Italia 2020 As Text: Daniela Valdes Posada

I am an International Relations and Poli Sci major with only one semester to go before graduation. I hope to one day work on Capitol Hill. I love to WATCH sports, specifically soccer. I am 20 years old and was born in Cuba but raised in Miami and I do not like cafecito.

“A Hoarder’s Compromise” by Daniela Valdes Posada of FIU at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

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James Deering was nothing if not the most particular man on the planet. But it seems he collected just about everything he thought was valuable inside of Vizcaya. Every room inside of Vizcaya was full of something. Whether it was artwork or furniture or just a room of a bunch of different types of tile.  It seems like James saw something and he HAD to have it. Every single room in his “house” was filled, with just enough room to get from one door to another. His office was full of bookshelves of fake books and the walls with pictures of random children, all in his effort to appear to be a regular man. But this is the only way that James tried to be a regular man. In every other aspect he had to be best and have the most. There were rooms full of furniture and about 500 places to sit, although the placement of the furniture was odd and did not seem like it was meant to be sat on. James reminds me of my dad, who picks up and takes home everything he finds, even if we already have 3 of them. Except James collected items most people would kill for and that cost thousands of dollars. And my dad picks up everything he sees at the thrift store or dumpster downstairs. So I think it’s safe to say that like my father, James Deering was a hoarder, and Vizcaya was his Hoarder’s paradise, given its large amount of useless rooms. 

But while the interior of Vizcaya was a hoarder’s paradise, when he got to the outside, someone said “Enough.”  Even though there are thousands of different plants and flowers on the exterior of the house, there is plenty of open space. The amount of land that James Deering owned with Vizcaya was so extensive that Deering has several large stairs and gardens and different structures outside of the main house. Although it cannot be said that he did not do the most, considering his random balls of grass and elaborate raw artwork. I think Vizcaya provided the perfect land and structure to give James everything he wanted, with its extensive acreage and space, inside and out. 

“The First Ten Minutes” by Daniela Valdes Posada of FIU at Museum of Art and Design

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I was tempted to call this piece “Completely missing the point” because that’s what I felt I was doing during this whole day. We set out on this excursion to further our understanding of how Rome is everywhere and throughout the whole day we pointed out all the roman inspired architecture and art. And I understood it, I did, but there was a part of me that could not manage to connect to anything we learned about or saw, because my brain was stuck on the first ten minutes we spent at the Freedom Tower.

Even before we arrived I was nervous, I didn’t know how I was going to feel when I was standing inside the place in the US that possibly means most to my people. But the first ten minutes proved that my reaction would not be a slight one, although I think I did a pretty good job at hiding the fact that I was choking up the whole time, what with my silence and pretty dark glasses. The first ten minutes at the Freedom Tower were full of awe but also sadness. I had heard the story of what the Freedom Tower was before, but I somehow didn’t expect it to be so in my face. The first thing we took note of was a sculpture outside the building of a young boy carrying a house on his back, from the Pedro Pan operation, and already I had a million thoughts in my head but the main one was “pusimos la casa completa en una maleta” which translates to “we put the whole house in a suitcase”. It’s a line from a song on the Hamilton mixtape titled ‘Immigrants’. And it made me feel like I was that kid, with the house in a suitcase. It made me feel like everyone I knew was the kid, with the house in a suitcase.

I grew up in Miami and that meant most of my friends were little hispanic kids, who like me, had put their whole house in a suitcase. Most of us came from another country really young, I was 3 years old. And my grandparents weren’t Pedro Pan kids, but it feels like my parents and I were. We left Cuba with our whole house in a suitcase, to cheesily pursue “the American Dream” and we’ve done just that. So in the first ten minutes, looking at the pictures of all the little Pedro Pan kids who came here alone, and all went through the Freedom Tower, exactly where I was standing, made me unable to wonder anything except whether they too, had achieved the “American Dream”. I spent the rest of the day stuck on those first ten minutes.

