Miami in Miami: Ashley Diaz

Photo Credit to Karen Ayuso.

Hello, my name is Ashley Diaz and I am a sophomore at Florida International University currently studying Computer Engineering. I enjoy being active, trying new foods, and making people laugh. I am a hugely positive person who relishes a good laugh as well as good fun. That is one of the reasons I have decided to partake in this Miami in Miami class that the FIU honors college had offered its students. I was curious about the itinerary and how it would be different from my own experience having already lived in Miami my whole life. I was born here in Miami, and my family is a mix of Cuban and Puerto Rican. I hope that this class can broaden my knowledge on the place that I have called home my whole life.

Enough isn’t Enough.

METRO AS TEXT:

By Ashley Diaz of Florida International University at Hialeah Station, Miami Metro Rail.

The initial thought running through my head as the class was boarding the metro rail for the day was that of this first assignment. I was questioning what exactly I would write about considering the numerous amount of locations to be visited in one day.  The metro had a rather straightforward route, despite feeling connected to the people around me I felt like there was room for more. As if I were not getting enough, and my mind craved the attraction of more people to the metro rail. For some reason, unbeknownst to me; this desire accompanied me throughout the day.

             The instant that we stepped into Jackson Soul Food in Overtown, there was that familiar sense of wanting and needing more attention. The workers there had set up the tables nicely for approximately 25 people and they did so without hesitation. They were welcoming us, and would gladly accept 25 more of us if they had the opportunity. To me, it was an example of a place that deserved all the recognition it could get.

            People who did ride the metro rail were either quiet and avoided eye contact with you or did the complete opposite of that. I appreciated that quality within people, those who were curious, asked questions, and communicated with me. Those who kept to themselves and buried their heads in their phones made it clear they had no intentions of speaking to anyone. And perhaps that could have made up for the lack of presence within the metro carts. For this desire to possibly be fulfilled, it needed to be satisfied with the souls of the city, and although I got some of it, it only left me craving more.

Underlying Beauty

VIZCAYA AS TEXT:

Photo taken by Ashley Diaz of Vizcaya.

Vizcaya has been a long-awaited trip within this class and I was not disappointed at all. First thing I would like to emphasize is that this Museum and Garden location is breathtakingly beautiful, not only on the outside but on the inside as well. There is an underlying attraction that it has as well, and though it can be explained it is better when one tries to find it on their own. Deciphering it can be a puzzle, for me, however, the feeling I had grown on me as I walked around the garden. I gather that beauty lies within the clever architecture.

As professor John Bailly made me aware of the cultural blend and emergence, that had been present throughout Vizcaya, I saw that as a fascinating idea. What fascinated me more was the comparison to Miami, there is a blend of culture just as there is one at the Vizcaya Museum and Garden. It should be a statement of pride when someone says that they are from Miami, simply because there are so many people who have different backgrounds and spread their unique upbringings throughout the city. Making it very diverse and therefore beautiful, that is what Vizcaya has brought to light. It has different styles within the estate, artwork or textiles created by people from different cultural backgrounds. If that doesn’t scream Miami I don’t know what does. The beauty of Vizcaya and the beauty in Miami are that way for a similar reason, it is the uniqueness and distinct cultural blend.

The Protection Much Needed

DEERING ESTATE AS TEXT:

Photo by Ashley Diaz of Florida International University at Deering Estate, Florida.

This entire experience as a nature walk was greatly admirable and intriguing. It made me wonder what exactly do humans do that benefits the environment. Our guide Jennifer talked a lot about how every species mattered, from the smallest ones you could think of to the largest ones. No organisms played a small part in the ecosystem and that is what drives the idea of people also contributing to benefit the environment as well. With this in mind, all of the living things in the Deering Estate were meant to be left alone and not tampered with by any individuals, even those that would conduct research and excursions within the property. This was something I understood because throughout history people have done damage by simply living their lives and going about their day. And recently issues like climate change and plastic pollution have only gotten worse. Some of the areas were meant to be left alone and used as nature reserves and I thought that that was just a marvelous idea. This concept of not tampering with nature and just letting it overgrow into what it was meant to be is something that I feel more individuals should incorporate into their daily lives.


