave to the Everglades and all South Florida.

Design District as Text

Photograph by Liza Guanch// CC by 4.0

“The Art of Giving”

Art is powerful. It can take on many forms and meanings. An artist’s mind is almost as powerful, as it creates the ideas behind the pieces. An artist’s work is a way of storytelling, and it is an extension of themselves. These stories in these pieces speak volumes and they need to be heard.

In both the Margulies Collection in Wynwood and in the De la Cruz Collection in the design district, there was art that immediately immersed its viewers, but Felix Gonzalez-Torres was the most intriguing of all. His work is located at the De la Cruz Collection which is a private collection owned and started by Rosa and Carlos De la Cruz. The De la Cruz couple had personal ties to Felix which made the exhibit even more impactful.

Felix was a Cuban artist who referred to himself as American and crafted his work around engagement of the community. His main intentions of his pieces were to be intellectually immersive and some physically immersive. He wanted his art to give something more to people, so he began crafting pieces with the sole purpose of it being given to anyone who sees it, for free. Many of his art installments were untitled, but there was a subtext which provided some insight on the meaning. A specific piece that gave to the public and is untitled is the stack of white candies on the floor which is crafted in his father’s memory as it detailed in the subtext. These white candies may not mean much to the outside eye, but the idea that it is art that one can interact with is significant.

Another piece of giving art made by Felix was these two stacks of paper with one sentence on each, “Somewhere better than this place” on one and “Nowhere better than this place” on the other. Felix wanted people to take a paper and choose their own meaning. He wanted people to think upon their life and make the decision if they were where they were meant to be or if they still had to find their better place. Obviously, some viewers may not think much and just choose one or both simply because it is there, but it was the idea that Felix made this piece to influence the mind and allowed this influence to be a take-home item.

Art can tell many stories and hold many meanings, but the most significant art is art that gives. Felix Gonzalez-Torres spent his life telling his stories through art that put the mind to work, but also established new meaning by giving his art. He was and forever will be an inspiration that lives on through his powerful pieces.

Coconut Grove as Text

Photograph by Liza Guanch// CC by 4.0

“The Creator’s Home”

Coconut Grove is far from what it used to be, yet the stories of its past remain intact in several places. Like all Southern Florida, the land that would eventually turn into the city we know belonged to the original inhabitants, the Tequestas. The Seminoles also shared this land as time went on, but the first to live were the Tequestas. These were the Miamians before Miami, and they created the beginning of the Miami legacy. There is much to learn about these original creators, but this story is of those less spoken of, the Bahamians.

Coconut Grove existed prior to Miami being incorporated as a city and had an influx of settlers from the Bahamas and other Northern states. While the settlers from the northern states did make a name for themselves such as the Munroe family, the Bahamian presence and impact is the focus. These were laborers, but they were so much more than that. The Bahamians were one of the few who knew how to thrive in the Southern Florida environment and work with what they were given. They knew how to plant crops, harvest food, and use limestone to aid in construction projects that would put roofs over their heads. Without them, Miami may not have existed in the way it does. Bahamians travelled for a better life opportunity and were one of the first immigrant groups to arrive in the Grove which makes it one of the oldest black communities in Dade County to date.

Of the many, the most notable Bahamians would be E.W.F Stirrup and Mariah Brown. The stories of these two individuals in unlike any other. E.W.F Stirrup started his life in Key West and used his charismatic spirit to get into the world of real estate. He became one of the icons for Bahamians and was one of the few rich Black men. He would buy several plots of land and would sell them to other Blacks because he believed that homeownership was key to a better life and being a better person. He also built himself a beautiful two-story house that would be wood-framed and is still standing to this day. Aside from selling houses, he owned several local stores which made the community thrive. E.W.F Stirrup is a man to be remembered for the impact he had on the creation of the Coconut Grove community. Mariah Brown was a pioneer in the Grove. She had travelled to work at the Peacock Inn and her family was one of the first to settle in Coconut Grove. Her significance is within her homeownership. She had purchased land for $50 and constructed her house. She is known as one of the first Black homeowners and she is a woman which expresses the importance of women in the creation of Miami. It is a one-and-a-half story white house built out of Dade County Slash Pine with a construction design intended to aid in harsh weather such as humidity, tropical storms, and wind pressure. This design was influenced by Bahamians as this came from their homeland and was known as Conch houses. Conch houses were made with large roof overhangs and high ceilings among other features to ensure airflow and sturdiness. Brown’s house is still standing today but does not seem to be receiving the care it deserves, so there is something to be said about that. These are landmarks and they should be treasured, not trashed.

In the city of Coconut Grove, there is a cemetery. This is unlike any other cemetery as it is solely a Bahamian cemetery. This is a place for Bahamians to recognize their loved ones and the creators of Coconut Grove that were not white. Where it is today was not its original location, but it outgrew the previous space and required a different location. For this move to occur respectfully and correctly, the leaders of the city such as E.W.F Stirrup and others purchased the property it is on today to keep their loved ones safe and secure. This is the resting place of many of the creators of Coconut Grove and it should be kept as such. A unique feature about this cemetery is that all the caskets are above ground. In my opinion, it added a personal touch and allowed for a deeper level of respect and recognition to be given. This cemetery is a constant reminder of who created Coconut Grove and who is keeping the creation alive. Coconut Grove is one of the oldest black communities in Dade County and it should be known that it is the home of the creators. It is home of the laborers. It is home of the constructors behind most of Miami. History has stories of these individuals, but we must continue to tell them, so that they may never be forgotten.

Key Biscayne As Text

Photograph by Liza Guanch// CC by 4.0

“Escape to Paradise”

What is the ideal outdoor location? Beach access? Trails to walk or bike through? Areas for fishing? Restaurants/Cafes on site? Or simply just somewhere to sit? Whatever your preferences may be, Bill Baggs State Park has it all. It is at the farthest end of Key Biscayne and is made up of 442 acres of natural beauty. It is home to one of the oldest standing structures in Miami Dade County, the Cape Florida Lighthouse, and protects a vast majority of South Florida’s natural landscape and wildlife.

Once you pass the entrance, you are immediately transported into a tranquil paradise. This park has so much to offer, both in activities and history. The Cape Florida Lighthouse, which is a must-see location, was built in 1825, but suffered damage during the Seminole Wars, so it was reconstructed in 1846. This lighthouse is not currently in active use, but there are tours offered for locals and tourists to see some breathtaking sights from atop the lighthouse and to experience what it was like inside a lighthouse. Many are familiar with the underground railroad, but there is another underground railroad that is not often spoken of. Between the years 1821 and 1861, there was a coastal route that would help lead slaves to freedom in the Bahamas and it was known as the Saltwater Underground Railroad. The Saltwater Underground Railroad route would occur in Cape Florida which is the land that Bill Baggs is on today, making this state park more interesting. The Cape Florida Lighthouse is listed on the National Register for Historical Places and Cape Florida is known as a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Site to allow the continued remembrance of the lives they saved, and the slaves freed.

To be at the park is to be immersed in nature and to step on the park’s soil is to be taking the same steps as history. Marjory Stoneman Douglas once called Key Biscayne, “a romantic hideaway”, however I believe that the true hideaway is in Bill Baggs State Park. Bill Baggs State Park is simply a drive away for Miami locals, so if there’s ever a need to escape to paradise, it is found there.

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