“A Missed Opportunity” by Daniela Valdes Posada of FIU at The Deering Estate

Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0

Personally, I think the most fascinating part of the Deering Estate is its easy access to water. Although Miami is known for its beaches and close proximity to water, its sometimes hard to find a spot to appreciate it that isn’t filled with tourists, boats or even just residents. It seems like the Deering Estate is one of the few places that can offer access to water and is actually serene and enjoyable. Not only can you walk along the Boat Basin and notice the beauty of the landscape but you may also see a diverse marine life. This is one of the best places in Miami to catch the sunset, something I’ll definitely be doing once the quarantine is over.

Something I’m really looking forward to is being able to have free access to Biscayne Bay. One of my favorite activities is kayaking and its something I regularly do with my friends. We first got into it on a short trip to the Keys and we’ve been obsessed ever since. After going back and forth between Miami and the Keys a couple times, we realized we had to find somewhere to kayak and paddle board that was closer to home.

Because of my love for kayaking (even though lately, I’ve gotten more into paddle boarding) is the reason I think that a visit to the Deering Estate was a missed opportunity. I took an environmental science class my freshman year at FIU and I became much more aware of our impact on the Earth, so I’ve been looking for ways to make a bigger impact than just eating less meat and driving less. There were plenty of chances to join FIU students for a cleanup on Chicken Key, and it’s one of my biggest regrets that I didn’t do it before.

“She loves me, She loves me not” by Daniela Valdes Posada of FIU at South Beach

Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0

My relationship with South Beach is the most toxic relationship I have. Some days I abhor it, some days I only want to be there. Like anyone who’s grown up in Miami, I feel a bit differently about the places that most attract tourists to our city. Miami is one of the best places for the phrase “I live where you vacation”. And the appeal is there, we have beautiful beaches, the weather is always warm, and it’s a cultural hotspot. But Miami, and especially South Beach, has a lot of things for a local to hate too.

Growing up here gives you a different perspective, and while I can definitely appreciate South Beach, there’s times it makes me want to live somewhere else. Like during summer, when the amazing beaches attract an intense amount of tourists, who cause even worse traffic than we already have. The parking is ALWAYS a hassle, and it’s basically a game of luck, where you hope and pray that your car doesn’t get towed by the end of the day. There’s also the fact that no matter what time you go, or what time of year it is, South Beach is always crowded.

Despite all this, I think there’s more to love about South Beach than there is to dislike. For instance, there’s always something to do, whether it be going to one of the many restaurants, bars, the beach, or just hanging out. One of my favorite parts of living in a big city is not having to go to the same theater or bowling alley every Friday night. Aside from this, South Beach is a cultural hotspot. There’s shops and foods of all kinds and the fact that its a tourist attraction means there are always tons of people from all over the world at South Beach. It is one of the most important places on the list when visiting Miami.

“A 3D Experience” by Daniela Valdes Posada of FIU at History Miami Museum

(Photos Courtesy of HistoryMiami Museum ©)

Although I’ve never had the privilege of going to the History Miami Museum, I can tell that it is truly a unique experience. Unlike most museums, where the pieces are mostly on a canvas on the wall, or encased in a glass box, the “pieces”at the History Miami Museum seem to be interactive. Not in a way that you can play with them or anything but in a way that actually allows you to experience the scale, texture, and feel of the history being explained. It’s easy for a museum to explain history through a black and white painting or a small fragment of something significant or even a small replica. At the HistoryMiami Museum, it seems they take things a step further by recreating life size replicas of the things that correlate to history.

I’ve been to many museums in my life, and never noticed something so distinct. I’ve been in the Natural History Museum in New York and the Broad Museum in California, but I’ve never felt like I was actually experiencing history like I do with the HistoryMiami Museum. The life size recreation of the Trolley takes you back to the 1920s where black people were still made to sit at the back of the bus. Being able to be inside the trolley and read the signs for yourself is something that is inexplicable. I was also very impressed with the recreations of the different living structures in Miami’s history. The sections titled “Pioneer Life” and “Creek Migration” both have amazing life size replicas of structures from the time and standing under them and experiencing them gives you a whole different experience than it would if you were just looking at a photograph.

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