Miami in Miami: Vivian Acosta

Photo by Jason Lopez CC by 4.0
Biography

Hey everyone! My name is Vivian Acosta, and I am 20 years old. I was born and raised in Honduras. I came to Miami for the first time when I was 4 years old, and I would visit periodically since then. Three years ago, I finally decided to move here to attend college. I am currently a student at Florida International University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology. I have always been very passionate about helping others, and that’s what psychology is all about; therefore, I am still not definite on what I want to specialize in. Sometimes I see myself counseling children, and other times I see myself studying people’s brains (literally). I just love psychology!

Even though I have resided in Miami for a while now, I do not know much about the history, art, controversies, and rich culture this city holds; however, that will finally change! Through the Miami in Miami course, I will learn more about Miami in 16 days than what I have learned in 16 years!

Below you can find my Miami as texts.

Metro As Text

Photo by Vivian Acosta CC by 4.0

“It’s Okay” by Vivian Acosta of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Vizcaya Museum & Garden is a breathtaking European villa in the middle of the mangroves. The mansion is filled with art and baroque architecture. Every little detail in it tells a story. At the entrance of the house, a sculpture of a naked man who is covered in grapes and has enough wine to fill up a bathtub greets the visitors. The wine symbolizes abundance, celebration, and joy: the typical stereotype of what life in Miami is like.

This was the home of James Deering, a European businessman, since 1916. It was built for him by his Bahamian workers, who were allowed inside only once a year. The thought of having such hardworking people marginalized and unappreciated makes me feel indignant. Deering made sure he had enough security in his mansion. He wanted to make it impossible for anyone to trespass. He went from having empty moats around his property, to even using cactus as traps around the property to keep people away. The cacti eventually died because they couldn’t thrive in the Miami weather.

Walking down the halls of a mansion that resembles scenes from a princess movie astonished me. It is a whole different concept of Miami’s, and everyone, including myself, admires it. It is a gorgeous place, and it is okay if it doesn’t match the rest of Miami- after all, Miami is characterized by its cultural mix.

James Deering collected European artwork for his home away from home. This man literally brought European pieces to Miami.

As well as Mr. Deering, I am not originally from Miami. I was born and raised in Honduras, and three years ago, I moved to Miami to attend college. I have been homesick since the moment I got here, and I can’t seem to adapt to this city’s fast pace.

Just as James Deering imported paintings, sculptures, furniture, and Vizcaya’s architecture from Europe, I brought my cultural traditions, language, and food with me to feel closer to home as many of us do. I start my day with a café con leche: it soothes my soul. I go on with my day by singing along and dancing to Latin music in the middle of traffic at 7 am, and I cannot call it a day without watching an episode of my favorite telenovela before going to sleep.  After three years of struggling to fit in, I realized what I have been doing wrong: trying to fit in.  Our differences are the beauty of Miami! Each one of us brings in our roots, and it is okay if it does not match our neighbors’: together, we make up a colorful, rich, unique, and diverse garden – Miami.

Downtown as Text

Photo by Vivian Acosta CC by 4.0

“The Magic City” by Vivian Acosta of FIU at Downtown Miami

Miami is well known for its tourism, sunny days, diversity, and beaches, but is its origin widely known too?

We are told the pretty side of the stories, while the skeletons are kept in the closet. Many remarkable details in history are purposely forgotten.

Did you know that the first Miamians were Tequesta, a native American tribe,? Ponce de Leon is so merited for Florida’s discovery that at some point I assumed he was the first person to stand on this land, and I am pretty sure that I am not the only one who came to such conclusion. The Tequesta should be given the recognition they deserve. Unfortunately, they were only “important” when they had something others wanted: their land. The Tequesta died a little bit after the Europeans came to Florida. Europeans brought diseases with them, and soon after their arrival, the disease killed many Tequesta. A great number of the Tequesta also died because of settlement battles.

