Italia Spring 2020 As Texts: Cristine Arguelles

Photo by Isabel Mirabal (CC by 4.0)

Cristine Arguelles is a sophomore at the Florida International University Honors College majoring in Public Relations, Advertising, and Applied Communication (PRAAC). Although majoring in PRAAC, she plans on returning to FIU post-graduation to receive her certificate in Speech and Language Pathology with hopes of one day becoming a Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) and achieve her dream of working with children. Apart from becoming an SLP, Cristine dreams of traveling to new places and exploring new cultures, which is why she is beyond grateful FIU is giving her the opportunity to study abroad in Italy this coming summer. Below one can find a reflection of her experience at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami, Florida which gave her a small insight as to the artwork and architecture she may encounter in Italy. 

Photos and edit by Cristine Arguelles (CC by 4.0)

Vizcaya as Text

“A Miami Must-See” by Cristine Arguelles of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens , located in the beautiful city of Miami, is the former estate of James Deering. Heavily influenced by transatlantic architecture, art, culture and history, it was built in the early 20th century. James Deering, the designers and architects built this 50 acre estate in hopes of mirroring the things that make up the great European culture Deering fell in love with. Over the years, this estate has remained an essential part of history and is the reason why internationalism and art was introduced to Miami. Having previously learned about Italian and Spanish cultures, I was extremely intrigued to witness the beauty of Vizcaya. Despite living in Miami for nearly 20 years, I had never experienced the unique features of this estate, and the ability to gain a sense of what another culture is like in the comfort of my own city was truly a great experience.

Walking through Vizcaya, several aspects were illustrative of transatlantic similarities and influences. What stood out the most was the beautiful stained glass windows in one of the main rooms of the estate. Stained glass is one of the elements that make up Italian and Spanish culture, which may be the reason why Deering decided to fill this room with such a beautiful component. It is important to pay close attention to detail when touring the museum because hidden in the details are the small elements that reflect the amount of thought Deering put in to represent European culture. For example, at the top of the north staircase Deering included the French words “J’ai dit” which translate to “I have spoken.” Given that French is not a language commonly spoken in Miami, this truly stood out and allowed me to imagine, if only briefly, that I was actually witnessing artwork from a sidewalk in France. Throughout the museum, there are numerous other examples that show the influence of other cultures. Whether looking at the landscaping of the garden, focusing on the sculptures of ships and mermaids, or the architecture reflected in the columns, the ties to Renaissance and Mediterranean cultures were evident.

Although the marble and artwork in Miami’s Vizcaya is similar to that found in churches and other buildings in Europe, there are elements that differ resulting from this estate being created in Miami. One element in the estate that reflected this was what appeared to be marble walls. At first glance, they could resemble walls and columns of marble, like those that prevail in European museums, however, when examining closely, it is clear to see that these surfaces were painted to simply resemble marble. As a visitor, this was one of the main differences I noted. In contrast to museums built in European culture, where everything is authentic and made with serious detail, Miami’s wealth did not allow for the expense that actual marble required. The improvised marble, while resembling European culture, clearly reflected this difference.

Vizcaya truly is a Miami must see. Through the help of architecture, artwork, sculptures, and more Vizcaya brings about a sense of history and internationalism to a place that has nothing like it. Despite a few differences, Vizcaya perfectly embodies European culture in a Miami way.

Photos and edit by Cristine Arguelles (CC by 4.0)

MOAD as Text

“A glimpse of Italy” by Cristine Arguelles of FIU at Museum of Art and Design

Miami is home to many things that I have been exposed to my entire life. Having lived in Miami for nearly 20 years, however, I had never encountered the amount of history and culture our city holds prior to our visit to the Museum of Art and Design, specifically visiting the Gesù Church. Growing up as a Catholic and attending an all women Catholic high school I have always been exposed to and fascinated by churches and all things related to Catholicism. After high school, however, I have felt disconnected from my religion being that I am not attending mass as frequently as I would during school. This is the reason why visiting the Gesù Church stood out to me the most. Walking into the church made me remember the tranquil feeling I would feel while attending mass and taking time to reflect and practice what I believe in.

The Gesù Church, built in 1896, is known as the oldest Catholic Church in Miami. It is important being that it serves as an example of Miami’s religious history and reflects the growth and development of the city. Additionally, the church building exemplifies religious architecture and portrays an excellence in design, detailing, and craftsmanship. Personally, the architecture is what caught my attention at first glance. Walking through the church, it was fascinating to take note of every tiny detail that went into the design and creation of this wonderful historic building. Whether it was the mesmerizing stained glass windows or the beautiful church altar, this building definitely holds a lot of value and, in my eyes, reflects a tiny bit of Italy. Experiencing the beauty of this church in Miami, I could not help but imagine how much more breathtaking the churches in Italy would be.