While looking at ways to better the environment around us I came across the idea of using less plastic. Plastic ends up in our landfills and our oceans and takes hundreds of years to break down, they are swallowed by wildlife and often endanger living things in the ecosystems. To me what this hike had shed light on was the issue of our changing society and how it’s affecting our environment. And coming across this plastic issue has led me to want to participate in the movement of using less plastic so that there is less of it going to waste and harming our environment. The living things that are in the Deering Estate and the living things around us are all connected and we should be more mindful of how our daily lives are affecting that of the wildlife. I am glad to have gone on the hiking excursion and learning more about the ecosystem and how it behaves was astonishing. And my goal is to try and preserve it so that we can hold on to what we have and perhaps we can even let nature overgrow into our society so that we may become one with nature and coexist without vexing interferences from one another.

Importance of Introspection

CHICKEN KEY AS TEXT:

Photo by Ashley Diaz of Florida International University at Deering Estate, Florida.

Arriving at the Deering Estate, this would be the second time that I’d be visiting. This time to see something different, we were to visit Chicken key and conduct a clean-up there. This being no typical class we got there in a rather stylish way, everyone arriving on the island in canoes. Being someone who loves the water and has never been on a canoe, I couldn’t wait for this day of class. After all, it is not every day that you get to canoe with your class to an island to collect trash. This was indeed going to be a unique adventure regardless of anything else.

Having one of my closest friends as a partner I had a phenomenal time, and surprisingly one of the highlighted of the whole trip apart from actually collecting the trash was that of the reflective state that the silence in the water generated for me. What I mean by this is that when you are out in the open water, far from the land and far from people in general, things become much quieter, it is all simpler and you can become analytical. You can take an introspective look at yourself, but you can also look at nature around you. Observing everything in its natural state and letting yourself be immersed in it. I think that this mission was accomplished when we finally got into the water without the canoes and some of my classmates had gone too far deep into the marshes that they would be stuck for some time. Others like myself only experienced a slight change in the muddiness of the ground. All in all, I feel that this trip was wonderful and I felt the need to look within myself as well as observe the things around me so that I could feel like I am one with it.

A trip down memory lane.

WYNWOOD AS TEXT:

Photo By Ashley Diaz of Florida International University at Wynwood, Florida.
Olafur Eliasson Your now is my surroundings. 2000 Margulies Collection.

I have lived in Wynwood for a big chunk of my childhood, I went to preschool there and also elementary school. When I was a kid I would bike with my grandfather from his house to bayside, and we managed to speak with each other even though he knew a little bit of English and I only knew a little bit of Spanish. Despite the language barrier, I loved spending time with my grandparents, whether we would stroll or ride a bike around the neighborhood. Since then, however, Wynwood has changed a lot and even my grandparents who have lived there for decades now have a difficult time keeping up with all of the changes. They keep telling me how there are many new restaurants and art events literally in their backyard. I, of course, was aware of all the new changes to Wynwood, it had been a popular site for many since the different events began.

When we went to visit the contemporary art collections I kept picturing the old Wynwood, the one that I knew so well and grew up in. I liked how the art sometimes had a timeless theme like the piece by Olafur Eliasson Your now is my surroundings. 2000 found within the Margulies Collection. This piece made me look at the way things are and realize that although it changed it is not going to change the way that I see Wynwood. I think it is this piece that is supposed to make you feel as if you share the same surroundings that the people before you have shared and nothing will change that fact. It is a nostalgic trip for me to go to Wynwood, even though it has changed, I will always view it as a second home.  