The father of Miami, Henry Flagler, didn’t seem to give the respect The Tequesta deserved either. At the mouth of the Miami River, where the Tequesta once inhabited, only a burial mound with skeletons underneath remained. In 1896 Mr. Flagler had the burial mound leveled for one of his many projects: The Royal Palm Hotel construction. It is evident that industrialization was more important than history, and it still is.
Henry Flagler was a crucial figure in Miami’s development. He provided Miami with a railroad, several hotels, streets, and even a water system. Flagler’s railroad was not intended to reach Miami, until The Mother of Miami, Julia Tuttle, convinced him to extend it. Miami was the only part in Florida that did not have any freeze damage, so that was convenient for Flagler. Julia Tuttle negotiated with Flagler and offered him some of her land in return if he extended his railroad to Miami- this would facilitate the transportation in the city Ms. Tuttle was trying to build. And that’s how Miami was founded by a woman. Before my last Miami in Miami class, I had no idea who Julia Tuttle was, but I did know about Flagler: could that be a coincidence? Or just another historical figure that does not receive the credit that she deserves?

Julia Tuttle once owned the property known as Fort Dallas. Fort Dallas is a house that was once used as a military base during the Seminole Wars. This building was also used to house slaves. I got to stand inside the house where hundreds of slaves one stood, sat, laid, cried, slept, and lived. It was tough for me to picture such images while I was in there: a big part of me did not want to believe it. I guess that to avoid that feeling of shame and guilt is the reason why we choose to forget about such things rather than confront them.

Many more stories and figures are purposely ignored and not passed on to future generations. We should embrace our past and learn from it, instead of sweeping our wrongs under the rug. Let’s not forget to remember the forgotten.

Deering as Text

Photos by Vivian Acosta CC by 4.0

“History in Pieces” by Vivian Acosta of FIU at The Deering Estate

What a beautiful place it was: peaceful, yet alive. Four hundred- and fifty-acres preserving trees, wildlife, and, most importantly, missing pieces to our fragmented history. I had the opportunity to walk the paths that the Paleo Indians, Tequesta, and Seminoles once walked. We encountered several fruit trees, and I may have picked a berry from a tree and ate it (I wanted the full experience). As I hopped over protruding roots and avoided to come into contact with poisonous trees, I tried to go back in time to take a glimpse at what this beautiful place was like 12,000 years ago. I did such time traveling with the help of remains we found in our path. Every little object we found are relics of our history’s story. As I held some pieces of blue and red clay, which were pieces of pottery, I got to witness trading. The Tequesta traded their tools made from conch shells for things other civilizations specialized in, such as pottery. Then, I saw the different activities the Tequesta engaged in by analyzing their tools. Big and pointy tools for hunting and small and curved edges meant carving. I also found out about a heartwarming tradition. When a loved one passed away, the Tequesta kept the deceased’s bones as a way of remembrance. Just like we keep our loved ones’ pictures or sometimes even belongings! We are not so different from Tequesta, after all, they are our geographic ancestors!

It would be amazing to gather more pieces of our incomplete puzzle. I want to see more of Miami’s past; however, in a society where novelty is prioritized more than history, there is not much hope. The Tequesta lived in many places around Miami, but these sites have not been preserved; therefore, many people like me, are oblivious to the fact that many other Tequesta villages have been used to satisfy men’s whim, so we are not aware of other site’s locations. It’s upsetting to know that a historical spot that holds valuable pieces of our history could literally be covered by a supermarket, a parking lot, or a hotel, instead of getting the preservation and admiration it deserves. We are burying our history as if it was dead.

The Tequesta will always be part of Miami, not only historically, but their remains and belongings are physically in the land we stand on. I wish I could learn more about this land’s history. I would like to hold more antiques, travel in time again, and let the Tequesta tell me their story.

 Did I have too many berries..?

Chicken Key as Text

Selfish Humans” by Vivian Acosta of FIU at Chicken Key

Chicken Key?
I had never heard of it!  Is it by Key West? I asked myself. Actually, it’s a small island located in western Biscayne bay. It is right across from Deering bay. It looks like a large bush floating on crystal-clear water from far away!

I got there at 9 am. The sun was barely rising from the east. It was a postcard view. The water was so clear that I was able to get a full view of the seabed. I saw a small fish camouflaged in the seagrass: it was just chilling there, just like me, enjoying the relaxing environment.

