MIM Ineffable Miami: Homestead by Vivian Acosta

Biography

My name is Vivian Acosta, and I am currently a junior at Florida International University pursuing a degree in psychology. My goal is to one day help people recover from distressful stages in their lives. I was born and raised in a small city in Honduras, and I recently moved to Miami to attend college. I am still adapting to the city’s fast pace; however, I enjoy the diversity of Miami, and I delight in learning about the different cultures this city holds.

Geography

Homestead is a city in Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States. Homestead is a major agricultural area; therefore, it is common to come across acres of crops alongside the street. The city keeps the right balance in preserving its abundant flora and improving its infrastructure. This suburb is located about 35 miles southwest of Miami, and 25 miles northwest of Key Largo. Biscayne National Park is to the east of Homestead while Everglades National Park is to the west (“Homestead, Florida” 2019).

Homestead is a traditional city that counts with the amenities needed by the city’s residents; however, the city is not saturated with businesses. Unlike the bigger cities in Miami, Homestead does not have any tall buildings. The tallest buildings you will encounter here only go up to about seven floors. If you would like to see some tall buildings, then you will have to drive about 45 minutes to get to downtown Miami.

History

“Homestead Florida East Coast Railway Station” (Original photo on display at The Florida Pioneer Museum.)

It is believed that about 10,000 of years ago, the Tequesta and the Calusa visited the land, of what is now Homestead, to fish and hunt. They might have inhabited the land for a while; however, no fossil sites have been found in the area, so there is no evidence of habitation.

In 1897, the area was opened to homesteaders. This was a result of the Homestead Act, passed in 1862. The act allowed settlers, including formerly slaved people, farmers without their own land, Seminoles, and single women to claim 160 acres of land. However, they were required to live on the property, build a home, and farm for five years. To no one’s surprise, the fertile land attracted many homesteaders. At the time, the area resembled a pine forest, so people built their homes using pine wood. Eventually, they realized that using that material for their homes was dangerous because it was prone to fires. Yes, they learned the hard way.

The only way in and out of the land was through one trail called The Homesteaders’ Trail; however, this changed in 1904, when the Florida East Coast Railway reached Homestead. The railroad became crucial for the land’s agriculture business. Farmers exported fruits and vegetables through the railway. Homestead began to grow rapidly because of its agriculture. The area became an important trading center. Homestead started to gain population, and its economy was increasing. In 1913, the Town of Homestead was incorporated with a population of 121 people and 28 registered voters.

Homestead boomed in the 1920s. The city was growing rapidly, new businesses were opening, many people were moving in, and exporting was better than ever. Crops were exported from Homestead to different cities to the north. In 1923, Homestead officially became a city with 3,360 residents.

Airplane destroyed by Hurricane Andrew (Original photo displayed at Historic Homestead Town Hall Museum)

The development of the city appeared to be unstoppable. Unfortunately, the growth didn’t last for long. Homestead was struck by three hurricanes: in 1926, 1945, and 1992. The damage was so catastrophic that most of the city had to be rebuilt every time.
In 1992, the city of Homestead was in the eye of Category 5, hurricane Andrew. The hurricane destroyed more than 63,500 houses and caused $27.3 billion damage. Homestead was ground zero. It seemed unlikely for the city to recover from this hit.

Today, Homestead has bounced back. The city’s population has grown to 70,000 people. Homestead’s economy has increased over the years, and future job growth is predicted. Homestead is slowly growing and coming up with strategies to attract people to the city (“History of Our City: Homestead, FL – Official Website”).

Demographics

According to the United States Census Bureau:
Seventy thousand four hundred seventy-seven (70,477) people are residing in Homestead. The ethnic composition of Homestead’s population is composed of sixty-three percent (63%) of Hispanics, twenty-three percent (23%) blacks or African Americans, and thirteen percent Whites (13%). Forty-nine percent (49%) of the population are females, while fifty-one percent are males (51%). The annual per capita income is $17,405, and the median age of people in Homestead is 30.9 years old (“U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Homestead city, Florida”).

