Espana Spring 2020 as Texts Angie Santalo

Photo by Cristina Acevedo CC By 4.0

Angie Santalo is a Sophomore studying Organizational Communications at Florida International University. In her spare time, she enjoys making videos, singing and acting, and engaging in community service. In 2014, she formed her own non-profit, Art For Others, in which she conducts art workshops to underprivileged children in the city of Miami. She dedicates a majority of her time to this, and she hopes to continue making an impact in her community.

Vizcaya as Text

My Backyard by Angie Santalo of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Photo by Angie Santalo CC By 4.0

I have been coming to Vizcaya for as long as I can remember. My father is an artist and my mother is a teacher. My childhood consisted of visiting many spectacular places and learning as much about them as possible. Every chance they had, they took advantage of it. Vizcaya seemed to be my backyard. I have loved it for so long.

This recent visit was different. This visit was all mine. It was my discovery. I am no longer a child and it was as if I was seeing everything with new eyes. It was a new appreciation for the beauty of its gardens, the grandeur of the house, the greatness of the ocean in its backyard. As I took a long breath in, I smiled a little wider knowing that it was a little bit mine because Miami is mine.

As I looked around, so much seemed new even though I had seen it before. I took a special glance at the tapestry that hung in the living room. The Hercules Tapestry which was most likely created in Brussels around 1540-1550 caught my attention. Hercules is always represented as strong. I though about how this was woven so long ago to represent Hercules’ 12 Labors and his strength in overcoming obstacles. This tapestry hangs diagonal to the Admiral Carpet Tapestry which was made in Spain and has Christian and Muslim symbols on it.

It made me think about my backyard, my Miami, and how we have so many different cultures woven in to our lives. It made me think of how we can still create something beautiful just like this tapestry.

MOAD as Text

“Cielito Lindo” by Angie Santalo of FIU at The Freedom Tower

Photo by Angie Santalo CC By 4.o
Portrait by Cesar Santalo

It was my grandparent’s Ellis Island. I had always heard so much about the Freedom Tower or “Cielito Lindo,” as my grandparents called it. All four of my grandparents are Cuban exiles and the Freedom Tower was their invitation to a new life, a new country, and new opportunities.

This visit to the Freedom Tower was extremely significant for me. When I was a child, my father created a portrait of the Freedom Tower, and for many years, I had seen the painting up on the walls of my house. Unbelievably, I had never actually seen the building in person. As I visited the actual building for the first time, I understood all those pictures and the stories that went through those walls. I imagined my own story, and how different my life would be had my grandparents not come to Miami to begin a new life.

My father’s portrait tells the story of so many families like my own. The portrait is a collage comprised of pictures of Cuban exiles and their families. When you step back, all the pictures form the image of the “Cielito Lindo.” The closer you are to the image, the more you can see the individual story each image emotes. My grandparents came when they were 12 and 13 years old with absolutely nothing. They left their very affluent and comfortable life all for freedom. They built their lives and worked to achieve a promising future for themselves and their families.

As I stood in front of the Freedom Tower, I truly understood that this place marked their brand new chapter in America. I understood how special it really must be for them and many others. I understood their gratitude to a welcoming country that marked the beginning of their story of triumph.

Deering Estate

Preserving Miami’s History by Angie Santalo of FIU at The Deering Estate

Photo by Daniela Arcia. Photo by JW Bailly CC By 4.0

The Deering Estate is a large environmental preserve that highlights the history and heritage of Miami-Dade. It is a hidden gem in Miami that is definitely worth visiting. I visited the Estate when I was about 7 years old, but I don’t really remember much about it other than the boat basin and the magnificent greenery.

The Estate contains all sorts of stories and documents the history of the beginnings of Miami. The Deering Estate is grand, and full of luxury. It was the home of Charles Deering. As you explore the property, it is almost magical. The Stone House’s grandeur immediately captivates you. The more you explore, the more you realize the historical significance of the landmark. It is almost as if you were traveling to the 1920s.

