Miami in Miami: Maria Cruz

Photo by Alex Gutierrez (CC by 4.0)

Maria Cruz is a senior at the Honors College at Florida International University majoring in International Relations and minoring in Marketing. She is looking forward to graduating in the Spring of 2020 and furthering her education at a graduate school. Fresh from her study abroad trip she completed this past summer in France with Professor Bailly she is in the midst of completing her final year at FIU. Below are her reflections of the Miami in Miami class she is participating in this academic year through the Honors College.

Downtown Miami as Text

Photos and edit by Maria Cruz (CC by 4.0)

“Ground Zero,” by Maria Cruz of FIU in Downtown Miami on September 25, 2019

With just over a century of its existence, Miami is one of the most unique urban areas I have encountered. Being established in 1896, Miami is one of the youngest major cities in the U.S., still in the midst of developing and forming its identity. The history of the city began with Julia Tuttle’s spirit of entrepreneurship, and since then has become a place for individuals from all backgrounds to start their new lives  — a ground zero, if you will. From the start, Miami has reflected the values and cultures of its everchanging population, making all those that seek its solace feel welcomed. It has become the home of countless marginalized communities, and I, a Cuban immigrant who regularly speaks Spanish outside of my house and can go to a local cafeteria to get a cafecito can attest to that fact. But the reputation of the city was elevated by the artists that found inspiration in this tropical paradise, Haitian and Puerto Rican refugees who sought to rebuild their lives, members of the LGBT community who found themselves accepted, and millions of others that have come to call Miami their home.

Despite this progress, the city is not immune to the tragedies the rest of American history is plagued with. From racism to misogyny, Miami is still dealing with its “problematic past”(as our professor refers to it) and its modern-day implications. Tuttle’s efforts are ignored for the economic achievements of Henry Flagler, the city’s involvement in the violent persecution of Native populations is disregarded,  and its involvement in the discriminatory racial policies of the South is largely omitted from its historical narrative. Therefore, it is imperative that the younger generations, who are still living with the consequences of these actions, do not ignore our past. Rather, as a local community, we must come together to confront these issues while we are in the midst of making history and have the time to make a change. 

Miami Metro as Text

Photos and edit by Maria Cruz (CC by 4.0)

“Redefining Miami,” by Maria Cruz of FIU in Miami on September 11, 2019

For many, art is viewed as the height of a society’s culture. Whether it has historical relevance or ties to the modern scene, a city’s association with art has been a defining factor in its cultural value — and consequently, an individual’s appreciation of these locations. Despite Miami being one of the United State’s most popular metropolitan areas, and my home for the past 17 years, it is a place I took for granted for many reasons. For one, it lacked the cultural appeal and charm that other cities, such as Los Angeles and New York City, are renowned for. For example, in terms of the arts, we are seemingly lacking in widespread access and appraisal. As someone who spent the summer throughout Europe studying the origins of some of the most important artistic developments in the world, the opportunities to view the masterpieces of Monet, Da Vinci, and Caravaggio on a regular basis is something I have increasingly mourned. In many parts of the world, art, in all its forms, is something that is greatly appreciated by the public and largely celebrated; however, the same can not be said for Miami. Or well, that is what I used to believe. Throughout our class excursion day, it became even more clear to me that I could not be more wrong.

With art pieces strung throughout metro station stops and university museums, the city of Miami is investing in enhancing its culture, and in turn, redefining its residents’ cultural values. In our modern-day, art is not limited to the banquet halls of châtalets and internationally known museums for the privileged to visit, but it has transformed to become a public act for all to enjoy. Whether it be the domino themed walkways or recreations of sculptures, art has increasingly become accessible in the city, opening many to the importance of it. For many years, I, and millions of others, merely associated Miami with the art deco style that dominated the look of its downtown area. However, I now know that the city’s ties to art have deeper historical connections, going back several centuries to the times of El Greco. Even more recently, artists such as Purvis Yung have contributed to the contemporary art scene in Miami, reforming people’s views on modern art and its association with the city. I was truly astonished at just how much we discovered by spending just one day using the metro. While I cannot help but lament over all the years and experiences I missed, I cannot be more excited to discover the other hidden gems of Miami and form the relationship with my home that I have missed out on these past 17 years.

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