I was so fond of the view that I forgot about every little thing that I was stressing about before I got there. Suddenly, it was time to get on the canoes and begin our journey to Chicken Key. The tide was low, and the water was crystal clear. I was hoping to see a shark or a manatee; however, all I saw was seagrass.

After forty-five minutes of canoeing, we finally got to Chicken Key! My Canoe partner and I arrived along with four other classmates in their canoes. The rest of our classmates began to arrive a little bit later because they took a shortcut that turned out to be the opposite! They went through a real adventure! As soon as we got to the key, we began with the clean-up. We found all kinds of things. How did this get here? I kept on asking myself. I found so many shoes. From men dress shoes to kid’s flip flops! There were many alcohol bottles, also. Why are we like this? I thought to myself. It is so simple to throw away our trash: why do we have to clean after others? It is so important to keep our garbage in its place, especially when we are intruders in others’ environment. At least there aren’t animals living here than can be affected– I thought. I was so wrong. I came across two little raccoons. One of them was trying to take professor Bailly’s lunch from his bag! It was so cute. How did this raccoon get here? I wondered. Professor Bailly also found a baby turtle trapped in some trash. Our selfish actions can be very harmful.

I saw lots of horseshoe crabs and hermit crabs. They were crawling around my hand as I picked up bottle caps and debris from the ground. About an hour later, we were done picking up trash from the island. That was easy! I though; however, I was so wrong. Little did I know that there were many more parts to the island that we did not even get to. Before we left, we rushed through different areas around the island and picked up enough trash to fill our canoe within twenty minutes. Imagine how much debris we could have gathered if we had gone around the key earlier, instead of staying in a specific area. Ten canoes wouldn’t have been enough to hold that amount of trash!

As I picked up debris left by other people, I couldn’t stop reflecting on how selfish people can be. How can this beautiful key have so many random items misplaced on it? Perhaps they were once in the ocean and ended up on the island, or maybe people just like to visit, have fun, and leave their trash behind. I wouldn’t like it if someone left their trash in my room: their shoes, glass bottles, plastic bottles, ropes, or lobster traps! And that is exactly what we are doing to the planet– home of animals, plants, and humans.

Participating in this cleanup made me feel guilty about that water bottle that I left at the beach about five years ago. I didn’t think it was something big; however, when billions of people have that exact “is not a big deal” mindset, it is troubling to the environment.

Participating in clean-ups is not only fun but also relaxing and eye-opening. I got to meet new people in my class: we were all working together to reach a common goal, and it also raises awareness to this issue.

I can’t wait to go back and actually go around the whole island this time!

Wynwood as Text

Hurma by Magdalena Abakanowicz ( Photo by Vivian Acosta CC by 4.0)

“The Idea” by Vivian Acosta of FIU at Wynwood

Miami equals beaches, parties, and… art? How cool would it be if our city of Miami would be famous for something less superficial and more elegant: art! There is plenty of breathtaking art in our city, and it should get more recognition than what it does. Wynwood is a neighborhood filled with art. The streets, the buildings, the walls, and the pieces inside the museums, everything tells a different and unique story. While I was driving past some of the murals, I couldn’t resist myself from looking and admiring them– not the safest thing to do while driving. They looked cool. Some of them were colorful, and others weren’t. Some of them were only patterns, and others were depictions of things, animals, or people.  My least favorite ones were the ones that didn’t make sense to me. Too much or too little was going on; however, I was judging a book by its cover. Everything was pretty to look at, but little did I know that art is much more than eye-candy.

Having the opportunity to go to The Margulies Collection and getting a tour of the museum by the owner of the collection himself, Martin Margulies, was an eye-opening experience. He mentioned so many things that allowed me to look at art and life in general differently.

“The art is the idea,” Mr. Martin Margulies said, and from that moment, my point of view changed. The ideas themselves and how they are expressed is where the creativity shows. I understood that art isn’t much about the aesthetic of the piece, but about the message behind it. Art pieces have stories to tell just like books; however, such stories are not told directly, instead, we are challenged to think about what they could be. After realizing that, I was able to distinguish the different mood, purpose, and sentiment each piece had by noticing small details such as the piece’s colors. Now, I understand why some art pieces must be colorful and others not: every little detail on the art piece serves a purpose. Every feature on the piece is a clue about its message.