Biography of Guillermo (a Homestead resident)

Biography of Guillermo (a Homestead resident)

A person standing in front of a building

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Guillermo Rivera was born on October 25, 2000, in Honduras. He moved to Homestead when he turned 8. Since then, he has been living in Homestead with both of his parents. Currently, Guillermo is a junior at Miami Dade College Homestead Campus and works at Schnebly Redland’s Winery & Brewery– a local restaurant and winery.

Guillermo’s thoughts on Homestead:

Vivian: What is your favorite aspect about the city?

Guillermo: I enjoy the people I associate with. They are down to Earth, genuine, and fun.


Vivian:
What is your least favorite aspect about the city?

Guillermo: The city is shortly developed; I get bored of going to the same places. The city doesn’t have many things to do.

Vivian: Do you enjoy living here?

Guillermo: For the most part.

Vivian: If you could change anything about the Homestead, what would it be?

Guillermo: I would like the city to have at least one mall, a chick-fil-A, and more places to hang out. The closest chick-fil-A from here (Homestead) is in Kendall. I shouldn’t have to drive 25 miles to buy food I’m craving. 

-Guillermo enjoys the peaceful city, but sometimes he gets bored of it. He wishes there were more exciting things to do in Homestead. –

Landmarks

The Florida Pioneer Museum
The Florida Pioneer Museum (Photo by Vivian Acosta)

The Pioneer Museum’s building was once the Homestead Florida East Coast Railroad station agent’s home. The building was initially located in Homestead; however, it was moved in the mid-1960s to Homestead’s sister city Florida City (“Florida Pioneer Museum”).

The museum replicates the way a house would have been furnished and decorated in the 1900s. The museum counts with a parlor, a dining room, a kitchen, a laundry room, and an attic/guest room. Each room is filled with antiques appropriate for the place they’re in.

 They also count with a display of Native American artifacts. Mostly shell tools and pottery.

Visiting this museum is extremely interesting. It gives you an idea of what life was like a century ago. By observing the tools people used, you can also imagine the activities they engaged in, and we can see where the (improved) designs of many of our appliances come from!

The Florida Pioneer Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Historic Homestead Town Hall Museum
Historic Homestead Town Hall Museum (Photo by Vivian Acosta)

The Historic Homestead Town Hall Museum is located in the building that once was Homestead’s town hall. The building was built in 1917. The original structure of the building was preserved; therefore, what you see today, is what was there about one hundred years ago!

On the first floor of the town hall, fire trucks were stored. On the rear of the building, there were jail cells for men. The municipal offices were located on the second floor of the building.

Today, the historic town hall has been transformed into a small museum. The museum has displays of historical artifacts of different periods. It also counts with a collection of photographs of Homestead over the years. The museum also has a 1924 American LaFrance fire truck! Seeing pieces of the past firsthand is invaluable!

The Historic Homestead Town Hall Museum is part of the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Coral Castle Museum

The Coral Castle is a castle that was made from limestone around 1923. Inside, there is a sculpture garden, which includes furniture carved from stone and a castle tower.

The Coral Castle’s construction took 28 years. It was built by Edward Leedskalnin, a 5 feet tall man who weighed around 100 pounds. Ed worked on the development of the castle during the night, so no one would see him working. 

Whenever Ed was asked about the process of the construction of the castle, he would only mention that he knew the secret of the pyramids. Today, the methods Edward used to build the castle remains a mystery.

The Coral Castle is one of Homestead’s main tourist attractions.

Green

The city of Homestead counts with many parks in which residents can engage in recreational activities such as playing sports, exercising, picnicking, and even parting to distract themselves from their daily hassles.

I noticed that in Homestead, visiting parks is not as popular as it is in other cities. I visited two different parks in Homestead on a Thursday evening, and there were barely any people in the parks. 