An Immersive Experience

History Miami Museum as Text:


Photo by Ashley Diaz of Florida International University, at Historical Museum of Southern Florida

The empty halls and the smell of old artifacts had set the mood for the History Miami museum. I doubt many people know simple historical facts about Miami, and this lack of participation is making it clearer to me. I would hope that more people become interested in the past lives of those who have lived in this place we call our home. What made them behave the way they did, what drove them to come here in the first place? Many of us who have lived here our whole lives are not aware that many have struggled where they originated from and for that they come seeking a better life in such places as Miami.

The History Miami museum does a superb job of immersing its visitors in the past, with the real-life artifacts that it has. It was surprising to be able to interact with some of their models. For example, they have a trolley on display that is fully functional and all it needs is to be set on some tracks. You can press the buttons within it and it will ring as if you were an actual passenger who needs to get off of the trolley. I find this along with the pictures in the background of Miami in the 1940s to be enveloping. Then, of course, there was the more recent example of the raft that Cubans had used to travel from their home country to Miami. This brought back memories to a visitor to the museum who was actually on that raft, along with some of his family members and friends. This kind of impact is monumental and is the kind of thing that makes the museum so unique to the Miami culture.

Unique Forms of Expression

Miami Art as Text

Photo taken by Ashley Diaz of Florida International University, at UNTITLED Art Fair. Miami, Florida.

As hot as Florida often gets, I was thrilled that the day we went to the beach for the UNTITLED art fair, the weather was relatively cool. There was a slight breeze where we were by the beach, which made the endeavor that much more enjoyable. Having an art fair right by the beach seemed like an odd idea to me at the beginning, I never knew that the art was so well received here in Miami. However, looking at the art fair from within and seeing the beach from the inside was breathtaking. It was almost picture-perfect how the beach looked, and while living in Miami, the beach practically never looks that beautiful.

Initially, the class had participated in one of the artist’s projects. His name is Xavier Cortada, and he had the intention of sending a message to people living in our world a century from now. Which entailed us writing letters to someone, and it could be anyone, telling them how we feel or perhaps asking them how things are. His associate did not tell us what to write; however, information about climate change and how it affects not only polar bears and the Arctic ice but also us in our daily lives. I have done a lot of research on this topic and know very well that we are facing a monumental challenge. This challenge is to better ourselves not only for the environment but for future generations. Things are going to happen, and we are not going to be prepared for the consequences if things don’t change now. I believe that this is what Cortada had in mind when he wanted us to complete this letter to future generations. I think he intended to make us think about what exactly are we doing in our lives now and what can we do differently.

When we entered the UNTITLED art fair, there were many different kinds of art on display. It wasn’t just one theme; it wasn’t only one collection; it was something mashed together beautifully. The artwork was unique, to say the least, it was really unlike something I’ve ever seen before. And I was able to appreciate it a lot more because I saw so many different kinds of artists. There was art made from textiles, plants, candlewax, and planners. You could not possibly grasp the entirety of the event. There was just a multitude of various styles that I had never really thought of before, and I thought they were quite clever. I believe that this is the meaning of art. It allows people to think outside the box, conveying an idea, or perhaps wowing them with a unique way to Showcase your purpose. Even though Miami has just recently been a scene for artists, I believe that these art fairs are intriguing and can get a lot of people into the art scene.

An Underestimated Beauty

Everglades as Text:

Photo by Ashley Diaz of Florida International University, Everglades National Park, Florida.

I remember I had woken up to the alarm at 5:10 AM; the weather was 38°F. That temperature is so unusual for Florida that I had thought to myself why on earth this day of all days should it be so cold. Of course, today was the day that we were to hike around the Everglades to do something called slogging. I had never done this previously; however, the experience that I had was quite enjoyable and entertaining. I had gone to the Everglades before, and I have lived in South Florida all my life, but I’ve never gone sloshing. I even recommended it to a few friends after the fact. Slogging is when you move through water or mud, we used sticks to prevent us from falling into holes, but that seemed inevitable. I fell into a hole that went all the way to my upper thigh, and I only fell into it with one leg. 