Visiting The Margulies and The De la Cruz Collections has been my favorite class so far. I learned that art is not just a painting that would look good on a wall, it is not just decoration: it is a story, a message, and feelings expressed on an art piece to share with everyone. Now I know that to decide whether I like a piece or not, I should look at it carefully and think about its meaning, the story it tells, and how the idea was presented rather than whether or not the colors catch my attention. I learned an important life lesson: There is much more beneath the surface of things, and we should challenge ourselves to discern what’s there.

HistoryMiami as Text

“Hope” by Vivian Acosta of FIU at HistoryMiami Museum

I recently had the opportunity to visit the HistoryMiami Museum. The tour through the museum was guided by the knowledgeable HistoryMiami educator Maria Moreno. Listening to the stories behind the artifacts, pictures, and paintings amazed me. I found myself immersed in Miami’s history. The way that the exhibition “Tropical Dreams: A People’s History of South Florida” was arranged was brilliant. Each one of the sections took me back to a specific period in our history. It was a walkable timeline! About 14,000 years ago is where it all started. Paleo Indians roamed across South Florida. They shared their habitats with wild animals such as mammoths, horses, and ground sloths. The Tequesta also inhabited South Florida around that time. They were skilled toolmakers. Their tools were made from conch shells. Then, between 1513-1763, Europeans came to Florida and made contact with the Tequesta and other tribes inhabiting the land. European colonies were in need of laborers, so they decided to bring in slaves. Slaves constructed forts, worked in plantations, and completed any task they were asked to do. African slaves built the foundations of early Miami, yet they were deprived of their human rights. 

A specific exhibit that stood out to me was a trolley car from the 1920s. Inside of the trolley, there was a sign that said, “STATE LAW- WHITE PASSENGERS SEAT FROM FRONT.” I then learned about the unfair treatment that African Americans experienced. African Americans were not allowed in restaurants were Whites ate. They were not allowed to send their kids to schools where White children attended. It was forbidden for African Americans to drink from water fountains that Whites drank from. They were required to sit in the back of public transportation. Interracial marriage was prohibited. And they were required to live in Colored Town, today known as Overtown. These were only some of the laws they had to obey.

I would have liked the exhibition to end on a happy note, where African Americans are not discriminated against and have equal opportunities; however, until this day, our society has not allowed that. We are stuck with the ideology of a person from hundreds of years ago. How is it possible that everything around us has progressed, yet our mindset hasn’t? We pretend as if racism, segregation, and discrimination didn’t happen in our history; however, discrimination and racism are prevalent today. We choose to ignore that too. We dehumanize others, forget they have rights, struggles, feelings, and emotions just like we do. We act like we are all so different; however, we are all very alike: the only difference is our skin color; consequently, our opportunities.

These events scarred the lives of millions of people and not just people from the past, but the lives of minority groups today. I would like to think that our society and our “leaders” are working on a solution to solve this issue; however, the truth is that we keep looking past it. Our system still treats people unequally; however, today, it is done in devious manners. Ignoring the issue does not get rid of it: if anything, it just makes it worse. The main problem is that we don’t acknowledge there is a problem.

The heroic events from our history are highlighted, but the cruel ones are disregarded. I even came across this matter in the HistoryMiami Museum. The African American history section was located in a narrow hallway, with dim lights, near the exit, right next to the restrooms. The perfect spot to be overlooked. But what is the reason for this indifference? Is it to avoid the feeling of shame, or are people genuinely not interested? Are we that selfish?

Perhaps my grandchildren will have the opportunity to see a world where people understand we are all part of the same race. A place where racism is just an ugly aspect of our history, a nightmare, and not a reality.as Text

Miami Art as Text

Ice Paintings: Antarctic Sea Ice series by Xavier Cortada (Photo by Vivian Acosta CC by 4.0)

“Louder than Words” by Vivian Acosta of FIU at Miami Art

The more I am exposed to art, the more I learn about its power. I recently realized how influential art could be. Besides it being beautiful, it has the ability to bring people together, the power to raise awareness on social issues, and the facility to tell stories.

