Alondra Estevez is a Junior in the Honors College at Florida International University majoring in Public Relations, Advertising, and Applied Communications while also on the Pre-Law track. She works in the Department of Marketing and Logistics at FIU as a Programming Assistant. She is on her way to graduating in the Spring of 2021 and plans to continue her upper division education in law school. She will be traveling with Professor Bailly to Spain in the Summer of 2020.
Vizcaya as Text
“New (and Grateful) Lens” by Alondra Estevez of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
Ever since I was a little girl, Vizcaya trips were a norm. Little did I know that life would come full circle and that I would be a regular during my collegiate years as well. There is no doubt that Vizcaya is Miami’s hidden gem, with so much to offer no matter how many times you visit; I am certain of that after having the chance to look at it with a new lens this time around.
The stained-glass windows that I once glanced at and overlooked, now glowed a bit differently than I remember . Despite the usual chaos of the blend of different cultures, art, history, and stories, the atmosphere almost felt serene. The Spanish caravel, which can be seen throughout the house by sculpture or even delicately painted into the stained window that I enjoy looking through so much, felt a little bit more personal. I became aware of the complex shapes used throughout different parts of the house that each hold meaning and purpose, so carefully thought out. I began to reflect on the way James Deering used all of these symbols as a way of proclaiming himself as a conquistador; something that we all can, in one way or another, relate to.
I felt a new sense of appreciation for James Deering and for all of the intricate details that so carefully come together to create what is now a strong symbol of Miami. I felt appreciation for the chance to take a little break from reality and immerse myself into a place that so many people fail to come to, even though it is basically in their backyard.
I took the opportunity to close my eyes every once in a while and just reflect. What a crazy thought it was to me that this place with such rich Spanish influence, I will get to see the root of where the inspiration was drawn from with my own eyes this summer. I am grateful for days like these where I can recognize a moment and not take it for granted, and these days only make me want to do that more and more.
MOAD as Text
“Identity Crisis” by Alondra Estevez of FIU at Museum of Art and Design (MOAD)
Upon entering the Museum of Art and Design, aka the Freedom Tower, I felt a sense of déjà vu. Strangely enough, I had never been inside the actual building, however growing up in Miami, it was a building that I passed on a pretty regular basis. Now, having learned about the history of it and how it came to be, I have a different appreciation for this building that once was simply “the tall building with lights in front of the American Airlines Arena.”
The Freedom Tower was built in 1925 and is a multicultural structure, incorporating Roman, Neoclassical, and Spanish influence to ultimately celebrate the Spanish culture coming to Miami. During the 1970s, it was a processing center for those coming in search of a better life and opportunities for growth. It was often referred to as “the Ellis Island of the south” according to the federal government. Upon reflection, I began to think about the journey of those that came here in search of a better quality of life and the difficulties that they had to overcome. I thought about my own family and their journey to Miami—one with hardships and an overwhelming desire for their children to not go through the same struggles of being an immigrant in America.
The mural in this photo caught my eye as my professor combed over some of the themes pertaining to it. It is a mural depicting a very romanticized notion of the Europeans coming to the Americas. Had I not known the truth and the harsh reality of the Columbian Exchange, I would have praised the mural, however despite the new technology and culture (amongst other things) brought to the Americas, there were also a lot of diseases and slavery brought here as well. I found myself making a big connection to my own identity as a Latin American woman. There is a stigma that we Latinx people should be immensely grateful for the trials and hardships that our parents/ancestors faced as they made the journey to America. However, as thankful and indebted as I feel to my parents and those before them, I oftentimes feel an absence of identity. My generation of Latin Americans is the diaspora of people from Latin America that do not feel like they really belong to either culture fully.
I guess I too am guilty of romanticizing the notion of living in Latin America, just as we are guilty of romanticizing the Columbian Exchange. Ultimately though, the positives in all likelihood outweigh the negatives.
Deering as Text
“Nostalgia” by Alondra Estevez of FIU at The Deering Estate
What different times we’re living in right now. Just over a year ago, I had the privilege of attending one of Professor Bailly’s lectures at The Deering Estate. Now I am left with only memories and a script on this interesting piece of history. Through deep reflection and thought, however, I am able to relive some of the beauty and splendor that this place has to offer.
Perhaps the best part about this Palmetto Bay villa is seeing it through the eyes of Charles Deering, rather than his brother James. The Deering Estate employs a level of simplicity that Vizcaya, its grandiose counterpart, lacks. I remember a feeling of authenticity walking through the estate and feeling much more welcome by nature than the moats at Vizcaya’s entrance. The Deering Estate offered me a sense of familial comfort as we walked to the destination of our hike, hearing Richard Blanco’s funny stories along the way. I also remember our class hike, all the mosquitoes, and Professor Bailly telling me to “keep up!” as I fell behind the rest of my class.