With Florida’s swampy areas, it seems like the perfect place to go ahead and do it. Not many people know about it, and even if they do, they would not want to step foot into the water for some reason. Perhaps it’s the wildlife that scares people off or also just the fact that they would have to be okay with getting down and dirty. Whatever the case, maybe it’s safe to say that very few people appreciate the land that they live near. The Everglades National Park is the 10th largest national park in the United States, even more extensive than the Grand Canyon, located in Arizona. Unfortunately, people don’t really seem to grasp the importance or just how fascinating the Everglades can be. The shortage of participation within the park or the lack of excitement from people who live in South Florida is quite evident of that. I think it is a good idea for people to talk more about the Everglades and just how beautiful it can be. The wildlife and all of the different aspects that make it unique. It’s right in your backyard, and you don’t have to take a plane to get there, especially if you live in South Florida, but it is a place that people should learn more about. 

Art Deco Influence in Miami

South Beach As Text:

Photo Taken by Ashley Diaz of Florida International University, South Beach, Florida.

Taking a walk down South Beach to Lincoln Road, one would notice the symmetry and the retro fashion of the structures. This form of architecture is known as art deco. Though introduced in the 1920s in Paris, France, it became quite popular in South Florida, Miami specifically. After all, there is an organization called the Miami Design Preservation League, which has taken precautions to protect Miami’s collection of art deco buildings. The league founded in 1976 by a woman named Barbara Baer Capitman is the oldest Art Deco Society in the world, according to their website. Also, pictures of Miami from the past can be seen on the website, and it is refreshing to see how individual buildings were left untouched for the most part. 

The buildings have a futuristic nature of design compared to some of the skyscrapers that paint the Miami skyline. Made to look like a machine had made the designs as opposed to a human. The art deco styled buildings on South Beach are unique and bring distinction into Miami. One only wishes that there were more buildings such as these sprinkled around South Florida so that we could admire them more frequently. Few times have I gone to South Beach to admire the buildings and the lavish views it provides, despite living in Miami my whole life. One would hope that more and more people who live nearby will take the time to observe and to see the trends in these buildings—comprehending exactly why there are buildings with different labels on them and the reasons behind this. Leading them to learn of the people behind preserving South Beach’s appearance and slowing down development in order to receive a more historic look.

Resource:

mdpl.org

Wonders of the Lotus

Lotus Center as Text:

Ashley Diaz sweeping at Lotus Center, Photo Taken by Jena Nassar .

On this day, the class took a trip to a women’s shelter called Lotus House, never having visited a women’s shelter before it was an eye-opening experience. The individuals who used the center as a home were women and children of all ages; one would not be able to imagine that these people were once homeless and had to fend for themselves. The women who ran the day to day operations at the lotus center were graduates of the program and had seen the success that this journey offered. So long as the women took this opportunity and utilized the advice given to them, they would be sure to find that the support given to them would aid them in more ways than one.

Individuals may not be aware of the extent that the organization’s staff, volunteers, and the women themselves had to undergo in order to reach their goal of independence. It is the reason that an essential tool for these organizations is the support that they get from people who have the means to help out and the right mindset. On this class day, we were tasked with different objectives. Some students were moving packages and other objects into a moving truck, others such as myself were in charge of sanitizing different rooms that often held the crowd of many of the women. Towards the end of the day, it was lunchtime, and we observed more of the women and their children as they came in and waited in line for a nutritional meal. It consisted of corn soup, a fruitful and colorful salad, and finally, either a fish sandwich or a veggie burger. Two students volunteered for the task of serving food to people who waited in line and added that to their experience while at the Lotus House. When one learns new things about the organization and how they can make an impact, it motivates others to take action and get involved in their communities. Furthermore, after seeing first-hand what those actions can do for other people, it can make someone feel just as good as the person receiving help.