I never imagined that a message could be communicated and spread so effectively without a word being said. Everyone has something to say, but not everyone is listened to. When it comes to art, the communication process is quite unique. The message is expressed on the artwork, the piece is exhibited, and people have to decipher what the message is. And when they do, they do not hesitate to reflect on the topic and discuss it with others. Art brings fascinating topics of conversation to the table: it allows people not only to criticize and appreciate the piece, but also to agree and disagree on the issue it addresses, and to evaluate the idea. I recently visited two contemporary art fairs. As I appreciated art, I also had conversations about global warming, pollution, feminism, nature, sports, freedom, and migration within eight minutes: how does that even happen? A conflict-averse person like myself doesn’t speak about such topics regularly; however, several art pieces had the power to extract my views on such sensitive subjects.

What I find even more fascinating is how international art is. UNTITLED, ART Miami Beach and Art Miami are both art fairs that bring contemporary art from all over the world to Miami. These events don’t only attract locals, but also tourists. It’s quite interesting how people from all over the world understand the message of a painting from Ghana (or any other country) without any translation involved. What if the message was told verbally instead of non-verbally? A lot of people wouldn’t understand because of language barriers. When it comes to art, it doesn’t matter if we do not share the same language, nationality, or culture with artists, their artwork will still be understood world-wide at firsthand: and that’s unique.

The exhibition that impacted me the most was Futurescape Miami: Skyline to Shorelineit included installations, paintings, and projects by several Miami-based artists. Xavier Cortada, one of the artists from the Skyline to Shoreline presentation, came up with a brilliant idea to raise awareness of ecological concerns through the “Cortada Projects.” Through the Cortada projects, Xavier invites the public to participate in different activities that indirectly require people to reflect on ecological issues. One of the exercises I got to join was writing a letter to people living in the year 2119. This project challenged us to think about how different places, such as Miami Beach, will be affected by the sea-level rise. I don’t usually reflect on subjects like these. When I hear the typical call to conscience, “this will affect future generations,” it doesn’t impact me as much as it should; however, writing a letter to someone from the future somehow made me feel connected to such future generations. The activity made me reflect on my actions, and I realized that it doesn’t matter how far away that “future” is, the people that will be affected are human just like me. They could be suffering because of my egotistical actions.

Art can truly speak louder than actual words.

Everglades as Text

“The River of Life” by Vivian Acosta of FIU at Everglades National Park

Entering the home of numerous endangered species such as the Florida Panther, the American Crocodile, and the Snail Kite was both fascinating and terrifying. Thousands of different species make up the rich ecosystem of Everglades National Park. From tiny organisms living inside periphyton to 8-feet-long crocodiles! With each organism serving a purpose in its ecosystem.

 I stepped into the cold water and crossed my fingers. Guided by the park ranger Ms. Dylann Turffs, we walked through the River of Grass. At first, the idea of mixing wildlife and tourism seemed concerning to me because it could be dangerous for both, the wildlife and us, I thought; however, I realized that it is actually a great way of educating locals and tourists about the beauty of the Everglades, the importance of its ecosystem, and its preservation of plants and animals. We were welcomed to the River of Grass by fish who seemed to enjoy our company, and alligators who completely ignored our existence: I figured that they were uninterested in us. I suddenly began to forget to remember my fears.  

I felt tiny and defenseless in the middle of such a magnificent place. 1.5 million acres of pure nature. 1.5 million acres restricted from the destruction of men. However, can you believe we still manage to harm it? Phosphorus, a growth stimulant for plants, has begun to pollute the ecosystem in the Everglades! Agricultural areas near the Everglades have begun to excessively use fertilizers for their crops; however, these chemicals get washed off and end up in the Everglades. The Everglades’ ecosystem can only live on low levels of phosphorus; therefore, this pollutant is bringing in invasive species, and native ones are in danger. It amazed me how sometimes we make decisions that will benefit us, but it ends up harming others, especially nature: nature always pays the price. It is unfortunate how nature is not safe from us even in a preserve…

Being in such a magical environment was eye-opening and relaxing. The only sounds we could hear in there were sudden splashes and the wind. I was present and savoring the experience. It was impossible not to. It’ s necessary to expose ourselves to these kinds of experiences now and then to slow down our anxious minds, and to educate ourselves on the importance of natural preserves, like the Everglades, to our community, and the world.

