España as Texts 2020: Brittany Rizo

Photo taken by Ana Olivares (CC by 4.0)

My name is Brittany Rizo and I am a sophomore in the Honors College at Florida International University. I am majoring in Biological Science on the Pre-Med track. My goal is to become a Cardio Thoracic Surgeon in the future, possibly for Pediatrics. I am very excited to be going on this life-changing experience with Professor Bailly and the rest of the class to Spain in Summer 2020.

Vizcaya as Text

“A Merge of Cultures” by Brittany Rizo of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Photo taken by Alondra Estevez (CC by 4.0)

Before our visit to Vizcaya, I had only been there once before. It was a long time ago, about 10 years ago and I honestly don’t remember much of it. To me this place was completely new, as if I had never been there before. I loved this experience because I got to learn so much that I never would have known. Hearing the history from Professor Bailly made me notice things that I never would have noticed going on my own. From the very beginning I was interested in how many different cultures contributed to the architecture and different aspects of Vizcaya. For example, at the very front of the property, the fountains that guide you inside were the first thing that caught my eye. They were beautiful, but not in an extravagant way. I found it very interesting to learn that they are based off of Islamic culture of still fountains that reflect the heavens. As we continued inside, the architecture grew more and more complex. It included many things like the sculpture of the Olympian god, Dionysus, the marble floors that represented prosperity, and the stars integrated into the patterns on the walls that were also based on Islamic influences. Every room was unique in its own way; they had different styles that were influenced by multiple different cultures, making them all very intriguing. Some of these cultures include French, Spanish, Islamic, and Italian Renaissance influence in the gardens. This was my favorite part of the entire experience, getting to see how something that we have always associated with Miami and its culture is really influenced in a big way by many other cultures. It was a very enlightening experience and it is definitely a place that I would return to see again.

MOAD as Text

“Navigating Through History” by Brittany Rizo of FIU at the Museum of Art and Design

Photo taken by Brittany Rizo (CC by 4.0)

I have lived in Miami for my entire life and I have passed the Freedom Tower more times than I can count, but until the other day I never really knew what it represented. I always just thought that it was a cool-looking building in the middle of Brickell, but it is so much more than that. When it was built, there was no other land in front of it and was even sometimes called the “Ellis Island of the south.” Its purpose was to process all of the Cubans coming to Miami, including my grandparents and the families of many others. It was very interesting to visit a place with such important ties to my family, and to the entire culture and history of Miami. Going inside and seeing the history that is held in this building exceeded my expectations. There were paintings, sculptures, maps, books, and more that took us back to the time that they were made and showed us how diverse different cultures could be. My favorite piece of artwork was the mural in the image above. I couldn’t get the entire piece in one picture because of how large it was, it took up almost the entire length of the wall. The mural represented the Europeans coming to the Americas, with the world map of Europe on the right and the Americas on the left. In the center, there is a poem that we read as a class, and above it are an Indian man and a European man holding flags under a compass. Completed with mermaids in the ocean at the bottom and European ships, this mural is considered a very “romanticized” representation of the travel to the Americas. It doesn’t express all of the hardships that were brought from Europe, like disease and warfare. Despite this, I was still very impressed by it because of the amount of detail in the painting itself and its size, it was the very first thing that drew my attention. Overall, the entire museum was very impressive and I learned a lot about my cultures and many others as well.

Deering as Text

“A Beautiful Sanctuary” by Brittany Rizo of FIU at Deering Estate

Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0

I have been to Deering Estate a multiple times in my life and I have always thought it was such a beautiful place—I even took my quinces pictures there when I was younger—but I have never really known the history behind it. It was interesting to learn how the architect, Phineas Paist, was influenced by past architectural styles he had used from building he built in Sitges and Tamarit, Spain. Another interesting detail was how the time period in the United States influenced the building and use certain structures on the property, like the secret wine cellar that was built because of the Prohibition at the time. My favorite part of the property, however, is definitely the boat basin. Being born and raised in Miami, I am naturally draw to the water, palm trees, and marine life that the boat basin provides. It looks like a very peaceful place to just relax, read a book, and clear your mind from all of your worries. It is one of the most photogenic places on the property, with the palm trees on each side of the “fingers” giving it a symmetry that just draws you in. I also love that it is a kind of safe sanctuary to manatees and other delicate marine life, like turtles and stingrays. There are too many stories of animals like manatees and turtles getting hit by boats, injuring them or even worse, so it is comforting to see a place where they can thrive in their natural habitat safely. With a rich history, peaceful atmosphere, and beautiful views, Deering Estate is not just a sanctuary for the animals that lives around the basin, but it is a kind of sanctuary for people too and is definitely a place that I will continue to return to for as long as I am in Miami. 

South Beach as Text

“Art Deco Aesthetic” by Brittany Rizo of FIU at South Beach

Ocean Drive (Photo by Rocio Sanchez)

South Beach is not a place I visit often because of how far it is from my home, but I have always thought it was one of the most unique places in South Florida. The aspect that draws me to it the most is the Art Deco style that encompasses the whole area. Because of my dad, I have always been drawn to vintage-styled things like record players and vintage cars, and this is no different. All of the vibrant colors, lights, and architecture transport you to a different era. That is what makes South Beach such intriguing place, different from most beach cities in the country, and visited by a countless number of tourists every year. It was interesting to learn that it was so special that back in 1977, a woman named Barbara Baer fought to keep this architectural style and founded an organization called the Miami Design Preservation League to preserve the area. Even though there are modern buildings that have been built since, without her South Beach would undoubtedly be a completely different place, unrecognizable to what we see now. I could not picture this neighborhood without the view of Ocean Drive lined with Art Deco structures, and thankfully we don’t have to. Hopefully, South Beach will always preserve its Art Deco aesthetic because it is what makes the area so distinct and it will always be part of that area’s history and culture.

HistoryMiami as Text

“Personal Impacts of History” by Brittany Rizo of FIU at the HistoryMiami Museum

Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0

Personally, I have always been one to appreciate museums that have real pieces from the past and not just works of art. A couple of the ones I have visited include the National History Museum in New York and the La Brea Tar Pits Museum in California. These types of museums have always been my favorite because I connect more with them and they make more of a personal impact, really taking you back to those times and how different things were back then. For this reason, I think I would have thoroughly enjoyed visiting the HistoryMiami Museum. It is amazing to me how such old artifacts can be preserved and used as a tool for visual learning decades or even centuries later. One of the artifacts from the museum that caught my attention the most were the wooden boats used by the Cubans to come to America. Being from a Cuban family, it is always very shocking for me to see the struggle of how people made their way to the states. Seeing these tiny wooden boats, I can’t even imagine how difficult it would be to travel miles across the open ocean and actually survive. I will always have a personal connection to stories like this because both of my grandparents went through similar struggles to reach America. My grandfather from my mother’s side travelled on a boat as well, and my grandfather from my father’s side was a rescued prisoner who fought against the regime during the Bay of Pigs. I am very proud of my culture and the amount of resilience that my grandparents—and Cubans as a whole—have had in order to survive such terrible circumstances and build better lives for their families. 

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