Alone Together

Quarantine as Text:

Photo Taken by Karen Ayuso, outside of a busy Costco.

It’s hard to imagine this quarantine bringing positive news to the world. Most of the economy has weakened, and social distancing means that there are fewer gatherings. Family and friends and those that you love most likely have to keep their distance from you as well. But the good news isn’t exactly something that we were expecting. A decrease in social gatherings means less travel diminishing a lot of human activity while improving the natural state of the environment. Animals are thriving; the waters around us are getting more transparent, and not to mention the CO2 levels have decreased tremendously since this Coronavirus pandemic has started. Although it has increased the tensions between specific countries and tightened security around neighborhood stores, we have, in a way, come together. To fight this common enemy generally referred to also as an invisible enemy.

Families who are not able to be with one another through the duration of this pandemic have discovered new ways to communicate with each other. For example, in my family, we had a virtual meeting to celebrate my cousin’s 9th birthday. As unfortunate as it is that he was not able to spend this time with more of his family, it was his safety that was most essential. It was challenging to get my family to take time away from their bustling schedules to do an activity together. However, in these past few weeks, it has been remarkably easier to spend time together. Playing board games with one another, conducting house projects together, and finding ways to spend our time in quarantine productively.

New hobbies are being taken up by people from all over, and people are learning ways to live under these unique circumstances. Students have now gone remote, which means most of their classes have a significant online aspect to them. No one could have expected this to happen, and I certainly had to adjust my actions when it came to school, to be more attentive. Unfortunately, I know a few students who have already dropped out of their classes because of this. One could hope that those of us who get through this will learn something from it, perhaps improving our relationship with the environment or even our relationships with one another. A way I am taking this time to develop myself is by taking the time to learn the Spanish language as that is a tribute to my Hispanic heritage. Spending more quality time with my family and perhaps learning new skills along the way, such as craftsmanship. Nobody knows when this pandemic will end, but when it does, I hope that we can appreciate the memories that we make with people more. And that we take the time to love our family and friends, especially those we could not see during this time.

Citations:

McGrath, Matt. “Coronavirus: Air Pollution and CO2 Fall Rapidly as Virus Spreads.” BBC News, BBC, 19 Mar. 2020, http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-51944780.

Many Wonders at the Deering Estate

Deering Estate as Text:

Deering Estate Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0

Having visited the Deering estate a handful of times, it is hard to imagine that now we must keep our distance and cannot visit some of these loved naturalistic places. However, the online resources provided by Professor John Bailly have made it extremely easy to learn more about the estate without having to leave home. Of all the times I have visited the Deering Estate, there are things that I still have not interacted with or learned about through my time being there. One thing is for sure, though, and that is that the vast location and tremendous amount of history behind the Deering Estate are worth knowing for any local living in South Florida. The history behind the Tequesta burial mounds and knowing that the Tequesta people were here around the time of Ponce Leon is quite fascinating. The burial mound is located within the forest of the Deering Estate. There is also a wide range of species that can be viewed and observed in their natural habitat at the Deering Estate. Then, of course, is Chicken Key, which is about a mile offshore, and it is home to many mangroves and marine life that can be viewed by the people who are around long enough to see them. 

In addition to this, there are the naturalistic observations that occur during a majority of walking tours through the Deering Estate’s forest, those such as the solution holes where sometimes Alligators would roam and thrive. Another observation would be Cutler Creek. The Cutler Creek is a connection between the Everglades and Biscayne Bay, and rarely people can see the otters that live there, and it is a wonder to see if one does get to see them. The Deering Estate also presents activities and events that are geared towards the arts as well as other themes. One event was a poetry reading by US Poet Laureate Richard Blanco. Overall the Deering Estate has remarkable naturalistic observations that can be made by people, and it also provides people with a view of a culturally rich history. The resources provided online help people to understand more about the Deering Estate, and being able to visit the location will provide one with an experience like no other.

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