See you later, Alligator!

South Beach as Text

Photo by Vivian Acosta CC by 4.0

“Pastel-colored Buildings” by Vivian Acosta of FIU at South Beach

If Summer were a city, it would be South Beach. The city looks straight out of a movie scene—oh, wait! Actually, many movie scenes were shot in South Beach! The beach and its sand imported from the Bahamas, the city’s toned tourists and locals in flip flops, the warm weather, the diversity, the nightlife, the city’s glamour, and the unique architecture, are all characteristics that add up to South Beach’s authenticity. It is hard to imagine that a well-known and unique place like South Beach wasn’t always as fun and fashionable as it is today. It took a while for South Beach to find its current identity.

Once upon a time, South Beach was unsettled farmland. During the 1880s, the city failed at being a coconut plantation since rodents ate the coconuts. Then, it became a thriving avocado farm. Eventually, the entrepreneur John Collins saw potential in South Beach, so he built a bridge, which was funded by investors, that connected the island to the mainland, Miami. In 1915, Miami Beach was incorporated as a town. About one decade later, Art Deco marked South Beach’s architecture. Pastel colors, window eyebrows, flat roofs, circular windows, and nature ornamentation on the buildings’ walls are some of the features that characterize the Art Deco Architecture. South Beach is home to approximately 800 Art Deco Buildings. Many of the buildings look similar, but none of them look the same. This pattern gives the city a unique scenery that recreates the past.

Unfortunately, the city’s Art Deco architecture wasn’t always appreciated. Tourists began to choose other vacation destinations, and retirees began to move into South Beach. South Beach was a retiree community for a long time. In 1970, the average age of South Beach’s population was sixty-two! The warm weather, the calm environment, and the low-cost living made the city a comfortable home for the elderly. The buildings eventually began to decay, and investors planned to replace the old buildings with luxurious ones. Luckily, a group of activists saved the city’s identity and future by opposing the developers’ plans. If the buildings hadn’t been preserved, South Beach would probably look similar to other tourist destinations. The city’s authenticity is what makes it stand out from other cities. Modern often becomes common and unoriginal, since people tend to follow ephemeral trends.  

Today, it is unlawful to change the buildings’ architecture in South Beach. The city’s old-fashioned, pastel-colored buildings represent the city’s history and heritage and give the city its unique style, which is greatly appreciated by tourists and residents.

Lotus House as Text

“New Beginnings” by Vivian Acosta of FIU at Lotus House

Lotus House is a women’s and children’s shelter located in the heart of Overtown. This organization is one of the many non-profit organizations in Miami that aids people in need affected by societal issues, in this case, poverty and homelessness. Students from the MIM course took a break from touring across neighborhoods and spent time giving back to the community by volunteering at Lotus House. I was surprised by how nice, clean, and organized the place was. They house, support, feed, educate, and offer medical and mental health assistance to homeless women and their children. We got to interact with people who are victims of one of the main societal issues Miami faces, and we also had the opportunity to serve them. We worked side by side with Lotus House’s staff. Some of our tasks included sanitizing the building, preparing meals, and serving lunch.

I had the opportunity to work in Lotus House’s kitchen. I helped to prepare, pack, and serve meals! We served about two-hundred plates. While I completed different self-less tasks, I realized how ungrateful people, including myself, are. We complain about the smallest things! There are people that, unfortunately, aren’t as lucky. Countless individuals lose their jobs, their homes, and sometimes even their families! While some of us complain about the food we eat, others can’t manage to find one meal. Many people have nothing, but backs turned on them, and it warms my heart to know that there are organizations that focus on changing that. Lotus House’s purpose is to heal homeless women and prepare them for a new journey in life. I enjoyed serving them, and I would like to revisit them. The experience was eye-opening, and it allowed me to slow down and to be grateful for what I have.