My visit to the Gesù Church has truly made an impact on my life. Although not all will understand, this experience reminded me of what I have always been taught about Catholicism. No matter who you are, where you come from, or what you have done, you are always welcome into the church no matter the reason. Seeing people in there even when there was no mass taking place allowed me to reflect on the times when, during high school, I would take some time for myself during a mass or in the mornings in the chapel and just pray about whatever was on my mind. During mass I would always feel calm and relaxed as if I had nothing to worry about, and this visit truly brought back that tranquil feeling. Learning about the history of the church and being able to see it with my own eyes put into perspective how out of touch I have been with Catholicism and has allowed me to take some time for myself and bring this aspect back into my life.

Despite learning a lot of new information at the Museum of Art and Design, the visit to the Gesù Church is what truly enhanced my experience. Being able to relate to a place I have never been made the experience more enjoyable being that I was able to feel a connection to it. This experience made me realize how much more to Miami there is and how much more exploring I need to partake in in order to learn more about history.

Deering Estate (Photo by JW Bailly CC by 4.0)

Deering Estate as Text

“Appreciation of Art” by Cristine Arguelles of FIU at Deering Estate

Oftentimes when I go to a new place I take the time to appreciate all the history and detail that went into making the place what it is today. Visiting places like Vizacaya and the Museum of Art and Design throughout the year, I was truly able to admire all my surroundings and reflect on how special these places are and I was anticipating the day where I could get this experience at  the Deering Estate. Unfortunately, however, due to COVID-19 I was not able to experience the beauty of the Deering Estate in depth, but rather I was given the opportunity to explore the estate at the comfort of my own home. Although not the same experience, I was still able to reflect on many aspects of the estate and learn more information that I had not previously known. 

The Deering Estate, located along the edge of Miami’s Biscayne Bay, is a historical preserve of Charles Deering’s 1920s estate. Charles Deering, “Chicago industrialist, early preservationist, environmentalist, art collector, philanthropist and first chairman of the International Harvester Company” (Deering Estate History), lived in this 450 acre estate from 1922 to 1927 when he died. This estate is a cultural asset and historic site listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has now become a museum for tourists and local residents. During my time spent exploring the virtual walking tour, many aspects about the Deering Estate stood out to me, one being the artists in residence studios. During my brief visit of the Deering Estate in the past, I remember seeing several talented artists positioned throughout the estate painting what they saw. At first glance I was a bit surprised because it is not something I often see, however when I read about the Deering Estate walking tour, I was able to learn that the estate actually offers in-residence studios which is one aspect that I was very interested in learning about and one that stood out to me compared to the other things the estate offers. 

Being someone who has always loved and grown up with the arts, I have always had an appreciation for it. I feel as if in today’s world, art is not as appreciated as much as it should be being that people are rather focused on technology and other factors that are quickly and constantly evolving. That being said, it is not everyday you come across a community, much less a historical building, that appreciates art and allows visitors to incorporate it in all that they do. For this reason, the artists-in-residence studios in the Deering Estate are one aspect I have chosen to reflect upon. It was fascinating to learn that the arts are a constant and vibrant presence at the Deering Estate. When creating the estate, Charles Deering himself had a vision for the arts. Having a community of artists gather and create art at the estate not only allows them to keep Deering’s vision alive, but also allows them to connect with other artists, create projects of beautiful scenery, and interact with the public while still being able to engage with the history and architecture that makes the Deering Estate so special. In my opinion this is a great aspect that the Deering Estate incorporates, and made it stand out from past museums I have visited. It is important to value the time and dedication of the arts and encourage people to make art, not stray away from it. 

Despite learning a lot of information about the Deering Estate, the aspect of incorporating the arts is what caught my eye. It is a beautiful thing to see artists creating masterpieces at the estate and continuing the vision of Deering himself. Not only does this allow people to do what they love, but it also creates a sense of community and inspiration among many. Art is something special in this world, and the fact that the Deering Estate encourages this is something that should be appreciated and continued throughout time.

HistoryMiami as Text

“A Look Into the Past” by Cristine Arguelles of FIU at HistoryMiami Museum

Living in Miami my entire life, I have never taken a moment to look back into history and learn about all the events that contributed towards the development of South Florida. It is crazy to imagine how life was like for the first settlers in this area, but also extremely interesting to see what makes Miami, Miami. I have always wanted to take a look into the past and obtain knowledge about life throughout the centuries in Miami, and the HistoryMiami Museum did just that. It taught me about life prior to Miami existing and made me feel a connection to my hometown’s origins. This museum opened my eyes to how life has tremendously evolved over the years and all the turning points in history that went into making our city as great as it is today. 

The HistoryMiami Museum, located in Downtown Miami, is the largest history museum in South Florida. A central aspect to the history and development of Miami, this museum highlights both the darkest and brightest moments in history and allows visitors to learn about the beautify city of Miami. One interesting aspect of this museum is the fact that it allows visitors to interact with some of the 37,000 artifacts and tools used by the first settlers. This is one aspect that stood out to me the most and what made the HistoryMiami Museum seem so special compared to other museums. Although I was not able to experience this hands on, I was still able to appreciate it through the walking tour and have something to look forward to in my future visit to the museum. Being someone who is a hands on learner, along with several others, it is fascinating that we as visitors are able to interact and explore these objects. It makes the past feel like the present as visitors are able to dive into history and feel connected to their geographical ancestors because without them, we would not be here today. 