As we arrived for our tour of the Nature Preserve, we were able to see the Miami Rock Ridge and learn about how it was created through the movement of freshwater through limestone. Because we were accompanied by a member of the estate staff, we even got to witness the Tequesta Midden. We continued our walk—WHACK. Another tropical hardwood hammock hits me in the face. I’m miserable while simultaneously having the absolute best time. “Alondra, keep up!!!” I hear Professor Bailly utter, as I trip over yet another misplaced rock.
Finally, we reach the Cutler Fossil Site. Now this memory, I will never forget. My classmates and I stood in a circle to witness the Cutler Fossil in all its glory as our gracious tour guide explained the history behind it. I even got to hold the fossil and bask in its thousands of years of precedence.
Oh what a simpler time I wish I could go back to!
South Beach as Text
“Beautiful Chaos” by Alondra Estevez of FIU at South Beach
First things first, I consider myself a true Miamian—whatever that means. I have been visiting South Beach since before I could even walk, perhaps talk! Although I grew up in my humble abode in West Kendall, South Beach has always been one of those places that I consider home. The hustle and bustle of the area, crowds of people, and a wide range of Hispanic/Latino accents being shouted at various decibels above the average noise level. THIS is what I call home.
For starters, one of the most vivacious and animated neighborhoods of Miami is the Art Deco neighborhood. It was intended to mirror early twentieth century machinery and the sleekness of all of its components while drawing from Mesopotamian design. Each part of the neighborhood is carefully crafted in terms of aesthetics and screams MIAMI, with its bright and lively design. Hotels such as Tiffany, The Breakwater, and Essex House also effectively characterize South Beach, showing us uniformity in design. The Versace Mansion, although not an Art Deco building, also shows us the open and pleasure-seeking lifestyle that distinguishes Miami from any other city. Perhaps some of my favorite memories with friends are walking along South Beach and seeing these structures on a hot summer’s day, whilst trying to scream over the loud music playing at every restaurant and building you pass.
Now on a bit of a different token, when praising South Beach’s effervescence, it is also important to point out some obvious downsides. It is a historical fact that in its earliest days, South Beach was multiracial and welcomed people of all color… until the railroad arrived and Carl Fisher developed Miami Beach. Soon after the fact, African Americans were banned from the beach even though they, along with Seminoles and Afro-Bahamians, had inhabited this area for a while after the extinction of the Tequestas. We have definitely come a long way since, however, there is still plenty of work to do in terms of racial bias and acceptance in not only South Beach, but Miami culture in general. The abundance of races in our beautiful city should be celebrated at all times, looking back at our history to assure that the same mistakes are not made. Maybe then, this beautiful chaos that we call our beloved Miami will truly be home.
HistoryMiami as Text
“Going Back to the Roots” by Alondra Estevez of FIU at HistoryMiami Museum
The City of Miami is perhaps one of the most culturally diverse cities in the US. I oftentimes find myself taking it for granted as soon as I hop on a plane and go virtually anywhere else. The city where I am able to grab a “Cafecito” at any nearby coffee shop and hear my favorite merengue tunes, reminiscent of the “Radio Mambi” era. All things considered, Miami is an extremely unique city that is rich in history, and every time I am able, I like to take a step back to be thankful for the city that raised me. I was fortunate enough to visit HistoryMiami Museum with Professor Bailly just over a year ago. It does a wonderful job of touching on different topics pertaining to Miami’s history while igniting that flame of nostalgia my generation’s youth craves.
Besides the nostalgia aspect of it, the museum captures Miami’s crucial role in the history of indigenous people that were then forcefully colonized, to modern-day Miami and its development over time. All the exhibits in the museum are carefully crafted to show us history from the Seminoles to the Pioneers to different collections of artifacts that represent the lifestyle of our predecessors. In addition, there is a very disturbing piece in the museum, a trolley that used to roam the streets of Miami with a sign in its interior that read “State Law: White passengers seat from front.” It is important to familiarize ourselves with this unfortunate part of history as well, so we can grow to celebrate Miami for how far it has come in terms of its cultural reset.
Aside from the main exhibits, there are also temporary exhibits that come and go in the museum, depicting immigration in Miami and modern-day technology and design; many things that we have all grown to know and love. The museum is all-encompassing, and I believe that anyone that gets the opportunity to go should take that offer and run, not walk, to HistoryMiami!