Losner Park
J.D Redd Municipal Park

J.D Redd Municipal Park counts with several amenities. It has several tennis courts, pavilions, a baseball court, and a playground. This park is an excellent place to exercise, play sports, and bring the little ones out to play.

Transportation

According to Data USA, as of 2017, 67.3% of the population in Homestead drive alone, 18% carpool, and 6.71% public transit (“Homestead, FL”).   

Most people use their cars as their main mean of transportation. Many people in Homestead do not work in the city; therefore, they have to wake up extremely early to get to their jobs on time. The average car ride time for Homestead residents to get to their jobs is 35 minutes (with no traffic). However, it can take them a little bit more than twice their average time during rush hours.

To move within the city, some people like to walk; however, many streets do not have sidewalks; therefore, pedestrians end up walking on grass or on the edge of the road: neither of these options is safe.

Only about 7% of Homestead’s population uses public transportation (“Homestead, FL”). It might be because there aren’t many bus stops in the city, which means that people are required to walk long distances to get to the nearest bus stop. Perhaps, taking the bus is not as convenient as it should for Homestead residents.

If a Homestead resident wanted to take the metro, he/she would have to get to the nearest metro station first. The closest metro station to Homestead is Dadeland South Metrorail Station, which is about 30 miles away from Homestead. The lack of a convenient transportation system almost requires residents to own a car. Homestead is not a big city, and having every resident on the street in their car is problematic.

Food

Salvadoran Cuisine

Salvadoran Cuisine serves Central American dishes. Their specialty is pupusas, a Salvadoran meal. This restaurant started as a small family business in the backyard of the owners’ house. After a couple of years, they became so popular that they had to expand their business, so they opened Salvadoran Cuisine. Today, the restaurant remains popular; consequently, it tends to be busy during the whole day

As you walk into the restaurant, you will immediately notice its originality. A shelf filled with Hispanic goodies will great you. The walls are decorated with images of Central American landscapes, and their TVs are usually playing either novelas or soccer games. The owners do a fantastic job of expressing their culture through their food, decorations, and environment.

La Cruzada Restaurant

La Cruzada Restaurant is one of the most authentic restaurants I have ever visited. As you are walking to the front door, you will notice many Mexican themed adornments. As you step into the restaurant, festive, Hispanic music will welcome you along with the waitresses who are dressed in traditional Mexican clothing. The roof of the restaurant is decorated with piñatas, and the walls are covered with paintings and pictures of historic Mexican figures. Every little detail adds to the pleasant environment.

When I visited, I had tacos al pastor with a Mexican soda. The tacos were delicious. I had an excellent lunch this day. Did I mention that they have a menu for vegans? I walked out through the back door, and I discovered a garden section! Overall, La Cruzada Restaurant is a great option to grab a quick meal, have lunch, or even have a date in the romantic garden section. I recommend La Cruzada Restaurant, and I will definitely revisit the restaurant.

Businesses

Robert Is Here Fruit Stand

Robert Is Here Fruit Stand started as a fruit stand on the side of the road. Over the years, it gained so much popularity that today, tourists make sure to visit this unique spot when they come to Homestead. All kinds of vegetables and fruits are sold here, and most of them are from Robert’s own farm. Delicious milkshakes and smoothies are also part of this business’s menu.

Robert Is Here Fruit Stand is a nice place to visit with your family.  It has an animal farm, a play area for kids, and picnic tables where you can sit and enjoy one of their delicious smoothies or milkshakes. On your way out, you can purchase an exotic fruit or one of their souvenirs!

Mexico Market

Mexico Market is a small grocery market owned by a family of Mexican heritage. What separates this grocery store from other stores is that they sell imported products from Mexico. Mexican seasonings, tortillas, pan dulce, candy, cheese, sour cream, and piñatas are only some of the products sold in this grocery store. As a Hispanic, I can assure you that many of our recipes do not taste the same without specific homemade products! Therefore, I feel like this place is a gem. Sixty-three percent of Homestead’s population is Hispanic; consequently, I assume that they come here often to purchase goods that remind them of home. Selling Mexican products in a city where the majority of its residents are Hispanic, is a brilliant business.

