Miami in Miami: Alexis Rivera

Welcome! My name is Alexis Rivera. I am a senior at Florida International University studying advertising, public relations & social media marketing. As a Native New Yorker, I grew up viewing Miami as the perfect place to vacation with clear waters and sunny beaches. Moving to South Florida for my undergraduate years has showed me that it is more than a vacation destination. I look forward to exploring Miami and learning about the history that tends to be overlooked and what has contributed to the evolvement of the city. One of my favorite parts of being an FIU student are the immense amount of opportunities I am provided with and the various ways I can get involved on campus. As a student who finds it difficult to thrive in a typical classroom setting, I am eager to explore and learn about the beautiful city of Miami through this course. The Miami in Miami course is a unique opportunity and will allow me to immerse myself in its history which many Miami residents are unfortunately unaware of.


Metro as Text

Public Transportation is an essential component to the daily life of a range of Miami residents, yet at the same time it is under utilized by many. Miami in Miami Metrorail day was designated to learning the progression of Miami and gain an understanding of the importance of utilizing the public transportation system. Throughout our various stops, we learned about the start and evolvement of Miami.

In 1513, Ponce De Leon’s expedition led him to encounter which is now known as the state of Florida. He sailed into Tequesta Bay which was the original name of today’s famous Biscayne Bay. Tequesta originates from one of  the first Native American Tribes that occupied the southeastern coast of Florida. Unfortunately, there are little to no remains of the Tequesta tribe due to the fact that they began dying out from diseases, slavery and battles when the Europeans settled on the land. 

As we continued our journey through Miami we made our first stop at the University of Miami Lowe Art Museum to discover the “Kress Collection” and the work of the famous Greek painter known as El Greco. Professor Bailly walked us through these historical paintings and explained the general background of Baroque art and how it related to the culture in Miami. Our second stop of the day was a brief visit to the Vizcaya Museum and Garden. Upon arrival we were greeted by a statue of the famous Ponce De Leon. Vizcaya was the estate of James Deering whom of which hosted guests from all around the globe, primarily from the states and European countries. This extravagant villa possessed “baroque esque” elements which tied into the art exhibit we previously visited. 

The Historical Overtown area of Miami was once a thriving location for the African American community. We briefly learned about the history of famous Overtown landmarks and made a visit to the historic Lyric Theater. We indulged in a meal at Jackson Soul Food where we were able to immerse ourselves in the culture through food. Our last stop of the day was at the Northside station where we had the opportunity to witness the original artwork of Purvis Young. Our first day of class was extremely eventful, interesting and engaging. Being able to take ourselves and walk through the city of Miami while learning about its history was a unique experience.


Downtown/Vizcaya as Text

This week in Miami in Miami we began class in the Government Center area of Downtown Miami. Not only is the Government Center another stop on the Miami Metrorail, but it is home to many of Miami’s governmental buildings. These buildings include, but are not limited to courthouses, commissioner offices, the mayor’s office and many more. As we approached this location, we encountered a piece of art also known as “Dropped Bowl with Scattered Slices and Peels” by Claes Oldenberg. This piece of art related to the state of Florida because of the orange symbol. The vibrant installation showcased orange peelings and pieces scattered throughout that area. 

Fort Dallas

Following our Government Center stop, we headed towards the River and visited Lummus Park. Lummus Park is now home to Fort Dallas which used to be located on the opposite side of the River. Fort Dallas was a military base and sleeping grounds for many military members during the Seminole Wars. Prior to the military taking over, Fort Dallas was once the home to slaves as well as a courthouse. It was quite interesting to hear the various transitioning’s of this property.

Vizcaya Museum

The final stop of our journey brought us to Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, the once estate of businessman James Deering. The Deering family accumulated their immense amount of wealth from their harvesting company. Villa Vizcaya is a monumental piece of Miami’s history, designed and influenced to resemble European structures and art. Each room in the villa has it’s own unique influence and purpose with a great amount of detail incorporated into it as well.

Deering As Text

As we continue to learn about the City of Miami, I came to the realization of how many historical and monumental locations are located within the county. In Miami in Miami, we continue to learn about the Deering family and their impact on the development of this city. The Deering Estate was once the home of the famous Deering family. Previous to their arrival the land of the estate was the home to many Native tribes such as far back as the Tequestas.

 For anyone visiting or living in Miami, you and they are very much aware of the fact that there are no mountains or major hills to be found. Although, the Deering Estate is actually located on an elevation that is 25 feet above sea level that is known as the Miami Rock Ridge. Deering has an immense amount of hiking trails and ways to explore the natural resources that are present on the premises. 

Individuals from all over the world have the opportunity to visit the Deering Estate and partake in the various activities that are available to do. These activities include those such as historic tours, kayak tours, art exhibits, wellness activities and so much more. Personally, I think it is rather unique that the Deering Estate is home to many diverse activities and not just a “museum tour” as many other famous locations are. It was placed alongside the Biscayne Bay, making water very accessible then and now. With amazing views and so much to learn, Deering Estate should be a top must visit location for those who come to visit Miami.

Chicken Key as Text

Chicken Key, Miami, FL

Deering Estate, original home to Charles Deering sits alongside the calm waters of Biscayne Bay. A bright and early Wednesday morning, Miami in Miami gathered to begin the day canoeing to Chicken Key to clean up the mangroves. Mangroves are an important  and essential factor to the South Florida environment, wild, & marine life. 