Photo by JW Bailly CC by 4.0

Although the HistoryMiami Museum included several different exhibits and stories, the exhibit that I felt most drawn to was the one titled  “Pioneer Life.” Oftentimes people do not portray Miami as it truly is, however this exhibit portrays the city through a different and more realistic perspective. In this exhibit, visitors have the opportunity to see the real struggles faced by the first settlers and how they resolved the issues. This exhibit shed light on just how independent the first settlers were and how hard they had to work to get what they wanted and needed. It was hard enough for them to first make it to South Florida, but once they got there they were not left with much and had to go out of their comfort zones to learn from the natives in  order to survive. Nowadays, I feel as if some people expect to have things handed to them without having to put in the work. Little do they know that their ancestors are the prime example of the phrase “hard work pays off.” Without the dedication of these inhabitants and the hardships they faced, life would be extremely different, and I had not realized this prior to virtually visiting the HistoryMiami Museum.

Another exhibit that truly impacted me was the “New Peoples/New Technologies” exhibit, which highlighted machines and technology that contributed towards Miami’s development. One of these machines/technologies was the well-known railroad. What most people may not know, however, is that the main workers that helped with our city’s development were black railroad workers. Not only did they contribute most, but they still had to face oppression and disenfranchisement at the same time. This aspect of the museum made me realize many things about our current society. So many people are quick to judge black people and hold stereotypes against them, however without them, Miami may not have been developed and we  may not be living the life we live today. People do not realize this fact and thus still participate in racism, which should be long gone by now considering our past. 

Photo by JW Bailly CC by 4.0

Despite not being able to visit the HistoryMiami Museum in person, I was still able to gain so much information about my city’s past that I had not previously known or taken  the time to research. This museum opened my eyes and changed my perspective on many things, which is a feeling I always yearn for. The fact that I was able to personally relate to this museum being that it was about Miami made the experience more enjoyable. It served as the perfect example of how much our past shapes our future. 

South Beach (Photo by JW Bailly CC by 4.0)

South Beach as Text

“A Different View of SoBe” by Cristine Arguelles of FIU at South Beach

While exploring the South Beach Walking Tour, I came to the realization of just how little I know about a place I have lived my entire life. So many aspects go into the makeup of Miami and, although having visited South Beach several times, I had never realized the amount of information and details the area holds. Throughout the tour, I was able to learn new information about the architecture and history of the area many people love about Miami: South Beach. Now that I am older, I have a newfound appreciation for my city and find it fascinating to learn about why and how things are the way they are. When you live somewhere for a long period of time and become familiar with your surroundings, it is easy to find yourself feeling comfortable as if you know about everything in your city. However, people often do not take the time to explore the things they see everyday and truly understand what these things are. 

Miami’s South Beach, also called SoBe, is located on the lower end of Miami Beach. One of the main areas in South Beach is Ocean Drive, a strip filled with some of the most unique architecture found in SoBe. It is one of the main reasons SoBe has become one of the most visited tourist destinations in the state. Filled with beautiful beaches and incredible architecture, the SoBe area is the perfect place to experience the “city life” within Miami. While going through the walking tour, it was interesting to discover just how SoBe looked when it was first discovered by pioneer Carl Fisher in 1910. Compared to how it is now, one could never imagine that the beautiful beaches first began as swampy wastelands. Finding this out made me appreciate the area so much more. It is crazy to see just how much our own land changed overtime and who we have to thank for it. Aside from the world-famous beaches, SoBe also has a lot of architecture throughout the area, one building being the Jewish Museum of Florida. 

The Jewish Museum of Florida is the only museum that tells the story of Florida Jewish history, art, and culture. On my normal visit to South Beach, this is typically not a place I would stop at compared to the other buildings in the area, which is why I believe this building stood  out to me during the tour. I had always felt that there was a lack of presence of religions in the area, especially Judaism. I was quickly surprised when I found out there was a Jewish Museum. Although I am not Jewish, I still found it interesting to learn about the Jewish people that inhabited Miami in the past. In the 19th and 20th century, Jews were discriminated against and not allowed to access certain business properties such as hotels. Signs reading “Gentiles Only” would constantly be put up to repel Jews from accessing the area. For this reason, I believe it is inspiring that there is a Jewish Museum in the area. It constantly serves as a reminder of how Jews were treated several years ago versus how they are now. Having a place where Jews can gather and feel a sense of community is something very important in the world and an aspect of South Beach many people may not know about but should admire.

The South Beach Walking Tour was a great resource that gave me insight into an area I was already familiar with. Having visited SoBe a countless number of times, I never realized the amount of detail that goes into each building and how much history this area of land holds. The area of SoBe is very important for Miami and holds a lot of beauty and history that many locals and tourists do not take the time to learn about. The idea of being able to both enjoy historical buildings and the beautiful beaches is what makes SoBe so special. After exploring the tour, I have a new appreciation for the area and cannot wait to visit again and see these buildings with a different mindset. 

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