Summary

Homestead definitely does not fit Miami’s stereotypes. In here, the nights are not alive, and tall buildings are non-existent; however, that is completely fine. Miamians are quite unique, so I would expect the cities to be diverse also. I believe that such differences between cities are convenient because we all enjoy different lifestyles. Seeing a landscape with lush green grass could be as enjoyable as seeing skylines, it just depends on who you are asking.

The city balances green area and infrastructure decently; however, a lot of the green space in the city is not well kept. Overgrown shrubs and tall grass affect the city’s appearance. There are many wastelands within the city: such places should be cleaned, the grass should be mowed, and the trees should be pruned. Another inconvenient aspect of Homestead is that most sidewalks are too narrow for two people to walk on, and many streets don’t even have sidewalks. I would expect a traditional small town like Homestead to be pedestrian-friendly; however, it isn’t.

Many areas are under construction, and many spaces are still untouched. The city is growing, and it will continue to grow over the years; however, I hope the city keeps its unique, tranquil style and that it doesn’t turn into another crowded city on the map.

Watch out for the cameras on the traffic lights! Many cities have taken down their traffic light cameras; however, Homestead (Homestead’s officials) refuses to do so. I was curious as to why there are so many working traffic light cameras in the city, so I had to ask! A worker from Homestead’s city hall explained to me that the city is “poor,” and that they need money to invest on the city; therefore, having traffic light cameras gives the city a decent amount of money.

Photo by Vivian Acosta

Agriculture is the basis of Homestead’s economy; therefore, a lot of the people who live in Homestead work on farms, plantations, landscaping, and fruit packing companies. Many of the people working on such jobs are immigrants, and some are undocumented. As I drove by many crops in Homestead, I noticed men and women bending down and picking fruit at 12 pm. I immediately questioned why they “choose” to work in such a fatiguing job; however, I realized that many of them don’t really have a choice. They come to this country to be freed from poverty, crime, or injustice; however, on the land of the free, they are enslaved by their identities. They are banned from doing necessary activities such as driving and working; nevertheless, immigrants must work to fulfill their American dream. Employers let undocumented immigrants operate for their companies, but they take advantage of their legal status. Undocumented workers get paid less than the minimum wage, they overwork, and sometimes they work under uncomfortable and even dangerous conditions; however, they don’t tend to speak up. People in Homestead are aware of this situation; therefore, there are several non-profit, organizations that help educate immigrants about their rights and encourage them to speak up and make their voices heard. WeCount! is a non-profit organization whose mission is “to build the power of the immigrant community in Homestead” (“We Count! – Sembrando Justicia”). I admire how the city identifies its issues and is active in finding a solution.

I enjoyed my time in Homestead. The city may be underdeveloped, but that’s what makes it different, consequently unique. Homestead is a small city with a peaceful atmosphere. If you want l to escape from your headaches and stay away from big-city chaos for a day, then, Homestead is the right city to visit!

Works cited

Florida Pioneer Museum, http://floridapioneermuseum.org/about/.

“History of Our City: Homestead, FL – Official Website.” History of Our City | Homestead, FL  Official Website, https://www.cityofhomestead.com/264/History-of-Our-City.

 “Homestead, FL.” Data USA, https://datausa.io/profile/geo/homestead-fl/#demographics.

 “Homestead, FL – Homestead, Florida Map & Directions.” MapQuest, https://www.mapquest.com/us/florida/homestead-fl-282040246.

“Homestead, Florida.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 9 Dec. 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homestead, Florida.

Interactive, Nia. We Count! – Sembrando Justicia, http://www.we-count.org/index.php?page=planting-justice.

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