Quarantine as Text

“Abrupt Stop” by Vivian Acosta of FIU at Quarantine

Day 1- School is canceled? Great! I can sleep in.

Day 4- Gyms are closing? I’ll just workout at the park.

Day 6- Recreational facilities, bars, clubs, and retail establishments are closed. Restaurants are open for take-out and delivery only.

Day 8- Can I go back to school already?

I’ve always liked to stay home; however, I used to have a choice. At the moment, I’m forced to stay in, and I’m struggling to keep my sanity. When we said “2020, surprise me,” a pandemic that made Earth pause was not what we meant! COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that is transmitted easily from person to person. This virus has caused thousands of deaths, and we are all at risk of getting it. One day we woke up, and everything began to change: our house became our office, stores ran out of toilet paper, and social distancing became a gesture of caring. Miamians are challenged to press the pause button on their habit of kissing hello! This virus is lethal, and there is nothing funny about it, but we laugh at the memes and the jokes to cope with our inevitable fear and stress. It’s almost impossible not to panic knowing that the human race is being attacked: we are at war, and we came unarmed.

We are advised to stay in our houses and obeying such a simple task is becoming more difficult as the days pass. Social distancing is against our nature…

Chilling at home all day doesn’t sound bad at all; actually, we’ve all wished for it at some point and was the norm for many, including myself; however, now I regret not spending time doing outdoor activities when I had the chance to.

We have been forced to slow down our rushed lives. With so much time in our hands, reflecting is almost impossible. I’ve begun to reach out to old friends and family members regularly to see how they’re doing. Perhaps this virus came to unite us: before, we were close physically, but emotionally distant. Today, I have learned to value my life and others’ so much more. COVID-19 has reminded us of how fragile we are and how quickly life can pass before our eyes. I go to sleep every day hoping things will get better, but all I wake up to is more uncertainty. Will I be able to go on that trip that I’ve been planning for months during summer? Will I be able to see my grandparents on my trip? Will my boyfriend be waiting for me with roses at the airport? Will I even…

Deering as Text

Photos by Vivian Acosta CC BY 4.0

“Hidden Gem” by Vivian Acosta of FIU at Deering Estate

The Deering Estate is a Natural Preserve that conserves nature, archeological evidence of pioneer Miamians, and historic architectural structures. Charles Deering was the owner of this Estate—he was a preservationist, environmentalist, and industrialist. Some of the unique features that you will encounter at The Deering Estate include the Tequesta Midden, the Miami Rock Ridge, Tropical Hardwood Hammock, the Tequesta Burial Mound, and the Cutler Fossil Site—in here, they are all safe from development.

Some of these features were once all over Miami; however, they were destroyed over the years. Developing the city became more important than preserving nature, history, and culture. Luckily, there are organizations committed to protecting these scarce environments. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to experience their beauty first-hand, and more importantly, they would go extinct.

The Deering Estate holds so much history, nature, and culture within its hundreds of acres. When you walk in Deering Estate’s Nature Preserve, you’ll get a glimpse of what Miami was like thousands of years ago— back when trees decorated Miami’s skyline. Tropical Hardwood Hammock and mangroves were common all over Miami. Miami was home to The Tequesta. When all of them passed, they left their belongings on the land for us to learn about our geographical ancestors—what they did, how they did it, what they hunted, and how they haunted. All of the tools they left behind give us clues about the Magic City’s past and early Miamian civilizations.

Many burial mounds have been unburied during construction. There are only two untouched Tequesta burial sites, and one of them is at the Deering Estate. It is believed that approximately twelve to eighteen bodies of Native Americans are buried in the Tequesta Burial Mound. I’m curious to know what’s really under that pile of soil, and I am sure that I am not the only one who has felt that way—can we take a peek, Mr. Deering..? I respect the fact that this mound remains unearthed after so many years. We are aware that there is a treasure abundant in history under all that earth, but the Deering Estate chooses to protect it, and that’s amazing. It’s evident that any decision they take abides by the Estate’s mission: to preserve and protect. Today, an oak tree sits on top of the mound, and its roots hug and secure the treasure beneath.

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