Exploring the estate virtually was a completely different experience than when I visited when I was 7 years old. I understood the history and significance much more this time. Seeing it as an adult, gave me greater insight into the house and its environment. The Cutler Fossil site really stood out to me as I read about it. Archeological evidence on the property indicates that humans inhabited the area 10,000 years prior to when the estate was built. I also understood that Charles Deering must have been an environmentalist to take such care in the beautiful surroundings and make sure that they were preserved. I have learned a great deal and realize that I must visit it again in person very soon. I have a new appreciation for so many areas of Miami.

Growing up, my parents made sure to take me to learn to appreciate all that is beautiful in our city and made me visit sites such as, Vizcaya and The Deering Estate. However, it was not until I took this class that I completely understood their history and significance. The Deering Estate is one place that I know I need to rediscover again.

South Beach

South Beach: The Most Glamorous Barrier Island by Angie Santalo of FIU at South Beach

Photo by Rocio Sanchez

Whenever I tell people I am from Miami, they automatically assume I live in South Beach. My whole life, I have lived in the Sunset area of Miami, but my family made it a point to take frequent visits to South Beach to explore the wonderful area. As a child, I never really realized all that South Beach had to offer. The more I visited as a teenager, the more I appreciated and took in my surroundings. It is very easy as a child, to visit a place and not look beneath the surface. We see something pretty, and we just merely admire it. We are too naive to understand and appreciate the beauty and history of something. However, as I grew up and took multiple visits to South Beach, I uncovered a beautiful layer that I would not have discovered had I not stopped to “smell the roses.”

South Beach is a very popular destination in Miami. I believe it beautifully captures the blend of cultures in Miami through the art-deco style of design that adorns the many buildings and streets, and through the variety of art and unique cuisine in the area. South Beach is an open invitation for people to come and explore.

After exploring South Beach virtually, I got to experience it on a whole new level. Even though I have visited many times, I was finally able to stop and “smell the roses” and uncover South Beach on my own. It has a compelling history, and people have inhabited the land that is South Beach for centuries. 

South Beach is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the state, it is a little difficult to imagine it as a mangrove barrier island. Knowing this history, gave me a greater understanding and appreciation of the price the environment had to pay at the expense of urban development.  

South Beach continues to be a unique place to visit, and I have a greater understanding of its historical significance and worth. It is not just a pretty, glamorous place, but a fragile environment that still needs to be protected.

HistoryMiami Museum

“Gateway to the Americas” by Angie Santalo of FIU at HistoryMiami Museum

Photograph of wooden boats used by Cubans to come to America. Photo by JW Bailly CC By 4.0

The HistoryMiami Museum captures the overall influence in factors that helped shape Miami to what it is today. It tells the stories of Miami’s community, culture, and events that have occurred throughout history. Throughout the museum, there are multiple exhibits such as: the “New People/New Technologies” exhibit, which demonstrates the effects of the Industrial Revolution on Miami, as well as “The Creek Migration” exhibit which captures the story of the Creek tribes and their journey south. 

Reading about the exhibit, “Gateway to the Americas,” really caught my attention. Being that my grandparents are Cuban exiles, I really connected to this portion of the museum. Knowing that many Cubans came to this country in search of a better future with absolutely nothing makes one appreciate everything they have that much more. I think about the situation now, especially with the Coronavirus outbreak, and the fact that we are living in a global pandemic. It is surreal to think that what is happening is real, but when I put it in perspective, I am incredibly lucky to be safe and healthy. Back then, these Cubans coming to America didn’t have the security that I have now. They came in “makeshift boats” and hoped to make it to the United States. Some did not survive. 

I remember years ago when I visited this museum for the “Pedro Pan” exhibit with my grandparents who were both Pedro Pan children. I remember how powerful the images were, and how they were very affected. It was as if I was going through it with them. 

Reading about the museum and the current exhibits that I have yet to see, makes me want to visit even more. There is still so much I have yet to see and learn.

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