The purpose of mangroves are to protect shorelines from waves and hurricane winds. They also serve as a nursery location for animals such as sharks, shrimp, fish and many more types of wild life. Our goal for the day was to fill as many canoes as possible with trash and debris collected from Chicken Key and the mangroves that surrounded it. It was apparent that various groups of individuals find their way to the key to relax, drink and take part in other activities. While it may be a fun time, it is essential for people to remember the impact that leaving their trash has on the environment. During our clean up, we found items such as old shoes, alcoholic beverage bottles, small pieces of glass, plastic containers of all sizes, hundreds of bottle caps and many more pieces of waste. 

Although it was a long day, it was a rewarding experience to know that we would have a positive impact of the home of some of South Florida’s wildlife. At one point, we were greeted by a raccoon whom appeared several times in search of food. It was quite an experience to interact as closely as we did and respect the fact that this was it’s home. After a long, eventful day, we made our way back to the shore of Deering Estate with piles of trash ready to dispose of. 

Wynwood As Text

Art. It is vibrant, it is minimal, it is bold, it tells a story, it is creativity in various mediums, it is everything. Art has served as a creative outlet for many since the beginning of time. Its concept is what connects the world and intertwines cultures. Miami is home to some of the world’s best contemporary art galleries. Unfortunately, many are unaware of this fact. 

De La Cruz Collection

Being able to step foot in both the The Margulies Collection and The De La Cruz Collection was an honor. What made it an even better experience was having the opportunity to meet and hear from the owners of the collections. There are two ways to observe art pieces. One is to see visually, by looking at a piece and determining whether you like it’s aesthetic.The second is to understand analytically and recognize the story behind a piece then formulating an opinion. This experience broadened my mindset and made me more aware of the importance of art. Each collection was unique in its own way and held pieces that have been created by extremely talented and monumental artists from around the world. My mouth dropped in awe and my eyes widened as big as the sun while walking around the collections. It was the stories, creativity and reasoning behind why the collectors themselves decided to add specific pieces to their collections. 

It is important that we educate our community and loved ones on topics such as art so that they are aware and learn to understand the importance and value of it. Living in Miami for the past three years I was unaware of what was around us and available for us to explore. In the near future I plan on visiting the collections again and discovering the rest of what Miami has to offer!

HistoryMiami as Text

The United States was built on blood, sweat, and tears.. literally. It is unfortunate that the people who built this country get no respect, no representation, and an enormous lack of recognition because of the color of their skin. The HistoryMiami Museum navigated us through the start of the City of Miami through the development that bring us where we are today.

Eager to learn about Miami through this museum, I found myself a bit disappointed regarding the lack of information about the minorities that built this city. Imagine being taken from your home under horrible circumstances, forced to do labor in the worst of conditions, and being seen as a piece of property that could be sold, bought, or traded instead of being seen as a human being. This doesn’t even begin to describe the extremitities of slavery. The exhibition in HistoryMiami that discussed and showcased slavery was very minimal and confined to one small glass case. Thankfully, the HistoryMiami Educator Maria Moreno was phenomenal at addressing social and cultural issues head on and expanding our knowledge on topics further than what was presented throughout the exhibits. By 1920, American and Bahamian blacks made up 31% of Miami’s population. Many played a drastic role in the development of Miami.

Jumping ahead, an exhibit that I believe would have been extremely interesting to have in HistoryMiami is how Miami became the “Drug Capital of the World.” It was a very historical time that had a major impact on Miami and the world. Exploring Miami has been an interesting journey filled with information that I was previously unaware of, especially considering I grew up in another state. I definitely look forward to visiting again to learn more about Miami’s history and visiting the temporary exhibits that are featured at the museum.

Art Miami as Text

Art Basel, it is the time of the year where people from around the world, artists, art collectors, galleries, celebrities, and art enthusiasts get together to view contemporary art from the world’s leading galleries. Miami hosts a range of art shows and events throughout the week all dedicated to the celebration and appreciation of art. 

The first stop of the day was Untitled,Art Fair in Miami Beach. Untitled, Art is an international art fair that focuses on various forms of contemporary art. One gallery that we had the opportunity to visit and hear from was Gallery 1957, an Accra-based contemporary art gallery. Gallery 1957’s director, Victoria Cooke gave us a tour and informed us of the work of the three artists being showcased whom of which are Joana Choumali, Godfried Donkor and Simphiwe Mbunyuza. After grabbing a quick bite, we made our way to Downtown Miami to the globally recognized Art Miami fair. Art Miami is a majority secondary art market, displaying works from prominent artists such as Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kehinde Wiley and more. Artist, Mira Maylor took a moment to discuss her pieces “Freedom Project” with the class and get into deeper context of the story and purpose behind her work. 

As we step into the world of art, it is important to ask questions and be informed on the stories behind not only the pieces, but the artists’ themselves. A piece may be appealing to the eye, but to understand the underlying meaning of the work makes it even more impactful. The immense amount of history and art this course has exposed me to has been extremely eye-opening. It has made me aware and taught me to look beyond a surface level perspective. 

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